Why employees are the best source for inbound marketing content

 

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone's responsibility

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone’s responsibility

Having a process and the right skill set to capture content is half the battle.

Speak with almost any CEO of a small to mid-sized brand, and they will tell you that inbound marketing is an important communication component in creating and maintaining brand preference. However, ask them what resources or processes are in place dedicated to inbound marketing content, and the answer will tell you that this is usually more wishful thinking than reality.

Why is this? Small and mid-sized brands are resource-challenged. Their employees have a wealth of knowledge to share but usually there is no process in place to capture content.

Content mining: content that adds value to the brand

Authentic content has a point of view and provides thought leadership or hands-on practical information.

Every department in the company has something to share. It is vital that content development is viewed as everyone’s responsibility, not just the function of the marketing or PR department.

When the CEO leads the way, resources are sure to follow.

Many times the most authoritative content originates from the CEO. The CEO provides leadership and the high altitude point-of-view about the brand, such as:

  • Its current direction
  • Challenges to be faced
  • Opportunities on the horizon
  • Industry disruption from new technologies
  • How the brand can contribute to the betterment of the industry

Creating content is everyone’s responsibility

The engineering staff also contributes to developing content. This group has a unique perspective on innovation, new technologies, and production processes that contribute to solving customer problems.

The production department contributes by providing content on best practices, achieving optimal product performance, or tips on prolonging product life cycle.

Customer Service also contributes; they are the first to field customer concerns, complaints, and frequently asked questions. This group can be the conduit between engineering and production in identifying product flaws, delivery shortcomings, and inefficient interaction between departments.

Marketing’s job is to determine the most efficient process to capture the content and optimize it for different uses. Usually an employee is identified as an expert in their field and is asked to create a rough draft on a particular topic. From there, working in collaboration with either an internal or external journalistic resource, the content is edited and polished so it is suitable for publication and optimized for web use.

In addition, once the content is formalized, it becomes part of an e-library. This e-library can serve as a quick reference to customer requests.

Inbound marketing requires a commitment of time and resources to be successful. The pay-off is a stream of authoritative content that can be used across social media platforms, publications and customer service that supports brand leadership.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy?

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Inbound marketing essentials?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Copyright: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

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MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces.

 

The promise of Marketing Automation Platforms is to integrate and automate marketing functions

Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) are receiving lots of attention in the B-to-B marketing sphere. Most of these platforms are targeted toward companies with large database records that execute the majority of their marketing efforts online. For originations that fit the aforementioned criteria, MAPs promise greater marketing efficiency, integration with sales CRM software, reduced external resource expenditures, and ROI tracking for each marketing event.

The strength of an MAP is its ability to capture digital transactional information for specific marketing actions. These actions can include the following:

  • Email opens, top performing links, and overall performance
  • Website visitation, visitor page interaction and analytics
  • Inbound marketing responses to posted content and landing pages
  • Social platform monitoring for sentiment and customer insight

These actions are generally considered first encounter lead generation activities found at the top of the sales funnel. It is at this junction that marketing and sales must agree on what a qualified lead looks like and what steps are necessary to move this lead through the sales funnel.

With the definition of a qualified lead identified, an MAP can provide the functionality to automatically continue to reach out to the prospect. As the prospect demonstrates intent to purchase, CRM software is able to provide sales with leads that require shorter close times and better success rates.

All of this sounds great, almost like push button marketing; however, there are several things to consider:

  •  MAPs are a set of software tools with many moving pieces
  • MAPs are not a substitute for a strategic marketing plan
  • Underestimating the amount of content required to shepherd the prospect through the sales funnel
  • The current marketing staff may not have the technical horsepower needed to manage the MAP
  • Time commitment and resources from IT will be needed for implementation, integration, and ongoing maintenance
  • Substantial learning curve and resources required for marketing and sales personnel
  • Implementation time of 6 to 12 months to see results
  • Identification of critical data chains for ROI reporting
  • Commitment from the executive wing to fund and nurture MAP implementation

