Content Marketing: A Day in the Life

Keeping to the plan of openly sharing our playbooks with clients,  friends and followers, I’m hoping this overview of a typical Content Marketing routine helps you think about ways to be more productive and get better results.  For more Playbook tools, visit the Resources page and help yourself.  As usual, more links apppear below this article. Enjoy!

The following routine is – like most – idiosyncratic, but after some weeding and winnowing, I now have a handful of “go to” resources that work well for many situations. Your own results may vary, and certainly your own audience and goals will affect your choice of routine and toolset.  That said, here’s one routine.  Will it be the same a year from now?  Probably not.  Audience requirements change, tools evolve, and our “learning lab” approach reveals new findings every day.  How does yours compare?  Holla back, friends!

Overview

Digital ink

In about an hour a day, two to five days a week, I create, share, comment and research interesting, relevant content among my online community of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, and several membership and nonprofit organizations I have joined or for whom I give presentations by invitation.  I perform versions of this process for clients who have outsourced their Chief Revenue Officer and content marketing roles.

Overarching Goals

Simply put, the goal of any content marketing effort should be twofold: Uptake and Intake.  Uptake refers to the echo effect of communities sharing and re-using original content.  Intake refers to the process of linking all content to intake processes – landing pages, email responders, mobile apps, microsites, interactive tools, events, documents, etc.

To fulfill those goals, it helps to have the following workout goals:

  • Cultivate an online voice
  • Generate original noteworthy content
  • Promote others’ noteworthy content
  • Link it all to intake processes for  generating business leads and monitoring/managing community dialogue
  • Continually explore tools and techniques that facilitate “scale-up” i.e. maximizing results of time and effort.
  • Link Content, Community and Conversion using a content mapping and planning tool like the one shown below.

Blog Routine

I write two articles per month for my two blogs. I write one article per week for each client blog I curate. When very busy, I let my own blogs lapse.

e-Zine Routine

FanFoundry Daily and SocialClimate Daily (Paper.li)
Weekly: Rotate the hour of publication each week to hit the 8 am and noon hours across US / EU  .

Daily: Browse articles matching my pre-set keywords; re-tweet articles from the source where possible; move tweeted articles “above the fold”.

Hootsuite

Daily: Review the handful of Twitter accounts I own, as well as those I curate for clients – Stream, Mentions, Re-tweets, keywords, client community dialogue, as well as personal friends and professional groups; Re-tweet relevant content (see Paper.li above and Alltop.com below); Post relevant original Tweets – an article link, a meeting note, a convo thread, etc.; schedule client promotional Tweets to occur in the 8 AM and noon hours across US / EU  time zones.

LinkedIn

Daily: Scan Profile for InMail, Visits, LinkedIn news, and Connection updates. Send notes to Connections with noteworthy Updates (new job, interesting article, etc.); respond to discussion threads, invitations and queries.

Semi-weekly: Visit Discussion Groups; post article links; comment where my expertise warrants; start a Discussion (usually a research question for my own or a client’s business).

Alltop (virtual “magazine rack” of noteworthy bloggers)

Review the blogs I follow for timely and relevant articles. Re-tweet them, and flag interesting ones to link at the end of my relevant blog articles.

Databases

Each week we add new contacts to our main CRM database, classifying them by source, organization, industry, and several other criteria.  Sorting on multiple criteria, we can usually find anywhere from a dozen to several thousand relevant audience members to whom we may email, Tweet or otherwise reach out and initiate or sustain conversations.
The database numbers around a hundred thousand, yet we are able to keep conversations personalized and theme-specific.  This generates significant inbound interest and keeps us touch with clients, partners, friends and prospects.  Shameless plug:  our lifetime average open, click and conversion rates exceed industry norms.

They say you can only have about 150 members in your personal network before things break down; you can easily triple that number – or more – with an effective CRM database, compelling content and mobile/social/email marketing.

R&D / Sharpening the Saw

I condense notes from interesting and relevant magazine subscriptions (Forbes, Fortune, Wired, AdAge, BtoB, etc.). I file them under appropriate topics (in a list of 20).  I update my portfolio of presentations with relevant statistical references from all sources.

I follow a handful of industry analyst heavyweights and key businesses.

I review my meeting notes and generate follow-up communications using my database, private email and, for larger audiences, email marketing software.  I review trending topics on Twitter etc. to determine best topics for timely articles.

Trending topics I cover for myself and my clients include: marketing automation, branding, campaign management, community building, content marketing, customer care, email marketing, event marketing, interactive design, marketing communications, marketing funnel, mobile marketing, prospecting / inside sales, public relations, sales pipeline management, sales training, SEO, social media, and sustainability. Additionally, I cover trending industry topics for my portfolio of clients.

Other Tools – Analytics, Plumbing, etc.

All of the above may seem like a full time job,  but couple of years of practice have transformed it to a daily one-hour process that we have adapted to suit many clients.  It is all facilitated by an array of tools.  You can find a reasonably updated listing of tools in the right sidebar.  They include CRM, analytics, and assorted utilities that help leverage channel data for better client results.  Examples: Klout, FollowerWonk, InMap, etc.

How does your routine compare?  Got any tips to share?  Holla back!

Thanks, and make it a great day.

Accurate Sales Forecasting: the AIM HIGH approach

Sales and Marketing really are a power couple, and need to know one another’s business intimately to succeed together.   I know what it’s like to lead a quota-busting sales and marketing team, and have had to work hard at achieving sales and marketing alignment, so I thought I’d share some playbook pages from the Sales side of the aisle.   If you read between the lines, you’ll find it contains implications for the marketing mission every step of the way.

I chose to talk about forecasting because I humbly believe it is the most vital skill any sales professional can possess.  Without it, your revenue projections are a fairy tale, and your organization can’t reasonably plan its financial and operational future.

With that said, read this admittedly cutesy formula, and think about what types of questions you’d ask your prospects and customers to determine if you have accurate information to satisfy these 7 facets of converting a Lead to a Qualified Opportunity and plotting its trajectory in your sales pipeline.

~

The AIM HIGH Approach to Accurate Sales Forecasting

1. Align with appropriate internal and external partners.  Partners could include members of the customer’s organization (or their partners) who contribute necessary skills and knowledge, or other third parties you can identify who could help you comprise a complete solution.

2. Ingrain pain and urgency.  Find out how broadly and deeply the pain is felt — is there an executive champion? A critical event causing urgent attention?  A persistent motivating force?  Use the customer’s language to express this, and refer back to it occasionally to re-validate it.

3. Measure how your product/service can solve the prospect’s need.  Paint a hard, statistical, monetary picture of how your proposed solution can solve a need, and take action to make that vision a reality.  Get agreement with your customer on how success will be measured and verified.

4.  Harden the decision criteria and processes.  Gain clarity into the necessary steps and individuals involved in getting to final approval and sign-off.

5.  Identify all buyers – economic/financial, technical, executive, etc.   Discuss all possible players, even those your prospect might dismiss as irrelevant, if you think their support matters down the road.  Extreme example: suppose you are selling a cloud computing solution.  You and your prospect might ordinarily think the I.T. organization is not relevant.  Actually, I.T. plays  a vital role in validating cloud computing solutions for security of information and access, and increasingly are the experts in building account access solutions, so their standards and expertise are often critical.

6.  Gain trust through internal champions with strong political capital.   Ask your key prospect contacts about how they see your solution impacting the organization, and listen for clues to organizational strategy, institutional patterns of practice and key buyers’ alliances and affiliations.  Include social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter in your research to determine how closely your key prospect contacts are aligned.

7.  Hoist your solution over the competition.  Give your customer the information they need to convince themselves that your solution is the right fit.  Consider external competitors (know what & how they sell!) as well as internal ones – – apathy, inertia (stay the course, status quo).  Note: the “right fit” can be based on price, feasibility, etc. – not necessarily superior technology.   Often the best solution just lays on their template nicely, requiring less effort to implement, or perhaps matching their own complement of people and processes.

How do you spell forecasting success?  Holla back!

Inbound Marketing, PR and Web Analytics: It’s Cool at School

I was fortunate to meet Yanique Shaw, a Marketing student at Salem State College, at a recent Boston Media Leaders event, and she invited me to meet with her PRSSA chapter at her school, led by Professor of Communications Robert Brown, Ph.D.   Here is what we discussed at our meeting on-campus this week.  I think you’ll find it uplifting.

Content, Community, Commerce… in that order

First, we discussed the linkages between Content and Community, then Community to Commerce.  Anybody drinking the HubSpot koolaid (like me) recognizes and endorses that mantra.  (The folks at HubSpot are, if nothing else, infectious and clear in their branding and engagement model).  Proof: some members of this PRSSA chapter recognize the HubSpot brand.

Each member of the group was able to come up pretty quickly with examples of how content builds community, and how absence of content makes it difficult to build community.

Example: One student who works at a nearby coffee shop remarked that she is able to better serve those customers whom she sees more frequently.  Becoming familiar with customer preferences enables her to make appealing suggestions.  She even came up with a unique beverage recipe for one particular client by combining available store ingredients.  How cool is that?  Now her loyal customer will only let her serve him and his kids.   Can you pick out the content and community – and subsequent commerce – elements here?   How likely would you accept an experimental recipe sample – let alone buy it – if you were in a new coffee shop with a barista you’d never met?  Granted, some like me might take that gamble, but can we agree that this student’s trust relationship with a loyal customer increased that likelihood?

Just as our one-hour campus meeting raced by much too quickly, I too have to abbreviate here.  If time permits later, I’ll update this blog entry with more discussion examples.   Everybody had examples to contribute.  Alex, Luis, Ashley, Karrina, thanks!

Obsessing About Data

Joseph Wanamaker, the department store magnate, is credited with commenting that he always knew half of his advertising dollars were being wasted, but he never knew which half.   Like the buggy whip, that bromide has had its day.  Every mouse click is data, available for analysis.  The PRSSA group confessed lack of MS Excel chops.  My advice: get some.  You may not like the drudgery, but every job has it, and if you re-frame it as sleuthing for clues, you’ll appreciate how your discoveries help your organization improve.

The PRSSA group readily volunteered knowledge about tools like Google Analytics.  We also went on to discuss tools like Grader.com, useful for comparing your business site’s performace to empirical measures as well as competitors’ performance – both extremely useful business guidance, and very helpful when making the business case for improving your online customer experience.   We also looked at ways to use inbound marketing technology like Eloqua to more precisely guide the buyer’s journey through a considered purchase while continuing to cultivate relationships with early stage evaluators of your product or service.

This behind-the-scenes experience management practice all came across as a bit spooky and manipulative to a few folks, but we quickly turned the corner and recognized that obsessing over your data is indispensable in helping you focus your organization’s resources on improving customer service.

In parting, the group invited me to join their online Wiggio collaboration community, so we could keep in touch about relevant matters.  Done!  To my new friends at SSC PRSSA: good luck with your Bellringer Award entry!

Upshot: there is hope for the future, and it thrives at Salem State College.  Thanks a bunch, Dr. Brown et. al., for your hospitality.

How has your college experience prepared you (or not) for the challenges of a Marketing or Public Relations career?   What new realities do you face?  Love to hear your comments.

~Ed

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