Done Right, Content Marketing is No Swindle

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In my first real marketing role, I felt like a complete fraud. I had stumbled into marketing and strategy while working for IBM and had the good fortune to work with a “startup” (whatever that was) developing a platform for online communities. I was simultaneously a product manager, sales exec, marketing director, tech support and partner manager. I was the only person within IBM who knew anything much about this amazing new technology and it was my job to convince the sales teams that their media, sports and retail clients needed to learn more. The thing was, I had no idea what to do.

I needed a plan.

Each day I would arrive early and trawl the intranet. I’d find templates for presentations and customer pitches, information and technology architecture, marketing plans and branding. It seemed like there was a system to marketing that could be pieced together if I just had the time. But it was IBM. No one had the time.

So I doubled down. I chose to study late and early and put what I learned into practice. I set meetings with sales execs and asked them lots of questions. I listened, followed up and gave them what they needed. Gradually, a strategy came into view. By the time I moved to a new role, I had a mental system for sales enablement. I had a marketing plan. And I knew how the puzzle pieces connected.

Suddenly in a new role for a management consulting firm, I was amazed to learn that there were no fundamentals in place. No messaging. No positioning. No brand consistency. Certainly no aspiration. There wasn’t even a presentation template that could be used. It felt like the brand had stepped out of the 1950s and liked the cut of its own jib.

So I started planning. I needed the sales team on side. I needed the consultants to rethink the way they talked about the brand. And I needed to set an example. Most importantly, I needed to overcome the massive store of legacy collateral that consultants carried around with them. After all, our challenge was growth, and it’s hard to grow when your eye is locked on the past. The solution was staring me in the face – content. Good quality content.

Quality content is a business asset

I realised that if I wanted to get consultants to use my (and by “my” I mean “our”) new branding, case studies, templates and so on, then they needed to be better than what was already available. The presentations needed to be fresher and more direct. The case studies needed to be current and relevant to client needs. And we needed to focus on recognisable talent – CEOs of major clients, CIOs that knew how to bring business and IT together, and CFOs who wanted to prove they had business nous to take the next step.

So again, I started with a plan.

Our research and client interviews yielded vital insights. We needed data. We needed real world business problems. And we needed proof points that reinforced our new, strategic offerings and traditional service lines. So we scheduled interviews and follow-ups. We measured website traffic and downloads. I worked with my team to write dozens of new offering briefs, solution profiles, case studies and one pagers. All of these were on-brand and on-message. Then we briefed the CEO and the Board, sent out internal communications, updated the intranet, shared new templates and tools and launched the new website. We even had new plasma screens installed in the reception area to greet clients, with a customisable message and co-branding.

Pretty soon we realised that we had created a whole new class of business asset. Consultants from across the country started requesting interviews and case studies using our new formula. We produced internal podcasts – or what we now call “podcasts” – as downloadable MP3 files containing the latest news updates, client wins and thought leadership interviews. It was content marketing way before content marketing. And it worked:

  • We improved our revenues
  • We improved our profitability
  • We launched new products and service lines in record time
  • We scored new clients.

Perhaps most importantly, we gained the respect of our colleagues.

Content marketing is old school B2B marketing in a new frock

These days we have better tools and processes. We can create content much faster. We can generate whole infographics not just charts with just a few clicks. Videos can be shot, compiled and edited, uploaded and distributed right on your phone. Checklists, lists and websites can be updated more easily – and marketing automation not only sends emails but tracks, nurtures and sequences a whole customer journey.

Even still, the principles are the same. Content marketing is a lot of work. It takes effort and planning. It’s still B2B marketing, just gussied up in a new frock. But it does the heavy lifting of marketing super effectively. As Sarah Mitchell explains on LinkedIn:

When done well, content marketing turns your marketing expense into a long-term business asset. It’s a highly effective way to attract an audience and build trust with your customers and prospects. It’s less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising methods – a lot less expensive. If decision makers and budget holders think content marketing doesn’t work, they vote for the easy alternative – advertising and traditional marketing. Both are less effective and leave you with no asset from your expenditure.

Sarah also shares some great tips to help you figure out whether your content marketing team (or agency) are delivering the value you need. There’s 25 indicators that help you determine “if a swindle is in play”, but these three are my favourites. Read the full list here.

