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Content Marketing: It’s Getting Personal!

“Can you send me a brochure?” said nobody in 2015.

Static, print-driven content marketing is in its death throes. It is stiff, passive, one-dimensional.  It is literally and figuratively flat.  Taking its place is a rich crop of highly innovative, highly personalised content marketing strategies and tactics. What’s driving this content marketing evolution?  The buyer, of course.

The customer journey has changed in massive ways.

It is more digital, more research-driven, and more social than ever. Buyers are still using content to inform their digitally driven purchasing decisions, but it’s not the content of yesterday. As Jeremy Bevan, Vice President of Marketing for Cisco’s EMEAR region, explains in a recent blog post on content marketing: “Marketing has always featured content.  But what we have all woken up to is the fact that content must be authentic, relevant to your audience, and human if it is to stand any chance of being conversational.”

Marketers are cutting through the content clutter.

To help buyers through the journey – and to spark conversations along the way –marketers are developing new forms of content marketing that are dynamic and personalised. They’re highly visual. They’re fun and humorous. What’s more, many of them are not even created solely by the marketing organisation.

What’s hot in content marketing?

Let’s take a look at the new kids on the content block…

1. User generated content (UGC)

UGC is content that’s created by consumers or end users and is publically available to others consumers and end users.  It can take many forms – from photos and videos to reviews and forum posts.  A recent study by Ipsos MediaCT found that millennials are spending 30 percent of their media time engaging with UGC.  The study also found that this type of content is 50 percent more trusted and 35 percent more memorable than other types of media.

Two great examples of UGC are Cisco’s “Office of Life” and “Wish You Were Here” campaigns. Office of Life (#officeoflife) features people’s takes on weird and wonderful places to work outside of the office.

office of life

Wish You Were Here (#WYWH2015) is driven by salespeople who are competing for a trip to the Seychelles. Both campaigns harness the immense power of users to create original content to fuel marketing campaigns.


UGC is a great option for adding an element of fun to your content marketing. Don’t underestimate the power of fun: if it gets your customer’s attention, they’re more likely to engage with your company.

2. Employee-shared content

In my blog on employee advocacy (Employee Advocacy: Marketing Engine of the Future?) I mentioned that employees’ social posts generate 8X more engagement than posts from their employer.  That’s because people are increasingly influenced by other people, not by corporations.  So put your employees front and centre and let them shine!

Cisco has done just that in its “I Chose Cisco” campaign (#ichosecisco) which features photos and videos from Cisco employees explaining why Cisco is a great place to work.

I chose Cisco

The campaign enables recruiting to reach its audience on a personal level. Cisco is a B2B company but in the end, we’re really a human to human (H2H) company made up of people who are talking to other people.

3. Hyper local content

In the old world, content was created at the corporate marketing level and pushed to the regions to translate and distribute. Today, locally created content is rising in importance.  Why? People living and working in a particular geography have the deepest insight into the wants and needs of others in the geography.

Case in point:  A series of videos produced by Cisco’s UK and Ireland marketing team (@ciscoUKI) that were inspired by the Rugby World Cup.  These videos were a huge hit because they capitalized on a local event that was highly relevant to people in the region.

Naked Man

Hyperlocal content works particularly well on social and mobile platforms.  But keep in mind that it can be tricky to create.  You’ll still need guidance from corporate marketing on messaging and creative frameworks. You’ll also need a local team that has the right combination of subject matter expertise, writing skills, and publishing experience.  But if you can get it right you’ll raise the content marketing roof in terms of engagement, relevance, and fun.

4. Content with personality

All the forms of content I mention above share a common thread:  they have personality.  However, savvy marketers are pushing the envelope even further by using content marketing techniques that speak personally to their buyers.  Check out this exchange between LauraEllen, Kit Kat, and Oreo.

Oreo and kit kat

What would you rather see?  An advertisement for Kit Kats and Oreos?  Or a fun, real-time conversation among these companies and one of their biggest fans?  Me too.

