Dropping verbal bombs in a livestream usually isn’t a good thing.
But the experts on Ask the #CMWorld Community livestreams this past year dropped some amazing ones, talking about everything from analytics to video storytelling, SEO, and more. Here are the top 10 takeaways shared by our generous guests that we didn’t want you to miss.
(If you have time, check out the weekly episodes from 2021 here and tune in on your favorite social media platform every Monday at Noon EST.)
1. Let employees be their authentic selves on social (with some guardrails)
Erika Heald, consultant with Erika Heald Consulting, joined us for the social media in the workplace episode. We asked is it possible for employees to be their authentic selves on social media and follow your company social media guidelines?
She says, “I think the key is to hold some lunch-and-learns or some other kinds of conversations with those employees to let them know … we’re not trying to control what you say on social. We do want you to be yourselves, but give some guidelines about here’s how we should behave.
“So for instance, people can get really heated (on social) … give (employees) coaching on if somebody says something terrible about the brand, don’t engage with that person, flag it to corporate comms. Or give them some of those kinds of coping mechanisms around when you are tempted to say something that isn’t very nice, walk away from the computer for a minute or two, and then come back and ask yourself (if) would you actually say that to someone’s face. So just kind of giving some of that support and coaching.”
Chris Penn, co-founder and chief data strategist with Trust Insights, joined us to chat for the content marketing analytics 101 episode. We asked what is the biggest mistake he sees marketers make when it comes to gauging the performance of their content efforts?
Chris’ answer? “Not knowing the difference between a metric and a KPI by far.” As Chris explains, a KPI (key performance indicator) is a number that, if it goes in the wrong direction, you could get fired. Everyone is going to have a different KPI they should be measuring. The key is to think about what number will you get a bonus for or what number will get you fired or dinged on a performance review.
If you don’t know what that number is, then you need to ask your boss. And as Chris points out, “If your boss doesn’t know what that number is, you need to update your LinkedIn profile because you and your boss are in a lot of trouble.”
3. A content council solves many collaboration and coordination problems
Andi Robinson, global digital content leader for Corteva Agriscience, joined us to chat about how to get buy-in for your content marketing operations. She built a content marketing team from the ground up and talks about how one of the best things she did was create a “content council” within the organization.
Andi shares, “One of the first things I knew I needed to do was to form a team that could help me bring messages, bring best practices, and advocate for content marketing throughout the organization.” Andi works in Indianapolis but works with about 50 marketing teams around the world. She needed to enlist everyone to advocate on behalf of not only content marketing but content best practices. Andi also needed local teams to bring their ideas and information to the broader marketing team within the organization.
“One of the big things that we do as a content council when we meet is to talk about who’s doing what, if we could share best practices, and if somebody has questions about something that they’re doing that other team members can answer. So, it really is a collaborative team that comes together as part of that content council.”
4. Guest posting still works to generate potential new business
Michelle Garett, PR consultant with Garrett Public Relations, chatted with us about how freelancers in the content marketing space can set themselves up for success. We asked what are good places to generate leads and find work opportunities in your business?
“I’ve had a lot of success with social media. Twitter is my primary platform, but of course, a lot of people like LinkedIn. I also think having a blog and regularly, consistently blogging (helps), and then also contributed articles and guest posting. That’s been a very successful way for me to also reach new people that might not otherwise be familiar with my blog.
“Or it just helps me reach other audiences and a lot of publications are looking for guest posts … For example, I like manufacturing, so I’m always looking for and I’ve been on some podcasts about manufacturing. I have guest posted for Thomasnet, which is a big player in that industry … That’s probably a lot easier in some industries than others. I think health care probably has a lot of outlets that might be interested in guest posts and things.”
5. Technology should help, not drive your strategy
Content strategist Buddy Scalera talked about the importance of marketers understanding the technology in their marketing stack, and why it’s not necessarily a good thing to chase the newest, fanciest marketing tools out there.
As he says, “You need to really first start with what are your end goals. What do you want to accomplish? … You need to also begin by understanding the persona of your target audience. That will drive the technology that you need.”
