Dipping A Toe Into Influencer Marketing

When I joined the real estate startup, REX, in social media and content marketing, they had the beginnings of a social presence and were producing content for a monthly newsletter. My role focused on developing the company’s social and content strategy, defining how we would treat each channel, how we would message, create reputation, invite interaction, listen to the market and engage with people.

As a startup we had limited funds and most of the budgets were being invested in the product, systems or being spent on direct response channels. But we had an appetite for testing and learning- and dipping our toe into influencer marketing was certainly on our growth list. One of my favorite projects was a collaboration with an agency in LA called Zig Marketing. After a few meetings, and learning about our business, they pitched ideas to expand our brand awareness with influencer marketing. Zig specializes in building relationships between brands and bloggers, developing an outreach strategy, designing unique campaigns and implementing. They brought some interesting ideas but I didn’t think I could sell them internally. I knew I couldn’t ask the agency for a guaranteed return on investment- but I knew that’s what my management would be asking me. Tinkering with Zig’s ideas, I was able to find a creative way to limit our financial exposure at worst, make the program net neutral (our expectation) or, at best, be ROI positive.

The campaign we designed would have the agency sending proposals to 25 prominent bloggers who write for our target audience (potential home sellers in Southern California). To qualify, the agency reached out to bloggers they new and researched/connected with new blogs that fit the profile we defined together. The proposal asked if the blogger would be interested in working with REX on an experiment where the blogger would find a home-seller in their reader base and follow the process of selling a home with REX. It seemed brave to open ourselves and our process up to a journalist. As a new company our operating processes were changing daily and being optimized based on customer feedback. But we wanted the content that the bloggers created to be real and show how REX sells homes just as well as a traditional agents, better actually, but charging 60% less in commission.

If this marketing program could deliver 1 customer to go through this blogger-documented selling process, it would pay for itself and be net neutral. That I could sell to my management. The program would generate hundreds of thousands of brand impressions, posts, shares, comments, likes, and discussions- all great at building reputation but not exactly measurable.

Yes, I have direct response in my DNA- after 10 years of cost-per-lead marketing, who wouldn’t. But that’s not why this was my favorite project. Having a writer detail the process of selling with REX from the client’s perspective would be such an interesting story. Selling a house is one of the biggest financial decisions a person will make and the process is infinitely complicated. REX is a David in a David and Goliath scenario. As a company disrupting the traditional real estate market, REX has a big story to tell and lots of antagonists who don’t want the industry to change. Was I concerned that the process might break down somewhere in selling this house? Sure. Every agent has stories to tell about impossible situations. But we decided the risk was worth it. We didn’t know what client might sign up for this process, if their home would be easy to sell or if they would be reasonable on selling price. But we knew that even a bumpy story would show our strengths and humanity.

Two bloggers received our proposal and instantly understood why we created REX and why the real estate industry and their readers needed to know about what we were doing. Working with Zig Marketing they picked the angle of the REX story that interested them and would interest their readers. We didn’t tell them what to write and we definitely didn’t require any specific content. That would be overstepping the process and be disrespectful to the blogger. We had gotten a great break when Bloomberg Pursuits covered us the month before, but when we were written about by Someday I’ll Learn and SoCal Field Trips, it felt different. It felt like we had lit the match in the communities where we’re creating relationships- where we have billboards, where we have homes for sale, and where we are targeting digital marketing.

These articles were posted just a couple weeks ago, so we don’t have results yet. We are anticipating some traction from this and so far this project has been a great way to dip our toes into influencer marketing.

Read the articles here:

Someday I’ll Learn
http://somedayilllearn.com/better-way-buy-sell-house/
Bloggers Nate and Chelsea create a fantastic blog called Someday I’ll Learn which takes you along on their adventurous activities with four boys. Chelsea is a marketing consultant and writer and Nate is a photographer and do-it-yourselfer. They run their businesses from their farmhouse in Southern California.

SoCalFieldTrips
http://socalfieldtrips.com/howtosellyourhouseforlesswithrex/
Jilleen Butler is the founder, blogger and field trip coordinator behind SoCal Field Trips. SoCal Field Trips is a lifestyle blog dedicated to active families who enjoy adventuring out of the home and into the world of hands-on learning. Jilleen offers a unique perspective to thousands of families in Southern California.

Mapping Content to the Customer Journey

As a part of every lead nurture program, brands use research, focus groups and customer service or sales logs and more to map their customer (or prospect) journey and the mindset of those people. Once this map is created, it’s easier to brainstorm what the person’s unmet need is at every stage that you can possibly answer with content or interaction.

