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Editor's Note: This guest post was contributed by Josh Ritchie, Cofunder of ColumnFive.

If you’re a product company, chances are you at least want to create marketing content that focuses on product’s features. The reasoning here is understandable: features are the quantifiable things that your widget does, that creates value for your customers. It’s no surprise, then, that product features often become the centerpiece of branded content. The problem is that going this route typically results in less effective content marketing. 

Why Leading with Features Isn’t Your Best Bet

Focusing on your product’s features isn’t necessarily wrong; it’s just not the ideal way to present your brand, at least not in your content marketing. 

Sure, product features are useful. Product features provide context; they help people understand what you do and what you offer. They even help people make purchasing decisions (sales content). But, they alone don’t offer a compelling story. 

If leading with product features isn’t the best way to market, then why do so many companies do it? My guess is that most people lead with product features because of a combination of things:

  • Excitement about increasing sales
  • Pressure to increase leads
  • Not knowing there’s a better way
  • It’s the obvious thing to do
  • It’s easier than the alternatives

Yes, the goal of marketing is increased sales, so there’s a tendency to sell what it is you make or do. We want to spell out the characteristics that can benefit our would-be customers so they can make informed purchase decisions. But the problem is that features don’t necessarily communicate benefits. That’s why leading with product features is a weaker strategy. 

Why the Best Brands Don’t Lead with Product Features

The best brands don’t lead with product features because they know it makes people feel like they’re being sold to. It also puts all the work on the customer to analyze all the features and determine whether they even want the features—or if they will even benefit from the product. 

While marketing’s ultimate goal is to increase sales, the tactic to do so is through marketing—not sales. Leading with product features is not marketing. Marketing is attracting people to what you’re doing, who you are, and what your brand stands for. That’s why “selling” should stay out of content. If you’re attracting people to your brand while simultaneously selling them on whatever you’re peddling, the marketing experience will suffer. If you want to sell, you need to create a great buying experience. That starts with great marketing. 

How Do the Best Brands Do Marketing?

The best brands market by focusing on the benefits of their products and services—not their features—because benefits help answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” 

This type of content focuses on the advantages or the value you get by becoming their customer. It paints a picture of an improved state, one that people want in on, and inspires them to take the next step toward making that state a reality. It convinces you that the brand is special, and that you can be special too.

Leading with benefits and presenting them as a solution to a customer pain point is a better approach than presenting product features and expecting customers to piece together why these add up to the benefit that will solve their problem.

Yes, you will eventually need to share information about how your product or service works, but there should be no rush to get into the details.

Examples

Here are two examples of brands that know how to lead with benefits:

1) Casper: The Best Bed for Better Sleep

Casper hinges its entire brand on one promise: helping you get the best sleep possible. They certainly don’t lead with the “revolutionary tech” behind their mattresses. (Nobody’s jumping on a mattress next to a glass of red wine.) Instead, they provide value by helping educate people about how important sleep is. With the Van Winkle’s brand publication, they’ve created a portal to deliver the most up-to-date, interesting content on all aspects of sleep, providing a much needed and highly valuable service to the public. 

2) Patagonia 

Patagonia is not afraid to make bold statements about who they are, what they believe in, and what their mission is. Through their blog The Cleanest Line, they connect with their community via compelling content. It’s a place to share stories about adventure travel alongside stunning photos and first-hand accounts. It gives them an opportunity to showcase outstanding members of the community. It’s also a place to promote the brand’s values—like when Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard published an open letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke with an appeal to preserve public lands. This approach to content allows for open dialogue and a chance to get to know the people who create the brand—and those who consume it. 

Remember: Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

To craft the best, most effective buying experience, make your customers’ job as easy as possible. Don’t bore them from the get-go. Don’t make them work to find the benefits lurking in sales-heavy content. Their time is valuable, so respect it. Put benefits front and center to show your audience how their world could change, then show them the features that will help make that change. 

To keep pace with the latest thinking in marketing, subscribe today to the LinkedIn Marketing Blog

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Editor's Note: This guest post was contributed by Gil Allouche, CEO, Metadata.io.

Manual work is killing B2B marketers — one boring, repetitive task at a time.

Sure, automation helps marketers in big ways, but marketing automation platforms still require a lot of manual operations by humans to make them effective.

To give you an idea, here is a sample list of manual tasks required today for a typical account-based ad campaign:

  • Buying data
  • Joining data (list of target companies by tech stack, then joining with contact data)
  • Segmenting data (breaking down by audiences/cohorts)
  • Finding all personally-identifiable information (e.g., email) and upload to different ad networks
  • Multivariate testing for different audiences, creative content, channel, and other variables. 
  • Placing tags and pixels for tracking
  • Lead enrichment of incoming leads
  • Pushing leads from ad channels to marketing automation 
  • Merging performance data with marketing automation and CRM data
  • Reporting and attribution 

The sheer number of tasks makes it nearly impossible for lean, B2B marketing teams to conduct these Account-based Advertising campaigns at a rate that has an impact on pipeline. And, many spend a large portion of their working hours completing these technical, repetitive tasks, rather than applying their talents and creativity to the strategy and planning behind the campaign (which, I’m guessing, is what they signed up for when they went to marketing).

