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Sunday
May042014

Content May be King...but It's Hard to be King!

A recent Ascend2 report reiterated what most people know these days: Quality Content is Critical for SEO." 57% of marketing professionals surveyed considered "quality content creation" the most important aspect of earning higher search engine rankings, and over one-quarter of marketing professionals worldwide said that lack of quality content was among the most challenging obstacles to achieving important SEO objectives. 

Most clients we've worked with at Mythology - check that, ALL clients we've worked with - have had a difficult time producing the quantity and quality of content required for Google and Bing to show them some love, especially in a competitive niche.

Many trip over the basics: 

  • Non-existent content calendar, which leads to "Oh shizzle, what are we going to blog/tweet/post this week?" syndrome. 
  • Inconsistent follow-through, or the "why won't our subject matter experts turn in their assigned blog?" syndrome. 
  • Lack of re-usable core content strategy, or the "why didn't we think about blogging this presentation? or "why didn't someone post those event pictures" syndrome. 

Others have succeeded in producing a consistent content flow, but are struggling to have that content stand out and earn the real interest of prospects and influencers. Without the third-party love, little content generates desired results in a crowded field of "so what?" content. 

Content...Things that make you go "hmmmm"The truth is, there is a treasure trove of interesting personalities and potential thought leaders within many companies. They don't necessarily tend to raise their hands to add more work to their plate, but they're out there. There are also many interesting personalities among your customer base. 

The key is that we all know we should be producing more and better content, but the paradigms and processes for achieving this goal are often broken. Therefore, good content isn't published, rankings aren't achieved, opportunities are lost. 

What to do about the situation? Here are a few simple recommendations that have worked for us well at Mythology: 

  • Put someone on point and accountable for content publishing. That doesn't mean they have to write it, but they have to be responsible for making sure the right content is created and effectively published. 
  • Hire a professional. Yes, you can afford it. You can't afford not to have quality content published, so if you truly have a too-busy or too-shy group (or a group that simply can't write well), then you must hire a professional writer. Good ones are out there, such as Jo Lord from iwritewords.com (yes, that's a recommendation plug, Jo is great), but they need your clear guidance and direction. Preferably with more than three days lead time to develop a great piece of content. 
  • Interview, don't assign. One of the most effective methods for unclogging your content flow is to stop handing out blog assignments to people who have little or no interest or time in delivering it. However, that doesn't let your innovative thinkers off the hook. You still need to share those brilliant insights stuck inside their head. We've had great success building interview-style blogs. It's an ego-boost for the interviewee, it's helps them feel like they've contributed to the cause without feeling the guilt of missing their blog deadline, and it absolutely gets out the door faster. Many customers also find it a breath of fresh air to be interviewed not necessarily for a long case study or testimonial, but for their industry insights. Here's one of our most popular blogs derived from this interview strategy. 
  • Develop and re-use core content, Part 1. Yes, we know nobody reads long-winded white papers these days. Even highly visual ebooks can struggle to hold attention. But if a quality document is created for download, that's only the first part of its job. The real job that it exists to fill, we believe, is to feed your social media and blogging engine for weeks at a time. The most compelling and interesting quotes from the white paper or ebook are often the best tweets to share and can generate a healthy flow of clicks and interactions with target prospects. Hold your content accountable to provide a healthy string of engaging interactions. 
  • Develop and re-use core content, Part 2. Particularly in the B2B space, we're often surprise how hard engineers, sales managers and other smart folks work on their customer presentations. And then let them sit on their hard drives. A recent client developed a very compelling IT security presentation for a trade conference. Voila! Core content for a blog on the topic, and a great piece of content to share on Slideshare.net (which, by the way, is still one of the most best-kept secrets in reaching B2B decision-makers). 
  • Get visual with your content. The infographic craze has glutted many a Facebook or LinkedIn wall, and some absolutely add no value because they aren't designed well enough to facillitate better understanding of the actual information being shared. That being said, simple, powerfully created visual representation of an idea or information is still the most effective method for generating an extra millisecond of eye-catching interest so critical in today's crowded world of content. You don't need an in-house visual design guru (although it helps, and larger firms probably should have someone in that role...Trust us, it will pay off if used properly), but you can easily find a handful of trusted free-lancers ready to crank out your (well-designed) infographic or message panel. 

There you have it. Content will continue to grow in strategic importance and in difficulty. The internet isn't going anywhere. But with a few simple adjustments, your organization can embrace content marketing and reap the benefits in SEO and increased sales. 

Assess your content marketing capabilities and other critical elements of your marketing system with our Spring Cleaning 2014 Assessment tool

Friday
Mar072014

The Fast Failure Formula: How Marketing Can Fail Fast to Succeed Faster 

Can you become a success by failing?

