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Online Student Again! Part 10: 5 Ideas to Transform Your Digital Marketing

Cat_McGonigle_HP
Professor McGonagall shows the simplicity of transformation when talking about digital marketing.
Get it right, Potter!

I’ve finally finished¬†the last module of the Rutgers online course on digital marketing! In some respects, it feels like I just got started, but in other respects, it feel like I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ll be happy when my test and capstone project have been turned in so I can get my weekends back again! ūüėČ

This last module was taught by Mike Moran, who also taught the second module about SEO. The topic of this last module was five ideas to transform your digital marketing.

Mike started this module with a pep talk to the class by validating that the class would probably feel overwhelmed by the flurry of content that’s been thrown at us through all these modules so far (uh, yah, you think so?) and how transitioning from learning to actually doing will be¬†scary (no, Mike, it’s TERRIFYING!!). But Mike reassured us that we have learned plenty that we should be able to employ these new tools to be effective, and the best way to truly learn is to DO some of these actions to gain some confidence. (Well, I’m gonna try, no matter how terrified I am about all this!)

To prove his point, he said that it’s usually the CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) and CIOs (Chief Information Officers) who usually have the shortest tenures as C-Level executives at an average of four years because they can get overwhelmed with this stuff, too! They both have digital marketing in common! So it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you shouldn’t run away from it, but rather face it head on! Mike said nobody’s an expert in digital marketing–not even any of the instructors from this whole course! (You could’ve had me fooled!) Things change so often that the instructors can’t keep up either, and so even they can be nervous about this stuff, too. “You will never learn enough to be comfortable. If you are looking for comfortable, then this is the wrong profession for you!” said Mike. (Sounds like a tech comm statement!) You can feel nervous and still do this! If you are doing this right, you will make mistakes, but the trick will be learning from them. Mike encouraged us that we are up to this, because this is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. (Good point, dude.) Make sure you share your fears so you don’t feel so alone. (Dude, have you read this blog?)

After this pep talk, Mike made a segueway into the five ideas that would transform digital marketing.

1) Big data is the biggest change in marketing

The world has changed from traditional media to social media in the last twenty years, and the contributors have grown exponentially, while the response time has shrunk from days to minutes. It happened because of Moore’s law–transistor density doubles every two years, and costs plummet even more sharply. This has¬†resulted in drastic changes in everything that technology touches, including marketing. So, theoretically in 5 years, today’s $500 iPad will cost $50–but that’s not what’s going to happen. We’ll have wearables that will be taking over.

Mike defines Big Data with the 4 “V”s:

  • Volume – The obvious large amount¬†of the data
  • Velocity – It’s up to the minute because it changes every minute
  • Variety – It drives the IT people nuts because you keep needing something new
  • Veracity – Nothing else matters if you can’t trust its accuracy

He then outlined that Google knows a lot about us, namely who we are, what we are interested in, what we buy, and who are friends are. Amazon knows a lot about us, too, when we are on its site, such as where we came from, which ads we’ve seen, which products we have already looked at, and it knows our previous purchases. ¬†Mike then extended it to what marketers know when we are at the mall. Soon enough, there will be face recognition which will tell¬†us gender, age, ethnicity, and maybe identity. Some of this is already in play with the use of free wifi in a store can happen because marketers can recognize your phone in that store.

It’s not just about how marketers are using technology with your phone. It can also be how consumers find out information about the products they buy. For example, in the near future, there can be RFID tags on a milk carton. An RFID tag can be on the milk jug when the cow is milked, then a new RFID tag is created when the milk is placed in the carton, then the dairy ships the carton to the store, and the consumer can see facts about the cow and its shipment to decide whether to buy the milk based on freshness, antibiotics use, and how the milk was cared for during shipment.

Mike continued by saying that Big Data is changing the market. He pointed out that according to IBM, 98% of the data in existence was created in the last two years. We think of that as e-mail, photos, and social media, but with omnipresent security cameras and sensors on almost every item in the supply chain, it’s not hard to conceive of the notion that in five years, 98% of the world’s data would have been created within the last two MONTHS. (Holy Big Brother!)

In the end, it’s still marketing! Mike said that you need to target your audience, understand what they care about, and connect with your message, because if you do, you improve your image and drive sales. The difference is how you do it! Digital marketing is actually good, because you can see the results of things instantly in such things as Google Ads and yank them quickly if they don’t work in a matter of hours instead of a much longer period of time like risky traditional marketing. The risk is much lower, and the ability to test more to find the right thing is much easier.

2) Your marketing must attract your market

Your target markets are ruled by the business that sees your ads, and you won’t even know how it happened. Attracting business is mostly about opting in. Mobile works the same way–coupons can be sent to people who are nearby searching for you, or who checks in, or becomes the Mayor on Foursquare. To target your message, digital marketing rewards pull over push, as Mike put it. More often, markets find you or you give your customer permission to search, download apps, opt-in for emails, subscribe to your blog, or follow you on Twitter to provide customers with a means to find you. Mobile makes the experience more interactive, because your customer might look at a review online before purchasing, or might write a review shortly after purchase. Because of these kinds of interaction, you need to be part of the conversation because things are so transparent now, and you need to be making sure that you are engaged and listening to what customers say. You can start to understand what customers want through digital marketing because digital marketing is direct marketing–you can see what your customers do when they interact with your marketing message and website. The customers vote with the click of a mouse or tap of their finger on a mobile device! Web marketing is the biggest opportunity of direct marketing you could have if you use your analytics tools. Websites are to sell stuff!

So, how can you drive demand for your products? Increase your conversion rate, increase your traffic, or better yet, both! Brand awareness is not the decisive factor here, it’s SALES, so sales¬†needs to be the focus.

You need to decide your conversions–would they be through online sales, making store, partner, or dealer location information available, making it easy for customers to make phone calls, create affiliate links, or allow customers to download a whitepaper, or even something as straightforward and simple as filling out a contact form?

To track offline conversions to the web is most easily done by contacting the customer. Mike advised that if the customer switches channels, it’s good to draw the customer back by doing things like offering a special phone number, providing a coupon that can be printed to present at the retailer, or make the product specifications available to print out and bring to the dealer.

Website visitors come to websites to learn (research products and services), shop (compare offerings and prices), buy (check out and purchase), get (check order status), and use (get technical and customer support) through the buyer journey. But you can look at this same journey path to measure value. Examples of this would be helping the customer find the right product during the learning stage, seeing how many customers that view a product actually put it in their cart during the shop stage, see how many actually check out during the buy stage, and the multiply the difference by your average revenue to see what the actually impact on revenue is. Each stage is a micro-conversion. You have to decide what your buyer’s journey is going to be and how you are going to adapt it for that journey. Some sites lead to offline activity, so you need to account for that.

3) Your marketing message must be welcomed

Mike asked, “How do you connect with your message?” His answer was that relevant content will be passed along by search engines, linked by other websites, and passed along by your customers in social media and mobile. It’s really that simple! You need to concentrate on creating high quality, truly informational content, because if you do, you will become influential. Influence marketing is a matter of identifying the most persuasive ideas, and getting your customers to, as Mike put it, “sing your song.” An example would be authors asking certain people to review their books to help promote it, like asking Oprah to feature it in her book club. Campaigns alone are costly with huge swings, but if you have a fan base, then with both campaigns and engagement, your consumer interest will go up.

To measure influence, you can look at a Klout score, but you look at how many people they influence and what they are influential about. If they don’t appeal to a group that you are targeting, then you don’t want to work with that person. Influencers have relationships with each other. Some players have a lot to say, but no influence, and others are quieter, but influence many. Mike calls targeting that influencer the “D-list approach”. ¬†He says to use the long tail for blogger outreach because A-listers are hard to reach who get dozens of pitches every day. Your pitch might not break through, but it would with a D-lister.

