Becoming Known the Key to Personal Branding Success

Known book cover

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be famous (assuming you are not already famous)? Celebrities and their lifestyles fascinate us. I once saw a “person on the street” interview in which a teenage girl said her career goal was “to be famous like Paris Hilton.” Fame has become a career path, apparently.

You may have no desire to become famous like Paris Hilton, but you can aspire to be something even more important: known. That idea is at the heart of the latest book by social media marketing expert Mark Schaefer. His sixth book is Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age. Schaefer knows a thing or two about being known. He is recognized, err known, as an authority on blogging, content marketing, and social media marketing. His {grow} blog has legions of followers, and his podcast “The Marketing Companion” (co-hosted with Tom Webster) is billed as “the most entertaining marketing podcast”—and delivers on that claim.

A Fix for Bad Personal Branding

You can find a lot written about personal branding… and a lot of it is crap. Oh, you can find plenty of blog posts sharing the five or seven steps to building your personal brand. The problem is the task of building a brand is such a monumental task it cannot be tackled in a 600 word blog post.

Another shortcoming of most works on the topic of personal branding is that they are heavy on what you should do but light on how to do it. In Known, Schaefer overcomes both of these limitations. The book has the needed depth to walk anyone through the process of positioning and communicating your brand. Moreover, application exercises throughout the book enable you to gain personal brand clarity.

Becoming Known

Known is the culmination of extensive research and interviews with people who are where those of us reading the book aim to reach: being known. Schaefer distills his research into becoming known by identifying four critical factors.

  1. Finding your place (what it is you want to do and can do consistently)
  2. Finding your space (an “uncontested niche” to be differentiated)
  3. Finding your fuel (creating content in an “open space that reflects your interests and personality)
  4. Creating an actionable audience (activating responses through engagement, networking, and influence).

Schaefer’s presentation is so effective, it is tempting to say “it’s that simple.” OK, becoming known is not as easy as 1,2, 3, 4. It is hard work and requires persistence, themes that appear regularly throughout the book. But, the blend of concepts, how to, and case studies of people who have succeeded in communicating their personal brand’s value indeed make Known a personal branding handbook.

Best of the Best

So what are my takeaways from Known? Here is the list:

  • Be wary of following your passion. It is advice espoused by many personal branding and career experts. Instead, Schaefer advocates focusing on a “sustainable interest” that can connect your brand to the well-being of others.
  • While you seek to stake out an uncontested niche (i.e., your space), you do not have to be the first person there. First-mover advantage can be just that, an advantage. However, history reminds that being first does not equal being the greatest (think Atari video games and Commodore PCs).
  • Content is the fuel to become known. People may come to know you, but it will happen because they know your content, first.
  • Never publish content that can be created by someone else. Lack of distinctive content puts one on a fast track to anonymity.
  • Audience is the fire created by fuel (content). It is not enough to create great content. An audience must be aware of it, relate to it, and accept it.

Now What?

A drawback to many business books is that it is difficult to maintain momentum from ideas taken from a book. If that happens after reading Known, it will be our own fault. Why? The key to being known is consistency. Managing the four areas of your brand (place, space, fuel, and audience) is an ongoing concern. Consistency is a must. It will not come from a book, blog, conference, or other person. It’s our turn to become known.

One to Grow On: Content Creation with Purpose

7-20 One to Grow On

This week’s One to Grow On quote is more practical than philosophical, and it is advice anyone who is tasked with being creative on the job should take to heart. The source of this advice is someone who knows a thing or two about creating content. Ann Handley is a writer (author of Everybody Writes and co-author of Content Rules) and Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs. In marketing, the shift toward content has been swift and dramatic. Brands and individuals alike recognize the benefits of leveraging content channels to build a community, educate customers, and yes, even generate revenue. Recognition of why you should be concerned with content creation is the easy part; implementing a system to plan, conceive, create, and distribute content is where most of us are baffled.

