Myths & Realities of Content Marketing

Rachel Foster (@CopywriterTO) wrote an excellent post today entitled “The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing” on the Content Marketing Institute’s blog (http://bit.ly/dRZTwN). We often report on issues in B2B content marketing and Rachel’s post neatly summarizes some of the key misunderstandings held by many marketers and business leaders.

Myth #1: If I Tweet it, they will read it – Rachel cites research that indicates the average lifespan of a Tweet is about 1 hour. I agree with the research and with Rachel’s recommendation that if you want to keep your content fresh or least available – you need to push it out in different formats on different channels. For example I will Tweet this post, re-Tweet the CMI post, include the summary in another article I’m writing and finally, include the reference in my virtual newspaper ‘The Marketing Outsourcers Daily Digest’ (http://paper.li/portiansky).

Myth#2: The number one purpose of developing content is making search engines like me – this is a misconception I see all the time. No matter how keyword rich your content is – nobody will pay attention if the content sucks or worse, is irrelevant.

Myth#3: Content marketing is a great way to sell my products and services – yeah yeah yeah you want to sell – guess what, the fastest way to ruin any engagement you may have created with your content is a blatant sales pitch.  Do it and watch your engagement wither and die – quickly.

Watch for the debut of Web series summer 2011

Rachel summerizes her views on the 3 myths much more elegantly than I have – but hopefully you get the idea.

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To succeed prioritize customer service from top to bottom

You may not think customer service should be part of your marketing strategy – and that could be your problem. In today’s fiercely competitive and fast-paced economy, customers demand better service – whenever, wherever and however they need it. Your marketing message will not matter if customer service, or the lack thereof, poisons the customer experience.

For small business owners to succeed they must continually provide outstanding customer service to maintain sales and profitability objectives. This is true across the board no matter what type of business you have. Customer service principles apply whether you run a consumer (B2C) or a business (B2B) oriented operation. Even professional services providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, and engineers are all increasing sensitive to the competitive advantage customer service represents.

Why all the interest in customer service? In a word, competition. Consumers, individuals and businesses, have more choices today than ever before. Access to comparative information is easier and consumers want to exert their purchasing power for their own advantage.

Exemplary customer assistance helps your business attract clients, give added value to current clients, retain clients and, most important, improve your bottom line. So even if your company’s current methods get the job done, you may need to freshen or restructure your approach. Today’s message is that you must constantly improve to succeed because if you don’t, you can be sure your competition will.

Deliver More, Better and Faster
As e-commerce becomes more common to business and consumers alike, customers increasingly demand quality assistance. This means you must find innovative ways to enhance service. Going the extra mile includes providing same-day or just in time help to meet customer needs.

But as the Internet increasingly globalizes your company, providing top-notch service becomes more difficult. The solution: Form strong relationships up and down the supply chain to aid your growing client base.

Also, upgrade technology, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software. This type of application integrates front- and back-office systems and can greatly improve response time, allowing you to cost-effectively manage clients, prospects and vendors.

Develop a Customer-Centric Approach
But technology upgrades can create problems, especially if you do not make the necessary changes to processes or improperly train your employees on the new software or equipment. Although technology can automate methods, it will not resolve all your issues. You must implement a customer-centric approach that focuses the whole of your business on client service.

For example,
TUV’s (not their real name) warehouse staff had trouble preparing display materials for a promotion. Why? They lacked important details about the client’s strategy and vision. Typically, these workers would just put the project aside or pass the buck to another department. But the company had recently begun an internal campaign to boost customer awareness. So the employees contacted the marketing group and researched the client’s Web site. Taking the extra steps paid off. The customer was delighted with the results, including the early project completion. By taking a customer-centric approach, TUV’ s departments now work together to better serve their clients.

So take as gospel that customer service can be one of the factors that will differentiate your business and help you to succeed. Also understand that poor service can sink your business quickly and permanently.

Watch for the debut of Web series summer 2011

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Want Customers to Remember Your Brand? Engage Them

We all want to be ‘top of mind’ when prospects and customers are thinking about purchasing the type of products or services we provide. In my case, when someone is thinking about hiring a marketing consultant, of course I want him or her to think of me first. I at least want to be in the top three. How can I achieve that, and more importantly, how can you achieve that? By creating as many ways as possible to have prospects and customers engage your brand.

Brand Engagement
Simply stated brand engagement refers to the various strategies and tactics you can use to give potential customers the opportunity to experience what you and your brand are all about. If you want real world examples of how this is done visit a Niketown, Sony or Bose store. What these retailers have in common is that they emphasize the ?experience? of using their products, not the selling. The strategy that these retailers use is to show you how well their products fit into your lifestyle. The tactic that they use is not selling, but rather, educating. Bose does a particularly good job at this. Walk into any Bose store and you can get a thorough tutorial on all things acoustic. Sales people will share with you the finer points of filling a room with sound, speaker characteristics, and other issues to consider when selecting audio components. In addition they will answer any question you have. All this is done with a low key, no pressure approach that makes it comfortable for prospects to get information and leave, make a purchase or come back at another time. Nike and Sony do comparable jobs in their arenas. What is the magic of this approach? It recognizes a few key points. Customers:

* Control the purchasing process

* Value knowledge and information

* Love to buy but hate being sold to.

