[Infographic] The In-Flight Guide to Content Marketing

Marketers who plan appropriately significantly increase their likelihood of success. Seems like a novel concept right?

You’d think so, but unfortunately the day-to-day grind can cause many marketers to lose sight of what’s important and essential for content marketing success. In today’s competitive landscape, everything from your strategy to the actual content experience and the way that you amplify content that is created (or co-created) are key factors in the success of your content program.

To help you take your content to new heights, we have topped into some of the top B2B and B2C marketing minds that will be speaking at this year’s Content Marketing World conference in September. Over the past months we have published a series of eBooks that take a deep dive into the content skills and tactics necessary to meet the needs of the modern customer.

We have also pulled some of the top insights from each of these eBooks into the infographic below for you to keep on hand as a guide for content marketing success. Let this handy in-flight content guide serve as a visual reminder of just what it takes to succeed in content marketing today.

Part 1: Prepping for Your Content Marketing Expedition

Figure out what makes you, your team, and your customers unique. @jayacunzo
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You have a story YOU want to tell, but does your audience care to hear it? @buyerpersona
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Adapt and be fluid with your content scheduling. @amandatodo
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Don’t be so wedded to a content schedule that you miss opportunities in your industry. @markwschaefer
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People are hesitant to contribute content is because they don’t know what to write about. @timwasher
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Part 2: Creating a Memorable Content Experience

Build content based on what they want rather than what you think they want! @IanCleary
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Make the audience the hero of the story you’re telling. @ardath421
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A great content experience starts with a story! @BrennerMichael
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Be Useful. Address the why, the what’s in it for me? for your reader. @JillianHillard
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Develop next-level, pathological empathy for your audience. @MarketingProfs
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Part 3: Making the Most of Your Content Journey

Paid social can help marketers greatly improve their reach and engagement. @justinlevy
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For great distribution, co-creation with influencers is the solution. @leeodden
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Content that is engaging and optimizes the user’s experience is key. Zerlina Jackson
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Work with top experts to co-create content to increase amplification & engagement. @AmishaGandhi
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Better work inherently drives deeper engagement. @Robert_Rose
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Hungry for More Content Marketing Insights?

Below are some additional snackable statistics pulled from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ 2017 B2B and B2C Content Marketing reports:

Snackable B2B Stats

  • 28% of B2B companies are in the sophisticated/mature phase of content marketing
  • 55% B2B of companies have small content marketing teams serving the entire organization
  • 42% B2B of companies have experienced management changes that have had a positive impact on the organization’s content marketing
  • 89% of B2B Marketers use content marketing
  • 55% of B2B companies have a small (or one-person) marketing/content marketing team that serves the entire organization
  • 63% of B2B companies are extremely or very committed to content marketing
  • 62% of B2B companies are much more or somewhat more successful with content marketing than they were one year ago
  • 30% of B2B Marketers say it is not clear what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like

Snackable B2B Stats

  • 30% of B2C companies are in the sophisticated/mature phase of content marketing maturity
  • 49% of B2C companies have a small content marketing team serving the entire organization
  • 86% of B2C Marketers are using content marketing
  • 49% of B2C companies have a small (or one-person) marketing/content marketing team that serves the entire organization
  • 60% of B2C companies are extremely or very committed to content marketing
  • 25% of B2C companies are extremely or very successful with their overall approach to content marketing
  • 33% of B2C companies are not clear on what effective or successful content marketing programs look like

To gain access to insights from all 41 Content Marketing World speakers, be sure to download the full series!

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[Infographic] The In-Flight Guide to Content Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Digital Marketing News: Data by the Minute, Email in 2017 & New Instagram Features

How Much Data is Generated Every Minute? [Infographic]
This infographic reveals what happens online every minute. The world internet population now represents 3.7 billion people. The findings on data usage includes social media platforms, video usage and the other most popular data generation websites and apps happening right now. Social Media Today

How Email Is Accessed in 2017: Top Devices, Platforms, and Clients
The report that was based on 27 billion emails opened between May 2016 and April 2017 highlights the devices on which email is accessed most frequently, the most popular email clients and the most popular email platforms that consumers are using. MarketingProfs

Introducing New Features to the Instagram Platform API
Brands are now able to access valuable insights in the Instagram API. You can keep track of organic content performance and have access to comment moderation by being able to hide or toggle on and off. To access these new features, you must have a business profile for Facebook. It is available for Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partners. Instagram Blog

Facebook’s Video Helps Drive $9B in Ad Sales, Up 47%
AdAge reports: “Facebook ad sales topped $9 billion last quarter, proof that its heavy investment in video is paying off, according to industry watchers… Its nearly $9.2 billion in ad revenue represented a 47% gain over the period a year earlier.” AdAge

Easier Way to Block Comments With Links From Your Videos
Video publishers can now block comments that contain links and hashtags with a new setting found in Creator Studio. Once enabled, this setting will hold comments containing links for review before being published. YouTube Help Forum

Google Has Dropped Google Instant Search
Google Instant showed search results as you type them, and Google has removed the feature from Search. Due to the recent changes in how searchers use mobile, Google decided to get rid of the feature. You will only see search suggestions that you can click on, but will no longer load any result pages without clicking on the suggesting, or hitting enter. Search Engine Land

Amazon Launches Spark, A Shoppable Feed of Stories and Photos Aimed at Prime Members
Inspired by Instagram’s use of shoppable photos, Amazon launched a new feature called Spark. The feature is available on the Amazon mobile app only for right now. Start by selecting at least 5 interests you want to follow, and with this information, Amazon Spark will create a customized feed of products and ideas of things to learn more about or shop for. TechCrunch

Facebook is Now Letting Brands and Media Companies Create Their Own Groups Within Pages
Brands and media companies are now able to create their own groups without having to rely on admins to set up the groups from personal accounts. This gives Pages administrators the ability to boost engagement with niche groups, and social media managers more privacy and separation from work. AdWeek

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more top marketing news! Have something to share? Dying for more news? Follow @toprank on Twitter or sound off in the comments.

