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Martech is mainly about relationships



My approach to the marketing technology field has been geared toward focusing on human topics like relationships.  Marketing technology, however, is certainly a technical discipline, and my route to this field began by working closely with web developers and designers as well as software programmers.  Further, it obviously involves marketing acumen, which I’ve picked up on the job.  Granted, one can certainly argue that most – if not all – professions are mainly about relationships, but I can certainly speak to martech.

I’ve tried to focus some of my columns on the relationship aspects of our field for a few reasons.  First, there are so many other experts and voices who provide great technical and marketing insights.  There isn’t a shortage of those.  Second, it has provided me with a niche to fill.  Third, my work experience has really impressed upon me that the technical and business aspects of working in this field are the easier (certainly not always easy) parts of the job; relationships, on the other hand, can be much more difficult.

Relationships are important – particularly, as Milton Hwang argues, where marketing operations and tech leaders have become modernizers.  Darrell Alfonso also provides some valuable insights into how practitioners handling the day-to-day and tactical aspects of marketing operations can better understand the leader’s perspective.  Alfonso weaves relationship tips throughout his piece.

You’re not alone

How often have you had a straightforward project get held up by bureaucracy or office politics?  Have you ever tried to get a colleague to slow down so that you all could more thoroughly evaluate a need or problem?  Ever been involved in training or providing other enablement to end users?  How about trying to jockey for organizational funding and priority for your project over your colleagues’ projects?  Is it just me or is persuading other people to your position not always easy peasy?  Moving and shaking is fun until the pushback, right?

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Change and project management

There are many tools and strategies out there for addressing the tricky parts of relationships.  For instance, I’ve written about the value of change management and project management methodologies to martech practitioners.  

Change management acknowledges that resistance is inevitable – regardless of whether people perceive that a change is positive, neutral, or negative.  It provides tools and tactics to anticipate, evaluate, and address such resistance.  If that doesn’t involve relationships, I don’t know what does.  Hopefully, when change management is used correctly, no one will need to even fret that resistance is futile as people will feel that their perspective and input are considered.  There’s a reason why the Borg aren’t popular.

Project management on the other hand provides structure to getting stuff done.  It establishes roles and responsibilities along with cadences, ceremonies, definitions, measurement standards, and artifacts to assist a group to collectively work together to accomplish tasks.  The agile philosophy and its accompanying Scrum framework are rather popular, and my fellow contributor Stacey Ackerman has written about how to apply them in martech contexts.  By clearly establishing a framework for action, people are better aware of roles, expectations, and schedules — and that all helps promote healthy relationships among the people involved.

Winning & influencing

I kid you all not.  While I was drafting this column, a senior leader here at my employer Zuora shared his notes regarding Dale Carnegie’s seminal work “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  He shared them since he believes that its principles are critical to individual and collective success.  Not only is it easier to accomplish things when people choose to get along but typically the results are superior as well.

It is important to note that Carnegie’s principles are related to leadership.  Unlike managing, anyone can participate in leading — no matter how junior or senior they are.  Focusing on establishing and maintaining positive relationships can help junior individuals punch above their weight, but when senior individuals foster healthy relationships, they too can shine as people respect and value positive leaders.  I’ve seen individuals across the seniority spectrum both fail and excel when it comes to relationships, and based upon how my colleagues have responded and reacted, my unscientific and anecdotal sample shows that it is better to strive to be likable.

Carnegie’s philosophy can certainly help martech practitioners excel if they choose to incorporate it into their work.  Working in martech involves changing things and influencing others, and failing to consider the importance of interpersonal relationships will likely hinder a practitioner’s ability to thrive.

I can also personally attest to the senior Zuora leader’s focus on fostering positive relationships and on placing people first; he walks the walk.  He’s proof that being nice can lead to success.  His resume shows that he has advanced and thrived professionally at companies of significant consequence like SAP.  If he can, so can all of you.

The difficult stuff

Don’t get me wrong.  Integrations, RFPs, measuring KPIs, and similar activities are not always easy.  However, relationships are involved in all of them, and if my experience is representative, relationships are the toughest aspects of martech.  Why not try to make this aspect not only more tolerable but enjoyable and effective to boot?

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

About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area. Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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Email Marketing Trends 2023: Predictions by the Industry Stalwarts



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Every year, we see new trends entering the world of email marketing.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers



5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.


“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023



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Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.


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