As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more accessible for small businesses,…
Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy Through Marketing Automation and Social Media
Just 5% of the total content produced generated 90% of the consumer engagement, meaning that 19 out of 20 pieces of content marketing have little if any impact. – Beckon
Content marketing works. But in a world of ever increasing content pollution, how can you produce quality, standout pieces that cut through the noise?
- How to develop content your target audience actually wants
- Tips on distributing content across relevant channels
- How to use marketing automation to optimize your content
President - Symbolscape Media
Travis Simpson is a content marketing consultant and President of Symbolscape Media, a boutique content marketing studio based in San Francisco. He works with clients to create and deploy custom B2B content marketing solutions on the marketing automation technology backbone.
Training and Usability Manager - SharpSpring
As Usability Manager, Bryan is responsible for creating content to help users get the most out of SharpSpring. This includes maintaining the support forum and creating instructional “how to” videos. Working in collaboration with Marketing, Support, and Development, Bryan helps create an exemplary experience for every user.
No time to watch? Read the full transcript here.
Bryan: Let’s go ahead and kick this off.
Bryan: Again, thank you for joining. We’re going to do a little bit of housekeeping before we go into the actual presentation, just let everyone who’s here know what the intended takeaways are from these sessions. We do these as often as we can. This is a webinar series that we do with our partners who have done something really cool with either marketing automation or marketing technology in general. We want to share that really cool thing they’ve done, whether it’s a unique implementation of the platform, or an integration; or in this webinar, we’re talking about better utilizing content marketing to achieve goals. The audience is a mixed crowd. We have some existing partners. If we’ve talked before, very happy that you’re on the call. We have some folks that are looking at SharpSpring. Again, if you are considering us, hopefully this shows you what we do with our partners and how we build the sense of partnership and community with a company. And then we have some folks who are the in-house marketing experts, in-house marketing professionals, some CMOs, some VPs of marketing, who are looking for ideas and how they can implement marketing automation, marketing technology, for their own company. At the end of the day, these are thought leadership. We’re not trying to sell you anything. If you’re here, you already have SharpSpring. If you’re considering us, that’s a different conversation. This is strictly what do companies do when they implement a marketing automation tool, and what can I start doing, maybe, to do something unique and a little bit different?
Bryan: All phone lines are muted, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to engage with you. Ask questions into the chat box. We do a Q&A session at the end. If you ask a great question, we’re going to save it, and we’re going to address it, and have some discussion about it at the end of the call. You can tweet it to us with the hashtag #SharpTweet or just tweet @SharpSpring. We love that kind of interaction on social. If you have to jump off, and you have to go do something else, that’s fine. We, of course, record all of these sessions, and we do distribute the webinar after the call. Now, during the session today, we are going to ask two polls that are going to come up. Please respond to these. The first one is more so making sure that we’re on track with discussion; the second one is a follow-up poll to make sure that we’re giving you the right resources after the call. For the partners on the line, we do have a SpringBoard Live this Friday. SpringBoard Live are those how-to training sessions we do every week. This one is about killer lead gen strategies. The takeaways from this presentation will definitely relate to that call, because we can talk about how we can then use our content marketing as a lead generation tool. Then the next webinar that we have in this series, these partner thought leadership webinars, will be on May 10, and is talking about how we can get new clients for your agency and get the buy-in to using marketing automation. If you have ideas, if you’ve done something really cool, really fun with our platform or marketing technology in general, you can email Koertni Adams, who is our Partner Enablement Manager, and we can talk about getting you on the upcoming presentation schedule.
Bryan: Just some quick introductions. Myself, Bryan Tobin, Product Manager here at SharpSpring; work with a lot of customers; make sure we are building the right solution; and if we aren’t, how we can improve that; and really just making sure that we’re delighting everyone who is using this platform the best that we can. And then Travis, I’ll pass it to you. If you want to do a quick intro, and then you can rock and roll from here.
