Your writing portfolio is a critical tool in your marketing arsenal. After all, it’s the first thing a potential client will want to see. And a kick-butt writer portfolio can do most of the selling for you. As a freelance writer, you know this, but where do you start? Well, there are three things you …
Amisha Gandhi is the VP of Influencer Marketing & Communications for SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass. She is a sought-after speaker, and in this video — fresh off of a workshop presentation at MarketingProfs B2B Forum that absolutely rocked — she shares fascinating ideas about how to make an ongoing B2B influencer content marketing program not only work but drive organizational change and success. With that said, check out the full interview below.
Below are some of our favorite insights from the chat between Amisha and our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis.
Sue: I'll always get calls from B2B marketers who say they want to deploy the Kardashian model for their long-tale, B2B influencer program that is still in its infancy, and I feel like I need to redirect. What are your thoughts on that?
Amisha: I think a lot of people, when they think about influencer marketing, they think it's all celebrity, but in reality, when you're looking at it, they are brand ambassadors. We have brand ambassadors because that really helps with awareness. It gives us a sense of credibility and a voice that everybody knows. Then you can build on technology influencers or software developers, depending on what you're trying to do. You can have a whole soup-to-nuts program.
So maybe you're working with the team that's been a brand ambassadorship and then you're seeing what the message is there and how can you work with other kinds of influencers that are practitioners, executives, or even CEOs. That really speaks to your audience in a more authentic way. But you still have the brand ambassador, you have these influencers, and you may even have some analysts and programmers, bringing it all together.
Sue: Okay, so for someone who's thinking of doing a pilot a B2B pilot, maybe give us the worst-case scenario.
Amisha: Do not just start calling influencers and say, "I'm doing this campaign, do you want to be a part of it?" and be very prescriptive. If you come up with a campaign or there's a big marketing campaign coming out, have a concept and then start talking to influencers because they will help you move your program. If you have a very hard defined program, then people will either want to be in it or not. That's not a good way to make a relationship with an influencer.
You want to invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies. Versus being very prescriptive, be a little bit flexible. I think control — that's one of the biggest things that I hear back in people starting out. They are like, "We have this great white-paper, we have this great program, you should come in and amplify it," but people aren't looking to amplify your company content. They're looking to help you reach their audience. So you need to work with them to see what's going to be interesting for their audience.
[bctt tweet="“Invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies.” @AmishaGandhi" username="toprank"]
Sue: How can B2B marketers break free from boring B2B?
Amisha: We know people say, "Oh, B2B is boring." It doesn't have to be boring, but you have to know your audience and what they're looking for. Most of the time, they're really looking for straightforward information because they don't have time. But you do have some capacity to be found on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and other places that serve as community watering holes or trade association sites. People are looking for content there. You can add sizzle by making a very interesting or provocative headline, have a play on words, and things like that, that you don't normally see in B2B.
One thing that I use for inspiration is Taco Bell. Many years back they had this idea of, when the space shuttle comes back in, if it hit a certain spot then everybody in the world would get a free taco. It turned out to be this amazing communications program. It just went everywhere — it was viral. I always think about what can we do to make things viral in a B2B world. Sometimes we end up with outrageous ideas we don't ever use or could never use, but it can inspire something real to happen. It informs creative and fun ways to reach people and touch people in a different way than you would normally think of in B2B. Plus, it can be a real success.
The entire interview is full of B2B-boundary-defying insights. Check out the full video above.
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Amanda Todorovich is the Senior Director of Health Content at Cleveland Clinic. That title kind of undersells what she did over there. She turned a neglected blog into a revenue stream. That's right - something that is generating money and is getting over 7 million visitors a month. Now Amanda is a true believer, like our agency, in the power of audience-centered content.
She is living proof that investing in this kind of content pays off. Join us in learning more from Amanda. She is one of the leading lights and is at the vanguard of next-generation content marketers, and we are thrilled to speak with her. View the entire interview below.
Below are a few of our favorite snippets from the interview.
Sue: Recently on your Twitter channel, you retweeted that Cleveland Clinic has monetized its blog successfully. Can you share details?
Amanda: Sure. So we actually started monetizing the site in 2015. We started really small - experimental at that point. We were getting about 3 million visits a month. And we started with a Google pilot, like, let's just slap up some Google ads and see what we get. If we get any kind of negative reaction internally, or we see a drop in traffic, which we didn't basically, we got no reaction because people are so used to seeing ads, I think that they just accepted it.
