Content That Rules the Roost: 5 Practical Strategies for Making Your Content More Brand-Centric

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Author: Jonathan John

According to Content Marketing Institute, 47% of B2B marketers say that their biggest content marketing problem is creating content that allows their brands to engage with readers.

In other words, nearly half admit that they don’t know how to make content that interests their audience. I’m sure a similar statistic could be found with consumer marketers.

Ask yourself: Does your brand content fall into this category? Are readers turning away from your brand because they don’t find the content you produce to be as engaging or authentic as it should be?

Let’s hope not.

In the same survey, customers also indicated that trust in a brand’s content is three times as important to them as trust in a brand’s own employees. Clearly, it’s important to your content marketing success that that the content you create is highly relevant to your brand (i.e. more brand-centric).

Brand-centric content, in its simplest terms, is content that is highly focused on your brand. This focus means that you pay particular attention to each of your brand’s unique characteristics, which encompasses everything from design to personality to the types and topics of your content.

By intentionally creating brand-centric content, you’ll be able to boost engagement with your brand as readers begin to recognize your content more and more (whether they see it on your own website, on social media, or even on another blog).

Here are five practical strategies that you can start implementing today to boost brand engagement with more brand-centric content:

1. Keep design consistent across content formats

As a brand grows and matures, its design is bound to evolve. For instance, over the past seven years, Marketo’s logo has developed into a more minimal icon:

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This sort of design change isn’t an issue, because for one, it takes place over a period of time, not instantly, and two, the basic layout and primary color remain the same.

However, dramatically switching up brand design and color scheme without any sort of prior notice can be a significant deterrent to creating the sort of brand-centric content that readers will recognize across the internet.

Let’s say the design of your marketing site revolves around red, white, and blue. Once a visitor stays long enough on your site, they’ll begin to associate your brand with those colors.

Now say that the same visitor comes across an infographic of yours that’s been syndicated to a different content network. The said visitor really likes this infographic and decides to engage with it both by sharing it on social media and by leaving a comment.

But because you haven’t paid attention to brand colors (your infographic uses different shades of red, orange, and yellow), the visitor doesn’t recognize the infographic as one of your brand’s productions.

The result? A squandered opportunity to turn an average visitor into a loyal follower.

Sometimes, you won’t find it as easy to maintain the design of a content piece, depending on your distribution. For example, if you convert a blog post into a SlideShare presentation, then there’s not too much you can do about the design of the page where your presentation is posted. SlideShare’s own black and grey tints will of course be dominant.

What you could do, however, is ensure that instead of the default hues, your PowerPoint slides use a background and text fonts that match your typical brand colors and/or blog typefaces. You could even stick a scaled-down version of your logo into a corner. That way, when a visitor sees your presentations, they’ll be significantly more likely to recognize your brand as the author.

Quick tip: Use this infographic to help guide your design process.

2. Standardize your brand voice

Another way to ensure that your content marketing strategy stays true to your brand is to standardize your brand voice.

Your brand voice has to do with how you express yourself in your content. Nearly all of your brand’s communication materials will carry your voice, whether we’re talking advertising campaigns, marketing slogans, white papers, or blogs.

Brand voice incorporates elements like sentence structure, formality level, language (e.g. American English vs. British English), colloquialisms, and more. By selecting and standardizing voice across all marketing materials, visitors will be better able to pick up on and identify your content.

Here are a couple things to remember when choosing voice for a brand:

  • Use a marketing persona to profile your ideal reader and think about what writing style and personality your persona would prefer reading.
  • Being stuffy or overformal can be a big turn-off to your readers, especially when you’re marketing directly to consumers in a B2C niche.

3. Utilize interactive content

Interactive content is quickly becoming one of the most popular current trends in marketing. According to a 2015 DemandGen survey, over 90% of customers favor visual/interactive content, a stat that’s up from last year, indicating upward movement.

Interactive content can come in many shapes, sizes, and formats, but a few common ones include quizzes, contests, polls, and surveys.

These content formats coax visitor interaction with your brand, resulting in higher engagement levels and more participation and involvement from your followers.

