6 ways small companies can market like the big guys

Small companies often get inferiority complexes. It looks kind of like this:

“We can’t possibly compete with abc competitor because they have a huge marketing budget.”

“Those guys have so many people, they can really afford to do it all, we can’t keep up.”

I’ve worked with companies big and small and there is one constant in marketing, there’s never enough time, money or people. And actually, usually the percentage marketing budget per revenue often goes down as the company gets bigger. They may get some economies of scale, but with it usually comes a lot of bureaucracy and hassle.

If you’re a small company, you need to forget about your possible shortcomings and think about how you’re going to grow! Some ways that you can compete head-to-head, without breaking your budget:

  1. On your website – no one can tell how big your company is. Keep it up to date and modern looking, publish regular content to your blog (ahem) and ensure your services and messaging is current. Out of date stuff definitely gets side eye from visitors and is an indicator that you might not have your stuff together.
    Also, pay attention to the small details on your website. It doesn’t cost more to be creative.
  2. Post to social media regularly – When you update that blog, get over to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and publish your new post. It takes five minutes and there’s no point in writing that post if you’re not distributing it. And, even small companies can grow a lot of followers on social media. Think of innovative topics related to your business and keep it going. You can also hire services to help you grow your presence even faster.
  3. Get really targeted – You might not have a huge budget, but if you know (really know) who your best customer is, the one that pays you the most, for the least amount of effort,  then you have a blueprint for who you want to reach. It may cost more per lead to reach those unicorns, but there are much fewer of them, so the overall cost can be less, plus you’re maximizing your budget only bringing in the best.
  4. Choose one big marketing effort and put your budget behind it – You can look like one of the big guys by going all out on one thing. You might have to shoe-string the rest of the year, but the right place/right time to spend your dollars can sometimes be worth it. A Super Bowl ad might cost $5 million, but the cost per person reached is actually a bargain, plus you get the extra lift from all the sites that talk about the ads.
  5. Leverage and repurpose everything you create – If you do one big research report each year, make a full meal deal out of it. You’ve got dozens of blog posts, tweets and social ads from that one report. You can promote that data seven ways to Sunday. You’ve only funded one piece of content, but you’re making the most of it.
  6. Be consistent – A hallmark of small, new or struggling companies is doing marketing inconsistently. You start a newsletter, but skip some months here and there. You promise regular communications, but fall off after the first month or two. Get on a schedule. Stick to the schedule and delight your prospects in the process.

Never be intimidated by the bigger, more-funded companies in your market. No one has your voice. No one has your unique perspective. No one can do what you do. You just have to make sure your prospects know about it.

15 Ways to Use Snapchat for B2B Marketing

It’s real. I know, we marketers have to give social platforms some time before we invest a bunch of time learning how to use and optimize. But the time is now to start counting Snapchat in. If you’re in B2C marketing, you probably already reached this conclusion, but for B2B, you may have been avoiding.

Here are some reason why you can’t avoid the ghost any longer.

  • 60% Of Snapchat Users Are Between The Ages Of 18 And 34 (hey, that’s the age where people work real jobs, and buy B2B products!), Snapchat
  • There are now 150 Million Snapchat users! –Adweek And, if you apply the first stat – they’re not so much teenagers anymore. That’s a lot of buyers for you.
  • 40% of Snapchat users are in the US and Canada, Fortune
  • 10 billion video views every day, Digital Trends
  • There are now more Snapchat users than Twitter users
  • You want to reach millennials, right? “Facebook (including Messenger) remains the most popular social platform among Americans 12-24 years old, with 32% saying they use Facebook most. Snapchat is second with 26%, far outpacing Instagram at 17%.” Convince and Convert
  • There are very few B2B campaigns happening on Snapchat today. Advertising is dominated by B2C – this is your chance to stand out!

So where do you begin with marketing on a platform where messages disappear after 24 hours? Here are 15 ideas on how you can do this for B2B:

  1. Recruiting millennials? Post daily about what it’s like to work at your awesome company.
  2. Employee takeovers – add a more personalized approach to showing how great your company is, let one employee a day “take over” your Snapchat account and discuss what it’s like to work at your company and how much they love their job.
  3. Employee pets – Do you have an office dog, or employees who work from home with their pets – snap about it!
  4. Cover company events with live interviews with speakers and play-by-plays of live presentations
  5. Cover industry events the same way – give your followers a taste of the event they couldn’t make it to by being their eyes on the ground to all the action at the show
  6. Product demonstrations – Videos are a HUGE part of Snapchat–see the 10 Billion number above. Give potential buyers sneak peeks of the coolest features of your products (keep the salesy-ness to a minimum, this is fun).
  7. Product sneak-peeks – What’s coming out soon? Give your followers that exclusive experience of seeing behind the curtain to the work in progress.
  8. Doodle your… – Snapchatters love to be-dazzle and doodle up pictures. Ask your followers to snap a pic of something relevant to your brand or product and post a doodled version. Offer prizes for the best doodle.
  9. Holiday cards – Create a holiday card (be creative, try Flag day or donut day) that Snapchatters can screencapture, doodle and share with their followers.
  10. Keep the engagement going with teasers for tomorrow – With messages that disappear every day, encourage your followers to check back for something cool tomorrow.
  11. Client takeovers – Do you have a great client advocate? Let them takeover your Snapchat account and post about your product for a day, demonstrations, interviews with their other employees – your followers will feel the love.
  12. Interview industry experts – Videos are super short on Snapchat, so it can be easier to get influencers and experts to say a few words on camera.
  13. Feature your CEO commenting on an industry change or event.
  14. Use the geofilters advertising feature to do a super targeted marketing campaign. Hint, you can target a single building and the cost is pretty minimal. Could be useful for Account Based Marketing. Bonus – you don’t need to have a big following to reach a lot of people this way.
  15. Use geofilters to advertise at a specific event.

Companies like Gatorade and Taco Bell are using Snapchat advertising to push their brands forward, but no one is talking about the tremendous B2B potential. Think outside the box. You want millennials to buy your products, you want them to work at your company and you want them to have a great time doing both. This is the platform they are using so you should too!

Photo credit: KUNVAR sanjeevkumar Singh 

The Introvert’s Guide to Working an Event

So you’ve got a big event coming up… ahem Dreamforce starts today! You know you need to rock it. Maybe you’re marketing yourself, maybe you’ve got a big booth and you’re marketing your company. But… you’re scared, that’s a whole lotta people you have to meet and be your best self for. I feel ya.

With Dreamforce #DF16 this week and many other events going on during the Fall. It’s time to make a game plan. Here’s your step-by-step survival guide.

  1. Set your goals for the event. Before even forking over the admission fee, you should have a plan for what you want to achieve at the event. Is it great leads, more contacts, potential employers? Whatever your objective is, write it down and gear all your activities at the show toward it to ensure you get what you paid for out of the event. Keeping your goal in mind will help you push past any social reluctance that might hold you back.
  2. Plan ahead and reach out to schedule meetings with people you want to meet. It’s really hard to grab people (or even find people) once you’re on-site at a big event. And it’s even harder for the introvert. You won’t get everyone to commit to a meeting but reaching out starts the conversation so if you happen to see the person at the show, you’ve already introduced yourself.
  3. Get on that hashtag. Every event these days has a dedicated hashtag. Start tweeting–live tweet sessions, comment on the food, participate in vendor contests–everything goes. And when you get some interaction going, see if anyone wants to “tweet-up” for some coffee. It’s a great way to meet some new people who might have similar interests. Plus, you’ll collect followers like a boss.
  4. Sit with people you don’t know at meals. Groan, I know. This is hard for me too, but mealtimes can be some of the best places to meet  new people. Grit your teeth and do it. I sometimes have to practice a couple of ice breaking questions in my room ahead of time. Go simple – Where are you from? What company are you with? Did you see the keynote this morning?
  5. Don’t overbook yourself. Introverts need some quiet time to recover at the end of the day. Even if means skipping that networking happy hour, you’ll be better the next day if you give yourself that time to recharge, alone.
  6. Don’t forget the follow-up. After the dust settles, reach out to those you collected cards from. Jog their memory with what you talked about. How can you help them? How can they help you? Keep the conversation going. If nothing else, hopefully there will be a friendly and familiar face at that lunch table next year.

