April 19, 2015

5 Story Archetypes to Power Your B2B Brand

In The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories,  Christopher Booker gives his answer to the age-old question of exactly how many basic stories are there. Seven, says Mr. Booker.

Booker's book covers a lot of ground on storytelling and Jungian archetypes, and I highly recommend the whole tome. For now, like good scavengers, we want to pluck the meat we can use for our marketing.

To that end, here are five of the story archetypes you can use, with some marketing examples to get your storytelling going.

Wait, you ask, why are there only five archetypes covered here?

I'm skipping Tragedy and Rags to Riches--not that you couldn't use them. But I don't feel they lend themselves as easily to marketing stories. But go for it if you like!

Okay. Put on your story caps, and let's go archetyping!

1. The Comedy

Everyone loves comedy. (Well, almost everyone, I do know some people ... but I digress).

Classically speaking, comedy isn't the knee slapping, laugh-out-load, humorous stuff. Comedy uses absurdity and confusion as states to be resolved before the heroine can get what she wants and restore order to the world.

In the modern application, comedy often stays in the absurd, funny zone, without explicitly resolving anything, but letting the juxtaposition of absurd to reality (or potential) speak for itself..

For a brand, this means you can drive recognition, show off your creativity, and highlight other capabilities in an oblique way--that is, not even directly showing any product or service.

In its award winning Suitemates web series, Kinaxis poked fun at the supply chain solutions industry (and its competition) with humorous videos. The six-episode series features accomplished actors Kevin Pollak and Ray Wise as two imprisoned executives of the fictitious ERP vendor, BILK-Moore.

The Buyral video from John St. in Toronto uses humor and some absurdity without ever truly resolving it. (You could say that the resolution, the right way to generate on-target traffic, is implied, but not specified.) The video does, however, show off the work of the agency behind it without ever overtly selling them (just a small logo placement at the end). It's pure entertainment that is on target for their client base.

Be careful with the comedic approach. Truly good comedy is really hard. And it can be tricky to thread the needle between being funny and alienating a segment of people.

2. The Quest

In some ways, all the stories are a quest: the protagonist has an object of desire and pursues it.

Our heroes set out on a journey in search of their treasure, fighting overwhelming odds (and a few evil villains) along the way.  Oracle's Cloud Odyssey is an example of a brand using the hero's quest to communicate their message through an entertaining story.

Usually, the Quest here is literally a quest or journey. But the quest doesn't have to be physical. For example, AT&T's Rethink Possible campaign, which ran from 2010 to 2014, told the story of the company's drive (or quest) for relentless innovation and human progress. Innovation is the destination.

3. The Voyage and Return

In this story, the heroes are thrust into a strange world that helps them grow or change in some necessary way. They then bring their new knowledge or perspective back to their world. These heroes are usually less deliberate on their voyage--it's often thrust on them.

A recent example was that GoDaddy ad about the lost puppy, the ad that never made it into the Super Bowl rotation.   Look closely at the last shot of the puppy.  Although our hero lets out a whimper, his look shows he's been wisened by his experience, and he takes his fate with new, worldy aplomb.

The kerfuffle over GoDaddy's ad from puppy fans worldwide shows how Comedy might work against you. (Or does it? Was the controversy what they were going for all along?)

Corning's A Day Made of Glass video thrusts the viewer into the future world where advanced glass makes fantastical new human interactions possible. We take this view back with us to the current world. As do Corning's B2B clients like home, appliance, and device makers building the devices that will make up the Internet of Things (IoT).

4. The Monster

Overcoming the monster is just what it sounds like. Something big and scary is impeding progress and must be defeated to restore order. The Allstate Mayhem ads fit the bill in the B2C world (and mayhem certainly strikes businesses too).

The monster doesn't have to be so literal. The famous Apple 1984 ad is an example of a monster of principle--the tyranny of conformity with Big Brother (or Big Blue in this case) is shattered by the heroine.

For a decade or so, The Neat Company has been telling the "Tame Your Paper Monster" storyline to market its organization and productivity products.

On one hand, the Monster fits well with B2B brands. The customer problem or pain makes a ready monster. So does protraying the competition as a monster. Using your solutions, the heroic customer can slay the Monster.

It's easy and obvious.

Almost too obvious. Which makes it a challenge to avoid the formulaic and be differentiated, memorable.

