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Digital Strategy

What is Content Marketing really? And is a Content Marketing Strategy different than a Content Strategy?

To the second question, NO, there is no difference.

Let us explain our answer to the first question.

There are many definitions given for content marketing, but ours is pretty simple.
The use of any consciously consumed piece of content created to enhance relationships, education and convince with the goal of getting someone to make a decision or take action.
For us this applies to visibility, awareness, lead generation and conversion or sale.

Content Marketing Strategy vs. Content Strategy

We say there isn’t a difference.
But what do others say?

Some say that content marketing strategy is understanding who your audience is, creating your message, have a brand guide and implementing it.
Some say that content strategy is more about channel strategy and the types of content that goes on those channels.

While we agree that both should exist, we also believe they are one in the same and that it goes beyond the content.

What is Content?

Content is a tool to communicate.
That’s it.

We dare you to argue with us on this. We always win!

Content Marketing Strategy

When we create a content marketing strategy we do these things:

  • Ask you questions about your business
  • Ask you questions about your customers
  • Look at your customer data & behavior
  • Research the market using search engines
  • Research your customers using search engines
  • Research the market using social media
  • Research your customers using social media
  • Identify how your targets consume online
  • Develop a channel strategy
  • Develop content for each channel
  • Optimize content with each channel
  • Track, measure and monitor behavior
  • Continuously optimize

This is how we think content marketing should be done and we’ve seen it work again and again.

Contact us if you want to learn more or contact us if you want to debate our ideas.

These 7 Online Marketing Trends for B2B Companies and Business Owners Are Game Changers

In the Internet age, there is no such thing as stagnation; the digital landscape is constantly evolving. Rather than be intimidated by new marketing practices or dismiss them as trends which aren’t built to last (don’t be the guy who thought Facebook was just a fad!), prepare for the future and determine which specific approaches can help your business explode in 2017, leaving your competition in the dust.

  1. Data Visualization Tools – marketers are obsessed with all things data, but if they can’t explain what the data means, then what’s the point? In order to explain with quantitative information who your business’s customers are, why they want your product and when, and what needs to be said to them to build a relationship, data visualization tools are starting to be used to interpret large amounts of numerical information. This is a huge opportunity for you as a business owner and marketer to tap into possible new customer segments as well as build upon your current foundation. Just remember, in the words of Orbitz Media’s Andy Crestodina, “You don’t have to be big to use big data to make better decisions.” (not sure if you want to link out to other pages or not, but I like the quote)
  2. Dense Content – in a world where every business has a Facebook page, constantly sharing updates and posts, it has become enormously difficult to get your message to stand out in crowded newsfeeds. Savvy marketers have realized this, and now make every word of every line in their content count, providing instant value for their customer. In other words, don’t post for the sake of posting; post something worthwhile, something that will help!
  3. More Live Video – people have been screaming for more live video for years. And with the diversity of platforms which make videos available, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, Instagram, among others, there is no doubt a specific medium exists for your business to share your message with your audience. This is where using search and social data to determine where your possible customers are is crucial for executing a video strategy which will actually provide ROI.
  4. E-mail Marketing Isn’t Dead – e-mail is about to make a massive comeback, and if used wisely, will enable tremendous growth. Now that many marketing automation platforms integrate with most others, as a marketer you can use behavioral insights from your social and content campaigns to develop customer-centric messages which will resonate with your audience and lead to a substantially higher conversion rate.
  5. The Referral Model – don’t be scared of online customer reviews! Rather, monitor reviews and actually respond to them. In fact, if you invite your customers to review your business, you’ll not only get a chance to improve your customer service but also see increased traffic to your website and/or physical location, leading to more sales!
  6. A “Post-Fact” World – marketers have known for a long time that emotions matter when making purchasing decisions, but now the rest of the world has caught up. Instead of relying on statistics and data alone to make the sale, you’ll need to frame these insights in a way which will make your customer feel a specific way.
  7. Content Becomes More Than “Content” – as noted earlier, lots of businesses haven’t tapped into the full potential of content, and simply use it as something just to say they have it. Smart business owners and marketers will now use their content to solve customer support problems, develop engagement with employees to enhance retention, organize the sales process, among a wide variety of other uses.

