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The Secret to Creating Scalable, Quality Content and Better CX – Infographic

Content Experience Influence

A woman walks into a retail store and looks around, not finding what she’s there for. She approaches a sales associate and asks, “Excuse me, can you show me where the top of the funnel is? I need to be confronted by every touchpoint of your predetermined sales process before I can purchase something”.

Not one of your customers is doing this.

So why do brands continue to drive content marketing programs based on a linear, sequential buying journey? With so many consumers numb to brand messaging and increasingly blocking advertising, how can marketers do a better job of connecting with and engaging customers with content?

One of the first admissions recovering funnel marketers need to make is that the funnel is dead. The customer buying experience is more like a tangled mix of omnidirectional customer journeys driven by myriad factors, many of which brands no longer have control over. Considering all of those possible influences can be overwhelming, especially when expectations of content performance are higher than ever.

The good news is that content marketers can achieve quality content at scale while creating much better experiences for customers with that content by making influencer collaboration part of the strategy.

Content drives all aspects of the customer journey from discovering content to education and inspiration to taking action. There are many influences when it comes to customers and content including other people who are influential.

In fact, there are some very important trends happening in the influencer marketing world that were surfaced in our research with influencer relationship platform, Traackr. What is working, what is not? What are the differences between B2B and B2C? How are companies budgeting and what are the best practices and case studies to learn from?

For a preview of these top Influencer Marketing trends and more, be sure to see this excellent interactive infographic created by our friends at the interactive content marketing platform Ceros of the Influence 2.0 Report by Brian Solis (in partnership with Traackr and my agency, TopRank Marketing).

Lucky 13 considerations for an integrated approach to influencer generated content:

1. Thinking about customer insight as it relates to information discovery, consumption and acton through the lens of influence opens up some very interesting doors of opportunity. In fact, when marketers integrate influencer marketing at the content marketing strategy level, it becomes a compelling and long term opportunity that most overlook.

2. For example, consider content discovery: A study by Augure reports that 93% of marketers implementing influencer marketing say it is effective to build brand awareness. And Burst Media reports that marketers are getting nearly a 10 to 1 return on earned media value from working with influencers on content.

3. Why hire a PR firm for media relations when you could work with influencers to create editorial placements that get ten times the reach?  Actually, I think “working with PR” should be an “also” not an “instead of”. Media Relations and advertising investments with influencer content is a winning combination, not an either/or.

4. Content is King and customers are everything else. When it comes to content engagement, you have to decide what kind of content your customers prefer with considerations for topics, format, length, media type and even what devices they use.

5. Influencers lead and buyers follow. In his research, Dr. Jonah Berger of the Wharton School, reports that 82% of consumers follow expert recommendations. Twitter reports that 49% of consumers rely on influencers for product suggestions. Those are compelling stats relevant to how brands can work with influencers that can guide the kind of content to engage your customers in more effective ways.

6. Build it and they will come doesn’t work and neither does build and promoted the heck out of it and they will buy. It might, but there are no guarantees. According to research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, marketers are not overwhelmingly confident about the effectiveness of their content.

7. Content effectiveness goes up with influencer collaboration. Content Marketing Institute has reported a 10X boost in conversion rates when influencers are involved. Even more compelling is that influencer marketing was found to have 11X better annual ROI over traditional marketing, according to a study by Tapinfluence, White Wave and Nielsen.

8. What good is acquiring customers if they don’t stay customers? A study from McKinsey reports a 37% higher retention rate with customers acquired through influencer content.

9. The solution to better content discovery, engagement and action is the integration of content and working with influencers. The study that we partnered with Traackr and Brian Solis of Altimeter on agrees: 80% of marketers surveyed reported the area of business most impacted by working with influencers was content marketing.

10. This is why my definition of influencer marketing is focused on content:

“Influencer Marketing develops relationships with internal and industry experts with active networks to co-create content that helps drive measurable business goals.“

11. Funnel myth and the influencer warm up. With a relationship and content-focused approach to influencer marketing, customers aren’t looking for a mythical funnel as they visit their favorite online or neighborhood store. Instead, the business warms the buying journey with product recommendations from people that buyers already trust to make recommendations.

12. Pick and choose your influencers wisely. For some customers that might be a famous actor, athlete or champion of business. For other customers it might be a famous or niche social influencer. Discounting either famous or micro-influencers is to discount sources your customers actually trust.

13. It pays to dig in to better understand customers in terms of their content preferences including who influences them and about what, relative to your brand’s products and services. Instead of speculating about topics, keywords and stories, why not actually talk to your customers and find out: What triggers them to look for solutions? What is their pain? What questions do they have that your brand and influencer content can answer? Creating utility for buyers through brand and influencer generated content can be instrumental for creating more findable and meaningful content experiences.

How to jumpstart an influencer generated content program:

1 – Get expert help. Do you know who the top influencers are for your customers relevant to your industry? Do you already have relationships with those influencers? Does your competition?

Research the market, find out who your customers influencers are, big and small. Then make a plan that identifies how collaborating with those influencers on content can be tied to business goals..

2 – Invest in technology. Sure, you could use Twitter search or Followerwonk and a spreadsheet to create a list of influencers, but you could also bring a spatula to a gun fight – if you get what I mean.

Influencer marketing technology will help you intelligently identify, qualify, and engage with influencers as well as to manage communications and measure performance of your work together. There are highly useful, fundamental tools like BuzzSumo or specialty platforms like GroupHigh or Upfluence for bloggers, LittleBird for Twitter or more enterprise focused solutions like Traackr and Onalytica. There are also marketplaces like TapInfluence, Collective Bias or Linqia where you can “shop” for influencers to engage like advertising.

3 – Activate customers. Advocacy is powerful so you should start by activating those who are already expressing positive sentiment towards your brand and the things your brand and customers care about.

Benchmark the metrics you plan on affecting with influencer collaboration and start with those who are already advocate. That might mean people who follow your brand on social networks, employees and especially current customers. Invite advocate customers with reach, relevance and resonance amongst their communities to collaborate on content. Build out the processes that will make your content marketing more successful when you collaborate with trusted experts and people who have earned the trust of your potential customers.

If you would like to learn more about influencer generated content, best practices and how it can be integrated with your marketing strategy, be sure to check out our agency site, TopRank Marketing.

I’m also going to be speaking on content and influencer marketing topics at several upcoming conferences:

June 2, Chicago: 2017 Masters of B2B Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Hype or Hope for B2B

June 19 London: Digital Marketing World Forum
Influence + Content = Digital Marketing Success in 2017

June 22 London: B2B Ignite
Influence: Mighty Hype or Great Hope for B2B

I hope to see you there!

