Content That Converts: Advice for Developing a Profitable Content Marketing Strategy
“Because you can’t eat brand equity, and can’t pay a team with it” – Laura Hanly, Digital Marketing Expert and Author, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy”
When done correctly, content marketing can serve as a powerful arm to your overall marketing strategy – it establishes you as an authority and has the potential to increase your revenue and profit. That’s why CMOs at the largest technology companies report that building out content marketing as an organizational competency is the second most important initiative, only behind measuring ROI.
For those still wrapping their head around the concept, according to Forrester:
“Content marketing is a strategy where brands create interest, relevance, and relationships with customers by producing, curating, and sharing content that addresses specific customer needs and delivers visible value.”
The challenge is figuring out how to do it right. As author Laura Hanly explains in her book, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy,” content is not a magic bullet.
Content marketing will not:
- Turn you into an internet celebrity (at least not overnight)
- Make you rich beyond your wildest dreams
And when done poorly, can:
- Harm your brand
- Put off potential customers
- Never pay off (resulting in wasted time and resources)
Hanly stresses the importance of having a consistent strategy for the content that you’re producing, so that your audience is engaged, comes to know and respect you as an authority, and will buy from you when the time is right (because the ultimate goal is sales, isn’t it?) Every single piece of content needs to end with a call to action that can lead to a sale.
Some questions to ask yourself and your team before committing to a content marketing strategy include:
- What is the purpose of our content marketing?
- Who are we trying to reach?
- What types of content should we produce?
- Do we have someone who can produce the content?
- Do we have good ideas about what our content would be focused on?
- Is our market segment interested in consuming that kind of content?
- How will we measure our success?
There are two main types of content you can use: recurring content, which builds a customer base gradually over time, and content assets (such as a whitepaper, a book, a webinar series or a learning workshop) that can be used as near-term client acquisition tools. Before choosing the route that’s best for your business, there are four things to ask yourself (what Hanly calls the Conversion Quadrant):
What’s the intersection between what your customers want and/or need?
Figure out what your customers really care about. What do they look to your company for insight about? How can your expertise intersect with what your customer wants and needs?
What do you want to be known as an industry authority for?
The simplest way to become an authority on something is to say the same things about that topic over and over again. Don’t just chase the latest trend – find the one thing you can focus on becoming known for that will make it easier to develop, market and sell products that your audience will buy again and again.
What is the format in which you produce your best content?
While most people think that its best to tailor your content to audience preferences, Hanly recommends choosing the format that you most enjoy working in – because if you like it, you’ll enjoy creating it, and your audience will like it too.
What’s your quarterly plan?
Mapping out your content helps you to be strategic about your production. This should include:
- A clear statement of your “one thing” your company will be an authority on
- Four themes you want to rotate through
- Three topics per theme, including key points on each
- Headlines for each topic
- Scheduled date of publication for each topic
Whichever path you decide to take with your content, if you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to do it right – if it feels like a chore every time you go to write – STOP. This will only result in an inconsistent content cycle with content that feels forced, uninspiring and unlikely to resonate with your audience.
The powerful thing about content marketing is that your assets increase in value over time. Whether it’s a blog, a book, a podcast or a whitepaper – you can always update later to improve it, modify key messages and share it with new audiences to see greater returns on early investments of your time and resources.
Remember – every piece of content you put out under your brand needs to be the best possible representation of who you are. Most prospects will have their first interaction with your brand through your content and just like in dating, you get one chance to make a good first impression.
By: Colleen Martin
Industry tradeshows are one of the oldest and most popular tools in the marketing toolbox for generating sales leads; they are also one of the most expensive. The industry average for a 20×20 tradeshow display costs between $40-$60K, according to ExhibitUSA – not including employee travel costs, hotel stays, food and beverage, audio and visual, alcohol, or entertainment.
To almost no one’s surprise, tradeshows continue to be one of the most powerful tactics for companies seeking a direct return on investment. Where else can you meet face to face with prospective customers and partners while getting to spy on your competitors?
If you have been using tradeshows solely as a sales tool, you’re missing out on opportunities to expand your PR footprint by building credibility and buzz for your brand, as well as getting to meet key trade media in person.
Whether you’re attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) or EDUCAUSE, there are great ways to build buzz and garner media coverage.
