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How To Make The Best Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign…

You’re pushing out new marketing campaigns on a monthly basis.

Sure, it’s bringing results in terms of direct sales and ROI.

Brand wise? There’s not much impact.

Brand awareness is notoriously hard to track. Small things add up over time, and it’s fairly unrealistic to expect that one campaign will cement you in the Hall of Fame for brands in your industry.

However, there is one thing that can nudge you closer to tons of brand recognition: an integrated marketing communications campaign.

In this guide, we’ll share:

  • What integrated marketing communications (IMC) is
  • Why IMC is important
  • A real-world example of an IMC campaign
  • How to draft an IMP plan

[Tweet “How to plan the best integrated content marketing communications campaign in the world with multiple teams.”]

Grab Your Free Integrated Marketing Communications Template Bundle

Before we get started, we’ve created a template bundle to help you implement your new integrated marketing communications plan.

You’ll get:

  1. An integrated marketing communications campaign proposal Word Doc template to help you get every stakeholder on board.
  2. A campaign execution and launch timeline Excel spreadsheet template to help you plan when your resources will complete the content within your project.
  3. A marketing workflow process checklist to help you translate content into efficiently delegable tasks your resources will execute.

Sounds great, right? That’s because it is. Better than that: it’s free.

Download your bundle now before we get into the full breakdown. It’s well worth it, and it will save you tons of time when turning your integrated marketing communications plan into action.

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What is Integrated Marketing Communications?

Integrated marketing communications is the strategy a business uses to make a brand experience and message consistent across several channels.

That might be across:

  • Social media
  • Press releases
  • Sales promotion
  • Direct marketing campaigns
  • TV and billboard ads
  • Radio commercials

The goal? To make your marketing messages consistent and portrayed the same throughout each channel.

The average person sees up to 10,000 marketing messages a day, but just 4% are positively remembered.

With an integrated marketing campaign, you’ll be a unified force to be reckoned with. Repetition is what makes people remember your ads. The more they’re exposed to a consistent brand message, the higher the odds of them remembering you and taking action.

It’s sometimes called an integrated marketing mix, for this reason.

Why Does Integrated Marketing Communications Matter?

Now that we know what an integrated marketing communications strategy is, you might have one question on your mind: “Why do I actually need one?”

There are tons of reasons.

The first: brand awareness and recognition. Increasing brand awareness is the top goal for B2B marketers, with over 86% saying it’s their main goal for the upcoming year.

It even beats educating customers and building credibility.

Your target audience will need to see your brand across several media channels between 5 to 7 times before they even remember your brand — never mind purchase off the back of that recognition.

An integrated marketing communications plan means your brand is consistent. If customers see the same brand messaging across several platforms, it can lead to average revenue increases of 33%.

See? Told you there were reasons to have one.

[Tweet “Your target audience will need to see your brand across several media channels between 5 to 7 times before they even remember your brand.”]

What Do IMC Campaigns Typically Include?

Wondering what an integrated marketing communications campaign needs to include?

Remember, this marketing strategy enforces a consistent message across various channels, platforms, and formats. That means a campaign usually includes:

  • Social media content for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook
  • Content marketing assets, such as blog posts, case studies, and videos
  • Adverts, including social media ads, billboards, and direct mail ads
  • Visual assets such as logos, social media images, and infographics
  • Public relations content, such as press releases and brand statements

You’ll probably have several marketing teams working together to create an IMC campaign.

Everyone from your social media marketing team to your in-house graphic designers need to be briefed on what your brand message is, so they can create marketing collateral to showcase it in all its glory through their own channels.

What Stops IMC From Being Successful?

Unfortunately, not every integrated marketing communications strategy goes to plan.

Things can get lost in translation — and cause inconsistencies across platforms — when you’re making one of these mistakes:

  1. Silos between teams. A social media team thinks the brand message is different than the press team. Each works in silo without collaboration or communication. What happens? Inconsistencies.
  2. Lack of coordination between staff. Speaking of working across multiple marketing departments, all staff need to be coordinated. If teams are using different graphics, working on different timelines, or have different rules for how they engage with the public, it’ll cause issues.
  3. Weak knowledge of how different teams fit together. Got an advertising agency that has no idea on the part your product team plays in IMC? It’s a recipe for disaster. Everyone needs to know how each department works together to launch a single campaign.

What stops the success of an integrated marketing campaign?

A Real-World Example of an IMC Campaign

Want to see an integrated marketing campaign in action?

Drift is a textbook example.

They’re a B2B revenue acceleration platform, but instead of generic marketing campaigns, they made up the phrase “conversational marketing” and ran an ongoing integrated marketing campaign across various channels.

The start was a master guide about conversational marketing on their website, but that came alongside tweets, videos, and Facebook ads:

Drift Facebook ad

Even a standalone book cemented their position and authority on the topic.

What happened off the back of this integrated marketing campaign?

People started talking about it. The term “conversational marketing” was everywhere, and Drift squeezed the value out of it.

Their master guide has 500+ backlinks from over 300 different websites.

Drift and conversational marketing

Drift also takes the top spot for the keyword “conversational marketing” — a term searched by 500+ people per month. That’s not including any keyword variations, of which there are hundreds.

How to Draft Your Integrated Marketing Communications Plan in 6 Simple Steps

We know what a good integrated marketing communications plan looks like and the downfalls to avoid when creating yours.

Speaking of which, now’s the perfect time to draft your IMC strategy.

Your plan will include three, key parts:

  1. A creative brief outlining why you’re taking on this project, the audience you’re targeting, the verbiage you’ll use to attract those folks, and more foundational elements that will help your team understand the purpose of the campaign.
  2. A content and promotion campaign timeline that outlines the phases of work completed toward the ultimate publish date. This helps you understand when your cross-functional team will complete the work for each piece of content within the campaign.
  3. A human resources plan your campaign needs to be successful. This includes the names of the individuals you’ll need to pull from other teams to get your IMC campaign completed.

Sound daunting? Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds.

The benefits of doing this give you a solid starting point for a conversation with your manager to get campaign approval, which you can take to the other teams’ managers and get their approval.

Let’s dig in.

1. Write Your Campaign’s Creative Brief

Regardless of what type of digital marketing activity you’re planning, the first thing to nail down is the why.

Simon Sinek literally wrote a book about it.

Ask yourself:

  • Why are you taking on this campaign right now?
  • Why will it be successful?
  • Why will your audience prefer your campaign on this topic compared to your competition (i.e. how will yours be better)?

Anything you can do to back up those answers with your own data will help you prove why your team should take on this project right now. It’s easy to think things are important when they  really aren’t. Data can’t lie.

The most effective way to do this? By citing how your new campaign idea reflects qualities from the most successful projects you’ve already launched.

You can do this by:

  1. Setting Goals in Google Analytics.
  2. Tracking which pieces deliver the highest number toward those goals with a Google Analytics Custom Report.
  3. Analyzing the qualities within those successful pieces to include content like them in your new campaign.

During this planning stage, you’ll also want to create a project brief. This document outlines key details of your new campaign, including:

  • Your target audience: Keep it simple; this could be, “{Audience title/role} who have issues with {insert challenge}.” If you’re feeling the pressure from office bureaucracy for a little more polished understanding of your target market, use this free template to create your own persona and include it in your campaign plan.
  • Campaign goal: While you based this campaign on ideas you know have already been successful, this goal isn’t necessarily about laying out the “numbers” of what your campaign will generate — though you could include that in your campaign plan, too, if your business needs the data. Instead, write what you aim for your audience to experience. For example, “Attract the right kinds of {audience title/role} who will be interested in {company name’s} {product/service}.”
  • Call to action: One clear call to action per piece gives your audience way fewer distractions. For your integrated campaign, that likely means the same call to action across all pieces. This could be “sign up for your free demo” or “start your 14-day free trial.”

Now that we have the foundations laid, let’s move onto the actual messaging.

The key is to nail the language your audience uses to describe the challenges they face, which your new campaign promises to solve.

[Tweet “The key to messaging is to nail the language your audience uses to describe their challenges.”]

At CoSchedule, we call this framework “talking points” or “speaking points”.

It’s an exercise to help you connect the dots between what you want to market, and what your audience cares about — stopping any campaigns from missing the mark.

There are several ways to uncover your audience’s voice:

  • Audience and/or customer user surveys: Comb through customer surveys to understand the actual words people use to describe their challenges. Use a marketing tool, like Typeform or SurveyMonkey, to do this, asking one simple question: “Why did you hire/choose {company name}?” Open-ended questions give your audience the freedom to describe the why, which gives you the literal words they use — making for excellent marketing copy.
  • Blog post comments: If you publish blog posts, your audience likely leaves comments through your comment system, like Disqus. Those are GOLD for you to respond back and ask why they found the information helpful. Use their words in your marketing copy.
  • Social media interactions: When someone shares your content or mentions you, you have the opportunity to respond. In that response, you can ask, “Why?” Why did they share? What challenge were they facing that your content helped them solve? Make a note of any sentences you see crop-up often.

By this stage, we know who our customers are, the goal of your campaign, and the language your target audience uses.

Now, it’s time to connect the dots.

Again, you’ll use another why-based framework. This time, focusing on why your campaign is important for that particular audience.

Let’s put that into practice. Say your campaign is based on a new service offering that integrates two frequently-used systems or applications. You want to sound like the annoying child that asks “why” after every. single. question.

Ask yourself:

  • Why does my audience care about this new service? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.
  • Why does my audience care about this {benefit from previous answer}? Because {insert benefit they get}.

… you get the gist.

It’s kind of like a rabbit hole. You ask yourself, “Why?” Then you keep asking yourself, “Why?” to every answer you come up with.

To be honest, the example above with you only answering that question five times probably isn’t enough. You want to get to the emotional root here; the ultimate reason your audience will really care.

That emotion is what makes people see your marketing campaign and take action.

As you go through this process, you’re going to come up with common themes right away: they’ll save time and money.

The problem with stopping there is that every single company in the world makes those generic promises. How is your offering different? How is your offering better? What is the real reason your audience wants to save time or money?

Your goal is to come up with three to five emotional root benefits or reasons why your audience will love your product or service.

If your company produces a unique take on baked cookies, your root benefits might be:

  • Unique flavors
  • Healthy ingredients
  • Environmentally conscious

From there, you’ll draft speaking points in the form of three to five bullet points.

These bullet points should each be about two sentences long and include the language your audience uses as to attract an audience like the folks with whom you’ve already connected.

Finally, look up core and related keywords your audience uses to find content like you will publish. Using the same cookies example, that might be:

  • “Healthy cookies”
  • “Peppermint cookies”
  • “Eco-friendly dessert businesses”

This is a process in and of itself, so we recommend setting some time aside to read our master guide to keyword research. It’ll make this step 10x easier.

That’s it!

By this point, you should have a campaign creative brief that includes the following information:

  1. Overview
  2. Why do this campaign *right now*?
  3. Why will it be successful?
  4. Why will your audience love it?
  5. Your target audience
  6. The goal
  7. Call to action
  8. Speaking points
  9. Keywords

A Creative Brief Example From CoSchedule

Phew. That’s a lot to take in.

Grab your free creative brief template (the one that came in your kit that complements this blog post) to get started.

Then, follow along with this example, if you find it helpful.

Campaign Summary

An eCommerce research project intended to attract small business owners wanting to launch their own online store.

Details

  • Who is this for? Small business owners and “makers” that are currently selling on Etsy, farmer’s markets, etc.
  • What problem does this solve? {Brand} is finding it difficult to convince designers, makers, and small business owners of the benefits to creating their own webshops, rather than selling via Etsy. This report will provide {brand} with original data to use throughout the year and will highlight the benefits of setting up an eCommerce site.
  • What is the goal? The primary goal is to increase interest in using {brand} as the go-to eCommerce platform. This will help position {brand} as the best solution for setting up an eCommerce website. We will create a comprehensive research report that aims to convert 5,000 new paid users by the end of 2021.
  • How will we measure it? This report will be measured based on the number of new accounts generated from gated downloads.

Hypothesis

If we shed light on the increased rate of success by simply having an eCommerce site, makers will be more likely to use our platform.

Process

  1. Write survey questions
  2. Distribute survey
  3. Analyze data
  4. Write content for the report
  5. Design PDF
  6. Prepare promotion strategy
  7. Measure

Teams Involved

  • PR, Graphic Design, Social Media, Analytics, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, and SEO

Timeline

End of Q2 2021

Budget

$25,000

2. Plan Your Content, Promotion, and Resources

Remember how we mentioned that an integrated marketing communications team needs to work together across different departments?

At this point, you’ll plan how you use each department.

Simply start by looking at a list of all of the different types of content you could possibly include in your campaign. There are over 100 to choose from.

You can check out the complete list of content ideas. Literally copy them from that blog post and paste them into the “Content + Promotion Checklist” tab (column A) in your integrated marketing communications template spreadsheet.

Content promo tab

Now that you know all of the content you’ll create as part of the campaign, you likely have a pretty good grasp on whose help you’ll need to execute each piece.

Think of names and resources (both internal and external) of the folks who need to be involved.

Think of the executioners — the doers — on the Graphic Design, PR, Advertising, Digital Media, Social Media, Content, SEO, Product Marketing, and your team. Everyone with even a slight marketing aspect to their role should be considered.

Write those names in column B in the “Content + Promotion Checklist” tab in your template.

At this point, you’re just getting acquainted with who you’ll need help from to make your project successful. This gives you a framework to have a conversation with each of their managers to get their permission to borrow time from their talent.

Generally speaking, the more often a specific name pops up, the more involved they’ll need to be in the project.

Later, after you have the conversation with each team member’s manager, you’ll figure out how much time that person will need to contribute to make the project a success.

It’s a little early in the process to start with the math here, but knowing who you’ll need, and how much of an impact they’ll have on the project, is a good starting point.

[Tweet “Knowing who you’ll need, and how much of an impact they’ll have on the project, is a good starting point.”]

3. Create Your Campaign Workflows and Launch Timeline

The process to create each piece of content usually looks something like this:

  1. Write/Record
  2. Design
  3. Edit
  4. Proof/Approve
  5. Launch
  6. Promote

It goes without saying that every phase needs to be completed before launch — including prepping all of the promotional elements.

By this point, you know who needs to be involved in the content creation process, and it’s probably pretty obvious to you who you need in each phase for each piece of content: a writer for blog posts, a video editor for videos, and so on.

Generically speaking, map out when each phase of creation will be completed for each piece of content within your integrated marketing campaign.

You’ll use the “Campaign Timeline Map” tab in your integrated marketing communications template spreadsheet to plan all of this.

Example of a campaign timeline map

Some bonus tips to make this stage easier:

  1. Start with one piece at a time. Write the content idea in column A.
  2. Think of weeks and time in a generic sense right now. In the first week of taking on this specific piece, what phases will be completed? Start with column B (i.e. week 1) for all pieces for the moment.
  3. Match the team member name with a color, so you can easily see how much is on someone’s plate in a given week at a glance. This is optional, but it seriously makes things easier because you’ll never delegate too much to a single person to complete in a single week. Chances are, that would cause delays in the entire campaign execution process.
  4. Move the starting weeks of content creation to stagger the workload. You want this plan to be as realistically doable as possible. Simply copy every phase of content creation starting in column B (i.e. week 1) to the last column with execution in it and move it all back at least one week. You’ll stagger all of the content this way.
  1. Note: Execute the most important content first. That way, if things hit a delay or snag of some kind, you have the option of cutting less important things to still hit the main project deadline.

A Campaign Timeline Map Example

Wondering what this timeline looks like with data filled in?

Let’s take a look at an example campaign timeline, so you can see what this looks like in practice:

integrated marketing communications campaign timeline map example

You’ll note this looks different than your spreadsheet template.

We’ve made a few extra tweaks to make it even easier.

Each week is split into two columns, so you can see:

  1. Who needs to complete their work at the beginning of the week?
  2. Who needs to wrap up things at the end?

We’d also recommend using multiple rows for a single piece of content. This may be necessary as you work through two phases of content development at the same time for a single piece of content.

For example, you may be able to write emails while another team member schedules social media messages. Neither of these tasks relies upon one another to be completed first or second, so having different team members execute these at the same time will help you move through the campaign creation process faster.

Let’s face it, that’s what we all dream of doing.

Finally, think of your template as a framework — a starting point. Customize it as you see fit. Think it’d be useful to add an extra column? Go for it. Make this template your own.

4. Get Approval From the Talent’s Management

Now, for the hardest part of the entire integrated marketing communications campaign process.

You’ve already gotten approval from the marketing manager (yourself). Next, you need approval from other department managers to push forward with the campaign.

Getting higher-ups on board and on your side from the get-go makes collaboration easier among your co-supervisors and cross-functional teams as you begin executing. You’ll get their permission to lend time from their departments.

The good news? You’ve already done the hard work!

Now, it’s just time to show each of the cross-functional team members’ managers what you plan to do and set some expectations of what you’ll need from the talent.

Easy.

Start by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with each teams’ supervisor.

If one of these folks is a bureaucratic pest, their depressingly contagious opinions won’t infect the supervisors who’ll be cool with your IMC proposal. One-on-ones give you the opportunity to deflect that behavior on a person-by-person basis.

Set up 30-minute one-on-ones with the:

  • Graphic Design Lead
  • Head of PR
  • Advertising Manager
  • Multimedia Supervisor
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Head of Product Marketing

Yes, I know that’s three hours of meetings. I can hear you yawning on the other side of the screen, but it’s the best way to get everyone onboard.

[Tweet “Schedule 30-minute, one-on-one meetings with team supervisors to get everyone onboard with your campaign.”]

Follow this short agenda to stay on-track during these meetings:

  1. 5 minutes: Show your creative brief. This is high-level stuff. Begin by saying, “To start, I simply want to fill you in on why we’re taking on this project.” Then literally walk them through the creative brief.
  2. 5 minutes: Show the content and promotion checklist. After they have an understanding of why you’re tackling this campaign now, they will likely want to know what you need help creating. Showing off the checklist immediately after the campaign overview gives your co-supervisors a quick overview of every piece of content you plan to publish as part of the project.
  3. 5 minutes: Gather content and promotion feedback. Chances are, your co-supervisors have feedback the moment they see all of the content you plan to create for the campaign. Give them the opportunity to provide it. Do not push back at this point, but play the role of a listener. You’re asking to use their resources to execute these projects; therefore, they likely have domain expertise on certain pieces you can learn from.
  4. 5 minutes: Show your campaign timeline map. Since the timeline map breaks down when you expect specific team members to complete phases of content development, it makes sense to show this to your co-supervisors after they see the general content and promotion checklist. This is ultimately the biggest part of the meeting; it demonstrates how often you’ll need to tap into your co-supervisors’ resources.
  5. 10 minutes: Gather feedback on the campaign timeline map. Your co-supervisors likely have experience with specific content workflows, the amount of time it takes to complete each task, and so on. Gather that information now, so you can break each piece of content into easily delegable, task-based workflows you’ll use to kick off the campaign. You’ll learn more on that in a bit.

How to have a successful meeting

Your goal is to leave the meeting with two things:

  1. An actionable to-do list of optimizations you’ll make to the campaign’s creative brief, content and promotion checklist, and timeline map based on each supervisors’ feedback.
  2. Your yes: Confirmation that if you proceed forward with the planned optimizations, you will get the resources you need from each supervisor to complete the IMC campaign. At the end of your meeting, ask, “If I incorporate the feedback you suggested, will you support this campaign and provide the resources we need to make it successful?”

Get your “yes,” then end the meeting. Simple as that. No time-wasting here.

5. Break Each Piece Into Delegable, Task-Based Workflows

Each piece of content within your integrated marketing communications campaign needs a workflow.

In basic terms: you’ll break each piece of content into clear tasks you’ll assign to individuals.

