Who Put Chocolate in my Peanut Butter?

In his book, Choose Yourself, James Altucher turned me on to the concept of “idea sex.” Mash two things together. Get your ideas mingling with other people’s ideas. Little column A, little column B. That kind of thing. You get it, right? Just whatever you think it means, that’s what it means. But I think you’re already there. Idea sex is a good way to mash things for a better output.

Collaboration and sharing and getting better ideas comes from trying something new, something that doesn’t always go together, or not for necessarily for everyone. Kool-Aid pickles, for instance. That’s a thing (google it). I love China Poblano, Chinese and Mexican food mashed. Old and new. Whatever it is. Mix it all up.

Adam Sandler did this quite successfully when he collaborated with Dan Bulla on his 100% Fresh special on Netflix. (If you’re not a fan of Sandler’s other work, watch this. It’s really really really good. If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to tell you.)

Smash Your Ideas Together

Today (like today today), I realized my next book has to be two books mashed into one. Dented is about how we can be a bit dented and still show up at work and in life. The Picnic is about how companies can create better spaces for the people they want to serve. The ideas are mashed. They have to be. Take your dented self and bring it to the picnic. It totally has to go like that.

And the thing is, with ideas that don’t immediately make sense to you (like Kool-Aid pickles), it needs explaining. Over and over. This is where people muck it up. If you share your crazy idea and it goes over like a fart in church, you’ll be inclined to shelve that thought and move on to something else. Don’t do that right away. Give it a try. A lot of tries. Give more than a few people a taste and see if you can get the recipe just right.

On the Conan Needs a Friend podcast, Lin-Manuel Miranda talked about how he was working on this rap-musical multicultural adaptation of Ron Chernow’s book about Alexander Hamilton. People literally laughed in his face and thought he was joking. Jon Stewart poked fun at him on the daily show the day after Miranda debuted it (at the White House for the Obamas, by the way). Well, his joke has earned him almost half a billion dollars in gross receipts, an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Pulitzer Prize and plenty more accolades.

Keep Swinging

I’ve said for decades that the big difference between me and a lot of other people is that I’ll make 100 attempts at something, and if two of them succeed then I’ve got two more wins than someone who hasn’t taken one shot. Swing for your idea. Mash it with something else.

There are so many derivative and copycat ideas in the world. But give an idea just a little twist and it works. When Ridley Scott pitched Alien, he said it was “Jaws in space.” People got the idea right away (Julien Smith used this reference in Trust Agents). Years ago, Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield founded (the widely popular and innovative at the time) Flickr when they were really trying to make a chat app for video gamers. It was a shift from the original idea (the kids called this a “pivot” for a while).

Swing. Take more swings. Try new things. It’s all good. Find your groove by trying a lot of things.

Fear of failure? That’s so 1994. Stop it. Give it up. Fail. Shake it off (Thanks, Taylor), and then get back to it.

Ready? Go!

Chris Brogan (that’s me!) is a business advisor and keynote speaker, and an author, and all kinds of things. You can be all kinds of things, too! You’re invited to the picnic!

Buyers vs. Buying Committees: Not Knowing the Difference Could Cost You

Buyers vs. Buying Committees

Buyers vs. Buying Committees

Working as a marketing or sales professional in B2B presents a unique set of challenges and hurdles. One that probably doesn’t get discussed enough is the nuance of trying to reach and engage buying committees, as opposed to single customers. It’s a hugely important distinction that too many strategies fail to fully account for.

If you’re not speaking to everyone, you might be speaking to no one. And we all know where that leads.

The Expanding Buyer Committee

A buyer (singular) is a sole decision maker responsible for researching solutions, vetting vendors, and authorizing purchases. It is exceedingly rare to see this type of setup in place anymore, unless at a startup or a very small company. Given the typical weight of these decisions, several people tend to now be involved with the process, and sign-off is often required from at least one high-ranking executive.

Harvard Business Review reported a couple years ago the average number of people involved with B2B purchase decisions had risen to 6.8, and it’s fair to guess that figure has risen since. As Amanda Bulat wrote in a recent post for the LinkedIn Sales Solutions* blog, “Large enterprises sometimes have a dozen or more people with significant influence on purchases.” 

This creates a conundrum for the modern B2B marketer. You could theoretically execute a masterful campaign, engaging a pivotal contact at a key account with compelling and persuasive content, only to have that company choose another solution because you failed to generate awareness with another key player who held more sway. 

In the interest of helping you avoid such a disappointing outcome, we’ll cover some methods to ensure you’re fully understanding, and accounting for, the buying committee.

How B2B Marketers Can Reach the Whole Buying Committee

First, you map the buying committee out. Then, you develop a plan for comprehensive engagement. Finally, you put that plan into action. Let’s break down each of these steps. (Note that this guidance generally applies when you’ve already identified specific accounts to pursue, under an ABM-style framework, although you can also incorporate many of these tips more generally.)

