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7 Ways to Create Better Content Marketing

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Nov, 19, 2014 @ 12:11 PM

content marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am frequently asked by those who are pursuing a content marketing strategy what they can do to make the process easier and provide higher quality information of value for their customers and prospects.

 

Following are seven steps to take to create better content:

 

  1. Be strategic and identify how your content marketing integrates with the rest of your marketing communications strategy:
    - Who are your target personas -- who are you trying to reach?
    - What are your goals -- awareness, traffic, leads, dialog, SEO?
    - When do you want to reach your target in their journey -- top of the funnel (awareness, research), middle of the funnel (RFI, short list, competitive evaluation), bottom of the funnel (meeting with vendors, purchase decision)?
    - Where do you want to reach your target -- where will they be most receptive to your message, where are they going to be looking for information of value?
    - Why does what you are sharing matter -- is it really information of value or all you doing a brand dump, or selling?

  2. Create one big piece of content and then break it down into different content types that can be shared across many channels -- blog posts, white papers, videos, ebooks, infographics, testimonials, FAQs, case studies, webinars, newsletters.

  3. Tell a story that is different and unique to you and your business. What business problem have you solved with a creative solution?

  4. Be useful. Answer questions before people asked them based on the questions you've been asked many times before. The more time you save your customers and prospects, the more you make it sinple and easier for them, the more likely they will become long-term customers.

  5. Have a content generation mindset and inculcate that mindset into your employees. Content is everywhere. One of the best sources I heard lately are the emails members of the sales team are sending to clients or prospects. These emails are likely answering questions or objections.

  6. Do more. The more you do, the better you'll get and the more analytics you'll have to let you know what is, and is not, working. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than companies that do not blog (Hubspot).

  7. Be a better writer. Tell better stories. The more you write, the more you share, the more you have a chance of stirking a chord with a prospect or a customer. Write emotionally compelling content to increase the likelihood that your content will be share with others.  

Tags: dialog, earn your customers trust, information of value, customer journey, content marketing, emotional connection, trusted advisor, social media

How To Improve the Customer Experience (#CX)

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Sep, 24, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

improve customer experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk to your customers.

 

Ask them how you are doing.

 

Listen intensely to what they have to say.

 

Ask follow-up questions to let your customer know you're really concerned with what they have to say.

 

I am consistently surprised by the lack of contact with customers that top management has at some of the companies with which I've worked.

 

If you're wondering how to get started, use the three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey:

 

  1. On a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 is "definitely," what is the likelihood that you would recommend us to a family, friend or colleague?

  2. Why did you give us that score?

  3. If we have not done so, what can we do to earn a 10? 

 

NPS surveys are a great way to begin a dialogue with your customers.

 

If you're going to ask your customers what you can do to improve the customer experience, be prepared to address their suggestions. And, thank them for their feedback.

 

Improving customer service may mean focusing your effort on interacting with customers via social media.

 

When you have an actual dialogue with your customers, ask them what you can do that's best, easiest and most convenient for them.

 

Anything you can do to save your customers time and make their lives easier will be remembered, appreciated and shared by your customers. You will also increase the likelihood that they'll be repeat customers.

 

There's no substitute for asking questions and listening intensely to your customers.

 

It makes them feel invested in the company improving customer loyalty and retention.

 

It also gives you the opportunity to get insights into the consumer that has never occurred to you or your team. For example, have you ever asked your customers who they consider to be your competition? Do it, you might be surprised by their answers.

 

Empower your employees to engage your customers as well. The more your customers know you and your employees care about them, the more likely they are to develop an emotional connection with your brand. 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: dialogue, customer experience, voice of the customer, empower employees, emotional connection, listen intensely, customer service

Use Social Media to Do More with Less

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Sep, 22, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

social media

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits (@ncnonprofits) for allowing me to serve as a "curbside consultant" for two of their member organizations yesterday.

 

The question I received from both organizations was "how can I do more with less?"

 

I am a strong believer that the internet and social media has leveled the playing field for small-medium sized businesses as well as not-for-profits.

 

You have a tremendous opportunity to tell your story, and make an emotional connection, by using the resources you already have.

 

Here are five suggestions:

 

  1. Ensure that everyone in your organization is in alignment with regards to the vision, mission and values of the organization. If there is misalignment, or lack of agreement, you won't be able to deliver a clear, consistent and effective message. The less consistent your message, the less trust you and your organization will have.

  2. Identify your organization's story and make sure it makes an emotional connection with those you are trying to reach. Ensure everyone in the organization is telling the same story in the same way. Look for situations your organizations have facilitated to reinforce the message of the story.

