branding

How To Make Podcasts Part of Your Winning Strategy

In my previous blog post, I went over some of the key advantages of using podcasts as part of your marketing mix. Now I’d like to share with you 5 tips on how to incorporate podcasts into your marketing strategy.

1) Understand Your Strategy

Before you dive in head first, take a minute to understand how podcasting will fit in with your overall marketing strategy. Podcasts are great when they are used in addition to your company’s already-established brand, but they may not be the best method to get a new company up and running.

2) Differentiate Yourself from the Noise

Let’s face it; there are a lot of podcasts out there. You may be wondering how you are going to stand out. My suggestion to you is to come up with unique and engaging information. Do you have an interesting angle on a certain topic? Do you know any industry thought leaders you could interview? Imagine the types of content that would keep you engaged, and deliver that to your listeners.

3) Provide Great Conversations

It’s all about the content you deliver, but we can’t forget about how you deliver that content. In my experience, using a conversational tone works much better than simply dumping information onto your listeners. Consider having two speakers on your podcast, and try drafting your script as a question-and-answer style. This will make your podcast more accessible to your listeners.

4) Use Your Resources

Podcasts are all about the audio, so when it comes to choosing the right recording equipment, it’s crucial you don’t cut any corners. I suggest investing in a high quality microphone, good audio software, and a headphone. As you can probably imagine, this can get a little pricey. It may be a good idea to evaluate whether you want to invest the money and energy in creating your own content, or outsource it.

5) Promote Your Content

Just because you’ve finished recording doesn’t mean the process is over! The last step in creating a podcast is sharing it with your audience. Promoting your content won’t take you too long, but it will make all the difference. Some great ways to promote your podcast include: encouraging subscriptions, sharing it on your social media channels, and promoting it through email marketing.

Podcasts really have become an invaluable tool for marketers. I encourage you to consider adding podcasts to your marketing mix – it may just be your business’s next big thing.

To find out more about how you can use podcasts in your marketing strategy, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today.

Podcasts – Digital Marketing’s New Best Friend

Although podcasts are not new, I’ve noticed a recent resurgence in their popularity that’s worth noting.

If you may recall, podcasts are digital media files that feature audio recordings, and originated in the early 2000’s, but it wasn’t until technology advanced and distribution methods expanded that podcasting exploded in popularity. In fact 2016 alone, there were an estimated 57 million monthly podcast listeners, a 75% increase since 2013.

Much like blogs, podcasts are used to deliver great content to your audience and have become a key tool in many company’s content marketing strategy. You may be thinking, “why use a podcast when I already have a blog?” Well, let me explain a few of the key advantages that podcasts offer:

Attract New Audiences: Some people prefer to consume their content through listening rather than reading text. By adding podcasts to your marketing mix, you are pulling in a new demographic and gaining more leads.

Multitasking Capabilities: One of the biggest advantages of podcasts is that they can be listened to on-the-go and while doing other tasks. This is great for your brand, as it means your message will reach your audience more frequently during the day.

Hidden Advertising: The casual, conversational nature of podcasts allows you to include a few “hidden” advertisements in the audio without it sounding too blatant. Advertising in your blog, on the other hand, tends to come across as too overtly promotional.

Brand Loyalty: Think about your favourite radio show you tune in to in the morning. Does it keep you hooked? Well, podcasts are very similar. When you offer engaging content, you’ll begin to create a following. And when you create a following, you’ll develop brand advocates for your business.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will outline some tips you might want to consider when incorporating podcasts into your marketing mix.

The Missing “Link”

LinkedIn is one of my favourite social media platforms to use. Like many of you, I use it to conduct business development activities, discover potential new talent, and find out what some of my peers are working on. As a business owner and marketer, I also use it as a platform to target my potential clients and “tout” my expertise through the sharing of my company’s updates as well as industry-related articles.

LinkedIn has two distinct options: the LinkedIn profile page which most of us have to showcase our personal “resumes”, and the company page that is set up for your company.

While I know many business owners and marketers have an LI profile, many small businesses still do not have a company LI page. So what exactly is the difference between a profile page and a company page on LinkedIn? A LinkedIn profile is probably the most powerful tool you can use for business development as it allows you to highlight your professional experience, connect with your peers or potential clients, join industry-related groups, post your blogs or other articles, and share awards and updates.

I have seen many companies use the profile page as their company page, but LinkedIn has a distinct company page that provides your business with the opportunity to engage with followers with targeted and regular news and activities, share career opportunities, and expand your online brand presence.

If you are a business owner or marketer with a B2B business, an LI company page is a must! If you have a B2C business, it is still a good idea to have some presence on this platform, as this platform is great for SEO and for expanding your reach to influencers.

Here are some reasons I‘d recommend considering using an LI company page for your business:

1. Show How You are Unique

In the description on your company page, emphasize how you stand out from your competitors. You might want to include company news and share information about your company culture. This will help you reach potential customers and also new hires. Support the content with professional videos, or images to help you show how your company is different.

2. Improve SEO

We all hear about SEO, but did you know that Google and other search engines rank LinkedIn company pages and posts highly in the search engine results pages? Having the page and posting on it frequently will help you increase your SEO and increase site traffic.

3. Share Content

It makes sense that you need to write posts that your viewers want to see and share with others. The more you can engage your viewers, the more likely you are to expand your global reach and influence. You can also link your post back to your website for more information and to convert them into a warm business lead. It’s a good idea to create a media mix on this platform as well, so consider using different formats such as SlideShare business presentations, blog posts, infographics, webinars, podcasts and videos.

4. Measure Success

Like most social platforms, you can view analytical data about your company page to help you gain deeper insights into your page performance.

Having a LinkedIn company page will help you network and prospect to a targeted audience for quality sales leads, while establishing your business’ public image on a global scale as a reputable and trustworthy organization. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer!

Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?

Marketing in 2016 and What We Can Learn From It

What a year! 2016 has been an amazing year to showcase the power of marketing. From the unanticipated election of America’s first president-elect who has never held political office before, to the explosion of Snapchat marketing; it’s been a busy year. We have covered a range of marketing stories from 2016 in our blogs this year, like this one on the blurred lines between social media and advertising.

In my final blog of the year, I’d like to take the time to reflect on some of the marketing lessons we have learned throughout 2016.

Social Media is more powerful than you think. Donald Trump was elected largely due to his participation in social media, mostly on his notorious Twitter account. Years ago, it was unheard of for high-ranking political figures to speak directly to their voters in such a medium. Now, anyone and everyone has a platform to reach out to their target.

Even if you think your small business doesn’t need a social media presence, you could be missing out on audiences just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

Fake news is dangerous. In marketing, we always make a point to create authentic content. However, 2016 proved that not all Internet content abides by these same rules. The “pizzagate” scandal has left a lot of people confused about what’s real news and what’s not. Facebook’s algorithm issue has also contributed to this fake news epidemic.

For businesses that run their own social media accounts, this could be a problem. If you’re sharing engaging social media posts from a fake news source, you’re hurting your brand’s reputation. As someone who has been in the marketing world for a number of years, I may see through these fake stories, while many others may not and that is concerning. In 2017, audiences need to learn how to be more media literate and dismiss fake news stories instead of sharing them with a larger audience.

You get what you pay for. As a marketer, I am constantly writing. It takes time and effort to communicate a message on behalf of my clients, and I often speak to them about what their opinions are on topics I would like to write about. That’s why I was surprised to hear that this year, there has been an increase in public interest for websites that promote pre-written, paid content. On these sites, you can plug in some information you would like to write about, and then it will be outsourced to a writer from anywhere in the world to write about this topic.

From a marketing perspective, I need to know my client before I can write for them. I find out who their target audience is, and how this message should be communicated. While these paid-for content websites may be a cheap alternative to authentic content creation, it’s no substitute for quality written work.

After this hectic year, I am interested to see what’s coming next in 2017. Will VR make its mark in the marketing world? Will Twitter still be as popular a platform after the buzz of the election dies down? I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises the New Year brings into the marketing world, and I hope you are too.

Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

Second Place Is A First-Rate Strategy

With almost 20 years in this business, it’s not that often that I come across a TV commercial that actually gets me excited, but Classico’s pasta sauce competition commercial has done it. It’s not because of the creativity or the out-of-the-box thinking, but because of the strategy! The commercial establishes a pasta sauce competition, the opponents being a group of Italian “Nonnas” and Classico pasta sauce chefs. When the winners are announced, the Italian Nonnas take home the gold, while the Classico group stands cheering. It ends with a voiceover that says:

“Homemade pasta sauce will always win, but with inspiration from the regions of Italy, we’re a close second.”

WOW! I wasn’t expecting that ending! And that is why the commercial is so effective. The commercial has the ad sponsor, Classico, celebrating the fact they didn’t win a pasta sauce competition, and promoting the fact that their brand was, indeed, second place in the pasta sauce game.

Brands usually don’t take this type of risk by admitting defeat, but by doing the unexpected and taking this risk, and creating a strategic approach, it’s a win-win.

Classico hasn’t created a major marketing campaign for over 10 years, so this ad needed to create some serious dialogue. After conducting some market research, Classico found that their consumers frequently make homemade pasta sauce on the weekend and believe that a store-bought pasta sauce will never live up to something made from scratch. They also found that; while their consumers appreciate homemade sauce more, “for those nights when they want to deliver a great meal, but don’t have a lot of time, they want a high quality pasta sauce alternative.”

Knowing this, Classico launched their “Second only to yours” campaign. Admitting their sauce will never beat a delicious homemade sauce appeals to consumers looking for brand honesty, and as I discussed in last week’s blog, honesty is key in a marketing campaign. Classico knows their consumers value high quality sauce, so by informing them that while they are not going to beat their homemade version, they are still a close second, appealing to this busy target market.

In 1962, this strategy was also met with great success when Avis embraced their second-place status as a way to hype the brand’s customer service with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” They retired the slogan last year after finally slipping into third place behind Hertz, 50 years after the tag line was created.

As we can see, this risky strategy worked well for both companies. Classico’s ad has now become a viral video, and Avis produced a popular slogan that was used for half a century. However, if everyone started a marketing campaign claiming they were number two, we might be in trouble. These two case studies are great examples of how well-researched marketing strategies can go against the grain and pay off big time.

Have a Brand Story? Share it!

Brand-StoryYour brand story is more than the story of your company. The narrative is more than what’s written on a website, the words in a brochure or the presentation used to secure new clients. Your brand story is the reason your business came to be. The brand story is a complete representation made up of facts, thoughts and explanations, which means this part of your story isn’t even told by you.

There are many ways to share your brand story. One way is to ensure that your brand exists in all parts of your business. Make sure your brand is entrenched in all marketing materials such as brochures, business cards and voicemail to name a few. The more a brand is shown, the easier it will be to remember. If customers land on your homepage or social media, what type of feel do they get? This is part of your company’s brand story. I’ve outlined a few key areas you’ll want to focus on to share your brand story:

Website
Your brand story, unique selling feature, needs to be front and foremost on the homepage of your site. Regardless if it is through customer testimonials, reviews, home page content, sliders, videos, or your company blog, when a potential customer lands on your homepage, they need to understand who you are, and what value you bring to them and their business/life.

Blog
A great way to share your brand story with the world is through blog writing. This gives you more control over how the brand story is told. A series of blogs can show the history of your brand and how much your business has grown over time. A great amount of detail or just a brief history can go into these blogs, this depends on how in-depth you would like your brand story to be.

Video
Use video to showcase your company’s history and how your business came to be can be. You could include customer testimonials as part of this video. After all, your brand story is as much about your customers as it is your company. This video should be displayed on your website and all social media platforms that your business uses.

Over 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a company through content (like a blog) instead of advertisements, so make sure your brand story is prominent in everything you do.

3 Ways to Leverage Instagram for Your B2B Business

1115_instagram_365_244colo-24-42-70-10Over 400 million people are on Instagram these days. This creative, visually led social network is rapidly becoming a place where people engage with brands and share content. Yet, many B2B companies dismiss Instagram as not being right for their brand. Instagram doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of B2B marketing, but there are huge opportunities to promote your brand values.

Storytelling has become a great way to give B2B brands a personality. Storytelling is about connecting with your audience and moving away from the self-centred, sales-orientated advertising that just doesn’t work for B2B brands anymore. The key to leveraging Instagram as a marketing tool for B2B brands is to not think of it as a marketing tool at all.  Instead, you want to think about Instagram as a way of telling your story as part of a larger online marketing strategy. Here are three ways that Instagram can help you tell your brand’s story:

  1. Establish long-term connections

B2B brands need to embrace the fact that marketing on Instagram is less about selling the benefits of your products and services, and more about establishing deeper connections with people including industry thought-leaders, employers, and prospective clients. Instagram is about building and maintaining awareness of your brand. Think of Instagram as a way to grab the attention of industry influencers and potential clients at a time when they’re not really in work mode, as they’re not going to be interested in being sold to.  This is your chance to seamlessly integrate your brand values into their Instagram feed.

  1. Humanize your brand

Another way you can give people an insight into your company culture is to use Instagram to offer a behind-the-scenes look, as people love seeing what goes on in other offices. It can be as simple as snapping a quick photo at your company’s event, or taking a photo of one of your employees to publicly wish them happy birthday. B2C brand’s social media channels thrive on being relatable and yours should be too.

  1. Contribute to the conversation and be part of the community

As well as interacting with clients’ photos and comments, responding to big news stories, industry developments and trending hashtags can be a great way to engage your followers and show the world that you have your fingers on the pulse. Give your brand a personality through comments and thoughtful posts in the public space.

Take the time to understand the benefits of using Instagram to communicate your brand’s values to potential clients and industry influencers, if you’re looking for new ways to engage with your B2B community.

This visually led social channel might have its roots in B2C marketing but, with over 400 million subscribers, you might want to take a look to see if this platform is right for your B2B business.

Why Generic Content Won’t Cut it in 2016

content-is-kingWith 76 percent of marketers indicating they will increase their content marketing this year, businesses need to take note and not only create quality content but focus more on tying their content to business results and driving activity around creating content, connecting with audiences, and optimizing the entire process.

With all this attention on content, we can’t forget the importance of a content strategy because without one it often leads to inconsistent content with no core themes or purpose. This is confusing to your target audience and can negatively impact your brand’s credibility.

Additionally, the days of content being generically created and without a strategy like that from inbound marketing companies like HubSpot simply doesn’t cut it any more. Generic content is unlikely to rank organically. Generic content doesn’t get shared. Generic content doesn’t engage people and is therefore unlikely to deliver against your wider marketing objectives.

If you skip the strategy and head straight to delivery you’re in danger of creating content, which could either confuse or alienate your audience, or fail to reach them at all.

As a strategic marketer, I’d like to share with you some essential steps to help you create a content strategy for your business. A content strategy is the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective.  Make sure your content strategy:

  1. Ensures your content is consistently aligned with your brand message and values
  2. Ensures your content enhances your credibility
  3. Ensures your content helps you stand out from the competition
  4. Ensures your content delivers against your objectives

To develop a content strategy you need to start with clarifying your brand’s values and core strengths as well as reviewing the content you already have to make sure it is delivering on your objectives.

Once you have conducted an internal review, take a look at your customers to understand their wants, needs, and purchasing journey as well as where and when they consume content.

As a final step before developing your content strategy, you’ll need to look at your commercial competitors to better their brand values, unique selling proposition, and how they are communicating them to their customers. It would also be worth looking at your content competitors. These might be different from your commercial competitors, as they could be anyone who creates content about the service or product you offer.

With this research conducted, you need to conduct a GAP Analysis to determine what is and isn’t working and identify the gap where you’ll position your brand.

As content is usually goal-driven, so too is your content strategy. What you create depends on what you want to achieve.

There’s a great book I’d recommend on content marketing by Dan Norris. He outlines the importance of content marketing and is worth a read!

Content Machine: Use Content Marketing to Build a 7-figure Business With Zero Advertising by Dan Norris (2015-08-09)