4) You must respond to your customers

To connect with your message, you must change your message in reponse to what your customers say (tweets, likes, comments, blogs, product ratings) and do (search, purchases, page views). ¬†If you’re unresponsive, customers will burn you publicly with the customer reviews. Your solution is to accept comments and trackbacks on your blogs, allow your products to be rated and reviewed, and staff your efforts with enough people to respond. Not taking these steps gives off the impression that the company doesn’t care, and any negative commentary must be true–this is anti-influential!

By responding to customers, you can change your products, your content, your prices, your policies, your experience, and then change them again as needed to help increase your conversions. It’s a great feedback loop! Part of that is testing, and seeing how customers respond, and then adjusting accordingly, like doing A/B testing on your website. The more you test, the more you can find what works and will create greater conversions. By doing all these things, you’ll be surprised at how smart you will look! Mike made the profound statement of, “The reason you’re not confident about how to start is because you think it’s on YOU to know what to do. What I’m saying is that if you set up the feedback loop, it isn’t on you, it’s on the feedback loop.” This relieves much of the pressure that you have to come up with the perfect idea.

One of the things that makes it hard is the speed expected to expedite things. The slower approach is typically the “waterfall” approach, in which requirements and structure is documented meticulously to get to the end, but it’s too slow because by the time you get to the end, the requirements have changed. Mike made the analogy that “waterfall” is like baking, because you know what you want up front, precise measurements and preparation are needed, and nothing is done until the end. It’s not as easy to do. In contrast, the Agile process is, Mike contends, is like making soup–you can experiment as you go, you can see what’s working and what doesn’t by adding ingredients as you go along, but it’s at its best at the end. This is more flexible and faster. So, marketing and IT should be soup–something you can change as you go along. (I guess the expression of “No soup for you!” doesn’t apply here!) Mike’s message was not to do everything at once. Start small, do a little at a time, like make only one YouTube video and see how it goes rather than decide to plan out and produce 10 videos at once that could flop. See how the first one goes, and adjust accordingly.

5) Marketing ain’t just for marketers anymore.

Customers don’t want to hear from marketers, so you need to get help. Customers aren’t looking for copy anymore, but rather for information from the experts in your company that can solve their problem, and that might not be you.¬†Marketers must teach people–namely those experts–how to operate in public. There will never be a blogging department, and the PR team must teach the rest of the company to do PR through social media. You can teach them what you know, let them do their thing, and mentor them when necessary. There will always be some element of risk involved in getting others involved, but there is risk even without getting others involved. Your job is to help set parameters to minimize the risk of errors as much as possible. These experts are a big asset and to use their expertise is free! It’s all about internal marketing as much as it is about external marketing.

Another overlooked segment is reverse mentoring–there are lots of people who understand traditional marketing but don’t understand how to use the digital tools, yet younger people understand those digital and social media tools, and¬†would benefit from learning more about traditional marketing. Traditional marketers should take advantage of learning from the digital literacy of the younger ones to start learning how to take better advantage of these tools. In fact, mutual mentoring is even better!

Another obstacle to tackle is how to persuade your colleagues into joining into this digital marketing mentality. Part of that will involve more of that internal marketing that you need to do as you do with your other company colleagues. ¬†One way is to work on getting the message to come from the top down, meaning an executive puts forth the idea of what needs to be done, but this can be difficult to implement consistently. The alternative is to get department heads to get together to find a common ground to implement actions, but that generally doesn’t work well either. The solution is that you have to admit that some business units are more important than others, and work with those. Mike gave the example of the Security Council of the United Nations enforcing rules on various countries, and targeting specific groups as needed. Using a scorecard to motivate teamwork and publicizing the results internally of how these things are implemented can be helpful in getting that cooperation, as it’s tangible and driven by data. You can slowly change organizational behavior by changing the rules, setting benchmarks, reviewing business unit scorecards, demand improvement, and repeat the process again with a new agenda or raising the standards of the one you are working on.