Yes, if you get the failure over with the right way so that success can come even faster.  

The term “fail fast” has become standard language in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation over the past few years. The idea is to quickly gain real-world feedback on ideas so that you can get to the winning product or solution formula as quickly (and profitably) as possible.

One of the most expensive mistakes an organization can make is to invest time and resources into an idea that has little chance of success in the marketplace. Yet companies large and small get caught in this trap, often due to an internal champion having an emotional attachment to the idea with little or no real-world market feedback to justify it.

Although Rob Shelton, the global innovation chief of PwC, doesn’t like the terminology of “failing” fast, he does articulate the concept very well and compares it to the scientific process: “It's about having a hypothesis, and testing it," he says. "If the results don't match your hypothesis, you've got data. If the results do match your hypothesis, then you have a discovery.”

Many people who embrace the term “failing fast” do so out of a desire to take the stigma off of failure that can often lead to a disincentive to take risks and think differently. There are some who even believe that rigid quality and process initiatives such as Six Sigma have harmed innovation, and that there must be a balance. The 3M executive behind the Post-It Notes breakthrough has some great advice on this topic (Six Sigma ‘Killed’ Innovation at 3M).

“Failing fast” is really about “fast feedback.” So how can marketers embrace the concept of “failing fast” and infuse more intelligence, less risk and higher return on investment into their marketing engine?

 

Embrace feedback as a daily habit

We asked several creative agencies that we work with the question: “How many of your prior brand or product campaigns have gone through any significant testing within the very market they are intended to target?”

The typical answer? Less than 10%. Think about it: over 90% of marketing campaigns with budgets from anywhere between $100,000 to well into the millions spend the money without any significant market feedback! That is amazing, and I dare say, irresponsible.

There are too many easy, inexpensive tools for gaining real-world feedback on logos, taglines, and campaign themes for this to continue. It’s a habit that must be developed in most marketing teams in order to have credibility with the CEO and CFO before recommending any campaign be launched.

Social media, online survey tools such as Surveymonkey.com, online panels and even ad hoc focus groups at an industry conference are among many valid methods for gaining reaction from current or potential customers in quick, relatively inexpensive ways. 

 

Prioritize the market over management

As mentioned earlier, often a new campaign, product or service is rammed through the organization because of the passionate support of a single executive or group of executives. In other cases, organizations are crippled by internal political fights on which direction to go.

Market feedback that tests the assumptions of the campaign, product or service can be a great leveler. Many times we’ve worked with clients where the executive team could not agree in the initial workshop on how to position the organization or product. However, when faced with real-world evidence from the customers they all cared about, they quickly agreed to rally around the obvious direction the customers were asking to go.

When an organization embraces the concept that their brand does not exist in their boardroom, but in the minds of their customers, positive change begins to take shape. That's not to say a visionary, passionate leader with a great idea isn't extremely valuable. But humility and the willingness to listen to the very customers they seek to attract are critical. 

Remember those agencies we spoke to above? Typically, the only audience that gave feedback on 90% or more of the campaign ideas they pitched was the CEO or an internal executive team. In other words, not customers. 

 

What if customers don’t know what they want until they see it?

There is a meme related to Steve Jobs about his purported disdain for market research. Several quotes are often circulated, including this one:

"Some people say, 'Give customers what they want.' But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!' People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page."

So if one of the world’s greatest innovators dismisses market feedback, is the “fail fast/fast feedback” mantra invalid?

Not at all. The key is what kind of feedback you’re gathering, and how. To ask a customer, “What do you want?” or “What do you need?” is typically not effective, at least for generating innovative new ideas. Customers tend to zero in and compare their wants/needs based on existing solutions. This feedback method can be effective for incremental innovations, but rarely for disruptive innovation. Jobs was usually focused on disruptive innovation.

Even so, at some point, a disruptive product like the first iPhone needs feedback prior to going “big” with multi-million dollar manufacturing initiatives. The tech industry, among others, is littered with examples of millions lost because not enough feedback loops were built into the product development and launch process.

The concept of “Minimum Viable Concept” has developed around the need to show potential customers a visionary idea to gain reaction, objections, obstacles and additional ideas on whether they would accept it and when. There’s even a service to provide this kind of specific scenario feedback.

A better feedback approach for deriving breakthrough innovation is to focus on problems that need solved or “jobs that need done”. Harvard innovation guru Clay Christensen has built quite a career on this concept.

Fast feedback is a cultural and process issue

At Mythology, we’ve built “fast failure”, aka fast feedback, into our Ten Pillars of Meaningful Marketing™ methodology. Three pillars address the issue:

  • Understanding – Addresses the initial insights required for you to move forward with marketing a product or service.
  • Dialog – Addresses the need for a constant “listening loop” with your customers and prospects via social media, surveys, customer service teams and other sources.
  • Innovation – Addresses the need for marketing to embrace their role as a “voice of the customer” and proactively partner with R&D and engineering to shape the direction of products and services early in the cycle.

