It’s a tormenting thought, really.
If you take any time out from your daily grind of producing content, it will catch up with you eventually.
If you’ve wondered this, you are not alone.
According to The Content Marketing Institute, 54 percent of B2B marketers say producing engaging content is a top content marketing challenge. At the same time, 84 percent say building brand awareness is the most important goal of their content marketing.
We’ve reached the point where consistency and volume of publishing is not enough to get the attention of our target audience. Content must be relevant to their needs and wants. And it must be served at the right time.
So, how do you make your content ring with relevance?
That is the subject of this episode of The Heart of Marketing.
We take an inside look at the fundamentals of delivering a relevant message that goes to the heart and achieves your marketing objectives. Here is what you’ll learn in this episode:
- How to set marketing goals that drive business growth
- Why you must bring your business objectives into alignment
- How the “sales funnel” is different today
- How to create the right message at the right time
- Three keys to real-time, right-time marketing
- How to deliver value and win hearts with “self-service” information
006: A Plan to Turn your Brand Message into Relevant Content that Connects with Customers
What’s on your mind?
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If you’d rather, you can always leave a comment below or drop me a line on the contact page. Either way, we’d love to hear from you and feature your question on a future show. Your feedback (especially glowing praise) is welcome.
Show notes and resources
John: Hello, thanks for joining us today for another episode of the Heart of Marketing. I'm John Gregory Olson with my rock, hot co-host Jayme Soulati.
Jayme: You have to make me laugh. I always like have a giggle for everybody before I start tracking.
John: It helps to start off on a positive note.
Jayme: I don't know and it does make me laugh because, that's my thing. It's my thing, rock hot but I was being rock hot. Thanks for making me so.
John: Hey, how are you today?
Jayme: You know what? It's going. The sun's trying to peek out on this February third day and we are taping another episode and I'm jazzed about that, John. I got a really great ...
John: Well ...
Jayme: Listen, they’re probably really sick and tired of hearing us talk about this promo in February but it's only February third. So we’ve got to do it again. We’ve got a promo. Can I talk about it?
John: Go for it.
Jayme: I'm so excited. When John does the promo, he always omits two things out of our promo that I'm going to add. So February is Heart Month, and we are The Heart of Marketing. We are going to donate a dollar for every subscriber up to 500 in the month of February to conform with The Heart of Marketing, The American Heart Association, Heart Health and my gosh, Valentine's day and what's the third day? Jayme's birthday.
John: Happy birthday to you.
Jayme: We're going to have a birthday party on the 13th of February and everybody's gonna give me shout-outs. I tell you what, that Facebook thing, back in the day when all we did was social media and we were online 24/7 looking at what people were saying. That first year that my birthday popped up in Facebook, I was going to my desk for a day trying to say, thank you, thank you, thank you to everybody.
John: To cover some, you tried to do that.
Jayme: Yeah, because I'm so popular.
John: Well, it's a curse Jayme.
Jayme: It's a curse but I am so excited and today John, what are we talking about?
John: We are going to talk about how to take your message and turn it into relevant marketing communication strategy that really hits to the heart of your audience and most importantly helps you achieve your marketing goals.
John: Last time, we talked about message mapping and we got a good overview on how that works and how you develop your key messages. This time we're going to talk about how you carry that over into your marketing.
Jayme: Cool. I hope we can do that in 30 minutes. It sounds like we can talk a couple of hours on that topic.
John: Well, you certainly could and we're going to break it down into a couple of critical areas. We can't of course, cover everything because like you said, we only have 30 minutes. But what we'll be looking at are the fundamentals that you have to put in place for developing your marketing and communications and that is, what is your focus, your objective. Secondly, what is relevant to your target audience? Then the last segment in the heart of the matter, we'll talk about what kind of content is going to deliver both, both relevance to your audience and your marketing objectives.
John: So that's how we're going to approach it today Jayme.
Jayme: I'm impressed. I'm so impressed with us. I hope that we deliver. Those are high expectations. Let's hope we deliver to our audience, gosh.
John: Yes. Well, tell you what, let's get started.