Here’s a quick overview of how to break down a single piece into delegable tasks. You’ll follow this process one time per every piece in your campaign:

  1. List every step that needs to be completed before you’d consider the piece complete. Don’t limit yourself at first; write down everything — including writing, designing, promoting, approvals, and anything else you typically do to execute a piece like this.
  2. Cross out the steps you don’t need to do. Nobody likes extra work. Delete the tasks that:
    • Belong in other workflows.
    • Have always been done simply because you’ve always done them that way, but don’t necessarily make the content any more successful.
    • Are outdated.
    • Exist purely to serve office bureaucracy.
  3. Combine similar steps together into single tasks. For example, if you listed something like “Write the content” and “Write the headline” as separate steps, you can now combine them into a single task to assign to a single person: “Write the content”. At this point, write what the definition of this task’s completion is and set your expectations. For example, “This task involves writing the body copy, headlines, and {insert expectation}.” These things must be complete before checking the task as complete because this is now the definition of “done”.
  4. Determine who will complete each task. Reference your content and promotion checklist to see the list of names involved in the project. Assign those folks specific tasks with definitions of what “done” means.
  5. Figure out how long it will take to complete each task. Your meetings with the talents’ supervisors gave you the opportunity to discuss workflow and time involved in content production. Use that information here to provide enough time to complete each task. Alternatively, you could informally ask your talent for their input on how long they’d estimate it would take them to complete each task to make your due dates as realistic as possible, or look in your time tracking software for historical data. Tons of options.
  6. Plan the due dates for each task  starting with the last task in the workflow: How many days before publication should it be due? From there, you can map backward from the last task in the list to the first to know when you will start working on the piece. You can also use your campaign’s timeline map to help you understand when to assign tasks, since you’ve already mapped the phases of content production for each piece, generally speaking.
  7. Delegate each task to a specific team member with a clear due date. There are three things to get right:
  1. Notify each team member of every task they own the moment you assign them.
  2. Remind each team member before the task is due, so they have the opportunity to complete it on time, if they haven’t already started.
  3. Give them a method to collaborate and communicate with others executing the project (NOT via email, where things get lost).

CoSchedule’s task templates feature is built specifically to help you do this extremely efficiently.

Here’s how:

Once you’ve put all your tasks into the project. Simply turn it into a task template.

CoSchedule task template

It’s ready for you to re-use for every future project. No more time wasted planning due dates and delegating tasks. It does all the work for you.

Implementing task templates

6. Execute and Keep Everything On Track

Boom! You’ve got your integrated marketing communication ducks in a row. The only thing left is to execute your plans and turn your campaign into reality.

To do this, we recommend using the Marketing Campaigns in CoSchedule.

With it, you’ll be able to:

  1. Plot out every publish date for every piece.
  2. Create workflows for every piece.
  3. Automatically notify each team member of every task they need to complete.
  4. Automatically remind each team member they have tasks to complete before they miss their due dates.
  5. Collaborate on each piece of content within your campaign without overwhelming email strings or lost Slack threads. No extra communication tools needed — unless you really wanted them.
  6. Give every stakeholder one place to see everything.

Talk about making things easier.

It’s Time to Push Forward With Your IMC Campaign

There’s no doubt that an integrated marketing communications program can work wonders for brand awareness and recognition.

The more you talk about your brand message in various formats and through different marketing channels, the more people will recognize you.

These steps are designed to help you draft your next IMC campaign. Start with the brief, plan your content, and involve the people you need to make it a multichannel success.

You’ll soon start to see the value of a cross-channel brand campaign.

This post was originally published on May 28, 2019. It was updated and republished on January 14, 2021.

The post How To Make The Best Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign In The World With Multiple Teams appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

In The End, We’ll All Become Stories: Why Storytelling…

Content marketing is hot. Like, melted iron red-hot. In a survey of more than 3400 marketers across the globe — including both B2B and B2C marketers — a whopping 70% said that they are actively investing in content marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy.

In the same report, 24% of marketers claimed that they plan on increasing their investment in content marketing in 2020, so it’s a no-brainer that all businesses would want to leverage it to their advantage.

However, with so much content being produced and added to an already heavily saturated pile of content on topics covering the length and breadth of human knowledge, who will be able to grab a piece of the pie?

With so many marketers hoping to reach their target audience — wanting their content to relate with them — only the ones who focus on a crucial human aspect will do so.

Since time immemorial, humans have been captivated, influenced, and compelled by stories and narratives. Whether it was our ancestors gathered around a fire to plan how to hunt for their next meal, to now — when we look into a screen to learn more about things we care about — emotions have always been at the forefront of our decision-making, which is what a good story is able to alter with ease.

With the plethora of content being produced, marketers will only reap the true benefits of their strategies if they keep storytelling at the heart of their messaging and communication to their audience.

[Tweet “Why storytelling and content marketing are a match made in heaven.”]

Download Your Own Editorial Calendar Template

When you download this editorial calendar template, you’ll have planning down to a science in no time. If you struggle with keeping track of deadlines, remembering what projects you had planned, or who is in charge of what, this template will be your savior.

[content_upgrade_shortcode]

What Exactly is Storytelling?

In the simplest of words, a story is an account of fictitious or real people and events told for the purpose of entertainment, and storytelling is the art of communicating a message in the form of a story.

The storyteller conveys a message in order to connect with other people. For the case in point, the storyteller would be the marketer, and people would be their target audience.

Some of the elements of a good story include a protagonist, a number of other characters, a plot, a conflict or obstacle, a theme (one binding idea that repeats throughout), and a narrative arc. This is the reason why classic fairy tales were able to teach the listener or reader (often children) a lesson by embodying all of these points.

When done correctly, research shows the powerful impact storytelling can have on people:

  • Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone.
  • Human brain neural activity increases by 5 times when listening to a story.
  • 92% of consumers want advertisements to feel like stories.

The impact of storytelling

Why is Storytelling so Important to My Content?

Ever wondered why the advertisements of famous brands, like Cadbury, Asian Paints, Pepsi and the likes, are so successful? Their deep pockets certainly set a good starting point for success, but that’s not all it takes to achieve the kind of success these brands have achieved.

If you look at the commercials for each of these companies carefully, you’ll notice one common thread: they all tell a story.

Here are some of the more tangible reasons why storytelling is so crucial to the success of your content marketing efforts.

The five important parts to storytelling

Stories Help Improve Your Buyers’ Experience

Here’s a question, what do you think is a better approach: listing down the benefits of your products or services with a large piece of text, or informing your audience how it will add value to their life through the use of a story? The latter, right?

Successful storytelling can invoke the reactions you want your audience to take with an apparent ease.

When you base your content marketing efforts around stories, your prospects and potential customers will get something more than just plain old features and facts. They will know and understand why they need your product and be ready to take the suggested action.

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Stories Help You Stand Out in a Sea of Sameness

Chances are, whatever product and services you’re offering, already has some competition in the market. If not, just wait before a hundred lookalikes pop-up.

The thing that will really distinguish your brand from your competitors is the story you tell them and whether it resonates with them.

You’ve certainly seen Nike or Coca Cola’s commercials — they’re memorable and unique because they look like a tale. When you add a story to the content you churn out, your audience will have your brand on the top of their minds and think of it whenever they need the services or products you offer.

Stories Add a Human Touch to Your Brand

People don’t want to be friends with your business; however, when you add a human element into your content marketing efforts, they will feel like they know the characters of the story you’re trying to tell. If you use this opportunity to highlight and share the same problems they have and offer a solution, your brand becomes an obvious choice for them.

Stories Inspire Empathy, Love, and Bonding

Stories are not just about our fiction or imagination; there is real science behind the same. Stories are known to increase the levels of Oxytocin — a hormone that promotes the feeling of empathy, love, and bonding in the human body. Our brains are actually designed to connect better with stories.

Stories Make You Sound Sophisticated, Not Sales-y

“Buy our product because it’s the best one on the market — plus it’s affordable, and it has great features.”

That statement sounded dry and unconvincing, right?

More often than not, brands and marketers end up taking a sales-y approach to sell their products or services. When you promote your business and its offerings through a story, you’re not trying to convert the audience to buy your products, you’re just sharing an experience and leaving the decision up to them.

People are much happier to make a purchase when they feel like they are the ones making the choice.

7 Examples of Storytelling in Content Marketing for Your Brand

We want to offer some real-life examples of how you can use storytelling in your marketing strategy, so you can get a better feel for how to implement this technique.

Land Rover Showcases How the Best of Stories Can Come From Anywhere

In celebration of their 70th anniversary, Land Rover brought to life the true story of, The Land of Land Rovers; a remote village in the hills of the Himalayas on the Indo-Nepal border.

The video tells the story of the local drivers who rely on a fleet of meticulously maintained 1957 vintage Land Rover vehicles to provide transport and supplies along the treacherous mountain roads between two small villages, Maneybhanjang and Sandakphu.

To bring this remarkable story to life, Land Rover’s team made the village of Maneybhanjang their home for 10 days in order to get to know these brave drivers and experience their everyday life. The end result delights the viewer with its stunning cinematography, while hearing from the drivers and villagers only further reinforces the incredible off-roading capabilities of Land Rover vehicles.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNXU1IR2LR8

 

Land Rover’s campaign offers a brilliant example and a reminder that the best stories are not your own, but those of your customers and your fans. Sourcing those stories might be tough, but when you find those that truly touch people’s hearts, invest in bringing them to life and prioritize them over your product message.

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Ikea Singapore Highlights the Power of Humor in Storytelling

Every company speaks at length about the values of their products and services, but how many of those successfully turn their offerings into a laugh-out-loud, hilarious, yet extremely relatable story? Consider taking a page from IKEA Singapore’s Shelf Help Guru campaign.

The video campaign stars Fille Güte, a “Shelf Help Guru (pun intended),” who wants to take Ikea’s customers on a journey of “shelf discovery” to improve their private lives in areas that are the most private to them: their bedrooms and bathrooms.

By cheekily using scenarios and funny puns to illustrate practical store and furniture solutions from Ikea, the video shines through. It captivates the viewer by making a spot on use of humor, while positioning Ikea as the go-to retail store for home improvement, furniture, and beyond.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmv8rCd_NiA

 

The campaign, from Ikea Singapore, speaks to the fact that brands shouldn’t be afraid to get up close and personal with their customers, even if it involves poking a little fun at themselves.

While humor can be highly subjective and a bit tricky to get right, one good way to go about it is to flex your funny bone while being aligned with your actual brand voice and values. Humor should be only an extension of your real brand voice and incorporated in your content, video, and storytelling strategy — otherwise you might come across as someone trying too hard.

The brands with the best and most authentic tone of communication — in addition to the most humorous brands (think Durex, Zomato, Dunzo, and the likes — are the ones that deeply know who they are and what makes them special in that way.

These brands also understand how their audiences and personas perceive them, plus their requirements, wants and desires.

Sanlam Bank Elucidates How Stories Can Alter Habits

Despite the looming risk of being outdone by their consumer counterparts, the banking, financial services, and insurance industries can still put modern human reality at the heart of their stories.

The following example from Sanlam Bank, a South African financial services group, may not particularly be a tearjerker, but it firmly establishes itself as an example of storytelling that helps people improve their lives for the better.

In South Africa, research showed that most people do not save much of their salary incomes, of an extent that household debt averages about 75% of their after-tax income.

To educate the countrymen about the importance of saving money, Sanlam Bank launched a 5-part web series called “One Rand Man”, featuring a young professional who embarks on a journey through a social experiment – getting paid only in one Rand coins. The video series documents his trials and tribulations of having to pay for everyday expenses in coins.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vscXNIyf7s

 

By telling the story of “One Rand Man”, combined with valuable personal finance thought leadership content that they produced, Sanlam Bank struck a chord in South Africans. The video series was watched over 900,000 times — making it the most-watched ad on YouTube in South Africa during the time of the campaign.

The wild success of “One Rand Man” went further with Sanlam Bank creating “One Rand Family” and other similar episodic spin-offs, inspiring and educating South Africans around the importance of saving money and personal finance.

Zuora Showcases How to Build a Story Around Change

We’ve talked about the different elements of a story, but if we had to choose just one key element of every great brand story, it would be change. Yes, you read that correctly.

Change produces much-needed tension and gives purpose to a story. It isn’t as straightforward as solving a problem. It involves embarking on a long-haul of a journey, facing difficulties along the way, refusing to ever give up, and pressing on with head strong-willed and unnerving. Through this voyage, challenges are overcome and solved — resulting change.

Zuora’s talks about how our consumption habits are evolving from a product economy to a subscription economy. Few brands have been as successful with using change as the basis of their brand storytelling as Zuora, and this is one of the best B2B brand storytelling examples we’ve ever seen.

The Subscription Economy referred to here, is a term coined by its founder, Tien Tzuo, which refers to a business evolution where consumers prefer to pay for duration-based (weekly, monthly, and so on) subscriptions for a service instead of a one-time payment for lifetime usage.

Practically all of Zuora’s marketing efforts and brand strategy revolve around this narrative.

Zuora's narrative

Like all good stories, the presentation depicts the before and after, and beyond. It talks about companies who accept and embrace the incoming change and the benefits of the new model, and the consequences of becoming obsolete for those who fail to adapt to the same. If you come to think of it, it’s a change presented in the form of a battle.

What we can learn from Zuora’s brand storytelling is its focus on selling change, as opposed to selling products. By providing a context to how an evolution in your vertical is important for your audience to know, you can gain expanded reach and connect with them — rather than simply talking about your product.

Evernote Brings Human Emotions to the Forefront of Its Stories

Evernote founder, Stepan Pachikov, is known to have dreamt of possessing a photographic memory. That way, he believes his experiences could last longer than a fleeting moment before it became etched in the memory.

The storytelling of Evernote, the note-taking app, as a brand is one of a visionary outlook fascinated with the fragility of life, the mind, and the human memory.

99% of every person is the memory of what he or she knows (…) What you remember about your life is what makes you you, and me me. – Stepan Pachikov

 

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYYj-T6aKFQ

This video, by Evernote, is one of the most touching video storytelling examples. In it, Pachikov speaks about life and death, enjoying and remembering beautiful moments, being who we are, and the sense of our journey through an existence that’s unique in the entire universe.

Evernote’s brand storytelling doesn’t present a clear problem/solution. Instead, it reaches out to us with a universal concern through which it establishes an emotional connection.

Quote from Stepan Pachikov about Evernote

Evernote’s adoption of a universal language for brand storytelling to spark a more human and relatable experience is simply remarkable. In fact, if there were ever a competition of linking a brand’s story to a more universal one, Evernote would take the cake.

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Spotify Leverages Data to Tell Unique Stories

One of the brands, which makes use of data to tell stories, is obviously Spotify — thanks to its collection of data about what songs, playlists, and artists its millions of global users engage with.

The music streaming service combines this information with listeners’ location data and demographics — using it to create original content for its Spotify Insights blog, which is now not so active and mostly replaced by For The Record.

For the Record blog page

In 2017, one blog post on the website looked at how students in the U.S. listen to music, using data to create an interactive microsite looking at how different colleges and universities in the U.S. listen to music.

This content helped reveal insights, such as where the most listening took place, the diversity of the music listened to, and the most popular genres. The findings included the fact that Penn State University had the highest percentage of “party playlists” in the United States.

Using internal data in this way helps brands, like Spotify, to create original stories based on insights that only they can access, helping them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Salesforce Lets Their Customers Tell Its Story

Ah, how would this article ever be complete without mentioning the B2B behemoth, which gave IBM a run for its money back in the day? To this day, on their website, when you click on the “Customers” tab, you don’t just find a bunch of recognizable, big company logos or praiseworthy testimonials. What you find, instead, are customer success stories, which tell the story of Salesforce’s success.

For example, “Western Union moves money for better with Salesforce” shares not just the story of Western Union, but also its CEO — a Turkish-born immigrant who used to send money to his father back home.

Then, the story leads into a short history of Western Union and describes how the company helps people send money across the globe to support their families and provide education for their children. Only after telling a compelling story about its customer does Salesforce mention how it fits into the picture.

This, among the other stories in Salesforce’s Customer Success stories page, are powerful examples of how brand storytelling doesn’t have to mean you need to be telling your brand’s own stories. Putting customers in the lead role always makes a much more powerful point about the value of your brand.

What Makes for a Good Story in Your Content?

No matter what story you are telling, below are some of the parts in your story in which you cannot miss. Moreover, by following these, you can make your existing brand stories more engaging. Let’s have a look.

Choose a Relatable Main Character to Personalize Your Story

Here’s a fact: people don’t like reading abstract, boring texts or watching videos with the same old story arc. Hence, it becomes essential for you to tell the story with a relatable character in it.

By telling the story from either your own or someone else’s point of view (give this character a name, even if fictional), you are more likely to help your viewers and readers relate with your story and your larger message.

The journey of taking your audience through the story

Make the storyteller look as similar to your audience (customers, users, readers, etc.) as possible and have the same challenges and fears as them. This approach would be perfect for a marketing campaign where the main character talks about the product or service, answering the possible questions that the audience might have.

Bring Your Story to Life Through the Use of Emotions

Nostalgia, surprise, humor, admiration, respect, or even fear — your story should bring out an emotional reaction from the audience. As we mentioned early on in this article, emotions are what motivates people to engage with your business, not anything else. This becomes super critical for you to get right without any hiccups.

To elucidate this point further, let’s look at an example from SolidWorks Company.

This company manages to wrap a bunch of technical information for industrial designs into funny stories. For instance, they tell you how their solutions can help you count how much material you would need to board up your door in case of a zombie apocalypse. Clever, huh?

The global IT giant, SAS, also uses this trick by showing on their blog how you can visualize the data, so that it looks like a cowboy hat. Those things make people smile, and it’s the perfect emotion to start with.

When Writing Content, Think Like a Journalist

Some of the best storytellers in the world include authors, filmmakers, and of course, journalists. Which is why in 2011, the marketing team at Nissan, the Japanese automobile company, realized that spreading press releases and standard advertising did not help establish a connection with their target audience.

The company embarked on a journey to create its own content lab in the house.

To this goal, Nissan hired former journalists who started to look for stories and data inside the brand. They searched for material that would be attractive to consumers across the world on social media.

Now, almost all the big international companies have such laboratories. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Apple, Cisco, American Express, etc., use stories as the basis of their content campaigns. Of course, not everyone can create a content laboratory, but the point here is to think like a journalist when you’re creating content. Think about what people would like to hear, see, read, and watch.

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Support Your Story With Data

Can you guess what differentiates a remarkable story from an average one? Deep rooted research, insights, and data. Before you write one, always do thorough research to find statistics which are staggering, thought-provoking points of data. Also, checkup on facts and look for rare, exciting, and trivial information about your topic.

Your stories can be flavored by specific data aimed at people with rational thinking. This information can then be an additional argument for getting your product sold. Which of the following examples sound more convincing to you?

  1. Security violations are a serious problem for large companies these days.
  2. Did you know that 60% of security violations take place in enterprises?

The second example has the logical appeal — the fact that it will influence people’s decision to buy. Do your homework before creating anything that you do next.

Keep It Authentic, Silly

People love authenticity, which is why it’s the fastest way to connect with another human being. When creating a story, make sure it’s genuine and unique. Do not ever steal other people’s ideas or try to come across as an impostor just to impress them, like parents acting like teenagers to impress their kid’s friend.

By staying true to your brand and its values, you will make it easier for people to recognize you, and connect to your story. In other words, your brand personality should be reflected in your stories.

If you are a hard-hustling startup, create a motivational or moving narrative. If you are a traditional law firm, create a reassuring and professional narrative.

Either way, your story should be simple and focus on a single problem where a solution to the problem is clearly offered at the end.

Remember, your story can not be a sales ad because you’d only end up messing things up. You want your story to connect with customers so that the buying happens naturally.

All’s Well That’s Told Well

As we come to conclude this post, it’s important to note that a good story is more than just a good plot; you need to get all of the different elements — such as emotions, characters and everything else — right, in order for your story to be great (not just good).

However, another thing to note is that the storytelling you are looking to incorporate in your content is to serve a bigger goal — getting the most out of your content marketing efforts. You need to make that a priority and always ensure that you are paying as much attention, if not more, to search engine optimization, distribution, promotion, and so on.

In the zeal to tell a good story, this is what most people miss out on.

Now, we’re equipped enough with the knowledge on how storytelling works, and how it can be leveraged to make your content marketing more successful. The onus is on you to make it happen, while also introducing attributes and aspects, which are individually unique to your own business, brand, and vertical.

Remember, in the end, we will all be stories, so make sure you tell one worth telling!

The post In The End, We’ll All Become Stories: Why Storytelling And Content Marketing Are A Match Made In Heaven appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

How to Overcome Boilerplate Marketing Approaches (And What to…

What’s the problem with doing what everybody else is doing? Marketers are expected to come up with something wildly innovative or creative. Dare to be different and get unstuck by presenting interesting or authentic ideas in a meaningful way.

Today’s guest is Mike Poznansky, founder and managing partner at Neato — a full-service marketing agency that helps brands connect with young audiences, including college students and Gen Z. Mike explains how to break out of a rut and do work that reflects you and your brand. What makes you uniquely valuable, instead of someone simply following the leader of the pack?

[podcast_motor_player]

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Neato: Uncovers insights, develops strategies, and creates marketing programs
  • Turnkey Tactics: Marketers observe how successful brands market themselves
  • Thoughtful: Put time, energy, and effort into effectively identifying ‘why’ or ‘how’
  • Copy-and-Paste Marketing: Don’t expect the same results by mimicking tactics
  • College Culture: People’s needs, pain points, aspirations are always changing
  • Human-Centered Approach: Understand brand, organization, accomplishments
  • Iterative Process: People on the ground and prototypes represent audiences
  • Authenticity: Be yourself, know who you are, what resources/assets are available
  • Failures: Try to do something for the sake of evolving and learning

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “How to overcome boilerplate marketing approaches, and what to do instead, with @mikepoz from @NeatoAgency.”]