In short, there are a lot of different ways a business can use new tools and trends to effectively market themselves. In order to understand what the correct route to take is and which platforms are worth spending time on to spur growth for you, follow our blog for more updates as we tackle pressing issues in the digital space. Or just leave us a note! We’re always happy to lend a helping hand.

We’ve worked on many campaigns for business coaches and consultants over the years, giving them digital marketing strategies, doing audits and market research.
In every engagement we both commented on how similarly we solved problems for organizations.
Most of the time organizations look for help in times of transition or change, to fix issues that continue to come up, or they need to add new skills to their team.

How do Marketing Agencies & Business Coaches Handle Organizational Development?

Let’s touch on each of the areas listed above.

Manage transitions

Moving into a new phase of your business typically generates anxiety.
Both Marketing Agencies and Business Coaches will ask about the challenges you are up against and can help you zero in on what and how to change to go beyond them.
For the marketing agency this could be adding to the content mix for generating greater visibility and for a business or leadership coach this could be creating an 90-day action plan.

Fix recurrent issues

Sometimes the same problem keeps happening over and over, but every thing you do to try and fix it doesn’t work.
For a marketing agency you may find yourself creating standard reports if the issue was discovered to be inaccurate data transformation.
For a business coach this could mean delegating weekly meeting governance to someone other than the department head when a meeting is continually dominated by the same person and nothing gets accomplished.

Add new skills

A good example here is the need to master complex subject matter or pursue new strategies.
For a digital marketing agency this could be training an in-house team on how to execute an ongoing SEO program, or taking over the role completely.
For a business or executive coach this could mean teaching a new manager better negotiation skills to deal with stressful confrontations in the workplace.

In many cases, caveats will obviously apply.
Also beware of the agency or business coach that has overly rigid and inflexible processes.
While sometimes these sound great (because it makes things seem easier), the result many times is a sub par outcome.

If You are having a complex issue with your Digital Marketing then contact us today by filling out the form at the bottom of this page or calling us at the number on the top of the page.

For the 18 years that I (John Bracamontes) have done work online and in the digital marketing space, not once had I ever submitted work to be recognized as a job well done.
My opinion was that the work spoke for itself, because I drove leads, and leads meant new sales, and new sales meant higher revenue for my clients.

 

“Why Would I Need An Award To Show Greatness?”

 
Is how I thought.

I’ve seen over the years other agencies share in the successes of their teams and genuinely promote how great their clients are, which began to soften my perspective on the benefit of awards and recognition for the work outside of its result.

I realized that uniting with a sense of pride on what you do for others, recognizing the value and celebrating together is massively powerful.

So this year, Acumen submitted one entry in the St. Louis Business Marketing Association’s B2B Marketing Excellence Awards.

That night the team was recognized for the work we did (and do), we had fun and celebrated together, celebrated with others and set a precedent for the future of the agency.

No longer will we hide our wins and pride for the value we bring to those who choose to work with us!

And Thanks to Kopytek.com for being such an amazing group to work with!

At this point you should already realize that social media isn’t just a place where friends and family connect, share photos and like posts.

Social has become a repository of knowledge, similar to the search engines, but more affinity driven by relationships and trusted sources.

If you want to know who to use for internet law, who can help you with an ESOP or what company is building quality apps, then social is a great place to get real feedback and reviews from people who have ACTUALLY used those services or know their work.

A B2B Social Media Strategy

Understanding how your target customers are using social media is key to gaining visibility, providing education to and engaging with these targets.

  1. Customers are asking their network for recommendations
  2. They are qualifying your company on social media
  3. These targets are educating themselves on your products & services

Has Anyone Heard of this Company?

A go to question asked by many business owners, executives, directors, buyers, managers, etc.
This is very powerful.

If an executive reaches out to their network asking for personal feedback on a company and one of their peers responds with good things to say, then you are on your way to landing new business.

While not every business will get a personal recommendation, if you have been marketing yourself well, then someone will at least know of you and respond with something like “I’ve seen this company and they look like they know what they are doing.”.
This is the next best thing, because you have built a small amount of social capital and trust with this target.

This stage of discovery is very important and completes the infinite loop of growth through marketing, which you can see clearly in our content marketing funnel (which is more of an hourglass), where past customers become salesmen for your business.

Who Are You Really?

Once a customer has been made aware of your business, whether it was from a referral on social media or they got nothing on social and asked the wise search engine Google, they will absolutely look your company up on social media.
Again this is a critical B2B Social Media step.

While the majority of B2B product & services companies are served well on LinkedIn, it is important to understand that these same customer targets have social profiles on many platforms and will look to find you where they are at in the moment (this could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest in addition to LinkedIn).
Plus, you will have a more diverse result in the search engines with a cross-platform social media presence. More results, Knowledgegraph inclusions, image results, Twitter feed, etc.

These customers will look to see if you are a legitimate business and size you up to see if you are a good fit.
Questions like “Are they too big?”, “Are they too small?”, “Do they think like I think?”, and many more. This is where being clear on your own brand and business is important, because it will qualify buyers for you in a very efficient way, driving better leads into your sales funnel.

At this point two main things will happen.
A customer will contact you via phone, form submission or email (they will find this info on your social profiles, if you have built them out completely).
Or the customer will educate themselves more on a specific product or service.

How Will Your Product or Service Help Me?

This is what most businesses think of as soon as they hear B2B Social Media or Social Media Strategy.
And rightfully so, because it is so critical.

Customers need to understand:

  • What problem you solve
  • What you sell / solution you provide
  • How it works
  • Why it fits their needs
  • Why you are better or different
  • Your process

Social Media is a great place to get this clarifying, compelling and enlightening content in front of prospective buyers.
These customers are comparing you to your competitors and the more you can educate them, the better chance you have of winning that business.

While you will want this content to primarily live on your website, social is the channel you will distribute this educational material to ensure it gets seen and gets the buyer back to your site where you can convert them or reach back out and communicate in other ways.

Types of B2B Content for Social Media

  • Blog Posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • One Sheeters
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Research Papers
  • Webinars
  • Case Studies
  • Podcasts

Depending on your product or service the mix of B2B content types will differ and the tactical strategy for each channel can be tailored as well.

B2B Social Media Research & Tactics

As with any marketing you should conduct research to identify key information to that will guide the marketing efforts. B2B Social Media is no different.

Our recommendation is to take the research beyond social as well by using Google search query data (the keywords) and pair it with social media research on your target customers social platforms, including the less thought about forums and groups such as Quora and LinkedIn groups.

Creating an inventory of who your target prospects is very important and taking this even further by identifying the stakeholders in those companies and engaging with their personal accounts on social will drive massive results.

This leads us to a few specific tactics that we recommend for a superior B2B Social Media Strategy.

Following and engaging with the business accounts of your prospective customers, the individual accounts of the decision makers of those businesses and the same for your current customers will create much-needed visibility, awareness, affinity and trust with the organizations that you want to do business with.

  • Like, Comment & Share Posts
  • Favorite, Reply & Retweet
  • Like & Comment using Video

This exposes you to the businesses you want to work with and gets your customers talking about you more, while at the same time you are indirectly getting in front of other potential customers who also engage with the same companies you are targeting.

This works like a charm and very few businesses are doing this!

You can learn more about our approach to social media here: http://acumenstudio.com/social-media-marketing-agency/

How Do I Know If It’s Working?

To be 100% Honest, this isn’t easy for most businesses.
Tracking, monitoring, analyzing, measuring and reporting to identify an ROI on your B2B marketing and social media efforts takes using platforms that can help you measure impact, attribution, and sales.
Most businesses are not equipped to do this (as are most marketers!).

You will either need to educate yourself on using platform specific social media analytics, social media tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, etc. or hire an agency to help you with this.

What we can tell you is that social media for B2B companies Pays Off BIG!

 

Download a Social Media Case Study Below to Learn More

Or, You can give us a call now at 866-357-7422 to talk.

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Not really, a Creative Director will still be needed, just not in the same way it is today.

A recent article on AdAge.com spoke on how most ad & creative agencies are 5 – 10 years behind the current state of marketing’s capabilities. And the Creative Director works as it did back then where they create a few ideas, hand off the ideas and comps, then call it a day.

Guess what? That’s Dead!

Here’s the deal.
Whether creative agencies want to admit it or not, their decisions on what to create are driven by data. They ask the client questions and create something they feel meets the client’s expectations.
We get it, they want to please their client.

Here’s what’s missing, The Customer!

Best case scenario is that the client knows their customer so well that the data they give you is solid. Much of the time it needs to be supplemented with current customer behavioral & search data.
It is important to look at what customers are searching for online and find out where & how they qualify products or services they are looking to buy.
This will inform you on how to engage and what content to create for maximum exposure and conversion.

Back to the Creative Director role

Not only will the Creative Director need 3rd party customer data to inform creative decisions, but they also need to consider more technical aspects of design such as UX and UI as it relates to a customer’s motivations, needs, use of the medium and conversion optimization.

Even more, this Director will need to be aware of how to integrate all 3rd party data into their design process.
For example, variables in ads that are dynamic and will modify based on weather conditions in any given geography. Imagine a Starbucks ad that changes once it starts raining in St. Louis to show someone having fun in the rain with a cool umbrella and holding their favorite venti-sized drink as they smile & splash a small puddle. But it is totally different when it is dry and overly windy.
I’m weeping as a write this at how beautiful this level of personalization is 😉

We are advocates of moving towards a more informed creative process (see our Digital Marketing Audit), do this ourselves and want everyone to follow suit.

Follow the leader (we like it at the front of the pack)!

*Ad Age Article Here: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/creative-director-role-exist-10-years/305623/

I recently read an article by John Rampton titled “Prepare for the Future being shaped by these 5 Critical Trends.”
He goes on to share these trends and his explanation of why they will have a significant impact on the future.

Some of it I agreed with while other parts I did not.

Here I am sharing both my opinions and ideas in comparison to Rampton’s.

5 Trends Shaping the Future of Business (and Marketing)

1. Winning at mobile will mean having an app.

Rampton
Mobile usage is at an all-time high and shows no signs of slowing down. Consumers are using mobile for everything from buying products, to communicating with friends, to playing games, to finding local businesses.

Over the past couple of years, business owners have taken this trend to heart, optimizing their sites for mobile through the use of a responsive site design. And while this is a great first step, it may no longer be enough to future-proof your business.

Research shows that 89 percent of all mobile media time is now spent in apps, while only the remaining 11 percent is spent on the mobile web. This means that not having an app for your business is almost certainly costing you. If you don’t already have an app, now is the time to start planning for one.

Bracamontes
While I agree with what most of Rampton is saying here, I cannot make the same absolute statement that All businesses will need a mobile app. I am a big supporting of the mobile web and responsive design.

The research that showcases 89% of mobile media time is spent in apps is skewed heavily toward consumers playing games, watching YouTube videos and messaging other consumers. So unless you are one of those types of companies, then there are larger questions to ask in determining your need for an app.

We have had many companies come to us with ideas for customer portals or app ideas that didn’t need to be an app.

In our opinion, a larger concern will be on integrating with other apps. Aggregators, Indexing and organizational apps will lead heavily in how we interact with our mobile devices, so getting cozy with these companies will be hugely beneficial.


2. Increase your use of freelancers now so you’re not playing catch-up.

Rampton
We now know that 34 percent of the US workforce are freelancers. This works out to over 54 million freelancers in America who contribute $700 billion annually to the national economy.

It has also been predicted that by 2020 (that’s just four years away!), freelancers will make up 50 percent of the workforce. That will seriously impact how you do business!

There are many benefits to using freelancers to build and grow your business. However, one of the most important “future-proof” benefits is this: in the event of an economic downturn, using freelancers will make you and your business far more nimble. Not only will it allow you to find and hire the best global workers, you won’t need to pay costs like office space or employee benefits.

Bracamontes
Definitely agree with Rampton here.
While again these numbers are skewed since many of these freelancers are also fully employed, it doesn’t negate the fact that they are still doing some work on a freelance basis.

Every study is showing that more and more people are moving to work in a freelance capacity, due to the freedom it can provide for their lifestyle.

Is this good for business, maybe, maybe not, but it is a fact that you will have to be a part of this trend.


3. Prepare for the aging workforce.

Rampton
The US workforce is undergoing some serious shifts in terms of demographics. In fact, according to the CDC, by 2020 one in every four workers will be over the age of 55.

As older workers begin retiring, companies will be left with openings in key leadership positions. To fill these gaps, businesses will need to consider whether to hire internally or externally. While smaller organizations may need to look almost exclusively to outside hires, the “world’s most admired companies” (WMAC’s) know that hiring internally is the wave of the future. According to Fortune, only 11 percent of WMAC’s anticipate hiring externally, while 81 percent say they’re preparing current employees to take over key positions.

Now is the time to begin identifying high-potential individuals within your organization. This will give you time to invest in training and development, ensuring they’re ready for their new roles when the time comes.

Bracamontes
This is an interesting contradiction to the freelancer prediction in my opinion.
With an increase in people moving to freelance, you may find that key leadership roles will actually move outside of the company and be held by those who left.
I can definitely see a retirement package, being a consulting gig for the executive leaving their full time benefit laden gig with a more lean outlay for the company, but still very lucrative and more flexible for the now contracted retiree.

Another trend are SuperTemps, which are basically well educated consultants who work independent of any organization, but are just as good, if not better than those you would find at Deloitte, Bain, Booz, etc.

I can say that personally, we will look both internally and externally for our agency.
It’s ultimately about fit.


4. Adapt policies attractive to millenial employees.

Rampton
According to the Workforce 2020 Global Research report, one of the top concerns organizations have in terms of labor-market shifts is the rise in millennials entering the workforce. And while executives believe there key differences between how Millennials and other generational groups operate in the organization, most don’t fully understand exactly what these differences are.

Millennials are less bound by loyalty, and expect to have up to 9 employers over the course of their lifetime. In their report, Millennials At Work: Reshaping the Workplace, PricewaterhouseCoopers offers some important insights into the differences employers should consider, including:

  • Due to recent economic downturn in many parts of the world, Millennials now expect to work for up to six or more employers over their lifetime. This means decreased loyalty toward employers, and therefore greater turnover.
  • Millennials value flexibility and diversity in terms of their working hours, location, training and work/life balance.
  • Millennials prefer to communicate electronically rather than in-person or on the phone. Employers will need to adapt their current model to accommodate this.
  • Millennials prefer a digital wallet over being paid by check. They are demanding a new wave of ease in payments.

Bracamontes
I’ll be honest in saying that this is ridiculous to me in that we have to work hard to make these shifts.
These types of business building activities have progressed since the beginning of time.
Cultures change, behaviors change, rules change, technology changes, etc. and we have to CHANGE TOO!

We see this as being a communication issue with organizations.
Make the shifts like you’re going to have to anyway and convey the message that working with you is good for those reasons.

Who cares how the work gets done as long as it gets done.
And if you are communicating your values and beliefs correctly then you will attract the type of people you want in your organization and they will likely do the work in a similar style as you anyway.


5. Prepare your business for environmental and social sustainability.

Rampton
While becoming socially and environmentally sustainable is currently not a requirement in most industries, it may become so in the future. Beginning the process of becoming a so-called “future-fit” business can help you start the process now, ensuring you continue to grow and thrive into the future, without doing harm to society or the environment. Millennials really care about both of these issues, so you may want to up your own game in both of these social issue areas.

Using the Future-Fit Business benchmark, businesses can define their own future-fit goals to ensure they’re on the path towards becoming sustainable. Businesses can aspire to a list of 21 goals, each with its own set of key fitness indicators (KFIs).

Be aware that pursuing this course can have significant impact on the way you do business. The report authors write, “We believe that when businesses see the gap between their current performance and the necessary future-fit level of environmental and social performance, they will abandon their incremental efforts and embrace innovative breakthrough efforts…Some companies may find that they need to redesign their business model to reach the benchmark and capture the benefits.”

Bracamontes
Look I get it.
The environment is important to keep healthy, because if we don’t, then we die (or our kids, grand kids, great grand kids, etc.).

But social sustainability sounds a little off.
Our society changes a lot and our views change with it.
You could always argue that actions or inactions could positively or negatively affect society.
My opinion is to do what you think is right and value feedback.

As an example: A recent documentary I watched showed how the overwhelming charity given to areas in Africa has actually killed societies, due to the fact that they cannot sustain without these handouts, due to the fact that they get these handouts!
Food given to these African cities, kills the local food economy and puts farmers out of business, clothing given to the cities, kills the local textile manufacturers and clothiers. See what I’m saying.

So something you think is great for society could be really detrimental.

These statements also make me think that we are in some type of a bubble as well.

Needless to say, I like to give my two cents.
I thought there was great thought put into the article and wanted to share with you all as well.

If you want to talk to me about ideas like this then give me a call or send an email and I would love to talk shop with you. Especially if it’s in relation to content marketing or digital marketing audits!

*original source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281097

Many businesses have no clue how effective their digital efforts are within and outside of the organization. Teams are reporting to executive vanity metrics and isolated analyses that don’t tell the whole picture. This leads to the continued state of “You don’t know, what you don’t know”.
This is a problem!

Understanding how you compare and how effective your organization is a digital competence practice can dramatically increase your ability to be efficient and effective at strategic operations, marketing and finance. This will translate to higher margins, lower cost of visibility, increased employee happiness, lower cost and an increased number of new customers.

Creating this scoring framework for your Digital Competence can bring structure and clarity to optimizing your business in two ways: first, by defining where digital technology has the greatest impact and, second, by providing a clear method for assessing how your company compares with the competition in capability areas that will be essential for success in the face of digital change.

A fact-based assessment of a company’s digital competence can provide executives & managers with the intelligence needed to keep moving in the same direction or make a pivot when the digital scorecard has raised red flags.

As an example:
In retail markets, the paramount priority may be creating highly relevant omnichannel customer experiences that build strong relationships with a target demographic.

For an auto supplier, on the other hand, the key issue may be how well it meets customer needs in areas like infotainment and assisted driving, or how effectively it deploys digital tools in its own business to manage its supply chain, inventories and product development.

Defining where digital contributes the most value in a given industry is the first step in assessing where a company falls on a spectrum of excellence and leadership. It also helps identify where insurgents are disrupting the status quo and how quickly.

Check out this graphic on how retail can leverage Digital effectively in 6 key areas

Digital Scorecard 6 Key Areas

View more about how Private Equity firms use this in their due diligence process from this article by Bain: http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/measuring-companys-digital-competence.aspx

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