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What it is, and how it identifies vital customer touchpoints



What it is, and how it identifies vital customer touchpoints

Marketing attribution is an umbrella term describing the departments, people, and technology responsible for determining what marketing tactics and channels are contributing to sales, conversions, and leads. The responsibilities inherent in marketing attribution roles include:

  • Understanding which channels generate the most leads, sales, and revenue.
  • Identifying channels and touchpoints that refer the highest quality leads or the most valuable customers.
  • Predicting/planning marketing and/or advertising spend based on past performance.
  • Having a holistic understanding of the offline and online customer buying journey and weighting journey interactions appropriately.
  • Running/viewing reports and providing insights based on campaign data and analytics.
  • Measuring customer engagement for each touchpoint (e.g., multi-touch attribution).

In order to optimize current campaigns, and plan future ones, marketers need to know which touchpoints are effective in driving conversions. Given the complexity of today’s customer journey across digital and non-digital channels, this is an enormous challenge. The solution will have data at its core.

Marketers and C-level executives are feeling an increased demand to prove the effectiveness of their ad campaigns and marketing initiatives. For instance, 59% of marketing leaders said they face high levels of pressure from CEOs to show the impact of their efforts, according to the August 2021 CMO Survey sponsored by the American Marketing Association, Deloitte, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Marketing attribution has the potential to address this need.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of marketing attribution — what it is, why it’s important, and how marketing and sales teams can succeed with it. Key points covered include:

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

What is marketing attribution?

Marketing attribution is the process of measuring and assigning credit to any channel or touchpoint that impacts a company’s pipeline and revenue. However, the problem with attribution is that both B2B and B2C customer journeys are becoming more complex.

Traditional attribution modeling relies on interpreting static ROI metrics in a dynamic marketing environment. This can lead to false assumptions — and incorrect attribution — if marketers fail to dig deeper.

A dynamic marketing environment refers to the nonlinear characteristic of the modern customer journey. It speaks to how each piece of content, interaction, and experience contributes to the culmination of the buying journey (e.g., the sale, lead, or conversion).

What it is and how it identifies vital customer touchpoints

Tracking and measuring interactions is the easy part. Understanding the context and importance of each interaction—how it ultimately contributes to the customer’s final action — is the hard part, particularly when you’re weighing the combined impact of offline and online channels. The ability to do this well begins and ends with data, so it makes sense that the tools that facilitate marketing attribution focus on ingesting, measuring, and interpreting data.

Types of marketing attribution models

There are several different types of marketing attribution models that marketers use to assign credit to their initiatives. It’s important to understand them if you want to do marketing attribution the right way.

First-touch attribution. This model gives 100% of the credit for a conversion or sale to the first customer touchpoint. Take paid search or social clicks, for example. It’s very easy to give a paid search or social ad all the credit for a sale because it’s easy to see the click-to-sale funnel in your Google Analytics report.

But this model also relies on third-party cookies to deliver the information. (We’ll get to why that’s a problem in a bit.) It also discounts any other interactions the customer may have had before or between the ad click and the final sale. This is the model that tends to annoy your sales team since the credit is given to the channel bringing in the lead rather than the work required to close the sale.

Last-touch attribution. This gives 100% of the credit for a conversion or sale to the last touchpoint the customer interacted with before converting. Sales teams like this model because it tends to favor sales materials like eBooks, webinars, and demos over top-of-funnel touchpoints like search ads.

Multi-touch attribution. Multi-touch gives credit to every touchpoint and interaction along a customer’s buying journey that contributes to the final conversion or sale. Traditional multi-touch models tend to be linear, meaning they weigh each touchpoint equally. There’s been much debate about the value of making assumptions based on metrics alone (e.g., more leads equals more success).

In a perfect multi-touch attribution world, marketers can weigh the impact of each touchpoint based on how it influences the final sale or conversion. This is where martech tools can help.

What it is and how it identifies vital customer touchpoints

Explore capabilities from vendors like Adobe, Pointillist, SharpSpring, Salesforce and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on customer journey analytics platforms.

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Why should marketers care about attribution?

