How to Maintain Great Content Curation

June 19, 2012

A guest post by Lior Levin.

Content CurationOn the surface, content curation sounds like a great way to generate content with little to no time or effort. After all, you don’t actually have to write much new content, just find interesting items on the Web and point others to them, becoming a hub for all that’s relevant to your field.

However, doing content curation well means a lot more than just plastering your site with a bunch of synopses and links. Doing content curation right takes a lot of time and requires almost as much investment as creating original content.

Doing content curation poorly, though easy and quick, is often seen as spam and is likely to raise copyright and plagiarism issues for you. On the other hand, proper content curation can be a powerful tool for both building your site and driving traffic to it. In fact, in the best possible cases, it can make you an indispensable part of your niche’s ecosystem.

So how do you curate content in a way that both attracts visitors and makes you a hero to your peers? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Participate in Your Community

If you want respect from your community, you need to do more than simply share their links. You need to create at least some original content and, equally importantly, connect with and interact with those around you.

Instead of just linking to a post, take the time to comment on it as well. Interact with other webmasters on social media and encourage them to send you interesting links. The more you contribute and interact with the community, the more they will respect and embrace you. That embracing not only makes the environment less hostile, but it also opens up new opportunities for cooperation that can make your offerings truly unique.

2. Be Careful How You Aggregate

Be careful about what you use and how you use it. Remember that the works you’re referencing are copyrighted and other webmasters, if they feel they are being infringed, may come after you.

Use only what you need, short snippets of text (usually under 50 words), headlines and links should be more than enough. If you find yourself writing a 400-word summary of a 500-word article, you likely need to rethink your approach.

Also, always attribute everything you use. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it keeps you from making enemies needlessly.

3. Don’t Automate

When you have a site or service that seems perfectly relevant to your topic, it might be tempting to grab everything that it posts by RSS or another automated tool.

Don’t do it.

The benefit a curator brings to a niche is human involvement. If you’re not selecting the best posts to share, you miss out on adding value to your readers or community. Anyone can subscribe to a site via RSS, and no site is going to be 100% relevant.

In short, automatically shooting out everything that a site or a group of sites puts out is not only very spammy, but it is of no benefit to the reader or the community.

4. Be Where the Audience Is

While this is great advice for any site, it is even more true for curated content as curation is about convenience. You don’t want to make your readers work for your content so it’s important to be where they are.

Have an audience that spends a lot of time on Reddit? Be on Reddit. Are they active on Facebook? Be on Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of multiple platforms as the time needed to add a Tumblr or a Twitter is fairly minor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ditch services that aren’t working out for you.

5. Create Expectations and Meet Them

Very quickly, answer these questions for your readers:

  1. What are you going to post?
  2. How much are you going to post?
  3. And When are you going to post it?

Readers need this information so they know what to expect from your curation and know if they want to subscribe. Create a plan and stick to it.

Whether you want to curate ten links weekly about whales or five articles a day about modern medicine, tell your readers what to expect and deliver reliably.

In the end, great curation is a lot of work, but it’s that work that adds value to the reader and the community. Bad curation is, at best, mere spam and at worst copyright infringing.

As a curator, you can’t afford to be a parasite as you need a healthy, welcoming community for your efforts to thrive.

So don’t look for shortcuts with your curation efforts and, instead, focus on providing the best value you can, especially over the long haul. Your community, your readers and even the people you link to will all thank you and reward you for it.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that offers a variety of custom neon signs for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that specializes in a to do list app.


Measuring Marketing Effectiveness

April 19, 2012

Mathematical calculator buttons with ruler by  Horia Varlan @ FlickrIf before marketers had the challenging job of gathering data to analyze campaign effectiveness, now the opposite might be true. Email marketing, marketing automation, web analytics, CRM, and the myriad of software now permeating marketing organizations gives us more data than we can process in a timely fashion.

A recent survey by CMO.com shows that fewer than 20% of marketing respondents have full confidence in what should be fundamental abilities, including measuring overall campaign effectiveness, how to allocate budget with ROI in mind, and communicating performance up to c-level executives.

“The lack of confidence results from a perception that there is simply too much data and too many channels out there, making it difficult to capture and measure all relevant data.” – CMO.com

Understanding Marketing Analytics

A recent post on the Marketing Automation Software Guide Blog titled “Marketing Analytics vs. Website Analytics”  does a good job at separating two commonly mistaken data sets. On one hand you have page views, click paths, bounce rates, and all the nice stats Google Analytics gives you for free. But, as the article argues, “in marketing analytics systems, data is integrated in a way that enables you to see a direct relationship between channels“. And this is key to understanding how to measure marketing effectiveness.

Unless you can step back from the data deluge, it will be difficult to assess exactly what to do.

“There are literally hundreds of marketing metrics to choose from, and almost all of them measure something of value. The problem is that most of them relate very little to the metrics that concern a CFO, CEO and board member.”

Another consideration involves who you are reporting to. When analyzing results from your marketing efforts you have different stakeholders asking different kinds of questions. The quote above is from a Marketo whitepaper, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics, which I have reviewed before. And it is spot on. Different questions require different data sets.

So your first question shouldn’t be “what do I measure?” but, instead, “what question am I answering?“. Do you agree?


The State of Demand Generation

March 22, 2012

If you missed the DemandCon Conference hosted earlier this month in San Francisco, the online recording of the sessions is worth checking out. BrightTalk did an excellent job with the recordings and is making all of them available for free on their website.

There are over 20 presentations available, ranging from Social CRM and Lead Generation, to Case Studies and Sales Enablement. A must-watch presentation, though, is the keynote address “The State of Demand Creation“, by Tony Jaros, SVP Research for SiriusDecisions. Here are some of my notes.

SiriusDecisions State of Demand Gen 2012

The State of Demand Generation 2012

Why is demand generation so important? According to Tony Jaros, marketers will typically spend 60% of their budget on demand generation programs. The problem is, there are 4 key battles playing out in organizations:

  1. Task ownership (who does what in demand gen process)
  2. Buying cycle control (you need to facilitate the buying process and understand what is required of you as a result)
  3. Create sufficient content (how can we possibly keep up with demand for content?)
  4. Create demand while we sleep (build a “perpetual demand engine”)

Tony says that SiriusDecisions is in the process of revising their demand generation waterfall framework (Inquiries > Marketing Qualified Leads > Sales Accepted Leads > Sales Qualified Leads > Deal Closed), but shared some interesting facts about typical conversion rates and contrasted those with what they consider “best-in-class” companies:

Typical Rates for the Average B2B Company:

  • Inquiries to MQL: 4.4%
  • MQL to SAL: 66%
  • SAL to SQL: 49%
  • SQL to Close: 20%

The numbers above mean that out of 1,000 inquiries, the typical organization will close 2.9 deals.

Best Practice B2B Company Rates:

  • Inquiries to MQL: 9.3%
  • MQL to SAL: 85%
  • SAL to SQL: 62%
  • SQL to Close: 29%

Best practice companies, on the other hand, will typically close 14 deals out of 1,000 inquiries.

The 5 Critical Tasks

How do you get to be a “best practice” company and increase your efficiency? SiriusDecisions says that to drive best-in-class performance, sales and marketing must align around five waterfall-based jobs:

  • Seed (use of traditional and social media to set the stage for demand creation)
  • Create (generation of “original” demand, focusing on quality, i.e. generating a better lead for sales)
  • Nurture (care and feeding of prospects that aren’t ready for sales or that have fallen out of the waterfall)
  • Enable (help reps increase productivity, both for sales and marketing-sourced demand)
  • Accelerate (help sales move deals more quickly through the pipeline)

This all leads to a few things. For one, the rise of the “Demand Center” taking away tasks that were typically the domain of Field Marketing. But, more importantly, demand creation has become more complex, requiring increasingly specialized skills. And so, there are new roles coming down the pike based on each of the critical tasks mentioned before:

Seed:

  • Content strategist
  • Inbound marketer

Create:

  • Automation expert
  • Web anthropologist

Nurture:

  • Nurturing specialist

Accelerate:

  • Acceleration specialist

The Customer Buying Cycle Framework

According to SiriusDecisions, buyers go through three stages and six steps during their buying process.

Stage 1: Education
– Loosening the status quo
– Committing to change

Stage 2: Solution
– Exploring possible solutions
– Commiting to a solution

Stage 3: Vendor Selection
– Justifying the decision
– Making the selection

Buyers move in and out of each stage. You have to be prepared to engage them throughout the cycle. The problem, though, is that marketers have to face the realities of the B2B Buying Cycle:

  • You control less
  • You see less
  • Your sales resources will often be in reactive mode

Organizations have to become better at determining what need and what questions buyers have when they decide to engage in the sales process. Understanding the buying cycle and the key needs buyers have at each point can help marketers and sales reps. Create a knowledge base with relevant content that your sales team can leverage during the sales cycle.

Content Creation Challenges

The biggest complaint from marketers is that they can’t keep up with content creation needs (multi-touch programs, social media, nurturing programs, thought leadership, etc.).

Why companies can’t keep up? Usually because marketers suffer from:

  • No accountability (is everybody’s job and nobody’s job, there is a void in planning and strategy related to content creation)
  • Lack of targeting (too broad a vision/strategy which is never revised)
  • Rampart waste (content created has no memory, not related to previous content, not connected to other content, and has no story; and limited ability to find what’s needed)
  • Burned cycles (lack of buyer knowledge, and lack of specificity)

Centralized responsibility for content strategy is becoming a requirement for highly effecitve b2b marketing. AKA the rise of the “Content Strategist“, which is someone that has:

  • Accountability
  • Authority
  • Responsibility
  • Organization
  • Measurement

Another issue when it comes to content creation is that most organizations engagage in “absolute targetting“, they think about everyone that could potentially buy what they are selling, and create content accordingly which means response rates are low, and quality of leads is also low.

Marketers should instead engage in “relative targeting“. You want to take your industry and segment it into sub-verticals and rank them in terms of external factors (trends, category spend, product use and importance, competitive presence). Then, use internal factors (solutions delta, domain knowledge, messaging, sales readiness, and database) to select the best segment for you to go after.

Content Audit

Best in class companies are auditing their assets. There are two steps for that:

  1. Classify by content type (white papers, brochures, testimonials, videos, case studies, etc.)
  2. Evaluate each piece of content (quality, relevance, value, influence on buyer perception)

The Complete B2B Persona

Buyer personas are all the hype again, and for good reason. They are the first step in your content planning process. SiriusDecisions has a B2B Persona template they use which you should consider for your next content creation project. Here are the key things they look at when creating the persona:

  • Job role
  • Demographics
  • Buying Center (the department that makes the buying decision)
  • Common titles
  • Position in the org chart
  • Challenges (what are the challenges this person faces?)
  • Initiatives (what initiatives in this person involved with?)
  • Buyer role type (influencer, decision maker, etc.)
  • Interaction preferences (how do they prefer to communicate)
  • Watering Holes (where do they go to get info they want)

The Perpetual Demand Creation

The presentation ends with the idea of the PDC (Perpetual Demand Creation). Building the perpetual demand creation involves a set of strategies to create efficiencies and improve performance over time:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Website Conversion Optimization
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Sales Programs

As I said, there is a lot of good information presented and is definitely worth watching the BrighTalk recording in full.


Inbound Marketing Analytics 101

December 14, 2011

HubSpot does it again, taking content that is not necessarily new or revolutionary and putting it in a nicely formatted eBook that makes reading it a pleasure.

With “An Introduction to Inbound Marketing Analytics“, you get an overview of what to measure and why. Especially useful for small companies and those who are just starting out with their marketing programs and need some help identifying key metrics, the eBook is packed with good advice.

HubSpot Inbound Marketing Analytics eBook

Inbound Marketing Analytics Overview

In the eBook you will see metrics for the following marketing tactics:

  • Social Media
  • Email Marketing
  • Lead Nurturing & Marketing Automation
  • Your Website & Landing Pages
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Paid Search
  • Business Blogging

The benefits of analyzing your marketing performance according to HubSpot are:

1. Identify what’s working.
2. Identify what’s not working.
3. Identify ways to improve.
4. Implement more of the tactics that work to improve marketing performance

Agreed!

Get your free copy of the “An Introduction to Inbound Marketing Analytics” eBook.

Introduction to Marketing Analytics eBook


Marketing Automation is More Than Technology

June 1, 2011

A new research study by Sirius Decisions, “Calculating the Return on Marketing Automation“, sponsored by Marketo talks about the different levels of companies implementing marketing automation platforms (or MAP, as they call it).

“Companies using technology alone to solve their demand creation issues may actually experience negative return where it matters most”

The report breaks down companies into three segments:

  1. No Marketing Automation, and no processes
  2. Marketing Automation and wither no or weak processes
  3. Marketing Automation with average processes

Although talking about processes is not new, what I liked is that instead of just stating the obvious (no process won’t make the technology work) they try to quantify and answer the more important question of How much does a well defined process really contribute towards your overall marketing automation efforts?

Increasing Response Rates

From the report, it seems the key critical element that is impacted the most by marketing technology when it comes to automating campaign response, nurturing, and scoring your leads is the increase in response rates.

The best way to think about it is to imagine the traditional funnel. As you move from one stage to the next (inquiries, leads, qualified leads, etc.) there are only two ways to impact the outcome, either you get more inquiries or you increase the number going from one stage to the next.

According to Sirius, Marketing Automation technology paired with good processes can yield 4x to 5x the number of closed deals. The magic relies on the higher conversion rates throughout the sales cycle. Is not about getting more leads or more inquiries, is about getting the right ones and improving the odds of closing a deal at each stage.

It’s About Content and Processes

But how are processes helping make sure the system works? Here’s the intersting part, because anyone can implement technology to automate what goes out to customers and prospects. The pairing of processes means more than ensuring emails go out when they should, it takes care of ensuring the right message is sent to the right person at the right time.

And when the process includes both sales and marketing working together on definitions, on content strategy, and qualification criteria companies see higher response rates overall. As the report states:

With a handoff process in place, sales now accepts and processes more than 58percent of MQLs; the higher quality of these leads in turn yield a third conversion rate of roughly 49 percent to opportunity, and an increased close rate of a bit more than 23 percent.

Adding technology without processes may make you feel better at first, but will only serve to highlight the problems you always had. The key is to rethink your approach and use technology to leverage your processes, not the other way around.


Marketing Automation Monday is Here!

December 8, 2010

On Monday I attended a Marketing Automation Monday event, put together by the Marketing Automation Association, a newly formed group of marketing professionals that discusses all things related to marketing automation and best practices. It was really fun and if you are interested in learning how other marketers are tackling their marketing, CRM, and even sales challenges this is the place to go.

Some of the issues discussed were:

  • Who manages and who owns the CRM system in your organization?
  • How do you setup your scoring system for inbound leads?
  • What is the hand-off process with sales?
  • How do you get a feedback loop established with sales so that you can get better at scoring your leads?
  • Buyer personas and content creation

The interaction was great and the fact that we had people from both SMB and large companies was great, we could hear both sides of the story and how different size companies work with marketing automation.

One of the interesting points raised during the discussion was about content creation. Sure, you can setup all the triggers, scores and processes in your MA system but nothing will matter if you don’t have the content to support it. Most companies start off with one track for their automation and nurturing programs and expand with time. Ideally, you want to match your content with the buyer persona and the nurturing/sales stage. I.E. one type of content is sent to the IT Manager who is evaluating vendors while another is sent to the Programmer who is trying to learn more about your product.

A recent chart from MarketingSherpa touches a bit upon the content creation challenge for email marketing (see below). In it they show how automatically sending email based on triggers is more effective than allowing subscribers to specify email preferences. Interesting also that according to their research the segmentation of email campaigns based on behavior (which is a big part of a Marketing Automation program) is also less effective than the sending of emails based on triggers.

Three dimensions of relevancy tactics

As always, you have to take all of this with a grain of salt. An important point raised during the Marketing Automation Monday meeting was that you should really analyze your company’s history and understand based on your historical data (i.e. which leads turned into closed deals, where did they come from, what programs generated more closed deals, etc.) what is working best for you and what patterns can you see in your history that will help you fine tune your automation programs.

Interested in learning more about Marketing Automation and how to take advantage of it? Join the LinkedIn group and attend the next event!


Marketing By Objectives

November 29, 2010

Objective-Action-Budget

In a recent article for the CMO Council’s Newsletter, Nicolas Watkis argues “Marketers won’t succeed if they don’t have objectives”. Right on, my friend!

As we have all heard before, marketers are now more than in any other time being measured and challenged to produce measurable results. Mr. Watkis then states “the most important activities for marketers are the establishment of marketing objectives, a plan for their achievement, a budget to support the plan, and the management of assets and resources to achieve the objectives”.

OK, I think we can all agree this makes sense, but then how do you go about coming up with a plan? His article argues that most marketers start with the budget and foolishly take that for a marketing plan while the right approach is actually quite different:

1. Set measurable objectives, both financial and marketing. The financial objectives are revenue, profits, return on assets (how much sales will the campaign generate? Is a valid question to answer in your objective) and although he doesn’t describe what the “marketing objectives” are, I would focus on lead generation numbers (how many qualified leads, for example) although other metrics such as “number of blog posts” or “twitter messages” could be valid objectives for social media campaigns.

2. List actions to be take for each objective, with completion dates, people responsible for each action and also think in terms of alternative actions (what to do in case the action is not successful). This last bit is important for factors outside your influence, maybe a contract that depends on another company has to be signed for the joint marketing campaign to start, or what to do if certain assumptions you’ve made when putting together the plan fail to materialize (i.e. what to do if mommy bloggers don’t pick up our story or offer right away as we hope they will do).

3. Profit and loss projection with a detailed marketing budget showing the allocation of resources. So here it is, the marketing budget, the final component of the marketing plan.

The methodology of OBJECTIVE -> ACTION -> BUDGET is logic, but why is it that so many marketers keep insisting on coming up with the budget before actually putting a plan in place? The “let’s copy last year’s budget” mentality is prevalent in many organizations because is the easy way out of a not so glamorous function. Maybe now is time for some change. So write “objective -> action -> budget”  down on paper, in big letters and stick it to your corkboard or use a post-it and glue it to your computer monitor. That’s what I just did 🙂


Free Stuff That Sells. Maybe.

June 13, 2009
Free Marketing Stuff Can Sell

Free Marketing Stuff Can Sell

As marketers our job is to generate brand awareness, educate our prospective customers on the benefits of our products and get them to purchase. Effective marketing is about generating sales. Sure, leads and nurturing and all of that are all good but the reality is that unless a sale is made, all that money was spent without any return. Part of the challenge is reaching enough people with your message so that at least a significant number of them decide to buy. And how do you reach even greater number of prospects? Give away free stuff.

Can free stuff sell?

There is a natural resistance among marketers to give whitepapers, webinars, even product spec sheets out for free, especially without requiring any kind of registration. We want names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, company revenues, number of employees, and while we’re at it give us your annual budget too. What do we do with it? We send it along to the sales reps so tat they can chase these “leads” like eagles diving for their prey. Eagles rarely come back empty handed, though. But that’s another story.

Back to the free marketing stuff. I am enrolled in a free course called Inbound Marketing University, created by HubSpot. It is a free week long online training program featuring some great speakers on topic such as blogging, SEO, viral marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing… all the tools online marketers need to know.

So, why is it free? Because if they charged for it not as many people would register.  Also, the classes (delivered via online webinars, with the archives available afterwards) feature speakers from other respected companies that would love to be able to sell their products to the attendees. I’m not saying that it will be sales pitch university, but I am skeptical. Will it really have all the great insight you get from quality paid courses? Will I get sales calls from each company that is presenting a class? I sure hope yes for the first and no for the second.

As an attendee the question is whether the content will be good. As a marketer (HubSpot in this case) the question is whether sales will follow.

Free marketing that sells

Free marketing stuff can definitely help a company improve its brand and get new customers. People love free stuff, and if it is quality free stuff that you don’t have to regiser for they will tell more people to check it out and those people will tell even more people (viral marketing anyone?). Odds are that someone may eventually buy the product or service. David Meerman Scott is a master at this. His eBook “The New Rules of PR” was offered for free without requiring any registration from his website and was downloaded 250,000 times. When he came out with his hardcover book “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”, it reached number 1 in sales quickly. When people download his eBook and like it, they are more likely to purchase his new book. On top of that, by recognizing David as an expert on the subject and someone that is not emailing you every week with stuff you never asked for, he and his company (Pragmatic Marketing) may get some customers that otherwise would not have even thought about them.

And if you do a simple Google search, you’ll find tons of other free stuff that does not require registration. From free PPC tips, free guide on Facebook for business, free eBook on Twitter for Business, free email marketing guide, and other miscellaneous free stuff (some of which you wish you had never found).

Does it mean we should all offer free stuff without registration on our websites? And how about going a step further and forgo registration for everything else we have on the site, just let people take it? Of course not, but putting some thought into getting quality content available without too many hurdles for the users couldn’t hurt either. Going back to the Inbound Marketing University, what I liked about their registration process is that it was painless, they ask minimum information and so far only relevant emails about the course have been sent.

Whether Inbound Marketing University ends up delivering a great program or just more sales presentations, I will let you know throughout the week as I take their classes (probably more archive classes than live ones, for my free time during the day is fairly limited). The free offer has at least picked my interest so you could say that the strategy is working… for now.

Does free stuff appeal to you? Or you try to stay away from it? Do you offer free marketing materials without registration on your website? Please share your experiences! 🙂


What is an Effective Marketer?

January 4, 2009

According to dictionary.com, the word effective means “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result”. An effective marketer, therefore, is someone who can accomplish his/her goals and produce the results set forth by the company. Notice I didn’t say ‘marketing results’, I’m referring to the Corporate goals because no marketing can be effective if it doesn’t contribute to the overall goals of the company. Mark Stevens, in his book “Your Marketing Sucks” has very good examples of what I mean and this is an issue for a future post. Let’s get back to the premise of this post, that is, an effective marketer can achieve and contribute to the company’s goals.

So is “effective marketing” the same as “effective marketer“? Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. The answer, my dear friends, is a resounding NO!

You could have effective marketing campaigns that drive sales up 100% and win awards and accolades but still have an inneffective marketer at helm. Blogs, magazine articles, whole books were written on marketing strategies and tactics and how to tweak your website to get higher Google rankings, how to use Guerilla Marketing and all the other interesting tools in the marketer arsenal but those are mainly that: tools. Without good judgement, they are a waste of resources. 

The effective marketer, therefore, uses the tools at his or her disposal in the wisest way possible. Not only that, but choosing the right tools is but a small part of the marketer’s job, especially if such person is in management or supervises people. The management of the marketing team (or any other human resources available to the marketer) is probably the most important task one has in his or her hands. The people are what will ensure the correct use of the marketing tool, the success of the marketing department, and subsequently, the success of the marketer in question.

Getting back on track

There is a lot to cover and that’s what this blog is for. Just to finalize the train of thought initiated a few senteces above, you can have an effective marketing campaign but an inneffective marketer because the campaign results may be out of that marketer’s control. Or, the team carrying out the campaign is good and has made sure that the campaign was corrected in time and launched successfully despite their manager’s inability to lead them. We all have experienced in our careers some kind of abismal leadership and have (we hope!) survived to tell the story.

The effective marketer, on the other hand, is not a guarantee of effective marketing but it is a much better judge of what will make his or her marketing department successful. Effective marketers still struggle with conditions sometimes out of their control (economic climate, budget cuts, etc.) but is nevertheless able to make the most out of it. As we post and discuss these ideas, it will become clearer how one can become effective and great at what he or she does. Your contribution, therefore, is essential! Let’s begin our journey to becoming effective marketers!


%d bloggers like this: