Month: May 2017

Content Marketing in the Age of the Disloyal Customer

It’s no surprise that many traditional marketing efforts don’t work today. But what is surprising is how small the gap has become between what can be considered “traditional” versus “progressive” with regards to marketing efforts. In other words, at the pace of digital business today, traditional doesn’t refer to what we as marketers did five or 10 years ago. It’s what we did last year.

Zeroing in more on the challenge for marketers is what to do in today’s messy marketplace, including what approaches to throw away and what new ones to use. A premise of taking next steps with regards to change adaptation is to accept the fact that “new” does not necessarily mean “better.” And conversely that “old” does not necessarily mean “bad.” More about this later. Suffice for now to say that the core components of a strategic marketing plan, Advertising, Public Relations, Direct/eMail Marketing and Promotions, remain relevant and vital.

Content Marketing and Brand Relevance

The relevance challenge comes into sharp focus particularly as it relates to awareness marketing. Awareness Threlkeld Communications Content Distribution Ecosystem Blogmarketing basically refers to the essential top-of-the-funnel strategies and tactics marketers must employ to keep the pipeline of new customers active. This need for high level awareness marketing and new customer prospecting is largely driven by the fact that, increasingly in 2017, consumers are becoming less and less loyal to brands.

Consider these 2017 statistics:
• 54% of U.S. consumers have switched providers in the past year (Accenture)
• Only 13% of customers are loyalists, those who don’t shop around (McKinsey Research)
• 57% of consumers listed “having a negative review unaddressed while continuing to receive offers for similar products” as the top reason they would break up with a brand (Talend)

The volatile mix of decreasing customer loyalty and increasing awareness marketing platforms (blogging, social media, internet broadcasting) is one that marketers cannot afford to ignore. This is because the potential for competitors to confuse and ultimately sway customers away from loyalty to a brand is greater than ever.

Thankfully, most marketers aren’t ignoring the signs and need to stay in front of customers. Research shows that content marketting budgets remain relatively healthy ad that awareness spending is continuing at a robust level. But, there is lots of evidence to support the premise that many marketers are going about addressing their awareness challenges the wrong way, resulting in confusion, frustration and wasted time and money.

Consider the old adage: “I know that half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

Click here to subscribeThis brings us back to the topic of traditional marketing and its mixed blessing of effectiveness and defective-ness. Examples: I still see many companies drafting press releases and pushing these out via the newswire and email blasts. (This is traditional marketing as practiced 10 years ago.) I still get pounds and pounds of junk mail each week from credit card companies and banks (it goes straight into the shredder). A newspaper I used to subscribe to and canceled years ago still cold calls me regularly to try and get me to re-subscribe.

So what’s going on?

Content Marketing and the Content Distribution Ecosystem

It’s clear from the over-abundance of messaging and communications materials flying out that that marketers recognize the need to stay relevant and visible. Consider this: a recent report showed that there are 2,000 new blogs posted every day. That same report referenced the fact that, to date in 2017, there have been 169,009 blogs published.

I subscribe to a leading industry blogger search database. Think Google for blogs specifically. I typed “Blood Pressure Monitor” into the Search box today and in less than three seconds, the search engine found 45,023 blog posts related to my query. The results ranged from the relevant (battlediabetes.com) to the curious (Laura and Amy’s Making a Baby Adventure at wegoforthesperm.wordpress.com).

With the wealth of information and communication media surrounding us, as marketers we are not in a battle for marketshare as much as a battle for mindshare. The principle of Positioning says that “companies don’t position products, people do.” If we want to gain marketshare, we must first gain mindshare (read this blog post). If we want to be preferred, we must first be seen as being relevant (read this blog post).

Threlkeld Communications Content Distribution Ecosystem Thumbnail
Click to see an example

How do we do this? We circle back to the challenge of traditional versus contemporary when it comes to marketing. I believe the way to bridge the gap effectively is a hybrid of both approaches — traditional and contemporary. Press releases and blog posts can still be effective. But not as one-offs. These materials, and others such as social media posts, infographics, podcasts, videos, slide presentations etc. must be part of a coordinated brand communication effort.

I call this a Content Distribution Ecosystem (click on the image to the left to see an example of a campaign). This coordinated and integrated approach to content marketting recognizes the value of traditional marketing materials while leveraging the impact that a coordinated, integrated messaging distribution approach can have.

And the best part? Because the content distribution ecosystem campaign is built from a strategic messaging point of view, utilizing largely digital media to execute, results are measurable via Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel triggers, traditional media pickups, etc. And what we can measure, we can improve and build on.

The bottom line? To make a difference in your marketing efforts and to stand out above the clutter, you need to approach the process from a coordinated communications standpoint.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how a Content Ecosystem Distribution campaign can work for your brand or product, download this PDF overview showing how a connected content system can work efficiently to build awareness.