Knowing what makes your audience tick is critical to developing content that they respond to. This is true no matter what your business or industry – whether you’re B2B or B2C, selling products or services, supply chain software or spaghetti sauce.  Case in point:  A blog post from SnapApp, “6 Boring Companies Making Amazing Content,” showcases content marketing campaigns from less-than-sexy companies like McKinsey and General Electric.  If they can do it, so can you.

So it’s time to step up. Give consumers and employees a voice. Get out of the traditional marketing comfort zone. I know it feels risky, but the pay-off is huge. If you demonstrate that you “get” your buyers, and enable them to interact with you in real-time ways you are one step closer to having long-time loyal customers.

Are you using more personalised content marketing approaches to make a bigger impact with your audiences?  I’d love to hear your stories!

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Need to Reach More Customers? Tell Your Story Through Social!

You have become what you deem as a master of Social Media – you have a nice number of followers, your prose is pithy and engaging, but yet something is still missing… that continued “engagement” with your audiences.

Well, don’t fret you are not alone!  Studies show that while nearly 2 billion people are connected via smart phones, there is still a very interesting conundrum;  how can you compete with so much noise out there?  How could you be effective with your message and be heard through the massive trees in the overgrown forest that is Social connectivity?  Sometimes it’s as simple as tempering the message to hit that right customer, at the right time.

One thing that you should consider is identifying free or low cost tools to increase your Social Media effectiveness.  One example that I use is TweetDeck. This gives insight into who is following our accounts, if and when we need to jump on a response, real-time conversations, and best of all its free!

Savvy social media folks will tell you that it’s constantly changing, it’s iterative and that topics
constantly evolve.  We’ve experienced it with the Marketing Velocity Program, but alas there is seemingly one concept that continues to reign true with brilliant Social topics – Storytelling!   We are all human!  It’s so much more effective to offer something relatable that could blossom into a sharable similar experience or a cautionary tale to social circles.

Here is a very simple example.  Imagine a high tech company wants to introduce, “A new collaboration product that will help you be more effective doing stuff…”  Well what if that introduction was changed to, “To see the look on my parents face when I told them I went skydiving — would have been priceless! Don’t miss those moments again with the Collabor-8-Shun.”   Then keep that conversation going with a series of “stories” focused on missed moments.  See where storytelling can take you as an adjunct to your typical and hopefully effective marketing programs.  Once you have that idea hatched, use the Social Media tools to understand when your audiences are most active.  Then test the waters by engaging with your social circle.

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Marketing Velocity – Hit the Gas or the Brakes?

Where is marketing going?  Just a few years ago it was “relatively easy” to reach audiences through traditional vehicles like TV, radio and display… remember those days?  It just took a healthy advertising budget and you were on your way to millions of units sold!  The Mad Men days are behind us, but that doesn’t mean they are gone.  In fact, quite the opposite, now as marketers we have to be even more creative, more cunning and way more in tune with the tastes of audiences.

Attention spans are limited to 140-characters… (Have I lost you already?) People want to be fed stories that intersect at the junction of the right content, at the right time, and all on the right vehicle.  To the marketer this sounds more the like corner of “isn’t going to happen,” and “is it 5pm yet?”  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Don’t despair.  While we don’t have all the answers for partners, we want to help you get there!  After all, your success as marketers and reaching your customers ultimately helps us too!

Enter from stage left … a rejuvenated Marketing Velocity.

While many partners are aware of Marketing Velocity as an award winning event Cisco has offered throughout the year and most recently with Partner Summit 2015.  We have checked the rear view mirror and are punching the proverbial gas.  Marketing is changing at such an incredible rate of speed (pun intended), that Marketing Velocity has to match. But, not how you might think.  The goal of the Marketing Velocity program is to enlighten, educate and arm you to succeed in reaching your customers.  This is something that an annual event could not provide at such a high rate of speed.

