Extracting Real ROI From Your Content

No comments

In today’s tough business environment, it’s not enough to be a market leader — positioning an organization as a thought leader is integral to build awareness and buy in for your brand.

One way to achieve that goal of providing thought leadership is through a well-defined content marketing strategy. As a publisher of unique content relevant to your customers, companies can create a real impact on both their brand and their bottom line.

But sometimes it’s truly difficult to connect content — even thorough, well-written pieces — with tangible results that help build your brand. This is where a well-defined content marketing strategy comes into play.

Rather than simply keeping your fingers crossed that your latest blog post goes viral, let’s broaden your definition of success and tailor it to your goals. Here are a few key steps to ensure you’re extracting the most ROI from your content.

Establish a Strategy

According to the Content Marketing Institute, an abysmally low number of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy in place: only 35 per cent bother to create one at all.

But creating a whack of content without a defined strategy is just as random and senseless as throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. Publishing and promoting content that may not resonate with your particular audience is a waste of time, effort and precious marketing budget.

Sit down and put it on paper. This document should cover goals and set data benchmarks, outline current and prospective audiences, summarize the breadth of topics any content will cover and how content will be promoted.

Fleshing out this strategy with measurable goals, consistent messaging and an efficient workflow will help ensure those marketing dollars are funneled toward more effective content initiatives.

Study the Right Data

After you’ve drafted your content and set up your campaigns based on your strategy, how do you know what’s working?

In your strategy, it’s helpful to identify your preferred outcomes and how you intend to measure any progress toward those goals. Are you hoping to drive more traffic to your company’s web site? Or perhaps help increase and convert leads?

Whatever your objectives, find the metrics that correspond and track them. The metrics you use to track content’s efficacy should be based on the objectives and goals you’ve set (yes, the ones you laid out in your strategy).

While your metrics must align with your strategy, there are a few key performance indicators (KPIs) everyone should probably keep an eye on. With a wealth of inexpensive and free tools available, it’s fairly simple to determine what content is gaining traction with your audience. For example, Google Analytics data can provide insights on pageviews, unique visitor rates and conversions. And one way to measure engagement is to follow the number of times a piece of content is shared via various social media channels.

Leverage Your Data

When it becomes routine to track the progress of your content, patterns will soon emerge revealing reasons why some content works while other pieces of content doesn’t. Perhaps you notice a spike in traffic when blogs are published on Mondays, or content written by a particular author receives far more social shares than other authors.

While these are simplistic examples of trends, they illustrate the need to analyze the raw data and turn that knowledge into actionable insights. Creating action from those trends can mean a world of difference when boosting engagement for your content and seeing real results.


read more
ExhaleMarketingExtracting Real ROI From Your Content

How Your Brand Positioning Statement is the Essence of Your Business

No comments

It’s a tiny thing. One or two sentences at the most. Often quite simplistic. This is your brand positioning statement. But like a keystone in masonry, sometimes small things are required to support the weight of everything else.

A brand positioning statement is crucial to cohesive marketing. They’re used for both internal and external communication. But what exactly is it?

As the name suggests, it places your brand amongst the competition for your target’s loyalty and dollars. Where do you fall in that spectrum? How do you measure up, and who are you targeting? It essentially boils everything – targets, benefits, pain points, value propositions, industry – down to a single (or in some cases, two) sentence. It distills all that information to a straightforward statement that’s easy to understand, and guides the rest of what you do to identify and connect with your prospects.

What Is a Brand Positioning Statement?

There’s no set formula, but

How you express those ideas is where some freedom and play enters the equation, but if you love a good template, author Geoffrey Moore offers the following in his book “Crossing the Chasm”:

For (target customer) who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (product name) is a (product category) that (statement of key benefit, the most compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competition), our product (statement of primary differentiation).

You may want to get more creative than that, but a well thought out and conceived positioning statement can emerge from that basic structure. It does require time and effort, though. As the foundation of your marketing plan, it’s not something you want to throw together haphazardly. Everyone from sales to marketing is going to look to it for guidance in all that they do, so you’d better be certain that it speaks to your product or service. It should provide clarity and focus above all else.

Got It. Now What?

Once you’ve drafted your statement, it’s time to test it out and ask a few questions:

  • Is it believable? Is it credible?
  • Is it clear and specific?
  • Does it speak to and focus on your target market (their wants, needs, desires)?
  • Does it differentiate you from the competition?
  • Can it guide your brand decision making?
  • Does it simplify your product and all that it has to offer?
  • Does it eliminate all confusion about what, who, why, and how?

A good brand positioning statement can answer “yes” for most of these. A great one can do the same for all of them. Aim for great.

Your positioning statement needs to answer questions about how you want to be seen and by whom. If it does that, it’ll guide the decision makers in your business. It’ll bring cohesiveness to your message. It’s easily digested by your team and your prospects.

A great one is simple, yes, but jam packed with all the crucial information that everyone – marketers, salespeople, customer service reps, prospects, customers, media, managers – needs to know. It’s short enough to allow for easy tweaking and adjusting, but long enough to present the “need to know” facts.


Evolution is Allowed

Nothing is forever, and your brand positioning statement may evolve over time. As your competition, or target, or product itself change, so too must your statement. Just try not to re-evaluate too frequently. As your guide, you want to stick with it for a while, to see where it leads you. You wouldn’t ditch your tour guide five minutes into a three hour hike through the forest. Let him or her get you safely to where you want to go. And let your brand positioning statement do the same.

Consistency in your message will allow more customers – new and existing – to connect with and trust what you are saying.  Need help getting started?  Contact our Exhale branding team for a brand audit and strategy session.

read more
ExhaleMarketingHow Your Brand Positioning Statement is the Essence of Your Business

Trends that Will Change How Companies Use Social Media in 2015

No comments

Most companies, both big and small, are finally taking a hint: they need a social media presence.

A Duke University study pegs spending on social media outlets at 9 per cent of most company’s marketing budgets. Based on the evolution of the industry and the quick-paced nature of channels such as Twitter and Facebook, that number is expected to jump to 21 per cent in the next five years.

Obviously the breakneck pace of social won’t be changing — if anything, it’s poised to accelerate in 2015. And some recent changes will change how companies should position their social strategy. Here are some trends that organizations should keep their eye on in the coming year.


Shell Out More Cash For Facebook Business Pages

Traditional wisdom has told us that more Facebook page Likes translates into a greater reach for content. While that used to be true, changes in Facebook’s algorithm over the last couple of years means that content is reaching fewer and fewer fans.

While a company may boast tens of thousands of Likes on its company Facebook page, the number of followers who are reached organically without any ad dollars has steadily crashed. According to a study from Social@Ogilvy, organic reach for Facebook posts on business pages had slowed to 6.15 per cent as of February 2014. And that number is set to plunge to a big, fat zero this year at the social network moves to change those configurations yet again so that users won’t see any unpaid content from company pages, based on a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.

So while your images may be striking and your content is brilliantly composed, companies who wish to be seen need to be ready to shell out some cash. Whether it be promoting your page, boosting posts, or running a full on ad campaign, organizations will need to work those ad dollars into their budgets this fiscal to get eyeballs on their content.


Payments Through Social Media

Back in November, TechCrunch announced that SnapChat was partnering with Square Cash to allow cash payments through a new feature titled “Snapcash.” Users can now hook up their debit cards to their account and type a dollar amount into the text feature to instantly send money to a SnapChat buddy.

And you can expect more social media outlets to take the dive into ecommerce as we move into 2015. Rumours are already circulating that the Facebook Messenger app contains a hidden payment option, so users can reasonably expect to see that feature emerge in the coming months.

Additionally, users can expect to see the rollout of Twitter and Facebook’s “buy” buttons in the coming year. These buttons will allow users to purchase items directly out of ads placed around the social network without ever leaving the site. And Twitter is testing a similar buying feature to cut out as many steps as possible between seeing a product in an ad and purchasing it.

This push from social channels into instant payments and cash transfers is all part of an overall rush into the mobile payment space. And this is potentially good news for retailers and companies in the ecommerce space. Many of the transfers sent through social media are either low cost or completely free, making this form of instant payment highly attractive. Compare that to credit card payments, which require a percentage on top of the cost of the transaction to be sent to the credit card company. That’s a lot of cost savings for companies.


The Rise of New Social Channels

We’ve seen social networks come and go. It was only a few years ago that MySpace ruled the roost when it came to social outlets. The space is constantly evolving and making way for new players.

In the light of increasing privacy issues and more obvious advertising on some of the major social platforms, some users are seeking alternatives for niche markets.

Some of the biggest newcomers to the scene include Ello, which claims to offer an ad-free space for users. Also keep an eye on Yik Yak, which offers anonymous posting for people in a close geographic area, and Tsu, which offers users revenue sharing on popular posts.

read more
ExhaleMarketingTrends that Will Change How Companies Use Social Media in 2015

Why You Need a Social Media Listening Strategy

No comments

Shh! Do you hear that? It’s the sound of millions of people talking about you and your brand online. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

And the best part? It’s okay for you to listen. In fact, it’s highly encouraged. Crucial.

There are hundreds of social media platforms online, not to mention the millions of blogs, forums, and discussion boards. We live in a time where anyone anywhere can express their opinion and release it to the world at any time, with a potential reach of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people.

Scary, eh? The trick is using that potential to your advantage. Dealing with the negative, and acknowledging the positive. Connecting and engaging. Social media listening refers to monitoring and listening to the real conversations people are having online about your company and brand. It’s socially acceptable eavesdropping. And used properly, it’s a tremendously powerful tool.



Direct Line of Communication with Customers and Prospects

Social media is remarkable. Marketing and sales departments from as little as 15 years ago would kill for the opportunities most of us today take for granted, a direct and free channel for speaking with millions of existing and potential customers. Consider this:

  • Roughly 75% of internet users are active on at least one social media platform
  • Each age group of consumer has a social media usage percentage of at LEAST 43% and as high as 89%
  • Facebook has 1.15 BILLION active users, and almost 50% of Americans list it as a major influencer when they make a purchasing decision
  • Twitter ranks second with 550 million registered accounts, followed by Google+ with nearly 360 million users.

What does it all mean? Social media is dominating communications, and what people say on it matters. You’d better be paying attention. They say there is no stronger publicity than word-of-mouth. Imagine being able to lean in and listen to your clients talking about you at a restaurant, or gathering together tens of thousands of customers to discuss your latest product launch. It’s a focus group for the 21st century, to the nth degree. What if you could acknowledge each positive review, or address complaints almost instantly?

You can.



What Not To Do

But, and this is important, you have to be careful. You have to be active. And you have to be real. Social listening means just that – you listen. You monitor. You need to be aware of what exactly people are saying about you on at least the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) if you want to harness the awesome power.

The pitfalls are found in treating all dialogue the same or taking too long to respond. Social media, and the world as a whole, wants instant gratification. Instant recognition. Instant response. It’s possible, you just need to have the mechanics in place to do it. Setting up social media profiles and then not paying attention to them is a slap in the face. And potentially dangerous. Completely automating your social media platforms – for both posting and responding – is equally bad. Consider the following missteps:

  • A street artist posted a complaint to Twitter after being chased away from his sidewalk art in front of the Bank of America. His complaint, as well as the hundreds of comments and retweets, were met with a canned auto-response from the bank that said “We’d be happy to review your account with you to discuss any concerns.” The company looked ridiculous and robotic.
  • American Airlines recently auto-replied to an angry customer complaint with “Thanks for the support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican.” Opportunity missed.
  • The British grocery chain Tesco suffered a mistimed auto-tweet when it posted “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets” in the midst of a horse meat scandal.
  • JP Morgan asked for followers to post questions for an executive in their #AskJPM campaign. Thousands responded…but not the way they had hoped. Questions included “Can I have my house back?” and “Is it easier to purchase a congressional representative or senator?” Perhaps JP Morgan has an image problem? Thankfully, the Twitter account was being monitored, but the damage was already done.

Instead of set it and forget it automation, you need a healthy mix of strategic automation and real engagement. It’s never a good idea to create a “one size fits all” response to every online mention. A real live person should monitor social media channels using any of the countless tools for the job, including:

These services can be set up to report or alert every time someone mentions your company name, brand, or keywords. Then you have the opportunity to handle it in a quick, professional, and human way. According to Social Habit, 42% of people expect a response to a complaint posted on social media within 60 minutes. 7 days per week. Fail that, and you’ve made the situation at least slightly (if not much) worse.



What to Do

Proper monitoring of channels allows you to respond to opportunities and address issues. Customers want to be thanked, or at least acknowledged, when they post something positive. A quick “hey thanks” goes a long way. Likewise, acknowledging a customer complaint, even if you can’t do anything about it right away (or ever) is a proven method to diffuse the situation. It’s all about connection and engagement.

Reach out regarding complaints that involve you but are not your fault, like Taylor Guitars. They addressed a customer whose guitar had been damaged by an airline. They offered their sympathies and suggestions for certified locations to get it fixed. And more importantly, they impressed that one customer – and everyone else who saw the exchange – by responding to something that involved them only indirectly. That’s an example of fantastic monitoring and brand awareness. You can bet they gained new clients and fostered loyalty through their response.

Virtually every department – from sales to marketing, from customer service to R&D – can benefit from social listening:

  • Identify and solve problems.
  • Identify customer discontent with a service or product
  • Respond to complaints
  • Acknowledge customer loyalty and praise
  • Promote and ask for feedback (but selectively, and be prepared for negative reviews)
  • Engage and communicate with real people in real time

And social listening need not be only for your brand. You can listen and monitor your direct competition, too. What are people saying about them? You can replicate (but not copy) their successes, and avoid their hiccoughs. It’s like being allowed to sit in on their board meeting or focus group for their next big product. Follow them. Monitor them. And actively use the data.

Social media can be a god-send. The data and opportunity it provides are unparalleled. But you need to remember the golden rules:

  • Be quick
  • Be real
  • Be honest
  • Be human

Address things as they occur. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to actively engage and connect with your customers and fans. Respond as a human, not a machine, to both positive and negative comments. Monitor the major social media platforms for any mention of your name or brand. And don’t be afraid to have a little fun, like Bodyform’s tongue-in-cheek response (from the CEO, no less) to a post on their Facebook page. You’re only human, after all.

Social listening makes you a fly on the wall in millions of homes and dozens of countries. It’s an almost magical ability to eavesdrop on customers, competition, and the market in a way that past businesses could only wish for. Everyone is sharing their opinion, and ranting, and praising, and complaining with the understanding that you may be listening. In fact, they want you to.

Don’t let them down.

Not sure where to begin? Connect with us, and let’s chat about how we can help.

read more
ExhaleMarketingWhy You Need a Social Media Listening Strategy