    1. If you’re buying into content marketing without taking the time to develop a strategy, you’re being swindled
    2. If your content marketing is focused on social media with no plan to convert or move your audience off the social channel, you’re being swindled
    3. If there’s no plan on how to measure your effectiveness, you’re being swindled.

Reputation Even Over a Resume: Why Personal Branding Matters in 2016

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Take a moment to look back over your career. Even if you are “new” to the workforce, you’re likely to see a hotchpotch of connected experiences. There will be paid and unpaid work, some volunteering maybe. You’ll have passion projects that took weeks or months of your time – like the time you decided to build your sister’s website to save her money, only to find that after it’s all up and working, she took a new job and was no longer interested in “going freelance”. There may even be whole folders of documents filled with words that one day will become your great business, breakthrough book.

Now, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself – what’s the story it tells?

I have been saying this for years – but it’s a fact that grows stronger over time. Your resume is as dead as the tree it is written on.

In 2016, you are what you publish.

LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand

I used to think of LinkedIn as a place of business, connection and social selling. It was a vastly under-utilised space where a strong profile and a good network would help you stand out from the crowd. But a crowd it certainly is. It is the place where careers and connections collide.

In short, LinkedIn has become the “internet of careers” – the internet that we look at when we are looking to find a job, an employee or a customer.

But these days, LinkedIn has a broader agenda, transforming from a massive database of resumes to a business publishing platform and a social selling engine.  Every person with a profile can publish their thoughts, ideas and status updates just like Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google’s Blogspot (remember that?!). And with the opening up of the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform, there has literally been an explosion of content – some of it written by individuals and some of it written by ghost bloggers. Some is pure PR spin. Some is heartfelt and personal. There are even birthday notifications (as a side note, I find this mildly disconcerting).

And while this has made it more difficult for the average person to attract and engage potential business collaborators, clients or employers, there is still a great opportunity to use LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand. What does this look like?

  • Share the message, own the destination: Ever noticed how everyone’s profile on LinkedIn looks the same? Makes it hard to stand out, right? Like all good strategy, I suggest you share the message – post your insights, presentations, speeches and updates on LinkedIn by all means, but own the destination – have a website or a portfolio that keeps track of all you do. Use that destination to more fully contextualise your work, purpose and outcomes. I use gavinheaton.com as a catch-all for my activities and ServantOfChaos.com as a showcase. DisruptorsHandbook.com focuses marketing-led innovation and practical strategy. And everything that is posted on one of these sites is cross-posted to LinkedIn.
  • Treat your LinkedIn summary like an elevator pitch: Can you describe your job, best projects and outcomes in 30 seconds? Rather than writing a career summary for your LinkedIn profile, write a summary of how you can help clients, employers and business partners. Make it less about you and more about the value you create.
  • Write case studies on your best projects: Sure LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a hot mess of content, but every time you publish an article, it reaches into the feeds of your network. That means that people you know, or would like to know, are learning more about you. So give your networks something worth reading – warts and all case studies of the projects you’ve worked on. Include the passion projects, the skunkworks and even elements of your day job that is reasonable to share. Showcase not just the results, but the workings of how you delivered value. Connect the dots, tell the story and bring the dull parts to life with anecdotes, quotes and images.
  • Treat yourself like your #1 client: Imagine you are writing a brief for a client – except that client is you. Determine your value proposition, key message and proof points. Put your best storytelling foot forward and explain just why you are the best person for the job/project/collaboration. Just remember, it’s hard work. Keep refining your message. Get feedback. Listen honestly and always seek to improve.

For more great ideas on building your personal brand, take a look through this presentation from Leslie Bradshaw. It’s chock full of practical suggestions that can help you shift from being a “thought leader” to a “do leader”. And in a world where you are what you publish, it’s not about the what you say, it’s all about who believes it.

My New Book: Skills for the 21st Century – It’s Marketing But Not As We Know It

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It is clear that the skills that brought us through the 20th Century have not prepared us for the next 100 years. Or even the next decade.

Technology, social media and consumerisation has disrupted industry after industry, and while marketing operates in most firms at the forefront of customer experience, many marketers feel out of their depth with the vast array of skills and capabilities that are required. The disruption adds to the anxiety that ripples out across the organisation.

Over the last year I have spoken at conferences and forums in Australia and internationally, consulted with organisations and governments and helped develop new capability roadmaps, skilling programs and events. And the challenges and fears are largely the same.

