Now that 2014 has arrived, so have all the year-end lists that discuss “best of 2013” alongside predicting for next year.  With so many lists out there analyzing industry secrets and ‘must know’ marketing tips, we have sifted through more than 20 lists and simplified the findings into the 5 most commonly discussed themes.  While there are many ways to improve your marketing not mentioned in this article, these are a few that many experts are specifically highlighting.  Take a look! 

 1.  Develop a Plan and Stick to It!

While it does seem a bit cliché and unnecessary to say, all content and marketing effort needs to be well planned out and built with a specific audience and goal in mind.  With the rise of content marketing, there seems to be a push for quantity over quality throughout the marketing industry.  Marketing research firm SiriusDecisions points out that “fully 60 to 70 percent of content churned out by b-to-b marketing departments today sits unused.  This stark statistic underscores the urgent need for a content revolution in b-to-b organizations.”

Map Out a PlanProper coordination and planning is key to getting the most out of every single piece of content developed.  Without a plan in place, hours are wasted developing marketing materials that are never actually used because they don’t integrate into a holistic strategy.  Establishing organization wide goals and building a marketing plan in which every single piece of marketing material is focused on accomplishing a specific goal is essential to a successful marketing campaign.

In her piece "4 Secrets of a Successful Digital Content Strategy" Miranda Anderson points out that “great content strategy, based on a set of core principles that drive decisions from content medium to priority and placement.”  She continues by pointing out that content must have a core purpose and “should constantly be tested and measured for relevance and whether it’s achieving the desired objective.”

It is very interesting that in today’s world of instant cheap communication, marketing professionals need to be reminded of their core objectives.  It is as if technology has tricked marketers into forgetting what the task at hand really is. 

 2. You Are Talking... but to Who?

Again, this seems so elementary to marketing that is surprising how many experts referenced it.  It seems as if marketers are “running” with so many ideas and new medium options, that they forget “to walk” and ask what is the goal and who is the audience?  Going back to the basics and fully considering the questions and concerns of your ideal customers is how you can quickly re-focus your marketing activities and improve your results.  In a piece for, Jayson DeMers raises this issue explaining “many business owners make the mistake of writing for their peers as opposed to their customers.”  He continues by saying, “Effective content will address your customers’ pain points and help them solve their problems.  It provides simple answers to their most pressing problems, while solidifying the idea that you’re the go-to expert in their minds.”  Jayson offers a suggestion of how a simple survey of your core customers can greatly aid in helping you better understand what your customers main concerns and questions are.  With data in hand, you can build your marketing goals and the content to follow by better understanding the motivations of your perfect customer.

Know Your AudienceAnother benefit of proper audience research is gaining insight on where they can be found.  In her piece titled “How to Avoid Creating Worthless Content,” Stacy Thompson points out, “by researching in advance where your audience is most likely to be consuming your content, you’ll know where, when, and how to promote it via social media.”  Laura Patterson seconds this when she states, “Marketing will need to select the program and build content that supports the preferred channel for that touch point at the right time in the process.”  By simply better knowing your audience and their habits, you can build content in which both the theme resonates and is published in a way that will actually be consumed by the desired audience.

 3.  Value Your Customer.  Provide Value.

The next common theme is tied to the popular practice of content marketing.  Robin Barnes, the Digital Director at Cedar, summarized this idea when he explained to The Guardian, “Smart brands will focus on the genuine quality of their output and as a result receive the audience’s trust, attention and custom.” When talking through the definition of ‘marketing’ Laura Patterson seconds this when she states, “The key concept here is the ability to communicate and deliver value.  To deliver value, you must know your customer.”  (See point #2!)  Very often content is developed with little to no value for the targeted customer.  Sure, there is value gained by the business as they are connecting with leads, but nobody enjoys feeling like they got the raw end of a deal.  Knowing your customer and what they value is essential to actually adding value with your marketing content.

Know What They ValueA number of experts point out that most customers are turned off when they feel like they are being “sold” something when they believed they would be receiving valuable information.  Along with this, in a piece for, Dan Tynski points out researching your marketing ideas thoroughly is very important since copying another brand’s idea will not turn out well for you.  If the idea is good but has been developed previously, figure out how the piece can be tweaked and adjusted so the content is still fresh yet the goal can be accomplished. 

When a customer feels they are consistently provided value throughout the sales process, they are assured they will be receiving value once they do become a paying customer.  Building a mutually beneficial relationship between brand and consumer is an ideal every business should strive for.  In the same article referenced earlier, Jayson DeMers summarizes this ‘value’ concept as he explains the exact purpose of content in today’s digital world.  “High-quality content serves two purposes.  [First} It attracts your readers and keeps them engaged and [second] helps your site rank well in search engines.  The only way these goals are both accomplished is the content must contain value for your consumer.

 4.  Great Marketing Is Storytelling

Once Upon a Time StorytellingRoss Simmonds draws inspiration from Simon Sinek when he states, “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.”  This quote points to a very important tendency of human behavior.  While we like to think we are very logical in our decision making process, the fact is we are very often motivated and swayed by our own emotions.  Great marketing tells consistent stories that tap into consumers’ emotion and psychology.  This is not an easy task, but one that can pay huge dividends when accomplished. 

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute explains the importance of a company’s story and how there is not simply a ‘silver bullet answer’ for marketing as he explains, “it’s simple: the mixture of communicating what your business offers, delivering on your customers’ information needs, and sharing your own corporate story is impossible to duplicate – the output from your particular blend of attributes and goals should always be different and unique.”

Along with the emotional benefit of storytelling, consistent stories add another crucial facet to your marketing plan. In her article titled “Why You Need Repetition in Your Content Strategy,” Rebecca Lieb points out “while content reinforcement shouldn’t ever be verbatim, good stories bear repeating to drive home their meaning.”   Michael Brito agrees when he states, “Consumers need to interact with your content 3-5 times before they actually believe it.”  Storytelling is a very powerful marketing tool because it is a great way to build on consumer emotions and develop a cohesive brand identity that resonates through all outreach efforts.

5.  Is Your Content Even Being Consumed?

The last theme discussed by numerous experts was the idea of confirming that your desired audience is actually consuming your content.   “Combining the right media and the right placement will improve your content,” says Miranda Anderson.  Of course a crucial element to this is being able to collect data to analyze where you are having marketing success.  Which emails are working best?  Which articles are being downloaded most?  Which previous campaigns had the most success?  Having the tools to collect data to access your achievements and shortfalls is critical to knowing if your content is actually being consumed.  In a piece for, John Gregory Olson reinforces this saying, “Your ability to execute strategy is important – if not more important – than the strategy itself.” 

Is Your Content Even Being ConsumedYour marketing campaign does not need to be elaborate.  It needs to be something you can execute well and accurately analyze the results.  You need to gain insight on where you have the most success because “making sure you give your content the best shot at maximum visibility is at least half of the equation.”  (Dan Tynski,  Keep in mind you do not need to be on every marketing medium, but instead determine which mediums will best accomplish your marking objective with your core customer base.  Check out our previous blogpost, "What Device Accounts for Most Email Opens," discussing the way people are consuming email today and how you should be designing your email for maximizing engagement.

One way some experts see maximum consumption of content accomplished is to plan a marketing campaign using ‘omni-channel’ content.  Neil Anderson, the Digital Director of Publicis Blueprint, explains this concept saying, “A well-planned, integrated omni-channel approach that takes and adapts core source content to social, mobile, tablet, web, digital, and print will ensure quality and consistent messaging while maximizing the effectiveness and return on your content investment.”  To simplify, build marketing content that can be easily published (ideally automatically) and consumed the way you want it to regardless of platform.  In our past blogpost, "Does Responsive Email Really Work," provides some of our feedback on our experience working with responsive design emails.

Let the Fun Begin!

Now that you have these emphasized concepts in mind, the real question becomes how do you get started?  Doing an assessment of your current marketing efforts is a great place to start.  Consider where you are having the most success and where you can improve most.  Ask yourself:

  • Where is your online marketing making the greatest impact?
  • What motivates your perfect customer?
  • Do you have access to the metrics and data necessary to answer these questions?

Ross Simmonds makes a very valuable point that marketers need to keep in mind when planning for the 2014.  “It’s not always about reaching thousands and thousands of people; sometimes it’s simply about reaching the right people with the right story at the right time.”  Let Genoo guide you to the right people, the right story, and the right time.  We look forward to working with you to answer these and more of your marketing questions.