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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why I had to Ignore My Creative Writing Teacher's Advice: recap of session day 2 at #CMWorld

My high school creative writing teacher told me emotional events (good or bad) fueled amazing stories but never try and capture them when you're in the midst of the emotion or immediately afterwards. The emotion becomes convoluted, the details smeared and the writing awful. Give it some time to sink in. Digest it. Then commence recapturing your experiences. However well-intentioned this advice may be, it was given before social media. It is with that, that I respectfully cast Mr. Bernard's advice to the side.

Content Marketing World was a fabulous event and though it may not shape my personally, professionally it sparked more good ideas than I can begin to capture. Here's my recap of the trio of sessions from today that made me wish these folks needed scribes because I would gladly follow them around on a regular basis just to glean some brilliance and inspiration. (Disclaimer: all of the speakers were amazing at #CMWorld but these three inspired me and equipped me with tools and information that directly apply to my inbound marketing role. There's that key take-away from CMW - provide useful content!)

As I tweeted earlier, sometimes you attend a session for the content, sometimes for the speaker - which was the case with Nate Riggs. Although I considered myself a Twitter maven of sorts, his helpful advice and list of tools made his presentation one of the most practical that I attended. If you're not already checking these out give them a look over -- SocialBro, Simply Measured,, clicktotweet, Social Flow, and Social Triggers. If you're looking for someone who gives out a lot of great information with a sense of humor, check him out on Twitter @nateriggs.

10 Email Secrets that Will Help Drive Your Content Strategy presented by Jeff Rohrs was a standing crowd only. So much for email being dead! Jeff likened email to an iceberg. You only see part of it. Social media shares are public, emails are not. But his colorful descriptions (granted not as colorful as Mitch Joel's "sex with data" from the day before), didn't end there. He reminded us that email powers every social media site. Email is social media's secret weapon. How does LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. provide you with announcements, reminders, weekly status -- via email. Ah-hah!

Finally...."a Rose by any other name..." would be Robert (wonder how many times he's heard that joke? My maiden name is Green, I get it.). If he didn't intrigue me during the pre-session joking (and he did -- who doesn't like to poke fun of marketers and our reputation of not doing anything??), Robert Rose definitely had me at Ali. He began his presentation on Getting the Choir to Sing: Selling & Developing the Process for Content Marketing INSIDE the Organization with the inspirational story of Muhammad Ali's comeback against George Foreman. The way that Ali reinvented himself repeatedly was fascinating and inspirational and the way Robert told it -- his cadence and tone -- I was hooked. He repeatedly told the audience that what he had to say was not new but there was something about his style a mix of story and art that lit a fire in me where I wanted to fly back to my office and start implementing his ideas right away. He told us how to get support from the higher-ups, those most involved, and the savvy person who had a way of killing or promoting everything in the office. (Hadn't considered that one.)

Content Marketing World was such an amazing experience, my words can't do it justice. To capture that kind of excitement, inspiration, energy amidst a group who "gets it" is impossible. Maybe Mr. Bernard was right.

Here's looking forward to 370ish days from now -- Content Marketing World 2013!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holy Smokes! It's a digital dandelion! Sex with Data and other Gems from Content Marketing World

It was an intense first day at Content Marketing World. The following is a list of my highlights but it's impossible to capture them all. So much awesome content, you really need to be here.

What you do with your data is up to you
Mitch Joel kicked it off with what is likely to be one of the most memorable quotes of #CMWorld -- " with data..." My English professors always said use your words to paint a mental picture. He definitely did. He urged marketers (and face it, everyone of us is a marketer in today's world) to follow five content rules: build direct relationships with your audience; have sex with (customer) data, meaning fully embrace the capabilities behind it, use it, don't just quote it; provide utility, be useful; know the difference behind passive and active activities (asking a passive audience in a passive medium to do something is difficult at best); and know we're not part of a one screen world anymore -- create content accordingly. I also learned that Willie Nelson does a pretty fantastic job singing/covering Coldplay. Whodathunkit?

Next up (for me anyway) was Jason Falls. (Sorry C.C., breaks my heart I had to choose.) So many valuable lessons but the one that sticks with me is that we all need to create "Holy Smokes" content. It can be funny, irreverent, knowledgeable, thought provoking, controversial That's where the magic is. No one shares okay. No one forwards fine.

