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Monthly Archives: May 2019

How to master social media for retail and win more customers

Retailers arguably have the most to gain from social media marketing. And despite popular belief, social media isn’t killing retail: it’s simply encouraging the Read more...

This post How to master social media for retail and win more customers originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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New B2B Marketing Research, LinkedIn Sales Navigator & Ad Transparency Updates, Using AI Wisely, & US Digital Ads Top $100B

The post New B2B Marketing Research, LinkedIn Sales Navigator & Ad Transparency Updates, Using AI Wisely, & US Digital Ads Top $100B appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Create Content That Attracts Customers

Do you need a better content marketing plan? Wondering how to improve your content strategy? To explore creative ways to regularly create content, I interview Melanie Deziel. Melanie is a former journalist, storytelling expert, and founder of StoryFuel, a company that helps marketers become better storytellers. Discover different ways to create content both on and […]

The post How to Create Content That Attracts Customers appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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How the Facebook algorithm works and ways to outsmart it

The Facebook algorithm often feels like a mystery, doesn’t it? And as a result, brands are rightfully concerned about their presence on the platform. Read more...

This post How the Facebook algorithm works and ways to outsmart it originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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31 Writing Podcasts You’ve GOT to Hear (Best of 2019)

This post is for writers. Authors of fiction and non-fiction. Freelancers and copywriters. Bloggers and content creators. We all need information to help us hone our craft, we all crave inspiration when we’re feeling blocked, and we’re all short on time. It’s no wonder writing podcasts have exploded in popularity the last few years —(...)

The post 31 Writing Podcasts You’ve GOT to Hear (Best of 2019) appeared first on Smart Blogger.

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Maintaining Your Focus: What B2B Marketers Can Learn From My Home Improvement Snafu

B2B marketing lessons from home improvement (1)

B2B marketing lessons from home improvement (1)

The sweet smell of fresh cedar is wafting in the breeze around my homestead this week—along with hint of marketing inspiration. Let me explain …

Best-Laid Plans

To take advantage of a long holiday weekend and a string of dry-weather days, my darling husband and I embarked on a “small” home improvement project: Sanding and staining our recently built 16-by-16 deck—plus an intricate one-story staircase.

She was such a beauty following her construction last fall.

But as is tradition, a delightfully heinous Minnesota winter set in. When spring arrived, she looked weary and weathered.

For months, we prepared to offer ourselves up to the cause once warmer weather came. And with the help of how-to YouTube videos and a lot of strategic Googling, our confidence and can-do attitudes were on the rise.

When that fateful weekend arrived, we weren’t so naïve to think this project would be easy—it would take time, attention to detail, teamwork, and a bit of strategy to do it right. We didn’t fancy ourselves skilled craftsmen, rather capable apprentices who knew how to wield a sander and paint brush. We were ready.

But in accordance with the prophecy of best-laid plans, things quickly went awry. From seemingly unavoidable inefficiencies to tool malfunctions to weather miscalculations, what started as a one-day-tops project has officially spiraled into a multiple weekend ordeal. We were worn down and frustrated, not knowing exactly what to do at times.

Do you see what I’m getting at, B2B marketers?

Facing Failure

The frustration and disappointment that comes with falling down on what you thought was a well-planned or strategically innovative initiative is something every B2B marketer has had to face.

Maybe you’ve gotten buy-in on an influencer marketing initiative and determined a few weeks in that you don’t have the bandwidth, niche expertise, tools, or timeline to execute effectively. Perhaps you’ve invested a sizeable portion of your budget in a marketing automation tool only to discover you lack the integrations, process documentation, or internal resources to get it fully off the ground. Or more simply, a tried-and-true tactic isn’t driving the results it used to—and you may not even know why.

Regardless of the situation, the anxiety and emotion you feel can make it incredibly difficult to gain the perspective you need to quickly pivot your approach. So, how do you accept what’s happened and move ahead with ambition and confidence?

Finding Focus

When small or seemingly insurmountable challenges arise, success is directly tied to our ability to keep our eye on the prize: The goals or outcomes we hope to achieve. With our objectives in focus, we can rely on our smarts and experience (and perhaps even a little insight and help from a agency trusted partner) to guide the most effective tactics that come next.

