Why Big Brands don’t Focus on Content Marketing like Smaller Brands

I recently came across and then shared on Twitter a post about how smaller brands generally dominate content marketing. The point here was that smaller brands, who operate on typically much smaller marketing budgets, but greater effort into generating more quality content and in general, great content marketing campaigns from smaller brands are much easier to find than those from big brands. The post was written by Johan du Toit and can be found here.

I’d have to say that I agree with that theory in general, but I do not believe the reason is because smaller brands try harder to do so and are therefore winning a race to great content. In my opinion, big brands simply don’t need or benefit from the value received from content marketing in the way that smaller brands do.

Content marketing provides businesses with a dose of all of the above, brand recognition, credibility / thought leadership growth, leads, backlinks and social mentions for the most part. The power of a big brand alone takes care of the first few benefits in this list, the power of a big budget can typically handle the rest.

For example, take the total annual conference speaking engagements for the average mid-sized IT company. A company like Cisco will produce the same number of conference and event speakers in a day globally. Brand recognition, credibility, thought leadership and more, a fantastic content marketing piece wouldn’t be able to match that level of results.

Other benefits of content marketing such as leads, backlinks and social mentions, organically, most big brands produce a far greater volume of these than what a small brand / medium sized business can manufacture.

To add to this, I also think that if orchestrated, big brands could very easily dominate content marketing. Obviously from the potential reach, but I mean more in terms of quality in this case. A company like Cisco, to use them as an example again, could more easily pool together some of the most respected and recognizable minds in the networking field, probably some of which are full-time Cisco employees, to create a white paper on networking best practices. The smaller business with the same idea wouldn’t necessarily be able to do something like that all that easily, and maybe employs one or two SME’s to the white paper. Cisco likely gets higher quality content in this case, you have a handful of the world’s best SME’s each contributing in a category that they specialize in, versus the smaller number of professionals, spreading out their contributions a bit more.

I think that this is a good thing, if big brands needed content marketing the way that smaller brands do, then the opportunity wouldn’t be there quite as much as it is now for smaller brands.

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Are You SEO’ing Your Lead Gen Devices? Why Not?

No one will argue that content lead generation devices such as white papers, videos, webinars, etc. can be fantastic at generating industry relevant, top of the pipeline new leads for many organizations (obviously). Most companies content driving strategy includes using their social media following, sometimes press and perhaps their email marketing lists to move the message that their new lead gen device is available. In some cases, I’ve seen companies help co-market each other’s content in the form of emailing, social and blog posts.

In many cases, these content ideas have a downward sloping lead production curve. The campaigns come out blazing, several channels hit at once, heavy tweet schedules, email lists spaced out by a few days, etc. Then, the burst of new leads and re-engaged leads slowly dwindles, until the content has no other purpose but to be re-used lightly in drip campaigns or other short life campaigns.

A downward trending return on good content is really easy to avoid. Too many companies I know overlook the fact that a little SEO investment into a lead gen content piece, can go a really long way. Obviously, take the same opportunity research approach you take when evaluating any traditional hard lead, landing page, keyword opportunity. Where do you rank currently -> how much traffic currently – > how are conversions (from organic traffic) currently -> if those signs are positive then -> who ranks above you currently and how do they rank for the best keyword terms -> what work will it take to move in to a ranking that returns significantly higher results.

I always go in to content idea analysis with an organic SEO, keyword potential approach first. If I invest the time of one of my Subject Matter Expert’s, I want long term value, if it is indeed there for the taking. You can take this approach with anything in the content sphere, white papers, videos, webinars (turn webinars into accessible video with contact capture after the webinar) etc. First, plan the landing page out to include enough content to drive organic traffic and have all on-site SEO done correctly. Then build conversion optimization in to the landing page, include teaser vine videos, a snapshot of some of the white paper content, content quotes etc. Use some of your other web properties (micro / niche blogs, microsites) to assist the SEO on your landing page and to convert more traffic from those properties. Take some of the other steps you would follow to build inbound links. Also keep in mind, you don’t have to use your prime sources to build links for a piece of content like this, save those for hard-lead landing pages. With something like this, lower-end link building is usually sufficient.

