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How to Develop a Content Strategy in 7 Steps: A Start-to-Finish Guide

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How to Develop a Content Strategy in 7 Steps: A Start-to-Finish Guide

Whether you’re just starting out with content marketing or you’ve been using the same approach for a while, it never hurts to revisit your content strategy plan and make sure it’s up-to-date, innovative, and engaging for your prospects and customers – no matter when or how they intend to buy.

Click here to sharpen your skills with the help of our content marketing  workbook.

If you’re having trouble planning for the upcoming year or need some fresh ideas to include in your plan, read on.

In this post, we’ll dive into what content strategy is, why your business needs a content marketing plan, and what steps you need to take to create your strategy. Plus, we’ll explore some examples of effective content marketing strategies for inspiration.

Say your business goals include increasing brand awareness. To achieve this, you might implement a content strategy that focuses on SEO to increase your website’s visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and drive traffic to your products or services.

New business owners might assume a content strategy is a nice-to-have, but not necessary early on. However, producing high-quality content can be invaluable in building trust with new audiences and succeeding in the long haul.

In essence, a good content strategy is the foundation of your Attract and Delight stages in a buyer’s journey that follows the inbound marketing framework. Along with attracting prospects to your brand, you can leverage a content strategy for sales enablement and customer satisfaction.

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Plus, with 70% of marketers actively investing in content marketing, it’s critical that you develop a good content strategy to compete in your industry.

When you develop a content strategy, there are a few questions to answer. Let’s dive into those, now.

1. Who will be reading your content?

Who’s the target audience for your content? For how many audiences are you creating content?

Just as your business might have more than one type of customer, your content strategy can cater to more than one type of user.

Using a variety of content types and channels will help you deliver content that’s tailored to each persona.

2. What problem will you be solving for your audience(s)?

Ideally, your product or service solves a problem you know your audience has. By the same token, your content coaches and educates your audience through this problem as they begin to identify and address it.

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A sound content strategy supports people on both sides of your product: those who are still figuring out what their main challenges are, and those who are already using your product to overcome these challenges.

Your content reinforces the solution(s) you’re offering and helps you build credibility with your target audience.

3. What makes you unique?

Your competitors likely have a similar product as yours, which means your potential customers need to know what makes yours better — or, at least, different.

Maybe your main asset is that your company has been established for many years. Or perhaps you have a unique brand voice that makes you stand out from your competitors.

To prove why you’re worth buying from, you need to prove why you’re worth listening to. Once you figure that out, permeate that message in your content.

4. What content formats will you focus on?

To figure out what formats to focus on, you need to meet your audience where they are.

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While you may to tempted to launch a podcast since it’s grown so much in the last few years, or launch a YouTube channel, find out first where your audience lives.

Otherwise, you may waste time creating content that either won’t reach your audience or capture their attention.

Once you identify the best formats, start creating a budget to assess what resources you can allocate to execute this strategy.

5. What channels will you publish on?

Just as you can create content in different formats, you’ll also have various channels you can publish to, from your website to social media.

This, again, will reflect where your audience lives. If your audience prefers long-form video content, you may opt to publish your content on YouTube. If you have a younger audience that likes quick content, you may opt for TikTok and Instagram.

We’ll talk more about social media content strategy in the step-by-step guide later in this article.

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6. How will you manage content creation and publication?

Figuring out how you’ll create and publish all your content can be a daunting task.

Before you execute, it’s important to establish:

  • Who’s creating what.
  • Where it’s being published.
  • When it’s going live.

In a small team, this may be easy enough as you may be the sole decision-maker. As your company grows, you may need to collaborate with several content teams to figure out an effective process.

Today’s content strategies prevent clutter by managing content from a topic standpoint — as explained in the video above. When planning a content editorial calendar around topics, you can easily visualize your company’s message and assert yourself as an authority in your market over time.

Why Marketers Need to Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing helps businesses prepare and plan for reliable and cost-effective sources of website traffic and new leads.

If you can create just one blog post that gets a steady amount of organic traffic, an embedded link to an e-book or free tool will continue generating leads for you as time goes on — long after you click “Publish.”

HubSpot‘s blog team found this to be key to increasing traffic to the Sales Blog over time – read about our blog strategy here.

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The reliable source of traffic and leads from your evergreen content will give you the flexibility to experiment with other marketing tactics to generate revenue, such as sponsored content, social media advertising, and distributed content.

Plus, your content won’t just help attract leads, it will also educate your prospects and generate awareness for your brand.

Now, let’s dive in to learn the specifics of how to create a content marketing plan. Curious how our former HubSpot Head of Content SEO Aja Frost put together our content strategy? Here it is.

how to create a content strategy

1. Define your goal.

What’s your aim for developing a content marketing plan? Why do you want to produce content and create a content marketing plan?

