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6 Influencer Marketing Facts

6 Influencer Marketing Facts

6 Influencer Marketing Facts

  1. On average, for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, brands are
    making back an average of $6.50 in earned media value.
  2. Consumers under the age of 32 spend 30% of their social time digesting peer-written content. 
  3. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations: 33% trust ads.
  4. Marketers rated influencer
    marketing as the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition tactic.
  5. Giveaways and sweepstakes earn higher earned media value and engagement than any other tactic
    in influencer marketing.
  6. The most effective platform for influencer marketing is blogs, followed by Facebook.

How to Find Your Influencers

Lynzee Jablonka’s advice for finding the influencer that’s right for your brand.

  1. Know your audience: If your audience is down-to-earth and fascinated with DIY tips, look for bloggers who speak to those topics. Maybe it’s a mother of three who writes about easy life hacks or someone who frequents
    the crafts store and writes about various projects.
  2. Determine your goals: Need to drive coupon sales? Find a blogger who talks about deals and giveaways. Looking for strong graphics? Find an Instagrammer whose pictures are Nat Geo worthy. There are influencers out there for every benchmark you’re trying to reach. The key: knowing what success looks like to you.
  3. Invest in software: A number of platforms can help you find the right influencer for your brand. We sometimes use GroupHigh when we’re looking for a very niche group of people. These platforms often allow you to search with parameters such as location, blog topics, keywords, etc.
  4. Determine your budget: Social media is pay to play, so you’ll have to spend some money to get results. In this day and age, influencers who will work for free or solely for product are hard to come by. Figure out what you have to spend, then base your search off of that allowance.
  5. Consider outsourcing: Can you source influencers on your own? Sure. Do you have the time to dig into each one of them and make sure they’re a good fit? Maybe, or maybe not. It doesn’t cost anything to talk to the experts about your needs and budget. Contact a reputable agency, learn about their process, and ask about successes they have had with clients similar to you. What we do, in short, is basically like, but for brands and bloggers!

Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing
by Tim Sweeney


Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been around forever, really. From sports-marketing pioneers such as Arnold Palmer, to celebrity endorsements for presidential candidates, the idea of using people with influence to promote products is not a new concept. Thanks to social media and the proliferation of content marketing, today’s influencers can come in a variety of formats, with social media bubbling to the top as a leader. Sure, with the right budget, you can still turn to NFL quarterback Tom Brady in his UGGs, but nowadays, your influencer can even be a mom with a blog.

“Those are influencers!” says Lynzee Jablonka, Influencer Marketing Manager at Everywhere Agency, a social media agency in Atlanta. “Influencers can be someone with hundreds of followers or someone with a million. If people are listening to what they have to say, they are social media influencers.”

It should not be a news flash that, according to research, consumers trust a referral from their personal network at a 90 percent rate. Eighty-one percent of referrals are found online. What’s more, 92 percent of consumers also say they rely on referrals from people they know above all else. And the power of influence doesn’t end with B2C relationships. According to LinkedIn, 84 percent of B2B buyers begin the process of making a purchase with a referral. Jablonka says influencer marketing is the modern-day word of mouth. “Influencer marketing campaigns involve a select group of individuals who have a certain influence over their community,” she explains. “When used correctly, these influencers can help a brand drive sales, encourage conversations, and build awareness/loyalty. Today, we see advertisements everywhere; it’s such a saturated market. With influencers, it feels like we’re sitting in a coffee shop having a casual conversation with friends. It’s authentic and refreshing.”

But what is it exactly, and how can influencers help you? Influencer marketing involves partnering with people who have an audience and influence within a specific segment of consumers. They can help you —usually via the content they create—reach and engage with audience members that your brand might not reach normally. Often, they are experts on a particular subject matter. They can be bloggers, speakers, or authors with an audience that values their opinion on their subject matter of expertise. And they can be at their most effective during new product launches and store openings, in building new followers for your brand, and even as an advocate for you in the event of a public relations crisis.

If you’re reading this thinking: “Yeah, all that sounds great, but what if I can’t afford to get a ‘real housewife’ to use my product?” there’s good news. Influencer marketing is a table just about anyone can get a seat at. “It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to work the Kim Kardashians of the world, of course that’s going to require a big budget,” she says. With a smaller budget, you simply have to be a little more strategic. She cites the work that Everywhere Agency is doing with OshKosh B’gosh. “We don’t have bottomless budgets—everything we do is very thought out,” she explains. “We choose micro-influencers—influencers with more targeted audiences who will generate more meaningful conversations around your brand—to take photos of their kids wearing OshKosh. It’s as simple as that.” The campaign was so successful that the agency just won a PRSA Georgia Phoenix Award for excellence in PR.

For John Melican, who held sales and marketing leadership roles at Nike and then Callaway Golf, what he learned by using athlete influencers to drive brand and product awareness was still quite applicable when he went to work for a small start-up brand. “At Nike and Callaway, we used these big athletes, schools, and endorsers as visible signs of the brand, because it gave us broad visibility and awareness with consumers and in their sport,” he says. “We partnered with them to show how our products are authentic to that sport, while also driving emotional attachment.”

When Melican went to a small sport-technology start-up company that specialized in connecting everyday golfers to their own statistics via their phone, he called on a different type of influencer. In the golf landscape, there is a certain pyramid of influence in which advice trickles down to the masses from teaching professionals and even the best players at a country club. “If the influencer in a regular foursome uses the product, the students or other foursome members will have an interest,” he explains. “Hopefully, that interest will lead to trial and then adoption. What I learned at Nike was that putting the athlete first is key to the equation. Once you have the right influencers using your product, this leads to gaining awareness, which leads to trial. Once you have trial, you usually gain acceptance and use of your product.”