Buddy explains: “(A)s we exploded on the internet with all the social platforms, we began to create our campaigns around the technology. We would say, “OK, we’re going to create something for TikTok. Maybe that was a great idea. Maybe it wasn’t, but often you will see people lead with the platform or the technology, and then try to shoehorn their content into it.
“I’ve been to plenty of different meetings where they were talking about … how will this work with Google Glass? And now these days, well, how will this work with blockchain. And they’re trying to figure out a way to make the technology work for their marketing. Whereas if their marketing is working and their content is right, that’s the first question. What does your audience need to hear and want to hear from you?”
6. Improvisation may turn out to be your most important skill
Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping it Human is a big proponent of improvisation and giving teams room to play and create. We asked her how improv plays into building innovative marketing teams.
“(Y)ou’ve probably never thought of it that way, (but) your team is an improv group. And I’ll tell you why – you have to realign, you have to work together, co-create, things change. You have to pivot every day. So you’re already an improviser and your team is having to improvise. Everybody had to during COVID. That’s a high-stakes example, but sometimes the stakes are lower, and we have to switch, and we have to adjust. You’re already an improv team. My theory is, if you’re going to be an improv team, why not be an intentionally purposeful, good team, not a sucky team.”
Kathy says, “One of the most fundamental concepts is how do we create psychological safety. The reason improvisers on a stage are able to do that is because we have a concept called ‘I got your back.’ There’s no right. There’s no wrong. Imagine in our teams, if we judge each other’s ideas less and said … what’s viable about all these ideas and how can I build on what they said rather than how can I … find 20 reasons why it won’t work. How can I find reasons why it will work? That’s psychological safety.”
7. Find the unique angle before you start original research
Michele Linn, co-founder and head of strategy with Mantis Research, joined us to chat about the benefits of having custom research as part of your marketing mix. She explained that getting started isn’t about coming up with questions.
“So many marketers are like, ‘This is going to be fun. Let’s start writing questions.’ What I would say is back up and put together a really simple strategy. Understand what is that thing that you want your research to do? Do you want it to build email subscribers? Do you want it to be a thing for your thought leadership program? Do you want it to be a place where you can make a lot of other content? What’s that thing you want it to do?
“Also, figure out who it is that you want your research to most impact so that you can make sure that you’re really providing those insights that are super interesting to that audience. And then I really think it’s important that you understand what research (already) exists in this space … I was talking to someone last week and they say, you know, we want to do a report on video in content marketing. But if you type in video stats, there’s so many reports that already exist. You need to make sure that you have your own specific angle out there before you even start writing the questions.”
8. Brand voice should reflect company culture and audience norms
Digital strategist Vassilena Valchanova joined us to share advice on defining your brand voice and who within the organization should be involved.
“(It) is a marketing-led initiative and marketing gets to do the brunt of the work, but it’s not something that is done only solely by the marketing team. You need to involve a lot of different people. There are a few different stages in defining a brand voice. And the first one … is the initial research.”
Vassilena explains: “Check out your existing communication and see how your brand is already communicating and what you can keep from this communication style. This can be (done by) going through existing blog content or social media content or wherever your brand’s presence is. It can even go through internal company research. So how people are communicating in a more organic matter all throughout your organization.
“This can be a great source of inspiration because what usually happens is that the brand voice needs to reflect the company culture. And if your team is super informal and friendly in internal comms, but your brand needs to be very serious and conservative looking on the outside … it makes it much harder to sustain in the long run.
“And then there’s also your general audience research. So how do the people you are targeting, how do they communicate on their own in different online communities like LinkedIn groups or Facebook groups and so on? How do they talk amongst themselves or the jargon they use? What’s the language style? What we’re trying to do here is to understand our audience and make sure that we fit in, in the best way possible.”
9. The best SEO optimization starts before writing
Chris Craft, chief content officer with NEOLuxe Marketing, talked about how to make sure your content is organically optimized to perform before you write.
“Say you have a new content initiative you want to do. Typically, it starts with some brainstorming … You just sit at the table, hashing out ideas, and that’s healthy because you can start to build a general cloud of content ideas, whether those are specific topics or themes … Then you get a little bit more specific by doing a content matrix process where you take some of those themes and potential topics, and you organize it according to your target audiences.
