As more and more companies have embraced the recurring revenue business model, it has become easier for customers to try new products and services (sales), and conversely, just as easy for them to leave if they aren’t realizing value (churn). This new reality has made way for the Customer Success movement—a renewed focus on driving customer lifetime value by monitoring health factors such as product usage, sales and billing data, survey responses and others. As the economic climate heats up, businesses are quickly realizing that in order to be successful, they must ensure that their customers are realizing success from the use of their product. Otherwise their bottom-line is at risk.
What does the MVP (minimally viable product) really mean and what do you look for in your company to know when you really have a market ready product? Click here to view The Art of Pivot in Agile Marketing video.
Gone are the days of monolithic ad campaigns built by weathered advertising executives and backed by bloated budgets. Today, we are crafting marketing strategy in the age of programmatic ad buying, rapid-response social media and target markets that we can finely and dynamically segment across any device (smartphone, tablet, TV and desktop, for example).
The catalyst for that change is technology. It’s empowering marketers — including those in higher education — with a multitude of channels, methods and behavioral data to transform their tactics and strategies.
So, in the throes of all this change, what does it take to engage, inform, and convert students?
The concepts of Agile Marketing and Data-Driven Marketing are becoming increasingly popular in response to the rapidly changing marketing landscape. Marketing teams are scrumming, sprinting and pivoting with a renewed energy to improve speed, transparency and adaptability of their strategies. The ability to make smart decisions quickly and repeatedly has shown that it is not just limited to the software industry, but is applicable to all industries; including higher education and learning organizations.
With the rigor of modern marketing and the need to react with agility and strategy, who wouldn’t want to empower their teams to get their ideas out into the market faster? After all, who can forget Oreo’s fast thinking on Twitter during the blackout at the 2013 Superbowl.
It wasn’t in Oreo’s marketing plan, but they saw an opportunity to reach a mass audience with an incredibly timely message. And they gained a lot of positive attention for it; the tweet was retweeted 15,000 times and they gained 8,000 Twitter followers, 20,000 Facebook followed and a 95 percent increase in followers on Instagram. Some suggest Oreo is still riding the wave (nearly a year later) from that one simple tweet.
While more and more organizations around the world are adopting the agile marketing methodology and benefiting from higher efficiency, faster response and greater creativity, there are two key areas to be aware of when applying this methodology to your organization.
1. Outcomes over Speed
Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing put it best:
“We have to be careful that we don’t let all this great activity that we’re getting done because of Agile Marketing lull us into thinking that we’re accomplishing our goals just because we’re moving so much from the Sprint backlog column into the done column.” 
2. Don’t Just Do Agile, Be Agile
A major challenge of agile marketing, especially for educational institutions, is the resistance to change. In 52 percent of organizations surveyed by VersionOne, agile marketing failed due to the inability to change the institutional culture, followed by 39 percent failing due to general resistance to change.
Agile and Agile Marketing isn’t a golden solution, but it is giving learning organizations the opportunity to analyze data and apply it quickly to their student recruitment, retention, and learning outcome efforts.
Guest Post on The Evolllution
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 Jim Ewel, “How Not to Do Agile Marketing,” Agile Marketing, March 2, 2013. Accessed at http://www.agilemarketing.net/bad-agile-marketing/
Charles W. Eliot, the former president of Harvard University, once noted, “All business proceeds on beliefs, or judgments of probabilities, and not on certainties.” So, since according to Eliot there is no certainty in business, decision makers need to rely on guesswork or probabilities, and of the two, analytics and probabilities will surely give better results.
Big data promises to provide insights that traditional data and analytics can’t achieve, but many companies become so excited about the idea of finding a hidden nugget that nobody else knows that they forget to focus on a potential solution to a particular business issue. The challenge is identifying whether big data is sufficient by itself to generate the desired insight, or whether existing data or combined data could achieve comparable results that lead to better decisions.
Two recent use cases demonstrate the value of big data in providing insight that traditional data alone could never achieve, and they’re likely to become the “killer applications” of big data.
1. Quantitative trend spotting & early warning systems
Recent research published in the Journal of Marketing Research has shown that using big data from Google Insights for Search along with syndicated data and POS/scanner data can identify emerging trends in asthma drugs, grocery items, and wine, among other products. This insight enabled analysts to quickly identify trends without having any specific domain expertise or input from professional trend spotters — an incredible advancement in trend identification.
2. Marketing mix efficiency analysis
Other researchers combined traditional data and big data to show the value of social media marketing, a notoriously slippery metric. They showed that 25 percent of the sales variance over the amount explainable by advertising and media expenditures could be directly attributed to company-facilitated Facebook conversations.
Traditional marketing mix efficiency analysis is based on the relationship between sales and marketing spend, but big data helps identify other variables such as daily or weekly searches, social media mentions, and requests for information that the company can correlate to weekly sales and marketing expenditures.
Using these additional variables helps explain formerly unexplained model variances and provides more insight that the company, and Chief Marketing Officers, can use to help demonstrate that marketing efforts are influencing consumer behavior and how they may lead to sales over the longer term.
Big data and these killer applications are providing probabilities and insights that are coming much closer to the formerly unattainable certainties that Eliot alluded to, and business is better as a result.
Organizations–specifically massive, enterprise-level ones–have serious process problems, especially when it comes to creating enough useful and relevant content to fuel their marketing initiatives.
Why? Each step of the buyer’s journey from awareness to advocacy requires persona-based, stage-specific, targeted content. In an effort to fill this growing demand, many organizations have allowed business units or departments to establish their own unique content operations, responsible for creating the content needed to fuel the ever-growing number of distribution channels including blog, social media, marketing automation, customer communities, and more.
This might sound like a brilliant solution, but a siloed approach to content marketing leads to redundant efforts, inefficient processes, a lack of quality control, and a whole lot of time and resources spent producing un-useable, un-shareable content. In fact, SiriusDecisions reports that 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused! This is the sad result of a broken operation, or rather, lots of broken mini-operations.
So how can you avoid these challenges?
By building one unified and collaborative content operation across departments.
With that in mind, below are five tips to help you to plan your content marketing initiatives, unify your team, and ensure your efforts drive results.
1. Get buy-in.
To experience the harmony of content collaboration, you must first understand how content marketing helps your organization reach larger business objectives. Then, explain this to your organization. Getting buy-in, especially from roles or departments with a lot of sway, will help your organization make important structural and communication changes that will transform the efficiency of your content operation.
Content Marketing Institute has a great article on preparing your case for content marketing, and to help you out, here’s an ever-evolving list of content marketing facts that show just how powerful content is for reaching the goals of the marketing department, as well as the organization as a whole.
2. Align content to your goals and overarching initiatives.
Make sure that each content asset is clearly tied to at least one of your overarching themes or initiatives for the year or quarter. For example, if your marketing and sales organization is focused on closing financial services firms in the upcoming quarter, then focus content on the concerns and needs of financial service companies. Do you have annual themes? If so, make sure every piece of content relates to at least one. By aligning content to the goals of your company, you’ll be able to deliver cohesive, impactful assets that can be used across departments to drive results.
3. Form an Editorial Board, and meet on a quarterly basis.
An Editorial Board is made up of key stakeholders in your organization from different departments or business units. They represent the thought leaders and the beneficiaries of the content that your organization will be producing. For example, sales can be both a thought leader and beneficiary. They speak to prospects every day, and are tuned into the wants and needs of potential customers. This makes them great idea generators for content assets which, once created, they can then use to close deals. Other departments commonly represented in the Editorial Board include product marketing, marcom, web/social teams, marketing ops, and customer success.
This approach is important because it (literally) gives everyone a seat at the table, breaking down the lack of communication between silos. Schedule a quarterly meeting, and make sure each department representative comes with their content ideas, needs, and goals. This will help prioritize content creation, as well as help you recognize common themes and topics. By identifying and agreeing upon content initiatives, you’ll be able to minimize redundancies and inefficiencies. For example, say three departments need content around the same issue facing buyers. You can organize the production of a single eBook instead of having each silo creating three unique and department-specific eBooks. You just saved your company from wasting a lot of time and resources.
4. Share an updated calendar.
The members of your Editorial Board and the people using content to nurture relationships or close deals need to know what content they can expect, when they can expect it, and how to use it effectively. Keep everyone up to date with a single, shared calendar complete with the timelines and information they need to use content assets to their full advantage.
5. Get some help.
You don’t need to do it alone. Bring your team or Editorial Board together to map out the goals, tactics, and execution strategy for content marketing success. As Abe Lincoln once said (and modern marketers should take this to heart), “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Take the time to “sharpen the axe,” so to speak. Define goals, get to know your personas and what each one cares about at every stage of their journey, organize your team, and prepare your execution strategy. Check out the worksheets below for inspiration.
Creating a unified content operation in your organization will ultimately help to align the needs and goals of siloed departments or business units, create higher quality content that’s effective for each stage of the funnel, and reduce current inefficiencies and redundancies. So what are you waiting for? Sharpen that content marketing axe, and get chopping.
Still struggling with the how-tos of marketing automation and inbound marketing? You’re not alone and Jon Miller, VP of Marketing and Co-found of Marketo, and Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz broke down 10 simple strategies to keep on your radar moving forward.
1. The way buyers buy has changed forever due to Digital Abundance
The way you market and sell must change as well. Digital buyers today have more access to information today than they have ever had before. They can get instant access to details, comparisons, and pricing. Social is a way to share and compare.
2. The right content > more content
For many sites, just a few very high value pieces a year is enough to achieve remarkable results. One of Moz.com’s single resources, The Algo Change, has earned more traffic than the 50+ surround posts combined.
3. Data yields smarter social sharing
Analyze when your followers are online and engaging with you most (Suggested Moz tool: followerwonk) Sharing your resources more than once may feel inauthentic, but you need to hit your readers when they are actually reading.
4. If you’re going to do video, do it right
Just like any written content, your videos should be targeted to the keywords and topics your customers are searching for most. Learn their pain points and deliver the solutions with high quality video that has an interesting cover photo. Transcripts of your videos are also a gold mine for SEO and accessibility.
5. Google+ is like cheating at SEO
Did you know that Google features posts from your Google+ circles on the first page of your search results? Growing your Google+ network may be even easier than traditional SEO methods for getting on the first page of results.
6. Use different tactics for different stages
Your customer doesn’t always want a free white paper. Or a webinar. Or a free trial. They want those things when they are in different stages of buying readiness along your funnel. Early stage buyers will be more interested in social media posts and YouTube videos where those closer to buying will be more interested in tools and free trials.
7. Be like a stock picker – don’t put all your marketing into one program
It’s not all about buying the hottest Pay-Per-Click ads any more. Sponsored emails, webinars, trade shows (even virtual trade shows!), content syndication, sponsorship, display ads, and blog articles all pull in their own targets. Analyze what works best for you, but keep your resources spread out.
8. Sales people don’t want names, they want “win ready” leads
If your sales team just wanted millions of leads every month, they could just look them up in the white pages. Lead nurturing and scoring your leads to qualify them into different stages of readiness will make you the hero of your sales team.
9. The key to relevance is behavioral targeting
If someone downloads your white paper on social media, don’t send them a load of emails on google analytics. Send your emails in smaller, more targeted content chunks to increase engagement.
10. Use analytics to turn marketing from a cost center into a revenue driver
Use your metrics to set and justify budgets for each level of the funnel. If you know your conversion percentages, you should know how much each lead cost to acquire, and therefore, how much you should spend to create X number of leads to start with.
It’s 1996. You’re Bill Gates. What’s on your mind? Interactive multimedia content, the kind made possible by the Internet. Revolutionary content that would transform the Internet into “a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”
Fast forward to 2013 and new content is being created, curated, and shared worldwide at record speed. But many organizations using content creation as marketing strategy still ignore one of Gates’ other nuggets of wisdom:
“If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.”
This is a content strategy: rewarding customers with deep, up-to-date content that’s relevant to their interests. How to get there? If content is king, then old-fashioned market segmentation is queen.
Customer, know thyself
Rewarding customers—their needs, their desires, their concerns—with what’s on the screen starts with segmentation.
Consumers already self-segment online. They’re increasingly using social networks to “see” what other people like them are doing, what decisions they’re making, and what the results are, posting on Facebook to ask for recommendations.
Why? Do we really believe our hundreds of Facebook “friends” are experts on everything from glass baby bottles to buying a new car?
The truth is that we don’t care. It’s tough making decisions, and even tougher when decisions get bigger or more expensive. In a world of information overload, the more we can block out unnecessary or irrelevant input, the easier decisions become. One way to do this is to use familiarity, or social closeness, as a gauge. We implicitly trust someone we know—even though we met her once at a party 10 years ago—and attach greater weight to her opinions.
This doesn’t seem like a great tool for making important decisions. But it makes sense in a way marketers can understand: We assume the people we know are similar to us in some way. That means we have a higher level of confidence that the information coming from our social networks is relevant to us and our decisions.
Marketer, know thy customer
By segmenting your customers, you are increasing the odds that the information you’re generating for target customers will make the cut. A useful market segment is one that hits the sweet spot, where customers receive maximum value from your product and the company makes maximum profit from sales to that segment.
Ideally, segments should be made up of customers that respond in a very similar way to your marketing efforts, and who respond differently than other customers (in other segments). These differences form the basis for your content marketing strategy.
What’s your persona?
Different customers respond to your marketing efforts differently based on a broad range of variables: demographic, geographic, and psychographic. Somewhere within each segment, there’s an ideal customer for whom your product, service, or specialty is the ideal solution. To execute your content strategy, bring these ideal customers to life by creating buyer personas.
Buyer personas flesh out the key factors that differentiate segments from each other. Think of creating buyer personas like you’d describe the conversation you had last night with “the most interesting man in the world.”:
- Who are they? — What’s their age, gender, personal quirks? Where do they live? Add as much real-life color as possible.
- What do they do? — What are their daily activities and responsibilities? Think beyond work or school to hobbies, moonlighting gigs or volunteer work.
- What are the biggest challenges or issues they face this year?
- What are their long-term aspirations, professionally, personally, or both?
Long live the king
Now that you’ve created the most interesting buyer personas in the world, you can begin to know them better. If you hit the mark, your organization’s content can stand in for a friend’s opinion on Facebook, or an online review. Your videos and photos can speak directly to the right customers, offering the visual proof that’s most beneficial for the way each customer segment makes buying decisions.
The more you know about your target customers — through research, meaningful segmentation and vibrant buyer personas — the more you can reward them with content that fits their needs, solves their problems, and positions your organization as a trusted member of their social network.
Guest Post on the Kapost Content Marketeer
eCornell breaks data down from four reputable sources to show why marketing professional development is necessary for success and increased profitability. Click here to view the Marketing Infographic.
On Fridays, we highlight some of the most interesting articles we’ve been reading from around the web. Articles feature news, strategies, and tools focused on marketing strategy, data mining and analytics, conjoint analysis, customer segmentation and targeting, and market response modeling, and a few others for fun. If you come across an article you think we should be reading, tweet it to us, post it to our facebook page, or leave us a comment at the bottom of the page.
This week, we’ve found some great pieces from quite a few of our favorite news sources: IBM, Forbes, and more. Enjoy!
“Data science’s learning curve is formidable.Read More
When we think about competition in business, we usually refer to other businesses who directly fight with us for customers. After all, it’s these companies who are the biggest barriers in the way between you and world domination. However, helping your company to reach its potential isn’t as simple as having a better product or message than your competitors. In fact, the biggest threats to many companies are the ones that they’re simply not thinking about.
The Marketing Myopia
Theodore Levitt’s marketing myopia highlighted a very basic, but powerful point. Companies don’t just compete with other companies – instead, they compete with other industries. Read More