If you’re ready to fail faster in order to succeed faster, we’d love to speak with you. Our team can work with you to build a marketing system that has these principles built-in so that the discipline of “fast feedback” is inherent in your daily marketing operations.

 

Wednesday
Jan152014

Marketing Automation: Is it really worth it?

“In whatever you do, ALWAYS give every ounce of effort and make sure you’re fully equipped for success.” These words were constantly reiterated to me during my upbringing on the country streets of my hometown in North Carolina. As I observe the implementation of marketing automation systems, I hear one sentiment echoed continuously…“Is it worth it?"

To answer this question, one must first look at what really defines successful marketing. Those who do it best have developed a comprehensive system that is easy to understand and follows the consumer or business all the way from the buying process to conversion.

To say that marketing automation is the sole answer to “better marketing” would be the equivalent of saying that your meal is complete by eating one starch.  Think of it this way: If you’re not eating complete meals, your body will punish you for it later on; much like if your marketing is not complete, your revenue will suffer and reflect this.

So, what does the meal of a healthy marketer look like?

If we examine the marketing funnel and strengths of these marketing systems at a high level, we know that one’s plate needs to include a detailed list of leads and prospects; content that is regularly being disseminated to the right target audience; and baselines and goals (for analytical purposes, of course).  If you never weigh yourself, then how do you know if you’re meeting your weigh-in goals?

Now, allow me to take a second to acknowledge that as with anything in life, there are pros and cons.  This situation is no different.  Let’s take a look at some of the positive aspects of marketing automation:

  1. It saves time. Marketing automation makes the hard work and day-to-day interactions with your audiences much easier to fulfill.  It frees up some time to advance business development and complete other everyday tasks.
  2. It scales one-on-one communication. Having auto-responses, timed emails and other messages sent to individuals based on their previous behaviors and interactions with your brand is truly incredible.  Period.
  3. It’s new and fresh. While the marketing automation realm is expanding so rapidly, it is necessary to understand that the sky is the limit and we do not truly know just how great this tool can be!

 
Everything good in the world also comes with some bad.  Here are a few things to be weary of:

  1. This is not a lazy marketer’s path to success. This is simply the perfect opportunity for marketing to become watered down.  Do not allow this to dehumanize your marketing!
  2.  It can be a bit overwhelming. With the scoring, profiling, campaigns, segmentations and so on, this process can become a lot to take in.  Do not fall victim to this by realizing it as an investment and taking the necessary steps.  Remember, Rome was not built overnight.

Finally, if you feel that you have done all of your research and have these components in place, then you may be ready to implement a marketing automation system.  Here are a few points to consider:

  • What is your marketing missing? Would an automation platform help you fill these gaps?
  • Do you have the bandwidth necessary to successfully learn and manage the system of choice?
  • Do the pros of an automation system outweigh the cons?

While taking an extensive look at the above components, understand that automation systems, much like computers, will do only what they are told to do.  So, if you have crossed all T’s, dotted the I’s and feel ready to take your interactions to the next level, marketing automation systems just might be worth a shot for your organization.

Remember:  marketing automation will only be as strong as the foundation that it is built on.  So to revisit the initial question of “Is it worth it?”  The answer is yes – if you have built the necessary foundation. Go in with open eyes and do not become overwhelmed by the “bells and whistles.”

Sunday
Dec292013

2014 Marketing Resolution #5: Love and delight your current customers

What have you done for your existing customers lately?

The holidays are often a period when old friends are remembered and contacted. Holiday cards are becoming more rare these days as simple “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Hanukkah!” posts on social media have taken their place; but don’t meaningful, personalized letters (not those family update form letters!) stand out and connect you more emotionally to those friends who take the time to connect?

The excitement and urgency of the “new logo” chase always seems to take precedence over profitable interaction and relationship-building with existing customers. Yet as Jason Fried, co-founder and president of 37signals (the company behind Basecamp and other web-based services) observes: “If you take care of your existing customers, they will take care of your new customers.”

To complete our 2014 Marketing Resolutions series, we offer the following meaningful ways to engage your existing customers that could lead to greater revenue and advocacy in the coming year:

Visit them – There is nothing like an agenda-free, open-ended “how are you?” visit to spark conversation and communicate interest in someone's well-being. An amazing number of new opportunities can often be generated by a simple check-in, whether in person, via phone or Skype.

Send them a book – Books deliver a message that you’re interested in a customer’s future success. They still have an emotional weight behind them that few other gifts deliver.