Transcript:

Ben: Hi Mike, how’s it going this morning?

Mike: It’s going great. Thanks, Ben. Good to be here.

Ben: Absolutely. Before we get too far along, would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do at Neato?

Mike: Sure. I’m the founder and managing director of Neato, and we’re a full-service marketing agency that connects brands with young audiences. We have a focus on college students and Gen Z. Everything we do at Neato is driven by this core belief that young people are happy being marketed to as long as it adds value to their lives. That’s the core principle that drives our approach. We’re a full-service agency. We help uncover insights, develop strategy, and create marketing programs.

Ben: Very cool. I understand you’ve worked with tons of huge brands that a lot of our listeners would likely be familiar with. Would you mind taking a moment to share who are some of the companies you’ve worked with? Feel free to hype yourself up a little bit here.

Mike: Sure. We’ve been around since 2013 and we’ve had the opportunity to partner with some very incredible brands and wonderful people behind those brands—Target, Vans. Vans was one of our first clients and we’ve been working with them since our first days in 2013, for the last seven years now. Wall Street Journal, Spotify, REI, Anheuser-Busch, and Anheuser-Busch portfolio brands from Budweiser, Bud Light, Natty Light, Boston University—a wide range of brands. I’d say the one thing that binds all of them together is their aspirations to connect with a younger audience.

Ben: That’s awesome stuff. That’s a fun portfolio. Something that I want to dig into this conversation is this idea of boilerplate marketing and copy-and-paste marketing. A lot of different spaces very often have a tendency to want to look at what other companies are doing, and want to look at things that have worked for other companies prior to ever making a move of their own. As a result, you can pick a vertical and you’ll start to see the same things that just start to look familiar that every company in that space is doing. I imagine when you’re marketing to younger audiences in particular that’s a problem because with audiences that are looking for more innovative thinking, I imagine that’s all just going to start to just wash together.

In your view, what’s the problem with just doing what everyone else is doing? Or with being afraid to ever deviate from anything that you’ve already seen work for someone else?

Mike: It’s a great question. I noticed this, I spent my early career at Red Bull. I started working for Red Bull when I was in college as a student brand manager, and it was how I discovered marketing and ended up running Red Bull’s college program out of Santa Monica for Red Bull, North America for quite some time before going off and starting an agency. I had no desire to work at an agency, let alone start one. But one of the things that I noticed was as we started to scale, and we wanted some external help in terms of just creative and some executional assistance, I realized that most agencies focused on the youth space were offering a menu of turnkey tactics. It was pretty much an insert brand, insert product here. It was like, would you like the mobile event, or the sampling program, the field marketing program, the ambassador program, or experiential? Here’s exactly how we approach each one of these tactics, and here’s what you could expect as a result.

Marketers in the space as well, they look at what other successful brands are doing, and they observe the way these brands are marketing themselves. They attribute their success to the tactic or to the medium itself. When in reality, they don’t want to take the time and resources to figure out the most effective way, or the why, or the how. It’s helpful if I give you an example. Ambassador programs are a perfect example.

Companies who want to connect with a college audience would say, hey, we’ve seen other brands like Red Bull have an ambassador program and be incredibly successful. Go out there, find an agency, get me an ambassador program, make it cheap, and just get it done, because if we have one—if we have an ambassador program—we’re going to be successful as well.

When in reality, leading into that program, someone like Red Bull is asking themselves, how could we get a better understanding of what culture is like on these college campuses? How can we identify the right people that we need to be building relationships with? And what does that process of cultivating these relationships and nurturing these relationships look like? How can we personalize some of the marketing initiatives that we have on a global level, on a national level to these specific markets? The list could go on and on. How could we be supporting some of the sales accounts that we have both in the on-premise, and off-premise, and some of these high-value markets?

Through that, they’ll say it would be incredibly helpful for us to have someone on the ground who has plugged in, ambitious, well-connected. If you look at that on the surface and you’d say, great, it was an ambassador program that made them successful. When in reality, there was a tremendous amount of time, and energy, and effort put into figuring out the most thoughtful way to go about that. If you just try to copy and mimic the tactic itself, you can’t expect to have the same results.

Ben: Right, absolutely. That’s a great example of that in practice and a great example of what to do instead. This is something you touched on, it’s more work to come up with something on your own versus just looking at what brands XYZ in our space have done, just give me our version of that. What advice would you have for a company that’s maybe dealing with some internal resistance because either they don’t want to put in the work, or they don’t feel they have the resources to come up with something new, or whatever the case may be? What would you say if a company came to you, looking for something generic, what would your response to them be in that situation?

Mike: It happens all the time. We had a new business conversation with a company that we’d love to work with last week. They came to us and they gave us a little bit of a background on what they were hoping to achieve, and marketing to college students, and wanted us to provide them with a set of tactics. That’s a perfect example of a situation like that. What we typically do is we just say, hey, we’re incredibly interested in helping you to solve this problem, but we want to make sure, as your potential partner, that we figure out the most effective way to do that for you and for you to be approaching the segment. For us, that process always starts with talking to, in this case, college students, talking to the target audience, whoever it may be.

I’m pretty cynical about anyone or any collective out there who says we are experts in X. It would be very easy for us to say, we’re college experts. In the beginning, we might’ve even said that which is a little cringy. Look, we know the space better than anyone else. The longer you’re in it, the more you realize that culture is so quickly evolving, especially if you look at the world in 2020. People’s needs, and their pain points, and their aspirations are always changing.

Going back to the question, it’s essential that any marketer, whether it be a brand or an agency, connects with the audience that they are aspiring to market to, and has conversations with them to get a better understanding of their perceptions, some of their behaviors as it relates to the category itself and the brand, and then get a better understanding of what it is that they want, or what it is that they need. Then figure out how that reconciles with the brand and the business, and what they’re setting out to do because we often find those needs are not mutually exclusive—the needs of a young audience or a specific consumer segment and the objectives of a business, typically those meet in the middle. If they don’t meet in the middle, if there is no common ground, it’s often because it’s not a viable target.

If I were talking to someone who had no money, I would say, that’s fine. You’re probably going to have to do this on your own but just connect with people who are part of your segment, part of your target. In this case, go find some college students, or go find some people who represent Gen Z, and sit down with them for an hour and have a conversation with them. I mean that also will address your question around internal resistance. This is a long-winded response to a pretty simple question, but if you’re a marketer and you’re finding that someone is trying to prescribe tactics, your CEO wants you just to do X, Y, and Z, and not invest the time and energy to figure it out, if you want to go toe-to-toe with her, you can, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

If you come back to them and you have real insights from your customer or your ideal customer, your potential customer, whatever it may be, and you have supporting quotes and statements that you could play back to them that rationalize your recommendation, that’s a much more approachable conversation. You’re going to find that there’s a lot less conflict there because you’re simply advocating on their behalf versus coming off as trying to just be someone who’s disagreeing.

Ben: Something that’s really important to keep in mind here is that actual authenticity doesn’t necessarily need to mean being super raw, or edgy in any way. In fact, I think for a lot of our listeners, odds are that’s sort of a cliched perception around what authenticity really means. It’s probably not going to be a good fit for your brand unless you are marketing to an audience that’s looking for that sort of thing.

What it really does mean is really figuring out who you are, what sets your brand apart, understanding what your audience really wants, and really expects from you, not operating off of assumptions but actually doing the legwork to really start to arrive with some solid answers for those things.

If you can focus on just those few areas, then better solutions and better ideas will often times just naturally start to present themselves so that you don’t have to look so hard at what other people are doing or be afraid of taking a risk or doing something different just because you haven’t seen it work for someone else before. Your competition, those other brands that you look up to, they’re probably in the position that they’re in because they’re doing what’s best for them. If you copy anything about what they do, it should be that you need to figure out what’s best for you too. Now, back to Mike.

It sounds like what you’re getting at is rather than looking at what’s been done before, rather than first looking toward your competition, you’re saying go talk to your target customer base, and let them tell you this is who I am, this is what I like, this is the way I behave in the world and all these other things. Then using that data, which your CMO, CEO, whatever stakeholder you’re dealing with can’t disagree with it. The data is what it is. The voice of your customer is what it is, too.

Let’s say that I’m a marketer, and I’m listening to this episode, and I’m realizing that I’m guilty of some or all of maybe some of the less enlightened practices that we’ve touched on a little bit. For a marketer in that situation, where would you recommend they start with reassessing their strategy so they can get off that hamster wheel of copycat marketing, and stop trying to play it safe so much, and move toward a more audience-centric or customer-centric way of working, what it sounds like you’re advocating for.

Mike: I’m glad you brought up that more human-centered approach because I like that. I would say first and foremost, make sure you have a very clear understanding of who you are as a brand, as an organization, and you’re very clear on what it is that you’d like to accomplish—you want people to know about you, you want people to believe, to feel. Then yes, to have an understanding of your audience or your potential audience as well, and find where those two things meet in the middle.

It’s not just research. You could co-create with people that you’re trying to target. I certainly believe in the value of having some initial conversations, doing some either round table discussions or one-on-one interviews with your target at the beginning part of the discovery phase. But even when you get into some creative exercises, come up with some initial tactics and play them to your target—to people that you’re hoping to connect with, to people that you want your tactics to appeal to—and get their feedback, and maybe shape those tactics with them.

That’s actually the real value of when you look at some of the organizations out there who have a vast field marketing network or an ambassador network if they have people who are on the ground who represent their customer base, who could be part of that creative process. But prototype it, and then get out there and try stuff, and show up, be a part of that experience or that event, and see how people respond, and talk to people afterward, and then refine it. It’s an iterative process.

Most likely, by the time you see a best practice that’s from a brand, there was a whole lot of thought that went into that at the beginning—there was a pilot for it, there were some initial phases of it, perhaps some of those were unsuccessful—by the time you see something that wins an award or celebrated everywhere online, it’s benefitting from all that collective experience, and all that collective feedback. Don’t expect to just create that overnight and especially take a tactic down point of view. But I love that point about the human-centered approach because I think that’s part of the process from discovery, to creative development, to execution, to refining the tactic.

Ben: Certainly. That’s a great point that you raise. People don’t see the sweat equity that goes on or that goes into an award-winning campaign. Those things don’t happen by accident.

Mike: Right. Especially as a new brand. We’ve had conversations with brands before, even existing established ones, and we’ll be going through a set of case studies, and we’ll pull up a slide on Vans. I’ve had marketers say to me, that’s amazing. We want to be like that. Just make us like Vans. It’s the equivalent of me. I’m here in Austin, marching down to South Congress, and walking into the salon, and pulling up a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on my phone and saying, can you make me look like him? If you give me the right haircut, I’m going to be Leo. I would say don’t underestimate what it took for people to develop, and create, and refine their approach as you set out to take that same journey for yourself.

Ben: It sounds like what you’re advocating here is say, being like the agency, you would be the salon essentially in that metaphor. You could go in one of two ways. If someone says, turn me into Vans, you could either be like, sure, I’ll take your money. We’ll cash some checks and we’ll fail to make you Vans because you’re not Vans. Or you could tell them no, that’s not actually what you want. You don’t want to be Vans. You want to be the best version of you. Let’s figure out what that is.

For an in-house marketing team, if it was the CMO talking to the CEO and the CEO says I want to be whatever the Vans is of my space. Maybe what that CMO should do is turn that conversation around and be like we can’t be them because we’re not them. Is that what you’re getting at there?

Mike: Earlier you were talking about younger generations being a little bit more advanced of a target. I’d say almost every brand that’s approaching the segment, even ones who have just a more capitalistic point of view, that’s like, hey, we see this as a viable business opportunity purely and we’re not so interested in exactly how we get there, we want the outcome. I’d say everyone acknowledges in some capacity, the need to build a genuine and meaningful relationship with the segment in order to get them to care about your brand. It’s critical for brands to show up in an authentic way.

You can’t just show up and say, great, if I’m a beverage brand, I want to be exactly like Vans. Suddenly, I want to start talking about Off The Wall and inspiring creative expression or whatever it may be. You need to be yourself and you need to know who you are. You need to know what resources and assets that you have available to you as the company you are and the brand that you are, and then figure out where those meet the needs of the audience. It’s really about authenticity and if you aren’t genuine or you aren’t authentic, it’s going to be glaringly obvious, and it’s going to be a turnoff.

Ben: Yeah, 100%. At a more advanced level, a brand or a marketing team, let’s say they’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on these things. They understand what it actually means to be authentic in a real sense. They talk to their customers, they do their research. They put the legwork in to create a brand that is going to stand out versus one that is going to blend in. What’s next at that point? If you’re 90% of the way there, how do you add that extra 10% to your brand that really is going to make you stand out?

Mike: That’s a good question. I would say the process never really stops. You aren’t finished. One of the most effective things that we’ve found that serves the creative process well and the innovation process well is to get together and have a workshop. Get together could mean different things in 2020 but in an ideal world, you have everybody in the room. At the very least, everybody’s got time carved out and is fully focused and dedicated to the format, but have a creative workshop, have a generative session. Walk into that with some specific questions that you’d like to address, some things that you’re really curious about.

I will say, when it comes to looking at other brands, it is great to seek outside inspiration because there is a lot of great work out there. Bring that inspiration in there, have some campaigns that appeal to you. Deconstruct what it is about them that made them appealing. We always like to start with some initial inspiration. We like to follow that up with some things we heard from our audience or possibly even do a little bit of immersion into the current brand and the business, and have a generative discussion about what opportunities are out there.

I would say in an ideal world if you’re talking about going 90%-100%, a mistake that a lot of brands make is they put so much time, and energy, and effort into the upfront process. Then once the creative process is complete and they ship something out, they’re done. But stay invested, stay involved, continue to refine that approach, continue to learn, continue to listen to your segment, assess the results, and figure out how you can improve and make it better. We find a workshop format to be an incredibly effective way to facilitate a conversation like that.

Ben: Awesome. I love how that’s a very practical approach to actually bringing those minds together. The last question I’m going to throw your way—and this ties back into some things that you’ve already touched on pretty well—but there is a tendency for marketers to fall back toward whatever’s comfortable either when they don’t know what to do or when something doesn’t go well. It’s like, let’s just retreat back to a time-tested thing we know that we can execute that’s not going to ruffle any feathers.

Let’s say that a marketing team succeeds in getting buy-in to try something different from what they’ve done before, or to just try something that they don’t have an example from another brand to point to say that this works. In my former life of working in an agency, clients would always ask before they would ever do anything, it’d be like, can you show me a brand that this has worked for before? But then they would also want you to pull a rabbit out of a hat and be wildly creative, not seeming to understand the disconnect between those two things.

Let’s say there’s a marketer in that situation and they managed to convince the client, or maybe if it’s an in-house team, they got some stakeholder on board with doing something else, not doing things that way, and then let’s say it fails. Now the stakeholder’s pissed because they think they should have just done the easy thing. What do you do to recover? How does a marketing leader pick themselves up, and go face that stakeholder, and manage to continue to move forward without going backward?

Mike: It’s tricky because if you were hired to deliver against a specific set of objectives and you’ve seen something to be effective in the past at achieving those objectives, rationally, it would make sense to channel a lot of your resources into that existing thing, and I would still advocate doing the same thing. But then that raises the question, how can we evolve and how can we continue to be creative while balancing that with being efficient and effective with the limited resources we have? Because even with the biggest brands out there, there’s still some cap, some limitation on the resources available.

I like the idea of complimenting some of those tried and tested tactics with some new endeavors. It just comes down to setting clear expectations. One to say, look, we’re going to have a really open and vulnerable conversation about how we could push this forward a little bit because it’s working for us now, but maybe it won’t continue to work for us now as the landscape evolves, as the category evolves, whatever it may be. Carve out 20%, 10% of the budget of the agency’s time and give them that space where it’s okay to fail, and where it’s okay to try something and do something purely for the sake of evolving and learning.

Fear of failure or fear of sounding stupid or uninformed are real creativity killers in businesses and in the agency-client dynamics. I would say, align on the intention to try something interesting and different, give people the space to do things that are courageous and potentially fail, and learn from them, and make them better. Because eventually, you’ll either find that it doesn’t work or it’s going to inspire something great.

Ben: As I said, that was the last question I had for you. But before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to add or any other parting thoughts you’d like to leave our audience with? It’s fine if not.

Mike: I was thinking about it. I would say, just never stop having conversations with your target, even if it’s four people, if it’s eight people. Sit down, schedule a Zoom with them. Maybe it’s even just family, friends, or connections that you have. Have conversations with them, learn about their lives, what they’re going through, what their needs are, what their values are, what sort of brands they’re interested in and why, and just don’t get lost in your own world of being a marketer.

For a CMO, you almost become this corporate maverick and your job is consumed by internal processes, stay in touch with your audience, and what they need, and what they want. That will pay off tremendously in the short and long-term as you continue on your professional journey.

The post How to Overcome Boilerplate Marketing Approaches (And What to Do Instead) With Mike Poznansky From Neato [AMP 217] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

103 Content Ideas to Add to Your Editorial Calendar

Ever feel like you’re in a content rut? Feel like you finally have a great content marketing strategy, but you need some inspiration to kick-start your creativity? Trust us, we’ve been there before. Some days we can’t wait to jump into the content calendar and pour our ideas onto the pages. Other days … not so much.

For days that look a little more like the latter than the former, check out our handy list of 103 content ideas to add to your editorial calendar. For each idea, we try to include some insight, guidance, how-tos, or even links to additional resources we hope will help you along the way.

1. Lists

Lists are a tried-and-true content marketing favorite. You love them. We love them. But, most importantly, readers love them. In fact, some of the most popular content on the Convince & Convert blog is in the form of lists. Just take a look at “25 Best University Websites for 2019” as an example.

2. How-To

How-to content offers step-by-step, process-driven information to help your audience do something better. It’s specific and to the point. As a bonus, how-to content is naturally Youtility-based content, meaning that it helps instead of hypes, so it’s going to do a great job of building affinity. Really, it’s win-win for both your audiences and you brand.

And just like list articles, there is a ton of how-to content on Convince & Convert’s blog, like “How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template)” or “How to Manage a Social Media Crisis.”

3. Questions and Answers (Q&As)

Q&As are fantastic because they’re genuinely helpful. We can take the questions our audiences are already asking us and turn out great content just by answering them. Oh, and Q&As can be incredibly entertaining. Just look at how WIRED does their Autocomplete Interviews, which is where celebrities and other public figures answer questions in the form of Google’s Autocomplete feature.

4. Why

“Why” content explains in detail how something came into existence, or more generally, why things are the way they are. It can be extremely powerful when combined with fact-driven information, or even a controversial flare.

Just take a look at Co-Schedule’s “Why People Share” post, which was based on research and has received a ton of shares and comments since its original publish date.

5. Topic Archaeology/Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO has changed so much over the years. While focusing on target keywords was a hugely successful tactic in the past, Google’s all about semantic search today. Instead of prioritizing content around keywords, focus on uncovering hidden content opportunities instead with our Topic Archaeology process, which focuses on assessing opportunity by looking at a variety of channels, not just keyword volume.

6. Case Studies

You don’t have to tell your story all by yourself. Case studies tell the story of how you’ve helped your customers solve their problems—and they can be extremely influential in helping prospects make a purchase decision.

7. Testimonials

Testimonials are very similar to case studies, except that a specific customer of yours tells the story directly from their perspective. These are their own words—a form of word of mouth—that you use to inspire interest in your company, products, or services.

8. Quotes

Think of quotes as short-form testimonials. Alternatively, you can use quotes from influencers to complement your content—which works particularly well in shareable graphics embedded in your content.

Why Instagram is the Cookie Monster of Content and How You Should Feed the Beast

Jill Paider gave a great quote as a guest on Social Pros, so we turned her quote into a graphic quote card.

9. Interviews

While interviews may be an avenue to gather testimonials and quotes, you may also use them for gathering insight from industry influencers you may have never met before. Late night shows are famous for their interview content, and an easy way to incorporate that into your content marketing is through podcasts.

podcasts are a solid type of content

Influencers like Pat Flynn are well-known for their podcasts featuring folks throughout the industry. Even if you can’t do one yourself, consider being a guest.

10. Demos

Demos are a virtual show-and-tell for your product or service. While some demos can take up to an hour, and many users just don’t have that kind of time or attention span, you can always break demos down into shorter snippets, kind of like chapters in a book.

11. Product Review

Have a product you love that you think your audience will really dig? Do a review of it, telling your audience how it’s helped you solve your challenges, and how you think it’ll help them out, too.

12. Comparisons and “Versus” Content

You may see this a lot for product reviews, comparing one product to another. However, you can apply this storytelling tactic in many different ways to compare or contrast topics to help your audience learn the better option to pursue.

13. Company News

Just like the news in 2020, your company is ever-changing, too. Share your latest adventures with your audience to show your business is made of humans who are dedicated to making their lives even better every single day. Even silly, simple news can help your customers feel a connection with your company.

14. Industry News

Monitor your or your customers’s industry and report on the biggest news that may likely make an impact. Your audience will notice when you are the first to market with great news consistently. Just take a look at the growth of blogs like The Next Web.

15. Roundups

Roundups: the content of choice for marketers who may not have a ton of time on their hands. Simply take a look at the most popular and impactful content in your industry, and compile a comprehensive list for your audience to save them from doing the research themselves.

16. Book Reviews

If your continuing education is anything like mine, you’re reading new material constantly to stay ahead of the curve. When you read something amazing that your customers will love, share it with your audience.

Convince & Convert’s own Jay Baer actually does this quite a bit:

Content Idea: Book Reviews

17. Opinions and Rants

Controversy is one of the ways to publish viral content. Now, that shouldn’t be your goal, but rants have the potential to be super-interesting. Take a stance on a popular belief, and turn it on its head.

opinion

For example, CoSchedule’s post about the best blog post length generated quite a bit of buzz and comments from readers, as seen above.

18. Metaphors

Try writing content that begins with an unrelated story and includes a unique angle as the foundation of the content. There is too much “How To Write A Blog Post” out there but not enough “What My Stubborn, Opinionated Grandma Could Teach You About Writing An Awesome Blog Post”.

19. Personal Stories

When Greg Digneo laid out his life story on Copyblogger, the audience responded. He told the story of why quitting was the most profitable thing he’s ever done, and it was super-inspiring for tons of other readers. Connect the dots between your personal story and what your readers really care about, and they’ll eat it up.

personal stories

Greg Digneo laid out exactly how he quit his job to pursue his passion in this successful post on Copyblogger’s blog.

20. Predictions

Joe Pulizzi is notorious for making content marketing predictions. They’re always interesting, and he jokes about them when they don’t come to fruition. So he gets to become a thought leader while also showing his humanity—creating a personal and somewhat humorous connection with his readers—all at once.

21. Successes

You’ seen these awesome headlines from folks like Neil Patel and Brian Dean: Tell your audience how either you or someone you know was successful using the tactics you recommend.

Content Idea Example: Successes

Neil Patel is awesome at writing list posts that focus on successes to help his audience learn how to do something better like this post.

22. Failures and What Not to Do

Just as successes are fun for your audience to read, outlining techniques that don’tt work well is also interesting because there is an element of controversy to this type of content that people crave. Turn a generally-accepted-as-true idea into a lie, and people will read. This is also one content area that I am fortunately and unfortunately very familiar with, as evidenced by my COO article, Failure: The Ultimate Content F-Word.

Content Idea: Failure

23.  Company Goals

Groove has caught the attention of our friends at CoSchedule, because they’ve laid out exactly how they want to grow their business and give reports on their progress. The best part is that their blog reflects it, too.

Groove's goals

Groove lays out their goals out and tells the story of their progress.

Every post seems like a story on their blog that helps you understand how they’re reaching their goals all while drawing you in to become a customer. It’s a brilliant, bold, and super-unique type of content.

24. Transparency

Similar to Groove’s blatant outlining of its goals, transparency in the form of open information on your business’ financials and growth in general can build trust with your audience. Buffer does this well with its “Open” blog, telling their story as a startup while building a connection with their audience.

open blog

Buffer’s Open blog is an example of transparency.

25. Research

Your customers and audience are a perfect source for your own research. Become the source for industry research and studies. Speaking from our own experience at Convince & Convert (see our Instagram for Tourism report), research helps you understand your audience better than ever while helping you become a credible and respected source in your industry.

26. Facts and Stats

Similar to research, this is when you heavily research a topic with existing studies and present the findings to your audience. This can save you a bit of time from doing the research yourself, while also helping you become the go-to source that has compiled all of the information available on a specific topic.

27. Guides

Guides dive deep into detail on a topic to help your audience do something better than ever before. Some awesome guides use the skyscraper technique to provide more robust information than any other source.

28. Worksheets

Worksheets are perfect for turning the actionable advice from guides into printable materials for note-taking, brainstorming, and ideation. Think about elementary school and your teacher’s handouts for homework—it’s the same thing, just helping your audience work through the material you’re helping them learn.

29. Checklists

Checklists are a type of worksheet that helps your audience follow a step-by-step process to achieve a desired outcome. Think about using checklists to complement list posts, for example.

30. Templates

Templates may combine information from guides, worksheets, and checklists all into one type of content to walk your audience through a step-by-step process, blatantly telling your users how to do something.

Our own Content Calendar Template is one of the most popular pieces of content on our website and helps support our lead generation goals. Check it out.

Content Calendar Template

31. Tear Sheets

One of the most-downloaded pieces of content at CoSchedule is a tear sheet compiling a massive list of emotional words that help people using their headline analyzer get even better scores for their content. Think of this as a quick-glance document to help your audience do something better, faster.

32. E-Books

Ebooks are a perfect way to round up individual posts as chapters in a larger content format. Make ebooks to provide long-form content that tells a bigger, more comprehensive story.

33. Audio Books

Now that you’ve written your ebook, complement it with an audio version for your auditory learners. Adding an audio element to your content increases engagement and time spent interacting with content. See how adding audio articles (not quite audio books, but similar) to our own site increased time on site.

34. White Papers

Used to provide robust technical information, white papers are perfect for telling complex stories in a concise format, often appearing as PDFs. They are also a perfect format to complement case studies to show the problem, solution, and outcome of how you help your customers overcome their challenges.

35. Infographics

Some of your audience’s learning styles lean heavily toward visual content. Infographics help tell a story by showing key statistics, facts, and short-form text in a visual format.

infographics as types of content

Infographics are awesome for showing data in a visual way to take a relatively dry topic (text-wise) and add some vibrance to it, like this infographic example of the best times to post on social media.

36. Data Visuals

Bring research-intensive content to life with data visuals, like pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, and more to prove the points you’re making throughout your content.

37. Listicle Infographic Summaries

Infographics are a great way to visually surface big points in content. These visuals work extremely well to draw attention on pretty much any channel you can think of. Here’s an example of an infographic we created for the release of Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin’s book, Talk Triggers.

38. Diagrams

Sometimes, a complex pattern is best told in a visual way as a symbolic representation of information. Diagrams are awesome for demonstrating relationships and organizational flows.

39. Posters

Did you know that posters date back to the mid-nineteenth century? Even in our digital age, posters can still work. Offer them as digital downloads, or consider printing them off for in-person events or conferences.

posters are types of content

This poster example actually combines a diagram right into the poster to demonstrate how to repurpose old content into new blog posts.

40. Photography

Thankfully, stock photography has gotten much, much better over the years, but custom photography is alway the first choice for the best results. Also, be sure your photography shows the faces and places where you work and the humans behind the scenes at your company.

41. Memes

Sure, sometimes these have no business value at all. However, humor and entertainment is one of the main reasons people share content on social media. When you want to show a little personality in content like a blog post, memes get the point across with a little flare.

42. Comics and Cartoons

Humor gets your point across in a memorable way. But not all comics or cartoons need to be funny, necessarily. Hand-drawn or even computer-generated cartoons can tell a step-by-step story, too.

43. Screenshots

Ah, screenshots—one of the best ways to show examples of digital content to prove your point. Social Media Examiner almost exclusively relies on screenshots to complement their blog posts, including one in at least every five paragraphs to break the monotony of text.

Screenshots Example from Social Media Examiner

Posts like this one from Social Media Examiner rely heavily on screenshots to demonstrate the how-to, step-by-step nature of the content.

44. Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs take screenshots to the next level. These work super well for complementing demo content to show how something works or how to use a new feature on your website, blog, or in your software.

45. Illustrations

The CoSchedule content marketing blog uses tons of illustrations to highlight the main points of their articles. An illustrated post of theirs even turned humorous by featuring a unicorn with the headline, 5 Unicorns Of Refreshingly Unique Marketing That Will Make You Stand Out. Illustrations create visual interest in your content and make for some very shareable graphics.

illustration

46. Hand-Written Notes, Sketches, and Brainstorms

Some solo marketers may not have the luxury of a designer on hand. There are times when images of sketches, written notes, and brainstorms work well to illustrate your concepts.

Handwritten Note Example

47. Texts, Short Message Service (SMS), Web Push, and Push Notifications

Texts work for some businesses to share content, while others may opt for mobile push notifications from tools like Pushbullet. Or maybe your audiences could benefit from website push notifications from tools like PushPros.com?

48. Emails

Sometimes, it’ best to just go back to basics. Emails work, and they work incredibly well, especially when content fits the medium. In fact, according to a recent report, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, making it one of the most effective channels and types of content available.

49. Courses

Courses are a great way to create content dedicated to education. We would even add workshops to this category, too. Convince & Convert is no stranger to offering content marketing courses, and we know first hand how valuable they are for growing your email list and building a community around your brand.

 

50. Certification Programs

When you find courses work well for your business, certification programs take them to the next level. Imagine even more robust courses that provide your students with homework, tests, and certificates of completion. Make your students feel special with exclusive membership in a special network.

51. Marketing Automation

Courses often run on marketing automation, but there are even more ways to use it. Marketing automation, at its core, involves sending emails to your audience after they complete a specific action. It works extremely well when coupled with new signups (whether it’s email subscribers or customer conversions) to onboard them and keep them engaged.

52. Newsletters

Most newsletters work well through email, though now printed newsletters may be a way to stand out from the crowd, since only .5% of bloggers include printed newsletters in their content strategy.

53. Websites and Web Pages

We’re pretty sure we don’t have to go into too much detail on this one. Just make sure to tailor your messages to answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) for your customers, and you’re set.

Company Images Example

Images of our team appear on our About Us page to show the real people behind the scenes at Convince & Convert.

54. Landing Pages

Like websites, we’re pretty sure you’re all up to speed on landing pages. We like to use landing pages a lot for specific content campaigns.

55. Feature Pages

Some people talk about feature pages interchangeably with landing pages, but we like to think of feature pages as deep-dives into the details. Target these more toward the benefits of how your offering solves your customers’ challenges.

56. Microsites

When AT&T addressed a huge social problem with texting and driving accidents, they launched a microsite to complement the social media campaign #itcanwait. The site is a great outlet for information on the campaign, only more targeted than if they included the information on AT&T’s own website.

Microsite Example

Pro Tip: Supporting social causes is a fantastic way to create shareable content.

57. News Releases and Pitches

While news and press releases themselves are targeted more at journalists and editors who write publications your audience loves to read, the idea here is to get coverage in influential publications to reach your audience.

58. Pitch Packets

Pitch packets are sort of like public relations gift baskets that are specifically themed around what you’re pitching. For example, when I worked at philosophy (the skincare and cosmetic company), they were launching a brand-new perfume that had slightly effervescent, champagne quality to it. Their pitch packet to each targeted media outlet contained a full-sized bottle of the yet-to-be-released perfume, a marketing piece about the perfume, and a mini bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

59. Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

Yes, seriously. PSAs are great, and you can actually have some fun with them. Make them animated, get special guests, deliver important information in lighthearted ways—the opportunities are endless.

PSA example from Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse uses public service announcements to reinforce their strict no talking, no texting policy.

60. Awards

Whether it’s awards for your customers, suppliers, or even your industry in general, these are a powerful way to show you’re listening and supportive. And the folks who receive your recognition? You can bet they’ll share it with their networks, too.

61. Polls

Ever have that feeling when you just want to know your audience’s opinion on something? Polls are great for a quick, one-question dialogue to get you the information you need. Ask a question to get information on upcoming content ideas to create even better content based on your audience’s advice.

62. Surveys

Surveys are perfect for gathering data you can use in research-based content. They’re also great for getting to know your audience’s needs, so you can create even better content. Use surveys when your readers and customers sign up and unsubscribe to understand areas where you can improve.

Survey Example

SurveyMonkey has great options for getting to know your audiences’ needs.

63. Quizzes

Quizzes complement courses super well and are a fantastic way to teach your audience something and measure what they’ve learned. You can use them for data points, but these are best used simply for engagement.

64. Games and Gamification

If your content marketing includes education, entertainment, or social causes, how can you turn your content into a game? Games are terrific for engagement with an interactive element.

65. Web Apps and Tools

When CoSchedule found out that nearly 800 bloggers and marketers searched for the term “headline analyzer,” and that there wasn’t a great solution for them, they decided to research 1 million headlines in their database to build a tool that would help them write better headlines. It’s their #1 driver for new email subscribers.

other apps

The headline analyzer from CoSchedule is an awesome way to improve your headlines to increase your click-throughs.

66. Voice-Activated Content

From Alexa to Google and more, voice-activated content and apps literally surround us, yet it’s so often overlooked when we think of creating content. Instead of optimizing like we would for search engines, we need to optimize for conversation, because we don’t say, “Hey, Google. Time now.” Instead, we say, “Hey, Google. What time is it?” It’s a whole different way of thinking about how users engage with our content, and how we answer their questions in return.

67. Plugins

When CoSchedule launched a Click To Tweet WordPress plugin, they found an opportunity to help their audience enable their readers to share content directly inline in blog posts. It was also a terrific way to add “Powered By CoSchedule” to more than 10,000 blogs.

click-to-tweet

This is an example of what CoSchedule’s Click To Tweet plugin looks like when embedded in a blog post.

68. Contests

By now, everyone is familiar with the Lay’s Do Us A Flavor contest, which used social interactions as votes to choose a new flavor of potato chip that would be created. Your contests can be as simple as replies or likes on social media, or as elaborate as the Lay’s contest. If you go the Lay’s route, be prepared for some … interesting submissions.

Lay's Do us a Flavor Contest Example

Thankfully, Today.com reviewed Lay’s cappuccino-flavored chips.

69. Challenges

Challenges are like contests, except that it’s up to each individual reader to compete with themselves to improve. Think about 30-day challenges where you can provide your readers one thing to do every day to build a new skill.

70. Video

Video is one of those content types that every brand should be investing in and creating, but they’re not. If there’s one thing social media platforms have been telling us over and over again, it’s that video consistently generates more engagement, and they prioritize video content in our audiences’ newsfeeds. To be honest, video is really not a nice-to-have content type any more. It’s a must-have. See the video marketing statistics you need to know for more proof.

71. Paid Social Media

There are so many ways to better reach your audiences on social media, thanks to paid advertising. From sponsored posts, to dark social, to paid ad placement, social media has just given old-school advertising a new place to spend. Remarketing is also a great option for targeting those who have visited your website or even certain posts.

72. Sponsorships

Sponsorships are on the rise for content marketers to fund events, podcasts, webinars, and more to reach new audiences. Some larger brands even sponsor sports leagues and teams to connect with their audiences.

73. Native Advertising

Native advertising is content that appears in a publication of some kind—blog posts, magazine articles—that a brand pays for. Sometimes, brands even write the content themselves instead of the publication’s own journalists. Native ads look just like normal content and may contain disclaimers to inform readers they’re looking at messaging a brand pays for.

74. Advertorials

Like native advertising, advertorials are content that appear in publications as ads. These are common in newspapers and magazines—more print types of content. These ads often include more text that is similar to an article, but is clearly not mixed in with traditional content.

75. Magazines

While they might be a rare sight these days, printed magazines can be a terrific format to reach audiences who don’t constantly stare at a screen (plus, they’re easy to repurpose as digital publications).

magazines are types of content

Content Marketing Institute publishes Chief Content Officer magazine to reach their audience.

76. Reports

This is a perfect format for sharing your custom data. Reports often include graphs, charts, and text you can repurpose into other content formats, too.

best university websites

Here’s an example of our own report on the Best University Websites for 2019.

77. Digital Brochures

A classic: The digital brochure offers specific information on your business or specific services or features you offer.

78. Fliers

Fliers are perfect for quick take-along content, usually well-suited for physical promotion for events. However, if you design them correctly, you can easily repurpose them for online posts and publishing.

79. Webinars

2020 has turned into the year of the webinar, but that’s because it’s a great format to deliver content. Training and demos are well-suited for webinars, and they’re also a terrific way to build your email list with subscribers.

80. Virtual Events

On second thought, maybe 2020 has actually turned into the year of the virtual event? A lot of traditionally in-person events have had to move online this year, but that doesn’t mean that the content has suffered at all. Just make sure to download our free 11 Ways to Win with Virtual Events guide first!

Win with Virtual Events

 

81. Event Replays

Record your webinars and virtual events to provide videos of the content after the events are over. This is a great way to repurpose the hard work you put into a form of content that exists only momentarily to get the most bang for your buck.

82. Conferences and Workshops

While online events may be easier to coordinate (since anyone from around the world has the opportunity to present and attend), physical conferences and workshops are an excellent avenue of training and networking. We have a feeling that 2021 and beyond will see a fierce and enthusiastic return to in-person events.

Content Marketing World

 

83. Meetups

Less formal than traditional conferences, Meetups provide an opportunity to connect with others in your industry, often localized to specific cities or communities. This is a perfect way to meet your local audience, and several have even moved online.

84. Live-Streaming Video

For any event, live streaming helps marketers bring in-person events to online audiences in real-time.

85. Presentations

SlideShare is still a good place to plant all those decks you create for your webinars and events, although it’s not the only place you should be posting them. Don’t forget you can also write a blog post and embed the presentation into the post as supporting content.

86. Podcasts

Podcasts have taken a slight dip, now that commute times are way down, but they’re still a great option and content format. They work well for interviews and, as Joe Pulizzi mentioned once in his “This Old Marketing” podcast, they are likely to attract an audience of near-customers when you post them regularly. (If you haven’t already, check out our own podcast, Social Pros social media podcast.)

87. Live Chats

Whether you invest in a chat bot or you have a real, live person proving real-time customer service to website visitors, live chat is a great opportunity for you to connect with your audience and answer their questions. It’s also a terrific way to gather content ideas directly from your audience.

88. Blog Posts

Well, this one was bound to come up sooner or later! Just make sure you’re not creating random acts of content, and your blog addresses both your audiences’ needs and your business objectives.

89. Vlog Posts

I always love a good portmanteau and some great videos. Vlogs check both of those boxes. Vlogs are also great ways to complement normal blog posts.

vlogs

If the written word isn’t for your audience, maybe the audio-visual nature of vlogging will connect with them like it does for Casey Neistat.

90. Audio Articles

We actually just recently started adding audio articles — audio versions of every post on the Convince & Convert website. Like podcasts, this is a terrific way to connect with an audience who is constantly on-the-go or would rather just listen to the audio version of an article.

Audio Articles Example

91. Photo Galleries

Especially useful for showing portfolios and company culture, photo galleries are a hub designed to help you share visual content. Other uses could include infographics.

92. Content Libraries

CoSchedule includes a guide, template, e-book, infographic, or worksheet of some kind in all of their posts. So they decided to build a content resource hub to share all of the bonus materials they create in exchange for an email address. It’s another great list-building technique that their audience also find incredibly helpful.

Content Resource

CoSchedule’s Marketing Resource Hub is the perfect place to share lots of free guides, templates, infographics, and more.

93. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Like Q&As, FAQs are great for answering your audience’s questions. Those questions typically concern your product or service and may be technical in nature, though you could expand this to your industry in general to target highly searched terms and provide the answers.

Pro tip: Check out our formula for content marketing success, which uses your customers’ most frequently asked questions.

94. Content Hubs for Curated Content

You can complement your own content with the best content from other experts in your industry with curated content hubs. Tools like Uberflip are great ways to share awesome content with your audience that you may not have published yourself

95. Guest Posts, Podcasts, Webinars, and Videos

Publishing all of this content on your own platforms? Why not share your knowledge to introduce your brand to new audiences by writing or recording content for other awesome resources in your industry? Guesting for others with content types like blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and videos is a great way to expand your existing audience..

96. Content Syndication and Republishing

If you just published some awesome content on your blog, there’s a good chance other blogs in your industry will gladly accept and republish your content on their blogs, too. It’s called content syndication or republishing—a great way to maximize the work you’re currently doing to help you reach a larger audience.

97. Twitter Chats

Content Marketing Institute holds a weekly Twitter chat, to help connect with their followers. And it’s a simple social media event you can do, too. Just let your audience know you’ll be asking some questions at a specific time, and invite them to participate in the conversation. All they have to do is use the specific hashtag you define for your chat.

Content Marketing World Twitter Chat

98. User-Generated Content

Why user-generated content? Well, for starters, Hootsuite notes that “Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.” Also, creating strong content partnerships can open your brand up to an entirely new audience that otherwise would have taken a ton of time and a lot of resources to reach. Just remember that when asking for UGC, be specific with your content request, always ask for permission, and always give credit back to the creator.

99. Blog and Social Comments

Blog and social media comments are an awesome way to connect with others in your industry, provide your business’ insight, and even link back to your content (when done well). Just remember that no one likes a salesperson at a party, so make sure you’re jumping in on the right conversations, in the right ways

100. Influencer Programs

According to Tomoson, 51% of marketers believe they get better customers and build stronger audiences from influencer marketing. That’s because the relationship begins with trust in the influencer. But don’t make the mistake in thinking that the bigger the influencer, the better the results. Instead, look for micro-influencers who have a dedicated yet active and loyal following.

101. Ask Me Anything (AMAs)

This type of content combines forums, up-vote communities, and FAQs into a social event where you help your audience ask questions which you then answer. Popular marketing communities like Inbound.org are well-known for examples of this type of content.

102. Trends

At Convince & Convert, we’re constantly reviewing and analyzing every report we can to make sure we’re bringing the latest insights and greatest information to our clients.

You’re probably also doing that exact same thing. So, why not help connect the dots between all those great reports you’re reading anyway, and pull out rich trends and themes, so your audience can benefit from all those fantastic insights you’ve discovered, too? You could even make a super-meta “trends report.” Just don’t forget to cite your sources!

Here are a few examples from Convince & Convert’s own marketing: B2B Content Marketing Trends for 2021 (analysis of CMI’s annual report) and Social Media Trends for 2021 (our own take on social media trends).

B2B Content Marketing Research

B2B Content Trends for 2021 (example of a “Trends” post)

Social Media Trends for 2021 (example of a “Trends” post)

103. Iconography

Text is great, but we all know that web readers don’t actually read; they skim pages for information. Thankfully, we can help them skim more efficiently while still communicating key points we’re trying to make with icons. As Nielsen Norman Group points out, icons are pleasing to look at, fast to recognize and can be used to draw a user’s attention to key pieces of information. Just be sure to follow their advice on icon usability, which includes adding a short text description or pairing and icon with text for context, since there aren’t really any universally recognized icons.

When you’re ready to calendar all those great new ideas…

Ok. So now that you have all of these great, new, amazing content ideas, now what? Head on over to one of our other favorite blog posts, How to Build a Content Calendar, and take a deep dive into how you can easily build a more successful editorial calendar and score with completely free content calendar template while you’re there.

This post was originally written by Nathan Ellering in 2015, and extensively updated by Anna Hrach, Digital Strategist here at Convince & Convert, in 2021.

The post 103 Content Ideas to Add to Your Editorial Calendar appeared first on Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy.

Content

How to Design an Editorial Process That Fits Your…

It’s relatively easy to create great content when you are a one-person team. You know the type of content you want to write, your editorial tone, and have a clear sense of expectations.

It gets harder to ensure that all content is up to the same high standards as your content team grows. A strong editorial process will ensure everyone on your team creates content to the same high standards.

Established print publications have long recognized the importance of a strong editorial process. Newspapers have writers, junior editors, senior editors, and style guides to ensure the quality of their content. Your company might not have this structure, which is a problem.

This guide will show you how to create a strong editorial process for your company. Read on to learn how to organize your content team for success.

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Take These Editorial Process Templates With You

To make your editorial process even easier, we have created these templates for further guidance.

This bundle of templates includes a:

  • 2021 Annual Content Calendar Template to help you keep track of your projects, deadlines, and assigned tasks.
  • Content Outline Template for making the creation of a creative brief a breeze.
  • Editorial Workflow Template, so you can monitor who’s doing what and when each step has been completed.

With that, let’s jump right in!

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The Benefits of a Strong Editorial Process

From the moment an idea for content is conceived to its publication, the editorial team has to make many small and big decisions. With an editorial policy in place, it is easier to ensure the quality and tone of content published is uniform across all platforms. That makes it feel like the content is all produced by one company — your brand.

Benefits of using an editorial process

From published content to a project proposal, your style guide will help ensure uniformity.

An editorial process is more than a set of guidelines to help writers develop ideas and adopt the right voice. It also provides a structure for your content production.

Content is produced by your writers and then edited by the editors.

Your editors ensure that the content produced by your team shares the same brand voice. Good editors will also provide critical feedback and encourage writers to develop and improve. They are a bit like the coach of your local football team.

With the right encouragement and peer-review process, the quality of the content your team produces will improve. Moreover, if you have a senior editor in place, they can provide professional feedback to your editors.

When everything runs correctly, that structure will help your team excel.

Another benefit of having a strong editorial process is the ease in scalability. As your business grows, you will add more people to your content team.

Having a structure in place allows for easy expansion, and it can help you keep the content consistent even as you add more writers and editors to your team. Putting that structure in place for growth is important for a scale-up.

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The Relationship Between Editorial Process and Brand Identity

Branded content is produced as a part of a long-term strategy to engage with the reader and generate leads for your business. Some brands stand out due to the quality of content, message consistency, and tone.

One example is General Electric, which runs an online magazine on Tumblr, called TXCHNOLOGIST. The online magazine explores advancements in technology and science.

General Electric is active in manufacturing, power, aviation, oil, and gas. The publication ties in well with their larger narrative. The content they produce, which is also featured on Scientific American and Business Insider, has a strong standalone entity:

General Electric publication

The magazine serves as a good marketing vehicle for the brand because they have tried to create a publication that is of interest to their target demographic. A good editorial policy can help you establish this industry presence.

Another brand that hits the mark in content is Adobe, with its online magazine CMO.com. The magazine features marketing ideas, research, interviews, and curated news from the world of marketing. The content that is overseen by Adobe’s in-house editorial board is targeted at senior marketing professionals.

CMO by Adobe e-magazine

The company’s brand visibility is subtle, with Adobe.com and Adobe blogs appearing in the main masthead only. Each piece of content is meant to be informative and rarely promotes the brand directly.

The magazine is a success. The publication has a strong tone: Adobe is the one-stop place for anything marketing-related, whether it is news or business software. Adobe’s digital insight reports have gained an audience by market watchers.

These two examples illustrate how you can create great content for your industry. There are a lot more examples I could point to, but I’m sure you get the idea.

The 7 Main Elements of the Editorial Process

I showed you how some businesses use branded content to stay relevant. Every brand differs in the way they create and market content. However, regardless of your approach to content marketing, you want to ensure a consistent brand voice with your audience.

In the following sections, I’ll share the seven main elements of the editorial process. You can use these insights to create the editorial policies for your business.

7 elements to an editorial process

1. Define Your Brand Voice

Choosing what type of content to cover on your blog or through publications will require several rounds of brainstorming — and rightly so. Keep in mind, once you’ve chosen the types of content you will feature, you still need to do the most important step: defining your brand voice.

Your brand voice will underpin your entire content marketing strategy and define how you write and for whom you write.

Start by thinking about your brand’s identity. What words or phrases come to mind when you think of your company? Are you fun or serious? Offbeat or traditional? Corporate or creative? Etc.

Come up with three to five words that define your brand identity. You’ll check all future content against these words to ensure they fit. For example, a fun and offbeat brand might use plenty of slang and humor, while a serious and corporate brand would use more formal language.

You’ll also need to define your target audience. Who are you talking to? Identify who your ideal customer is, ask yourself what motivates them, and speculate on the type of content they want to consume. For example, a brand aimed at young people and students would write very differently to one aimed at senior business executives.

Once you understand your target audience and brand identity, you can build a style guide that defines your brand voice. Remember to include:

  • Language parameters. Formal or informal? Is slang permitted?
  • What is your aim? To persuade, entertain, or inform? This might be different for each content type.
  • What other brands are you inspired by? Do not copy, but feel free to draw inspiration from others within and outside your niche.
  • Any specific grammatical or spelling conventions you will follow. For example, will you use International or American English? Will you use short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points, and numbered lists?

All of the content you produce must have value to your audience. Since branded content is not focused on the core offering, it must engage the reader and leave them wanting to come back. The better the content, the more readers you will amass.

Your content should be the start of a conversation with your audience. They should come for the information you provide and stay for the value. Your brand voice and resulting editorial guidelines will be your guiding light in achieving this aim.

2. Create and Maintain an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar is the simplest way to make sure your writers and editors have time to plan each article. It also ensures a degree of coherence for the content you produce within a publication, in a month, a quarter, or whatever that happens to be.

Your editorial calendar is an outline of when each article is to be published and who is involved.

A content calendar provides structure to what you are creating. With an editorial calendar in place, you know what keywords to target and when content will be published. Finally, a content calendar gives your team an idea of the tasks that are pending and a clear workflow.

In the case of GE and Adobe, we saw that their selling point was their reports and content credibility. Such detailed content requires time to plan and collate information. In the absence of a calendar, it would be impossible to plan the creation of these reports.

As mentioned earlier, an editorial calendar provides a structure for an on-going marketing campaign.

CoSchedule editorial calendar

3. Create a Toolkit for Your Team

You know the kind of content you want, and you have an idea of the number of articles you want to publish. The next step is to equip your editorial process with the right tools.

There is a wide range of tools you should use as part of the editorial process. Here are a few to consider:

  • Excel Sheets, or you can use Google Sheets to make them easily shareable amongst your team.
  • Team collaboration software, such as Trello or Slack.
  • A project management tool, like CoSchedule.
  • Image editing and graphics creation tools, like Photoshop and Canva to make your graphics pop.
  • Video editing tools if you incorporate video into your content creation system.
  • A good grammar checker is also useful.

We use a project management system and have assigned tools that our team can use to support our editorial process at Better Proposals. Having these resources available for our team makes us more efficient.

You will also need the tools for measuring the success of your content. If you want to create content that clicks with your audience, you should use data analytics to track how people engage with your content. With the right data, you can answer questions, like “How much traffic did the article generate?” or “Did people bounce after visiting one page or stay for more information?”

Over time, through analyzing this data, you will find patterns. You can use your insights to make informed choices about what content to produce.

4. Optimize Your Content for SEO

Before the content is live, a few housekeeping rules need to be in place within the editorial process. A good editor will make sure the content is easy to read, free of grammatical mistakes, and properly sourced.

In addition to creating great content, make sure it is SEO optimized to climb up the search results. Include relevant long-tail (longer and more specific) keywords, and use a plugin, like Keywords Everywhere, to identify those with high search volume and low competition. You can use online keyword analysis tools to identify relevant phrases to incorporate in your copy.

Keywords Everywhere graph

Here are a few easy things to optimize and how to do them:

  • Write longform content of at least 1500 words and always use your focus keyphrase 5–6 times within each piece of content.
  • Use alt text on all images. This is a short snippet of text that describes the image’s contents and purpose. It should contain your content keyphrase.
  • Ensure your H1 tags (i.e. content titles) contain your focus keyphrase.
  • Ensure your site loads quickly. You should aim to reduce your server response time if your site takes more than two seconds to load.
  • Link to at least one external site that offers high-quality, relevant content within each piece you publish.
  • Create a relevant meta description for each piece of content. You can use a plugin, like Yoast, to do this.
  • Promote your content elsewhere on the web. You can do this by publishing guest posts, using a tool like HARO, to connect with reporters for relevant stories, and by writing great content that others will want to share.

Typically, Google bots will crawl your website after you publish the content and index your webpage. To speed up the process, you can submit your webpage for indexing through Google Search Console.

You can optimize the content further after it is published. For example, you can use Google Search Console to review the content’s keywords and ensure you’re using the right keyword density.

Beware of keyword stuffing — including your keyphrase too many times can have the opposite impact and harm your SEO! You can also adapt the focus of the article and improve the content over time.

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5. Promote the Content Through Your Marketing Channels

Once you have published your content, you need to promote the content. Promoting content takes a lot more time than creating the content. Harness the power of social media and share your content across all channels to get more eyeballs.

However, it’s not enough to just publish each new blog post on social media and hope for the best. You need a solid strategy.

One of the benefits of social media is that each platform has a slightly different user base. As you build your strategy, consider where your audience is. You might not need to use every single platform. In fact, you probably don’t.

For example, young people typically use platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, while senior businesspeople favor LinkedIn. Discover where your audience is and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Once you’ve chosen your platform(s), you can build your own promotion strategy for each piece of content. Here are a few of my top tips to get maximum engagement:

  • Use an eye-catching featured image with every post you share on social media. Posts with images get substantially more engagement than those without.
  • Remember that social media is a passive medium, and you only have a second to grab your audience’s attention. Use an enticing headline accordingly.
  • Tease the blog post or video’s content in the social media caption. Why should people care? Make them want to click the link!
  • Ask a direct question to encourage audience participation.

Don’t forget about paid social posts, too. A well-timed boosted post on Facebook or Instagram costs relatively little, but it can give your audience figures a huge boost. Refer back to your customer persona and ensure you target the right people when you set your audience parameters.

6. Hire the Best People to Support Your Goals

A great idea is useless without the right people. It takes a team of good writers and editors to take an idea and turn it into something your audience will love.

Invest in finding talented employees. Good human resources contribute to a flexible and creative organization. When you get a team that works well together, you can produce great results.

The people you will need will depend on your business goals. Here are some you might wish to consider:

  • Senior editor and one or more junior editors
  • Content marketing specialist
  • Social media specialist
  • Copywriter
  • Graphic designer, photographer, or videographer

There are numerous ways you can find great people for your team. LinkedIn is a great place to start. You can search by job title, specialism, and geographical location.

If you prefer, you can work with a recruiter who will do the hard work of sourcing the right people for you. You can also use traditional job boards, sites like Craigslist, or freelance sites, like Upwork, if you only want to hire people on a part-time or ad hoc basis.

Here are a few things to look for in your job candidates:

  • Relevant experience in your industry, a related industry, or a relevant degree — if you’re hiring new graduates.
  • A great team player.
  • Ability to work well remotely and with minimal supervision.
  • Willingness to learn and develop.

When you have whittled down your applicant pool to the strongest candidates, you should ask finalists to complete a short test related to the job. For example, if you were hiring a copywriter, you might ask them to complete the first 500 words of an article for your blog.

Once you have found great people, try to promote from within your organization where possible. That will increase the chance that your employees stick around because they can see there are options for career development.

7. Importance of Assigning Specific Tasks to Your Team

Quote from David Ogilvy about hiring

This is particularly true for your editorial process.

Before you let the best talent get on with their work, make sure you tell them exactly what it is that you want them to do.

One of the benefits of assigning specific tasks to your team is clarity in the workflow. Everyone in your team should be absolutely clear on what their responsibilities and KPIs are.

For example, in the case of a piece of blog content, you’ll need to know who will:

  • Write
  • Edit
  • Source or create great visuals to go with it
  • Upload it to your CMS
  • Optimize it for SEO

When everyone knows what they have to do, your process will run smoothly. Another benefit is that you do not duplicate efforts as every team member has a task to perform.

CoSchedule includes a fantastic workflow management system that will help you organize your team’s tasks quickly and efficiently.

Bottom Line

Good content will give you the advantage you need to cut through the explosion of content online. As we saw, even deep-pocketed companies, like GE and Adobe, that can afford to spend millions on advertising invest in content.

Establishing a good editorial process allows you to get the best content online, giving your marketing efforts a huge boost. Furthermore, good content helps you climb up the search engine ladder and drive more visitors to your website.

Good editorial practices include identifying the tone, ensuring the quality stays consistent, and is good enough to stand on its own. To do this, you need the right people for the right roles. Even after you publish the article, the process goes on as you optimize the content for search engines and promote it to reach the right people.

The post How to Design an Editorial Process That Fits Your Needs appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

Lead Conversion Statistics All B2B Marketers Need to Know

B2B marketing is complex with a myriad of tactics, technologies, and data solutions to choose from to promote your business and sell your products and services.

As complex as modern B2B marketing is, it is also as simple as:

  • How do I attract people to my products and services?
  • How do I convert those people to purchase?

Ascend2, in partnership with Verse, surveyed 277 marketing professionals to learn more about the state of lead conversion.

If you find that lead conversion is difficult, you are not alone. The State of Lead Conversion in Marketing and Sales found that only 12% of marketing professionals are very satisfied with their lead conversion abilities.

Satisfaction with Lead-to-Sales conversion rate

Companies continue to struggle with establishing contact, qualifying, and effectively following up with the leads they spend so much time and money to generate. Lead conversion is challenging, but the inability to improve lead conversion rates has several significant, negative downstream impacts: wasted marketing budget, wasted sales team time, and significant lost revenue opportunity.

“Verse calls this the lead conversion gap, and we believe closing it is the next frontier for marketing and sales,” said David Tal, Verse co-founder, and co-CEO. The Lead Conversion Report provides valuable insight to help companies understand the lead conversion gap and provides insight and tips on how to close the gap.

Here are a few noteworthy lead conversion statistics from the research study, The State of Lead Conversion in Marketing and Sales.

Finding #1: Companies Need More Lead Qualification Data

Lead conversion is hard. Identifying the challenges with lead conversion allows you to develop a plan to overcome those challenges.

Gathering and organizing relevant data, then leveraging it to better communicate with your leads is essential to increasing lead conversion rates. 43% of those surveyed report that collecting enough data on leads is the greatest barrier to successful lead conversion. Following up with leads quickly, before they lose interest, and making initial contact with leads also rank at the top of this list of challenges for 41% and 39% of marketing and sales professionals, respectively.

Finding #2: Companies Struggle to Establish Fast Initial Contact with Leads

Research shows that 24/7 speed of response to a lead inquiry is critical for improving conversion. 41% of companies feel following up with leads quickly is a challenge, especially given that a significant number of leads come in after regular business hours.

There are three reasons Inside Sales cited why speed-to-lead is so vital:

  1. Presence detection – if a lead puts their information in on a website or fills out some sort of online inquiry form, the lead is likely still next to their phone or computer. Contacting a lead immediately provides the best odds by far for getting a lead to engage quickly.
  2. Top-of-mind-awareness – this concept of calling or contacting a lead immediately equates to staying on their mind. The average callback time is nearly 48 hours after a lead submits an inquiry — if you can’t outperform that significantly, the consumer will likely have forgotten about your business. (InsideSales.Com)
  3. The “Wow” effect – people seem to be impressed rather than concerned when a company follows up within minutes of inquiring! This “wow” factor creates a response from consumers that establishes immediate trust. Prospects likely correlate the promptness of response and assume that their business was prioritized and valued.

The speed-to-lead mission is non-negotiable for sales teams to capitalize on their leads. According to LeadSimple, you’re 21X more likely to convert a lead if you respond within the first 5 minutes versus 30 minutes.

Finding #3: Communication Capabilities Matter

The vast majority of marketing and sales teams are utilizing more manual and time-consuming methods of attempting contact with inbound leads. Over two-thirds of those surveyed say email (37%) and phone calls (36%) are the communication channels used most often to follow up with inbound leads. Only 6% of those surveyed take advantage of text/SMS to follow up with leads.

A Closer Look: Do you use text to follow-up with leads? 89% of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via SMS. With an opportunity as clearly defined as this, now may be the time to re-examine your communication strategy and ask the question, are phone and email still the best option?

Finding #4: The State of Marketing Automation

Nearly half (44%) of those surveyed have email marketing automation and 39% use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Interestingly, only 25% of marketing and sales professionals have an automation software specific to lead conversion.

Marketing Automation Software Used

Did you know? There are 8,000+ MarTech solutions and the number continues to grow. There is plenty of technology available but expensive and complex tech stacks aren’t cutting it, especially at the bottom of the funnel. Smart integration between systems is critical to success. For example, software that integrates with any CRM solution, meaning you do not have to invest tons of time and money creating and maintaining additional software for the sake of a contact center. This simple solution is one more step to closing the lead conversion gap.

Bonus Finding: Sequencing Matters

According to 43% of marketing and sales professionals, the first attempt to contact a lead is made by phone call, followed by email for 40%. By the third follow-up attempt, those surveyed begin to utilize text (21%) and live chat (11%) more frequently.

The most common follow-up sequence is: ❶ Phone → ❷ Email → ❸ Phone

Lead Conversion Follow Up Sequence by Channel

Lead Conversion Follow Up Sequence by Channel

While phone calls remain the communication channel of choice, 87% of people don’t answer phone calls from numbers they don’t know. And according to Gartner, SMS/text is much more effective than email – 98% of text messages are read, compared to just 22% of emails.

Final Thoughts

How are you closing the lead conversion gap? Please leave a comment and share what is working for you. How are you improving data, sequencing your follow-up, securing and speeding up the first contact, and using technology to optimize the process? Help the community by sharing what works for you.

You can download the entire The State of Lead Conversion in Marketing and Sales for more data, tips, and strategies to close the lead conversion gap.