Travis: Okay. Great. Thanks for the introduction, Bryan. Thank you to SharpSpring for inviting me to come speak and share some best practices today. As Bryan mentioned, my name is Travis Simpson. I am a content marketing consultant and president of Symbolscape. We’re a boutique content marketing shop serving small and medium-sized businesses doing B2B in the San Francisco Bay area. At Symbolscape, we work with a handful of clients on retainer basis providing services using the standard model for content marketing. What this means is that we can provide full service across the full range of content marketing solutions, from strategy consulting to web development, corporate filmmaking, content offer production, blog writing, social media, and, of course, marketing technology services. We work exclusively with clients who are currently or are almost ready to deploy content marketing programs on the marketing automation backbone. We are very happy and proud to be an official SharpSpring agency partner.
Travis: To kick this off, about 10 years ago, right as I was finishing up a graduate program in documentary filmmaking, an important technology innovation came to the world of video production. At this time, YouTube had been around for a couple years and was establishing the fact that anybody, not just a big Hollywood studio, could distribute their video to anyone, any place, all around the world. But still in those early days, producing high quality content was the domain of big budget studios. This was mostly due to the fact that high quality production gear was still much too cost prohibitive. But then in 2008, Canon disrupted the world of independent filmmaking when they released the new camera called the Canon 5D Mark II, pictured here on the right. This camera flipped the filmmaking world on its head. The extraordinary image quality, the ability to capture digital video files on memory cards instead of on tape, and the fact that filmmakers could use lenses that created cinema-style optics suddenly made it possible to shoot high quality, high definition cinema-style films on a small budget. To put this in perspective, to achieve this quality of filmmaking before these DSLRs arrived, you would have needed a $50,000 production rig and a team of operators to help put it to work. The 5D, on the other hand, came with an investment of a few thousand dollars.
Travis: This was not only important for the content revolution; it was important for me personally, because it started me down the path to become an independent filmmaker. Rather than go and join a stodgy old media company, I realized I could go buy this camera and start making my way as a freelance documentary producer. But I mention this here because having started my career at this particular moment in the industry and seeing what kind of transformational impact that camera technology unleashed, I’m especially cognizant of the fact that we’re witnessing a similar transformation in marketing technology. In the same way that this camera brought digital filmmaking into the modern era, I very much believe that SharpSpring is disrupting the status quo in the marketing automation segment. Now, I promise I wasn’t paid to say this. I truly do believe that SharpSpring is a revolutionary technology. I worked inside Marketo for a few years before I discovered SharpSpring. Looking back, I always regret that I worked so hard to funnel so much of my clients’ marketing budgets to Marketo when we could have been using that spend to make even more amazing content.
Travis: Some of you may have used Marketo and may be familiar with it. I found it not only to be ridiculously expensive but also unnecessarily complicated. The support that they offer always left way too much to be desired. SharpSpring, on the other hand, is not only much easier to use; it provides the same robust feature set but for a small fraction of the cost. Now, of course, I’m probably biased here, because I am a marketing automation evangelist. The reason for this is pretty simple. I believe very strongly that if you are doing content marketing without some form of marketing automation, you’re wasting your time, and you’re wasting your money. The reason I believe this is pretty simple. If you’re spending huge sums of money creating great content, and then people are coming and consuming that content, but then they go on their merry way never to be heard from again, you’ve squandered this very hard-earned engagement, and all that investment that went into your content production hasn’t achieved anything for your bottom line. Sure, we can get into a debate about brand awareness and, of course, even though it’s very difficult to measure, branding is always useful. But good luck with that. I’ll take real life marketing qualified leads over brand impressions any day of the week.
Travis: Besides, it’s hard to make great content. If you’re doing the heavy lifting to make great content but not giving it a chance to do anything for you, then what’s the point? We absolutely must provide valuable content for our audiences, but we need our content to do more than simply engage our audiences’ attention for a few moments. We actually need our content to move the needle on our marketing agenda, whether that’s generating marketing qualified leads or extending the lifetime value of our existing customer base. Before we get into the rest of the presentation, I wanted to drive this home with a quick metaphor.
Travis: Marketing automation weaponizes your content. If you’re not doing marketing automation, your content marketing strategy is paper thin. Take a look at how you’re distributing your content offers, your white papers, your how-to guides, your industry reports, your technical reviews, your case studies, any of your high value content offers. Are you really giving this stuff away for free? It’s just sitting there on your website, and any anonymous visitor who stops by can just come and grab it for free without filling out a download form? You may as well be printing these out, making paper planes, and throwing them off a cliff. The alternative, of course, is to put the marketing automation arsenal to work.
