For additional tips and tricks to avoid wasteful meetings and ensure you make the most out of meeting time, check out a book I wrote on “Running Effective Marketing Meetings“.
If you ever hired a recent college graduate for a marketing position at your company, odds are you were amazed at their lack of knowledge. Not of basic marketing concepts like the 4 P’s, advertising, or branding but their utmost ignorance of modern marketing tactics and tools like webinars, marketing automation, and even CRM software.
What are College Students to Do?
If you’re in college (or know someone who is), there are things you can do now so that you don’t flunk the next marketing job interview. More importantly, you’ll be ahead of other candidates if you show that you are aware of the following terms, topics, and technologies:
Webinars: you should attend a webinar to understand what the experience is like, and if possible present a webinar as well. That’s easy today with free trials of the major players, like WebEx, Adobe Connect, and GoToWebinar, and with free webinar platforms like Anymeeting, MeetingBurner, or FreeWebMeeting. What hiring companies want: someone that understands how to prepare for and conduct a webinar (aka the logistics), how to market a webinar, and how to use webinars effectively as part of the marketing mix.
Email Marketing: according to MarketingSherpa, email marketing is still a top tactic employed by marketers to reach out to their prospects and customer base. You’ve got to understand how email marketing works, how it is used successfully and what pitfalls to avoid. Part of this is the CAN-SPAM act, which you should familiarize yourself with (interviewers will like if you show that you at least have an idea of what it’s all about). Setup a free account with MailChimp and play around creating an email and landing page, send out your next party invite to your friends using it to see how it works.
Marketing Automation: the typical step-up from email marketing, marketing automation software (such as Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, Pardot, and others) allows you to automate the sending of your emails and, more importantly, of nurturing your leads. If during an interview with a potential employer you can demonstrate that you know the concepts behind the sales and marketing funnels, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and what is the ROI of a marketing automation platform then you will be regarded as someone that is keeping up with the latest trends in marketing.
Social Media: just because you use Twitter and Facebook in school, it doesn’t mean you really know how to use it for marketing. So read up on success and failure stories, play around with tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, check out Klout, and be prepared to articulate what role does social media play in a company’s marketing program and a good understanding that when not used properly, social media can backfire.
Content Marketing: content marketing is not new, but it is all the hype now. A good understanding of the difference between whitepapers and ebooks, along with other forms of content publishing and distribution will give you valuable points during the interview process.
Trade Shows: companies of all sizes at one point or another in their lives end up attending or exhibiting at an event. The closest example you, college student, might have of what a trade show is might be your next career fair. Next time you attend one, pay attention to how different companies exhibit their services, how the people behind the tables or booths interact with the attendees, what handouts or giveaways they offer, and the overall experience. Having an idea of trade show tactics and what goes into trade show planning can be tremendously helpful especially if the company you are interviewing for attends trade shows (check their “about us” page or usually under “news and events” section of the website for a list of their upcoming appearances at local and national events).
The Modern Marketer
We’re just scratching the surface here, but these I think are some of the key marketing tactics employers would like you to know about when they interview students for marketing internships or junior marketing positions. Sure, there is always on-the-job training but if you are a marketing student, make it easier on yourself (and the hiring company) and brush up on your modern marketing skills and terminology.
If your current educational institution is not including the list above in your marketing curriculum, you have to either a) tell them to read this blog or b) learn it on your own. Good luck!
You have your logo, your tagline, your website… but how about product packaging, brochures, and holiday cards? Yup, holiday cards deserve some branding love too. It’s all about how you present yourself and your company to customers and prospects in every single touchpoint. This means every place where someone will see your company (or read about it) should have the same consistent message, look and feel.
So what are the 12 touchpoints? They are:
- Packing Slips
- Price change letters/ renewal notices
- User guides
- New business proposals
- Search ads
- Holiday cards
- Inter-office / company newsletters
- The back of the fence (this is a Steve Jobs analogy, about what goes inside your product or at the back of the fence where people usually don’t even look)
What is your list of touchpoints?
This is the second post in a series of “Principles of Great Content Marketing”. The first post talked about creating simple content.
So just to recap, there are three key principles for creating great content:
- Is it simple?
- Is it timely?
- Will it solve a problem?
Simple content was explained earlier and is a sure way to create engaging and direct content. But, even simple great content can’t win you over unless it is timely.
If you don’t need it, you won’t look at it. It’s that simple.
What is Timely Content?
There are three different perspectives to consider:
- Content that is a hot topic
- Content that meets your needs
- Content that creates urgency
The first perspective deals with the hot issues at the moment. Maybe your industry is going through additional regulations or new certifications are being required. Or maybe there’s this new methodology everyone is talking about. The hot topic is not necessarily something you actually need to do right now, but is top of mind, it will get looked at because is part of the trend.
Content that meets your needs is not necessarily about the hype, like the previous perspective, but rather something related to a mandate or a need. If you were told by your boss that you have to close down one of your locations and you come across a Whitepaper that talks about how to calculate which plant to shut down you will be interested in checking it out. Or, you have to start outsourcing the IT function overseas and a webinar invitation for a “how to outsource IT and not regret it later” just came to your inbox so you decide to register.
Finally, the urgency perspective is also related to creating timely content, but content that has an expiration date attached to it. Promotions that will only run for the next 5 days or those offers that gives incentives to you to act now (or be the first, or among the 10 first) before it’s too late.
Timely Content Perspectives
Being urgent or a hot topic doesn’t help much though, unless the content meets the needs of the reader. Content that answers a need will always win. The best content is one that combines the three perspectives to create something that meets the prospect’s current needs, is a hot topic, and creates a sense of urgency. That’s the best timely content you can create.
Timely content needs to evoke the following reaction from the reader: “I’ve gotta check this out now”. And there is either a download, registration, or whatever the call to action is. That’s how you know you nailed it.
Crafting Content for the Right time
Sending content at the right moment (when there’s a need) is tricky. How do you get to send content to a person who is at the right moment to receive it? That’s one of the big promises of Marketing Automation software, of automating the sending of the right content to the right prospect at the right moment in time.
Easier said than done? You bet. That’s because someone has to actually think through what “right moment” really means and also has to understand what clues will tell the software that the right moment approaches.
Regardless of whether you automate or not, one thing is certain. Timely content can only be created if you intimately know your audience. You’ve got to know what their daily activities are, what their challenges are, and what their hopes are as well. It means talking to customers and prospects, getting out of the building, and learning about the industry you are selling to.
Want some shortcuts? We’ll approach them in the next segment, when we talk about creating content that solves problems.
Whether creating a Whitepaper, an eBook, a new Email Marketing campaign, a web page, or any other type of marketing content there are a few basic principles you should follow:
- Is it simple?
- Is it timely?
- Will it solve a problem?
If you can answer “yes” to all three questions above, you’re on the right path to coming up with great content.
Three Key Questions for Creating Quality Content
Simple content wins all the time. It doesn’t matter how many pages, nice graphics, or famous quotes it has, simplicity is key. Making it simple, though, doesn’t mean dumbing down the message. It also doesn’t mean forgoing colors, trying to fit it in one page, or even chopping it up so that people get it in chapters instead of a full book. Simple content means creating something devoid of distractions that don’t contribute to having a better understanding of the message.
Here are three key questions you should ask for each content you create:
- Is it worded in a way that anyone will understand the message we are trying to convey? Are we using too many technical terms, acronyms?
- What part of our message do we want to have the most impact? Is it clear and prominent? As journalists usually say, “don’t bury the lead”.
- Are we providing action points for the reader? Is there a “call to action” clearly defined that is immediately obvious and enticing?
Want a good way to test your assumptions? Get someone in your office outside the marketing department to read the content you just created. It doesn’t have to be finalized, formatted, and nicely designed. Just a draft or mockup would do. Get a few different people (i.e. the accountant, the receptionist, the IT guy) to read it and tell you what they think. You may get some interesting reactions and questions that can help further fine tune the message.
The Message Behind the Content
Want to make sure the content you and your team just created is really the best you could have done? A good practice is to let the content alone for a while (hours or days). Then, go back to it and read it as if you were reading it for the first time. Then, think about the following:
- What is the core message?
- Why is this message important?
- What does the message mean for the reader?
- If you were to summarize the core message in one sentence (5 to 10 words max) what would it be?
Write it down (for greater impact, ask another team member to do the same so you can compare notes). Then review it and see if the content you had created still looks like the best you can do.
Sure, in most situations content you create today was due yesterday. We’ve all been there… if we only had more resources! But I challenge you to say that the content you created can’t wait 1 more hour before being sent out (or published, or uploaded). Whether you have 1 hour or 1 day, let it rest. Then come back refreshed to it and honestly assess if there’s a better way of crafting the message.
How Simple Content Will Win Always
A principle of simple design (designing interfaces or products that are simple to use) is to always think of what features can you remove from the product that will make for a better user experience. Think of the iPod, for instance. Steve Jobs removed buttons instead of adding new ones (the iPod never had different “stop” and “pause” buttons, only a “pause” button that was the same as the “play” button).
So think of your content and ask yourself what can you remove? What images, what copy? What content, if removed, will make the remaining content stronger and more appealing? It comes down to asking “what can I remove in order to make the main message stronger?”.
No, is not easy. But it is worth trying.
Next up I’ll talk about the two remaining points, creating timely content and focusing on solving problems.
A recent article on LifeHacker talks about tips to get faster email responses. They talk about:
- Write shorter emails
- Write fewer emails
- Ask for a response
- Start with a deadline
- Only email one person at a time
Those are good, but I’d like to expand a bit on them and also put it in the perspective of a marketing manager.
Five Email Productivity Tips for Marketing Managers
1. Make subject lines work for you: Use subject lines with deadlines and action verb in order to help people spot your email easily in their inbox and to get them to act. Examples of subject lines might be:
“Webinar Email – Review Copy by Wed 10am”
“eBook Copy Approved with Changes – Finalize by Thursday”
“For review and approval – deadline is Wed 9am”
I like using either a campaign name or something that will help immediately identify the task at hand. If you start showing good use of this tactic and encourage your team to do the same, spotting the useful emails from the junk or from the typical corporate communication will be much easier.
Bonus tip: Transform your email into an action item! If using MS Outlook, just click and drag the email to the Tasks panel to create a task. Or you can also flag the email for later follow up. Other email clients have similar options.
2. Write with a purpose: Short, clear, and action oriented (what do you want to happen?) emails will get faster and better responses. So cut to the chase and get down to what you want as a result of your email. Examples are:
“Here’s the revised copy for the email invitation to the July 16 webinar. Please a) edit copy; b) send to Mark for design by Wed, c) email me the final email for approval”
“Jen, I have reviewed the presentation for the webinar and here’s what you need to do: a) add the company logo to the master slide (upper left corner); b) replace slides 3 and 5 with the new ones I mention in my notes; c) review once more for grammar and style; d) send to John for formatting by Tues noon.”
Replace paragraphs with bullet points and you’ll get people to actually do what you asked them to do. Keep each email related to a separate subject, this way is easier for the recipient to focus on one thing at a time and for you to follow up later.
Bonus tip: Need to follow up on an email you just sent a few days later? In MS Outlook you can “flag” the message before sending so it reminds you of the message later (you can also flag the message for the recipient, so if they have Outlook as well, they will be reminded of the message until they clear the flag).
3. Make the deadline clear: If you don’t say when you need it by, usually you won’t get it done. Make sure to add a deadline and action required (eg. Make changes and send back to me by EOD friday) in the beginning of the email. This way the first thing the person sees is the deadline and he or she can plan accordingly. For example, you can start the email like this:
“Jen, I need this by EOD Thursday! See below.”
“Edited and approved copy for eBook below. Please finalize by 07/15/11 at 12:00pm ET!”
Avoid using “urgent” and “ASAP” type words. They don’t mean anything. Is ASAP something due today or by tomorrow morning? Also avoid saying “send it back to me tomorrow” without giving some kind of time reference. Otherwise it becomes a debate of what “morning” means (8am or 11am?).
4. Assign an owner: Send the email to only one person, or make sure each person has an action. You may be tempted to email the whole team after a meeting outlining what was decided. Or, there’s a task involving two people (editing the new banner artwork and sending to the printer, for example) and you want them both to see the same message. OK, but make sure each person listed on the “to” or “cc” lines have some kind of action item associated to their names. It could, for example, be like this:
“Team, I need you all to read and add the following to your to-do lists based on our earlier meeting today:
Jen: Review web analytics and report back to me by Friday 11am;
Bob: Edit the latest spec sheet design as discussed, send reviewed design to Mary by Thursday 9am.. ”
5. If you attach, then make it clear: At my previous company we had a policy of never attaching a file to an email if the email was being sent internally. This was to avoid two problems, the always precious server space being eaten by files attachments in our Exchange server and to keep the latest files always in the network where it would be easier to find. Whether you have a policy like that or not, if you need to add files to your email then list and describe attachments (and name them appropriately). It could be something like this:
“… and I’m attaching the following files:
7-16-Webinar-Preso.PPT: Final version of the webinar presentation
Alpha-Prod-Whitepaper-CopyV2.doc: Whitepaper draft, please review this copy ”
Especially useful if you have many attachments, it helps ensure all attachments are accounted for when you send out the email and helps the receiver sort through all the files coming towards him/her.
Unless you have a system like what my company offers [shameless plug!] for Marketing Resource Management or Marketing Project Management, odds are you rely on email to keep your team in check. You use email to exchange files, to communicate, and get things done. That’s ok, and by using some productivity tips I hope you can at least make good use of the tools at your disposal and spend less time chasing down people and deadlines, and more time actually doing marketing.
Additional Outlook Productivity Tips
If you’re using MS Outlook, then check out additional productivity tips I have for Outlook users in this other blog post.