A 5 Step Strategy to Drive Your Content Currency

It all starts with a goal. Whether you seek to generate demand or brand awareness, grow your social networks or something else, an integrated content marketing strategy will be the key driver that will allow you to reach your desired state.

For many of us navigating the digital marketing landscape, developing compelling content takes time and money. Since these are resources many companies don’t have the luxury to afford, a sound strategy is worth its weight in gold.

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  1. Determine your brand message.
    • Identify buyer personas and their business problems
    • Link company solutions to buyer problems
  1. Map out the buyer journey, ensuring a clear path to your goal.
    • Message -> content -> channel -> goal.
  1. Create and curate content. Create or repurpose compelling content assets that communicate the message in a variety of mediums, including:
    • White papers, datasheets
    • Flyers, brochures
    • Blog posts
    • Banner ads
    • Infographics
    • Videos
    • Slideshows
    • Email templates, newsletters, etc.
  1. Determine your channels and promotion timeline. Use an editorial calendar to assign team roles, responsibilities, and manage the promotion schedule.
    • Search (ppc/organic)
    • Email (automate and schedule)
    • Social (influencer marketing)
    • Events (hosted, third-party, webinars)
  1. Execute and report: Evaluate campaign performance, improve and repeat.
    • Engagement metrics
      • Search (cost per click, bounce rate, etc.)
      • Email (open rate, clicks, forwards, etc.)
      • Social (Likes, shares, mentions, etc.)
      • Events (Registrants, attendees, feedback, etc.)

Executed well, your content currency will be valued higher than your competitors and you’ll see a positive return on your marketing investment.

Questions, thoughts, or something I missed? Feel free to reach out.

The Channel Marketing Data Gap: Control Freaks Beware

The #1 question I ask people working in the channel: How are you able to let go of the control and let your partners determine your success?

For me, transitioning from a direct-to-channel marketing role has been an eye-opening experience. Where I was once crunching demand generation metrics and cost-per-MQL, I am now running adoption reports on partner enablement programs and new deal registrations. My once cut and dry monthly business reviews have been replaced by…something else. Yes, there is still a big shiny number involved (how many new partner deals were registered last month), but there are also many leading indicators that influence that number that we just don’t have access to.

Jim Lenskold sums it up nicely: “Reporting ROI is probably one of the bigger challenges because it’s more complex within the channel. There are multiple parties involved and each has different relationships with end buyers. The challenge is really about access to data because the partners have a good portion of the data in terms of whether they are generating leads or whether they’re managing the leads generated by the OEM.”

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To someone who loves control, this is an unsettling realization. In a direct marketing role (where you do the marketing yourself) you would have access to your CRM, marketing automation platform, social monitoring tool and web analytics platform to easily collect the data relevant to determine your return or potential return on investment. In a channel marketing role (where you’re giving your partners the go-to-market tools on your behalf) you rely on them telling you, assuming they’re even collecting the data in the first place.

So how often does this happen? Think about it. If you have 20 partners in your program’s top tier and each partner is working with 20 other vendors, how likely is it you’ll have time to sit down with them for a marketing heart-to-heart? QBRs on the sales side happen all the time. How many deals were registered and opportunities won? Were they channel initiated or channel associated? But let’s look at the marketing side. When was the last time someone went to a partner and asked them how many hits they are seeing on the vendor showcase of the partner’s website? Or how many clicks they’re seeing on co-branded email campaigns? How many times has a vendor asked what they can be doing better to help drive those key demand generation metrics?

I’ve been told over and over (and over) again in my new channel marketing role that I don’t work in demand generation anymore. I work in partner enablement and demand generation doesn’t live here. I beg to differ:

CEO’s want sales.
Sales are influenced from demand.
Demand influences marketing plans.
Marketing plans influence partner enablement plans.

How do we know how to enable our partners if we aren’t looking at the right demand generation metrics from the partner’s perspective? How do we even know the partner is collecting the right ones and that they really understand the buyer’s journey for our product?

This is what I’m referring to as the Channel Marketing Data Gap. It’s big and real. We can run all the warm and fuzzy reports on increasing rates of partner program adoption but if we aren’t asking the partner what metrics they’re seeing from their demand generation efforts and what investments would help improve them, the reports have little value. At the end of the day, if we want to see success in our partner programs, we need to establish a feedback loop with the partner supported by shared data that will help us determine how to best determine the joint-marketing investments that will achieve the highest return.