Travis: If you’ve already done the hard work to create this amazing content, you’re half way there. Now, it’s time to weaponize your content. Make content that solves your prospects’ problems. Develop intelligent strategies that drive those prospects to your content; get them to fill out those download forms; or register for trials, demos or otherwise subscribe to your brand marketing; and then nurture, nurture, nurture those puppies to conversion. That’s what content is for. That’s how you make your content actually do something.
Travis: Okay. Here’s the problem. Say you’ve already been making great content, but now you’re starting to see diminishing performance. Well, you wouldn’t be alone. Over the past couple years, we started to hear more and more of this conversation in the content marketing community about the problem of content fatigue. As the story goes, now that everyone is producing so much content, our audiences are bombarded with messaging, so bombarded that they’ve started to tune us out.
Travis: There’s plenty of evidence for this problem. Late last year Beckon released a comprehensive study on marketing trends and found that a small slice of the content that brands are producing, as little as 5% in this case, is taking the lion’s share for over 90% of the audience engagement. For most small- or medium-sized B2B companies, producing 20 pieces of content could be a full year’s worth of work. If we apply these stats, we’re talking about only 1 out of those 20 pieces of content producing any meaningful engagement. Last October, another company called Trackmaven released a report that found that over the past five years, while blog output is increasing dramatically…and the stat they have here is that in the past five years blog posts are up by 800%…the actual shareability of that content is not keeping pace. Here they show over the same period, the average number of social shares for blog posts is down almost 90%. What do we take from this? Well, not only are marketers under immense pressure to publish, publish, publish, but if we take shareability as an objective metric for quality, it’s also pretty clear that the ever-expanding volume of content being produced amounts mostly to garbage. Putting these statistics aside, anecdotally, if we’re being honest, I’m sure all of us can relate to the fact that most of the stuff we see online is not very good. There may be some superheroes out there, but truth be told, whether it’s because we’re rushing to meet deadlines or we’re distracted by work that our leaders think is more important than our content, we’re all probably guilty of publishing something that wasn’t our best work.
Travis: Maybe the more puzzling flip side of that coin is we’ve also probably all put something out there that we thought was really great, but for whatever reason the audience just didn’t seem to agree. Why is this happening? Like any other cultural pattern, there’s probably more than one reason we’re seeing this change. For one, we’ve definitely crossed the chasm with content marketing. Now that nearly all serious marketers have adopted some form of content marketing strategy, the early adopters of content marketing are now competing pretty much with everyone else. One reason we’re seeing poor performance with our content is just due to the sheer increase in the volume of content that is being produced. With so much more noise it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out.
Travis: Now, before I continue, since I suspect a lot of us are having challenges keeping up with the content arms race, we’re going to do this quick poll to see how everyone is doing with their content marketing. The questions here are are we all struggling with the same content formats, or is there an even distribution of our pain points? How are you guys handling the challenge to create great content? What kind of content is proving to be the most difficult for your organization to create? In this case, the options we have are blogs, video, email campaigns, social media, or copywriting in general. If you can take a second to answer the poll, we’ll take a look at the end of the presentation. Oh, I guess we’re taking a look right now. Okay. Great. This definitely confirms our experience that video is far and away the most difficult kind of content to produce. I’ll venture to guess here that the reason for this is probably due to the fact that producing video, unlike most other forms of content, takes a team. You need people who understand how to operate different kinds of equipment, and how to produce scripts, and actually how to deliver content on camera. It’s not something that can be done in isolation.
Travis: Going back to trying to explain why our content is not performing as well as it used to. I think the biggest reason we’re seeing poor performing marketing content is that now that businesses have started to embrace the idea that they need to have a content marketing presence, most organizations are still struggling to figure out how to staff the right talent to actually create the content. As far as human resources go, content marketing is still a relatively new discipline. The majority of people who have suddenly been tasked with making this content for their firms are not really trained content creators. Just because content has suddenly become the standard model for marketing does not mean that all marketers suddenly became content creators. Knowing how to make content has always traditionally been the domain of journalists, writers, filmmakers, photographers, television and radio producers, designers, illustrators, and so on. If you think about it, even among those people who create content for a living, there is still quite a lot of mediocrity. Now, throw in a group of people who are learning to make content from scratch and frankly, what else would we expect but poor performing content?
