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Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

Boosting and Deepening Engagement through Empathy in B2B Marketing

Business Professional Taking Notes Intently

Business Professional Taking Notes Intently

Empathy is more than a buzzword. It’s not a box to be checked, or an added finishing touch for content. If B2B marketers want to successfully engage human audiences and break free from the deluge of irrelevant messages swirling around today’s customers, empathy needs to be at the center of all strategic initiatives from start to finish.

What Does Empathy Mean in B2B Marketing?

Empathy is defined simply as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. But I’m not sure that characterization fully does it justice in the context of modern marketing.

I rather like the way Zen Media CEO Shama Hyder described empathy in the better creative teamwork guide we helped our clients at monday.com put together:

“Empathy is critical. It's much more than just having an understanding of what someone else's challenges might be. Part of it is that you have to give up being a control freak. As leaders, we should really look at the big picture and ask ourselves, is this necessary? Or is this just politicking, or someone trying to make it seem like it has to be done this way because it's the way they prefer?”

Shama was speaking from the perspective of a business leader trying to get on the same page as their team, but it applies just as well to marketing endeavors. The critical first step in developing empathy is disconnecting from our own ingrained perceptions and assumptions. Only then can we truly understand and support the audiences we want to reach.

Too often, empathy in marketing tends to be a bit narrow and self-centered (which is contradictory to the very concept itself). We often seek to understand only the challenges and pain points that drive interest in what we’re selling. Looking beyond this scope is necessary to build strong relationships founded on trust, especially now.

“What you are creating, marketing and ultimately selling is but one piece of your customer’s life as a human on Earth. One very small piece,” said Mary Beech, principal at MRB Brand Consulting and former CMO of Kate Spade, in an AMA article on empathy in marketing. “And if we aren’t keeping in mind their full journey, including their emotional, mental, social and physical needs — as well as the challenges and joys they are facing — we cannot do our jobs well.”

As Brian Solis wrote at Forbes recently, the need for empathetic customer experiences is greater than ever in the age of COVID-19 disruption. People have so much going on in their lives, and are facing so many unprecedented difficulties, that a myopic brand-centric focus is all the more untenable. “Traditional marketing will no longer have the same effect moving forward,” he argues. “If anything, it will negatively affect customer relationships rather than enhance them.”

Agreed. So, let’s find a better way.

Engaging with True Empathy in the New Era of Marketing

Imagine if it was possible to sit down and have an in-depth conversation with each one of your customers and potential customers. You’d gain first-hand insight into their worldviews, their challenges, their hopes and dreams.

Sadly, it’s not possible. You don’t have the time, nor do your customers. (Although I do recommend making a habit of engaging in direct, candid conversations with them when possible.) To make empathy scalable, marketers need to take advantage of all the tools at their disposal. This largely requires using data to connect the dots.

“It’s critical for marketers to have a real-time 360 view and understanding of a customer’s full journey, at every stage, from discovery to engagement to retention and loyalty to advocacy,” Solis wrote at Forbes.

Here are some suggestions for obtaining such a view:

Use empathy-mapping. This practice, explained in a helpful primer from Nielsen Norman Group, involves creating a visualization of attitudes and behaviors to guide decision-making. Empathy-mapping originated in the world of UX design, but given how much user experience and customer experience now overlap, it’s becoming a powerful tool for marketers.

Empathy Map

(Source: Nielsen Norman Group)

Coordinate and integrate your organizational efforts. Every customer-facing function in a company — marketing, sales, customer service — sees the customer from a different perspective. Seek ways to bring all these perspectives together into one centralized, holistic view. Per Solis: “Cross-functional collaboration is a mandate. As such, integration will become the new standard and will quickly become table stakes as every company rushes in this direction.”

Tap into meaningful influencer relationships. Influencers can play a key role in empathetic marketing because they have relationships and perspectives extending beyond our brand ecosystems. If they align with your audience, influencers can bring unique insight and connect at deeper levels. Turning influencer engagements from mechanical to meaningful is essential to accomplishing this.

Incidentally, Mr. Solis recently partnered with TopRank Marketing on the first-ever State of B2B Influencer Marketing report, in which our friend Ann Handley summarizes the impact quite well: “You could call yourself a good parent or a world-class marketer or an empathetic friend ... but any of those things would carry more weight coming from your child, customer, or BFF. So it is with integrating influencer content: It's a direct line to building trust and customer confidence.”

Research and engage with topics that matter to your customers outside of their jobs. Given the connotations of B2B, it’s all too easy to isolate our customer research around what they do professionally. But these are human beings with lives outside of work. To drive powerful engagement, marketers should search for the cross-sections between their brand’s purpose and values, and what matters to their customers.

A good example of this is found in the IBM THINK Blog, which is “dedicated to chronicling the fast-moving world of cognitive computing” and covers many important societal topics. (Recent focuses include a post on gender pronouns and a corporate environmental report.)