Frankly, after just one hour of sanding, we knew it was going to get ugly if we didn’t adapt to the reality of the situation. That said, it took us a full three hours to fully accept our fate, and refine our approach and reset our expectations. Through repeated equipment failures, four extra trips to two different hardware stores, and now being the proud owners of four sanders of varying sizes, the sanding is complete and the staining is planned for the next string of sunny days.

Here she is after 20 hours of sanding—a near spitting image of her original glory last fall:

So, remember this B2B marketers: You have a lot on your plate and things don't always go as planned.

From creating relevant, engaging content on unsexy subject matter to contending with increasing competition, buyer distrust, and long sales cycles, B2B marketing is no cake walk—it’s an endless work in progress. However, with a steadfast focus on your end-goal, there’s no such thing as failure, just another opportunity to get it right.

[bctt tweet="With a steadfast focus on your end-goal, there’s no such thing as failure, just another opportunity to get it right. @CaitlinMBurgess #B2BMarketing" username="toprank"]

Looking for more crafty inspiration? Check out our post on three “real-life” tools that need to be staples in your B2B content marketing toolbox.

The post Maintaining Your Focus: What B2B Marketers Can Learn From My Home Improvement Snafu appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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B2B Content Not Making an Impact? Try These 7 Underutilized Promotion Channels

Creating great content requires considerable investment, in terms of time, effort, and money. Knowing this, it’s crazy how often I see marketers and brands fail to follow through by promoting their content to the fullest and maximizing its targeted exposure.

It literally makes me sad. I’m tearing up as I write this. One moment… Talk amongst yourselves.

via GIPHY

Ahem. So the scourge of unseen quality content is one we must conquer. The path to doing so, I’m afraid, isn’t as simple as scheduling a bunch of links across the same old social feeds. This isn't to say social media isn't important, but this formulaic, reflexive approach is fast losing its luster.

The latest Content Trends Report from BuzzSumo found that social shares have dropped by 50% since 2015, owing to several different factors: increased competition for eyeballs, changes to Facebook’s algorithm, shifts in discovery habits for users. All of this means fewer referrals, less engagement, and less impact for content promoted solely through these channels.

How can we counteract this troubling decline? The first step in treating Invisible Content Syndrome is acknowledging it’s a problem, and developing a concrete plan to address it. To this end, our CEO Lee Odden created a list of 50 content promotion tactics that can be implemented during the planning stages of your next initiative. His suggestions will provide plenty of guidance for a broader and more robust promotion mix. Once you’ve committed to giving your content the continuing attention it deserves post-publication, it’s time to start differentiating.

[bctt tweet="Once you’ve committed to giving your content the continuing attention it deserves post-publication, it’s time to start differentiating. @NickNelsonMN #B2BContentMarketing #ContentPromotion" username="toprank"]

This will be our focus for today: zeroing in on some of the underutilized channels capable of providing a competitive advantage. Instead of exclusively trying to compete with ephemeral Twitter feeds or mercurial Facebook algos, diversify with these seven B2B content promotion techniques that can help your best stuff stand out and get noticed by the people who truly matter to your brand.

7 Underutilized B2B Content Promotion Channels

Volume is about vanity. It really is that simple, I’m afraid. Unless your company profits directly from pageviews (via ads), there is no practical value in piling up impressions. It might feel nice to see a higher number of visitors, but if you aren’t driving action with the right people, you’re bound to end up feeling verklempt.

With an eye on quality and resonance, here are seven channels worth considering for your B2B content promotion mix. Because they are generally underutilized, there’s a good chance your competitors aren’t tapping them (yet) or using them to their full potential.

#1 - Influencers

Of course we’re going to start here. While influencer marketing in the B2B realm is on the rise, research shows that an incredibly small percentage (11%) of B2B brands are engaging in ongoing influencer programs.

Strategic influencers are vital conduits for connecting your content with key audiences. If you’ve done your due dilligence to identify individuals who align with your brand from a topical and cultural perspective, then their networks are likely highly qualified, and most importantly, your association with them can infuse near-instant credibility in the eyes of their followers.

[bctt tweet="#Influencers connect with a much more targeted audience than banner ads have in quite some time. @martinjonesaz #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

Influencers themselves aren’t a channel, but rather a powerful entry point to several different channels. Once you’ve developed strong relationships with influential partners, you can work with them to co-create and share content that your mutual audiences will find value in. Depending on the type of relationship you cultivate, you could also encourage them to share prioritized content from their social accounts, on their blogs, in their newsletters, etc. Cross-mentions on platforms such as LinkedIn can also help your articles gain more visibility in feeds.