Be a detective
If you are an exhibitor, speaker or sponsor, chances are, you’ll have access to the registered list of media attendees. If not, or if the organizers won’t share the list with you, use Google to find out what media covered the event last year; there’s a strong chance that if they’re still at the same publication and covering the same beat, they’ll be the ones attending again. Reach out to inquire if they’ll be attending again and if they can make time to stop by your booth. If they aren’t assigned to cover the conference this year, ask if they can connect you to the right person at their publication.
The early bird gets the worm
If you wait until the week before your event to ask reporters for a meeting, you’ll be greatly disappointed. By that time, their calendars are already full. Traveling for tradeshows is a big investment for reporters, and they typically have a number of things they want to see and accomplish. They will have sessions they want to hear and interviews their editor has already assigned. Ideally, reach out 3-4 weeks in advance to ask for a meeting. If a reporter’s schedule won’t allow a face-to-face, schedule a phone interview in advance to brief them on your news so that if they do swing by your booth, the pressure is off for both of you and you can just hit the high points.
Create a sense of urgency
If your client has big news to share, don’t wait until the day of the show to make a splash! Give your media contacts a heads up at least a week in advance and share the release with them under embargo, so that they are able to gather all of the information and conduct any interviews they need to tell a great story, BEFORE they step foot on the tradeshow floor. This way, your story is more likely to run AT THE START OF or DURING the event, which can create greater buzz and capture greater attention.
Social media can’t be done in a vacuum
If your company has been inactive on social media channels up until now, leveraging a conference is a great starting point to build a following. Assign one person to be in charge, but encourage all employees to engage with the Company’s social media channels during the event. Use the event hashtag in your posts so that anyone following the conversation will see them. Use the weeks leading up to the event to leave teasers about what you’ll be showcasing, where your booth will be located, and to start generating conversation and building followers that you want to meet with at the event. Don’t rely on a colleague sitting in an office 3,000 miles away pushing out canned tweets that don’t reflect any real-time interaction from the event. Mix it up with photos, quick video interviews and direct quotes from speakers at the event.
When the show is over, you’re just beginning. You’ll want to follow up with any media and analysts that you met with at the conference to see if there they would like a follow-up call, if they have any questions, or if there are any materials that they would like to see. It’s YOUR responsibility to close the loop and move the tradeshow meeting into media coverage. And, for anyone that you weren’t able to meet with – because there will ALWAYS be cancellations – make sure to follow up to reschedule the meeting by phone. Connect with reporters you met on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter and have your client do so as well – use the tradeshow as a catalyst to get the conversation going.
Tradeshows are a large investment of time and money for companies. By putting the right amount of time, effort and strategy behind them, you can create measurable value beyond sales!
By Colleen Martin, Principal
This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Plexus Healthcare Innovation Hub in Philly. What an amazing place for health tech startups, especially medical device companies to get started – the space, equipment, people and networking at Plexus are incredible!
I was lucky enough to follow two amazing demonstrations that kept everyone glued to their seats and fully engaged – the first from Dr. Alan Flake of CHOP, who demonstrated an artificial womb that has the potential to significantly decrease the mortality and birth defects that can arise with premature births, and the second from Dr. Johann deSa, founder of Instadiagnostics, which is innovating healthcare at the point of care. Both companies have the potential to have a tremendous impact for patients.
My presentation was focused on how to develop a GTM plan for these types of startups that can stand up to the scrutiny of seed or first round funding. I was excited to present because not only do I love to see what’s coming next, I want to help what’s coming next get funded, get to market and get adopted.
My presentation followed the steps of the Zer0 to 5ive Roadmap™ – what you need to do to get to the point where you can develop a defensible GTM plan, especially necessary when you are looking for funding. These steps are:
2. Positioning and Messaging
3. Brand Strategy
4. Brand Identity
5. GTM Plan
As part of the presentation I also gave out this handout, which includes tips for conducting research. Basic competitive, industry and prospect research is within any entrepreneur’s grasp – you just need to know where to look and what to look for. My Tip Sheet will help!
One thing that I emphasized throughout the presentation was setting realistic and measurable goals. Too often entrepreneurs, in an attempt to impress investors, are unrealistic as to how hard it is, and how long it takes, to actually get your product market-ready, launch and acquire customers. Your objectives need to reflect your reality of time, money and resources, as well as market readiness and competition. Seasoned investors will appreciate that you understand the road ahead.
