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Where There’s a Goal, There’s a Way: 4 Strategy-Led Content Programs

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Where There’s a Goal, There’s a Way: 4 Strategy-Led Content Programs

This much-repeated mantra bears repeating: You can’t succeed at content marketing unless you know what goals you’re trying to achieve.

It’s not easy to distill the potential benefits of content marketing into one laser-focused goal. Yet, nailing down your driving purpose makes it easier to explore new possibilities to achieve it.

Nailing down your #content’s purpose makes it easier to explore the possibilities to achieve it, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Want proof? Look no further than the accomplishments of the 2022 Content Marketing Awards strategy category winners and finalists.

These examples illustrate how strategy-led campaigns can amplify a brand’s persuasive power, excite its audience, and achieve goals at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Though their industries, audiences, investment levels, and creative approaches differ, each offers a lesson to guide your content marketing efforts.

Goal: Brand awareness

Brand: Glenfiddich

Media partner: Forbes

Approach: Distill data, storytelling, and multiplatform distribution into a content cocktail that shifts audience perceptions.

Single-malt Scotch whisky is a strong drink strongly associated with powerful pop culture characters like Mad Men’s Don Draper, Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, and Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson.

But does the liquor’s strength give it the power to win the preferential attention of high-net-worth individuals and discerning spirit connoisseurs? That was the goal Glenfiddich, a luxury whisky distiller, aimed to achieve with an integrated multimedia campaign built around the 40th anniversary of the Forbes 400 list.

The compelling pitch for their novel premise? It’s time to redefine what it means to be wealthy and successful.

Glenfiddich kicked off the campaign with an original research study, Professional Success in America: Personal Priorities and Social Misunderstanding. It probed U.S. attitudes on the characteristics that define success. The brand created its inaugural #Richest25 List, profiling influential achievers who embody those characteristics.

@GlenfiddichSMW conducted an original research study as part of its #ContentMarketing plan to capture a wealthy and successful audience, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The resulting stories were published and promoted across media partner Forbes’ ecosystem. Assets ranged from premium branded content and editorial stories on the Forbes website to social media ads and a print sponsorship of the Forbes 400 issue. That included ads that raised thought-provoking questions, with an overlay of Glenfiddich’s stag logo as illustrated in the image below with the phrase, “Title or respect? Ask yourself, what’s next?”

1663719603 23 Where Theres a Goal Theres a Way 4 Strategy Led Content

The key concepts and related imagery were incorporated into Glenfiddich’s website content and product pages to tie everything back to the brand’s Scotch whisky.

Results: According to Forbes, the integrated program garnered over 20 million cross-platform impressions. It also changed perceptions: Glenfiddich saw a lift in brand awareness (18%), identification as a luxury brand (60%), and association with the stag logo (25%).

The content features received nearly 300,000 views – over 2,700 came through organic search. Further, the magazine Fortune 400 issue reached over 3.8 million readers, with 77% taking action after seeing the ad creative.

This project won the Most Innovative Content Distribution Strategy category.

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Goal: Increase reach

Brand: McCain Foods

Media/agency partners: Food24, New Media

Approach: Combine print and digital technology to forge a personal, long-lasting connection with consumers.

While brands commonly scale their reach and engage new audiences in the digital space, don’t overlook the power and appeal of old-school techniques like print. They can help you forge a more personal and tangible connection with consumers.

Then again, why not blend the storytelling advantages of both mediums? That’s the idea behind the creation of McCain Family Cookbook Brought to You by Food24 – a first-of-its-kind direct-to-consumer cookbook delivered through a print-on-demand platform.

Frozen foods brand McCain approached South African foodie site Food24 to drive reach among family meal decision-makers. Food24 (with help from its content marketing agency, New Media) answered the call by developing a personalized cookbook creation tool. Shared with the Food24 audience on its website, the tool was promoted through social media, newsletters, and additional articles and video content.

As explained in the campaign video above, the Cookbook Creator tool lets users upload six favorite family recipes, along with notes and photos. Then, they chose a recipe category and named their book. Top recipes from Food24 and McCain were added to round out each collection. Each book was printed and delivered to the consumer who created it.
Food brand @mccainfoods let consumers create personalized cookbooks, uploading six of their family recipes and adding ones from the brand and @food24, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The effort helped position McCain as a mealtime thought leader while providing Food24’s audience with an innovative and exciting interactive feature. Further, the printed cookbooks brought the McCain brand into people’s homes, creating a lasting physical touchpoint.

Results: According to the agency New Media, the effort received 1.4 million banner impressions (far exceeding its target KPI of 400,000), reached 4.3 million consumers on social media, and achieved a 13% conversion rate.

This project won the Best Use of Technology as Part of a Content Marketing Program category.

Goal: Lead nurturing

Brand: Epcon Communities Franchising

Approach: Deliver a targeted, print-based pitch – with a customized digital twist.

B2B brand Epcon Communities Franchising provides designs, expertise, and sales support. It enables real estate developers to capitalize on an underserved demographic – buyers 55 and older looking to downsize their homes and enjoy life among a community of their peers.

Franchised adult communities are a fast-growing industry sector, but they are a relatively new business model for builders and construction companies. Many of Epcon’s prospects may have little experience with these projects. That challenge, when combined with the development time and financial investment involved, makes overcoming customer reluctance difficult.

To establish credibility among this B2B target, deliver helpful education, and accelerate its path from qualified lead to converted customer, Epcon launched a unique video mailer campaign.

Knowing consumers often throw away traditional print mailers without reading them, Epcon gave the mailing an eye-catching digital upgrade. A 5-inch video screen turned the average brochure into a deeply immersive storytelling vehicle, as shown in this image:

Where Theres a Goal Theres a Way 4 Strategy Led Content

Using an account-based marketing strategy, Epcon sent the mailers to select high-value prospects. It also customized the audio and visual content for each recipient.

Upon opening the brochure, prospects could click play on the screen to view four installed videos. They included critical company information, testimonials from franchise builders and home buyers, and interviews with company leadership.

Results: Through this persuasive, immersive, and educational campaign, Epcon put the right content in front of the right prospects at the right time. After its launch, the company achieved an 84% follow-up contact rate with prospects and exceeded its franchise builder sales projections by more than double.

This project was a top finalist in the Most Innovative Content Distribution Strategy and Best Use of Technology as Part of a Content Marketing Program categories.

Goal: Customer satisfaction and loyalty

Brand: ServiceNow

Approach: Combine email automation with behavioral modeling to deliver the best post-purchase guidance.

Good content marketers address consumers’ informational needs at each step of their buyer’s journey – from initial awareness through final purchase. But great marketers reinforce their brand’s value by delivering relevant, helpful guidance long after the purchasing checks have cleared.

Enterprise software provider ServiceNow efficiently fulfills that promise through its telemetry data-driven digital customer journey (DCJ) program. The platform delivers the precise information and assistance each customer account needs to implement their purchases more quickly, optimize their usage, and maximize their brand satisfaction.

ServiceNow uses automated behavioral marketing to deliver personalized email content across a broad range of finely targeted audiences. Those segments span the three stages of Service Now’s post-purchase lifecycle – initial onboarding, activation and deployment, and renewal and expansion.

For example, ServiceNow analyzes product usage and applies telemetry data and modeling to categorize mid-cycle customer accounts into groups defined by usage level: no use, low use, medium use, or high use. ServiceNow uses its marketing automation system to identify and deploy the appropriate email content for that account. It also automatically pauses email delivery until the customer completes the call to action from the previous campaign.

Results: ServiceNow reports excellent email performance metrics, with global open rates of 53% to 61% and click-through rates of 10%-16% across all digital customer journey campaigns in 2021. More importantly, these targeted accounts use their products 70% more than ServiceNow’s baseline (non-targeted) accounts.

This project was a top finalist in the Strategy – Best Content Marketing Program, Best Content Marketing Program in Technology, and Content Marketing ROI/Measurement Program categories.

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A clear strategy opens up endless possibilities

These four brands achieved remarkable outcomes by remaining focused on a goal and using a combination of creativity and tech ingenuity to fulfill it. Don’t have a documented content marketing strategy on hand to guide your brand’s efforts? Check out our strategy hub for all the insights, tips, and tools you need to create one.

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Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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