Remember: when you incorporate these influencers into co-creation campaigns, they’ll be more motivated to share, and their audiences will be more likely to take notice.

#2 - Employees

As Michael Brenner wrote recently at Marketing Insiders Group, engaged employees can be some of your brand’s most authentic and influential advocates. “Who better to sing the praises of your organization than an employee who truly believes in the value of what you’re trying to achieve?” he asks.

[bctt tweet="Who better to sing the praises of your organization than an employee who truly believes in the value of what you’re trying to achieve? @BrennerMichael #ContentPromotion" username="toprank"]

The operative word here is “engaged.” When employees are dutifully copy-pasting article links into their social accounts, the results will reflect the effort and enthusiasm. However, when they feel truly invested in the content and its success, this also tends to manifest.

Find ways to make internal content sharing more aspiration than obligation. We can do this by involving employees in the creation of content itself, gamifying the promotion process (“Free pizza if we hit XX% referrals from this platform!”), or conveying the benefits of personal brand-building on social.

Employee advocacy programs can provide structure and ease for implementing such initiatives. The Marketing Advisory Network’s 2017 Employee Advocacy Impact Study can shed some light here, highlighting barriers that keep employees from sharing company-related posts on social and so much more.

#3 - Customers

Much like employees and industry influencers, your customers provide an extra element of credibility when amplifying your brand’s content — both offline and online. Their networks likely include professionals within the same niche, so the audiences are inherently more qualified.

Obviously it’s great when a satisfied buyer is willing to participate in and promote persuasive lower-funnel pieces like success stories and testimonials, but that’s a relatively heavy ask. Conversely, providing them with practical content that’s useful to their followers will carry more appeal, especially if you tailor your message (i.e., “I think your customers will really like this article because…”).

#4 - Topical Forums

Message boards, subreddits, social media groups, and other focused online communities can be highly valuable for brands. Forums contain tribes of engaged, knowledgeable, connected people with an intrinsic desire to learn and grow. However, these established communities tend to be skeptical of unfamiliar outsiders — especially those who enter with a blatantly self-promotional motive.

In order to leverage these channels properly, you should build a long-term strategy around them. Create a functional presence in groups and forums long before you start sharing your own content there. Encourage your employees to participate in boards that interest them specifically. Ensure there is a clear match between the respective audiences and what you’re trying to accomplish.

One reason forums make our list of underutilized tactics is because they can often be used in the wrong way. As a general rule, it’s best to repurpose your content within these forums, rather than just linking out in the traditional sense. The primary goals should be establishing thought leadership, and generating meaningful conversations, rather than simply driving people to your website.

#5 - Industry Associations/Publications

Much like online forums, industry outlets have the advantage of pre-existing audiences organized around specific subjects or verticals. Whether it’s an online resource or still in print, people still trust the information from their favorite niche publications. Magazine readership remains high. Trade associations are filled with pros who are adamant about their crafts.

Once again, the key here is relationship-building. It can be really tough to pitch stories or earn coverage out of the blue. Consider connecting with publication editors or association leaders long before you start working the content promotion angle.

#6 - Email Segments

I’m not talking about blasting out content digests to your entire email list, or indiscriminately sending automated RSS links devoid of context. These methods are already widely in use, and the results are only worsening as people grow tired of inbox irrelevance. But email remains an effective channel for direct engagement, when used as such.

Rather than falling back on the spray-and-pray approach, try divvying your email list into segments based on interest, specialty, or function. The more granular you can get, the better. Then, share content via email with the segments for which it is most acutely suited. Customize your messaging accordingly. You could even consider composing individual emails and sending them along with a personal note to people you really feel would benefit from (and maybe share) a particular piece.

Remember: one pertinent reader/viewer who can take action is far more valuable than 10 who can’t.

[bctt tweet="Rather than falling back on the spray-and-pray approach, try divvying your email list into segments based on interest, specialty, or function. The more granular you can get, the better. @NickNelsonMN #ContentPromotion" username="toprank"]

#7 - Direct Mail

It’s one of those classic mainstays that has largely gone out of style. How often do you receive a piece of mail at work that is actually tailored to you personally, and worth your time? Would such an item stand out to you?