Surveys and statistics can lend a powerful punch to PR campaigns. When a PR pitch is supported with credible numbers and statistics, it is much more likely to get the attention of the media and be interesting to the public.
There are multiple ways so conduct surveys – phone, online, focus groups – but among the easiest is using an online survey company, such as SurveyMonkey, which enables you to create and deploy surveys quickly and easily.
How do you create a survey that will produce interesting content, and what do you then do with that content? Below are some tips for developing, deploying, analyzing and promoting surveys for PR campaigns.
- Pick a compelling and relevant topic – Don’t conduct a survey around a topic that no one cares about or that doesn’t align with your client’s goals. For your results to generate publicity successfully, you need to share information around a topic that will be of interest to your target audience. Along the same lines – don’t pick a topic that is so common that there are 100 other surveys on the same subject. The topic should be compelling and unique enough to make the findings newsworthy.
- Be statistically significant – When deploying your survey, make sure you collect responses from at least the minimum number of people required for valid results. Most online survey services have tools to help you determine what that representative sample of your audience is. Not only does this generate real scientific credence, but it also gives the immediate impression of legitimacy when you have a substantial sample size bolstering your statistics.
- Start backwards – Nothing is worse than investing effort and money in a survey only to realize you left out some key questions, or that the way in which the questions were worded failed to give you the information you wanted. When writing the survey, start by thinking through your ideal survey results first. What types of findings will support your campaign and be the most compelling? Think in pitch angles and headlines. Then write the survey with those headlines in mind.
- Keep it short – Organize your survey questions in a way that creates a narrative flow and helps you tell a story with the findings. Ask broader questions – e.g. questions on the industry or market trends – at the start and then narrow the topic to ask more specific questions that relate directly to the product or service you are promoting. In general, surveys should be no more than 25 questions. Take the survey yourself. If you need more than 5 minutes to complete it, cut it down.
- Ask, and then ask again – Consider asking the same “key” questions several times, in several different ways, to ensure that you get the data points that you are looking for around your main survey topic. This will provide you with multiple data points to support your campaign.
- Check your stats – Before you publicize your findings, double-check the numbers to confirm accuracy and ensure that the information has all been interpreted as intended. One wrong statistic can impact the credibility of the entire survey.
- Promote the findings in multiple formats – Announce the findings of the survey through a press release and through your social media channels. You can also create an executive summary to showcase the details and post it on your website. Use the findings throughout the year in media and marketing efforts, including pitches, social media, press releases and web copy.
- Get graphic – The media loves visual content that they can share with readers. Incorporate colorful graphics and charts into your executive summary to illustrate the findings in exciting ways. Create an infographic that summarizes key data points and tells a story. Make it easy to share via social media and watch your reach increase.
- Slice and dice – Parse your data in different ways to tailor your results for specific reporters and/or target markets. Create pitches, infographics and press releases on different key themes from your survey, or break down the stats by age, gender or geographic region to uncover additional insights.
- Time it right – Time the release of the findings with a key event, such as a conference or tradeshow, or a relevant awareness day to maximize the news value and increase visibility. You can also create a survey that you conduct annually to give a year-over-year update on key data points and track changes and trends within your industry.
There are many ways that surveys can be used in PR campaigns to educate target audiences and increase awareness for products and services. What are some ways you use surveys for PR?
By: Jennifer Moritz
In today’s buyer-empowered marketplace, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to establish brand loyalty and effectively reach their target demographics. Audiences have become deafened to companies’ self-promotion, and standard marketing practices are falling short. In recent years, integrated marketing strategies have replaced more singular efforts. However, campaigns are oftentimes still missing a valuable component that is proven to broaden campaign reach and build brand loyalty: Experiential marketing.
Experiential marketing, also referred to as event marketing, is a method focused on directly engaging audiences and encouraging consumers to experience a brand. Whether you’re hosting a webinar, exhibiting at a tradeshow or using a street team to spread awareness, experiential marketing has the ability to transcend traditional marketing tactics and illuminate your brand.
When implementing experiential marketing tactics, there are a few guiding principles to keep in mind:
Know your audience.
Audiences have become desensitized to brands shouting at them to pay attention and instead crave a more organic approach to marketing. People like to feel as though they’ve discovered the brand themselves, which, in turn, can result in stronger consumer advocacy and brand loyalty. Events are the perfect way to provide potential customers with a memorable experience that can lead to long-term commitment and increased ROI.
There are countless ways to engage your audience through experiential marketing, but it’s important to keep in mind that not every form of engagement will reach your particular customer. Know your target demographic and choose an activation that appeals to them. Resist the urge to jump on the latest trends and curate an experience that’s true to both your brand and your audience. If you understand your audience and position your brand activation accordingly, people will be more likely to pay attention.
Tell a story.
Storytelling is key to experiential marketing. Find the ethos in your brand mission and leverage that message to connect with your target demographic. From conception, your brand should tell a story that demonstrates the value customers receive when engaging with your product or services. This story should be integrated into every aspect of your brand strategy from logo and website to consumer education and beyond.
Experiential marketing offers the opportunity to strengthen your brand’s narrative and provide consumers with a tangible understanding of your product or service, while also clarifying the customer’s role within the brand.
Use technology to communicate your message.
One way to ensure consumer engagement is by applying a technological overlay to your real-world activation. Events offer face-to-face interaction with potential customers that can be significantly heightened with the use of technology. Whether you’re demonstrating the use of your product through VR headsets or projecting an interactive survey in your tradeshow booth, there are endless opportunities to engage your customer in a creative and tech-savvy way.
Engage community partners.
When possible, be sure to align yourself with complementary brands and like-minded businesses. Companies often fear that partnerships during event activation will dilute their own brand’s message. However, the right partner can provide tremendous value to your brand through cross-promotion opportunities, increased customer reach and sharing of additional resources. Don’t be afraid to spark strategic partnerships with brands that make sense.
Make it memorable.
The saturated marketplace makes it essential to establish an engaging relationship with your audience. No matter how you choose to activate your brand, be sure to continue the momentum. Make the experience sharable through social media by clearly displaying handles and tags to ensure the interaction is captured and shared on social media platforms.
By collecting leads during the activation, you also have a perfect platform for follow-up communication with an audience that you know is listening. Use the opportunity to highlight what’s next or circulate a survey that will yield valuable insights.
According to Jack Morton’s New Reality 2012 findings, three out of four consumers strongly agree with this statement: “I only advocate for brands when I have had personal experiences with them.”
Whether you’re starting small or jumping into the biggest expo of the year, experiential marketing is a valuable method to enhance your current marketing strategy and take your brand to the next level in customer engagement.
By: Deirdre Purdy
Video as a Rising Social Medium
According to Cisco, video will account for 69% of all consumer traffic by 2017. Both current statistics and trend predictions like this one indicate video’s rapid rise as a social medium. It’s clear that marketers need to include it in their content strategy in order to provide maximum exposure for their businesses.
What Does Video Bring to a Content Marketing Strategy?
- Maximized engagement
- Cross-device targeting
- Brand authenticity and communication on a human level
- Cross-promotion with digital marketing initiatives
Even Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Leverage Video Marketing
One of the factors fueling video’s growing popularity is the decrease in production costs. With the advent of video cameras on mobile phones and desktops, wearable cameras like GoPros, and single-camera, documentary-style footage, great videos can be made at a fraction of budgets deemed necessary just 5 years ago.
With a lowered barrier to entry, video isn’t just for enterprise businesses with enterprise budgets. In fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that over 1.5 million small businesses posted video on Facebook in the month of September alone in 2015.
When the opportunity for relevant video content presents itself, companies of all sizes should seize it. Here’s an example of how Zer0 to 5ive recently helped a client take advantage of such an opportunity to create a compelling video series.
Carnegie Mellon University: The Spotlight Series
Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science (CMU SCS) wished to showcase their innovative programs and visionary research to attract the world’s top undergraduates, graduates and faculty. CMU SCS faculty is teaching the next generation of computer scientists, working with industry leaders, developing new forms of AI, and building care-giving robots to best learn how to help people in need. In highlighting these impressive endeavors, the Spotlight Series was born.
Tips on How to Promote and Cross-Promote Video Content
After post-production, how can a marketer best promote and cross-promote video content online? Author Andrew Macarthy provides the following tips in his bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.
Tips for Facebook
- Because videos auto-play on silent, hook viewers with a striking visual within the first 3 seconds
- Upload SRT caption files with your video to broadcast your message even while muted
- Keep your video to approximately 30 seconds for optimum viewer engagement
- Upload video to Facebook natively, as opposed to sharing it from YouTube, in order to increase reach
- Via the Video tab, organize your videos into playlists, tag people, and add descriptive labels
Tips for YouTube
- Keep your video to approximately 3 minutes for optimum viewer engagement
- Include keywords at the front of your video title and branding at the end
- Tag your video with keywords and keyword phrases in quotations
- Take advantage of YouTube’s interactive cards, the evolution of annotations
- If you have a series of videos, add all of them to a dedicated playlist so they run continuously and indicate the series name in the title of each video
Tips for Cross-Promotion
- Embed video in blog posts
- Embed a YouTube Subscribe channel widget on your website, which is also a way to advertise your video content and YouTube activity
- Tweet about your video with relevant hashtags, making sure to include “Video:” before the title
- Comment on other videos your audience is watching to increase your brand awareness
Now may be a great time for you to start considering video if you haven’t already. The benefits will continue to grow as demand rapidly increases, so why not take the leap now? You can start small and build up to a more robust content plan as your skills improve and as you get feedback from your prospects and customers.
We’re all guilty of jumping on the bandwagon once or twice in our lives (maybe more?), whether it was pairing socks with your Birkenstocks, bleaching your hair so you could be more like Eminem, or jumping into Snapchat without a clue. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s what it is to be human. In business though, joining the latest trend without considering all of the elements and possible effects can be costly or, even worse, damage your brand.
In the book 500 Social Media Marketing Tips, author Andrew Macarthy discusses the one big mistake that many businesses make with social media: joining social media sites just because everyone else is doing so. When businesses join these sites without understanding what they are doing or why, it can lead to unrealistic goal-setting, poor results, wasted time and squandered resources.
To avoid such consequences, here are five key considerations your business should make before using social media:
- Decide which social networks suit your brand: The social media sites that work best for your business will be those where your target audience already hangs out. For example, if you are a B2B company, your target audience will most likely be present on LinkedIn and Twitter, as opposed to platforms like Instagram or Pinterest.
- Define and evaluate your goals: Before posting content on your social media platforms, identify the goals you would like to reach using the SMART technique. With this method, you will determine the Specific goals you want to reach, as well as how your goals are Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specific.
- Shape your content strategy: Before you begin your social media marketing, take the time to perform an audit, identifying your audience along with what problems you can help solve, what questions you can answer, what type of content they prefer (i.e. text, photo, graphics, video) and when they are most likely to be around to see it. You should also use this time to determine what your competition is doing on social media.
- Plan content in advance: Developing a social media content calendar allows you to plan your social media for weeks and even months in advance. For example, you can plan to promote blog posts on Monday, ask your audience questions on Tuesdays, share relevant infographics on Wednesdays, etc. Planning ahead will also allow you to incorporate relevant holidays, awareness days, and important company events and milestones. However, be sure to leave room for spontaneous posts too.
- Understand that social media requires a lot of time: In order for social media marketing to be successful, it will require a significant investment of time over the long haul. Typically, at least 12-15 hours per week should be spent planning, creating, and scheduling content, as well as measuring results and engaging customers. Hence the importance of selecting your platforms wisely and not spreading yourself too thin!
These five considerations will help you begin to understand what kind of approach to social media works for your business. Whether you need to boost brand recognition, connect with new customers or increase traffic to your website, social media can be a cost-effective way to achieve your goals. Although it takes a lot of time and effort, social media can be well worth it when it’s done right.
By Maggie Markert
I hate to be the bearer of bad, awful news, but there isn’t a patented formula for successful content marketing. No matter how much we all wish that every post we publish would set the web on fire, rarely does that ever happen. More often than not, it feels like a cruel game of attrition trying to find the right topic, angle and frequency.