The post Lead Conversion Statistics All B2B Marketers Need to Know appeared first on Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy.

Content

How to Plan a Marketing Campaign That Actually Gets…

The process of planning a marketing campaign is complex; delivering one consistent message across multiple channels to reach your audience isn’t easy. Truth is: without a smart strategy and sound processes in place, it can quickly become an unorganized mess.

In this post, you’ll learn how to map out successful marketing campaigns. From planning to execution, you’ll keep everything on track to guide your organization or client toward success.

We’ll walk through:

  • What makes up a marketing campaign.
  • Why you should spend time planning one.
  • 9 types of marketing campaigns.
  • How to create and plan a marketing campaign.
  • A checklist to simplify the entire process.

Plus, you’ll get two campaign plan templates to make sure you’ve got the tools to put this advice into practice.

Grab ’em both before we dive in.

Marketing Campaign Plan Templates to Crush Your Goals

We’re about to do a deep dive into marketing campaign planning.

Grab your free marketing campaign templates before we get to the details.

It’ll help you work through this blog post and turn your ideas into a finished campaign on schedule, every time.

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What is a Marketing Campaign?

A marketing campaign is a project consisting of multiple pieces of content or events, connected together by a unified theme, with clear start and end dates.

Marketing campaign planning is the process of organizing everything behind the scenes to ensure a smooth, efficient process. Planning helps you nail every deadline for every piece/event you publish/host within your campaign.

If you’re planning to promote something across several channels, you might see it labelled as an “integrated marketing campaign.”

Why Spend Time on Marketing Campaign Planning, Anyway?

Quality creative work doesn’t happen by accident.

If you’re churning out nothing but ad hoc projects or skipping strategy sessions, then your work is unlikely to impact the bottom line. That leads to budget cuts for your department — making success even more difficult to achieve.

Planned the right way, successful marketing campaigns do the following:

  1. Communicate one, clear message across several channels.
  2. Build brand awareness and memorability. This kind of consistency can see revenue increases of over 30%.
  3. Grow your business better than one-off projects. Attracting leads and raising revenue are what this is all about, right?

Execution without a plan is just busywork. Sure, you might have a jam-packed to-do list when you open your computer each morning.

But busywork doesn’t build businesses or make meaningful careers.

Work on a campaign that’s well thought-out.

11 Types of Marketing Campaigns

We know what a marketing campaign is, but what forms can they take?

Here are 11, common marketing campaign examples you’ll likely have on your calendar:

Inbound Marketing Campaigns

Inbound marketing activities use several channels to raise awareness about your business. The idea is that you’re building authority in an industry, so that leads will come to you — rather than you relying on aggressive tactics like cold calling or pitching to fill your pipeline.

[Tweet “Inbound marketing activities use several channels to raise awareness about your business.”]

Product or Feature Launch Campaigns

Got a new product, service, or feature to announce? You can plan marketing campaigns to revolve around them. The goal is to spread awareness about the launch and convince people to buy or try it.

Here’s a product launch marketing campaign from Descript, for example. They created a video to announce a new suite of tools they’ve added to their software.

Sales Campaigns

Your marketing campaign can have any goal. This type is purely focused around sales whether that’s bringing first-time customers onboard or convincing existing customers to spend more.

Here’s a sales campaign example from Vets4Pets that shows this concept in action. They’re trying to get more people to join their practice by running a referral program. If an existing customer refers a new one, they’ll both get £10 credit:

Vets4Pets email campaign

Holiday Campaigns

If a big event is coming up, you can plan a marketing campaign to coincide with it. That might be anything from Christmas, right through to Valentine’s Day and Fourth of July celebrations.

Take a look at how Pretty Little Thing does this with their holiday campaign.

Seasonal Campaigns

The difference between seasonal and holiday campaigns is that the first has increased demand at certain times of year.

In the electronics industry, for example, Black Friday is huge. That’s why Best Buy runs tons of press releases about their exclusive deals, which get picked up by publications, like USA Today and Reviewed:

Twitter campaign from Reviewed

Product Comparison Campaigns

Every business has a competitor. Customers weigh-up which to buy from, but marketing campaigns centered around product comparisons can convince new customers to choose you.

Here’s how Monday.com cheekily captures people comparing Asana with their tool:

Product comparison campaign

Email Drip Campaigns

Email marketing is a superb way to nurture leads (i.e. people who’ve already opted in to hear from you). A drip campaign delivers a series of emails over a given period.

Here’s how Blood uses email drip campaigns to push their subscribers towards donating blood after signing up:

Email drip campaign from blood.co.uk

Social Media Campaigns

The beauty of this campaign type is that you can plan social media campaigns around anything.

Videos, images, and text all work together on social media, so long as you can combine them in a way that grabs someone’s attention, you can drive them to your website to complete any goal.

AdEspresso, for example, uses LinkedIn posts to drive people towards a webinar sign-up page:

AdEspresso social media campaign on LinkedIn

Ad Campaigns

Got extra budget for a campaign? A small cash injection in advertising can help reach people you wouldn’t organically reach. In-depth targeting means you can target people most likely to complete your goal — be that purchase a product, watch a webinar, or like your page.

Here’s how Podia use Facebook Ads to promote their products:

Podia uses Facebook ads for their ad campaign

Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Influencers are people with huge audiences on social media, their website, or YouTube. Brands can partner with them to reach a loyal audience and build social proof. It works because their audience trusts the influencer, and if they mention your product, audiences trust their recommendation.

Take Beauty Works, for example. They partner with influencers and give their followers a discount code that the influencers likely get a kickback from:

Influencer marketing campaign on Instagram

Offline Marketing Campaigns

It’s easy to think that marketing has to be purely digital, but there are offline marketing campaigns that you might run — such as billboard ads, radio advertisements, or TV commercials. Done well enough, people can even snap photos of them to recirculate online.

Here’s a superb example of how Smile At The World did this with their billboard.

How to Create and Plan a Marketing Campaign

Now that we know what a marketing campaign looks like, you might be left questioning how to actually plan one.

Here’s how to plan a marketing campaign and have your content, messaging, and assets ready for launch.

1. Determine What You’re Promoting

Every marketing campaign promotes something.

You don’t have to scratch your head thinking of what you want to promote. Oftentimes, businesses run marketing campaigns that promote:

  • A new product, feature, or service
  • A resource (e.g. a blog post, webinar, or video)
  • A brand message

It’s the easiest part of your campaign plan, but it’s also the most important.

You can have the greatest campaign in the world, but if the thing you’re promoting isn’t top-notch — or at the very least, something your target market wants — then it’ll flop.

[Tweet “You can have the greatest campaign in the world, but if the thing you’re promoting isn’t top-notch, then it’ll flop.”]

2. Develop a Campaign Theme or Concept

You know exactly what you’re promoting, but your marketing campaign should have an overarching theme that ties everything together.

It’s what David Ogilvy called having a “Big Idea”:
Quote from David Ogilvy about big ideas

How exactly do you come up with an idea or theme for your campaign?

Start with this simple process:

  • Know what you’re going to promote. What is your campaign going to push out into the world? A new product feature? A new subscription price plan? Use the checklist to make sure you don’t miss a step throughout your planning process.
  • Think about your target audience’s interests and pain points. What problems do they face, and what will hook their attention? Refer to your marketing personas for this.
  • Find the overlap between your brand and your audience’s interests. Portent CEO, Ian Lurie, put together one of our favorite slide decks on how to do this. It’s long (over 150 slides), but it’s worth taking the time to read through.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself thinking up a big, extravagant idea. Your “big idea” doesn’t necessarily need to be groundbreaking.

You just need an overarching theme that connects all the pieces of your campaign building a consistent experience for your audience.

That’s your big idea.

Brainstorm Ideas With Your Team

When we need to brainstorm ideas at CoSchedule, we often use a simple, three-step process.

If you’ve followed our blog for a while now, you might have heard how it works before. No worries if you haven’t; let’s walk through the steps together:

  1. Get your team together in a room. Have everyone spend ten minutes writing down as many ideas as they can. Don’t worry about the quality of those ideas yet. What might sound like rubbish ideas at the start might turn into something 10x better with someone else’s input.
  2. Spend ten minutes reading each idea aloud. Have each team member score every idea on a three-point scale: three’s are ideas you think are home runs, two’s are average, and one’s are no-go’s. Expect a mix of all three.
  3. Spend ten more minutes reviewing each idea that everyone agrees is a three. These are your best ideas, and the ones you should go with.

By following this process, you can wrap up your campaign brainstorming in half an hour to an hour — depending on how much time you spend discussing ideas at the end.

Bonus!

Steps to brainstorming

3. Establish Marketing Channels

By this stage, you know what you want to achieve.

You’ve determined the customers you’re trying to reach and developed messaging to reach them. Now, you need to figure out how and where you’ll deliver your marketing messages.

In real-world terms, this means knowing the best places to create and share content where your audience will see it.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are there media channels where we’ve traditionally done well? Look at historical data and go where you know your people are.
  • Are there channels where we need to develop a larger audience? It might be worth planning campaigns around weak channels with high potential to build better resources for your brand.
  • Are there constraints on our time and resources? If you don’t have enough money for a TV spot, social media campaign, and magazine ad, you’ll need to scale back what you can do. Stick within your budget — both human and money-wise.

The Hub-and-Spoke Model

One common approach to deciding campaign channels is called the hub-and-spoke model.

This entails creating one central asset, like a landing page, where you direct traffic from other sources.

For example, you might create one landing page with an opt-in form, and then promote it via social media and email. The landing page would be your hub, and your social media posts and email newsletters are its spokes.

The hub and spoke model

Single Channel Campaign

Don’t need a big, fancy campaign? If you’re tight on budget or resources, you could also decide to focus on just one channel for your campaign.

It could even be as simple as a series of related social posts on one network, or an email series directing back to a particular web page.

The main takeaway here is this: your campaign doesn’t have to be complicated.

Just do what will help you achieve your goals.

[Tweet “Your marketing campaign doesn’t have to be complicated.”]

Which Channels Make the Most Sense for This Campaign?

Ultimately, your business goals should drive your channel selection.

For example, if your aim is to increase brand awareness, visual platforms, like Instagram, might be the way to go. However, if your goal is to generate leads, you’ll likely apply some combination of SEO, PPC, email marketing, and social media to direct traffic to a custom landing page.

You can figure this out by asking two questions:

  1. What do I want my customer to do? Ultimately, what’s your desired outcome for your audience? This can be anything from starting a free trial or joining a webinar, all the way through to buying something.
  2. How can I get them to take that action? Think about how you can take your customer from point A (discovering your product or service through a piece of campaign collateral) to point B (completing your conversion step).

Use your marketing campaign brief template to plan this out:

How will you reach your audience?

4. Set Campaign Goals

Producing content for its own sake is a waste of time and money.

Not only that, but if you want your department or agency to maintain positive cash flow, you’ll need to show how your efforts are making a measurable impact. There’s no better way to do that than to meet or beat your campaign objectives.

Start by choosing KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics wisely. What does a successful campaign look like to you?

To do this right, keep the following points in mind:

  • Have one, overarching goal for your campaign. Such as lead generation, raising revenue, driving brand awareness, etc.
  • Choose metrics to monitor for every channel. That means having unique KPIs for social media, email, blog posts, and so forth. For example, increasing your number of Twitter mentions is a platform-specific goal.

Determine how you'll measure success

Understanding marketing measurement and analytics could take several blog posts in itself. Here are a few we recommend to start

  • The Wistia Guide to Video Metrics, from Wistia
  • How to Use Social Media Analytics to Create the Best Posts, from Coschedule
  • 19 Social Media Metrics That Really Matter—And How to Track Them, from Hootsuite
  • 9 Landing Page Metrics: How To Track Landing Page Performance, from Cyfe
  • The 28 Blog KPIs that Most Content Marketers Recommend Tracking, from Databox

Once you have your goals and metrics established, complete the following section in your campaign brief:

How are you going to measure your success?

5. Plan What You’ll Need to Create for Each Channel

You’ve already listed the marketing channels you’re using for your next campaign.

Next, you’ll need to comb through those media channels and establish the number of posts, ads, or pieces of content that will be needed to execute the campaign.

Knowing these deliverables in advance can help budget your time effectively.

Here’s an example of what that plan might look like:

  • Twitter
    • 5 x video tweets
    • 3 x text-only tweets
  • Facebook
    • 3 x video posts
    • 5 x long-form text posts
    • 5 x Facebook Ads
  • Website
    • 1 x blog post
    • 1 x case study
    • 1 x landing page

Remember that your audience, timescales, and the thing you’re promoting all tie together here.

If your main goal is to drive people back to the website, and your campaign is a month long, you might need more content spaced over that period of time.

6. Map Out the Execution of Your Campaign on a Marketing Calendar

A marketing campaign has many moving parts. It’s impossible to keep track of where things are up to if you’re relying on your brain power.

We created a tool that makes it 10x easier. It’s like sharing your brain with your team.

CoSchedule’s Marketing Calendar helps:

  • Set deadlines for each part of the campaign. Things like research, writing content, and approving can have their own task deadlines. Set them with enough time for them to get completed before your entire project’s end date.
  • Assign tasks to each member of the team. Have a copywriter handle the copy, a graphic designer manage visual assets, and an editor approve everything. No more “Oh… that was my job?” causing you to fall behind schedule.
  • Show campaign statuses to stakeholders. If you’ve had to convince a stakeholder to sign-off on budgets and resources to get the campaign moving, use the Marketing Calendar to show them where you’re up to.

Think of it as your ultimate project management tool designed specifically for creating, planning, and launching marketing campaigns.

CoSchedule's project management tool

A Checklist to Plan Your Next Digital Marketing Campaign

Our CEO and Co-Founder, Garrett Moon, says…

The simplest approach is often the best place to start.

It’s easy to let the amount of things you could do overwhelm you. Being overwhelmed makes it hard to start — especially because humans are naturally adverse to change.

That’s why the following checklist is kinda… minimalist.

The step-by-step process is your master guide for planning a marketing campaign. Read and understand it all, then use this checklist as you go through the process each time.

1. Draft the Campaign Launch Brief

A launch brief shares everything someone needs to know about the campaign. It includes:

  1. The marketing campaign idea
  2. The resources and budget
  3. The goal and how you’ll measure it
  4. The speaking points
  5. A link to your content and a promotion checklist
  6. A link to your high-level marketing campaign sprints
  7. A link to your marketing calendar campaign timeline and ship dates

You can simply copy and paste that list into a Google Doc, then flesh out the details.

There’s also a free Word Doc template in the bonus content within this blog post — you can simply download that and get started immediately.

Think about these seven points as an outline that will help you easily communicate the purpose of your campaign and how you will execute it. It’s the go-to place for anyone who has a question on what the marketing campaign is about.

2. Clarify the Marketing Campaign Idea

Who will this campaign benefit the most?

You’ve already created a concept based on your target customer’s interests or pain points, but as you think through your audience:

  • Try to target only one prospective customer. If your idea is broad, or you know it will benefit multiple audiences, consider planning multiple campaigns. This will prevent you from spreading your message too thin or sharing information one audience type just wouldn’t care about.
  • Target a specific subset within your audience. For example, if you are targeting lawyers for your campaign, which kind of lawyers will you target (e.g. corporate, estate planning, personal injury, etc.)?
  • Write a story about why your campaign will help this audience. Fill in the blanks of the following framework, putting yourself into your audience’s shoes: As an {audience type}, I want to {do something}, so that I get {a desired value}.

At this point, you will also describe the project in a couple sentences or a paragraph, essentially coming up with the campaign definition.

Think of this as the elevator pitch for your campaign.

For example, when we recently released the Marketing Strategy Certification Course, this is what the project description looked like:

Staying organized is a never-ending struggle. As marketers, we live in a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants world, and if we aren’t organized, it can feel like one fire drill after another. Well, not anymore.

This course is all about getting you insanely organized and giving you the tools for real 10x growth. We’ll teach you how to prioritize the RIGHT kind of content, how to optimize it for 237% more engagement, and how to take control of your marketing strategy (not the other way around).

Ready to get started? Cool. Keep scrolling.

As in the example, your campaign description connects the dots between what you will provide (e.g. the content within the campaign) and the value the audience gets (e.g. what’s in it for them).

Your stakeholders will need a refined idea before they give sign-off.

3. Know Your Resources and Campaign Budget

What kind of resources might you need to complete the campaign?

As you consider this question, you will:

  • Brainstorm the talent and people the campaign will require to be successful. For example, if you decide to build a free online tool, you may need help from a developer who is typically not on your marketing team. Now is the time to think through this roadblock and work with the right folks internally, or look for an external partner (i.e. a freelancer or agency) to help you make the campaign a reality.
  • Make sure your marketing team has the tools it needs before you start executing. The last thing you need is to take on a campaign, only to have it come to a halt because tools weren’t part of your budget. Make a list of what you need beforehand. That might be using video editing software or grammar tools, like Grammarly and Writer. Even if they’re free to use, it’s smart to have them set-up first.
  • Consider the time it may take your team to complete the project. How much can they take on, given the campaigns they are currently working on? What might your launch date be given this knowledge?
  • Have a clear marketing budget. You may need to work with those partners, buy tools for your team, or account for overtime your staff will take on.

Right now, knowing your resources and budget at a high-level can help you get sign-off from the big wigs, so they know what to expect as you take on this campaign.

Faster sign-off means less being stuck in limbo, waiting for the go-ahead.

4. Define Your Goal and How You’ll Measure It

Earlier, we mentioned that every marketing campaign needs a solid goal behind it.

Otherwise, you could be pushing forward a new idea that just isn’t profitable or sustainable.

If you have data from similar campaigns, you may be able to get to a specific figure here. This extremely detailed blog post will help you understand what to expect from future content performance based on your historical data.

If you don’t have historical data on similar campaigns of this kind, it’s still helpful for your team to know why you are taking on this campaign and not something else.

You can write this simply in your launch brief:

The goal of our campaign is to influence {specific metric}.

Now, before you launch, you will need to know how you will track the results the campaign produces. A tool, like Databox or Klipfolio, will help you track nearly anything.

You can also opt to use Google Analytics with its goals and custom reports functionality.

Let’s look at an example of setting up Google Analytics goal tracking and custom reports to view the information. Since a majority of you likely have larger marketing goals to influence email subscriber signups from your campaigns, let’s use this as an example for your goal metric for your campaign.

Open Google Analytics and click Admin. Then select “Goals”.

Setting goals in Google Analytics

Click “+ New Goal”.

Choose whether you want to create a goal from a template — such as visiting a page or playing a video — or start from scratch. We recommend using a template for this case.

Then name the goal, select “Destination” to track a conversion, and hit “Continue”.

Tracking a conversion in Google Analytics

Select “Begins With” for your destination, then write in the slug of the page your users see after they convert into your email list.

Oftentimes, that is a specific thank-you page on your website, so that’s the example you’re learning here.

Then hit “Save.”

Describing your new goal in Google Analytics

It takes up to two days for Google Analytics to know you want the tool to track that metric, so give it some time.

5. Research Your Speaking Points

Why will your audience care? What’s in it for them?

At this stage, you’re looking for the words your audience uses. You’ll use these terms throughout all of the content within your marketing campaign to create a unified and cohesive message and appeal to the value your audience will receive from your content.

At CoSchedule, we call these “speaking points”.

Find yours by digging into:

  • Customer support tickets. What questions does your audience ask most often? What words do they use to describe the issue?
  • Customer surveys. Chances are, you ask your customers why they hired you in some way. Can you use their terminology to help you attract a similar audience with your marketing campaign?
  • Blog post comments, social media, and forums. Are there trends in the topics your customers talk about?

From here, think about the value your audience will receive as they consume your content.

What’s in it for them to spend their precious time reading, watching, or listening to your marketing campaign?

Write at least 3–5 bullets of speaking points that will fuel how you market your campaign via emails, social media, blog posts, paid ads, and beyond.

6. Prepare Your Content and Promotion Checklist

What does “done” look like to you?

Marketing campaigns are multiple pieces centered around a unified theme with a start and end date. Now, you’ll define what those pieces are.

Set up a 30-minute meeting with your team, and ask:

What would a campaign like this look like for our company?

Make sure everyone on the team participates. You may need to call out your quiet folks who have great ideas but just haven’t vocalized them yet.

Afterward, you will sift through the ideas, knowing roughly when you want to launch your campaign and take on the pieces you can realistically execute.

Use the “Content + Promotion” tab in your checklist to jot these down.

7. Plan Your High-Level Marketing Campaign Sprints

Each piece of content you take on will likely require several phases of content creation:

  • Writing
  • Designing
  • Editing
  • Promoting

A sprint framework helps you think through the process for each piece and when your team members will work on each phase.

