A personalized email will rise above the noise and engage the reader’s attention. That seems like a no-brainer. “To this day, no-one has really cracked the code,” John Hendricks told us. “You talk about personalization and it’s ‘Dear Kim’ or ‘Happy Wednesday.’”
Hendricks is the founder and CEO of Ergo, a content automation platform for email that is trying to solve the puzzle of how to personalize at scale. He has a long career in email. He co-founded Bigfoot, one of the first ESPs at the end of the 1990s (it was acquired by Epsilon). “My DNA has always been with email,” he said. “When I started this company it was to help advanced email marketers get a little deeper into doing cooler things.” That turned out to be a long, evolving process.
Containers, not content
“One of the big gaps we noticed, especially during the advent of marketing automation, is that everybody really shifted their focus to the containers — when you were going to send something out — and a lot of engineering, data, technology, operational resources and marketing bandwidth went into that, and the content wasn’t relevant.”
The results indicated that this was a misbalance. “You have this over-engineered infrastructure and your opt-outs are going up, people are tuning out, they’re giving ghost email addresses,” said Hendricks. “The blinding flash of the obvious to us was that no one was paying attention to what goes inside those containers. That’s really the essence of what we do.”
Enterprise-level brands have hundreds of thousand or millions of customers, thousands or tens of thousands of content modules. Matching them at scale is the challenge.
“When you start to look at content automation you have people that are either putting logic around the content or logic around the customer,” said Hendricks. “The epiphany for us was how those two things interplay with one another.“
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Content modules and customer profiles
Ergo Content Automation Services, said Hendricks, can ingest any piece of clients’ information through CSV files, APIs, or just html, and render it as a piece of content. It will take the data and turn it into a content module. “Those modules sit in a customer-level, pretty vast library, that then gets targeted based on anything that we or the client notices about the customer. We get signals, they get modeled, and that becomes targeting logic, and that becomes a very virtuous cycle.” Machine learning means that the more the algorithms do this, the smarter they get. “The algorithms typically are optimized for click engagement,” said Hendricks.
Is this really operating at an individual, one-to-one level? “It’s all really around the notion of next-best-message, next-best-content,” Hendricks explained. “For a given piece of content you may have five cohorts or life-stages for a customer and let’s say, maybe, seven competing topics you want to talk to them about. Of all the things we could say, what is the customer most primed for?”
Email marketing expert Ryan Phelan emphasized the enormous challenges in what Ergo is seeking to do. “I have to tell the algorithm what it means to browse a page or show intent. This process is incredibly intensive and particular to a company and their target market and customer archetype.” He also queried whether optimizing for clicks is enough, suggesting that identifying item- or category-specific intent for purchase would be more valuable.
While Ergo Content Automation is agnostic to type of email, Hendricks told us that its main focus is on email newsletters. “We do everything but we’re really trying to zero in on the idea of a modern newsletter,” he said. “This works well for any recurring program — you wouldn’t do it for a one-off, but you shouldn’t be doing a one-off email in the 21st century anyway. Either fixed deployment, like a newsletter that goes out every Monday, or every first day of the month, or any structured cadence, it works.”
Ergo recently announced the launch of Content Automation Services on the Salesforce AppExchange. “Salesforce does many things well and they’re the gold standard,” Hendricks said. “But Forrester, in their most recent wave, cited them for not having the most robust dynamic content; that was a shortfall for advanced marketers. We saw a pretty big opportunity to bring something to their world.”
At the end of the day, brands are going to say something to their customers via email. “What we’re saying is, bubble up the most relevant content that you can conceive of, and that’s what you should be talking to them about.”
About The Author
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.
Alex Atzberger: Now that you’ve stepped into the CMO role, what are you looking forward to?
Shafqat Islam: It’s amazing to take on this role at both a category creator and leader. How many brands can be a leader in almost every category–think Experimentation and CMS–that we play in?
And we have so much to look forward to and build on. We have an exceptional team of marketing leaders and practitioners. They are fiercely intelligent, optimistic, and care deeply about what our products can *do* for our customers. Not just for the people who will encounter the marketing, retail, and product experiences that we support, but for the people who build them. As somebody who has both built products and been deeply immersed in marketing, I love the perspective that our team has.
Alex Atzberger: What makes Optimizely unique?
Shafqat Islam: First off, we’re category creators in experimentation and content management, both CMS and CMP. Marketers know this, and analysts know it, as something like 7 major analyst reports will tell you.
Martech is a crowded field, so it’s true that there are a lot of firms whose territory overlaps with some of ours. But show me another company that can handle the entire content lifecycle like we can. Or show me another company that can do both feature flagging and experimentation.
We also have a legendary legacy in the martech world. Before I joined, I knew that A/B testing and Optimizely were synonymous, and that the company’s roots go all the way back to the origins of the practice. And that’s something that is like common folklore in marketing and technology.
And more than anything, the 1500 people who work here are world-class.
Alex Atzberger: Being a CMO talking to other CMOs and marketing leaders is an advantage. You know the customer. But you’ve also built tech products. How does that affect your work now?