But I Have So many Different Landing Pages for the Same Piece of Content…
Its not always the case that there is only one landing page for your content piece. In some cases, affiliate tracking url’s, session ID’s etc. can cause duplicate content issues with your content piece that may prevent it from performing to its SEO potential. I saw this recently with a client. In this case, be certain to establish a robots.txt rule to all other instances of the landing page other than the primary url. This may require a dev, but if you take the time to set it up properly initially, the results will be well worth it.

What to Expect
Obviously, as with all good SEO, the growth curve is generally slower and takes time. Do your on-site SEO work, do some initial off-site work, revisit in a couple of months, re-examine the ranking potential and do some more off-site work if its appropriate. As you can see from the Graph 1 below, we rolled out a somewhat niche content piece that we thought had some potential to reach a certain type of target customer in late March. We did on-site and off-site SEO in the next month and a half. In June, we moved the message to our social following. Obviously, the initial social push returned some solid results, but as the the next two months came, we did nothing else in the way of promotions. Graph 2 will show you the search traffic broken out of the overall traffic. The SEO worked, and now with steady rankings, we can expect a monthly lead flow from this content piece, without having to spend any marketing budget or human hours (this is a targeted piece, the conversion rate started out great and continues to increase). We can go ahead and move on to the next great content piece.

Growth Graphs

Engaging and Converting the Mobile User

Obviously, mobile web visitors makes up a widely growing base of overall visitors for many websites in many fields. Over the course of the last 12 months or so I started to pay close attention to mobile traffic on my website. I was watching the analytics closely, looking for sources, looking for conversion trends, looking at multi-channel attribution conversion trends, looking at overall conversion. I found nothing too stunning to say the least, except for these things.

1) The traffic looked very similar to traditional, non-mobile traffic. Sources, keywords, channels, landing pages, paths, etc., all very similar.

2) The traffic converted into a lead at approximately 50% the rate of traditional, non-mobile traffic. – WHOA, OPPORTUNITY!!!!

Item number 1 above has much to do with the industry I’m in. I have read reports to the contrary in many fields, but the industry I operate in and the way I choose to acquire my traffic leads to a user with a little more cut and dry purpose.

Item #2 is clearly the piece that grabbed the heck out of my attention and made dig in, much much more. I love discoering new opportunities for more leads, it excites me. Clearly, we could stand to make that number significantly better.

I immediately started my research and reached out to friends who I thought knew a thing or two about mobile marketing. Turns out, mobile marketing is pretty stinkin new in the grand scheme of all things marketing channel related. There aren’t many that know a whole lot about it. A friend of mine from college, however, is an expert in the field, and a bit of a thought leader in the space. In fact, he was one of the creators of Google’s Mobile Marketing Playbook, his name is Mark Hendrix. Mark was extremely helpful [Thanks man!].

Through my research I found many things that looked similar but different about the user interface and conversion strategy.  The mobile user needs different mechanisms laid out slightly differently with different methods of access than the traditional user. Creating the user interface on the mobile side of your site requires you to segment the mobile users even further than norm. Obviously, I can’t get too in depth about this because my competitors may be reading, but engaging the mobile user requires more than just a mobile responsive website (some people choose the mobile subdomain for their website, that’s way lame these days).

Engaging the Mobile User
– Take a brand first and foremost approach.
– Engage with calls to action / lead gen assets that are more comfortable in a mobile environment.
– Tell the mobile user more with easy access videos that define your product and your brand.
– Reduce copy on the mobile side that appears on the desktop side.
– Make related blog posts more accessible and make sharing via mobile device front and center (especially Twitter).
– Make following your Twitter (the most mobile friendly major social platform) account way easier!

Converting the Mobile User
– Reconsider your lead gen assets conversion approach (I basically took a whole new, internal, simplified approach and am rolling it out to both mobile and non-mobile visitors). Since the mobile user is much more likely to be turned away by multi-step conversion mechanisms, simplify the process, remove the opt-in email or off site second steps. Again, you are talking about a new non-traditional approach to conversion on your lead gen assets, it may be more difficult to set up, but worth the conversions.
– Choose lead gen asset / CTA’s that both fit the segment of the viewer based on landing page qualifications and fit your mobile segment. Not all assets will apply in the same manner as they do to non-mobile traffic. Easy targeted white papers, infographics and high value quick download videos are great here.
– Present a lead gen asset / CTA at the start of your landing page and show the simplicity of accessing the asset. Presenting the asset at the start of your content, before the body, makes it more visible to the viewer and is likely the first impression it leaves. Ideally you have a mobile responsive site, so from a cell phone, the content of the landing page is viewed in a singular column (in most cases), give them 1) the header, 2) the lead gen asset and then 3) the body.

Mobile conversion is optimized when you present a clear lead gen asset / call to action immediately in the hot zone without scrolling and  you do so with simplicity. That process is obviously a little more complex for non-mobile traffic, more conversion optimization techniques like trust building etc. can be added to that equation. However, in mobile, you don’t often have that luxury in many cases. If you take that approach, even as the user scrolls, they will know where to find what they want. Since a mobile responsive site pushes everything in one column, your call to action may get lost at the very bottom and that simply won’t cut it (unless you are my competitor).

So there you have it, engage and convert mobile users requires a little different thinking. Until next time!

Establishing a Social Selling Role within My Company

I think I am at the crest of something new here. I have scoured the web for job titles, blog posts and anything I could find on companies that have a role specifically designated to social selling. I have found nothing. Social selling is not new by any means, but I am in the process of establishing and training a person in my company designated specifically as a social sales person. The early results are promising and very exciting.

It came to a point where I had someone who I saw was clearly talented at social media. There are certain aspects you look for in someone, you can’t force someone or really even train someone to be great at social media if they don’t have a few certain things about them. So I knew this person could do quite well in the social media marketing capacity in which we already operate. However, we already have the needs covered there. It also just so happened that this person had sales experience, so it made the decision to do this, that much easier.

Social selling is something that many people have been evangelizing about for some time. I have been a proponent of it for a while as well and have lead training sessions with my sales staff on social selling and social prospecting best practices for the past couple of years. I’ve come to believe in it so much that I felt like there was a void within our organization. I wanted someone to handle this role and be responsible for the task, full-time.

Again, certain attributes are essential to someone who is going to be highly effective at social media for business. I learned this by watching my social media manager take the role and explode it out to a highly successful marketing channel for us. I also saw a handful of people prior to her not do as well. Our social media marketing has certain goals, which we achieve, pretty easily. I wanted to take most of the same things that made us successful as a marketing team in social media and apply those to this social “selling” role. That’s why those attributes were so important. I was going to put into place a similar strategy, similar tactics and similar tools, with some slight variations.

With this new social selling role, I defined a daily, weekly and monthly plan, most of which is more closely related to marketing than to a traditional sales role. Without a doubt, I consider this person in the role a marketer over a salesperson. Daily, weekly and monthly sales objectives and daily, weekly and monthly marketing objectives, clearly defined and the plan laid out. Marketing makes up 80% of the role, sales is 20%.

The results have been strong so far, I firmly believe that I have the right person in place to make this go very, very well. Fortunately, a few years of B2B and B2C social media marketing trial, error, failure and success has given me the ability to put the tools in place that will help make this person successful and will help this person to realistically hit the daily, weekly and monthly tasks we have identified. I think we have the right strategy, the right tactics and achievable goals. Let’s see how it goes!