Start by thinking of the four phases for each piece, then simply layer them together.

This is very subjective but gives you a visual of who is doing what and when, so you can realistically see if someone has too much or too little on their plates. From here, you can modify your publish dates for specific pieces when necessary.

[Tweet “A sprint framework helps you think through the process for each piece and when your team members will work on each phase.”]

Use the “Sprint Backlog” tab in your sheet to track this:

Open the Spring Backlog tab in your free template

8. Map Your Specific Marketing Campaign Timeline and Ship Dates

What good is a marketing campaign if it stays in the planning stage for months?

Here is where you’ll actually set dates for your marketing campaign to launch.

You need to assign a hard publish date for each piece of content within your campaign. This is the day you will ship the content, so all phases of content creation need to be complete beforehand.

Next, break down each piece of content into tasks you can assign with clear due dates to keep the entire campaign on track.

Luckily for you, the Marketing Campaigns feature in CoSchedule exists to help you put this advice into practice. For example, here is what the Marketing Strategy Certification Course campaign looks like:

CoSchedule's marketing campaign feature

By first mapping your publish dates for each piece, now you can assign tasks (complete with due dates) to the team members who will complete each part of the workflow.

9. Host Sprint Reviews

Sprint reviews are touch points between you (the campaign’s project manager) and your team to proactively prevent roadblocks and keep the campaign content creation moving forward.

Since you know when your team will be creating the content within your campaign, you can proactively schedule 30-minute sprint reviews.

In these touch points, you will open your Sprint Backlog and run through each piece of content within the campaign, asking your team a simple question for each piece: Where are we at with this?

If anything is getting off track, address concerns before you miss any deadlines using this framework:

  • What happened?
  • Why did this happen?
  • How can we make sure something like this doesn’t happen again?
  • How can we get this campaign back on track?

You can schedule these meetings before you start executing to keep everyone on the same page. I recommend at least two per week to make sure everything moves forward smoothly.

Bonus: The Team Report in CoSchedule is designed to help with campaign management. You’ll easily see when team members hit their task due dates, if they completed tasks late, and if they have overdue tasks:

Team performance analytics

All of this helps you and your team stay accountable for meeting deadlines and gives you the visibility to keep your campaign on track.

Ready to Launch Your Next Campaign?

Every campaign needs a solid plan behind it. Failing to do so means you’ll fail to spot shiny ideas; things that look and sound great, but in reality, don’t meet your business or marketing goals.

Use this checklist alongside your free download to set benchmarks, deadlines, and tasks to your team.

Remember: if you want an easier way to view all of this data, the Marketing Calendar is the tool for you.

The post How to Plan a Marketing Campaign That Actually Gets Results (Templates) appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

How to Emotionally Support Your Customers Through Content

Your customers make 35,000 decisions each day, and emotions play a role in a staggering 90% of their day. This means there’s major overlap, and the bulk of those decisions are made when your customers are emotional.

If you’re not prioritizing your customers’ emotions in all of your content creation, you’re potentially making most of their decisions (say, 31,500 of them) harder than they have to be — including the one where they choose, or don’t choose, your brand.

Here’s why emotionally supporting your customers through content isn’t just good practice; it’s vital for impacting your target audience’s buying decisions, and, ultimately, your bottom line. More importantly, how to do it the right way.

[content_upgrade_shortcode]

Why Are Emotions so Important in Your Business?

If you think emotions are a casual afterthought in your audience’s buying decisions, think again.

When used proactively, you can use emotional marketing to steer both your prospective and current customers to become loyal, lifetime fans of your brand.

Why are emotions so powerful? Simply put, they impact your decisions — big and small.

As for how decisions are influenced, here’s a quick synopsis of what happens in your brain.

You have three brains: the lizard brain, the emotional brain, and the rational brain.

  • Your emotional brain is responsible for your limbic system and wins more arguments than your rational brain.
  • Your lizard brain, the brain way under and older than the emotional brain, triggers fight-or-flight mode and wins even more.
  • Your rational brain is there to justify the decisions of the other two — like a wingman, but it’s not really responsible for making them.

What does this all mean for your business?

While it’s not practical to appeal to your audience’s lizard brain in your marketing messages — no need to thrust anyone into fight-or-flight mode — it’s definitely worth appealing to their emotional brain. This engages your limbic system and draws them toward your brand.

The limbic system
Interaction Design Foundation

On the frontend of your marketing strategy, you can use emotional marketing to help connect with your target audience’s emotional brain and persuade them to make a purchase.

In fact, one study of 1,400 ad campaigns found that ads with purely emotional content performed twice as well ( i.e. 31% vs. 16% ) as ads with only rational content.

Campaign effectiveness on the brain
Neuromarketing

After they convert, you can tap into your customer’s emotions and support them during their user experience (UX).

After all, there’s a lot riding on a good customer experience, given that 32% of customers would leave a brand they love after just one bad customer experience.

How’s that for brand loyalty?

[Tweet “32% of customers would leave a brand they love after just one bad customer experience.”]

To keep your customers happy, make sure you create a UX that matches the rational brain with the emotional brain.

Why? All forms of competition between the rational brain and emotional brain will be a bad experience for users.

Rational versus emotional brain
Simplifyinginterfaces.com

The point here is you can make a strong emotional connection with anyone who comes in touch with your brand — whether prospective, new, or repeat customers — so it’s worth hitting on the right ones, which will ultimately contribute to your bottom line.

As for making an emotional connection with your target audience the right way, here’s how to do it.

5 Ways to Emotionally Support Your Customers Through Content

Your content shouldn’t just be about getting your point across and promoting your business, products, or services. You should be able to connect with your customers on a personal level and make them feel heard and understood. Here are some ideas on how to do so.

Actively Listen and Create Space to Be Heard

Whether it’s new visitors to your site or returning loyal customers, you can support your audience through the content in your live chat conversations.

To make an emotional connection, first and foremost, provide a space for your contacts to be heard. In other words, allow them to vent and don’t forget to really listen. Let your target audience know their point of view matters.

Sadly, this isn’t the norm. In fact, people dedicate only about 55% of their time to listening. This makes sense, considering the average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words within a 24-hour period. Needless to say, we indulge in the daily bad habit of not truly listening.

Sure, it’s not realistic to solve the world’s problems through a live chat, but you can make an emotional connection with your target audience by letting them express their emotions.

Even if it’s a simple chatbot prompt, like this chat message that asks how their site visitors feel.

Facebook Messenger ads
Mobile Monkey

Emojis and all, it immediately puts the conversation into an emotional context, which opens the door for people to trust you with their problem.

To make the right emotional connection with your live chat visitors, use positivity and supportive phrasing as you engage in chats.

REVE Chat, for instance, recommends using affirmative words to help create a positive customer experience, like:

  • Great
  • Wonderful
  • Excellent
  • Absolutely
  • Awesome
  • Amazing
  • Certainly
  • Definitely
  • Fantastic

You can also ask follow-up questions, clarify an agreement, and make sure you’ve done everything you can to understand how to help your target audience.

Provide Support Live Chat recommends using these phrases to verify you understand your target audience properly:

  • “Let me check that I have this right…”
  • “Let me see if I have this correct, you want me to…” or “You would like for me to…?”
  • “If I understand you correctly…”
  • “You are saying that… correct?”

That way, you can share content and the right supportive resources at the right time — instead of sending a frustrated or curious user something irrelevant to their unique situation.

Do this and watch the positive emotions shine through your conversations.

The same concept of listening first, and then validating and offering an emotional response that supports their perspective, applies to your interactions in any online community, too.

From Facebook Groups and online forums to designated comment logs and social media, respond to every comment and let every contact know they’re being heard and taken seriously.

After fully understanding your contact’s perspective, share content that’s helpful — whether it’s educational tutorials or links to support resources, like in this social media post comment by Amy Porterfield’s team member.

Facebook post comment section
Facebook

After learning about a target audience member’s problem accessing Amy’s podcast episode, Joshua sent over a helpful piece of content in the form of a resource link.

The main takeaway is, regardless of the channel, provide a space for your target audience to be heard and use that to inform your content creation. After all, your target audience (including their emotions) should be at the heart of your business.

If you use our next tip correctly, it’s a big indicator that you’re listening to your target audience.

[Tweet “Regardless of the channel, provide a space for your target audience to be heard and use that to inform your content creation.”]

Reflect Your Customer’s Exact Language Back to Them

Another way to emotionally support your customers through content is to use your target audience’s exact language and phrasing in your content.

What’s the best source for gathering their verbiage? Your target audience, of course.

Whether it’s in first-hand conversations or through secondary research methods, doing remarkable customer research can make all the difference in your business. It’s a way to gather a key list of repeat words, phrases, and issues that come up often from your target audience.

If you’re going the secondary research route — as in, social listening or combing through conversations in relevant online forums, like Reddit or Facebook Groups — you can find a ton of comments by looking up your threads and groups based on your niche topic.

Let’s say you’re in the personal development niche, for example. A quick query for “personal development” in Amazon Books turns up over 80,000 results for reviews and verbiage from your target audience.

Amazon search for personal development
Amazon

Once you’ve gathered your verbiage database, the next step is to organize your data into pain points and relief points.

When content creation time comes, you can pull verbiage from your list and reflect your target audience’s exact language back to them.

As marketing queen, Amy Porterfield, puts it:

Amy Porterfield quote

One thing to pay attention to as you’re deciding which phrases to use in your copy is their stage of awareness, which include these five stages:

5 stages of awareness
Podia

This is something that copywriting guru and Copyhackers founder, Joanna Wiebe, uses. It’s a useful way to put yourself in your recipient’s shoes, so you can write specific content for their stage of the awareness funnel.

Even if it’s past the awareness stages, and you’re creating content for your converted customers, you can use your target audience’s language and phrasing in customer support content, too.

Just use their exact language when creating helpful support content, like guides, tutorials, or even in onboarding emails.

Content creation formats aside, when you use your target audience’s exact language, it shows that you’re carefully taking inventory of their needs and concerns, which makes you come off as authentic in wanting to help solve their problems.

Considering the fact that 57% of consumers think that less than half of brands do content creation authentically, this tactic can help you stand out from the norm.

Stats about authentic content
Social Media Today

In a nutshell, investigate the language your target audience uses by doing your due diligence and conducting research. Find recurring patterns in the words they use, and use your target audience’s exact language in your content creation.

This will help you tell a story in which your target audience can relate. Maybe more important, tell the kind of stories they need to hear — which is our next tip.

Leverage the Power of Storytelling

Another powerful way to capture your audience’s emotional connection and impact their buying decisions is to use compelling stories that also reflect back their emotions.

From pain points to the moment of relief, try to tap into your target audience’s emotions at every stage of the story.

This can be a super powerful way to connect with your audience, given that messages delivered as stories are up to 22x more memorable than facts.

Messages are more memorable as stories

For a skeleton storytelling framework to follow, consider the classic narrative arc, which goes something like this:

  • Setting and characters
  • Tension and conflict
  • Climax
  • Resolution
  • New normal
Classic narrative arc
Quantified Communications

The “new normal” being, of course, highlighting the positive emotions that come with partaking in your offer.

Of all the emotional marketing strategies, storytelling is one that’s very effective in eliciting an emotional response from your target audience.

[Tweet “Of all the emotional marketing strategies, storytelling is one that’s very effective in eliciting an emotional response from your target audience.”]

Particularly, if you go the cinematic route and produce videos in your content marketing.

Founder of Billy Gene Is Marketing, Billy Gene, takes his storytelling to another level and produces mock mini-movies to boost his brand awareness.

In his marketing campaign videos, he turns his staff into temporary actors for the day while shooting video, like in this Wolf of Paid Advertising marketing video that mimics The Wolf of Wall Street blockbuster flick.

Billy Gene Is Marketing video
YouTube

Of course, your storytelling doesn’t have to be as dramatic as Billy Gene’s, and your digital marketing content doesn’t have to be in video format, either.

Storytelling can be used in your pocket of copywriting skills, too.

Just check out how well Joanna Wiebe lays out the storyline plot at the top of her 10x Emails sales page, selling her online course.

Writing an email
10x Emails

From her headlines to her description, she uses storytelling to move you from a “Montreal café on a Sunday morning” scene, to planning, writing, and optimizing “emails that get results worth bragging about.”

The storytelling evokes an emotional response of relief and positivity in the end. If you’re trying to convert new customers, yours should do the same.

Use Emotionally Supportive Colors and Imagery

This one’s more of a subliminal layer, but it’s also a powerful way to evoke the right emotional response from your visual content.

Use color psychology to trigger positive emotions from your audience. If you’re wondering how colors impact emotional response and buying decisions, look to colorology, which is basically a list of emotions evoked by colors. This includes:

  • Red: action, energy, passion, warmth, intensity, bold
  • Orange: happy, energetic, stimulation, pleasure, warmth
  • Yellow: positivity, fun, happiness, laughter, cheer, frustration
  • Green: natural, money, health, envy, prosperity, luck
  • Blue: trust, power, loyal, success, purpose, calmness, cold
  • Purple: royalty, wealth, wise, respect, mystery, success
  • Pink: creativity, femininity, intuition, gratitude, love, romance

Visually, here’s a nice chart that also sums up the psychology of colors:

The psychology of colors
Swift Publisher

These associations vary a bit across sources and definitely by cultures. The tactical tip here is to use the colors of the emotions that you want to portray in your content.

Beyond colors, it’s also important to consider the emotional weight behind images during your content creation.

Ask yourself, “Am I using images that evoke relevant emotions to my target audience within their awareness stage?”

For instance, you can evoke a sense of wonder with animation or scenic imagery, like this Instagram video post by TravelAwesome.

Instagram post from TravelAwesome
Instagram

Positive emotions, like joy, can be created with images of happy and smiling people, like in this Warby Parker Instagram post.

Instagram post from Warby Parker
Instagram

The same concept applies to all your visual content, regardless of the format or channel distribution. Given that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words, it’s vital that your imagery and colors are making the right emotional connection with your target audience.

This will help bolster the point you’re trying to get across with words in your copy — just like our final content marketing pointer.

Highlight Social Proof in Your Content

Our final tip today is to center your content creation around social proof.

Regardless of the format, if your audience feels an emotional connection to other customers who have “been there” and “done that”, they’ll feel reassured they can also achieve the desired outcome by using your product.

It’s no wonder a staggering 92% of customers read online reviews before they make buying decisions.

The power of online reviews

It’s also no surprise that customer testimonials score the highest in effectiveness for content marketing, at 89%.

Effectiveness of customer testimonials
Spectoos

The point is to feature testimonials and reviews wherever possible and appropriate, whether it’s directly on your site, like at the bottom of Billy Gene Is Marketing’s homepage:

Billy Gene Is Marketing homepage
Billy Gene Is Marketing

Or on a podcast page, like this one on Amy Porterfield’s podcast page below episode #266:

Amy Porterfield's podcast page
Amy Porterfield

In a sales email, like this one I received from Dan Henry, that features a testimonial video of his successful student, Victoria:

Testimonial video
Get Clients

Even featuring a testimonial quote and review in social media ads works wonders, like this Darren Hardy Facebook ad, for example.

Darren Hardy Facebook ad
Facebook

The moral here is to demonstrate in your piece of content the idea that your target audience member is not alone, others have been there before them, and you can help solve their problems.

On that note, no matter what format your content creation takes on, the underlying theme is a simple, but pivotal, one:

Make sure empathy is at the root of it all.

Use Empathy as the Foundation for All Your Content Marketing Formats

With a significant 42% of Americans who say they’ve refused to purchase products from non-empathetic companies, you’ll be ahead of the curve by simply using emotions the right way in your marketing campaigns.

If you’re wondering which emotions are likely to make content go viral, generally, the most popular emotions in content marketing are awe, laughter, amusement, and joy.

Popular emotions in content marketing
OkDork

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should appeal to these emotions in every marketing message of every piece of content, if you’re going for virality.

Your content creation should tap into the specific emotions your target audience feels in their particular pain points and relief points.

The more you can use empathy in your content creation, the more accurately you’ll connect with your target audience, and, in turn, increase sales.

Even if it’s a pain point you’re trying to agitate, let your audience know you have empathy for their negative emotions, and you can lead them to their desired positive emotions.

This will nudge their decision-making and push them to trust your brand as the solution.

At the end of the day, trust is the crux of any good decision — especially the ones that have staying power.

Elicit the Right Emotional Responses

Focusing your content creation on evoking emotions that support your target audience will work wonders for your business. That’s especially true if you use empathy as the foundation for making an emotional connection with your target audience.

Five emotional marketing strategies to help you achieve this empathy in your content creation are:

  1. Create a safe space for your target audience to be heard, and for their emotions to be taken seriously.
  2. Conduct market research to find key phrases and language that your audience uses. Then, reflect their verbiage back to them in your content creation.
  3. Use the power of storytelling to let your target audience know you understand their emotions, from pain point to point of relief.
  4. Design your graphic assets using colors and images that trigger emotions matching those of your target audience.
  5. Use testimonials, reviews, and social proof to assure your target audience their emotions are shared and resolved by real customers.

Ready to emotionally connect with your target audience? Your target audience and their emotions eagerly await your next piece of content.

The post How to Emotionally Support Your Customers Through Content appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Content

How to Write Awesome Content (Even in a Boring…

You can’t underestimate the value of blogging for a business. 90% of businesses use blogs for marketing — 55% of which report more website visitors than businesses without blogs. Marketers say that business blogging gets 13 times more ROI for their company.

What you think is boring depends on the industry of your business. For example, writing about real estate tax or foreign exchange rates may seem boring for a content marketer who is used to writing about influencer trends or omni-channel marketing.

Don’t worry; you can create engaging content for a boring niche with the help of a great content marketing strategy.

Read on to find out some tips on how to write amazing blog posts about niche industry topics.

[Tweet “You can create engaging content for a boring niche with the help of a great content marketing strategy.”]

Why blogging is good for your business
Business2Community & HubSpot

Keep Your Content Organized With This Editorial Calendar Template

While you’re browsing through some of our helpful ideas for writing blog posts on boring topics, try keeping track of what comes to mind with an editorial calendar template. This amazing template that we’ve set up for you includes slots for keeping track of:

  • Content types
  • What team members are involved
  • The corresponding funnel stage
  • Estimated publishing date
  • And so much more!

Download yours now, before you move on.

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10 Tips for Writing Blog Posts That Aren’t Boring

Making a what-could-be-boring post as interesting as possible can be done in as little as 10 steps.

Be Clear About Your Target Audience

It’s a fundamental step in writing blog posts: know your target audience. For industry-specific topics, you need to know what kinds of people will be reading your blogs.

Understanding your target audience, knowing their needs, and speaking their language will help you create valuable and relatable content for them and beyond. By knowing exactly who you’re speaking to, you’re able to get creative with your posts.

What pop culture references can you make based on their favorite shows or brands? What relevant topics can you sometimes do in between informational posts that will grab their interest?

Let your target audience be your source of inspiration and creativity, and you can bet you’ll have a better time writing those awesome blog posts.

Don’t know how to find the perfect target audience for your blog? Look no further than this blog post here.

Listen to What Your Customers are Asking

If you’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to writing blogs for a niche topic, you should start thinking like your customer. What questions are your customers asking? Where do they get their answers?

One way of finding out what your customers want is to go to query sites, like Quora and Reddit. You can gather content ideas for your blog from what the users are posting or asking about. Then, you can do further research about the topic before diving into the writing. Be sure to compose a catchy title and collate valuable information about the topic.

Reddit blogs
Reddit

People can ask very specific questions on forums — giving you excellent feedback on the kinds of blog posts to write next.

Now that you know what your target audience is asking, you can optimize your blog posts to get higher rankings on Google search results. That way, your target audience will easily find your blog and refer to you as an industry expert on the topic.

Choose the Right Blog Post Format

That’s right. Not all blog formats are created equal. The right format for your blog post depends on what you want to achieve.

Listicles are a tried and tested form for business blogging. Long form content and lists are effective in getting more backlinks. Aside from being very informative and easy to read, long lists are often saved on read-later apps, so your audience will always refer to your blogs for key takeaways. Plus, long list blogs get more social shares as well.

Research-heavy and data-driven posts help establish your business blog as an industry expert. It takes time and a lot of research to write, but these kinds of posts can grow your traffic.

Now that you have increased traffic on your site, blogging about your success stories will help turn that traffic into conversions. Getting influencers involved to share your success stories will even make your posts go viral.

Average shares by content type with OkDork
OkDork

Write Like You Talk

Another way to write engaging content about a boring topic is to add personality in your blog posts. Since the topic is already quite obscure, your readers want to find a way to connect with you and your business. Just because the topic is technical doesn’t mean it should sound tedious like a textbook.