  • The consequences of these limited campaigns extend even further. As the CEO of a company in B2B marketing, here is what I’ve found to be true today (after running hundreds of thousands of ABM campaigns last year):
  • Poor ROI attribution leads to lack of belief that advertising can be a primary channel to drive marketing-ready leads and pipeline.
  • Marketers, on average, use over a dozen tools that are fragmented and demand manual tasks to keep them running - gives them less time to focus on optimization and strategy.
  • Many B2B marketers lose faith in digital advertising due to poor targeting and execution, and unpredictable results.
  • Traditional A/B testing is dead because it only allows marketers to test one variable at a time - too slow and doesn’t consider the variability of your digital marketing mix (message, creative, content, channel, campaign type, audience etc).
  • Instead, B2B marketers should consider testing multiple variables, including collateral, channel, audience, campaign type, persona and creative.

However, with AI in the mix, marketers are starting to eliminate these tasks, optimize and execute campaigns at a rate that is humanly impossible. The longer your let the AI execute, observe and optimize the campaigns, the further down your funnel it will be able to optimize towards.

The Time to Adopt AI is Now

The benefits of AI are unmatched. For CMOs, AI provides certainty that digital advertising delivers predictable lead flow.

For marketing teams, the automation features — such as APIs, algorithms and decision trees - save hundreds of hours on manual tasks, and allow for large-scale experimentation to quickly align campaigns, resources and results to strategic goals.

I see Account-based Advertising with an automatic engine as the future of marketing automation, where machine learning optimizes operations on an ongoing basis to drive incredible results (pipeline).

So, B2B Marketers have a choice to make. Either continue to struggle with manual workloads from tools and process overload, or become modern marketers by embracing the future of automation and AI.

AI is the obvious solution for marketing operations going forward because it encompasses both the automation of technical, mundane tasks and the ability to optimize those tasks toward a single goal — pipeline. Marketing teams thus overcome the challenge of building predictable pipeline and proving an ROI for B2B advertising.

AI has already begun to evolve, and smart marketers are embracing it. Modern AI is no longer limited to the traditional scope of analyzing, predicting and insights — as it has entered the realm of optimization and execution. Nutanix, for example, has leveraged more than 10,000 multivariate experiments to optimize their campaigns and has seen a direct impact on ROAS.

The Elements of an AI Optimization Campaign

Here are the elements of a fully optimized AI-powered Account-based Advertising campaign (and this is all possible today!):

  • Pretargeting to confirm exact companies and personas to target.
  • Show audiences to sales prior to execution to guarantee campaign alignment
  • Don’t limit your testing to one variable or limited experiments, scale with AI
  • Auto-identify net-new individuals within target accounts, exclude closed won accounts
  • Integration with leading marketing and advertising platforms to maximize data
  • Automatic operation of all marketing tasks for paid marketing campaigns at scale
  • Optimize towards pipeline metrics (vs. vanity metrics)

AI and experimentation are key to optimization in the B2B marketing landscape and companies are adopting it rapidly because they see the benefits of in time and results, and the savings in time and personnel.

To keep pace with the latest thinking in account-based marketing, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Blog today

 

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A marketer’s primary focus has always been getting people through the door so that sales can eventually close a deal. But in today’s dynamic and competitive buyer landscape, the customer experience, particularly that which occurs post-sale, is vital to maintaining customer success, upselling, cross-selling and driving long-term ROI. 

Being that marketers are guardians of brand, it is important they also take ownership over multiple touch-points along the lifecycle of a sale. This is crucial to ensure that customers experiences are valuable and consistent, regardless if they are new or existing. 

Expectations for quality support and service are higher than ever, considering that:

LinkedIn’s latest research on the Enlightened Technology Buyer reinforces the omnipresence of peer feedback on new business technology investments, with 70% of decision-makers specifically discussing solutions and vendors with their peers on and offline. This ensures that potential customers will hear about their experiences and use this information, good or bad, to vet and consider existing or new vendors. 

Despite the heightened importance of quality outcomes across the modern buyer journey — from initial awareness to post-sale maintenance and renewal — tech companies in particular continue to miss opportunities when it comes to post-sale support.

Examine this spotlight from our report: 

During the needs phase, when companies are determining requirements, 72% of buyers and decision-makers report engaging with a vendor over the last three months. That number plummets to 34% during management and only ticks up 2% during renewal.

It’s tempting to look at this pattern as the natural petering off a relationship when the project comes to fruition, but the canyon between pre- and post-sale is clear: Your customers hear from you much more before they become your customers than after — and the implication becomes that they are more important as prospects than as customers.

Forrester’s annual CX report found there are no brands leading this space for the third year in a row. The message is clear: If you can execute your post-sales strategy well, there’s a clear opportunity to differentiate from the competition.