Travis: In my experience anyways, this is especially true at SMBs where the marketing teams are typically small or budgets don’t allow for big dollar agencies and where, frankly speaking, a lot of the marketers were trained in the old school. A broader issue, that we’re all just getting more and more savvy with digital technology – I think this explains a lot of what’s happening, also. The more we use our devices, the more we search the web, the better we’re all getting at tuning out the noise and zeroing in on the exact information we’re looking for. Cognitive psychologists actually have a term for this phenomenon. They call it selective attention. The basic understanding is pretty straightforward. We know that our attention is a limited resource, so naturally, we use it as wisely as possible. This, to me, is a key insight for content marketers. What I take from this wisdom is to always remember as a content marketer above all else, I must respect my audience’s attention. This means steering our marketing strategy away from disruption marketing and focusing our energy on making content that our users will actually choose to pay attention to.
Travis: I mentioned the term content fatigue. The dominant content fatigue narrative seems to be saying something like this: people are getting tired of content marketing. Somehow our audiences have had their fill of content or worse, content marketing strategy might not be working as well as it used to. But frankly, that seems a little fishy to me. It’s letting those of us who make content off the hook a little too easily. This idea that oh, there’s nothing we can do about this; it’s our audiences who are inundated with this content; they’re just plain getting sick of it. Actually, I think this is completely backwards. Not only does it frame the problem in the wrong way, it’s also not true. The studies we looked at confirmed that content performance rates are down across the board, but as you might expect, the total overall consumption of content is actually increasing. I think the lesson we should be taking away from the conversation about content fatigue is pretty clear. The problem is not about the audience; on the contrary, it’s important for us as professional content makers to recognize that the reason people aren’t consuming our content mostly has to do with the fact that we are producing bad content. Rather than blame the victims here, we should be figuring out how to make better content.
Travis: Why does any of this matter? So what if businesses are producing poor performing content? After all, none of us is in New York Times; none of us is CNN. Isn’t this just the way it’s going to be? Well, I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I make a career out of making content. First and foremost, I want to make better content as a matter of professional integrity. I think it’s important to have standards, but obviously, this also matters because businesses are now dedicating a lot of their resources to content marketing. These resources could be spent doing other things like making better products and services, for example. Let’s face it: no matter how much world-class content we make, it takes a whole lot of wind to make turkeys fly. Mainly, it matters because, as Seth Godin said to Joe Pulizzi way back in 2008 when content marketing was just taking off as a core marketing discipline, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” What this means is that as long as we have the Internet, companies are going to have to produce content to do marketing. Right now, it’s primarily digital marketing on websites and social media, but eventually it’s going to be some exotic virtual reality augmented reality marketing, or personalized in-store display marketing, Internet of Things marketing, and so on. The point is that whether we like it or not, we will never again live in a world that is not completely dominated by digital communications. As marketers, really what choice do we have but to get better at making content?
Travis: The question, then, is this: how do we address this problem of poor performing content? What are some actual processes we can implement to make better content? As you might guess, my obvious suggestion…as with anything else that requires a high degree of skill and experience…if you can afford it, find and hire a professional. Everyday, talented creatives make and publish really great content that captures attention and shifts the public discourse in some way or another. But beyond just going out and hiring exceptional talent, there are many different processes that can be learned and deployed to make better content. What I want to do in the rest of the presentation is go over some of the more straightforward processes we use to guide our content making decisions.
Travis: First things first. If we’re going to make better content, and we’re wondering what kind of content to make, the only place to start is by asking ourselves, “Okay, who is going to be consuming this content?” You have a target audience, but how well do you understand them? If you haven’t already done so, you need to do a persona workshop, and start building out some archetype models that describe the people in your target audience. A simple version of this process is to get everyone who understands the customer in a room together and have a deep dive conversation about your personas. It helps to get everyone on the same page if you can start developing persona profiles similar to the one I’m showing here on the screen. Then take these personas, and start going through some standard exercises. If you haven’t already done one, I also strongly recommend doing a value proposition canvas. This is where you can start connecting your personas’ pains and gains to your products. It’s actually in the connections there between pains and gains, and value proposition that you’re going to find your core messaging. Another useful exercise is to create a user story for each persona to accurately describe and meaningfully explores the customer journey. You’ve really got to do this homework before you dive into creating any kind of content.
Travis: Then once you have an idea of who your audience is, get out there and find them so you can start figuring out what kind of content they care about. Social media is one of the most powerful tools available to marketers, not only because it allows us to build audiences and distribute our content, but also because it allows us to quietly study our prospects and customers “in the wild.” If we pay careful attention studying our prospects and customers on social media, they’ll reveal what they care about, they’ll reveal who they trust, and they’ll show us what kind of content they consume.
Travis: One of the easiest ways you can kick-start this process is to go look at your own social media analytics. By now, I assume you have some sort of social media channels up and running, you started to build an audience, and you started to share some content. Hopefully, you’re sharing interesting content that is created by influencers and publishers that are respected in your domain. But have you actually taken the time to go and look to see which kinds of content are resonating most? If you pull up your social media metrics dashboards like this one in Twitter analytics, you can start getting a sense for what kind of content your social audiences are responding to most, and you can start answering some questions. Which content is getting the highest engagement? Who is doing the engaging? Are you posting at the right times? Are you posting at the right frequency?
Travis: Next, if you don’t already have them, start making lists of your existing customers and lists of your targeted prospects and industry thought leaders, influencers, partners, and competitors. Once you have these lists in place, start mining the social media data for meaningful insights and patterns. To do this, it obviously helps to have some social media analytics tools. A few of my favorites are here, followerwonk, Buzzsumo, SocialRank, and Electoral, but there are literally hundreds of social media tools out there that you can use. I recommend you go out and find the ones you like and then start scrubbing your data for meaningful insights. Again, questions you should be asking here: are there interconnections between list members? Do they follow or read the same influencers and publications? What sort of topics are being discussed? How well is all this content performing? And then how are your competitors doing, and who’s following your competitors?
Travis: This is from an app called Mentionmapp, and this is the Mentionmapp for the Symbolscape Twitter account. I think this is a useful tool because it creates a visual map of a user’s Twitter footprint. Some information you can glean right away from this particular map is that Symbolscape is probably interested in content marketing, lead generation, marketing technology. You can gather this information because we follow content marketers, and we tweet using these hashtags: #leadgeneration and #contentmarketing. Let’s say, for example, that Symbolscape is in your target audience. Since you’re researching the Symbolscape social footprint, you start poking around, and you start to see that lots of the people we follow also follow a publisher called Martec Adviser. So, you head over to Buzzsumo; you run a search on Martec Adviser and marketing automation; and you find that there’s a hot blog about SharpSpring partnering with Shutterstock. Since you’re inferring that Symbolscape likes Martec Adviser, it’s probably also a fair deduction that the people at Symbolscape might be interested in this content. Make sure you copy this link, add it to your list of relevant content.
Travis: Okay, so you started to find some content. This is now a pivotal moment on the journey to better content. Now that you’ve discovered the kind of content that resonates with your audience, you have some options. If you’re like most marketers, you’ve got a lot of jobs to do. As you’re researching and starting to find all this great content, you’re also starting to wonder where you’re going to find the time or the talent to make a similar article. After all, you don’t have any journalists on staff, and time is ticking away. It’s tempting to want to just give up. Now, of course, if you do have the time, the talent, and the resources to publish masterpieces on an everyday basis, you should do it.
Travis: But if not, that’s why God created content curation. Going back to the piece that we found… Now that you’ve learned this great process for using social media to identify great content that you know your audience is going to care about, you got to use this process. Thinking about Martec Adviser, you know that your audience respects and trusts this publisher, but there’s also a pretty good chance that they don’t go out and read this publisher’s content on a day-to-day basis. Rather than struggle with making a masterpiece yourself, if you’ve done your homework to truly discover the hidden gems, you can add tremendous value by sharing with your audience and giving them some context for understanding what this content means in the bigger picture. Recognize that just by finding this relevant information, you’ve already done most of the work you need to do to produce great content. You just now need the right format.
Travis: Enter the curated news digest. Not only can you go out and share all this great content that you’re finding on your social media channels, but if you can find a few more articles with the same industry weight, you can write up a weekly or a monthly industry news digest that reviews and links out to these important content contributions being published in your domain. We typically find that one of the roadblocks…and we talk about this with our clients…they reveal that the reason we don’t do a regular email campaign, they say, is that we’re not producing enough high quality content, so we can’t really justify sending a regular email to our lists. Fair enough. I say don’t call it a newsletter; call it a news digest. If you’re curating other people’s content, so long as you have used some reasonably deep insights to find the good stuff, you’re still providing valuable content to your audience. Providing value is much, much more important than sharing your own content.
Travis: Now, if you’re lucky enough to be using SharpSpring to send these news roundups out to your lists, you can also go back into the analytics data to see what sort of content is resonating most. Not only should we be studying how many opens and clicks our emails are getting, but we should be looking at which links were clicked and who clicked them. Doing this analysis will help us verify that the content we’re curating is hitting the mark or if we need to adjust our research methods. Over time, if we do this persistently, we’re going to get deeper and deeper insights into what our audience is thinking about, what problems are they working on, and what kind of content they are responding to most. Not only will this help you curate better content, but when it does come time to build out your next round of high quality content resources, you have a fresh batch of actionable intelligence to help devise a strategy for making that piece of content so much more better, content that will return value and drive higher engagement.
Travis: A couple notes as we wrap up. When you’re doing content marketing, you have to realize that you’re playing the long game. Content marketing is not a tactic; it works on a campaign-by-campaign basis or a project-by-project approach. If you want success with content, you really have to commit to making content a core business initiative. You have to show up, be persistent, and work at it for awhile before you can do a meaningful assessment of your performance. In fact, Content Marketing Institute does an annual study on key performance indicators in content, and each year they seem to find the same thing, which is that it takes around 18 months of persistent content marketing execution to start seeing some results. The biggest mistake that we typically see is that companies try content marketing, do it for a few months, but then they give up way too soon.
Travis: Last, when it comes to making engaging content, there is probably no rule of thumb that is more important than this one: be the messenger, not the message. You have to realize that despite the fact that you spend all day every day thinking about your products and services, the chances are pretty high that even your very best customers barely even think about your brand. Just like nobody likes a person at the party who can’t stop talking about themselves, the same is true for your brand communications. At the end of the day, if there’s one thing you can do to get your content on the right track, make the shift to audience-oriented content instead of product-oriented content. This is without a doubt the single best thing you can do to profoundly improve the quality of your content marketing. That wraps up my presentation. I think next we’re going to take some questions. But first I wanted to wish everybody good luck and say thank you for sharing your attention with me this morning.
Bryan: I have two things that I wanted to focus on from the presentation. The first is the audience identification is such a big component in the content creation distribution process, which a lot of folks maybe don’t think about until after they start sharing content. If we know who our audience is, what they’re reading, what their interests are, we’re going to drive those clicks and drive those engagements. The second thing is making sure that we iterate. SharpSpring being a small company… For those of you who have been with us from the beginning, you may remember our first train wreck of a webinar where the Internet went out and we had to cancel it. We didn’t cancel our webinar strategy then. We looked at feedback and made sure that the content…not even just the content we were distributing, but the infrastructure of the distribution model…was working, was relative. If you’ve done content, and it hasn’t worked, and you think it’s not for you, we should revisit it and have a conversation about it. I think content marketing, in my perspective, as we continue this pivot to educational-based sales, the more content that we put out there, the better control we have over crafting a vision and getting those unique selling propositions out there to make our consumers want to say yes to us as a company. I talked way longer about that than I at all anticipated doing.
Bryan: Let’s hop into the Q&A portion right now. The first one is a SharpSpring question: how can SharpSpring help us analyze your content performance? Tons of ways. One part of the tool that folks need to use is the media center. If you’re not familiar, media center is a part of SharpSpring, where you can create these trackable asset links for things like PDFs, or links to your social sites, or videos, or anything you want. The way that we use them on our site is, we distribute that in our marketing copy, and we see what leads are clicking on what. In the tool you’ll see in the media center…and I’ll get with Mike, and we’ll send a screen shot of this in the email that it sends after the webinar…you’ll see who has looked at what content, whether they’re known leads, whether they’re anonymous leads, and then based on the content that is being consumed, you can use that in your strategy now. If we’re going to talk about taking that to the next level, you can trigger automation based on content viewed. For us, if someone looks at a hot piece of content that we distribute, we have notifications that go out to our sales teams that are aware, or the marketing team, or we have this business development team. It effectively lets the actionable person on our side be aware of what content someone was looking at. Then they can, of course, piggyback on that conversation, and make sure that they’re talking about the right stuff with that lead. Content failures are a thing, though, too. Sometimes we make content that we think works, and it doesn’t. Making those as trackable links in SharpSpring, we can see what content is not converting. Then from there, we analyze it, and see what works and what doesn’t, and we iterate and make it better.
Bryan: The next one that came in… Oh, this one is for you, Travis, and one that I actually wanted to ask you, too. What were those content research products again? We saw Buzzsumo, but we’re looking…just the other three that you had on the slide, if you wouldn’t mind mentioning them.
Travis: Sure. Yeah. I talked about Buzzsumo. Followerwonk is a product that is put out by moz.com. Rand Fishkin is probably one of the influencers I respect most in the SEO content marketing space. The other one is Electoral. Electoral is useful for creating lists inside of Twitter and finding lists inside of Twitter. Going back, I’m trying to remember what was the last one that I put up there. Oh, SocialRank, I think, is another one. SocialRank is probably the most powerful tool I’ve seen for figuring out who are your most valuable Twitter fans. Then also, you can use the tool to study your competitors’ Twitter followers or influencers’ Twitter followers. It really gives you a strong sense for the interconnectedness of the social profiles or the media consumption habits of people on Twitter.
Bryan: We can make a note to include those four that you mentioned in the follow-up emails. We’ll just provide links to those companies to send them out. The next one that we have coming in…can we talk about… In your own experience in the content that you’ve created, what was some examples of exciting content that you found works for you?
Travis: Well, just right off the top, since we’re talking especially about marketing automation, the content format that seems to work best is video. There’s all kinds of studies, and I see this in our experience. If you include a vidcap, which is basically a screenshot of a video with a play button on it, if you include this kind of image in an email, you’re going to increase your click-through rates by…you’re going to double your click-through rates compared to your standard email campaigns. Video, as we saw on the poll, it’s probably the hardest content format to make, but it also is the easiest to consume, and it drives the highest engagement.
Bryan: It’s simple to distribute, as well, because you can put it on all of your social channels, put it on your website. Like you said, when you put that image in the email with the play button, when they click it, then they go to your site. With the SharpSpring email, that then establishes tracking so that we have all this behavioral information that we can track on this lead, that is now shown on their lead record, based on a single click from an email. I think that’s a great example.
Bryan: The next question that we have: when you were going through the conversation about how you identified those brand clusters, what were the common interests that you found in your research for your company?
Travis: I have to admit like a lot of marketers, I don’t spend as much time as I should analyzing my own social footprints. We spend a lot more of our time doing that kind of work on behalf of our clients. But obviously, as a content marketing company, we share a lot of commonality with people whose hashtags like #contentmarketing, or #videomarketing, or #leadgeneration, #demandgeneration. One of the hashtags we use the most, and one of the content formats we focus on a lot, is branded content. We try to convince our clients it’s a big lift to produce actual high quality branded content, but branded content is another one of these ways to actually increase engagement and build anticipation with your audience.
Bryan: We do the same thing with the branded or even co-branded content. We run some of that, as well, where we have an integration partner, PiSync, and we do co-branded webinars, which seems to work. Then you get the cross pollinate the audience that you speak to and build new followers based on their interest in this other company that you partnered with.
Travis: Fair to say, Bryan, that this webinar might be a form of co-branded content.
Bryan: I was surprised I didn’t even say that, because that’s exactly what this is. The next one I had come in… I’m a persona advocate, so I’m going to hold my response after I hear yours, but: do you have any tools or templates that you recommend for… The persona that you showed was amazing. I think it was the “Larry” was fantastic. Do you have any online tools or resources that you use, as far as that persona development process, that you would recommend others to reach out and start utilizing?
Travis: Actually, I do, and I regret that I neglected to include the name of the company I used to make that particular persona profile. It’s a company called Xtensio. I’m not certain what the URL is, but the brand name is Xtensio. It starts with a X. It’s X-T-E-N-S-I-O. Actually, that platform is fantastic for making those kinds of persona profiles.
Bryan: There’s a few others that we’ll include in the email, as well, but we’ll add that one, too. We released personas in our application about six months ago at this point. There’s a good framework in SharpSpring for… There’s actually a great framework in SharpSpring for building personas, but the harder part is wrapping…for me, I had to read two or three books on the concept before I was officially bought in, which I am now. I have a great book that I’ll recommend in the follow-up. The hardest part of building persona is getting the buy-in for the consumer or your company. That is something that needs to be done. We went through the exercise here ourselves and identified our buyer personas. I think it has been instrumental in helping our sales team scale, especially when we hire new employees. One of the most difficult things to do is say, “All right,” for sales people or marketing, “how do they know who our audience is?” For us, they just go into our tool, and they reference those personas, they understand their pain point, they understand who they are, the section where software companies, sections of the application that relate to them. I’ll include, again, that book, as well as the resource that Travis just mentioned in the follow-up email.
Bryan: Then we have one last question that came in. This is the last one we’re going to close with. You talked about the importance of marketing automation with content creation and curation, and you gave an example of just using gated content, downloading content from a form. Can you just tell us how else you use marketing automation to really accelerate your content creation, content marketing process?
Travis: Sure. Downloading the asset is just the first step. Once you have that contact information and you have your lead in your marketing automation system, the options are endless at that point. What you want to do at that point with your marketing automation is set up a nurturing system so that you’re establishing touch points on a regular basis with your leads and staying top-of-mind. There’s another important concept in the world of cognitive psychology or social psychology, and it’s this concept called the mirror exposure effect. The mirror exposure effect, basically, describes the phenomenon that we think more fondly of things we see more often, or people we see more often, or brands we see more often. If you can get somebody in the door, and you have their contact information, and now you’re communicating with them on a regular basis, you’re entering their universe, and your brand is becoming much, much more… They’re going to see your brand much more favorably the more you communicate with them, assuming, of course, you’re giving them communications that are valuable. I think that’s probably the best use case for marketing automation is nurturing your leads.
Bryan: That’s exactly correct. The content can be reused at different phases of the buyer journey. We have awareness, consideration, decision. Some content is great at getting someone to click initially, but the nice part of our content strategy is once we create an asset and it’s good, and it captures our brand identity, and people like it and want to consume it, it doesn’t go away. We have that in perpetuity. We wrote a blog article last year, HubSpot Loves SharpSpring, some sort of April Fool’s… Oh, no, it was two years ago. It was fun. We did an April Fool’s one, too, where we changed our name and said we were going to increase price, which we didn’t do. But we really sent an April Fool’s again this year, and it was reasonable content. If someone who didn’t know about us last year, didn’t care to answer the phone when we called because they had no clue who SharpSpring was, they can still see that content that we made over 12 months ago, that is now nurturing that lead for when they come back. I’m a gigantic advocate of the place of content in the awareness, consideration, decision phases of the buyer’s journey.
Bryan: Guys, that is it for the audience. Everyone, thank you so much for attending. Travis, thank you for a fantastic presentation. I’ve thrown contact information up for this final slide. You are more than happy to email me if you have any SharpSpring-related questions. If I don’t get back to you right away, I promise I will. I just am in a lot of meetings all day but I will, of course, get back to you. Travis’s information is up there, as well. If you want to reach out to Travis about some best practices, or just maybe some questions about content and how to best make it work for your company, feel free to do so. As I mentioned, we will distribute the recording and the slides. It should be either later today or by latest tomorrow mid-morning. Again, I know I’ve said it multiple times: thank you so much for attending. We hope to see you on the next session. For the partners, we hope to see you on SpringBoard Live this Friday. Travis, any closing remarks for you? Go ahead and shut this one down.
Travis: Yeah. Just want to say thanks, also, and go SharpSpring. I love it.
Bryan: All right. See, that one we paid you for, right?
Bryan: We’ll send you the check. You guys have a great, fantastic rest of your Wednesday and a fantastic rest of your week.
Travis: Bye, guys.