Step 1: Map the Committee

There is no fail-safe way to ensure you’re accounting for each influencer on a buying committee. As an outsider, there’s an inherent level of obscurity involved with this process. But there are a few techniques for gaining a much clearer view. For example:

  • Check the prospective account’s company website. Oftentimes, there will be an “Our Team” page or something similar, listing employees and their positions. Create your own rundown of executives and others with titles that frequently play a role in key business decisions.
  • Research the company on LinkedIn. There are many handy features for B2B marketers on LinkedIn, and gaining insight around buying committees is one of them. The platform makes it easy to dial up a list of employees with a particular organization, plus accompanying job titles. Then it’s the same deal as above: spot the roles that are more likely to impact the buying committee. In some cases, people will actually list this as a job duty in their profiles, removing some of your guesswork.
  • Ask your contacts. If you or another person on your team has an established relationship with someone who works in — or has worked in — the company you’re researching, it might not be a bad idea to ask about who in the business drives decisions, and who has their ear. 

Step 2: Coordinate with Sales

Alignment with sales is always critical for B2B marketers, but especially in this case, for two reasons:

  1. Sales reps usually have the most direct contact with people at an account, and can get a closer read on who the influential players are. They can be very helpful with informing the step above.
  2. Consistency in messaging is vital. You don’t want marketing content and salespeople to be sending a completely different message to different committee members, nor do you want to be repeatedly contacting the same member due to lack of communication. Formulate a plan in tandem with your partners in sales.

Step 3: Refine Your Targeting and Personas

Now that you’ve painted a picture of the buying committee’s composition, it’s time to adjust your marketing scope accordingly. When we say “refine your targeting” we mean it both in terms of how you’re delivering your content — you want to build concentrated awareness and engagement within an account, so tweak your ad targeting, email lists, social promotion, etc. to reflect — and also your tone and personalization. 

Are you speaking directly to the specific individuals you need to win over? Is your content designed to create conversations within the buying committee? Does it answer questions that emerge in the late stages of a purchase decision? These are necessary questions to ask yourself in assessing whether your marketing approach is optimized for committees.

Shore Up Your B2B Marketing by Committing to Committees

Buying committees can vary greatly depending on the company and industry. As always, it’s essential to view this matter through the lens of your own context, and tap into the institutional knowledge of people who work closely with your customers and clients. 

As our CEO Lee Odden wrote recently, “B2B purchasing is a team sport involving individuals at multiple levels from buying committees conducting research and making recommendations to executives with budgets to decide.”

[bctt tweet=”#B2B purchasing is a team sport. @leeodden” username=”toprank”]

Similarly, marketing to B2B committees is a team sport. Get your team aligned and focused on this objective, and you’ll be on your way to overcoming one of the toughest challenges in B2B marketing.

At TopRank Marketing, we have many years of experience working with enterprise brands and helping them engage with large, distributed buying committees. Contact us today to learn more about our approach and philosophies.

*Disclosure: LinkedIn Sales Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client

The post Buyers vs. Buying Committees: Not Knowing the Difference Could Cost You appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog

15 Reports Charting the Future of Content Marketing

Office interior with graphs and diagrams - Image.

Office interior with graphs and diagrams - Image.

How can you be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible for the complex and challenging future ahead for content marketing?

Here are 15 insightful reports loaded with B2B data to help you define and chart your optimal content marketing future, and provide the best-answer and trust-building solutions clients expect today.

The reports here, presented in random order, are all excellent sources of information to help you gain a clearer understanding of B2B content marketing, while keeping more than an eye open towards the future as marketers push onward to 2020.

1 — Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study Image.

The 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn* B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study examines the theme that thought leadership digital content is in high demand, and that it remains hard to find, presenting an opportunity gap.

“Senior decision-makers are willing to pay a premium. B2B buyers are likely to pay more to work with companies who have clearly articulated their vision through thought leadership,” the study notes, pointing to a rising leadership vision trend, as our own CEO Lee Odden has examined in detail in his recent “7 Top B2B Influencer Marketing Trends for 2020.”

[bctt tweet=”“The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come.”  @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

MarketingProfs’ Ayaz Nanji also digs into some of the Edelman-LinkedIn study’s findings in “What B2B Firms Get Wrong About Thought-Leadership Content.”

Also worth exploring is another fine new report from Edelman, the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust?, which Ethan Jakob Craft recently explored for AdAge.

2 — Content Marketing Institute / MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends

B2B Content Marketing 2019 Image

Agency content marketing statistics and budgeting trends for 2019 are examined in the fascinating and detailed “B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America” report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which is explored in Lisa Murton Beets’ “2019 B2B Content Marketing Research: It Pays to Put Audience First.”

3 — Chief Marketer 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey

Chief Marketer 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey Image

The Chief Marketer 2019 B2B Marketing Outlook Survey offers a wealth of B2B marketing data to learn from and apply to your own campaign strategies. Whether it’s which marketing channels are performing the best for B2B lead generation and nurturing, the increasing demand for higher-quality B2B content, or data to help increase support from the corporate suite, this report offers helpful insight.

4 — Vidyard: Video in Business Benchmark Report

Vidyard Video in Business Benchmark Report Image

The average length of B2B video has decreased by 33 percent to just over four minutes, while the number of viewers watching the entirety of videos has climbed to 52 percent, up from 2017’s 46 percent — just a few of the detailed statistics of interest to digital marketers contained in the newly-released 2019 Video in Business Benchmark Report from Vidyard.

