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An all-out content arms race began on February 01, 2013.

That was the day Netflix launched a bold new series called House of Cards. It was a big-budget risk that put the story and the writing front and center. Netflix had one goal — create a serialized show that was so un-missable that people would have to subscribe to the streaming service.

The channel was transforming from a curator of content to a creator of content with its first original series.

It worked — Netflix attracted more than a million new subscribers. And it also began a content arms race that changed the industry … and may destroy the company.

There’s a big lesson here for you and your content, too.

Gearing up for a content arms race

This news item caught my eye last week …

As Disney, AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Apple prepare to enter a crowded streaming market dominated by Netflix, HBO and Hulu, they are seeking to stand out with eye-catching shows that cost as much as $15 million an episode to accommodate massive casts, exotic filming locations and copious special effects.

To provide some context, an average episode of Game of Thrones cost $10 million. I’m wondering what these producers could possibly stuff into these new shows that would make them cost $15 million per episode, but that’s a story for another day.

Netflix created something remarkable to stand out. New competitors followed suit, trying to out-remarkable Netflix. And so the content arms race began.

There is a lesson here other than television viewing is about to get amazing. That lesson is about content competition.

Content shock before our eyes

What’s happening in this streaming content space? The economics are rather simple:

  1. As the TV space becomes more crowded with streaming options, studios have to find bold new ways to compete for viewers who will pay to subscribe to the channel.
  2. Last year, it cost $10 million per episode to be a top show. Next year, it will be $15 million per show, apparently. And there is no option but for that number to go up year after year.
  3. As the cost of competition goes up, some companies are going to drop out. The biggest companies with the deepest pockets will survive.

That is an example of Content Shock happening right before our eyes. As a niche becomes filled with content, the economics of content and content marketing change.

The irony is not lost on me that House of Cards literally created a house of cards.

The company that started the arms race, Netflix, may be one of the first companies that fails since it has a much smaller content war chest than companies like Disney and Apple.

A strategic view

This lesson is not just about big television studios. It’s also for you and the content you produce.

In this case, the studio strategy is clear — create content so great that it forces the lesser competitors out. In essence, the strategy is to create Content Shock for competitors and win.

This is an absolutely essential lesson. The first step in any content marketing strategy is not to create content (this is what 95% of you are doing by the way!)

The first step is to assess the information density in your niche and figure out where it is possible to maneuver and compete. What are your strategic options?

What does this content arms race mean to you?

When I do a strategy analysis for my customers, this is almost always the problem I find — The client is creating random acts of content with no perspective on where they fit in the content eco-system. They have no strategic view of how they will use content to actually accomplish any rational business objective.

There is so much hype in the content marketing world. We’re at a point I where many companies are creating content because they’re afraid not to. But that’s not sustainable.

It would be like making a decision right now to enter the streaming TV business without looking at the state of the industry. That would be foolhardy because IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK!

How do you maneuver?

The most important word in marketing is “maneuver.” Marketing strategy is about assessing the state of your industry and finding a niche you can own and dominate.

Even in the most crowded spaces, there are creative ways to maneuver.

Hollywood exec Jeffery Katzenberg just started a new streaming content service called Quibi. In a sense he is going up against Netflix, HBO and Disney. Is he insane?

No. He’s maneuvering in an un-saturated niche — high-quality short-form content with big-name actors and directors. Nothing like that currently exists. If he scales quickly and rapidly dominates the niche, he’ll create content shock for competitors by owning the space and raising the entry barriers.

That’s one of the ways that you win with content, too.

Find some angle that does not currently exist. Rapidly dominate the niche to make it hard on competitors. Create content shock for your competition.

Used wisely, Content Shock is your friend.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Unsplash.com

The post A content arms race started on February 01, 2013. A case study. appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Mark Schaefer

I recently had the opportunity to interview Glenn Gainor, president of Sony Pictures Innovation Studios, for a special episode of the long-running podcast series I do for Dell called Luminaries. He made an interesting point about the future of content and creativity.

He said that in the past, the most dreaded phrase in the creative process was “what if?”

Asking “what if” could grind a creative process to a halt, derail a deadline, and take the air out of the room. Working within the unrelenting time constraints of a movie schedule, there just was not much room left for exploring new creative paths in the middle of production.

The age of “what if”

He told me that the greatest gift of technology — and particularly artificial intelligence — is the ability to explore “what if” at any place and any time. Specifically, he was telling me about technology that can digitize an entire movie set, allowing a director to play with different ideas even if that set doesn’t exist any more in the real world.

While this technology seems out of reach of the lone content creator, you can look around and see how tech has facilitated almost every aspect of the what we do in the creative process.

When the web started, the only content option accessible to many businesses was blogging. It still took a lot of specialized and expensive equipment to make a video, infographic, or podcast.

Today, infinite creative expressions are available in the palm of your hand. For free.

Thinking this through, the age of “what if” is on its way for everybody.

AI will free our time and free our minds.

More complex and difficult processes will be streamlined and made accessible for all — even the tech only used by movie studios today. We’ll all be able to indulge our “what if” moments!

The creative breakthrough

Naturally, many of the tech discussions today focus on privacy abuses, fake news, and ethical implications of progress. But we are also on the cusp of an exciting creative revolution.

“Technological advancements will allow us to tell any story,” Glenn said.  “It is the realization of the creative dream. If we can imagine it, we can do it.”

Eventually, we all will!

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post The glorious potential of “what if” appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Mark Schaefer

The world of content marketing tends to get over-complicated sometimes. I was explaining it to a friend the other day and broke the whole industry down into two simple strategies. Perhaps you haven’t heard content marketing described this way before so I thought I would share it with you today, content marketing simplified.

You have two choices

At the very highest level, there are just two primary ways to build traction for your site through content marketing.

1. Focus on SEO

By providing signals to Google that your site is the home to some topical expertise, you might attract new organic web traffic over time. This is a difficult strategy that requires SEO discipline, quantities of content, and a sustained effort against fierce keyword competition.

An example of this would be the work being produced by huge industry sites like Hubspot or Social Media Examiner. These organizations have pumped out so much relevant, optimized content over years it would be difficult to unseat them in the search results on their topical areas. What would it take for a small firm to win a search war on the term “Facebook advertising?” Yikes. Forget it!

2. Focus on authority

By ignoring Google and writing compelling content that establishes a voice of authority, you can attract an engaged, relevant audience independent of search considerations. In essence, you establish a unique voice that has no competition.

An example of this would be Ann Handley. She puts out a weekly newsletter that is smart, insightful, and sparkling with unique personality. Avinash Kaushik publishes just once a month, but his insights on digital strategy are so comprehensive that it is unmissable. Both content creators reached celebrity status in their industries by a focus on their unique perspectives instead of SEO.

The distinguishing feature of this strategy is providing insight instead of just information. You don’t have to be a genius to become an authority, but you do need to consistently provide a unique perspective.

A hybrid

I probably do a little of both these things.

My main goal for every single post is to provide an interesting insight I will make you think every time you open up one of my posts, or I’ll stop. So the emphasis is definitely on thought leadership.

But I’m also focused on a topical area. At the top of my blog it says “Marketing. Strategy. Humanity.” It’s been there for 10 years. That’s my passion — exploring the intersection between tech and business and people. I want to stay in that “lane” or I’ll lose my audience.

And since I’m in a lane producing content on one theme every week over many years, I’ll probably earn some Google attention along the way in addition to establishing a voice of authority.

Content marketing simplified

My main point is, before you start blogging, or vlogging, or Instagramming your way to fame, step back and consider the competitive landscape, your goals, and the under-served needs of your customers.

The starting point for any content marketing strategy is a clear-eyed analysis of the state of content saturation in your niche. If you’re in a mature industry with an overwhelming amount of content, you’re facing the SEO battle of your life, for example. Good to know that going in.

Figure out at the start — do you need to focus on SEO, establishing authority, or maybe a little of both?

If you’re just starting out on a content marketing journey, I recommend diving into my book The Content Code, which goes into these key ideas in great detail. It even provides guidance on how to maneuver if you find yourself in a very crowded content niche!

Content Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require an accurate strategy based on the realistic competitive situation in your industry. In any event, a strategy based on either SEO or authority takes time, patience,  and perseverance.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Unsplash.com

The post Content marketing simplified appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Fellow content creators and marketers, whether you like it or not, the European Union is once again going to change the way you work online. Remember last year’s GDPR law that flooded your inbox with companies updating their terms of services?

Well, another heavy regulation is looming on your digital horizon.
(Insert sarcastic happy face here)

The European Council has voted for a new copyright law that limits how copyrighted content is shared on online platforms.

As of now, companies are not responsible if their users violate copyright laws.

So if you post copyrighted material, let’s say a devastating YouTube review of a blockbuster movie where you feature snippets of the movie, the company AKA the copyright holder can ask the platform to take it down. It’s simple and no one has to pay a fee.

But when the new law goes live, tech companies will be held responsible and fined for allowing to upload copyright-infringing material.
Before you think it wouldn’t impact you, please read on. Because it does.

I’ll save you all the bureaucratic details. You can read all 64 pages of the EU Copyright Directive here. (Tell me if you make it past the first five pages, because I didn’t.)

Let me just feature the two most problematic articles of the regulation which may impact your content marketing strategy:

Article 13, the “meme ban”

Profit-oriented platforms (hint: Every social media platform you use) have to delete any user-generated content that violates copyright laws. If you upload a YouTube video reviewing a Disney flick showing footage, it will be deleted. Same for every image, text and/or video you upload but don’t hold the copyright.

This could mean the companies will have to install upload filters that check every single piece of content you EVER upload.

Since even the most niche social network and obscure forum will have to abide, Article 13 could devastate small businesses who don’t have the means to create sophisticated upload filters.

This article is also called the “meme ban” since memes mostly use copyrighted material and are likely to face getting deleted the second you upload them on Twitter or Facebook.

The problem? The inaccuracy of these filters and algorithms is well-known. The German Facebook last year deleted the profile and posts of a German Jew sharing his experiences with anti-Semitism. Apparently, Facebook’s ‘hate speech’ filters couldn’t differentiate between a victim of anti-Semitism and the actual anti-semitic perpetrator.

Onto the next culprit.

Article 11 AKA the link tax

If content excerpts are featured from a publisher, for example on Google news or news aggregation sites, you have to obtain a license from that publisher. This also means you can’t post quotes or snippets on forums anymore UNLESS you obtain the appropriate license.

The idea here is that content creators and publishers ought to get paid whenever excerpts of their work get published on the web. It sounds almost fair, except the lawmakers didn’t address the vagueness of the rules.

What constitutes an excerpt? If I link to Mark Schaefer’s blog using one of his headlines, will I have to obtain a license from him to do so? It’s his text that I feature but don’t pay for.

If you sell a self-published book on your page and feature journalists praising it, will you need to get a license from them? What if you include reviews from commercial sites or business owners?

Imagine getting a license for every piece of content you feature but don’t own.

It’s the bureaucratic gift that keeps on giving.

Now you might say, “Who cares. I’m not an EU citizen and I don’t live in Europe. Touché.”

No touché for you, amigo.

As it’s the case with the General Data Protection Regulation enforced in 2018, the new law will apply to any online user, regardless of their nationality or where they live.

Since the EU is still the biggest economic block on the planet, its influence shapes the MO of big tech companies from the US. The new digital laws will apply to online marketers in Singapore and content creators from Wyoming. There’s no escape.

What can you do? If you’re not an EU citizen, you can’t do anything. Ugh. It sucks, I know.
As a German living in the EU, I’m going to address my local politicians and see how far I can get.

EU copyright law – Conclusion

I wish I could give you a more actionable plan but it’s important to be informed about web issues that affect you.

Are you worried about the new EU content regulations? If not, why?

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

The post What content creators need to know NOW about the controversial EU copyright law appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Mark Schaefer

I recently attended a SXSW session reviewing the state of the art of using AI for complex storytelling — specifically, movie scripts.

I saw an example of a script written for a Hobbit-style movie and it was … remarkable. Seriously.

Stories are patterns, and computer algorithms excel at patterns. And while writing bots may not have a human soul, they can process data from a hundred years of movies and detect what makes a box office smash. Integrating user data on emotional responses can teach AI to create peak emotional experiences in a script.

Bottom line, it can be done. And for less complex types of content — like blog posts — AI is at the door.

AI for storytellers

The panel featured Yves Bergquist, Director of AI & Neuroscience in Media at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, an AI think tank funded by three movie studios.

“Should creatives be afraid of this?” he asked. “Absolutely.”

“Our goal and hope is to keep humans involved in the creative process.”

That statement sent a chill down my spine.

Bergquist emphasized that at this time, the movie studios have zero interest in bot-written scripts for two reasons:

  1. There are bigger problems like asset tracking that can deploy AI.
  2. Studio leaders are not ready to make the psychological leap required to eliminate the traditional human screenwriters.

“Technology is moving beyond many people’s ability to accept it. They’re not yet ready to remove humans,” he said.

But it will happen.

“I believe two things,” he said. “First, Hollywood and Silicon Valley are ultimately in the same business: producing algorithms. Second, to survive and thrive, the media and entertainment industry needs to start thinking algorithmically about stories.”

Implications for corporate content

Shouldn’t smart companies begin to view content the same way: algorithmic stories?

Yes and no.

There are different content strategies that require different kinds of content. If you are looking to only produce boatloads of Google-sufficient posts to influence SEO, you will probably be employing bots very soon. This commodity-like content will push Content Shock into a new orbit.

But if you’re looking to establish thought leadership, you can probably have an AI assist, but a human will have to be involved at some level … at least to approve it!

Which leads us to …

AI and the personal brand

Personally, I’m not worried about being replaced by AI.

I have an audience who loves me because of me. They’re patient with my typos, gracious when I’m wrong, cheering when I’m right, and supportive through my ups and downs.

They love me because I’ve steadfastly built an effective and meaningful presence with my audience over ten years. There is emotion there. My audience isn’t going to hire a bot to give a speech or conduct a corporate marketing workshop — they’re going to hire me because I’ve done the work to build their trust.

In other words, I’ve established an effective personal brand.

It’s strange to me that some people still resist this notion of “personal brand” when it is the lone salvation for creatives in the emerging bot world. A personal brand is what you’re known for (as I describe in the aptly-named book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age).

That emotional connection with an actionable audience is the only strategy you have left to remain relevant in the coming years. Get going now before it’s too late.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

The post AI for storytellers and creators: The good, the bad, and the ugly appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Mark Schaefer

There’s no more relevant or interesting topic these days than the moving target of monetization in the online world. The model has changed drastically over the years but Dana Malstaff has found a method to do it right.

Dana is the leader of a 37,000-member BossMom Facebook Group that has provided a steady and growing income to her family. She does it by protecting her group members, by making them feel like they are accepted and they belong — never by advertising or selling directly.

Dana has discovered how to monetize a Facebook Group in a way that has created a thriving little empire that includes a conference, consulting services, and her latest book Climb Your Own Ladder.

Dana’s approach is an excellent example of the human-centered marketing I propose in Marketing Rebellion and the source of a rich conversation between myself and Brooke Sellas on the latest episode of The Marketing Companion.

And then, a rant!

On the new Marketing Companion show I also go on a rant. Social media marketing has become a legion of followers who flock to the latest trend until they ruin it, in this case video storytelling.

There are 65 years of content uploaded on to YouTube every day. So why exactly are you posting more videos? Don’t follow the crowd because a guru tells you to do it. Great marketing isn’t about conformity, it’s about non-conformity. You’ll want to pay attention to this section of the show.

The new episode also explores the new surveillance economy and how social media might be used to track welfare fraud.

And finally, while most people show courage in their lives by coming out of the closet, we have some fun with Brooke as she goes into one.

There’s lots of fun and insight ahead on the 150th episode of The Marketing Companion:

Click on this link to listen to Episode 150

Other ways to enjoy our podcast

Please support our extraordinary sponsors. Our content is free because of their generosity.

Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here: fullmontyshow.com.

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By Mark Schaefer

We desperately want to be heard.

If you’re creating a brand, trying to make change in the world, or simply creating content on Snapchat, You. Just. Want. To. Be. Heard.

To be heard, you need an audience, and an audience rewards authenticity … and it can also take it away.

Let me explain what I mean …

Content creates us

At the recent SXSW festival, I attended a fascinating panel that featured a young writer named Diego Perez. As Yung Pueblo on Instagram, Diego drops tiny bits of wisdom that have made him a minor New Age guru:

Honestly, I don’t understand a lot of his deep thoughts … but I’m not his target audience and enough people love him to make him an Instagram star.

