Building Better Influencer Relationships: 7 Cues Marketers Can Take from Sales

Influencer marketing is booming with B2B and B2C brands big and small dipping their toes in the water. And it’s certainly not hard to see why. From declining consumer trust to content overload to near-dead organic reach on social channels, working with influencers enables brands to build credibility, authority with existing and new audiences, as well as connect with thoughtful industry experts.

And, of course, partnering with influencers can help drive marketing results. In fact, according to a Linqia survey, 94% of marketers who use influencer marketing find it an effective practice that can generate up to 11-times the ROI of traditional advertising.

But in order to keep your influencer partners interested, as well as drive results, thoughtful engagement is paramount. It’s all about building relationships — which is an art form, and an area where your sales team can be incredibly helpful. And I should know. I’m a recovering salesperson who’s now embedded in the influencer marketing world.

Below I share seven sales-industry strategies and ideas that can be used to boost and inspire your influencer relations activities.

#1 – Do your research.

Any successful salesperson will tell you that sales is really about making friends. And you can’t make friends if you don’t know who you’re contacting.

Sales teams are often well-versed in scouring and researching on LinkedIn and other online tools, looking for clues, connections and topics to discuss with their prospects or existing customers.

When it comes to researching influencers you’d like to work with, that research and understanding is not only important to learn if they’re a good fit for your brand, but also the kind of topics they’re talking about, the people they follow and engage with, and even their personality. And all this can inform how you should with them before, during, and after the first time your work together.

#2 – Use tools to save time and properly nurture.

I know salespeople who have a big Excel spreadsheet they use to keep track of their prospects and contacts. But as their list grows, managing contacts and relationships becomes cumbersome and inefficient. That’s why most sales teams use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep track of who their prospects and customers are, track their interactions and measure the likelihood the prospect will close.

The same best practice should be applied to influencer relations and marketing. You need a tool or a set of tools to keep track of prospective and current influencer contacts. This will not only help you be efficient (and preserve your sanity), but also help you properly nurture the relationship through informed communication. Some of these helpful tools include Onalytica and Traackr.

My advice, don’t go it alone. Use a tool.

#3 – Social selling rocks.

Nobody likes to be cold called. Eighty percent of decision makers won’t buy from a cold call and only 2% actually result in a meeting being scheduled. So, when I discovered social selling, I jumped in with both feet. I’d get to know my prospects on social media. Then, when I decided to reach out to them, they already knew me. It wasn’t a cold call, anymore.

Getting to know your influencers works the same way. As touched on above, through social media, you can understand what they like to share, start to build a connection, and then interact with them before you make an ask.

You can look at this as smart influencer engagement. TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden calls this the “Confluence Romance,” a framework for making and maintaining influencer relationships.

“Organic influencer engagement is all about warming the relationship,” he says. “And there’s no more efficient or effective way to do that than showing interest and care through social channels.”

Organic #InfluencerEngagement is all about warming the relationship & there’s no more efficient or effective way to do that than showing interest & care through social channels. – @leeodden Click To Tweet

#4 – “Say it with a smile.”

Did you know you can see a smile through the phone? It comes out in they way you write, too. I learned this in a sales class, and I’ve tested it. It really makes a difference if you smile through your interactions. People will be more likely to want to interact with you.

When it comes to your interactions with influencers, aim to delight people and show them you genuinely care by:

  • Thoughtfully commenting on recent social posts
  • Asking them about recent trips they’ve taken or events they’ve attended
  • Showing interest in their key subject areas

And, don’t forget. Let your smile come through in all your interactions.

#5 – Personalize Your Correspondence

More than ever, consumers and buyers want a personalized touch during their interactions with brands and salespeople — especially when it comes to email marketing, something that HubSpot spotlights in its article 18 Habits of Incredibly Successful Salespeople.

Just as forward-thinking salespeople work to create a personalized experience for their customers and buyers, marketers should do the same when reaching out to influencers.

It’s easy to send the same message to everyone you’re hoping to work with on a curated piece, larger asset, or ongoing campaign. But, a little personalization goes a long way. Consider mentioning a tweet or blog post you found interesting, or a previous conversation to show that you are not a bot.

And, there are tools to help. You might consider a tool like Crystal Knows, which will help you understand the personality of your influencer prospect.

Influencers expect and deserve a personal ask, so make the effort.

Influencers expect & deserve a personal ask, so make the effort. – @dfriez #InfluencerRelations #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

#6 – Ask for the Close

Salespeople are taught to find the best time to ask for “the close.” It may be a presumptive close, but the overall idea is to lead prospects to the outcome that includes “money being exchanged.”

Here’s where you want to stop me and say: “I’m a marketer. I’m not selling anything.”

Marketers, you’re selling your brand, the relationship, and the idea that working together will be mutually beneficial. You’re also trying to entice influencers take an action on a range of “offerings,” such as sharing a quote for an eBook or sharing something on social. You need to lead that influencer to an outcome that helps achieve your overall goal of solving a problem.

How do you shape the close for an influencer? As I’ve mentioned a few times, look to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Consider the influencer may want to promote their book, spotlight their thought leadership or help the greater community. So, frame the close in a way that speaks to what they’ll get out of it.

#7 – Sometimes They Say No

The hardest lesson a salesperson can learn is to accept “no” for answer. It’s a really hard lesson. After a “no,” the best think you can do is to access the sale process, and learn how you can do better the next time.

Sometimes, influencers say “no,” too. You ask them to attend an event, but they may have a prior commitment. Or, maybe they don’t feel like the subject matter matches their expertise.

When they say “no”, be gracious and ask follow-up questions to gain insight into why they made their decision. You might learn they have availability in two weeks, so your timing was just off. It is important to always be looking for the “next sale.” It is all a part of the process.

The Process of Building Better Relationships

At the end of the day, sales teams aren’t looking to close one-off deals. They’re looking to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

Marketers need to strive to do the same with influencers. It takes time and dedication, but it’s worth it for both you and your influencers.

So, consider taking a cue from the land of sales to help you create a great relationships utilizing research, personalization, tools, social media, and a great attitude. You might find you’re getting fewer nos.

Are you ready to go make some positive influencer interactions?  You don’t need to go it alone. If you want help with an influencer marketing campaign, contact TopRank Marketing.  

Calling All Content Marketers: Sound Off in Our Content Marketing Planning Survey!

2018 Content Planning Survey

We’re all in this together.

Granted, it might not always feel that way. The current environment we operate in as marketers is a competitive one. But we do have the power to collectively drive our discipline forward, toward greater efficiency and productivity. This begins with sharing knowledge, and improving our understanding of the most prevalent challenges and obstacles being faced.

In this spirit, we’ve partnered with our clients and friends at DivvyHQ to whip up a new 2018 Content Planning Survey, and we’d love your input.

What’s Inside the Survey

The idea is to gather data from a wide range of marketers in efforts to form a clear and accurate picture of how today’s content teams operate and where the key opportunities lie.

“One thing marketers can do to improve their content planning is stop planning each piece of content. The key to an effective editorial plan is committing to a publishing cadence.” @brennermichael Click To Tweet

Topics covered in this quick, five-minute survey:

  • Content planning processes and tools
  • Content team structure and collaboration
  • Content marketing tactics and metrics

Insights Content Marketers Will Gain

The more responses added from pros in the trenches like yourself, the more useful the results will be. Among the enlightening findings from DivvyHQ’s 2017 Content Planning Report:

  • 64% of respondents cited “developing a comprehensive content strategy” as a top challenge
  • Only 10% identified “creating clear defined objectives” as a successful aspect of planning
  • 58% of respondents said they were “too busy” to collaborate with peers
  • The most utilized content marketing tactics were email (89%), blog articles (88%) and video (80%)
  • 28% of respondents said they do not conduct regular content planning meetings

“There is such a thing as a bad slow in marketing. But there is a critical need for a good slow, too.” @annhandley Click To Tweet

So please, add your voice by filling out the survey. The best part? While you aren’t required to provide an email address, if you do, you’ll receive exclusive early access to the report generated from the aggregated information.

A Fresh Look at Content Planning for 2018

What’s changed this year? Where will we be able to identify trends and prevalent changes in focus? By submitting your own survey, you can be among the first to find out.

Armed with these insights, you’ll be able to better assess how your team measures up against the content marketing world at large, helping to guide your strategy onward and upward.

Together, we can take content to new heights.

5 Reasons Why B2B Content Marketing Works & 5 Reasons It Doesn’t

Why Content Marketing Works & Why It Doesn't

It’s no secret that content marketing is a widely adopted tactic. In fact, over 90% of B2B Marketers say they’re using it to reach their larger business goals, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing Report. However, just 24% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing as extremely or very successful.

Why is content marketing working extremely well for some marketers, but not for others? What makes content marketing so effective, and what holds (your content marketing efforts) back?

Well, let’s talk all about it. Content is at the center of everything we do here at TopRank Marketing. And below we dive into some of the key reasons why content marketing efforts succeed or fall short. Hopefully, this insight can help you level up your own content marketing strategy in a way that amplifies your results.

5 Reasons Why Content Marketing Works

#1 – You’re solving a problem.

While this is a fundamental marketing concept, it needs mentioning. Simply put, content marketing works when you’re able to create and deliver content that solves a specific, relevant problem for your audience.

Buyers are increasingly self-directed in their research and purchasing decisions, taking their questions to search engines to find answers. That’s why it’s no surprise that many searches start with question words like how, what, where, when, and why. Your audience is looking for content that can provide them with the best answer, tutorial, guide, checklist, or another resource that can help solve their problems.

So, when your content delivers exactly what your audience is looking for and where they’re looking for it, you can gain traffic, foster engagement, and nurture them to action.

Simply put, #ContentMarketing works when you’re able to create and deliver content that solves a specific, relevant problem for your audience. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#2 – You’re targeting your ideal audience.

Successful marketing is rooted in being able to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time and on the right platform. The “spray and pray” method, where you’re blasting out content and hoping that your message sticks, can’t help you do this. But when done right, content marketing allows brands to target specific buyer personas and reach their ideal audience.

When content is personalized to address buyer pain points and common questions, you can capture more qualified traffic and leads, which increases the overall value of your content marketing efforts. In our experience, successful content marketers start by defining buyer personas, identifying their relevant pain points, and mapping them to content they might find helpful based on SEO opportunities and where they are in the sales funnel (e.g. checklists, definitions, infographics, etc.).

#3 – When you leverage customer data and insights.

We live in the age of big data. Every marketer has data. Every marketer knows data holds power. And the most forward-thinking marketers are leveraging data and their practical knowledge to draw insights that can be acted upon in their marketing strategy.

With data pouring into services like Google Analytics, you can see where your audience is dropping off, how they spend their time on your site, or what content has the best conversion rate. In addition, there are many public, third-party data providers that can be paired with your own data to gain more insight. Armed with this information, you can optimize your content marketing strategy based on your analysis to generate better results.

#4 – You’re climbing the rankings.

We all know that search engines help audiences find content. But without content, a brand has little SEO value.

As a result, successful content marketers don’t rely only on their brand’s main website pages to draw in organic traffic. Brands that are baking SEO in from the start are able to create strategic content in many forms across their owned digital channels to expand their footprint, greatly increasing their chance of attracting more organic traffic to drive results.

#5 – You’re showing credibility, not telling.

How do customers know that you’re an authority in your industry? Or that you’re a credible source of information?

When done well, content marketing allows you to become the best answer for your audience, showing them over and over again that you have the goods. This builds trust between you and your audience as they start to see you as an expert on the subjects you discuss. And because trust is strong, you can more effectively influence customers on their purchasing decisions.

Creating expert content that is seen as authoritative has other benefits as well. In fact, a study from inPowered found that expert content lifted awareness by 88% more than branded content, and increased purchase consideration by 38% more.

Building trust through credible content comes in many forms. Of course, capitalizing on SEO is an important piece of the puzzle. But successful marketers understand that tactical integration of a variety of content types is key. Among some of those different credibility-boosting tactics are influencer content, employee interviews, and original research and studies.

#ContentMarketing allows you to become the best answer for your audience, showing them over and over again that you have the goods. Click To Tweet

Read: 8 Ways to Build Credibility & Trust with Content Marketing

5 Reasons Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Work

#1 – You don’t have the resources.

Content marketing is not a “one and done” marketing tactic. Brands who start publishing and can’t stick to a schedule may find that their audience becomes disinterested, causing traffic to dip and search engines to notice the lack of publishing. 

But maintaining consistency is easier said than done for most marketers. Each piece of content can take hours to research, edit, beef up with keywords, and crosslink to other pieces of content. All of this time quickly adds up, consuming additional resources and adding on to your content marketing costs.

Whether you decide on a daily, weekly, or monthly posting cadence, the key is to stick with it.

#ContentMarketing is not a “one and done” marketing tactic. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

#2 – You’re putting out quantity, not quality.

Another key to content marketing success is quality. Why? Your audience and search engines demand high-quality, authoritative content. Brands that don’t dedicate enough time or effort to their content, and making sure that it truly serves a purpose, likely find their audiences don’t want to listen to what they have to say.

With your audience tuned out, search engines could also see your content as less valuable, decreasing your rankings and impressions. And then you’re left asking:

via GIPHY

Read: The Content Marketing Juggling Act: How to Consistently Create Quality, Engaging Content

#3 – Your competition is growing.

Everywhere you look today, you’re confronted with content. Content lives in our social media news feeds, email inbox, text messages, and more. Brands and media outlets alike are all competing for an individual’s attention through content, creating a very saturated market that is ripe with competition. And if you’re executing content marketing, you could quickly start competing with yourself.

For example, brands who post too frequently could decrease their overall engagement with their audience. Or, they could start creating content that’s similar to things they’ve published in the past, cannibalizing from their own work. CoSchedule experienced this dip in engagement when increasing their blog posts from two to three each week. The increase in blog posts per week resulted in a decrease of 236 social shares per post, and a decrease in page views per blog post.

#4 – The impact of your content is hard to see.

With metrics that don’t directly translate to revenue, proving the value of content marketing can be difficult. CMOs want to hear about the business you’ve been able to generate, not the page views you’ve garnered or your average session duration. While those things are valuable, they don’t prove that you’ve grown the business, supported your sales team, or produced new leads.

As an example, it’s challenging to prove that just because someone read your latest eBook that they felt motivated enough to purchase your software or use your services. Because the impact of content is so difficult to measure, brands struggle with determining if their content is working or not. In fact, this is likely what contributes to only 35% of B2B marketers reporting that they measure content marketing ROI.

#5 – You’re impatient.

Generally speaking, content marketing does not produce immediate, short-term results like a traditional promotion or sale would. Content marketing strategies are designed to reach your audience at multiple touch points during their journey.

Of course short-term wins are often achieved with a strategic content marketing plan, but at the end of the day, content marketing really is a long-term play. It’s about producing long-term value and strengthening your client relationships.

As a result, this means you need time to really grow their content ROI into something that’s worth raving about and produces a positive return. So, if you aren’t in it for the long-haul, success will elude you.

If you aren’t in it for the long-haul, #ContentMarketing success will elude you. – @aleuman4 Click To Tweet

A Tailor-Made Content Strategy

From SEO value to thought leadership, there are a lot of reasons why B2B content marketing works for brands. But there are plenty of reasons it fails. Content is hard to tie into your pipeline and there are a lot of competitors vying for your audience’s attention.

But if you can create a content marketing strategy that overcomes those challenges and takes advantage of those benefits, you could see amazing results from your campaigns.

Not sure how you should start altering your strategy? Try starting by using these six questions you should use to guide your content marketing strategy.

32 B2B Content Marketing Case Studies for 2018

B2B Content Marketing Case Studies

One of the great honors of working in the marketing agency world is seeing your work recognized. For me, an even greater honor is seeing the work of our clients and my team recognized and that’s exactly what happened at the 2018 Killer Content Awards.

This year the award in question went to our client Cherwell Software. Thanks to amazing work by Alison Munn and the Cherwell Software team (pictured above), as well as our team at TopRank Marketing, their integrated influencer content program drove 22% of all new sales pipeline revenue in 2017.

But this post isn’t about just one B2B content marketing story. It’s about 32 stories from an impressive collection of B2B brands. These award winners are case studies for content marketing that we can all learn from. A BIG THANKS goes to the team at B2B Marketing Exchange for sharing raw case study data and both Anne Leuman and Lane Ellis from my team at TopRank Marketing for their collaboration on word-smithing the content and capturing the images of this post.

Check out the case studies below covering a range of categories including:

  • Measurable ROI, Nurture Campaign
  • Multi-Touch Campaign
  • Account-Based Marketing Campaign
  • Sales Enablement Campaign
  • Buyer-Focused Content, Bundled Content
  • Influencer Content
  • Interactive Content
  • Short-Form Content
  • Video Content
  • Research-Based Content
  • Agency Partnership
  • Social Amplification

32 B2B Marketing Case Studies Featuring Killer Content and Performance Results

Ciox Health
#1 – Ciox Health

Project: Ciox Health partnered with Content4Demand to uncover new growth opportunities with target audiences (e.g. law firms). After creating detailed personas, they developed highly tailored content messaging for all stages of the buyer’s journey. The final campaign featured an infographic, interactive quizzes, interactive listicles, checklists, Q&A sessions, and mixed media video.

Results:

  • Reached 1,884 potential prospects
  • 42.8% open rate
  • 14.5% CTR

Equifax
#2 – Equifax

Project: Equifax developed a multi-touch campaign consisting of more than seven touch points, including emails, social posts, blogs, webinars, and promotional emails. Quarterly webinars were the centerpiece of the campaign, allowing Equifax to capitalize on existing economic trends and CreditTrends reporting that were relevant to their target audience.

Results:

  • Increased webinar registrations by over 200%
  • Nearly doubled webinar attendees

The Kount
#3 – The Kount

Project: The Kount team, a provider of award-winning anti-fraud technology, created the Fraud360 worldwide tours, regular webinars, and video ads, which were designed to provide market-specific content and tailored insights that focused on specific trends and industries.

Results:

  • Average of 450 registered webinar attendees per session
  • Thousands of views on video ads
  • Reached thousands of professionals in target regions, including Asia, Australia, and EMEA

Xactly
#4 – Xactly

Project: In order to prove its knowledge of buyer pain points and the effectiveness of its solutions, Xactly rolled out the Power of X campaign. Using customer testimonials and product demos, Xactly strived to nurture existing relationships and drive demand through an integrated, buyer-focused campaign across all segments, featuring a landing page hub, social promotion, direct mail, customer videos, and webinars.

Results:  280 leads generated

SAP Ariba
#5 – SAP Ariba

Project: SAP Ariba wanted to create a complete lifecycle nurture program for each of its targeted personas: Procurement, Supply Chain, Finance, and IT. Working with DemandGen, SAP Ariba mapped all 80 emails appropriately and used non-promotional language to emphasize their “thought leadership” content.

Results:  454% higher open rate

ADP
#6 – ADP

Project: To identify potential buyers and convert readers into sales opportunities, ADP developed a flagship Research Nurture Program. The program leverages website analytics, marketing automation, and scoring to identify key buyer personas, customize content, and send nurture emails for longer-term engagement.

Results:

Generated thousands of influenced sales opportunities
Millions of dollars forecasted in total opportunity pipeline

Bottomline Technologies
#7 – Bottomline Technologies

Project: Bottomline Technologies breathed new life into its quarterly awareness email campaigns by introducing themes that aligned with pop culture events. By making subtle tweaks, the company was also able to create relevant messaging for different lines of business (e.g. strategic finance, controller, accounts payable), including infographics, white papers, and checklists.

Results:

  • 1,000 infographic downloads within 24 hours
  • 62% of downloads were net-new contacts

Veracode
#8 – Veracode

Project: Veracode created the Application Security Program Journey multi-touch campaign to drive awareness and generate demand for application security. The integrated, multi-touch campaign consisted of various content mapped against the buyer’s journey, as well as multiple inbound and outbound promotional tactics.

Results:

  • 4,000 inquiries
  • 479 opportunities
  • 241 wins

Optum
#9 – Optum

Project: To promote the launch of its new brand, OptumIQ, Optum created Data In Focus, an event to attract decision makers and influencers in person and via a livestream. Over a six-week period leading up to the event, the company unveiled key event details via an integrated campaign utilizing email, paid and organic social, digital advertising, retargeting ads, direct mail, and more.

Results:

  • 5,022 external registrations
  • Exceeded registration-to-attendee conversion rate goal by 33%
  • 13.6 million impressions
  • 886 marketing contacts

Broadridge
#10 – Broadridge

Project: With a sales cycle that can be quite lengthy, Broadridge sought to create a campaign that would steadily educate target buyers — finance executives and operations/IT leaders — on their value proposition. The full-funnel campaign included interactive infographics, eBooks, executive briefs, and Q&A’s that addressed buyer pain points. Broadridge paired this campaign with an internal guide to educate sales on the campaign goals, individual assets, and follow-up conversation starters to ensure quality interactions with buyers.

Results:

  • 2,133 MQLs
  • 6,995 content downloads

Grant Thornton
#11 – Grant Thornton

Project: The Growth and Future of Industry campaign from Grant Thornton was created to help business leaders understand ways to accelerate growth and manage disruption. With over 60 pieces of content and an extensive social media campaign, it is the single biggest research program and thought leadership campaign the company has ever undertaken. Grant Thornton also leveraged paid media — a first for the company — to improve campaign reach and visibility among clients and prospects.

Results:

  • Exceeded reach goal by 4x
  • Exceeded conversion rate goal by 7.5x
  • Industry-specific reach and conversion goals were also exceeded

Open Text
#12 – OpenText

Project: The OpenText Digital Disruption thought leadership campaign was launched to engage enterprise executives in a fun and engaging way as they strive to understand and embrace digital disruption. The campaign used a re-designed microsite to house a variety of assets with a fun superpower theme, allowing visitors to easily consume content — even binge it all in a single sitting.

Results:

  • 9:12 average session duration
  • Increased social traffic to the microsite by 1,062%

Cherwell Software
#13 – Cherwell Software 

Project: Cherwell Software partnered with TopRank Marketing to develop a comprehensive influencer program for the IT service management industry. A 24-page eBook called IT Service Management 2020, kicked off the campaign, featuring influencer opinions about the future of the ITSM industry. To generate pre-launch interest, Cherwell produced and promoted several blog posts, an infographic, and co-hosted a webinar with the influencers.

Results:

  • 100% share rate with influencers
  • 240% greater download rate than the average gated asset
  • 29% increase in web traffic to Cherwell.com from social
  • Leads from the campaign contributed to 22% of the revenue pipeline for 2017

Paycom
#14 – Paycom

Project: Paycom collaborated with best-selling author, keynote speaker and futurist Jacob Morgan on a series of content to give HR professionals a closer look into why employee engagement scores are at an all-time low despite increased employer investment. The campaign featured a two-part podcast, a webinar, and a series of thought leadership blog articles — all featuring Morgan.

Results:
255 live attendees, 30 of which signed up for a Paycom consultation
1,172 podcast downloads
494 podcast page views
1,410 blog post page views

Blackbaud
#15 – Blackbaud

Project: To differentiate the company’s two fundraising solutions, Blackbaud launched their Choose Your Solution campaign. The campaign featured an interactive quiz to help arts and cultural organizations identify the right fundraising solution based on their needs, and to help qualify leads faster and bypass repetitive introductory questions asked by sales reps.

Results:

  • 36 influenced opportunities that resulted in $34,000 in pipeline
  • 42% MQL-to-opportunity conversion rate

Uberflip
#16 – Uberflip

Project: Uberflip created an interactive marketing maturity assessment and companion eBook that asked marketers to take a hard look and identify where they stand in their marketing path. The assessment enabled Uberflip to provide their sales team with better MQLs and gain more information about existing accounts.

Results:

  • 907,843 impressions and 1,297 clicks on social media in just three months
  • 38% question completion rate
  • 64% average lead submission rate

Siemens PLM Software
#17 – Siemens PLM Software

Project: To educate customers and prospects on digital twins and digital threads, Siemens PLM Software created a thought leadership initiative. This initiative included creating a series of blog posts answering common buyer questions on digital twins and threads.

Results:

  • 3,800 page views across articles
  • Ranking No. 2 on google for “value of the digital twin” and No. 14 for “digital twin technology”

CAS
#18 – CAS

Project: In order to help scientists and research leaders at research and development organizations define important problems and highlight the opportunities additional time could give them, CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, developed the Where Does Your Time Go? infographic.

Results:

  • Generated 489 leads
  • 20,400 views

Oracle
#19 – Oracle

Project: Oracle developed The Modern Finance Leader blog series to establish itself as a leader in the world of finance. The blog targets finance executives across North America, EMEA, and APAC and provides content designed to educate and inform the audience on the latest trends and topics in finance.

Results:

  • 330 posts published
  • 90,000 unique visits
  • 500,000 page views
  • 63% increase in web traffic quarter over quarter

Bottomline Technolgies
#20 – Bottomline Technologies

Project: Bottomline Technologies partnered Content4Demand to develop an interactive eBook designed to showcase how three organizations — from manufacturing, healthcare, and property management industries — used their Paymode-X network to elevate efficiency and improve their bottom line.

Results:

  • 54.3% email open rate, 39.8% CTR, 73.4% click-to-open rate
  • 362 downloads through content syndication
  • 4 MQLs, 2 SAOs, and $3.2 million in associated pipeline

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
#21 – Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Project: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield collaborated with Skyword to revamp an existing piece of content, titled: The Benefits Guide. In response to new audience needs, Anthem pivoted the asset away from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) focus and replaced it with a newsroom that conveyed news and decisions relevant for plan holders.

Results:

  • 103% increase in page views and 102% increase in search views from Q2 to Q3 in 2017
  • 798,000 total page views from 2016 to 2017

SAP
#22 – SAP

Project: SAP launched its #LifeAt video campaign to highlight their many innovators, game-changers, and true entrepreneurs, but SAP also sought to humanize the brand for its target audience. The SAP team partnered with the video marketing agency Aftermarq to produce video stories of SAP SMB clients of varying lengths.

