Digital Summit Nuggets of Wisdom (#DSATL16): Content Marketing

Whether this stuff is new, or you’re looking to validate what perhaps is obvious, there’s some good stuff to hear at the Digital Summit in Atlanta. While perhaps not as prestigious as the SiriusDecisions Summit, which is also happening this week, this event will probably deliver much more immediately actionable ideas. Here are some I picked up so far…(you may notice a reoccurring theme)…

Content pros: content isn’t King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • No one cares about your content and the crap you want to say, they care about getting insight and answers to the crap they’re doing. Content wins when you say what they want to hear. 
  • Content marketing is about PULLING customers in not PUSHING stuff out
  • If someone wouldn’t Google your content title, change your content title. Cute, clever or proprietary titles don’t get your content found. If your content doesn’t get found, it doesn’t get read. 

SEO Pros: keywords aren’t King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • Don’t rely exclusively on keyword research, ask your staff who have actual interactions with your prospects and customers (sales, delivery folks, customer service, etc)
  • Here’s an idea…just try to HELP people
  • Look at ‘Google suggests’ – Google knows what people are looking for. Use the magic wildcard (*) to see what people are really searching for 

Demand Pros: your company isn’t the King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King

  • Unless you company is an established content and thought leadership factory (like @Hubspot) people aren’t going to you for info, and even when they go to Google, they’re likely going to a hub of content that offers numerous content options (like @MarketingProfs). Don’t fool yourself by thinking you’re too good for content syndication. 
  • Just because someone downloaded your content doesn’t mean they want to buy your shit. You NEED to nurture people. This helps weed out those who aren’t viable buyers and prepare those who are to have a fruitful convo with sales on their terms. 
  • One touch and one channel isn’t gonna cut it. You wouldn’t send someone to an event or webinar with a single email and leave it at that (I hope). Why would one email be enough to expose people to your content? I’m not suggesting lambasting people with ads and email for every piece of content you’ve got, but I do suggest taking time to think strategically about how your content will be distributed and consumed, and that strategy better include multiple channels and touches. 

Sales Pros: you aren’t the King (gasp!), CUSTOMERS are King 

  • Just because you know someone exists (you have their name and contact information) doesn’t mean they care about your company or want to talk to you. 
  • And just because they downloaded something doesn’t mean they care about your company or want to talk to you. What it DOES mean is they have an interest/a need/a challenge. It DOES mean you likely have an opportunity to hel them (hint: help = sell).
  • If your marketing team is worth their salt, they’re using tech to capture and communicate who in your CRM is interacting with what content. Take an extra moment to look at that, and let that inform your conversant with prospects and customers 

I said a lot of words so if the main theme got lost, I’ll repeat it here: YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE KING. Think about how you behave in your personal and professional life. Unless you’re a unique and special snowflake (aka a total weirdo) chances are you behave just like your customers do. Market to people accordingly. 

C2C16

#C2C16 in a (sassy) nutshell

This was my first time at Demand Gen Report’s annual B2B marketing conference – Content2Conversion – and it probably will not be my last. I’ve never written a post-event blog post because I’ve never felt I had enough good things to say. In true form, I naturally have a bit of sass to bestow upon them, but for the most part it’s good stuff. Here we go:

Interactive sessions are a great way to benchmark where you stand in the marketing evolution hierarchy (i.e. who sucks worse than you).

Day 1 of the conference consisted of workshops presented by DemandGen Report’s partners (vendors). Because Demand Gem Report makes a business out of publishing content of interest, they were well in-tune with their audience and succeeded in giving us a variety of sessions which all seemed topically relevant. In fact, I had trouble selecting a session, but in the end I settled for Televerde’s session on integrating digital, nurture and human touch. Nothing they said was earth-shattering or new. In fact, the most earth-shattering part of the session for me was that when the room was shown a slide of very basic and standard funnel benchmark metrics and asked who measures each stage of the funnel against those benchmarks today – I was the ONLY person who raised my hand! (#wtfmoment)

Though perhaps not intended, the speakers managed to incite enough interest and questions that the audience became actively engaged and we all were not only asking questions, but we were answering each others. This interaction made the session more rich and beneficial to all. It also reminded me that there are many many marketers still looking in the window or barely crossing the threshold of what I would consider to be the most fundamental of demand gen marketing practices, such as funnel definition, management & measurement; persona segmentation, integrated automated multi-touch campaigns, lead nurture, and lead scoring (so many blog topics!!) If you have a good handle on these things, well done! You may not be as behind as you think you are.

Marketers are both the puppets and puppeteers of buzz words (#ABM)

This is the part of my post where I say #ABM. Any presenter who didn’t at least mention ‘Account-Based Marketing’ missed the memo that this is a mysterious concept you must embrace (or pretend to). During my networking adventures I took every opportunity to throw out this buzz word and see how people responded and ask them what it means. Interestingly (and surprisingly) I found myself identifying most closely with the sales folks at this event. Why? Because to them our recent obsession with ABM is irritatingly laughable. ACCOUNT-BASED MARKETING IS NOT NEW. It’s what sales has been doing for years and what any marketer worth their salt and properly aligned to sales should have been doing, too.

Marketers, you’ve all been puppet-mastered into salivating at any vendor who uses this term. Don’t you know when you’re being marketed to? Whoever started this bandwagon in motion was brilliant because now any vendor willing to sacrifice a little dignity to exploit this buzz word  is making bank on essentially re-branding what all marketers should already be doing.

Killer keynotes make a conference – David Meerman Scott and Tim Riesterer KILLED it.

I won’t lie, one reason I was very much motivated to come to this conference was to hear David Meerman Scott speak. I was sure he’d be as dynamic a speaker as he is a writer, and he did not disappoint. He taught us:

  • Content is not its own thing that is created just because. It should be designed for both marketing and for sales, and more importantly, should be so timely and relevant that it is REAL TIME. In fact, he says companies that do this well hire journalists to create content (it was at this point in the program Donald Trump was mentioned – we can’t deny he does real-time marketing very very well).
  • Make your information free. There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not to gate content. Mr. Scott says no…or at least, not right away. He actually poses an interesting suggestion, which I’d like to see play out in practice: Don’t gate your content that you publish online – offer a link to something else within your content, and gate that. I like this idea, but to pull it off marketers will have to exercise some discipline and resist the temptation to post all their content online, which also has implications for SEO.
  • Be human. B2B does not equal boring. Every B2B company I have ever worked for would disagree. They put great effort into being boring. I 100% agree that B2B marketing is about marketing and selling to people, and more and more people are buying for business like they buy for themselves. The influencers may not be kids and the co-decider may not be a spouse, but the same rules apply. If you don’t think people’s personal preferences and emotions play a role in the B2B buying process you haven’t been a B2B buyer. It’s harder to choose a data vendor that makes everyone in your business family happy than it is to buy a family car. I think in our hearts we all know this, but somehow we still suck at wiping out the corporate bullshit speak and talking like a human.

Tim Riesterer, from Corporate Visions, applied scientific and academic structure to messaging concepts which really are common sense, and he did so in a most entertaining way. I am admittedly a psychology geek and according to Tim, so are 85% of marketers. But I think even the unenlightened 15% of marketers in the room would agree that Tim’s insights were on-point to both excite and incite. His main message: Your biggest competitor in a deal is not the other company, but the status quo – the choice to do nothing. This takes a little extra thought and creativity in your approach to messaging, but it’s nothing off-the-handle. Demand Gen report sums it up beautifully, so you can read more here.

This nutshell is getting long, so I’ll wrap up with this:

Almost everything we know about marketing is common sense. That’s why you frequently hear the joke ‘everyone is a marketer.’ What makes a marketer great is the ability to ACT on common sense in an effective and efficient way, MEASURE the results, and ADJUST. Sounds obvious and maybe a little boring, right? It a skill. And not an easy one.

Some marketing teams have it down, but following this conference I sense that many of you do not. That’s okay, it means you have a good reason to have a job. I hope you’re making a sincere effort to put into practice the things you’ve learned. The trick is to take one leg of the journey at a time. You know point A (where you are) and you know point B (where everyone says you should be going). If you can’t find your way without a map, there are plenty experts that can help get you from A to B, but my advise to you is don’t close your eyes and just let someone drive you there. To be a good marketer you have to learn how to navigate new routes, so let the experts guide and teach you, because point B will never stop changing. The good news is you will never stop learning, which means more conferences (hopefully with as much sun and booze as #C2c16).

 

High Altitude Eclipse

Has objectivity eclipsed creativity in marketing?

Every new year we hear analysts and journalists touting the latest trends, predictions and evolutions in the world of marketing. They’re usually right, but rarely are they earth-shattering. These changes happen gradually, and we’re all experiencing them well before a Google search of “2016 marketing trends” yields pages of results.  In fact, typically by the time those reports come out, 2016 and the trends that come with it are old news (I mean, I started budgeting for 2016 in July 2015, and by January 2016 I’m nearly ready to start thinking about 2017).

This year I took a more active role in the observation of these trends by way of participating in a handful of interviews with various media publications. While my answers came easily and seemed obvious, as I reflect upon them I’ve had a realization:

The world of marketing really has changed. The plethora of technology; the expectation of budget-savviness; and the ability to measure every channel, tactic and touchpoint have created a marketing environment seemingly devoid of subjectivity. The Mad Men days are over. We don’t rely on gut instincts and feelings because we have tools and data. What will get people to click and take action can be boiled down to a formula – down to the color of the button (see my post on color psychology).

When asked during my interviews what skills matter most in marketing, I didn’t say “creativity, design skills, ability to understand people, and willingness to take risks based on gut instinct.” I said “technical competency, ability to make data-driven decisions, budget management, and adaptability.” These are skills which rely heavily on the ability to be objective. Sounds like an IT professional could do the job of a marketer. And in some organizations we’re even seeing IT departments take on greater responsibility for marketing technology (I shall address that at another time).

So, in 2016 and beyond will objectivity eclipse creativity in marketing?

Despite the ever-growing trends toward technology and data, I say no. Why? Because despite all this, I still believe there’s a heart, soul and skill to marketing. Whenever I’m looking to hire someone and I’m evaluating the skill sets of the candidates, I always say, “I’d rather hire a marketer and teach them the technology, than hire a technologist I have to teach to be a marketer.” Technology is a tool, but there’s still a layer of subjectivity, humanity and creativity – beyond the formulas – required to attract, engage, convert and delight customers.

I’m certainly not suggesting we give a free pass to the technology-ignorant marketers out there. Today, you need to be able to read tactical reports, measure the funnel, understand how to develop integrated campaigns, know how automation works, leverage lead scoring, and live in your CRM platform. But these things do not replace understanding your audience, appealing to their senses, and hitting them with the right message via the right channels at the right time.