Start with Motivation

If you find yourself struggling to create content in any form (photos, video, blog entries, articles, social media posts), a logical question to ask is why do you want to create content in the first place? Perhaps your employment security depends on it, meaning that content creation is in your job description. While that is true for many people, even more people realize content could make their work more distinctive and make their personal brand stand out. Start with the why of content creation to make the what and how easier to answer. Consider these motives:

  • Create to help others. The best content is based on what recipients consider useful to them. Does you content solve problems? Teach a skill? Give people comfort? If you are driven by a desire to make a positive impact on those who consume your content, you will find instances of “writer’s block” or its equivalent diminishes as you are inspired to create content that benefits your audience. The information or education benefit for the audience could in turn become an economic benefit for you if people are moved to buy from you or your company based on the utility of your content.
  • Create to help yourself. A funny thing about content creation is that when you set out to help others, you often help yourself, too. For example, I began blogging in 2007 because… well, no particular reason. However, I soon discovered that the exercise of writing blog posts strengthened my writing and editing skills. My confidence increased the more engaged I was with the craft. Audience metrics? I did not look at them for years because blogging was more therapeutic and recreational than it was a commercial endeavor. I write for others’ consumption as well as my own release, and if the former does not occur the latter still does.

From Work to Want

Whether you are motivated to write to serve others or for self-fulfillment, you may still be challenged in finding how to put joy in creating content. Based on the external/internal motivations discussed earlier, joy in content creation can come from the following sources:

  • Being a resource. If you enjoy helping other people, consider how you can use content to make that happen. How-to videos, best practice articles, or step-by-step blog posts are examples of information that could benefit your audience.
  • Making a difference. You may go beyond merely providing helpful information to content that could be life changing in some way. An open discussion on a sensitive topic, being willing to be vulnerable and share your own stories of mistakes and redemption, or providing encouragement to people who need it could give wings to any content creator in search of ideas.

Regardless of the scope of impact you seek to achieve with your content, when you are driven by wanting to do something for someone else (educate, inform, or inspire) or for self-improvement your outlook changes from “have to” to “want to.”

Go Forth and Create

Online channels give everyone a voice today. You have a platform; the choice is yours whether you step up to the platform and use it. It is a privilege prior generations did not have as content creation and distribution was reserved for people who had access to mass media outlets- TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books. The goal is not to become the next celebrity; it is to impact your network in a positive way.

Managing the Content Marketing Crap Meter


A recent post on the MediaPsssst blog laments that “content marketing has turned the landscape of advertising into a pile of crap.” Don’t hold back- tell us how you really feel. Oh wait, I think the title of the post makes crystal clear the view that content marketing is not a friend of advertising. The main point made is that the belief that content gets through to a target audience in ways that advertising cannot has created a glut of marketing content, much of it mediocre. Point taken- but tell us something that we do not know already.

Crap Content Joins the Club

The problem with the contention that most work done in the name of content marketing is crap is not that it is incorrect. The problem is that it states the obvious. The proliferation of content marketing is not the first time marketers have had to deal with crap. Examples can be held up of crap social media marketing, crap mobile marketing, crap email marketing, and yes, crap advertising. If a marketing channel has been used, it is likely to contain some crap in it. We must acknowledge that there are good and bad practices exhibited across marketing channels. Should we expect that characteristic to suddenly change with the evolution of content marketing?

Changing Content from Marketing Crap to Fertilizer

We need not settle for mediocre content, further polluting the marketing landscape. Three points to keep in mind for making content more valuable are:

  1. Content marketing is not new– Content marketing is in vogue today, but it is not a new concept. We have been attempting to communicate useful information to customers and prospects for years. What has changed is how information is packaged and distributed. The temptation that marketers face is the lure of the packaging and distribution formats (e.g., videos, e-books, and social media). Keep the focus on where it should always be- How can you add value for customers and prospects through our communication with them?
  2. Be customer-serving, not self-serving– One reason many marketing channels become littered with crap is that the focus of the content shifts from the needs of the customer to the desires of the marketer. Should marketing communication be used for brand building? Absolutely, but if you want your message to resonate however it is sent it must contain the question that is always on the recipient’s mind: What’s in it for me? An e-book’s utility for someone interested in learning more about your product (customer-serving) may be negated by the six fields of information you require them to complete in order to get the content (self-serving).
  3. Connect content with strategy– A main contributor to a polluted landscape in any channel is the absence of a clear strategy for being there in the first place. History has a way of repeating itself-companies rushed to build websites circa 2000. Ten years later, they do the same thing with Facebook and Twitter. Yet in both instances the “strategy” was to have a presence. That is not a strategy. Determine the information needs of people given where they are in the sales funnel and create content that serves them where they are in their relationship with your brand.

