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Archive: Apr 2014

  1. Six Lessons From an Ambitious Content Marketing Project

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    140407-businessman-marker-content-lgWe recently launched an ambitious content marketing initiative—for ourselves. As a marketing agency, we do similar projects for clients all the time. I figured that writing for ourselves, about subjects we knew so well, would be easier than the ghost-writing, prodding, and project management that goes into a typical client project.

    I was wrong.

    The Project

    We came up with the following scope for Phase 1:

    • 100 short “Q&A” articles
    • 18 “medium” articles
    • 3 “long” articles
    • 3 interviews

    Total: 124 articles over roughly 3 months.

    That works out to about two articles per week for each full-time employee (all of whom are participating). This article was written as we started No. 30, and it was originally published as article No. 40.

    Why We’re Doing It

    Content marketing is going to become an increasingly important component of virtually every company’s overall marketing program. That includes us. So, we’re launching our own content marketing to attract new clients.

    But content marketing is also an increasingly important service we provide—one that requires an extraordinary amount of collaboration between agency and client. Clients create much (if not most) of the raw content in this process, so we thought it was important for the whole team to experience the content marketing process from the customer side.

    We’ve found more than just specific techniques and tricks; we’ve found a tremendous amount of empathy and inspiration.

    What We Got Right

    1. Hold a solid kickoff meeting

    A great kickoff meeting is central to any project. After two weeks of initial preparatory work, we gathered our entire team. In a four-hour session, we talked about the centrality of content marketing to our agency’s future. We reviewed the overall scope and timeline, individual responsibilities, and resources that would be made available. Finally, we spent the last two hours answering questions, brainstorming topics, and discussing nuts and bolts.

    2. Get team buy-in

    Although I have great faith in my team, we are very busy. I was secretly anxious that I might face rebellion at the size of our undertaking (at one of the most demanding times of the year, no less). But there were no (audible) grumbles—just practical questions and solutions on how to make it work.

    I think every team will step up to the plate when they understand the reasons behind the content marketing effort and they are given sufficient resources to get the job done.

    3. Set an insanely ambitious editorial calendar

    This might seem counterintuitive, but an ambitious calendar was one of the secrets of our success. Here’s why:

    • Internal projects usually take a back seat to client projects for most marketing and advertising agencies. We needed to achieve escape velocity before the pull of day-to-day projects sapped our will and strength. If you never slow down, you can’t stop. And the massive dose of new habits inoculated us from any potential lethargy.
    • People needed to find their voice. This was harder for some than others, but after three weeks of intense work, everyone began to discover what works for them. Intense practice over a short time period makes for a much shorter learning curve.
    • Camaraderie. We all went through this intense process at the same time. We laughed. We cried. We typed. A lot. This was easily the best organizational bonding experience we’ve ever had.

    What We Got Wrong

    It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. In the first 30 days, we screwed up a bunch of stuff. Here’s what we learned from those mistakes:

    1. Respect the editorial process

    The first 30 articles ended up with a somewhat haphazard editorial process, and it shows. Some of the articles could be tighter, the headlines aren’t great, there are stylistic quirks, and we need a stronger focus on specific publishing themes. Everyone benefits from a strong editor, and we’re no exception.

    2. Take workflow seriously

    We’re adamant about maintaining an airtight workflow for client projects, but for our own project, we somehow thought the content marketing fairy would take care of it for us.

    We have some basic posting and tracking processes in place through a slapdash combination of Google spreadsheets, Dropbox, WordPress, and email. A clear, refined workflow would help us work smarter and faster.

    3. Write what you know, not what you were assigned

    Some of our team took on assignments in which they didn’t feel they were already experts, even though the topics were at least tangentially related to things they already did know very well. The research on these pieces was extremely time-consuming, and the articles themselves were the weakest we produced.

    We realized that if you can’t write 90% of the article without any research, you’ve picked the wrong topic. That is now our golden rule and our No. 1 takeaway after 30 days and 30 topics.

  2. What Managers Look for in Content Marketing Hires

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    090414-ddp-lgMost managers (94.5%) say writing and editing skills are one of the main qualities they look for in content marketing hires, according to a recent report from Kapost.

