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B2B Marketing Spotlight: Ann Handley on Being a “Badaxe” Marketer #mpb2b

Interview Ann Handley

Interview Ann Handley
Twelve years ago I had the good fortune to connect with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and she’s been a positive influence to me on what's possible in content and B2B marketing ever since.

I’m not alone.

During that time, we’ve both grown as marketers. Well, maybe I’ve grown, but Ann has exploded. She regularly fills keynote rooms at conferences, draws long, long lines of people to get one of her best selling books signed and her company MarketingProfs has attracted over 600,000 subscribers.

Ann Handley is a marketing influencers's influencer or more creatively, she's an Annfluencer.

Since Ann is the very first Chief Content Officer ever, a multi-book best selling author, international keynote speaker and who I like to call, The Khaleesi of Content, we’re pretty fortunate to share the following interview. And after recent events in Toronto, you call also call her a “badaxe" marketer.

In the video below Ann and I connected through Zoom to talk about a range of topics including a game of “hot or not” with content marketing tactics, examples of B2B brands doing it right, how she’s achieved meteoric success with her newsletter growth and of course, the upcoming B2B Forum conference happening near Washington D.C. on October 16-18.


On Axe Throwing and Marketing Metaphors:

"In Toronto for an event I went ax throwing with a bunch of other speakers and attendees at the event. I mean the obvious analogy would be that in marketing it's all about hitting the target, but I actually think it's a much richer analogy than that. The analogy that I drew, or where I see marketing and writing reflected in ax throwing, is that sometimes it's just enough to hit the target, you know? It takes a lot of practice. It takes a lot of courage to stand up there and actually try something. And I think that's probably why in B2B marketing, it's so much safer to not throw the ax, to instead just sort of sit behind and do what you've always done."

It’s incumbent on all of us in B2B marketing, whether you are a writer, or a marketer, or whatever role you play to take some risks and just get out of the box and throw an ax at that target. @marketingprofs

"And so the analogy is that some days it's just enough to hit the target, and that it is scary and it's dangerous, and it can feel uncomfortable to try new things. But I think it's incumbent on all of us in B2B marketing, whether you are a writer, or a marketer, or whatever role you play in an organization to take some risks, and just get out of the box and throw an ax at that target."

On B2B Marketing Trends for 2020:

"I've been all in on this for a while, and it's so old school, but email newsletters have made a such a comeback. So many brands are really missing the opportunity with email. They're so focused on trying to get really great ads, at voice activated applications. You know, what should I ... what's our Alexa strategy? It's like, why do you have an Alexa strategy? Why are you even thinking about that, when your email newsletter really needs help over here? The email newsletter I think is it's, it's vastly undervalued."

On the Most Common Marketing Questions Ann Gets Asked:

"People ask me a lot about writing, and here's kind of the funny thing about when people ask me questions about writing. It's usually preceded by an apology like, 'I'm sorry, I'm really nervous writing to you, because I'm worried about grammar'. And that's sort of the problem right there. It's like, I don't care about grammar, necessarily. I mean yeah, you want to sort of know the grammar rules more generally, but you can always get some help. You can always fix that later, fix it in post, right? And so I don't think about great writing the same as great grammar. They're very different things."

"When someone expresses some anxiety right off that, 'I feel so awkward writing to you, because I'm so worried that it's going to have a mistake.' I mean, number one, just let go of that judgment, you know? It's like the ax throwing analogy again. Just stand in the pit and throw the ax. Don't worry about it."

Thank you Ann!

B2B Forum
Bound for B2B Forum: For more information about imagining what's possible in B2B, check out the MarketingProfs B2B Forum conference including agenda, list of speakers (including Ashley Zeckman and myself) and many other fun facts on the website here.

If you’re in marketing, I can’t recommend Ann’s Newsletter, Total Annarchy enough. You can subscribe and see back issues here.

Follow Ann on the Twitters here: @marketingprofs & @annhandley

The post B2B Marketing Spotlight: Ann Handley on Being a “Badaxe” Marketer #mpb2b appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Content Marveling: Wonder and Astonishment in Marketing

Northern lights over mountains with astounded person below.

Northern lights over mountains with astounded person below.

Two little letters. On the surface that’s all separating your standard issue “marketing” from the extraordinary and entirely different practice of “marveling.”

Marvel Word Definition Image

At TopRank Marketing, “Content Marveling" is the practice of bringing greater wonder and astonishment to traditional content marketing, and can be applied in both the worlds of direct-to-consumer and enterprise business-to-business, to engage and delight your audience.

Marketing efforts spending huge amounts of paid placement advertising, ever-more-ludicrous click-bait headlines and tactics, and even illicit black-hat methods are all used to simply get us to pay attention to marketing messages.

Among senior B2B marketers, a sizable 82 percent view content as important for achieving marketing goals, however only 48 percent believe their content is somewhat effective — or even ineffective, according to recent study data.

Uberflip / Heinz Chart Image

In the U.S. alone digital ad spending grew to $28.4 billion for the first quarter of 2019, up 18 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

IAB 2019 Q1 Ad Spend Chart Image

Thankfully there are still many genuine people and professional organizations delivering truly helpful content in beautifully-delivered formats — the type of material that builds long-term fans and keeps audiences subscribing, liking, and coming back for more.

We've explored a variety of B2B brands delivering great content recently, including Cannes Lions award winners, which are some of the best examples to learn from:

They say the more things change the more they remain the same, and people have known the power of all things marvelous for thousands of years, as Aristotle himself observed.

[bctt tweet="“In all things of nature there is something marvelous.” — Aristotle " username="toprank"]


Content Marveling: A Marvelous Peak With No Summit

Infinity Symbol Image

Content marveling sets the bar higher. It aims to inspire us to use marketing to deliver a sense of awe, gives us cause to stop and reflect, and can become a profound example we’ll refer back to throughout the rest of our career.

At first glance this may seem nearly unattainable. Thankfully, another tenet of content marveling is to simply think of marketing as a peak with no physical summit, offering an ever-evolving and infinite pinnacle of the very best marketing.


Our greatest emotional reactions know no bounds, and similarly, no matter how much a superb marketing effort has succeeded, by its very nature there is always the opportunity to do better the next time out, and push to newfound levels of marketing achievements.

[bctt tweet="“‘Content Marveling’ is the practice of bringing greater wonder and astonishment to traditional content marketing.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis" username="toprank"]

Finding a Quark or Neutrino In a Sea of Marketing Messages

Colorful element particle image.

It’s no secret that online interactions today see us inundated with vast numbers of efforts to catch our attention, coming at us a mile a minute from seemingly every possible digital direction.

Today’s professional has just an eight-second attention span, according to Debra Jasper, and working within this speedy framework of micro-moments is harder than ever.

Finding great authentic marketing examples that inspire a sense of wonder these days can be difficult — not quite like detecting a quark or a neutrino wave — yet surprisingly challenging.

Striving to incorporate the wonder and astonishment of content marveling can go far in taking your own campaigns to a level of content marketing greatest, and we’ll look at examples from several marketing superheroes who are doing this today.

Taking a cue once again from the distant past, however, we can learn the importance of wonder in marketing and elsewhere from Socrates.

[bctt tweet="“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” — Socrates " username="toprank"]


The Longstanding Successes of Ann Handley

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, is an outstanding content marketing practitioner who has been at the forefront of crafting innovative and memorable marketing wisdom for years.Ann Handley

Ann produces one of the content marketing industry’s most popular newsletters — Total Annarchy — offering up a deftly-curated collection of inspiring and hyper-relevant digital marketing news, on display most recently in the newsletter’s forty-third edition, “TA #43: ? Mindy Kaling's Marketing Tips, What's Wrong with Newsletters, B2B Influencers Done Right.”

In it, Ann shared writing and marketing advice from comedian, actress and writer Mindy Kaling, who was the closing keynote speaker during the most recent Content Marketing World conference.

Fear of the unknown is common in marketing, and Mindy revealed how it can be used to create the kind of memorable content and messaging that content marveling encourages.