I’m Back! Back in the Marketing Groove.

Six months ago I decided to quit my job. I’d been heading the marketing department for a quality training firm for over six years with no career advancement other than a title change I had given myself two years ago (Hello, Director! What’s next? VP? Queen of Marketing? Sure.). It was getting old and I was getting complacent– a situation that wasn’t fair to myself or the company I worked for.

I just wanted to feel alive again in my work. To feel like I could still learn and challenge myself to become a better person.

What could come next for a gal that felt like she had done and seen it all? Because that’s really what complacency is, isn’t it? Thinking you know it all. Sitting on the metaphorical couch eating bon-bons, nothing new to gain, getting fat off an easy situation.

We need challenges in our lives to stay engaged. To grow and learn. Last year, I had to run a marathon. The year before, I had to have a house. The year before was a baby. Before that, money. And travel, and toys and places and brands and the list goes on. An entire bucket list of things that I had to accomplish to continue feeling like I was in the groove and doing it.

Was it easy? No. I was poor and starting out just like everyone else. I lost my savings in the real estate market just like everyone else. The difference was that made me work harder. I wanted a better life so I worked multiple jobs, then got my MBA. I charged the tuition on my credit card. I didn’t complain, I got up and made it happen. Nothing was handed to me or I wouldn’t have wanted it in the first place. It’s the challenges that make life so rewarding.

This year my challenge was to feel excited about my career again. A fresh start, something new in the world of marketing. I took a horizontal leap into a new industry vertical- Data Storage. A multi-billion dollar industry I knew nothing about. As if that wasn’t enough, I took a leap into a new field of marketing as well- Channels. If someone asked me a year ago what Channel Marketing was I would have said it had something to do with Facebook or Twitter. Now I feel like I could write a book on reseller enablement programs, market development funds, SPIFFs, co-branding and content syndication.

This year has been a humbling experience for me. All of a sudden, what felt like the entire world of marketing knowledge only proved to be a fraction of the whole picture. The old knowledge is still there, but I’m applying it to a different industry in a different way with a different goal. And it hasn’t been easy. There are days I feel like quitting. But what keeps me going is that I chose this. I needed this to become a better person and feel alive again.

I hope to know it all one day before I die. But I’m not there yet and still have a lot to learn. In the meantime, I can confidently say I’m back in the groove, scared shitless and alive (with a old Kiss tune lodged in my head).

3 Steps to Building a Marketing Plan

Looking to develop a marketing plan? I was working on this slide deck for another project and thought I’d share it in case anyone else might find it useful.

A simple, 3-step process to building a marketing plan that meets your organizational goals & objectives:

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Enjoy!

 

 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketers

Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits is renowned by strategic management educators and advisors as the bible for success- in business, relationships and life in general. If you’ve ever attended business school you’re likely to have studied the book at great length.

I recently stumbled across some of my old MBA coursework and was interested to find a nice summary of Covey’s habits I’d written for a Changing Environments of Business project. Reading through each habit, it struck me how applicable they are to my career in the field of marketing, so much so that I decided to put together a list of Covey’s seven habits with my interpretation of each.

So without avail, here is my interpretation of Covey’s habits, which I’ve dubbed “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Marketers:”

 

#1 – Be proactive

Covey’s Explanation: We are responsible for our own lives and decisions. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.

The Marketing Explanation: Working in the field of marketing requires you to be flexible and adaptive to constant change. As I’ve blogged before, we as marketers need to proactively keep pace with new tools and features to help automate our processes.

 

#2 – Begin with the end in mind

Covey’s Explanation:

All things are created twice: first in our minds, then brought into physical existence. The purpose behind beginning with the end in mind is to develop a mission, which will help one focus on what they want to be and do.

The Marketing Explanation: Before we begin new projects, we need to ask ourselves “what is the goal?” So many times I’ve seen people get caught up on new tools, media and channels and forget to ask themselves why they need them in the first place. Are you trying to achieve more leads? Increased brand awareness? Understanding the goal will help you determine your strategy, the course of action and what your next steps are.

 

#3 – Put things first

Covey’s Explanation: Personal management honors integrity and our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves.  In order for us to control our impulses and moods with respect to our values, we must be able to say “yes” to some things, and “no” to others.

The Marketing Explanation: Analytics… you can get caught up in them for days. Learning how to interpret the data you’re collecting is paramount to determining where your priorities are as a marketer. Where’s your highest ROI? PPC? Email? Covey’s #3 habit of personal management allows us to practice identifying our activities with the highest return and take the needed steps to prioritize around them.

 

#4 – Think win-win

Covey’s Explanation:  Seek a mutual benefit in social interactions. Character is the foundation, relationships are the focus.

The Marketing Explanation: Life is all about partnerships. What’s in it for me? What’s in it for you? How can we both use our strengths to accomplish our goals? Covey’s #4 habit reminds us of the importance of authenticity in our social relationships and how to build equity within them, so that when we need a favor in return, it is given without question. In short, be real about it. It is an etiquette we need to abide by which is especially true for Twitter and other networks largely used for influencer marketing.

 

#5 – Seek to understand to be understood

Covey’s Explanation: We should first take the time to deeply understand the problems presented to us. When we understand each other, our differences are no longer roadblocks to communication and progress. We open the door to creative solutions and alternatives.

The Marketing Explanation: Great marketing is all about great listening. We listen first, talk later. Having a deep understanding of our customer and clients can help us to better frame our solutions around their goals and create products that better meet the needs of the end user.

 

#6 – The importance of creative cooperation

Covey’s Explanation: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Marketing Explanation: I think this one goes without saying: collective knowledge reigns supreme in the world of marketing. With all the constant changes in technology, we need to rely on our groups, forums, communities for advice and support. My organization recently held a Sales Kickoff and gathered 50+ of the best marketing genius in the tech world and I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from each one of them. Having recently come from a “mom and pop” shop, it was great to have the right people to bounce ideas back and forth with and engage in friendly dialogue while brainstorming new marketing strategies.

 

#7 – Take a proactive approach to self-renewal

Covey’s Explanation: Take time to proactively renew the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional so that you can work more quickly and effortlessly.

The Marketing Explanation: This habit may have come last for Covey, but always comes first in my daily regime. It’s important to not get burnt out on your work. Whether it is through pamper or play, we need to allow ourselves the time to detox, pause and reflect on where our days have taken us, and always remember the larger picture in meeting our goals as marketers, spouses, parents and people we’ve become.

 

The world isn’t perfect and people are certainly not either, but in my experience, keeping these habits in mind (whether I knew it at the time or not) has helped me to become the person and professional I am today. And while I still have a lot of work to get where I want to be, I truly believe this is a great blueprint to lead me there.

Continuous Learning for Social Media Marketers: Have you watered your social lawn lately?

When I hear the word “continuing education,” I usually think of a doctor, teacher or lawyer. Someone with a license to practice a profession who needs to maintain a level of CEUs to keep abreast of what’s changed in their profession. And there’s a whole market of training firms and event planners that cater to these individuals with cookie-cutter training programs and test prep courses.

In the field of social media marketing, however, I feel like the rules for staying on the pulse of things are different. Actually, on that point, there really aren’t any rules… despite new social platforms and automation tools sprouting up like weeds in a flowerbed. And it’s not hard to see why:

Needless to say, we’re all officially addicted to our devices and online marketing will be here awhile. But how are we as professionals keeping on top of it all?

Yes, we have conferences. And workshops. And webinars. And plenty of social media “universities” that claim to certify you as an expert. But what happens a month later when Facebook launches a new algorithm, or Linkedin limits their group sharing features, or all your nifty Twitter follower tools get banned? It doesn’t bear much clout if you can’t walk the walk anymore. So who’s going to keep us on our feet?

If you’ve got it set up correctly, Twitter can provide an amazing stream of group consciousness, as well as Google News. The trick is following the right topics and influencers. Also, sites such as SocialMediaToday, Mashable, Forbes and HuffingtonPost are a great place to start. Have a question, Google it. Want to get more involved? Join a group or forum. The issue lies not with the amount of content, but how to find the right sources.

Remember, change is the only constant.

While it may feel like more of the “same old,” I have a word of caution: Don’t underestimate the speed of change in our industry. While the strategy is the same the technology is fickle… tools and platforms are continually evolving. We all want to have the greenest grass, the best online footprint, a stellar portfolio and project success stories. And the first step in doing that is knowing the latest tricks of the trade. This is not an annual or semi-annual professional development initiative, it’s daily regimen that demands us to watch, listen and learn from the people who are making these changes happen. Find out what other marketers are doing and how you can apply it, and remember:

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10 Years of Marketing: Highlights from 2003-2013

After scanning my news feed this morning to see all the resolutions and reflections of family members and friends of the past year, I couldn’t help but think about my own life in 2013 and where I’ve ended up.

Although many days I felt like I was being hit by a constant truckload of work, diapers and bills, 2013 definitely brought some amazing milestones:

  • My son had his first birthday and learned to walk.
  • I ran my first marathon.
  • I celebrated my fifth wedding anniversary and 10 years in a relationship.
  • We spent our first year in our new house.
  • I spent my 5th year working at the best job ever and passed the 10 year mark in the field of marketing.

And because this is a blog about marketing, I thought it appropriate to reflect on how the field has changed in the last 10 years and what lessons I’ve learned from working in it.

In 2003, the world of marketing was still primarily print. I was interning at Volvo under the VP of Marketing where my main project was to coordinate the production of a full-line product brochure. I learned how to work with an ad agency, arrange photo shoots, write product copy and work with a printer to produce the brochure. These were the days when websites were still fairly new, and people still relied very much on printers and creative agencies to help execute marketing projects. iStock Photo and iPhones didn’t exist, your corporate photographer was your best friend, and Adobe CS was the holy grail (and cost nearly as much).

The next few years brought a greater concentration on websites. In the past, websites were seen by marketers primarily as a platform to transform the company brochure into a digital format. Because Google was still catching on as the search engine to please, we were focused mainly on user experience, and how to get the most information to site visitors in the least number of clicks. In these days we called email campaigns “e-blasts” and CRMs such as Salesforce had begun to replace the company rolodex (aka Outlook).

Around this time in 2005, the male-dominated engineering firm where I worked as a Marketing Coordinator limited my role to “proposal writer” “document editor” and “notes transcriber.” Article and ad placements in industry print publications were still big for B2B marketing, so I spent a lot of time writing articles, maintaining project portfolios, pushing out contracts and proposals and hitting file, print, save. My boss was a grumpy micromanager who, for reasons unknown to me, did not like my work and I knew the only promotion I would be getting was to another department.

After realizing I was in a dead end job and there was more to learn in the field of marketing than the engineering industry could give, I took a position as Marketing Manager at a start-up healthcare association for physicians. The job title was alluring, but I had my work cut out for me. By this time, we were thick into the brave new world of digital marketing, where people were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fully integrated websites with built in communities, forums and backend databases. ROI became more tangible as pay per click became the new standard of advertising. Marketing research became more intelligent with better campaign analytics and demographic data. Social media was born and email marketing got bigger. We shifted from mass “push” campaigns to permission-based “pull” strategies.

It was in this period that I got my first taste of integrating CRMs, building website architectures, designing and managing online communities and digital content that ultimately gave me the experience that has allowed me to wear the many hats I do today. These days, my resume says I am a Director of Marketing but what that entails is many job functions within one: lead generator, community manager, email marketer, social media manager, SEO strategist, event planner, web developer, CRM administrator, blogger, graphic designer and more. To work in the field of marketing means you own any one of 10+ roles and to be successful means you need to know the ins and outs of all facets of each. And they are forever changing, pushing us to learn new programs, systems and algorithms every few months. We need to know why Google values and devalues certain website attributes and not others, what the latest social networks are and how to infiltrate them, and what features have been added that can make our jobs easier. And the beautiful thing is, once you think you know what’s going on, something new is released and suddenly you have absolutely no idea.

It’s an exciting field, marketing. And extremely humbling. I have always believed that when we stop learning we stop growing and start dying, and thanks to the field I’ve chosen, I will be learning for a long, long time. As I look forward to 2014, I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will teach me.