Physical mail doesn’t have a place in most digitally-based strategies, which is exactly why it may offer a unique opportunity to reach important contacts. Tracking down someone’s office mailing address is often easier than tracking down their email address. This method isn’t necessarily cheap or scalable, but in cases where you really want to get your content in front of a particular account, sending a printed version (or just a note encouraging them to check it out online) can be a sneaky winner.

One B2B-centric example is *LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketer Quarterly, which stands out as a glossy, colorful product you can hold in your hands. It’s a great place for B2B practitioners to be featured.

Sophisticated Marketers Guide Quarterly

Find New Audiences for Your Best B2B Content

One of the most valuable objectives for B2B brands is also one of the most challenging: generating awareness and influence with new audiences and prospects. Continuing to push the same cookie-cutter social promotion tactics won’t do the trick. In the era of content saturation, we must remain vigilant in finding new ways to reach and engage the right people.

[bctt tweet="Content promotion can’t be effective if it’s an afterthought. @leeodden #B2BContentMarketing #ContentPromotion" username="toprank"]

Whether embracing the channels above or identifying others that make sense for your brand, I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to promotion. And whatever you do, don’t make this essential marketing an afterthought. Because that leads to lonely content and general sadness. Ahhh here I go again, I’d better log off...

via GIPHY

Want more guidance to B2B content marketing success that’ll turn your frown upside-down? Check out Annie Leuman’s recent write-up on powering through the summer slump.

*Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post B2B Content Not Making an Impact? Try These 7 Underutilized Promotion Channels appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Get LinkedIn Leads Without Advertising

Do you need to generate more leads and prospects? Wondering how to identify and nurture leads organically on LinkedIn? In this article, you’ll find a three-step plan to develop profitable relationships with people on LinkedIn, without spending any money on ads. LinkedIn’s Role in the Sales Funnel I love LinkedIn, but the platform has long […]

The post How to Get LinkedIn Leads Without Advertising appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Sowing the Seeds of Success: 3 Elements of Strong B2B Influencer Relationships

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Effective B2B influencer marketing is rooted in building lasting relationships.

The premise is simple: When brands invest time, effort, care, and money (when it makes sense) to cultivate partnerships rather than one-time or “on-my-terms” engagements, industry influencers and experts are far more apt to do the same. Oh, and the outcomes of influencer/brand engagements (i.e. reach, engagement, thought leadership, increased share of voice, etc.) are more fruitful for all parties, too.

But as we’ve also said before, building the right relationships is critical—and time consuming.

The right relationships aren’t sowed solely based on social network size nor are they grown without proving mutual value. In fact, there are several must-have characteristics of influencer/brand relationships. What are they? Let’s discuss three of them and hear what a few seasoned experts have to say on the subject.

#1 – The Fit Factor

Topical and cultural alignment is absolutely essential to any influencer/brand partnership. Why? Without alignment here, you’ll miss the mark on creating relevant content and audience experiences—and potentially damage, rather than boost, your brand’s credibility and reputation.

Topically, the influencers you work with must have relevant expertise, insight, interest, and audience, ultimately aligning with your goals and expertise of your brand. Culturally, their character and conduct need to be a match, too.

“In the eyes of consumers, the influencers you select and work with will, in many ways, become an extension of your brand,” Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Communications, told us in an interview. “Due diligence in researching the potential influencers’ social media history will reveal a lot about their personality, style, character, and more.”

He went on: “There is much more to a successful relationship than the dollar value and reach. Influencers that align with your company’s goals, objectives, and values will advance your organization in many ways beyond a marketing campaign.”

[bctt tweet="There is much more to a successful relationship than the dollar value and reach. @martinjonesaz #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

In addition, fit isn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all—and your definition can change over time. Your influencer relationships can and should be diverse, helping you power different objectives and provide a range of perspectives to your audience wherever they are in the buyer’s journey.

“It’s not always about the number of followers or connections an influencer has,” Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing at *SAP, has said. “Some people think: ‘Oh my God. We have to work with this person. They have a million followers.’ Your influencers have to be able to relate to your audience and that skill isn’t necessarily determined by a large following.”

[bctt tweet="Your influencers have to be able to relate to your audience and that skill isn’t necessarily determined by a large following. @ursularingham #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

Read: 5 Essential Questions to Guide Your B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy

#2 – A Foundation of Trust That Translates into Value for All

Strong relationships are built on trust. While that’s cliché to say, in today’s tumultuous social, political, and digital landscape, it’s more relevant and important than ever. And arguably, trust can form when both parties are invested in the success of their partners—a place where value exists for all parties.

As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden recently wrote in regards to improving and managing influencer experiences: “Far too many B2B brands treat their influencer relationships transactionally and in terms of what the brand can get from the influencer. B2B brands that make any effort at all to learn more about influencer goals, preferences and capabilities in combination with providing opportunities to connect with other influencers, will go along ways towards building brand advocates and inspire more effective influencer behaviors.”

Furthermore, trust and value are fully unlocked with transparency. It’s not only fair, but also paramount for you to be honest about what your brand is trying to achieve with the help of your influencer partners. Several seasoned influencer marketing leaders at B2B brands share these viewpoints:

“The key here is a relationship—realize that in order to be successful, the work has to be mutually beneficial to both parties … Also, be very clear up front on the goals of your influencer program and what success looks like.” - Lucy Moran, Senior Vice President of Brand, Digital, and BU Marketing, Dun & Bradstreet

[bctt tweet="In order to be successful, the work has to be mutually beneficial to both parties. @lucymoran on #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

“I think trust is the most important characteristic of a successful influencer/brand relationship. We have to trust that the influencer can deliver on a project whether that be a study, an eBook, a keynote, or a webcast. We’ve certainly had our share of learning experiences. But those influencers that deliver high-quality work definitely earn our allegiance. And we have to hold up our end of the bargain, too, and be a good partner. We must set clear expectations, make the process seamless for paid engagements, and provide timely feedback on deadline.” - Angela Lipscomb, Influencer Relations Manager, SAS

[bctt tweet="We must set clear expectations, make the process seamless for paid engagements, and provide timely feedback on deadline. @AngelaLipscomb on #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

“Open, honest, regular communication about what success looks like to each party is vital to a win-win relationship. It has to be based on mutual trust and respect, not to mention a genuine interest in the other party’s success.” - Rani Mani, Head of Social Influencer Enablement, Adobe

[bctt tweet="Open, honest, regular communication about what success looks like to each party is vital to a win-win relationship. @ranimani0707 on #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

“When you look at the characteristics for a successful B2B brand relationship you are:

  • Looking at creating value for both parties
  • Creating a long term and lasting relationship that is a two way street
  • Setting up your influencers for success and arming them with knowledge before they walk into any kind of engagement
  • Arming your brand stakeholders with information as well so interactions are high value between the company and the influencers
  • Being clear with the influencers on what it is that you’re trying to achieve”

- Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing and Communications for SAP Ariba

[bctt tweet="What’s one characteristic of a successful B2B brand/influencer relationship? Mutual value creation. @AmishaGandhi #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

#3 – A Commitment to Co-Creation Collaboration

B2B influencer marketing is not about hiring or enticing industry thought leaders to hawk your product or service. It’s about building something together—something that will inform, engage, entertain, and inspire your audiences.

When a commitment to content collaboration is part of your influencer/brand relationships, you not only provide influential experts with a medium to share valuable insights, but can also provide your audience with a mix of perspectives—upping your storytelling capabilities and credibility.

[bctt tweet="If you want your content to be great, ask influencers to participate. @leeodden #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]

While some influencers such as internal subject matter or niche experts may not have much content creation experience, you can coach them—helping you strengthen the previously discussed characters. On the other hand, influencers who have a knack for creating content will welcome and expect opportunities for content collaboration.

Less On-Time Transaction. More Long-Term Interaction.

Building relationships with the right influencers is undoubtedly time consuming and downright difficult at times. But with the right focus and attention to detail, the effort you put forth can result in fostering partnerships that are beneficial on multiple levels of everybody involved.

What’s on the influencer marketing horizon? On May 30, 2019 tune into Seth Bridges, founder at Rival IQ, live interview of Lee Odden where he’ll be discussing influencer marketing trends and more

The post Sowing the Seeds of Success: 3 Elements of Strong B2B Influencer Relationships appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Top Marketing Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

Are you looking for some good podcasts to listen to while commuting? Wondering which podcasts are the best? We’ve done the research for you. Below are the top marketing podcasts by category along with important information including what people think about the shows. We curated nominations from our community and only selected podcasts that produce […]

The post Top Marketing Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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