“And then you take those themes or topics and turn them into what we call head terms. And those are just general phrases that you can potentially search for within a search engine, but they’re very, very high level, right? … (Y)ou’ll take those head terms and you’ll plug it into your favorite keyword research tool … and you turn those head terms of general keywords into long-tail keywords. Then you’ll take those long-tail keywords and apply them to the organized topics, themes, and clusters that you developed in your content matrix exercise. And then from there, you have all that you need. You could take those keywords that are matched up with those, themes and topics, and turn that into a content calendar.”
Tony Gnau, founder and chief storyteller at T60 Productions, shared why he thinks pulling back the curtain on your product or service operations is a great video marketing strategy.
“When we are producing videos, it’s always about trying to produce something that is genuine and authentic. Behind-the-scenes videos are all about authenticity and welcoming people into the business. Really dig into what your business or organization does. Do something on your operations, how you operate as a business or organization however that may be. If you have an actual product, show people how you produce it. Actually, take them behind the scenes at the manufacturing facility.
“It gets tricky when you are a service provider. But even if you are producing a video demonstrating an accounting service, you can take them into the office and show them the professional environment in which you’re conducting your business. You introduce them to the people who they will be doing business with. Those are still valuable behind-the-scenes videos. They are valuable because a lot of people don’t do them. They chicken out. It’s still valuable because your competitors aren’t doing those videos.”
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
So many guests shared great insights throughout 2021, check out more from the 2021 playlist. You can watch all the episodes of Ask the #CMWorld Community or Ask the CMI Team here. If you have any suggestions for topics or guests for 2022, please let us know in the comments or fill out this short form.
Ask the #CMWorld Community is on hiatus for the holidays. Set up a calendar reminder to join us at 12 p.m. EST Mondays (starting January 10, 2022) to catch a new set of truth bombs from experts in the #CMWorld community. Catch us live or on a replay on CMI’s YouTube channel.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
The B2B customer journey can be a long one, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is under consideration.
“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from anonymous first touch to won,” according to Dreamdata in their 2022 B2B Go-to-Market Benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”
But the report also indicates that this journey can be significantly sped up — by as much as 63% — if accounts begin their research at software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that originate at a review site often lead to deals of higher value too.
Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, explained Hedebrandt, there are typically 10 or even 20 data silos that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, white paper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos, and of course intent data from review site visits — this data doesn’t typically sit in one place within an organization.
“We built an account-based data model because we believe that there’s such a thing as an account journey and not an individual journey,” said Hedebrandt. “So if there are two, three or five people representing an account, which is typically what you see in B2B, all of these touches get mapped into the same timeline.”
Among those many touches is the intent data sourced from software review site G2. Dreamdata has an integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of G2-generated intent data. This includes filtering prospects who are early in their journey, who have not yet discovered the customer’s product, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions and revenue to the activity.
“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” said Hedenbrandt. “B2B SaaS companies are particularly ripe for understanding this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a salesforce that use software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally as well.” What’s more, it takes twice as long to close SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B commercial and professional services companies.
The Benchmarks findings. The conclusions of the 2022 Benchmarks report is based on aggregated, anonymized data from more than 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first-touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than the average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); it’s the same when paid media is the first touch (155%).
As the Benchmarks report suggests, this may well mean that social is targeting prospects that are just not in-market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.
Hedenbrandt underlines the importance of treating the specific figures with caution. “It’s not complete science what we’ve done,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it’s not going to be completely off. You can only spend your time once, and at least from what we can see here it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.”
While Dreamdata highlights use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily concedes that competitor software review sites might reasonably be expected to show similar effects. “Definitely I would expect it to be similar.”
Why we care. It’s not news that B2B buyers researching software purchases use review sites and that those sites gather and trade in the intent data generated. Software vendors encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that a large number of hopefully positive reviews is a good thing to have.
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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer journey — especially as the first-touch channel — can be quantified and a value placed on it. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2, then flowed into sales meetings, website visits, ads, etc. Then we can also join the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”
Likely, this is also another example of B2B learning from B2C. People looking at high consideration B2C purchases are now accustomed to seeking advice both from friends and from online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, Hedenbrandt suggests: “More people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether this is a trustworthy vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.”
About The Author
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.
He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.
Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.
Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries.