Content Marketing

The 6 Essential Elements Of An Effective Marketing Strategy

By: Steve Olenski

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Do you sometimes get the feeling that your marketing strategy is missing something? Maybe sales leads just aren’t closing, even though you have a great product. Or perhaps your top-of-funnel efforts simply aren’t generating enough leads in the first place.

You aren’t alone. Most businesses — a full 78%  — are dissatisfied with their sales conversion rates.

Regardless of what you’re selling or where your problem lies, there are six key elements of any effective marketing strategy. Here’s a compilation of advice on those six essentials.

1. Start with a compelling story. Erin Berman, founder of Blackbeard Studios, a digital creative agency, is an established brand storyteller and inbound marketing expert who’s helped dozens of startups reach more customers.

According to Berman, effective marketing contains all of the elements of an irresistible story. These include characters (target audience); their challenges (pain points) and motivations (desired outcomes); a setting (connecting the dots); obstacles (to the desired outcome); the climax (the value your solution provides); and a conclusion (the delivery of that value).

Once you have these elements in place, you can begin to build the central message that demonstrates how your product or service takes audiences from where they are now to an ideal scenario in which their lives are improved.

Not sure where to begin? Berman advises entrepreneurs and marketers to “consider tales that captivated you and provided your greater mission in life. Don’t worry if your answer seems silly or overly complex. Get your creative juices flowing, then write.”

2. Develop technical expertise. As the number of messaging distribution channels continues to grow, the number of systems required to integrate these channels grows with it. Christine Alemany of Trailblaze Growth Advisors explains, “You have to have much more than a cursory understanding of the underlying technologies involved in the entire ecosystem to successfully establish metrics that enable you to manage a marketing program.”

As your marketing efforts mature, be sure to invest in the technology, education, and personnel required to keep them effective over the long term.

3. Coordinate your messaging. All of your marketing efforts should be based on a unified strategy, meaning you should be telling a consistent story across all channels and customer touchpoints.

Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, says that disjointed messaging is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving meaningful ROI for digital marketing programs, but also one of the most common.

“To this day, I see people referring to content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization as three different things — as if each is a tactic that can get you there alone,” he says. Instead, Clark argues that each of these tactics, and any others you use, should be part of a “holistic strategy that centers around compelling content.”

And speaking of content....

4. Content marketing leads the charge. Content should be the foundation of any modern marketing strategy. There are a lot of differing opinions about what makes content great, but above all, your content should be authentic — it should stem from your unique brand story. Unfortunately, many companies still seem to produce content for its own sake, which ultimately gets them nowhere.

Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute asserts that “if we’re not actually building a collection of connected assets, then we’re not really building anything of investment value. What we’re building is just individual ad hoc assets that we throw against the wall and hope some stick.”

Great content is relevant to your customers and your brand, adding value for consumers in a way that aligns with your company’s larger mission.

5. Incorporate employee voices. Authentic content relies on your brand’s unique voice, and your employees are a part of that voice. As such, John Hansen of Recall Americas recommends that companies empower employees to become brand advocates. “Many organizations are reluctant to let go of control in fear of what, or how, the employees will alter the marketing message.”

Rather than fear what they might say, business leaders and marketers should encourage employees to talk about the services and value their organization provides. If you trust your employees, they’ll typically reward that trust.

6. Focus on branding, not selling. Your marketing messaging should always center on telling your story, not selling your products or services.

Instead of trying to reach everyone, your story will resonate with the customers who share your values and draw them to you. Legendary marketer Gary Vaynerchuk uses Apple as an example of a company that has mastered strategic brand storytelling.

He asks, “When, if ever, have you received an advertisement from Apple telling you to BUY their product? It never happens. Apple focuses on building a relationship.”

Apple’s marketing draws potential customers into its brand story, showing them what life is like when they live that story (by using Apple products). The results speak for themselves.

Marketing is both an art and a science, and if you’re struggling to do it right, take your cue from the experts. Focus on implementing the six critical elements outlined above, and you may even become one of them.


Author: Steve Olenski

Source: forbes.com URL: https://goo.gl/oHEJja

14 Ways To Get Smarter With Your Content & SEO

By: Jim Yu

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Despite the many ways Google has changed the search game over the last five years, one truth remains: content is the vehicle that drives your consumer interactions, engagements, experiences and, ultimately, conversions.

However, only 41 percent of marketers think their organization is clear on what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Marketers aren’t just lacking confidence in their efforts; these are real and measurable deficits. In fact, only 20 percent of B2C and 50 percent of B2B content earns any engagement at all, my company’s research has found.

That’s a lot of wasted effort and resources invested in content that ends up just floating around the web, winning zero business benefit for its creators.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at content through the SMART lens. SMART is a goal-setting framework in which S stands for Specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant and T for timely.

Below is my variation that explains how to apply search engine optimization (SEO) to your content within a SMART framework, giving you 14 concrete ways to make your marketing more effective and to win you more business.

S —  Specific content wins every time

Content is not about what your marketing team wants to say. It is about providing insight and information that your audience actually wants to hear.

SMART content is designed for a specific audience, based on your understanding of their needs, preferences and intent.

  1. Get to know your audiences.

There’s much more to this than keyword research. Where do your consumers live online? What’s their intent when performing certain types of searches or engaging your brand in social? What action are they most likely to take at that point? Understanding the audience you’re writing for is the foundation on which SMART content is built.

  1. Discover opportunities through topical research.

How well do you understand the competitive environment in the verticals for which you’re creating content? Today, you’re competing for eyes and clicks. Your competitors may be other companies, but you could be competing for space in the SERPs against media brands, bloggers, influencers and more. Without that bigger-picture, bird’s-eye view of relevant search and social spaces, you’re flying blind.

Evaluating the content gaps not covered by your competition provides you with opportunities to create engaging content that speaks to people in the key moments that matter.

  1. Choose content formats wisely.

Which media will you incorporate to best illustrate your message, engage your audience and reach people across platforms?

Don’t limit yourself; a single piece of content can incorporate several types of media, including socially shareable images, quick video clips and embedded media, like SlideShares.

This gives you various ways to convey your message, but it also allows you to appear in different types of search results (like Google Images) and on different search platforms (like YouTube or SlideShare’s internal search), as well.

M — Measurable content delivers on the metrics that matter

Content marketers are getting better at proving the business value of their activities. Just two years ago, only 21 percent of B2B marketing respondents to CMI’s annual content marketing survey said they were successful at tracking ROI. Now, in 2017:

  • 72 percent are measuring their content marketing ROI.
  • 51 percent are using a measurement plan to provide both insight and progress toward the business goals.
  • 79 percent are using analytics tools.

How can you make your content marketing efforts measurable?

  1. Choose metrics that matter and align with your business goals.

Which KPIs tell the true story of your content’s success? Ideally, you’re going to measure your content’s performance through the entire funnel, right from lead generation and audience-building to nurturing, conversion, sales and right on through post-sales to retention and evangelism.

Site traffic, lead quality, social shares, time on site and conversion rates are among the top metrics used by B2B marketers to determine content success. Priorities are similar for B2C marketers.

  1. Make search engine optimization a core component of content creation.

Improve your visibility and key metrics like engagement, time on site, sharing and conversions with strategic content optimization.

Apply readability standards and optimize title tags, meta descriptions, subheadings, images and text in line with current SEO standards.

Keep visitors clicking and engaged with smart internal linking that both improves user experience and resurfaces your most popular, highest-converting content.

  1. Accelerate with automation.

Machine learning is growing in importance in search, especially where data sets are large and dynamic. Identifying patterns in data in real time makes machine learning a great asset to understand changes in your customer base, competitor landscape or the overall market.

Ideally, your content automation system will include reporting to tell you not only how each piece is performing but also make recommendations to help you focus on your most valuable opportunities.

Automation allows you to manage routine tasks with less effort so that you can focus on high-impact activities and accomplish business goals at scale.

A — Actionable content is always on & ready for activation

By actionable content, I mean that which is ready to answers users’ questions but also is valuable way beyond the initial period of promotion after publishing.

  1. Empower your content creators with technical SEO support.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of balancing technical and non-technical SEO within your organization. If you want your content to perform its best, you need to support your creative team with a technically sound, optimized online presence.

Site structure and hierarchy, meta data, mobile readiness, internal linking, site speed, coding errors and other technical SEO factors can all affect your content’s ability to rank.

Further, they can affect readers’ ability to access and enjoy the content and then take next steps. Get your technical and non-technical SEO in order to set your content team up for success.

  1. Optimize for activation across multiple channels.

Search engine marketing is the second-most commonly used paid content promotion tactic, next only to social advertising.

Push your content to social channels like Twitter and Facebook, but don’t forget other channels like LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

Ideally, you’re going to have some understanding of your audience on each platform and which channels will be most receptive to each new piece. Make sure you’re optimizing your social posts for the platform on which you’re posting — cutting and pasting the same post across all channels doesn’t cut it.

R — Resonate with content promotion in relevant channels

Even if you build it, they will not come until attracted. The competition for eyes and minds is fierce; increase the efficacy of your organic efforts and promotional spend by targeting the right people in the right places at the right time.

  1. Amplify in social channels for early traction.

Low spend minimums on channels like Twitter and Facebook make it affordable to run experiments against different audience segments and see where your content resonates best.

