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Posts Tagged ‘David Meerman Scott’

This past week more than 600 people converged on Cleveland, Ohio, for a special event. It wasn’t a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, although there was plenty of energy and even a concert sort of vibe. It wasn’t a pro sports event, though the focus was definitely on winning and losing in a highly competitive arena.

This was a business and networking event. The inaugural Content Marketing World conference and expo, produced by the Cleveland-based Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

For two days, corporate and non-profit marketers, agency pros, publishers, consultants, bloggers and technology vendors enthusiastically discussed, demoed and debated the hows and whys of content as a marketing strategy.

If you’re a marketer and you missed CMWorld, you missed many of the field’s leading authors and practitioners presenting their thinking, success stories and best practices. Real-time PR strategies. SEO techniques. Customer experience improvement tips. Plus case studies from companies such as Intel, Kelly Services, Sherwin-Williams and DuPont.

To sample the information shared, you can swim through a swollen Twitter stream at #cmworld, or read a collection of 40-plus ensuing blog posts compiled by CMI’s Michele Linn here. Click on the links and you’ll likely pick up a content marketing best practice or two, or six.


Executive Summary

Meanwhile, if you’re a corporate marketing executive, there’s another type of takeaway to be gleaned from CMWorld. It’s an insight that — provided it resonates with you — has the potential to do more for your team, your brand and even your customers than all the CMWorld round tables and product demos combined.

Maslow's hierarchy

Content marketing: Maslow's hierarchy made manifest?

This isn’t a takeaway you’d have seen bulleted in a CMWorld PowerPoint. It transcends individual speakers and sessions. And it doesn’t come bundled with any of the latest content management systems or social media listening tools.

Yet, if you ask people who attended CMWorld, it’s a good bet many would agree this is the most powerful takeaway they’ll bring back to their organizations. And here it is:

Content marketing is inherently energizing and fulfilling for the people who practice it.

That’s right. Call me Pollyanna. Call me Norman Vincent Peale. But we’re talking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here. Esteem and self-actualization as byproducts of a job well done. 

You could see it on faces and hear it in voices of not only the presenters, but the corporate marketers, too. You could almost feel it in the ballroom air.

  • Best-selling author David Meerman Scott, exhorting marketers to cull gobbledygook from their communications and write in real, human and humane terms.
  • Lee Odden, a bona fide SEO guru, reminding attendees to optimize online content for people first, web crawlers and search engine algorithms second.
  • And Intel’s Pam Didner, speaking with passion and humor about opportunities she sees to improve a multinational content planning and development process that most would consider already highly advanced by industry standards.

Whether their planning next month’s blog posts, promoting a webinar or producing a video, content marketers automatically put themselves in the position and mindset of seeking to be of value and service to customers and prospects. It’s implicit in the strategy. The onus is on marketing FOR customers and prospects vs. merely AT them.

But we marketers focus so much time and effort planning and creating touch points to reach and influence our audiences, it’s easy to lose sight of the impact felt by those doing the touching.

A specialist who’s only job is to squeeze another fraction of a percent ROI against the direct mail control package isn’t likely to feel the same sense of purpose and reward that can come with creating an educational ebook or an inspirational video — touch points designed to deliver meaning and value for customers.

Likewise, most traditional campaigns are geared to capture attention and drive action. But unless it’s a public service announcement, being of service to the target audience is usually not a primary objective spelled out in the creative brief.


Energy Born of Intention

This is not to say traditional marketing tactics are less worthy, less creatively stimulating or less intellectually satisfying when planned and executed well. Most practitioners agree content marketing is not a wholesale substitute for more traditional  marketing methods. It’s a complement. An enhancement. And the more integrated the tactics and channels, typically, the better the result.

But if you’re a CMO who’s yet to fully embrace content marketing, consider what it would mean to have your team arrive at the office each day consistently pumped to plan and execute compelling, useful, even entertaining content for key audiences.

Then consider that them doing so is a proven path to achieving business and marketing priorities.  Building traffic. Performing well in search. Sparking audience engagement. Generating and nurturing leads. Creating community within social media. Positioning your brand as a thought leader.

Sound like a win-win?

To be clear, content marketing is no walk in the park. It’s demanding work. Don’t imagine for a minute your team and their consultants and agency partners won’t be working hard and brainstorming bullets to consistently develop great content and deliver real results.

But the fact that so many practitioners seem to gain a higher sense of mission, pride and, dare I say, pleasure when undertaking content-driven strategies might the best argument for adopting one.

As Norman Vincent Peale once said: “There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.”

More energy. Positive energy.

Is that the karma that comes with content marketing?

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What say you, marketeers? Am I riding unicorns and smoking rainbows with this post? Or do you agree there’s something about attracting and engaging customers with value-adding content that can cause marketers to feel better (i.e., more proud, excited, strategic) about the work they do? Agree or disagree, I’d welcome your thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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Are you daring to be different with your web presence?

Roger Smith Hotel website

The Roger Smith Hotel: Daring to be different

Not different in the sense of getting in visitors’ way with a goofy flashy intro. Or different like one of those precious minimalist sites where the home page is a field of white or beige, with a tiny phrase or object in the middle, supposedly intriguing visitors to click through and discover more.

Different as in being all about delivering a unique content experience right at the top of your site. Daring in terms of having your differentiated positioning be more prominent than your core product. Then believing (trusting, daring) that visitors will click through to the core product and service information one or two levels beyond, when and if they’re so inclined and engaged.

On his Web Ink Now blog today,  David Meerman Scott posted a video in which he and Tim Washer are shown wandering the streets and expo aisles of SXSW 2011. Sort of a modern-day Hope and Crosby road movie, with Austin, TX, as their backdrop. Some of you will recognize Washer as the creative mind behind, and co-star of, IBM’s spiral video series, The Art of the Sale. Washer now works as a senior marketing manager at Cisco.

Anyway, the video is fun in itself, but even more remarkable is this: It was shot and produced by two people working for The Roger Smith Hotel, a Midtown Manhattan property that positions itself as an “art hotel.”

When I clicked through The Roger Smith link on David’s post to learn more, I was greeted by what appeared to be the website for an eclectic modern art museum. Nothing even close to a traditional room-nights-and-breakfast-packages-and-yes-we’ve-got-a-pool hotel website.

In fact, I had to look a fairly closely to see the word “Hotel” on a tab in the main nav bar. Turns out this is something of a companion site — a side entrance, if you will. A site the hotel calls “Roger Smith Life.” If you Google “Roger Smith Hotel,” you’ll arrive at their more conventional site.

I don’t know whether the marketers at The Roger Smith are seeing sufficient ROI to justify keeping up two different, high-quality websites. Let’s assume so, or they probably wouldn’t be doing it.

What I can say with some certainty is that of the dozens (hundreds?) of hotels I might choose from when traveling to New York City, The Roger Smith appears to be promising something different. And if I’m the sort of persona who appreciates art, media, technology — and intersections, convergences and mashups thereof — The Roger Smith demonstrably wants to be my hotel of choice in Manhattan. And they’re apparently willing to travel to SXSW and shoot a video as one of the ways they can demonstrate that want to.

If your website and strategy are due for a rethink, or you’re pursuing what you believe is a differentiating positioning and strategy but you don’t feel it’s fully reflected in your web presence, here’s a little exercise: Check out David’s blog post. View the SXSW 2011 video. Click through to the Roger Smith Life site and poke around a bit.

Then think about how your organization’s web presence might dare to be different. Different in ways that would matter to and resonate with people you consider your sweet spot customers.

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I bet you’ve got a favorite example of a website that dares to be dramatically different within its category. I’d love to learn about it. Please share it in a comment.

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It’s not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to know. And probably so would a lot of corporate marketers and their agency partners.

So please take this simple three-question survey: How Much Do We Lie On Landing Pages? And please encourage friends and colleagues to do so, as well. Whether they’re professional marketers or, better yet, just plain consumers and business people (aka, customers).

Important: Be sure to click the “Finish Survey” button at the end. Also, you won’t be asked for contact or personal information when taking this short survey. And we’ll share the results via Twitter and here on Touch Point City soon.


Engagement or Evasion

While it’s a fairly simple question — “How much do we lie on landing pages?” — it’s one with simply powerful implications for how we go about content marketing and lead generation/nurturing.

Most content programs, at some point, attempt to attract visitors to a landing page (what some call a “squeeze page”). That’s where the marketer offers something of value — an e-book, a white paper, a how-to video — in exchange for the visitor’s name, contact information, and often some level of personal or business biographic detail. 

But what if people aren’t 100 percent honest with the information they provide on that landing page form? What if instead — to be contrary, or more likely to shield themselves from follow-up marketing contact and sales calls — they type a colleague’s name? A phony e-mail address? What if the phone number they give connects to the company operator, not their direct dial, making it easier to screen follow-up sales calls?

If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a prospect comes to a landing page, but provides false or misleading data, does it constitute a lead? Do you really have engagement?


Gating vs. Ungating
Knowing how much people lie on landing pages could help all of us get clearer on the issue of “gating” vs. “ungating” our value-adding content — a key consideration in the implementation of any content strategy.

Thought leaders such as David Meerman Scott have advocated for some time that it’s best to  “ungate” — make it as easy and non-threatening as possible to download, consume and share your content. The fewer obstacles and concerns you create for the user, the thinking goes, the more readily your content will be downloaded and shared. The more widely consumed and disseminated your content, the greater your market reach and the wider you’ve opened the top of your engagement funnel. The more people you reach, the greater potential for more people coming back to you for more content — or for more information about your product or service.

In fact, David cites one case study in which an ungated e-book was downloaded at a rate 16x that of the same content when registration was required. In a recent Twitter conversation, Ardath Albee says she often ungates her content, and advises clients to do so, as well.

Meanwhile, picture the corporate marketer who has finally convinced skeptical leadership and colleagues to go along with a content marketing strategy. Now picture that same marketer explaining to the CEO and the VP of Sales that, well, no, we’re not actually going to ask people for their contact info. We’re going to give our content away.

Wait a minute, the skeptics might argue: Just how do you propose to generate leads and measurable ROI if we don’t at least require minimal name and contact information in return for the content? It’s a legitimate and common question.

But again, if a good percentage of those leads will be hollow, because they include fictitious information, then are they leads in name only?

I’ve got my own views on gating vs. ungating. You do as well, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as comments.

But meanwhile, I hope you’ll take the survey. Let’s get a sense for how much people lie on landing pages, then continue the exploration of gating vs. ungating from there.

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Ask Steve Chazin to share ROI metrics on his first venture into e-book publishing and his response takes on an almost sing-song, Twelve Days of Christmas cadence:

A hundred thousand downloads. Nine speaking invites. Seven newspaper articles. Five actual speaking gigs. Two TV appearances. One pending TV show. And several offers of full-time employment.

Chazin's eight-page blockbuster e-book

Chazin's eight-page blockbuster

Chazin, in other words, is a walking, talking advertisement for the potential of well-crafted, value-adding content to propel its author — be it an individual, or an organization — into a higher orbit of brand recognition and business opportunity. 

How’d he do it? We’ll get to that shortly. First, some background.

 

Author Notes
A self-described “Renaissance man,” Chazin holds a master’s in electrical engineering from Princeton University. He’s currently CMO at Dimdim.com, which he describes as a “Web. 3.0 software start up aiming to change the way the world meets online.”

In the later ’90s, Chazin held marketing, sales and engineering positions at Apple. He counts himself among those who helped put the company on a return path to profitability after Apple had lost some of its product mojo and financial momentum earlier that decade.

Post-Apple, working as marketing VP for an early-stage tech firm, Chazin found himself at odds with the company founder. The two did not see eye to eye on the value of, and proper approach to, marketing.

“He is a true engineer,” Chazin explains. “And he saw marketing as the thing you do three weeks before you launch a new product. Very tactical.”

Unable to change the boss’ mind, Chazin in 2007 decided to write, in e-book form, marketing and branding lessons he’d distilled from his time at Apple. “I was really writing it for him (his boss),” he says. “To get him to step back and look at the bigger picture — the role that great marketing can have.”

Before long, Chazin began to see another, more intriguing reason for writing and promoting the e-book: To crack open new career opportunities.

Steve Chazin

Steve Chazin

Chazin wrote during his daily commute by bus and train between his New Hampshire home and Boston office. On Sept. 7, 2007, he published a blog post and, with it, MarketingApple: 5 Secrets of the World’s Best Marketing Machine. If you’d like to be download 100,001, visit Chazin’s blog.

 

Success Steps
What takeaways can Chazin offer from his experience? Here are some steps he took:

  • Develop a jargon-free news release. Taking advice from Web marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott (who he’d hired earlier to advise his employer on marketing), Chazin developed a news release describing and promoting the book. In the release, he took pains to avoid terms such as “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking,” the sort of corporate gobbledygook against which Scott has been a vocal crusader.
  • Circulate the release to a targeted list of bloggers. Chazin researched and pinpointed about 100, including some who blog about all things Apple, and others who focus on marketing and brand. He e-mailed each a copy of the release, along with a link to the e-book (note he did not attach the book itself).
         To build his blogger list, Chazin searched Google and also Technorati, where he looked for those with high authority levels. When he found a blogger who he thought might resonate to the book, he’d check their blogroll to find other potential targets.
  • Be direct and demure. In his e-mail to bloggers, Chazin says his tone was “very simple, very conversational. Like a blog post would be. ‘Just want you to know I’m sort of joining the ranks. I’d value your feedback on this.’ I didn’t ask for an endorsement or a link. Just, ‘Hey, thought you might be interested in this.'”
  • Mini PR campaign. The day after sending an e-mail to the bloggers, Chazin distributed his “very short, very direct” news release on PR Newswire. He also had a PR firm issue a media alert, making it known he was available for comment on stories regarding Apple, social media, Web 2.0 and related topics.
  • Give design and format their due. Content and subject matter are critical, of course, but Chazin says devoting attention to design and format issues — copy length, color scheme, cover — also pays. He focused on keeping copy short (eight pages) and took time to get the color and layout feeling crisp and clean. 
         He incorporated just a slice of the Apple logo on the cover, giving the book a sophisticated feel — much like the brand identity of its subject. After he signed up with Typepad to build a blog around the e-book, he took care to make the two — blog and book — look like design extensions of one another.
  • Organic SEO. Because his e-book and blog are peppered with “marketing” and “Apple,” Chazin says he’s risen steadily in search rankings that incorporate those words, especially at times when Apple itself isn’t making news. Incidentally, he says the number of Google search results for his name has quintupled since he launched the e-book and blog.

“It just started escalating,” Chazin says. “Somebody would read it, they would blog about  it, recommed it to their friend. Somebody took it and converted into an e-paper and posted it to a SlideShare, where it got 5,000 or more views within a couple of days. Pretty soon, it was generating its own momentum.”

Interestingly, Chazin did not make use of social media beyond blogs. “I wasn’t that plugged in at the time,” he says. “This was in the days before Twitter, and Facebook didn’t have their application. So my social network was pretty much focused to LinkedIn and a blog that I’d never posted to until that day.”

Still, pretty soon Chazin was getting calls from reporters, event planners, students asking to quote him in their research papers, and potential employers. The rest? E-book history.

Some bonus tips from Chazin:

  • Keep it simple. “With design I focused on keeping it easy on the eyes. And boil it down. In my case, there wasn’t really a call to action except apply these principles to your own business — or hire me.”
  • Make it actionable. “What do you want your prospect, your buyer, to do next? In my case, it was contact me, which is why I put my phone number and e-mail address in there.”
  • Be modest. “If you’re trying to come across as a thought expert, but you come across as arrogant, people don’t feel they can relate to you. So, in whatever business, I think it’s important to show humility.”

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My friend David Meerman Scott* likes to encourage people to quit their jobs.

David’s been thinking, writing and speaking insightfully about content, Web marketing and social media for a while now. He seems to relish, in the midst of a speech or one of his books, making this only half-joking observation:

You might need to quit your job.

He’s not directing this advice to just anyone, mind you. He reserves it for aspiring social-media and content marketers. And not even for all of them. Specifically, for those frustrated by their inability to convince higher-ups that their organizations must get on the content/social media train.

If that describes your situation, and David’s advice seems like the only remaining option, don’t send that resignation e-mail just yet.

I spend a lot of time talking with people about the power of branded content. The eyes-glazed quotient can still be fairly high. Granted, that might mean I need to work on my elevator speech. Or, it could be we’re all still searching for easy-to-grasp analogies or similes by which to explain (and understand) why content marketing is such a breakthrough, yet grounded and logical, approach.

Here are three to consider. If they make sense, try them on a colleague or neighbor, and then your boss, before you tender that resignation.

Content marketing is like…

  • Putting AAAA in front of your name (only 180 degrees better).
    If you’re like me, you’ll simply never call a duct cleaner or locksmith that pulls this stunt. It puts them at or near the head of the Yellow Pages listings, sure. But it also feels shady, even slimy. Which means I won’t call, because my trust level is zero. Give me an authentic sounding brand and value proposition any day — even one that starts with Z.

    Today people use the Web as they once did the Yellow Pages. To get atop search results in your category, you can do one of two things:
    Pay your way. Or, produce fresh, relevant content that people want to consume — and that search engines will notice.

    In other words, for brand credibility and authenticity, content marketing is the exact opposite of tricking your way up the Yellow Pages listings. Yet, when the goal is to be found and contacted, content also exerts the desired updraft effect.

  • Hosting the Chamber of Commerce after-hours event.
    Technology aside, there isn’t much difference between organizing a LinkedIn discussion group or an online community and hosting the chamber members at your office or factory. The same goes for publishing a great value-adding magazine, newsletter or blog.

    Content marketing, done well, congregates customers and potential customers for networking, learning, even fun — and does so in a soft-sell, value-adding way. You’re the conversation starter and the gracious host. At night’s end, you get to collect all the “thank yous” and “I didn’t know your business did this!” exclamations. And you don’t even have to spring for snacks and soda.

  • Lending top employees to your customers.
    You’ve heard of the “loaned executive” concept? Where a supplier and a customer are in such symbiosis that the supplier temporarily loans a key manager or technician to jump start an initiative or fill in where the client is short staffed.

    Content is kind of like that. Only, instead of sharing human capital, you’re sharing other forms of value and support. Often information. Which usually means you can share with many more clients and potential clients, and do so without affecting your staffing or operations.

    Meanwhile, though, you’re showing extra-mile willingness and ability to think so hard and smart about your customer — and their customer, their needs, the market in which they operate — that you’re serving up insights and solutions before they’ve even asked for a loan.

Search-ability. Community. Thought leadership grounded in customer insights. At the core, isn’t that what content marketing is all about?

Or, maybe you’ve got a better analogy. If so, by all means post a comment.

If not… well, there’s always David’s advice to consider.

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  • If you don’t know David, you’ll want to know his work. He’s written a best seller, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and he’s just out with what’s likely to be another, World Wide Rave. Find him at www.webinknow.com.

 

 

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