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Creating a content calendar from scratch is one of those tasks that seems so much more complicated than it actually is. Even just opening a blank Excel spreadsheet can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, sometimes all that’s needed to get on the right track is a quick how-to and a great starter template, which is exactly what we have for you here.

In this post, we provide a guide to building a content calendar, plus a free template for the year.

The Definition of a Content Calendar

Before we jump into calendaring our content, let’s talk about what a content calendar actually is and a few baseline requirements for success.

We define a content calendar as a shareable resource that teams can use to plan all content activity. This allows you to visualize how your content is distributed throughout the year. We prefer a calendar-based format, as opposed to just creating a long list of content to be published, because it comes with several benefits:

  • Gain inter-and cross-department alignment: Inform everyone about what is being published, when and where, so there are no surprises or duplication of efforts.
  • Get a 50,000-foot view of content: Create a clear visual of how your content is distributed throughout the year.
  • Identify content milestones: Plan content around key events or important dates.
  • Spot content gaps: Gain a sense of what content still needs to be planned, with plenty of lead time to line up more content.
  • Inform the content creation workflow: Make sure you have your content ready in time to actually publish when needed.

Consistency is insanely critical to content success. Yes, amazing new ideas and brilliant sparks of creativity help, but we can’t rely on them alone. They’re too inconsistent and unreliable. Instead, everyone needs to be on the same page with what content is being created, plus where and when it’s being published. It has to be done on a regular, ongoing basis. That is precisely where content calendars come into play.

The further ahead you plan, the better positioned you will be to produce a consistent flow of content.

The 4 Keys to Content Calendar Success

Whether you plan content on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, depending on how quickly your industry or organization moves, there are several universal keys to content calendar success:

  1. Open your calendars to everyone: While not everyone should have the ability to edit a master content calendar, everyone should at least know where the content calendar is located and have viewing access.
  2. Iterate constantly: A content calendar is a living, breathing document, and it should change and grow as your content needs do.
  3. There’s no one right way to calendar your content: There are a million different methods, templates and approaches to take. We’re providing you with a baseline template and a proven process that we use for ourselves and Convince & Convert clients, but you should also play around with the approach and modify elements, as needed. We tinker with it all the time too.
  4. Create a content repository: Don’t get stuck on ideas that you can’t implement immediately and don’t get hung up on the “we’ll never be able to do that” ideas. Instead, create a repository of content ideas that you can tap into whenever needed.

Fantastic! Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff: calendaring all of our amazing content.

How to Build Your Content Calendar in 3 Easy Steps

Step 1: Start with Existing Content Assets

There’s a lot of focus on creating new content when we should really be focusing on creating more with less. It’s also usually not necessary to produce all your content from scratch since we often leave heaps of valuable content just lying around.

Instead, start by taking note of all of your existing content or resources to see what can be repurposed and remixed. For example:

  • Slide decks: Repurpose these as videos, blog posts or key takeaway slide decks.
  • First-hand data or research: As long as you use that data safely and in ethical ways, leverage your own data or research to create infographics or news stories.
  • Colleagues and coworkers: The expertise of your colleagues can be tapped for video, audio or transcribed interviews.
  • Whitepapers or reports: Break big content pieces into a series of blog posts or social takeaways. We call this content atomization, which we’ll dive into in just a bit.
  • Old blog posts: Make minor adjustments and update with fresh information. If they’re all on the same topic, combine them into an uber-post or whitepaper, which is a process we call reverse atomization.

Repurposing content assets takes away some of the strain of having to come up with a million new content ideas. It also helps you efficiently fill gaps in your content schedule. A single content asset can also often give rise to several pieces of content, which we refer to as content atomization. It’s the process of taking one big piece of content and spinning it out into eight smaller pieces of content. For example, an infographic can support a blog post that analyzes the integrity of the data on which it was based. You could also include a video which explains the wider ramifications of its findings – so on and so forth.

Content atomization will become your best friend when it comes to content calendaring, so get to know a bit more about it, plus get amazing examples and inspiration here: 49 Tactics to Atomize Your Content Marketing.

Step 2: Identify and Create Your Content Shows

If you’re not familiar with Jay Baer’s concept of creating content shows, you can read his in-depth post about content shows. If you’re already familiar or just want the highlights, content marketers need to start to think like television networks and create content shows. In short, these content shows become predictable, steady initiatives that our audiences can rely on and recognize. In fact, these shows are something that they actually look forward to.

Content marketers need to start to think like television networks and create content shows.
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There are 3 types of shows you need to identify within your content:

Binge-worthy shows: These shows are big, steady ongoing content initiatives that have the same theme and format. Otherwise, they should target at least two audiences. They’re not worth the time or effort to produce. These are often podcasts, video series, webinar series, white papers, reports, etc. You should be able to execute this show at least twice per month. These also get plugged into your calendar first.

Binge-worthy show example: I’m a massive fan of Retro Replay, a relatively new weekly YouTube show that pits two of today’s most well-known video game voice actors against some of the most difficult and/or nostalgic video games of the past. It premiers live every Thursday at 4:00 pm PT and includes a live chat with the hosts. Aside from being super fun to watch, this show is also a fantastic case study for what a true binge-worthy show looks like and for how to build and engage with an audience. Seriously, check it out.

One-time shows: These shows are special quarterly or yearly shows that attack a major customer pain point or topic. Although they’re less frequent in cadence than binge-worthy shows, they’re still fairly large content pieces. Think white papers, research papers, contests, user-generated content campaigns, etc. These don’t have to have the same level of consistency, but they should still be in line with your branding, voice and tone.

One-time show example: Who doesn’t love CMI’s annual Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report?! This yearly report is chock-full of goodness. Even though the report varies slightly in design and layout each year, it’s consistent enough that audiences know exactly what to expect.

Regularly scheduled programming: These shows are ongoing content initiatives that round out your calendar, and they don’t have to necessarily connect completely or be 100 percent consistent in theme. Like in the case of blog posts, they may have a different author, topic or format, depending on the content, but they always connect back to the content strategy and have at least one clear audience in mind. Think of them as what a local nightly news show is to any major television network.

Regularly scheduled program example: Convince & Convert’s own blog is our version of regularly scheduled programming. We have our weekly ON newsletter (binge-worthy show) and our big masterclass courses (one-time shows), and then we have our blog to help round out the calendar and provide ongoing information (regularly scheduled programming).

It’s important to note that you most likely already have content shows in your existing content assets, so check your inventory first. It may just be a matter of spinning assets a bit differently, giving them an official show title or connecting them in more consistent ways.

If you don’t have any shows in your existing content assets, or you need more shows to round out your calendar, then you’ll want to focus on creating new content shows.

Step 3: Plan, Schedule, Publish, Promote, Track and Tweak Your Content

Regular editorial planning meetings between all those involved in content creation should be scheduled well before the next publishing period—be it monthly or quarterly. This meeting can be used to schedule the publishing content from your repository with realistic time frames and to support social media activity, email newsletter inclusions, etc.

Your planning meetings can also be used to review the visit, engagement and revenue (if available) stats from previous periods to assess which types of content are most successful (and perhaps need to be replicated) and which are less successful (and perhaps need to be rethought).

Analytics (both web and social) and revenue data can also be used to make tweaks to already published content (e.g. titles, introductions, outbound links, etc.) to optimize visits and engagement.

Your Free Content Calendar Template (Excel File)

We’ve provided a basic content calendar for you to use. While there are a ton of amazing, wonderful content calendaring platforms and tools, we’ve opted for an Excel spreadsheet. That’s because it’s a great starting place, easy to edit and modify, and almost everyone has the ability to open the file.

Download your free content calendar Excel template now >>

Right click and save as

To add your content to the calendar and get the most out of your content:

  1. Start with binge-worthy shows: Add these into your calendar first and make sure to pay attention to any key dates or big events.
  2. Add your one-time specials: Pay attention to how they overlap or complement your binge-worthy shows.
  3. Round it out with regularly scheduled programming: Last, but definitely not least, add in your regularly scheduled programming. These should help fill any gaps in your cadence and keep content consistent.
  4. Add content to the content repository: Don’t have a place right now in the calendar for some great ideas? Add it to the repository. Let this be your storage solution for great ideas and check back on it often.

That’s it! Now you can edit and update it, as needed. The actual calendaring part is pretty quick, once you get your shows established. Now, bring this to your editorial meetings and make sure to keep tabs on how content is performing, so you can adjust your publishing flow and content ideation, as necessary. Happy calendaring!

This post was originally written by Jamie Griffiths in 2014, and extensively updated by Anna Hrach, Digital Strategist here at Convince & Convert, in 2019.