If you’re ready to dive into the deep end of influencer marketing, or at least dip your toes in the water, Jablonka says to start with identifying your goals. Specific ones. Start with your area of interest, location, and the voice you want to portray. “Do you need fitness enthusiasts nationwide, or do you just need fitness enthusiasts in Denver, Colorado?” she asks. “If you’ve established a quirky voice, working with someone who takes themselves very seriously probably won’t be the best option. Do you want influencers with amazing photography or someone who can push a coupon? The list goes on and on, but it all comes back to what your end goal is.” You should also have a thorough understanding of your own social strengths and weaknesses. What channels are your followers or potential customers using? Perhaps you want to step up your game on Instagram or reach a slightly older demographic on Facebook. It sounds simple, but deciding what channels you want to be seen on is critical. Whether it’s only one or two, or many of them, that will influence whom you recruit to influence. Once we talk social media marketing, the natural next question is how you might measure success if you decide to rely on influencers. The answer: it depends. Jablonka says the way influencer marketing campaigns have been measured at Everywhere Agency has depended greatly on the client’s needs, and yours should, too. “With OshKosh, we were tasked with tracking the sales associated with a specific coupon,” she explains. “With Macy’s, they track traffic in the store at specific events. No matter what the goals, the agency always tracks number of social media posts published, engagement rates, sentiment of the conversation, locations of interactions, and total number of impressions.”

Melican and his team at the small start-up company had a slightly different goal. They were attempting to rely on coaches to help introduce the product to golf students who wanted to get better. It was a different approach than, say, using a big-name professional golfer to promote the product so it gains visibility. Of course, at a start-up, budget has a way of shaping strategy. “Hopefully, an approach like this leads to content that we can build and then push out via social media and in videos,” Melican says. They also found influencers to be helpful in another manner—product development. “We did a beta test panel of golfers, teaching pros and other influencers, and we learned a ton. We took the information we received and put it back into the product.”

The difference between a brand spokesperson and an influencer can often be found in the way they tell the story. Using your influencers creatively means avoiding leaving the bad “sales” taste in a consumer’s mouth. In short, that means letting them tell their own stories. Language, pictures, and posts that are too “salesy” in tone—as opposed to delivering value to the reader/viewer/listener/follower—can have a detrimental outcome. “With our OshKosh campaign, we are ultimately driven by sales from a coupon, but does that mean that our messaging is purely promotional? Absolutely not,” says Jablonka. “In fact, it’s the opposite. We weave intricate story prompts for the influencers to create their posts off of.”

In a back-to-school shopping campaign in 2016, they challenged the influencers to create five outfits from OshKosh using one staple piece. Within their post, influencers touched on points of affordability, quality, and the trendiness of the brand’s clothing. “We let the influencers tell their own story in a way that would be relatable to their readers, so as to encourage them to visit OshKosh and purchase clothes for their own kids, using the coupon our influencer provided,” Jablonka explains.

If, based on your audience, you’ve chosen the right channels to be active on, it’s a good idea to allow your influencers to post on your branded channels, too. Jablonka sees great opportunity in allowing influencers to be part of the brand for a campaign. She points to a Gap campaign called “” in which influencers created outfits for the everyday person, which were then displayed across Gap’s social media channels. She says the influencer program that uses is another innovative approach. “They allow self-proclaimed fashionistas to create an account and send their followers to the stores where they purchased their clothes from,” she explains. “If their readers make a purchase, the influencer gets a cut of it. It’s basically an affiliate program, and it seems to really be working because it doesn’t seem ‘salesy.’ Rather, it’s like shopping through your friend’s closet.”

Unfortunately, just having a great product is hardly ever enough, especially if nobody ever hears about it. Melican falls back on the original universal truth—people believe one another. “Even if you have a great product, you need these types of people to test, use, and promote your product,” he says. “Word-of-mouth influence is huge for most people. Learning about something from someone you trust opens up the possibility for consideration. For a small company, this is especially true. People want things from people they trust.”


The Consumer Journey Redefines Email Marketing

Consumer Journey Redefines Email Marketing

The Consumer Journey Redefines Email Marketing

Like the rest of the marketing landscape, the world of email communications is evolving rapidly. It’s no longer enough to deliver commercially focused emails judged solely on sales, open rates, and click-throughs. For starters, today’s consumers seek stories, which means brands are challenged to deliver emails and newsletters that provide content of value around their products and to do so when consumers want to receive it.

The right copywriter, a tone that is “on-brand,” and relevant content are merely the baseline. “We are all trying to provide authenticity and content around our products that our consumers will continue to enjoy,” says Jocelyn Bonhomme, Global CRM Manager at Salomon. Speaking the same language as your customers, especially when it comes to technical or specific content, is essential. That’s why an outdoor-sports brand such as Salomon uses writers who are outdoors lovers, mountain guides, and former athletes with strong copywriting or journalism skills.

Soon enough, that language may be even more personal. Bonhomme—who previously worked in digital marketing in Patagonia’s European office—believes that it won’t be long before hyper-personalized emails will be the primary way companies communicate. The reason? Data management tools are changing how brands create, target, and deliver their message. “We are living in a hyperconnected world managed by data,” Bonhomme says. “I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, because it’s more and more complex to analyze this amount of data and to track customer behavior. But one result is that we, as brands, care very much about not overcommunicating or being too intrusive.” With more and more data available, companies can create solution architecture that is increasingly global, which sounds great, except that privacy policies are becoming increasingly stringent and less global.

Regardless of the constraints, the goal should be to support the consumer journey at the right moment with the right service, whether that consumer is sitting at their computer, looking at their tablet on the subway, or standing in a store aisle, looking for more info on their mobile phone. Digital insights on where a consumer is browsing and when he or she is close to making a purchase allow brands to interact with consumers and provide them with the most appropriate message at the best time. “A strong digital relationship is very similar to the person serving you in the store,” Bonhomme says. “A good salesperson can read the consumer in the store, see his or her body language, and respond to their needs. When it comes to sending an email to a consumer, we now know when to send it. It’s a matter of building a relationship so that we converse with them when they want to converse with us.”

As you’ve likely noticed, brands are also becoming very good at merging social media and email marketing on the consumer journey. In fact, Bonhomme regularly has calls with both social media and email marketing experts, something a job like his might not have entailed just a few years ago. “From an on boarding journey, we advertise on Facebook to register for our newsletter, welcome them with an email, and then send them one or two additional emails with content on our website and consumer events in their area,” he says.

In the future, Bonhomme says that brands might be less inclined to influence consumers to buy one way over another and instead will try to support consumers with the best, most well-timed service, whether online or at retail. “We are already there in terms of people checking online for prices, comparing product offers, checking opening hours, and looking to see if a product is available in a store nearby,” he says. These are just a few ways that micro-moment marketing is influencing email marketing and consumer journeys.

The consensus among marketers is that these same practices will translate into other industries outside of retail, such as fundraising, conference attendance, or recruitment for colleges and universities. We will be taken beyond the traditional experience of triggers and automated emails into hyperpersonalization of content, offers, and timing.

Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year…

Pantone Color of the Year 2017

Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year…

Should It Affect Your Marketing? Depends on What You Do.


“ Greenery is a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew. Illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors, the fortifying attributes of Greenery signals consumers to take a deep breath, oxygenate and reinvigorate. Greenery is nature’s neutral.” – Pantone


The 18th annual Pantone Color of the Year has been announced— Greenery #15-0343. It was decided in a secret meeting held somewhere in Europe, attended by anonymous representatives from a number of nations. They observed and tracked trends and influences across several industries (fashion, film, technology, art, travel) for months, presented and debated the options, and finally, made their choice. Although the Color of the Year becomes more influential every year in manufacturing, home, and fashion, that secrecy doesn’t win them much support with people such as Lauren Labrecque, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago, who has authored several papers on the importance of color in marketing. “I don’t put too much stock into it, mainly due to the fact that there is little transparency,” Labrecque says. “That said, I think the color of the year is important for some people and industries—those who follow trends.”

Labrecque’s extensive research has led her to conclude that color is crucial in marketing and that it can be used strategically to help craft and reinforce brand personalities— a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name and allow the consumer to better relate with the brand. There are five main dimensions of brand personality that are commonly used: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Labrecque’s research examined the relationship between these brand personality perceptions and color— specifically hues, saturation, and value. She found that they are all important for communicating brand personality.

Colors, in fact, influence us all on a daily basis. We’re just not always aware of it. “Color tells us if a strawberry is ripe, if food has gone bad, or if something may be poisonous, such as snakes,” Labrecque says. “Some of the early color work in psychology examined physiological effects and found certain colors can raise or lower blood pressure or brain activity.” She cites an article detailing how some railway stations in Japan have changed their lights to a more calming blue in an effort to curb suicides, and saw an 84 percent decline.

With all this research on colors, why might a designer or creative director look at what an anonymous committee says is the “it” color? For Bryan Torgerson, a freelance creative director who has worked on brands such as CVS/pharmacy and Bose, “the Pantone selection is interesting, but I also look for color trends, specifically on Behance, Pinterest, or Coolors.” is a website to showcase and discover creative work, and is an online color-scheme generator. Both Labrecque and Torgerson say knowing your audience is the first step to deciding how “trendy” you can be with your brand colors. “If you are going to be the designer who brings the 80s color palette back, that product or brand better be known as cutting-edge, or your decision to go with those colors will be perceived as old and dated,” Torgerson says.

Labrecque also authored a paper examining color norms for various product categories and found that whether a brand should be distinct or follow category trends really depends on the category and whether there is a dominant leader. “If a brand already has a strong color identity, I wouldn’t let it be impacted by the Color of the Year,” she advises. “While a brand may choose to offer bags or packaging or product variations in the trending color, I wouldn’t change anything at the core.”

So if you aren’t sold on adopting the Pantone Color of the Year into your brand profile, what steps should you take to decide on a color scheme? Start with competitor analysis within the industry, and don’t be a follower. You can also peruse one of the many studies that explain the physiological meaning of colors and how people feel when they see them.

“I think creatives should be aware of it, but it shouldn’t overtake other factors,” Labrecque says of Pantone’s yearly choice. “I also believe that its importance varies on the context. The Color of the Year is much more important for hedonic categories, such as fashion, than for utilitarian categories, such as cars or kitchen appliances.”

Marketing in the “Micro-Moment”

Marketing in the Micro-Moment

Marketing in the “Micro-Moment”

We live in a world of micro-moments. The life of an average tweet is about 18 minutes. We make decisions in milliseconds, from speed dating to deciding what’s for lunch. According to Google, we check our phones 150 times per day, spending an average of 177 minutes on mobile sessions that average 1 minute and 10 seconds each. Yes, we’re speed dating with stores, restaurants, online merchants, exercise-tracking sites, and even our doctor’s office and health records, all on our phones. And we’re doing it in micro-moment bursts, at the moment of need. Author Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink, noted that we only use a few seconds to make most decisions, even important ones. He calls it “thin-slicing”—using limited information from a very narrow period of experience to come to a conclusion. Marketers, take note. Sometimes it only takes a moment to market, too.

Micro-moment marketing can refer to the size of an audience, the size of a message, or the length of the marketable moment. As a micro-engagement, it targets the very specific, focused interest of a buyer, or a moment in time that has meaning for that one person. Think of small moments that carry a big impact. For example, Red Roof Inn used mobile location targeting and customized creative to reach travelers with canceled flights. These people needed last-minute lodging, and Red Roof stepped into the moment faster than their competitors, resulting in a 375 percent increase in conversion rates.

Tiny Screens. Tiny Moments. Big Opportunities?

Mobile devices have created a wider stage for micro-moment marketing. “Because people have a computer in their hands at any given second, the individual moment they’re in is now the most important part of the customer journey,” says David Edelman of McKinsey & Company. Micro-moment marketing is about helping people accomplish what they want to in that particular moment. Maybe you are planning to check into your hotel. Starwood Hotels has an app that recognizes you through the use of beacons the moment you enter the property. After verifying your identity on your mobile device, the app assigns your room number, and you can even use your phone to gain access to your room. Whether it’s insight, knowledge, offers, discounts, maps and directions, real-time updates, or exclusive user experiences, the moment of engagement needs to have value for the consumer.

We Love Google’s Micro-Moments Guide!

Micro-moments can happen anytime, anywhere. “The I-want-to-know moments, I-want-to-go moments, I-want-to-do moments, and I-want- to-buy moments really matter,” says Sridhar Ramaswamy of, adding that they’re game changers for both consumers and brands. “They are intent-rich moments, when decisions are made and preferences shaped.” We found several great examples of micro-moment marketing in this guide from Google. Download today at:

Geo-Targeting: Apps and Maps in Micro-Moment Marketing

The growing use and benefits of geo-targeting, personalized maps, and customized offers in micro-moment marketing can be extremely useful for businesses that depend on walk-ins or other physical action from customers. “Consumers are comfortable with visual formats—they translate well into different media—and the call to action occurs in milliseconds. Readers understand what to do right away,” explains Randy Hardy, North American Representative of LOCR Maps.

  • Retail: Draw retail customers into a store for flash sales, demos, and special events.
  • Trade shows and conferences: Provide news and updates, instant offers, schedule reminders, and exclusive invitations.
  • Hospitality: Search for a local restaurant or hotel and make last-minute reservations.
  • Health care: Communicate up-to-the-minute wait times and nearby locations of urgent care clinics.
  • Insurance: Enhance the customer experience when contacting, reporting, and filing claims on the spot.
  • Travel and tourism: Provide maps, directions, booking, immediate help with service problems, open hours, reviews, and recommendations.

My Working Day by June Steward

June Steward


My Working Day by June Steward

June Steward is a not-for-profit marketing strategist specializing in fundraising, development, strategy, and copywriting.

Q: You help nonprofit organizations increase income and improve donor retention through direct response channels. What are the three toughest challenges these organizations face today?

JS: 1. Poor understanding and fear of fundraising from CEOs, boards, and leadership. 2. Poor public perception of fundraising. Donors will complain they receive too much mail and they think a charity is “wasting” their donation. People who work in nonprofit fundraising and communications should be aware that the most effective direct mail can also generate the most complaints. The more compelling and emotional the proposition, the more complaints you may get—but you also raise more money. There are great ways to handle complaints and turn the situation around, but to take donors off mailing lists negates the need your organization fulfills—helping homeless children, disabled veterans, abused animals, victims of domestic violence, etc. 3. Short-term thinking around fundraising. I encourage leadership to stop thinking only in terms of immediate ROI on appeals and campaigns. ROI on single appeals can easily be manipulated. (Reducing the number of donor letters mailed by leaving out lapsed donors results in lower mailing costs and higher response, delivering a higher ROI.)

Q: What is the most frequent advice you give your clients about marketing strategy?

JS: 1. Direct mail success is not just about the copy, but also about your specific offer and call to action. Besides your list, improving the offer or CTA is the best thing to work on to improve direct mail fundraising results. 2. Corporate communications, marketing communications, and journalism are not the same as fundraising communications. Direct mail fundraising and writing for donors is a very unique skill set for writers. 3. Plan out the financial needs of the organization over the next five years and set realistic targets for fundraising. 4. Improve the online donation experience for your donors. 5. Yes, longer letters work better than shorter ones, most of the time.

Q: You are a copywriter and journalist with experience in public relations, marketing, and IT. Why specialize in nonprofit marketing?

JS: I couldn’t get excited about marketing gadgets or clothing as a full-time career. I ended up working for a major charity in Australia in communications. I had no idea about fundraising at the time and was horrified to see this charity sending out huge volumes of direct mail each month. Then I saw the appeal results and was amazed to see how much money they raised—millions! I thought, “Well, these donors are giving, but they must hate all this mail”. Next, I did a stint on the phones in the call center to help out with an appeal and, I kid you not, the majority of donors I spoke to were amazing, and they welcomed our direct mail appeals! When I started my own business, I was originally going to do copywriting for both for-profit and nonprofit. I did my first nonprofit job as a freelancer, and the client doubled fundraising income for their appeal! I loved it, and I realized I love helping great causes.

Q: Direct mail vs. digital marketing?

JS: It’s not either–or. It should be both. Many charities are delighted at the idea of getting rid of those expensive donor newsletters and just moving to online. This is the worst possible thing you can do. The nonprofits with the most successful fundraising programs are the ones that are successfully integrating both direct mail and digital channels. What we’re finding is that, although many donors
may be donating online, their gifts were prompted by a direct mail letter, newsletter, or even a small publication they received. Also, response rates for direct mail are much higher than for email appeals. Typically, you’re looking at 3–15% response rate for direct mail, depending on the quality of your list and what segmentation you use. Email appeals to the same list can generate response rates below 1–3%, if you’re lucky. By response rates, I mean people who actually donated, not email open rates or click-throughs. That doesn’t mean you should not do email appeals. You should do both.

Q: What is the best part of your day?

JS: Apart from hugging my husband and daughter—I love it when I finish a strong direct mail pack. I love it when the client tells me we’ve exceeded target or a major donor has given $200,000.

Q: What do you love most about writing?

JS: The most creative part of the writing is actually not the writing. It’s the thinking before the writing—gathering all the research and the case studies, understanding the donors, and then coming up with the creative idea that will drive a good direct mail appeal.

Q: Marketing to Millennials can be a challenge. What is the best way to appeal to this generation for fundraising?

JS: For most organizations, targeting Millennials for fundraising is not a good use of resources. The traditional charity donor across all sectors (overseas aid, health, environment, animals, arts, etc.) is a 60+ female. We have found that Millennials make good advocates, e.g., they will sign petitions or participate in peer-to-peer fundraising such as fun runs or cycle challenges. But in terms of long-term donors giving year after year, Millennials are the wrong cohort to approach. When we do actual donor profiling or surveying of a nonprofit’s donors, typically, the largest group of donors is 60–69, with a reasonable number of donors who are 50–59. After that, there is a big drop in the groups 40–49, 30–39, and 20–29. You have to do donor profiling and know your own data. Often, senior leaders in
charities will say, “Our older donors are dying! We need to attract more Millennials!” My response is: “Yes, you do need younger donors, but the younger donors you need are not in their 20s. You need to be looking for donors who are in their 40s and 50s.” Read more at June’s blog:

The Perfect Storm for Content Marketing Talent

Content Marketing Talent
by Carro Ford


The Perfect Storm for Content Marketing Talent

Get Jay Acunzo talking about content marketing, and it’s obvious he understands it like few others do. Jay doesn’t just talk content—he lives it. 

Before joining Google as a digital media strategist, Jay wrote for the Hartford Courant and ESPN. Later, he led content creation and marketing strategies for Breaktime Media and HubSpot.

Now he helps early-stage start-ups at NextView Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm. Oh, and did we mention he hosts Unthinkable, the show for creators in business? He also travels the world advocating for craft-driven marketing. Marketers are buying into his fresh view of content as craft, because the outcome benefits sellers and consumers. But there’s a problem—the content marketing talent crunch.

Mental Athletes Needed

When Jay asks marketers what they most struggle with, it’s talent. There’s a massive crunch for great content marketers, and it’s not just in the start-up space. It’s across the board.

What makes this perfect storm for content talent? As a formal job, content marketing is new, compared to other forms of marketing. The market hasn’t matured enough to feed enough talent supply for the demand.

“Before, you could have a career in content or in marketing,” says Jay, “but now, the two worlds are colliding, and it takes a special talent to do both.” Content marketers are expected to be mental athletes skilled at both marketing and editorial. Teams need that duality, especially if they don’t have enough staff to specialize.

Name of the Game Is Attention

Content’s business purpose is to get attention in a noisy world. “Google leader Eric Schmidt says revenue solves all known problems, but I think audience is second. If you have loyal, engaged customers, revenue will come, but getting that audience is so difficult,” Jay declares.

The name of the game is attention, but it takes a rare person to come into the marketing machine and say, “Let’s do something different.” When you don’t have content talent willing to take a risk and try something new, you end up copying what works elsewhere. That’s not a strategy for getting attention. The most creative marketers are willing to reject best practices and instead get attention through the stories and content they create.

Non Marketing Content Marketing

New content talent isn’t there to run campaigns, track analytics, or do other things traditionally associated with marketing. “New” means “not marketing.” The job of content marketing talent is to focus on the audience and create attention-getting content.

“Good marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” declares Jay. “It’s about things people love—an experience or a game coming from a brand. It’s behavior that surprises people and gets attention in a positive way, but that’s tricky.” The problem is slick selling and tone-deaf marketing that skips to the end (the sale) and forgets to care about the content that gets you there.

Creating Content for the Love of It

When you have people who do quality content for its own sake, who want to create because they love it, the quality gets better and more authentic. And that translates into content marketing that works.

Good content creators are the best at reaching and resonating with audiences that don’t want to hear from you. It goes back to attention. Consumers have all the power today, not the sellers. Consumers have millions of options, and they won’t choose anything they don’t love. It’s the same with creators.

The writer who writes for the love of it gives you a better end-piece, one that connects on an intrinsic level. Let your content creators do what they love. Then, you’ll find more people intrinsically motivated to consume it, allowing a tighter connection to your brand.

Guts and Spines

Even the best content teams come apart eventually. How can marketing leaders prepare to quickly bring their group back to full strength when someone leaves? It’s about guts and spines, says Jay. “Guts are that feeling you get as a creator of content, the intuition about the quality and suitability of content for its purpose.” The spine is what stays the same if the guts have a change of heart—or a change of job.

What underlies a long-term team is the framework of how you create: the spine. In the world of TV shows, this is called a “rundown.” Every show has a rundown of blocks of time, each with a purpose, that make up the entire show. The writers understand what’s needed for each block, such as the “cold open.” The stuff inside the cold open container will change, but, for the consumer, the structure stays the same.

Don’t worry that a little structure will stifle creativity. Constraints actually breed creative freedom, and too much freedom can be counterproductive.

Best Writer, the Least Likely Hire Ever

Traditional hiring approaches are risky when it comes to identifying content talent. If you look at content the same way you look at other marketing roles, you end up throwing out good candidates too soon.

“The best writer I ever hired was also the least likely candidate ever,” Jay says. “My boss sent me the portfolio for someone who had bartended for 10 years. If I’d seen him on LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have looked twice, and I would have missed one of the best content creators I ever hired.”

Hiring Tips from the NFL

Jay’s hiring advice? Make it a project-driven process, instead of lip service to creative skills. The NFL doesn’t sit down with a prospect and ask, “Are you a good quarterback?” They ask the candidate to work out for them. Same with content creators. Ask them to do a quick workout for you. It’s a production-oriented job, so ask for several samples and see what they put out.

“Show me you can create; don’t just check skills off a list of what a marketer is supposed to look like,” he explains. “I still do the phone calls, but I give candidates a writing project and a deadline.” Have the content creator explain what they want the audience to get out of the piece. Ask them to give you several different headlines and explain why they would choose their favorite.

Creative Energy: A Recruiting Advantage

It’s important that creators get better at crafting content for your company, but it’s not happening. One of the biggest issues is brands are underequipped to train content creators. Companies drop them into a role and expect them to be good instantly.

In a recent survey, 1,500 members of a Boston content marketing group were asked to look at their jobs in terms of strategy, production, distribution, and measurement, and then rank how their employer provided infrastructure and support for each aspect. Distribution ranked first for support. Production was last.

Can You Spot the Recruiting Opportunity?

Businesses tout their great marketing teams, but that won’t resonate with content talent. Brands should instead promote how great their environment is for nurturing content creators.

Content creators’ biggest hiring fear is bait and switch. Companies give lip service to creativity, but, when creators arrive, they feel like a cog in a machine. Creators are looking for an oasis where they can apply their craft and be treated not like a commodity or short-order cooks, but as unique and valued contributors.

Hire an In-House Team or Outsource Content?

Good content needs lots of input—hallway conversations, C-level town halls, meeting someone outside your department. Jay believes that’s why an in-house team is the best strategy. The serendipity of being at the business and immersed in a brand makes better content creators and stronger output.

The risk with agencies and freelancers is marginalization. It’s easier to turn an outside creator into a short-order cook when they’re not included in upstream strategies. They’re hired for a project, but miss the valuable context around it. They may also lack appreciation for the intrinsic value of the brand.

Focus on Finding Creativity

Marketers already devote a lot of time to strategy, but it’s time to put energy into making content really good, too, because great things happen when you do. Jay pushes hard on that. “I spend a bizarre amount of time telling marketers to do that. You need people with creative tastes.”

Hire creative people and let them create. Ultimately, what they do benefits your customers and your business. Consider hiring a writer and teaching them marketing, instead of the other way around. Hire for intrinsic skills rather than end results. Jay makes the apt analogy of a company building a product and knowingly using cheap parts. It’s the same with content. Good products and good content require the right ingredients to be good, not cheap parts. That’s shortsighted, and the substandard result won’t get you the attention you need. Yet, brands still end up with tone-deaf pieces, chronic sameness, or another “ultimate guide” to whatever. Use content craftsmen and quality materials for the best results.

It’s wise to think about the talent crunch now. Jay, along with other notable industry experts, believe we’ll be facing this hiring challenge for unique content creators for years to come. “We get excited and talk about transformation, yet we don’t change a thing, because that’s the way it’s always been done. My challenge to brands is to prove me wrong. I’d love to be wrong on this!”

How to Write a Great Case Study

Computer Typing
by Tim Sweeney


How to Write a Great Case Study

Writing a case study seems simple enough, but there’s a reason some are much better than others. And it starts with preparation. Following are tips for finding the right subject, drawing the best out of them, and then delivering useful insights to the reader, compliments of Tim Sweeney. A frequent contributor and case study author, Tim has experience in global marketing, content development, and communications for several global sports brands.

Find the Right Subject

That old adage to measure twice and cut once has merit. (That’s why it’s an old adage.) Similarly, choosing the right brand for your case study in the beginning is crucial to how the interview will go and, ultimately, how the story will be told and whether it will be useful to your audience. Before you ask any questions, ask yourself: Is my case study candidate doing something different than their peers? Do they mind sharing their secrets, or at least their overall strategy, and some of their more successful approaches? If they’re afraid to share what they do because the competition might see it, they’re probably not the right people to help your readers learn from their actions.

Look for the Unexpected Story

Remember that the idea is to use a brand that others can learn from. If you write about a company that everyone would expect to be dominating their industry because they have more resources than everyone else, most of your audience is unlikely to identify with them. Brands that have done more with less have interesting angles worth sharing.

Context Is Crucial

To tell the story of how a brand came to be one that your readers might want to “borrow from,” the audience needs to know the problem the company solved. That’s why it’s important to set up the story by describing the brand’s overall situation and the obstacles they identified prior to taking action with creative solutions. How many resources were at their disposal? Did they use outside help? Was it costly? Readers will undoubtedly compare themselves to the subject and determine if the information applies to their own situation, so paint a full picture. Without background info, the reader can’t be expected to reasonably apply the actions of the case study to whatever they are working on.

Interview with the Reader in Mind

Ask yourself: What would the guy running his own small business—probably with a limited marketing budget—want to know that he could apply to his business and turn into sales? What is your case study example doing that isn’t obvious? In all likelihood, much of what your subject is doing is not revolutionary. It might be the combination of things they do that sets them apart, or choosing the best simple executions. For example, in the case of smaller companies, it’s often the little, personal things they do to connect with consumers that big brands either don’t bother to do or don’t think of doing. Ironically, small brands do creative things because limited resources force them to. Dig deeply and see if the little guy is doing things the big guys can learn from, too.

Report on Mistakes Made, Too

You really do learn more from failures, and the brand you use as your picture of success undoubtedly learned a few lessons the hard way. What were they? How did the company adjust and move on? If your audience is to learn anything from your subject matter and apply it to their own business, reporting on failures is crucial. Your audience needs to be able to avoid the pitfalls that the case study had to wade through on their way to success. Simply explaining how great they do things and how successful it was helps only so much. And, if your audience reads your case study, then gets surprised by anything outside of your case study, they won’t trust you in the future.

Deliver Easy Takeaways

Formats can vary, but the end goal should be to provide information in a digestible format. A sidebar or box of bullet-pointed items that your subject can pass along easily to the reader is a great way to go more in-depth on a topic that might not fit into the flow of your main story.

Don’t Forget to Ask “How?”