Examples of Empathetic B2B Marketing

Who’s getting it right and paving the way for a more empathy-driven approach to engaging B2B audiences? Here are a few examples:

Seeing human faces brings an instantly relatable element to any B2B campaign. That’s why Microsoft’s Story Labs microsite, which frames some of the company’s initiatives and guiding principles around real people and their stories, is so effective.

Microsoft Story Labs

Let Empathy Guide Your B2B Marketing Strategy

In order to walk in someone else’s shoes, you first need to untie and remove your own. Making empathy a core strategic pillar requires marketers to take a step back, disconnect from their ingrained perceptions and assumptions, and get fully in tune with the people they serve.

Only then can we create the type of relevant and personalized experiences that drive deep and long-lasting brand engagement.

For more tips that will help your business-oriented content strike notes of genuine empathy, read Josh Nite’s blog post on 5 Ways to Humanize B2B Marketing.

 

The post Boosting and Deepening Engagement through Empathy in B2B Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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5 Unheralded SEO Tools for Content Marketers

Smiling businesswoman at computer image.

Smiling businesswoman at computer image.

Are you using the latest search engine optimization (SEO) tools to help with your content marketing efforts?

Don't worry, as we’ve got you covered with a look at some of the most helpful SEO tools to help you refine and augment your content marketing plans.

Sorting through lists of the seemingly endless number of available SEO tools can be frustrating as well as a hit and miss proposition, however we’ve put this collection together so that you can skip the search and get right into SEO tools you can use today to help you create amazing content marketing stories.

Let’s jump in with our collection of fresh SEO tools to boost your content marketing experiences.

1 — Google Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse

Google’s own Lighthouse tool — an open-source project — offers a simple way to check a number of basic SEO-related issues that every website should consider. Among its auditing functions are tools specifically focusing on performance, SEO, accessibility, and progressive web apps, and it's also capable of examining webpages requiring authentication.

The tool can be run standalone, from the web, in Google's Chrome DevTools, or incorporated into continuous integration systems, and its Lighthouse Viewer allows viewing and sharing of analysis data online.

2 — Botify SEO Platform

Botify

There are numerous powerful SEO platforms that each look to be as close to a one-stop-shop as possible for marketers and brands to gain reliable and relevant search insight, and squarely in this category is enterprise SEO suite company Botify.

Botify offers a vast array of SEO analysis, data crawling intelligence and indexing metrics tools, all while working to make this complex information both easy to understand and act on, as Google’s Martin Splitt recently touched on in a live video conversation.

3 — Bing URL Submissions Plugin for WordPress

Bing

B2B marketers in WordPress environments recently got access to an open-source plug-in from Bing Webmaster Tools, automating the submission of new site content to the Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Bing URL Submissions Plugin in a feature-rich plug-in that can also be customized via Bing’s API for incorporation into other content management systems.

4 — Schema.org

Schema

Google and other search engine firms prefer that businesses use schema markup for structured data in the format set forth and maintained by the Schema.org organization, which is especially important today as features including Google’s Knowledge Graphs rely in part on this simple yet often-overlooked element, as Michal Pecánek recently examined for Ahrefs.

5 — WebPagetest

WebPagetest

Another free tool frequently used by savvy search industry professionals is WebPagetest, allowing webmasters and technically-proficient marketers to run a variety of tests including content type breakdowns, page speed data and others providing helpful information.

The data from WebPagetest can be used to troubleshoot website slowness issues, as Barry Schwartz recently outlined in “Google: How To Diagnose Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Slowness.”

Smart SEO Tools To Make You A Knowledge Builder

via GIPHY

We hope you’ve found at least a few new-to-you SEO content marketing tools among those we’ve taken a look at here, and that you’ll find them useful as you create new campaigns that are using the soundest practices of SEO, and that they'll also help build your own team’s knowledge.

We have a multi-year history of highlighting helpful marketing tools, and here are a few of the other most recent articles we’ve published on the subject:

The post 5 Unheralded SEO Tools for Content Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How B2B Marketers Can Get the Most Out of Webinars in 2020

Businesspeople with Screens as Heads Image.

Businesspeople with Screens as Heads Image.

There has to be a word for the creeping dread B2B marketers have been feeling this year, preferably something German with a ton of umlauts.

As we watched events in the spring cancel, postpone, or go virtual, we held out hope that summer would be different. Then July’s events moved out. Now it’s looking like the type of large-scale events B2B marketers depend on will have to wait until 2021… at the earliest.

But we don’t have to despair! We can close the gap with virtual events. The speaking gig at an industry conference can become a webinar, as can a planned panel discussion or product demonstration. 

The good news is plenty of people have more spare time than before to watch your webinar.

The bad news is that everyone who makes webinars has time on their hands, too. So, your webinar has to have a little extra oomph to stand out in the crowd. 

Here’s how you can level up your webinar creation and promotion.

How to Get the Most from Your B2B Webinar

It’s no longer enough to put up a slide deck and talk through bullet points. These tips will help you make a more compelling webinar — and make sure that people attend it.

Start with Content Research

No marketer worth their salt would make a blog post without doing content research. Why should your webinar be different? 

To determine the best subject matter for your webinar, bring all of your research tools to bear:

  • SEO research via SEMRush and Google Analytics
  • Question research via BuzzSumo and AnswerthePublic
  • Prospect feedback from your sales team
  • Competitor content evaluation

All of these resources will help you home in on the topics that your audience most wants to hear about. Your research might even drive what type of webinar you create: If your audience needs how-to advice, you might do a live demonstration. If they’re looking for thought leadership, you might partner with influencers. Speaking of the latter...

Reach Out to Influencers

In case you missed the headline yesterday, B2B Influencer Marketing is kind of a big deal. There’s no greater boost to your credibility (and your potential audience) than adding industry thought leaders to your webinar. 

Look for people who are influential with your audience — those who are regularly producing content and engaging with anyone who posts a comment. They don’t have to have Taylor Swift-level follower counts to make a difference. They just have to be able to get a relevant audience’s attention and hold it.

Also, it’s not enough to just have someone appear with you on camera, though — it’s important to ask meaningful questions that will enable a substantive discussion. Keep your content research in mind as you plan the interview.

Create a Landing Page & Promote

Give your audience plenty of time to prepare for your webinar. We recommend starting outreach at least two weeks beforehand, and up to a month if you can swing it. 

Create a short landing page to collect sign-ups — include a few key points you plan to cover, and introduce yourself and your guests. You can promote the landing page via social media — image-led social works well — and blog content that builds anticipation for your topic.

Don’t forget to include the webinar in your newsletter, and to enlist your influencers to drive pre-registration.

One great way to promote the webinar, and focus your content at the same time, is to poll your audience via social media. Ask for their thoughts on your topic. Ask what they most want to know about it. Ask what they would like to ask your thought leader guest. These posts can help drive registration while also making sure the content will be more relevant to the audience.

[bctt tweet="“One great way to promote the webinar, and focus your content at the same time, is to poll your audience via social media. Ask for their thoughts on your topic. Ask what they most want to know about it.” @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]

Change Up the Format

The Q&A, the panel discussion, the lecture — there are a few tried-and-true formats for webinars. But as the market gets flooded with content, we need to be more creative. For example, what about a working session instead of a discussion, where your panel collaboratively creates something? Or what about spicing up an interview with interstitial, pre-produced video content? 

You could even host the webinar on a platform like LinkedIn Live (while recording it for later publication, of course) and interact in real time with the audience. Just make sure to have a moderator to help keep the questions flowing smoothly.

Plan and Practice, But Be Flexible

It’s always a good idea to run through your entire webinar a few times before you go live. If you’re doing a lecture or presentation format, that means practicing all the content you plan to put across. For a panel discussion or interview, you may not be able to do a full run-through with your influencer, but you can still test the technology you will be using.

Don’t let your practicing and planning make your presentation too rigid, though. You should be able to follow an interesting conversational thread in your interview, or incorporate an audience comment in your presentation, without the whole thing going off the rails.

Of course, it’s always going to be tricky to run a live presentation, especially if you or your guests don’t do this type of presenting for a living. It can be challenging to think on your feet, come across as engaging, and keep a conversation focused and interesting to your audience.

Which is why I’m going to court controversy and say...

You Don’t Have to Be Live

As we think about changing up the format and offering a higher-quality experience to the audience, it may be time to let go of the idea that webinars have to be live. 

After all, editing is the gift that you give to your audience. You wouldn’t write a blog post in real time with a hundred people watching. You wouldn’t record a podcast episode and publish the raw audio. So why not pre-record and edit your webinar?

It’s true there is an immediacy to a live presentation that would be lost with a pre-recorded one. But the boost in quality for the audience could cover that loss. And you can still have an interactive experience with the audience through chat. You could even play the pre-recorded portion first, then hop on the video stream live for an audience Q&A.

There’s an enormous gap between the standard slideshow & lecture webinar and the produced, polished video that audiences appreciate most. Pre-recording and editing is one way to start closing that gap. 

Follow Up with Extra Content

What should your audience do next after attending the webinar? That’s a question to answer before you take your first registration. Once you have a next step in mind, create a content bundle to send to each registrant after the webinar airs. This bundle could include a normally gated eBook or two, some recommended reading from your blog, or more content from your influencer guests.

You can also create extra content from the webinar to help fill out your editorial calendar. Use excerpts from your discussion to fuel blog posts. Repurpose the audio as a podcast. Pull the best quotes to use as video posts on social media that drive to a gated version of the recorded webinar. Essentially, it’s about getting the most value possible from your content asset — the same thing you do with eBooks or blogs.

Webinars Killed the Radio Star

The pandemic has made webinars a go-to tactic for marketers who are missing out on face-to-face events. But as more marketers get into the webinar game, your content needs to be extraordinarily valuable and extremely well-promoted. If you plan, produce and promote your webinar with the same strategic care that you use for the rest of your content marketing, you’ll bring your audience more value and earn their attention in return.

Check out our CEO Lee Odden in a recent webinar: Social Media in the Times of Social Distancing.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Get the Most Out of Webinars in 2020 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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