Why Marketing Agencies Must Learn to Share

Why Marketing Agencies Must Learn to Share

We’re taught to share at a young age. Kids who hoard their favorite toys are typically reprimanded and told to be less selfish. “Plays well with others” is an encouraging sign on a report card.

Sadly, this cooperative spirit fell by the wayside when we created marketing agencies. People suddenly became overprotective of their team members, processes, ideas, and expertise. Agencies do it in the name of self-preservation, but this hoarding mentality causes them to stagnate by only sticking to what they already know. In the end, it’s a loss for clients.

We need to return to a mentality of collaboration and transparency, even if it means feeling vulnerable. It’s admittedly a tough sell. Giving up a sense of self-preservation and putting all your cards on the table can create anxiety among those accustomed to stifled innovation and “only invented here” syndrome. When you’ve found something that resonates with consumers, the last thing you probably want to do is share your secrets with competitors. Opening the door to collaborative discussions with partner agencies takes more than a modicum of trust and faith.

If you’re so worried about your own offerings that you don’t consider industry innovations, you’ll ultimately fail to deliver. Your agency—and your clients—will miss the amazing stuff that’s out there.

The Importance of Sharing

Every company is ultimately trying to sell a product or service to customers. The company’s marketing and sales teams make sure there’s a population that will buy the organization’s wares, and an agency’s job is to help the company reach that audience.

We tend to be protective of our ideas because they feel like the only thing that differentiates us from competitors. That’s not to say you should give away trade secrets—what would KFC Corporation be without Colonel Sanders’ original recipe?—but we need to move away from the mindset of “I have this idea for my client, and nobody else can have it.” It’s limiting, and it damages everyone involved.

When companies share ideas, they boost their natural abilities. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when a dozen other organizations have already solved a problem. Monsanto and American Express might seem about as different as you can get, but they ended up learning a lot from each other.

Our agency fostered a partnership between the two companies by helping them connect the dots on customer relationship management protocols. They ended up uncovering synergies through sharing.
While they avoided disclosing any confidential secrets or customer information, this collaboration gave the companies a rare and exciting opportunity to freely engage in problem-solving that benefitted their customers. Their employees realized Monsanto and American Express had vastly different clientele, but their CRM models dovetailed in a beautiful way. The organizations walked away from the partnership stronger than before they went into it.

Tearing Down Walls

To reach this kind of epiphany, we need to stop the car, put it in reverse, and open our eyes to the benefits of transparent communication. Here are four steps to move you toward the promised land.

1. Break Down the Silos

A team of people deeply immersed in its clients’ business tends to put on blinders and forge ahead without looking backward or sideways. They might not even notice the same issues exist for other clients within their own agency. As leaders, we need to make sure there’s always a “bigger picture” perspective at work. Goals, values, and strategies can only be aligned when team members have freedom to cooperate and communicate.

2. Try Some Cross-Pollination

Brainstorm sessions; planned meetings; chance discussions. These are times ripe for cross-pollination. People don’t need to be experts on a given topic to add value to a problem-solving venture.

Silicon Valley provides a fabulous example of the power of cross-pollination. Because of its geography and the way companies are laid out next to each other, formal and informal powwows are relatively commonplace. Our perspective tends to get skewed when we operate in a bubble. Popping that bubble through cross-pollination allows us to get talented thinkers and creatives together to come up with novel solutions.

3. Get a Fresh Perspective

Every agency gets stale—especially if it’s not actively seeking new ideas. At Sandbox, we frequently ask people who have nothing to do with a client to help solve various problems. We bring them into sessions and pick their brains for fresh perspectives based on their specific skill sets.

This feedback helps us understand our options and keeps us from allowing complacency and shortsightedness from taking hold. We might have never realized the benefit of introducing Monsanto and American Express had we not asked a team member with CRM expertise to help brainstorm ideas.

Self-preservation is understandable in the marketing world, but it’s no way to run an agency.
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4. Create Open Forums and Collaborative Platforms

Find a way to share an open forum so people feel free to look, observe, and chime in. As I walk around our agency, I inevitably see other people’s work. Instead of sequestering that work to their own team, they should be encouraged to share it. Isolating people and thoughts is a terrible strategy for building a successful agency. Reward and inspire collaboration, and you could see your team efficiency improve by 20 percent.

Self-preservation is understandable in the marketing world, but it’s no way to run an agency. Your clients will eventually find other innovative ideas in the world and wonder why they’ve missed out because of your narrow worldview. Drop the elitist attitude, and reach out to your industry colleagues for a little collaboration—you’ll look better, and it will help you put together programs your clients will appreciate. You might discover sharing as an adult is way more profitable than it was when you were a kid.

Joe Kuchta is chief client officer with Sandbox, an independent marketing agency with offices in Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and Toronto. He previously served as CEO of GA Communication Group, one of four founding members of Sandbox. Follow Sandbox on Twitter.

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The Content Assembly Line is Broken


As companies turn their content marketing efforts up to 11, we’re seeing our own little industrial revolution, moving the content creation process from the craft workshop to the high-volume assembly line.

The conditions are right:

  • We have the division of labor – research teams, copywriters, designers, developers, experts in search, and social.
  • We have enormous pressure to create more content faster – to lubricate our lead-nurture flows and fill our virtual funnels.
  • And we have a precedent – as Henry Ford and earlier pioneers proved that assembly lines dramatically increase manufacturing productivity.

It’s no surprise that we tend to make content the same way we make cars and coffee machines – in sequence:

  • The researchers hand the findings to the writer.
  • The writer turns it into copy.
  • The designer makes it pretty (boy, am I going to get in trouble for that).
  • The illustrator adds the images.
  • The animator makes them wiggle (see above).
  • The developer codes it for the web.
  • The promotion team pushes it out.
  • The analytics geeks measure the impact.
  • And we do it all over again tomorrow.

We tend to make content the same way we make cars – in sequence (but we shouldn’t), says @DougKessler.
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It’s not at all uncommon that this whole thing happens without any team member even talking to the person immediately to the right or left of them along the conveyor belt (much less skipping a level and talking to someone two steps away).

For an increasing number of content teams, this is only a slight exaggeration. A freelance writer may never even know who designed the piece. A research strategist may not even know that a social media pro will one day flog the findings on Facebook.

It’s evolved this way because it’s efficient. Because it means a small team of specialists can churn out an awful lot of work to an acceptable standard.

And that’s the problem.

Because assembly lines were created to put together identical products made from standardized parts. As my favorite smarty-pants, Gustav Wikipedia, says, an assembly line means that “a finished product can be assembled faster and with less labor than by having workers carry parts to a stationary piece for assembly.” (How does he know so much?)

I’ve bold-faced the words that power the whole sentence – and the whole model: Faster. Less labor. That’s what assembly lines are for.

If your content strategy is simply to generate more content faster and/or with fewer people, this series of hand-offs from one blindfolded specialist to the next is your go-to go-to-market model (your GTGTMM).

But if you actually want someone to enjoy the content experiences you create, to be changed by them, to learn from them, and to recommend them to their friends … maybe it’s not such a great idea to produce your content the same way children and slaves produce smartphones. (No, I won’t take that back. Look it up.)

Because great content is not like the billionth Ford Focus to roll off the line.

It’s unique.



Unlike toaster ovens and leaf blowers and photocopiers, it’s different every time.

Unlike toaster ovens & leaf blowers, great #content is different each time it’s created, says @DougKessler.
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As a grey-haired, B2B agency guy, I’ve been involved with both kinds of content creation processes: the assembly line and the agile, group-hug-based collaboration. And the latter runs circles around the former (while making that beep-beep roadrunner sound).

At Velocity, our best pieces are the ones where designers, developers, writers, researchers, and geeks work together – from the start and all along the way, in cute little stand-up scrums.


Click to enlarge

That’s my plea to all you chief content officers (and pretenders who somehow got a hold of this blog post): Break up your assembly lines. Get your weird and wonderful teammates into the same room. Order in some cronuts (I recommend the Pumpkin Maple Cinna-munch Cashew Twirl™). Brief them to change the world.

And stand back.

A version of this article originally appeared in the April issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly, print magazine.

Want to meet Doug Kessler and talk more about how to break out of the content assembly line? He’s presenting at Content Marketing World Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today and use code BLOG100 to save $100 on early-bird rates.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post The Content Assembly Line is Broken appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

User Generated Content – Great for Content Marketing

In 2011, Coca-Cola launched its Share-a-Coke campaign. It allows people to customize Coke cans and bottles with names, nicknames, and personalized messages. The Share-a-Coke campaign remains a brilliant example of a highly successful user generated content (UGC) campaign.

Share a Coke is a successful user generated content campaign

Content marketers are increasingly incorporating UGC campaigns as part of their content marketing strategy due to the benefits UGC provides. These include:

  • increasing sales
  • building customer trust
  • strengthening brand/customer relationships
  • increasing social followers
  • expanding social reach
  • boosting authenticity/credibility
  • building SEO value

This post provides a brief overview of what user generated content is, and explores some of its primary advantages and challenges. It considers crucial points to keep in mind when designing a UGC campaign. Additionally, it looks at some campaigns that have been particularly successful in generating unique, traffic-driving content.

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content is essentially any content created by unpaid contributors. It can include anything from pictures, videos, and blog posts to testimonials and discussion boards. User generated content is typically created or uploaded online, where it is easily shared.

Source: Brian Solis and JESS3, Wikimedia Commons

The annual Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” competition asks users to submit their idea for the next potato chip flavor. (If you are familiar with it, please don’t pretend you haven’t spent at least five minutes brainstorming this…)

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor finalists
Source: theimpulsivebuy via Flickr

Or recall Hootsuite’s #IWorkFromHere campaign where followers upload photos of unique places they work from.

Source: Hootsuite #IWorkFromHere Instagram

These are only two examples of user generated content campaigns. Both have enjoyed huge results.

Why is User Generated Content Effective?

One of the unique elements of UGC is that it taps into consumer trust and relationship building. Yes, that’s right—the days of trust falls with prospective and existing customers are over!

According to a study conducted by Reevoo, “61 percent of people would be more likely to engage with an advertisement if it contained user generated content.” While a study from Bazaar found that “51 percent of Americans trust UGC more than other information on a company website.”

Source: Reevoo

Authenticity and Credibility

So, does this mean that a lo-fi, flip-phone photo uploaded by Frank Meyers of Wickliffe, KY will be more convincing than an HD shot coming straight from Toyota’s website?


Well, kind of—yes.


The above scenario may be an exaggeration. (Although, who’s to say, Frank Meyers might have an exceptional eye for auto photography.) But research consistently shows consumers are more likely to trust a peer review or word-of-mouth account over content created by a brand or organization.