Assess them - Assess customers' usage habits, identify value they’ve left on the table, highlight areas where they could improve, and proactively share it with them. 

Praise them – In the above assessment, call out specific reasons why they are a valuable customer to you.

Send them a helpful URL – Believe it or not, a simple “I was thinking about your business and thought this blog post touched on some key points for your business” can do wonders.

Offer a free business review – Perhaps, at least for the top tier of clients, your team could invest in a free, no-commitment, on-site training seminar or business review meeting that promises to identify new opportunities for the client with no risk or commitments on their end? 

Free sample – For consumer goods companies, the surprise of receiving a “thank you” sample in the mail or in-store can go a long way towards building emotional attachment and reciprocity. A “here’s one for your friend” addition can stimulate low-cost sampling that leads to new customers.

This year our clients received some amazing fixx chocolates as a thank-you for their feedback and support. How did Mythology share our appreciation for clients this year? We recently sent a gift package of fixx chocolates (www.fixxchocolates.com) to our clients. This wasn’t just another “goodies” package; these chocolates are from a client that we helped via a branding workshop during their startup phase earlier in 2013. Not only did our clients receive amazing (and we DO mean AMAZING) high-end chocolates, they also saw an example of our ongoing brand differentiation and growth capabilities in action.

How can you grow by focusing more on existing clients? Mythology can support your efforts with in-depth strategy workshops and action-oriented relationship marketing programs. Contact us, we’d love to hear from you!

Resolution #1: Clarify your differentiation
Resolution #2: Get your customer data act together 
Resolution #3: Define and test compelling calls to action
Resolution #4: Build your digital marketing capacity
Resolution #5: Love and delight your current customers

 

Sunday
Dec292013

2014 Marketing Resolution #4: Build your digital marketing capacity 

Search. Social media. Viral videos. Most ambitious, growth-minded companies have embraced them all, at varying levels. Yet very few are truly managing these powerful marketing channels effectively in meaningful, measurable ways.

There are two simple recommendations we suggest to thrive in digital marketing in 2014: content calendars and marketing automation.

A great number of companies struggle with digital marketing because they haven’t addressed their underlying fundamentals of brand differentiation and appropriate calls to action. Others have not embraced the all-important connection between brand position and digital engagement, represented by  the content calendar.

A content calendar is a simple roadmap for identifying, prioritizing and assigning the creation of content that reinforces your brand position and provides valuable fodder for engaging customers via blogging and social media.

Just as a media outlet plans ahead for its upcoming issue based on reader preferences and “what’s happening now” newsworthiness, marketing teams must embrace a proactive approach to publishing.

A content calendar typically involves mapping out content categories that are most relevant to their brand and customer base. These categories may include:

  • Industry news and trends relevant to their area of business; help customers get more informed not just about you, but about their area of interest.
  • How-to insights that help a customer get more value out of a product, or introduce prospects to what they’re missing.
  • "About you" customer stories that highlight how peers are using or finding value in the product/service.
  • “About us” stories that help the customer become more emotionally attached to the team behind your brand.

The content calendar will also define the source of the content (i.e., the writer assigned), the due date and other project management details.

Marketing automation is another key discipline for effective digital marketing which is beginning to take shape and add real value for those organizations who embrace it. Marketing automation can include very simple tools like Hootsuite that help you schedule and post social media content, but it can also include more complex, holistic platforms such as Marketo, HubSpot and Silverpop.

Marketing automation platforms require some training and commitment, but they provide a depth of marketing engagement tools such as “trigger marketing” (i.e., a pre-defined marketing action that gets launched when a customer exhibits a certain behavior, or trigger) that can advance your organization greatly in its ability to effectively, efficiently convert customers to new or returning revenue streams.

However, just as CRM (customer relationship marketing) systems in the 1990's failed to realize value in many firms, marketing automation has the potential to be an expensive toy that rarely generates results if not fully adopted.

Here are some key steps to prepare you for a successful marketing automation initiative:

Map out buyer decision-making stages. How can marketing automation engage customers as they move through a typical purchasing decision?

What are your contextual calls to action? In what stages can you most influence them positively with the right messages delivered at the right time?

Who will manage the strategy and process? Oftentimes, implementation of CRM and marketing automation initiatives in smaller organizations is “everyone’s job”, but really no one’s job. Clear assignments and accountability are critical.

 

Considering a marketing automation initiative? Mythology can help you develop the underlying insights and strategies required for success through planning workshops and in-depth customer engagement planning.

Contact us, we’d love to hear from you!

Resolution #1: Clarify your differentiation
Resolution #2: Get your customer data act together 
Resolution #3: Define and test compelling calls to action
Resolution #4: Build your digital marketing capacity
Resolution #5: Love and delight your current customers