During his presentation, he explained his tangled career that involved coming to America as an immigrant, forays into philosophy and psychology, and eventually his success with self-help journalism.

“I never thought about becoming a writer,” he said. “But now I have an audience who is rewarding me for my writing … so I’m a writer.”

His first book is coming out soon.

This is great example of the principle I’ve described here on the blog and in my books — We create content, but content also creates us. As we step out and explore the world with our content, we’re rewarded by an audience that helps define and optimize our online persona.

Has Diego’s audience helped forge his transformation from student to Instagram philosopher?

We want to be heard. And if you’re humble enough and patient enough, the audience will tell you how to reach them.

The numbers talk

Diego’s growing audience helped create a poet-guru identity that has launched minor fame. Wisely, he has responded to their feedback to become the rocket-fueled success he is today.

But he made an interesting comment in his presentation. He talked about taking an extended break from social media to meditate and re-energize but the absence caused a noticeable drop in his user growth. He lamented that he wold have to re-consider that sort of thing in the future.

So … he learned that taking breaks from his fans hurts his career. He wants to keep the train rolling.

Understandable. For an aspiring writer and influencer, audience growth and engagement is paramount.

But what he was also saying is that he can no longer be authentic. He can’t do what he wants to do, or truly be who he wants to be. If he evolves and changes away from the persona his audience loves, he risks losing them.

In other words, building and maintaining his audience strains his authenticity.

Isn’t that a strange enigma?

Your audience is attracted to you because of your authenticity.

But over time, you risk becoming less authentic as you conform to the personality your audience expects. But we all change over time. Will Diego’s audience-reliance prevent him from being the person he is destined to be?

Trading audience for authenticity

This is not just about Diego of course. It is about all of us building a personal brand on the web.

Perhaps a few web personalities have been able to remain 100 percent true to themselves but I doubt there are many. If you look at their personal trajectory, they become more of whatever sells their stuff.

Influencer Darwinism.

I am not immune to this either.

One of my friends described me as the Mr. Rogers of Marketing. Perhaps this is true. Each day, I pull on my sweater, smile sweetly, and sing you a little song here on the blog. I am a nice guy — I can’t fake that — but I also know that if I went on a profanity-filled rant I would be off brand. I am mindful about how I show up on the web. I want to set a good example.

(PS I have never given somebody the finger in my life. Maybe I am more Mr. Rogers than Mr. Rogers.)

However, I have made one major concession in favor of authenticity and away from the needs of my audience.

The most popular posts on this site are lists and “how-to” articles. Practical tips and tricks. If I offered nothing but tips and tricks I could triple the traffic to my site.

But these posts bore me out of my mind. It is not authentic to who I am, or who I am becoming. I’m interested in thinking through what’s new, what’s next, and how it impacts us all. That is my professional fuel.

I know these more insightful and “futurist” posts that I like to write have cut my audience potential … but I’ve attracted the RIGHT AUDIENCE, and that’s very cool. I will gladly make that trade-off to assure my personal growth.

So.

Thanks for being here. We are perfect together.

Thanks for allowing me to be myself (pretty much)!

And … won’t you be my neighbor?

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

The post Audience or authenticity? Why building an audience strains your soul appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Andrea Bowler, {grow} Community Member

Can one book change your life?

Today, I’ll explain how Mark Schaefer’s book Marketing Rebellion turned around my business in one day.

A true story.

The confused rebel

Over the last couple of years my personal life has changed dramatically. But I think my personal marketing rebellion really started before my big life change.

I had become disillusioned with the constant bombardment of marketing — what I thought I should be doing as a business owner. There was a sense that I was constantly failing because I hadn’t produced many sales funnels, lead generators, and automated everything. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

I’m not saying these things aren’t incredibly important to some businesses. But I was also torn over how sordid and soul-less the whole thing seemed. Was all this automation right for my small business customers?

I’d fallen out of love with what I was doing. I was overwhelmed, trying to keep up with sales automation trends and build a new life at the same time.

Maybe it was time to walk away from this whole mess and get a proper job.

My personal rebellion begins

“Don’t you dare, you will come back from this,” a wise friend told me … and how right she was. Throwing myself into business events and meeting new people, I started to feel some momentum return. But something still wasn’t quite right.

As soon as Mark announced he had a new book coming out, I had it on pre-order to add to my collection.

And then … I dove in.

Page by page I found myself frantically note-taking and excessively nodding.  One quote in particular grabbed my attention, and I could not stop thinking about it:

“Success isn’t measured by the size of your advertising budget but rather how sincerely you connect.”

It got me thinking, how do my clients like to connect? How do I like to connect?

Every day my inbox is filled with automated emails from one expert or another, some new company offering, and blatant sales pitches. I was weary of the relentless barrage.

But I realized I was adding to this spam nightmare through my own marketing automation!

Would a more human approach work better for me and my business?

An instantaneous business turnaround

I’d planned to put together a lovely sales funnel with a lead generator which was a list of 101 blog post ideas for estate agents (the niche market I work in).

But what if we didn’t automate it? What if we just offered this free value to our customers without the annoyance? This would be more work, of course, but I was curious to test the idea of more human-centered marketing.

We posted on our Facebook page, my personal page, and to two groups full of estate agents, and simply asked the audience if they wanted our help through this free guide. There was no sales funnel, no mailing list, just a simple question offering valuable help.

By the end of that evening we had 80 requests from estate agents — most of them I had never spoken to before! Even more surprising, we had 15 requests for more details about our business services and, incredibly, we secured two new brand-new clients!

And that was just Day One.

By the end of Day Two I had 40 new sales leads. By the end of the week it was 90.

I had to admit, I was in a state of shock about this.

I had to tell Mark that his book really worked:

Mark, I can’t tell you what a change your book is having on my business. Today I made a major decision. I scrapped the CRM funnel I’d invested in and went back to directly connecting to people. Instantly we had responses and new sales. Last year I struggled with my business and thought about walking away. But today I feel like a weight has been lifted, I’m kind of child-like, skipping around the office.

I’m back.

This success has continued, and we’ve now had more than 200 leads and counting. And I think it’s significant that several agents said they only reached out to me because they could see they weren’t going to be bombarded with spammy emails!

Stepping away from automation and acting like a human being worked. I’m now having real conversations with the many agents who requested my guide. Most important, I feel really comfortable and happy with the way I’m doing business.

Seeing how the world was working made me think I had to conform to what “business society” thought was a best practice. There was so much pressure to automate my business and it created this conflict in me — it didn’t feel right.

It was as though Mark had carved a new path and given us all permission to find our own authentic marketing approach, one that I could be proud of.

I’m not saying this is right for every business, but I honestly believe that rebelling against the automatic and finding a human approach will benefit almost any business relationship with clients.

As Mark says, “The Most Human Company wins.” I am going to be that company in my industry. How about you?

Andrea Bowler is the proud owner of Citrus Content, a niche agency which specializes in bespoke content for the UK estate agency market. She is passionate about writing, walking in her native Peak District and being mum to her incredible son, Sammy.

The post Human-centered marketing case study: A radical business turnaround appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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By Avtar Ram Singh, {grow} Contributing Columnist

The title might seem controversial, given that almost all marketing teams are told to study what the competition is doing.

While most marketing teams are adept at tracking and monitoring what their competition is up to, my major concern is that often marketers are too concerned with what the competition is doing, and not WHY they’re doing it.

It might seem like an inconsequential detail to obsess about, but the reality is that it makes all the difference when it comes to your attitude about the marketing you do.

The Fear of Being Left Behind

Many a conversation with marketing leads and teams beginS with what their competition is experimenting with, doing better and seemingly ahead of the curve with. Teams feel threatened by this because they don’t want to play catch up with anyone.

Here are what some of these scenarios look like:

  • A competitor has an incredibly well managed and segmented e-mail marketing program with beautifully designed e-mails.
  • Another is creating high quality 15 second Facebook videos that are attracting a ton of views.
  • A third competitor has a weekly infographic series that breaks down complex industry terms for consumers to better understand the product in the B2B space.

The reaction to these often is to invest in an expensive and robust CRM software to copy what the first competitor is doing, to engage a freelance videographer to help with what the second competitor is doing, and to hire a graphic designer that can help with what the third competitor is doing.

If they’re doing it, we must too, and not be left behind.

The Why of Competition Brings Clarity

Let’s re-look at those three competitors and see what the potential why behind those tactics is.

  • A competitor has an incredibly well managed and segmented e-mail marketing program with beautifully designed e-mails: Perhaps management has taken the decision that the digital paid media budget is going to be weaned off over 24 months, and therefore the company should rely a lot more on owned data.
  • Another is creating high quality 15 second Facebook videos that are attracting a ton of views: It’s an audience building play. The company is pumping a huge amount of media budget to boost these videos, and is re-targeting people that have watched these videos with tactical conversion-driven advertising.
  • A third competitor has a weekly infographic series that breaks down complex industry terms for consumers to better understand the product in the B2B space: This competitor has identified small startups that don’t understand the product / industry well enough as their key clients and are aiming to go for them.

Now it’s highly likely that you don’t have media budget problems and aren’t looking at e-mail as the primary driver of revenue. It’s possible that your audience building strategy doesn’t rely on videos on Facebook, and perhaps you have a high traffic blog that generates tons of organic traffic. And perhaps your target clientele is going to be medium-sized businesses, and you don’t want to target startups.

… so should you just dive straight into what the competition is doing and mimic it?

Setting the Benchmark Higher

Another problem with constantly being paranoid about what the competition is doing is that “beating it” becomes a key objective. But this is a dark hole to go down.

If Competitor A does X, you want to do X. If Competitor B does Y, you want to do Y. If Competitor C does Z, you want to do Z.

The trouble is that A is probably focusing on X, B on Y and C on Z. You on the other hand, are trying to do X, Y and Z – and when your focus is split across multiple avenues, you’ll never do anything better than someone that is doing something with complete focus. You’ll end up with less than ideal versions of X, Y and Z which won’t particularly fulfil any bigger marketing objectives.

Set the benchmark higher.

Keep an eye on your competition, monitor what they’re doing, but keep an eye on your marketing and customer objectives. Only consider activities that help hitting those objectives, and ensure that you only undertake ones that are most efficient and make the most sense for your particular use case.

Everything else is noise.

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By Mark Schaefer

A news clip from yesterday’s TechCrunch:

Fiverr is acquiring ClearVoice, a company that helps customers like Intuit and Carfax find professionals to write promotional content.

The two companies seem like a natural fit, as they both operate marketplaces for freelancers. Fiverr covers a much broader swath of freelance work, but CEO Micha Kaufman   said the marketplace’s professional writing category grew 220 percent between the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018, and he predicted that the need for content marketing will only increase.

“The types of channels that brands and companies need to be involved in and engaging in conversation with their audience are just growing,” Kaufman said. “I think any brand today that wants to be relevant needs to create a lot of engaging, interesting, creative content in their space, and I think that creates a high demand for good content writers.”

Of course we all knew that content has become commoditized, but this sort of slaps us in the face with the fact, doesn’t it?

Content shock is the strategy

Let’s be honest. Nobody is going to subscribe to the Carfax blog for its scintillating content. This news report is a reflection of the fact that the most prevalent content marketing strategy today is to overwhelm a market niche with so much content that you impact or dominate the SEO results. In short, you’re creating content shock for your competitors.

I do think there is still a place for quality content on the web (I have a new post about that coming out soon) but if we’re honest, content marketing today is primarily an arms race dedicated to filling a niche with a continuous stream of Google-sufficient content at the lowest possible price.

In a world where the “arc of your story” matters less than your “contract with Fiverr,” I wonder if we’ll start to see tracks at conferences like Content Marketing World dedicated to the commodity strategy? Will we see panel discussions on how to out-crap the competition? On the best strategies to overwhelm a niche for as little money as possible? How to find the right content mill for your business?

Quality has become a niche play

Studies show that most corporate content is neither seen nor shared. It is a placeholder. A box to be checked. For many, we’re creating content because we’re afraid not to.

There is still a place for thought leadership and quality but I don’t think that is where most of the money in the business is being spent today … which is why the Fiverr content mill grew 220 percent in 12 months.

I’m a rational business leader. I want to see the world as it is and adjust, adapt, and help my customers win. It is what it is.

But as one more area of the web becomes commoditized and automated, a little part of me dies. I can’t help but miss the days when we thought social media could unite, businesses would be part of a human conversation, and content marketing was a place where a story really mattered.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

The post What happens when content becomes a commodity? appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

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