The only way marketers can optimize current and future campaigns is by knowing which touchpoints are effective in driving results. Given the complexity of today’s customer journey across digital and non-digital channels, this is an enormous challenge.

That some marketing dollars will inevitably be wasted is not news. Way back in 2018, nearly 30% of global marketers said they wasted nearly a third of their marketing budgets, and half wasted about 20%.

Marketing attribution promises to redirect the flow of wasted dollars from ineffective channels to those channels and tactics that are most effective. When it comes to marketing, everything is measurable.

You should care about proper marketing attribution because:

  • It tells you what things you should be paying attention to and which have less value.
  • It helps you predict what’s coming so you can make real-time adjustments in your marketing approach.
  • It helps you spend your marketing dollars wisely.
  • It empowers your marketing and sales teams to make better decisions about their budgets and time.
  • It requires that marketing, sales, product, and management teams talk to each other to evaluate the customer journey holistically.
  • It banishes data siloes.

However, marketing attribution isn’t a perfect science. Markets are “complex adaptive systems,” says marketing strategist Kathleen Schaub, meaning the interactions between audiences and brands can be unpredictable with so many factors creating feedback loops. Marketers must acknowledge that ROI measurement is complex and requires a combination of optimized management structures and high-quality marketing attribution tools.

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While every team in an organization benefits when they understand their company’s unique buying cycle, marketing attribution tools are generally the purview of marketing teams.

Here are some use cases that highlight these tools and how they’re used.

The CMO of a B2B company wants to understand how the latest top-of-funnel brand strategy is impacting revenue. Connecting branding initiatives to revenue is a tough exercise. It requires measuring things like brand experience and level of awareness based on interaction and engagement, ultimately tying both to sales. Tools like SproutSocial and Brandwatch can be integrated with marketing analytics platforms to understand how marketing impacts brand awareness, which impacts sales.

The CMO of a global retail chain wants to understand what paid media channels contribute to the highest-value customers. Multi-touch attribution can help this CMO understand which paid media sources deliver the highest value customers by tying the top-of-funnel tactic (e.g., search ads) to mid- and low-funnel activities (e.g., adding items to the shopping cart, initiating a chat on the e-commerce website, etc.) The goal here is to redistribute ad spend to the most effective activities without increasing the marketing budget.

The owner of a local restaurant wants to know what offers and promotions resonate best with customers. Consumer behavior data procurement is vital when making marketing decisions, and marketers need attribution tools to help identify which events in the buyer journey drive the most conversions. Attributing conversion values to specific offers, promotions, and other calls-to-action can show businesses which circumstances lead to higher levels of customer buy-in.

The CEO of a Fortune 500 tech company wants to move away from third-party data and better understand the buying journey from their customers’ perspective. Appropriate attribution requires high-quality data, but most marketers currently use third-party cookies to create, track, and optimize ad campaigns. As we move to a cookieless world, marketing attribution will increasingly rely on first-party data using tools like CDPs, identity resolution platforms, and journey orchestration engines (JOEs) to get a deep understanding of their customers’ buying journey.

What is digital transformation

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The CMO of a CPG brand wants to understand if pairing certain online and offline touchpoints lift brand and/or ad recall. Marketing attribution, if done right, will enable you to unify every channel and touchpoint across the buying journey. Machine learning and AI can make these connections for you, synthesizing data from a range of sources to surface insights that can help you understand how offline touchpoints like TV and radio work with digital channels to improve campaign performance.

Any tool that helps identify how your ads, content, and media contribute to campaign performance falls under the umbrella of marketing attribution software. But to be considered a true marketing attribution platform, a tool must contain the following features:

  • It supports a broad range of online and offline channels: digital, TV, radio, OTT, podcast, and IoT to capture interactions between your customers and your brand.
  • It offers “big picture” analysis by ingesting — and normalizing — data from a variety of campaigns, platforms, and sources.
  • It supports statistical modeling to get more meaningful information from incomplete or imperfect data.
  • It employs predictive analytics generally via AI and machine learning to help marketers plan campaigns.
  • It uses a variety of different attribution models, including single-touch, multi-touch, algorithmic, custom models, etc. to support all business types.
  • It has robust reporting and data visualization features that can deliver insights and reports in real-time based on user-specific KPIs and goals.
  • It integrates with martech/ad tech tools, e.g., fits seamlessly with your tech stack.
  • It typically has a relationship with walled-garden platforms like Amazon and Facebook to add additional data points that yield deeper insights.

Examples of marketing attribution tool capabilities

Marketers looking for tools that give them more in-depth customer touchpoint data will find a slew of helpful functions in attribution tools. Here are some of their capabilities and offerings.

Ingestion and management of offline marketing data. Although more and more marketing touchpoints are moving to digital channels, offline events still account for a large portion of most customer journeys and continue to grow. Attribution tools can help marketing account for this offline data to ensure these touchpoints don’t get lost in the mix.

A single source of truth when evaluating channel effectiveness. Since marketing attribution tools measure touchpoints from a variety of channels and platforms, they’re able to offer marketers a single source of baseline data, which helps increase their confidence in the numbers.

Increased opportunities for personalization. Attribution tools can give marketers a more accurate picture of their customers’ preferred communication mediums and channels. This valuable data makes it easier for marketers to increase personalization.

Campaign spend analysis. These tools do a great job of offering marketers insights into the channels and touchpoints that have the best ROI. This allows them to better allocate campaign spend to the most profitable areas.

Each attribution platform is different, so remember to ask vendors about their specific capabilities when evaluating your options.

How marketing attribution can help marketers succeed

Marketing attribution technology can help marketers justify budgets and plan more effective strategies without third-party cookies. Unifying customer journey data across touchpoints and channels can help marketing and sales teams deliver more value.

Marketers are beginning to understand what consumers already knew — it’s all one buying journey. According to a recent study by The Trade Desk, the number of marketers who plan to use sales data very frequently will triple in the coming year. In addition, nearly 80% of respondents said they plan to use point-of-sale data to inform their advertising activity, connecting this activity to consumer purchases that occur both in physical stores and online.

While marketing attribution relies on good data, it also requires knowledge of the current market and a multi-disciplinary approach to analyzing — and acting on — campaign performance data. Marketers who connect the dots across the entire buying journey are in a much better position to anticipate and respond to changes in the market (and in consumer behavior) than those who don’t.

Resources for learning more about marketing attribution

There are many tools and resources available that can help brands track and gain insights from each customer touchpoint. Here are some we believe will be beneficial:

Marketing attribution and predictive analytics: A snapshot

What it is. Marketing attribution and predictive analytics platforms are software that employ sophisticated statistical modeling and machine learning to evaluate the impact of each marketing touch a buyer encounters along a purchase journey across all channels, with the goal of helping marketers allocate future spending. Platforms with predictive analytics capabilities also use data, statistical algorithms and machine learning to predict future outcomes based on historical data and scenario building.

Why it’s hot today. Many marketers know roughly half their media spend is wasted, but few are aware of which half that is. And with tight budgets due to the economic uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are seeking to rid themselves of waste.

Attribution challenges. Buyers are using more channels and devices in their purchase journeys than ever before. The lack of attributive modeling and analytics makes it even more difficult to help them along the way.

Marketers continuing to use traditional channels find this challenge magnified. The advent of digital privacy regulations has also led to the disappearance of third-party cookies, one of marketers’ most useful data sources.

Marketing attribution and predictive analytics platforms can help marketers tackle these challenges. They give professionals more information about their buyers and help them get a better handle on the issue of budget waste.

Read Next: What do marketing attribution and predictive analytics tools do?

About The Author

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Jacqueline Dooley is a freelance B2B content writer and journalist covering martech industry news and trends. Since 2018, she’s worked with B2B-focused agencies, publications, and direct clients to create articles, blog posts, whitepapers, and eBooks. Prior to that, Dooley founded Twelve Thousand, LLC where she worked with clients to create, manage, and optimize paid search and social campaigns.

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Top 3 Strategies for Success



Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

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In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

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If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.


E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes



Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”


“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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The Future of Content Success Is Social



The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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