The More Things Change…

The primary point made in the Media Psssst blog post is valid; content marketing is the latest channel in which too much bad practice appears. Yes, some marketing content is awful, but we cannot walk away from the channel for that reason. Do not become enamored with the tools of content marketing to the point that you forget the purpose of creating and distributing content: to help your target market.

Thought Leadership a Constant in B2B Marketing


Marketing is changing at a pace faster than ever. In one survey of marketers last year, 76% agreed that marketing had changed more in the past two years than the previous 50 years. If you subscribe to this sentiment, then you would likely not be surprised by findings from a recent study about B2B marketing priorities now and in the near future. The Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) surveyed B2B marketers to determine their perceptions of leading marketing responsibilities now and what they will be two years from now.

Below is a graphic from eMarketer summarizing the top 5 lists for now and two years out:


A comparison of the top 5 lists for current responsibilities and the priorities in two years suggests B2B marketers anticipate dramatic changes in their roles. The number one priority currently- brand management- does not even make the top 5 list for two years from now. Use of marketing technology tools hits the two-year-out list at number 2. It can be assumed that this increased emphasis on using marketing technology will touch the other four anticipated leading responsibilities. Two observations from the list of anticipated responsibilities are that “understanding buyers” appears at number 1 seemingly out of the blue. But, has that not always been the fundamental job of a marketer? If we do not understand buyers, the destiny of our business is likely assured… and the end is not pretty. The other observation is the constant  priority given to thought leadership, landing at number 4 on both lists. It is on this constant that we will examine more closely to understand.

What is Thought Leadership?

In an age in which anyone with Internet access and a keyboard has a voice, establishing a brand (corporate or personal) as a thought leader is crucial for wielding influence, building a community, and ultimately driving business growth. But, what exactly is meant by the term thought leadership? Thought leadership experts Russ Allan Prince and Bruce Rogers offer the following definition of a thought leader:

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects,clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.”

Consumers evaluate a seller’s credibility along the dimensions of expertise and trustworthiness. Becoming a thought leader is a way to positively impact both of those judgments made by consumers. Blog posts, how-to videos, and case studies are three examples of how marketers use content to “show what they know” (expertise). A content strategy aimed at building thought leadership can also “humanize” a brand through the stories told and employees featured, tactics for building trust with buyers. Oh, and there is one more part to the definition put forth by Prince and Rogers:

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”

This element of the definition means that aspiring to a position of thought leadership is not done for the purposes of stroking ego; it is meant to contribute to business growth.

What It Means to be a Thought Leader

It is human nature that people like to do business with individuals and companies that they like and trust. Let’s add one more qualifier- we like to do business with individuals and companies in which we have confidence in their capabilities (related to trustworthiness but speaks more to expertise). Given this characteristic of buyers, it is not surprising that thought leadership is considered a top priority today and in two years… and in five years and in ten years. Being a thought leader is not saying “Look at me- I am great!” It is about demonstrating your capabilities to solve problems and provide help to others. Having the ability is not enough; it must be communicated to the audiences that stand to benefit from your thought leadership.

What are you waiting for? Make your voice heard by becoming a trusted resource for information, advice, opinion, and action.

Email Newsletters: The Granddaddy of Content Marketing


The race to jump on the bandwagon of the newest and hottest practices in marketing is like how children long for the newest toy. When we get it, older toys don’t get played with as often and may even be forgotten… at least for awhile. Then we stumble across the older toys remember our positive experiences with them, and begin enjoying some of them again. This scenario resembles what can be observed playing out in digital marketing today. In the past 5 years, social media and content marketing have been like the toys shoppers stand in line for hours to buy. They have to have them, hope they like them, but may be unsure how to get the most benefit from them. If this description sounds familiar, maybe it is time to bring out one of your old toys: Email newsletters.