[bctt tweet="“When you're scared, that's when the most memorable things happen.” — Mindy Kaling @mindykaling" username="toprank"]

At the event Ann delivered a much-anticipated presentation on using a strategic approach for achieving marketing success that’s both sane and sustainable, and our own Senior Digital Strategy Director Ashley Zeckman was there to cover it in the following article:

50 More Content Marvelers To Follow & Learn From

50 Content Marvelers Image

At TopRank Marketing we strive to highlight top marketers in a variety of marketing niches, and our most recent is a list of 50 of the world's best content marketers who presented at Content Marketing World — a handy resource for easily following great marketers and learning how to create your own marvelous campaigns by watching their fine examples.

You can find it here:

During the event, our CEO Lee Odden and Ashley Zeckman each presented insightful sessions, and a team of our staff was also on hand to provide in-depth coverage of many of the top speakers delivering presentations throughout the week, culminating in a complete wrap-up with top take-aways and insights.

To help drive your content marveling efforts, here are some of our live-blogging articles from the event:

I hope that you’ll use the information and examples we’ve explored here as you strive to be your own content marveler, and that you’ll work to infuse your marketing campaigns with a new level of wonder and delight.

The post Content Marveling: Wonder and Astonishment in Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Get Started With YouTube Ads

Want to market your products or services on YouTube? Wondering how to set up a YouTube video ad campaign? In this article, you’ll learn how to run ads on YouTube via the Google Ads dashboard. #1: Link Your YouTube Channel With Google Ads Before you start your YouTube video ad campaign, you must link your […]

The post How to Get Started With YouTube Ads appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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#CMWorld 2019 Recap: Top Insights & TopRank Marketing’s Favorite Moments

Content Marketing World 2019 Recap

Content Marketing World 2019 Recap

It’s always fascinating when thousands of marketers, many of whom are competitors, can come together for a week to share ideas, innovations, and advice with one another to grow their business and push the boundaries of their industry. Content Marketing World 2019 was no exception to this act of selfless sharing. It was my first time attending and between the thought-provoking content, industry-leading speakers, and generously engaging attendees, I certainly hope it’s not my last.

At TopRank Marketing, we made it our mission to ensure our readers would share in the benefit of our attendance. Below are the ideas, people, and moments that we were grateful to experience last week, all of which are summarized for your consuming pleasure below. We hope that similar to our conference experience, you walk away with a notebook chock-full of ideas to grow your content marketing programs. Enjoy!

Big Ideas Beget Big Ideas 

At CMWorld 2019, every speakers’ session seemed to build from one another, making for a cohesive and comprehensive learning experience. Common themes included:

  • Using data to tell stories
  • Creating content that feels personal 
  • Creatively amplifying your message
  • Leveraging teams and technology to scale

Our live coverage of several sessions delved into all of these themes. 

Using Data to Tell Stories

Lee Odden Shares His Secret to Content Marketing Fitness #CMWorld

CEO of TopRank Marketing Lee Odden took the stage on Wednesday afternoon to draw parallels between his physical fitness journey and that of creating an always-on content marketing program. The underlying message throughout his presentation was that you should always be leveraging your data to iterate, optimize and push the boundaries of what you thought was possible.

Read the entire blog here.

April Henderson on Data-Driven, Empathetic B2B Content #CMWorld

Forrester's April Henderson followed up the next day to talk about data-driven, empathetic B2B content. And no - that’s not an oxymoron. She pushed her audience to think past traditional B2B content to build stories that don't stray from statistics but instead, leverage them to resonate with your audience's emotional side.

Read the entire post here.

Creating Personal Content

Create a Stellar Audience Experience By Slowing Down with These Tips from Ann Handley #CMWorld

MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley provided her audience with a powerful session that urged marketers to slow down and take the time to get to know their audience. She stresses that relationships, especially between buyer and seller, take time to build. Marketers who not only understand this but covet it as their guide to building great content, are going to be leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.

Read the entire blog post here.

Carlos Abler Details How Content Marketing Can Contribute to the Greater Good #CMWorld

3M's Carlos Abler spoke to an audience of marketers about expanding the idea of personal content to include social value. Although brands have been notoriously known for sticking to objectives that only benefit themselves, Carlos ensures us that by building a strategy that provides our audiences an aspect of social value, we will be helping our bottom-line as well.

