Skyrocket Marketing Results

When content marketing works, it’s just awesome. Brands that have mastered content marketing report gaining more visitors, better engagement, higher quality leads and increased sales. Yet for every successful brand, many others struggle to achieve content marketing results.

Often, better content marketing results can be achieved through a series of adjustments rather than a complete overhaul. Here are 6 things you can do to power up content marketing results and get things back on track:

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Make it mobile, social and shareable

Responsive content that displays well on desktop, tablet and mobile devices is more work. But your hyper-connected, always on audience won’t stand for anything less. Same story with creating several images and formats for different social networks, but it’s the price of entry.

Responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern. What’s that mean? For content creators, the goal of responsive design is to create content that responds to user preferences and devices. That means your content should look great on any device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile.  

Another reason to make your content responsive is visibility in search results. It’s not clear exactly how much weight Google puts on responsive design, but the company has stated that providing content that adapts to the user’s device is the preferred way to go.

Here’s a final reason to plan your content with mobile in mind. The number of mobile users in the world surpassed desktop users sometime in 2014, and mobile users will only increase as time goes on. 

Focus on promotion and distribution

These days, content marketing heavyweights like Neil Patel and Derek Halpern recommend a version of the 80 / 20 rule — that marketers spend 20% of their time creating content and 80 percent of their time distributing and promoting it. Because of sheer information overload, the emphasis on content has shifted from quality to quantity over the years.

Search engines have become better at identifying (and penalizing) the SEO tricks that were once so effective and instead reward high-quality original content and useful information.

An effective balance between content creation and distribution will vary depending on your audience and your organization’s goals . But if you’re spending closer to 80 percent of your time creating content, it’s time to take a serious look at your content promotion strategy.

Make it measurable and data-driven

What do the world’s most-admired and innovative companies have in common? No, besides the buckets of cash.

Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are all data-driven and have some of the world’s most sophisticated measurement, testing and optimization plans in place.

Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain those customers, and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result, according to McKinsey Global Institute.

But further down the food chain, many organizations don’t have clear goals for content marketing success. For example, your goals might include:

  • Attracting more visitors to your website
  • Increasing your social media audience and engagement
  • Lead generation and conversion

How to you measure progress? Be sure each goal is quantifiable. These goals are similar to the ones above, but with more specific outcomes:

  • Achieve 10% monthly increase of unique visitors to your website
  • Create a Facebook group of 1,000 members by year end
  • Convert 5% of unique visitors to paying customers

The next step is to analyze and improve. There’s no way to consistently get better results from content marketing without setting goals, analyzing results and experimenting with new tactics until you find what works with your audience.

Add that emotional appeal

How important is emotional appeal in content marketing? It’s the difference between success and failure. Is your content marketing focused on your brand, products and features? Two issues here:

    1. It’s hard to differentiate yourself from other brands by talking about products and features
    2. People don’t care about your brand, products and features anyway

You won’t get far by simply asking people to think about your products and services and comparing them to competitive offerings. That’s a lot of thinking, and humans are hard-wired to look for shortcuts and reduce cognitive load.

What’s the better path? There’s a ton of research and real-world results showing that people make decision based more on emotion than logic. The “old brain”makes the decisions while the logical parts of your brain help justify the decision after the fact.

To capture attention, hearts and minds, target the emotions of your audience. Talk about the transformation from where they are to where they want to be.

Branding consultant Graeme Newell says that emotional marketing begins with the feeling you want your audience to have after the transformation. Your need to show in a visually interesting way how your product features support the transformation.

Focus on visual content marketing

Content marketing is a visual art – and science.

The reason for the art is clear. People are simply drawn to appealing images and the emotions they trigger.

It’s a natural that people want to create and share images – lots of images. Worldwide, about 1.2 trillion photos will be taken in 2017, according to research firm InfoTrends.

The reason for the science is also clear. Humans are visual creatures who naturally respond strongly to images and video.

This fact, coupled with the adoption of mobile devices – more than half of online video vies now happen on mobile – has sparked tremendous growth in visual  and video marketing.