What I have found, is that this anxiety is reverberating far beyond the marketing department. In the 21st Century, we are all marketers, and we are unprepared for this new future.

In response, I have written an eBook that builds on a series of blog posts and articles, observations, projects and presentations that I have made throughout the year. It looks at the shifting landscape and suggests ways forward for individuals and teams.

This eBook is available for immediate download as a PDF.

Don’t Tweet at Me in that Tone of Voice

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Setting tone of voice in social media is a challenge. How do you balance the assertiveness and authority with a sense of engagement and approachability? How do you strike a tone that delights your customers and attracts new prospects? And what is that “distinctive” personality that can only be expressed through text and how do you create it consistently?

Tone of voice is not just a problem for social media. In a business world where communication occurs largely through the written word – in email, messaging, enterprise social networks and so on, a misplaced word or misconstrued meaning can cause much drama.

Consider the hastily worded email that you sent after a bad meeting. Or the tweets you made in response to a troll. What about the situation where you really wanted to recall an email but realised that you could not?

IBM has been experimenting with language and semantics for some time. Their Watson platform specialises in natural language processing, and with the Tone Analyzer service, you may just catch an overly aggressive email in the nick of time.

How Tone Analyzer Works

We often rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help us profile individuals. It is still widely in use despite being largely dismissed as a scientific method – but I have always found its indicators lacking. I much prefer Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. It measures:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

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This framework is used by IBM to assess your social tone of voice. Watson also gives you a score on writing tone and emotional tone. You simply cut and paste your text into the field on the demo page and have Watson analyse your words. It then returns a visual assessment. This is the assessment from the first half of my last blog post. You will see, the post was:

  • 80% analytical (good for this kind of article)
  • 96% confident (I do want you to believe me)
  • 87% agreeable (please, please like and hire me).

You can also integrate this platform into your enterprise tools using the API platform. That could make for a very different form of communication within and beyond the enterprise.

But here’s a question – would you dare to run your marketing copy through this system? What would you find?

Marketing Skills of the Future, Now

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I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.

It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.

I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.

Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness

Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:

  • In-house teams need training
  • Finding the right agency to fill the gap
  • Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.

One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.

After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.

Digital and the Future of Marketing

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When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.

IT’s Big Secret – Platforming: Bringing IT and Marketing Together

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The big IT companies have a secret. And it’s a secret that can radically transform your business. For the last decade or so, technology has been converging – with different technology stacks coming into alignment, sharing interfaces, connecting data and improving the process of software development and deployment. As a result, we have seen huge improvements in the capability of software to impact business. Just think about:

  • The rise and role of data in business decision making
  • The importance and focus on dashboards and data visualisation
  • The growth of mobile and location based information
  • The abundance of “internet of things” devices and sensors
  • The near ubiquitous adoption of smartphones.

Behind the scenes, technology companies have been “platforming” – turning their business processes and models into digital systems. They do this across four key business dimensions:

  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

But the challenge for marketers is that these dimensions are largely unconnected to marketing. They rightly belong to the company’s technology teams. Right?

Combining marketing and IT capabilities

The greatest opportunity for business is to combine the expertise of marketing and IT. Marketers usually view their customers through the lens of media – combining paid, owned and earned media to reach and engage them. We have shifted, however, beyond this broadcast approach – and this is increasingly being enabled by the SMAC platforms.

To more effectively bridge the marketing and IT fields, we need new ways of thinking, collaborating and conceptualising what it is that we do. We need a shared language, shared measurements and cross-line-of-business visibility into key performance indicators, pressures, deadlines and processes. And this means digital transformation.

Is it possible? It has to be. For only through this kind of alignment will we be able to deeply impact our customer’s brand experience.

I spoke in more detail on this subject recently. See my slides and the presentation here.

 

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Autobots, Decepticons, Technology and the New World Order #MarketingNation

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marketoWe all say that the world has changed. That the customer is at the centre of our business and marketing strategies. We say that our marketing teams are going to spend more on technology than our tech teams. And we say that customer experience is at the heart of what we do as businesses.

But is this all talk? Or is it smoke and mirrors?

On Friday, August 28, 2015, the Marketo Marketing Nation roadshow rolls into town – and the agenda promises to answer these questions and more.

With keynotes from Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez and firebrand CMO of Xero, Andy Lark, it promises to be a great day of market and marketing insight. And also a day of action.