Shafqat Islam: I’ve spent the majority of my adult life building products for marketers. So I’ve been lucky to spend so much time talking to CMOs and marketers in almost every type of company all over the world. As the founder/CEO of Welcome, my approach was to solve marketer challenges by building products. But now as CMO, I get to use the products we build.
We’re practitioners of all of our own solutions, so in addition to the natural empathy I have for marketers, I am also close to the job’s unique challenges every day. There’s nothing like that to keep you sharp and keep you close to the customer.
As a product builder, I knew we must always speak to business outcomes. But as CMO, I love that we aren’t just talking about the solutions – we’re living them, too.
Because I was an entrepreneur for so long, I also bring another unique view – my willingness to take smart risks. I love to try things, even if (especially if?) the results are sometimes surprising. When it comes to experimentation, there are no failures, only learnings.
Alex Atzberger: What are the biggest challenges you’re hearing from our customers, current and future?
Shafqat Islam: Growth, especially given how tough it is out there for so many industries. The stakes are very high when it comes to creating experiences that will win and retain customers. That’s what all of our customers–especially the retail heavyweights-are thinking about.
And marketing and technology leaders need to do this with leaner budgets. Efficiency matters a lot right now, and that means not only reducing the costs you can see, like the price tag attached to software, but also the costs you can’t see right away, like how much time and money it takes to manage a set of solutions. With that said, in tough times, I think the strongest brands can not just survive but also thrive. I also think when others are fearful, that may be the time to invest aggressively.
And in the background of all this, there is still the ever-expanding list of customer touchpoints. This is simultaneously an exciting challenge for marketers and an exciting opportunity. More data means more effective storytelling– if you can use it right.
I also hear marketers when they say there’s a need for a shared space for collaboration among us. The role of the marketer is expansive, and it’s only getting more complicated. Building a community where we can come together and appreciate our shared goals is difficult, but I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.
Alex Atzberger: What is next in our space? What will marketing and technology leaders be talking about six months from now?
Shafqat Islam: Looking around now, it’s clear that 2023 will be the year that AI-generated content goes mainstream. We’re just starting to see the uses and the consequences of this. There’s already buzz about ChatGPT and its capabilities, and platforms are already making space to integrate AI functionality into their offerings. It could be an exciting way for users to become better equipped to create and share high-quality content.
Customers also have gotten very used to personalization. Every screen they see daily is personalized, whether it’s their Netflix account or social feeds. So, when I see a site that isn’t personalized, I kind of scratch my head and wonder, why? With personalization now the norm, expectations for digital creators are sky-high.
Want to maximize the potential of your social media campaign? Then you must ensure to choose the right brand ambassador for the job. Having a good ambassador will increase your social media reach and boost sales. But, selecting the best ambassador can be tricky.
This guide will show you the key steps to consider when selecting the perfect brand ambassador for your social media campaign. From assessing their influence to ensuring their content matches your brand’s mission. This guide will give you the insights you need to make the right decision.
Understanding the role of a brand ambassador
A brand ambassador acts as a company representative, promoting the brand’s products to a specific audience. They are selected for their influence and ability to communicate the brand’s message. Their primary goal is to increase brand awareness and engagement with the audience.
To achieve this, an ambassador shares the brand’s message and builds connections with the target audience. They help to establish trust and credibility for the brand by personally endorsing it through their own experiences. Also, they provide valuable feedback to the company, allowing for product improvements.
Tips for choosing the right ambassador for your social media campaign
1) Assess the credibility and influence of potential ambassadors.
One of the first steps is to ensure they have a very active social media presence. Make sure they have many followers and a high engagement rate. Check the number of followers they have and the type of posts they share. This will give you a good idea of the content they generate and let you know if they are a good fit for your campaign.
Make sure their posts are relevant and appropriate for your brand. If their content is not a good fit, you may want to reconsider hiring them for your campaign. This is important if your brand has a particular message you wish to convey to your audience. If their content is not in line with your brand’s values, it could have a negative effect on your brand’s image.
2) Analyze the compatibility between the ambassador’s content and your brand’s mission.
It’s common to think that a famous ambassador would be a good fit for your campaign. But if their content is not in line with your brand, they are not an option. You may want to go further and check the interaction between their posts and followers. If the interaction is very high and followers actively participate, this is a good indicator of the quality of the ambassador. This will show how much impact the ambassador has among their followers. The interaction of the followers with the ambassador’s posts is important, as it is a good way for them to get to know your brand better.
3) Make sure the ambassador is present on the right social networks.
If your brand uses more than one type of social media, you should ensure the ambassador is present on them. You can choose an ambassador who is active on most of the major social networks. But, you must ensure they have an appropriate presence on each platform.
For example, it may not be a good idea to select an ambassador who is primarily active on Instagram for a Facebook-centric campaign. Remember that followers on each platform are different, and it’s important to reach your desired audience. If the ambassador you choose is present on the right social media platform, it will be easier for them to reach your audience.
4) Set expectations and establish the terms of the partnership.