How can you do that?
At a recent seminar I challenged business owners to work with me on creating ‘experiences’ for their prospects that educated and gave an opportunity to get involved with the brand with ‘selling’. One example of what we developed:
* A furniture retailer – in discussing the various sales tools to his salespeople, we realized that the miniature mattresses and cut-a-way models in the store were rarely used and then only in answering a specific inquiry from a prospect. We can up with the idea of creating a one-hour seminar on how furniture was constructed and what features to look for when selecting sofas, mattresses and other furnishings. Brainstorming further we came up with the idea of including a chiropractor to discuss features of furniture to keep in mind that could help alleviate or prevent common issues related to back and joint pain and posture. Wanting to provide an additional incentive for people to attend, we decided to include hors d’oeuvres and wine. There would be no overt selling and everyone who attended could at their discretion leave contact information to be alerted about future events. How did it turn out? A 150% increase in referral traffic, 12% increase in sales and local media coverage of the event. Not to shabby.

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Managing Your Online Identity

I keep getting requests for this piece on issues related to online identity management so I’m posting here for ease of access.

In a July 2010 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” Jeffrey Rosen wrote that a major challenge of our age is “how best to live our lives in a world where the Internet records everything and forgets nothing—where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever.” The article focused on a series of examples detailing how students and professionals have been adversely affected by unflattering online material about them. The article reinforced a belief I’ve had for several years, to wit, managing one’s personal and professional profile is no longer a nice thing to do but a critical task.

The article also made me wonder about the audiences who might seek information about me: potential clients, employers, reporters, etc., to them, am I who I say I am or who my online profile says I am? Rosen noted that a Microsoft survey revealed that “75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human-resource professionals report that their companies require them to do online research about candidates, and many use a range of sites when scrutinizing applicants— including search engines, social-networking sites, photo- and videosharing sites, personal websites and blogs, Twitter and online gaming sites. Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters report that they have rejected candidates because of information found online, like photos and discussion-board conversations and membership in controversial groups.” With this as a cautionary backdrop I want to share some strategies for managing your online identity or profile. We normally think (or used to think) of the adage “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” as relating to a first in-person meeting. But the Web has dramatically changed the rules. Inquiries can be made about us long before a meeting—and opinions/impressions formed before we ever get face to face. There are several points to recognize about our online identity:
* Content is not totally under our control;
* We may have inadvertently contributed “digital dirt” or derogatory information about ourselves;
* Someone else may have contributed derogatory information about us;
* There are remedies to clarifying or cleansing an online identity.

I recommend a three-step process, PAM, to manage your online persona:
* policeCompass Ad
* analyze
* manage

Policing means actively monitoring your identity online so you know what is being said about you. It is essential to recognize that online content is not solely under your control. I use the term content to include written information, pictures and video. The “Tagging” tool, so useful in helping to index information for more efficient retrieval, can also be deadly for your online identity.

Imagine your name or picture being attached to a “tag” such as “most embarrassing moments.” (Think: LOL Facebook Moments). Are you sure you remember every picture you ever posted? How about pictures your friends may have posted pictures that include you in the background? What can you do? Knowing is the first step. I strongly recommend “Googling” (also “Yahooing, “Binging” etc.) yourself periodically to see what your online identity reveals. This practice, often called “ego-surfing,” can be quite revealing. If you have a significant online “footprint’’ there should be several pages of citations to explore. Citations may include articles you have written or that include your name, comments you’ve posted, pictures (with your name or tags you are attached to), directory listings of organizations you belong to, every profile you’ve ever posted, etc. While a bit time consuming it is well worth examining every reference link to make sure you know what is on it and how it reflects on you.

If you come across derogatory material or “digital dirt,” identify the source – if you posted it, delete it if possible. Cleanse your Facebook profile, especially your “Wall.” If your friends have posted something objectionable ask them to delete it. If derogatory material appears in an article or comments section of a third-party website, contact the webmaster or owner of the site to discuss deleting the objectionable material. For additional strategies on cleansing your profile, see the full white paper version of this article, available at http://www.luisportiansky.com.

The next step is to analyze what the references say about you. Do they reflect the image and content you want? For example, if the primary references to you are comments you’ve made on political sites, or other personal type content, do they support the professional image you may be trying to cultivate? If they do not, initiate the Management phase by implementing a campaign of adding relevant posts, articles and other content that portrays the image you want.

Manage your profile by creating a series of new entries that reflect your expertise, industry focus or thought leadership. This strategy enables you to push older less flattering citations further back in your search results. Generally most researchers only look at the first two or three pages so make those your objective to sanitize.
These basic steps will enable you to see what your online profile contains, assess the message it gives about you and identify items for deletion, correction or updating. Managing your online identity is critical to your professional success. Your online profile speaks more powerfully and immediately to potential employers, clients and others you may be interested in impressing. By the way, although the focus of this article relates to personal profiles, the same dynamics (and then some) affect companies of all sizes.

Contact me for more information and resources on corporate reputation management.
Do not ignore your online profile – act today.

There are several reputable vendors in this space you can also consult for specific reputation management services. One very well reviewed vendor is Reputation Defender – http://www.reputation.com/

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Hello world! Welcome to Marketing Outsourcers Blog

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Marketing Outsourcers (MO) blog. MO is a boutique (read: small & particular) marketing & PR agency.  Visit our site to get a sense of what we do & call or email us is you want to discuss anything specific.  My focus here is to bring you the latest trends, best practices and thought pieces I find useful or interesting.  I pay special attention to Social Media, B2B, multicultural marketing, branding & B2C.

There is lots of marketing garbage out there but there is also creative, clever and innovative information being shared. I will be a sort of aggregator for you of information, whitepapers and other helpful items. Follow us here, on Twitter (#portiansky) or subscribe to our online newspaper: The Marketing Outsourcers Daily Digest (http://paper.li/portiansky).  I welcome comments, sharing & interaction – so join in the conversation.

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