Results:

  • 4.5 million impressions
  • 31% view-through rate for 5:00 videos
  • 21% view-through rate for 1:00 videos

LinkedIn
#23 – LinkedIn

Project: LinkedIn’s Live with Marketers campaign is a live talk show by marketers for marketers, designed to resolve pain points around top-of-mind topics such as marketing attribution, ROI optimization, and driving business impact on social media.

Results:

  • 12,000 registrants
  • 5,000 live attendees
  • Increased projected revenue from deals closed through this series versus traditional webcasts

Matrixx Software
#24 – MATRIXX Software

Project: MATRIXX Software designed its 150 Points of Opportunity campaign to differentiate their content from that of their competitors, while also showcasing how their product delivers value to customers. The campaign featured a 44-page eBook and five standalone videos.

Results:

  • 77% return rate to the MATRIXX website
  • 43% increase in average session duration
  • 25% growth in C-suite interaction and target account engagement rate

Tempur Sealy
#25 – Tempur Sealy Hospitality

Project: Tempur Sealy Hospitality was looking for a way to present their high-quality mattresses to B2B buyers in the hospitality industry without having to lug around a physical sample. The company worked with The Mx Group to create an interactive mattress cutaway tool that allowed sales reps to digitally present and sell various mattresses to hospitality customers online and at industry trade shows.

Results: Achieved a 90% adoption rate with the sales force

LookBook HQ
#26 – LookBookHQ

Project: In an effort to re-engage lost opportunities and give the sales team more prospects that were more likely to convert, LookBookHQ created their Caveman campaign. The campaign consisted of an interactive digital experience built on the LookBookHQ platform, a direct mail component, and follow-up email outreach from sales.

Results:

  • Booked 300 meetings
  • Generated more than 50 new opportunities
  • Saw a 56% overall conversion rate, up 27% from the previous year

Channel Advisor
#27 – ChannelAdvisor

Project: ChannelAdvisor decided to create two unique ABM campaigns that targeted strategic accounts via direct mail. The two campaigns provided over 250 prospects with pre-loaded Amazon devices, featuring ChannelAdvisor skills and apps that educated prospects on e-commerce strategies that were relevant to them.

Results:

  • Achieved an ROI of 130%
  • 39% of generated opportunities were net-new

Trapeze Group
#28 – Trapeze Group

Project: Trapeze Group kicked off an ABM pilot with the objective to identify top accounts with which to deepen engagements and create personalized one-to-one messaging and campaigns — ultimately influencing closed-won opportunities. The ABM pilot has since been rolled out to 60 target accounts.

Results:

  • 111% increase in session duration
  • 100% response rate to the direct mail component

Harland Clarke
#29 – Harland Clarke

Project: To drive awareness for the company’s new product, GRC Spotlight, Harland Clarke created the “Keeping Up with Kevin” campaign. The star and subject matter expert for the campaign, Kevin Malicki, participated in video blogs that were shared over social media — primarily LinkedIn — to help deliver tips and real-world scenarios in the GRC space.

Results:

  • 33,000 LinkedIn impressions
  • Increased Malicki’s LinkedIn connections by 22%
  • Increased Malicki’s LinkedIn profile views by 110%

Ipswitch
#30 – Ipswitch

Project: Ipswitch created the “Defrag This” podcast and blog to help provide a trusted knowledge base for IT professionals that offers audience-centric content via social channels.

Results:

  • Nearly 200% growth in blog subscribers
  • 174% increase in monthly visitors to the blog
  • 133% increase in organic traffic to the blog

Radius
#31 – Radius

Project: Radius’ Revenue Ops campaign was designed to help educate prospects in marketing and sales operations on how their role in B2B business is evolving — from simple execution to providing data and insights to help drive revenue. The campaign was fueled by an eBook that Radius co-created with companies such as Heinz Marketing, Engagio, Forrester, and more.

Results:

  • 500 eBook downloads in the first two days
  • Engaged more than 300 top-tier accounts
  • Influenced more than $5 million in pipeline

Emma
#32 – Emma

Project: Emma wanted to learn what makes today’s marketers tick, as well as promote collaboration and learning within the community. The company surveyed roughly 200 marketers and interviewed more than 25 industry experts to gauge the goals, concerns, and pressures facing marketers, then compiled the data into its first Email Marketing Industry Report.

Results:

  • Over 41,000 unique views
  • Contributed to 37% of the company’s content downloads

Top Takeaways for B2B Content Marketers

Themes of success from this collection of B2B content marketing examples include: data informed personas, personalization, interactive content, integrated content, thought leadership and influence. Of particular note was the use of live video by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

As interactive content has become a more common feature in award-winning B2B content in 2018, I think video will take that spot in 2019.

There’s a lot to learn from with award winning content marketing programs and I congratulate all the B2B brands that brought him Finny’s this year. The awards give recognition to great work and they also give us a look inside what’s really working in the industry.

Have you noticed a B2B content marketing campaign this year that was remarkable? If so, please share in the comments why you thought it was special.

Redesigning Your Website? Make Sure SEO & Content Have a Seat at Website Migration Table

SEO and Content Integration During Website Migration

Digital marketers know their company’s website is more than a digital storefront. It’s a marketplace that must deliver a quality, engaging experience for prospects and customers once they arrive. So, it’s no surprise that the average company invests in a website redesign every three years to stay fresh, competitive, and meet evolving customer expectations.

In our experience, however, design faux pas aren’t the biggest marketing missteps that can lead to poor results after a migration—it’s the lack of a solid website migration strategy that encompasses both SEO and content considerations.

There’s no question that SEO needs to play a leading role in the planning, design, and execution of any website migration. But SEO can’t stand alone—it needs a content lens to ensure a solid performance after the switch is flipped.

Better Together: Content + SEO for Migration Success

A poorly planned and executed migration after a site refresh or redesign can lead to decreases in organic traffic and reduced search visibility in both the short- and long-term. And chances are, your marketing team has spent innumerable hours crafting content and optimizing your site for both user experience and search engine performance—and you don’t want it all to be for naught.

By baking content and SEO into your website migration strategy, you have the opportunity to:

#1 – Strike that oh-so-necessary balance between SEO and user experience.

If you’re embarking on a website redesign, chances are your goals are to improve user experience and optimize conversions paths, all while strengthening your organic search footprint. But without SEO and content working together, the steps you take to reach those goals can’t be fully informed or reach their full potential. The key is integration from the start.

For a smooth website migration process, integration of #content & #SEO is key from the start. – @Alexis5484 Click To Tweet

#2 – Bolster top performing content (and weed out weak or irrelevant content).

Site migrations often involve some picking and choosing as far as what content needs to be kept, killed, updated, or created. The last thing you want to do is cut or disrupt the content your audience loves—but you also don’t want to pass up opportunities for adding or improving content with potential or killing content that’s no longer viable. As a result, this is definitely the sweet spot for SEO and content integration in a migration scenario.

From an SEO perspective, you can leverage Google Analytics and Google Search Console to analyze traffic, conversions, ranking, and engagement rates. Then content can be grouped into suggested buckets of what content stays, what content needs updates, what content can be killed, and what content you may be missing. From there, strategic content tweaks can be made with both SEO and user experience in mind before launch.

During a website migration, the last thing you want to do is cut content your audience loves. But you also want to take advantage of opportunities to improve content with potential. – @Alexis5484 Click To Tweet

Read: How to Use Google Search Console to Increase SEO Visibility

#3 – Promote your new and improved site.

After making your shiny new site live, it can be tempting to relax and celebrate. But the work isn’t done. Of course, technical SEO considerations such as 301 redirects, site crawlability, site speed, mobile friendliness, and backlinks need QA and monitoring to ensure your content is working its magic on search engines. You’ll also need to make sure your site map is updated in Google Search Console if any URL structures have changed.

But where does that leave your customers and prospects?

Communicating and promoting the changes you made is a must—but it’s something that is often overlooked. So, in addition to your post-migration SEO checklist, create a promotional plan (e.g. email newsletter update, social media, blog post highlighting key new features, etc.) to ensure you’re getting the word out.

The importance of communication & promotion after a website migration should not be overlooked. – @Alexis5485 Click To Tweet

#4 – Make ongoing tweaks that satisfy user and search engine needs.

After launching your redesigned site, you’ll likely be measuring like crazy to learn where users are dropping off, if you’re losing any traffic to key pages, and if you’re losing conversions from anywhere.

Of course, tweaks will be needed to capitalize on SEO opportunities. But just sprinkling in keywords isn’t the answer. You need context and insight—some of which can be drawn from the competitive content landscape—in order to make strategic content updates that better answer your audience’s questions, as well as send positive signals to search engines.

You need context & insight in order to make strategic content updates that better answer your audience’s questions & send positive signals to search engines. – @Alexis5484 #websitemigration Click To Tweet

Integration = More Successful Migration

There’s little doubt that SEO needs be at the forefront of any website redesign and subsequent migration. But it shouldn’t stand alone. By pairing content and SEO together, you can make more thoughtful and strategic decisions that will help you bolster user experience as well as search visibility.