Digital Marketing News: Mobile Marketing Facts, Augmented Reality on Snapchat and More Google Updates

104 Facts You Didn’t Know About #Mobile #Marketing (Infographic)
There’s a lot to know about mobile marketing. To help keep fellow marketers up to speed, this infographic shares 104 facts about mobile marketing including usage, commerce, advertising and email. Case in point: mobile marketing is a key player in all marketing strategies. Walkertecharts.com

Snapchat Releases Sponsored World Lenses, Which Allow Brands to Augment Reality
Snapchat is now bringing ads to the real word with Sponsored Lenses. This new feature builds on Snapchat’s world lenses, and brands like Warner Bros., Netflix and Dunkin’ Donuts are turning these 3D graphics into ads. What will they do next? Adweek

Google Can Now Remove AdSense Ads From Single Pages
Instead of ads being pulled from an entire site, Google’s AdSense policies will now only remove ads from specific pages containing AdSense violations. Also, if an ad gets removed, Google has a communication channel for that. Policy violations are clearly stated in a new Policy Center. Search Engine Journal

Paid Search Trends 2017 Q1
A recent report from iProspect looked at paid search trends for Q1 in 2017, and gathered together key findings and insights in this report. Overall, it’s been a costly quarter for advertisers and wild cards in the marketing mix can make all the difference between growth and depreciation. iProspect   

What Grade Do Marketers Give Their Personalization Efforts?
96% of marketers say personalization helps advance customer relationships in this survey conducted by Evergage. While most marketers give themselves an above-average grade, there is still plenty of room for improvement. MarketingProfs

How LinkedIn’s Latest Update Could Help Boost Your Exposure Through the Platform
The recent acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft is using third party online services to make your “public” profile more visible. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile recently, you may want to brush up. You never know who’s going to find you, thanks to this new update. Social Media Today

4 Charts on Marketing to Middle America
A new survey from Digiday captures important information for marketers about customers who have recently gotten a lot of attention due to the presidential election. Findings focus on values, search habits, online purchase habits and brand importance. Digiday

Facebook Now Pinpoints Individual Posts to Keep Clickbait Out of the News Feed
A change to the Facebook algorithm now distinguishes between headlines that withhold information and headlines that exaggerate the story. Honing in on specific individual posts, rather than entire websites, will help to eliminate clickbait that over-promises and under-delivers. Marketing Land

What were your top news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more top online marketing news. Have something to add? Share your thoughts in the comments to Tweet to @toprank.

Social Media Marketing Report: Does Your Engagement Measure Up?

If I had to sum up marketing’s relationship with social media in a single nerdy meme, it’d be this:

Yes, much as Obi-Wan Kenobi was dismayed to find that Anakin had turned to the dark side, many marketers feel betrayed by social media. Each platform offered the potential to build an audience and deliver content straight to their feeds. They were supposed to be a powerful tool for organic reach. But one by one, they fell to the dark side of the algorithm.

But don’t throw away your social media channels just yet. After all, if you strike them down, they will become more powerful (sorry, that’s the last Star Wars reference). Instead, let’s have a clear-eyed assessment of what organic engagement looks like on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and see where to go from here.

Rival IQ just released their 2017 Social Media Benchmarks Report, which analyzes engagement by industry on the top three social media channels. These benchmarks can help determine what the best next steps are to maximize your engagement and your reach.

#1: Instagram Leads in Engagement

More than any other platform, Instagram seems to be the place people go to engage with brands. Engagement rate per post averages out to 1.66%, the only platform with over 1% in engagement.

The amount of interaction per post varies widely by industry, however. Higher Ed leads the pack with 3.55%. Surprisingly, Health & Beauty trails behind, with just 1.14%. While Instagram has a reputation as a health, beauty, and fashion platform, none of these categories come close to Nonprofit and Higher Ed for engagement.

Instagram’s visual, mobile-first format is definitely driving more engagement. Video performs exceptionally well on the platform, too—see these examples from brands rocking Instagram video.

You may not think your industry or brand is suited to the format, but if GE and Dell can do it, so can you. It’s not about creating million-dollar visuals or movie-level video. Keep it low-fi, stay honest and authentic. Use Instagram to showcase the people behind your brand and take your audience behind-the-scenes. More importantly, use Instagram’s tools to edit your photos, just like the user base does.

#2: Facebook Has Bigger Audiences, Lower Engagement

Many companies have an exponentially larger audience on Facebook than they do on Instagram. For example, Dell has 287,000 followers on Instagram and 10 million Facebook followers. That increase in audience almost offsets the drop in engagement rate, which is a fraction of Instagram’s. Higher Ed leads with just .33% engagement, while Media lags at .12%. Yes, twelve tenths of a percent.

This benchmark confirms what our agency has been saying for a long time: Facebook should be considered a pay-to-play platform. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Facebook ads are relatively inexpensive, and their targeting options make it easy to reach new audiences.

You should still post organic posts on Facebook, but don’t count on the algorithm to help you with engagement. Use ads to boost posts that are already seeing at least a minimum of engagement—they’re the ones resonating with your audience. Put a little budget behind them and be precise with your targeting, and you can get results.

#3: Twitter is Becoming a Broadcast Platform

Is Twitter dying? Perhaps not, but it has developed a nasty cough. Our own Caitlin Burgess pondered what’s next for Twitter, and a lot of it depends on what the company does in the next year to get well again.

RivalIQ’s numbers are pretty dire: Food & Beverage leads in engagement with .069%, while Media takes the caboose spot with .015%. To put those numbers in easily-understandable terms, if your Twitter engagement was a blood alcohol percentage, you’d still be legal to drive.

These numbers might be indicative of Twitter’s failing vital signs, but I believe there’s a simpler answer. Twitter is a lousy forum for conversation. There’s a ton of content, it moves fast, and most people aren’t watching their feed 24/7. It is, however, a good forum for building relationships. Follow people you want to work with, share their content, and then start a private conversation.

Depending on your audience, it’s still worth investing in paid promotion on Twitter. If it works, keep doing it. But for the most part, think of Twitter as more a platform for broadcasting and building relationships with influencers.

When It Comes to Engagement, Quality Is Key

The most striking find in RivalIQ’s report is that there is virtually no correlation between post frequency and level of engagement. I would love to say there’s a perfect frequency or just-right time of day to post that guarantees you can beat the odds, but the data doesn’t back that up.

Think of it as a positive, though. You’re free from having to post on Twitter three times a day, Facebook 1.5 times, and so on. Now you can focus on quality and relevance over everything else. Even with engagement rates in the single digits—even when they’re below single digits—quality content is always the path to the light side of the social media world.

Need help with social media marketing? We can help. Dig into this delicious TopRank Marketing customer success story to see how we do it.

8 Examples of Brands Using Instagram to Showcase Company Culture

In today’s business world, a strong company culture is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a business imperative. In fact, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 82% of respondents said they believe culture is a potential competitive advantage.

“Few factors contribute more to business success than culture—the system of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how real work gets done within an organization.” Deloitte states. “Culture brings together the implicit and explicit reward systems that define how an organization works in practice, no matter what an organizational chart, business strategy, or corporate mission statement may say.”