It’s tempting to share loads of statistical evidence detailing how successful your case study is, where they came from, and where they are now in certain areas. Certainly, numbers help make your point—and everyone loves metrics nowadays—but the most important question to answer is how they did it. That means showing examples of what they did, real ones that make it easy for readers to put themselves in the shoes of the subject and envision how they might apply similar strategies to their own business.

Talk to Their Clients

Speaking with someone who does business with your case study subject allows you to validate that they are, in fact, doing what they say. It’s also important for the reader to think not just about what success means to them, but also what it will mean to their own customers. In the end, that’s a big reason why they might undertake the same strategy. There is also the possibility that the same strategy won’t be right for them or only part of it will be. Putting themselves in the shoes of their customers is a great way to determine that.

Q&A with Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaeffer Headshot
Interview by Tim Sweeney


Q&A with Mark Schaefer

Internationally acclaimed college educator, author of five best-selling social media marketing books, speaker, and strategy consultant.

Mark Schaefer is an author, commentator, and educator who has appeared on international television shows and periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The New York Times, MSNBC, and the BBC. He has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He specializes in marketing strategy and social media workshops. We interrupted his busy schedule to pose a series of questions on social media, content marketing, and whatever else he would answer.

Q: You’ve worked with a range of international businesses, government organizations, and news organizations. Despite their differences, where does the diagnosis begin when you meet with them?

Mark: Remarkably, the diagnosis begins well before content or a Facebook Page. It begins with the organization itself. The biggest predictor of success is not a strategy, a budget, or even talented resources. It’s the company culture. So, the first step is to take a rational look at what is possible. What is the current strategy, if they even have one? What are the obstacles to success, both real and perceived? Is the organization ready for a public social media presence? Are they a conversational brand, meaning, is this a natural fit for the company, or will it take extraordinary creative effort? If you don’t assess this carefully, you aren’t looking at the primary factors that can derail you.

Q: As an adjunct marketing professor at Rutgers University, you teach to the marketing brains (and, potentially, leaders) of tomorrow. What are the skills they will need most to make an impact in their chosen profession in the decade ahead?

MS: Since I teach at the graduate level, most of my students are already marketing professionals looking to up their game—and this is a wise choice! Certainly, digital transformation is at the forefront today. My view is that leaders don’t need to have all the right answers. They can surround themselves with people who can set up a social media account or create Facebook ads, for example. But they do need to have the right questions to know what is possible, to know what is ideal for their organization. In my view, the ideal marketing leader would know enough to ask the right questions about:

  • The role of big data and analytics
  • The skill sets needed to lead to the next levelof marketing proficiency
  • Megatrends on content, social media, e-commerce, etc., all of which requireongoing education
  • Generational changes in consumer behavior
  • Shifts in digital platforms relevant to the business
  • Emerging technologies, such as virtual reality

Q: You speak specifically about creating practical, or reality-focused, strategies. Have you seen too many marketing strategies that are unrealistic? How might companies avoid this pitfall?

MS: A challenge for companies is becoming intoxicated with the shiny new thing. It is only natural that you don’t want to be left behind, that you want to understand and master the latest platform. But the fact of the matter is, most new platforms don’t make it. If you look at some of the hot ideas over the past couple of years, it proves my point—Meerkat, Blab, Foursquare, Quora, to name a few. A couple of years ago, Ello was so hot, people were selling invitations to the platform on eBay. Where are they now? These platforms may have a place in the marketing ecosystem, but it is a minor one, and, if you had a goal of becoming the Ello-master, it was a giant waste of time. Let others make those mistakes. It’s more practical and realistic to be a fast follower in most cases.

Q: You wrote in a LinkedIn post about companies only being concerned with building an audience—blog and newsletter sign-ups, etc.—without being dedicated to moving peoplefrom being involved with the brand to being committed to it. Who is doing this well and how?

MS: It’s easy to find the companies doing well on social media. Look at the best-managed companies in the world—they tend to do everything well! The challenge is to achieve a change of mindset. For decades, we have been conditioned to sell, sell, sell. But, if you try doing that on the web, you will usually fail. People are sick of being advertised to, marketed to, and sold to. They don’t go on social media to learn about your new line of adhesives; they go to see pictures of babies and Grumpy Cat. That’s your competition.

Q: So, what should brands be doing?

MS: The new challenge is to help, help, and help—and to do it in a patient way. Many companies expect social media to work like advertising. It doesn’t. A better analogy for social media is a networking meeting or industry conference. You go there to build relationships, and it may take months or years to pay off. As they begin to know us and trust us, they are more likely to opt in to our content and begin more of a two-way exchange. Ultimately, you want this to lead to a buying relationship.

Q: You managed a highly successful e-commerce team at Alcoa. If you were to give our readers two pieces of actionable advice on growing e-commerce, what would those be?

MS: Number one, treat people online like you would treat them offline. If somebody walked into your store, you would not demand an email address before talking to that person. And you wouldn’t try to trick them into subscribing to something through a pop-up. So, the first piece of advice would be: act like a human in everything you do. Make technology a tool to take down barriers with your customers, not build them. Number two, just because you can do something with consumer information, doesn’t mean you should. I have sat in meetings and have been blown away by the clever (sneaky?) things companies can do to track behavior, link emails to sales, and even determine incredibly intimate details of a person’s life from their online behavior. Consumers are resigned to the fact that they are trading privacy for some value. The keyword here is “resigned,” just like they were resigned to seeing ads to receive free content. Most marketers assume this is a fair trade. It’s not. Studies show consumers do not like it. So, breaching their confidence even once will have a severe backlash. I’m concerned we live in an age where we can hack together some software utility so quickly and so cheaply that we will be implementing without testing, without thinking through unintended consequences. One mistake will become a PR nightmare.

Q: Your book The Content Code discusses the “psychology of sharing” on social media. Can you give us a bit of insight about that and what people could expect to find/learn if they get your book?

MS: My book is the first of its kind and suggests that we need to build a third marketing competency based on six strategies to get our content to be shared, or to move. In fact, I argue that social sharing drives the economics of any social media marketing effort. Yet, most businesses don’t know the people who share their content the most, and these people are the bedrock of the business. Social sharing creates advocacy. It also drives sales and affects purchasing decisions. The data is clear on this. It’s time to wake up and focus on driving real value by igniting your content. My book tells you specifically how.

Q: You’ve written about creating content that “moves.” But it also takes a certain understanding of the audience or knowingthe format and topics that resonate for it to move. How do people determine that?

MS: In my book, I outline six different strategies to get your content to move, and you touch on two of them in your question. Absolutely, there are small things you can do to your content and your website to assure that you give your content the best chance possible to ignite. Similarly, on the audience side, there is a lot we can do to understand and nurture the elite group I call the Alpha Audience. These are the people who share your content the most, and it probably makes up less than 2 percent of your online followers. The key here is to connect to these folks in a human way that builds an emotional connection between you, your content, and your audience.

Q: Should companies be hiring content creators internally, such as writers, video experts, and perhaps a photographer?

MS: I think that depends on a lot of factors. The strategy and analytics should be in-house. The advantage of in-house content creation is stability, expertise, access to internal experts, and the ability to sustain a relationship with readers. The advantage of outsourcing is access to more creative treatments and keeping head count low, of course. I do feel strongly that these important Alpha Audience relationships should be owned internally, however.

Q: Content and social media marketing don’t mean anything if companies can’t find their audience. Any tips on how brands can realistically and practically find them?

MS: There are lots of ideas for that in my book, but let me hit on two of them. The first is by connecting with influencers in your marketplace. Who are the people who already have an engaged and trusting audience? Is it possible to partner with them so you can “borrow” their audience when you are just starting out? This emerging field of “influencer” marketing is critically important as we try to cut through the noise in an information-dense world. A second idea is paid promotion. That is just a fact of life these days. The social streams have just become too crowded with information, and there’s a good chance you’ll need a paid component to build an audience early on. Facebook ads, for example can deliver an extremely well-targeted audience.

Q: The key to “leading them up the curve,” as you say, seems to be establishing that emotional connection, but what do you tell brands who think they sell products that no one can have an emotional connection to?

MS: Well, they may be right. I think you have to be humble in these situations because, after all, these marketing professionals are experts in what they do and know their market better than me. Marketing dollars for a company that makes ladders, for example, might be better spent on a point-of-purchase coupon than a long-term content effort aimed at building an emotional connection to their product. Still, having said that, we do see wonderful examples of brand-building content for appliances, hand tools, leather goods, and other seemingly commodity products. I think you need to take a realistic approach and think, “Are we a conversational brand—or could we be?” Then, allocate dollars to social media accordingly. Social media and content marketing do not solve every business problem, as some of the gurus might have you believe. We still need to look at the fundamental drivers of the business and spend our marketing dollars in a way that has an impact.

Q: Finally, what one trending or current marketing topic would you like to expand upon for our readers that we haven’t covered?

MS: When I decide to write a book, it is to answer a big question on the mind of my customers and students. Marketing is becoming more challenging every day. I addressed part of this problem in my latest book, The Content Code. How do we stand out as a company and get our message through? I think the next challenge, and where I have been spending a lot of my time recently, is thinking about how we stand out as individuals. If you have a goal of writing a book, beginning a speaking career, embarking on “social selling,” or building a reputation in your industry, it all boils down to building a personal digital brand. It boils down to becoming known. Is there a process to do that? I think there is, and that will be my next project. I want to codify the process of building a digital self.

Are You Making These Direct Mail Testing Mistakes?

Ted Grigg
Ted Grigg
Direct Marketing Specialist President, DMCG


Are You Making These Direct Mail Testing Mistakes?

So, you haven’t given up on direct mail? Good call, because, done right, direct mail still delivers solid results. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 39 percent of customers try a business the first time because of direct mail advertising, while an Epsilon study found that half of US consumers prefer direct mail to email.

There’s never been a better time to include direct mail as part of an integrated strategy, but there are risks. Direct marketing savant Ted Grigg wants you to avoid these direct mail testing mistakes. He’s led direct marketing on both agency and client sides, using every conceivable channel, and his advice can help you avoid problems.

Lack of Testing

The biggest mistake is lack of testing. And when marketers do test, they look at the wrong things or make no effort to beat existing benchmarks or controls. We see over and over that the postcard worked or the ad worked, but compared to what? Every mailing should include a test and should always try to be at the controls.

Not Testing Boldly

Don’t test minor factors, such as letter length or changing the shape or color. While these affect response a little, tweaking them won’t deliver breakthroughs and new benchmarks. Test major factors, such as pricing, list source, package format, and, especially, the offer. Offers and calls to action (CTAs) drive response. Test offers to see which pulls better, 50% off versus 25% off, or $14.95 versus $19.95. See what CTA drives the next level of engagement. A printed QR code linking to a video may generate more views and click-throughs to a website than a link in an e-blast. Test boldly!

Sticking with the Status Quo

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is not a good motto for direct mailers. Companies fall into the trap of
not checking the quality of their lists, due to the time-consuming nature of it. Do an internal audit of your database every year; choose one mail piece and pay the extra postage fee for undeliverable mail to be returned to you, giving you the opportunity to update your database. Continuing to send mail to duplicates, undeliverable addresses, and erroneous zip codes adds up to a tremendous waste of dollars.

Have serious direct mail questions? Call Ted!

We weren’t kidding when we referred to him as a “direct marketing savant.” Visit Ted’s website:

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