Shiny New Marketing Automation Tools Can’t Fix Sucky Content

In the content marketing world, you can’t swing a big stick without whacking some marketing automation tool that promised to not only drive prospects through your sales funnel, it will lovingly nurture your leads, walk your dog, and make handfuls and handfuls of fries.

People look at these new tools like a teenager gaping open-mouthed at a motorcycle, thinking, “Man, if I owned this, my life would be awesome!”

Ducati Supersport 620

I’m going to ride this to my 30th high school reunion.

That’s what it’s like with marketing automation. Marketers look at the shiny new tools, and dream of all the customers they’ll get, wind blowing in their hair, and Sarah staring after me, wishing she never dumped me.

Unlike the teenagers, marketers have the budget to bring their shiny tool home, where they promptly leave it in the driveway. They don’t have any fuel to put in it, and they don’t have anywhere to go.

Every morning, the marketer goes outside, sits on their new purchase, and says, “Okay, now GO!” And never moves an inch.

It sits, unmoving, from lack of content. No blog posts, no white papers, no videos, no podcasts.

Oh sure, they had the best of intentions. They got their entire mailing list uploaded into the CRM, and they even sent out content fairly regularly. For two weeks.

But then life got in the way, meetings popped up, and they stopped writing and producing content. They never had a chance to open the throttle and see how fast they could go.

You Need to Feed the Beast

The problem with marketing automation is that it always needs fuel. It always has to be fed. On top of that, it needs premium fuel. Your prospects expect great content. Not good content. Not even pretty good content.

It has to be stellar. Otherwise, they’re going to get bored and go away.

Which means you’re only as good as your content, not your tools. It doesn’t matter which tool you have, or that you paid for the platinum package, with all the bells and whistles and handlebar tassels that wave in the wind. If your content sucks, it will suck expensively.

But at least you’ll be able to track all the unsubscribes and put them all in a colorful report your boss can easily understand.

As content marketing grows and matures as an industry, and people rave about big data, customer journeys, and buyer personas, it’s still about the quality of your content.

If you can’t tell a story, still confuse features and benefits, and use enough marketing jargon to make the Harvard Business Review editors smile in their sleep, no tool will save you.

Focus first on the quality of your content before you start kicking the tires of a new marketing automation tool. Because once you make that big expensive purchase, you’re the one responsible for making it go. And if your shiny new tool can’t bring in the leads and convert them to customers, the fault isn’t with the tool.

It’s an operator error.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

The Google Mobile Friendly Update: How Will It Affect You?

From time to time, I like to offer guest posts to readers, provided they’re not actually commercials masked as guest posts (i.e. you’re writing it to share knowledge, NOT gain a cheap backlink to your client’s site. You know who you are.)

This is a guest post by Nate Vickery, a proper Internet marketer from Sydney, Australia. He’s also a big fan of Australian Rules football, a game I enjoy watching and don’t understand a second of.

The Internet is all about efficiency and fast exchange of information. Nowadays, when the number of different gadgets with various resolutions is on the constant rise, website developers have to adapt their sites to those new devices. We’ve all experienced pages that are not mobile- or tablet-friendly. Those pages and sites simply turn off their visitors. But in April, some great changes were introduced by Google, concerning the future site ranking when it comes to mobile searches.

How does it work?

Google experts want to award site developers and owners who make an effort and adapt their sites to mobile devices. Since April 2015, the most popular search engine worldwide has been updated and now it gives a special treatment to mobile friendly sites and pages when an Internet user does the surfing from a mobile device.

First of all, it affects only separate, individual pages and not whole websites. Secondly, it applies to search ratings only when the query is done from a mobile. Also, this mobile-helpful Google update functions in all the languages that are used throughout this search engine. The major advantage of this approach to mobile net search is that users will not have to tap their screens and wait for pages to load, since the update brings about smoother and more user-friendly exploration of the mobile Internet.

Where could this take us?