Cisco Marketing eLearning

We have expanded the Marketing Velocity eLearning with new courses.  You are no longer required to take multiple courses to receive certification.  With Marketing eLearning courses, we simply want to provide you with great content to enhance the way you market today.  We have segmented eLearning into four buckets for ease:

Marketing Fundamentals – courses designed to help you market effectively, from the basics to more advanced skills

Marketing with Cisco – train yourself on how to implement Cisco technologies, Partner Marketing Central and other Cisco generated marketing capabilities

Revenue Marketing – access courses on this growing marketing endeavor to help you increase sales that you may have never thought of before

Digital Marketing – bring your skills up to speed with the latest in Social Media, Web and marketing automation techniques

As if that’s not enough!  Partners have expressed how much they enjoy the caliber of speakers offered during the Marketing Velocity event.  Now we have created a speaker series offered year round.  The Marketing Velocity On-the-Air webcast series enlists the advice of industry experts.  Get guidance from the industries’ best, like Jay Baer, the most retweeted man on the web amongst digital marketers, insight from a little search company called Google, and other webcasts on new marketing techniques to the power of analytics.

Still not enough good stuff?  This is the icing on the cake…


How about an always-on content hub that pulls marketing best practices from across the Web?  The Marketing Velocity Hub has been created to align Cisco marketing campaigns with best practices.  The Hub also gives you easy access to Marketing eLearning and the On-the-Air webcasts.  We think of this as an information board and welcome your feedback in the Marketing Velocity Community.  We want to hear from you, especially related to what you see as best practices – what we might be missing and what we might be doing right.

Now is your time, we just want to help you step on the gas!

Here is a quick list of links mentioned above:

We always love to hear feedback. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Employee Advocacy: Marketing Engine of the Future?

You need to purchase new software on behalf of your company – how do you decide which product/company to choose? You probably go and check out some vendor websites and ask the opinion of people you know and trust, but would you ask a vendor’s employees what they think about their company?

Fact is that employees’ social posts generate 8X more engagement than posts from their employer. Wow! This has the potential to radically alter the marketing landscape by changing the way we discover and buy goods and services.

What is employee advocacy?

As traditional marketing practises like advertising lose effect in this noisy, ‘always-on’ world, new methods – like employee advocacy – are stepping in to take to take their place (for more on this topic see my blog, “Inbound Marketing: What Comes After the Tipping Point?”).

 Employee advocacy is empowering a company’s employees to support the goals of the brand using company content cascaded via employee-owned social channels. Said another way: it’s word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age. Through employee advocacy we can increase share of voice by encouraging employees across the company to be more active on social media.

Why is it good for marketing?

Giving employees a voice on social media accomplishes two key goals for marketers:

1. Brand awareness/reach

According to Dynamic Signal, with employee advocacy, “You can increase brand awareness by 14x. Your employees are already on social all the time. The average social employee has 10x more followers than your corporate network and 90% of their social audience is new to the brand.”

This is significant because increased brand awareness drives customer loyalty, which drives revenue.

In fact, having 135 employee advocates is more powerful than having 1,000,000 Facebook fans. Why? As the graphic below demonstrates, employees’ social networks amplify reach in a big way.

EE Graphic

2. Trust

Now more than ever, people want to buy from people, not faceless companies. In fact, according to WeRSM, only 15% of people trust recommendations from brands, while a whopping 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know.

This stat is backed by compelling research from the 2014 Edleman’s Trust Barometer. As the chart below indicates, not only do customers trust their peers and regular company employees, their trust in these sources is on a dramatic rise.

Edelman Trust Barometer

Why is it good for business?

Employee advocacy programs have the power to deliver results beyond marketing value and can have a huge impact on the business.

Social selling: According to a recent Social Media and Sales Quota Survey, more than 40% of salespeople say they have closed between two and five deals as a result of social media.

Customer insight: In the Globe and Mail, Peter Aceto, the CEO of Tangerine Bank, says, “I would rather engage in a Twitter conversation with a single customer than see our company attempt to attract the attention of millions in a coveted Superbowl commercial.”

His sentiments are echoed in a Harvard Business article,  “The 7 attributes of CEOs who get social media,” which explains that savvy CEOs “don’t want to hear input from customers filtered through 13 layers of management. They want their input raw and without any manipulation.”

Attracting  talent: Enabling your employees to post about job openings and talk about why they like their job is an incredible competitive advantage. A Fast Company article, “How to Make Your ‘Employer Brand’ Shine and Attract The Best Tech Talent,” mentions this success story from Apple: “Apple, coming in at number three on the employer brand index, features photos and quotes from current employees on its job website. In other words, the company has effectively turned its employees into brand advocates.”

Marketing Engine of the Future?

Employee advocacy is a new source of trust for today’s consumer. It has the power to fuel brand awareness, increase customer loyalty, and drive new revenue. So is it a Marketing Engine of the future? As “word of mouth” marketing for the digital age, I think the answer is YES!  Do you agree?


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Inbound Marketing: What Comes After the Tipping Point?

“Inbound marketing is more effective than outbound marketing.”  

Sound like a quote from a recent marketing article? It’s actually a key takeaway from my doctoral thesis, published back in 2008 and entitled, “How Companies Use Customer Insight to Drive Customer Acquisition, Development, and Retention.”

No, I’m not Nostradamus, nor do I have a crystal ball. But, for a long time, I have been watching the signs that B2B buyers’ needs and patterns are changing.

Today, buyers – not sellers – are firmly in the driver’s seat. In fact, according to a recent DemandGen Buyer Behaviour report, almost half of buyers create a short-list of potential vendors and a third conduct initial research on solution options before the first communication with a sales rep. (For more on the evolution of buyer behaviour, see my blog post: Smarketing: A Sales and Marketing Love Story)

How are buyers conducting this research? Through search engines, vendor websites, and social media sites.

Hence the tipping point for inbound marketing. But what comes next? Here’s how I see the marketing landscape changing over the next 12 – 18 months:

1. Social media will gain traction in new ways

Social media is playing an increased role in marketing and buyers are now connecting to sellers via social channels rather than just browsing. DemandGen reports that 72% of respondents said they used social media to research the solution purchase.

This total is unchanged since 2013. What HAS changed is that there is a 57% increase in buyers connecting directly with potential solution providers via social networking channels. So they’re no longer just browsing social channels to do research, they’re using social channels to connect directly with sellers.

2. Marketers will adjust their budgets accordingly 

In reaction to buyer behaviour, marketers will continue to adjust their spend on inbound marketing. Sirius Decisions predicted back in 2013 that there would be a slight increase from 51% to 53% spent on inbound marketing by 2015. But what’s really interesting is the portion spent on social media: a big bump up from 36% to 44%.

3. Traditional sales and marketing roles will be turned on their heads   

We used to say, “Marketing opens the door and sales charges through it to close the deal.” Today, social media is driving role reversals within sales and marketing functions.

Increasingly, marketers are learning more about customers through their digital footprint and social media usage. We’re using real-time, behavioural data and analytics to complete a 360 view of the customer. And we’re leveraging this deep customer insight to close deals – because we’re able to make the right offer through the right channel at the right time.

Conversely, salespeople are now using social selling techniques to open doors with clients and prospects. They’re using social channels to connect, start conversations, and share knowledge and content. These nurturing techniques are paying off. According to a recent Social Media and Sales Quota Survey, more than 40% of salespeople say they have closed between two and five deals as a result of social media.

4. Revenue Marketing will become Profit Marketing  

Using Revenue Marketing principles, sales and marketing have begun to ensure that marketing strategies align with sales and business objectives to generate a measurable return to the bottom line.

But that’s just step one. As marketing shifts from a cost centre to a revenue centre, there is a deeper realization of the fact that not all customers are created equal. Inbound marketing tends to generate more new customer logos than outbound marketing. Based on lifetime customer value, new customers could be more desirable to a company which could translate into more importance placed on inbound techniques.

5. Employee advocacy will fuel marketing  

Although traditional advertising techniques (like TV advertising) are on the decline, social media makes it possible for employees to be a company’s best brand champions. Employee advocacy programs empower a company’s employees to support the goals of the brand using content and employee-owned social channels. This approach can have a huge impact on marketing and sales. According to Dynamic Signal, a digital marketing company, “Your employees are already on social all the time. And since people trust their social connections more than marketing messages, you can increase brand awareness by 14x and sales leads by 25%.” (Stay tuned for more on this topic in an upcoming blog post).

When will these 5 trends reach their tipping points? Last time my crystal ball looked 7 years ahead so let’s set it at 5 years this time – 2020! Watch this space….

Are you seeing sales and marketing changes in your markets and geographies? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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