Looking for more insights and tips on SEO and content integration? Here’s some light reading:

Looking for a website migration partner? Look no further. We can help.

Camera Shy: 7 Tips for First-Time Video Marketers

Video Marketing Tips for First-Timers

Video isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to feel confident enough to put yourself, and your brand, out there. But it’s a medium that a lot of marketers are exploring as it holds a lot of potential.

In fact, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicts that 82% of all internet traffic will be video by 2021. Video is a main source of content consumption, including everything from the news to YouTube tutorials. And as marketers looking to demonstrate thought leadership and credibility, video presents a unique opportunity to get in front of and educate your target audience. However, 64% of marketers agree that video is the hardest type of content to produce, turning many people away from embracing video.  

Never one to shy away from a challenge, we’ve been diving in head-first here at TopRank Marketing. We’ve been doing video for a while through our Digital Marketing News casts, but we recently started expanding to include a video series (Crush-It!) that inspires the next generation of curious, courageous, and clever digital marketers. Each video features one of our internal experts, which brought both seasoned and green video personalities to the stage.

If you’re thinking that you want to enter the world of video marketing, check out our team’s video marketing tips from their own experiences in front of the camera, as well as behind the scenes.

Our Video Marketing Experts

Tiffani Allen TopRank MarketingTiffani Allen

Senior Account Manager

One of the anchors for our Digital Marketing News YouTube series, Tiffani is a veteran in front of the camera. Having starred in over 100 videos, as well as directed videos for a few of our clients, Tiffani knows how to organize and shoot effective videos.

Follow Tiffani on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Josh NiteJoshua Nite

Senior Content Marketing Manager

As Tiffani’s Digital Marketing News co-anchor, Josh also has plenty of advice for marketers going in front of or behind the camera. With over 100 videos under his belt as well, Josh is no stranger to video marketing.

Follow Josh on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Nick Nelson

Content Strategist

Recently appearing in one of our latest Crush-It! episodes, Nick has useful tips for first-timers. Having covered video marketing strategies and tips in the past for our own blog content, Nick’s also picked up some advice from leading brands and video experts.

Follow Nick on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Steve SlaterSteve Slater

Senior SEO and Digital Advertising Manager

Video isn’t widely known for being SEO-friendly. But as a dedicated SEO expert, Steve provides great insight into how you can still take advantage of video for search marketing. Steve has also appeared in our Crush-It series, becoming a breakout star with some helpful tips.

Follow Steve on Twitter and Linkedin.

7 Video Marketing Tips for First-Timers

#1 – Get ready for your close-up.

Video is all about “looks,” but looks don’t just boil down to your hair or makeup. It’s more so about making sure that your talented cast comes prepared and well-versed on the subject they’re going to be talking about. This will allow them to appear more comfortable, relaxed, and confident on camera. Afterall, everyone appearing in the video will be an extension of your brand. To help you get ready for your close up and put your best self forward, here are some tips from our team on your appearance and demeanor.

“If you appear nervous or lacking in confidence, it’ll probably be visible to viewers. This is no easy task, especially for the camera-shy, but be mindful of the vibe you’re giving off. Try as hard as you can to relax and have fun. It’ll show.” Nick Nelson

“Relax! It can be uncomfortable to be on camera, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Think of it as a conversation with your audience versus a video – it takes some of the pressure off. Also, avoid super busy patterns or lines when you’re picking out what to wear. It can make some really crazy things happen visually.” Tiffani Allen

In addition to keeping your appearance in check, you also can’t stop once you start. This lesson can be applied to plenty of things you’ll try throughout your marketing career. But if you want to experience success with your videos, it will take a lot grit, determination, and outside-the-box thinking. Even if you aren’t getting the views or subscriptions you want, you have to keep at it, optimizing your approach along the way.

“You have to commit. The first video probably won’t be great. It might not even be good. Keep going and it will get better.” Steve Slater

We’ve been iterating on our approach to video since 2016, starting with the basics, learning as we go, and striving to make each take better than the next.

Here’s an early example from us from a couple years back.

[embedded content]

And here’s a video from last week. We’ve been working on finding the perfect lighting scenario, experimenting with different cuts, angles, and interstitials, and other refinements.

[embedded content]

#2 – You don’t need a blockbuster budget.

Video is an expensive endeavor. Or, it can be. Between lighting, audio, video, and editing equipment, it can quickly become a costly investment. But just because you have all of the bells and whistles, doesn’t mean your video will be a success. Instead, focus on the content of your videos to ensure that your video will be watched and appreciated.

“You don’t have to have a huge budget. You can work with what you have to create a great video, you just have to get creative.” Tiffani Allen

Our own videos don’t have a huge budget. For example, we shot the below video in one of our offices and used the creative theme of meditation to engage our audience. It was an out-of-the-box idea, but it currently holds the title for longest watch time.

[embedded content]

Read: How to Get Started with Video Content Marketing (Without a Blockbuster Budget)

#3 – Practice your narrative, not your lines.

When it comes to film, there’s usually a script that’s followed. When it comes to your video marketing, you’ll also want a script that helps you stay on track and express all of your talking points. However, while it’s tempting to document everything you want to say, word for word, avoid that urge as best as you can. Having a script is helpful, but it can also cause your video to feel less organic or authentic. Check out our team’s tips below for practicing ahead of filming.

“I would recommend carefully planning out your talking points ahead of time and rehearsing them so they don’t escape your mind on the spot. You don’t need to memorize a script — in fact, you might not want to, as you’ll likely come off as robotic and not very conversational — but memorize the things you’d generally like to say. This will help prevent the “ums” and “uhs” that can become stressful when the camera is rolling.” Nick Nelson

“I would recommend going over your talking points to have a good understanding of what you want to say, but NOT scripting it out verbatim. You want to keep it sounding natural and human.” Joshua Nite

“Practice your narrative, not your lines. If you try to remember what you’re going to say verbatim, you’ll likely need to do multiple takes and it may come off as rehearsed or inauthentic. Know what message you’re trying to deliver and you’ll have much more fun!” Tiffani Allen

#4 – Nail down your intention.

If you’re writing a blog post, putting together an eBook, or drafting an email, there’s typically a call to action (CTA) with a link. When it comes to video, however, that type of call to action becomes harder to include. While links are important and can be included as bumpers or within the video description, we would challenge you to think more critically about the action you want to inspire from your audience.

Video offers a vastly different experience for your audience than physical text. This means your CTA can offer a different experience as well. Do you want viewers to subscribe? Like the video? Share it? Comment? All of those CTAs now become options. You need to decide what you want your audience to do before you think about a measurable CTA.

“This comes down to being creative. What are you really trying to accomplish? Know that first, then figure out what tools you have at your disposal to get there. Can’t embed CTAs in your YouTube videos? Use bumpers with short links and add them to the description.” Tiffani Allen

For our own Crush-It videos, we added clickable CTAs at the end of our videos to subscribe to our channel or watch another episode.

Crush-It Video Calls to Action

#5 – Put someone in the director’s chair.

If you have a low-budget for your video marketing projects, odds are you don’t have a director or cameraman to back you up. While we don’t expect you to go out and hire someone to fill that void, simply enlisting a coworker or friend to press record has immense value. Even if they don’t have video experience, if they can help you start and stop your video clips, you can save hours in the editing chair.

“I think my biggest piece of advice is to have someone behind the camera. It really helps if it’s someone who knows what they’re doing (like our own video mastermind, Adam Dunn), but even just having someone to push the button and stand there made a drastic difference in how quick and easy it was to record.” Joshua Nite

via GIPHY

#6 – Video transcriptions aren’t just for closed captioning.

Video has a reputation for not being SEO-friendly. Because video by nature has minimal crawlable text, the SEO value is perceived to be low. However, there’s a workaround we’ve discovered that can more than make up for a video’s lack of text. What’s that secret? Transcriptions that allow for supportive, repurposed blog content and increased search visibility.

“Transcribe those videos when you embed them on your website. Don’t miss out on giving Google all that great content to index.” Steve Slater

“If your video focuses on keywords and topics that are important to your audience, it might be worth creating a written transcript and having it accompany the embedded video in a blog post. This will enable you to gain SEO traction and draw more inbound traffic for the vid. Include optimized headers and everything for maximum impact. Moz sets a good example of this with their Whiteboard Friday sessions.” Nick Nelson

Moz Whiteboard Friday Video Transcription

#7 – Be your biggest critic.

If you’re anything like me, you do not like the sound of your own voice or watching yourself on screen. But if you want to improve your videos, it’s something that you have to do to measure your own performance. Skipping out on watching yourself can lead to you repeating past mistakes.

“To quote the great LIttle Walter, ‘you better watch yourself.’ I know it isn’t fun but watch your own videos. See how you look and act on camera.” Steve Slater

via GIPHY

Lights. Camera. Action.

Video marketing is a large undertaking for any brand as it involves looping in your brand’s internal thought leaders, investing in new equipment, and putting your brand into uncharted territory. But if you let the fear of budget, failure, or judgement hold you back, you’ll never reach the results you’re looking for.

For your best chance at creating video that’s award-worthy, it’s important that you stay organized, authentic, and determined. And we speak from experience when we say that it can be challenging at times, but the payoff is video content that educates and inspires — a common goal for many marketers.

Not sure what your first video should cover or aim to do? Struggling to come up with a starting point? Check out our other video marketing resources for inspiration and guidance:

Marketers, Assemble! The Super-Powered Team-Up of Content Marketing Confluence

Content Marketing Super Team

It’s been a spectacular decade to be a nerd. The superheroes we love leaped from the page to the multiplex, each movie connected to the rest with the kind of complex storytelling we love in comic books.

It started with Iron Man in 2008. This weekend, “Avengers: Infinity War” hits theaters, with over two dozen heroes throwing down against a celestial being with godlike powers (who, for some reason, has a chin that looks like a raisin).

The Avengers and Content Marketing

The California Raisins reboot looks really dark.

I’m pretty stoked.

Team-up events like this are great because a superhero team is always more powerful than the sum of its parts. They can use their powers to complement each other in unexpected ways:

  • Spider-Man uses webbing to make a slingshot for Captain America’s shield
  • Thor throws his hammer through portals that Doctor Strange makes
  • The Hulk throws Hawkeye to safety

You get the idea. When a team is really working together, all of them do better.

Which, of course, makes me think all about content marketing. At TopRank Marketing, we believe the present and future of reaching an audience depends on confluence, a superhero team-up of all our content marketing tactics and channels working together.

Here’s a quick guide to the members of our superhero “team,” and how they assemble to amplify each other’s superpowers.

The Content Marketing Super Team

Content: Captain America

Captain America is the heart and soul of the Avengers team. He’s not the most powerful guy on the team, though he does pack a mean punch. His primary value lies in bringing humanity to a team of gods, aliens, and androids. He unites the team and gives everyone their marching orders, leading the charge on the ground.

Your content should be at the heart of your marketing super team, too. It should speak directly to your target audience on a human-to-human level. Your content can emotionally engage, deliver value, and ultimately persuade people to take action.

SEO: Spider-Man

Spider-Man is the lone “street level” hero on the Avengers team. He started out doing solo work cleaning up the streets of Queens. As part of the team, his main role is to assist the heavy hitters, tying their attacks together with his web-slinging, wall-crawling acrobatics.

SEO used to be the biggest deal in marketing, a strategy and tactic all unto itself. Now SEO works best as part of a team. Great content (preferably co-created with influencers) can benefit from a light dusting of SEO. Just remember that with SEO power comes responsibility: Use SEO to boost great content, not to trick search engines into ranking mediocre content higher.

Influencers: The Incredible Hulk

There’s one thing for sure about the Hulk: He’s a hard guy to ignore. Not only is he capable of punching an airplane out of the sky, he’s 10 feet tall and green. He’s not great on stealth missions, is what I’m saying, but if you want to make a splash, he’s your man.

Influencers share some of the Hulk’s properties (hopefully not the “giant rage monster” part). Some influencers make their living off of being seen, which means they have a built-in audience you can reach with their help. Some are more on the Bruce Banner side, with smaller followings that are still valuable if they’re your target audience.

Organic Social: Hawkeye

Hawkeye is one of two Avengers with no super powers, but he proves his value to the team with his technological savvy and arsenal of specialized arrows. He excels at precision strikes that hit valuable targets.

Organic social used to be a more high-powered team member, but the rise of the algorithm in social media feeds have reduced its reach and power. Still, it’s good for getting the word out to a select audience – you just have to be more strategic on your social channels to compensate for the lack of power.

Digital Advertising: Iron Man

Iron Man takes Hawkeye’s precision strike capability and adds extra maneuverability and power. He can swoop in and blast a target with an arsenal of rockets and pulse rays, all while delivering devastatingly sarcastic quips.

Digital advertising gives you the ability to hit precise audiences at scale. There’s more of a cost associated with it than with organic tactics, but it’s an investment that can get substantial returns.

The Content Marketing Super Team at Work

As you can see, each member of our super squad is powerful on its own. But the magic really happens when all these tactics work together. And you can’t plan that kind of teamwork in the heat of the battle, either. It has to start before a single word of content is drafted.

When we’re creating content, first we determine search demand. Looking at what people are searching for helps us narrow down our topics and makes sure the content will have SEO built in.

Then we search for influencers who are experts on the topic and have a sizable, relevant following. We invite influencers to co-create the content with us. True collaboration with influencers makes them far more likely to be    excited about the resulting assets, which means they’re more motivated to share.

Part of our content creation process is designing images and messages for organic social amplification. We provide influencers with everything they need to share the asset on social media. Influencer shares are crucial for reaching the target audience, so we make it as easy for influencers to share as possible.

Finally, we use paid social to amplify the content directly to our clients’ most valuable audience. We create unique social images and messages to compel people to take action.

It’s easy to see how the super-team approach makes each tactic work better. Each of the tactics is working toward the same unified goal: reaching an audience and persuading them to take action.

Content Marketers, Assemble!

What turns a ragtag group of marketing tactics into an elite audience-persuasion force? Strategy and communication. In our agency, we have a content team, an SEO team, a social media team, etc. But we make sure the teams are working together by design. We regularly meet together to make sure we’re all sharing the same vision. And we also share best practices with each other. The more each of us knows about everyone else’s area of expertise, the stronger we all are.

Want more insight into how content marketing tactics can be brought together for maximum impact? Here’s some more light reading:

What Content Marketers Can Learn From an Adept Dungeon Master

Content Marketing Lessons from Dungeons & Dragons

It’s probably not news to you that 91% of B2B brands use content marketing to attract, engage, nurture, and convert their audience. However, it might be surprising to learn that only 9% of those brands rate their content marketing as “sophisticated.” Sophisticated meaning that their content marketing is successful, scales across the organization, and provides accurate measurement to the business. This puts a lot of pressure on content marketers to elevate their game and provide more worthwhile and valuable content experiences.

Patrick PinedaAs an adept Dungeon Master (DM) of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games, TopRank Marketing’s Motion Graphic Designer, Patrick Pineda, can relate.

It might sound a little odd at first, but Dungeon Masters and content marketers are more alike than you think. Responsible for creating meaningful and memorable experiences through content that takes people on a journey, you can see the similarities arise. Just like content marketers need to help guide people through the buyer journey, the Dungeon Master needs to guide players through a journey of their own.

After serving his friends as the go-to Dungeon Master, Patrick has learned a thing or two from creating lengthy campaigns—some successful, some not—that are both engaging and challenging. Discover Patrick’s lessons from the dungeon and how you can apply them to your content marketing campaigns and programs down below.

What Is a Dungeon Master?

For the unfamiliar, a Dungeon Master is the organizer for the wildly popular, 40-year-old tabletop role-playing game, “Dungeons & Dragons.” Not only do DMs organize the game, but they are also responsible for the game rules, details, and challenges. According to Patrick, the player experience hinges on a DM’s ability to create meaningful content that’s fun to explore.

One thing Dungeon Masters are not responsible for, however, are the players’ actions.

Like the self-directed buyers of today, D&D players are able to choose their own paths. As a result, DMs are challenged to make sure players finish the game. And just like your audience won’t read every piece of content you put in front of them, the same happens in a D&D game. Certain story elements DMs put together will never see the light of day because every player has a different play style, completes tasks in different orders, and takes different actions.

“The best Dungeon Master doesn’t just create a good story, but they also help players reach their goals,” Patrick claims.

Does any of this sound familiar? It certainly resonated for me.

5 Content Marketing Lessons From the Dungeon

Having created D&D campaigns that ruled and bombed, here are Patricks top five tips for developing content that resonate with your audience.

#1 – Your audience values originality.

If Patrick creates a campaign that plays to common tropes like a damsel in distress or small town disappearances, the story becomes predictable. But worse than that, the players feel condescended to as the game starts to feel dumbed down.

“Cliches and stereotypes will make players groan. It’s important when creating a campaign that I shake it up and play against common conventions,” Patrick says.

When examining your content and the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original and play with your audience’s expectations. For example, listicles with social media tips are a dime a dozen. Your audience might be more interested if you flip the idea on its head with social media mistakes. In changing it up, you’re giving your audience something new that they haven’t read before, capturing their interest.

When examining your content & the story you’re trying to tell, it’s just as important to stay original & play with your audience’s expectations. – @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#2 – Appeal to curiosity.

When it comes to creating an adventure for players to navigate, the DM has a seemingly impossible job. They need to create a unique and compelling world that is able to hold players’ attention—something not easily done. In fact, campaigns have taken Patrick days to put together. But that doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“I’ve spent hours upon hours creating content for a campaign. But 80% of what I create may never see any playtime. It’s ultimately the players’ choice as to what tasks they want to complete and what quests they want to go on,” Patrick points out.

While the D&D world needs to have a unique and compelling narrative, it also needs to appeal to a player’s curiosity to ensure they keep playing the game and play the parts of the game that you want them to.

How does this apply to content marketing? Well, as you know, just because you’re producing content, doesn’t mean that your audience will find it. To find the answers they’re looking for, they might scour the internet, social media, and trusted experts for more information. Having an integrated content strategy that has multiple touch points throughout the buyer journey and an omni-channel approach, helps ensure you’re reaching your target audience whenever and wherever they may be searching.

Weaving SEO, social media, and influencer marketing into your content marketing strategy helps improve the reach and engagement of the content you’re producing. Through SEO, your organic rankings and click-through-rates will start to rise, improving your organic traffic. Social media messages that are well written and value-based help attract larger audiences from their social feeds. And, finally, tapping into industry influencers exposes your content to a wider network of like-minded individuals, as well as adding authority and credibility.

#3 – Avoid corraling your audience.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, including D&D players. While the DM writes the game and serves as a referee, they cannot influence a player’s actions. And if a DM attempts to, they could quickly lose a player’s interest.

“As a DM, it can be tempting to intervene and make sure that your players are playing the game the way you intended. But this is the one thing you cannot do.” Patrick emphasizes.

This is true in content marketing, too, as making calls to action (CTAs) with zero context can be a turn-off for your audience. If you insert a CTA before your audience can learn what’s in it for them, whether it’s downloading an eBook, listening to a podcast, or subscribing to your blog, they’re less likely to do it. In fact, QuickSprout found that placing a CTA above the fold on a page decreased their conversion rate by 17% and attributed it to their audience not fully understanding why they should complete the action.

Instead, make sure that your CTAs have plenty of context and explain what the audience will gain by filling out your form, reading another blog post, etc. This helps ensure that your content satisfies your audience’s quest for knowledge.

#4 – Customize content for your audience, not the other way around.

As we mentioned previously, the players are in charge of their actions and how they choose to play the game, making it impossible for DMs to have control over the game experience. This makes it important for DMs to know their audience ahead of time, so they can include important sought-after details into different game components.

“I’ll ask players before we start what they hope to get out of the game, whether it’s take down an enemy or just to have fun. Knowing this ahead of time, I can tailor the game to what each player wants to have happen,” Patrick says.

For content marketers, this lesson should hit close to home. You need to know your audience well in advance in order to deliver personalized content. If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people.

After taking a look at your own audience’s characteristics and interests in Google Analytics, create unique personas for each of your audience members. This allows you to create content that is tailored for each person you hope to attract and engage. For example, if one of your target personas is a Director of Business Development, creating custom content that addresses a unique pain points like identifying new business opportunities or tips from the experts on how to strengthen their existing client relationships.

If you create content and worry about your audience later, chances are you aren’t engaging the right people. – @aleuman4 #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

#5 – Chart your course.

There is a lot going on in a D&D game. And for the DM, that number is amplified as you have to remember every detail about your players, what’s been completed, and what could come next.

“To make sure I’m on top of the game and can portray characters well, I chart the game’s relationships instead of story elements. If I focus on the story, it could quickly become useless as players might do things out of order or in a non-linear fashion. By focusing on the relationships and where they fit in the narrative, the game becomes more fluid and flexible for the players and I can keep track of their journey,” Patrick says.

Tracking the journey isn’t the only thing Patrick notes, however. He also documents player strengths, weaknesses, and stats as the game progresses.

“I keep a character sheet that details each player’s play style. For example, if a player is investing their skill points in intelligence, I can tailor future encounters in the game to focus on problem-solving instead of combat. The opposite is true for a player who invests in raw strength,” Patrick notes.

Through detailed charts, maps, and grids, Patrick is able to make sure that his players have a personalized, seamless experience for every campaign they play, regardless of how they play it.

Customer Journey & Dungeons and Dragons Journey

By taking the same approach with your content marketing, you can identify opportunities for customization and develop a strategy for weaving your content into the buyer’s journey. For example, by knowing which pieces of content attract a larger audience or drive more conversions, you can use that information to inform your content development and map your content to different stages of the funnel (see below).

Grid Assigning Content to Buyer Stages

To collect this data on your content and audience, review your Google Analytics behavior and conversion dashboards to find our which pieces of content excel at attracting, engaging, or converting your audience. Metrics like page views and entrances are good indicators for attraction, whereas time on page or number of pages per session can help you understand engagement. And, finally, the number of conversions through conversion tracking is the best way to find your top converting content. Armed with this knowledge you can create content plans that are tailored for your audience’s unique buyer journey.

Your Audience Is the Hero

A good Dungeon Master enables players to become the hero of the story through a personalized game with a compelling, original narrative. As a content marketer, it’s your responsibility to create content that transforms your audience into heroes as well, helping them solve seemingly impossible problems with your expert, best-answer advice.

Through an integrated content strategy with originality, personalization, and “best answer” content that’s mapped to the buyer journey, you can become the perfect Content Master for your audience.

For more ideas on how to become a masterful content marketer, check out these 25 content marketing tips, including how to tackle writer’s block, repurpose content, utilize storytelling, and more.

6 Top Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Whether you’re a new Marketing leader at a company in need of establishing wins quickly or part of a growing organization with ambitious revenue goals, the challenges within marketing today are greater than ever.

To help make sense out of these challenges, I’ve listed 6 of the top obstacles to brands achieving effectiveness out of their marketing and how collaborating with influencers on content help solve each problem.

1. Challenge: Ad Blocking. 600 million devices using ad blocking, leading to a loss of $22 billion in ad revenue (PageFair). If buyers don’t ever see your ads, what chance do you have?

Challenge solved: Contrary to ads, influencers are liked and because people pay attention to the influencers they follow, shared brand messages are far more likely to attract and engage buyers.

When you subscribe to the idea that everyone is influential about something, especially with their friends, co-workers and social connections, this statistic from Nielsen (83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising) becomes very powerful.

Collaborating with influencers on content that the influencers then promote to their subscribing community can become a powerful differentiator for any marketing program.

Of course not all customers use ad blocking and there are incredible opportunities to be realized with sophisticated ad targeting. That’s why when properly executed, influencer content can be leveraged for both organic and paid promotions.

2. Challenge: Information Overload. Consider this: 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day (IBM). In fact, 74gb of media are sent to the average consumer on an average day (USC/ICTM).

The sheer number of choices faced by consumers and general distrust has turned brand marketing into noise for many customers.

Challenge solved: Influencers are Focused. One of the most compelling reasons a person is influential is because of the specificity in the topics they cover. Because of that specialization, buyers anticipate rather than ignore or feel overwhelmed by what their trusted influencers share.

While some influencers distribute their content on multiple channels, their personal brand focus plus consistency and trust equals a signal that buyers pay attention to.

3. Challenge: Google Hates SEO. Search Engine Optimization bloggers have been positing this question for 10+ years. With Google algorithm and platform updates including Florida, Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, RankBrain, Mobile, Possum, Fred and the thousands of launches, live traffic experiments, side-by-side experiments and over 130,000 search quality tests, it makes you wonder: is this all for improving the customer experience or is some of it to thwart SEO?

Challenge solved: Google actually likes influencer content. Another key ingredient to why someone is influential is their credibility and authority. An influencer’s specific expertise and their ability to provide insights, answers and even research based perspectives all deliver on the Google’s expectation that content be useful.

Beyond influencer content being useful, there’s the practice of making content worth linking to. Influencers typically have a subscribed audience, many of which publish themselves. When influencers publish and promote content, it naturally attracts links.

By optimizing content for search and activating influencers, brands can create opportunities to help customers find trusted content and everybody wins.

4. Challenge: Buyers don’t trust brands. Or ads. This is a hard pill to swallow: 42% of consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising according to a study by (Ipsos Connect).

Challenge solved: Influencers are trusted.  A recent study by Fullscreen and Shareblee via MarketingCharts found that nearly 40% of 18-34-year-olds are more likely to trust what an influencer says about a brand than what the brand says about itself. Additionally, Twitter reports that users trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.

Collaborating with influencers on content can bring authenticity, credibility and trust to that content. When influencers share that content, the effect of their audiences’s trust goes even further.

5. Challenge: Content Doesn’t Scale. According to the annual study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, some of the top content challenges marketers included: 60% producing engaging content, 57% producing content consistently.

Challenge solved: Creator Influencers are experts at creating content. Influencer content creation and storytelling skills come in many forms: blogging, podcasting, video, images, and sometimes interactive.

Brands can extend the media creation skills of their marketing departments by partnering with creators with specialized skills. In addition to skill, creator influencers have an audience to promote the content to.

6. Challenge: Organic Social is Dead. Not only is Facebook organic reach down 52% (MarketingLand) but declarations that organic reach on Facebook is outright dead for brands are being stated by many credible industry publications, including Digiday.

Challenge (partly) solved: Influencers have optimized social popularity. Influencers create the kinds of signals that social network algorithms reward with higher visibility. Influencers understand what resonates with their audience in terms of topic, content type and promotion. Those same influencers also have an active audience that engages with their shared content. This is a powerful combination for triggering social network algorithms to prioritize influencer content in the feed.

Influencer Marketing is no silver bullet. Neither is content marketing or any kind of marketing approach.

But when influencers are intelligently researched, qualified and engaged during the planning phases of a content marketing program, the benefits of the collaboration can include improved content in a variety of ways:

  • Authenticity – Choose influencers that represent your customers and the resulting message will be a lot more genuine to what buyers actually care about.
  • Variety – Including experts beyond your marketing department can generate a greater span of content ideas.
  • Quality – Tapping expertise can boost the quality beyond what marketing department copywriters might be able to produce.
  • Quantity – Engaging a group of influencers on an ongoing basis can boost the volume of content. Factor in repurposing and you’ll create even more content options without increasing spend.
  • Reach – Trusted, credible experts promoting content can reach audiences that are very difficult to connect with through any other way.
  • Trust – The credibility, expertise and authority of influencers that collaborate with a brand over time can grow trust for the brand.

On top of that, there are efficiency benefits. We have implemented influencer content campaigns where influencers have contributed anywhere from 20% to 80% of the content for the entire campaign.

Then there are the effectiveness benefits. For an organic influencer content campaign, achieving a 50% share rate amongst influencers is impressive. We’ve had many programs with over 100% share rate. Why? By communicating effectively, setting expectations and making content that contributors are proud to be a part of.

The reality is that influencer content programs can deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle, not just awareness. That means improved engagement and conversions.

There are many more challenges for marketing than the six above. I didn’t get into martech shock (too much tech), difficulty in finding qualified marketing candidates, measurement challenges or the implications of the lockdown on data represented by GDPR in the EU and recent attention being given Facebook by lawmakers. But addressing the six above should give the vast majority of marketers reading this an advantage.

Establishing relationships with qualified, capable influencers can bring a tremendous amount of value to a company’s content marketing effectiveness. When influencer marketing is thoughtful, ongoing and properly managed, it becomes a force multiplier that is difficult to duplicate.

Are you planning a content marketing program right now? Who are your best influencers? Who are your best employee advocates? Which industry media do you have the attention of? Which of your customers are most likely to advocate for your brand? Do you know if they are influential? Do you know which of your prospective customers are influential?

Answering these questions can open the door to content marketing success for your brand and mutually valuable relationships with the people that actually influence your customers.

Crushing Conclusions: Why Content Marketers Shouldn’t Skip the Ending

Importance of Conclusions in Content Marketing

We marketing writers spend a lot of time crafting a piece of content. In fact, according to Orbit Media’s most recent blogger survey, most writers spend about three and half hours crafting one blog post—which is a one-hour jump from its first report in 2014, highlighting to me the focus on quality over quantity of output.

But let’s be honest, regardless of how long we spend on a piece of content, we have our priorities in terms of how we spend that time. The title, while just a few words, is how we grab audience attention or entice the click. The introduction is how we hook the readers. And, of course, the body is at the heart of it all where we make good on everything we’ve promised in the headline and introduction.

But when it comes to tying it all up with a solid conclusion, I’d argue that many of us aren’t giving that component the thought and care it deserves.

In today’s crowded content landscape and increasing numbness to marketing messages, we can’t afford to leave any opportunity for engagement, connection, and conversions on the table. So for me, conclusions shouldn’t be an afterthought, but rather an essential marketing storytelling element for three main reasons—which is something I detail in this little video shoot I did with TopRank Marketing President Susan Misukanis.

Take a peek at my video debut if you want the Cliff’s Notes, but I encourage you to keep reading to get more depth and examples that can inspire the next piece you craft.

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3 Reasons Conclusions Deserve Content Marketing Care

#1 – Content consumption is bite-sized.

First of all, it’s no secret that humans have short attention spans. How short? Roughly 8 seconds. And in an age of so much content at our fingertips, so much content that is ready to be consumed—it’s overwhelming. As a result—whether we’re curious about a new trend, researching something we may need to purchase, professional development—we often scan or skim content to get satisfy our need for credible, quality content in the shortest amount of time.

All that said, there are absolutely moments when we’re willing to commit to diving deeper and give something our full attention—which brings me to my next point.

#2 – If we’ve done our jobs and we’ve enticed a reader to the end, we absolutely want to leave them with something of value.

At a minimum, you should be circling back to your main points to give your audience a great summary and then providing them with a next step. Depending on your industry, audience, topic and stage in the funnel, there’s a few different considerations here:

The Engagement Play

Keeping folks on-page and encouraging them to interact with the content. The easiest example here is asking a thought-provoking question that relates to the topic and gives readers a chance to lend their voice.

Here’s an example from my recent post regarding Facebook’s latest algorithm changes and what they meant for influencer marketing.

As you can read, there’s a summary, actionable next steps from a takeaway and other reading standpoint, and then a related question to encourage discussion.

Engaging Conclusion Example for Content Marketers

The Emotional Play

Appealing to your reader’s emotions by leaving them with a little food for thought, inspiration or encouragement is a great way to reinforce every word up until that point and create a more personal connection. From my perspective, this route is especially great for thought leadership pieces.

In my journalism days, one of my go-to tactics here was to end with a compelling quote from one of my sources. I’d bring it all back together and then frost it with an interesting, uplifting, or sometimes a little heart-wrenching quote to really drive it home.

Here’s a subtle example from the *LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog. Titled Play Ball! How Marketers Can Apply the Principles of Spring Training and Experimentation, this baseball-themed post discusses how marketers can use spring training as inspiration for validating and optimizing social ad campaigns. With baseball season kicking off, the metaphor itself has a great hook for appealing to their audience’s interests.

When it comes to the conclusion, the minimum best practices of circling back and providing a summary are in play. And it’s done with the inspirational, “you can do it” sentiment woven throughout. Then the final line—”Step on up to the plate and give it a try”—gives readers “permission” to try a little something new. Of course, there’s a related CTA, too.

Emotion Evoking Conclusion Example for Content Marketers

The Tactical Play

This one is simple and probably one of the most widely used. This is all about giving readers something to do next. You’ve addressed a pain point or issue, you’ve offered insights and some solutions, but now the question is: What do they do next?

I want to be careful to say that this isn’t just a simple call to action. The conclusion should absolutely lead them to believe that the end CTA is worth their time.

Here’s a lovely example from TopRank Marketing’s Anne Leuman. Her recent post on search marketing integration, which featured a philosophical theme, she reinforces her main point and highlights key benefits. When it comes time to deliver the next step, she uses a “but wait there’s more” approach that tells the reader they have more integration possibilities to discover.

Tactical Conclusion Example for Content Marketers

Play Integration

These three plays don’t stand alone. They can be played with and combined to fit your topic, audience, and natural next steps for readers.

In our own Nick Nelson recent post In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide, Nick tackles consumer mistrust and what that means for marketers moving forward. He begins with data-mishap story, outlines the trust issue, talks about the solution, and then it’s time for the conclusion where he artfully leverages a combination of the plays above.

His first few paragraphs tug at the emotional and inspirational heartstrings, but also delivers tactical value with next steps and takeaways.

Conclusion Example from Nick Nelson

But his final line really drives it all home:

Final Line of Nick Nelson Conclusion

Finally, the related CTA isn’t just a simple “Read more” line.

CTA in Nick Nelson Conclusion

#3 – Every great story has a great ending.

Last, and certainly not least—and although it may sound a little hokey: Every great story has a great ending. No actually, every great story deserves a great ending. Period.

In Conclusion …

< Wow. No pressure or anything. >

We marketing writers are dedicated to our craft, spending hours to develop click-worthy headlines, compelling hooks and valuable body copy. But let’s not forget that every great story needs to have a great ending.

At a minimum, you should be circling back to your main points to give your audience a thoughtful summary and then providing them with a next step. And depending on your industry, topic, audience, and stage in the funnel, you should blend tactics to leave readers with something of value—whether that be inspiration, food for thought, actionable nexts steps or takeaways, or a little mix of everything.

The bottom line? Take it from the Master of Conclusions, Tom Smykowski:

Don't Skip the Conclusion Meme

Looking for ways to up your writing productivity, while also delivering on quality? Getting started can be the hardest part, so why not start with your conclusion? Get more content productivity hacks to help you take creation from failing to flying high.

What are your thoughts on the importance of conclusions? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Share your thoughts on the subject.

*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

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