If users have troubles when trying to load a site, they won’t wait endlessly for it to load, but will simply leave the site and never come back. So, you could create an expensive and useful site that will remain unattended and unused, due to its bad responsiveness to searches from different devices.

Before the update, mobile-friendly web design had been discussed a lot, but there has never been such a bold step forward in helping mobile users get the best out of their Internet presence. If we know that today smartphone searches are overtaking the throne from PC net quests, only the sites that are functional and adapted to these new circumstances will have an increase in traffic. Eventually, websites that do not conform to these latest changes will not be ranked high and they will not have enough users to justify their existence.

The week after the update launch

This change in the site ranking service did not come out of the blue, so it sounds illogical that some well-known websites simply ignored the update. In order to become a mobile-friendly site, it is necessary to either develop a special mobile version, or apply responsive website design. The market treated differently the sites that made the changes and those that did not.

Since the introduction of the new update on April 21, a week after its launching there were some interesting data about the way websites reacted to this Internet search novelty. According to this list of winners and losers, the sites that did not adapt to the new method of Google ranking calculation in the mobile world have already fallen behind. The sites that employed either one of the ways for optimizing sites for mobile search were on the winning side.

Also, it has to be said that some sites do not care about the mobile share of the market. They are content with desktop users and have enough success and profit from PC and laptop visits.

The future is mobile-friendly

As smartphones and tablets overtake the Internet from old-school desktop computers, some changes are inevitable. Also, it is clear that most of the mobile users are teenagers and younger people. They want it all and they want it now.

Social media and video/music websites are under special pressure from that group of Internet users. Those businesses and websites that offer the most responsive and fastest service will have the highest conversion rate, which will eventually lead to a higher income and more opportunities for future investments. Websites that miss this chance and rely only on traditional Internet search have to be ready to face quite serious problems. It would be wiser to go with the flow to prevent the flow from drowning you.

The latest Google update has already caused changes in the way people find what they want from their mobile devices and it will shake the mobile web even more. The only thing site owners need to do is prepare for present and future changes to keep their sites on the winning side of the net — embrace mobile-friendly design, and stay at (or reach) the top of the Google rankings.

Nate M. Vickery is a marketing and internet marketing consultant from Sydney, Australia. His specialty is online marketing and, in recent years, website design and development he learns mainly from reading blogs of local creatives like Infinity Technologies. Aside from work, he enjoys a good game of Aussie football.

12 Marketing Strategies Defined

If you’ve ever wondered what all the different types of marketing — content marketing, inbound marketing, push marketing — actually mean, wonder no more. Here is the basic definition of what each of these are, and what they do.

Salesology Cover

Marketing Style

Definition

Content Marketing

Marketing

Digital Marketing

Marketing

Direct Marketing

Marketing

Inbound Marketing

Marketing

Internet Marketing

Marketing

Mobile Marketing

Marketing

Online Marketing

Marketing

Outbound Marketing

Marketing

Push Marketing

Marketing

Relationship Marketing

Marketing

Social Media Marketing

Marketing

Word-Of-Mouth Marketing

Marketing

 

When you get down to it, marketing is marketing. We can put all kinds of fancy names on it, or do some mental gymnastics to make it seem like one type of marketing is so much different from another. But all marketing does the same thing: convince people to buy your product. They just have different names to achieve the same goal. (And if we’re being truly honest, they’re not that different from each other.)

If you want to hire a marketer, hire someone who knows marketing. There’s no one method better than another, there’s no one special strategy that will be a magic bullet to your particular need.

And when it comes to online/social media marketing, you’d better make damn sure your marketing agency has extensive marketing experience, and isn’t just well-versed in using the latest shiny new social media toys.

Photo credit: James Prochnik (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Everything is NOT Content

We’re tossing “content” around a little too easily these days. It’s becoming another vague generic word like “stuff” or “crap.”

Not the adjective meaning fairly happy, but rather “items held within a larger container,” as the stuff in a book or a blog.

The Moz (formerly SEOMoz) is cheapening the word by telling us “Everything is content!”

Except it’s not.

In his latest blog post on The Moz Blog, “Why Local Businesses Don’t Need Big Budgets for Their Content Marketing, author Matthew Barby says, “Content is:”

  • the staff within your business.
  • the design of your shop/office.
  • your products and services.
  • the menus on your tables.
  • your company values.
  • your customers.
  • EVERYTHING.

Bullcontent!

As sick to death I am of the phrase “content is king,” I’ll tattoo that on my ass before I ever agree that “content is everything,” or even any of those things Barby named.

It is not, as Barby says, cupcakes, staff uniforms, foam art in your latte, or the barista’s smile as she hands over your cupcake and arty latte.

Unless you’re a writer, artist, videographer, photographer, podcaster, or musician, the stuff you do isn’t content either. And if you are, you probably don’t want to cheapen your work by calling it that.

Real creators it stories, art, videos, photos, podcasts, and music.

Most Things Are Not Content

Old Ovaltine magazine ad — Now THIS is content!

From the early days of “paper content marketing.” Or as those poor fools from the 30s called it, “advertising.”

Do you know what content is? Words, images, and sounds. Stories, pictures, movies, podcasts, and music.

Do you know what it isn’t? Everything else. Everything other thing in the world that are not words, images, and sounds.

If I can’t read it, watch it, look at it, or listen to it, it’s not content.

If I can eat it, it’s not content. If it’s a person and his or her clothes, it’s not content. If it’s the squishy feeling we all get from maximizing our company’s potential to provide mission-critical customer satisfaction, it’s not content.

Using the word this way will eventually just cheapen the word and make it as useful and nebulous as “stuff.” I’m certainly not going to coin the phrase stuff marketing.

The word usually refers to material contained within another item — contents of a thermos, a book (hence the term Table of Contents), a speech. It has expanded to include video, audio, and photos, but that’s as far as I think people need to take it.

I’ll agree that the staff, their uniform, and latte foam art are features and reasons to like that business. But to call them “content” cheapens both them and the tenets of content marketing.

Do You Know What We Used To Call Content Marketing?

I blame the Content Marketing movement for starting this. They’re the ones who started calling “persuading people with information” content marketing.

Before then, we just called it marketing.

It was just a thing we did. It was brochures and trade shows. It was TV commercials and newspaper ads and CD-ROMs. It was corporate videos and scripts for radio commercials. Then one day, when I was as old as Kurt Cobain when he died, we started using this Internet thingy, and my company was the first in our industry to have a website.

The other companies laughed at us for getting suckered into this fad, until we started kicking their asses and taking away sales worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then they scrambled fast to catch up.

Do you know what we called doing marketing on the Internet back then?

Marketing.

And do you know what we called the text and the photos on our web pages?

Text and photos.

But we didn’t call customer service, uniforms, or any of that other stuff “marketing,” because it wasn’t. Our accountant wasn’t marketing. Our shipping coordinator wasn’t marketing. Our warehouse guy wasn’t marketing.

We certainly never would have called them content.

But now the latest jargony buzzword is Content Marketing, because we produce stuff to be consumed; Internet Marketing, because it’s marketing on the Internet; Digital Marketing, because it’s now happening via mobile apps and not just the Internet; and, urp. . . urp. . . barf.

Honestly, I don’t care if you debate the subtle nuances of calling it Digital versus Internet Marketing to 10 decimal places. It doesn’t matter. Because it’s still just marketing. It’s not special marketing. It’s not some new brand of marketing that no one has ever done before.

It’s still just persuasive words, pretty pictures, and pleasing sounds.

So can we just skip the happiness-and-rainbows fancy jargon, and stick with the areas we can control that actually persuade people to buy our, uh, stuff?

Because no one is going to walk into a content shop and ask the contentista for a half-caff content with light foam, and a chocolate content with extra sprinkles.

That would be stupid.

Copywriters, Use the Words Other People Use, Not the Ones You Use

Do you know what audio theater is? Does it make you think of something to do with speakers at a movie theater? Or maybe it’s a subset of home theater equipment. Or maybe you’re supposed to go to a play and shut your eyes.

It’s none of those. It’s what we used to call radio theater. (Or radio theatre, if you’re Canadian or British. Or a snooty purist.)

Decoder Ring Theatre cast

Cast of Decoder Ring Theatre, an audio theatre company in Toronto.

You know what radio theater is, right? Remember when Ralph and Randy sat in front of the big giant radio and listened to Little Orphan Annie? We all know what that is, even the people who only hear about it from their grandparents.

But the people who actually do radio theater want to call it “audio theater” instead. Why? Because people don’t listen to the plays on the radio anymore, they listen to them on CD players, iPods, computers, car stereos, etc.

So in order to be more accurate, they changed the name of the art form to more accurately reflect what it is that they produce.

And lost out on a large portion of their potential audience.

There are still plenty of people who used to listen to radio theater with money to spend, but they don’t spend it on the entertainment form from their childhoods because they don’t know it’s called “audio theater” now. Companies like Decoder Ring Theatre have worked hard to overcome this hurdle by being one of the most progressive and dedicated audio theatre troupes I’ve ever seen, embracing social media and Internet marketing, as well as podcasting. (Full disclosure: Decoder Ring Theatre produced and aired six of my Slick Bracer radio plays this summer.) But a lot of other companies have only seen a fraction of this success, and I believe it’s primarily because of this language disconnect between what is “correct” and what is “best.”

How many times have companies harmed their marketing efforts by insisting people call a term by what they want to call it, not what the customers want to call it? How many times have government agencies lost the respect and credibility they worked for, because someone who knows nothing about public communication insisted the agency use the accurate term, not the best term? How many news programs get laughed at because they try to change the commonly accepted term to something that better suits their political biases?

  • An agricultural equipment company I know calls its products by the term they want to use, rather than the more common term their customer uses. This is evidenced by the 1,200 Google searches for their term, and the 20,000+ searches for the common term. While they may rank well for their chosen term, they don’t rank at all for the term their potential customers are using nearly 8 times more often.
  • When the H1N1 epidemic flu first started, the public was calling it “swine flu,” but the media managed — with a lot of work — to get people to start calling it H1N1, because it was harming the pork industry. But the government agencies wanted to call it the human flu, and flu pandemic. Regardless of what they wanted to call it, the media ignored them
  • Fox News’ insistence on calling suicide bombers “homicide bombers,” as per the Bush White House, made them a laughing stalk among journalists and news watchers.

If you’re not sure whether people are using your terms or theirs, go to Google’s Keyword Tool and put in your term and any industry terms you can think of. See which terms have the most global (worldwide) searches and the most local (US) searches. The ones that win are the ones most people are using, and the ones you should be focusing on.

Update: Deleted “Audio” from “Decoder Ring Audio Theatre” above, because despite being a loyal listener for 5 years, and now a contributor, I still can’t get their name right.

Cancelled Soap Operas Take to the Internet. Is This The End of Broadcast TV?

You thought they were dead, but they were just in a coma. Or it was the evil twin. Or maybe it was a dream sequence, but the two once-dead soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live will find a new life online.

According to a Gizmodo article, the two ABC soaps, which were killed by the network this past spring, are going to be made available online instead. ABC has licensed both shows to Prospect Park, a production company that “promises all the shows will be just as long and just as ‘high quality’ online as they were on TV.”

While Casey Chan, the Gizmodo author, doesn’t “imagine soap opera watchers to be particularly good at using the Internet,” I think it’s a gutsy move, as opposed to moving to a cable network, like USA Network or WGN. I wonder if this could be the beginning of the end of broadcast television as we know it. Will more TV shows start migrating online? Will the “critically acclaimed” (that’s TV talk for “awesome show, sucky ratings”) shows find new life online, while regular TV is left with the same tired old clichéd dreck we’ve watched since 1983?

While I don’t know whether most soapies (soapers?) will have the ability to watch their favorite soaps online, I think this could be a great reason for them to start. And if they were smart, advertisers like Best Buy or Dell and cable companies would take advantage of this opportunity.

For example, Best Buy or Dell should run commercials during these soaps that say “you don’t have to miss your favorite soap. We have a laptop just for you.” Call it the One Life to Live or All My Children package — build it with enough RAM and a big enough processor, easy-to-use wifi, and a browser that comes preloaded with shortcuts to the OLL and AMC streaming sites.

After I heard the news, I was talking with our new intern, Cody (@CAustinMiller), about the possibilities, and we thought of all the possibilities this venture held for Prospect Park.

Production costs are greatly reduced

A typical TV show is shot on giant TV cameras, which are easily $100,000 dollars a pop. But this year’s season finale of House was shot entirely on a Canon 5DmkII digital camera.

One of those cameras (body only) is $2,500. Lenses are several hundred to a few thousand dollars apiece. Similarly, the web series Odd Jobs is shot entirely with a Canon 7d ($1600 + lenses).

Imagine shooting an entire show for a fraction of the cost of a single TV camera. Since very few people are watching an Internet-only TV show on HD plasma TVs, the need for the giant cameras is reduced.

Better video equipment means better story settings and language

If you’ve got these small handheld cameras, imagine shooting some scenes outside, without worrying about a sound stage and all those cables and production crew. A boom mike, digital audio recorder, and a digital camera, and you’re all set.

And you’re no longer bound by studio Standards and Practices people who say you can’t use certain words on television. Want to drop the F-bomb? Fire away. Want the s-word? Let ‘er fly. Online means you can say whatever you want without S&P dropping the hammer on you. (Of course, you have to make sure you don’t offend your audience.)

Advertisers can reach targeted audiences

This is worth a blog post in itself. Imagine these scenarios:

  • To watch the shows, users have an account where they provide some basic demographic information: age, sex, race, location, income, family status, etc. Show producers can go beyond providing basic demographic info to their advertisers — “we think it’s mostly white women between the ages of 25 – 45” — and provide actual counts and percentages.
  • Thanks to today’s web technology, advertisers can deliver specific ads to specific people watching on specific browsers. Send diaper ads to new mothers, life insurance ads to women in their 40s, luxury car ads to people who make a certain amount of money. Go read up on Facebook advertising for more ideas on how this works.
  • Advertisers can offer special coupons and codes during the show. These ads and coupons can even appear in a sidebar in the browser window. These can all be based on the viewer’s demographic information.
  • Marketers can then track click-throughs and follow the visitor’s path all the way through to the contact page or purchase page. They can determine that X number of people ordered our product while they were watching All My Children at 2:37.
  • I just had a EUREKA! idea: Put a shopping cart right in the browser sidebar window. When a small product is advertised on the show — say, the latest Danielle Steel novel — viewers can fill out the shopping cart without ever leaving the viewing window, order the book, and have it shipped, all during the show. It’s the ultimate in impulse purchasing.
  • Product placement is much easier and less expensive for marketers. Since the production company can call the shots without having to involve the network executives, they can sell product placements for a fraction of the cost of TV spots, but make a bigger piece of the pie.

Sell subscriptions to the shows

This is a chance to test the loyalty of the shows’ viewers: sell monthly subscriptions — say $2.99 per month — to viewers for ad-free episodes. Otherwise treat each episode like a regular TV episode: splits in the shows where they usually happen, with 2 – 3 minutes of advertisements. But monthly subscriptions can also offset production costs and help pay for the episode. If enough people opted for the monthly subscription, it may also show advertisers that viewers don’t want ads, which means they have to be more clever in how they reach those viewers: more product placement, sidebar ads, etc. This could also help the production company find new revenue sources as advertisers scramble for a way to reach this now-clearly defined audience demographic.

Crowdsource the writing

Many years ago — and I can’t remember when or what show — viewers got to vote whether a certain character lived or died. They called in, cast their votes, and the story unfolded to the majority’s wishes. Now, imagine having an online poll that allows viewers to vote on a particular story line. Does Trent live or die? Is Ashlyn’s evil twin really Ashlyn? Does Trent marry Ashlyn?

It’s one more method of interaction, and one more way to keep viewers involved and coming back. Maybe they could even shoot two endings to a storyline or episode, and let the viewers vote for which ending that gets shown. As a bonus, let people watch the ending that didn’t get aired after the episode is over. Again, more interactivity, more content for viewers to consume, which keeps them coming back.

I’m really excited to see what sorts of developments will come out of this new deal (not enough to watch soaps, mind you, but still, fairly excited). Prospect Park has said they will begin airing All My Children online starting September 26, after it makes its final TV appearance on Friday, September 23. I’ll be interested to see what kinds of ideas they come up with, and whether the Internet may be a great new frontier for TV shows that can’t survive the picky whims of studio executives who worry more about ratings than actually showing good television.

I’ll Read Your Ad for $250. My New Pay-For-View Pricing

Kim Kardashian annoyed more than a few Twitter users when it was leaked that Kardashian commands $10,000 to send a promotional tweet out to her then-2.7 million followers (now 5+ million).

(Kardashian denies that she receives that much money. Rather, she says she just tweets about products she likes.)

While I don’t follow her, I’m sure that her 5 million followers (minus the ones who aren’t spam bots and people who abandoned Twitter after a month) are looking forward to reading something interesting and not very vapid or shallow. (Yeah, good luck with that.)

How disappointing is it for her fans to learn that their favorite non-celebrity celebrity is only telling you she likes her shoes because someone forked over 10 grand to say so? While marketers think a so-called celebrity’s time and endorsement are valuable, they are also showing they think my time or interest isn’t.

So I have a new offer to marketers who want me to read celebrity endorsements and social media marketing messages: I will read anyone’s tweet, watch their commercial, or read their marketing copy for a fee.

That’s right. You can pay me to absolutely look at, read, watch, and consider your product. Think of it as a personal endorsement. After all, my time is valuable. Time I could spend working or being with my family is instead interrupted by you and your spokespeople trying to get me to buy something. And I do my best to ignore it, hide from it, or block it completely. So you come up with something new and creative, which means I have to do something new and creative to avoid it.

So how about you pay me instead? If you pay me, I will read whatever you put in front of me (except for that damn Kay Jewelers ad where the brain-addled woman is afraid of a thunderstorm). Rather than spending $10K on someone who is famous without actually doing anything useful, spend the money on me, and I will read or watch to your heart’s content.

According to my new Pay-For-View pricing schedule, I will:

  • Read any celebrity advertising tweet for $75. Any non-celebrity advertising tweet is only $25. (Hey, if you’re forking out $10,000 because someone is famous, chances are I find them annoying. So the extra $50 is for the wear and tear on my soul.)
  • Visit any company website for $150, and spend 10 minutes on the site, plus additional charges for any of the following:
  • Watch any video less than 5 minutes in length for $200. For videos longer than 5 minutes, it’s an additional $75 per minute.
  • Read any marketing copy, up to 750 words in length, for $150. Since I can read 750 words faster than you can say it in a video, I’ll cut you guys a break on the cost.
  • Also, any marketing surveys, registration forms, or instances where I have to give you my personal information is $100 plus a $25 per minute processing charge (minimum 5 minutes). I had originally considered charging a flat fee per information field (i.e. mailing address, phone number, etc.), but the rate sheet ended up being three pages long and still required a lengthy explanation.

Now, these prices are actually fairly reasonable, and I feel completely justified in charging them. After all, my time and consideration are valuable. I have a job, a family, and disposable income. I’m not easily swayed by celebrity endorsements, and will go out of my way to avoid most commercials and marketing messages. In short, you’re spending all that money to get celebrities to reach me, and I’m going to support you (and them) by spending my money. The least you can do is support me for spending my time thinking about you.

Kim Kardashian may be on to something, and I have to give her credit for helping me stumble upon the idea. As a thank you, I will read her next three promotional tweets for free.

No guarantees I’m buying anything though.