Talk to your audience like the way you talk to a colleague or a friend. Using technical jargon may not be effective, as it may drive away interested audiences who might find it too difficult to understand.

Social Media Examiner blog post
Social Media Examiner

The author of this blog post presents a technical topic about fast loading sites, but communicates it in a tone and voice that is easy for readers to understand.

A friendly tone and style of blogging is an effective communication strategy and builds more trust among your audience. Depending on your brand’s personality, you might be able to include GIFs or other fun media types to help connect with your audience and really get that friendly personality across.

Follow the K.I.S.S. Method

If the topic is complicated and boring enough as it is, it’s best to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple). Organize your thoughts before you write and identify the main points of your blog post.

Writing an outline with distinct headings will also provide an overview of the article for readers who are quickly looking for information on your blog post. Remember not to overwhelm your readers with too much information; otherwise, they might leave your site from information overload.

If you need a little help sprucing up your outlines, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What should my blog reader know by the end of this blog post?
  • Why should they read this blog post until the end?
  • What are different points that will help them understand this topic in the simplest way possible?

Get Inspiration from Magazines and Tabloids

Ever wonder why magazines and tabloids still get a lot of readers? Short and clear headlines easily catch the attention of readers. A clear headline includes an action verb and expresses a benefit or value to the audience.

Expert marketers know how to grab a customer’s attention with a catchy headline. You can use tools, like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, to write and test headlines before you publish a blog post. You can choose from effective power words — supported by data and a real score — to improve your headlines.

Glossier blog postGlossier combines well-crafted content with social responsibility.

Strategically Mix Things Up

Blog posts may get old and outdated, but other posts may be consistent top performers. You can add value to old blog posts by updating them with new information or examples. You can also republish top performing content alongside your new posts.

You might even benefit from trying out different ways of writing your posts. Can you perhaps use a main YouTube video by a different brand or creator as a piece to comment on in your post? Perhaps you can even compile and roundup expert tips and opinions gathered via email or trending tweets.

You can use tools, like CoSchedule’s Blog Calendar, to help you organize and schedule your blog and social content in one centralized platform.

CoSchedule social media calendar
CoSchedule

Put the Spotlight on Your Reader

Your readers might have stumbled upon your blog post because they are looking for an answer to their problem or concern. That’s why you should immediately provide value to the reader by telling them how you can help solve their problem.

For example, accounting company FreshBooks figured out a great way to create engaging and interesting content about taxes and accounting. They publish informative articles about the ABCs of taxes for readers that need the basics, and they also publish content about more in-depth topics for expert readers.

FreshBooks blog homepage
FreshBooks

Make Your Blog Look Sexy

Well-written content and eye-catching visuals are only effective for your business if your readers can easily access and navigate your website.

Your business website must also be optimized for mobile users, since 52.2% of all website traffic is now generated from mobile devices. While you’ll need to keep things, like images and custom fonts, inside your site — which can take up bandwidth and potentially slow down your site. There are other ways you can offload some of the work from your blog.

For instance, instead of hosting videos straight from your site, upload them on YouTube or Vimeo then embed them on your pages. Instead of uploading downloadable files and PDFs on your blog, offload these with robust cloud storage apps, and simply send the public link to your users.

Make your blog look sexy

Some other ways to revamp your blog for better user experience:

  • Use content boxes to highlight different elements, like quotes or important data between paragraphs.
  • Keep paragraphs between 2–3 lines for readability.
  • Use only relevant images and take it easy on the stock photography.
  • Insert your opt-in forms between paragraphs to break up walls of text.
NeilPatel.com blog
NeilPatel.com

Neil Patel’s blog is famous for short paragraphs and several images and videos that help break a long wall of text.

Add the Right Visuals

It’s tiring for anyone to read a wall of text. That’s why strategically placed visuals, like illustrations and infographics, can increase engagement and social shares.

You can add informative graphs or even short clips on your blog post to get your readers to engage with your content. Infographics are also known to get more traffic and inbound links when added to a blog post.

Experiment with memes and GIFs to spruce up posts as well, but use them sparingly and never in place of graphs and charts that can help you communicate your point better.

Key Takeaways

Who says blogging has to be boring? With a well-planned content marketing and the right tools, you can write amazing blog posts about even the most boring topics. Sign up for CoSchedule’s Free Trial to get started on creating engaging content for any industry under the sun.

The post How to Write Awesome Content (Even in a Boring Niche) appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

How to Use Rewards Programs to Build Customer Loyalty…

How do marketers bring customers back to maximize revenue? Loyalty programs build customer devotion and retention by incentivizing repeat business. Buying becomes a habit.

Today’s guest is Matt Baglia, co-founder and CEO of SlickText, an SMS marketing platform. If a loyalty program makes sense for your business, Matt talks about what it takes to make a loyalty program work as a growth lever.

[podcast_motor_player]

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Why loyalty programs matter? 20% of company’s customers make 80% revenue
  • Brand Champions: Pay attention to their interests, what they’re buying or not
  • What is a loyalty program? Distinct difference w/two purposes—register, rewards
  • Customer Behavior: Value-add messages give customers a reason to return
  • Getting Started with a Loyalty Program:
    • Step 1: Understand clientele
    • Step 2: Incentivize customers
    • Step 3: Talk and listen to customers
    • Step 4: Select a loyalty service
  • Growing a Loyalty Program:
    • Interaction: Ask, are you a member of our loyalty program yet?
    • Incentivize: Join loyalty program by providing value
    • Integration: Plugin pop-ups and other online opportunities for information
  • Marketing Metrics: Subscription velocity, click-thru links, opt-out rates, check-ins
  • Do’s/Don’ts: Get permission to send messages, or face legal ramifications

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “How to use rewards programs to build customer loyalty like the best brands around, with Matt Baglia from @SlickText.”]

Transcript:

Ben: Hi Matt, how is it going this afternoon?

Matt: Couldn’t be better. How are you?

Ben: Not too bad, not too bad. We were chatting a little bit earlier. It’s December and there is no snow in North Dakota. I’ll take as many […] as we can get right now.

Matt: You’re doing better than we are. It’s cold and we have snow.

Ben: Please accept my condolences. We’re going to be there with you probably sooner than we would like. Would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience real quick and explain what you do over at SlickText.

Matt: My name is Matt Baglia. I am a Co-Founder and CEO of the company. We provide mass text messaging, SMS marketing, and mobile marketing solutions for businesses ranging in size from small mom, pop up, to global enterprise. Personally, I oversee a lot of the search visibility stuff. More importantly, I focus a lot on the product and engineering. That’s really where my expertise lies. Have been doing this now for going on 10 years. It’s been a wild ride watching the company grow.

Ben: Very cool, very cool. Something that we’re going to talk about specifically within your areas of expertise is running loyalty programs and using those as a means of building customers loyalty and customer retention. I think that’s something that’s very top of mind for a lot of marketers right now, just given the challenges that we’re all facing—we’re trying to sell products or services, I guess what you could call a recession.

Your research shows that 20% of the company’s customers will typically make up about 80% of their revenue. I can’t remember exactly where that statistics originated, but it’s something that in the marketing and business world, it’s become just almost a common knowledge at this point. But I still think it’s something that’s really important to remember and it’s very relevant to why loyalty programs can be important. In your view though, what does that figure mean for the loyalty programs? Why does it matter if the bulk of your revenue is going to come from a minority of your customer base?

Matt: It’s the classic 80-20 rule. We see that that is used and applied to a lot of different areas. What it means in this particular case is that you have a small cohort of your best customers. It’s really important that we’re paying attention to what they’re doing, what their interests are, what they’re buying, what they’re not buying, how they’re buying, and make sure that we communicate and market to them appropriately.

It’s amazing. Those customers are typically repeat buyers, the most engaged, and the ones that you would consider to be brand champions.

Ben: Sure, that all makes sense. You mentioned that SlickText serves customers of all different sizes in different industries and in all different situations. From what you’ve seen, what types of companies typically do best with loyalty programs?

Matt: I would first start off by mentioning that some people have differentiating understanding about what a loyalty program actually is. Some people think that a loyalty program is really hey, I’m just signing up to receive text messages from a particular business, or emails from a particular business or something like that.

For us, we see it as a lot more than that. When we think of a loyalty program, we actually think of it, hey, register for our loyalty program and earn points towards rewards. I think that there’s an important distinction that needs to be made there for people who are listening to this. Because they are two very different things. One complements the other.

We have both. SlickText obviously powers a lot, tens of thousands of SMS marketing programs that people might consider to be loyalty programs. But we also have loyalty software where merchants can have a tablet at the point of check out and at their store. When they make purchases, they can check in and receive points for visits or how much they spend and then get rewarded for that.

The value is very, very simple. For us, it serves two purposes. One, we need to get people to come back. In order to do that, we need to give them a reason to come back. You can do that by not only just giving them offers via SMS, but also give discounts in the form of points or rewards to come back. A thing that’s one big value add to the customer.

The other thing that is often overlooked, that when you pair SMS marketing with a loyalty program is that we get some interesting data in terms of the customer behavior. We start to learn when people purchase and when they don’t, what they purchase, what they don’t, and how often they purchase. Simple things like hey, we haven’t seen you in a month and you’ve got a $5 off coupon. Click this link now to shop and come back and see us. Those types of things are extremely important. They’re very, very relevant. I think that’s an important topic that we’ll cover as we get into this a little deeper.

Ben: How would you advise marketers assess whether or not a loyalty program might make sense for their business if they don’t already have one in place?

Matt: There are some very, very obvious things. I think the biggest one is do I have frequent repeat buyers? We see real estate agents who often want to take advantage of traditional SMS marketing. In that sense where you’re pushing out recurring offers to people, it doesn’t necessarily work that well. Because it’s not that often that you’re in the market to buy a new home.

Works very, very well for retail, ecommerce, restaurants—any type of industry or business where you have people that are coming back on a regular basis and you need to incentivize or remind them to come back.

Ben: Let’s say I’m a marketer listening to this episode and my company fits the description of what you’ve just laid out. We’ve decided we’re going to just test a loyalty program of some sort with zero experience doing anything of that nature. How would you recommend they get started? What’s step one for that team?

Matt: Step one would be to understand the clientele. Just because you’re in a space that has repeat buyers doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ones that are tech savvy or would be open to the concept of receiving messages via SMS—particularly promotional ones. I think that that’s the first thing that you would want to figure out.

In most cases these days, even if you’re 75, 85 years old, you may be just fine with receiving promotional text messages. It’s kind of a very, very top box to check. As you start thinking about it, it’s about getting sober regarding what your customers find valuable.

One of the things that we always talk about with SMS marketing is that every single message needs to provide value. If it doesn’t, it’s not what we’re sending. It is a completely different communication channel, it’s not like email where people expect to receive your spam every single day. No, people expect to receive one, two, maybe no more than four promotional messages that are high value and targeted.

The next thing that I would be doing is saying, hey, what type of value are we capable of bringing to our customer? If you find hey, we really don’t do discounts or we don’t do points back for this, we’re not willing to do that. It might not be a good fit.

In most cases, most businesses have bill problems, shaving a little off, or craving an incentive to have their best customers come back in. Think that that would be the next thing is am I willing to incentivize my customers? Do I have something of value? Value might not necessarily be a discount or some sort of offer. It really could be something as simple as an important piece of information or a timely piece of information. People find that very, very valuable as well. It doesn’t have to be a tangible thing necessarily.

Once you get past those two things, I would probably start talking to some of my customers. Some of the best customers that you see regular, hey, what would you think about us launching a loyalty program? Don’t tell me what I want to hear, but be honest with me. Would this be something that you would find value in?

If I was a coffee shop owner and I said to some of my best customers, what if your 7th coffee or 10th coffee, it was free each time? Would it be worth it for you to come in and punch your phone number and each time that you’re in line or scan a QR code on your code each time to rack up some points? Little customer feedback is always great and I think that can give you some directional learning about how your customers would respond to it. If things sound good, then it really is about selecting a service.

There’s a lot of loyalty services out there for us, our philosophy on the loyalty experience is that we can build a great one. But that’s not where our focus is. Our focus is that we have a great loyalty program, but it is just to power the intelligence behind the text message marketing. We’ve got a great, great loyalty program that people’s per spending is the lowest $29 can get in and start building today.

It’s easy, but again, our thought is that we want to start to understand our customers behavior so that we can message them in higher value ways. If they’re not just coming in for discounts, but we’re getting them right at that time of the months where we know they get paid and then are much more likely to make a purchase because of it, or they’re interested in this product that’s coming back in stock or this or that.

I don’t want to overcomplicate it, but it’s really just about hey, is this a fit for my business? What’s the criteria, do I have repeat buyers? Would those buyers find value in what I have? Do I have something they can get value in, get some feedback, see what they think and ultimately about just putting one in place and trying it. If you own a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or a retail store that has multiple locations, try it in one and see how it works. See what the adoption rate looks like. If you see people are signing up for it, then great. You can step on the gas and continue to pursue it. But I don’t think it has to be that long of a process.

Ben: Before we get too far along, it’s important to ask whether a loyalty program truly does make sense for your business. Now, like Matt said, if for example you’re a real estate company, you’re probably not going to get frequent sales from the same customers very often. They’re not going to come back to you to buy houses on a repeat basis.

Say if you’re a restaurant, a coffee shop, any kind of service based company that people use all the time. You solve something that people need frequently, then you might be onto something here. If incentivizing customer loyalty isn’t something that maybe you’ve been proactive about incorporating into your marketing strategy in the past, then from listening to Matt, it really sounds as though it definitely could be something for you to consider. Especially considering the tough economic climate that all businesses are weathering right now and are really going to have to continue to find ways to navigate, at least for the near future.

Now, back to Matt. Once a company has established the basics of a loyalty program. They’ve moved past the testing phase, they’ve determined that this is potentially a really valuable growth lever for them and a really good means of building customer loyalty and retention. How would you recommend the approach growing it? Things are up and running and you’re seeing some success, what’s next?

Matt: It goes back to what I had said earlier. The first thing that you want to do once you realize, hey, this is important, this is going to drive value. I think it’s important to know are we doing this just for the loyalty program? Are we doing this just to get people to come back in with their points? SMS serves no further purpose than just to let people know how many points they have when they check in.

Or is it that plus we’re going to use SMS as a driver to market to these people. That’s the first piece of it. Because it changes how you’re going to want to grow it. As you want to grow it, obviously there’s the hey, we’re going to roll this out to all of our other stores. There’s a lot of different levers that you could pull to grow your SMS marketing list and your loyalty program. .

Some of them are really simple. Have you ever walked into Abercrombie, Gap, Banana Republic or any of these other stores. The first thing they’ll say to you when you throw your clothes on the counter is, are you a member of our loyalty rewards program yet? Particularly in retail restaurants. Any type of business where there’s an in person interaction there, you have to ask for it. It’s simple.

I’ve seen so many cases where businesses don’t prioritize that simple thing. They don’t make it something that’s required for all of their employees to ask when the interaction is actually happening. It was a lot of opportunity. Asking for it is huge.

Another big one is to incentivize the joining of the program. Whether that’s opting into your SMS marketing program or joining the loyalty rewards program in the beginning. You have to provide value. You walk into that restaurant or you log on to that site and you see a pop up and it says, hey, get 15% off your first order. Get a coupon code right now if you texted this to that short code.

The idea behind it is that we’re going to give them something extra special to get it now. That is the second most important in most cases. The strategy is very based upon a type of business that you have. Ecommerce is blowing up right now, especially given the whole COVID thing and everybody’s doing the shopping online. We see a lot more of these pop ups on the websites that are calling people to take action right then and there. We have some great integration, we have a great integration with Shopify right now. Anybody that has a store, whether it’s a small boutique, whether they’re doing tens of millions of dollars a month in sales. Whatever it happens to be, we power the SMS marketing for those types of companies and it’s very easy to plug what we have into their online stores so that they can have those pop ups come up and capture that information, or capture that stuff at checkout.

You’ve got to look at every point at which you’re going to interact with a customer or a potential customer. You look at that as an opportunity, capture their information and get them to join if they already haven’t.

Ben: For the last question that I have for you, I imagine the answer is potentially going to differ based on what kinds of offers you’re providing or some of the specifics of the program that a business might be running. But what are some really key metrics that marketers should be monitoring in order to really understand whether their loyalty program is actually effective?

Matt: Yeah, certainly. I just split this down the middle and I’ll talk from an SMS marketing side and then from an actual loyalty program side. On the SMS side, some key metrics that you want to look at in creating your subscription velocity. We want to see how many people are coming on and how quickly they are coming on. That gives you a very, very good idea at a high level of whether or not your employees are asking people to join at checkout. Gives you a very good idea about whether or not the incentives that are behind that initial opt in are strong enough. It gives you a signal as to whether or not people care about your product.

I think that’s an important one. Obviously, when it comes to text messaging, there’s less that we can track because we can’t track opt ins, we can’t track a lot of things that you can in email. We recommend that you’re providing links on all of your messages so you can track click through rates, a very, very easy one. You want to see how many people are clicking to go to the website or clicking to go place an order or whatever. That’s certainly one there.

The third one, this is a big one, is your opt out rate. Very simple things, but looking at how much of your list churns every single time you do a blast, and maybe once you’re really get going a little bit, changing the frequency of your blasts in such a way that you can start to see are there certain times of the day that when I send the message we have more opt outs. Or is there a point in which we’re sending too many messages where we’re starting to get some people to churn off that list. Those are three very, very easy metrics that you can pay attention to that give you a really, really good idea about how things are performing.

On the loyalty program side, the actual counting of the beans, so to speak, and offering people rewards and getting them to come back in, it’s very, very easy to see the check ins. We can look and say, okay, the average customer checks in x amount of times per month. Maybe if my best customers, how often do they? You really can’t look at your custom base as a whole, you need to break them down into smaller segments. You want to look at whether or not they’re actually taking advantage of their rewards. Let’s say you send a message to 500 people who have rewards sitting waiting to be used. How many of those people actually come back into the store and redeem those things? Those are all metrics that you can see in any good loyalty program’s analytics dashboard, including ours.

Those give you an idea about whether or not people care. This was years ago, but it makes me think about QR codes. Again, QR codes have become more popular since COVID. I heard a statistics somewhere for one of the popular QR code scanners that this app had 250 million codes scanned and the average number, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it netted out that each app scanned 1.1 codes. If you think about that for a second, that very, very clearly tells you that they download the app, they use it once, and then they trash it.

The same thing goes for loyalty programs, is that people can say we’ve got thousand customers in my loyalty program and they’ve all checked in once or 1.1 times on average. That tells you that they’re not finding the value in it or the employees at the store are not pushing to make sure that people check in each time they come.

Ben: Those are some really important points to keep in mind. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you think is really important for our listeners to be aware of if they’re entertaining the idea of starting a loyalty program that you haven’t had a chance to touch on yet.

Matt: One thing that I would definitely throw out, there’s a lot of different things that I could cover today. One thing that we’ve seen more of, particularly around this time, right before Black Friday, going into the holidays, is we find a lot of people who say, yup, I want to give this a try. I’ve been collecting phone numbers in my POS for the last five years. I want to take all of those people, load them in and start blasting them with text messages.

The thing that I would say is don’t do that. Unless you have been abundantly clear that people are signing to receive text messages and special promotions from you, don’t do it. There are legal ramifications that can be pretty hefty. If you look at the previous TCPI lawsuits, it really just boils down to getting people’s permission before you market to them. It’s the case regardless of channel. But there’s a lot more at stake when it comes to SMS, particularly in the United States.

Make sure that when you are collecting opt-ins that you are doing it appropriately, you’re doing it correctly, you’re following the guidelines. We’ve got a lot of resources in our website that make it very clear about how you go about doing this the right way. It’s not hard. But start from scratch and get the people who are really, really interested in receiving your messages via SMS.

Ben: I’m glad you just threw that out there because I think any time you start potentially getting legal issues involved, that’s definitely pretty important to keep in mind because if this is something that you’re going to do with an eye toward customer retention, that could turn costly really quickly.

Matt: It can. It doesn’t need to scare anybody away. Everybody has some sort of SMS communication component to their business it seems these days. Don’t be a bad human. Think about what your customer is going to feel like if you did business with them five years ago and now you think that you can message them, they’re going to be upset. Don’t do that.

Our platform makes it really easy. It’s very easy to say hey, text this to this to opt in to our program. Or if you’re online, you fill out a form, and you double opt in to join the text program. It’s easy. You have your bases covered, you grow your list, and people are happy to receive that, people also know that they can opt out anytime by replying stop or cancel. A happy list is one that’s going to be the most performing.

The post How to Use Rewards Programs to Build Customer Loyalty Like the Best Brands Around With Matt Baglia From SlickText [AMP 216] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

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