MAPs focus is on digital interaction. What about traditional marketing and brand building? These software platforms are challenged to know what effect display advertising has with regards to purchasing behavior, brand sentiment, and brand loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong here. I see the benefit of ROI analysis and the positive potential MAPs can have when implemented properly. However, at the same time, I am also cautious about MAPS. My concern begins with the automaton nature of the entire process. The promise of inbound marketing is to engage with interested prospects and begin to build a relationship. Being inundated with additional email offers and qualifying phone calls can be a turn-off, stopping the relationship building cold. In addition, marketers must be cautious about treating prospects like Pavlov’s dog. Thinking that they can be trained to respond by redundancy is a danger.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big data and creativity

Determining Advertising Return On Investment

How to engineer a social marketing strategy

Please leave your comments or thoughts below
Copyright: multirealism / 123RF Stock Photo

People-to-People Marketing: Engage, Connect, Influence

There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions.

There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions.

The goal for P-to-P marketing is to engage decision makers and influence their purchasing decision

If you feel a little out of touch with the whole marketing ecosystem today, don’t feel alone. There has been a seismic explosion in the channels and tools marketers are using to influence purchasing decisions. Now, effective marketing is a mash-up of traditional B-to-B and digital P-to-P strategies with tactical execution determined by company size and where the buyer to be reached spends the most time.

Content everywhere but what do buyers find most useful?

Content can take many forms. Eccolo Media, in collaboration with market-research firm Global Marketing Insite (GMI), with recently published the Eccolo Media 2014 B2B Technology Content Survey Report identifying categories for marketing collateral and what technology buyers in small, medium, and large companies consume when making considered purchase decisions.

16 forms of marketing collateral were identified:

• White papers
• Product brochures
• Case studies
• Technology guides
• Video and multimedia files
• Blog articles
• Infographics
• Webinars
• E-books
• Podcast, audio files
• Magazines and publications
• Competitive vendor worksheets
• E-newsletters
• Social networks
• Web slide show
• Tweets

Content consumption in the sales cycle

Breaking down the sales cycle into 4 phases to identify the most effective forms of content that buyers found useful:

Pre-sale (unaware of the problem) – Blogs, infographics
Initial sale (understands the problem) – White papers, case studies, video and multimedia files
Mid-sale (identifying solutions & selecting vendors) – Case studies/success stories, technology guides
Final sale (finalizing vendor and purchasing solution) – Technology guides, implementation scenarios

Relevant and high quality content plays a critical role in the purchasing decision. Marketers that understand this have the opportunity to engage, connect, and influence buyers throughout the purchasing process.

Social networks – perception and reality

Social networks are prime territory for distributing content. Determining which social platform to concentrate on for content distribution can be influenced by the size of the company you are trying to reach. Small and mid-size companies lean more toward Facebook, while larger companies consume more content from LinkedIn.

Twitter is also a viable network for reaching influencers and purchasers. Click-through rates from vendor posts are increasing because the short burst of information is usually accompanied by a link to a larger content library.

Blogs are also influential in the pre-sale phase to identify problems, bringing them to the surface for consideration.

One thing to remember is that with so much content available, buyers are becoming more selective in deciding which content is worthy of their time. Because buyers choose the time and place for receiving marketing content, formatting for desktop, tablet, and smart phone enhances the buyer’s experience.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why people-to-people marketing is replacing business-to-business in the aviation industry

Content development for aviation marketers is a communal affair

Getting social media to pay off

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Image credit: buchachon / 123RF Stock Photo

Aviation Marketing: How to Achieve brand leadership through content creation

Brand leadership requires that everyone contribute to content creation

Brand leadership requires that everyone contribute to content creation

Brand leadership is about showing and telling the world what the brand stands for.

Brand leadership is achieved by communicating brand values, thoughts and deeds. In the digital world this can be achieved by publishing content via blogs, videos and microsites that are interesting and demonstrate the brands values and commitments to both customers and industry.

Organizations that are considering investing in content creation should first ask  “Why?”

The idea of content creation appeals to many people. They will read an article, see a video or blog post online and feel like they have something valuable to contribute. This is first step in the journey of people-to-people marketing.

When approached by someone in the organization about creating a blog or a video the first question should always be “Why?” This is not a rhetorical question. No doubt there are thousands of blogs and videos dedicated to aviation topics.  This question is asked to determine if the content supports the brand values.

After determining the merit of the “why”, the next questions should be:

  • What are the resources required to support content creation?
  • Does it contribute to the brand leadership effort?

 Resources

Successful content creation informs and inspires the readership. This usually comes from the author’s experience and unique point-of-view with regards to the subject matter. Another important aspect of the undertaking is that successful brand leadership requires a library of content before the first piece is ever published. Visiting a website with an abandoned blog or a single video post indicates a lack of effort and commitment.

Brand leadership requires that every department contribute to content creation

It’s not just the responsibility of marketing or public relations to produce content. People in these departments are trained communicators but may lack the deep knowledge base needed to develop authoritative content. In addition, there are conversations everyday throughout the company that relate to customer satisfaction, product improvement, and user experience that can provide inspiration and valuable input for ongoing content creation.  An additional benefit of company wide content creation can be a library of content that can be accessed online providing a quick reference for solving problems to customer questions.

Additional articles on this topic you may find of interest.

14 social marketing channels for content distribution

Engaging employees in social media marketing

How to write effective online copy

Social marketing begins with the correct strategy

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace people-to-people marketing

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision.

The connected customer spends more time on social media than with watching television, listening to radio, or reading a newspaper. Cloud-connected smart phones, tablets, and laptops are the predominant tools of the connected customer. They absorb information from many different sources and share their experiences with followers on social networks. Aviation manufacturers that do not shift their marketing tactics are endangering their brand and flirting with obsolescence.

Aviation marketing is changing. Yesterday’s target audiences are now communities of constituencies that share information across digital platforms. Here are 5 reasons why aviation marketers need to embrace people-to-people marketing:

1. Traditional advertising is a one-way conversation

Traditional advertising is great for building brand awareness. However, it cannot create the conduit for immediate engagement or offer additional content at the click of a mouse or tap of the screen. The connected customer wants the option of a two-way conversation.

2. An integrated model of online and offline channels are necessary to hold the connected customer’s attention during the considered purchase process

A strategic approach to integrating online media with traditional print media placement offers the manufacturer the opportunity for extending the engagement during a prolonged sales cycle. Banner ads across different digital media channels, coupled with guides and E-books, provide brand stickiness with authoritative content and data collection from interested parties.

3. The traditional sales funnel has been replaced with the customer decision journey

Traditional B-to-B sales and marketing is based on a linear approach of selling to accounts. This approach loses sight of the importance of trigger events, internally or externally driven, that kick starts the decision journey in the first place. At first the prospective buyer may either be unaware or unconcerned, but then something happens (the trigger event) to raise their awareness of an issue they need to deal with – and the online search for a solution gets underway.

The connected customer’s decision journey is circular with four potential areas where marketers can win or lose: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure through purchase, and post-purchase. During each of these phases manufacturers can be added or subtracted for consideration.

4. Savvy aviation manufacturers have increased their social marketing budgets

There has been a massive shift in the adoption of mobile devices. Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke summed up the tablet adoption.

“Through the last quarter <Q1 2012>, I should say, which is just 2 years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. And to put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs and 5 years for that many iPods and over 3 years for that many iPhones.”

By 2015 there will be 7.4 billion wireless compatible devices on the market (ABIResearch). This where the connected customer lives and aviation manufacturers should consider investing a minimum of at least 15% of marketing funds to online channels.

5. Aviation marketers that adopt social marketing get better customer insight that leads to better decision-making

Analytics obtained from social marketing provide a wealth of information about the connected customer’s decision-making process and behavior. This information can drive product development and smarter product marketing.

Translation:  if you’re not where your customers are, connected to them and tuned into their purchasing behavior, you’re going to lose business and inflict damage on your brand.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why people-to-people marketing is replacing business-to-business in the aviation industry

Dynamic customers require quality content

Designing a social marketing strategy for aviation marketing

Aviation Marketing: How to engineer a social marketing strategy

How to engineer a social marketing strategySocial marketing is not free – it requires time, money, and resources

Social marketing is an all-encompassing term that covers very specific strategies and tactics designed to engage customers and prospects. When considering the addition of social marketing into the marketing mix, it’s best to review current marketing strategy and determine where social marketing will have the greatest impact.