Read more from his session here.

Creatively Amplifying Content

Get Heroic Results from B2B Influencer Marketing with Advice from Ashley Zeckman #CMWorld

Ashley Zeckman Presents at CMWorld 2019

Despite an 8 a.m. start time on the last day of CMWorld, the room for Ashley Zeckman’s presentation on B2B Influencer Marketing was packed, a good indication of the thirst for this topic. Using Guardians of the Galaxy to help explain her approach to building successful influencer programs, she laid forward essential do’s and don’ts, wrapping it all up in real-world examples for her audience to take away.

Read our entire recap from Ashley's presentation here.

Leveraging Teams and Tech to Scale

Zari Venhaus’s Framework for Gaining Executive Buy-In for Marketing Technology #CMWorld

Eaton's Director of Corporate Marketing Communications Zari Venhaus knows better than most that the best content marketing strategies will have an uphill battle gaining traction if the proper tools are not in place to scale efforts. That’s why she gave a thorough presentation on her tried and true framework for getting martech approval from senior executives.

Read the full post here.

How to Drive Better Content Marketing Results with Integrated Marketing Teams: Top Tips from NewsCred's Shafqat Islam #CMWorld

NewsCred Co-Founder and CEO Shafqat Islam hit on a point that many of us marketers already know to be true: consumers demand a consistent, omnichannel experience from brands. However, knowing and doing are two very different things. Shafqat laid out his process for building teams that not only understand this key truth, but can also implement it at scale.

Read the entire live blog here.

Off-Stage Insights

To make this conference experience extra special, the TopRank Marketing team sat down with some of the brightest minds in B2B, interviewing them one-on-one to get their unique perspective on the state of our industry. We sat down with the majority of these experts moments after they exited the stage, speaking on their respective topics of expertise. We will be releasing the full interviews from these industry leaders in the weeks to follow. But here are a few profound snippets to hold you over:

Amanda Todorovich

Senior Director of Health Content, Cleveland Clinic

[bctt tweet="Health is so personal and so sacred that building that trust is so important. - Amanda Todorovich @amandatodo" username="toprank"]

Amisha Gandhi

Vice President of Influencer Marketing & Communications, SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass

[bctt tweet="Focus on creating engaging content, not lead gen content, to align with the expectations of today’s B2B buyer. - Amisha Gandhi @AmishaGandhi" username="toprank"]

Brody Dorland

Co-Founder, DivvyHQ

[bctt tweet="I feel strongly that companies need to get out of the campaign mentality and leverage their channels for ongoing content that is going to serve their audience. - Brody Dorland @brodydorland" username="toprank"]

Clare Carr

Vice President of Marketing, Parse.ly

[bctt tweet="Remember that your B2B audience is human and treat them that way. - Clare Carr @clareondrey" username="toprank"]

Jeff Pugel

Founder & Chief Growth Officer, Ignition

[bctt tweet="Figure out who you are, as a business, and everything else will start to figure itself out. - Jeff Pugel @jeffpugel" username="toprank"]

John Joyce

Global Marketing Director, Brennan Industries

[bctt tweet="That’s why we do content marketing - to start communicating and providing value to our audience. - John Joyce @mrjohnjoyce" username="toprank"]

Maliha Aqeel

Assistant Director of Brand, Marketing & Communications, Ernst and Young

[bctt tweet="By and large society is forcing companies to change. They are saying it is no longer acceptable to operate the way you’ve always operated - you’ve got to put society first. - Maliha Aqeel @MalihaQ" username="toprank"]

Margaret Magnarelli

Executive Director for Growth Marketing & Audience Acquisition, Morgan Stanley

[bctt tweet="The more you can get to know your customer and develop a care and empathy for them, the more you are going to do what is right for that person - not just because it is a marketing trend you can follow. - Margaret Magnarelli @mmagnarelli" username="toprank"]

Stephanie Stahl

General Manager, Content Marketing Institute

[bctt tweet="We keep the conversation and the community going 365 days a year. - Stephanie Stahl of @CMIContent" username="toprank"]

Zari Venhaus

Director of Corporate Marketing Communications, Eaton

[bctt tweet="Marketers need to take a step back and think about the larger ecosystem in which they operate. - Zari Venhaus @zvenhaus" username="toprank"]

Connecting with the Content Community

Oftentimes conferences give us the opportunity to check in with friends in our industry, grab a bite together and share a laugh. The team at TopRank Marketing used our spare moments to do just that, connecting with old friends as well as new. 

We captured a few of our favorite moments with these folks below.

[caption id="attachment_27087" align="alignnone" width="600"] TopRank Marketing team members Josh Nite, Ashley Zeckman, and Lee Odden with Robert Rose.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_27084" align="alignnone" width="600"] An annual tradition, TopRank Marketing had a lovely dinner with old and new friends.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_27116" align="alignnone" width="512"] TopRank Marketing President Susan Misukanis interviews Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic, while TopRank Marketing's Director of Demand Gen Kelly Hogan runs the camera.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_27119" align="alignnone" width="600"] Lee Odden with two amazing friends and marketers Ann Handley and Joe Pulizzi.[/caption]

Wrapping it Up

To summarize our experience: we came, we saw, we conquered, all in hopes of bringing back the thought-leadership that transpired to our clients and our communities. As much as we enjoy being at the event, we enjoy, even more so, sharing those learnings with you. There is a balance in our community of giving and receiving, and we like to err on the side of giving. 

Did you attend Content Marketing World 2019? What were some of your top takeaways or favorite moments? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The post #CMWorld 2019 Recap: Top Insights & TopRank Marketing’s Favorite Moments appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Drive Better Content Marketing Results with Integrated Marketing Teams: Top Tips from NewsCred’s Shafqat Islam #CMWorld

Here’s a wild new idea: Consumers expect immediate, consistent, on-brand experiences across channels.

Just kidding about the "wild" and "new" parts. Most marketers likely have the phrase embroidered on a pillowcase by now. It’s fundamental.

But if we know that consumers demand an omnichannel experience… Why are so many marketing teams stuck in silos?

NewsCred Co-Founder and CEO Shafqat Islam believes this siloed structure is what’s holding marketers back from their omnichannel dreams. Integrated marketing requires integrated teams. During his Content Marketing World 2019 session, Shafqat shared how NewsCred reorganized to deliver better results.

[caption id="attachment_27091" align="alignnone" width="600"]Key takeaways: Integrated marketing is better for consumers and brands, modern marketing is collaborative, risk-taking content teams are best suited to drive transformation Image courtesy Shafqat Islam & NewsCred.[/caption]

The Dangers of Hyper-Specialized Marketing Teams

As marketing continues to grow more complex, says Shafqat, marketers have had to specialize. A modern marketing team might handle content, social media, paid advertising, internal communications, events and more. In larger organizations, each of these specialties might have its own sub-team. And each operates more or less independently of the others.

The result? The majority of marketers (89%) think they’re doing great with integrated, omnichannel marketing… while only 58% of consumers agree. According to Shafqat, hyper-specialized, siloed teams can lead to:

  • Redundant or broken tech stacks that cause inefficiencies
  • Disconnected content efforts that produce ineffective content
  • Missed opportunities to find synergies across the teams
  • Sub-optimal campaign results

The Solution: Integrated Marketing Teams

Of course, specialization can be a good thing. Marketers should have an area of expertise, but they should also have enough general knowledge to work with teams in other areas.

Shafqat proposes a “team of teams” structure to help marketers work together towards a cohesive plan while empowering each silo to do what it does best. “Keep the expertise in each team, but do all the planning together,” he says.

When the whole marketing department is working with a singular vision, each team (or person) can put their specialized knowledge to use towards a larger goal. For example, content can support the next event, with paid ads promoting them both. Most importantly, messaging and branding is consistent across every area of specialization. With integrated planning, teams can avoid duplicating work, streamline their processes, and end up with a better end product as well.

[caption id="attachment_27090" align="alignnone" width="600"]Diagram demonstrating multiple marketing sub-specialties working together to plan campaigns and content Image courtesy Shafqat Islam & NewsCred.[/caption]

The Five Traits of Modern, Integrated Marketing

According to Shafqat, these are the attributes an integrated marketing initiative should strive for:

#1: They’re Collaborative

Teams are able to communicate with each other across the marketing department, form ad hoc “tiger teams” across specialties, and share data and processes.

#2: They’re Transparent

According to Shafqat, teams should aim for an “uncomfortable level of transparency.” That means shared visibility across all teams and programs – no hoarding knowledge or covering up mistakes.

#3: They’re Aligned

Teams work together to develop strategies. They use centralized campaign briefs to bring teams together on shared objectives and KPIs. Shafqat recommends starting with a single line campaign brief: One sentence that brings the project into sharp focus for everyone.

#4: They’re Agile

Marketing teams should adopt Agile processes that they find useful and necessary. Shafqat recommends not doing everything strictly by the Agile book – only keep what  works for the team. In general, it’s a focus on continual iteration and optimization for content and campaigns, developing a minimum viable product and refining it through sprints.

#5: They’re Scalable

Think about scale in everything you do, says Shafqat. Look to create processes that boost efficiency, that are repeatable, and that make sense as your team continues to grow. For example, develop a tagging system for content on your content management platform. Tags are something everyone can use to find and repurpose content quickly.

Shafqat highlighted the Mayo Clinic as an example of what happens when teams are integrated, while still preserving their specialized knowledge. The Mayo treats an entire patient, not just a problem or symptom. Everyone who treats the patient shares a common goal. Every doctor has access to the other specialists’ information and expertise. They all share knowledge and work together on a single shared KPI: the patient’s health.

Silos Are for Grain, Not Marketers

[caption id="attachment_27092" align="alignnone" width="600"]Text reading "let the idea grow. Take risks." Image courtesy Shafqat Islam & NewsCred.[/caption]

Creating an integrated marketing “team of teams” will lead to more efficient marketing and better results, says Shafqat. But the benefits don’t stop there. Shafqat believes marketing can help drive change throughout the organization, first by modeling integration, then by expanding it to other departments. The sales, customer experience, and HR teams all could benefit from sharing information with each other and with marketing.

Customers expect a unified, consistent experience; as Shafqat points out, it’s time that marketers demanded the same from their teams.

Looking for more insights out of CMWorld 2019? Check out these other posts featuring several of this year’s speakers:

The post How to Drive Better Content Marketing Results with Integrated Marketing Teams: Top Tips from NewsCred’s Shafqat Islam #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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5 Steps to LinkedIn Group Success: How to Create and Manage a Successful Group

Do you want to connect with ideal clients and prospects on LinkedIn? Have you considered a LinkedIn group? In this article, you’ll learn how to create a valuable and engaged group on LinkedIn. Why You Should Manage Your Own LinkedIn Group Starting your own LinkedIn group can be a great way to increase your thought […]

The post 5 Steps to LinkedIn Group Success: How to Create and Manage a Successful Group appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Social Spotlight: Marshalls’ #MarshallsSurprise

Welcome to the Social Spotlight, where each week we’ll dive deep into what we love about a brand’s approach to a specific social campaign. Read more...

This post Social Spotlight: Marshalls’ #MarshallsSurprise originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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Get Heroic Results from B2B Influencer Marketing with Advice from Ashley Zeckman #CMWorld

Ashley Zeckman Presents at CMWorld 2019

Ashley Zeckman Presents at CMWorld 2019

B2B content marketers have faced many epic foes over the last few years. There’s the nefarious Content Shock, the demoralizing Facebook Algorithm, and the destructive Google Search Update. We have battled them all and continued to thrive.

But now we face our most fearsome foe: The Dreaded Trust Gap.

Less than half of consumers trust brands. Seventy-one percent of buyers are turned off by overly sales-y content. Buyers increasingly prefer content from industry influencers rather than brands.

It’s a daunting problem that needs a bold solution: The Guardians of Content!

In her Content Marketing World 2019 presentation, our very own Director of Digital Strategy Ashley Zeckman explained how B2B content marketers can initiate and scale up a heroic influencer content program of their own. Here are a few key takeaways.

Three Common B2B Influncer Pitfalls

If you’re just getting started with B2B influencer marketing, there are easy mistakes to make. Most of them come from trying to emulate the B2C model: Transactional, glorified sponsorship rather than content co-creation. Here are Ashley’s three most common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

#1: A Disconnected Approach

Say you have a hole in your editorial calendar, so you ask an influencer for an interview. Then you need some quotes for an infographic, so you ask a few others for a nugget of wisdom. Then you reach out on social media to a couple of folks you admire. Then you ask a different set of influencers for quotes for an eBook…

You get the picture. Instead of a strategic campaign that can build into something bigger, you have a ton of one-offs. It’s inefficient. It’s inconsistent for your audience and for the influencers you’re courting.

Instead, Ashley says, aim for a strategic, connected approach. Plan in advance which topics you’re covering, which influencers you want to include, how you’ll use the content, and your plans for repurposing.

#2: Transactional Relationships

There are two ways that influencer relationships can get too transactional. The first is asking too much too quickly, while offering nothing of value in return. Imagine you got an email from a stranger asking you to help them move. Would you do it?

Now imagine an email from a friend asking for that help, and promising pizza and beer? Relationships matter. Take time to honor your influencers, follow them on social media, promote them and their work. Help them succeed, then start with a small ask, like a sound bite for a blog post.

The second way relationships can be too transactional is more literal. If you only work with paid influencers who promote content you wrote… well, that’s more endorsement than influencer content, and it can be less likely to find an enthusiastic audience.

While you may financially compensate some influencers, Ashley says, the emphasis should always be on content co-creation. You want influencers to feel ownership of the finished product – they’ll be much more likely to promote something they’re excited to have made.

#3: Lack of Measurement

Like any other marketing tactic, influencer marketing should be able to prove its worth. Many marketers fail to build in measurement at the beginning, and end up with nothing but vanity metrics to show.

It’s important to plan for measurement before you start. Lay the groundwork for the KPIs you plan to meet, and the metrics you’ll use to show progress. And don’t forget to set benchmarks!

Here are a few of Ashley’s sample KPIs:

Planning Content and Assembling Your Heroes

Keeping those pitfalls in mind, here’s how Ashley recommends designing and implementing an influencer program.

First, determine your topical focus. The topics you plan to cover should hit the intersection of your business priorities, search demand, and influencer expertise. It shouldn’t be too tied to your products and solutions. Think more about what you want your brand to be known for.

Use the same tools you use for content research to find the key terms where there is audience demand and competitor whitespace as well.

With topics in hand, you can start identifying your influencer mix:

You’re not looking for just the people with the largest audience. Instead, focus on people who are respected in their fields, shared interest in your topics, and the ability to actually move people to engage.

It’s also important, says Ashley, to find influencers who fit your content type. If it’s an audio or video asset, look for folks who have demonstrated a willingness an ability to provide that type of content. Beyond that, influencers should be reputable, practical, with real-life experience to draw from.

When you reach out to these influencers, remember to give before you ask:

The nurturing process helps prove your own credibility to influencers, showing you’re a trustworthy partner, and hopefully sparking interest in co-creating awesome content.

The Adventure Continues (and Continues, and Continues)

The ultimate goal of your influencer outreach and nurturing should be a connected universe of content (much like Marvel’s cinematic universe). Who would assemble a hero team and disband them after one adventure? Continue nurturing relationships with your influencers and encourage them to acknowledge and support each other, too. The goal is to develop a community of folks who are always up for another mission to save the world from boring B2B content.

Ready for a heroic influencer marketing success story? See how Alcatel-Lucent drove 6-figure leads with their campaign. Looking for more insights out of CMWorld 2019? Check out these other posts featuring several of this year's speakers:

The post Get Heroic Results from B2B Influencer Marketing with Advice from Ashley Zeckman #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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Create a Stellar Audience Experience By Slowing Down with These Tips from Ann Handley #CMWorld

You know a conference session is going to be good when literally hundreds of marketers are turned away due to an already packed room. And you know a session is going to be great when the amazing Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer for MarketingProfs, takes the stage and is visibly bummed that she didn’t get the chance to connect with those marketers.