The post How to Build a Content Calendar (Plus a Free Template) appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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Gone are the days of SEO being a straightforward process of keyword research, on-page optimization and link building. As Google adds other factors to its algorithm and learns to assess website quality in a human-like way, SEO becomes intertwined with other marketing tactics. One of these tactics is social listening, which has been mainly used for social media marketing until recently. In this post, I explain how social listening can benefit your SEO.

First things first: let’s figure out the meaning behind “social listening”. The term describes what social media listening (also called social media monitoring) tools do. They crawl the Web, news, blogs, forums and social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) to find mention of any given keywords. Keywords are usually brand names, words that describe the industry or people’s names (e.g. a CEO, an author, an artist).

Using social listening for SEO requires proper knowledge and skill. It’s very important to set specific goals and know the details of how to conduct a proper search. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Find unlinked brand mentions and turn them into links. 

With link building still being at the core of any SEO strategy, it’s vital to cover all such opportunities. Here’s the one you might not have thought about: turning existing brand mentions into links.

If your brand has been around for a while, or if your brand, company or a specific product has had any kind of popularity at some point, it’s almost certain that there are mentions of your brand on the Internet: on blogs, forums, news sites or just somewhere on the Web. Obviously, not all of them will link back to your site: writers don’t care about promoting anyone else but themselves; they don’t have your SEO goals in mind, and the idea of linking might’ve never even crossed their minds. However, that doesn’t mean they would have a problem with adding a link if you ask them. So the only real challenge here is to find the linkless mentions. This is where social listening is relevant.

To be fair, you won’t be able to get linkless mentions with every social listening tool: you’ll need one with the Boolean search mode. With Boolean search, the user sets up the search query manually using the Boolean operators, such as AND, OR, AND NOT etc. So in the case of finding linkless mentions, the user should type their brand name as a keyword and add AND NOT link:yoursite.com/* . Tools that have Boolean search as their option include Awario (disclosure: I work for the company), Talkwalker, and Brandwatch.

2. Monitor new links to your site.

Modern link building means knowing where and how your backlinks are being built. First, it’s useful to know marketing purposes: what if you can get more out of the website that already links to you? Second, you’ve got to know if your backlinks are coming from quality sites, because, as we know, links from the spammy and untrustworthy sites can seriously hurt the rankings.

With social listening, you find out about any new links anywhere on the Internet in real time. To start looking for new links, type your site’s URL in a website/web page field, which is available in most social media monitoring tools, and choose to search from limited sources: the Web plus news/blogs. This will exclude mentions that come from social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). You can also use the link: operator if your tool offers Boolean search.

3. Find guest blogging opportunities. 

Any SEO will tell you that guest blogging is a sound link-building strategy. It will not bring you a sudden rankings boost, but it’s a solid, tried and true way to build up your site’s reputation. This is why finding guest post opportunities is an ongoing task for many marketers. While there are always a couple of blogs that are easy to find but impossible to get featured on, there are also other blogs that are harder to find because they are not in the first two pages of Google. Yet, they might be more relevant and have a more loyal audience — that’s what usually happens in smaller communities. These blog editors are also more likely to publish your articles.

Guest-blogging opportunities can be found with social listening. To find relevant blogs, type in the keywords that describe your industry (or rather a range of topics you’d like to write about) and wait for the tool to find:

  • All blogs that talk about this topic: you can go through them and find the ones you didn’t know about.
  • Social media influencers in that industry (people with a large following that talk about your topic a lot). Go through the people in the list of influencers (all tools mentioned before offer a feature to find influencers) to see which ones have a website with a blog. You’ll be surprised to find out just how many have a relevant (maybe not that well made) website with a dedicated audience.

There are a number of other ways to find guest posting opportunities with a social media listening tool. All of them go beyond your usual methods and are worth checking out!

4. Keep an eye on your brand’s reputation. 

In 2010, a horrible story appeared in the New York Times. In it, the author explained how negative reputation could help brands rank better in Google and cause more sales, as bad reviews generated links and buzz around the brand. The whole approach received a name: negative advertising. Merchants were acting badly on purpose, making their customers angry and, therefore, more likely to write passionate, albeit angry, reviews.

Of course, that wasn’t a good thing for Google, and, after the problem became apparent, they announced they incorporated an algorithmic solution to down-rank brands that provide poor user experience. We don’t know how it works now, although they talked about their “world-class sentiment analysis system” at some point. We do know it works, though. No more similar cases were in sight.

You are probably not one of those terrible marketers willing to torture their clients just to get a higher Google ranking. However, social media crises do happen even to the best of brands with the best intentions. A social media crisis can result not only in a long-term reputation problem but also in a serious ranking drop.

This is why it’s important to keep an eye on the sentiment around your brand. A social media tool with a built-in sentiment analysis will help you notice any suspicious spikes in time and take care of the problem before it goes viral or gets big enough for Google’s algorithm to notice. 

5. Grow brand mentions. 

While link building is still absolutely essential in SEO, it is becoming less and less so. You can see how passionately Google is working towards new ways of figuring out the real value of websites, understanding their content and being more and more capable of evaluating the Internet the way humans do. The Internet is much more than just links. These days it’s more about being popular, going viral and being heard in its various corners. Most of all, the Internet is about social media: taken together, the most used websites that don’t have any dofollow links.

What does it tell us? That we should shift our attention to linkless mentions. It’s not just our speculation. In 2017, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes said in his keynote at Brighton SEO the following:

“If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”

At the same time, we know that Panda patent talks about “implied links” as a signal that could be no less important than backlinks. An implied link is defined as “a reference to a target resource, e.g. a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource”. Sounds like a mention!

This is why you should work towards growing brand mentions. With social listening, you can, firstly, track brand mentions. Knowing when, where and in relation to what brand mentions appear will no doubt give you a much better idea as to how to grow more. For example, should your marketing strategy focus more on social media? If so, on which platforms? Or maybe you have to move to forums and blogs (e.g. try marketing on Reddit?).

Second, you can apply new techniques of growing brand mentions, such as social selling and influencer marketing.

6. Learn from your competitors. 

All the tips above can be used to monitor your competitors and discover where they get links, where they guest posts, with which influencers they work and so on. All this information can be used in your own marketing and SEO strategy. 

The workflow is as straightforward as it gets: everything that you’ve done for your brand can be completed using your competitors’ brand names and URLs. Creating a different alert for every vital competitor will make the task even easier and let you see your progress compared to that of your competitors in a clear and detailed way.

Conclusion

Social listening is full of possibilities. It’s this new, not-totally-explored-yet technology that slowly changes the way we do digital marketing. Try using it for SEO and you might see changes you never expected to see.

The post 6 Ways Social Listening Can Help Your SEO appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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Resource decisions are some of the most important and difficult decisions that a marketing leader must make. Do I have the right people doing the right things? Should I use in-house resources, external resources, a combination of the two, or just punt that great idea into another quarter and hope that the decision magically takes care of itself?

Planning and deploying a marketing strategy will benefit from an objective point of view and skills that may not be available in-house.

But how will you choose the right resources to optimize results? A new Ascend2 research study, Marketing Resource Effectiveness Survey Summary Report, provides valuable insight to help companies make critical resource decisions in 2019.

Here are a few noteworthy findings from the research study:

Finding #1: Collaborate on Planning and Deployment

About three-quarters of marketing professionals consider a collaboration between outsourced and in-house resources a valuable combination of objective and subjective insights for both planning and deploying a marketing strategy. 

There is great value in having a fresh perspective as you create your marketing plan. To get the most value from the ideas and input from external resources, make sure to have an open mind when you receive their contribution. It is also important to get data and input from your audience on what they want and how they want it. But make sure you do more than ask; it is critical that you listen.

About 75% of marketing professionals consider a collaboration between outsourced and in-house resources a valuable combination.
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Finding #2: Begin by Determining Your Objectives

To determine the appropriate resources you need, you should first determine your primary objectives. Increasing the number of leads, sales prospects and customers acquired, and improving brand awareness, are all primary objectives for a marketing strategy according to a majority of marketing professionals.

Finding #3: Most Effective Tactics Used

With so many marketing tactics that you can do, an important step is to determine what you should do based on what works. Social media marketing, content marketing, and SEO are effective tactics for 53%, 48% and 47% of marketing professionals respectively. While email has been integrated into virtually every form of digital marketing, it no longer tops the chart as a stand-alone tactic. 

When deciding on the resources that you need, consider how your resources understand the individual tactics that they will work on as well as how all the pieces fit together. You want your resources to be flexible and strategic. 

Finding #4: Seek Outside Resources to Lead Your Most Difficult Tactics

While the previous chart shows only 25% of marketing professionals consider data and artificial intelligence-driven marketing to be a most effective tactic, 49% consider it a difficult tactic to deploy. This may be a case of difficulty impacting effective use. You may need to seek outside resources to lead your most difficult tactics, as compared to not doing those tactics.

49% of marketing professionals consider data and AI difficult tactics to deploy.
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Finding #5: How Effectiveness is Changing

As marketers become more proficient in all forms of digital marketing practices and technologies, the effectiveness of the tactics used is increasing. A total of 94% of marketing professionals believe that the effectiveness of tactics is improving to some extent. A key reason that effectiveness is improving is the improved skills of marketing professionals, continuing education (online courses, certification courses, webinars, reading online resources, etc.), and advancements in technology.

When faced with a difficult decision, I always look for research that can help guide my decision. Research can also be used to sell my plan to the management team, and make an adjustment to my current strategy.  

Get more research insights by downloading the entire study, Marketing Resource Effectiveness Survey Summary Report

The post 5 Statistics to Guide Your Marketing Resource Decisions in 2019 appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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The modern buyer journey is changing and becoming increasingly more social. At the same time, a buyer’s trust in brand messaging is at an all-time low. More than ever, consumers (both B2C and B2B) are seeking out authentic feedback in social media as part of their decision journey. Simultaneously, brands are encouraging employees to become that trusted voice through employee advocacy programs.

In their recent report, Employee Advocacy 2.0: Leveraging Influence to Drive a Connected Organization and Employee-Led Buyer Journey, Onalytica (with help from Tribal Impact) produced a thorough guide to help companies build and optimize these programs while avoiding common missteps.

Employees Are Powerful People

The reason employee advocacy is so impactful is because of an employee’s unique position within the company. They know all the details of the brand and product and are usually perceived as having valuable “insider information” to share.

“Employees have the potential to be brands’ biggest champions and can be the key connectors between your brand and the market influencers.”

According to LinkedIn, employee-shared content is regarded as being three times more authentic and, therefore, typically sees a click-through rate that is twice as high as when the corporate mouthpiece shares the same data.

According to @LinkedIn, employee-shared content is regarded as being three 3X more authentic a CTR that is twice as high as when the corporate mouthpiece shares the same data.
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In addition to increased reach, engagement, and brand awareness, employee advocacy allows brands to have a voice earlier in the buyer journey.

The report cites that 85% of customers seek out trusted expert content when considering a purchase and 84% of C and VP level buyers use social media in their decision-making process. Because of this, most of the buyer’s journey is complete before the buyer is even known to the company, increasing the value of early influence. This is reflected in the fact that leads generated through employees have been found to convert seven times more than any other lead gen source.

85% of customers seek out trusted expert content when considering a purchase.
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There are also less quantifiable benefits, such as increased brand trust and confidence and more effective retention and recruiting efforts as visible, motivated employees help attract future talent.

Brands Can’t Just Buy Employees’ Influence

Brands are realizing that employees are a powerful influencer group they can always access, but they should not assume that access equals control. An employee’s personal influence is just that —personal — and usually not for sale. Companies may find ways to incentivize broadcast sharing of branded content, but, unless the employees are internally motivated, the full potential of their advocacy is falling short. Shifting the company view of employee advocacy from ‘owned’ to ‘earned’ media is a fundamental and required mindset shift. Finding what motivates the employee advocate to go beyond sharing branded content to creating their own content and connecting with external influencers is the secret to unlocking the power of these programs.

‘Employee advocacy 2.0’ describes moving from Content Amplification to Employees as Influencers.

Here is my favorite advice from the report on leveraging your own internal influencers:

Find What Motivates Employees

In a study conducted by Hinge Research Institute, 46% of millennials saw employee advocacy as an opportunity to develop skills high in demand; 39.4% view it as access to more job opportunities and 38% saw it as differentiation from peers. Brands should focus on helping employees develop skills and become more influential rather than viewing them as a broadcasting channel. 

46% of millennials see employee advocacy as an opportunity to develop skills high in demand.
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Key ways to do this include:

  1. Helping employees identify personal goals that align with program goals
  2. Prioritizing valuable, “share-worthy”, branded content
  3. Identifying external influencers and engagement opportunities
  4. Providing tools and training to make it easy and remove doubt
Help Employees Identify Goals

Often employee advocacy programs are hindered by three main barriers:

  1. It’s not clear what content to share or how to share it
  2. Expectations are not defined
  3. Employees don’t see the value of using social media in the workplace

To begin understanding what motivates employees, conduct an audit, grouping likely participants into persona categories based on audience size and social activity to allow for customized training and activation efforts.

The idea is to help employees simultaneously increase their network size and social activity if that’s a desired goal; not all employees will move to the ‘influencer’ persona, based on their own motivations and alignment with the company message.

Prioritize Valuable, “Share-Worthy” Branded Content

Integrating disconnected employee advocacy, social selling and influencer marketing programs begin to leverage the content creation efforts across the sales and marketing teams. Focusing on content that prioritizes problem-solving and innovation in highly relevant and relatable terms builds upon unifying themes and lead to more authentic and useful content. Encourage employees to engage with industry content and create their own commentary or responses, rather than relying solely on branded content.

Identify External Influencers and Engagement Opportunities

Every employee has passion and expertise related to his/her field and role, and this passion is the conduit for connection to external influencers and experts. Facilitating these connections gives employees both permission and a shortcut to begin building relationships with key external influencers. In addition, empowering employees to follow these influencers more closely expands the brand’s social listening capacity and responsiveness and helps make future content creation efforts more relevant to target audiences.

Provide Tools and Training to Remove Friction and Doubt

A key shortcut to avoid is using the same training and activation content for the various personas. Instead, craft training materials and set expectations based on the employees’ current skill set, personal goals and preferred learning style. Craft a simple and approachable social media policy that outlines expectations and success. Implement social listening, content sharing and influencer mapping tools to help make the process as easy as possible. Build confidence by encouraging C-Suite and senior management to pilot the program to lead by example.

Measure the Success of Your Internal Influencer Program

Defining desired outputs and outcomes is essential to analyzing program success, but brands must also exercise patience. Avoid trying to accelerate results through stringent KPIs or risk losing the authentic voice that makes employee advocates so valuable. Some structured metrics are in the table below, but it’s just as important to celebrate the one-off and individual wins that program participants achieve that are the early building blocks to long term employee advocates.

Turn These Tips into Employee Advocacy 2.0

As you consider your own business, here are 3 actions you can take right away:

  1. Evaluate your content through the eyes of your employees. Is your branded content so valuable employees are happy to use their influence to share?
  2. Level up social listening and external influencer efforts. Finding and activating employee advocates is only part of a successful program. Can you begin building the topic hubs and influencer lists that will eventually map back to specific employee efforts?
  3. Pilot a program with senior leadership. Where do your senior leaders fit in the persona category chart? Are there influencer networks you can tap into? What are the basic first steps to modeling this behavior in advance of a company rollout?

These first steps will help prepare your company to mobilize and motivate employee advocates. Ready for the next steps? We work with the world’s most interesting brands,—let us help you build your plan of action.

The post How to Leverage Your Internal Influencers: Key Findings from Onalytica’s Latest Research appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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Are you ready to build and develop your content operations team in 2019? Kapost just released its Content Operations and Strategy Hiring Handbook, which offers statistics about what B2B companies look for when hiring content operations talent and tips for building out your team. 

For the report, Kapost surveyed 506 U.S. marketers and filtered responses to include only B2B-focused companies with dedicated content teams or employees. 

Here are eight major trends covered in the report that you need to be aware as you head into the new year.

1. Most Companies Are Hiring Specifically for Content Teams

Kapost notes that five years ago, very few organizations hired specifically for content operations. They cite a 2013 report from Altimeter that found very few of the companies had content divisions or staff with the word “content” in their titles.

Today, things look much different — 67 percent of respondents told Kapost that their organizations would hire specifically for content teams in the coming year. Three out of four organizations interviewed have dedicated content teams, and most also have content operations roles to manage the strategy and process behind their content. This demonstrates that company leadership increasingly views content as a legitimate aspect of business strategy that deserved a dedicated team.

Even including the organizations that don’t focus on content, more than half have dedicated content teams. Just over 20 percent focus on managing content for marketing but don’t have dedicated content teams or employees, while 27.3 percent don’t focus on marketing content at all.

2. Content Budgets Are Increasing

Another sign of increased executive buy-in for content operations is the trend toward higher content budgets. Today’s content teams now have more resources available to them, and most content budgets are expected to increase in 2019.

Of the companies included in Kapost’s survey, 56.2 percent said their content budgets would increase in the next year, 42.3 percent said it would remain the same and just 1.5 percent said it would decline. Overall, that means 98.5 percent of content budgets will be either increasing or staying the same this year. This demonstrates an overwhelming consensus that content is valued in today’s organizations and worth investing in.

If your content budget is one that isn’t increasing, you may be interested in the advice Kapost offers in the report for increasing buy-in. They recommend focusing on current missed opportunities rather than requesting increased funding and provide formulas to help you justify a budget increase.

3. Customer Experience Reigns Supreme for Content Marketing Teams

In 2019, content will continue to play an essential role in customer experience — 97 percent of marketers told Kapost they believe this year content will be as important or more important as last year for creating positive customer experiences. Good customer experience is, of course, crucial for business success. Because of this, delivering the best customer experience possible should be the top goal of content operations teams in 2019.

4. Content Marketing Teams Are Increasingly Responsible for Strategy and Operations

In the early days of content marketing, the content team was responsible mainly for creating the content, mostly in the form of writing and editing. Increasingly, the content team is also in charge of the strategy and operations behind the content. This aspect of the job has become more important in recent years and will continue to play a more central role this year.

About 35 percent of hiring managers interviewed said they look for knowledge of strategy and operations when hiring for their content teams. Kapost didn’t have data on this for 2014 as it did for the other qualities it asked hiring managers. Kapost also found that many hiring managers look for employees who can effectively collaborate across departments. This shows just how much content marketing has matured over the years. It now requires a more well-rounded set of skills and strategic thinking abilities.

5. Content Teams Increasingly Work With Multimedia

The skills that content teams possess have also changed in another major way. Content operations has moved away from its heavy focus on writing to also include other forms of media, including video, graphic design and web design. The skills hiring managers look for have shifted accordingly.

In 2014, more than 90 percent of hiring managers said writing and editing was one of the main qualities they looked for in candidates. For 2019, that number is 57 percent. Conservely, just over 10 percent of hiring managers cited video production skills in 2014, while 30 percent did in 2019. The percentage of hiring managers looking for graphic and web design skills jumped from around 25 percent to 47 percent over the same period.

Among the top most popular roles on content teams, Web/Graphic Designer was number two, while Videographer was number five. Managing Editor came in at number four.

6. Marketing/Advertising Is Now the Most Desired Major for Content Marketing Talent

As the skills hiring managers look for changed over the years, so did the educational backgrounds they preferred their candidates to have. 

In 2014, most hiring managers looked for three to five years of content marketing experience, rather than a specific major. That took the number one spot on the list of most-wanted educational backgrounds, while English/Journalism took second and Marketing/Advertising took third. 

In 2018, Marketing/Advertising was the most popular major, followed by Graphic/Web Design followed by content marketing experience rather than a major.

7. Content Marketing Manager Is the Most Popular Position

According to Kapost’s survey, Content Manager was the most popular role for content teams. That was followed by Web/Graphic Designer, Content Operations, Managing Editor and Videographer.

Kapost noted that the content operations now spans every touchpoint with customers, leads and prospects — not just the top of the funnel. You can find content operations across teams such as marketing operations, content marketing, product marketing and design. They also listed some of the most critical content team members, along with how each of them contributes to the content operations, their daily responsibilities and their key characteristics. 

The positions Kapost listed included Head of Content Operations, Content Strategist, Product Messaging Strategist, Customer Advocacy Strategist, Marketing Technologist, Web Designer and Developer, Visual Designer and Videographer.

Content operations is continually changing, and hiring managers need to be aware of the latest trends to ensure they can build a team that will succeed in today’s environment. For more details and tips for hiring content marketing talent in 2019, you can download Kapost’s full report here.

The post 7 Trends in Hiring Talent for Your Content Marketing Team in 2019 appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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According to the Business Dictionary, Word of Mouth Marketing is:

Oral or written recommendation by a satisfied customer to the prospective customers of a good or service. Considered to be the most effective form of promotion, it is also called word of mouth advertising which is incorrect because, by definition, advertising is a paid and non-personal communication.

We define Word of Mouth Marketing a little differently here at Convince & Convert:

Turning your customers into your most effective sales and marketing asset by doing something they don’t expect, thus giving them a story to tell.

But as a practical matter, that’s not quite nuanced enough either. Because even when you succeed in getting your customers to talk about your business, there are still two different types of word of mouth: reactive word of mouth, and proactive word of mouth.

To achieve either, you need to first understand that competency doesn’t create conversation. When you do exactly what your customers expect and anticipate you will do, they do not mention that to anyone because there is no STORY there.

I have never said — to anyone — “Hey, let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I had recently.” That would be a terrible story. Not interesting to tell, and not interesting to hear. Word of mouth requires story crafting. If we can help you create and propagate the story of your company, let us know.

Competency doesn't create conversation. #WordOfMouth
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Once you have a story catalyst (we call them Talk Triggers), you will prompt one or both of the two types of word of mouth.

To demonstrate the difference between reactive word of mouth and proactive word of mouth, let’s use one of our favorite examples, the chocolate chip cookie at DoubleTree Hotels. Every day, for nearly 30 years, DoubleTree has given each guest a warm, chocolate chip cookie at check-in.

Those cookies are LEGIT. And people tell stories about those cookies constantly. How often? Our research found that 34% of DoubleTree’s guest have told a story about the cookie. That means that given that they give out 75,000 cookies each day, the story is told approximately 22,500 times every 24 hours. That’s a LOT of word of mouth.

And that’s why you don’t see much advertising from DoubleTree. The cookie is the ad, and the guests are the media.

34% of @DoubleTree's guest have told a story about their warm chocolate chip cookies. #WordOfMouth #TalkTriggers
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Reactive Word of Mouth Definition

When your customer mentions your product or service when prompted, in the midst of an offline conversation, an online exchange, or similar.

For example, if I was with some friends at dinner and someone asked, “We’re going on a trip to Houston, any idea where we should stay?” I might chime in with “Yes! The DoubleTree at the Galleria is terrific, and the chocolate chip cookies at the front desk are the best.”

I am reacting to the situation and am making a recommendation in that context. “Referrals” is what reactive word of mouth is called in some instances.

Proactive Word of Mouth Definition

When your customer introduces or inserts your product or service into a topically unrelated offline conversation, online exchange, or similar.

For example, if I was at the same dinner, with the same people and someone asked, “Anyone do anything interesting lately?” I might answer “Yes! I was in Houston last week. I stayed at the DoubleTree, and you would not believe the amazing chocolate chip cookies they hand out at the front desk.”

In this scenario, I am not waiting for the topic to come around to hotels before mentioning DoubleTree and their famous cookies. Instead, I am inserting the cookies into a broader conversation and turning the topic toward DoubleTree.

Which Type of Word of Mouth is Best?

Both are important. In fact, word of mouth is the most persuasive and most common way that people make buying decisions.

However, proactive word of mouth is the superior type because it requires your customer to be so enthralled with your product or service that they are compelled to find a way to bring it up in conversation, even if it’s not on topic, per se.

Telling a story when asked is one thing. Telling a story without being asked is something else entirely. It requires more conviction and more passion.

To make sure the word of mouth about you is proactive as much as possible, you need to make certain that your Talk Trigger is truly differentiated. You have to do something different, that your customers do not expect, and then find irresistible.

The book that Daniel Lemin and I wrote about this topic includes dozens of case studies that might inspire you to find your own differentiator that creates proactive word of mouth.

The post Word of Mouth Marketing Defined {Proactive and Reactive Versions} appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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We have been sharing stories from the beginning of human civilization — for good reason. Stories captivate our attention and build communities by bringing ideas, emotions, and experiences to life in a memorable way. So much so, that companies are increasingly embracing brand storytelling in the era of the connected digital consumer.

What is Brand Storytelling?

Brand storytelling is defined as the art of shaping a company’s identity through the use of narratives and storytelling techniques that facilitate an emotional response and establish meaningful connections.

When done correctly, research shows the powerful impact storytelling can have on us:

As a result, in a time when captivating consumer attention is the ultimate commodity, it has never been more important for companies to tell the right stories. The stories that stop us in our tracks, the stories that move us to tears, the stories that challenge us and change our perspective.

In a time when captivating consumer attention is the ultimate commodity, it has never been more important for companies to tell the right stories.
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There’s a magical spark that happens when consumers truly connect with a brand’s story, but how do companies source those unicorn, one-of-a-kind stories? Inspired by our book, The Laws of Brand Storytelling, here are three brilliant examples of brand storytelling you may have missed.

Brand Storytelling Example 1: The Land Of Land Rovers Campaign

Land Rover Showcases Why The Best Stories Come From Others

In celebration of Land Rover’s 70th anniversary, the company brought to life the true story of, “The Land of Land Rovers,” a remote area in the Indian Himalayas. The video tells the story of the local drivers who rely on a fleet of meticulously maintained 1957 Land Rover vehicles to provide transport and supplies along the treacherous mountain roads between two small villages, Maneybhanjang and Sandakphu.

To bring this remarkable story to life, Land Rover’s team made the village of Maneybhanjang their home for ten days in order to get to know these brave drivers and experience their everyday life. The end result delights the viewer with its stunning cinematography, while hearing from the drivers and villagers only further reinforces the incredible off-road capabilities of Land Rover vehicles.

The Land of Land Rovers - YouTube

The Best Stories Are Not Your Own

Land Rover’s campaign offers a brilliant example and a reminder that the best stories are not your own, but those of your customers and your fans. Sourcing those stories might be tough, but when you find those that truly touch people’s hearts, invest in bringing them to life and prioritize them over your product message.

The best stories are not your own, but those of your customers and your fans.
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Your Action Item: Get to Know Your Customers

To uncover the best customer stories, our best tip is to invest in getting to know your customers. From asking for customers to share their stories and memories with your company or products through social media or email campaigns, to running contests to encourage stories, top companies create a culture of sharing and storytelling.

Additionally, look at the many customer-facing touchpoints in your business, from sales to customer care, public relations, retail employees, and more. Employees on the front lines always have the best stories, but don’t necessarily know who to share them with. Whether it’s through regular check-ins, internal contests or targeted employee communications in newsletters or in the employee break room in-store, create processes for employees to share.

Brand Storytelling Example #2: Ikea’s Improve Your Private Life Campaign

IKEA Singapore Highlights The Power Of Humor In Storytelling

Every company speaks to the value of their products and services, but how many successfully turn those products or services into a laugh-out-loud funny yet relatable story? Consider taking a page from IKEA Singapore’s Shelf Help Guru campaign. The video campaign stars Fille Güte, a ‘Shelf Help Guru,’ who wants to take IKEA customers on a journey of ‘shelf discovery’ to improve their private lives in their most private areas: their bedrooms and bathrooms.

What makes the video shine is how it uses cheeky scenarios and hilarious puns to illustrate practical storage and furniture solutions from IKEA. The use of humor is spot on, truly captivating the viewer while positioning IKEA as the go-to retail store for improving your home.

Improve your private life - YouTube

However, what’s also exciting about this example of brand storytelling from IKEA Singapore is how the company continued the storyline with its customers on Facebook with a Shelf Help Guru Contest. In the contest, IKEA Singapore challenged fans to ask its Shelf Help Guru a question on how to improve their bedroom or bathroom for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Although a seemingly simple idea, IKEA Singapore had its Shelf Help Guru personally respond to every comment with a funny meme answering the person’s question with a link to the relevant IKEA product page.

Don’t Be Afriad to Get Personal with Your Customers

IKEA Singapore’s campaign speaks the fact that companies shouldn’t be afraid to get personal with their customers, even if it means poking a little fun at yourself. While humor can be hard to master, our best tip is to flex your funny bone aligned with your brand voice and values. Humor should be an extension of your brand voice and incorporated into your wider marketing and storytelling strategy. The brands with the best and most authentic tone of voice, in addition to the most humorous brands, are the ones that deeply know who they are and what makes them special. These brands also deeply understand how their customers perceive them, plus their needs, wants and wishes. The ‘secret sauce’ comes from translating these insights, values and key differentiators into a clever communications style that banishes boring in favor of personality.

Additionally, IKEA’s campaign showcases how succeeding in today’s digital age calls for more than just campaigns but for creating positive experiences for your customers.

Your Action Item: Connect with Your Customer-Service Facing Employees so They Understand Key Messages to Communicate

An actionable tip is to connect with your customer-facing employees, such as community managers and customer service reps. These folks are on the front lines of speaking and interacting with customers each and every day. This campaign is a good reminder of just how valuable their efforts are in further driving engagement around your brand storytelling efforts.

It’s one thing to tell an incredible story, but the reality is that the story is just the beginning. For example, when we tell stories to our friends and family, it sparks a reaction and a conversation among the storyteller and the recipient. Why wouldn’t we want the same as companies? As you develop your brand stories, make sure to factor in engagement activities to further amplify and activate your community around them. Make sure your customer-facing employees know the “back story,” from the inspiration, key messages and why the story matters so they are empowered to continue the conversation.

Brand Storytelling Example #3: Sanlam Bank’s #OneRandMan Campaign

Sanlam Bank Showcases How Storytelling Can Spark Change

Not to be outdone by their consumer counterparts, the financial services industry can still be put human reality at the heart of their stories. The following example from Sanlam Bank may not be a tearjerker, but it firmly establishes itself as an example of storytelling that helps people live better lives.

In South Africa, research shows that most people do not save much of their salary. So much so, that household debt averages about 75% of their after-tax income. To educate South Africans about the importance of saving money, Sanlam Bank launched a 5-part web series called One Rand Man, featuring a young professional who embarks on a social experiment – getting paid only in one rand coins. For context, one rand coin is about seven cents in U.S. currency. The video series documents his trials and tribulations of paying for everyday expenses in coins. Each week, Sanlam Bank also joined forces with respected local personal finance news outlets to share advice and tips based on the issues faced by the One Rand Man.

The Results

Telling the story of One Rand Man, combined with valuable personal finance thought leadership, sparked a chord in South Africans. The video series was watched over 900,000 times, making it the most-watched ad on YouTube in South Africa during the time of the campaign. Furthermore, the effort generated over 74 million media impressions, earning over 41 million rand worth of media exposure for the company (approx $2.8M U.S. dollars). The wild success of One Rand Man spawned One Rand Family and other similar episodic spin-offs, further inspiring and educating South Africans around the importance of personal finance and saving money.

Introducing the One Rand Man - YouTube

Whether you’re trying to spark change or prove to a customer why your products or services are a good fit for them, seek out stories that are either true or highly relatable.

To connect with your audience, seek out stories that are either true or highly relatable.
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Even though One Rand Man wasn’t a true story, seeing how a big pile of one rand coins quickly was spent in a month was highly visual and allowed South Africans to empathize with expenses in their everyday lives. Comical scenarios like trying to pay for bills in hundreds of coins kept the content interesting, while using the storyline to feed into expert advice and tips added credibility. It also showcases the power of brand storytelling, combined with personalized content and thought leadership, can drive web traffic, sales, demo requests, and more.

Your Action Item: Leverage Visual Storytelling to Bring Your Stories to Life

An actionable tip for businesses is to leverage visual storytelling to bring your stories to life. As humans, we are wired to process visual information more efficiently, so much so that it makes our stories more memorable:

In order for companies to cut through the clutter, focus on how your visuals can support or take the lead in your storytelling efforts. Whether it’s a blog post with supporting visuals or an inspirational video, the more companies can ensure consistency of message in every element of their storytelling efforts, the more they will connect with their audiences.

Are you ready to tell your brand’s story?

Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio are the co-authors of The Laws of Brand Storytelling: Win―and Keep―Your Customers’ Hearts and Minds (Nov. 2018).

The post 3 Brilliant Examples of Brand Storytelling You May Have Missed appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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I think we can agree that:

Advertising is more expensive than ever, and in many cases, less effective than ever.

This led marketers toward creating content to gain attention, but the subsequent glut has produced an epoch where upwards of 80% of content fails.

Now, the new game in town is influencer marketing. Here’s how we define it at Convince & Convert:

Influencer Marketing Definition:

The use of people (employees, customers, third parties) to amplify business messages and drive desirable behavior among target audiences.

Influencer Marketing vs. Word of Mouth:

Is word of mouth the same as influencer marketing? Is influencer marketing a type of word of mouth? How do they work together, if they do at all? I’ve created a new, unified theory of word of mouth strategy, with a corresponding graphic, to help sort through these questions.

The Unified Theory of Word of Mouth Strategy

The problem with influencer marketing — as it’s currently being practiced by most businesses — is that it focuses almost solely on the outside ring of the four-part unified word of mouth strategy. We call them Audience-Aggregators (AAs) here at Convince & Convert.

Most companies use influencer marketing — or attempt to do so — to increase reach and boost amplification of their messages. This means that AAs are being used instead of, or as an adjunct to, advertising. But instead of a television program or magazine being the conduit for the come-on, big audience influencers (AAs) serve that role.

We’ve all seen brands make use of influencers to push products and services, most often on Instagram. In general, these efforts are most strategically appropriate if you’re targeting younger customers, as they often make buying decisions based on influencer recommendations, per this report on 11 Gen Z Word of Mouth statistics.

Does Influencer Marketing Work?

Like any other form of marketing, the answer is: sometimes. Your results may vary. Influencer marketing can absolutely work, as evidenced by this influencer marketing results study from TapInfluence.

But AAs-centered marketing programs can also be costly failures for one big reason: “audience” and “influence” are not always correlated. When it comes to the reach and amplification layer of a word of mouth strategy, most businesses seek to work with people who have the largest audience that is theoretically appropriate.

Except influencer marketing (and word of mouth in general) doesn’t have the same mechanics as a traditional ad. Word of mouth success is driven by trust, authenticity, and proximity, meaning: “How well do I know the person making this recommendation, and how much do I believe it?” If the answers are “A lot” and “A lot” then I am likely, as a person exposed to an influencer’s entreaties, to take the action requested.

Word of mouth success is driven by trust, authenticity, and proximity. #WOM
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Where companies interested in influencer marketing make a false step is assuming that the relationship between audience size and audience trust is static. Instead, in many cases, as audience size grows, trust is eroded on a per-person basis. This is the same reason that companies with a large Facebook audience typically see lower engagement rates on their social media posts. When you get big, you become less relevant — almost inexorably so. And when you become less relevant, you become slightly less trusted, which reduces the likelihood that any given audience member will do what is asked of them by the influencer.

A Better Approach to Word of Mouth Strategy and Influencer Marketing

Instead of gravitating consistently to the biggest audiences, companies would be more successful in acquiring new customers if they thought about their word of mouth strategy holistically.

Every company has four possible layers of word of mouth, and each layer is apt to tell the story of the business for slightly different reasons, and to somewhat different people. The best possible approach is to build and implement programs for each of these four layers, using word of mouth to catalyze conversations and drive desired behaviors consistently across all target audiences.

Word of Mouth Strategy Layer 1: Employees

If your employees aren’t your top advocates, you don’t have a word of mouth problem: you have some combination of a corporate culture and/or hiring problem.

Your employees know more about the company than anyone else. They should have significant interest in and passion for the business as well.

These team members are also at the very center of the trust scale. If they say something about the company, chances are their friends/followers/colleagues/contacts will trust it because it’s known that the person is actually part OF the company, not an outside voice.

To benefit from this type of word of mouth, businesses should create an employee enablement program. (Two great Social Pros Podcast episodes about employee enablement here and here.) Participating employees should be kept in the loop by management, and encouraged to share company news and updates with their own networks, provided appropriate guidelines are followed.

This notion of employee enablement and “employees as influencers” has spawned an entire marketing technology sub-genre, with companies like Bambu, DynamicSignal, TrapIt, and LinkedIn Elevate being used to facilitate employees’ sharing of company snippets in social media.

However, like with the Audience-Aggregator influencer marketing programs, there are some common missteps I’d like to help you avoid:

Avoid These Employee Enablement Missteps

1. Too promotional: Businesses often ask employees to share updates that are nakedly promotional, and these “mini press releases” are both awkward for employees to share, and painful for followers of the employees to read.

2. Too frequent: Some companies ask employees to share company-related updates far too frequently, threatening to turn employees’ social feeds into a mini-me version of their employer’s social media accounts. Two to three updates per month, maximum, is how we advise our clients.

3. No offline component: These programs are entirely driven by social media word of mouth and are designed to allow employees to easily share content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn with a single click. This wholly disregards the 50% of word of mouth that is offline, and ignores employees’ connectivity and influencer in non-digital spaces.

On that third strategy problem, think of it this way: in your neighborhood, irrespective of online presence and social media follower count, who is one of the most influential members of the community? It may very well be a Reverend, Minister, Pastor, Rabbi, Cleric, or Priest. While perhaps not a frequent Facebook participant, she or he may, in fact, have unique ability to drive actual behavior.

The employee enablement component of your unified word of mouth strategy should give team members the permission (and the stories) necessary to talk about your business offline: at the supermarket, the bank, and the soccer field.

Word of Mouth Strategy Layer 2: Current Customers

To us, this is the sweet spot.

The best way to grow any business is to have your customers do it for you.

As Robert Stephens, founder of GeekSquad said:

Advertising is a tax, paid by the unremarkable.

Advertising is a tax, paid by the unremarkable.
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That’s not entirely true, but it’s true enough: an effective word of mouth strategy that successfully activates customers and turns them into volunteer marketers is the most cost-efficient path to revenue.

What’s challenging, however, is that very, very few companies have an actual program to turn current customers into advocates. Of the four layers of the unified word of mouth strategy, this one is the least explored; and it should be the most often used, in our estimation.

The key to making the Current Customers layer of word of mouth strategy work is to use Talk Triggers: purposeful, operational differentiators that customers notice, and talk about online and offline.

A Talk Trigger is an unconventional choice you make that your customers don’t anticipate. DoubleTree Hotels’ warm, chocolate chip cookie presented to each guest at check-in, for example, is a terrific Talk Trigger, and one that has been in place every day for 30 years.

In addition to giving it no attention whatsoever, there are some common missteps businesses are prone to make when activating current customers as part of a unified word of mouth strategy:

Avoid These Talk Triggers Missteps

1. Many companies falsely believe that competency creates conversation. It rarely does. We discuss things that are different, and ignore what is average. It is exceedingly difficult to become “talkable” based on quality.

2. Companies pursuing a current customers word of mouth program should focus on ONE differentiator, and executing that differentiator perfectly, every time. Do not give customers multiple stories to tell about your brand. Give them one, great story that they are compelled to share.

3. Every Talk Trigger differentiator should be accessible to every customer. Your Talk Trigger is not circumstantially available; it is omni-present. Your word of mouth-spawning difference isn’t just for your best customers, or new customers, it’s for all customers. You want the story to apply to all, not just a few.

Remember: Competency Doesn’t Create Conversation

Word of Mouth Strategy Layer 3: Subject Matter Influencers (SMIs)

Current customers can effectively spread your word of mouth message using the familiarity/recognition factor. They know people, and presumably, those people have some sort of affinity for your customers. Thus, when your customer tells a story about you to their tribe, members of that tribe take action because they “know, like, trust” your customers.

If my college roommate recommends a brand of headphones to me, I’ll consider it. I know him. I like him. I trust him.

Subject Matter Influencers (SMIs) are effective word of mouth ambassadors not because they are known by other people in a relationship sense, but because of their recognized authority on one or more topics. I trust Steve Martin to teach me comedy on MasterClass more than I trust my college roommate to do so, for example.

Winning with a unified word of mouth strategy dictates that you first uncover, and then inform relevant SMIs in your region, category, or industry. There are SMIs for every business in the world, regardless of size, type, or location. To find them, ask and answer this question: “Who knows enough about what we sell (but doesn’t work for us) that if they told people to consider our product or service, potential customers would do so?”

To put this into context, I am a SMI. I have a measure of influence about marketing, customer service, customer experience, technology, software, and a couple of outliers including tequila and BBQ.

I am not an Audience-Aggregator (AA). People do not pay attention to me because I am “famous”; they pay attention to me — insofar as they do — because of what I ostensibly know.

Find those people. Keep them informed about what your company is doing and why that’s interesting. In fact, make sure your SMIs know your Talk Trigger. Ideally, your SMIs recommend you when relevant it’s relevant because you’re a great solution, without you having to pay them.

Avoid These Subject Matter Influencers Missteps

1. Many businesses skip past SMIs entirely, choosing to work solely with AAs because of their superior reach.

2. SMIs are not often in the influence “business” the way AAs are. Thus, when working with SMIs, the relationship should not be transactional, but rather long-term and relationship-driven. You want SMIs as advocates, not paid endorsers.

3. Because their word of mouth power and overall influence is driven primarily by what they know, and secondarily by whom they know, do not be afraid to work with highly targeted and emerging SMIs.

Word of Mouth Strategy Layer 4: Audience-Aggregators (AAs)

When we think of “influencer marketing” today, this is the group that comes to mind. The celebrities and demi-celebrities that are slinging hashtags for money.

As mentioned above, this group can help power a successful word of mouth strategy. Reach does matter, after all. But at what cost?

For example, if an AA with one million followers is able to convince .5% of them to click a link, that will yield 5,000 clicks. If a SMI with 100,000 followers is able to convince 1.5% of them to click a link, that will yield 1,500 clicks. But, from a cost/benefit perspective, the current state of influencer marketing dictates that in almost every case the SMI will be dramatically less expensive to work with, if fees are necessary at all. Your mileage may vary.

Another issue with AAs as commonly executed is that their work is almost entirely online. This is because it’s easier to locate big-scale influencers using software that purports to measure audience and impact, and it’s easier for the influencers themselves to create short messages on behalf of companies in social media environments like Instagram.

However, given that 50% of word of mouth happens offline, and given that word of mouth that occurs offline is often more persuasive than online word of mouth (according to our Chatter Matters Word of Mouth Report) pegging a word of mouth strategy entirely to online influencers is like being a movie critic who only watches trailers; you’re not really getting the whole story.

Avoid These Influencer Marketing Missteps

1. Companies almost reflexively think of influencers (and word of mouth, for that matter) as a way to amplify marketing messages. Don’t ignore the other three layers.

2. Companies often seek out the largest audience, instead of the most effective drivers of behavior.

3. Influencer marketing among AAs is almost entirely online, missing 50% of the word of mouth ecosystem.

Done well, word of mouth marketing is the most effective and cost-effective way to grow any business. After all, for thousands of years, it was the ONLY form of marketing. Somewhere along the way, however, we started to take it for granted.

In an era where most companies have a marketing strategy, a digital strategy, a content strategy, a social strategy, a PR strategy and more; very few have a defined word of mouth strategy.

Some organizations point to their use of influencer marketing (or even social media) as proof that they do, in fact, have a defined plan for catalyzing conversations.

But as described in this piece, and illustrated in my graphic, influencer marketing (in both the SMI and AA variants), is just a piece of a unified word of mouth strategy. As for social media? It’s just one of the places your story can be told.

If we can help you create, implement, improve, or measure your unified word of mouth strategy, contact us and we’ll set up a free call with one of our strategists.

The post The Ultimate Unified Word of Mouth Strategy appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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With the new year in full swing, my wonderful colleagues — the marketing experts here at Convince & Convert — came up with 23 ideas for making your marketing and customer experience AMAZING in 2019.

In no particular order, here are our favorite recommendations for making 2019 your best year yet. These are the things that not many companies are doing well, but if you do, you will be sure to crush your competition this year. Let’s go!

Jay Baer, Founder, Convince & Convert

1. Leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of your content marketing.

2019 will be the year that artificial intelligence and machine learning are leveraged by a meaningful number of companies to reverse-engineer the success of their content marketing, using tools like Ceralytics and others.

2. Create experiences that are talkable to cost-effectively grow your business.

2019 will be the year that a meaningful number of companies truly embrace the notion that customer experience is the most powerful form of customer acquisition. Yes, you need to be good at content marketing and social media and all the rest. But if you deliver an experience that’s talkable, your customers become volunteer marketers, and word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective (and cost-effective) way to grow any business.

3. Boost your social media performance with artificial intelligence too.

2019 will also be the year that artificial intelligence and machine learning are leveraged by a meaningful number of companies to reverse-engineer the success of their organic and paid social, using tools like Pattern89 and others.

Zontee Hou, Senior Analyst

4. Perform consistency audits to make sure that your entire digital ecosystem is telling a complete, compelling story.

In the high-paced digital world of 2019, your customers will scrutinize all of your touchpoints as part of their customer experience. Be sure that you’re performing consistency audits in the new year to make sure that your entire digital ecosystem is telling a complete, compelling story that serves your audience. Your CX isn’t just the message though, it’s also the load time, the smoothness of hand-off, and the ease of use. Make sure that your team understands how your audience uses your products, so they can make them even better. For instance, web hosting service Bluehost’s pop-out help module actually activates a layer on top of their website to guide you step-by-step to the right tool, when you select a question. That’s forward-thinking customer experience.

5. Connect with your audience in social media with conversations and based on their interests.

Conversational marketing is going to impact customer expectations in social media. Yes, chatbots are going to continue to grow, but it’s also about social media marketing that responds to the customers. Do your ads retarget your customers based on their interests, not just their purchase history? Does your social customer care team use customers’ information to give them more thoughtful service? Best-in-class brands are already in these spaces. Are you?

Anna Hrach, Analyst

6. Create experiences that will be meaningful across your own customers’ journeys.

Stop thinking like a marketer. Instead, take a step back and look at customer experiences you genuinely appreciate or were pleasantly surprised by. Think about why it made an impact on you and how it made your experience with a brand better. Then, try to replicate those feelings and experiences by translating them in ways that will be meaningful across your own customers’ journeys. Stop thinking like a marketer. Instead, take a step back and look at customer experiences you genuinely appreciate or were pleasantly surprised by. Think about why it made an impact on you and how it made your experience with a brand better. Then, try to replicate those feelings and experiences by translating them in ways that will be meaningful across your own customers’ journeys.

7. Your content marketing should focus on doing more with less.

It’s time to do more with way less. Over the last 10 years, companies have been investing more and more in content marketing to create more and more. Instead of racking your brain for new ideas, spend time figuring out what you can reuse, repurpose or remix. Is there an old blog that has become relevant again? Republish it and bring it to the top, so new audiences can see it. Have an outdated ebook that still has some solid content? Refresh it with some light updates, instead of starting from scratch. Have a huge piece of content that took a ton of time and money? Break it up into smaller pieces, like an infographic, designed quote, webinar and more.

Jenny Magic, Analyst

8. There’s a goldmine of great marketing ideas and stories in your company — they just might not be in the marketing department.

2019 will be the year that we finally bring the ops teams into marketing — no longer just tapping our customer-facing employees for story ideas and inputs, but asking them to BE the story. Companies will begin looking to employees who are challenging scripts and breaking the mold in how they do their jobs and serve customers. These insights should be the fuel for innovations the CX and marketing teams scale.

9. Tap into your best influencers: your employees.

In 2019, companies will finally realize that their best influencers are right under their nose — their employees. Millennials already are the largest segment in the workplace. Within the next two years, 50% of the U.S. workforce is expected to be made up of Millennials. It will be 75% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These employees want to work somewhere they can make an impact (over 3/4 would take a pay cut to work somewhere that matches their values), and companies that can get their staff connected with their why and excited about the story will find an army of influencers willing to proudly do the word of mouth/influencer work they’ve had to beg for (or pay for) in years past.

Kelly Santina, Head of Operations & Media

10. Remember, customer experience starts with employee experience.

As we work with more and more brands and partners in the customer experience space, it has opened my eyes that the customer experience is very much influenced by the employee experience as the first step. Ensuring your organization is investing in the resources, tools and personal connections of your employees will in most cases do more for your customer experience than any other effort. At C&C, we are a virtual company, and we place extreme importance of personal relationships and through tools that help us stay connected across time zones. When our team is happy and satisfied, our client work exceeds expectations.

11. Social media success starts with planning and organization.

Invest the budget and training time into a great social media monitoring tool and a content calendar tool. Finding one that fits your organization and team is worth the investment in time and money, trust me!

Mary Nice, Senior Analyst

12. Get back to the roots of what makes your company remarkable.

2019 is going to bring people back to the roots of what makes hour company awesome. Take time to understand that your operation is what makes your organization awesome, and the experience is the one thing you can control. In turn, marketing and operations teams should become closer than ever.

13. Have your organic and paid social teams work together.

2019 is going to bring the integration of paid and organic social teams. As organic continues to decline, social marketers have to know paid and paid teams must know what content makes social advertising successful. These can no longer be done in a silo.

Anthony Helmstetter, Analyst

14. Get more email unsubscribes—really.

Yes, that’s counter-intuitive. But the truth is, list size is a false metric. (Yes, you may have to explain that to your boss.) The one exception would be businesses who derive revenue based on CPM advertising, but for most organizations, there are more important metrics, like engagement and corresponding KPIs.

A bloated list of disengaged subscribers messes up your email performance metrics. Those who are truly disengaged are just diluting the actual metrics you use to optimize your performance. Ten thousand disengaged subscribers will completely obfuscate the real learnings for the 100 that are engaged. If there has been no click-through in the prior 12 months, initiate a last-chance re-engagement campaign, and if still no response, purge and archive them

15. Your customers’ expectations are increasing. The most competitive companies will exceed them.

Tesla. If you are unfamiliar, this fledgling (15-years actually) automobile manufacturer does almost everything differently than their long-established competitors. Yes, their cars are all electric, they have no dealerships, and they want to own their customer relationship, start to finish. Between start and finish, there is service. Unlike the traditional auto dealership service and repair facilities, Tesla does not intend to make a profit from the servicing of their vehicles. It’s designed to NOT be a profit center on the books. Heresy, most experts would say.

Instead, Tesla provides a gambit of services at no cost to the owners, even out of warranty. They come to your house or business for a majority of service calls. Stop and read that again. For example, a Tesla Ranger (mobile service technician) comes to your house at a scheduled time to repair or replace some part that needs attention, and often, there is no cost to the owner.

Customers like that. And by raising that bar of customer service, we customers soon wonder—or even expect–other industries to behave in a similar fashion. Customer service is rapidly evolving from what is customary and convenient for the business, to what is convenient and expected by the customer. The businesses that most rapidly embrace this will have a competitive advantage over their competitors… for a while.

Donna Mostrom, Analyst

16. Show you’re present in real time and connect with your customers.

Use Instagram Stories to connect with your audience and customers. Sara Blakely’s account is an excellent example of how to do this well. She showed up in Stories on Cyber Monday, and she jumped on Spanx’s customer service online chat and recorded people’s reactions

I bought a bunch of unplanned stuff from Spanx that day just so I could talk to her. It was incredible. If you can authentically show you’re present in real time doing things for your customers, it will make a positive impact on how they interact with you and your brand when you’re not there.

17. Turn unhappy customers into your best, loyal customers.

Focus on service recovery. (Jay calls this “hugging your haters“). You can’t always provide a stellar experience for your customers, though that should be your top priority. We live in a commoditized world full of substitutes, where it’s easy to lose a customer over one bad experience. And forgiveness from your customers is not easily won. Companies must have service recovery plans, combined with an employee empowerment culture to carry out those plans, to correct mistakes. Service recovery experience could then be turned into a talk trigger, too.

Lauren Teague, Analyst

18. Use nostalgia to inspire content and campaigns.

Sometimes we need to look to the past for inspiration. Millennials have a clear preference for experiential marketing. Tap into their memories of adolescence, just like Google did with Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone Again advert for the Google Assistant product. The ad was seasonally relevant (launched at the holidays, like the original movie setting) and became a viral hit, earning over 70M views and being named the top holiday campaign of 2018. Using nostalgia to inspire content and campaigns, marketers can benefit from a long history of affinity for beloved memories from the past.

19. Commit your social strategy to the 3 C’s: clarity, content and connections.

Social media strategies need to commit to 3 C’s in 2019: clarity, content and connections. Is your approach to social media specific and clear to the audience (and internally, amongst your team)? Clarity allows you to be purposeful with the content produced and published. Content is the engine of all social media activity, paid and organic. When audiences understand the intent of a brand on social, and consume content that aligns with that purpose, they are more likely to Connect with the brand. Connections between your audience and brand can be in the form of reactions, conversation or opting in as a follower/subscriber.

Kim Corak, Head of Business Development

20. Activate word of mouth during various points of the customer journey.

Many SaaS companies (and often B2B in general) have a difficult time standing out from their competitive set. Rather than trying to throw money or advertising at the problem, develop a strategy to help activate word of mouth during various points of the customer journey. Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin, who quite literally wrote the book on this strategy, lay out exactly how to do this and why in their book Talk Triggers, as well as throughout various (and free!) ebooks and webinars throughout the site.

21. Invest in continuous training and education to stay up top of what works and what doesn’t.

It’s very hard for content teams to stay up to date on all things digital — channels, formats, tools, atomization etc. — so be sure to pepper education and training throughout the year. With the water hose of information available and changes occurring in the industry, ongoing education works better than a “one and done” approach. For snippets of a wide range of topics, attending a conference is great but to go deep on a certain area or heavily customize it for your team, onsite workshops or web-based training modalities work best.

Chris Anderson, Media & Partnerships

22. Meet your customer’s needs quickly with chatbots and other related technology.

2019 will see an increase in the usage of chatbots and other related technology to communicate with customers and meet their needs quickly. However, it’s mission critical to support the technology with the most human influence possible. So companies must avoid utilizing a chatbot to just “set it and forget it”, but rather constantly tinker with what it says to customers and how it says it. From time to time, a real human should have..

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The best way to grow ANY business is for your customers to grow it for you. That’s where word of mouth comes in: customers going out of their way to tell other people (prospective customers) about your products and services.

Since the cavemen days, this has been the most effective and cost-effective form of customer acquisition. Yet today, even though (and perhaps because of the fact) we are surrounded by advertising options, we almost reflexively design marketing programs that talk TO customers, instead of letting the customers talk with each other.

At Convince & Convert, we believe that every company in the world could benefit from a better word of mouth strategy. But some companies need word of mouth more acutely. Are you among them?

Here’s our quick checklist that helps determine if you really need a word of mouth boost:

1. Your Customer Acquisition Costs are Going Up

One of my favorite sayings isn’t ENTIRELY true, but it’s true enough. It’s from Robert Stephens, founder of GeekSquad:

Advertising is a tax, paid by the unremarkable.

If you have to buy every click, every lead, and every sale you simply are working too hard to get new customers.

Advertising is a tax, paid by the unremarkable.
Click To Tweet
2. Your Sales Team Has to Tell Your Entire Story, Every Time

This one is more B2B than B2C. If potential customers show up and don’t know ANYTHING about your company or your offerings, it’s because nobody told them about you first; they just parachuted into your funnel, probably from Google. Unless you have an incredible sales team, those cold leads are the hardest and most expensive to close.

3. You Have Low Branded Search Traffic

Speaking of Google, if very few people are searching for the name of your company or your products/services, it typically means (unless you’re new) that you have insufficient awareness and brand-name demand. That can at least partially be solved with a strong word of mouth strategy.

4. Your Budget Allocation is Lopsided

A report from Adobe said that approximately 80% of the average B2B company’s revenue comes from existing customers, in some form. Yet, those companies spend approximately 2% of total budget on customer experience and customer service — the very things that create word of mouth and referrals.

If your marketing and operations budget for customer acquisition is dramatically larger that the budget for CX and retention, you probably need better word of mouth.

80% of the average #B2B company's revenue comes from existing customers.
Click To Tweet
5. You’re Losing Deals on Price

If your potential customers are looking at you vs. competitors and consistently going with the lowest price, you aren’t giving them anything psychological or emotional that justifies the economics. This is one of the great benefits of word of mouth strategy: real people make recommendations that make it okay for other people to make a purchase.

Look at Peloton, the wildly popular exercise bike/treadmill and online classes system. Peloton word of mouth is so strong, it’s almost cultish. But the raving fans are what powers the brand. Taken out of context, and absent that word of mouth, it would be tough to justify the expensive bike + the ongoing fees.

6. You Don’t Have a Consistent Differentiator Bubbling up in Social or Reviews

One thing we know to be true is that competency doesn’t often create conversation. Customers expect you to be competent, so meeting that expectation isn’t particularly talkable. What creates word of mouth are elements of your experience that are OUTSIDE the norm; things customers do not expect.

When you have something like that (we call it a talk trigger, and have a whole strategy system for creating them for our clients), it shows up consistently in social media and online reviews.

For example:

Have you ever been reading something and you read it like 6 or 7 times and you have that revelation that you’ve been reading the same page over and over and haven’t comprehended anything. And then you realize its the Cheesecake Factory menu and your whole table’s pissed at you

— Bert Macklin (@NighthawkSmash) December 25, 2018

(here are a bunch of others)

7. You Have Poor Social Media Engagement

There can be other reasons why your social media is mediocre or worse. But one consistent element of companies that have strong word of mouth is that their organic social gets engagement. Customers WANT to interact with the business, and they WANT to tell the story to their friends.

8. You Have High Employee Turnover

Like social engagement, there can be other culprits here. But, we find that companies with strong word of mouth have a culture aligned around the customer experience, and making it talkable. It’s no accident that those businesses also work hard to create an outstanding experience for their personnel. This is all about the values of company leadership, ultimately.

Because if your employees aren’t your biggest advocates, you have problems much bigger than word of mouth.

It’s possible to have strong word of mouth without a great corporate culture, but a lot less likely.

So there you have it: our checklist for whether you need word of mouth in your business. If we can help you, ask us for a free call to discuss.

And, we have two Webinars next week (no cost) on this topic. Tune in!

How to Grow Your B2B Business Without Wasting Money on Ads

How to Grow Your B2C Business Without Wasting Money on Ads

The post 8 Telltale Signs You Need a Word-of-Mouth Strategy [A Checklist] appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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