Plus, that initial boost of activity gives your content authority and appeals to the social networks’ ranking algorithms, helping you get more organic reach.

If you are tracking and measuring correctly, you can see which audiences are not only engaged, but converting. That’s where you want to allocate your content-promotion budget, rather than having some predetermined amount of spend per channel that runs its course regardless of performance for each piece.

  1. Syndicate and use paid promotion to reach targeted audiences outside your existing network.

Syndication takes content you’ve already published on your site and republishes it elsewhere, exposing you to another publication’s audience. You might be able to find organic syndication opportunities, and there are plenty of paid syndication services like Outbrain, Taboola or Zemanta.

If you’re looking at large-scale syndication, read Danny Sullivan’s caution on using links in syndicated pieces first to stay on the right side of Google.

  1. Don’t forget email!

Your consumers want to hear from you. In fact, 86 percent want to receive emails at least monthly from companies they deal with, a MarketingSherpa survey found in 2015.

Make your call to action (CTA) to click through and read the content crystal-clear. Avoid placing competing CTAs in your email, and resist the urge to try to sell in every communication. Your content is designed to do the work of helping them take the next logical step.

T — Tangible business results are derived from SMART content

KPIs like social interactions and site visits give you a great idea of how well your content performs in search and social, but you need tangible business results to prove value.

  1. Make content profitable with CTAs that drive performance.

What action would you like readers to take? Which of your site’s conversion pages is currently converting best and generating the highest-quality leads? These insights will help guide your CTA selection, but remember, your CTAs should also match the consumer intent you’re targeting with each piece. Don’t forget to include embedded performance tracking for both site traffic and conversions.

  1. Incorporate elements that support multiple business functions.

Make your content multidimensional with elements to build brand authority, inspire or educate on product (or service), encourage engagement and more.

Incorporate testimonials into your content, where they can serve the purpose of providing social validation within the context of an existing consumer experience. Develop author personas to give your content greater authority and build the profiles of key employees and executives.

  1. Improve ROI with ongoing content management and optimization.

How much content does your organization have sitting on-site and around the web? Each piece is an opportunity for ongoing traffic and lead generation, but only if it’s kept in line with constantly changing SEO standards.

Updating your entire catalogue of content every time Google releases an update would be a task so astronomical in scope that it’s not even worth considering doing manually.

Bringing it all together

Intelligent marketers are beginning to move the needle on content performance by embracing SEO and content as one. While it is true that both disciplines have high degrees of specialization (for example, technical SEO or branded content), the most prolific and tangible results come from a combination of both.

SMART content is always on, always optimized, and — most importantly — profitable.


Author: Jim Yu

Source: searchengineland.com URL: https://goo.gl/H92owt

The State of Association Marketing: Doing More With Less

By: Kristen Parker

The No. 1 rule of marketing: Know your audience.

state of association marketing

It may seem a no-brainer, but too many organizations engage in failed marketing campaigns. For marketing to work, organizations must truly understand their members.

Associations seem to get it, but still have work to do.

Demand Metric, in partnership with HighRoad Solution, just released its The State of Digital Marketing in Associations 2017, which found 76 percent of associations surveyed rank their marketing efforts as somewhat or very effective.

Marketing teams need to take time to learn from their members and tailor efforts to their members’ wants and needs. Organizations seem to understand that, as more than two-thirds claim to understand their members’ needs.

Yet, just one-fourth report members perceive association marketing and communication efforts as “always relevant and professional.” But associations that have a good member understanding are twice as likely to also report their member communications and marketing efforts are perceived as “always relevant and professional.”

See the disconnect?

Other key findings:

  • Association marketing effectiveness has less to do with what tactics are being used, and more to do with how well they are used. Associations in the study are for the most part doing the same things, but some are much better at it. The difference seems related to skills or execution and not the choice of tactics.
     
  • More associations are leveraging social media advertising with back-to-back yearly increases in Facebook and Twitter paid advertising. There has been an increase in almost every category of marketing metrics usage from the previous year’s study. The average, estimated association marketing budget has gone from $260,000 (2015), to $240,000 (2016) and finally $205,000 in this year’s study. And now, more than ever, associations are being forced to do more with less.

“Making an effective use of any marketing tactic is certainly a function of time to learn and train, but the effect of culture and leadership are also factors,” the report says. “Marketers who function in a perpetual ‘hair on fire’ environment lack the culture that would allow them to take the time to learn how to use their tools and tactics more effectively.

“What we can learn from the study data is that a relationship exists between the depth of member understanding and overall marketing effectiveness.”


Author: Kristen Parker

Source: eventgarde.com URL: https://goo.gl/dhCPza