But what is it about visual imagery that’s so appealing? There’s a strong body of research that shows that people:

  • Prefer images to text
  • Process images much more quickly than text or audio
  • Retain visual information longer
  • Take action in response to images and video
  • Are “hardwired” to react to visual content

Marketing professionals who understand this human preference for visual information can win over competitors by incorporating visual elements into their marketing activities.

Create actionable content marketing results

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

This definition from the Content Marketing Institute has a powerful conclusion. Yet many blogs, social media posts and videos leave their audience without clear next step.

It’s true that content marketing is more about building trust, engagement and relationships, but that’s all in the service of that “profitable customer action” thing.

Just because you’re not asking for money at every customer touchpoint doesn’t mean you should not invite your audience to take the next steps. That might include:

  • Checking out another post or video
  • Subscribing to your blog
  • Sharing your content on social media
  • Recommending to a friend

These “microconversions” are the secret to increasing engagement and moving your audience ever closer to your ultimate goal. And for whatever reasons, many marketers don’t build calls-to-action into their content  to drive conversions.

In fact, for every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them, according to Econsultancy. There’s a golden opportunity for marketers that know how to create content that drives conversions.

The bottom line is, even if you and your competitors have similar content, it’s possible to win big by making a few changes in your content strategy to drive profitable customer action. For more examples of actionable online content, check out our portfolio.

Marketing to Millennials?

Can we stop talking about marketing to millennials?

OK, I get it, millennials are a big deal.

Born between 1982 and 1993, there are over 80 million of them, larger than any other generation to date. About one in three American workers today are millenials. They are growing, learning, earning, and rapidly becoming our future leaders. They are coming to power and will be running the show when Boomers are long out to pasture.

But although millennials continue to receive lavish media coverage, there seems to be little agreement about how to approach them in terms of marketing and media strategy. A quick look at Google Trends shows searches for millennials outpacing Gen X and Baby Boomers, without adding in Gen Y, another term for millennials.

Marketing to Millennials

In some reports, millennials are described as a mysterious and marketing-proof generation with mercurial demands and preferences. Other times they are portrayed as easy marks, a generation of drunken leprechauns who might be easily parted from their gold with a few well-placed marketing campaigns.As a group, millennials are described as tech savvy, independent, connected and activists for social justice issues. But some marketers are calling BS on these broad generalizations.

The problem? Millennials are not a target market. The group is too big and diverse to to draw meaningful conclusions and insights. Digital marketers love to talk about cohorts — groups of people sharing a common characteristic over a certain time period.

But targeting everyone born during an 11-year span is only slightly better than “anyone with a pulse” targeting. Identifying someone as a millennial provides little information marketers can use to create relevance and value. The needs and interests of the older millennials (this segment is called “Geezer Millennials” in our office), nearing the ripe old age of 33 this year, are far different than those who are 22 and perhaps still in college.

So, what are the issues here?

1. Limited reach – marketing analytics virtuoso Avinash Kaushik makes a useful distinction between the Largest Addressable Qualified Audience and the subset of those folks who have strong commercial intent — those potentially in the market for your product. Smaller still is the the group of these qualified folks who actually become your customers. No marketer has the resources to address 80 million prospects, so some savvy segmentation is needed.

Besides, any company with the resources to target 80 million people is too smart to target 80 million people.

2. Intent – Search marketers and those using predictive analytics will tell you that demographic data can be useful, but on its own it says little about user intent. Focusing on audience size without considering commercial intent is a costly marketing mistake. Lots of millennials doesn’t always equal lots of revenue.

Years ago, knowing the age, gender and location of your ideal customers was considered advanced marketing. Today, marketers are more accountable than ever to gather customer insights and turn those insights into measureable results. Analyzing cohorts can certainly help identify the links between a population’s characteristics and its behavior. But trying to discern how millions of people will act depending on when they were born is a big leap.

3. Priorities – Depending on your goals, it may not matter much if your customers are millennials.  Knowing whether or not your prospect is a millennial may be useful, but it’s not a key data point that helps your organization deliver a truly valuable product or service. In creating a product-to-market fit, every question below is potentially more important than “Are you a millennial?”

  • What is the problem or challenge we can help with?
  • Are you currently considering a purchase?
  • Are you aware of our products and services?
  • How did you become aware of our company?
  • What information sources do you use in purchase decisions?
  • How do you use PCs, mobile devices and tablets in your buying process?
  • Do our prices seem reasonable?
  • What comparable products are you considering?
  • What search terms did you use to find us?