All the constant social interaction at a big event can make introverts want to stay under the covers, but going in with a game plan can give you the oomph to keep up the smile and keep going. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself–#5 is very important for you to have a great event. Now get out there and rock that event!

The One Thing that’s Ruining Your Relationship with Sales

Hi marketers. You guys are awesome and I just want to start there. But we need to have a serious talk. Please examine the following statements to see if they sound familiar to you:

  • Top-of-funnel leads are converting from x campaign but bouncing when they get to the CTA
  • Sales are down because MQLs aren’t converting to SQLs

Do you see a problem here? In case you don’t, here’s what’s happening. This is what sales hears when you say things like the above:

  • Blah blah leads blah blah blah blah blah
  • Sales are down because marketing speak marketing speak marketing speak

This is not because sales is dumb or marketing are know-it-alls (though, we do know a LOT). It’s that sales isn’t in marketing. They don’t know the language. And there’s a lot going on in marketing and the bigger and more complex the marketing organization, the more complicated the shorthand language gets.

I was just working with a client, who shall remain nameless, but a large-ish tech company. My team was there to help the marketing team sort out and solve the disconnect between sales and marketing. At the end of a data download meeting, we were given an acronym cheat-sheet to help us understand what we had just heard.

Hmmmm… if they need a cheat-sheet even to talk to other marketers, how do they talk to sales? I think maybe I sense the problem here.

Tailor to Your Audience

You guys know how to do this. It’s what you do all day. Just apply it to the inside of your organization the same way you do externally. Think about what matters most to your target audience. Sales is interested in sales! They want to make their numbers, keep their bosses from breathing down their necks and maybe make that incentive trip or bonus at the end of the year. How are you helping them do that?

5 Ways to Quickly Win Over Sales

  1. Ask if you can sit in on some sales calls – this will help you understand what they do all day, hear directly from prospects and help you get to know the team personally. Plus you’ll earn some serious street cred from the sales team – promise!
  2. Talk to them about what matters to them – how are you helping them make their number?
  3. How can you save them time – more time means more dollars
  4. Really, really listen to what is keeping them from making sales, the objections they hear, the stumbling blocks they face. How can you help?
  5. Snacks – never hurts to bribe…

The bottom line is you know a TON about marketing – so much that sometimes you might short-hand your speech into acronyms and jargon. But keep in mind that some of your sales team might be new, might be inexperienced, might know nothing about marketing so you need to speak english and take the time to really connect with them. You’ll be collaborating in no time, which will make your job oh so much easier!


Cartoon from Sean R Nicholson






Featured image by Ayana T. Miller





4 Reasons Targeting the C-Suite is a Losing Marketing Strategy

Often the CFO or CEO signs on the dotted line to purchase your product. It’s true. They are often the ultimate decision maker. Also true. Makes sense you should target them with your marketing efforts. Not so true (usually). Many companies put all their marketing efforts into trying to reach that elusive c-suiter, which can seem like the shortest route to home base, but in reality, could be a waste of time and money.

There are a few reasons why you should think about targeting your efforts a little further down the food chain.

  1. The CFO isn’t the one feeling the pain. If your product solves HR recruiting bottlenecks or accounts payable invoice processing headaches, the CFO probably feels some effects of those headaches, but possibly not enough to make it a top priority to find a solution. Find the person who feels the pain of those problems every day and offer a solution.
  2. The CEO has a lot on her plate. Particularly if your product solves a small pain point, it’s hard to get through to the person at the top. She is inundated with problems to solve, meetings, email and sales pitches all day long. Your chances of cutting through all that competition to get her attention is small and even if you do (because you are awesomely creative), you need to have a solution that solves a problem she’s facing at that moment or you’ll lose her.
  3. Research and vendor selection will be delegated anyway. Even if you connect with a C-suiter, it’s likely they don’t have time for a full vendor review and will delegate that task. If you target your marketing efforts and nurture programs at the rest of the team, you’ll be ensuring you make the list when mr. or ms. project leader starts evaluating.
  4. You get more chances at bat. If you’re selling a software product, there are often many people who will evaluate and be involved in a purchase. The CFO might have the final say, but a sales process could be started by an admin, a project manager or most often, a mid-level manager. If you’ve warmed up all of these potential buyers with marketing messages over time, you’re more likely to get someone at the right point of consideration. Targeting just the c-suite means your pool is small and your chances of right time, right place are much lower.

If you’ve ever taken a sales training course, you probably heard the mantra about not selling to someone who doesn’t have the authority to buy. Not to discount this message, it’s certainly important to know how much influence your champion has when heading into a lengthy sales process, but these days b2b purchases are a team sport. If you want to maximize your dollars, make sure you’re reaching out to everyone in a company who could potentially use your product. You never know who will take that first swing.

Why marketers are afraid of social media

Because it’s new. And yeah, I know, it’s not exactly a hot-off-the-presses thing anymore. But it IS new in that it is changing every day. Which can be scary as hell when you’re at the bottom of the mountain. But I have faith in you, marketers. You can do social media marketing and it isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

How do you get started when the whole digital, social, mobile revolution seems to be sweeping along, not stopping for us marketers to catch our breath, let alone come up with a strategy that goes beyond “let’s make a viral video?” Just take it step-by-step.

  1. It’s ok to not know everything about everything social. Yes, kids are Snapchatting and people are Blabbing, but you don’t have to jump on every band-wagon as soon as it comes along.
  2. What social platforms are your best customers already using? If your audience is B2B, start with LinkedIn. Learn some things about company pages, showcase pages and promoted posts. Explore how many of your potential prospects are spending time there–and what content they are responding to. Once you get one platform down, take a look at another. Some questions to ask yourself:
    1. Can my brand be well-represented visually? If yes, think about Instagram or Pinterest
    2. Do my customers like visual stuff related to my product? If yes, think about Instagram and Pinterest
    3. Do my prospects use Facebook for personal reasons only? If yes, it’s still ok to run a B2B campaign targeting them there – you might be surprised at the results
    4. Are my best potential clients time challenged? If yes,  try YouTube or Slideshare, maybe Periscope if your audience is there
  3. Spend the majority of your time listening to your target audience. And by listening, I mean searching the social platforms and internet relentlessly to find out the content topics that truly interest and motivate your prospects. Producing fewer pieces of great content is far better than loads of mediocre drivel.
  4. You’ve seen what others are doing, now do something different. This is another reason it’s so important to listen. You can’t stand out from the crowd if you don’t know what they’re doing. This is also where it gets hard. Doing something unique takes time and effort. But it’s worth it. It’s the difference between being one of many of the same, and standing above the others.
  5. Not everything will work. Keep trying different things. The great thing about social media is the instant messaging feedback loop it provides. What did people respond to? You’ll find out pretty fast what flies and what flops. Keep testing those messages until you know exactly what your audience wants to hear. Then use those messages for everything you do.
  6. There are no rules. So you have the freedom to try campaigns, messages and platforms. If it works it works, if it doesn’t, move on to the next. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is still figuring this stuff out.