Source: Nielsen

As consumers, we’re jaded about traditional marketing content and messaging. We like hearing what people like ourselves have to say.

Real accounts, and real experiences = more authenticity, and more credibility.

Source: Crowdtap

Think about it this way. An organization gives up an element of control when handing over the reigns to consumers to provide content. But consumers’ voices are perceived as more objectivethere’s no foolproof predictability in terms of what the consumer will say or create.

Keep this in mind as we’ll make our way back to this point. But first, let’s expand on some of the advantages of UGC.

Key Advantages of User Generated Content

Cost/resource savings

According to Curata research, content marketers consistently cite insufficient resources as their greatest content marketing challenge. UGC can save your organization time and financial resources by outsourcing content creation to users.

Content Curation

Good news: UGC falls within the content curation family. Content curation involves sourcing, annotating, and sharing the best and most relevant third-party content with your audience.

If you’re not already familiar with some of the benefits of content curation, here’s a few to get you up to speed:

  • build brand awareness
  • establish credibility as a thought leader
  • streamline lead nurturing
  • boost social media metrics
  • improve SEO
  • support lead generation

If you want to learn more about content curation, or want to devise a content curation strategy, download Curata’s Ultimate Guide to Content Curation eBook.

Social Media Reach and Growth

Social media platforms work great for UGC campaigns, given both are typically based on dialogue. So executing a UGC campaign on social channels such as Facebook and Twitter is an excellent strategy to strengthen brand/customer relationships.

It’s crucial for an organization to respond to user content. This facilitates more meaningful interaction and encourages other users to submit content.

These interactions are mutually beneficial for both organization and customer. Sprout Social reports that, “75 percent of people are likely to share a good experience on their own profile.”

Source: Sprout Social

Additionally, designing a social media-based UGC campaign increases social traffic, which results in:

  • increased follower base
  • extended reach
  • increased brand awareness
  • boosted social metrics such as likes, shares, comments, retweets
  • increased web traffic/page views

SEO Perks

UGC campaigns can boost SEO value. According to Kissmetrics, “25 percent of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user generated content.” Positive customer reviews can raise your SEO ranking. And analyzing the most frequently used words and phrases your audience uses can improve your keyword optimization research.

Audience Insights

This advantage of UGC is often overlooked. You can gain key insights by analyzing the content your audience shares. This helps you better understand your audience and what they find engaging. And when applying the principles of a data-driven content marketing strategy, these insights help generate leads and increase sales.

The first step is to conduct an audit of the content your audience generates. If it’s reviews, notice what customers are complaining about—and improve on it. Is there a discernible theme in the photos Twitter followers are uploading? Do they align with how your organization or brand wants to be perceived? User generated content is a gold mine filled with nuggets of content data.

Unique Content

Your audience will produce (often markedly) different content from your marketing team. This is a significant advantage. It offers audience members a fresh perspective and a varying point of view. It keeps content interesting and encourages users to stay engaged.


Personalization can be another key advantage of UGC. Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group argues that the only way to get your target audience to notice and engage with content is to understand what resonates with them. Then you can align a UGC campaign strategy accordingly.

Personalization shouldn’t be limited to what your content is about. Consider the nuances of different channels and formats of a UGC campaign to ensure your audience is motivated to contribute. For example, an Instagram photo competition might not work as well for a B2B SaaS company as say, hosting a Twitter chat.

Dell’s IdeaStorm is an awesome example of targeting a UGC campaign to the audience. Launched in 2007, Forbes equated the original IdeaStorm to an online suggestion box.

Source: Dell IdeaStorm

IdeaStorm allows users to submit suggestions on how to improve existing Dell products, as well as ideas for new ones. Within its first five years, Dell received nearly 15,000 suggestions, and applied 500 of them in the form of various refinements.

IdeaStorm offers Dell’s audience a platform for providing feedback on each other’s ideas. Users can submit votes, comments, and participate in what’s called “Storm sessions.” Crucially, the company shows its audience that it’s listening by including a tally of how many ideas have been implemented. The ideas clearly aren’t just floating into the dark abyss of an automated system.

Challenges of UGC

Be conscious of these challenges when designing a UGC campaign.

Policing Content

Allowing users to submit original content almost inevitably brings an undesirable side effect: unsavory content. It is crucial to carefully monitor content and comment sections, and to deal with inappropriate content in a timely manner.


However, note that allowing and encouraging healthy discussion and debate makes for valuable, interesting content. Organizations can ensure that discussions remain productive by steering and moderating conversations.

Deleting all negative comments made about your organization will make your brand seem inauthentic. A better approach? Ensure that negative comments are responded to. Take appropriate action to remedy a situation whenever possible.

Legal Considerations

Ensure that your content marketing team has clearly communicated ownership and usage rights to users to avoid sticky legal situations. Given the relative newness of UGC, navigating copyright laws can take a bit of extra research and work. This can be time consuming, but it’s worth it if your users create awesome content.

Credibility of Sources

Remember that you don’t actually know who the contributor behind the screen is. In the case of forums or advice discussion boards, there’s no guarantee submitted information is factual or well informed. Perhaps this is more of a challenge for users and something they must keep in mind. However, if you’re running a forum plagued with false information and Internet trolling, it could reflect poorly on your brand.

Top UGC Campaign

So, who makes the cut for top UGC campaign? There are thousands to choose from. But OfficeMax’s “Elf Yourself” campaign has made it onto countless “Top UGC Campaign” lists.