Okay, we're going to jump right into the fundamentals of developing your marketing communications from the starting point of having your key messages in place, and if you didn't hear Jayme talk about the message mapping that we did in the last episode, go check out episode five. It's the foundation for what we're going to talk about next today. The first thing that I think we need to cover in terms of getting to the heart of your marketing communications strategy are your marketing goals, what are they? Defining them in a meaningful way. Some of the things that I want to talk about here today as we go through these fundamentals are questions that you should be asking yourself as you are thinking through your strategy.
Jayme: So John, before you do that. Would you say that a marketing goal is the same as the business goal?
John: There are similarities as to how you develop the goals and the objectives. What's different in marketing is that the marketing goal is specific to your marketing activities. So marketing objectives are, what you are trying to do and say to your customers in order to get them to act in a way that will help you achieve your business goals. Your business goals might be, we need to sell X more in revenue this quarter. So the marketing goals come under your business goals.
Jayme: Got you.
John: But they should all be linked together in alignment.
Jayme: And yeah...
John: Good question.
Jayme: Thank you because I wanted to verify or clarify that, I should say, because a public relations professional looks at a business goal and then sets PR strategy directly aligned with those business goals. So PR as a blend of marketing is very much a part of marketing more so today than it ever was before. But back in the day, in the agency world from Chicago, PR kind of functioned as a silo from marketing, so we really value the business goals.
I have to say having a business goal seems to so basic but there are many companies that don't know what their business goals are and cannot communicate them. I would encourage everybody listening here, what are your top five business goals? Do you want to earn a million bucks in 2015? Do you want to acquire a company? Do you want to reach 500 employees? What is your business goal and then, with that written down and you having that top of mind, you can begin to empower your marketing strategy.
John: One of the things that I do, and this is not within the scope of what you're going to talk about today, but as long as you brought it up Jayme, one of the things that I do with companies that I am consulting with is, I help them with that piece of the strategic planning. There's a process I take them through for setting objectives. This probably would not make a good podcast episode because it's very involved and people get bored with strategic planning. Their eyes glaze over when you start talking about it, but it's so important and I take them through a process that helps them do that very thing that you were saying.
They haven't spent the time looking at how the different business goals that they have line up, and really define them in a clear enough way that they can measure and act on them. They start with your financial goals then they go to your strategic goals, and then they flow into your marketing goals. Then they flow into your communication goals. That's how I work with clients on that subject. You raise a very good point that there are different levels of objectives through your business and they all need to be in alignment. We're going to talk about your marketing today.
John: One of the ways I want to approach to this discussion is taking you through a series of questions that you need to ask before you start developing your marketing message for your company and that is, first of all, you need to ask yourself why are we sending this message? What is the purpose of our brand and why are we approaching our audience, our target audience and our customers with this. What's the reason why? It sounds so obvious but a lot of times, with companies, they get running and it's ready, shoot, aim.
Jayme: They forgot, yes.
John: The next thing you know, you’ve spent a whole lot of money and you're not even sure why you're doing and what you're doing. So start off with that: what's your reason why, and what is it that you're trying to achieve? This gets into, what I call SMART goals and this is not something I created. SMART goals have been around for a long time. It's a great model for creating, meaningful goals for your marketing and SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable and Time-bound. So a general goal is: we want to increase sales. Well, that's not going to help you. If you get more specific in how you're going to do it, how are you going to measure it, and determine is this something we can do within a certain time frame, set the time frame, then you've got a very powerful goal for your marketing.
Jayme: So John, is this an exercise that a mid-tier company, a small company, a startup should do, or is this for every size company?
John: Yeah, definitely. It's for any size company. It's as important for small and mid-size companies as it is for a corporation because as a mid-tier company and a solo, you have even fewer financial resources to spend on your marketing. So you’ve got to be as ‘smart’ as you can be. See what I did there? I went back to the SMART thing.
Jayme: I heard you do that, then you start with a nice segue. Naturally, you raise a good point. Should this be something that is done internally or should you hire a consultant to help you if you don't have the staff that knows?
John: That's a good question Jayme. If you're a small business owner or a mid-sized business and you come from a marketing discipline, you may be able to take yourself through this planning process fairly effortlessly. But a lot of times, if you don't have that background, or even if you do, you just need fresh eyes to come in and take an outside look at your situation. It's helpful to bring in a consultant or an agency to take you through that planning process. So that is a good question.
Jayme: John, I know you do that work so you are available for people to tap your resources and your professionalism for this kind of exercise?
John: I do.
Jayme: It’s very similar to message mapping. I find companies that try to do message mapping on their own, struggle because there's always that dynamic of politics and hierarchy in any company. The one trying to facilitate an exercise is reluctant to push the buttons or force an answer or be that person who will go for the gusto and get everything accomplished. So yes, I think that in general there comes a time when a company has to realize an outside facilitator is very, very important to getting an exercise done. That's so important for the insight of a company.
John: Right, and part of that can be a cultural challenge too with an entrepreneurial type of a company, where that culture is do-it-yourself and ‘figure out a way to do this on the fly’ and ‘I can do it myself.’ You can get in your own way. It can actually cause you to not progress as fast as you could with the process, and not have as good of an outcome either. So, that's one of the things that I do with any clients who want me to help them with marketing and communications. I take them through a disciplined planning process before we get to the point of what we're going to do. So the second part that I wanted to cover Jayme, is to really identify who your target audience is. There's so much discussion that goes on today about doing that on the web and developing personas that you're writing to.
But this goes back to Marketing 101, even before we had the digital world that we are in today, and it's critical. It's critical. You need to ask yourself certain questions that are even more relevant today to audiences than they have been. We've talked in previous episodes about how the tide has turned in how we communicate with customers. We need to engage them in a very different way today than in the Mad Men era where we could just broadcast out our messages repeatedly and influence them, right?
So today is much more of an inbound communication, with the customers coming to you through the web channels and mobile, etc. So you have to think about your target audience in different ways. One of the things you have to ask them is what kind of information is important to them. There are functional aspects to that and there are emotional aspects to that part of marketing. But the kinds of questions are: what are the problems that you can help them solve? What tasks can you help them complete and what are their fears and their frustrations or dreams and desires? These are the things that get to those emotional aspects. It's one level on the surface: what are their daily challenges that your product can help solve. At a deeper level, you want to understand what are the fears and frustrations that they're dealing with.
What keeps them awake at night? And what are the dreams they have … deeper desires beyond what they do every day from 9:00 to 5:00. Getting an understanding of those things about your target audience helps you create a message that connects with them at the heart level. You'll notice that all of these questions center on your audience. They're not about you. They're not about your product and what you do. They are zeroed in on who the audience is and what drives them.
The last thing, you also want to make sure of when you’re thinking about the audience, is what media and what channels do they use. Because this is going to start to formulate the marketing you create, to execute, because you not only have to give the right message, but you have to get it through the right channels to connect with your customers.
Jayme: Well, you just did a whole bunch of really important things there, but I do have one question for you and that is: do you think audiences have changed, or is it just the tools they have at their disposal that makes it seem like audiences have changed?
John: Really good question. The core, humanity hasn't really changed all that much in terms of what are ... think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You must be familiar with that.
Jayme: I am, yes.
John: From high school days. Those are the fundamentals of human needs, and they are still an important reference for marketers today that we have these levels of everything from your physiological needs, basic needs up to the higher self-actualization type needs, and then the levels in between there. Those kinds of things haven't changed. But what has changed with target audiences is that their expectations have changed as far as what you are saying to them and how you engage with them.
John: That's been enabled by technology.
Jayme: Well, I think in a previous episode of The Heart of Marketing podcast we talked about omnichannel marketing very briefly and I know John had a great definition of what that means for people, but marketers need to engage with customers on all the channels that customers are engaging on. So, not just the Facebook channel or YouTube videos. It's going to have to be all the smartphones and handheld devices and Netflix, a streaming video and all of the channels. The omnichannel consumer is who we're all up against in marketing. So that makes the channels more critical.
John: That's right. Getting down to the crux of it is thinking about the customer more holistically, not how you prefer to reach out to them, but the other way around. Flip it around. How do they prefer – what channels do they prefer to use to find out about your company and your products and that kind of thing. Then make sure that you cater to it.
Jayme: I think that's a great segue John to our Heart of the Matter.
John: Okay, we're back with the last segment of our program today and that is The Heart of the Matter. Leading up to this point is what kind of marketing content should you create once you’ve figured out what your goals are and understand who your target audience is. Now, what should you do? What kind of content? The way I want to approach this discussion is a little different than what you might assume. Rather than giving you a large list of all the different kinds of channels that you can reach people in today, you can find that kind of anywhere. What I want to talk about is what should be in your content that makes a heart connection? What kinds of messages and information will deliver your business goals and the goals of your audience?
Jayme: Can I add something before you jump into that? Because I've been doing a lot of reading, as I always do, and Ad Age very recently had the top 15 top performing campaigns from 2014. The very number one spot in campaigns that really got a lot of attention by the judges was the Dove Campaign on a real beauty. Essentially, it was really fantastic. It is oriented to women of course, but one of the main messages that I read on the article is those men and women exposed to that campaign wanted to buy anything the brand was producing. Why is that? It's because the message was so powerful.
Like the Always commercial on the NFL, on the Super Bowl story that, Like a Girl campaign where it appealed to a human message. It appealed to human persona, human behavior and it wasn't just, "Hey, I’ve got this awesome product. Buy soap." It was more of an appeal to humanity and that is where marketers are going right now. Finding the cause-relatedness of a marketing campaign or how you align with your customer's desires, as you'd mentioned, John, is really critical. More personality is showing through on the ones that are trying to be different and the marketers that are trying to be different. So I just wanted to throw that out, there as an example of what I'm seeing in marketing these days to cut through the clutter, you got to align with something personal, something human.
John: Yes. I think that's especially true with what branding and advertising agencies are doing today. There are other kinds of marketing that's less heavily branded, especially like in that B-to-B marketing world. But yeah, you see much more of that and it works because it's so powerful.
Jayme: Yeah, that's all good. So what kind of content should we create, and what do you mean by that? What kind of marketing content should be created John, to actually draw in the customer in a different level?
John: Well, what I mean to look at here are asking yourselves some things along the lines of where's my audience in the decision process. What kind of information do they need there? So, depending on the complexity of your sales situation and your product, you have to look at what stages do my perspective customers have to go through in order to come to a decision to buy. You need to create content for each of those steps along the way. It goes back to understanding your customer, your prospect and their decision making process, and then turning it around and trying to figure out what do they need from us to help them make a decision.
Jayme: Hey John, is that the funnel you're talking about?
John: It is, yes. I hesitate to use the word funnel, but that's kind of what everybody is accustomed to from years passed in marketing. I think when you talk about lead generation in the sales process today especially in business-to-business, where the products are more complex and require more touch points for the customer to make a decision. The funnel is more of an antiquated analogy because they're getting information from so many different sources, and they're entering into the sales process at different stages along the way. So like in traditional marketing, you'd have a funnel that you'd do a lead generation campaign to get people in the top of the funnel and then you work them through the process until you close the sale. That's kind of a nice neat linear approach to sales but that isn't really how a lot of sales happen today.
Jayme: Well, let me just butt in here because I want to differentiate sales versus digital marketing and lead generation because I did invest in Hubspot two years ago, and the funnel was what they taught for inbound marketing. Lead generation via digital content and developing content, marketing content to lure a prospect into the top of the funnel and then more marketing content that's of interest in the mid funnel, and then closing at the bottom, where you actually generate sales leads. So I know we can have a discussion about this later and maybe our audience can shout out with an email to us on their views, but it becomes just a massive chaotic blend about how you earn a sales lead and how does marketing contribute to that lead, and what's the best way. So I just wanted to offer that up as well, because I think some people are still very much using the word funnel in the process of developing that type of content.
John: Yeah, that is kind of an ‘inside baseball’ type of conversation that some marketing people have. What is true is that there are stages the customer goes through in the decision process, whether you put it into a funnel or some other process flow. They go through an awareness stage, awareness of their need or awareness of your product and then evaluation. There are steps along the way that they get closer and closer to deciding they need a product, that they need your product. That's what I was starting out with and I didn't really mean to get off track with this.
Jayme: No, I started it, but I don't think you went off track. I think it's really important to identify some of the things that people are hearing because it is confusing for companies out there. If you don't know the right approach, it is a right or wrong, I don't know, but it's important to have content. That is what we're saying. Content with very powerful messages that appeal to your audience.
John: It needs to be relevant to where they are in their thought process, too. That's what you need to be thinking about as you develop your marketing messages. There are three other things in this to ... can I say ‘bucket-ize’? We said that last time, right?
Jayme: Yes. Apparently, I coined the word in episode five.
John: So yeah, you go back if you’re curious. Go back to episode five, listen to that and you can find out what we mean by bucket-ize. But I have three more points that I want to cover under this, ‘what kind of marketing should you create’. The next one is, ask yourself how can you deliver real-time or right-time relevance. Now, that flows out of what we just got done talking about. Being relevant to the target audience in the right context, in the right time. The idea of real-time marketing gets a little bit crazy within the industry. People trying to get attention like – everybody points to the Oreo cookie tweet during the Super Bowl when the lights went out. They had this big win with real-time marketing in social media. That happened at that case, but that's not necessarily what everybody should be striving for.
What's real-time to your customers? What is being in the moment that they had a decision point and being able to deliver value to them at the right time. So it's not necessarily real-time, it's the right time. There are three factors that you can think about that impact that kind of relevance to your message. That is the situation that they're in which I just described, but is there a location factor and this is for local companies to be thinking about. If you have customers within a certain defined geography. How can you find them and deliver a message of value, or information of value that affects their location – think about mobile marketing.
Foursquare for example, you can check into a restaurant in Foursquare, you can provide targeted offers for that customer based on their location. Just thinking about how you can do that for your business and things that are not necessarily restaurant related but that's the concept. The other concept is seasonality, we just came out of the Super Bowl, which is kind of a season for people, and providing messaging around a season, whether it's a holiday season or whatever. Is another way to have a relevant message for people, thinking about how you can get inside their heads in the moment.
Jayme: Well, the other thing about this Super Bowl John, is that is the second highest pizza day for pizza makers and there was a big Wall Street Journal article recently about cardboard pizza box makers, and this one company, I don't know, in Tennessee or something was making 35,000 pizza boxes every 10 minutes to get ready for the Super Bowl. Yeah, it's pretty cool but that means you can take that knowledge and develop a local campaign as a company oriented to any of these big events.
John: The last thing that I wanted to talk about with regard to what kind of content you should create, is giving them self-serve information. One of the things technology has enabled with the web is that we are so used to going out and Googling something to find an answer to a question. If you are creating content that answers those questions as it relates to your target audience, you're going to have a great opportunity to engage with them and connect with them. Think about how for example, Lowes creates these videos, these "how to" videos, how to fix a plugged sink or something like that. It's not about any of their products. It's not about their company. It's not even about their brand story. This is just a pure, helpful value-driven piece of informational content that they have determined would connect with their audience based on what they've learned about their audience. This is the type of thing that they want to know. So they're looking at where does our audience base go for this self-serve scenario. What is a typical self-serve scenario, and that's one of them.
So they create informational videos like that. That's a whole different mindset for creating marketing content than what we have done before. Those are the kinds of things I think can really make a difference for your business. If you open up your thinking about marketing content in that way. So I guess the bottom line or the heart of the matter is that your marketing message – remember, it's not about you. It's about the problems and the desires of your target audience. If you develop content that centers on them, it will give you a human, authentic voice, and it will make heart connections.
Jayme: Well said John.
John: That's all I have to say. Do you have anything before we sign off?
Jayme: Take us home John.
John: Okay. Thanks so much everybody for joining us today. Jayme?
Jayme: Go be rock hot guys. See you soon.
John: Until next time, remember: go for the heart, you won't go wrong.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Heart of Marketing Podcast with Jayme Soulati and John Gregory Olson. Don't miss our next program, subscribe to The Heart of Marketing Podcast today.