If you’d like to discuss positioning for your brand or product, please send me an email.

Bill Threlkeld President Threlkeld Communications

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content marketing and public relations agency based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in integrated editorial ecosystem campaigns that utilize PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video and Email Marketing.

To Set Your Heading, Get Your Position

Marketers talk a lot about positioning. Usually, these conversations focus on positioning as an action or activity – something you do a product. Such as, “Let’s position our new X-7 Gamechanger as the best widget on the market.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that it’s based on a misperception that positioning is something you do to a product. But companies don’t position products, people do. Positioning is what that the market (in aggregate) does to a product.

Unless it’s a brand new product in a brand new category, any new product entering an existing marketplace is going to launch with a position based on associations, attributes and benefits in context with perceived competitors in the category. Many marketers believe that just because they claim a position, benefit or unique advantage for their product at launch or introduction that consumers will buy it – literally. Both the product claim, and the product.

But this rarely happens. A classic marketing case study illustrating this is the Hertz and Avis rent a car positioning battle that went on when Avis launched an advertising campaign claiming to be the leader in the market. At that time, Hertz was the perceived category leader (its position), with a significant market share and mind share to back it up.

Avis marketing managers wrongly believed that simply making the claim that Avis was number one would magically transform their brand position to number one also. This fatal marketing flaw could have cost the company years of sweat equity built from effective marketing, but adept marketing managers at Avis quickly realized the mistake and adjusted to it.

What did they do? They agreed with the reality – the marketplace perception – that Hertz was the leader in the category in terms of mind share and market share. A gutsy move for sure. So together with the agency, Avis came up with a campaign and related tagline that goes down in history as one of the most successful position campaigns in modern advertising.

Avis took the position of, “We’re number two. We try harder.” Suddenly, the marketplace found a positioning tagline they could agree with. And act on. The proposition that Avis recognized it was behind the market leader, but had aspirations to become the leader, resonated with the market.

“We Try Harder” conveyed a sense of higher expectations of the Avis brand from a customer’s perspective. And the results were successful. Avis gained significant market share during the course of the campaign. And ultimately Hertz slipped (remember O.J. Simpson as its spokesperson?) and Avis moved past Hertz.

One additional point is important to note. A strong positioning statement is one thing, but if the customer’s experience does not resonate with the brand promise claim inherent in that positioning statement, the positioning strategy could end up earning the company more than helping.

For example, if customers’ perception was that Avis wasn’t “trying harder” to become the leader, then the positioning strategy could end up significantly hampering sales rather than helping. This is a key reason why sales and marketing always need to be in communication and agreement with one another on product positioning and to-market strategy. Sales must be in the loop on what marketing is promising, and be up to delivering on that promise.

So remember: companies don’t position products people do. Keeping this principle in mind when you’re launching or looking to re-position a product can save you a lot frustration and re-tooling of campaigns that are not resonating or working.

If you’d like to discuss positioning for your brand or product, please send me an email.

Bill Threlkeld President Threlkeld Communications

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content marketing and public relations agency based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in integrated editorial ecosystem campaigns that utilize PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video and Email Marketing.

Three Marketing Mistakes You’re Probably Making

With all due respect to any PhD’s out there, marketing is not rocket science (thankfully!).

That said, marketing is a science. And science is all about the discovery of new things, and trial and error is an important part of this discovery.

However, trial and error as a marketing strategy can be costly, and deadly – especially when your competitors adeptly move past you in terms of positioning and/or sales while you’re experimenting.

In this post, I identify three Big Rock components of a marketing program and point out why most companies are making mistakes in these three areas.

Public Relations

In many companies, a public relations program consists of drafting a press release, sending it to a list of journalists, and posting it on the newsroom of the company’s website. This approach is akin to “if we build it, they will come.” It’s a feel-good tactic, because pushing out information about a product or service feels like you’re doing something. But increasingly, the singular press release approach is ineffective and probably a waste of money.

To understand this point, let me add some context. Traditionally, a press release served the purpose of informing the media – primarily reporters – of “news.” This news could be about a new product, service, upcoming event etc. The press release was then put on the newswire, a pathway of sorts that delivered the information to a select group of reporters via a private, subscription only network.

When the Internet came along, newswire services opened the feed to distribute these press releases widely via the web. This meant that a press release, which was historically intended for reporters’ eyes only, now became a public editorial piece.

Many of the traditional news outlets who had an online presence, such as the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today had cached news sections on their sites that received these newswire feeds directly. So, if your release had gone via a newswire service such as PRNewswire, BusinessWire, etc. it generally appeared in search with the major news outlet as the primary domain. This gave the news greater weight and value because of its association with these premium branded news outlets.Threlkeld Communications Blog Post Three Mistakes

This also caught the attention of Google, whose business is primarily optimizing search and delivering relevant links to those searching on particular keywords. Google decided that the content appearing via newswire feeds on these cached sections was not relevant. So Google changed its search algorithm so that the news on these cached sections of the major news sites no longer appeared in search.

Overnight, this rendered the value and impact of a single press release distribution via the newswire almost irrelevant. Add to that the fact that most companies have an online newsroom with very little, or very old news. This gives a visitor the impression that not much news is happening with the company. So, the online newsroom section ends up hurting marketing efforts as opposed to helping.

So, do press releases still have value? The answer is yes, particularly when used as part of an integrated editorial ecosystem approach to content. This is a branded content approach, where the press release is part of an editorial ecosystem published by the company. Each component of the editorial ecosystem, whether it be an audio podcast (ie a customer interview), video, blog post or press release, has the thread of the core communication strategy in it. This means that when someone reads a press release and clicks on a link to a podcast with the same messaging strategy in the press release, it gives the press release much greater impact, and value.

Click here to see an example of how a branded content ecosystem like this might look.

Social Media

The explosion of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn has radically changed the way companies think about marketing to customers. But, like the companies who issue a singular press release and wait for sales to start rolling in, most companies are making serious mistakes in the approach to social media.

In a nutshell, the reason most social media campaigns fail is because companies forget that the word “social” is an integral part of the definition. As a result, these companies use platforms like Facebook as one-way communication mediums (much like an enhanced newswire), posting endlessly about their company, products, services etc. paying no attention to putting effort towards engaging with people – through comments, questions, etc.

This approach is also like the “if we build it they will come” mentality. What happens is that there is an initial burst of excitement about posting on Facebook. An intern or junior level marketing person is put in charge of running things. Sales don’t increase, visitors start making negative comments to the posts (which either get ignored or deleted) and gradually the posts get farther and farther apart. It’s easy to spot companies that have taken this approach. Just visit the company Facebook page and look at the consistency of posts over a 3 to 6 month period. Better yet, look at the bold ignore-ance by companies of people asking questions or for help with customer service.

If you see bursts of posts followed by weeks of silence you know the company does not have an integrated communication strategy that can maximize the value of a social media platform. This highlights the fact that the reason for starting social media in the beginning was based on a flawed strategy.

So, does social media have value as a marketing communications strategy? Like the integration of press releases in a communications program, the answer is yes – if the social media approach is used to support or reinforce the components of an editorial ecosystem, or branded content approach.

For example, take the published press release and create a short video version of that news item and post it directly to your Facebook feed. Or better yet, set up a Facebook Live session where you can present the news story in the press release directly on Facebook as a live streaming session. This enhances the value of the press release because someone who watches a video on the news item and becomes interested is very likely to click to a link on a company newsroom page.

In this example, the social media platform has pushed the person to the website greatly building the value of the brand because of the exposure. Additionally, if the Facebook pixel has been added to the website, this opens up a whole new world of opportunities because you can now re-market to that person on Facebook based on the fact you know they showed interest in the content of your press release.

Blogs

The final component I will touch on is the blog. Like social media, most companies misuse the blog platform. Similar to what you see with social media, the company will get excited about blogging, posting press releases and other company centric items on the blog. Sales don’t spike, writers get busy with other things, and all of a sudden there are weeks between blog posts. And then months.

Again, the good intentions of this approach have ended up harming the brand because a visitor comes to the blog section of the website and sees no new posts for six months. To that visitor, this conveys that nothing new is happening, or that the company has nothing to say. And an opportunity is lost.

While a company blog is a great place to republish company news and press releases, it should be much more than that in order to really have impact. For example, let’s assume you have some really smart people in your company – those who are experts on an industry topic. Why not set up a thought leadership strategy, utilizing the knowledge base that exists in these individuals? They don’t even have to write the blog (although some will, and this can be very impactful).

Take away the fear or threat of these people having to write a 500 word blog post and do a 20 minute sitdown interview with them. Record the interview and send that recording to one of many very affordable transcription services that exist on the web now. Then reformat the transcribed interview into a Q&A that you publish on the company blog.

Utilizing a company blog for thought leadership can be very effective in helping position the company as a leader against competitors. And this is especially the case when the blog is part of an editorial ecosystem approach.

So there you have it. Three marketing efforts you may be doing that you might need to rethink. If you’d like to discuss how to shift to an editorial ecosystem approach in your content marketing program, please send me an email.

 

Bill Threlkeld President Threlkeld Communications

 

 

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content marketing and public relations agency based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in integrated editorial ecosystem campaigns that utilize PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video and Email Marketing.