I know you feel like you don’t have time to get done what you have in front of you, let alone try a bunch of new ideas on new platforms. But trust me, just a little bit of time each day will help you get your feet wet, reduce the overwhelmingness of learning news stuff and will absolutely help you get to know your prospects even better. It’s not bad fodder for your resume either.

In honor of the creativity and originality of Prince and Bowie

Prince. Bowie. It’s a sad year for music fans and all around fans of creativity and originality. I’m a huge fan of all of it. And I’m both grieving and grateful for the music and inspiration.

I want to take a moment to respect what these great artists did for their fields and the world.

Originality – During the 80’s, when the when the world was just starting to break out of the bland synthesizers of the 70’s, these artists took a stand for originality and creativity. Inspiring legions of artists and non-artists alike, they made it ok to be weird. More than ok.

“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger. That’s what’s missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement or mystery.”
Prince: Los Angeles Times (1982)

More than just the art – It was never just about the music for Bowie, but about changing the world. When you go forth with that mindset, truly anything is possible.

“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go.” -David Bowie

Embrace every aspect of the work – Never content to just sing, or just play an instrument, these two greats both immersed themselves in every aspect of the music, creating an even greater understanding of the art.

“The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can.” -Prince

Reinvention – Both Prince and Bowie continuously reinvented themselves, staying ahead of the originality curve and never growing outdated or stale.

“I feel confident imposing change on myself. It’s a lot more fun progressing than looking back. That’s why I need to throw curve balls.” -David Bowie
“When I became a symbol, all the writers were cracking funnies, but I was the one laughing. I knew I’d be here today, feeling each new album is my first.” -Prince

It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, there is truth–life is short.  “Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day. But before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.” – Prince. Living by the beautiful rules of Bowie and Prince, that’s a life that’s worth dancing for.

Is Lead Scoring Like SO Last Year?

Wait what? Are you just now getting lead scoring up and running and actually making it work? If you’re using a marketing automation system like Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot, you probably got this nifty feature built in.

It can take a while to make lead scoring successful. But now that you’re really using it, is it doing what you want?

Here’s the methodology of lead scoring and why it might be flawed or at least inadequate. The theory we’ve been working with for a few years is that it takes prospects multiple marketing touches to get warmed up to a company. Further, said prospect might never explicitly ask to speak to your company about your products and services. Lead scoring allows you to assign a number value to each activity the prospect does (i.e: download a white paper-get 10 pts, attend a webinar – 15 pts, visit your website – 1 pt per page etc. you get the idea). Then when their score piles up to your pre-determined threshold, your sales team does a proactive reach-out.

What’s great about lead scoring:

  • Lead nurturing and continued prospect activities are built into the program, supporting the very effective practice of content marketing – yay, big marketing win!
  • Your internal peeps and maybe nay-sayers see the data behind what it takes to convert a looky-loo into a genuine prospect – hint, it takes more than one awesome email.
  • There are some prospects who will never fill out that form on your website, like ever. Lead scoring allows you to keep track of their activities and push them with more direct methods once they reach your threshold.
  • Your sales team’s time is maximized. They need only concern themselves with the prospects that are truly showing digital interest and buying signals.

So this all sounds pretty great and it really is miles ahead of where we were without it. However there are some major shortcomings that make it fall short of its promise of tomorrow land.

Where the lead scoring fun stops.

First, sales reps still spend at least 50 percent of their time researching the marketing-qualified leads that get passed over from marketing. Because, while your lead scoring program tallies up the prospect’s activities, it doesn’t know whether or not that prospect is actually a valid potential buyer of your product or services. The person could just be a super fan of your blog, a student or a looky-loo with no means to buy.

Secondly, that pre-determined score you designated as the threshold for passing the lead to sales is pretty arbitrary. There’s no perfect formula that works for all prospects.

But now there is a solution that makes your old lead scoring model shinier and prettier.

Enter predictive lead scoring.

Predictive lead scoring is technology that allows you to digitally comb your marketplace to suss out the best potential buyers for your product.  It does this by first analyzing the data of your existing client base, and closed-won leads and creating patterns of what your ideal clients look like. Then it finds new prospects that match that model. You can tweak how you like if you’re going after a new market or have a new product to sell.

So now there are two ways to measure a lead’s potential. The first, that you’re familiar with from regular lead scoring is how much are they interested in you, as measured by their engagement with your content and marketing materials. The second and newer component measures how interested should you be in them. To make the most of these two together, create a threshold that must be met on both fronts. The result will create a far higher lead conversion rate and even a higher average deal size. When you’re working the right prospects, your odds of success go way up.

The leading companies offering predictive lead scoring are Infer, Lattice Engines and Fliptop. They are building relationships with the top marketing automation systems as we speak so you can expect this to become mainstream technology. And, thank goodness.

Your sales reps will actually trust marketing and  find they have to spend far less time ensuring they are calling an actual qualified lead. And you and your marketing team can spend far less time listening to complaints about crappy leads. Hurrah for that.

Photo by John McCloy via Flickr

What Will Change in BTB Marketing in 2016? Everything. (again)

Just when you thought the dust was settling, we’re in for more wild changes. You didn’t really think the dust was settling did you? Of course not, you’re a smart marketer. It’s the age of disruption and baby, it just keeps on disrupting.

So what specifically can BTB marketers expect for 2016? Here are my predictions:

1. The Rise of the Marketing Technologist – It’s not longer enough to have a marketing automation person or team. Marketing automation systems like Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and Hubspot are just the tip of the spear. Tools abound and marketing teams need a technologist who can evaluate if they will help the team perform better and also ensure they get used and add value once purchased. Sounds simple but according to marketing technologist, Scott Brinker, the average marketer might be regularly using more than 100 pieces of software to get his/her job done. All those bits and pieces of software cost money but are supposed to save time, so the marketing technologist ensures they do.

2. Live Video  Captures More than the Moment – Move over polished marketing video, you are too time consuming and not genuine enough. This year saw the launch of Periscope and Blab to huge adoption rates. These video formats make it easy for marketers to shoot on-the-fly live videos that keeps a real, authentic vibe that seems to be resonating big time. Experts agree that this is a trend that’s only getting trendier. By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled.

In just a few short months, Periscope alone has accumulated over 15 million registered users. Consider how quickly a much newer network has grown: Launched in October 2010, Instagram reached the 1 million user mark in just 2.5 months. It reached 10 million users in one year.  Periscope took just 5 months to reach 10 million users.” –How Live Streaming is Changing the Face of Social Media, Kim Garst

3. Demand for Quality Content Will Rise– Content marketing isn’t going away, it’s been here for eons and while the name may be new (er), the practice is old. That said, the easy distribution offered by social media and the overall popularity of the practice of content marketing, means that the airwaves are packed with dubiously useful content. Consumers are overwhelmed and looking for ways to filter. To get noticed and get results your content must be surgically tailored to your target audience and offer true value. This means you can’t leave your blog and social media postings to your intern anymore. Your customers are wise and wary and they can sniff out that inexperienced content in an Internet minute. Less is more–make less, but make it good any you’ll be more successful.

4. Account Based Marketing Will Get Bigger  (and maybe creepier) – Continuing the trend of more personalization and less blanket marketing efforts, account based marketing will only grow in 2016. If you’re new to the concept, it is technology-aided uber targeting. It works best for those companies going after a short list of customer “whales.” Imagine customizing your internet display ads, landing pages and even your entire website for a specific target–so anyone from that company who engages with you gets an uber tailored experience. Check out this example at Demandbase.com, note the company customization, the map and the message that speaks directly to the company’s business:

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 12.21.12 PM









So as a consumer, if you work for a big company… you can expect to get Internet creeped on the regular (slow clap).