  • Charles Ross, Senior Editor Asia-Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit is speaking on the rise of the marketer: driving engagement, experience and revenue
  • Andrew Lark, CMO, Xero will be discussing the connected customer: Why and how enterprises must transform to achieve greatness
  • Jennifer Arnold, Head of Marketing, SAP Australia and NZ looks at digital engagement: Australia’s performance through the eye of the customer
  • Rose Herceg, Chief Strategy Officer, STW Group and Author of The Power Book will examine the agency of the future
  • Cheryl Chavez, VP Product, Marketo will share what’s new in the world of personalised engagement marketing
  • Lara Brownlow from LinkedIn will share five key trends for marketers
  • Chris Savage, Growth Accelerator, PR Leader, Inspiring Business Advisor will explain how you can keep yourself relevant in a changing world.

There will also be customer panels and plenty of opportunities for networking.

After the lunch break, I am speaking on the way that technology is not just changing marketing but also IT – establishing a new world order. And it is in this new world order where marketers need IT skills and IT teams need marketing skills. It’s like the world of The Transformers. Who is the Autobot? Who is the Decepticon? And what do we need to do to explore our shared future?

If you are coming along to the conference, be sure to say hello. And if not, check out my live tweeting at #MarketingNation or live streams on Periscope or Meerkat.

Fulfilling the Promise of Digital Marketing

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From my first line of HTML I fell in love. Like almost everybody, I started with two simple words loaded into a browser. “hello world”. And with that I was hooked. I could sense, right here beneath my fingertips, that the world was shifting.

And again, years later, working with “Koz Community” at IBM – a system that was way ahead of its time – I could tell that those amorphous “audiences” out there were coming together. Connecting with each other and with me. Us. There was a fusing around passions and interests that was closer to performance art than marketing.

Social media turned the screw yet again. Turning the commonplace into uniqueness, transforming text into experience, image into storytelling. It put the levers of the imagination into the hands of everyday people – you and I. And we loved it. We loved the freedom of expression. The connection. The gritty humanity of it all shone through with every update.

But digital marketing – for the most part – has remained lacklustre. But it’s not for want of trying. Having been on judging panels for various awards, I can see that great work is being done. Interesting, challenging, pushing-the-envelope-type work. But the work that is possible and the expectations of clients are out of sync:

  • Client led: Where the client is leading the innovation – looking for ever-newer approaches
  • Agency led: Where the agency works to educate, engage, sell-in and deliver the “new”.

The problem is that we continue to look towards “one-offs”. We think that “strategy” is to do with plans on paper. Or Powerpoint. Or Keynote. We don’t think of it as “getting closer to our customers”. We don’t envision strategy as a process of solving problems. And we don’t see “digital marketing” as a fundamental way to transform the customer relationship.

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Take a look at the video below. Think about the way that social, mobile, cloud (and ultimately analytics) – the SMAC – are combining to create a transformative customer experience. See how paid, owned and earned media are coming together. But what is most exciting about this is the way that “art” or an artistic sensibility – creativity – is coming into the execution. It’s the “A” in my PANDA framework for visionary marketing.

I have said it before and will say it again – experience is the currency of your brand.

And until we understand this, we won’t fulfil the promise of digital marketing.

The Best Case Study Music in the World

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I have written case studies, I have submitted case studies for awards. And I have judged awards. But they can often be an unemotional slog.

By their nature, case studies tend toward the factual. They’re often devoid of “feelings” – and struggle to tell story of impact. But what if there was the case study equivalent of the Tenacious D song “Best Band in the World”? What if there was a way to tell a case study as a Tribute? What would that mean? And would it change things?

The good folks at ADMA have taken on this challenge – producing a song that can be readily inserted into the background of your case study video.

It’s going to turn problems, solutions and results into gold, silver and bronze trophies,” said ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster. “The air freight bill back from Cannes next year is going to be astronomical.”

But what goes into creating the best case study music in the world? Here’s a quick video of the process, featuring many of the Australia’s leading agencies and creatives in a surprising surge of collaborative spirit.

The Case Study Song of the Year can be purchased with lifetime rights and comes with a complimentary ticket to ADMA’s Creative Fuel event, Thursday August 6 at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. It’s a chance to not only hear the live premiere of this creative masterpiece – you can also hear from some of the best creative thinkers around.