Marketing and Sales Should Take an Active Role in Post-Sale Support

In the past, marketing and sales have typically handed customers to separate teams or customer service representatives after a sale has closed. But changing customer demands for a seamless, service-oriented experience, the post-sale offerings provided by marketing and sales have never played a more crucial role. 

Self-guided post-sale support:  Much of today’s customer journey is self-directed. Technology buyers want answers to questions easily without having to contact anyone. Our research says 44% turn to vendor websites to troubleshoot. Ideally, this information is interactive, complete with how-to videos and easy to navigate forums or Q&As offering a deep well of information for prospective and current customers. Take enterprise data storage system Qumulo’s website for example. Their Qumulo Care portal gives customers access to important resources, a forum of other professionals and an opportunity to open a support ticket, all in one place.

And if your site isn’t enabled with chat, you’re already behind: More customers prefer to chat than any other communication avenue. Increasingly sophisticated chatbots can help alleviate some of the contact volume customer service handles while providing better CX when done correctly.

Ongoing sales enablement and engagement: Are you arming the sales team with relevant content to share with customers? Marketing-supported sales enablement is essential to closing the deal, but it’s also essential to maintaining it. The relationship between a sales representative and a customer is already established and, we assume, a good one: 74% of buyers work with the first salesperson to add value and insight, but only 20% are seen as helpful post-sale.

If sales can continuously add value, they are more likely to build positive momentum. Think: Are there new product features available? Has one of the features become relevant to new industry trends? Is one customer using your product to achieve great results in a way that can be replicated and shared through a mini-case study? Offer a spin on the same kind of thought leadership you use in your pre-sale marketing content strategy. 

Creating a feedback loop with customer service: Your customer support team has a wealth of insight that you can’t get anywhere else. Design a feedback loop so that activities are constantly shared and used to inform anything from marketing strategy to future product development. This also helps marketing with content production: Happy customers can offer testimonials or participate in case studies. Marketing can offer their own intel about promotions, campaigns and brand awareness activities and can add their own value to customer support with FAQs, Q&As, and scripts that align the brand experience across every touchpoint.

Further opportunities may bring the two teams working together and implementing a strategy for categorizing and funneling customers through a scorecard, ranking system or other engagement process.

Consistent brand experience that delivers on every promise: Through the feedback loop with customer service and marketing-sales alignment, marketing can ensure that the company is not over-promising and under-delivering. As your customer service team uncovers gaps between promise and delivery, those should be communicated back to marketing and sales and acted upon quickly. Marketing has the opportunity to set clear expectations with customers, both in terms of what they should expect from the product/service but also what they can expect from support, from the start. 

Customer renewal marketing: When customers are engaged post-sale and gathering metrics on how to engage with your brand, you can more easily funnel them into the right place for delivering personalized content. Sixty-three percent of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service and feel they are recognized as an individual when sent special offers. By making your post-sale marketing personalized, you can offer specified products and services that compound success and content that speaks to past purchases. Continuously adding value also increases the chance of renewal.

Building A Comprehensive, Cross-Departmental Post-Sale Strategy

In this landscape, post-sales support should be the rule, not the exception. So the first question you need to ask is: Can your company culture support this effort? Buyers are thirsty for relationships with the companies they do business with, and that relationship must be consistent across every channel and interaction. Customer experience and nurturing, then, has to be everyone’s responsibility. 

This requires tearing down silos across departments. You have to do the hard cultural and process work of setting up those pipelines, with processes that are regular, re-occurring and productive. As part of this integration initiative, review and build out your current protocols: What are your internal customer service policies? What are your customer-facing policies like shipping or returns, satisfaction guarantees, data privacy, etc? Are they customer friendly? Do they promote effective and impressive post-sales support?

Finally, make sure you actually tell your customers how you support them. Give them that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you’re there. Let them know how and when they can reach you. Ensure they are aware of all the self-guided resources they can access at any time online or in support forums or groups.

This will mean shifting time and resources to post-sale activities which may not pay immediate dividends in the way straightforward lead gen would. But these efforts will pay off over the long-term as investments in customer lifetime value. Interested in more findings from our new research on technology purchasing?

Check out “The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Enlightened Technology Buying: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal.”

 

 

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Founded on the core values of integrity, stewardship, courage, and compassion, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School has been developing values-centered leaders who advance responsible business practice since 1969.

Challenge

Pepperdine Graziadio Business School planned to use a new merit scholarship opportunity in the market to attract new students but needed an avenue for getting that message across to the right potential candidates — quickly and effectively. The business school faces a lengthy process in converting students, so it required a method that enabled them to engage highly qualified leads directly.

Solution

Working with its LinkedIn account team, Pepperdine created a unique target audience based on strong historical performance, and developed a plan to reach them via Sponsored InMail and Sponsored Content combined with Lead Gen Forms.

Results

Although Pepperdine is a longtime user of LinkedIn’s marketing and advertising tools, they say that this campaign “far surpassed all expectations,” driving more than 2,500 clicks. The school reports that its merit scholarship InMails drove more than 15 enrollments, with Sponsored Content adding even more, leading to “outstanding ROI.”

The campaign’s LinkedIn InMail component drove more than 750 leads. The performance was 20% above benchmarks for clickthrough rates and open rates for InMail campaign

Staying on Target

The key to Pepperdine’s success with this campaign was refining its audience to target just the right people, combining traditional qualification standards with proximity to campus and the right background degrees for the demands of the program.

“Further, users on LinkedIn are more focused on their career which makes it a suitable audience for business school program marketing,” adds Amanda Karr, Executive Director of Enrollment Management, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

The Power of InMail Plus Lead Gen Forms

With an audience that had a high likelihood of converting, Pepperdine took advantage by reaching out through personalized InMail messages. Integrated Lead Gen Forms made it easy for prospects to provide contact info and learn more without jumping through hoops.

Overall Impact

LinkedIn proved to be a perfect platform for connecting receptive professionals with opportunities for further educational advancement.

“The campaign was regarded as a huge success and one of our highest performing InMails to date,” Karr says.

She added, “We had not seen such a high level of engagement via our other marketing channels.”

Read the complete case study here.

Engage the right audiences, the right way on LinkedIn. Get started.

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Editor's Note: This guest post is authored by Aaron Goldman, CMO, 4C 

The average American adult spends a staggering amount of time watching video: almost 6 hours per day. Following this consumer trend, marketers are increasingly turning to video as the format of choice to engage their audiences across channels through sight, sound, and motion.

To see how engagement changes when video comes into play, let’s have a look back at my own LinkedIn history:

Last month, I posted one article each week and shared a handful of posts, each of which got a respectable level of engagement and netted ~3,000 combined views. 

During that time, I also posted a video from the Gartner Xpo in San Diego, and that single asset generated 3,800+ views. 

It’s clear from my own personal experience and the benchmarks that we see at 4C that video performs well in a professional environment. It draws people in and delivers a message in a far more dynamic way than images or text. That performance only increases when you’re able to whittle down the audience that sees your video to your most valuable prospects and consumers.

With this in mind, I am excited to announce that LinkedIn video ads are now available through Scope by 4C. Video has become the performance marketing medium of choice for brands – in fact, over half of all ads bought through Scope include video – and LinkedIn video ads are bringing a new opportunity to advertisers looking to reach a highly engaged business audience. 

LinkedIn excels at fostering a community where businesses and people can connect, individuals can pursue professional opportunities, and company execs can identify opportunities for their businesses. This naturally creates a space where businesses can advertise to each other, as well as to employees and potential new hires. 

But the relevancy of LinkedIn advertising extends beyond B2B advertisers. The same people using this platform to make professional connections with individuals and businesses are also consumers of B2C brands, making it an integral part of any brand’s cross-channel video strategy, whether their audience is primarily businesses or consumers. 

With video’s place in marketing strategies continuing to grow in importance, brands that create video-centric, cross-channel campaigns will be able to better connect with their audiences. At 4C, we’re excited to help brands leverage LinkedIn video ads as an important part of their media mix.

To keep pace with announcements from LinkedIn marketing partners like 4C, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Blog.

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Summer is a great time to travel. Whether it’s visiting family, checking out tourist spots, or just spending a week at the beach, there’s nothing quite like a summer vacation.

Of course, once the vacation is over, you’re back at home. And if you’re like me, it’s a place full of half-finished home improvement projects. There just never seems to be time to finish them off, and there are always new projects getting added. Maybe instead of a vacation, it’s time for a “staycation”: Regrouping at home and crossing some items off the to-do list.

Most of us have a “home improvement” to-do list for work, too. All those little projects that could add up to vastly improved results — but we can never find time to get them across the finish line. 

This summer, take a staycation at work. Use the tips in this week’s roundup to help pare down your list, boost your effectiveness, and even start some new projects.

Read on for advice on account-based marketing at scale, creating more dynamic content, tactical SEO tips, and more.

What Marketers Were Reading and Sharing Most This Week:

1. What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Craft Breweries

Is your content crisp as an IPA, fresh as a Hefeweizen, and satisfying as a stout? Kathryn Hawkins explains how to engage your audience and build relationships, with tips borrowed from microbreweries. 

2. How to Win Over New Kinds of Readers

Is your content appealing to rats, cats, monkeys and dogs? Sonia Simone explores four different types of content consumers, and how you can satisfy the whole petting zoo.

3. Writing for B2B Audiences: Five Ways to Revive Your Storytelling

The right kind of B2B content doesn’t just engage an audience; it moves them to action. These tips from Kathleen Lucente can help your content make a bigger impact.

4. How to Build Links in 2019

SEO is always a moving target. Link building in particular has constantly changing best practices, aimed at ethically building links without going afoul of search engine algorithms. Olga Smirnova walks you through the current state of the art. This piece was published a few months ago but saw a spike in social shares over the past week or so.

5. 8 Easy B2B Writing Tips to Create Highly Engaging Assets

B2B content needs to be bolder, more dynamic, and more emotionally compelling to earn attention from distracted audiences. Take your content to the next level with these tips from Melissa Randall.

6. Be Better at B2B: How to Improve B2B Marketing on LinkedIn

We may be slightly biased in thinking that LinkedIn is the perfect place for B2B marketing. So don’t take our word for it: Ricky van der Walt shares his experience with the platform, and offers tips for achieving even better results.

7. Holy Grail SEO: High Volume, Low Competition Keywords

The mythical unicorns of SEO are those popular keywords you can earn with minimal effort. This post from Daniel Lofaso gets into tactical detail on how to identify and capture these prizes.

8. A Crash Course in ABM-Powered Content Marketing

Account-based marketing at scale is a powerful way for B2B marketers to get in front of their most valuable prospects. Jodi Harris offers an overview for folks who are just getting started.

9. Hitting Your Target: Why ABM and Influencers Are the Perfect Match

If you have advanced beyond the ABM crash course, let Nick Nelson explain why (and how) adding influencers can boost your effectiveness.

10. How Employee Engagement Drives Marketing ROI

Your employees are likely one of the largest untapped marketing resources your organization has. Check out Michael Brenner’s advice on employee engagement, then complete the picture with our new Ultimate Guide to Transforming Your Employees into Brand Advocates.

Get the expert advice you need to continually improve your B2B Marketing: Subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.

Photo: TeroVesalainen

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Editor's Note: This guest post was contributed by Greg Mischio, the Owner and Strategic Director of Winbound, a manufacturing marketing agency.

Do you lay awake at night, worrying about your marketing?

Do you hear that little voice in your head questioning what you know about marketing -- heck, questioning what you know about anything at all?

According to Jonathan Fields, uncertainty is actually a good thing -- if you don’t feel it, your marketing efforts aren’t likely to succeed.

In his book, “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance,” he explains uncertainty’s important role, and explains how you can turn those sleepless nights into bottom-line success.

Why doing the “known” can be counter-productive

The business world has little tolerance for uncertainty.  

Business leaders want concrete facts. That want data that proves your point. They want to know something you’re proposing is going to work.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients ignore an idea for a new marketing angle in favor of copying what their competitor is doing. 

That mentality, Fields notes, is particularly dangerous. “The more certain you are of the answer or the outcome in advance, the more likely it is to have been done already -- to be derivative -- and the less anyone will care, including you.  Anything certain has already been done.”

As business leaders, we all know that you need to differentiate yourself from the competition.  But in our drive to eliminate uncertainty, we do what’s already been done. Hello, woodwork. I’m here to blend right in.

Why does uncertainty make us feel rotten?

I’ve just given you a completely rational explanation of why the quest for complete certainty can be counter-productive. So why don’t we don’t we stand up in the face of the uncertainty bully?

Because of its two ice-cold sidekicks:

  • Risk of loss
  • Exposure to judgement

These are very real threats to your career. Risk of loss equals real, bottom line dollars. Make the wrong call on an overall marketing campaign, and you put your company and your job on the line.

And as powerful as that might be, I sometimes feel the exposure to judgement is worse. How people will judge you, the damage to your reputation -- it all can give the most brazen marketer pause. 

“Uncertainty causes pain,” Fields writes. “With rare exceptions we experience living in the question as suffering, anxiety and fear. Sadly, that is our natural state.”

Everyone deals with it...sort of

I can sort most marketers I’ve known into two buckets:

  1. Those on the cutting-edge, pushing the entire industry forward.
  2. Those who avoid the cutting edge at all costs. They are holed up in lifer jobs, focused only on avoiding risk of loss and exposure to judgement. 

Sure, most of us are likely a mix of the two. Maybe, like me, you’ve been in both buckets at different points in your career. As an agency owner, I owe it to myself to really push the envelope and stay firmly rooted in the first camp. 

But that results in a hell of a lot of uncertainty. Plenty of wake-ups at 3 a.m., staring at the digital clock and going over everything. Our people. Our approach. Our execution.  

Would I be happier in role #2? I doubt it. I’ve held those types of jobs (briefly) in my career.  You’re just as likely to wake up at 3 a.m. with those gigs, especially if there is a threat of layoff or reorg.

And if you’re in role #2, it’s only a matter of time before the efficiency experts find you and eliminate your spot if they can’t easily quantify how you’re making the company money.

How to lean in to uncertainty

So how do those #1s do it? Are they superhuman? Nah, Fields says. It’s much more about Nurture than Nature. 

“There is a series of situational changes, personal practices, and shifts in mind-set that radically alter the way many of these people experience the same open-ended circumstances that shut most others down,” Fields says. 

What would that include? I strongly encourage you to read his book to really give the solutions the consideration they warrant, but here are a few in a nutshell. 

Find your certainty anchors: Fields describes these as experiences that later serve as your psychological bedrock. They can occur naturally or you can build them into your life.  

Tony Schwartz, who wrote the book “Be Excellent at Anything,” structured his day into three 90-minute writing bursts, which allowed him to finish his book in three months.   

For me, my certainty anchor is writing the first thing in the morning. It’s comforting to know I’ve set aside time to ensure the work gets done. And I love to write, so I know it will be time to do the work I love the most.

Build your hive: If you’re going to create something new, how you handle judgement and criticism will be critical. But handling feedback well is essential if you’re going to produce something great.

Fields recommends creating a “judgement-leveling creation hive,” which can be a group of engaged “mentors, champions and heroes.”

  • Mentors are great, but they seldom have the time to really help you through the tough times. I find a business coach can act as a true mentor and help you work through the business brambles. I rely heavily on Kyle Werych of Cultivate Advisors.
  • Heroes are probably more valuable. These are individuals who can inspire us by example without having to provide individual feedback and support. As an agency owner, three of my heroes include and Gini Dietrich, Andy Crestodina and Robbie Richards.
  • Champions are “people who will be there with you, no matter what happens, especially ones who will feel the pain equally, both emotionally and financially, if you fail.” My wife Sharon is my biggest champion, and I owe so much of what we’ve accomplished at Winbound to her support, understanding, and endless love. 

Socialize creation: I’ve written a couple fiction books outside of my professional writing. These involved a couple big rewrites, in which I felt like something was off and needed wholesale changes. 

Those were excruciating not just because of the work, but because I wasn’t entirely sure I was on the right path.

Fields encourages you to avoid the big rewrite and instead blend feedback-driven technologies into your process. “You can rapid-prototype, release, gather feedback, re-prototype and re-release incredibly quickly and with smaller and smaller changes.”

Train your brain: In the age of multi-tasking, Fields believes you really need Attentional Training, which is the art of focused awareness, and exercise. He reviews the body of research that supports:

A growth mind-set that “values work over genetics as the heart of excellence and fundamentally alters the way you experience feedback, criticism and judgement.”

Process simulation in which you focus on the process over the outcome, leading to a higher likelihood of daily action.

Owning the storyline and seeing the forest for the trees

One of the most enlightening chapters was “owning the storyline.” We’re often paralyzed by the worst-case scenario: What happens if I lose everything?  

That’s a good question, and Fields encourages you to explore. What would actually happen if you did lose everything? How would you recover? If you think through the scenario, the “going-to-zero” story doesn’t seem quite so frightening.  

I also like how Fields encourages you to see the forest for the trees by fully understanding your relationship to your endeavor. Is your business a true calling or a current interest? Knowing the difference will allow you to set a series of circuit breakers to ensure your devotion to the cause doesn’t take you to the point of no return.

Of this much I’m certain

We all deal with uncertainty, whether in business or in our personal lives. That’s life. No matter how much we strive for certainty, we know we’re at the mercy of the universe. It’s an intergalactic dice roll, folks.

And despite all the content written on how to do marketing and business, perhaps the most critical skill is coping with how uncertainty affects your mindset and ultimately your performance.  

Yet we are expected to handle uncertainty with little training or tools. Kudos to Jonathan Fields for creating a book that can help you fill that gap.

To keep pace with the latest thinking in marketing, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Blog.

Photo: Veronique Debord-Lazaro

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Trends come and go. Forward-looking marketers want to identify the tactics and approaches that are here to stay. 

Strategist and consultant Shane Barker is convinced that influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere — not because he’s bought into the hype, but because he has experienced the power of influence first-hand, time and again. 

“Even if the influencer marketing approaches we see today eventually become obsolete, the concept of marketing through an influential figure will essentially remain the same,” Barker says. “That’s because it’s human nature to look up to an authority figure and take their advice when making decisions.”

When we chatted with him for our Insight Track series, the CEO of Shane Barker Consulting shared the stories that shaped his career and led him to fully embrace influencer marketing. The running aficionado also explained why marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and how up-and-coming brands can position themselves for the long run.

Read on to learn more, and find out if you can beat Barker’s fastest mile time.

Shane Barker Serves Up the Insight Scoop on Influence You’re an authority in the realm of influencer marketing. What’s one of the biggest misconceptions you tend to encounter about the subject today?

Like a lot of non-traditional marketing approaches, influencer marketing has encountered a fair share of skepticism, typically resulting from misconceptions.

One of the biggest misconceptions about influencer marketing is that it’s just a temporary hype and that it’s not sustainable. I don’t agree with this because influencer marketing, I have found, is highly versatile. You can choose from a bunch of approaches and adapt them based on what works for you, your campaign, and your industry.

Another misconception is that influencer marketing isn’t measurable, and that’s absolutely untrue. As long as you set clear goals and define specific performance metrics, you can measure the impact of your influencer marketing campaign.

Plus, we now have comprehensive influencer marketing platforms like Grin, NeoReach, and TapInfluence that offer accurate performance-tracking tools for your campaigns. These have made it even easier for brands and marketers to measure how well their influencer marketing programs are performing.

What made you realize that influencer marketing is such a critical cornerstone of modern marketing, and something you wanted to build expertise and specialization around?

Working with my client Zoe Rodriguez changed everything for me and made me realize the true impact of influencer marketing. Zoe is a health and fitness blogger. She is also the CEO of ZBody Fitness, Inc. She came to me because she wanted to drive more sales for her products and increase her brand’s online presence at the same time.

Around this time, influencer marketing was still at its nascent stage. There were influencers, but brands weren’t really making use of their influence like they are today. So it was extremely difficult to find and filter influencers—because there weren’t any influencer discovery tools available.

But we eventually managed to launch a campaign with a few niche Instagram influencers who featured Zoe in their posts. They tried out her fitness programs and posted before and after pictures of their transformation. We also did a bunch of design improvements on her site and launched email drip campaigns to align with this campaign. The results were impressive.

With a $300,000 investment, Zoe managed to generate a $1.6 million increase in sales. Through the influencer marketing initiatives alone, we saw a 5x lift in ROI.

Seeing firsthand how people trust and look up to these influential figures made me realize how much of an impact influencers can have in modern marketing. That was the turning point for me, and when I decided to start focusing on influencer marketing.

Given your involvement with the startup scene, are there marketing methods and approaches that strike you as being particularly effective for smaller, up-and-coming businesses?

For startups, the biggest challenge is to reach a relevant audience and convince them to spend money on their products. This means they need to get the word out as much as possible through trustworthy sources. That’s why I believe influencer marketing is one of the most effective approaches that smaller, up-and-coming businesses should try out.

Look at Daniel Wellington, for example. No one had heard of them, until influencers started posting photos of their watches on Instagram. Now the founder has a net worth of more than $1 billion and it hasn’t even been a decade since they started out.

Find a way to have influencers review your product and vouch for it—whether it’s through blog posts, video reviews, or even social media posts. The influencers don’t necessarily have to be individuals. You can also consider reputable review sites as influencers.

Content marketing is another approach that I would recommend for startups. Produce quality content that people will like, trust, and share. It doesn’t necessarily have to promote your product. At such an early stage, it’s better if you start building your authority as an expert in the niche before you can start promoting your products and services.

As an avid runner, can you draw any parallels between your passions for running and marketing?

So, running may seem easy. You just run, right? But there’s a lot more to it than just running. It requires taking a calculated approach because I have to ensure that my energy can last me the whole journey. When I run, I don’t focus on how fast I can go—but rather, how far I can go. I have to set my mind on maintaining a pace that’s fast enough, but won’t tire me out after just a few miles.

A lot of this concept can be applied to marketing as well. I’ve seen campaigns that start out at a super fast pace and shortly run out of fuel—or funds, rather. So, the campaigns can never really have the desired impact the company had anticipated.

I like to take a calculated approach and consider all the available funds and resources, as well every aspect of the client’s goals and industry landscapes. With all this in mind, I help create campaigns that yield results for sustainable growth and long-term impact. What matters is how far I can help them go.

What’s your best mile time? 

In high school, I ran a 5:17 mile and almost died from an asthma attack.

As you look back, what would you point to as the most transformative experience in your marketing career?

My experience working with Zoe, which I mentioned earlier, was easily the most transformative. Not only did I help her achieve a 7-figure sales increase, I also discovered a new marketing niche for myself. 

Focusing on influencer marketing has yielded a lot of growth for my consultancy. But most importantly, it has helped me build valuable relationships with great people.

From your view, which effective marketing tactic is most overlooked or underutilized today?

I think employee advocacy is highly overlooked and underutilized in marketing today, both in the B2B and B2C landscapes. Businesses focus too much on sales and profits, that they sometimes lose sight of the people who make it all happen behind the scenes: their employees.

Yet, if the people working for you are vouching for your products or services within their circles, or even in front of your target audience, it could make all the difference in building trust. Consumers trust employee voices, because who else knows your company better than your employees?

Employee advocacy also shows the human side of your brand. And in a society that values empathy and the humane treatment of workers, a company that values its employees is bound to win people’s hearts. Plus, it’s cheap. You won’t have to invest a lot of funds in employee advocacy as long as you put in a genuine effort to connect with your employees.

What do you like best about living in Sacramento? How would you describe its culture and community?

I love Sacramento. It’s a great hub city. We’re an hour and a half from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Ocean. The culture and community have both grown tremendously over the last eight years due to the rich craft beer scene and the farm-to-fork movement. 

Who’s an up-and-coming marketer to watch, and why?

The first person who comes to mind is Adam Enfroy. I wouldn’t really say he’s up-and-coming, because he’s been around the block for more than a decade, and he’s the Manager of Affiliate Partnerships with BigCommerce. But, he’s recently launched his journey as a solopreneur and specializes in writing, content marketing, and affiliate marketing.