I like to start by imagining the first question the user has where the answer might end up being my product. We can use data, interviews, and surveys to find the starting point where the consumer identifies their need. Using the iconic sales funnel and stage of the funnel, identify the steps your typical customer might take in researching the category, identifying the brands, differentiating the brands, determining their feature priorities, interpreting the brand personality, establishing trust, asking questions, viewing product materials, asking friends and finally, making a decision.

If the person is thinking about taking a vacation and my role is to sell Australia as a destination- the first question they ask could be, “Where should I go on vacation?” I can validate that by thinking- if someone has that question, do I want my product to appear in her list of answers? While I might not want to have a paid ad appear on that high funnel of a discussion, certainly an organic article or message would help. But maybe this is too high above our sales funnel. In any case, it’s important to know what the entire journey looks like and then decide what parts of the journey you can influence and should address.

Once you have the stages mapped you can start thinking about what the customers’ needs are at that point, what questions do they have and what content can you provide to move them forward in their decision-making.

While working as a senior manager of content marketing I developed our customer journey map to identify the right content at the right time. When creating the content topics ask yourself, ‘What information does the customer need to move forward to the next stage?’ Below is the result of one mapping project for a customer segment. I’ve had to generalize the topics to protect confidential information so imagine that the topics represent 1-3 pieces of content each and a variety of formats (articles, videos, graphics). In the example below we chose to focus our Phase 1 content on the four columns marked with letters. The letters represented their position in the funnel and familiarity with our products. It was our shorthand way to label the streams.

Lead Nurture Content Map

I like this very simple worksheet for a high level approach. I’ve created a few like this for clients but of course, you’ll want to customize for your own business.

You can imagine that much of these content assignments will be placed onto the map based on your own understanding and assumptions of the target audience. And that’s OK. Plan to create your communication program in phases and identify ways to test the content, the order of the content, the length of the content etc. You may be lucky and have starting points in your data and you may have to fill in with informed assumptions. There will be endless opportunities for testing and optimization based on the performance of the live creative. Don’t let the content planning task cause a roadblock, the real learning will come as the program goes into pilot.

Best of luck!

Building a Content Marketing Strategy: Assessing Tools

After a few years working on digital customer acquisition, our head of Digital Marketing was able to create a new team to address creating a Global Content Strategy. She asked myself and another colleague to join her in forming it from scratch. We started by creating our mission, taking stock of our assets and defining our future. We then presented our strategy to our business partners and got some great advice. We were the first division in the whole company to have such a team and were taking the lead exploring this discipline for, not only the global Diabetes unit, but for all other business units within Medtronic.

Our team was new, proving ourselves, and tasked on other large website-related projects at the same time. We met with stakeholders across the company to gain input on where the urgent needs were and where they saw the greatest opportunities. Adding to this, we were often communicating with our business partners in other regions across time zones. This didn’t give us much time to brainstorm as a team.

We were managing our action items and deliverables by hand- essentially with shared documents, meeting notes and powerpoint decks. We had several Excel files that we updated to keep track of our content ideas and progress. We would instant message and email updates. New ideas would come up and ideally we would talk about them in our weekly content team meetings and then they would be entered and followed on the tracker. I think many large companies still run content development this way though it is really inefficient, creates duplicate work, and information can get lost.

We knew we needed to nail down our process before we started involving authors from across the company. And we had a big need for instant access to answer questions from management around the status of different projects. Being able to easily see contributor notes, date stamps, content and revisions quickly would allow us to report up and show progress. The content we were creating wasn’t as technical as a clinical paper, but we were certainly aiming to create content intended to add value for physicians, scientists, engineers, investors and patients. The type of content we were creating were articles like a new partnership for manufacturing in China or the launch of new glucose sensors for type 2 diabetes. To get it right we could easily have up to 5 collaborators on a single article.

The process was working fine, but to scale this process would be difficult and there was regulatory risk of important revisions not being recorded. I defined our needs as:

  • Maintain a central repository of content ideas and drafts
  • Be able to hand projects off to collaborators, auto notify when their help was needed
  • Customize a workflow, track status of projects, assign delivery dates
  • Easily report project status/deadlines to management
  • Invite reviewers to make revisions, while allowing the content owner to see revisions, roll back or reply to revisions
  • Allow any team member to submit content ideas, create an outline and seek approval to proceed
  • Define stakeholders for each piece of content

I found some great solutions to our project management challenges. But one stood out after tinkering with it for a few weeks.

GatherContent

“From draft to approval: Streamline your web content production process.”

GatherContent offered a short free trial so we were easily able to see how this software would work for our team. Their product clearly would allow us to manage content in one place, create clear production timelines and responsibilities, tightly control markups, and automatically send due date reminder notifications. GC also had features we didn’t know we needed but loved. The tool allowed us to create a cover page for each piece of content summarizing what we wanted to accomplish with this piece. This would give all collaborators insight into what our core messages and goals were with the content. It would explain why we made the choices we made with each proof point so that others would not re-write or overwrite what needed to be there. For our work we wanted each piece of content to ladder up to our company’s tenants such as “meaningful innovation” so we created a field on the cover page for this. I thought the calendar functionality was exciting with drag and drop for deadline changes. It wasn’t something we necessarily needed because we couldn’t publish this out to non-users (like upper management). Our greatest unmet need was a way to report high level status of all projects to someone who wasn’t a user in the system.

GatherContent Article

The below graphic shows some snapshots of the product (L to R) what projects are active, who’s assigned, and the color box is the status. The second graphic shows the custom workflow and clearly where this piece sits. And last, this is an article detail page where you enter in your headline (and alternate headline options) and the rest of the content/copy and graphics.

GatherContent Overview

But I have some bad news. Not all teams are ready to adopt new processes and our environment was already fully-loaded with processes. We were asking colleagues to contribute content and assist with reviews on top of their existing roles. While the cost of the software wasn’t a big hurdle, we couldn’t get much support from colleagues to adopt the new process. We were really excited about GatherContent but in a large corporate environment, and with teams already slammed with process, we weren’t able to proceed with GatherContent. It was disappointing and we had to find other ways to streamline our work.

Stunning Creative Mercedes-Benz “Left Brain Right Brain” Ads

It’s very rare that something as common as advertising affects us on an aesthetic and emotional level. For me it’s usually the new car ads that I find even more underwhelming- the shiny sports car, and either an empty curved road or a gorgeous woman holding a martini. This category tends to be literal to a fault. The advertising team behind these brilliant examples is Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive Tel Aviv (Chief Creative Director: Gideon Amichay). There are three, double page spreads, that show that Mercedes-Benz is willing to take risks and that, at their core, they are innovators. From the colors, to the original artwork to the copy- the ads deliver a sense of the brand that is evolving, luxurious, intelligent, artistic, scientific and a leader.

From adsoftheworld.com

From adsoftheworld.com

“I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.”

mercedes_01_l

From adsoftheworld.com

“I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feat. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.”

mercedes_02_l

From adsoftheworld.com

Thank you to MB and Y&R Israel for breaking boundaries and using stunning visuals, unique concepts, and flawless execution to speak to us in an inspiring and intelligent way. I would be proud to hang these on my walls at the office or at home. These would be perfect over my bed since it perfectly defines my husband (who sleeps left and is left brained) and myself (right and right). Now, where can I find extremely high-res files!

I could bet that it’s not the same creative genius behind the agency’s own blog design. I hope it’s because they lock their A team in a room and only let them work on client projects.

Y&R Israel Blog 4/22/2013

Y&R Israel Blog 4/22/2013

Kickstarter is Brilliant: Leebre

I wanted to highlight some of the great companies blooming at Kickstarter:

Leebre.org, independent online publishing needs $407 to get their project launched:
Leebre.org is a nonprofit that supplies book lovers with free alternative novels and short stories, and provides authors an independent way to find audiences and support the causes that they love.

From the Founder, Michael Bethencourt:

We need your help to get Leebre off the ground. Check out the Leebre Kickstarter page for more information on Leebre, and a video that showcases a few of Leebre’s coolest features.We only have 4 days left to reach our Kickstarter goal. We’ve almost reached our goal, but we also don’t have much time left, so these last 4 days are crucial to the project. Please keep on spreading the word!
We’re counting on you guys. The most important aspect in getting a
community project off the ground is, well, the community. The most
important aspect of getting the word out is simply building a
community of readers and writers, so it’ll be an active website even
during the initial beta.

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/tVio5Q
Twitter: @LeebreTeam
Project blog: http://leebre.blogspot.com/

Second, the Leebre Beta. Do you want an exact date? I’d give you one,
but there’s a chance I’d be wrong. Instead, I’ll answer: very soon! If
the Kickstarter is successful, the private beta will launch in
February, as promised, and you’ll get to play around with the first
version of the site within a month.

The One for One Movement

I’ve started a discussion group on LinkedIn around a topic near to my passions- The early One for One movement. I believe we owe the birth of this idea to TOMS shoes but since then I’ve seen several other companies rise to the occasion in all different categories.

Come on over to the LinkedIn group and share your thoughts!

One for One Philanthropy