5. The Rebirth

In a Rebirth, the hero is often reluctant or fighting the change necessary to reach their goal or restore order to the world.

In B2C, Prudential takes a twist on retirement as rebirth in their Day One campaign .

On the B2B side, in 2014, Dell relaunched a business-to-business effort that was a rebirth.  The company was in a reinvention of it's own.  Literally. They had emerged from a bruising battle to go private, and were making their market shift away from the declining PC business to services and software.

Dell ran a B2B campaign built off their consumer oriented "Power to Do More" campaign to reposition the company in B2B from hardware to services and software. The "Beginnings" ad campaign highlighted Dell's rebirth with stories of businesses being born on Dell services and hardware. The idea was that Dell is highlighting and recapturing it's entrepreneurial beginnings through the story of its customers' beginnings tied to its own.

Putting it together

It's natural to think in terms of movies and videos when talking about story telling and archetypes. But the heroes, heroines, monsters, and journeys can be told across many formats and channels, digital and otherwise.  Oracle's Cloud Odyssey short film was played at events around globe, merging digital and presence marketing. Much of Dell's corporate rebirth story, in addition to an ad campaign by Y&R, was told in news, interviews, and press coverage.

Stories are great vehicles to engage customers through not just sharing of your content, but also with their user generated content (UGC).  Expand your brand story with your customers' stories.

April 06, 2015

Marketer's [Afternoon] Brew April 6, 2015

April 6, 2015

Today's headlines for Marketers.

Slow day!

Content Marketing

Is Interactive Content In Your Future?

The mobile future: Marketing everything, everywhere

Drive sales by marketing with personalization, video, and mobile

MarTech and Marketing Automation

Insider Selling: Marketo CEO Sells $301,680.00 in Stock (MKTO)

April 02, 2015

Marketer's Morning Brew April 2, 2015 -- Would opt-out be worse for email marketing?

April 2, 2015

Non-sequitor of the day -- Van Halen on Ellen today

Today's headlines for Marketers.

Content Marketing

4 Psychological Principles That Will Make You Better At Content Marketing

Content Marketing’s Growing Popularity Creates Both Difficulty and Opportunity

3 Tips To Take Marketing Strategy to Whole Team

Video Marketing

Video Marketing 2015

How Brands Can Utilize Periscope in Direct Marketing Efforts

Why video helps clients connect your face with your market

MarTech and Marketing Automation

Are traditional email marketing techniques dead? Q&A

Study: Switch to Opt-Out Would Damage Email Marketing

Re-Energize Your B2B Tradeshow Marketing Strategy in These 8 Steps

April 01, 2015

Marketer's Morning Brew April 1, 2015 -- No Fooling -- Am Grammar Be Killing Your Results?

April 1st, 2015 -- No Joke

Today's headlines for Marketers.

  • Scott Brinker warns
  • Aetna on martech
  • Who put the Ugly in Content Marketing

Content Marketing

Is Poor Grammar Killing Your Content Marketing? Study Says 69% Of Brands Fail to Make The Grade 

The Ugly Side of Content Marketing [Update]

Content marketing lessons from Unilever

Video Marketing

Five Mistakes Businesses Make with Attempting Viral Videos

THE FIX: Spotlight on Video Strategy

Google Adds App Install Ads To Display Network, Video Install Ads, New Bidding Strategy

Martech and Marketing Automation

Email Summit Info: Email Marketing Expertise Shows Growing Divide

As Martech Blossoms, Don’t Forget What It’s For, Scott Brinker Warns

At MarTech Conference, Aetna’s MTO Says Marketing Technology Can’t Exist In A Silo

March 31, 2015

Marketer's Morning Brew March 31, 2015 -- Legal Issues with Meerkat and Periscope

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Today's reads for Marketers

Content Marketing

Content Marketing Is NOT About Content


5 Keys to Success for US Hispanic Content Marketing

5 Steps to Kickstart Your Mobile Content Marketing Strategy 

Video Marketing

Videos are taking over the internet, here's how to boost your video marketing 

Is video the future of email marketing? 

4 Legal Issues Brands Need to Understand Before Livestreaming on Periscope or Meerkat 

MarTech and Marketing Automation

Are You Ready for Market Consolidation and MarTech Spending? 

Email Marketing: Is it Cheap or Does It Have a High ROI? 

Is video the future of email marketing? 

March 25, 2015

Marketers tell stories, but it's what happens next that really counts

From story to customer experience

Telling stories in content marketing is all the rage these days. And that's a good thing, no doubt.

The principles being followed are

People don't want to be sold to anymore, and
People love stories.
Both true, at least when it comes to awareness, branding, and top of the funnel.

Let's step back a bit.

A Very Brief History of Digital Content Marketing

Starting in the late 20th Century, digital technologies and the internet broke down a lot of the information asymmetry between buyers and sellers. When a person wanted to get educated about a product space or to get references on product experiences, no longer was the easiest route to call a bunch of sales reps. Between web search, forums, blogs, social media, and other online media, information became much more directly accessible.

So marketing, first in the form of SEO, then with digital Content Marketing, adapted to meet the challenge. Sellers realized that if buyers are searching and finding the information themselves, they (sellers) had better publish the content that gets found first. In the beginning, it was the same old "market-y" content, littered with the right keywords to beat the search process.

And the world gets flooded with marketing created content. Some good, some still the same old selling wolf in sheep's clothing. Still, the Darwinian selection of search rankings, ratings, social sharing continuously culls the herd, more or less efficiently.

As it gets harder and harder to stand out among the good content--and keep in mind it's resource intensive and expensive to be "a publisher, not a marketer"--something new is now needed to get found, get read, and get shared.

It is no longer enough to be useful, informative, and keyword optimized. You have to tell a story. A compelling story. Not enough to plainly state your value, you have to show it with a story.

Necessary but ...

So stories are effective, even necessary, to marketing. But are they sufficient to meet the business goals? Are we done when we're telling great stories?

Are we done when we're telling great stories?
I mean, story has been around in marketing and advertising forever. "They laughed when I sat down at the piano ..." was a story. The Hathaway shirt guy with that eye patch told a story, without saying a word!

So what's different now? What's the bigger picture here?

It's the customer experience (CX)

By the book, customer experience is the sum of all the experiences a person has with a company, brand, or product--from how they hear about it, who they interact with, how they try it, how they buy it, how it arrives, is packaged ... you get the idea.

What we're focusing on here is that aspect of the sum experience that differentiates your offering in a memorable and positive way in order to drive competitive advantage.

Story plays a role in queuing up that experience. But unless your product is literally a story--movie, book, TV show--story is not the whole experience. (And even then, it's really not all of it, as the experience lives both before and after consumption of the specific story-product.)

Customer experience starts with a brand promise. Then the entire customer experience has to support the brand promise. In turn, the customer experience circles back and influences the future brand promise.

This requires an explicit change in the way branding, marketing, sales, storefronts, customer support, IT, and so on work together to deliver a positively differentiated customer experience.

The CMO, the Brand, and the CX

An impediment today is that CMO's and their marketing operations remain largely focused on acquisition. This acquisition bias is over a known winner like customer retention and certainly over a company-wide, consistent implementation of CX. Even with the story telling mantra of today, marketing leans toward transactions, not conversation and experience. Just look at the metrics and the tools that dominate execution and measurement: Visits, conversions, retweets, marketing automation.

But without a brand strategy and marketing to pave the road and put up the guardrails for it, CX is fractured. Parts of customer experience report to different department heads, and not everyone is marching to the brand story. Ideally, brand strategy lays out the road map, marketing tells the brand story, and CX delivers the brand promise. They all march to the same tune.

All of CX might not report to the CMO. But the CMO has to lead beyond Marketing to ensure that the customer experience matches the promise.

And what of story?

Story, like the rest of marketing operations, is about setting the expectations for customer experience with the brand. Better storytelling leads to higher expectations.

Be careful, though. If you don't first organize around a consistent, brand-driven CX operation, telling great stories risks the creation of a bigger gap between expectations and actual experience.

So Marketers, tell those stories. Just remember, it's what happens next that really counts.

March 24, 2015

Marketer's Morning Brew March 24, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Today's useful reads for Marketers.

MarTech and Marketing Automation

Insider Selling: Marketo CEO Phillip M. Fernandez Sells 12,000 Shares of Stock (MKTO)

3 Ways to Make Storytelling the Core of Your Email Marketing Strategy

Multi-channel communication is the future of e-mail marketing: Kalpit Jain

Video Marketing

Snapchat: How Ephemeral Video Marketing is Engaging Viewers

Video Marketing: Strategic Moves To Consider

Content Marketing

You've Heard of Banner Blindness; Get Ready for Content Blindness

The 10 New Rules Of Visual Content Marketing

March 04, 2015

Video in Your B2B Content Marketing Mix

It seems that each year is “The Breakout Year” for video in content marketing. 
2015 is no exception. For good reason.
Video's rise in consumption reflects an inevitable march toward total world domination!
Here are just two of the forecasts from the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI).
  • It would take an individual over 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2018
  • Globally, IP video traffic will be 79% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2018, up from 66 percent in 2013
These forecasts cover IP video traffic overall--which includes the streaming of a lot of entertainment content plus a relatively small slice of B2B marketing video.
Still, they demonstrate a couple of trends for B2B marketers.
First, content creation, distribution, delivery and engagement technologies, including mobile, have improved enough that it is feasible to access all that video.
Second, people really like watching video!
Plus, for B2B marketers, platforms are getting more sophisticated. Along with measurement and tracking, there’s more capability for viewers to engage with your video—click on calls-to-action or navigate to other content—without a lot of friction.
Q: So should you consider video for your B2B marketing?
A: Yes, clearly.
Q: Should you rearrange the deck chairs (and the budget) to focus on video?
A: Let’s see.

It's the Content Marketing, Stupid

Luckily, tried-and-true Content Marketing best practices come to our rescue here:
  • Who are your targets?
  • What information needs do they have in the intersection of their jobs and your offerings?
  • Do they show an affinity for consuming information as video?
  • Where in the engagement cycle will video have the most impact?
The answers will depend on your target personas and their information needs overtheir engagement cycles. It cannot be stressed enough that the decisions of if, when, where, and how to use video cannot be properly made until you have the usual discovery, analyses, and content planning completed.
For each content opportunity, ask yourself questions like, do moving pictures enhance the information transfer and increase engagement? Would an infographic or text piece work better?

Wired for Video

Keep in mind that video has one trump card: it is Brain Candy!
From facial recognition to audio & language processingemotional susceptibility, and plain old motion detection, our brains are wired to respond to video. More precisely, they are wired to keep us alive in a real world full of scary interpersonal dynamics and nasty predators hidden behind bushes.
By leveraging all that evolutionary wiring, video is currently the best stand-in for real-life brain stimulus. (Do stay tuned for my future article, “Holograms in Your B2B Marketing Mix!”)
To boil it down, your market and content planning will let you answer the question: Is there incremental value in the video presentation of your content over--or in conjunction with--written text or infographics?

Don’t Video in a Vacuum

Whether it’s a tent pole or a supporting content piece, in most cases, a video should not be a one-off, standalone piece. It should be integrated into a content plan, including planned promotion pieces, supporting copy, and additional premium content. The creative can be leveraged into posters, infographics, and blog posts. Longer videos can have trailers and teasers. The video can have a call-to-action to the next information need in the engagement map.
To make your videos discoverable and shareable, have a plan. Research and use the right keywords in the titles, descriptions and tags. Don't forget to name drop customers, products, technologies and notable personalities appearing in the video.
More generally, optimize your video channel for the right look and feel in-line with your brand.

Planning First, Video Second

So should you be embracing more video?
First, do your target market and content planning. Then you'll know.
(Hint: Yes!)

January 23, 2015

On the Rules of Great Copy: Two Books

(Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse)

My favorite guides for learning and improving marketing copy are How to Write Great Copy, by Dominic Gettins and Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, by Luke Sullivan.
Both works originate from the Mesolithic Era of advertising (the late 20th century) and out of the authors' experience in traditional media, which, I remind you, is still all around--seen the side of a bus lately?
This pedigree is a good thing. Back before it was too simple and too cheap to slap it online and see what happens--think AdWords or a LinkedIn post--marketers had to think about it before going to print. If nothing else, the costs of production demanded it. (Though I'm certain there was a lot of slapping it back then too!)
(Note: there is a 2012 4th edition of Hey, Whipple that brings it "into the new digital world." And How to Write's 2nd edition was 2006.)
Luckily for us, even before the digital era there was a condition known as Bad Copy Writing! This chronic state of affairs--and perhaps a decent advance--compelled these acclaimed advertisers to record their guidance for the rest of us.

How to Write Great Copy

Dominic Gettins was kind enough to write down previously unwritten rules:
  1. Know your target market
  2. Do research
  3. Answer the brief
  4. Be relevant
  5. Be objective
  6. Keep it simple
  7. Know your medium
  8. Be ambitious
The first thing you might notice is that most of the rules don't directly address the mechanics of writing copy. Rule 6 is getting there, and maybe Rule 7.
This goes to the heart of it: when you receive an irrelevant email, arrive at an ineffective landing page, endure that awful video ad, or ignore an uninspiring banner, the specific copy is a symptom of something deeper gone wrong. (It's even possible that the copy itself is, in an absolute sense, good.)
The marketing piece or sequence of pieces, suffers from an overall lack of investment in The Rules. The marketing is simply not well thought out. Some combination of arbitrary deadlines, politics, bad incentives, and ignorance have conspired to deliver a steaming mound to your doorstep!
Eloquent and concise, Gettins' book covers each rule with only as many words as needed and provides plenty of examples to do the rest.
If nothing else, let the ambitious Rule 8 fuel your every initiative. The smallest project should be deserving of your fullest attention, to great effect. If you approach any marketing activity just to get it done--checkbox marketing we call it--perhaps you should not do that promotion at all. (If all your marketing is done this way, perhaps you should consider another line of work?)

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This

Luke Sullivan's book is one part advertising career guide, one part send-up of life in the advertising business, and many, many parts rules for better output. Hey, Whipple is a bit more detailed of a from-the-trenches-look-at-the-process-of-creating than How to Write is.
Sullivan gives us some general approach chapters and chapters covering specific media--print, digital, billboards, TV, DRTV, radio. The same rules come shining through--know your market, do the research, keep it simple--it's all in there. Plenty of real-world examples and counter-examples entertainingly hammer home the advice.
  • Get to know your client's business as well as you can
  • Get to know the client's customers as well as you can
  • Insist on a tight strategy
  • The final strategy should be simple
  • "Tell the truth, and run"
  • Does the medium lend itself to your message?
Hundreds more, explained with examples, fill out the book. One thing that comes through loud and clear is Simplicity. 'Simple' may be the most used word in the book!
Layered throughout, and covered in depth in chapters "Only the Good Die Young" and "Pecked to Death by Ducks," is an entertaining and hard-hitting field guide to surviving a career in advertising. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Tight deadlines driven by prepaid spots and great concepts ruined by client politics have always been a part of the game.

We don't need no stinking rules

For those who bristle at the idea that Rules and Creativity go together, I can only offer the advice from these two books. Before you break any rules, you had better have truly internalized those rules. To keep a piece relevant, effective and original, start with The Rules. The process might lead you to some "rule breaking" result. Maybe. But beware the steaming mounds that hide behind every broken rule!
But beware the steaming mounds that hide behind every broken rule!
From the 50-character subject line to the 140-character tweet, 1000-word post, 2-minute video, and 30-page ebook, The Rules hold.
There is one more rule--Time. It takes time to conceive and bring to life a great idea. Great concepts may seem like they came out of nowhere. But time, work, and many discarded ideas pile up behind them. Don't run with the first okay idea just to get it done. Be Ambitous.
I won't try to boil down the specifics for you here--it takes a book or two! Before you write your next email subject line, draft your next piece of copy, or launch your next marketing campaign, read these books!
What's on your bookshelf?

Book List:

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Adsby Luke Sullivan 
How to Write Great Copy: Learn the Unwritten Rules of Copywritingby Dominic Gettins

Five Levers of Customer Retention

(Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse)

Every marketer knows the adages and has heard the numbers: acquiring customers is more expensive than retaining them.

  • It costs 7 times more to attract new customers than it does to retain existing ones (Bain and Co).
  • Repeat customers spend 67% more than a new customer (Manta.com).
  • Increasing customer retention by even 5% can increase profits between 25-95% (Harvard Business School).
  • And yet, 70% of CMOs did not recently list retention as a top priority (Forrester).

There is a certain rationale behind this. For starters, there's really no such thing as 100% retention. (If nothing else, all of today's customers will be dead within 100 years!) Without a rate of acquisition that beats the rate of attrition, your customer base will shrink to nothing at some point in time!

And then there's the competition: the need to win a sustainable market share. If you're not acquiring the new customers in your market, someone else is. And each customer they acquire makes it harder for you.

You have to keep acquiring.

This reality, though, doesn't diminish the value of retaining customers and capturing more of their life-time value potential. In fact, it highlights the need for more, better retention efforts.

Retention is multi-dimensional; runs across interactions; spans digital and live; includes pre-sales, buying, and support; and should leverage both the practical and the emotional. Here are five levers to pull when integrating Retention Marketing into your business model.

Communication (Duh!)

Okay, communication has to be part of customer retention. But any old irrelevant, off-target blather won't do. What you say, how you say it, and when you say it all matter. These principles and practices need to permeate all your communication.

Optimize timing: this works in layers--where is an individual is in their life cycle, in their current buying cycle? What's the right cadence, day of the week and time of day for them? You'll want to use automation software and predictive analytics to manage and optimize timing on a one-to-one level.

Strike a chord: people listen and engage when they feel an affinity for what you say. What you talk about and how you talk about it has to resonate at least at a group level. Segment your market, know your segments and speak to them.

Raison d'ĂȘtre: if you are not associated with anything, you are not going to inspire recipients to open, follow, and engage with you. Worse: brand image abhors a vacuum. If you don't define it, someone else will. Define your brand, broadly enough to encompass all your markets, but solid enough to shake a stick at.

Minimize FUD: for better or worse, Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt form the cornerstone of a lot of marketing. But we're talking about retention, relationships, engagement, and loyalty here. Who wants to be in a relationship based on fear? Lead with positive value propositions.

Choose channels: Use the channels that make sense for your customers, especially for support. These may be email, but could be social, forums, chat. Know which channels you need for which situations and use them appropriately.

Enlightened self-interest

In ethics, this is the idea that acting in the interest of others, or the community, will ultimately serve your own self-interest. In the context customer loyalty and retention, we're talking about going the extra mile--especially before it's requested--to reap the rewards of repeat business.

Extreme examples of this are tech companies that contribute to open source. But you don't have to give away the farm here. Look for smart, cheap leveraged ways to show appreciation or to give away some value. A little goes a long way.

And don't wait until you're apologizing after an issue or a mistake. (Though it doesn't hurt to go above and beyond then too!) With individuals, personalize offers and gestures based on what you know about them. If recipients organically share tales of your greatness--great! You've earned it. But don't overplay your hand with bragging self-promotion. Like FUD, it's a turn off.


I refer you to the Hook Model from Nir Eyal's research (and detailed in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products). The process starts with a trigger. Based on the trigger, participants take an action. So far so good. But they need a reward for their action. Reward in hand, they are likely to invest in the process, which increases the likelihood they'll cycle again. Keep that cycle repeating and you've created a habit.

These cycles don't just happen. You have to design for it: relevant triggers, low friction actions that deliver valuable enough rewards to drive investment in repeated cycles. You do this by effectively folding in the communications and rewards we've covered already.

One obvious application is to loyalty programs. A card in someone's wallet with a hole or two punched is not much of a platform for a trigger. Mobile apps and messages, social media, and email offer great opportunities to create triggers, actions, rewards and investment of the Hooked variety.

Beyond loyalty programs, find ways to work the cycle into all your initiatives and processes--from your nurturing campaigns to your support platform.

Community support

Since you brought up support, don't just provide phenomenal customer support of your own (though that's a must). If it makes sense for your market, create a community of support.

Often the hard part here is retaining the intermediate level customers. Beginners need a lot of support. And long time users are knowledgeable enough to give support. Intermediate users, though, may not need to ask a lot of questions and may not feel qualified to answer questions. So they drop out.

One key to keeping them engaged is to create an environment that is as useful and as free of attitude as you can. Don't let experts abuse incomplete or incorrect answers--that scares off everyone, even beginners. Next, create a habit through triggers, rewards and investment. As with anything, the right incentives generate the right behavior.

Buying process

Finally, let's not lose sight of the point of all this. You want loyal customers that return for more. You don't create enthusiastic, loyal repeat customers if your buying process sucks. This isn't just about too many clicks, constantly re-entering the same information, or bad exchange policies. (Although those things do indeed suck.)

It is, again, about folding in the right communications, the extra-value adds, making promises you can keep, and delivering the support and information needed to accelerate a decision. And it's about following through after the sale, which not only enhances the current buying experience, but queues up the next trigger!

Don't just not suck. Be awesome to do business with.

Ready to do some retention marketing? Here are a few tools of the trade to get started:

  • Retention Marketing rocket science: Retention Science (www.retentionscience.com)
  • Support platform with the right attitude: Help Scout (www.helpscout.net)
  • Content marketing strategy, resources, how-to: Content Marketing Institute (www.contentmarketinginstitute.com)
  • Hook Model and behavior engineering: Nir & Far (www.nirandfar.com/hooked)

January 08, 2015

The 5 Content Marketing No-no's to Avoid This Time

It's a new year. You're back in the office. You're all caught up on everyone's holiday adventures--even the ones you didn't really care to hear.

Well, top off your coffee, 'cause it's time to get to work! How is your content strategy coming along, anyway? You're still planning it? Don't panic. That means you can get off on the right foot.

Let's check your plans against the following list of no-no's--critical items you want to avoid.

1. No Editorial Board

Unless you are a very small company (a You-and-Your-Future-Former-Friend-Turned-Plaintiff-in-a-Legal-Dispute-Over-the-Idea-in-Your-Mom's-Garage sized company), you had better not be sitting by yourself thinking up a content plan. Not only are you not going to get it right, but every department that needs content in and out of marketing is going to be doing the same silo exercise. And the result will be sub-optimal--duplicated efforts and a lack of coherence.

Look up and down the funnel and across the content creation arms of the company and get at least one rep from each group to make up an Editorial Board. This runs from products to post-sale. Bring pizza or donuts (or both). They'll come. Prepare to get them together quarterly.

2. No Tents

What does the editorial board do? First, they agree on the big Tents you'll have for content over the coming period. This is looking at the state of the industry and the trends, the business' goals, your product road maps and launch plans, the industry events, competitive intelligence, and last, but by no means least, customer needs, requests and complaints.

Balancing all these inputs, the board will determine what themes and story lines to pursue for the year. All content will be created to reinforce these tents. No one should spend time creating content that doesn't fit in one of the tents. Without tents, you risk a lot of disconnected content.

3. No Content Calendar

Your calendar will be adjustable over time, but that doesn't mean you can get by without one. Use Annual planning to map out the major arcs. Some factors, like launches and events, have set dates. Get those on the calendar. Then sketch out your themes and stories in time. Think about when should you talk about what for maximum timing to an event or launch.

On a Quarterly basis, meet to adjust the forward calendar, review what's working and not, and plan the intermediate term content. Any tent of content that will be active in the coming quarter or two will need tent poles in place. The calendar informs everyone what's to be worked on and what's coming for each tent.

4. No Tent Poles

Tent poles are the content asserts that support each of the tents--these are comprehensive pieces on a topic or theme that not only define your major position, but also serve as the source for derivative pieces that complete the content needs of various channels and tactics.

If instead you start at the bottom and create individual pieces for each tactic, you will be recreating a lot of work, even if they are on-theme. Plus, you risk drifting into content that is not on theme as, for example, the social team goes in one direction and the marketing automation team another.

On the other hand, if all you do is create and promote the comprehensive tent pole assets, you'll be under-leveraged and undermining performance in each channel.

So start with the tent poles--usually an ebook, report, white paper, long video, or contest--and convert that into blog posts, infographics, social media updates, drip campaigns, short videos, and so on. Marketing teams should meet monthly to coordinate the upcoming pieces.

5. No Map

Equally important to the content calendar is the engagement map. In and of itself, informative, well-executed content is a great contribution to society. Swell. But you've got a business to grow. And your prospects have their own jobs to do.

Your content is the bridge joining these lofty pursuits.

To do that well, you have to segment your content by persona and by buying stage. Take the extreme case--the all-in-one piece of content. It's got something for everyone from the CEO to the cleaning crew. From the lookie-loo to the buyer with credit card in hand. The all-in-one asset doesn't serve the reader well, because they have to wade through irrelevant material (or more likely, they will just drop it). It doesn't serve you well either, because you haven't learned who they are or where they are in a buying cycle.

Target each piece of content at a persona and stage of their buying process. Promote it so that it's obvious to them that it is what they want, when they want it. Then they will self-identify with their engagement. Now you know what to do next.

To review: Editorial Board, Tents, Calendar, Tent Poles, Engagement Maps--Good. Random, disintegrated, unscheduled, duplicated, unsegmented content--Bad.

Got it? Okay, content marketers, order those pizzas and donuts and start your Editorial Engines.