So that was fine. But it's a lot of work. And as a nonprofit, there were a lot of rules around what we couldn't have as advertising on our site, and managing that was a lot of work and for not a very high payoff. So we knew that we could do it, we knew that it wouldn't really affect our traffic much. But, we knew that we needed to think about it a little differently, so we partnered with another publisher very well. They sell and manage all of our inventory. Since then, we've tripled our ad revenue and we definitely have evolved and expanded our monetization efforts outside of just our health center's blog into our constant PT physician blog, as well as our health library content. So it's revenue that comes directly back into our marketing division, and supports a lot of the work that we're doing now.
Sue: In terms of SEO, where's your focus in terms of your really big concepts.
Amanda: SEO has evolved a lot for us over the years and honestly, I just formally took responsibility for our overall SEO strategy this year. It used to be a whole separate thing. So we were trying to work through that and, you know, it had its challenges. Plus, it wasn't a real big focus for us. Over the years, we've shifted from where 60% to 70% of our traffic was coming from social media. Today 80 to 90% comes from organic search. Our SEO strategy today is extremely data-driven, the way that we prioritize the work and the way that we look at what we're going to focus our time and effort on is really around a couple of things - competitive analysis and content gaps that we have, as well as the difficulty for ranking. Where do we have an opportunity with existing content to potentially climb the ladder a little easier with some tweaking? Now, it's also a little bit more around assembling a comprehensive, integrated team, and not just from an editorial writing perspective, but from a multimedia perspective. What animation, illustration, and video imagery can we bring to that page to make it the best experience on the internet.
Sue: You retweeted this from one of your team members, and I love this- "Yes, content campaigns are the devil." So your integrated marketing campaign, it's focused on selling to customers?
Amanda: I think it's really important content marketing is not a campaign, it's not a project, it's not a one-off. We like to talk about our content channels and process like products, you know, you really need to invest in them. It's a long-term strategy. It's something that you really have to think about how you build a long-term committed relationship with that user - it's not a one-and-done. There's never really an end to it. It's continuous and iterative.
It's imperative that people understand that content marketing isn't a fling, it's not a blip, it's not done and move on to the next. Again, we talk a lot about optimizing existing content, reaching the right people with your content, being hyper-relevant, making it amazing. That's the focus. That's how you have to think about it. Because the start and ends and start and stops and buying for a campaign - all these different people and departments slow you way down, and your audience sees through it. People are savvy and smart. They know when something is meant to sell. You really have to be careful with that. Most kinds of marketing programs are about relationships and trust-building. And every time you take a step or stab at that, it dilutes again, your results and your ability to be successful.
Be sure to listen to the full interview above to get all of Amanda Todorovich's insights as we B2B marketers "Break Free".
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For some marketers, it’s second nature. For others, it’s uncomfortable territory. But no matter your predisposition, there’s no denying that personal brand-building is an essential skill in today’s B2B marketing environment.
It’s also fun! Cultivating your social media brand offers an opportunity to tie your own interests, passions, and perspectives into your professional identity.
Let’s explore why this is such an important focus for modern marketing practitioners, how to get it right, and how business leaders can encourage it.
Why Your Personal Brand on Social Media Matters as a Marketer
The list could go on endlessly, but at a high level, the rationale for personal brand-building on social media boils down to three key factors.
#1 - Customers connect with other people more than companies.
As much as we B2B marketers might like to believe otherwise, buyers aren’t drawn to brands. If a rapport is developed, it’s because of the people who represent those companies and build genuine human relationships.
An engaging and relatable personal brand creates a conduit for inbound interest. You don’t need to be overtly promotional. Simply talking about your industry — sharing your views and opinions — can prompt people to reach out and learn more, or to click through to your company’s pages out of interest. These are subtle triggers that generate awareness in an authentic way.
[bctt tweet="An engaging and relatable personal brand creates a conduit for inbound interest for your business. @NickNelson #B2BMarketing #B2BSocialMedia #Branding" username="toprank"]
#2 - Personal profiles get more organic reach than brand pages.
This is true of virtually all social networks. The underlying motivation of any social media company is to keep users on their sites, engaging with others. Because of the dynamic we just mentioned — humans are more drawn to other humans than faceless brands — these networks are apt to elevate content from personal accounts over organizational ones. If you’ve ever done any social media marketing, you’ve likely noticed how difficult it is to grow the reach of company content on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn without paying to amplify it.
Personal profiles offer a workaround. Creating content that aligns with your company’s narrative — or even simply re-sharing posts from the brand page via your own profile — increases the visibility of this content. Not only that, but it puts a real face on the source of the information. Here's a simple example from our own Lane Ellis.
#3 - Your career growth and success might depend on it.
Yes, growing your personal brand on social media can help your company. But more than anything, it’s a valuable focus for you. When someone wants to research you online, they are very likely to check out your social accounts first and foremost. The researcher could be a customer, who will be impressed by an active and knowledgeable presence, but also a potential employer, for whom the same will be true.