As a result, showcasing company culture has become a useful marketing tactic, with brands often using social media—especially Instagram—to get the word out.

With more than 700 million people using Instagram every month, Instagram can be an incredible tool for building brand awareness and affinity, and showing (not telling) your followers what you’re all about. In addition, it can also be a great way to inspire employee advocacy, as well as act as a useful recruiting tool.

To inspire your own efforts, below are some examples of both B2B and B2C brands leveraging Instagram to give their followers a compelling glimpse of company culture.

#1 – Hootsuite

Hootsuite’s Instagram account is completely dedicated to giving its followers a “look inside” the organization. Often using the hashtag #hootsuitelife, the social media management platform shares images of employees taking part in meetings or group outings, getting fit, attending special events, and indulging in a variety of sweet treats that have made their way into the office.

Hootsuite Company Culture on Instagram

#2 – eBay News

eBay is an online shopping pioneer, getting its start more than two decades ago. Today, eBay’s mission is to be the “world’s favorite destination for discovering great value and unique selection.” The company’s newsroom Instagram account is dedicated to sharing company news, technology, and, of course, company culture. From volunteer efforts to the company Christmas party, the eBay News Instagram account shows how its employees contribute to its mission and uphold important company values.

eBay Company Culture on Instagram

#3 – SAP

SAP’s core mission is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. As a result, the company’s Instagram account serves up an inspiring blend of company news, motivational quotes, and behind-the-scene looks at their employees in action—from enjoying a team pizza say to running a 5K.

SAP Company Culture on Instagram

#4 – TripAdvisor Careers

TripAdvisor is one of the world’s largest travel websites, allowing travelers to easily find lodging, flights and restaurants, compare rates, and book their trips. Of course, the team of employees working behind the scenes makes that all possible, and TripAdvisor’s Instagram account is dedicated to highlighting those employees and attracting new talent.

Company Culture on Instagram

#5 – HubSpot

Like others brands featured here, HubSpot’s Instagram account is a mix of inspiring, engaging content. But when it comes to company culture, HubSpot often tells its story through the eyes of its employees. Using the hashtag #hubspotemployeetakeover, employees take the Instagram reigns for a day or three to showcase how and where they work. Below is a shot of one of the most recent employee takeovers from Danita.

HubSpot Company Culture on Instagram

#6 – Marriott Careers

Marriott International is one of the most well-known names in the hospitality industry, with more than 6,000 properties and 30 brands across the globe. But the company isn’t resting on its strong brand name to attract potential employees. Rather, the company is using Instagram to share why people love their jobs.

Marriott Company Culture on Instagram

#7 – SproutSocial

Like Hootsuite, SproutSocial’s Instagram account is all about giving followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it’s like to “work and play” there. From showing off all the cuteness of Take Your Child to Work Day to sharing a simple pic of the amazing snack stash in the employee lounge, SproutSocial not only illustrates the fun perks, but also the employee joy and engagement their culture encourages.

SproutSocial Company Culture on Instagram

#8 – Zendesk

Zendesk is a customer service software that aims to help build better relationships. On its website the company states: “Happy customers are the bottom line.” On its Instagram account, you can see that they also believe “happy employees” are part of their bottom line. From “swag days” and team potlucks to encouraging smiles with sweet treats, Zendesk showcases the work of its Workplace Experience team and Culture Clubs on Instagram.

Zendesk Company Culture on Instagram

You’re In This Together

As I mentioned in my recent A Day in the Life of a Content Marketing Manager at TopRank Marketing post, TopRank Marketing’s culture is build on support, understanding and teamwork to ensure every individual and every client thrives. Of course, TopRank Marketing’s own Instagram account aims to bring this sentiment to life by showing our followers how we work, learn, laugh, celebrate, prank and play—and usually eat doughnuts—together.

The key word there? Together.

Simply put, your company culture is what brings and binds your organization together. When you put that on display, others—at both the employee and customer level—will want to join you.

Your #companyculture is what brings & binds your organization together. Show it off. Click To Tweet

Want to join the TopRank Marketing team? We’re hiring! Looking for a partner to help drive your company’s social media marketing efforts? We’d love to work with you. Get in touch with us today.

What other brands are doing a great job of showcasing their company culture on Instagram, or any other social media platform? Tell us in the comments section.

Disclaimer: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

How pilot testing can dramatically improve your user research

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Today, we are talking about user research, a critical component of any design toolkit. Quality user research allows you to generate deep, meaningful user insights. It’s a key component of WiderFunnel’s Explore phase, where it provides a powerful source of ideas that can be used to generate great experiment hypothesis.

Unfortunately, user research isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Do any of the following sound familiar:

  • During your research sessions, your participants don’t understand what they have been asked to do?
  • The phrasing of your questions has given away the answer or has caused bias in your results?
  • During your tests, it’s impossible for your participants to complete the assigned tasks in the time provided?
  • After conducting participants sessions, you spend more time analyzing the research design rather than the actual results.

If you’ve experienced any of these, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Even the most seasoned researchers experience “oh-shoot” moments, where they realize there are flaws in their research approach.

Fortunately, there is a way to significantly reduce these moments. It’s called pilot testing.

Pilot testing is a rehearsal of your research study. It allows you to test your research approach with a small number of test participants before the main study. Although this may seem like an additional step, it may, in fact, be the time best spent on any research project.
Just like proper experiment design is a necessity, investing time to critique, test, and iteratively improve your research design, before the research execution phase, can ensure that your user research runs smoothly, and dramatically improves the outputs from your study.

And the best part? Pilot testing can be applied to all types of research approaches, from basic surveys to more complex diary studies.

Start with the process

At WiderFunnel, our research approach is unique for every project, but always follows a defined process:

  1. Developing a defined research approach (Methodology, Tools, Participant Target Profile)
  2. Pilot testing of research design
  3. Recruiting qualified research participants
  4. Execution of research
  5. Analyzing the outputs
  6. Reporting on research findings
website user research in conversion optimization
User Research Process at WiderFunnel

Each part of this process can be discussed at length, but, as I said, this post will focus on pilot testing.

Your research should always start with asking the high-level question: “What are we aiming to learn through this research?”. You can use this question to guide the development of research methodology, select research tools, and determine the participant target profile. Pilot testing allows you to quickly test and improve this approach.

WiderFunnel’s pilot testing process consists of two phases: 1) an internal research design review and 2) participant pilot testing.

During the design review, members from our research and strategy teams sit down as a group and spend time critically thinking about the research approach. This involves reviewing:

  • Our high-level goals for what we are aiming to learn
  • The tools we are going to use
  • The tasks participants will be asked to perform
  • Participant questions
  • The research participant sample size, and
  • The participant target profile

Our team often spends a lot of time discussing the questions we plan to ask participants. It can be tempting to ask participants numerous questions over a broad range of topics. This inclination is often due to a fear of missing the discovery of an insight. Or, in some cases, is the result of working with a large group of stakeholders across different departments, each trying to push their own unique agenda.

However, applying a broad, unfocused approach to participant questions can be dangerous. It can cause a research team to lose sight of its original goals and produce research data that is difficult to interpret; thus limiting the number of actionable insights generated.

To overcome this, WiderFunnel uses the following approach when creating research questions:

Phase 1: To start, the research team creates a list of potential questions. These questions are then reviewed during the design review. The goal is to create a concise set of questions that are clearly written, do not bias the participant, and compliment each other. Often this involves removing a large number of the questions from our initial list and reworking those that remain.

Phase 2: The second phase of WiderFunnel’s research pilot testing consists of participant pilot testing.

This follows a rapid and iterative approach, where we pilot our defined research approach on an initial 1 to 2 participants. Based on how these participants respond, the research approach is evaluated, improved, and then tested on 1 to 2 new participants.

Researchers repeat this process until all of the research design “bugs” have been ironed out, much like QA-ing a new experiment. There are different criteria you can use to test the research experience, but we focus on testing three main areas: clarity of instructions, participant tasks and questions, and the research timing.

  • Clarity of instructions: This involves making sure that the instructions are not misleading or confusing to the participants
  • Testing of the tasks and questions: This involves testing the actual research workflow
  • Research timing: We evaluate the timing of each task and the overall experiment

Let’s look at an example.

Recently, a client approached us to do research on a new area of their website that they were developing for a new service offering. Specifically, the client wanted to conduct an eye tracking study on a new landing page and supporting content page.

With the client, we co-created a design brief that outlined the key learning goals, target participants, the client’s project budget, and a research timeline. The main learning goals for the study included developing an understanding of customer engagement (eye tracking) on both the landing and content page and exploring customer understanding of the new service.

Using the defined learning goals and research budget, we developed a research approach for the project. Due to the client’s budget and request for eye tracking we decided to use Sticky, a remote eye tracking tool to conduct the research.

We chose Sticky because it allows you to conduct unmoderated remote eye tracking experiments, and follow them up with a survey if needed.

In addition, we were also able to use Sticky’s existing participant pool, Sticky Crowd, to define our target participants. In this case, the criteria for the target participants were determined based on past research that had been conducted by the client.

Leveraging the capabilities of Sticky, we were able to define our research methodology and develop an initial workflow for our research participants. We then created an initial list of potential survey questions to supplement the eye tracking test.

At this point, our research and strategy team conducted an internal research design review. We examined both the research task and flow, the associated timing, and finalized the survey questions.

In this case, we used open-ended questions in order to not bias the participants, and limited the total number of questions to five. Questions were reworked from the proposed lists to improve the wording, ensure that questions complimented each other, and were focused on achieving the learning goals: exploring customer understanding of the new service.

To help with question clarity, we used Grammarly to test the structure of each question.

Following the internal design review, we began participant pilot testing.

Unfortunately, piloting an eye tracking test on 1 to 2 users is not an affordable option when using the Sticky platform. To overcome this we got creative and used some free tools to test the research design.

We chose to use Keynote presentation (timed transitions) and its Keynote Live feature to remotely test the research workflow, and Google Forms to test the survey questions. GoToMeeting was used to observe participants via video chat during the participant pilot testing. Using these tools we were able to conduct a quick and affordable pilot test.

The initial pilot test was conducted with two individual participants, both of which fit the criteria for the target participants. The pilot test immediately pointed out flaws in the research design, which included confusion regarding the test instructions and issues with the timing for each task.

In this case, our initial instructions did not provide our participants with enough information on the context of what they were looking for, resulting in confusion of what they were actually supposed to do. Additionally, we made an initial assumption that 5 seconds would be enough time for each participant to view and comprehend each page. However, the supporting content page was very context rich and 5 seconds did not provide participants enough time to view all the content on the page.

With these insights, we adjusted our research design to remove the flaws, and then conducted an additional pilot with two new individual participants. All of the adjustments seemed to resolve the previous “bugs”.

In this case, pilot testing not only gave us the confidence to move forward with the main study, it actually provided its own “A-ha” moment. Through our initial pilot tests, we realized that participants expected a set function for each page. For the landing page, participants expected a page that grabbed their attention and attracted them to the service, whereas, they expect the supporting content page to provide more details on the service and educate them on how it worked. Insights from these pilot tests reshaped our strategic approach to both pages.

Nick So

The seemingly ‘failed’ result of the pilot test actually gave us a huge Aha moment on how users perceived these two pages, which not only changed the answers we wanted to get from the user research test, but also drastically shifted our strategic approach to the A/B variations themselves.

Nick So, Director of Strategy, WiderFunnel

In some instances, pilot testing can actually provide its own unique insights. It is a nice bonus when this happens, but it is important to remember to always validate these insights through additional research and testing.

Final Thoughts

Still not convinced about the value of pilot testing? Here’s one final thought.

By conducting pilot testing you not only improve the insights generated from a single project, but also the process your team uses to conduct research. The reflective and iterative nature of pilot testing will actually accelerate the development of your skills as a researcher.

Pilot testing your research, just like proper experiment design, is essential. Yes, this will require an investment of both time and effort. But trust us, that small investment will deliver significant returns on your next research project and beyond.

Do you agree that pilot testing is an essential part of all research projects?

Have you had an “oh-shoot” research moment that could have been prevented by pilot testing? Let us know in the comments!

The post How pilot testing can dramatically improve your user research appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

5 Essential Insights on Influence and the Future of Customer Engagement

Future Marketing Influential

When planning for 2017 and into 2018, many marketers have placed a high priority on customer experience and the content that helps make the best customer engagement happen.

At the same time, companies are challenged to create a variety of engaging content on a consistent basis coupled by the fact that consumers are less trusting of brand communications and advertising.

There are many suggested solutions to the challenges of creating consistent, high quality experiences for customers that range from integrated technology platforms to cognitive marketing applications incorporating big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is one of the key roles that a savvy agency can play for brands: to help develop a digital marketing strategy and corresponding technologies needed.

It’s tempting to focus singularly on technology for solving marketing problems, but the solution to better customer experience and engagement is more about being human than the latest martech solution. In particular, understanding how relationships, influence and content deliver more relevant and engaging customer experiences is essential for differentiation and driving better marketing ROI.

This is where the next evolution of influencer marketing comes in: Influence 2.0.

The field of influencer marketing has grown fast and while some approach the practice transactionally, not unlike advertising, an increasing number of brands are focusing on the long term value of relationships with influencers and the kind of content collaboration that inspires better engagement across the customer lifecycle.

A more human approach to marketing means attention to empathy and a focus on customer experience. Influencers are credible, trusted individuals with active networks and the value exchange of their engagement with the community is where influence originates. Brands can tap into that influence to expand brand reach, create better customer engagement and even improve specific marketing goals like lead generation and increased sales conversions.

According to Influence 2.0, a new research report by Brian Solis of Altimeter Group sponsored by Traackr and my agency TopRank Marketing, 63% of marketers want to improve customer satisfaction through the use of influencer marketing. “The opportunity for consumer engagement spans the entire journey and influencers can play an important role in each moment of truth”, says Solis.

Modern marketers understand that customers don’t move linearly through decisions anymore. Eloqua helped visualize the way to view this new customer journey as an infinity loop, illustrating important moments of truth and opportunities for customer engagement. By plotting the infinity loops across your own customer touch points during the customer journey, you can set the stage for a new model of customer experience management.

Customer Experience Lifecycle

To connect with customers in a more meaningful way, it is more important than ever for companies to identify, qualify and develop relationships with relevant influencers of all types to collaborate, co-create and instigate advocacy. I can think of no better focus for these collaborations than through content.

Integrated Influencer Marketing Model - Traackr

Image: Traackr

In order for marketers to maximize customer experience and business growth opportunities with a more modern approach to influence, here are 5 key insights from the Influence 2.0 report:

MATURITY

43% of marketers are experimenting with influencer marketing. It is still early for influencer marketing for many companies, but given the relationship focus on the best influencer marketing programs, there’s plenty of opportunity. Only 28% of marketers are focused on campaigns and just 24% are implementing ongoing programs. As brands mature their approach, skills and relationships with influencers, companies implementing always on, ongoing influencer marketing programs will increase substantially.

IMPACT

80% of marketers rate content marketing as most impacted by influencer marketing. In discussions about the ROI of brand relationships with influencers, there’s simply no better match than content collaboration for creating measurable, impactful business outcomes. Influence 2.0 supports this with content being rated highest in impact from influencer marketing along with social media marketing and media relations.

GOALS

67% of marketers want to drive lead generation through the use of influencer marketing. Beyond improving brand advocacy, awareness and reaching new audiences, the majority of marketers are also focused on improving leads and sales conversion (74%) through working with industry influencers. Influence plays a role throughout the customer lifecycle and in all relationship-driven brand communications.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

34% of marketers report that CMOs are leading marketing digital transformation initiatives. Companies are prioritizing investments in both customer and employee experience. With CMOs leading the way, it opens many doors for innovation in the humanization of technology. As Solis says in the report, “…the more human marketing becomes, the more digital transformation can also become human.”

INTEGRATION

57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next 3 years. While only 5% of marketers currently rate the maturity of their influencer marketing program as integrated, the forward looking optimism for the next 3 years towards integration should be a strong signal for the direction that influencer marketing is going. 30% of marketers say Influencer marketing will become a primary area of digital marketing investment in the next 3 years.

Building relationships with influencers through content collaboration delivers mutual value for brands and participating influencers as well as the community that will consume the content. As it is tempting to use technology to solve marketing problems, it has also been tempting for brands to take a transactional and advertising focused approach to working with influencers.

Successful marketers at major brands do not agree with a transactional approach to influencer relationships:

Amanda Duncan
“Focus on a long-term approach rooted in a two-way dialogue”, says Amanda Duncan of Microsoft, “It’s often the phases between campaigns and events that allow you to have in-depth conversations, get valuable feedback and really gain a deeper understanding around what matters to your influencers. Investing this time and valuable resources builds credibility. This credibility and trust with an influencer is key to ongoing success.”

Konnie Brown
While a relationship based focus takes time, it’s a worthwhile investment according to Dr. Konstanze Alex-Brown of Dell, “Long-term, trust based relationships with shared value creation take time and effort to build and investment to sustain. While results will be measured digitally in reach, impressions, online engagement, there is no shortcut for getting there.”

Amisha Gandhi
Moving beyond a singular focus on the brand, value creation can extend to all involved. “When you treat your influencers like clients, as SAP does, it leaves people with a positive feeling and they are going to want to engage with you time and time again”, says Amisha Gandhi of SAP. “When the relationship is mutually beneficial, both parties are going to get the best results out of the engagement with the brand.”

Too often, brands and agencies approach influencer marketing as a short term transaction without realizing there is much more to be gained for everyone involved. The concept of Influence 2.0 that influencer relationship platform, Traackr and our digital marketing agency, TopRank Marketing have adopted, is to help marketers understand an approach to influencer marketing that aligns with the objectives of business, influencers, and customers simultaneously. Influencer Marketing is a relationship business!

By understanding customers, designing programs that matter to them, and then using platforms to partner with trusted influencers, brands can steer buyer impressions, decisions, and behaviors in more useful, productive, and mutually beneficial ways. Make no mistake, the future of marketing and customer engagement involves technology, but to be successful in the short and long term, marketers need to understand the multiplying effect of relationships, influence and content.

A version of this post originally appeared in Brand Quarterly Magazine.

Influencer 2.0 Cover

To tap into the full array of research insights, trends, case studies, tactics and a framework for Influence 2.0, download the full report. Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing.  Connect with our agency influencer marketing services for help with strategy, influencer content programs and performance optimization.

#CMWorld Interview: Amanda Todorovich Dishes on Creating Impactful Content for Healthcare

Each year, Content Marketing World receives hundreds of nominations for the coveted Content Marketer of the Year award. Past winners include Vishal Khanna of Wake Forest Innovations (2015), Bryan Rhoads, Intel Digital Media Labs (2014) and Julie Fleischer of Kraft Foods Group (2013).

In 2016, this award went to another truly deserving content marketer, Amanda Todorovich Director of Content Marketing, Cleveland Clinic. Amanda and her team at the Cleveland Clinic have proven that content marketing really works for healthcare organizations. In fact, their blog has been named as the most visited hospital blog in the entire country!

If you’re like me, you likely wondered “How does she do it?”. Fortunately for you (and myself), I was able to steal away some of Amanda’s valuable time to gain insights into everything from how her team has managed to develop such a successful content strategy to what an average day looks like in her world.

So buckle up and get ready for liftoff as Amanda tells us more about her approach in her own words.

What does your role as Director of Content Marketing at Cleveland Clinic entail? What does your day look like? What do you like best?

I lead a team of 25 amazing people! We create and distribute content in support of enterprise goals and priorities. We manage our consumer and physician blogs as well as social media, email marketing, print publications, and branding. We publish 3-5 articles on both blogs every day and do about 2500+ additional projects per year. Every day is different, but I make a point of touching base with each work group every week in a quick stand-up meeting, and then I also do a full staff meeting every week. I spend a lot of time representing our team in meetings with key stakeholders and leaders from across the enterprise.

Frequent interaction with various team members is my favorite part of the job. @amandatodo Click To Tweet

My team teases me because they can hear me coming because I tend to walk pretty fast from cube to cube… I tend to run around our office a lot and talk to team members about projects or ideas throughout the day. This frequent interaction with various team members is my favorite part of the job. The result of this close collaboration is an incredibly engaged team that is delivering amazingly creative high quality content day-in and day-out.

How do you believe your communications and media relations experience has impacted your approach to marketing?

My background in communications and media relations is exactly what I think has made me a successful content marketer. Content marketing is about communicating with your customers in a compelling and engaging way, and it’s about great storytelling. And, that is really the heart of PR, too. I built my “nose for news” and understanding of what makes a great story/piece of content very early in my career. The biggest difference between doing traditional media relations and what I do now is that I’m focused on telling our own stories and growing our own audiences for our brand vs. working with media outlets to tell our story for us to their audiences.

How does your team go about developing a content strategy that balances the needs of the brand and the target audience (patients)?

It starts and ends with identifying the goals of the content marketing program. For us, the big overarching goal of our work is to increase national brand awareness for Cleveland Clinic. So, with that in mind, our content strategy is really driven by the desire to be useful, helpful and relevant to people all over the country (and even the world). We always filter requests and content needs with that lense – would someone in California who’s never heard of Cleveland Clinic find value in this story? If yes, we do it. If not, we will likely recommend a different path. We are an extremely data-driven team, so we have the insights to know what our audiences like and engage with most heavily. That drives our daily decisions around what content to publish and when. We talk about the numbers every day.

When only 40% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy and only 28% say that their content is very effective, why do you think having a defined content marketing strategy is essential for success?

Having a documented content strategy is truly like having a road map or GPS system with a clear destination identified. What are you trying to do and how are you going to get there? It’s crucial. As a content marketer, you are faced with tons of decisions every day – what to write about, when to publish, where to distribute, visuals, etc. – and if you don’t have that strategy in place, you are making it up as you go. That’s dangerous and an irresponsible use of the resources you are utilizing to do this work. Without a strategy, how do you know what success looks like? What are you working towards? Who are writing for?

A content strategy is like a road map or GPS system w/ a clear destination identified. @amandatodo Click To Tweet

The documented strategy drives you forward and keeps the team focused moving in the same direction.

What are the 3 most important things marketers need to do to develop a comprehensive content marketing strategy?

  1.       Know what success looks like. What’s the goal? Write it down.
  2.       Identify your personas. Who are you creating for? Personify them. Make them your universe.
  3.       Bring data to the table. What data do you have that can inform your approach? Don’t just guess.

What do you see as the biggest content marketing opportunity that many marketers aren’t taking full advantage of?

Content personalization and marketing automation. I think there is so much more we can be doing in these areas. Most of us produce so much content, and we’ve been focused on content creation for so many years that we haven’t even realized the value of the arsenal we’ve been building. There are so many ways to serve up content to people in very personal and hyper-relevant ways along their buyer journey, and I don’t think enough of us are doing this very well.

Has there been a defining moment in your career that you credit for your success and if so, what was it?

In 2009, I made the transition from traditional PR to exploring digital publishing and content marketing. I took a big leap and joined an infant start-up company, MedCity News, as VP of business development. 99% of my job were things I had never done before. I had no choice but to figure it out and learn from others. It completely changed the course of my career. I had the opportunity to build a company from scratch, and nearly everything I did in my time there has helped me become the content marketer that I have at Cleveland Clinic. The constant drive to do more, be better, and think bigger absolutely comes from those crazy start-up days. The experience completely changed me.

Do you have any advice for other marketers who are making the transition from content creation and strategy to a marketing leadership role like yours?

Become an incredible listener – listen to your team members, listen to the data, listen to your leadership. Understand your business and help your team understand. Let creators create. Let thinkers and strategists think. My job as a leader is to share a vision and set the tone for the team – not to tell them HOW to do their jobs all day. Stay on top of trends and industry best practices – they change all the time, and you need to be the one to keep your team on their toes. Ask questions, especially “what if?”

Listen to your team members, listen to the data, listen to your leadership. @amandatodo Click To Tweet

In your presentation at Content Marketing World you’ll be sharing the inside story of how your organization consistently drives web traffic and builds an audience. Without giving it all away, what are 3 things attendees will learn from your session? Also, can you share some information about the Cleveland Clinic Health Summit that will be taking place as part of CMWorld 2017?

  1.       How to step up your content distribution strategies. We now have 2 million Facebook likes (more than any other hospital) – hear how and why that matters to us.
  2.       How you can scale your content marketing team/efforts. We went from 3 people to 25 in two years.
  3.       Yes, you can monetize your content marketing efforts! I’ll share how we are and how we got to that point.

The Content Marketing World Cleveland Clinic Health Summit is something I am SUPER PUMPED about! We have partnered with the Content Marketing Institute to offer a full-day program for healthcare content marketers instead of the traditional hospitals industry lab on the Friday of Content Marketing World (September 8th). This event will feature several Cleveland Clinic speakers, and a keynote from Google and presentations from Verywell, Staywell and others. There will be break-out sessions focused on SEO, content engineering, the latest trends in healthcare digital marketing, and more. I’ll also be presenting specifically on scaling your content marketing efforts. We’re offering a cocktail reception and tours of Cleveland Clinic’s main campus on Thursday, September 7th as well. For more details and to register, go here:

Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2017?

This is so hard! I have so many friends presenting this year. I’m very excited for Jay Acunzo’s keynote. Jay is awesome and his messages always really resonate with me, and he was last year’s highest rated breakout speaker last year. I love his Unthinkable podcast, and I always learn something from him. I’m excited to hear Margaret Magnarelli. I met her last year when we were both finalists for Content Marketer of the Year, and her work at Monster is incredible. I’m also very happy to see the new writing track – Ann Handley and Ahava Leibtag are always awesome to hear.

Want More?

Thank you Amanda for sharing all of your great marketing insights!

Feel free to also check out our first interview in this CMWorld series featuring Buyer Persona Institute CEO, Adele Revella.

If you’re looking for even more from Amanda, Adele and other amazing CMWorld speakers, be sure to check out the first eBook in our series, The In-Flight Content Guide: Prepping for Your Content Marketing Expedition.

Digital Marketing News: Generational Social Media, QR Code Comeback and Bing’s Chatbots

Social Media Use by Generation [Infographic]
Preferences vary by generation – this certainly isn’t a well kept secret in the marketing world. So how do you create a message, and choose a medium, that will resonate with your target audience? This infographic shares some ideas. MarketingProfs

Pinterest’s object-recognizing Lens feature now scans QR codes, too
QR codes, like the common cold, never seem to really go away. Pinterest announced this week that their Lens feature will now allow users to scan QR codes that lead to web pages within the Pinterest app, eliminating the need to download a special app to do so. MarketingLand

Bing to Integrate Chatbots into Search Results
Bing is rumored to be integrating chatbots into their search results, and are expected to be announcing this addition at their annual Development conference this week. Developers will be able to use Bing’s bot framework to create their own bots, and will also work via Skype. Search Engine Journal

New Study Reveals How the Expectations of Gen Z ‘Are Reshaping Brand Experiences’
A new study from American Express and Forrester examined the brand expectations of Generation Z and found that Gen Y and Gen Z share similar brand expectations in some respects and both value digital experiences. However, they did find that Gen Z was more likely to want to chat with customer service reps over the phone, and are more likely to drop brands for slow responses in online chats. AdWeek

You Can Now Upload Instagram Posts from Outside of the App Itself
Social Media Today reports: “When you go to instagram.com on your mobile device, you can upload an image direct, without having to open the app. At present, it’s still not possible to upload images from the desktop version of the site, but this new functionality may bring that a step closer.” Social Media Today

YouTube User Stats From Brandcast 2017: 3 Trends in Video Viewing Behavior
YouTube has released user stats from Brandcast 2017, showing trends in video viewing behavior. For example, there are 75% more channels with more than 1 million subscribers than last year, and watch time of TV channels on YouTube has grown by 50% year-over-year. Think by Google

The State of Voice in Five Charts
eMarketer released new research that showed that Amazon has cornered 70^=% of the voice assistant market with the Echo Dot. Millennials are driving 23.3% voice assistant use, followed by 13.4% of Generation X. Digiday

Limitless Snaps
Snapchat has announced: “Today we’re making a pretty big change to the way you create and send Snaps. We’re reorganizing the layout of our creative tools, adding a Magic Eraser (you’ll find this under the Scissor tool), and adding a new setting to the timer: infinity!” Snapchat

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more top digital marketing news! Have something to share? Tweet us @toprank or leave a note in the comments.

#CMWorld Interview: Adele Revella Weighs In On Connecting B2B Content to Customers

The 2017 Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs B2B content marketing research uncovered some fascinating insights this year. One of the most interesting aspects of this research was the techniques B2B marketers are leveraging to better understand their target audiences.

And the techniques they aren’t using.

When asked which techniques they used to better understand their target audience(s) for content marketing purposes, “Auditing Existing Buyer Data” didn’t even crack the top ten (at 24% of respondents). Now there’s a real head-scratcher.

So what were the top 3?

  • Website analysis (58%)
  • Keyword search (57%)
  • Employee feedback (50%)

While all of these techniques are wonderfully helpful, I’d gamble they aren’t giving B2B marketers the ammunition they need when it comes time to flesh out an editorial calendar.

This points to a truth that Adele Revella has spoken about, blogged about, and even wrote a book about. When it comes developing content, the majority of B2B marketers are simply making stuff up. They’re acting on a hunch, publishing tons of content to see what sticks, hoping their gut is pretty close to what customers or prospective buyers need to hear.

But most of the time, they’re dead wrong.  

I recently interviewed Adele to get her thoughts on this, as well as hear about her upcoming CMWorld talk. It was an inspiring and insightful conversation. If you have the time, please read her book. In it, Adele literally unveils her entire business process, and reveals the playbook for crafting true buyer personas.

If you just have a few minutes to spare, here’s what she had to say in our interview:   

Question 1: When looking to paint a more comprehensive picture of buyers, which attributes should content marketers seek to uncover?

“We make a key distinction upfront between buyers and customers. A buyer persona is there to help you be better at communicating with potential buyers. A customer persona is about helping customers once they have purchased.

First off, the key isn’t in the attributes of the buyer. While we do recommend that companies keep it simple by focusing on a few demographics like industry, company size, or job title, what really matters about your buyers isn’t in these basic attributes. Rather, it’s all about the how, when, and why of the buying decision you want to influence with your content.

The real meat of a buyer persona is what we call the 5 Rings of Buying Insight. From conducting real interviews with buyers, you can learn:

  1. What triggers the buyer’s investment  (what happens in the org that requires investment)
  2. The success factor insight (the benefits they seek from this investment)  
  3. Perceived barriers (why buyers wouldn’t choose you, or not invest at all)
  4. Decision criteria insight (questions your buyers have, features and functions)
  5. Buyer’s journey (where do they go, who do they trust, what steps do they go through to make this choice)

Our big message is stop focusing on who the buyer is. Rather, the meat of the persona will be the buying insight: the how, when, and why of their decision making process.”

Question 2: If content marketers have limited budgets, what activities or steps can they take in developing personas?

“Frankly, I would encourage marketers not to spend too much time creating buyer personas or profiles. Rather, try to gain insights from buyer interviews. It really doesn’t have to cost any money at all. If someone can get to, and interview real buyers in the right fashion, then you’ll be well on your way.

I would argue that the time invested in performing interviews is going to save B2B content marketers so much time on the back end. Instead of making stuff up, or going through endless revision cycles with internal stakeholders or clients, you can offer buyer interview insights as a stake in the ground about what content needs to get produced. This will save significant time and money.   – questions the wisdom. It’s really about  where are the marketers spending their own time and budget. Frankly, I have a training background; my heart was always in teaching. The mistake that nearly all marketers are making today is thinking about too many personas. Not only are they making stuff up, they’re making stuff up for multiple personas. It’s more content for more personas, without any real insight. In the end, it’s a wasted effort in most cases.

Truthfully, there are very few instances that we should be making different content for different audiences. We interview thousands of B2B buyers in our work, and these guys are building consensus among their buying committees. They are looking, and responding to the same stuff. There might be one special decision maker that needs a few key questions answered, but frankly that’s it. The rest need to have the same questions answered. This idea that we need different content, and different messages for each buyer is consuming an enormous amount of time and budget, which is simply being misallocated.

We’re making too many variations. Buyers we interview are saying they are ignoring most content because it’s not helpful, and isn’t talking about something that they care about. Buyers will tolerate working with a format they don’t prefer, if it’s truly helpful.”

Question 3: When only 37% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy and only 34% say that their content is very effective, which aspects of content marketing strategy should marketers focus on first, in order to get improve performance?

“For one thing, the reason it’s not effective is we’re talking about the wrong thing to the wrong people. We’re producing way too much content. We don’t have a strategy, or we aren’t being honest about what strategy really is. Strategy is a choice. And marketers are not making a choice at a strategic level, they are making choices every day at the tactical level. They are making these choices without being fully informed. Their choices are based on what the company wants to say; “We have a new product, we entered a new market, WE WE WE!”

But they don’t really have the ammunition to stand up and say, “Hey, hold on, this is what the buyer wants.” A strategy ought to be built at the intersection between what the buyers want to hear and what we have to say.  They don’t know what the buyer wants, so they aren’t making good choices. And strategy is about choices. This road leads to what I call Random Acts of Marketing.

As marketers, we don’t get to why very often. We get what happened, but we don’t know why. We know things like, “This web page has lots of views.” But, why? “This particular marketing piece got a 10% uplift in engagement” Well why? So, we’re in this constant state of making stuff up.”

Question 4: What is the biggest content marketing opportunity today?

“Building a strategy based on buyer insights gained from real-world buyer conversations.

This is one of the things I am talking about at Content Marketing World this year. First of all, it’s not practical for marketers to stop production, and focus on strategy for a set period of time. That’s NEVER gonna happen. Marketers are measured by how much stuff they produce. How many leads we produce, how many MQLs we produce, how many pieces of content we produce, whether we got everything done in time for the launch. We’ve got to get realistic about this.

The reality is when you do persona work, the goal ought to be start small. Take one hard-to-achieve goal: a new market, a new product, something that the organization can recognize will operate outside of “business as usual.”  That’s the place to isolate a single resource to go do some of these interviews, and build real-world buyer insights.

People think this is a huge task, but in 10 interviews you can learn enough to change everything.

That being said, this is a very specific type of interview. You need people who have a background in journalism. People who aren’t going to be scared to death to get on the phone with someone who is representative of the target buyer and is willing to have a structured, but unscripted conversation with that person. Get the story.

The truth is you don’t need personas. You need guidance to go change the way you do something. Change isn’t going to happen if everything’s “working.” Everyone’s too busy doing everything else. You’re not done.

You need a content strategy built around your persona, not the persona itself. Distribute the strategy to your team, not the persona.”

Question 5: How do you have a good interview with buyers?

“If you’re not a person who can comfortably conduct interviews, you need to find someone who can. Go to your local college and talk to journalism students. Or hire folks with a journalism background. Or someone who has significant qualitative research experience.

The other options is practice the skills you need to get good at this. For marketers following a seat-of-your-pants approach, it won’t be as good – but they’ll certainly learn stuff. Unlike most business books, my book literally lays out all of our intellectual property and shows you how to do this. Should you choose to invest time, it’s absolutely something you can learn. I won’t lie, doing interviews well requires decades of experience. But that shouldn’t stop you from diving in head first.

Despite hundreds of webinars, countless interviews, podcasts, I could never share enough detail around how to conduct interviews well. Anybody that’s serious about this should be able to go buy my book, and trust me I’m not getting rich on my book. But the comprehensive playbook is laid out in it.”

Question 6: What are a few signs that buyer-centric content is working?

“In B2B marketing our ability to measure anything we do on sales results is difficult at best. I encourage marketers to keep their existing set of engagement metrics and obviously look for change. But also, start measuring  how many efficiencies you’re gaining within the organization. It’s what you’re able to STOP doing that’s the measure of success here. How many times recently have you stopped doing something and it helped. Being able to push back against the organizational pressure and random ideas that come at you, when you know that your focus is working. Marketing is everyone’s playground, and when we can start to see random acts of marketing diminish, we know we’re being successful.

When we can stop saying, “I think”, and start saying “We’ve been interviewing buyers, and they think” is when we’ll really be successful. This is what eliminates the hierarchy in organizations, and gets everyone focused on delivering valuable content to buyers.”  

Question 7: What are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2017?

What I love about Content Marketing World is the people. Not only are there tons of smart marketers, it really feels like meeting up with old friends. I love the dialogue. We simply have to keep learning. I’ve been around this industry a long time, and I can say for certain that we have NOT cracked the nut on marketing. It’s in having this dialogue with each other that we can crack the nut.

It’s also a great way to go take a break from our day-to-day insanity and really open our minds and say, “what can I learn?” Each year, I walk away from Content Marketing World feeling inspired. And that’s what it’s really all about.”

Want More?

If you’d like to learn more from Adele and other amazing Content Marketing World speakers, be sure to check out the first eBook in our series, The In-Flight Content Guide: Prepping for Your Content Marketing Expedition. Also, stay tuned for our next speaker interview coming at you next week!

New eBook: 30 Essential Ingredients to Stock Your Content Marketing Kitchen

My mother was the chief cook in our household. It was a thankless job. Her customers were three kids with radically different ideas about what was edible and what was, like, totally grody.

When we asked what was for dinner—one of her least favorite questions—she would frequently answer, “Well, we could make peanut butter sandwiches, if we had any bread. Or any peanut butter.”

In other words, regardless of what your diners are craving, you can only make what you have the ingredients to make.

Mom’s little proverb holds true for content marketing, too. We have finnicky readers to please, people who won’t settle for filet mignon when they really want a classic PB&J. They’re increasingly demanding a more personalized menu: Research shows that over 200 million people use ad blockers to cut out content that isn’t to their taste. To make a crowd-pleasing recipe, you have to stock the right ingredients.

For marketers, these staple ingredients come in many forms: types of content, distribution channels, and specific tactics are the bread, flour, and eggs of our trade. Once you have a fully-stocked pantry, you can mix and match these staples to create truly delectable marketing recipes.

For TopRank Marketing’s latest eBook, we went grocery-shopping for the essential elements of great content marketing. But we didn’t just hit the supermarket – we got tips from some of our favorite gourmets as well.

The end result is part shopping list, part how-to, and part recipe book: Mastering the Perfect Content Marketing Recipe: 30 Essential Savory & Sweet Content Ingredients.

Here are just a few prime cuts from the eBook.

Crunchy Content Formats

Don’t give your audience the same old blog posts day after day. Everyone wants a little variety in their diet. Try these formats to change things up:

  • Podcasts. Get tips on choosing the right format and topic, and crafting the right mix of informative and entertaining content to make your podcast memorable.
  • Video. Learn the key considerations for a successful video, including picking the right format, writing a compelling description, and frontloading your most important message.
  • Case Studies. Take your case study beyond an antiseptic white paper with these storytelling and formatting tips.

Toothsome Tactics

Filling out a month’s content menu can be daunting. These tactics can help you create quality content at scale:

  • Crowdsourcing. Learn how to persuade an audience to contribute, and make sure their contributions will be valuable.
  • Curation. Learn how to source and (ethically) share other people’s content with your audience.
  • Research & Surveys. Get tips on doing preliminary research, creating surveys, and maximizing participation.

Delicious Distribution Channels

Serve your content piping hot to the perfect audience with tips on distribution channels like:

  • Digital Newsletters. Learn how to personalize your newsletter, make it easier to consume, and target the right audience segments.
  • Email Marketing. Get tips on crafting a clickable subject line, how to reward your subscribers for opting in, and finding the right cadence.
  • Native Advertising. Learn how to keep your native ads ethical, valuable, and authentic.

Feeling Hungry Yet?

This blog post is only the first course. Download your copy of Mastering the Perfect Content Marketing Recipe: 30 Essential Savory & Sweet Content Ingredients to sample the rest. In addition to all the staples you need for a well-stocked content pantry, you will get some of our team’s favorite top-secret recipes. Each one combines staple ingredients to create an integrated marketing campaign that’s sure to satisfy the most discerning palate.

Like mom said, you can’t make peanut butter sandwiches without the bread. Or the peanut butter. And you can’t make great content without stocking up on these 30 ingredients.