He uses his extensive knowledge in content and affiliate marketing to write super intriguing blog posts and guest posts. Although he only launched his blog in late December, he has managed to grow his domain authority to 44 and increase his organic traffic by 700%. So, I really think he’s off to a great start and we can expect to see him make a name as a marketing entrepreneur within the year.

What is a recent marketing campaign that’s caught your attention?

The first one I can think of is from the UK, and was launched in November of last year. KFC UK got a tweet from someone telling them that no one liked their fries. This was in early 2018. Instead of taking offense or ignoring the Twitter user, they turned the situation into a new marketing opportunity.

KFC UK took the time to come up with a solution, and by the end of the year they’d developed a new fry recipe. They launched an ad campaign in November showcasing the negative tweet and added one simple phrase: New fries coming soon. This turned out to be a lesson in creative marketing and an excellent example of social listening in action.

Cross the Finish Line with B2B Influencer Marketing

Throughout his career, Barker has helped countless individuals and organizations strengthen their brands through influencer marketing. By tapping into the trust and credibility inherent to respected and relevant experts, Barker has seen for himself the increased ROI and brand awareness this approach can bring.

For more influential guidance from top industry experts, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing blog.

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You’ve shared with us that one of your biggest marketing challenges is ensuring your campaigns can meet increasingly complex business goals. Whether you’re a new start-up trying to increase share-of-voice or an established B2B player looking for leads, you need solutions that are flexible and can adapt to your unique objectives. 

Today, we’re excited to announce 3 new objectives -- brand awareness, website conversions and job applicants -- which are the latest additions to our redesigned Campaign Manager, which we first introduced in October as a public beta. These new offerings are designed to continue to make it easier to improve key results and better align with your campaign objectives. Early results show it’s working, we’ve seen a 67% lift in customer satisfaction compared to our legacy Campaign Manager experience.

A full funnel experience to help you achieve more of your goals

Our latest version of Campaign Manager is the next step in our effort to give you the tools you need to create campaigns and measure their impact. These new objectives include:

  • Brand awareness: You can now increase share-of-voice for your product or services through top of funnel campaigns that charge by impressions (e.g. cost per thousand or CPM).  
  • Website conversions: We’ve built a tighter integration with our conversion tracking tool so you can create campaigns that are optimized for specific actions on your website, like purchases, downloads or event registrations.
  • Job applicants: LinkedIn Talent Solutions customers who are trying to drive applications on LinkedIn or their own site, can now create ads using Campaign Manager.  
“Objective-based Buying generated 300% more sign ups than standard bidding over an equivalent amount of time. Objective-based Buying generated more conversions than any other similar time period I compared it to, all the way back to 2015.” - AJ Wilcox, B2Linked
Click pricing optimized to your campaign objectives

With the improved Campaign Manager, we're also optimizing our click pricing to align with your objective. If you select website visits as your objective, you will only be charged for clicks that go to your landing page. For social engagement campaigns, pricing will be optimized to include all social actions (likes, comments, shares, etc.).

You can find out more on objective-based advertising in our help center. Log in to Campaign Manager today to discover the new experience.

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There is an ever-increasing pressure on marketers to deliver leads and ROI for a business. But with the number of tools and automation available to source these leads, how can marketers ensure these leads are effective and provide positive value to the business?

More Than 500 Quality Leads in 3 Months

Australia-based marketing automation company, Autopilot, sought to reach a diverse audience ranging from startups to small-and-medium sized businesses with a high growth potential. With plans to grow globally, they had to act smart to deploy their marketing budget in a cost-effective manner.

“LinkedIn is a great marketing partner,” shares Javier Dominguez, marketing manager for Autopilot. “Beyond lead generation forms— which are performing well –there’s also a variety of content formats that we can choose from to effectively engage each audience segment.”

Delivering attention grabbing carousel and video ads with a compelling content offer, Autopilot utilized LinkedIn’s lead generation forms leveraging the platform’s precise targeting capabilities and accurate first-party data. Driving customers directly to a LinkedIn lead generation form, Autopilot built a pipeline of marketing qualified leads over three months in key markets: Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Providing a high value content offering to a well-defined audience enabled Autopilot to exceed industry benchmarks. They obtained 545 marketing qualified leads with an average cost per lead 4x lower than targeted.

Building Out a Full Funnel Approach

With the on-going debate around Brand vs. Demand, marketers can use a full product suite on the platform to drive long-term brand awareness as well as execute more short-term focused goals.

Autopilot showcases the power of an objective-based paid campaign, alongside amplifying LinkedIn’s organic features, leveraging the platform through their full marketing funnel. With real-time reporting in LinkedIn Campaign Manager, it makes it much easier for marketers to demonstrate the real value of their marketing activity, the secret sauce to success.

Read the full Autopilot case study. 

To keep pace with today's marketing success stories, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Blog

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