Not only does an investment in growing your personal brand yield benefits for your marketability, but also for your professional network and even your capabilities. Through this undertaking, you’re bound to learn things you can apply in your job — even if the primary themes of your personal brand don’t exactly align with what your company does (more on that shortly).
How to Effectively Build Your Personal Brand on Social Media
It’s a paradox: many B2B marketers are incredibly gifted at portraying and promoting the brands they represent, but entirely uncomfortable or unfamiliar with doing the same for themselves. If that’s you, here are some tips to strengthen your results.
Find Your Rhythm
Being active on social media doesn’t mean you need to post something every hour, or even every day. It’s about finding a consistent routine that works for you and your followers. To more efficiently post content on multiple networks, or schedule batches of posts at once, take advantage of a tool like Hootsuite, Sprout, or Buffer.
You Don’t Have to Talk About the Same Things Your Company Does
This is a misconception that seems to hold people back. Maybe you’re not all that personally interested in what your company does, or you drain yourself by talking about it all day at work. One idea is to find a particular angle of your business or industry that strikes a chord with you, and will resonate with others. For instance, if you work in the finance industry, you could make data privacy your main area of exploration.
Or, you could choose to build your personal brand around something that doesn’t overlap with your company and its services. There’s benefit in growing your own audience and engagement even if it’s not the exact same audience your company serves.
As one example, take my story. I started blogging about baseball long before I was an agency marketer. In 2012 I teamed up with three others to create a website called Twins Daily. My Twitter presence is mostly oriented around baseball and that community. But through this experience I’ve learned many things that make me a better marketer. I’ve broadened my platform and reach. And I’ve grown my personal network, connecting with plenty of other marketers, creatives, and brand folks who also happen to be baseball fans.
Find your distinct passion and connect it to your professional identity. Just make sure the passion comes first.
Create a Balanced Approach
Maintaining a steady pipeline of interesting stories and commentary to share on your personal account is easier said than done. When it comes to refining your social media mix, SAP’s* Head of Global Influencer Marketing Ursula Ringham shared some sage wisdom with our Caitlin Burgess in her Digital Marketing Spotlight interview. Ursula situates her social output around her “five truths”:
This is a good framework. Define a similar mix that aligns with your passion/professional sweet spot, and use these truths as pillars for your content strategy.
[bctt tweet="The bottom line here is: Be authentic. Be yourself (or your brand). But be strategic. — @ursularingham" username="toprank"]
Stand Out and Be Fascinating
“Don’t underrate your ability to fascinate,” urged NYT best-selling author Sally Hogshead in her interview with Lee Odden on personal branding for marketers back in 2015. “In a sense, most of us were schooled to avoid being too fascinating. As kindergartners we’re taught to stand in line for class. Color within the lines. Raise a hand. Wait your turn. Standing out is labeled as misbehaving.”
[bctt tweet="You will not win by being invisible. Today, you win by being seen and remembered. Stand out, or don’t bother. — @SallyHogshead" username="toprank"]
Sally's insights are just as relevant today. Just as companies need to differentiate themselves and rise above the saturated market, you’ll want to do the same with your personal brand in a social media world populated by billions of other people. Use your marketing brain to understand what will get noticed and drive engagement — catchy headlines, provocative angles, trendy topics, bold imagery, etc.
How B2B Companies Can Support Personal Brand-Building from Employees
If you’re a CMO or another business leader who sees the value in personal brand-building for employees, but you’re struggling to promote the practice within your ranks, here are a few ideas to get things moving.
Implement an Employee Advocacy Program: Whether using a dedicated platform (LinkedIn Elevate* is among the most popular) or a more informal system run by people within your company, an employee advocacy program generates a pipeline of brand-approved content or articles that people in your company can easily access and share through their own networks. This is helpful because it removes the common reluctance among employees about getting in trouble for sharing or saying the wrong things. It can also make it easier for non-marketers to get on board.
Lead by Example: When executives use their personal networks to dispense thought leadership and speak on behalf of the brand, it’s powerful. And when employees see this behavior, it can provide them with encouragement and a model to follow.
Make It Inviting and Natural: The problem with many corporate-driven advocacy initiatives? “It’s so nakedly promotional, it’s like a commercial,” Jay Baer opines in a B2B Spotlight interview on the convergence of customer experience and employee advocacy. “Nobody’s gonna put that on their personal social media. They’re trying to turn employees into shills and nobody’s down with that.” For guidance on steering clear of this pitfall, I highly recommend watching the portion of Jay and Lee’s conversation that starts around the 9-minute mark in this video: