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Archive for April, 2011

Once you commit yourself and your organization to content marketing, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

Suddenly “content” means articles. Or maybe white papers or webinars. And the focus becomes building an efficient, repeatable process for cranking out a steady flow of that particular asset type.

It’s important to avoid this trap, and to look for opportunities to vary the format of your value-adding content. Why? Well, here are two reasons:

  • First, if you focus primarily on producing content in one format, you’re going to consistently bypass a percentage of your audience.

There are people who love learning via webinars, but who lack that same zeal for articles. There are others who won’t take time to watch a video, but will make a point to download or print a white paper and stick it in their “read on the plane” folder.

Punch out just one type of content over and over, and you’re glossing over these differences in learning styles and content-consumption preferences.

  • Second, get into a monoculture mindset around content and you’ll never know how successful you might have been at creating engagement (however you define that term).

Varying formats let’s you test which types of content have a lifting or depressing impact. As the saying goes: “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”


Content as an Experience

Where I work, we’ve evolved this definition of content:

Value-adding information, interactions and experiences that drive relationship momentum
among audiences critical to an organization’s success.

I like the definition, in part, because those three words — information, interactions, experiences — invite us and challenge us to alway be thinking in terms of developing and delivering content in varied formats.

Yesterday I was treated to three great examples of content formatted as an “experience.” All three were described in an e-newsletter called trendcentral®, published by The Intelligence Group, a self-described “youth focused consumer insights company.”

Trendcentral is a consistently eye-opening and thought-provoking resource. This issue — themed “Fitness Followers” — was no exception. It speaks to a trend toward new tracking technologies that help amateurs and professionals alike monitor their workouts and performances. Three examples cited were:

  • Fitness clothing maker Under Armour partnering with software firm Zephyr on something called the E39. It’s a compression shirt with a built-in sensor that tracks and wirelessly transmits data on an athlete’s motion, heart rate, acceleration, g force and other data points related to performance.
  • Wahoo Fitness, which has developed a device to feed workout statistics for runners, bikers and others to their smart phones.
  • The Ski Track app, which enables skiers to track their number of runs, total miles covered, top speed attained, even visualize the runs they’ve skied via Google Earth maps.

If you’re feeling as though your content program is largely stuck in information mode, take a cue from the world of fitness. Next content planning session, devote some time to brainstorming an experience you could deliver for your desired audience.

Think about their work and life routines. What do they physically do during those activities? What would make their lives easier, richer, more informed? For example, how might you help them keep score of what they’re doing, so they can compare themselves with others, or pursue continuous improvement and personal bests?

In other words, is there a way to equip, empower or entertain your audience with a tool? An app? Content in the form of an experience.

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Do  you agree it’s wise to vary the format of the value-adding content you produce for your audience? Have a favorite example of content as an interaction or experience vs. purely as information? Would welcome your thoughts — and experiences — as comments.

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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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Pinocchio Principle, lead generation, landing pages

Do landing pages bring out our inner Pinocchio?

What would it mean to your lead-generation strategy if you knew that more than two-thirds of the people downloading your white papers and ebooks were lying on those carefully crafted landing pages?

How would conversations about lead generation between your Sales and Marketing teams be different if you knew that, more often than not, you don’t have a prospect’s correct phone number?

Last month Touch Point City posted on Poll Daddy an extremely brief, highly unscientific survey which basically posed this question: “How Much Do We Lie on Landing Pages?” Although survey responses were few (only 26), the findings are still worth a close look by marketing and sales leaders.

It turns out that when we’re asked to exchange our contact information in return for downloading something we find of interest, we lie quite a lot. Perhaps as much as 69 percent of the time.

1. How often do you provide intentionally inaccurate name and contact information when completing a content download registration form?

Always    4%
More often than not    15%
About half the time    4%
Sometimes    46%
Never    31%

When we mislead on landing pages, more than half the time it’s our phone numbers we’re faking. And 20 percent of the time it’s our e-mail addresses.

2. If you sometimes provide intentionally inaccurate information on a download registration form, which of the following are you MOST likely to fake?

Phone number    56%
Email address    20%
Job title    16%
Name    4%
Mailing address    4%
Company name    0%

Why do we shade the truth? Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s to avoid follow-up sales calls and marketing contacts.

3. If you sometimes provide intentionally inaccurate name and contact information, why?

Avoid follow-up sales calls or marketing contacts    72%
Protect my personal data privacy    16%
Chalk it up to the prankster in me    0%
Other (3):

  • I do not give false information because I only fill in my information to companies I trust.”
  • “I don’t do this but if I did, it would be to avoid follow-up phone calls, primarily.”
  • “Avoid being inundated with what’s potentially junk mail afterward.”

 

The Big Lie of Lead Generation
Again, as surveys go, this admittedly was no Gallup or Roper. Still, let’s concede for a moment that more than two dozen people (adults, presumably) did take the survey and provided honest answers about their propensity to become liars on landing pages.

If their responses are close to what a real, professionally executed survey might find, then what are we to make of this apparent Pinocchio Principle when it comes to leads born of landing pages? I think the clear takeaway is this:

A lead isn’t a lead until someone is engaged enough to be honest with you.

How will you know when they’re being totally honest? You probably won’t. At least not until one of your sales reps actually gets them one the phone, connects with them via e-mail or shakes their hand across a desk. Or maybe not even until they call or e-mail you to say they’d like to have a conversation about your product or service.

For decades, marketing and sales teams have argued about whether someone who visits a trade show booth should be considered a lead. Marketing would often say yes. Sales would often say no, not even close.

Now, that same argument is playing out online. Some marketers are tempted to say that someone who’s registered for a newsletter, or downloaded a white paper, is a lead. Sales is likely to argue that those are mere inquiries. To be true leads, Sales would say, those initial contacts need to be nurtured. Qualified. Scored. To the point where those individuals are more demonstrably interested in the company’s product or service, and thus potentially more ready to buy.

If this is an argument playing out inside your organization, the survey says Sales is right. A landing page registration is not necessarily a lead. An e-newsletter subscription is not necessarily a lead. A discernible pattern of engagement over time (e.g., multiple downloads, an e-newsletter sign-up, a webinar attendance, multiple visits to your website) could well be a lead.

It’s our challenge as marketers to elicit those patterns of engagement from customers and potential customers. And the great thing is, we ‘ve never been more clear about how to do it (relevant, compelling content). We’ve never had more tools and channels by which to do it. And we’ve never been better equipped to measure that it’s truly happening.

So if you’re in the middle of a lead-generation program, or about to embark on one, here’s a suggestion: Assume that people are mostly going to lie on your landing pages. And then go about your business with the mindset that you’re going to earn their honesty. Over time. By offering great information, interactions and experiences. In other words, great content.

The lead numbers might no pile up quite as quickly. But, honestly, they’ll be solid leads when they do.

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Where do things stand with lead generation in your organization? Are you still treating trade show visits and newsletter subscriptions as leads? Have you found your way to a more sophisticated lead scoring system and process? Or do you think this whole way of thinking about leads is due for some serious reinvention? Would welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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Thanks to Ardath Albee (@ardath421), Achinta Mitra (@Achintamitra), Pam Kozelka (@pamkozelka), Mary Bunnell (@mbbunnell, @ymmlistens), D. Steven White (@dstevenwhite) and Chris Bailey (@baileyworkplay) for sharing our “How Much Do We Lie…” survey with their followers. Voter turnout was light, colleagues, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of your support.

 

 

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I saw a news article this week which made me think about branding vs. audience engagement.

More specifically, it made me wonder how big the gap might be between marketing investments that primarily strive for brand awareness, and marketing that focuses on creating true business-building customer engagement.

Maybe you saw the article, too. Monday’s AdvertisingAge e-newsletter reported on Aflac’s search for a new “spokes-quacker.” The insurer recently cut loose comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the voice behind its brand mascot, the now famous Aflac duck.

Gottfried had tweeted a reference to the tsunami in Japan, using it as the basis for a wisecrack about the current state of his love life. With 70 percent of Aflac’s revenue coming from Japan, the tweet prompted Aflac marketers to send Gottfried packing.

The article went on to report:

  •  Aflac’s Gottfried-voiced duck campaign, which debuted in 2000, is largely credited with driving the company’s brand awareness from 11 percent to 95 percent as far back as 2006.
  • Since 1999, Aflac’s market share in the accident and health insurance category has grown from 7.88 percent to 9.04 percent, making Aflac in 2010 the category’s No. 1 brand.
  • Aflac spent $81 million on “measured media” last year.
  • While the insurer has cut ties with its spokesperson, the spokes fowl will continue to feather Aflac’s nest. “The duck is here to stay,” was the quote from an Aflac marketer. 

 

Branding vs. Customer Engagement
I don’t have the real data on this, but let’s assume Aflac has spent at half its 2010 pace on duck-driven advertising over the past decade. If so, it’s probably invested more than $400 million to make an impression on the market through the voice and playful antics of a duck.

In return, the company saw brand awareness skyrocket by more than 80 percentage points. At the same time, the company’s business as gauged by market share (not a true measure of revenue and ROI, but let’s call it a proxy) grew just over one percentage point.

Accident and health insurance is presumably a multi-billion insurance category, so a gain of one point in market share certainly represents a boatload of additional revenue.

Still, the story made me wonder what might have happened to share and revenue if Aflac had spent an equal amount of money on content marketing. Maybe not even an equal amount. Let’s say a fraction of that amount.

Dunno the answer. Not sure there is a definitive answer. In fact, I’m not even sure this is a criticism of Aflac’s marketing strategy. The question just came to mind.

What’s your take?

It’s no longer 1999. It’s 2011. If you had the option to spend $80 million this year to have an animal squalk at your audience, in hopes of growing awareness for your brand, or spend $8 million on content, looking to attract customers into engagement with your brand, which would you choose?

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