Non-actionable data Infographics about millennials as a group of texting, sexting and selfie-taking digital natives are interesting, but data without an action plan is just trivial pursuit. For example, I have read that millennial men spend twice as much on clothing previous generations.

Interesting, but it’s just the beginning of the testing cycle. Now you have to figure out if that relates to your business, create and evaluate a hypothesis, create digital marketing assets and launch a campaign. Anyone buy your custom personalized men’s yoga gear? Why or why not? Then you start the testing cycle again.

It’s labor-intensive…but maybe you can hire some hard-working millennials to do it.

 

Growth Hacking Lessons

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Growth hacking lessons from the Grinch?

It’s hard to believe he has careened down Mount Crumpit every season since 1966. The Grinch may be old school, but he has something to teach modern marketers.

This time of year, there are dozens of holiday specials to watch, but few have obtained the classic status of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The playful verse, brilliant music and quirky animation are as compelling today as they were a half-century ago.

The Grinch was was highly original even by lofty Suessian standards, perhaps the greatest holiday villain since Ebenezer Scrooge. Among hundreds of his creations, the Grinch was a favorite of creator Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, who saw much of the Grinch to his own personality

“I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost,” Geisel said.

  • The Grinch has important lessons for growth hackers and digital marketers. He:Takes action. Once the Grinch formulated a plan, he realized he had to execute. All that Christmas stuff wasn’t going to steal itself. Since his concept was a seasonal play, he knew there was no time to analyze market trends, financing and regulatory issues. He went straight to work, not even stopping to scrawl his idea on the back of a proverbial napkin.
  • Bootstraps, making use of materials and staff he had on hand. No reindeer? No problem. Choosing not to pursue venture capital afforded him a degree of freedom he would not have had otherwise. Plus, going through the pitch cycle or even a Kickstarter campaign means he would have missed a tight launch window and ended up among the many startups that never actually start up.
  • Has a wonderful, awful idea which didn’t scale. He knew that sometimes during the traction phase, growth marketers must take extraordinary actions to onboard their first customers. Some argue that the Grinch could have boosted productivity by hiring seasonal employees, but he managed to steal all the Who’s stuff using only existing staff and resources. Breaking and entering may not be a viable long-term strategy, but it opened up several professional opportunities for the Grinch in publishing, feature films and Christmas merchandise.
  • Builds trust. Although initially the Grinch’s head wasn’t screwed on just right, and his business model was a criminal enterprise, he was able to turn things around. At first, he is reviled as a monster not be touched with a thirty-nine-and -a-half-foot pole. He totally alienates the no-more-than-two cohort by lying to Cindy Lou Who regarding a customer support issue. Yet somehow, by the end of show, he has mastered the know > like > trust cycle. Seated at a place of honor at the feast, and even carves the roast beast, rather than spending Christmas in Whoville jail with a cellmate named “Max the Ax-Murdering Zax.”
  • Pivots his thinking when faced with new evidence. Say what you will about the Grinch, he listened carefully to his audience. Upon hearing the Who’s Christmas morning chorus, he is humbled and inspired to change his ways. In the process, he posts some jaw-dropping KPIs. His tiny heart grows two sizes, and he musters the strength of 10 Grinches plus two – a hefty 1,100% gain. That is growth hacking, right there. These Uber-numbers could serve as inspiration for stalled startups who can’t bear to leave their original concept behind to pursue a more promising business model.
  • Consistently delivers. Most of all, the Grinch is exemplary in showing commitment and consistency. Marketers justifiably have mad respect for Robert Cialdini, who illustrates the power of consistency in his Six Principals of Persuasion. People like to see consistency in their own behavior as well as others, and the Grinch nails it. He never just chills in his cave watching Scrooged or blows the whole thing off to spend the winter in Boca Raton. Like the Grinch, growth hackers need to be resourceful and consistently deliver whatever is needed for traction.

I can’t imagine getting tired of watching the Grinch have his annual epiphany. And it doesn’t hurt to have that reminder that maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

The three words that best describe what you should do next are as follows, and I quote:

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