The campaign has been running since 2006. Users submit photos of themselves and their friends. They’re then superimposed onto a virtual dancing elf and shared as a holiday eCard.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that an office supply company managed to engage up to half a billion people as of 2011 (and by “engage” I mean convert them into elves).

Start a User Generated Content Strategy

Think of “Elf Yourself” as a textbook example of the point of difference and creative advantage a UGC campaign can bring to a content strategy.

Discover what makes your audience excited to create content and engage with your company. It’ll help you develop an online community that strengthens the customer/brand relationship.

When planning a user generated content campaign, check out Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid: A Framework to Develop & Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy eBook. It will allow you to seamlessly align it with your overall content marketing strategy.

The post User Generated Content – Great for Content Marketing appeared first on Curata Blog.

4 Strategies for Boosting Your Personalization Strategy Through Data

4 Strategies for Boosting Your Personalization Strategy Through Data

Personalization is the name of the game in modern marketing. Consumers demand tailored experiences, having grown accustomed to scrolling through their Instagram feeds and seeing intimate, conversational posts from their favorite influencers. Now, they crave equally personal engagement from brands.

Fortunately, big data enables marketers to create the types of content and experiences their audiences want. User metrics indicate which articles, videos, and social media posts resonate most with consumers. Brands can use these insights to create targeted marketing campaigns that hook users and keep them coming back for more.

Big Data Is a Big Deal

The sheer amount of information made available by big data often seems overwhelming to marketers who are unaccustomed to dealing with metrics and analytics. But platforms such as Hadoop and Hive simplify the process of collecting and organizing information, so you can zero in on key insights.

The secret to using big data effectively is to identify which metrics are relevant to your audience, discarding the rest. Such focus allows you to develop and execute campaigns quickly that address your users’ needs. There’s a significant learning curve to getting personalization right, and mastering it requires time, patience, and interdepartmental collaboration.

Although the vast majority of marketing professionals recognize that personalization is critical to their success, 65 percent of those interviewed in one study said silos in their departments hindered progress. That’s a real problem because personalization only works when you take a cohesive approach.

The SEO team should not be launching campaigns that are completely disconnected from what the social media crew is doing. Marketers must collaborate with each other, as well as with colleagues in other departments. Business managers and IT professionals can provide invaluable insights on how to improve the execution of marketing strategies.

Most importantly, everyone involved with marketing initiatives should operate under the banner of offering a personalized customer experience. Research shows that 48 percent of consumers included in one study spent more money with companies that personalized their interactions. Another report indicated that 72 percent of people interviewed said they were likely to do business with brands known for good customer service.

Data and Personalization Are Better Together

Oay, you get it: Personalization and big data are still important. Let’s look at how you can combine them to create resonant campaigns that generate leads.

1. Invest in High-Quality Data Management

Nothing matters more than data management. You can collect every piece of information humanly available on users, but not a single scrap of it matters if you can’t process and analyze it effectively. Great personalization campaigns answer questions consumers haven’t yet thought to ask, speak directly to their circumstances, and engage them with the types of content they find most valuable. All of that information lies within the data, and a data management system will help you find it.

Purchase a data-processing platform that suits your company’s processes. There are solutions for finance and accounting, store operations management, order processing, product management, and just about every other area essential to running a business. Find ones that align with your data capture needs, and implement them ASAP.

Great personalization campaigns answer questions consumers haven’t yet thought to ask.
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2. Believe the Numbers, Not Your Instincts

Marketing teams often think they know their customers better than they actually do. Data dispels misconceptions and helps you avoid costly mistakes.

Customers leave trails of information about which websites they frequent, which products interest them, which videos they’ll watch all the way through, and which articles they believe are worth sharing with their social networks. All of these habits provide honest, comprehensive pictures of who these people are. Rather than rely on fallible human instincts, look to the data to build campaigns that match consumers’ online lives.

3. Identify Core Insights and Act Quickly

Until 2016, most companies focused on data collection. They weren’t entirely sure how to use it, so many hedged on putting the insights they’d gathered into action. That trend won’t hold in 2017. Brands now understand that personalization is critical to customer engagement and retention, and they’ll move swiftly to implement cutting-edge, customized campaigns.

Create a team that focuses exclusively on monitoring analytics. Connect its members with your marketing department, so they can make recommendations for reaching consumers in real time and optimizing the customer experience. Give the data team access to the full spectrum of user data by pulling from websites and web apps, smartphone activity, tablet behaviors, and even in-store purchases. The more robust their data sets, the more effectively marketing will be able to put their insights to use.

4. Understand How Big Data Will Impact Your Industry

Big data is transforming every industry, though not necessarily in the same ways. For instance, in my industry—travel—airlines are using data to improve their “look to book” ratios and increase revenues. Travel agencies can track trends among different age groups and market their destination packages accordingly, while hotels can pair loyalty customers with the rooms and services they favor across locations. Consider how big data can boost the customer experience in your industry. Look to your competitors; see how they’ve utilized data so far and how they’re likely to incorporate it in the future.

Big data is a nonnegotiable for marketers, especially as trends toward personalization ramp up. Those that get it right stand to ride a $430 billion wave in increased productivity benefits. By investing in high-quality data collection and management now, you will position your brand for long-term customer retention and profitability.

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Account-Based Marketing: What Content Marketers Need to Know


To market its webinar, InsightSquared went the extra mile. It bought 248 copies of the presenter’s book. The author autographed the books with an invitation to attend the webinar. Each one included a bookmark with a URL to register.

Then, the company targeted everybody who visited its website with the same domain as an invitee.

Webinar day arrived. Six people attended.

A complete content marketing disaster.

But at the end of the quarter, the book-invitation webinar campaign was the most effective one to influence the deals that got done.


How did a content marketing calamity turn into a big sales success?

Account-based marketing.

That’s how Joe Chernov, vice president of marketing at InsightSquared, explains it in his session Account-Based Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Friend or Foe? at Content Marketing World 2016.

“Content marketing leaves off at a certain point, but business goals go a little beyond that,” Joe says. Account-based marketing can fill in those gaps.


InsightSquared combined content marketing and account-based marketing for its webinar-focused campaign. “We confused people. We gave the reps an excuse to call to un-confuse people,” Joe says, noting that a sales rep on the phone with a potential customer is a big win in the sales process.

Beware of false choice

Joe argues that the choice for marketers is not an either-or proposition. Brands should use content marketing AND account-based marketing (ABM). “Our job (as marketers) is to grow our business,” he says.

Brands should use #contentmarketing & account-based marketing, says @JChernov.
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By carving segments from your larger target audience and subdividing those into various cohorts (i.e., accounts with common attributes), you can create smaller highly targeted customized campaigns – flipping the sales funnel upside down.

“Yields will be at least or greater to the wide-mouth funnel approach that is content marketing,” Joe says.

Don’t have a low-bar strategy

“Show how I’m measured and I’ll show you how I’ll behave,” Joe says.

If marketing success is measured by the quantity of marketing-qualified leads produced, the bar to create such a lead will be set as low as possible. Marketers will do what they think will produce the biggest numbers, not necessarily the best leads.

MQLs transfer the problem to the sales team. “(You’re) giving them junk,” Joe says.

Content marketers publish a blog post, wait for the audience to find it, and expect some readers to dig deep enough to fill out a form with their valuable contact information. Plus, just because a person fills out a form to acquire valuable content does not mean she is interested in sales or even the brand. Yet, the person is an MQL and the burden is moved to sales.

Don’t transfer junk leads from your #contentmarketing to your sales team, says @JChernov.
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“It’s not efficient. Waiting isn’t the strategy and yet content marketing relies on some waiting,” Joe says. ABM is a proactive approach – reaching out to prospects and customers.

While content marketing follows a sequential or linear process (blog, offer, lead scoring on conversion, lead nurturing, hand-off to sales), ABM is lumpy. You target an account or a basket of accounts and pick and choose ways to engage them (a blog post, ungated content, personalized email, event, or dinner).


ABM complements content marketing and vice versa. As Joe says, marketers must find ways to stitch together the two methodologies because accomplishing your ultimate goals requires both. Fortunately, the values for content marketing and ABM are the same – to make your customer’s life better.

See the opportunities

Content marketers shouldn’t be threatened that ABM will take away the need for content in their companies. In fact, the opposite may be true. Demands for content – lots of little content, original, and customized – for each account or cohort will be needed.

Content marketers shouldn’t be threatened by ABM. Demand for #content may be greater. @JChernov
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ABM also presents a more effective primary content distribution channel – the sales team. “None of this works if the sales team isn’t using your content,” Joe says.

Finally, marketing still needs a way to engage people the first time. That usually occurs on a widely targeted basis and content is an effective way to attract those new people.

“You have the opportunity to take everything learned in content marketing and apply it to a new methodology,” Joe says.

Think content-marketing strategy applied to direct mail.

Joe shares a couple inspirational successes from InsightSquared. In the first example, InsightSquared’s sales reps each picked five accounts to receive a case of InsightSquared-branded energy drinks. It included the message, “Fuel your sales team for a monster Q4.” The results were great – recipients were 30 to 40% more likely to buy than those who did not get the drinks.


The second example incorporates individual account-based data. The InsightSquared marketing team uses that data to identify someone who is stuck in the sales process. When it sees a hesitant account, it confirms the status with the sales rep. Then, marketing mails a pair of socks and a postcard with the message, “Don’t get cold feet.” It explains why the company is sending it and invites the recipient back into the active sales process.


Rethink definition of success

When Joe was at HubSpot, a company marketing its products to most B2B companies, he would say, “I don’t care if we’re selling to Mack the truck driver or to Mack Trucks.”

But, he says, many companies do have to distinguish whether they’re selling to Mack the truck driver or Mack Trucks. They know exactly who their customer is – and it isn’t the masses.

Combining content marketing and ABM requires marketing’s goals to align with the sales team. You must work toward what’s best for the business as a whole. No longer is success driven by how many companies you connect with, it’s about the number of highly responsive and interested companies you connect with.

Metrics focused on the size of the audience are backward in an ABM-focused environment. As Joe explains, if your blog audience numbers stay flat month over month but the composition of the audience includes more designated accounts, that’s a marketing success.

Your measurement framework must be sales-centric.

Your measurement framework must be sales-centric, says @JChernov. #contentmarketing
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Rejuvenate collaborative content

In an ABM-included world, the content team gets a new center of gravity. Instead of a blog with content for a broad audience, content creators can narrow the aperture of what they write to be for a very specific audience. The alignment also enables the content team to plan its editorial calendar in tandem with the sales team’s themes.

By working with sales, the content team can arm sales reps with content to have more meaningful, personalized conversations. “It’s the agent’s job to get the actor the audition, not the part,” Joe says. “Our job (as marketers) is to get sales the chance to get the right people on the phone.”

Our job as marketers is to get sales the chance to get the right people on the phone, says @JChernov.
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The key to combining content marketing and account-based marketing, though, rests in a collaborative effort with the sales team. And that can’t be the chief marketing officer and the head of the sales division talking once a month. It requires a marketing quarterback sitting with sales and really listening to sales when it comes to accounts. As Joe says, “That’s the only way this works.”

What insights and ideas will this year’s Content Marketing World presenters share? Make sure you’re there to hear them. Register today for the Sept. 5-8 event. Use the code BLOG100 to save even more on early-bird rates.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Account-Based Marketing: What Content Marketers Need to Know appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

A Proven Process to Curate and Publish a Roundup of Industry Influencers


Have you tried putting together a list of top industry influencers?

Curating and publishing this type of list, while reaching out to featured influencers, is proven to create a large amount of exposure for your blog from a highly targeted audience.

This tutorial will walk you through the process. Though I focused on social media influencers, the process can work for just about any industry.

How is this different from every other influencer list strategy?

First off, this strategy uses a proven process that has delivered significant exposure to my content more than once. In addition, this strategy ensures that the list is completely credible. An external tool is used to calculate and rank the top influencers on the topic of your choice.

1. Choose a topic to focus on

One of the simplest ways to choose an influencer list topic is to just focus on your industry, for example “farming,” “manufacturing” or “technology.” However, consider narrowing your topic to research popular themes related to your industry. You could use your keyword research to help in this process.

One of the simplest ways to choose an influencer list topic is to focus on your industry, says @dknowlton1.
Click To Tweet

2. Identify the top 100 influencers on that topic

Various identification tools can identify influencers, just search for “influencer identification tools” on Google. In this process, I used BuzzSumo.

Head over to the influencers tab, type in your chosen topic, and hit Search. Use the filter tab on the left to narrow the list to the types of users you’d like to rank. For example, I untick “companies” when I create influencer lists focused on people.


3. Export the data into a spreadsheet

If you have a paid account, simply click the Export button.

If you are using a free trial, you need to put in a bit more effort to export and format this data onto a spreadsheet:

  • Highlight the first page. Copy everything from the first person on the list’s name (top left) all the way down to the last “average retweets” piece of data for the last influencer at the bottom of the page (bottom right).


Image source

  • Paste this information into a Notepad file.
  • Go back to the list and click on the second page. Repeat the process until you have 100 influencers’ information pasted into a Notepad file.


The only information in the Notepad file is the influencer’s name, Twitter handle, and however many pieces of ranking data you want. I include four:

Influencer -info

TIP: To reduce your manual-deletion efforts to remove unnecessary data to achieve your final format, use the find-and-replace function. Simply click Edit, then Replace. Type in frequently mentioned unnecessary words in the “Find what:” box, leave the “Replace with:” box blank. Click “Replace All.” Repeat the process until all chosen words are deleted. Then, delete the remaining extraneous words manually.

  • Copy and paste the 100 influencers’ information into a spreadsheet and label each column. I use the following: rank, Twitter (handle), name, page authority, domain authority, Twitter followers, RT ratio (retweet ratio – the percentage of each user’s tweets that are retweets).


  • Add hyperlinks to their Twitter accounts for each handle.


4. Reach out to top influencers for quotes

Getting quotes from the featured influencers will:

  • Increase the credibility of the list
  • Increase the number of influencers and people who share the list
  • Add more depth to the piece of content

Get quotes from influencers to increase credibility and shares, says @dknowlton1. #influencermarketing
Click To Tweet

I’ve found that the best way to contact influencers is to send them a personal email.

TIP: To find an influencer’s email address, do a Google search for “(influencer’s name) email address.” Or read their Twitter bio and visit the Contact Us section on their website. As a last resort, use the contact form on their website.

Influencer outreach email template

To ensure that your outreach email works, use this proven template I have used to email the top 10 to 15 featured influencers. You only need a few to respond to include in the list post.

Subject: Top 100 [topic] Influencers in [year/month]

Hey [Influencer first name],     

I’ve used BuzzSumo to find the Top 100 Most Influential [topic] Influencers in the World in [year/month] (you were # [insert number where influencer was ranked]!).

I’m creating a list post including the top 100 and I’m including one “[topic + year/month]”-related paragraph from the top 10 on the list.

I know you’re super busy so I want to make this as easy as possible for you. It would be amazing if you could send one paragraph or show me where I can copy a paragraph you’ve quoted before about [topic + year/month]?

Here’s a quick peek at the top 5 in the list:

[Include screenshot of top 5, example below]


Can’t wait to hear from you, have an amazing week, [Influencer first name]!

[Your Name]

TIP: Once you email the influencers, send personal tweets letting them know you have emailed them.

Influencer outreach email follow-up

Many factors can affect whether an influencer responds to your outreach email. To increase your chances of a response, you need to follow up with those who have not replied.

Two days after you have sent the outreach emails, send a follow-up email, which forwards the previous email and includes another personal message.

You can use the template below:

Subject: FW: Top 100 Social Media Marketing Influencers in 2016

Hey [influencer’s first name],

I know you’re super busy, I just wanted to see if you received my previous email OK and if you could send over a quick quote for the top 100 [topic+ date] list where you were ranked [rank] by BuzzSumo?

I could even copy a previous quote if you direct me to where I can find and copy it from?

Thanks, [Influencer first name]!

[Your Name]

Once you have received at least two quotes (the more the better), you can move on to the next step.

5. Create the influencer list blog post

Once you have the spreadsheet of top influencers and at least two quotes from featured influencers, it is time to put the blog post together.

You can put the blog post together in a variety of ways depending on your blog’s style. However, include a few key areas to ensure that you optimize the post’s reach and exposure.

Take a look at these examples from Buffer, Business Insider, Richtopia, and Hootsuite for inspiration.

The structure I tend to use is:


Image source

Use a header image with head shots of influencers

It’s no secret that influencers enjoy receiving recognition for their hard work, especially if they are placed next to other relevant influencers they look up to. Incorporating influencer’s headshots into the header image increases the shareability of the blog. I created this one with Canva.

With top influencer lists, create image with headshots to increase interest & shares, says @DKnowlton1.
Click To Tweet

Write a short introduction

A snappy introduction clearly explains the value readers will get from the influencer list. You can use this simple template:

Are you interested in [influencer list topic]?

Would you like to learn from [year/month]’s most influential [types of influencers featured in list]?

We’ve used [tool you’ve used to identify influencers] to identify the ‘Top 100 [influencer list topic] Influencers from [year/month]’.

Congratulations to everyone who made the list! Scroll down to see who made the top 100.

Explain how list is calculated

Explaining how the list is determined increases its credibility and the chances of featured influencers sharing the list to their large online audiences.

Use email, Twitter, & social-media tagging to congratulate influencers on making the list. @Dknowlton1
Click To Tweet

If you can’t find an explanation of how the influencer identification tool you’ve used ranks influencers, then contact them and ask.

Feature quotes from influencers

When quoting influencers, I include a headshot, their name (linked to their Twitter profile), and their preferred title and business (linked to their website).

Incorporate influencer list

Next, cut and paste the full influencer list from the spreadsheet into the blog.

Include a relevant call to action

Creating a relevant call to action at the end of a blog is not a revolutionary idea, but it’s an important part of any influencer list.

Ensure that the call to action relates to the topic of the blog. For example, the call to action for our 2016 Social Media Marketing Influencers list was to watch our video on influencer marketing strategies.

6. Reach out to all 100 influencers

Yes, this does take time. However, this is the most important step to ensure that you gain as much reach and exposure for your influencer list as possible.

The idea is to use a combination of email, Twitter, and social-media tagging to congratulate influencers on making the list. As I and many others have proven, this outreach will prompt a percentage of the featured influencers to share your influencer list with their online audiences.


Outreach by email

To source the email addresses of the featured influencers, follow the actions outlined in Step 4.  Use the following email template to reach out to them:

Hey [Influencer first name],

I’ve used BuzzSumo to find the Top 100 Most Influential [enter topic] in the World in [year/month] (you were #[where Influencer was ranked]!).

Congrats for making the list!

[enter link to list post]

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

Outreach on Twitter

Once you send the outreach emails, reach out to the influencers on Twitter (some influencers need a few prods to remind them about the list before they share it).

TIP: The most efficient way to reach out on Twitter is to use a scheduling tool like Sendible that allows you to bulk upload tweets you created in a spreadsheet. If you can’t bulk upload tweets, you will need to schedule these tweets manually.

You need to schedule one to three outreach tweets per day that tag featured influencers and congratulate them on making the list. You also need to ensure that you post plenty of tweets in between each outreach tweet so that your timeline doesn’t look like you copied and pasted the same outreach tweet to everyone.

You can use the following template for your scheduled outreach tweets:

[Featured Influencer’s twitter Handle] Hey [Influencer’s First Name] – congrats for making the list J [link to Influencer List Post]

Social-media tagging

Tagging featured influencers on social media platforms to congratulate them for making your influencer list is another great way to prompt shares and engagement.

TIP: Only tag a large number of influencers in a single post one time per influencer list on each platform. If you continue to tag influencers they may start to get annoyed with the constant notifications.


Using this influencer-list blog post strategy is more time consuming than creating a standard blog post. However, this strategy works to get you in front of the large online audiences of the influencers you feature.

Do you have any good examples of influencer lists? I’d love to check them out if you leave a link in the comments.

Want to learn in real life from many of the top content marketing influencers? Register today for Content Marketing World. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

The post A Proven Process to Curate and Publish a Roundup of Industry Influencers appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

This Week in Content Marketing: Yes, Apple Will Buy Disney (Someday)


PNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, we discuss the rumor spreading through Wall Street that Apple will buy Disney. We also explore Netflix’s newest billion-dollar business model and six publishing trends Reuters says brands need to pay attention to. Our rants and raves include an overly harsh critique of brand studios and the need to question your choices; then we close the show with an example of the week from Mint.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on April 17, 2017; Length: 1:02:16)

Download this week’s PNR This Old Marketing podcast.

If you enjoy our PNR podcasts, we would love if you would rate it, or post a review, on iTunes

1.   Our sponsor (08:33):

  • PowerPost – Welcome to the Age of Power Publishing: As content marketers, we understand the importance of creating content that not only educates, but inspires consumers to take action. As a result, we have entered a new era of “brands as publishers” – where brands are increasingly becoming publishers in their own right. With brand publishing and content distribution come several key steps to the publishing process. But the elongated process of content creation, review, scheduling and tracking analytics can often take more time than we have. Built by marketers for marketers, PowerPost is a time-saving tool for companies who manage content for multiple brands with multiple users – whether it’s a regulated industry or creative agency. With PowerPost, your team can publish from one location across all of your online platforms, quickly and efficiently turning your brand into a power publisher.

To help more brands excel at publishing, join us for a webinar on May 9th with CMI founder Joe Pulizzi. We have also created a comprehensive e-book, with insights from 50 experts in the content marketing field, and their strategies on conquering the five pillars of brand publishing: content planning, workflow, distribution, analytics, conversion. Claim your download at powerpost.digital.


2.    Notable news and upcoming trends:

  • Wall Street wonders whether Apple is wishing on Disney’s star (11:55): Business Insider’s Markets site reports on the theory that Apple’s cash pile of more than $200 billion makes it a prime candidate to purchase Disney – a move that would solidify its position as a leader in the entertainment content space. There’s no telling whether either party is actively considering a deal, and Robert is skeptical. Yet, I’m just excited to see industry speculation catching up to PNR, as this is a topic we’ve been talking about since I predicted an M&A play between the two companies back in 2015.
  • Does Netflix have a new billion-dollar opportunity on its hands? (22:02): Another Business Insider article caught our eye this week, which offers a discussion on the revenue-generating potential of Netflix selling merchandise based on its hit shows, like Stranger Things. The speculation is based on the company’s recent job posting for a head of licensing, which focused on how merchandise could be used to sustain interest in its shows. As I see it, Netflix has a number of valuable content brands on its platform that it isn’t fully tapping into. If the company wants to scale its growth even faster than it already is, Netflix should be asking, “How else can we monetize this audience?” Robert agrees, but also finds it fascinating that, culturally, we are still surprised when product companies look to add a media arm to their business.
  • Six strategic lessons for publishers moving “beyond the article” (32:06): A post on theMediaBriefing summarizes a recent Reuters report that explores ways that news organizations are going “beyond the article” through tactics like distributed publishing, messaging apps and chatbots, virtual reality, and mobile-first video. What resonated most with me was the example set by conversation app company Quartz, whose Creative Director Brian Dell went on the record to say that the aim is not to marry commercial to editorial but, rather, to offer a great Quartz experience. The discussion also reminds us all of the value of thinking about what we might need to stop doing, so we can free up more time to innovate and deliver greater value to a very specific segment of our audience.

3.   Rants and raves (40:14)

  • Joe’s shout-out: A quick word of praise for our friend Craig Coffey from Lincoln Electric, who is featured in the latest issue of Crain’s Cleveland Business. The Q&A interview includes a discussion about Lincoln Electric’s stellar content marketing effort, Arc Magazine. Among the many great takeaways here is Craig’s perspective on the need to rely on external writing talent: “Unlike us, they can get outside the conversation about our products … We want to entertain, educate, and inform. Then we can sell,” he says.


  • Joe’s rant: I’ve started to see some of my friends announce where their kids are going to college. While I’m thrilled for them, the subject also gives me a bit of pause. Personally, I’m not a fan of blindly encouraging students to pursue the default mode – where going to college is the de facto expectation – without giving them the option to question whether or not it’s the right path for them. Similarly, I think far too many marketers have been taught that marketing is this definitive thing, and we all need to learn how to operate within it. Instead, I think we need to start questioning our preconceived notions and, perhaps, start fresh with a “tabula rasa.”
  • Robert’s rave: Doug Kessler, a close friend of the CMI family, shared a recent content example from his company – Velocity Partners – that Robert feels is well worth raving about. The effort, The New Media Message: Why Innovation Stories Deserve Innovative Formats, highlights the need for storytellers to explore and play to the web’s unique strengths, rather than trying to squeeze innovative media ideas into old media formats.
  • Robert’s rant: An Adweek article came to Robert’s attention via fellow Angelino, Doug Schumacher (@MemeRunner). The post takes branded content studios to task for operating under the belief that they can just, “render the creative, hit send on [the] programmatic buy, and win” in the content space. While he agrees with some of author Brian Tolleson’s points about valuing the skills, passion, and talent of creative professionals, Robert challenges his notion that agencies and entertainment studios have cornered the market on leveraging these attributes to create high-quality brand content.

4.    This Old Marketing example of the week (54:43):

  • Digital personal finance software service Mint officially launched in September 2007 and, in just two short years, the company had amassed a following of over 1 million users, with a few thousand new users signing up daily. The company achieved this by establishing a content brand, MintLife, as a way to help its customers get answers to their personal finance questions. Mint initially built a strong following on a tight budget by inviting finance bloggers to contribute content, while also sponsoring other finance-related blogs – efforts which helped the company quickly grow its subscriber base to more than 20,000 consumers. Then, to continue to fine-tune the creative process in a cost-effective way, the company seeded its content on popular distribution sites, like Digg and Reddit. In an interview with Kissmetrics, Mint founder Aaron Patzer said that by the time MintLife was released, it was driving more traffic than their competitors were to their entire websites. And, according to an article on Contently, demand was so great, that Mint’s systems couldn’t initially handle all the subscribers who wanted to try its beta version. Mint responded by creating even greater demand, enabling interested subscribers to show their passion by posting an “I want Mint” badge on their blogs or social media profiles – efforts which helped boost the search ranking for MintLife content, and generate enough buzz to gain the attention of Intuit, which snatched up the young company in 2009 for $170 million. It’s a fantastic This Old Marketing example of how to establish a thriving business by using valuable content to build an audience.


Image source

For a full list of PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The post This Week in Content Marketing: Yes, Apple Will Buy Disney (Someday) appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.