4. Encourage user-generated content

User generated content (UGC) is a unique content type that many brands today haven’t experimented with. The defining trait of UGC is that it’s created by your customers and web visitors, not by your own marketing team.

UGC campaigns have immense potential not only to boost engagement with your brand, but also to go viral across the web.

Take the example of Belkin, a company that creates protective cases for smartphones and tablets. In 2013, Belkin partnered with LEGO to come out with a line of LEGO builder cases for iPhones. When the product launched, Belkin encouraged all of their customers to instagram pictures of their custom-built cases with the hashtag #LEGOxBelkin.

Hundreds of buyers took Belkin up on their suggestion, which also resulted in some decent press coverage for the company. I myself am a Belkin customer!

5. Align every content piece with brand values

When you publish a piece of content, ask yourself this question: is this piece of content something that I want people to associate my brand with?

The content you publish—yes, every single piece—needs to align with your brand values.

Your brand values are a BIG part of your business’ mission statement. I’ll borrow an example from Groove here, a company that sells a customer support SaaS. On their “About” page, they discuss how their product’s main values are simplicity and ease of use. Groove’s goal is clearly stated: they want to help small businesses make their customers happier and their employees more productive. When you look at the content published on their customer support blog, and at the reputation they’ve earned in their industry, it’s clear that Groove has stuck to their values and that their mission statement has helped them to become a success. Your content ought to be based around similar values that define what your brand is trying to achieve as a company. Remember: don’t just think in the short term. As the product/service provided by your brand evolves, so will your priorities and values. Keep in mind whatever long term targets/goals you may have when formulating brand values and create content centered around them.

Branding is a crucial component to a successful content marketing strategy. If you’re not already using these five strategies to help keep your content brand-centric, then start doing so today. If you don’t, you could be missing out big-time.

What other tips do YOU have for making your content more brand-centric? Let us know in the comments section below!


Content That Rules the Roost: 5 Practical Strategies for Making Your Content More Brand-Centric was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post Content That Rules the Roost: 5 Practical Strategies for Making Your Content More Brand-Centric appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.


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Four Practical Tips for Resolving the CMO-CIO Disconnect

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If CMOs and CIOs had to make their relationship status public, most would have to check the “It’s complicated” box.

Conflicting priorities and increasing competition for IT budgets are causing more and more friction between these C-levels—even as the need for a unified digital strategy makes cooperation more important than ever.

We are often reminded of that divide between Marketing and IT among our customers at Rackspace as we help them re-platform their websites and online stores. Those are complex, politically fraught digital assets tied directly to revenue, which makes them a common battleground for the marketing and IT departments.

But if they can’t cooperate, they can’t create consistent, relevant customer experiences.

The obvious solution is to build trust. But that’s easier said than done when you consider the competing priorities, expectations, and personalities at play.

Based on our experience building bridges between CMOs and CIOs for the sake of a unified solution, here are four tips for a tighter alliance.

1. Respect each other’s priorities

The Problem

In a lot of ways, the priorities of CMOs and CIOs are at odds. For marketing executives, it’s all about revenue and speed of execution. But for CIOs, the technology is their baby—and it has to be safe, scalable, and supportable. If there’s a serious breach or outage, it’s their job on the line.

Solutions

CMO and CIO priorities might be at odds, but recognizing the importance of both perspectives is crucial for every business.

The rise of digital and Big Data gives CIOs an opportunity to affect the top line (revenue) instead of just the bottom line (profit). They need to acknowledge that revenue is critical. Yes, they may have to occasionally deviate from their road map to address a pressing Marketing need. But if that temporary fix means increased revenue while they work on a permanent solution, that’s a meaningful contribution.

Meanwhile, CMOs need to recognize that they are increasingly accountable for IT success themselves. Scaling failures, downtime, and breaches all have a direct impact on revenue and brand perception. That means the CIO’s strategic vision keeps the CMO’s tail out of the fire—even if it sometimes slows us down.

2. Improve communication to align expectations

The Problem

Most CMOs don’t have a real-world understanding of the challenges behind complex technology projects, and they don’t speak the language of IT.

The CMO says: “We need the new e-commerce store live by next quarter. But don’t worry, the sales rep promised the platform is super-easy to implement and support.” The CIO says: “You have absolutely no idea what this is going to take… 18 months, bare minimum.”

The CMO asks why. The CIO dives into the weeds of implementation and loses the CMO after 15 seconds. They’re both frustrated, and they start the project with completely misaligned expectations.

Solutions

As marketing executives, we need to get to a place where we can accept the timeframes the CIO gives us without challenging them at every turn.

CMOs need to understand the on-the-ground complexity of technology projects. That means getting directly involved in day-to-day execution throughout the implementation phase: Sit in meetings, scan email threads, bring in the VP of Digital or E-Commerce to maintain a presence.

CIOs, meanwhile, need to simplify the technical stuff and communicate at a high level. Give us three high-level slides, and keep those 30 detailed slides just for backup in case we ask you to drill down.

Analogies work wonders. I once asked our chief technologist why we couldn’t double the headcount to finish a project twice as quickly. He told me that you can double the size of your pit crew, but the car still has only four tires. Point taken.

3. Avoid ego to prevent personality clashes

The Problem

The personalities of CMOs and CIOs couldn’t be more different: CMOs tend to be visionary, creative, optimistic, and bold, whereas CIOs tend to be practical, detail-oriented, and conservative.

Those differences create dysfunction because—let’s face it—marketing executives have some of the largest egos on the planet. We’ve got big, bold ideas, but admitting we’re wrong doesn’t come easy. And for IT folks there’s nothing more obnoxious than wrongheaded arrogance that flies in the face of cold, hard facts.

Solutions

  • Have a willingness to learn. Inevitably, there will be some challenges and pushback between the CMO and CIO, especially at the outset of a project. But only if you’re open to learning from one another can you build trust.
  • Learn to admit when you’re wrong. Being defensive is inefficient—you waste time justifying every decision—and it can poison your working relationship.
  • Speak up if you don’t understand something. Do it even if doing so makes you feel stupid.
  • Be patient with your CIO/CMO counterpart. It may not always be pleasant to spend time together, but that’s exactly what’s needed to build trust and rapport. Before you start firing missiles at each other, spend time together offsite. Learn to appreciate each other outside of the office.

4. Learn to share limited resources

The Problem

We’re well on our way to fulfilling the much-disseminated Gartner prophecy that by 2017CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs do. I’ve seen CMOs get approval for multimillion-dollar IT projects in 3-6 months. That can drive the CIO completely mad.

In many organizations, IT is still viewed as a call center fielding requests for help, and the CIO is struggling to satisfy demands from all over the company while working with a sluggish operational budget. Meanwhile, the CMO can come along and ask for a big-ticket technology item, and the budget comes flowing—because the CMO is promising a return in the form of revenue.

The result is resentment that politicizes projects and makes it even more difficult to build trust.

Solutions

  • Embrace the CMO budget. CMOs are driving revenue, and they’ve been given a budget to do it—especially for new projects. CIOs can see that as a threat, but they can also choose to see it as a major silver lining. For instance, the CIO may need to develop a temporary solution to help the CMO hit a revenue target—and the CIO can dip into the CMO budget to do it.
  • Tie everything back to revenue. CIOs can tie their services back to revenue as well. Doing so will give them more clout when they make budget requests.
  • Outsource where appropriate. When faced with limited resources and competing priorities, a company can outsource expertise—by going with a managed Cloud provider, say—and in doing so help CMOs and CIOs meet closer to the middle.

If CIOs don’t have to worry about hiring a bunch of content management specialists, for example, they free up resources to focus on long-term goals, and they can move much faster to adopt a solution—making CMOs happy.

Trust has practical value

Overcoming all of those challenges takes serious commitment. But building trust delivers real, lasting value.

When as a marketing executive you trust your CIO counterpart, you spend significantly less time diving into the weeds on every project, your strategies will be better aligned with IT, and your teams will cooperate more effectively. Trust just makes life easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Working together, CMOs and CIOs can better apply technology to empower their employees and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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