  3. Share information of value -- don't sell, don't ask for money. Educate people on what your organization is doing and it accomplishments. Get testimonials, quotes and video clips from those you have helped. Ask them to tell their story.

  4. Identify your promoters and raving fans and ask you to help them spread message, and information of value, on the social media channels where they are most comfortable.

  5. Have a content marketing mindset. Look for content and then opportunities to use the content multiple times (on your website, in an email, on social media channels, in a slideshare). All of this content will help your grassroots SEO and generate more awareness and visits from people who are interested in helping your cause.

How are you and your team using social media to do more with less?
Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues
 

Tags: consistent messaging, raving fans, content, emotional connection, social media

Engaged Customers are Loyal, Profitable and Generate More Revenue

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 19, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

engaged customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallup Research has a proven customer engagement instrument that comprises actionable question items with proven links to customer behavior.

 

Measuring Customer Engagement

 

 

Based on their responses to these items, Gallup categorizes customers into three distinct groups: fully engaged, indifferent, and actively disengaged.

 

The Three Types of Customers

FULLY ENGAGED customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal. They'll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won't accept substitutes. True brand ambassadors, they are a company's most valuable and profitable customers.

INDIFFERENT customers are emotionally and rationally neutral. They have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward a company's product or service.

ACTIVELY DISENGAGED customers are emotionally detached from a company and its products or services. They will readily switch brands. If switching is difficult or impossible, they may become virulently antagonistic toward the company. Either way, they are always eager to tell others exactly how they feel.

 

Linking customer engagement to crucial business outcomes

 

Gallup's analysis has found that fully engaged customers are more loyal and profitable than average customers in good economic times and in bad.

 

Across a variety of industries and target audiences, including business-to-consumer and business-to-business, Gallup's research has consistently shown a powerful link between customer engagement and key business outcomes.

 

Data reveals that a customer who is fully engaged represents an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.

 

In stark contrast, an actively disengaged customer represents a 13% discount in those same measures.

 

In short, when customers believe they are getting more out of a business, they give more to it. For example, Gallup research has found that:

  • In the retail banking industry, customers who are fully engaged bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than do customers who are actively disengaged. Fully engaged banking customers also have more products with their bank, from checking and savings accounts to mortgages and auto loans. Plus, they have higher deposit balances in their accounts than less engaged customers with the same products do.
     
  • In the consumer electronics industry, fully engaged shoppers make 44% more visits per year to their preferred retailer than do actively disengaged shoppers. And when they do visit their preferred electronics retailer, these fully engaged shoppers purchase more items than they originally intended to. On average, they spend $373 per shopping trip, while actively disengaged customers spend $289 per trip.

Gallup found similar results in other industries, including the restaurant, hospitality, and insurance industries:

  • Restaurant -- casual dining: Fully engaged customers make 56% more visits per month than actively disengaged customers do.
     
  • Restaurant -- fast food: Fully engaged customers make 28% more visits per month than actively disengaged customers do.
     
  • Hospitality: Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.
     
  • Insurance: Fully engaged policy owners purchase 22% more types of insurance products than actively disengaged policy owners do.

 

When businesses can provide the meaningful experience their customers want, they realize greater rewards in terms of loyalty and profits.

 

Though it can be difficult for businesses to connect with their customers on an emotional level, it can be done be listening and establishing a trusting relationship that's mutually-beneficial for the customer and the business.

 

What actions are you taking to enhance customer engagement?

 

Want to Accelerate Sales? Download the Free e-book

Tags: earn your customers trust, customer engagement, emotional connection, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

Consistent, Compelling Stories Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Jul, 08, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

stories create emotional connection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to HubSpot for the following.

 

Storytelling is a great way to differentiate your brand.

 

Stories help us understand the world and remember things.

 

Stories are much more memorable than fact, figures, features and benefits.

 

What makes a great story?

 

  1. Context

  2. Emotional response.

  3. Consistency and authenticity -- great stories spread because they are true.

  4. They're specific and memorable.

 

Think about how and where to tell your story.

 

Start with your website.

 

Appeal to the senses rather than logic. Make an emotional connection.

 

Do this by:ty

 

  1. Know your niche and the personas to whom you are speaking.

  2. Incorporate personal/emotional experience. Why did you get into this business? What problems were people having that you were able to solve?

  3. Counter challenges, failures and overall problems. Address people's questions, fears and concerns upfront -- don't wait for them to ask.

  4. What are you bringing to the table? What make you "different and better" than what your competitors have to offer?

  5. What excites/interests you? Tell a story about a time in your business that your excitement and interests helped you solve a business problem.

  6. Convince your audience to care -- about you, about your business, about what makes you "different and better."

 

Create an experience. People don't remember the pitch, they remember the experience.

 

  1. Focus on a specific worldview. Set the stage.

  2. Provide great value at a fiar price. Help people see, and feel like, they're getting a fair deal.

  3. Interact and connect. Have a dialog with customers and prospects. Get to know them as individuals.

  4. Bring the human element back to business. People do business with, and make an emotional connection with, people, not companies.

  5. Convince your audience to care by making an emotional connection with them. Provide information of value that's relevant to them and their situation.

As with all marketing, consistency is king. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistecy builds confusion and distrust.

 

  1. Make sure your story is consistent with your mission statement.

  2. Build your story into your core products and services and ensure that your employees know, and tell, the story.

  3. Separate the story from the experience.

 

Think story, not features.

 

Social media should be about real human interactions. However, it's too noisy and difficult to make these interactions easily.

 

  • Social media is meant to be a personal channel.

  • It has become broadcasting, canned responses and mindless monitoring.

  • Get back to having actual human interactions. 

  • All departments in your organization can use social media for their work. Empower, and encourage, them to do so.
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Tags: empower employees, alignment, consistent messaging, authenticity, mission, emotional connection

Talk with Your Employees to Engage and Empower Them

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, May, 08, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

engaged and empowered employees will grow your business

 

 

 

 

 

 

The five key drivers of employee engagement are:

  1. A warm working environment

  2. Ability to help others

  3. Developing friendships

  4. A boss that develops their potential

  5. Developing new skills and responsibilities 
Note, none of these are related to more money.
They are related to making an emotional connection with the people that work for and work with.
Having a conversation with you employees will help make that emotional connection.
You'll get to know their needs, desires and aspirations. And if you're committed to helping them meet their needs, desires and aspirations, you'll have an engaged and empowered employee who wants to help make you and your business successful.
I heard a great story about a call center, a line of work notorious for turnover, who had tremendously loyal and engaged employees who provided outstanding customer experiences.
As part of the interview process, the hiring team determined what an employee wanted to ensure they'd be happy in the position for two to five years.
In one case, a single mom wanted a steady job that would give her the flexibility to support her two kids while going to school to get a degree in psychology.
Once the team learned what the potential employee wanted, they researched the courses the employee would need to get the degree at a local community college and got back to her in a couple of days with an offer that included how she would get her degree.
An employer that goes to those lengths for their employees earns a lot of trust and loyalty, as well as an engaged and empowered workforce that differentiates them from their competition.
Engaged employees:
  1. Stay longer, thereby reducing your training and recruitment expenses

  2. Promote the company to friends, family, prospects and customers
     
  3. Demonstrate increased productivity and quality to less engaged coworkers

  4. Are passionate about providing an outstanding customer experience
The three components of an engaged employee are: the head, the heart and the actions:
  • Head = "I believe." I believe the products and services we produce and sell are the best for our customers.

  • Heart = "I'm inspired." I'm fully aware of the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm and am excited about the direction of the company.

  • Actions = "I will give discretionary effort." I will recommend our products and services to my firends and family, as well as to our prospects and customers. I will do my best to ensure our customers have an outstanding customer experience.

If you're interested in having an engaged and empowered group of employees, talk with them to find out if they're the right fit for your organization.
If they are, learn what they need to be engaged and empowered.
 
Engaged and empowered employees will grow your business by producing better quality products and services and providing more outstanding customer experiences.
This will result in more loyal customers who will spend more and be worth more, over time.
Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, vision, mission, values, emotional connection, employee engagement, employee empowerment

Authenticity and Trust are Keys to Customer Engagement

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 06, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

Authenticity trust customer engagement

 

 

 

 

 

Insightful interview by Elisabeth Sullivan of Marketing News with Lisa Macpherson, Hallmark's senior vice president of marketing.

 

Lisa believes the best emotional relationships are based on empathy and authenticity.

 

Empathy is a function of having an intimate understanding of your customers and their needs.

 

I know from experience that you're only able to get this level of understanding by having one-on-one conversations in which you are really listening to what the customer has to say and the customer knows that you are fully engaged in the conversation and find what they have to say is of the utmost importance.

 

I met a Hallmark "emotionaire" at a millennial marketing conference.  This person was a former copywriter attending the conference to gather insights on millennials and how to make an emotional connection with them.

 

Hallmark uses emotionaires to understand the needs of a customer, what Hallmark calls a "relationship believers" -- someone who genuinely believes that happiness and emotional well-being come from the quality of our relationships with others.

 

Hallmark's current campaign is "Life Is a Special Occasion." Simply translated it's saying, "Don't wait.  Stop the blur of life.  Recognize and linger in those imperfect moments you share with others.  They can happen any day."  The campaign is result of insights gathered from "relationship believers."

 

Macpherson believes authenticity comes from being very clear about your brand: what it stands for, what it promises and what it means to your customers.

 

I know from experience, and research, that authenticity is either reinforced or lost based on how consistent you are with regards to delivering on brand promises and customer expectations.

 

Consistency breeds trust and confidence that you will do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.

 

Inconsistency breeds distrust.

 

Are you earning your customers' trust?

 

What are you doing to gather meaningful insights from customers?

 

How consistent are you in delivering on brand promises and meeting or surpassing customer expectations?

 

How authentic is your brand?

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

Tags: trust, authenticity, customer engagement, emotional connection

Transparency Builds Trust and Accelerates Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Mar, 17, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

Transparency breeds trust

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting article in a recent edition of Marketing News entitled, "A Peek Behind the Arches."

 

The article is the result of an interview with Joel Yashinsky, CMO of McDonald's Canada.

 

Joel is leading McDonald's Canada's transparency marketing campaign called, "Our food. Your questions."

 

The campaign includes a YouTube channel with videos of a McDonald's photo shoot to show how the food is prepared for advertising and a tutorial on how the hamburger patties are made.

 

The goal of the campaign is to inform customers about the food in a way that made an emotional connection with the customer and facilitate a conversation.

 

The campaign was in response to the amount of misinformation in the market and the fact it was growing.

 

A perfect example of consumers filling a void if you and your firm are not participating in social media.

 

McDonald's Canada has received more than 20,000 questions on their website, through Facebook and Twitter. They have answered all of them -- a key element of the transparency of the campaign.

 

As a result, brand health, brand trust, scores on food quality and "food they feel good about eating" have all increased significantly.

 

The campaign has given McDonald's Canada the opportunity to tell their story about their food and addressing rumors directly.

 

For questions about the health of the food, McDonald's provided information and specifics to educate consumers about what the truth was.

 

It will be interesting to see if McDonald's uses the campaign in the U.S. in response to Chipotle's "Farmed and Dangerous" shot at fast food and corporate farming.

 

There is no doubt openness, transparency and authenticity are critical for a brand today.

 

The more open you are as a company, the more your customer is going to appreciate you.

 

While I will continue to eat at Chipotle every day, I do respect what McDonald's Canada is doing more than I like Chipotle's "Farmed and Dangerous" campaign. 

 

Has your firm embraced a culture of transparency, openness and honesty with your customers and prospects?

 

Need More Insights From Your Analytics? Download the Free e-book

 

 

Tags: transparency, trust, authenticity, emotional connection, social media

Empower Your Employees to Accelerate Sales

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Mar, 06, 2014 @ 10:03 AM

empower employees to accelerate sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice ebook from Dynamic Signal "An Introduction to Employee Advocacy" which affirms what I have shared in several posts -- empower your employees and they will help you build your business.

 

Empower and encourage all of your employees to send out positive messages and attract new customers, generate referrals, recruit great hires and tell a consistent story about the brand.

 

If your don't trust your employees to do this, how are you failing to earn their trust? Employees will only treat your customers and well as you treat your employees.

 

Channel the passion and knowledge of your employees so they reach out to their social networks and amplify your brand. Ensure your employees are engaged and are fully aware of your vision, mission, values and strategic position.

 

Doing so will drive leads, revenue and profit and further engage your employees.

 

According to Edelman's 2013 Trust Barometer, "41% of people believe a company's employees rank higher in public trust than a firm's P.R. department, CEO or founder."

 

When you empower your employees, your employees trust you and their social networks trust them. Their family, friends and colleagues see them enjoying their jobs, in person and online, and start to think more highly of the company.

 

For every 1,000 employees, companies can gain more than $1 million in earned media, save $500,000 in recruiting expense and geenerate millions in incremental sales.

 

According to Gallup, "companies with engaged employees outperform those without engaged employees by up to 202%."

 

Have a social media policy that's accessible and understandable. Explicitly tell people what you want them to share like a press release or video.

 

According to McKinsey, "when marketers empower their employees, they stand a much better chance of reaching customers in the right place, at the right time, with the right message."

 

According to Social Media and Sales Quota Report, "78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers." 

 

Reviews, recommendations, case studies, purchase history, coupon redemption and ecommerce will all provide feedback on whether or not your employee empowerment initiatives are working.

 

Employees are your best sales channel, your best advocates and the greatest promoters of your brand.

 

Empower Employees to Get Insights Download the Free e-book

Tags: empower employees, alignment, one voice, referrals, promoters, emotional connection, loyal employees

Make an Emotional Connection With Customers Using a Visual Hammer

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Feb, 26, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

emotional connection with a visual hammer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Vocus (#vocus, #vocuswebinar) and Laura Ries, President of Ries & Ries, for an informative webinar entitled, "Brand With A Visual Hammer" (#visualhammer).

 

Pictures are more powerful than words. We know this from PowerPoint presentations that are "eye charts" rather than compelling visuals that help tell speakers tell a compelling story.

 

A visual trademark that communicates an idea, consistently, over time, is a powerful branding tool and allows the brand to make a memorable and emotional connection with the consumer.

 

An example Laura uses early in her presentation is how Corona differentiated a Mexican "working class" beer in the U.S. with the addition of a lime -- a "visual hammer" that was present in every image of Corona.

 

Corona is now the largest selling Mexican been in the U.S. and has experienced a resurgence in Mexico due to its popularity in the U.S.

 

Following are Ms. Ries' "10 Ways to Create a Visual Hammer:"

 

  1. Shape -- Target has done this with their logo and has established the brand as "cheap chic." Walmart has not enjoyed such success with regards to their brand or logo -- they're just "cheap."

  2. Color -- McDonald's owns the "golden arches," The Masters golf tournament owns the greeen jacket, a Tiffany blue box is iconic, Owens Corning added color to a product that's out of sight, insultation, and built 50% market share, UPS made brown cool with their trucks and their ad campaign, the pink ribbon says breast cencer prevention and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, while Chrisitian Louboutin branded his most prestigious shoes with bright red soles -- for the red carpet of Hollywood.

  3. Product -- Rolex created a distinctive watchband that has been copied by every other watchmaker, Prius looks like a hybrid rather than the same car with a hybrind engine, Hershey kisses are distinctive is a crowded chocolate candy category.

  4. Package -- Pom Wonderful has a distinctive bottle that helped build the brand, as does Absolute Vodka. Stella Artois is using a chalice to differentiate its beer. Arizona iced tea comes in extra large cans. Red Bull has garnered 43% market share with an, uniquely small, 8.3 oz. can that everyone copied until Monster (35% market share) entered with a 16 oz. can. Hanes panty hose entered the grocery channel with a brand called L'eggs in a package shaped like an egg. They also put Joe Namath in panty hose to build awareness of the brand.  

  5. Action -- Heinz built a very powerful brand as the "slow ketchup." Dove soap differentiated itself from other soaps with the visual addition of moisturizing cream. Tempur-Pedic mattresses differentiated itself with a commercial of a person jumping on a bed with a glass of wine sitting on the other side of the mattress. Dr. Best, a German toothbrush, doesn't break the skin of tomato while competitive toothbrushes do.

  6. Founder -- KFC focuses on its founder, Colonel Sanders. It is now the #1 fast food brand in China. Papa John's owner is the star of his company's commercials and has the greatest revenue per unit of all pizza brands.

  7. Symbol -- Nike's swoosh is everywhere and represents the Nike brand due to its ubiquity over time. Mercedes-Benz has the tri-mark nameplate. Android is now outselling the iphone. While Red Hat is very disctinctive among software providers.

  8. Star -- Accenture used Tiger Woods until his star was tarnished. Progressive Insurance uses Flo while eTrade uses babies.

  9. Animals -- Twitter uses the blue bird. Gorilla Glue positions itself as the toughest glue on earth. Accenture replaced Tiger Woods with animals but made the mistake of using several rather than picking just one to associate with the brand. Aflac choose a duck and moved from 12% to 94% brand recognition over 13 years. Geico uses the talking Gekko. While Ralph Lauren has used the polo pony.

  10. Heritage -- Wells Fargo is the most profitable of the big banks, but also the smallest, and uses visuals capturing the brand's pioneering spirit and its role in the growth of the American west. Levis continues to hold fast to its heritage as essential wear from the dry goods store for those panning for gold in San Francisco in 1853 during the gold rush.
The best way to enter, and remain in, the mind of the consumer is with a consistent and powerful visual that is used consistently over time.
Does your brand have a visual hammer?
Would it benefit from having one?
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Tags: consistent messaging, authenticity, emotional connection