Know your goals before you begin planning, and you’ll have an easier time determining what’s best for your strategy.

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Download this goal planning template for help figuring out the right content goals.

2. Conduct persona research.

To develop a successful plan, you need to clearly define your content’s target audience — also known as your buyer persona.

This is especially important for those who are starting out or are new to marketing. By knowing your target audience, you can produce more relevant and valuable content that they’ll want to read and convert on.

If you’re an experienced marketer, your target may have changed. Do you want to target a new group of people or expand your current target market? Do you want to keep the same target audience? Revisiting your audience parameters by conducting market research each year is crucial to growing your audience.

Featured Tool: Buyer Persona Generator

3. Run a content audit.

Early on, most brands start with blog posts. If you want to venture out into different formats, you can run a content audit to assess your top-performing and lowest-performing content. Then, use that information to inform which direction you take next.

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If you’ve been in business for a while, you should review your content marketing efforts and the results from it in the last year.

Figure out what you can do differently in the upcoming year and set new goals. Now is a great time to align your team’s goals with the rest of your organization’s goals.

Whatever stage you’re in, a content audit will help you determine what resonates best with your audience, identify gaps in your topic clusters, and brainstorm fresh content ideas.

4. Choose a content management system.

A few vital parts of content management include content creation, content publication, and content analytics.

You want to invest in a CMS to create, manage, and track your content in an easy and sustainable way.

With the HubSpot CMS, you can plan, produce, publish, and measure your results all in one place.

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Another popular CMS is WordPress, to which you can add the HubSpot WordPress plugin for free web forms, live chat, CRM access, email marketing, and analytics.

5. Determine which type of content you want to create.

There are a variety of options out there for content you can create, from written content like ebooks and blog posts to audio content like podcasts.

In the next section, we’ll discuss some of the most popular content formats marketers are creating, including some tools and templates to get you started.

6. Brainstorm content ideas.

Now, it’s time to start coming up with ideas for your next content project.

Here are some tools to get the juices flowing.

1. Feedly

The Feedly RSS feed is a wonderful way to track trendy topics in your industry and find content ideas at the same time.

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You start by telling the software what topics you’re most interested in and its AI tool will do the rest.

You won’t need to scour the internet to find new content ideas anymore. Instead, you can go through your curated list, compiled from news sites, newsletters, and social media. 

2. BuzzSumo

Want to discover popular content and content ideas? This company offers a number of market research tools, one of which uses social media shares to determine if a piece of content is popular and well-liked.

This information helps you see which content ideas would do well if you were to create content about them.

3. BlogAbout

Get your mind gears going with IMPACT’s blog title generator. This tool works a bit like Mad Libs, but instead of joke sentences, it shows you common headline formats with blanks where you can fill in the subject you have in mind.

This brainstorming technique helps you put general ideas in contexts that would be appealing to your target audience. Once you have a headline you like, BlogAbout lets you add it to your “Notebook” so you can save your best ideas.

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4. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

You can get blog post ideas for an entire year with HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator. All you need to do is enter general topics or terms you’d like to write about, and this content idea generator does all the work for you.

This tool analyzes headlines and titles and provides feedback on length, word choice, grammar, and keyword search volume.

If you have an idea in mind, run a few title options through the Headline Analyzer to see how you could make it stronger, and to move your idea further along in the brainstorming process.

5. HubSpot’s Website Grader

This is a great tool to use when you want to see where you’re at with your website and SEO efforts. The Website Grader grades you on vital areas of your website performance and sends you a detailed report to help you optimize.

With this tool, you can figure out how to make your website more SEO-friendly and discover areas of improvement.

7. Publish and manage your content.

Your marketing plan should go beyond the types of content you’ll create – it should also cover you’ll organize your content.

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With the help of an editorial calendar, you’ll be on the right track for publishing a well-balanced and diverse content library on your website. Then, create a social media content calendar to promote and manage your content on other sites.

Featured Tool: Free Editorial Calendar Templates

editorial calendar templates

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Many of the ideas you think of will be evergreen (i.e.: just as relevant months or years from now as they are today). That being said, you shouldn’t ignore timely topics either. While they may not be the bulk of your editorial calendar, they can help you generate spikes of traffic.

Most people count on incorporating popular holidays, like New Year’s, in their marketing efforts, but you don’t have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates.

If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. Check out this ultimate list of social media holidays — keep an eye on it when you’re planning your calendar.

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Content Marketing Strategy Template

Ready to get started with your own content marketing strategy? Download this helpful workbook.

content marketing strategy templateIt includes key readings and activities to help you fine-tune your plan and develop a robust strategy. You’ll learn how to:

  • Generate content ideas.
  • Create topic clusters and pillar pages. 
  • Promote your content. 
  • Repurpose your content based on your needs. 

Content Marketing Strategy Examples

To understand what a content strategy is, let’s explore some examples of real-life content strategies based on a few various business goals.

Let’s start with Evernote, a note-taking app, that developed an SEO-driven content strategy to attract new prospects to their website.

I’m a huge fan of Evernote’s blog, which offers a wealth of knowledge around the topic of productivity. The blog post, How To Stay Disciplined When Times Are Tough, made me laugh out loud – and incentivized me to grab a pen and write down some of the tips I liked best.

But why is a company that sells a note-taking app writing about discipline?

Because it’s how I found their website when I searched “How to stay disciplined” on Google.

People interested in reading content related to productivity are likely the same people interested in downloading Evernote’s note-taking product.

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On the contrary, if Evernote’s marketing team simply created content for the sake of increasing traffic – like publishing “Our 10 Favorite Beyonce Songs” – it wouldn’t be considered a content strategy at all, it would just be content.

A strategy needs to align content with business goals. In Evernote’s case, the strategy aligns content (blog posts on productivity) with the business goal of attracting leads (people interested in note-taking) to their site.

Let’s take a look at another example to see how a good content strategy can help businesses with sales enablement.

Consider the following scenario: A prospect calls a sales representative at Wistia and asks questions related to Wistia’s video hosting service. As the Wistia sales rep speaks with her, he learns her business is using a few other tools to convert leads into sales, including Intercom.

Bingo.

Once the call ends, the sales rep sends the prospect a follow-up email with a blog post about Wistia’s integration with Intercom, which enables Intercom users to further personalize messages to prospects based on video-watching data they collect through Wistia.

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This is a prime example of how you might use a content strategy as a sales enablement tool.

On the surface, it might seem odd that Wistia has dedicated content regarding another business’ tool. However, this content is a great resource for Wistia’s sales team, particularly when prospects have concerns regarding how Wistia’s product can integrate with their existing software or processes.

Now that we’ve explored a few examples of content strategies, let’s dive into the types of content marketing assets you can develop.

These are the eight most popular types of content marketing you can create for your readers and customers.

1. Blog Posts

If you haven’t already noticed, you’re currently reading a blog post. Blog posts live on a website and should be published regularly in order to attract new visitors.

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Posts should provide valuable content for your audience that makes them inclined to share posts on social media and across other websites.

We recommend that blog posts be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length, but you should experiment to see if your audience prefers longer or shorter reads.

Featured Tool: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

blog post templates

Check out our free blog post templates for writing great how-to, listicle, curation, SlideShare presentation, and newsjacking posts on your own blog.

2. Ebooks

Ebooks are lead generation tools that website visitors download after submitting a lead form with their contact information. They’re typically longer, more in-depth, and published less frequently than blog posts, which are written to attract visitors to a website.

But ebooks aren’t only effective for the top of the funnel.

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As Nora Leary, Growth Director at Ironpaper, Inc., notes, “Ebooks serve different purposes at varying stages in the buyer’s journey.”

She told me, “Awareness-level ebooks help educate the prospect about a certain pain point and are an excellent lead capture tool. The content should remain introductory and informational.”

Leary adds, “Ebooks can convert leads in the funnel by offering them useful tools as prospects consider their needs more in-depth. An ebook here might dive deeper into a particular problem and solution options and include templates or calculators. [Lastly,] ebooks further down the funnel should become more personalized and offer more sales content. Comparison guides or an ebook of case studies are beneficial for prospects at this stage.”

Ebooks are the next step in the inbound marketing process: After reading a blog post. such as this one, visitors might want more information.

This is where calls-to-action (CTAs) come into play, directing people to a landing page where they can submit their contact information and download an ebook to learn more valuable information for their business. In turn, the business producing the ebook has a new lead for the sales team to contact.

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Featured Tool: 18 Free Ebook Templates

ebook templates

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3. Case Studies

A case study allows you to tell a customer story and build credibility in the process.

A case study is perhaps your most versatile type of content marketing because it can take many different forms — some of which are on this list. That’s right, case studies can take the form of a blog post, ebook, podcast, even an infographic.

The goal is to demonstrate how your product helped real-life companies succeed. Before choosing a customer for a case study, you should determine to which business area you’re trying to drive value.

Featured Tool: 3 Free Case Study Templates

case study templates

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4. Templates

Templates are effective content marketing examples to try because they generate leads while offering tremendous value to your audience.

When you provide your audience with template tools to save them time and help them succeed, they’re more likely to engage with your content in the future.

5. Infographics

Infographics can organize and visualize data in a more compelling way than words alone.

These are great content formats to use if you’re trying to share a lot of data in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Featured Tool: 15 Free Infographic Templates

infographic template

If you’re ready to get started, get our templates for creating beautiful infographics in less than an hour.

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6. Videos

Videos are a highly engaging content medium and are shareable across social media platforms and websites alike.

Videos require a bigger investment of time and resources than written content, but as visual content continues to offer big ROI, it’s a medium worth exploring.

Featured Tool: Free Video Marketing Starter Pack + Templates

video marketing starter pack

Download for Free

7. Podcasts

Starting a podcast will help audiences find your brand if they don’t have time or interest in reading content every day.

The number of podcast listeners is growing — in 2021, there was a 10% year-over-year increase in U.S. podcast listeners.

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If you have interesting people to interview or conversations to host, consider podcasting as another content format to experiment with.

Featured Tool: How to Start a Podcast [Guide + Templates]

how to start a podcast

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8. Social Media

Once you’ve been regularly publishing content on your own site for a while, start thinking about a social media strategy to distribute your content on social media.

In addition to sharing your content, you can also repurpose it into new formats and create original content specifically for each platform.

Posting on social media is pivotal to amplifying your brand’s reach and delivering your content to your customers where you know they spend their time. Popular social networks include:

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When launching a business account on any of the social networks above, adjust your content to the platform.

On Instagram, for example, users want aesthetically pleasing visuals. With feeds, IGTV, Stories, you have a lot of room to play with. TikTok, on the other hand, appeals to a younger demographic that wants trendy, funny, and creative short-form video.

Do some market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.

It takes time, organization, and creativity to grow a successful content marketing strategy. From building the foundation of your content marketing plan to adding tools to better manage your content, setting up your strategy for the new year won’t be a hassle if you follow the steps and explore the resources here.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

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5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Welcome to Creator Columns, where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

I’ve tested 100s of psychological tactics on my email subscribers. In this blog, I reveal the five tactics that actually work.

You’ll learn about the email tactic that got one marketer a job at the White House.

You’ll learn how I doubled my 5 star reviews with one email, and why one strange email from Barack Obama broke all records for donations.

→ Download Now: The Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing [Free Ebook]

5 Psychological Tactics to Write Better Emails

Imagine writing an email that’s so effective it lands you a job at the White House.

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Well, that’s what happened to Maya Shankar, a PhD cognitive neuroscientist. In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked her to help increase signups in their veteran benefit scheme.

Maya had a plan. She was well aware of a cognitive bias that affects us all—the endowment effect. This bias suggests that people value items higher if they own them. So, she changed the subject line in the Veterans’ enrollment email.

Previously it read:

  • Veterans, you’re eligible for the benefit program. Sign up today.

She tweaked one word, changing it to:

  • Veterans, you’ve earned the benefits program. Sign up today.

This tiny tweak had a big impact. The amount of veterans enrolling in the program went up by 9%. And Maya landed a job working at the White House

Boost participation email graphic

Inspired by these psychological tweaks to emails, I started to run my own tests.

Alongside my podcast Nudge, I’ve run 100s of email tests on my 1,000s of newsletter subscribers.

Here are the five best tactics I’ve uncovered.

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1. Show readers what they’re missing.

Nobel prize winning behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky uncovered a principle called loss aversion.

Loss aversion means that losses feel more painful than equivalent gains. In real-world terms, losing $10 feels worse than how gaining $10 feels good. And I wondered if this simple nudge could help increase the number of my podcast listeners.

For my test, I tweaked the subject line of the email announcing an episode. The control read:

“Listen to this one”

In the loss aversion variant it read:

“Don’t miss this one”

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It is very subtle loss aversion. Rather than asking someone to listen, I’m saying they shouldn’t miss out. And it worked. It increased the open rate by 13.3% and the click rate by 12.5%. Plus, it was a small change that cost me nothing at all.

Growth mindset email analytics

2. People follow the crowd.

In general, humans like to follow the masses. When picking a dish, we’ll often opt for the most popular. When choosing a movie to watch, we tend to pick the box office hit. It’s a well-known psychological bias called social proof.

I’ve always wondered if it works for emails. So, I set up an A/B experiment with two subject lines. Both promoted my show, but one contained social proof.

The control read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws

The social proof variant read: New Nudge: Why Brands Should Flaunt Their Flaws (100,000 Downloads)

I hoped that by highlighting the episode’s high number of downloads, I’d encourage more people to listen. Fortunately, it worked.

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The open rate went from 22% to 28% for the social proof version, and the click rate, (the number of people actually listening to the episode), doubled.

3. Praise loyal subscribers.

The consistency principle suggests that people are likely to stick to behaviours they’ve previously taken. A retired taxi driver won’t swap his car for a bike. A hairdresser won’t change to a cheap shampoo. We like to stay consistent with our past behaviors.

I decided to test this in an email.

For my test, I attempted to encourage my subscribers to leave a review for my podcast. I sent emails to 400 subscribers who had been following the show for a year.

The control read: “Could you leave a review for Nudge?”

The consistency variant read: “You’ve been following Nudge for 12 months, could you leave a review?”

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My hypothesis was simple. If I remind people that they’ve consistently supported the show they’ll be more likely to leave a review.

It worked.

The open rate on the consistency version of the email was 7% higher.

But more importantly, the click rate, (the number of people who actually left a review), was almost 2x higher for the consistency version. Merely telling people they’d been a fan for a while doubled my reviews.

4. Showcase scarcity.

We prefer scarce resources. Taylor Swift gigs sell out in seconds not just because she’s popular, but because her tickets are hard to come by.

Swifties aren’t the first to experience this. Back in 1975, three researchers proved how powerful scarcity is. For the study, the researchers occupied a cafe. On alternating weeks they’d make one small change in the cafe.

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On some weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar was full.

On other weeks they’d ensure the cookie jar only contained two cookies (never more or less).

In other words, sometimes the cookies looked abundantly available. Sometimes they looked like they were almost out.

This changed behaviour. Customers who saw the two cookie jar bought 43% more cookies than those who saw the full jar.

It sounds too good to be true, so I tested it for myself.

I sent an email to 260 subscribers offering free access to my Science of Marketing course for one day only.

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In the control, the subject line read: “Free access to the Science of Marketing course”

For the scarcity variant it read: “Only Today: Get free access to the Science of Marketing Course | Only one enrol per person.”

130 people received the first email, 130 received the second. And the result was almost as good as the cookie finding. The scarcity version had a 15.1% higher open rate.

Email A/B test results

5. Spark curiosity.

All of the email tips I’ve shared have only been tested on my relatively small audience. So, I thought I’d end with a tip that was tested on the masses.

Back in 2012, Barack Obama and his campaign team sent hundreds of emails to raise funds for his campaign.

Of the $690 million he raised, most came from direct email appeals. But there was one email, according to ABC news, that was far more effective than the rest. And it was an odd one.

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The email that drew in the most cash, had a strange subject line. It simply said “Hey.”

The actual email asked the reader to donate, sharing all the expected reasons, but the subject line was different.

It sparked curiosity, it got people wondering, is Obama saying Hey just to me?

Readers were curious and couldn’t help but open the email. According to ABC it was “the most effective pitch of all.”

Because more people opened, it raised more money than any other email. The bias Obama used here is the curiosity gap. We’re more likely to act on something when our curiosity is piqued.

Email example

Loss aversion, social proof, consistency, scarcity and curiosity—all these nudges have helped me improve my emails. And I reckon they’ll work for you.

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It’s not guaranteed of course. Many might fail. But running some simple a/b tests for your emails is cost free, so why not try it out?

This blog is part of Phill Agnew’s Marketing Cheat Sheet series where he reveals the scientifically proven tips to help you improve your marketing. To learn more, listen to his podcast Nudge, a proud member of the Hubspot Podcast Network.

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The power of program management in martech

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The power of program management in martech

As a supporter of the program perspective for initiatives, I recognize the value of managing related projects, products and activities as a unified entity. 

While one-off projects have their place, they often involve numerous moving parts and in my experience, using a project-based approach can lead to crucial elements being overlooked. This is particularly true when building a martech stack or developing content, for example, where a program-based approach can ensure that all aspects are considered and properly integrated. 

For many CMOs and marketing organizations, programs are becoming powerful tools for aligning diverse initiatives and driving strategic objectives. Let’s explore the essential role of programs in product management, project management and marketing operations, bridging technical details with business priorities. 

Programs in product management

Product management is a fascinating domain where programs operate as a strategic framework, coordinating related products or product lines to meet specific business objectives.

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Product managers are responsible for defining a product or product line’s strategy, roadmap and features. They work closely with program managers, who ensure alignment with market demands, customer needs and the company’s overall vision by managing offerings at a program level. 

Program managers optimize the product portfolio, make strategic decisions about resource allocation and ensure that each product contributes to the program’s goals. One key aspect of program management in product management is identifying synergies between products. 

Program managers can drive innovation and efficiency across the portfolio by leveraging shared technologies, customer insights, or market trends. This approach enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions, seize emerging opportunities and maintain a competitive advantage. Product managers, in turn, use these insights to shape the direction of individual products.

Moreover, programs in product management facilitate cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. Program managers foster a holistic understanding of customer needs and market dynamics by bringing together teams from various departments, such as engineering, marketing and sales.

Product managers also play a crucial role in this collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders work towards common goals, ultimately leading to more successful product launches and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Dig deeper: Understanding different product roles in marketing technology acquisition

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Programs in project management

In project management, programs provide a structured approach for managing related projects as a unified entity, supporting broader strategic objectives. Project managers are responsible for planning, executing and closing individual projects within a program. They focus on specific deliverables, timelines and budgets. 

On the other hand, program managers oversee these projects’ coordination, dependencies and outcomes, ensuring they collectively deliver the desired benefits and align with the organization’s strategic goals.

A typical example of a program in project management is a martech stack optimization initiative. Such a program may involve integrating marketing technology tools and platforms, implementing customer data management systems and training employees on the updated technologies. Project managers would be responsible for the day-to-day management of each project. 

In contrast, the program manager ensures a cohesive approach, minimizes disruptions and realizes the full potential of the martech investments to improve marketing efficiency, personalization and ROI.

The benefits of program management in project management are numerous. Program managers help organizations prioritize initiatives that deliver the greatest value by aligning projects with strategic objectives. They also identify and mitigate risks that span multiple projects, ensuring that issues in one area don’t derail the entire program. Project managers, in turn, benefit from this oversight and guidance, as they can focus on successfully executing their projects.

Additionally, program management enables efficient resource allocation, as skills and expertise can be shared across projects, reducing duplication of effort and maximizing value. Project managers can leverage these resources and collaborate with other project teams to achieve their objectives more effectively.

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Dig deeper: Combining martech projects: 5 questions to ask

Programs in marketing operations

In marketing operations, programs play a vital role in integrating and managing various marketing activities to achieve overarching goals. Marketing programs encompass multiple initiatives, such as advertising, content marketing, social media and event planning. Organizations ensure consistent messaging, strategic alignment, and measurable results by managing these activities as a cohesive program.

In marketing operations, various roles, such as MOps managers, campaign managers, content managers, digital marketing managers and analytics managers, collaborate to develop and execute comprehensive marketing plans that support the organization’s business objectives. 

These professionals work closely with cross-functional teams, including creative, analytics and sales, to ensure that all marketing efforts are coordinated and optimized for maximum impact. This involves setting clear goals, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) and continuously monitoring and adjusting strategies based on data-driven insights.

One of the primary benefits of a programmatic approach in marketing operations is maintaining a consistent brand voice and message across all channels. By establishing guidelines and standards for content creation, visual design and customer interactions, marketing teams ensure that the brand’s identity remains cohesive and recognizable. This consistency builds customer trust, reinforces brand loyalty and drives business growth.

Programs in marketing operations enable organizations to take a holistic approach to customer engagement. By analyzing customer data and feedback across various touchpoints, marketing professionals can identify opportunities for improvement and develop targeted strategies to enhance the customer experience. This customer-centric approach leads to increased satisfaction, higher retention rates and more effective marketing investments.

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Dig deeper: Mastering the art of goal setting in marketing operations

Embracing the power of programs for long-term success

We’ve explored how programs enable marketing organizations to drive strategic success and create lasting impact by aligning diverse initiatives across product management, project management and marketing operations. 

  • Product management programs facilitate cross-functional collaboration and ensure alignment with market demands. 
  • In project management, they provide a structured approach for managing related projects and mitigating risks. 
  • In marketing operations, programs enable consistent messaging and a customer-centric approach to engagement.

Program managers play a vital role in maintaining strategic alignment, continuously assessing progress and adapting to changes in the business environment. Keeping programs aligned with long-term objectives maximizes ROI and drives sustainable growth.

Organizations that invest in developing strong program management capabilities will be better positioned to optimize resources, foster innovation and achieve their long-term goals.



As a CMO or marketing leader, it is important to recognize the strategic value of programs and champion their adoption across your organization. By aligning efforts across various domains, you can unlock the full potential of your initiatives and drive meaningful results. Try it, you’ll like it.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.

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

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

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2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business: Part 2

2 Ways to Take Back the Power in Your Business

Before we dive into the second way to assume power in your business, let’s revisit Part 1. 

Who informs your marketing strategy? 

YOU, with your carefully curated strategy informed by data and deep knowledge of your brand and audience? Or any of the 3 Cs below? 

  • Competitors: Their advertising and digital presence and seemingly never-ending budgets consume the landscape.
  • Colleagues: Their tried-and-true proven tactics or lessons learned.
  • Customers: Their calls, requests, and ideas. 

Considering any of the above is not bad, in fact, it can be very wise! However, listening quickly becomes devastating if it lends to their running our business or marketing department. 

It’s time we move from defense to offense, sitting in the driver’s seat rather than allowing any of the 3 Cs to control. 

It is one thing to learn from and entirely another to be controlled by. 

In Part 1, we explored how knowing what we want is critical to regaining power.

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1) Knowing what you want protects the bottom line.

2) Knowing what you want protects you from the 3 Cs. 

3) Knowing what you want protects you from running on auto-pilot.

You can read Part 1 here; in the meantime, let’s dive in! 

How to Regain Control of Your Business: Knowing Who You Are

Vertical alignment is a favorite concept of mine, coined over the last two years throughout my personal journey of knowing self. 

Consider the diagram below.

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Vertical alignment is the state of internal being centered with who you are at your core. 

Horizontal alignment is the state of external doing engaged with the world around you.

In a state of vertical alignment, your business operates from its core center, predicated on its mission, values, and brand. It is authentic and confident and cuts through the noise because it is entirely unique from every competitor in the market. 

From this vertical alignment, your business is positioned for horizontal alignment to fulfill the integrity of its intended services, instituted processes, and promised results. 

A strong brand is not only differentiated in the market by its vertical alignment but delivers consistently and reliably in terms of its products, offerings, and services and also in terms of the customer experience by its horizontal alignment. 

Let’s examine what knowing who you are looks like in application, as well as some habits to implement with your team to strengthen vertical alignment. 

1) Knowing who You are Protects You from Horizontal Voices. 

The strength of “Who We Are” predicates the ability to maintain vertical alignment when something threatens your stability. When a colleague proposes a tactic that is not aligned with your values. When the customer comes calling with ideas that will knock you off course as bandwidth is limited or the budget is tight. 

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I was on a call with a gal from my Mastermind when I mentioned a retreat I am excited to launch in the coming months. 

I shared that I was considering its positioning, given its curriculum is rooted in emotional intelligence (EQ) to inform personal brand development. The retreat serves C-Suite, but as EQ is not a common conversation among this audience, I was considering the best positioning. 

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She advised, “Sell them solely on the business aspects, and then sneak attack with the EQ when they’re at the retreat!” 

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. After all, there’s a reason why the phrase, “Sell the people what they want, give them what they need,” is popular.

Horizontal advice and counsel can produce a wealth of knowledge. However, we must always approach the horizontal landscape – the external – powered by vertical alignment – centered internally with the core of who we are. 

Upon considering my values of who I am and the vision of what I want for this event, I realized the lack of transparency is not in alignment with my values nor setting the right expectations for the experience.

Sure, maybe I would get more sales; however, my bottom line — what I want — is not just sales. I want transformation on an emotional level. I want C-Suite execs to leave powered from a place of emotional intelligence to decrease decisions made out of alignment with who they are or executing tactics rooted in guilt, not vision. 

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Ultimately, one of my core values is authenticity, and I must make business decisions accordingly. 

2) Knowing who You are Protects You from Reactivity.

Operating from vertical alignment maintains focus on the bottom line and the strategy to achieve it. From this position, you are protected from reacting to the horizontal pressures of the 3 Cs: Competitors, Colleagues, and Customers. 

This does not mean you do not adjust tactics or learn. 

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However, your approach to adjustments is proactive direction, not reactive deviations. To do this, consider the following questions:

First: How does their (any one of the 3 Cs) tactic measure against my proven track record of success?

If your colleague promotes adding newsletters to your strategy, lean in and ask, “Why?” 

  • What are their outcomes? 
  • What metrics are they tracking for success? 
  • What is their bottom line against yours? 
  • How do newsletters fit into their strategy and stage(s) of the customer journey? 

Always consider your historical track record of success first and foremost. 

Have you tried newsletters in the past? Is their audience different from yours? Why are newsletters good for them when they did not prove profitable for you? 

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Operate with your head up and your eyes open. 

Maintain focus on your bottom line and ask questions. Revisit your data, and don’t just take their word for it. 

2. Am I allocating time in my schedule?

I had coffee with the former CEO of Jiffy Lube, who built the empire that it is today. 

He could not emphasize more how critical it is to allocate time for thinking. Just being — not doing — and thinking about your business or department. 

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Especially for senior leaders or business owners, but even still for junior staff. 

The time and space to be fosters creative thinking, new ideas, and energy. Some of my best campaigns are conjured on a walk or in the shower. 

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Kasim Aslam, founder of the world’s #1 Google Ads agency and a dear friend of mine, is a machine when it comes to hacks and habits. He encouraged me to take an audit of my calendar over the last 30 days to assess how I spend time. 

“Create three buckets,” he said. “Organize them by the following:

  • Tasks that Generate Revenue
  • Tasks that Cost Me Money
  • Tasks that Didn’t Earn Anything”

He and I chatted after I completed this exercise, and I added one to the list: Tasks that are Life-Giving. 

Friends — if we are running empty, exhausted, or emotionally depleted, our creative and strategic wherewithal will be significantly diminished. We are holistic creatures and, therefore, must nurture our mind, body, soul, and spirit to maintain optimum capacity for impact. 

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I shared this hack with a friend of mine. Not only did she identify meetings that were costing her money and thus needed to be eliminated, but she also identified that particular meetings could actually turn revenue-generating! She spent a good amount of time each month facilitating introductions; now, she is adding Strategic Partnerships to her suite of services. 


ACTION: Analyze your calendar’s last 30-60 days against the list above. 

Include what is life-giving! 

How are you spending your time? What is the data showing you? Are you on the path to achieving what you want and living in alignment with who you want to be?

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Share with your team or business partner for the purpose of accountability, and implement practical changes accordingly. 


Finally, remember: If you will not protect your time, no one else will. 

3) Knowing who You are Protects You from Lack. 

“What are you proud of?” someone asked me last year. 

“Nothing!” I reply too quickly. “I know I’m not living up to my potential or operating in the full capacity I could be.” 

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They looked at me in shock. “You need to read The Gap And The Gain.”

I silently rolled my eyes.

I already knew the premise of the book, or I thought I did. I mused: My vision is so big, and I have so much to accomplish. The thought of solely focusing on “my wins” sounded like an excuse to abdicate personal responsibility. 

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But I acquiesced. 

The premise of this book is to measure one’s self from where they started and the success from that place to where they are today — the gains — rather than from where they hope to get and the seemingly never-ending distance — the gap.

Ultimately, Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan encourage changing perspectives to assign success, considering the starting point rather than the destination.

The book opens with the following story:

Dan Jensen was an Olympic speed skater, notably the fastest in the world. But in each game spanning a decade, Jansen could not catch a break. “Flukes” — even tragedy with the death of his sister in the early morning of the 1988 Olympics — continued to disrupt the prediction of him being favored as the winner. 

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The 1994 Olympics were the last of his career. He had one more shot.

Preceding his last Olympics in 1994, Jansen adjusted his mindset. He focused on every single person who invested in him, leading to this moment. He considered just how very lucky he was to even participate in the first place. He thought about his love for the sport itself, all of which led to an overwhelming realization of just how much he had gained throughout his life.

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He raced the 1994 Olympic games differently, as his mindset powering every stride was one of confidence and gratitude — predicated on the gains rather than the gap in his life. 

This race secured him his first and only gold medal and broke a world record, simultaneously proving one of the most emotional wins in Olympic history. 

Friends, knowing who we are on the personal and professional level, can protect us from those voices of shame or guilt that creep in. 


PERSONAL ACTION: Create two columns. On one side, create a list of where you were when you started your business or your position at your company. Include skills and networks and even feelings about where you were in life. On the other side, outline where you are today. 

Look at how far you’ve come. 

COMPANY ACTION: Implement a quarterly meeting to review the past three months. Where did you start? Where are you now? 

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Celebrate the gain!

Only from this place of gain mindset, can you create goals for the next quarter predicated on where you are today.


Ultimately, my hope for you is that you deliver exceptional and memorable experiences laced with empathy toward the customer (horizontally aligned) yet powered by the authenticity of the brand (vertically aligned). 

Aligning vertically maintains our focus on the bottom line and powers horizontal fulfillment. 

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Granted, there will be strategic times and seasons for adjustment; however, these changes are to be made on the heels of consulting who we are as a brand — not in reaction to the horizontal landscape of what is the latest and greatest in the industry. 

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In Conclusion…

Taking back control of your business and marketing strategies requires a conscious effort to resist external pressures and realign with what you want and who you are.

Final thoughts as we wrap up: 

First, identify the root issue(s).

Consider which of the 3 Cs holds the most power: be it competition, colleagues, or customers.

Second, align vertically.

Vertical alignment facilitates individuality in the market and ensures you — and I — stand out and shine while serving our customers well. 

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Third, keep the bottom line in view.

Implement a routine that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most, and then create the cascading strategy necessary to accomplish it. 

Fourth, maintain your mindsets.

Who You Are includes values for the internal culture. Guide your team in acknowledging the progress made along the way and embracing the gains to operate from a position of strength and confidence.

Fifth, maintain humility.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of humility and being open to what others are doing. However, horizontal alignment must come after vertical alignment. Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of the whims and fads of everyone around us. Humility allows us to be open to external inputs and vertically aligned at the same time.

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Buckle up, friends! It’s time to take back the wheel and drive our businesses forward. 

The power lies with you and me.


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