The report is explored by Chief Marketer in “B2B Video Length Drops, but Engagement Increases,” and additional bonus video insight comes from a separate recent study, with MediaRadar’s “Research Insight: Video Ads Are Getting Longer.”

5 — Cision 2019 Global State of the Media Report

Cision 2019 Global State of the Media Report Image

For 2019, the tenth-annual Cision Global State of the Media Report surveyed some 2,000 journalists to find out what matters the most in the push towards 2020, including insights into social media, trust and distrust in the media, and how big data will inform the future of content marketing.

6 — Shutterstock: State of Content Marketing

Shutterstock: State of Content Marketing Image

A different take on the future of content comes from the Shutterstock: State of Content Marketing report, examining the changing roles of micro-influencers, data privacy and blockchain, micro-moments, social segmentation and personalization, plus other trends to follow.

7 — Mary Meeker 2019 Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker 2019 Internet Trends Report Image

Since 1995, one of the most anticipated reports containing B2B trend data is the “Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report,” and for 2019 it comes in packing a whopping 333 pages of information.

Mary Meeker is founder of venture capital firm Bond Capital and former Kleiner Perkins general partner, and I recently took a close look at many of the B2B elements contained in her new report in “Key B2B Takeaways From the 2019 Internet Trends Report.”

[bctt tweet=”“Mary Meeker’s 2019 report paints a picture of a world where it’s more challenging than ever to find new growth in certain areas, but one that also shows very real opportunities in others.” @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

8 — LinkedIn: The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal

LinkedIn The Enlightened Tech Buyer Image

LinkedIn’s 2019 global report “The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal” includes many insights for B2B marketers, taken from a survey of over 5,200 global professionals with roles centered around adopting new technology solutions.

Our Senior Content Strategist Nick Nelson examines the report in detail in “Top Takeaways from LinkedIn’s New ‘Enlightened Tech Buyer’ Report,” a great way to quickly dig in to how B2B technology brands can market and sell more effectively.

[bctt tweet=”“Effective marketing now goes beyond the scope of traditional functions. Brands need to be readily available, with the right content at the right time.” @NickNelsonMN ” username=”toprank”]

9 — Buffer: 2019 State of Social

Buffer 2019 State of Social Image

Buffer’s detailed 2019 State of Social report offers an in-depth look at what digital marketers are focusing on, along with an examination of many new and ongoing trends, and how the industry is changing.

In conjunction with Social Chain, the newest Buffer report utilizes survey data gathered from over 1,800 marketers at firms of all sizes, and looks at issues such as how businesses are investing in influencer marketing and which social platforms businesses are having the most success with.

10 — Edison Research and Triton Digital: The Social Habit

Edison Research and Triton Digital The Social Habit Image

The latest Edison Research and Triton Digital The Social Habit 2019 study includes many B2B marketing insights, leaning towards the social media side, showing how we’ve entered a new era now that social media usage has remained largely unchanged over the past four years, while Instagram has seen newfound success especially among young Americans.

Jay Baer, Founder of Convince and Convert, takes a look at the study in “Social Media Usage Statistics for 2019 Reveal Surprising Shifts.”

11 — Pew Research Center: Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019

Pew Research Center Mobile Technology Image

How the mobile landscape is changing in 2019 will have an impact on B2B marketers, and the Pew Research Center offers up a selection of related insights in its Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 report.

12 — Sprout Social: Sprout Social Index: Edition XV: Empower & Elevate (2019)

Sprout Social Index Image

Sprout Social’s most recent Sprout Social Index: Edition XV: Empower & Elevate (2019) surveyed more than 1,000 social media marketers to find out where their biggest successes are coming from, and where they plan to place their focus moving ahead.

The report shows that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, and LinkedIn are the most-used social media platforms among social marketers, and includes data relevant to B2B marketers well worth researching.

Nathan Mendenhall took a look at some of the study results in “8 Social Media Marketing Stats You Shouldn’t Ignore.”

Sprout Social has also recently updated its study of the optimal times for publishing content on various social media platforms.

13 — Hootsuite / We Are Social: Digital 2019 Q2 Global Digital Statshot

Hootsuite / We Are Social Digital 2019 Image

Hootsuite and We Are Social have produced another report filled with helpful information for B2B marketers, with their latest Digital 2019 Q2 Global Digital Statshot. The report utilized numerous sources and offers plenty of insight into where social media marketing currently stands and where it appears likely to be heading.

14 — Pew Research Center: January 2019 Core Trends Survey (2019)

Pew Research Center: January 2019 Core Trends Image

The Pew Research Center has also taken a close look at how U.S. adults are using social media, in its recent “Share of U.S. adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018,” offering additional data to help B2B marketers prepare for the social world of 2020 and beyond.

15 — Social Media Examiner: 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Social Media Examiner 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report Image

The final of our 15 reports is Social Media Examiner’s eleventh-annual social media marketing industry report, the 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. Company founder Michael Stelzner shares 46 pages of various statistical data pulled in from surveying over 4,800 marketers, and the report offers interpretation on how various aspects of social media are working for marketers today.

Fly High & Implement What You’ve Learned From 15 Reports


The 15 insightful and data-packed reports we’ve explored here from the Pew Research Center, Edelman, Edison Research, Cision, Shutterstock, Mary Meeker, Buffer, LinkedIn, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Chief Marketer, Vidyard, Triton Digital, Sprout Social, Social Media Examiner, Hootsuite, and We Are Social will help you be as prepared and up-to-date as possible for whatever the future of content marketing may hold.

Because it takes considerable time, top skills, and plenty of effort to create best-answer content marketing, it’s often wise to partner with a top-tier marketing agency, such as TopRank Marketing. We’ve had the honor of being named by Forrester as the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in its latest “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.”

*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 15 Reports Charting the Future of Content Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog

12 Must-Have Skills for B2B Content Marketers

B2B Content Marketing Skills

B2B Content Marketing Skills

Scene from a dinner party:

“So, Josh, what do you do?”

“I’m in marketing.”

“Oh, like Mad Men? Ad campaigns and stuff?”

“No, it’s content marketing.”

“Oh, like the Wendy’s Twitter account?”

“…Sure… like that.”

I’ve had variations on the above conversation more times than I can count. I’ll usually leave it at “Wendy’s Twitter account” in the interest of changing the subject. No one has the patience for, “I write business-to-business content designed to help people do their jobs better, which also builds affinity for a client brand, with the end goal of influencing purchase decisions.”

So most people think I just write fun stuff all day, that it’s a purely creative job. But my fellow B2B marketers know better. Content marketing requires an incredibly diverse set of skills, and “innate writing ability” isn’t even the most important one.

[bctt tweet=”Most people think I just write fun stuff all day, that it’s a purely creative job. But as my fellow #B2B marketers know, #contentmarketing requires a diverse set of skills. @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

Here’s my list of must-have B2B content marketing skills. If you’re looking to get into the career, fill out your team, or, say, hire a marketing agency, keep these in mind.

12 Must-Have B2B Content Marketing Skills

This list is divided into two categories: The “hard skills” that you learn through instruction, and the soft skills that rely more on personal development and human interaction.

Four Hard Skills

#1 – Search Engine Optimization
You don’t have to be a SemRushin’, Google Analytics wizard to be a content creator and strategist. But creating great content does require a solid understanding of modern SEO practices. You should know how to understand search intent, dig into ambiguous keywords, and create best-answer content that meets search demand.

#2 – Social Media Marketing
You may have a dedicated social media person or team, but content marketers should still know how to create compelling B2B social posts that attract attention without breaking the brand voice. You should be up to date on what type of content performs best on each platform.

#3 – Influencer Marketing
Content marketers should know how to co-create content with influencers. That means writing a framework that allows for collaboration, asking the right questions to guide influencer responses, and even conducting intelligent interviews. Content marketers’ expertise makes all the difference in the resulting content feeling cohesive and compelling.

#4 – Measurement
Measurement is what turns content into content marketing. Content marketers should be able to strategize, create goals and metrics that match them, track progress, and ultimately optimize over time.

Eight Soft Skills

#1 – Empathy
The heart and soul of any content marketing is empathy. You have to be able to take the customer’s perspective and make a human connection. Empathy is even more important in B2B content, because it keeps the content focused on people.

It’s easy to lose the human connection when you’re writing about container-based software-as-a-service platforms. That empathy for the people, the buyer, the end user, should be what drives the content.

[bctt tweet=”That empathy for the people, the buyer, the end user, should be what drives the content. @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

#2 – Creativity
I would argue B2B content requires even more creativity than B2C. The difference is having to work within strict limitations. Big B2B brands have whole departments concerned with brand reputation, brand voice, standards and practices, approved image libraries and fonts… Content creators have to produce something eye-catching and meaningful without breaking any of these limitations. And they have to know when it makes sense to push the boundaries.

#3 – Communication
The success of B2B content depends on explaining complex concepts in simple terms. You may know all the ins and outs of your solution, but odds are your audience won’t. Clear, jargon-free, conversational writing that offers value is the only way to succeed.

#4 – Organization
This skill is important for any B2B marketer, but especially if you work at an agency. We’re working on a dozen different clients at any one time, each with multiple assets in various stages of development. Without organizational skills, it would be impossible to get everything done on time (even with a dedicated project manager on staff).

#5 – Motivation
I read recently about a man who had been on the payroll of a major corporation for over a year without ever doing any work. Seriously. Somewhere between restructuring and management turnover, he simply got separated from responsibility without losing his salary.


That won’t ever happen for a B2B content marketer. There’s nowhere to hide: We’re responsible for concrete, quantifiable, and quality deliverables. There’s no such thing as slacking off, and there’s no such thing as writer’s block. The ability to push past obstacles, buckle down and get the work done is vital.

#6 – Confidence
Part of the job description is defending and explaining your work to stakeholders. For an agency, that includes account managers and clients. For a marketing department, that might include the executive suite, too. B2B content marketers need the (justified) confidence to advocate for content and approach they know will be effective.

#7 – Humility
The flip-side of confidence is the ability to put the content ahead of one’s individual ego. B2B content is bound to go through layers of review, with each stakeholder adding their own critique and suggestions. Humility means that you can take in constructive criticism and apply it with an eye toward producing the best content possible. While confidence is key, knowing your way doesn’t have to be the only way is equally important.

#8 – Collaboration
Finally, B2B content marketing is a team sport. It’s not about making a name for yourself — you have blog posts for that. It’s about partnering across areas of specialty to create something stunning. I found that my content got even better when I involved the design team from the start, for example. Working closely with design, SEO, influencer and social specialists only makes the work better. Here’s a shot of the gang I get to work with every day:

B2B Content Marketing Is a Game of Skill

I’ll admit it: Before I got into the field, I thought content marketing was just getting paid to write all day. Now I know there’s a lot more to the job than just filling buckets with prose. Content marketers are writers, strategizers, empathizers, collaborators, and so much more.

Need to level up your B2B content marketing? Our highly-skilled team is ready and waiting.

The post 12 Must-Have Skills for B2B Content Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog

Social Media Secrets: 5 Under-the-Radar LinkedIn Features for Marketers

Under-the-Radar LinkedIn Features for Marketers

Under-the-Radar LinkedIn Features for Marketers

It’s plain to see that B2B marketers, at large, see the value in social media. The latest B2B benchmarking research from CMI and MarketingProfs found that nearly two out of three respondents (61%) increased their usage of social media for content marketing purposes in the previous year. Another new report shows that social content is atop the list of focal areas for B2B marketers in the coming year.

It’s also fair to say, based on various data points and conversations with folks in the biz, that most of us feel we could be doing better with social. The size of the audiences on these platforms make them essential to any digital strategy, but breaking through suppressive algorithms and showing clear ROI is a perpetual challenge for brands.

One pivotal key to excelling with social media marketing is understanding all the tools you have at your disposal. Each platform offers a number of capabilities that seem to be underutilized by marketers who either don’t know they exist, or don’t fully recognize their potential impact.

With this in mind, we’re setting out to highlight some of the most useful yet overlooked features for driving results on social media platforms. Today we’re focusing on the channel most pertinent to B2B marketers: LinkedIn*, with its member base of more than half a billion professionals.

Take Notice of These 5 Marketing Tools & Features on LinkedIn

Whether your goal is building brand awareness, generating leads, or boosting conversions, these five fundamental functionalities can provide a big assist if you aren’t taking advantage of them already.

#1: Robust (and Now Simplified) Audience Targeting

LinkedIn recently overhauled its Campaign Manager tool (the interface through which marketers build, manage, and measure ads) around an objective-based advertising framework. The basic purpose of this initiative was to make it easier for users to align every element of their campaigns with the overarching objective. One of the slickest improvements to come out of this is the audience setup experience, which is now simpler and more intuitive.

From a B2B marketing perspective, the depth of available professional targeting parameters is by far LinkedIn’s biggest relative advantage compared to other social platforms. Nowhere else can you accurately filter audiences based on facets such as Job Title and Job Seniority. This provides unparalleled ability to reach decision makers and purchase influencers directly.

The revamped interface makes it quicker and more straightforward to select a qualified audience in line with your campaign goals.

#2: Revamped LinkedIn Analytics

The latest Social Media Marketing Industry Report via Social Media Examiner found more than half of respondents (54%) either uncertain or disagreeing that they are “able to measure the return on investment (ROI) for my organic social media activities.”

This is another area of Campaign Manager that LinkedIn recently spruced up. Given that advertising on this platform tends to be more expensive than other social networks, it’s especially important to ensure you’re getting return on that spend. The new reporting experience makes it easier to see results at a glance, and make optimization tweaks on the fly.

The underlying appeal of LinkedIn’s targeting facets also applies to its reporting mechanism; you can get an aggregated look at who is viewing and engaging with your content (i.e., which companies, which job titles, which experience levels). These insights can help you align your LinkedIn strategy and even your content marketing strategy more generally.

#3: Content Suggestions

Can’t figure out what to share on social media? That’s a common enough challenge. The Content Suggestions tab, found on the top nav bar within LinkedIn Page admin center, offers ample inspiration. It serves up a list of third-party articles your defined audience is engaging with — essentially a readily available stream of targeted, trending content.

Not only does this make it easy for marketers and social media managers to find share-worthy content that’s more likely to resonate with their followings, but it can also fuel employee advocacy efforts.

#4: Website Retargeting

Retargeting is a popular digital marketing tactic, which involves serving ads to people who’ve already encountered your brand. The element of familiarity, plus a concrete demonstration of past interest, tends to drive considerably higher clicks and conversions than standard ads.  

Through its Matched Audiences feature, LinkedIn allows you to place a pixel on your company’s website, then serve ads to people who’ve visited it before, while they’re on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to follow up with someone in a different context. One especially savvy approach is to create customized retargeting creative based on the specific section of your site a person visited (i.e., upper-funnel messaging for someone who went to your “About” page, and lower-funnel for someone who checked out a solution page.)