The post Digital Marketing News: Data by the Minute, Email in 2017 & New Instagram Features appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 TopRank Marketing Team Insights for Finding B2B Content Marketing Inspiration

These days, there’s little doubt among B2B marketers that content is the foundation of digital marketing success. After all, studies show that nearly all B2B buyers do some form of online research before making a purchasing decision. As a result, we content creators are tasked with turning out informative, engaging and inspiring content that helps our brand be the best answer wherever and whenever our audience is searching.

But let’s face it, content folks. Despite being proven wordsmiths and marketers, our creative engine stalls from time to time. I’ll certainly admit that my computer screen and I have had some intimate moments—mostly me staring longingly at a blank document and praying the words will come.

So, what’s a B2B content marketer to do when our creative engine breaks down—or rather before it loses steam? Where can we find inspiration?

For me, my salvation lies in my fellow TopRank Marketing team members. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one, so I often tap outside perspectives to kick-start my creative juices. So it’s only natural that this piece includes tips and insights from some of those team members.

Whether you’re planning content or looking to weave a creative metaphor into a piece, below my team members share how they overcome creative challenges and find content inspiration in the B2B space.

1. Mining for gold in SERPs.

“Lately I’ve been performing more incognito searches for priority keywords. Whether you need contextual clues surrounding search intent, or need to brainstorm ways to one-up your top competition with an even better answer, there’s gold in them thar SERPs.”

Jesse Pickrain, Senior Content Marketing Manager

There’s gold in them thar SERPs. – @jpickrain on finding #B2Bcontentmarketing inspiration
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2. Finding the pulse.

“For me, it’s all about tapping into topics that are occupying our societal consciousness at the moment. What are people talking about? Where are they focusing their attention? Why are these matters so magnetic? I’ll peruse Google News, Buzzsumo and various blogs in efforts to press my finger on the proverbial pulse. It doesn’t even need to be business-related; sometimes entertainment and politics can provide valuable fodder enabling us to look at B2B marketing in new and enlightening ways.”

Nick Nelson, Content Strategist

Entertainment & politics can enable us to look at #B2Bmarketing in enlightening ways. @NickNelsonMN
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3. Adding some visual stimulation.

“I go to free image sites like Pixabay and Pexels, and just browse the most recently added pictures. It’s a soothing stream-of-consciousness tour through visual content that will frequently spark a creative idea.”

Josh Nite, Content Marketing Manager

I go to free image sites & browse new pictures to inspire #content creativity. @NiteWrites
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4. Giving the people what they want

I spend a lot of time researching and reading to stay on top of what is happening in the world of marketing. A lot of my inspiration comes from the stories I read from other smart marketers. I like to find a ways to help our team create content that aligns with the needs of our audience.

Like Nick, Buzzsumo is a fantastic tool for uncovering top stories (across multiple verticals) that people are sharing. You can also use the tool to identify who the top sharers are to see if they are either part of your target audience, or influence your target audience.

I also spend a significant amount of time reviewing the performance of our own content to see what is resonating most with our audience. This can help determine where we should invest more time and effort. (Give the people what they want!).

Ashley Zeckman, Director of Agency Marketing

Inspire your #B2B #contentmarketing by staying on top of the latest industry happenings. @azeckman
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5. Being in the “brief”.

I routinely use Anders Pink to stay up on the latest news and find inspiration. This web app allows me to create a “briefing” where I can see everything trending in B2B content marketing. If I want to see what resonated the most with audiences, I can filter the briefing down further by limiting results to the past 24 hours, three days, or even three months.

Annie Leuman, Copywriter

I routinely use @AndersPink to stay up on the latest news & find #content inspiration. @aleuman4
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Looking for More B2B Content Marketing Inspiration?

Then allow me to suggest a few other posts to give you a creative boost:

If you’re looking to tap the talented TopRank Marketing team to inspire your efforts, learn more about our approach to B2B content marketing.

Where do you find creative inspiration for your B2B content marketing efforts? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Does Snark = Sales? What Consumers REALLY Want from Brands on Social Media

Social media marketers, do you feel a brief pang of envy when a brand gets sassy on Twitter or Facebook? Do you wish you had the brand identity and/or corporate backing to smack down a troll, a la Wendy’s?

Me too. It’s only natural. Even in a profession as inherently creative as marketing, some of us can fly our freak flags higher than others. If you’re working in financial services, or healthcare, or any number of staid verticals, odds are you have to keep your sarcasm in check.

We may never get the sweet satisfaction of seeing a tweet full of biting wit go viral. But we have to keep perspective. Are we here to get featured on Buzzfeed, or to generate revenue? Does the snark really translate to sales?

The good folks at Sprout Social just released their Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index, and they’re taking aim at precisely that question. People like brands with “personality,” sure. But what do consumers really want from brands on social media? And how should those preferences inform your social media marketing strategy? Let’s run the numbers.

#1: Funny Is Good, But It Isn’t Everything  

Infusing a little humor into a brand is a good way to express personality. It lets people know that there are actual human beings behind the brand, seeking to entertain just as much as they inform.

As a once and future comedy writer, I’m an advocate for humor in marketing. But we should make sure the humor is not all that we’re bringing to the table.

Sprout Social found that while 3 in 4 consumers appreciate humor from brands, being funny was 4th on the list of what consumers really want from brands on social media:

Social Media Marketing Consumer Preferences

The far-and-away winners are honest, friendly, and helpful. If you have these three covered, then you can add in the humor. On the other hand, if you’re not honest, friendly, or helpful, no level of funniness will make up for the lack.