Good Email Marketing is Content Marketing

Many businesses wrestle with how to incorporate content into their marketing mix. Since a day does not go by that content marketing is not being given prominent coverage by industry media, a marketer cannot help but question the benefits of a content strategy. But, you may already be doing content marketing, particularly if you have an email newsletter. Email is simply a channel, a means of distribution. Subscribers agree to receive email from you not because they want another distribution source in their inbox; they want your content. Whether it is information about products, new stores, special events, promotions, or special interest stories, people subscribe to email newsletters because they find the content to be of value to them. Keep the content compelling, and they will keep you by continuing to give their consent for you to send emails.

Why Email?

If you are skeptical about the value of email or have had less than glowing results previously with email newsletters, keep in mind these statistics about email marketing shared by Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget Marketing Cloud with my comments in parentheses:

  • US adult email audience was estimated to be 188.3 million in 2013 and expected to grow to 203.8 million by 2017 (large numbers of people are using the medium- meet them where they are)
  • 95% of online consumers use email (for B2B buyers that number has to approach 100%)
  • 93% of consumers get at least one permission email daily (they are open to receiving content)
  • 70% of consumers say they always open email from their favorite companies (goal is to become a favorite company, no?)
  • Every $1 spent on email marketing yields an average of $44.25 in return (a ratio anyone could live with).

These impressive numbers do not assure email marketing success. It takes hard work to develop interesting content, determine optimal communication frequency, and build a subscriber list. But before you chase the shiny new toys of digital marketing, look in the closet and make the most of how email newsletters can connect with your existing audience as well as attract new subscribers.

This post was inspired by a recent article posted on “For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated.” Check it out if newsletters are a part of your content strategy or you are wondering if email is still a relevant channel.


Selling or Telling: What Should Your Content Do?


Amid all of the clamor and fawning over content marketing is often an overlooked but kind of important consideration: What should it be accomplishing? Oh yeah, there probably should be a business-driven reason for investing in producing marketing content. It is not uncommon for creative and content channel considerations to overshadow the more fundamental question of what is the marketing objective that will be supported by content strategy (you do have a strategy, right?).

This question of what should your marketing content do is one that comes up in my mind regularly as I read blogs and articles on content marketing strategy. One of the most significant discussions that takes place with regard to creative strategy is whether content should focus on delivering utility by persuading the audience via rational presentation of product related information or by connecting emotionally through stories that can put a brand, its employees, and customers on a more personal, relatable, level. So when the question is asked “Should your content sell or tell?” the answer is simply “Yes.”

Three Questions to Guide Content Marketing Strategy

Marketers need not feel like they must make a choice between information-based content designed to provide utility and emotion-based content packaged in stories. Just as a brand would not design every ad message using only a rational or emotional appeal, your marketing content should exhibit variety in creative strategy. Emphasis on selling or telling for a particular content marketing campaign depends on how the following three questions are answered:

  1. Who is the target audience? The group or groups you are trying to reach will influence type of creative used. Content aimed at existing customers may be less about convincing them of the value offered in your products (they already have been persuaded and are your customers) and more about building bonds with your brand. In contrast, if you are trying to win over competitors’ customers or other non-users of your product, content that communicates product utility would likely have greater impact in terms of influencing them to switch buying behavior to your brand.
  2. What is the marketing objective? Once you have identified the target audience, the next consideration is where are they in terms of their relationship with you? That answer could be very broad, running the spectrum between unaware you exist and loyal customer. Chances are your target audience is narrower than that (it probably should be to make your content marketing efforts more effective). Given your target audience, what are you trying to accomplish in terms of advancing or strengthening relationships with them- Build trust? Demonstrate product capabilities? Influence their liking of your company or brand? Schedule a meeting with a sales rep? Make a purchase? Establishing what you want the target audience to do as a result of being exposed to content should guide decisions about content creation and presentation.
  3. Where is the brand in content maturity? This issue about selling versus telling is maddening sometimes because what approach to content creative strategy should be taken is not the appropriate question to ask. The more telling question is where is our brand in terms of the evolution of our content?  Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing discusses a Content Marketing Maturity Model that consists of five stages:

Stasis > Production > Utility > Storytelling > Monetization

  Brands grow up, or mature and progress through these stages. Let’s consider two examples to show the progression:

Blendtec – Demonstrating Utility

One of the best known uses of content marketing is done by Blendtec. Its “Will it Blend?” videos have been viewed more than 300 million times since 2006. The videos demonstrate product capability in unconventional ways, like how it performs “blending” an Apple iPhone 5s:

The videos sell using a humorous approach to one of the oldest tactics in selling, the product demonstration.

WestJet -The Power of Stories

At just under 20-years old, Canadian air carrier WestJet is a relative newcomer to the industry. The company places a premium on service, touting how much its people care. A company can make these claims all day long in mission statements and advertisements, but when it is told as a story the message can connect in a powerful way. This WestJet video describing what one WestJet customer service agent did for a stranger for Father’s Day poignantly illustrates that the people of WestJet truly care about others:

Notice what this story does not contain- An effort to sell. It is not necessary.

Ask, Then Create

The takeaway from this discussion is to ask before creating. Ask questions about who you want to reach, what you want to accomplish by reaching them, and where your brand is in content maturity. Answers will make it easier to decide on the mix of selling and telling content to create.

Content Marketing is Product Marketing


One of the benefits of a marketing career that is closing in on 30 years long is the opportunity to observe trends unfold before my very eyes. Technology has accelerated changes in marketing, so the last 15 years have been quite a fun ride. Three significant shifts in marketing have occurred during that time:

  1. The dawn of the commercial Internet
  2. The rise of social media
  3. The explosion of content marketing

These three trends have similarity not only in the magnitude of impact they had on marketing practice, but I have observed another similarity among them: Many marketers had no clue how to harness the potential of these game changers as they emerged onto the scene. And, one flaw in managing these facets of a marketing program leaves some marketers still clueless about how to get optimal impact from them.

The Accordion in the Closet

Although challenges exist today in executing all three of these channels, the focus of this discussion is on content marketing given its status as the “newest” tool in the marketer’s toolkit (it can be debated just how new content marketing is, but I will leave that for other people to hash out in other forums). I see what is going on with content marketing (and before it with social media and Internet marketing) being much like the accordion that sits in my oldest son’s closet. He is 25 now, but about 12 years ago he had an interest in getting an accordion (his favorite music artist at the time was Weird Al Yankovic, thus the interest in the accordion). We found a used accordion at a music store, brought it home, and it has been a resident of his closet pretty much ever since. The problem? My son did not know how to get benefit from the accordion. He knew what it was capable of doing, but he never developed a plan for tapping the potential of the instrument.

Content Marketing Is Product, Too

How can you avoid content marketing becoming the accordion in your closet? Perhaps the most effective solution is to think of content not as content, but as a product. You would not bring a product to market without carefully considering the needs of the target market, benefits provided by the product, engineering and design, and packaging. Similarly, you should not create any form of content (video, blog, white paper, etc.) without applying a product management mindset. The same considerations apply:

  • Who am I trying to serve/benefit through content?
  • What features are needed to deliver benefits sought (statistics, demonstration, entertainment, etc.)?
  • What support is needed for users to get maximum benefit from the content?

Content marketing, like your products, represents a touch point that people have with your brand. A bad experience with content- irrelevant, boring, or out of touch with the audience’s needs- can unintentionally have an effect that is opposite of what was desired. You obsess over product and service quality to ensure a positive customer experience. The same vigilance is needed when publishing content.

Comments on Blog Comments


A topic generating a great deal of conversation in the blogosphere lately is whether shutting off a blog’s comments feature is a prudent decision. The issue came to the forefront in March when Copblogger, a digital and content marketing company offering software and training services, pulled the plug on comments for its blog. The move raised eyebrows given Copyblogger’s position as a leading authority on the business of blogging. My initial reaction was one of incredulity- What do you mean you are eliminating comments? Isn’t reader comments a unique and powerful characteristic of blogging that sets it apart from other communication channels? My take was that someone had gotten “too big for their britches” as we would say growing up in Mississippi, that Copyblogger had marginalized the very people that made them relevant- their fans and followers.

Recently, I have heard and read thoughts from experts in the field including Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Mark Schaefer, and Michael Stelzner weigh the pros and cons of silencing blog comments. The more I learned and evaluated the question of whether to eliminate blog comments, I realized that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In some situations, the decision to eliminate comments may be a course of action that can be justified. Specifically, three issues should be weighed by a brand (product or personal) weighing the benefits and costs of comments.

Exposure or Engagement

The first consideration pertains to why you are using a blog as a communication channel. Is its primary benefit that it offers wide reach to communicate in a cost effective manner, or is the reason for blogging to get feedback from your followers or customers? Blogs can evolve to become more of a pure content play, and the blog is the publication outlet for distributing thoughts or viewpoints. If having your audience participate in discussions or share their viewpoints is useful to your organization for learning and customer service, then allowing (and encouraging) comments is a no brainer.

Platform or Community

A second consideration also is related to blogging objectives- Is your blog a platform for promoting thought leadership, expertise, and products or a gathering place to nurture a community of people with similar interests? If your blog is a selling tool to build brand credibility, one-way flow of communication may adequately achieve your objective. The absence of side conversations or other distractions that could arise out of reader comments gives the blogger control over the topics and tone of conversations. But, if your blog creates value for you and readers because the power of community fosters learning among community members and by you, then shutting off blog comments would negate one of the main attractions of the blog to your audience.

Commerce or Conversation

Finally, the end goal of your blog impacts the significance of reader comments to blogging strategy. Consistent with using blogging as a channel for increasing brand exposure and as a platform to communicate brand authority and capability, turning off comments is practical when the aim of a blog is to drive prospects further into the sales funnel. If you are wanting to ultimately convert blog visitors, focus will turn to other tools to further the relationship. If the aim of blogging is to build trust and strengthen relationships among the community of readers, enabling comments is essential to creating the desired dialogue .

It Comes Down to Economics

The decision of whether or not to allow reader comments on a blog has compelling arguments on both sides. Rather than a clear cut yes/no response, the answer to this question truly is “it depends.” It depends on the three issues raised in this post as well as other considerations. Perhaps the most astute observation I have heard with regard to the issue of what to do about reader comments came from Mark Schaefer. He said the answer comes down to economics. If the cost to moderate and manage audience feedback via comments becomes too great relative to benefits received in terms of human resource and opportunity costs, then it may be time to eliminate reader comments. Until then, Schaefer sees the interactivity of the community worth the effort to moderate comments and actively respond to feedback from the community.

Customer Testimonials Stihl Powerful


A long-standing practice in media advertising is the use of customer testimonials as a creative tactic to influence the target audience. Testimonials are perceived as highly credible because unlike ads featuring celebrity endorsers the spokesperson is usually unpaid. Also, customer testimonials tend to resonate with consumers because the people featured in the ads come across as being similar to us- they are everyday people with many of the same hopes and challenges as us.

If there is a downside to using customer testimonials in advertising, it is that the audience can be skeptical of the authenticity of the message. The advertiser is paying to place the message, so of course feedback from satisfied customers will be featured- why would an advertiser pay to run stories of unhappy customers, after all? The advertiser controls the message, and as long as that is the case the audience will process information from testimonials with this fact in the back of their minds.

Social Testimonials

A new world of testimonials opened up with the advent of social networking sites. Customers now can provide unsolicited evaluations of their experiences with a company or product, good or bad. And because the consumer controls the message channel the audience has access to unfiltered thoughts from customers. Thus, the credibility factor of testimonials delivered via social media can be even higher than those appearing in paid media advertising.

One company that is harnessing the power of social testimonials is Stihl, maker of outdoor equipment such as chain saws, trimmers, and blowers. Stihl is conducting a campaign called “Real People, Stihl People.” Product users are invited to share their experiences by submitting photos on a Facebook page. The campaign is integrated across Stihl’s Facebook and Twitter pages, using the hashtag #RealSTIHL, as well as through newspaper and online advertising

The Content Component

Incorporating social testimonials into brand messaging can be an effective content marketing strategy. Information about product performance told through the stories of customers connects with meeting consumers’ needs at Interest and Consideration stages of the sales funnel. Social testimonials offer a refreshing departure from typical product-driven marketing communications. Three of the most salient differences between product marketing and content marketing are shown below:

A Comparison of Traditional Product Marketing versus Content Marketing


Product Marketing

Content Marketing

Focal Point

Your products

Your customers


Product capabilities

Customer experiences


Communicate how product adds value for customers through features/benefits

Communicate how customers are changed by their relationship with you

Buyers are not interested in your advertising message as much as they need information to help make decisions. Experiences shared by Stihl users can sell product value more forcefully than the most cleverly designed advertisement.

Tap Customers’ Experiences

A valuable marketing resource exists in the form of customers who are already sharing their experiences on social media. Perhaps only a small percentage of happy customers are taking the step to share their feelings on social media, but high message credibility makes social testimonials a tool in the social media/content marketing toolkits that should be utilized. Customers are talking; give them a forum in which they can share their stories about how they benefit from your products.

Source: Aaron Barr, Stihl Solicits Customer Stories, March 7, 2014, accessed March 11, 2014 at 


If Content is Published Online and No One Accesses It…

tree falling in woods

You have heard the question asked before- If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? When I was a young boy, I always paused whenever I heard this question to give it some thought.  As an adult, I understand the difference between sound being produced and the act of listening (i.e., processing sound stimuli and interpreting meaning). As a marketer, I know that a variation of this question plays out daily. Businesses desiring to communicate with their target markets utilize various tools to inform, persuade, and remind. Unfortunately, many of these efforts are like a tree falling in a forest with no one around except that there are people around- they just choose not to listen.

Content Marketing’s Attention Deficit

Marketers understand that some communication tactics will not only fall short of achieving desired audience response, but in many cases they will be flat out ignored. Just how prevalent is the latter outcome in content marketing? According to Brian Hansford of Heinz Marketing, it is estimated that 60-70% of all B2B marketing content goes unused, like trees falling in a vacant forest. Given that content marketing has been hailed by many observers as not only the next big thing in marketing but the future of marketing (particularly in the B2B space), the high rate of ignored content is sobering.

Content: Make it Relevant and Make it Often

Before you abandon plans to establish or enhance your content marketing presence, Hansford offers two pieces of advice that if followed can help maintain content marketing’s contribution as a source of utility to customers, leads, and prospects:

  1. Think Strategically – Hansford implores content marketers to have a clearly defined target audience in mind for content. That audience can be more granular than the descriptive characteristics that comprise your target market . Also, think strategically about the outcomes to achieve in terms of audience impact- what should they do as a result of being exposed to your content? Remember that creating and disseminating content is a means, not an end.
  2. Be a Content Factory – This point may seem contradictory to the previous statement about content not being and end-game activity. Hansford’s point is that creating content is not a one-off project. Marketers must adopt a content creator’s mindset. We are now creators and publishers as much as we are sellers. Making content creation a priority means that you are less likely to treat content marketing as a “flavor of the month” tactic and will be challenged to think systematically about creating content that helps your audience while advancing business interests.

Be Different but be Relevant

Let’s face it- every piece of content we create will not become an Internet sensation. That is OK, because that is not usually the goal a business has for engaging in content marketing. However, we want to do everything possible to not become part of the statistic of unused content. Of course, being different can help you stand out, but being different by itself does not assure success. Ultimately, content must be relevant to the audience for which it is intended- it educates, informs, or even entertains- but it is relevant in some way. The remedy for minimizing the likelihood of creating ignored content is to put yourself in customers’ shoes- Who are they? What are their problems or concerns? What do they need to know to make a decision? Relevant content is less likely to be ignored content.