#5: Lead Gen Forms

This might be my favorite marketing tool on LinkedIn, and it definitely seems like one that more B2B brands could be utilizing. Lead Gen Forms are leveraged in combination with various types of ads, enabling your company to collect valuable contact info (and additional data about a prospect) from an individual who downloads something of value with minimal friction.

Unlike most gated-asset forms, which require a user to tediously fill out multiple fields, Lead Gen Forms automatically populate based on the member’s LinkedIn profile data. As such, it takes only a couple of seconds to get through the process. Because you’re attaining a more comprehensive snapshot of people who download, you can better qualify them as leads in comparison with other form-fills that often procure only a name, phone number, and email.

Step Up Your LinkedIn Marketing Game

LinkedIn can be one of the most valuable components of a holistic B2B marketing strategy. As mentioned earlier, there’s no denying it’s a pricier place to play than most other social networks, but you’re also paying for access to a higher-quality audience. Using the five features above can help you understand, segment, reach, and engage this audience efficiently while closely tracking the impact of your efforts.

Another underutilized tool on LinkedIn is video, which has been a key focus for the platform recently. Learn about all the metrics and specs for video on LinkedIn, as well as every other major social network!

*Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Social Media Secrets: 5 Under-the-Radar LinkedIn Features for Marketers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog

10 Years After Trust Agents

Trust Agents Cover

Just about ten years ago, Julien Smith and I wrote and published a book called Trust Agents. It talked about the rising experience of companies being able to use the web to reach people directly and connect with them in a world where companies could no longer really control the information out on the web about their brand. It was a rallying cry to invite companies to be real and transparent and to connect with the people they most wanted to serve.

The book did well. It was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. It won awards from Inc Magazine, USA Today, 800-CEO-Read and more.

Ten years have past and I want to share what’s changed in that time. (I’ve written some thoughts on this already at LinkedIn, if you’re interested.)

Ten Years After Trust Agents

In 2009, I wrote: “Companies can no longer hide behind a veneer of a shiny branding campaign, because customers are one Google search away from the truth.”

It’s more true today. And people have endured ten years of feeling unseen and unheard. As companies adopted the tools (but not always the spirit) of the social web, they pushed information blindly to people without thinking much about who they were addressing. It felt the same as telling every woman at a bar that they’re beautiful and hoping the line worked eventually.

In 2009, I wrote: “Trust agents have established themselves as being non-sales-oriented, non-high-pressure marketers. Instead, they are digital natives using the Web to be genuine and to humanize their business.”

I would change this a bit. Sales isn’t bad. Bad sales are bad. A trust agent sells you something they believe will help you win the game you’re trying to win.

Make Your Own Game

The first of the six tenets of a trust agent was to make your own game. It means to define your own space. Be specific. Create the rules of the story instead of competing against other similar products. Amazing books like Play Bigger have really expanded on this in smart ways in recent years. I stand by this.

Julien wrote about how creating your own keywords was a much better way to win at SEO instead of competing with existing words. He pointed out that if you could earn enough media attention for a phrase you coined, all roads would naturally point back to your site. I’ve been using this trick since 2009 and if you look at the traditional SEO markers of my site, it stinks, but I have massive authority around all the terms I created for myself.

In 2019, there’s something more. We are in an age of identity, where people want to be very specific about who they are, what matters to them, and they want to support only those companies that share their values. If you can buy the same kinds of products from multiple sources, why buy from a company you don’t respect? Or most importantly, who doesn’t see you?

We’ve made our own games, and we want companies to see and speak to who we are.

Companies keep saying they know what people want.

“A black guy can’t do a country song.” On the day I’m writing this, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X is on its 11th week at number 1 on the Billboard Top 100.

“No one will want to see a black-led superhero movie.” – Black Panther made $1.3 billion at the box office.

“Women superheroes won’t bring in movie viewers.” – Wonder Woman made $800 million; Captain Marvel made $1.1 billion.

Inclusivity matters. Seeing people for who they are matters. REPRESENTING THEM IN MEDIA AND MARKETING AND YOUR BUSINESS PLANS matters.

One of Us

This chapter pointed out the importance of connecting beyond advertising. Not that ads are bad. They’re just one tool.

In 2009, I wrote: “Gaining the trust of another requires you be competent and reliable. It also requires you to leave someone with a positive emotional impression, which is something the Web has the potential to do quickly and well.”

We included our first of many references to the work of David Maister and Charles Green who wrote the amazing work, The Trusted Advisor. Julien was already friends with Maister, but we befriended both authors, and I still talk to Charlie Green about once a month to learn at the feet of a master.

Of all the chapters in Trust Agents, this is the one I feel companies discarded. I think very few marketing departments held conversations about the trust equation (even though Maister and Green helped companies make millions on this detail alone). And I know that very few companies set about trying to humanize their brands to reach people.

The Archimedes Effect

I’ve always called this “Julien’s Chapter” because he had a much stronger bead on what was going on here. Leverage was the topic. How do we understand leverage? What are the ways we can use arbitrage to our advantage. It’s still heady stuff, but if people spent a little time investing in this chapter, they often reported some great results.

The parts I contributed were about leveraging time better, about building stronger relationships, about making the most of your appearances.