Mitch Joel shared earlier in the day that video use for content marketing had increased from 52% to 70% over the past year so I made sure I took in the next session with Todd Wheatland. He had a lot of excellent ideas on how to use video for your organization including repurposing an article; creating a series; doing a behind the scenes; and/or a recruitment video. But the fun doesn't stop there. He suggested you use stills from the video or take some pictures while you're shooting and use them in addition to your video plus don't forget to transcribe it for the .02% who can still read. (That was my own personal bitterness as a writer, not his.)

The fantastic Jay Baer (to stand room only) reminded us that we should think of our content as a digital dandelion. Don't keep it tied to your website. Put it out where your audience is most likely to see it. On a completely different metaphor he likened content to fire and social media to gasoline. Get it? Burn, baby, burn.

Russell Sparkman helped us understand that game thinking is not the same as gaming. You can give your audience the fun of game theory and implementation without requiring them to sit in the same clothes for days staring at a console trying to beat someone else's score (unless they're into that). He also pointed out that game thinking is not new just ask a kid trying to pass math -- the concept of levelling up to advance has been around a long time.

Sam Sebastian rounded out the day with talking about "Zero Moment of Truth." Research has changed buyers forever. We're no longer relegated to using (just) consumer reports. We have reviews and search. Plus 16% of searches are new to Google each day. It also struck me that Sam's dad still has Consumer Reports magazine in the basement. Living in Florida for the past seven years I had almost forgotten what basements were.

Day 1 was amazing and I'm suffering a little from cerebral overload. The Rick Springfield concert should cure that. I will be adding his song Love Somebody to Groove Shark later tonight. I forgot how much I liked it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's the Middle of The Night. What Do Your Customers Want?

I saw a brilliant tweet last night. It spoke to the audience and addressed a need that was undoubtedly timed perfectly. It was in the wee, blurry-eyed hours that a promoted tweet by Wendy's welcomed night owls and "suggested" they stop in for a burger because many locations were open late. Who doesn't want a burger at 3 a.m.? The only thing they could've done to entice me further (since Willy Wonka is still working on Smellivision) was change their branded, red-headed icon into a double-stack of deliciousness.

Wendy's gave some thought about their late night customers. What are they doing before they come in? How could they reach them? Social media and specifically Twitter gave them the perfect entry into their customers' lives/minds (in the middle of the night). Wendy's reminded their audience about their late night cravings and how easy it was to satisfy them. Strong, targeted, content marketing.

What do you think? Is this an effective use of social media?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are Case Studies Dead?

If you're into promoting a service, product or membership of some kind, you understand the value of online reviews. In the recent Local Consumer Review Survey, and blogged about by Search Engine Land, 72% of consumers located in US, Canada and the UK admitted to trusting online reviews (even if they were written by strangers). This was the second iteration of the survey, the original being conducted in 2010. The comparison of changes in consumer trust in just two years is interesting and worth the read.

But whether you decide to select, purchase or join because of an online review may be more based on what kind of product, service or organization you're looking into. Buying a skirt or going to a restaurant based on a rating may be sufficient but basing the choice of a roommate on social media stranger-penned reviews may not be ideal.

What about when you're buying a high ticket item for business purposes? Do you still find peer/consumer reviews relevant? Do you need to be acquainted with the person before your trust their opinion? Does it matter whether it's posted on an independent site like a LinkedIn group or the organization's website? Are case studies driven by the marketing department just another form of TPS Reporting?

Love to hear your thoughts. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

What if You Ran Your Office Like a Crab Boat?

picture credit: Discovery Channel
You don't have to spend much time with me to know I love Deadliest Catch, partly because I love reality shows and partly because I value what these guys do. They work hard for a lucrative payout. It's the embodiment of the American Dream (or at least what it used to be).

I also love the show as it depicts men in their original form, before they started waxing, filing and plucking (but that's a post for an entirely different kind of blog). As much as pampered metrosexuals could learn from these men, corporate America could learn a bit too.

On a crab boat there's a fair amount of nepotism. It's not unusual for boats to be family-owned and employ people the captains know be it family, distant cousins of other fishermen, childhood neighbors or friends of friends. It is difficult to get a spot on one of these boats without "knowing" someone. Life in office America is similar. We hire people we have connections to, people with backgrounds we're familiar with, before we turn to complete strangers. Of course, our pool from which to draw potential candidates is much larger than these Bering Sea explorers. It's infinitely easier to get someone to run a social media campaign on their laptop from Starbucks than it is to convince someone to pull a thousand pound crab pot out of frigid cold waters and 40 foot swells. Yet, both captains and CEOs have their share of issues with bad hires. Candidates always think they are up to the job at hand.

Crabbers, however, are quick to learn who is effective in their role and who is not. They run a very lean operation and everyone must be pulling their weight at all times. If a team member is unable to work at the levels that everyone else does, it becomes painfully obvious from both a safety and production standpoint. Corporate America misses the boat on this. (Promise that's the first and last bad pun.) We tend to keep people in roles they are not well-suited for because we like them. Worse yet we promote them because they've been here the longest or they've been successful at a given role. Sometimes we even transfer them to a different department or a different hiring manager because they are doing a lousy job where they are or having difficulties with other employees and moving them is just easier.  We work human resources like a jigsaw puzzle trying all sorts of angles and eventually making the piece/person fit.

It's just lazy management. It takes work to get employees producing to your expectations. A conversation about goals and quotas may need to occur. And sometimes it even requires a manager to admit a bad hiring decision was made.

Whether pushing papers over a faux wood desk or landing a full pot with icicles hanging from my hat, having the right team behind you is key to your success. If you don't have the right team in place you must evaluate how far off of that goal you are. Is it the process or the person and can it be fixed? Can the greenhorn learn how to be a valuable member of the team or are they ill-suited for the stress and strains of the job at hand? The sooner you are able to answer those questions, the sooner you can begin in either investing in their professional growth or cutting bait.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Has Social Taken the Magic out of Marketing?

This past week I watched the season premier of Mad Men. I've been waiting a long time for its return. My fascination with the show is partly due to the smart writing and partly due to the historical depiction (accurate or not) of an era long gone.

Today's advertising people can no more imagine hand-drawn story boards than I can not including social media in a marketing plan. Sadly, things will never revert back that way either.

Advertising and marketing used to be hand and hand; the more creative types went ad agency and the rest of us became marketers. There was a certain amount of magic to what we were doing, trickery if you must. We were convincing people to buy products and services in any way we could. Nowadays, word of mouth has become more valuable than slogans and campaigns and CEOs want to see the analytics behind our efforts. Marketing has become the annoying tag-a-long sibling of sales. A lot of marketers have lost their way and they might as well hang out in the doghouse with the ineffectual journalists.

But for those of us willing to have conversations with our customers (instead of using our old marketing bullhorn); for the bravest of us who are willing to continually be in flux and pursuing new opportunities and learning new things, it can be a very exciting time to be in marketing. It seems infinitely harder in some ways with the analytics and the drip campaigns, the conversations and transparency required. But in many ways, we have it easier too. We can communicate with our customers and potential customers. No more focus groups and what if situations. There's legitimate A/B testing that can help you decide which is the more effective campaign. If you're willing to learn the tools and how to use them,

What do you think? Do you miss the old days of smoke and mirrors or are you happy to embrace this new social cosmos? 

What a Writer Brings to Your Brand

Having a fiction writer (or at least someone who fancies herself/himself as one) is a great boon to your marketing department. The art of storytelling is ingrained in writers. Who better to capture your business' story or mission? We understand tone and don't become overwhelmed when you suggest we blog daily or write an article in ten minutes. We're writers. We write.

My one difficulty in entering marketing has been telling the same story over and over again. Marketers believe in the Rule of Seven that you must bludgeon your prospect with the same marketing message seven times before they act upon it. As a writer, I have no problem sticking with a voice or branding, or even conveying a consistent tone but saying the same thing over and over again in the exact same way can be challenging.

The beauty of social is that this is beginning to change. Content marketing is starting to receive the publicity it needs and is becoming the way marketing is done. (Again a writer would've known you should always write for your audience. Not sure why this is being billed as something new among marketers.) Content marketing has us providing content our audience craves, at the time that they want it, in a form they find palatable, in a way that is easily shared. Marketers are now trying to create magnetic content that will spur their audience to action. Since our audience is mobile and evolving (with many taking to the Interwebs to research products before purchase) it is possible that marketers will slowly move away from the Rule of Seven. After all, consistent messaging and repeating verbatim your same value proposition are not the same.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Sizzle of Social

When I watched soaps as a teenager my dad accused me of liking them for their "titillation" factor (a phrase in and of itself that sounds dirty). He was right. I was too young to have a life of drama of my own so I watched the continuous struggles of those in and out of heartbreak.

Social media has taken the place of this nonstop source of drama - for some, at least - a titillating resource. Yes, social media has an educational value of learning from industry experts and the dissemination of information that is fascinating but I can also Google what your celebrity crush is drinking at this very moment. Social media (in collusion with reality shows) has fostered a culture of voyeurs - seeing how other people live, think, sleep, get the idea. I know what life on the Bering Sea is like and I have a very negative view of society in New Jersey. Because it's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can "watch." We can watch to the point that it interferes with the events of our own lives. When we don't see the immediate gratification of activity in our streams we feel "disconnected" and lost. We long for the continual high we get from nonstop stimulation. 

We don't allow ourselves to be "bored" anymore; to have a moment when a feed of activity is not ticker-taping through our minds. There's something very disconcerting in that lifestyle. What do you think?    

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Fine Line of Authenticity

I didn't watch the Super Bowl (thus my tweet stream and Facebook page have no mention of what I'm eating, wearing or thinking about this topic) because I have little interest in professional sports and even littler interest in the teams involved. Basically, I don't have an opinion and commercials that I can view on YouTube later tonight were not a big enough draw.

But I appreciate there were a lot of people interested and thus left the commentary to them. There is a fine line between exhibiting your interest in something via social media and jumping on the proverbial bandwagon in the hopes that you'll win the social media lottery and you'll become famous. Reaching your audience is important; talking about relevant topics is also important and being genuine about both is the foundation for success in either.

Last week, a coworker told me that people who "do" social media are always doing social media. She said they sit on their couch and comment about everything. That's what makes them successful. I disagree. Those of us who "practice" social media for a living are always trying to figure out what makes sense for our audience. We are not running for president; we don't need to tell you our stance on everything. Some opinions can be kept to ourselves or shared with only our closest friends and family. And, when we don't have an opinion on a subject - like me on the Superbowl - why tweet just to be heard?

Tweeting about every trending topic is not necessary or valuable. Yes, trending topics are relevant but your audience/followers want to know more about the authentic you. Ringing in on every topic just adds to the chatter. Followers don't expect you to tweet about everything (unless you are a celebrity. Then the fact you just ate carrots for lunch may actually inspire t-shirt sales).

Your silence amplifies your heart-felt commentary.

If you have an opinion on this post, leave it below. Otherwise, that's fine too.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Cost of Not Empowering Employees

I take my boys every two months or so to the local Fantastic Sams. We know the girls there. Natalie can speak "super hero" and keeps the boys talking about their favorites all through the cut - a stroke of brilliance which allows her to work her magic with minimal squirming from them.

Last week, they refused to honor a competitor's $1-off coupon. They've accepted them in the past, which I have greatly appreciated because when it comes to trying to coral two four-year olds and get them out the door, I'm lucky I can even find non-expired coupons.

The girls at the desk told me the owner would "have a heart attack" if they accepted a coupon from another store. I will most likely never meet this franchise owner but I'm guessing if she'd have heart failure over a dollar, she'll probably combust over losing two, consistent, loyal customers.

My family goes there because it's convenient and we know what to expect but within a five mile radius there are five other discount hair cutting places. When we are told through employee actions that our business is worth less than four quarters, we'd gladly take it elsewhere.

Business owners, empower your employees to make decisions that improve the customer experience. They are the "face" of your business. You may have "given us" the dollar-off coupon had you been present but your employees sure didn't think to do so. They even thought you'd be mad if they did. How mad will you be about this episode when you realize the cost of not empowering your employees to make decisions cost you two customers?