    Other key qualities cited by hiring managers include the following: the ability to collaborate across departments/teams (64.6% say that’s important), previous marketing experience (56.9%), a solid understanding of sales and marketing structure (44.8%), SEO experience (38.1%), and video production skills (10.5%).

    Below, additional key findings from the report, which was based on data from a survey of 522 manager-level (or higher) marketers.

    College Degrees/Majors

    • Considering the importance of writing and editing skills, it’s not surprising that many firms hiring for content marketing positions seek candidates with English and journalism degrees (37.5% of respondents say it is the main major they look for).
    • However, an equal number of respondents (37.5%) say they do not look for a particular degree but rather for some sort of content marketing experience.


    83% of respondents say finding talent for content marketing roles is “somewhat difficult” or “difficult.”

    Where Companies Find Candidates 

    Most managers say they find candidates on LinkedIn (83.3%) or via referrals from colleagues (70.7%).

  3. So You’ve Got Thousands of Social Media Followers. Big Deal

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    Social network concept finger people in discussion with speech bubblesHow many LinkedIn connections or Twitter followers do you have? 500? 800? 1,000+? Gee, that’s impressive. Now for the reality check: Measuring your social media communities purely by the numbers doesn’t really count for much. What does count is how engaged your connections are with you, your ideas, and your discussions.

    Engagement = interest = a professional relationship.

    The right content, obviously, is the key to driving engagement, but how exactly do you use content tactically? First, you have to build a community that actually drives business value and keeps its members interested and involved.

    1. Target

    Here are some proven tips I always count on to ensure I’m cultivating a community that will deliver the goods. Keep in mind that I play primarily in the B2B arena, so the strategies focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs. Many of the tactics will apply to other channels, such as Facebook—which should certainly be a key component for those in the B2C space.

    First, zero in on your ideal targets and listen to them; later, you will use different forms of communications to go after them. To find them on Twitter, research profiles by keyword to identify thought leaders in your space (start with’s Twitter bio search). For LinkedIn, start by searching groups that sync with your goals, perspectives, and personality. At this point, your goal is merely to identify candidates.

    Then search both LinkedIn and Twitter for the easy targets, such as current and former colleagues, customers, vendors, subcontractors, and suppliers. Don’t forget former employees of current clients who have moved on and can start to bring you into their environments. You can connect with these folks immediately since a relationship is already established. Connecting with “strangers” effectively will take some additional work.

    2. Listen

    With LinkedIn, take a passive approach at first by getting a sense of each group’s culture and content focus. Some are fun, others are more serious. Similarly, for Twitter, you’ll want to do plenty of listening to get an idea of content and tone before you start following and jumping in.

    3. Connect and contribute
    Once you’ve identified your targets, start following and chiming in on conversations. Introduce yourself and build awareness of who you are and what you do. Do the same for LinkedIn groups. Remember to be genuine and make meaningful contributions. Stay away from “me-formation”!

    You can also start reaching out to intermediaries who influence your industry, such as reporters, trade association representatives, and trade event organizers. Continue to listen in on what others are focusing on, tweeting, and blogging about.

    As your relationships via various discussions grow, continue to invite those with whom you feel the closest affinity to connect with you. You may even invite them to join your own LinkedIn group! Before you post a blog, push it out to them. Ask them whether they have any thoughts about it. Quote them in it if they have something really interesting and relevant to say.

    Wrap your content around your community members so they feel as if a part of it—not just bystanders.

    4. Stay in the game

    Once you’ve mastered Steps 1 to 3, you just need to keep it going. It takes continual dedication to succeed in the long term. I like to think of it not as another task on my to-do list but as a break from my daily routine: a chance to not only find out what everyone’s doing and thinking about but also connect and feel some emotional support from my professional colleagues.

    At the very least, check in daily to see whether you have new participants you can acknowledge, and so you can keep the conversations going. If you don’t have the time to stay on your social activities, get some assistance. You can delegate some of the responsibilities, build a larger support team, or consider hiring a marketing firm to do it for you. Make sure they have really granular industry experience and “get” your personality and culture, since you’re basically hiring them to be you.


  4. Eight Secrets of Success With LinkedIn PPC Ads

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    140403-Linkedin-Login-lgIf your B2B marketing department is like most others nowadays, you are engaged in blogging, social media, SEO, email marketing, and much more; the sales department requires an ideal number of quality leads, after all. But limited resources and tight budgets in today’s economy can make that a challenge for any marketing department.

    If implemented correctly, LinkedIn pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a high-volume lead source at low cost per lead. It is similar to Google AdWords paid search, but it can be more targeted and it is more specific to B2B.

    As an online marketer, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours building LinkedIn PPC campaigns. In my experience, the following factors are essential to LinkedIn PPC success.

    1. Make sure the audience is large enough

    Advertise to a target audience of approximately 50,000 people minimum, with the ideal size even larger than that. Ads with a small audience are, of course, viewed less and receive fewer clicks than those with a large audience; there are simply fewer chances for your ad to be seen. If prospects don’t see your ad, they can’t click on it. If they can’t click on it, they can’t become a lead.

    2. Make sure the audience is targeted sufficiently

    Your audience must be large enough, but at the same time it should be specific enough. LinkedIn campaigns may be targeted according to location, company, industry, job title, seniority, skill set, age, and other choices. Take advantage of that powerful ability to share your ads with people who meet certain criteria. For example, a company selling software for Web developers may choose to show campaigns to LinkedIn members who list PHP, Python, HTML, JavaScript, or MySQL among their skills.

    3. Bid more than the suggested bid range

    A bid is the amount of money you are willing to spend each time a prospect clicks on your ad. Let’s say a Web developer named Jane is perusing LinkedIn. Various software companies are vying to show their ads, so an auction quickly takes place behind the scenes at LinkedIn to determine which company’s ads Jane will see. Ads with a high bid are more likely to be displayed than those with a low bid. To assist you as an advertiser, LinkedIn presents a recommended bid range for your campaigns. That recommended bid is the average for comparable campaigns, so always bid more than that to help ensure your ads are displayed rather than your competition’s.

    4. Turn off low-performing ads

    LinkedIn quickly determines whether it will display your ads in high volume (giving you a better chance of engaging prospects) or whether it will display them in a mere trickle. Monitor your ads regularly and review new ads within several days of launching them. Be sure to discontinue or edit ads that are not garnering clicks.

    5. Use an image that works for your company

    Many people say using a photo of a person in your advertising works best, rather than other graphical elements. My advice is to use whatever images are eye-catching and relevant to your company—and garner the most clicks. Such images may or may not include people.

    6. Choose to optimize based on click-through rate

    LinkedIn offers the choice of rotating your ads evenly or showing high-performing ads the most. You may want to choose the latter so your flagship ads can dominate the competition and rack up impressions. For example, a company advertising to Web developers may run one ad with “Web Developers” as the headline, another ad with “Build Web Apps” as the headline, and a third with “Web Design Software” as the headline. If the “Build Web Apps” ad reaps the most clicks, why limit it?

    7. Link to a dedicated landing page with a form

    This point is obvious, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Sending prospects to your homepage or your generic Contact Us form squanders potential leads. Implement a different landing page and form for each distinct offer, whether a whitepaper, e-book, checklist, webinar, demo, or simply a request for information.

    8. Temporarily change your profile for research purposes

    To see what type of ads LinkedIn is serving to your target audience, for research purposes momentarily change your job title on your own LinkedIn profile. (To avoid confusion among your LinkedIn connections, you may want to turn off your Activity Broadcasts beforehand.) Alternately, you could set up a test LinkedIn account. Remember that software company advertising to Web developers? Looking at the profile of a “Web developer” will reveal ads served to that audience.

    * * *

    With some dedication to properly setting up and monitoring your LinkedIn pay-per-click advertising program, your company may find a rich source of viable, highly targeted leads for a reasonable price. The platform can be an invaluable tool for B2B marketing teams worldwide.

    Have you had positive or negative experiences with LinkedIn pay-per-click advertising? Enter your remarks below to share with the community or to ask a question.