When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left
Let’s take a step back and simplify what content marketing is. Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi explains in his thought-provoking book, Epic Content Marketing, that there are four primary ways to communicate with your audience:
While the latter two options are perfectly viable for any business, it’s the first two that Pulizzi deems absolutely critical to audience engagement. And what differentiates content marketing (1 and 2) from traditional marketing (3 and 4) is how valuable the audience perceives the content to be. After all, 70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles rather than ads, according to Demand Metric. Moreover, the combination of information and entertainment is where content marketing really has the potential to shine, and nothing proves that more than one of the most beloved children’s television shows of all time.
Hitting the public airwaves in November 1969, Sesame Street captured the minds and imaginations of kids everywhere with its unique blend of puppets, vocabulary, math and science. More than four decades later and the series is still going strong, having enriched the lives of over 77 million Americans in the process. So what’s the key to this show’s success?
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Children want to learn. They want to grow. They want to explore. But until Sesame Street came along, no one was willing to gamble on a program that tried to teach kids through a TV screen.
Research at the time showed that young children didn’t have the attention span to follow an hour-long lesson, so the show’s creators decided to try something different. They used educational goals to shape the content and then chopped up the format to create a faster, more engaging pace tailored to their audience. Standalone, curriculum-based segments were interspersed with fun sketches and animations, keeping kids tuned in not only from beginning to end, but also episode after episode.
Of course, that’s not to say the show was flawless right off the bat. Continuous research was needed to hone in on the ideal characters, most effective segments and best overall structure. The series underwent countless adjustments until it reached its stride. For example, do you remember Professor Hastings? Exactly! He got the axe during the first season because he was found to be too dull in comparison to his energetic cohorts, and the show was better for it.
And when new studies came to light decades after the debut, showing that children were more capable of following stories than originally believed, the Street began to incorporate evolving narratives to captivate a different generation. It never stopped evolving.
From Muppets to Marketing
You may be thinking, what do a bunch of fuzzy puppets have to do with my business’s content marketing plan? Well, let’s look at what Sesame Street is really doing here. Yes, they’re teaching children. Yes, they’re pleasing parents. But they’re also selling tons of merchandise. If you look at it through this lens, the show is actually the ultimate form of content marketing.
In Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi defines the practice as “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Tickle Me Elmo would gleefully agree!
Understandably, very few businesses are in position to launch a wildly popular television series, but Sesame Street is sunny day inspiration at its best. The show’s constant experimentation to find the perfect mixture of education and entertainment is something all content marketers should strive to emulate. Only by understanding what your audience needs and delivering it in a compelling way can you begin to cultivate a loyal group of consumers.
Now, I can’t tell you how to get to Sesame Street, but I can help you follow their lead. Here are some things to think about as you develop your content marketing plan:
- Figure out what your audience wants to know. Kids love stories and naturally want to learn how to read, so Sesame Street enlisted a lovable cast of characters to teach those lessons. It’s up to you to figure out the curriculum that clicks with your audience.
- Choose the right media. Obviously, children are more likely to watch a colorful show than page through a lengthy case study, but every audience has its preferred content format. You need to find out where your prospects turn to first when they want to acquire new knowledge.
- Balance the information with the entertainment. Should your content marketing be a profound Big Bird production or an all-out Cookie Monster extravaganza? Maybe the tone needs to be dialed in somewhere between the two. Only your audience can decide.
- Research. Readjust. Repeat. Track your KPIs constantly to see what’s working and what isn’t. Oscar isn’t as grouchy as he used to be. Snuffleupagus is no longer a hallucination. Your content will need to change over time to keep up with your audience’s shifting preferences, so don’t be afraid to deviate from your original plan.
Keep these guidelines in mind every time you create new content and you’ll be well on your way to where the air is sweet.
This blog post was brought to you by the numbers 0, 2 and 5.
By Justin Schorah / firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you are redesigning your company’s website, developing event collateral, or implementing a PR program, an outside agency can be your most valuable resource. However, it’s critical that you, as the client, guide them on the path to success and stay involved so that your agency gets the direction they need to really shine, and you get the results you want. Here are some tips to maximize your agency relationship.
Work with your agency and all major internal stakeholders to outline the deliverables and qualities of those deliverables. Get specific about what measurable objectives you can expect from your agency. Share examples of other brands, websites or articles with your agency for review so they better understand what success looks like to you. An outline of your goals will serve as the guiding framework for the project, and will be a helpful resource as the project evolves.
Collaborate & Communicate
Perhaps the reason you hired an agency in the first place is because you are just too busy with other priorities. In that case, delegate oversight and day-to-day communication to an internal partner that you trust! Your agency will need information and feedback that only an internal resource and industry expert can provide. From proposal to kickoff to execution – stakeholder input is key to making sure that the project is successful and drives results. Like with any other business partnership, collaboration and consistent communication from both agency and client is key.
Be Direct and Specific
Be as specific as possible when giving feedback throughout the project lifecycle, but particularly at the beginning of a project. Not sure what you need or what you are looking for exactly? That’s completely okay! Your agency should have experience and be able to make recommendations. During the process, be specific about what you like or don’t like. Communication and iteration are critical to achieving the very best results, so don’t hesitate to ask for another option or to see something presented in a different way.
Trust the Experts
Set a tone of trust. As much as your agency team needs and wants your input, remember that they are the experts in their field and fully understand best practices and strategies to achieve the best results for you. Trust your agency to do what they do best – to produce creative, compelling and effective work. If you’ve been engaged from the beginning, then the collaboration should be apparent. In the case where you think the results are off base or the team has missed the mark in some way, there’s no harm in a targeted course correct. You and your agency are a team!
Whatever your role, your agency relationship can be a secret weapon. Armed with the right information, agencies can be a strategic partner that brings significant value to the relationship.
By Lizzie Beggs
Change is a constant – in business and in life. Embrace it or fight it, there’s no denying it. Change is disruptive, often messy and always challenging. It is also necessary for innovation and growth. In marketing, it is vital to innovate often – moving faster and smarter than your competitors. Where new products and solutions are concerned, the first to market has a clear advantage to dominate mind and market share. Even established brands that fail to recognize user needs and respond quickly, and with the right message, are in danger of becoming irrelevant. Apple’s iPod took out the Microsoft Zune not because it was a dramatically better product, but because Apple did an absolutely fantastic job of marketing the device. Almost 10 years later, the iPod is practically a synonymous term for MP3 player, and I can’t name you a single competitor.
Similarly, managing internal change and innovation, such as the development of a new website or the implementation of a new strategic marketing plan is all about embracing and leveraging change. The most successful businesses understand change is inevitable. They don’t resist it – they pay attention to it, anticipate it, and strike while the iron is hot to make the most of it! These are the businesses that end up influencing change. At Zer0 to 5ive, we have had the honor of working with some amazing and innovative companies, and in doing so, have been able to observe the beauty of change and innovation when it’s done right.
These are my top (0 to) 5 tips on the successful management of change.
0. Always start with research.
Proactive research will ensure you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the market. Identifying market trends and understanding customer buying habits, demographics, economic shifts and competitive landscape can guide your team in making smarter, faster business decisions. It also provides your team with a compelling business case for change and a platform to start selling the idea internally.
1. Buy-in starts with the executive team, but it shouldn’t end there.
Getting the buy-in of the executive team is an important starting point for every change initiative. Unfortunately, it often stops there. Lack of communication or mishandled communication can create resistance and negativity down the chain of command. Sell the vision and the benefits of the change so that everyone involved is excited as opposed to fearful.
2. Have a plan.
Seems pretty obvious, no? A lot of people say they have a plan, but in fact only have a vague notion of how they are going to get from Point A to Point B. In my experience, change is a whole lot easier if you have mapped out your path and shared it. While any plan is (theoretically) better than no plan, a good plan will provide clear and concise direction and include timelines, milestones, roles and responsibilities, challenges, potential roadblocks and measurable goals.
3. There is no such thing as over communication.
Clear and frequent communication is an essential aspect of managing change. People fear the unknown. Communicating ideas, progress and yes – even problems – helps people to feel more involved and secure. Good communication bolsters confidence and makes people feel more secure. Additionally, open dialogue can lead to creative solutions for problems your team has yet to face, cutting the time it takes for your message to reach the market.
4. Focus on what’s important.
You’ve established a strong foundation through research, gained buy-in and insight from your organization, put together a killer plan and communicated it effectively – now all that’s left is delivery! Keep the team engaged, communicating and focused on the right activities at the right time for the right result. Focus on the end goal and execute against the plan.
5. Be flexible, open minded, and embrace the unexpected.
Roll with the punches and have fun!
Post by Cole Naldzin, Director