5. Social Media Marketing Will Get More Difficult and Expensive – Facebook was just the first to slow the roll of marketers trying to reach their followers with free posts, forcing marketers to pay to get their posts pushed out to their entire follower base. Twitter is expected to follow suit this year and others will be right behind. Not only that, but people are clicking through from your Twitter links less and  social sites are actively trying to keep you on their site, rather than encouraging viewers to pay a visit to your real estate.

As every major social platform becomes more pay-to-play, marketers are frantically leveling up their advocate strategy and influencer game, and trying to maintain relevance organically.” Five Social Trends Marketers Won’t Be Able to Ignore in 2016, Victor Pineiro, Ad Age (note: This article contains a healthy dose of pessimism, or er, realism as you prefer)

6. You’ll Want to Re-think your Digital Display Ad Budget – Ad blocking software usage is up 48% in the US in 2015. That means about half the people who used to see your clever banner ad, are no longer seeing it. And you’re still paying for those impressions. Make sure you’re paying per click this year! For all the latest trends and even by-geography stats, check out the 2015 Ad Blocking Report by the Pagefair Team.

So team, if we’re going to be successful, this year, we have our work cut out for us. Key takeaways are to get more customized and qualitative with your marketing. This goes for where you’re distributing it as well as what you’re distributing. There are plenty of tools out there to help you do it and plenty of marketers who are gearing up as experts to help you sort through and manage those tools. Things are evolving fast so keep an eye out for rule changes that could crush your ROI when you’re not even looking. Cheers to 2016!

Photo by David Pacey

What is Content Marketing?

Since I started my own content marketing agency, I find myself needing to define content marketing pretty often. Mostly it’s when I’m describing what my new business does to friends, neighbors and family. This is how it goes:

Them: “What type of business did you start?”

Me: “I started a marketing agency that specializes in content marketing.

Them: Long pause… “that um… sounds nice…?”

So I have started to head off the awkward silences with an included definition of content marketing. This is what I call the Momsplanation:

Me: “Imagine you own a company that sells exercise equipment and you need more customers. Rather than sending out a bunch of product brochures that talk about how great your products are, you publish material or content about health and fitness. By discussing health and fitness in an intelligent and engaging way, you provide value to the kind of people who might be interested in getting some exercise equipment. You show your expertise rather than telling about it. This leads to potential customers who trust you and want to buy your stuff.”

Them: (lightbulb!)

This is often followed up with a conversation about someone they know who could use this sort of approach.

Some others have created much more official explanations, and just so you get your requisite dose of business speak, I’ll put the most universally accepted one here:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” -Content Marketing Institute

This description is technically good. I don’t think it helps describe it to Mom, but it hits on some of the finer points of content marketing, which are:

  • Give your prospects something they value for free
  • Talk directly to those whom you want to buy your product/service
  • Why? So we get customers who buy stuff

The Wikipedia version, which is the first definition that pops up when you Google “What is Content Marketing” is:

“Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.” -Wikipedia

This description is pretty inadequate. By this definition any flyer you get on your car at a ballgame would qualify as “content marketing.” What’s missing is the intent of content marketing, which should always to educate and provide value–the “valuable content” part of the CMI definition above.

When you’re developing your content marketing strategy, here’s the trick I use. Forget you’re selling something. Focus tightly on your target audience–be really specific about who this person is and what he/she struggles with on a daily basis. Is it getting to the gym, losing weight, eating more healthfully? What information can you provide that will help them with that struggle? It’s ok if it has nothing to do with the exercise equipment you have to offer. You’re building trust and offering value, which will make them want to buy from you.

“A customer that feels valued beyond his or her wallet is a customer more likely to respond to your next message or offer.”
-Customer Experience Must Be at the Heart of Your Agile Marketing,by Paul Mandeville, MarketingProfs

Sometimes people feel they are “giving away” too much for free with this approach. But don’t forget, information is cheap these days–anything you can offer that is truly customized to your target market is valuable them and to your relationship in the long run.

Photo by Joe the Goat Farmer via Flickr Commons