Category Archives: marketing

The Science of Marketing by Dan Zarella

The Science of MarketingIn his latest book, The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog and Other Proven Strategies, Dan Zarrella, a social scientist at Hubspot, details the best known methods for using e-books, webinars, SEO, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, email marketing, lead generation, and analytics in marketing. He warns about ‘unicorns and rainbows’ advice that is prevalent and instead backs up his claims with solid data and analysis. If you’re looking for good advice, look here.

Want to learn more about using webinars in your business?
Zarrella holds the record for the most attendees to one of his webinars on The Science of Social Media. Over 30k people registered and over 10k people attended. He might know a thing or two about them.

Want to learn more about SEO?
According to Zarella, you likely already know enough about SEO. He writes, “you probably don’t need more SEO help. Most businesses would benefit much more from increasing content quantity and quality.” If you’ve been working in digital marketing for a business or brand for any time at all, you know It takes time and effort to keep content updated and relevant. But you can balance that expense by knowing that “not only are search engines the most used source of information for purchasing decisions, but they’re also consulted, by more than half of [Zarella’s] respondents, at least once a month”. If you’re going to cut corners, don’t skimp on your content budget. And once you create it, promote it in social media to generate inbound links.

The surprising news about Twitter…
You don’t have to be a brilliant conversationalist to attract followers and links. You just have to share good content. And, stop talking about yourself; start talking as a real person. Be positive. This chapter is quite beefy, but if you’re not already sharing a bunch of other people’s content, then Zarella suggests you start there.

Test what works best for your brand on Facebook.
I was surprised to read Zarella recommend restraint here. In general, he recommends posting once every other day, and trying out Saturday and Sunday to see what happens.
Like other channels, he recommends staying positive, unless you want to generate controversy and comments every once in a while.

Think like a producer of prime time and supermarket checkout content.
In other words, you’ll be smarter than a 5th grader if you write for that grade level (not an easy task). It will take more work to connect your content with content types that audiences enjoy:
“Movies, television shows, books music, and athletes take the lead. This is the type of content you’d find on the cover of magazines at the checkout counter at the supermarket, the type of stuff you’d hear about if you turned on your television at prime time or listened to people talk at a bar next to you. This is normal people content, not geeky, corporate, or boring”.

Become a visual storyteller on Pinterest
Zarella advises, “The textual content should be used to provide context, but the image should tell the story”. Many brands are using Pinterest to generate successful inbound traffic.

If you’re publishing a blog, share a unique point of view
You can’t just build it and expect people to come anymore. Your content has to be “unique and worthwhile” if you expect people to read regularly. Again, he advises. Don’t write all the time about yourself, but as yourself. While Zarella advises that how much you’re posting matters more than when you’re posting, he does offer all the details on timing.

Paid traffic converts higher than other forms of traffic.
I’m happy to hear this fact, but as he says, we’re paying for it so it follows that it would have the highest conversion.

In general, “people prefer content that will teach them to do something or tools that can make their lives easier or their work more successful”.

If you’re looking to fine tune your marketing and content publishing efforts, you’d do well to check out The Science of Marketing.

Social Content Marketing With a Shelf Life: Style and Substance

Pink Breast Cancer RibbonRoger Warner has a good point in this post at TechCrunch, Social Media Gurus Push Conversations Over Kudos and Fail. He argues brands should do more meaningful posts that make customers look good, than just engage in simple banter on Facebook that doesn’t really amount to much or go to the brand’s mission.

Similarly, I have a problem with simply publishing pretty pictures in social expressly for the purpose of getting likes and pins. While pretty images can be “on brand” and engaging, and they can be used to good effect as a way to create visual interest by including an image with a blog post, it’s more valuable to the brand to have a larger story to share along with the image.

Take for example, the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. It adds visual interest to this post, and also reinforces my argument that we need both style and substance. If I was really on point, I would have been able to come up with an idea for an image that also connected with “shelf life” in my title.

Having both visual images and valuable content makes for a stronger social content marketing strategy. Let’s provide content that informs, inspires, or solves a problem for consumers, along with images that help make meaning memorable. Doing so can also generate search value over the long term. It’s also more valuable to our customers.

If we’re just going to publish images for the sake of “likes,” then let’s do so in a way that gives more recognition to the person who created the image or artwork.

Small talk may be social and it might be a good way to open a conversation, but it’s here today and forgotten tomorrow. Along with a little conversation, we need to do more social brand marketing that has a longer shelf life. Let’s mix it up a little. Offer social marketing and content with both style and substance.