It’s also worth noting how far down the list “trendy” and “snarky” are. There’s no shortage of brands trying to be edgy and au courant. But it looks like less than half of consumers want their brand to be the quip-slinging cool kid from a 90’s sitcom.

The bottom line: Humor is a welcome trait for a brand, but mean-spirited or edgy humor is likely to turn customers off (even if it lands you an AdWeek shoutout). And if you’re not being honest and helping people, no amount of humor can save you.

#2: Consider the Platform

Just as your brand has its own identity, every social network has a unique identity. Facebook is a casual place to post cute pictures and start political arguments. Twitter is an even more casual place to start extremely character-limited political arguments. LinkedIn is more buttoned-down and professional, with only occasional political arguments.

Your audience on each platform has a unique set of expectations, based not just on your brand, but on the platform itself.

How Platform Changes Social Media Marketing Preferences

People like personality on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, but not so much on LinkedIn. So it’s important to adjust your messaging for each.

Most of us are scheduling social media messages with a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer, and it’s easy to blast a single message across platforms. But don’t do that. Take a few minutes to craft unique messages for each channel, keeping audience expectation in mind. That bit of extra effort will help make your posts more engaging, and keep your most dedicated audience from seeing the same message multiple times.

#3: Know Your Audience

Social media is not a homogenous audience that’s the same for every brand. It’s a platform for connecting with your particular most-valued consumers. How your brand approaches social media, then, should be a byproduct of how your audience wants to interact with your brand. These preferences can vary widely across demographics.

For example, 74% of Gen X and Baby Boomers said they found it annoying when a brand uses slang. But only 59% of Millennials shared that sentiment. Millennials are also far more tolerant of brands making fun of competing brands:

What Consumers Find Annoying on Social Media

How your brand should express personality on social media is dependent on your target audience. If your demographic still uses words like “hip” and “groovy,” it’s probably not hip or groovy for your brand to use them. However, if your target audience thinks things are “totes adorbs” and “can’t even,” you stand a better chance of connecting with slang.

It’s vital to find the intersection of your brand personality with your audience preferences, and let that drive how you present the brand on social.

#4: Bring Value to Drive Sales

To quote my personal hero, Captain Obvious, “the purpose of social media marketing is ultimately to drive sales.” If going viral with a funny tweet contributes to the bottom line, that’s a tactic worth pursuing. The research shows, though, that most people aren’t following brands just for laughs:

Brand Actions that Prompt Social Media Sales

When it comes to driving sales, humor is 5th on the list. Being responsive, offering promotions, and providing educational content are all more likely to inspire a purchase decision.

What do people really want from brands on social? The same thing they want from brands everywhere else. First, people want to be heard, to engage in a productive dialog. Second, they want to be offered something of value, whether it’s a deal on your solution or simply valuable information. When people are looking for help, you have to bring more than jokes to the table.

Check out the full Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index for more insights.

Helping People Is the Top Priority

Giving your brand a winning personality is great. It makes creating and consuming your content more fun. But personality should be the seasoning for your social media marketing, not the main course. Start with being helpful, being honest, and providing something of value in exchange for your audience’s time. Then add a little sprinkle of personality on top, like so:

See? You can be helpful and funny at the same time.

Need help maintaining your social media presence? Let us handle your social media marketing.

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Does Snark = Sales? What Consumers REALLY Want from Brands on Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Back to Basics: 5 Tips for Becoming a More Effective Community Manager

Your main goal as a community manager is to advocate your brand on social networks, find and engage potential customers in an online community and deepen the customer’s relationship with the brand. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong. Community management is challenging. Customer expectations are becoming increasingly more demanding, and the customer now has more control over brand reputation than ever before. While this is a real challenge, there is also a huge opportunity for brand messaging that delivers clear, consistent and valuable content to the customer community. As a community manager, it’s important to not only link the customer community to the brand, but also to instill the brand goals and objectives throughout the community.

One in every three minutes customers spend on the Internet is spent on social media and messaging accounts, and when customers engage with the brand on social media, they expect a response within four hours even though the average brand response time is 10 hours. Clear, consistent and valuable content to the customer community must also be timely to be meaningful.

Below, you’ll discover 5 tips for effective community management that will help you take advantage of these opportunities:

#1 – Create a Good Customer Experience

We live in a world of content overload where it’s easy for users to get lost in the sea of endless content. This makes it difficult for them to find exactly what they are looking for, when they need it.

To create a good customer experience, provide consistent brand messaging and a similar look and feel so that customers can easily identify your brand’s content and find comfort with the familiarity. With each platform, craft your messaging and the types of content to the audience using that specific platform.

#2 – Engage With Your Community on a Human Level

Anonymity is the enemy. While some believe that an anonymous response, or one that simply identifies the brand, is good because the customer directly interacts with the brand, an anonymous response doesn’t connect on a human level.

Put a name and a face behind the brand’s responses to the customer, humanize the message and develop a trusting relationship. A personal response will provide a better customer experience for your online community.

#3 – Encourage Conversations

There are many types of messages that can be crafted for social media networks, and each network is better suited for certain types of messaging over another. In every case, it’s important that the customer finds the message to be valuable and relevant to fit their needs.

Create messages that are easy to understand using simple language that encourages further participation through conversation. Avoid jargon and speak to the customer’s needs. Find ways for these conversations to also be between the customers themselves. Encourage the online community to engage with itself and the brand by asking specific questions.

#4 – Conversations Should Include Brand Leadership & Executives

Getting the active participation from brand leadership is hard, but the relationship between the brand and the customer is strengthened through this type of conversation. Some common reasons why leadership doesn’t participate are because they don’t have enough time, or they don’t exactly know how.

Make the communication as easy for your leadership team as possible and show them the value of their contributions. For example, create a publishing or editorial calendar for their communication to carve out a specific time from their busy schedule. You can also use the next point to help them see the value that the brand gets from their time and effort.

#5 – Use Data to Improve Engagement

Each social media platform has an analytics tool that can provide helpful insight into metrics to measure your effectiveness. Use these insights as a baseline and continuous measure of engagement.

Social media analytics tools, among other tools, help understand how your brand will measure success and find out if your efforts are working, opportunities for improvement and provide you with information to make actionable decisions for the future.

Here is a list of a few analytics tools to help you measure success:

  • Google Analytics – lets you measure your advertising ROI and track social networking sites
  • Sprout Social – helps you monitor, measure and engage with your social media management insights to uncover valuable trends in responsiveness and engagement
  • Hootsuite – lets you save time by managing all of your social media marketing efforts from a single dashboard
  • Sprinklr – is a social engagement platform that unites customer-facing teams to create better, personal experiences for your customers
  • Bit.ly – allows you to shorten, share, manage and analyze your favorite links from around the web
  • Buffer – helps you manage your social networks by scheduling Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn messages

Putting it All Together

Sure, your day is already packed, and juggling your many tasks isn’t easy. Rather than lose your balance and drop all of those plates, implement these 5 tips to be a more effective community manager. The connection between your customer community and your brand will be stronger for it.

Still Need Some Help?

Developing relationships with your customers in an online community isn’t an easy feat. If you’re looking for help strategizing the best solution for your brand to build awareness and create deeper and more meaningful connections between your brand and customers, we’re here to help. Contact TopRank Marketing today!

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11 Content Marketing Tips to Build Your B2B Business

As the father of an 8-year-old boy, most of my disposable income is tied up in little plastic bricks. In my house, you’ll find thousands of them in bins, several elaborate sets on display, and a distressing number of the (razor-sharp) things underfoot.

I’m not complaining, really. I have as much fun building with them as he does. And as a marketer, having Lego around is a good reminder of the value of content marketing. Great content can drive marketing goals while providing something of real value to its target audience: The Lego Movie was a 90-minute commercial for Lego, but it was also entertaining and heartfelt. I laughed, I cried, I bought $100 worth of tie-in toys… everybody won.

Your B2B offering may not have that Lego coolness factor. The Industrial Turbine Movie is unlikely to score with critics or with audiences. But content can still help you build your business.

If you’re just getting started with content marketing, start with this guide to content marketing strategy. Then use the following tips as an advanced class to make your content even more valuable to your audience. And, most importantly, to connect that audience to your business goals.

10 Content Marketing Tips to Build Your B2B Business

#1: Find the Intersection of Brand Expertise and Customer Needs

The Venn diagram of what your brand wants to talk about and what your customers want to learn about is never going to be a perfect circle.

The value lies in the overlap of your brand’s knowledge and your customer’s questions. It doesn’t help anyone to write informed content on an irrelevant topic, or uninformed content on a relevant one. Find out where your Venn diagram overlaps and start there. Then add a unique angle—something your brand is uniquely qualified to bring to the table.

#2: Help Prospects Succeed at Their Jobs

Note that you’re not just addressing the intersection of your company’s solution and customers’ needs. If your only helpful advice is, “Buy our product, here’s how it solves your problem,” you’re not really serving the audience.

B2B marketers frequently hear, “This content doesn’t address our product’s features, so it’s not relevant.” But anything that helps your potential buyer do his or her job better is acutely relevant. Helpful content builds brand recognition, establishes trust, and leads to loyalty when it’s time to make a purchase.

#3: Start with a Single Channel

In his book Content, Inc., Joe Pulizzi suggests focusing on just one channel for publishing your content. Create a repository of content on your owned real estate, using organic and paid social to drive traffic back to your home turf. The end goal should be creating a destination for visitors, who can become subscribers and eventually customers.

#4: Beef up Your Core Content

Before you start filling out your editorial calendar, make sure your site has a bare minimum of useful static content. The most compelling, viral blog post can’t get business results if your site lacks some of these basic building blocks:

  • An “About” page with your company’s philosophy and mission statement
  • A product page that explains exactly what your offering is and does.
  • A differentiator page explaining why your offering is unique.

#5: Encourage C-Suite Thought Leadership

Make sure there is a variety of voices in your content. That means tapping internal subject matter experts, certainly. But it’s also worth encouraging executives to contribute to content as well. Your C-suite is influential both in your organization and in your industry. Help them see the real business value of thought leadership content in building an audience, accelerating sales cycles, and lifting brand recognition.


#6: Collaborate with Influencers (and Prospects)

We’re pretty sold on influencer marketing at TopRank Marketing, for at least a dozen reasons. Influencer co-created content helps you reach a wider audience, boosts your credibility, and helps build mutually beneficial influencer relationships, for starters.

Start seeing your prospects as influencers, too. The next time you’re creating an influencer asset, look to people working at your most valuable target companies. Promote their content, make contact, and ask them to share their expertise. Working together to make something cool is a great way to start a relationship.

#7: Set a Cadence of Quality

How often should you publish content? As often as you can without sacrificing quality. If you can publish in-depth, supremely useful, world-beating content every day, go for it. But it’s better to post one great piece of content a week than 7 mediocre ones.

Set a cadence you will be sure to keep up with, and publish regularly to get your audience in the habit of visiting your site.


#8: Plan a Full-Funnel Content Mix

It’s easy to focus on bottom-of-funnel content—the ultra-specific stuff designed to lead directly to a purchase decision—because that content is perceived as having the greatest effect on the bottom line. But if all your content is at the bottom of the funnel, you don’t have a funnel.

Plan to cultivate a healthy content balance that addresses every stage of your buyer’s journey. That means more top-of-funnel than bottom-of-funnel content, and middle-funnel content that connects research to purchase intent.


#9: Create a Variety of Content Types

Nothing against the venerable white paper, that staple of B2B content marketing, but modern buyers are looking for a little more variety. Spice up your content mix with infographics, short video, SlideShare presentations—anything that adds visual interest can make your content stand out from the crowd.

When your content plan has diversity in content type, funnel stage, and authorial voice, you’ll be far better equipped to make your site a destination for readers.


#10: Include Logical Next Steps

Building a business with content is all about laying out a journey your customer can take. Their path may loop, move backwards, or leap forward, but each piece of content should clearly point them to the next destination. Every asset should have at least one call to action, whether it’s to read a piece of content further down the funnel, download an asset, subscribe, or schedule a demo.


#11: Gate Assets Sparingly

A gated eBook is most B2B marketers’ go-to lead capture tool. It’s a fine tactic, and one that we regularly employ to great success. It’s important, though, to make sure you have a healthy portion of ungated content. And it’s vital that your gated content provide value that’s worth the customer giving up their contact information.

For the most part, save your gated content for middle and bottom-of-funnel content. Keep the content highly specific and targeted at those most ready to purchase, and you can pre-qualify your leads. Gating top-of-funnel content can lead to either a high influx of low-quality leads, or (more likely) precious few people making the conversion at all.

Lego of Your Fear and Start Creating Great Content

You don’t have to be a billion-dollar toy corporation to create content that moves people to take action. With these tips in mind, you can develop a relevant, dynamic, compelling content marketing mix. Superlative content gets results, whether you’re selling little plastic bricks or million-dollar cloud software solutions.

Need help building your content empire? Learn more about TopRank Marketing’s content marketing services.

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Digital Marketing News: Email Marketing Facts, Gen Z Media Usage & Snap Publisher Tool

119 Facts About Email Marketing [Infographic]
Discover 119 facts you didn’t know about email marketing including, why email marketing works, biggest email trends for 2017, most common types of emails, most used email marketing tactics, segmentation and personalization, mobile email statistics and more. (MarketingProfs)

Gen Z is The Largest, Most Diverse Group of Media Users, According to a New Report From Nielsen
A new report from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report for the first quarter of 2017 highlights how unique and diverse Gen Z is in media consumption. This report shows a device ownership and other technology breakdown by generation, and why Gen Z is more able to adapt to new technologies than other generations. (AdWeek)

Snap Inc. Launches ‘Snap Publisher’ Ad Creation Tool
Snap Inc. recently launched a new self-serve ad tool to encourage more advertising spend, which is now global, instead of limited to certain regions. A new creation platform was also announced to launch soon called Snap Publisher. This new platform offers templates to create ads and simply upload your brand logo, tagline, content and video. (Social Media Today)

Ask A Question, Get an Answer in Google Analytics
If you know what data you need, and want it quickly, just ask Google Analytics and get your answer. This new voice feature uses the same natural language processing technology as other Google products like Android and Search, and will be available in English to all Google Analytics users over the next few weeks. (Google Analytics Solutions Blog)

Work Smarter and Stay Connected with the New LinkedIn App for Windows 10
The new LinkedIn app for Windows 10 gives LinkedIn members more options for how they connect with their professional network. The app is for desktop users and includes many features to make it easier to connect and full control to customize your experience while using the app. (LinkedIn Official Blog)

Google News Feed Now With Machine Learning & Follow Buttons
Google Search is now making it easier to discover, explore and stay connected to what matters most to you. You can follow topics based on search queries that helps Google understand what you’re interested in, and your news feed will be based on your interactions with Google. (Search Engine Roundtable)

Facebook Always Wins: Data Shows Publishers Are Buying Far More Facebook Traffic
Publishers are buying more traffic from the platform despite declining organic reach and monetization issues. The average number of paid monthly impressions from Facebook over the last 18 months has doubled, and publishers are using Facebook to distribute content profitably to achieve their business goals. (DigiDay)

Google Expands Home Service Ads to More Markets, More Business Categories
Google’s Home Services ad product is now available for more business categories in more cities than before. As a customer of this service, your ads can be featured at the top of SERPs with added trust and prestige due to the strict qualifying criteria that advertisers must meet to publish their ads. (Search Engine Journal)

What were your top online marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more news! Need more in the meantime? Follow @toprank on Twitter.

The post Digital Marketing News: Email Marketing Facts, Gen Z Media Usage & Snap Publisher Tool appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

CMWorld Interview: H&R Block’s Zerlina Jackson Explores Marketing in the Financial Sector

Marketers in financial industries are in the midst of a major digital transformation.

Apps and mobile experience have become not a “nice to have” but a requirement from consumers. Additionally, financial institutions have started investing heavily in user experience for their web properties to focus on customers first.

The team at H&R Block has taken digital transformation to the next level by utilizing the artificial intelligence from IBM Watson to help tax preparers dig deeper and help customers save money.

To gain a better understanding of what it’s like to work in marketing at a financial institution, I reached out to Zerlina Jackson, Director of Web Experience at H&R Block. Zerlina has nearly eight years of marketing experience in the financial sector and was able to shed some light on topics that are top of mind for nearly every marketer.

Zerlina will be presenting at Content Marketing World this September and was kind enough to provide insights into what her role at H&R Block entails, what it truly takes to create an exceptional customer experience and some takeaways from her presentation at the conference.

What does your role as Director of Web Experience at H&R Block entail? What does your day look like? What do you like best?

I manage the strategy and day to day operations for hrblock.com, blockadvisors.com, and other pre-authentication web properties that influence client conversion. We focus on two strategic disciplines to optimize our web experiences; driving traffic and closing traffic. Our driving traffic strategy consist of developing programs to ensure our information is found beyond hrblock.com (i.e. google quick answers, local listings, optimizations for SEO). While our closing traffic strategy ensures that our prospects and clients have the best experience possible when engaging with our web properties.

At H&R Block, no two days are the same. One of the things that surprises most people is that we’re developing things year-round. In a typical day, I could develop a web strategy plan, consult on user experiences and designs, develop a project plan, analyze program results, evaluate new technologies, and meet with business/agency partners. We definitely keep ourselves pretty busy. But the best part of my job is that I get to work with an amazing team of smart people every day that are all in a constant pursuit of excellence. And we get to do some really cool stuff.

How have the other positions you’ve held in your career impacted how you approach digital marketing today?

I’ve been lucky to work for some amazing organizations. I started my career at Domino’s Pizza and I worked with some of the most innovative digital marketers around (ordering a pizza online changed lives). The great thing about Domino’s (besides the fact that there was an official company cheer) was that we were in uncharted territory. It was great to be part of a team that was doing something that hadn’t been conquered before and there wasn’t a blueprint.

At PNC I worked managing the website for the Corporate & Institutional Banking business which was very different from selling pizzas online. The sales cycles for closing a Corporate Banking deal was years, and the needs of the clients were much different. The website didn’t play a major role in the sales cycle but provided bankers with the information needed for client engagement.

Although both roles were different (Dominos with fast consumer sales cycle vs. PNC with slower business sales cycle), I learned a valuable lesson from both. At Domino’s & PNC it was all about develop the best possible experience for clients to ensure that you maximized conversion. The conversions were clearly different at each organization, but the notion of ensuring that the digital experience is optimized to the client, has stuck with me throughout my career.

What do you think it really takes to create an exceptional client experience in today’s fast-paced and overloaded digital world?

Take the 3 second rule of capturing a user’s attention before they bounce from a website, combine that with the new normal of simultaneous device use, and it creates quite a challenge for UX designers. However, I believe in keeping things simple. The two questions we ask prior to creating any experience is:

  1.    What does the user want to know or do?
  2.    How can we meet their goals with the least amount of friction (easy to understand / easy to take action)?

We keep everything focused on our user goals and then align business goals to those experiences. Once we create an experience, we constantly validate our theories through testing and optimization programs.

Has there been a defining moment in your career that you credit for your success and if so, what was it?

Prior to entering the web world I was working in IT and completing my Master’s degree when I took a marketing course and fell in love. I moved to the digital team because I thought it would be a great way to combine those two passions. Then I decided to go work in the financial industry at the height of the financial crisis (not the smartest decision I’ve ever made). There I met a mentor who challenged me to grow my UX skills. And then I came to H&R Block to challenge myself again and continue to grow in a new direction. So, I don’t think I would say there was one defining moment, but several small moments that has allowed me to do amazing things with amazing people.

Do you have any advice for other marketers who are making the transition from content creation and strategy to a marketing leadership role like yours?

It can be a difficult transition to go from program executer and actual SME to leader and supporter of SMEs. You must let go of having all the answers (project statuses, timelines, and details) and trust your team so that they can do their best work. My advice would be to lean into your new role of learning how to develop people, clear roadblocks, influence executives, etc. and allow your team to lean into their new roles as well. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s ok but have that same level of grace with people who are learning your old position. Someone once told me, “Just because your title changed doesn’t mean you are a leader. Leadership is developed with each interaction within and outside of your team.” I’ve always found that to be a helpful reminder that how I represent myself, represents my team.

In your presentation at Content Marketing World you’ll be sharing the insights into how content marketing and agency collaboration can drive qualified traffic. Without giving it all away, what are 3 things attendees will learn from your session?

We can’t wait to share some of our learnings from this season! Three things we want attendees to walk away with are:

  1.    Why this initiative was a vital part of the overall H&R Block content strategy and how it may be applicable to your organization as well.
  2.    Tight deadlines, competing priorities, and dev restrictions were all challenges that we had to overcome. We want to share how we brought it all together.
  3.    How to be innovative and experiment without disrupting your normal workflow.

Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2017?

This is such a great lineup it’s hard to choose but I honestly can’t wait to hear from Colson Whitehead.

Want More?

Thank you for sharing your insights and expertise with us Zerlina!

If you’d like to learn more from Zerlina and 14 of her fellow Content Marketing World speakers, check out the final eBook in our series, In-Flight Content Guide: Making the Most of Your Content Journey.

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CMWorld Interview: H&R Block’s Zerlina Jackson Explores Marketing in the Financial Sector | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Digital Advertising Tips: 5 Scenarios Perfect for Pay-to-Play Tactics

In today’s competitive and content-saturated digital landscape, it’s no secret that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to connect, engage and inspire action from our audiences using only “free” or organic marketing tactics.

As a result, digital advertising, often dubbed “pay-to-play” by marketers, is steadily on the rise. In fact, last fall, eMarketer forecasted that digital advertising spend would surpass TV ad spending for the first time in history by the end of 2016. And that trend is definitely expected to continue.

However, despite rising ad spend, consumers are actively avoiding our ads, according to a 2016 HubSpot Research report. For example, four out of five consumers reported that they closed a browser or exited a website because of an autoplaying ad or a pop up.

So what’s a marketer to do? As HubSpot so eloquently put it: “Marketers who want to connect with potential customers must supplement their target’s online experience, not interrupt it.”

To me, this means leveraging digital advertising when it makes sense and executing it in a way that enhances user experience. With that said, below I offer a handful of scenarios perfect for pay-to-play tactics, and tips for making them resonate—rather than repel—your target audience.

#1 – When you want to maximize the reach of top-performing content.

Chances are that your team has a huge portfolio of existing content—and some of those pieces are likely driving continuous traffic and engagement, and—depending on the content type—leads. As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden often says: “Content isn’t King. It’s the Kingdom.” So why not get the most out of the kingdom you’ve built?

Identify high-flying pieces of content at every stage of the sales funnel, and give them a refresh if needed. Depending on where the content falls in the funnel, use your audience knowledge or customer personas to select your advertising channels and targeting options. In addition, created tailored and channel-optimized messaging for each piece you want to promote.

For example, when it comes to choosing your channels, if you want to promote an attract-level, how-to blog post, you might choose a sponsored post option on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter. If you’re looking to promote an engage-level white paper, you could choose to go with an account targeting campaign on LinkedIn.

Read: Working Together in Perfect Harmony: Digital Advertising + Content Marketing

Get the most out of what #content kingdom you’ve built with the help of #digitaladvertising.
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#2 – When you need to drive action under a tight deadline.

Are you hosting a webinar in the near future? Or are you hoping to drive “last-minute” registrations for an upcoming event your company is hosting? If so, digital advertising is a huge opportunity to create buzz and drive targeted traffic to your signup pages.

As always, use your audience knowledge or customer personas to help you select the right channels and targeting options, as well as craft personalized and compelling messaging. In addition, launch your campaign with multiple versions of your ads. This not only helps reduce the fatigue users could feel after seeing the same ad over and over, but gives you the opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not so you can make tweaks. After all, this is a short-term campaign, so you’ll want the ability to quickly make adjustments that will inspire action from your target audience.

#3 – When you’re fighting for search visibility in a competitive industry.

Driving search traffic is always an important objective for any marketer. But for those working in competitive industries, especially those battling well-established brands for search rankings, organic tactics may not be enough and a paid search campaign focused on top keywords may be out of budget. But, as they say, where there’s a will there’s a way, according to TopRank Marketing Digital Advertising & SEO Manager Steve Slater.

“If you have a tough road for organic SEO ahead of you, you can look at creating content around super long-tail, informational queries and bidding on them [in AdWords],” he said. “Oftentimes these queries are cheap and they can drive traffic to your site.”

Bid on super long-tail #keyword queries if you’re facing a tough organic #SEO road. @TheSteve_Slater
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#4 – When you’ve created awesome influencer content.

From influencer research and nurturing to creating the glorious finished product, any piece of influencer content you’ve created has likely required quite a bit of work—and you absolutely want to see it reach its full potential. Digital advertising can help you maximize your reach—which can benefit your organization and the influencers you’ve worked hard to cultivate relationships with.

For example, let’s say you created an eBook featuring insights and tips from 15 industry experts. The influencers have the unique industry expertise and audience following that made them a perfect fit for the content. One way to promote your eBook, as well as take advantage of your influencers social audience, is to craft a paid Twitter campaign that specifically targets your influencers’ followers who exhibit specific behaviors such as demographics, company size or interests.

Read: Boost Your Social Media Advertising Success with These 6 Pro Tips!

#5 – When you’re a startup.

Whether you’re a niche startup or looking to break into a competitive industry, digital advertising can help jump start your digital marketing efforts—and even deliver some quick wins.

For many startups, gaining brand awareness is often a key initiative out of the gate. According to Slater, leveraging Google Display Network is a great option because of its targeting capabilities and its affordability.

“It gives you the ability to create multiple ads at scale with the ad builder tool,” he said. “You can even create responsive ads at scale—something that’s a great option for startups that don’t have the budget for a graphic designer.”

In addition, you can target the website that you want your display ads to be placed on by keyword topic. Or if you want to level up your targeting, you can use affinity audiences—or even create custom affinity audiences,” Slater added. “All this to say, the display network is a pretty affordable way to get your brand in front of your potential audience.”

Are These the Only Scenarios Fit for Digital Advertising?

Absolutely not. Digital advertising can be a staple part of your ongoing integrated digital marketing strategy. From TopRank Marketing’s perspective, the continuous work you put into building organic awareness and engagement through creating great content, thought leadership and an awesome experience is your foundation. This is how you begin to build your brand from the ground up—and that has staying power.

But adding digital advertising—whether it be paid social, paid search, remarketing or sponsored content, or a combination of paid tactics—into the mix can be the icing on the cake or a leading tactic. It just needs to make sense for your industry, audience, business objectives and budget.

In what situations have you had the most digital advertising success? Tell us in the comments section below.

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4 Marketing Lessons I Learned from Building a Bustling Baseball Fan Community

[Editor’s Note: Please join me in welcoming another new author to TopRankBlog.com, Nick Nelson. Nick is a Content Strategist that has been with the TopRank Marketing team for a few months and spends his time creating great content for some of our enterprise B2B clients. Welcome Nick!]

If you build it, they will come.

Ah, if only it were that simple. But as any business proprietor knows, it is not. Even if you offer a great product or service, attracting customers takes time and effort. It requires creativity, dedication, and tenacity. That is where marketing comes in.

A fortuitous series of circumstances led to my involvement as a cofounder of Twins Daily, which now counts itself as one of the nation’s biggest completely independent fan sites covering a pro sports team. Through five years of ups and downs with this passion hobby and labor of love, I’ve gained some insights that prove indispensable in my day job as a content marketer.

Today, in my first entry here on the TopRank Marketing blog, I thought I would share some of those lessons, and how I apply them in serving our clients. In the spirit of a baseball diamond with its four corners, we’ll cover the bases before bringing it home.

But first…

What is Twins Daily?

It’s the brainchild of four fan bloggers who sought to end hunger. Not in any noble way, mind you, but there was an appetite for baseball coverage in the Twin Cities market that wasn’t quite being satiated by mainstream media.

In 2012, I teamed up with John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, and Parker Hageman to launch the site, envisioning a community where Twins fans could find exceptional daily content and then stick around for intelligent conversation with like-minded users.

Since then, Twins Daily has piled up 12.5 million visits and 45 million pageviews, generating traffic that surpasses many of the resource-rich professional outlets in town. In 2014, our site was the subject of a cover story in Twin Cities Business magazine. We continue to grow, and in mid-June set a new daily traffic record when Minnesota made the first overall selection in the MLB Draft.

This traction has been driven not by us, but by the community we’ve brought together. When you create energy and participation around your content, there is no telling where it can go. Whether the goal is generating engagement, selling a product, or simply establishing a corporate narrative, this is critical to remember.

The following takeaways are worth keeping in mind for a marketer looking to build and foster online communities with purpose, even if those communities are blog readerships, social media followings, or brand audiences. You don’t need a shared passion like baseball to propel your messaging – only a sound strategy from the ground up.

#1 – Hit the Ground Running

When kicking off our new venture, we had a built-in advantage that is awfully tough to replicate: an established audience. Each of our four disparate blogs had its own sizable readership, giving us an intrinsic head start. However, we weren’t prepared to rely solely upon regulars migrating to the new destination. We needed to generate momentum and excitement. We needed to re-earn their patronage.

So we spent weeks teasing the site, on our personal blogs and our social channels. We planned out a launch on the first day of spring training, with baseball fever hitting a high point. When the big day arrived, we each made announcements on our own sites, and made sure that visitors would find plenty of great content right away at the new hub.

As a result of these collective efforts, Day 1 traffic blew away our expectations, and many who stopped by came back, again and again.

On the flip side, a few years after Twins Daily came into existence, we tried to replicate the formula for other local sports teams, with sites dedicated to the Vikings and Wild. We came out of the gates flat, failed to get everyone on the same page, and never built much of an audience. The ventures fizzled out. It was a harsh learning experience.

When planning out content strategies, it is important to have everyone collectively focused on starting strong with each new campaign.

First Pitch: Initial impressions matter most, and you only get one. Don’t waste it.

#2 – Feed Your Audience What it Wants

It sounds obvious, right? But it really isn’t. Too often do content creators try to dictate what users wish to consume. Too rarely do they consult the analytics and deeper metrics to let the readers tell them what they want.

We wondered: there isn’t going to be a thirst for Twins baseball content every day, even in the middle of winter, right? There was. We wondered: people aren’t going to read about obscure minor-leaguers and trivial minutiae, right? They did.

On plenty of occasions, I have spent hours putting together a lengthy story that I figured would be a home run, only to end up with a swing and miss. I try to continually monitor the traffic trends for each individual piece and draw out correlations, so as to inform future content direction.

The leading mantra here at TopRank Marketing: Optimize! (Our CEO Lee Odden wrote a book on that very subject.) Those principles should be applied to any type of Web-based initiative here in age of ubiquitous metrics and measurement tools.

Read Your Scouting Reports: Content strategy should not comprise of guesswork.

#3 – Events Fuel Engagement

Before we ever conceived Twins Daily, we were already holding informal gatherings for the readers of our blogs. These would usually involve getting together at a local bar to watch a road game, drink beers, and bask in mutual nerdiness.

These events build real connections. In fact, the enthusiastic participation was one of the main things that convinced us we could make something more out of this. Now, we hold annual events like our Winter Meltdown, which takes place around Target Field after TwinsFest in January and features giveaways, photo opps, and Q&As with guests from the organization.

Shaking hands with readers, and affixing faces to usernames, has helped me and our other founders bond with community members in a meaningful way. I know the reverse is also true. These gatherings aren’t big money-makers, but that isn’t the intent.

It’s all about engagement. With a site like ours, which relies not just on people coming to read stories, but sticking around to converse in the comments or on the message board, that is the name of the game.

In the B2B world, summits and conferences are networking gold. You’ll catch plenty of the TopRank Marketing team members at Digital Summit in Minneapolis next month. Say hi!

Take Them Out to the Ballgame: The value of community events goes beyond financial gain.

#4 – Do What You Can With What You’ve Got

In the decade before we set sail with Twins Daily, the Minnesota Twins went to the playoffs six times and fielded a winning team almost every season. Naturally, we came along in Year 2 of an extended downswing that would see them scuffle along as one of baseball’s worst clubs. From 2011 through 2016, the Twins lost 90-plus games five times, erasing the boost of a new ballpark and dramatically reducing general fan interest.

To compensate, we shifted our focus. We searched for creative and entertaining ways to talk about a terrible team. We made it our goal to differentiate in other areas, like unparalleled coverage of the minors and the draft. We turned our forums into a support group of sorts, where disheartened fans could commiserate.

Most businesses aren’t at the mercy of a sports team’s win/loss record, but uncontrollable outside forces are almost always at play — be it the economy, market trends, PR hiccups, etc. In these cases, seek a different perspective or approach that might break through. In the immortal words of Don Draper: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Play It As It Lies: Make the best out of situations you cannot control.

(Also, note to self: Don’t use golf metaphors in a baseball-themed article, doofus.)

Bringing It Home

Marketing guru Jay Baer once offered this advice: “Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards.”

These four guiding principles have helped us activate our fans, and can serve as a blueprint for helping any content marketer do the same. When you reach a higher level of engagement with readers and community members, the connections become infinitely more profound and fruitful.

My experience with Twins Daily has certainly helped me, implanting valuable knowledge I’m able to bring to work each day as I try to knock it out of the park for our big-league clients.

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