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An early check in before the holiday madness begins

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An early check in before the holiday madness begins

Remember the GEICO TV commercial where Caleb the Camel swaggers through an office shouting, “Guess what day it is?”  

Now picture me hanging over your cubicle and waving my hands to get your attention. 

“Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike! Guess what time of year it is!” 

“Time to think about the holidays?” you answer in a voice filled with dread. 

Yeah! Holidays!

There, I said it. I might be the first person to start talking about holiday 2022 email planning; and if I’m not, I will act as if I am. After all, we’re just a few days away from Q3 and its run-up to the holidays. For many brands, that means the runway to holiday campaigns is getting shorter. 

But first: Take stock

I won’t start this process by listing all the trends you need to follow, the shopping forecasts and how inflation and uncertainty and COVID and yada-yada-yada will help or hurt holiday sales. 

Instead, I want to check in with you to see how you’re doing and whether you took my advice back in January in “Marketers: What should you focus on in 2022?” I’m going to assume that you did what I told you to do and now you’re sitting there waiting for me to tell you what to do next.

No, I’m kidding. But stay with me here. Readers who did follow my advice would be in a great position today to develop a comprehensive and coordinated Holiday 2022 plan – or a plan for whatever busy time defines your business. 

If you missed it, skipped it or quit before you finished reading, go ahead and take a few minutes now to read or reread what I wrote. I’ll wait.

(How ’bout those [insert football/hockey/baseball/soccer team name here]?)

Hey, you’re back! Now let’s take stock of where we are.

Let’s start by being honest with each other. Email marketers are the classic “screaming down the hall” people. Anybody who has ever lived through a retail or e-commerce season on the email team knows the day will come when someone farther up the email food chain freaks out because sales numbers aren’t where they’re supposed to be and starts hollering to send more email.

We email people are the ones who will ride in and save the day. We probably won’t get the credit for it – no extra budget, no new butts in seats. We’re the unsung heroes.

But to win at the holidays, you need a plan and not just a rough outline you drew on a cocktail napkin at Happy Hour last week. Planning begins with an email audit, so you know where your program stands, and it needs an updated set of KPIs so you can measure whether your efforts are paying off.


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I was on a call with two clients earlier today. One item on the agenda was for me to talk about the holidays. They said, “Really? We need to talk about this already?” and I said, “Yes, just follow me,” and we talked about their thoughts.

“So, how long do you think it will take you to do all these things?” I asked at one point, and they both started laughing. The answer was epic. “I guess we should start now because that’s a long list of stuff to do,” one replied.

That was exactly the right answer. We, as email marketers, get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that we lose sight of what’s just down the road and around the corner. So, suddenly, International Bagpipe Day is coming up* and somebody wants to know your plan, and you don’t have one.

It’s the same with holidays. We forget from year to year about this big looming holiday, and then we get all wrapped up in planning, do what everybody else wants us to do and cross our fingers and hope we make our numbers. Let’s keep that from happening this year. A mid-year check-up is your chance to stop and see where you are and what you need to do to get ready.

Tip 1: Audit your email program

I asked people to audit their programs and put the results in a PowerPoint deck. This formalizes and documents your planning process. Your audit will show you what you need to fix.

If you audited your email program earlier this year or brought in an agency to help you evaluate it, now is the time to review and update your findings. What do you need to add, delete or adjust? What can you cross off your list? What do you need to do to differentiate this year from last year?

Because that’s the key. This year should be different from last year.

If nothing has changed in your audit findings, you should start prioritizing the things to work on. This is your gentle reminder to get that stuff done. Don’t think, “I have nothing to work on.” That’s like tempting fate. 

Ask around. Ask your email peers and cross-functional team members. People will always have opinions about your email program. Rank their comments based on ROI, level of effort and the time you have to work on it during your day. You have things to plan out well in advance for holiday or end of the year, and now is the time to do it.

Tip 2: Send your deck to an agency

I’m still waiting for yours. 

You still have time to run your ideas past an agency team to get their thoughts and advice. I get these requests all the time. 

That independent third-party opinion is important. You don’t have to do a full-scale audit. But you can get an opinion from an agency that knows email.

This is a key point. Be sure whoever you work with knows email. Many agencies say they do email. But “doing” email is not what is required. Find an agency that understands email inside and out. Those people will help you prioritize, make sense of what’s important or point out what you overlooked. 

You still have time to do this and win your fourth quarter like a champ.

Tip 3. Review and update your KPIs

Make sure you’re tight on how your email program makes money, your acquisition targets, and how you measure success. You need to know these, but beyond that, you need to be able to explain and update your boss, sometimes on the spur of the moment.

A long time ago, when I was on the retail side, I was burning the job candle at both ends and three candles. I was so busy I didn’t know which end was up. Then one day, my boss stopped me to ask what our average open rate was, and I didn’t have a clue. I was so focused on my day-to-day duties, putting out fires, going to meetings and writing reports that I wasn’t up to date on my own KPIs. That was a total fail – and one I never repeated.

What are the KPIs you should have at your command immediately? These are the ones you know, review and understand, so when someone asks you, even if they stop you in the middle of the hall or drop by your cubicle or office, you can fire off an answer immediately.

You need that view in a dashboard or email. If you don’t have it, get it.

Knowing your KPIs has two other benefits: You’re helping your boss and others understand what’s important. The numbers also back you up when you want to show your success.

Why is that important? Because we email marketers don’t share our successes as often as we should. We’re either too humble or too pressed for time to toot our own horns.

But we need to do that because the only way to gain respect from others and to get our rightful share of the company budget and attention is to keep showing everyone how great we are. That starts with sharing KPIs for every program we manage.

Tip 4: Expand your knowledge base

This is bonus advice that wasn’t included in my January column. Consider it my mid-year checkup and adjustment.

So far in 2022, I have attended two in-person conferences, and I’m about to go on stage and deliver a keynote for a third one. That’s a refreshing turn of events. 

It reminded me again that one of the great benefits of attending these shows in person was hearing everyone’s personal stories. Not just what they said on stage or in breakout sessions but what they shared while we stood in the breakfast line, sat together at lunch or chatted over drinks and dinner. 

If education is not part of your regular schedule, make time for it.

I attend at least one webinar a week. Sometimes I’m speaking on it, and sometimes I’m in the audience. Sometimes it’s about email, and sometimes it’s another subject that affects my work in email. It doesn’t matter. If it’s a good session, I walk away with something I didn’t know before. 

What are you doing to learn? I talked about auditing your email program and looking deep inside your email. Still, you also have to reach out and dive into the enormous amount of learning available to you in webinars, conferences, local events and the like. That’s where you get the fodder for good ideas.

Wrapping up

Now that it’s June, we have more of 2022 behind us than before us. The fourth quarter will be here before you know it. Now is the time to put key things in place so that when holiday arrives, you’ll be ready. 

We need to keep our eyes on what’s coming up to get ahead of events and not just react to them. 

Be sure you are queued for what’s coming tomorrow because that will make managing tomorrow easier.

* Don’t panic! International Bagpipe Day is March 10, so you can get through the holidays before you start planning campaigns.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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MARKETING

State of Content Marketing in 2023

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]

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Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand

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MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

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MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.


Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 


Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.


Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.


Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/MarketingOps.com, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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