Aviation marketers that step into social marketing are really making a decision to become their own content producers. Implementing a successful social marketing program requires time, money, and dedicated resources. Without these, the effort will be shortlived and short on results.

Where to start

Social marketing strategy development starts with the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the goals for the social marketing program?
  • How will social marketing integrate the existing marketing program?
  • Who will lead the social marketing efforts?
  • What resources are available to ensure success?
  • How will social marketing ROI be measured?

The answers to the above questions will form the foundation of your social marketing strategy.

Below are a list of goals that can be used as thought starters when defining the goals for the program:

  • Increase the number of prospects on the sales funnel
  • Influence decision makers in an informational, non-selling manner
  • Add an interactive component to the website
  • Position executives and technical talent as experts in their field
  • Create product evangelists that recommend product or service offerings

How will social marketing integrate into the existing marketing program?

To have a holistic marketing program, a balance of outbound and inbound strategies and tactics need to be orchestrated. Relying solely on a blog to generate leads is not a good idea. However, integrating a blog on the website may be a good idea to feature technical talent, thought leadership, or respond to customer questions and comments.

Who will lead the social marketing efforts?

Social marketing cannot be relegated to the summer intern or administrative assistant. Having a Facebook page and Twitter account does not make one a social marketing expert.

Having a champion in the executive suite provides the focus, incentive, and resources to assure that quality content is being produced and tactical execution followed through.

What resources are available to ensure success?

Depending on the social marketing tactic, one may need writers, video producers, coders, designers, and/or digital media planners. Few aviation manufacturers have this type of talent on staff.  Selecting a firm that has access to this talent can provide the necessary resources to keep the program moving and cost in line.

How will social marketing ROI be measured?

Everything digital can be measured. It’s important to realize the role that social marketing plays in the overall marketing mix. Consider the customer touchpoints in the sales cycle and where social marketing can influence the sales process. A purchase inquiry may come through an email campaign, but where was the customer influenced that started the research process leading up to the purchasing inquiry?

Additional articles that may be of interest:

Why content development will drive the future of aviation marketing

Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration

Aviation Marketing: 3 ways social media can help build your brand

Aviation Marketing: 5 photo sharing sites for creative commons licensed images

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Save time and give proper attribution when accessing free images from the web

Without knowing where to search, finding the perfect image to complement your web content, presentation, or blog can be frustrating, expensive and labor-intensive. Thankfully there are photo-sharing sites that offer free downloads of some very well crafted photography with creative commons licensing agreements.

5 photo sharing sites every aviation marketers should have booked-marked:

  1. Photopinhttp://www.photopin.com searches millions of creative commons photos from Flickr-based on keyword search. Downloading is simple and images are available in a variety of sizes. Photopin also generates HTML codes for author attribution, enabling easy insertion into your website or blog post.
  2. Stock.XCHNGhttp://www.scx.hu is now under new management from Getty Images. In addition to offering creative commons licensed images, it also presents a catalog of iStockphoto images that are available for purchase at very low cost. iStock images are a good value when looking for royalty-free images for unlimited use.
  3. Flickr.comhttp://www.flickr.com offers a photo catalog of hundreds of thousands of images licensed under various attribution creative commons licenses.  Photographers that choose to upload their original works to Flickr indicate their creative commons licensing requirement in their photostream.
  4. Morguefilehttp://www.morguefile.com is a great resource for presentation images. Many of the files are creative commons licensed; however consulting with the photographer is always recommended when selecting images featuring people or places.
  5. Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org is a media file repository making available public domain and freely licensed educational media to everyone. The reposition has over 16 million media files for use. Anyone is allowed to copy, use, and modify any files as long as they follow the terms specified by the author.

Types of creative commons licensing:

When the author posts an image to the photo-sharing site, he or she will license it for use under the licensing protocols listed below:

Attribution CC BY: Lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the author’s work, even commercially, as long as they credit the author for the original creation.

Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA: Lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the author’s work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the author and license the new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND: Allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author.

Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC: Lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the author’s work non-commercially, and although the new works must also acknowledge  the author and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license the derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA: Lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the author’s work non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license the new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND: The most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download the author’s works and share them with others as long as they credit the author, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

For guidance on proper attribution protocol, click here

Image by United States Navy, edited by Mfield