Create Great Content: Test Logical, Emotional, and Ethical Appeals

In this post, The Emotional Sale: Selling through Social Media, Sam Fiorella argues consumers are shifting from logical decision making to emotional decision making as a way to compensate for information overload and time crunch pressures.

Logical Appeals
What types of content appeal to the left side of our brains? Sam suggests feature comparisons, testimonials, and white papers may be important types of content to provide. If we want to sell stuff using this approach, we need to think about creating evidence to bolster our claims.

Emotional Appeals
What types of content can create an emotional appeal? Sam suggests the following types or features of this type of content: crowdsourced, video/audio, and tone are most important. I agree that developing more affective content designed to appeal to viewers’ emotions can move the needle on an engagement level, but just creating this type of content will not guarantee it. We still need to compete for their attention and getting someone to contribute to crowdsourced content is getting increasingly difficult unless there is a prize component attached.

One additional appeal we can add are ethical appeals.

Ethical Appeals
What types of content can we create so as to appear as trusted expert? While Sam doesn’t call out ethical appeals by name, he does ask us to consider where customers fit in to the equation. It’s good advice, and I’d recommend content in this category would need to be balanced and have a fair-minded approach. We would especially want to consider the readers’/viewers’ perspective and acknowledge what questions and concerns they may have that would preclude or solidify a purchase. I’m not saying that ethical appeals are the “magic sauce,” but it’s one more appeal to (formally) consider.

In addition, we’d want to test various content to…

1. Provide the best type of content for the consumer’s place in the purchase process
Higher funnel content needs to generate awareness and connect on an emotional level. Left-brain type content may be more important in the research phase.

2. Provide content types for different types of consumers
It’s all good. Some consumers over index as more logical decision makers or as more creative right brain decision makers. It may be more difficult for brands to create video and audio content than just churn out text-based content. However, different types of content appeal to different audiences.

3. Provide the right content type for specific media channels.
Brands may decide the best course of action is to syndicate video/audio type content that links to more logical or ethical content types. Or, the opposite may be true. Providing content types that travel best in social media may create more visibility than even a video. The content needs to match the context.

If time and budget allow, we can create multiple forms of content and carefully design tests that can be repeated at various intervals to determine the best course of action.

Pre-Commerce: A digital strategy driven by consumers

In Pre-Commerce: How companies and customers are transforming business together, Bob Pearson, formerly of Dell Computers and now Chief Technology & Media Officer at WCG, a marketing communications agency, delivers the goods on why and how to create a successful pre-commerce program that delivers solid relationships with your customers and strong e-commerce results.

The Transformation of Business
Gone are the days when consumers would walk into a store and get all of their information and questions answered by store clerks prior to purchasing a product. Even consumers who formerly would do research online prior to making purchases, online or face-to-face, now research products, check ratings, poll their friends on Twitter or Facebook, search for infographics, whitepapers, and FAQs, as well as read countless reviews, blog posts, and forum discussions before making an online purchase or stepping foot inside a retail store.

In addition, marketers need to customize digital experiences and downloads for consumers with an eye to potentially more than one device including web, notebook, netbook, tablet or mobile device.

Layer Listening in Social Networks with Goals of Establishing Relationships and Delivering Expert Customer Service
Are you listening to what your customers are saying about you in social networks? And are you participating in those networks and providing content to help influence how consumers perceive your brand? Or even asking customers to contribute ideas to improve your products and services? Pearson indicates that these areas provide huge pre-commerce opportunity areas for brands.

Let’s Say You Get the Argument: What are Next Steps?
Pearson & his colleagues at WCG have developed what they call the Four As — awareness, assessment, action, and ambasadors to understand and create your new digital strategy. Here are some action steps for you to follow to begin to craft your new pre-commerce strategy:

Awareness: brand awareness is now created when customers can evidence your participation and engagement
1. Listen to what consumers are saying online
2. Join in appropriate conversations at appropriate times
3. Provide the right content at the right times

1. Provide content consumers can “download, view, read, and act upon” when, where and how customers need it
2. Assess how well you’re meeting customers’ needs prior to purchase or purchase intent.

1. Customers have acted on your offer in some way

1. Assess how well you’re doing in social media by measuring interactions and ranking sentiment to arrive at positive share of conversation

1. Build relationships with these loyal customers
2. Provide them with even more information
3. Give them opportunities to share their positive experiences of your brand

Note: It’s no mistake that assessment is listed twice — Pearson argues it’s critical to regularly keep score on how well you’re doing. See page 20 for a list of questions to ask if you’re ready to begin (or improve) your efforts on these fronts. Please note that Pearson has some caveats for this model:

“It is driven by customers, not corporations. The customers will decide when they listen, what they’ll discuss on the internet, where they’ll research their purchases, and where they’ll make them. Brand loyalty won’t come from the cave-wall paintings, it will come from persistent, positive interaction between a company, its brand, and its customers” (18).

Check out his text for more information on how to do each of these well. Then, you can use the following four criteria to measure how well you’re doing:

1. Search — where does your brand show up in search results and “within the customer-search journey?”
2. Peers — how do influencers rate and recommend your products and services?
3. Active Sharing — how often do influencers in step #2 above share your content?
4. Available Content — how often do you provide fresh content for influencers to share and are you providing it in the form they want to share?

Pearson gets social media. You will too — once you read and apply the important and timely advice he offers in Pre-commerce. After reading, you’ll be able to outline imperatives specific for your brand in order to create real change in the ways you connect with consumers and in the results you help your company achieve.

SXSW Marketing Tactics

Some of the most popular marketing efforts at SXSW involve free food and beverages. It’s not surprising given there is even a service that tracks them (see: During the conference, brands rented a food cart, reserved space in many of bars and restaurants on 6th Street, or went the low budget route and passed out food and beverages from the back of pick-up trucks.

I started taking pictures to have some examples of various tactics.

building wrap and food cart Austin pedicab SXSW Ogilvy Notes AT&T Charging Station SXSW Stickerbook Gapingvoid Print Rackspace Tattoo Arm SXSW Austin Chronicle Booth SXSW Guardian Booth sxsw posters

1.Building Wrap and Free Food Cart

Squarespace wrapped a building just a block from the Austin Convention Center and across from the Hilton Hotel. In the picture above you can see the food cart they stationed in front of the building to serve free food to conference attendees. The only downside of free food this close to the event is that lines were long during lunch hours.

2. Pedicab Posters

Notice the signs on the back of the pedicabs? Here’s another opportunity for brands to get advertising exposure. I’m sure brands could even sponsor pedicab rides.

These riders worked all day and into the night to carry attendees from panels in one location to another, as well as from different bars and restaurants back to hotels in the evening.

At $10 per person/per ride, it was an economical way to help mitigate things being so spread out. Also, these pedicabs were much easier to flag down than traditional cabs.

3. Visual Storyteller

Ogilvy hired digital artists to create visual notes of several sessions each day. In addition to these huge poster size pieces, they printed a quantity of these for sxsw attendees.

Personally, I really like this tactic. It provides something of value that people can take home with them, in addition to being available online. It’s an example of social object that can be used to generate conversations online (like this blog post).

4. Charging Stations

This tactic has been executed by many a brand. It’s highly useful for conference attendees. AT&T’s charging station was between the bookstore and the coffee bar. And, as you might guess, it saw plenty of traffic. In addition to having the kiosk as pictured, they had a bar and chairs where people with chargers could plug in and relax. Of course, in the process of charging their device, attendees could get a little info about AT&T products and services.

I stopped in at this booth several times during the conference. I do wonder, however, how AT&T measures the effectiveness of this brand exposure.

5. Stickers

Are you the type to put stickers on your laptop? There were plenty of these available. Enough that you could go home with a full laptop lid if that’s what you’re in to.

Also, if you wanted to collect pins for your badge holder, those were really prevalent, too. I have to say, though, a brand’s pin would really have to be unique in order to stick out from all of the different options.

6. Social Objects

I’m biased (I commissioned Hugh at to create a series of prints for Intel at CES in January (see Gapingvoid Art Gallery on Inside Scoop), but I think using social objects like his fun artwork is a really dynamic way to help generate conversations in social networks for a brand. Consumers appreciate the gift and blog, tweet, and share pictures of the artwork, while each mention racks up another activation point for the brand. It’s a win-win in my opinion. Quite a few of the presentations I attended included Hugh’s artwork in their slides.

7. Tattoo Arm

Here’s an original idea that I hadn’t seen before. Rackspace gave away tattoo arms. It’s conference swag that really fits in with the culture of the conference. It’s something unique, and really cool. Plus, I bet they have created conversations online because of using them. However, what is the life of the freebie? Will people keep it once the novelty wears off? A t-shirt might have more longevity, and could even become a collector’s item depending on the artwork.

8. Booth as Meeting Space with Couches

This tactic fits intrinsically with the SXSW culture. It’s also an answer to the question, “Who can throw the best party?” There were many different booths with chairs and couches available for attendees to lounge around and chat with each other. It’s such a different experience than CES in which there are even bigger crowds.

I really liked the Austin Chronicle’s interpretation of booth seating. See the casual couches in the photo above. It fits right in with the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan you see around town. They know their audience. So too does the Guardian, which offered much more yuppie places to sit and talk in keeping with their brand.

9. Posters

Some of the people who hang posters have developed it into an art form — hanging it in such a way so that it sticks out past the pillar or post.

5 Big Ideas from SXSW to Uplevel Your Digital Marketing

The SXSW conference can be a lesson for brands in how to blend a face-to-face event with social, music, and film. The organizers, panelists, and attendees create an experience, lots of content, encourage ongoing social participation and promotion, which all leads to it being an entertaining and educational experience for attendees.

You have to understand, however, SXSW is huge. To get the most out of it, you have to go with a plan.

Then, you have to come back and organize your notes and mine slideshare for the panels you missed in order to get real value from it.

Here are the 5 Big Ideas I (re)learned and want to share from SXSW Interactive 2011.

1. It’s critical to uplevel focus on content and content marketing

  • People try to fix a web presence in one or two ways: add new technology or redesign; no focus on content.

From panel: Not My Job: The Ultimate Content Strategy Smackdown (click through for audio)

  • A discussion about content strategy should come around to how you leverage the content you have. The content is raw material, some of it good or great, some of it perhaps less so. But how you use it, package it, distribute it … can all add value and ensure a valuable asset, a value to both the audience and to the company.

From Blog Post:

  • By giving content away, you enable the ability to dramatically increase your global reach, ability to inspire, spread ideas, and engage a passionate user base.

From: TED: Radical Openness (click through for audio)

2. It’s critical to create many different types of content.

  • It’s not just text. It’s convergence. Think apps, games, infographics, PPTs, PDFs, video, FAQs, etc.

From panel: Future 15, Convergence, Dan Shust

3. Learn how to create great content for the right context: Or, Say it short and make it a story.

  • The less you say, the more they’ll remember.
  • Our brains are wired for stories. Make it a short story (even though it takes longer to create because it’s more difficult).
  • Data isn’t a story. Data: the king died. Then, the queen died. Story: The king died. Then, the queen died of grief.
  • Successful communication is not about technology. It’s about story.

From: Saying It Short Writing Workshop with Betty Draper (click through for audio)

4. What are the necessary elements of a content strategy? OR, Cultivating relationships and building trust matter.

  1. Creation: the trick to marketing is having something so cool that you want to talk about it even if you weren’t in the business. (Hugh MacLeod)
  2. Curation: Brands have the expertise, the time, and the money to be great editors and curators of digital content. It seems reasonable to conclude that one part of being a great brand is now also being a great curator. (Steven Rosenbaum)
  3. Cultivation: We have entered a new era in which developing strong consumer relationships is pivotal to a brand or company’s success.(Gary Vaynerchuk)
  • The creation and curation of relevant content, coupled with the cultivation of a relationship, leads to trust.

Ok, so this panel wasn’t at SXSW 2011, but it’s a preso entitled Creating, curating, and Cultivating the Social Web, by Esteban Contreras, Social Media Manager at Samsung for the Marketing 2.0 and Social Media Conference 2011 in Paris on 3/28/2011, and it’s based on SXSWi 2011 so I’m including it here.

See slide 9 for tips on how to create.
See slide 26 for tips on how to curate.
See page 40 for tips on cultivation.

5. Rest/renewal breaks, game play, and doing social good can make us better more engaged people.

  • We’re more productive when we build in intermittent renewal along the way
  • We’re not meant to operate the way computers do – at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time
  • Your sense of purpose–to serve something greater than yourself–is a source of great energy
  • 4 nights in a row of 5 or fewer hours of sleep = functionally intoxicated.
  • The critical issue is the value you create, not the hours you work.
  • Myth: One hour less of sleep will add one hour of productivity to your day.

From panel: The 90 Minute Solution: Live Like a Sprinter (click through for audio)

  • Gaming unleashes our natural ability to be the best version of ourselves.
  • Our generation will achieve 10,000 hrs of gaming by the age of 21. We can harness that for good instead of escapism.
  • The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression.
  • 3-4 hours of Call of Duty decreases PTSD response in veterans. vs. 6 hrs of gym time for the same response.

From panel: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can change the world (click through for audio)

  • For every pair of shoes that are bought, Tom’s Shoes gives one pair away.
  • The best thing you can give your employees is the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  • You don’t need advertising: just focus on giving and that story will be told by your raving fans.

From keynote: Blake Mycoskie, Toms Shoes