Part of Ann’s magic is her ability to make herself and her content very accessible. She accomplishes this by sharing stories that are personal to her, things she observes in everyday life that inspire her inner marketer. And her session at last week’s Content Marketing World 2019 was no exception.

In the interest of not spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t had a chance to see Ann give this new talk, all I’ll say is that it involves her summer-long investment in building a relationship with a certain backyard animal, through all the failed attempts and eventual success at connecting.

One of Ann’s key messages over the past few years has been cautioning marketers to slow down and take their time. But what does that mean? And how can it improve the success of your own efforts?

Slowing Down to Improve Success

The 2019 benchmarking report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs found that just 35% of B2B marketers know whether their content is effective or not. Which leaves many of us asking ourselves what we’re doing wrong, and how we can better capture the attention of our audience.

According to Ann, we should focus less on how we can capture their attention and more on how we can build trust with our audience. She also indicates that there is a good kind and a bad kind of slow (just like cholesterol). Below is a glimpse into the three opportunities for those "good slow moments" that will help us figure out what we’re doing strategically, so we can move faster later.

#1 – Question What You Know About Your Customers

[bctt tweet="Continuously listen to your audience and adjust your strategy to better meet their needs. @annhandley" username="toprank"] 

Developing trust with your audience is a slow-game. It’s not something that happens overnight and you won’t always get it right on the first (or even the 50th try). For context, here's an example of one of the traps that marketers often fall into when creating content:

“We need a piece of content for _____________.” (i.e. to maintain our blog cadence, publish on social "x" amount of times, etc.)

Instead, we should be taking a step back and saying:

“We know our audiences needs ____________.” (i.e. What is something only you can give them? What will they miss if you stop providing it?)

As we're looking to build trust, it’s important that we defy content norms and focus on peer-to-peer content versus brand-to-target content. And this requires being empathetic to their needs.

#2 – Slow Down the Experience

[bctt tweet="The most efficient isn't always the most effective. Stop conflating them. @annhandley" username="toprank"]

Some of the best content experiences take place over time and directly involve the audience. So, while you’re planning your individual content pieces, take a step back and ask yourself:

  • How can I build trust and momentum for the content experience over time? And what does that look like?
  • How can I involve the audience in a meaningful way so they are invested in the outcome?
  • How can I create an experience that individuals rally around in a way that makes them more invested in the community?

Pause for a second and critically look at your own marketing. What opportunities do you have to slow down, be thoughtful and involve your audience more effectively?

#3 – Slow Down to Build the Relationship

[bctt tweet="Every story is a human story about a universal truth. @annhandley" username="toprank"]

One of Ann’s content marketing secrets to success is that whenever she writes (anything), she tries to write with a specific person in mind. In a presentation she gave earlier this year, Ann shared her top tips on creating content people want to read.

Even the BEST marketers today end up investing too much time in trying to craft the perfect social message, blog post or email for their entire audience. And instead, Ann recommends thinking about who that one person is you want to talk to. What does that person need? What problem does that person have? What does that person fear? And how you can help?

If you want to see this recommendation in action, be sure to subscribe to Ann’s newsletter Total ANNARCHY. Every time this newsletter hits my inbox I’m delighted to dig in an read my letter from Ann. (How many newsletters can you say that about?)

Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast

In the infamous words of Simon and Garfunkel (and now Ann Handley), make NOW the time that you start slowing down. Take the time to understand:

  • What it is that your customers need
  • How to better build trust over time
  • Ideas for involving your audience in the content you create
  • Ways to create memorable experiences
  • How to write content with a specific person in-mind

Looking for more insights from Content Marketing World 2019? Be sure to check out our latest posts featuring more insights and other top CMWorld speakers:

The post Create a Stellar Audience Experience By Slowing Down with These Tips from Ann Handley #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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