According to Mike, if these five ideas are implemented immediately, and things are put in place to start making it happen, you are much more likely to succeed. Take it one step at a time, but you need to act, or you won’t benefit from all the new information attained in this course. (Yes, all 10 modules!) You can’t run away from digital marketing, so it’s to our benefit to move forward with all this information and succeed!

Amazingly enough, this five-step summary was a good way to end things. Mike showed that digital marketing is not magic. (Now you get the Harry Potter image reference above?) It brought together all the main elements of all the rest of the modules together in a comprehensive way to implement them. Heck, I started using these steps immediately with some people I work with both inside and outside of my job, so I guess this course helped.

BUT WAIT–THAT’S IT! I GOT THROUGH ALL 10 MODULES!

I still have to take the final exam, as well as create and submit my capstone project, so I will be working on those for the next two weeks or so. Wish me luck, because my grade will depend on those! I’ll report on those as I complete them!

So what do you think? Do you think these five steps are the key, or is there more to consider? Comment below.

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Online Student Again, Part 8: Online Customer Acquisition – Accio Customers!

With a wave of his wand, Harry Potter cried, "Accio Customers!"
“Accio Customers!” — Harry Potter
(Supposedly, it’s not magic, though.)

As of the end of this module, my mini-MBA course is now three-quarters of the way done! I’m glad it’s getting towards the end since it’s been a while since I squeezed in a course into my busy schedule.

This week’s topic was about online customer acquisition. Staci Smollen Schwartz taught this section. She was formerly the VP of digital marketing at Virgin Mobile, and now is an independent consultant for the Interactive Advertising Bureau. I found that much of this module took¬†elements of all the prior sections so far, picking out elements that¬†were meant to¬†provide¬†the best customer experience¬†and provide what customers needed.

Ms. Smollen Schwartz began by talking about the offline versus the online experience– what entices customers to buy online versus offline? Some sites will direct you to brick-and-mortar, some will have you shop online retailer, and some will sell direct.

The foundation for how customers are driven towards products via websites has to do with the path towards awareness, to consideration, to conversion, followed up by engagement. Ms. Smollen Schwartz demonstrated this by presenting many different kinds of ads and having the class try to determine what part of the path were the ads and banner ads as calls to action.

She discussed various tactics to bring about the conversion. Offline tactics are meant to drive you towards digital, and can include QR codes, vanity URLs, using the Shazam app to listen to commercials that will drive you to a website, and hashtags.¬†Product placement within website can occur too, just like on TV or radio. There are also brand experience apps to consider, such as an app doesn’t sell the product but the experience. The example used was the Weber Grills app, which provided recipes and grilling techniques instead of shopping for a Weber Grill. Another examples were¬†branded microsites like Sherwin-Williams Chip-It browser plug-in or app, and YouTube videos and channels that talks about the experience rather than the product.

Naturally, you need to figure out how the measure the awareness through reach, engagement, favorability, and re-marketing capabilities. Search Engine Marketing is important, because while relevancy in organic search is big, you also need to know how buying keywords for paid search can make a difference provided that you can bid high enough on the rights to that keyword in the paid search. You can also use product listing ads, daily data feeds from retailers (images, SKUs, price), and CPC price   Рcan be made and used similarly to paid search, but with product specifics

Affiliate Marketing is another tactic. It’s similar to advertising, but instead of getting a slotted space, you get a percentage based on clicks¬†to¬†conversions. RetailMeNot is a good example of affiliate marketing with their coupon codes. Amazon actually has the longest running affiliate program–since 1996! (Where do I sign up?) This strategy is often used on smaller sites like blogs. ¬†Commission Junction and LinkShare are others that are affiliate marketing networks.¬†Re-marketing in online ads is¬†marketing to people who have already been exposed to your website or banner ad at least once. The premise is that¬†you look at an ad, and then next day, you see similar ads everywhere, like on Facebook, Yahoo, etc.

Behavioral targeting in online ads involves marketing to people who demonstrate an affinity to your brand or category, without necessarily every having been to your website or seen a prior ad. Third party data companies see cookies for certain things, and based on those purchases and views, they can figure out what likes might be. AdChoices is a common third-party company which is an initiative that tries to educate and be transparent in doing behavioral targeting while keeping government rules out, and provide an easy opt-out.

Enhanced targeting is often paired with custom creative, such as setting up a modular ad in which, based on the cookie data, can switch up info for the ad on the fly to customize and personalize it for the user.

Email marketing is a proven and efficient online acquisition tactic. Shoppers overwhelmingly report that promotional emails tend to be their preferred method of communication with a company, and often cited as second biggest influence on a website visit.

Social media marketing is something that¬†brands are still experimenting and seeing how this works because it’s still new. At least one-third of all shoppers say their purchases are influenced by social media, as “likes”¬†and “dislikes” are often posted about a retailer that can influence the brand.

It was at this point that Ms. Smollin Schwartz gave us some formulas on how e-commerce conversions happen.

1) Total site conversion rate (%) =# of orders / # of visits X 100

2) Upper conversion rate (%) (This would be the awareness, consideration, and conversion) = # of orders added to the online shopping cart/#visits X 100

3) Lower conversion rate (%) (engagement) = # of completed purchases/#orders added to cart X 100

Tactics for driving upper conversion include recommendations and personalization; A/B testing, multivariate testing (variations of the same thing in different configurations) created on the fly for best performance, site search,virtual sales agents (live chat), and social commerce (negative reviews are best, because you can decide if the worst thing about that product is something you can live with).

Tactics for driving lower funnel conversion include incentives, like free shipping or accelerated shipping if ordered by a certain time, pricing incentives, alleviations to security and privacy concerns, and accepting PayPal instead of credit cards.

Shopping cart abandonment is about 71%, and this is usually due to customer shipping concerns or the customer is not ready to purchase. Some will take advantage of that, and re-market the shopping cart information for abandoned items in carts and promote a discount in order to fulfill the purchase process.

Driving cross-channel conversion is another online tactic, in which companies provide store locators, in-store pickup options, or even cross-channel prompts (allows the customer to click to call to finish the sale).

Engagement after the sale is important, because customer acquisition doesn’t stop after the initial sale. ¬†The progression of customer engagement starts with inactive customers, then moves towards active customers, to participating customers, who eventually can become product evangelists who bring in more prospects. Building engagement and loyalty¬†is¬†confirmation marketing, which is done through¬†community building,¬†packaging and loyalty programs. Referral marketing is part of this engagement, in which¬†incentives are used such as one customer’s referral code is used by another customer, and the original customer gets an incentive to get a reward too. This works similarly to affiliate marketing.

Ms. Smollen Schwartz summarized the online customer acquisition process with her “Key Tactical Lessons throughout the Customer Journey”, which were:

  • It is helpful to think about tactics in terms of a consumer decision framework of awareness/consideration/conversion/engagement, integration of offline, online, mobile and social, and often circular pathways.
  • Tools, tactics, and metrics differ depending on a customer’s stage along the decision pathway, nature of your product and industry, and your budget allocation.
  • Look at the key drivers of e-commerce and digital-influences sales, including the success of traffic-driving tactics, upper and¬†lower conversion rates, ways of measuring cross-channel sales impact, engagement, and repurchase.

Before I took this module, I thought this might be an easier topic for me¬†to understand, but this was a harder section for me to get through. I think it’s because much of this was deeper marketing than I was experienced with, and it centered around consumer product examples. While I understood the consumer product examples, I had a hard time envisioning how I might convert this same information easily for a B2B service model. Everything given was very commercial product related. The information was very dry, so while it was evident that Ms. Smollin Schwartz knows her stuff, for me personally it was tougher to get through this information. I will say that a few examples she provided proved to be well-explained, so I could see that I had already participated in some¬†of these tactics at¬†some point, like affiliate marketing.¬†I could also relate to all the consumer examples she gave from my¬†consumer perspective. Envisioning how to parlay this information into a means of¬†promoting the potential new business I’m thinking of starting…well, that question wasn’t answered as clearly as it was on how to promote and sell a consumer product. ¬†Even getting through the quiz– it took me several tries before I got a good result. It gave me agita like the SEO information did again.

It looks like I will definitely have to attend the virtual office hour for this module, because I need to have a better grasp of how this information translates into acquiring customers for services that are not B2C (business to consumer), but B2B as well. For all I know, more subtle tactics are used.  So for now, a good part of this topic still eludes me.

The next module will be about web analytics and ROI (return on investment). I understand on a broad level what those are, and I’ve used some elementary analytics to help me understand how webpages perform on a website, but not much beyond that, so this will prove to be interesting.

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Online Student Again, Part 6: Personalized Digital Experiences–Oh boy. Almost creepy.

LISTEN--I told you that you were a pudding brain to begin with, and this just proves it. And don't give me a hug.
LISTEN–I told you that you were a pudding brain to begin with, and this just proves it.
And don’t give me a hug.

When I started the next unit on personalized digital experiences, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. ¬†In short, my initial guess that it had to do with the tech comm mantra of “know your audience” was right, but that’s an over-generalization of the whole thing. While this was most likely an overview and simplification of the actual process as it relates to marketing, I could just feel my head explode and all that was left was my original pudding brain state.

Tim Peter of Tim Peter & Associates was the instructor of this particular module. His company concentrates on providing that personal experience to all users. I think the primary focus of the module was about finding all the different ways that a marketing could make digital experiences personalized with caveats on how to make sure that it didn’t get “creepy” (which was the “technical” term used throughout the module over marketers overstepping their bounds ūüėČ ).

There were a few points that I picked up in the course that I felt were important to note. First, Tim pointed out that digital experiences are not “personalized” as much as “persona-lized”. In other words, because there are way too many individual differences for each person to be targeted, groups are identified instead of individuals, which makes sense. So, personalization is really about coming up with different persona groups to target. I could relate to this because it sounds like “know your audience” and many of the basic premises of content strategy. The practice of creating personas was familiar to me, too, because I remember working on that as an exercise in my content management and information architecture classes at NJIT.

Ultimately, the goal of the marketer is to answer the customer’s questions of, “Am I going to be satisfied with your product or service?” and “Why should I buy from you?”. It makes sense.

Tim made the next statement, which really made a big impact on me, which was namely that content is king, context is queen, but the crown jewels are DATA.  The rest of the course pushed forward on that notion, namely, how to gather anonymous data without crossing the creepy factor that overpersonalizes the collection of data.

He explained there are two main ways to do it through content targeting. The first way is through explicit data, which is getting data directly from the customer by asking, ¬†such as asking for a name, e-mail address, how did you find us, and other questions in which the customer will answer outright by filling in a form or some sort. The second way is through implicit data, which is what you can infer about the customer based on their actions and/or behaviors. This is where those anonymous “cookies” that you have in your browser come into play. ¬†As a result of gather data through these means, you can then customize different messages of different sizes to different audiences at different times.

To make this work the most effectively, there were five calls to action to follow in order to help prioritize marketing objectives and make it clear, namely:

  1. Size ¬†matters – Follow Fitt’s law, which says that bigger ads get more responses.
  2. Placement
  3. Use verbiage that are calls to action like “Act now!”
  4. Style – pay attention to how you use links, links in text, and/or buttons
  5. Color – use color wisely. For example, you wouldn’t use red on a medical site.

In the end, it’s all about identifying your ideal customer based on all the data gathered, and making sure that the content and messages that are being presented meet the needs of your customers to ensure customer satisfaction.

I think the course was definitely one of the harder ones, especially after the “reprieve” of having a few weeks with topics like social media, mobile, and content marketing that I had more familiarity with. I got through the quiz for this one okay, ¬†but I can say that I did learn something extra about the complexities of creating a personalized digital experience. All I can say is that is sure seems rather complicated, that’s for sure! My head is still spinning, and as I said earlier, I’m sure we barely scratched the surface. I’m sure marketers would’ve had an easier time understanding some of these data gathering points better than this content strategist. I never had to dig that deep!

I’m now just past the halfway point in the course now, so hopefully the rest will be smooth sailing. ¬†The next module will be about User Experience (UX) and marketing. Having studied user experience and done some of that professionally, I’m hoping that this next module won’t be too complicated, but I’m sure I’ll be shown plenty of things that I don’t know in relation to marketing.

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Online Student Again Part 5: Content Marketing: Wait, didn’t I hear about this a year ago?¬†

"We have a sound content marketing strategy! PR, marketing, IT, the social media team, and the content strategy team all pitched in! It's gonna work!" says Don Draper.
“We have a sound content marketing strategy! PR, marketing, IT, the social media team, and the content strategy team all pitched in! It’s gonna work!” says Don Draper.

Almost exactly a year ago, I returned from a conference that changed a lot about the way I think about content. It was the 2014 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC2014). My brain soaked in a lot of information, and new friends and networking connections were made during that trip. (Good times!)

One major point–which is also a big focus of this year’s¬†2015 Intelligent Content Conference–was that content marketing was the next big focus item. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) gave a keynote that compelled content strategists at the ICC2014 for us to consider embracing marketers and work together toward tearing down the silos so that we could share skillsets to create better content to promote goods and services. In other words, we should all be shifting towards being content marketers. It made sense, but it was overwhelming for me.

Fast forward to a year later, and here I am now, taking my digital marketing coursework, and this week’s module was about content marketing. Ooh boy. Here we go. The very reason that I’m taking this coursework in the first place–to have a deeper understanding of digital marketing, what content marketing is, and how I can try to fit into it my skill set going forward.

The instructor for this module was Greg Jarboe, a well-known YouTube guru and president of¬†SEO-PR, a content marketing agency which has worked with several well-known brands. While I hadn’t seen Mr. Jarboe present before, his name rings a bell, and I don’t know why. Hmm.

Anyway, Mr. Jarboe’s lecture was enlightening,¬†enjoyable, and took some of my anxieties away. ¬†While content marketing is still a little overwhelming because of the scale of all of it, I came away with six main points that I’d heard before in content strategy, but hit home for me for content marketing.

1) Content needs to be relevant and have value for the end user. This seems obvious, but it’s generally overlooked.

2) Storytelling works. People are drawn in by stories, not jingles or catch-phrases. This is how blogging for a company actually can have some big benefits. (Yay!)

3) Tear down the silos by working with other departments, such as marketing, IT, public relations, etc. Gee, I’ve definitely heard that multiple times in last¬†two years on the content strategy side!

4) A structured, documented content strategy is necessary to build for success. Like we content strategists didn’t already know this one!

5) Measurable metrics for ROI based on outcomes, like website traffic is up, sales, sales leads, customer retention, higher conversion rates, etc. ¬†The first thing that came to my mind was good ol’ Mark Lewis with XML Metrics as a start. Mr. Jarboe took this a step further from a marketing perspective. ¬†An easy way to do this is to track what you do! Measure URL¬†hits against results using special URLs from the¬†Google URL¬†generator. For example, create a special URL for a promotion, and measure number of clicks to that special URL against sales results during that time period. (Makes sense!)

6) Brand recognition is not the goal anymore; generating leads and sales is. This makes sense too. I’ve learned from marketing this blog that once you knew my “brand” of TechCommGeekMom, then it’s been up to me to keep you coming back. While my “product” at this point it sharing information that I think is relevant in the tech comm world at large, ¬†I want you to keep coming back and sharing your experiences and interests with me as well.

So there you have it. I think from a content strategist’s point of view, these are easy to understand and remember. The trick is, going back to point #3, is that it’s good to have more than one perspective¬†working on content marketing. By combining the different “superpowers” from various groups, a great content marketing strategy can result. I think if I can keep these basics in mind, I might just have a chance at finding a content marketing position if the opportunity arises.

Do you think I’m leaving any basics out? Let me know in the comments.

Next module up is called, “Personalized Digital Experiences”. Again, this is another topic that I know I’ve heard before several times in content strategy, so it’ll be interesting to hear how digital marketing approaches the same topic.

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Online Student Again, Part 4: Mobile Marketing, AKA Dang, I haven’t kept up!

kids-and-cell-phonesAfter the confidence¬†I had emerging from the Social Media Marketing module of my digital marketing course, I felt I could ride that wave of confidence into the next module about Mobile Marketing. ¬†From what I could tell, I wasn’t wrong to be confident. After all, I’ve been writing about m-learning and mobile topics on this blog since the beginning, so I figured that I would have a good handle on this topic. ¬†I did, but I was quickly reminded at how fast mobile technology has been growing even in three short years, and how I still need to do much more to keep up, if not catch up.

The module was taught by Christina “CK” Kerley, who is a very animated speaker on mobile marketing topics. She provided some great real life examples that I could easily related to. What struck me the most was how subtle mobile marketing can be and how it can be used in ways that we already take for granted, and the technology out there through mobile devices that are probably under-utilized by some, not only in marketing, but also in other mobile applications. One thing that I agreed with her about in regards to mobile is that at one point, everyone thought they needed an app for their service or product, and that’s not necessarily the case. ¬†I agree that websites need to be optimized for mobile–something that I need to do with my own e-portfolio when I get some free time in the next year. But an app has to have a purpose, and it doesn’t mean that it’s solely a glorified version of your website in tiny form.

The technologies that fascinated me the most had to do with geofencing, NFC, and RFID technologies. An example of this would be something like this:¬†you had the Starbucks app on your phone, and as you passed by a Starbucks, your phone would send you a notification for a coupon off a drink–but only if you were in the vicinity of the Starbucks. My brain started to spin with the possibilities of how to use this, at least in m-learning. She also talked about how the proliferation of QR codes and augmented reality were coming about, and how wearables were going to be playing more of a part in mobile marketing. I knew all about these from Marta Rauch and her talks about Google Glass, and such, but I think there were some additional features that I hadn’t really thought about before this way.

All in all, it got me excited about mobile technology. Not that my interest in mobile had ever gone away–just sidetracked. ¬†We really do take our mobile tech for granted–I know I take mine for granted! I think that whatever my next stage is, I surely need to figure out how to get mobile technology into the mix, whether it’s writing or designing for mobile, or whatever. My passion for mobile has simmered over the years. I think the dark side of content strategy lured me over for the past year or two (not that it’s a bad thing), and I lost sight of where I wanted to go. If I end up starting my own business, then I need to think¬†about incorporating those mobile skills again. Seriously, three years ago I talked about mobile in terms of m-learning mostly, but I knew it was the next big thing because mobile use was growing. My thinking was correct back then, and deep down, I know it’s only going to grow and get more complex in time. ¬†I feel like I’ve already fallen behind! So, I need to try to get up to speed on this technology again, and try to push forward, whether it’s in content marketing or something else. I appreciate CK lighting the fire under me again!

Moving on from there, the next module will be about content marketing. OK, folks, here’s the crux of it all, and I’m fearful of it. This is the topic that drove me to take this course because it’s all that I hear about in the content strategy world. We’ll see if I come out unscathed from this topic next week.