One fun detail about this chapter is that I cover the first inklings of the rise of Gary Vaynerchuk, when we all started to realize that this guy was going to fly to the stars and back. It’s laughable now that I covered him in the book because he was already on the way to being a massive star.

Agent Zero

I believe with all my heart that nurturing a network of great people you want to serve is the absolute most important work of a person or a company. To be the connector that helps others thrive is a powerful business driver, even if it isn’t an instant kind of reward. (It never is.)

This talks through the concept of having to become more visible. To put your presence out there on the web. To be seen on the social networks.

Over the years, companies seem to only put their CEO, CMO, and a few very junior people out on the social web. They never did quite adopt the belief that having people reachable via the social web was a benefit to the company. And frankly, many people were afraid of this kind of visibility. These tools seem foreign. Interactions on places like Twitter feel fraught with peril. And so many brilliant people worry that they’ll “do it wrong” or “look foolish” and so their brilliance is withheld from the many who would benefit from this.

The people within companies who work on “Agent Zero” type work see great rewards. Sales professionals get it. Deal makers get it. But I wish more of the folks who have non-selling jobs but massive amounts of helpful ideas and thoughts would come out and play on the web.

Human Artist

I might have said that no one cared to do the “One of Us” work. Human artist is married to that. It was our effort to point out that the Golden Rule was alive and well. So many great works focus on this. Bob Burg’s Go-Giver comes right to mind. Same-Side Selling by Altman and Quarles. Many more. Tim Sanders and Love is the Killer App.

We wrote about transparency and empathy and intimacy, all topics that most every company in the world would rather pretend doesn’t exist, though they’ll talk about it in speeches or ads.

People are SO sick of feeling invisible, being lied to, having to “find out” that a company has done them wrong. They’re so fed up, and when there’s a chance to pick another company to deal with, they will.

In a 2017 study, Cone Communications found that 67% of people wanted to align with companies that shared their values, and that furthermore, most people wanted to align with companies who would move their values forward in some way.

Identity matters to individuals more than ever before. My 17 year old is both gay and trans. He spends a lot of time online finding and listening to like minds, learning how to navigate his life, and so on. He pays attention to which companies really support trans and gay causes and not just in June.

We all want people to love what we sell, but it is only when people feel seen and understood that they’re ready to pay attention.

Build An Army

This chapter is about scale. How do we grow beyond where we are? How do we find more hands to lighten the load. Of all the chapters in Trust Agents, I could never have predicted the outcomes that companies have developed in this area.

Automation is nearly the norm in so many areas. Robots talking to robots. Everyone agreed that we needed scale, but sometimes to the detriment of human contact.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of places where automation is preferred. It’s the best. I love when companies reduce friction where they can (Roger Dooley has an amazing book on Friction).

But the human touch matters. We want it more than ever. And in a world where automation is doing the lion’s share of the heavy lifting, it means we have opportunities to earn more attention, retention, and stronger business relationships.

Trust Agents in 2019

I think there’s a lot to update and revisit in this book. I’ve been talking with Julien Smith about looking this all over again. I spoke to my publishing friend Matt Holt. I’ve talked with all kinds of people who I’ve known for the last ten years or more.

Keep your eyes posted. You might see a lot more about this. And regardless, it was super fun to look back on it all.

I help companies earn the right to sell and serve the customers they most want to nurture. Connect with me, if you want some ideas and help.

Trust Fractures: How to Avoid Accidentally Eroding Your Brand’s Credibility

Avoiding Unintended Brand Trust Fractures

Recently, we’ve been running a series of posts here on the TopRank Marketing Blog called “Trust Factors,” where we explore techniques that modern brands can use to build trust and credibility with digital audiences. There are numerous examples of companies building trust with best-answer content and boosting credibility with influencer marketing for this purpose.

Marketers are always seeking creative ways to forge genuine connections while standing out from the pack. New research from Edelman shows that consumers now have higher expectations than ever when it comes to brand responsibility. However, it’s worth pointing out that these efforts (even with the best of intentions) can backfire.

When steps taken to strengthen trust instead have the opposite effect, we call these “Trust Fractures.” A recent example got me thinking about the subject, and why marketers everywhere should be cognizant of its lurking danger.

A (North) Face Plant on Wikipedia

Wikipedia. According to Moz, its domain authority is among the highest on the web. Search marketers are accustomed to competing with the community-driven online resource’s informational results atop SERPs of all kinds. Brands occasionally attempt to co-opt Wikipedia’s popularity and inherent trust factor in various ways.

The North Face, an outdoor recreation product and clothing company, recently teamed up with agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made for a seemingly savvy initiative: taking high-quality photos of athletes in North Face gear at notable locations around the globe, then uploading them as featured pictures for the pages covering those landmarks on Wikipedia.

The idea is pretty straightforward; when a user runs a Google search to learn about state parks and mountains and the like, they’ll click on the Wikipedia entry and find North Face products and logos within the imagery. In addition to the powerful authority for an image hosted on wikipedia.org helping these graphics rank very highly in image searches, there’s also the subconscious connection created in one’s mind when they see the North Face brand embedded in photos of these beautiful places.

For a while, it seemed to be working, as explained by a recent writeup in AdAge. But when Wikipedia’s moderators became aware of the scheme, they were none too pleased. Unsurprisingly, this kind of activity goes against the non-profit website’s terms of service.

“Adding content that is solely intended to promote a company or its products goes against the spirit, purpose and policies of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world. It exploits a free public learning platform for corporate gain,” said a representative from the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit that runs Wikipedia.


“What The North Face and Leo Burnett did wasn’t clever or impressive—it was duplicitous, using Wikipedia’s openness against it, and in fact was directly contradictory to Wikipedia’s Terms of Use,” one of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors told AdAge. This particular editor, William Beutler, also happens to be the CEO of his own agency (Beutler Ink), making his sharp words toward Leo Burnett extra-spicy.

Wikipedia’s editors removed the offending images. North Face issued an apology. Perhaps they still consider the entire endeavor worthwhile given all the attention it garnered. But in their effort to gain brand trust and recognition by earning high search placements and associating (indirectly) with the Wikipedia name, North Face and its agency come out looking at best aloof, and at worst “duplicitous.”

How to Steer Clear of Trust Fractures

Sometimes, Trust Fractures are the simple results of blatant missteps by a brand or its representatives. These are relatively easy to avoid (don’t do shady stuff!). Instances like the one above, where a trust-diminishing situation arises as an unforeseen consequence, are tougher to eradicate but can be reduced through deeper and more comprehensive planning.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your programs are strengthening trust rather than weakening it.

#1: Do Things for the Right Reasons

You can’t — for lack of a better term — “black-hat” your way into trust. There’s no gaming human emotions. If your brand’s actions aren’t genuine, people (and even search algorithms) will get wise, because both are growing a lot more adept.

[bctt tweet=”There’s no gaming human emotions. If your brand’s actions aren’t genuine, people (and even search algorithms) will get wise, because both are growing a lot more adept. @NickNelsonMN #TrustInMarketing” username=”toprank”]

If you create content solely for the purpose of ranking high on search, rather than fulfilling your audience’s questions and curiosities, then a best-answer approach isn’t going to deliver the results you desire. The former should arrive as a natural consequence of the latter. I’ve come across numerous keyword-stacked pages that bury you in lead-gen fields as soon as you arrive. Not only will users reject these kinds of tactics, but because of the correspondingly low time-on-page and high bounce rates, Google will too.

The same goes for influencer marketing. When done right, as a mutually beneficial and fully engaged partnership, it’s a boon for credibility. But if you’re merely paying someone to associate your brand with them, it’s likely to be transparent to both their following and yours. We see this a lot in the B2C Instagram space, which (from my view) helps explain why millennials are reporting lower levels of influencer trust.

So I repeat: do things for the right reasons. Was there a purpose in North Face’s Wikipedia-image play other than sneaking its brand name into objective informational content? Perhaps, but it doesn’t really come off looking that way.

#2: Avoid the Fauxthenticity Pitfall

I wrote about this last year, and it goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Basically, when brands try too hard to convey authenticity in hopes of building trust with their audience, it can make them look even more out-of-touch.

This is the core issue afflicting many pay-to-play influencer engagements with Instagram celebrities, including one particularly cringeworthy example I cited in the linked post. When I see someone with millions of followers write nice but seemingly scripted things about a product, followed by hashtags indicating it’s an #ad, I have a really hard time trusting the legitimacy of the endorsement. I know I’m not alone.

#3: Think Through Outcomes and Next-Steps

Thinking strategically is always vital as a marketer, especially in cases like these. That means looking at the big picture. What was the end-game with North Face’s image play? Did their agency foresee this possibility? They probably should have, since Wikipedia’s terms aren’t locked up in secret somewhere.

With any trust-building initiative, it’s important to account for what comes next. Where might things go wrong? Are there angles we aren’t considering? How might a certain action be perceived differently than we’re intending?

Without the benefit of experience and seasoned perspective, it can be difficult if not impossible to think through all the effects that might ripple outward from a program or campaign. In this regard, it’s extremely helpful to enlist an agency partner with a strong track record of astute judgment.

Keep Marketing Trust Intact

When looking at the present digital marketing landscape, I frequently think about the saying that trust is gained in drops and lost in buckets. It’s so true, and so germane to this particular discussion. We as brands work so hard to establish and sustain genuine trust with our customers, prospects, and audiences that preventable backslides can be a real gut-punch.

[bctt tweet=”As the old adage goes: Trust is gained in drops and lost in buckets. #B2BMarketing #trust” username=”toprank”]

Here at TopRank Marketing, we’ve written often (and will continue to write often) about Trust Factors that can solidify relationships between your company and the people it serves. But it is equally important to be aware of potential Trust Fracture risks.

By maintaining genuine intentions, avoiding forced authenticity, and adhering to a holistic strategic vision, you’ll be on track to stay clear of face plants and fissures in the delicate balance of trust.

Want to learn more about the state of marketing trust today, with plenty of data-driven insight? Check out Tip of the Iceberg: A Story of Trust in Marketing as Told by Statistics

The post Trust Fractures: How to Avoid Accidentally Eroding Your Brand’s Credibility appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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