Once you have selected an ambassador and they have agreed to collaborate with your brand, set the terms of the collaboration. Set clear expectations and tell the ambassador precisely what you want them to do. This includes specifying the type of content that should be posted. It is also important to outline the kind of connection that should be fostered between their followers and your company.
Also, be sure to establish payment terms and any other essential partnership details. For example, if you want the ambassador to promote your brand at a specific event, let them know so they can prepare.
5) Consider brand ambassadors who have experience participating in events.
A brand ambassador with experience working at events and comfortable interacting with customers can be a valuable asset to your campaign. They will be able to promote your brand and products at events and help to build a positive image for your company.
Find a brand ambassador who is professional and comfortable in a high-energy environment. This will ensure they can effectively represent your brand and engage with customers at events. Hire an event staffing agency to ensure the event runs smoothly and let brand ambassadors focus on promoting the brand and connecting with the audience.
6) Complete the selection and onboarding process
Make sure you select an available ambassador with the right skills for your campaign. Verify that the ambassador’s availability matches your campaign schedule.
It’s a good idea to start interacting with the ambassador on social media. It will help you establish a strong relationship, making promoting your brand more accessible. Show the audience that they have rallied behind your brand and thank them for their support.
7) Follow-up and evaluation of the ambassador’s success
Once the campaign is over, follow up with the ambassador to test its success. Ask the ambassador if your promotion has been effective and get their feedback on the campaign. This is an excellent way to improve your campaign the next time you run it. It will also help you identify areas where you can improve your social media strategy.
You can test the success of your social media campaign by looking at three main factors: reach, engagement, and conversions. By considering these factors, you can determine the success of your social media campaign. Also, you can identify any areas that need improvement.
Brands use brand ambassadors to increase engagement and sales of their products. An ambassador has a large following and regularly interacts with your audience. When selecting an ambassador, consider factors such as their social media presence and the ability to communicate your brand’s message. Taking the time to choose the proper brand ambassador will ensure the success of your social media campaign.
More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content, brand – are asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.
You must get your arms around:
Who is involved (and, I mean, every who) in content creation
How content is created
What content is created by whom
Where content is conceived, created, and stored
When and how long it takes for content to happen
Why content is created (the driving forces behind content creation)
What kinds of content does the audience want
How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this
The evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their efforts. They must now also consider, construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.
Content operations are the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to effectiveness measurement, and ideation to content management. All too frequently at the companies – large and small – we consult with at The Content Advisory, content operations are left to evolve/happen in an organic fashion.
Teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”
Translation: Nobody wants the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it. So, content teams just go on saying everything is fine.
News flash – it’s not.
It’s not just about who does what when with content.
Done right, content operations enable efficacy and efficiency of processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential for strategic planning, creation, management, and analysis for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise from ideation to archive.
A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.
What holds many content, administrative, and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations strategy and framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”
Here’s some help in high-level, easy-to-follow steps.
1. Articulate the purpose of content
Purpose is why the team does what it does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it drives all content efforts and should be the first question asked every time content is created or updated. Think of it as the guiding star for all content efforts.
In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”
Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? This is not about identifying what assets will be created.
Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition? Does it align with or directly support a higher, corporate-level objective and/or message? Hint: It should.
Answering all those questions solidifies your content mission.
The marketer’s field manual to content operations
A hands-on primer for marketers to upgrade their content production process – by completing a self-audit and following our step-by-step best practices. Get the e-book.
3. Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results
Once your content mission is in place, it is time to set out how to determine success.
Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy. One of the best ways is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.
OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, establish checkpoints to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.
Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:
Documenting user and technical requirements
Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
Implementing and rolling out the tool.
You would keep tabs on elements/initiatives, such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.
One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.
With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What does the structure look like? Who reports to whom?
Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.
Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.
Under brand communications is each brand or line of business followed by these jointly connected teams: content – marcom, social/digital content development and management, center of excellence content – creative leader, center of excellence PR/media relations, customer relationship management, and social advertising.
Under the content center of excellence is the director of content strategy, manager of content traffic, projects, and planning, digital asset operations manager, audience manager, social channel and content specialist, creative manager, content performance and agility specialist, and program specialist.
No matter how the operational framework is built, you need a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards.
Get a senior-management advocate – ideally someone from the C-suite – to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.
To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should have an editorial advisory group – also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys. This group should include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content. The group should provide input and oversight and act as touchpoints to the rest of the organization.
Pointing to Simon Sinek again for wisdom here: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”
6. Create efficient processes and workflows
Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.
How is content generated from start to finish? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same or in a similar way.
You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is created and published today, including:
Who is involved (internal and external resources)
How progress is tracked
Who the doers and approvers are
What happens to the content after it’s completed
Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.
This example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company) includes three tiers. The first tier covers the process for a social content request. Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content, and tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content:
How many tools are you using? Many organizations grow through acquisitions, so they inherit duplicate or overlapping functionality within their content stacks. There might be two or three content management systems (CMS) and several marketing automation platforms.
Do a technology audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, deploy technology to automate that process.
The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet is an acceptable starting place and can be one of your most important tools.
The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.
Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It requires sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.
None of it is easy – but the payoff is more than worth it.
Updated from a November 2021 post.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute