Month: July 2014

3 Big Reasons Why Most Agencies (& Brands) Are Losing on Digital Talent


And the 3 ways to fix the problem on both Fronts of Digital ROI & the Talent to Execute.

In light of the recent quote in ClickZ’s press release this week, thought now would be a good time to help clarify the problem of Digital Talent and Skills as well as offer some solutions.


“I’d go as far to say this issue has reached a crisis level.  Over the years at OMI we've watched this backlog of skills needed to drive awareness and drive sales through digital grow and grow.  Content Marketing is the perfect poster child for this epidemic as we found in our survey with Forrester and BMA and our related Digital Skills and Talent Gap study,” Kahlow said.

“Marketing teams are missing the ROI mark, agencies are failing their clients and senior leadership including HR, L&D, are failing their teams in an epic fashion. This is yet another reason I am thrilled to be moderating the keynote panel at the ClickZ Live digital marketing conference and helping unearth how these great companies are the exception to the rule and how we can learn from them."


As an organization’s leader or professional development head, it’s no secret that the balance between short-term financial results and long-term planning and investment is the key to sustainable success. As with all things in life, we must survive in the short-term but make sacrifices for the long-term if we want to see results beyond just day-to-day existence.   

Yet every level of the organization, from the C-level leader to the entry-level staff and more poignantly professional and learning development (HR, too), is failing at playing the long-term game. Your profits, revenue, operating income, and talent are being greatly affected by it. Most are paying just enough attention to see it. What is it?

Investment in your people.

The most talked about priority (aka lip service) that rarely ever gets the proper leadership mindshare, organization priority, and monetary investment in the history of business itself. Why? We just are too short-term focused. And we avert painful longer-term programs that don’t show immediate impact. Instant gratification is a societal challenge and an epidemic in good business leadership as well as interpersonal development.

Let’s discuss some quick ways to fix it before I dive into unraveling what’s happening. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, read no further than these four steps and skip my explanation of what’s actually happening below.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy…nor overnight. So let’s think about our solutions in a four-step process to begin the journey to getting back on track.

1)   Ask. In the right setting, one-on-one or at a team meeting, simply ask, “How important are our people and the talent we attract to the success of our organization?” You will get a lot of “Very important” responses. Then, follow up with, “Where does this rank on our mid- and long-term priorities to ensure we get it right and do it well? Is it before or after increasing profits by X percent?”
Much has been written about eLearning (and yes, I too run a company that offers such for digital), but most of it is true. It’s a very low-cost way to pilot a program to easily engage everyone around the world or the local office by giving them the power to learn at their own pace and time.

2)   Pilot. As we gain a consensus on the level of importance, it’s time to do something different. The same program with a little more money or the same training impetus with a different spin won’t do the trick. So find something new and even audacious to “pilot.” Getting the risk vs. reward argument to do so usually works well. For instance, “If we can roll out a scalable, engaging eLearning program that provides credentials and badging for our team worldwide, the impact to job satisfaction, talent retention, and improved execution could increase by factors of two or more. If this pilot doesn’t work, we at least learned what we need to do, and will go do it later with only X dollars lost. The reward dwarfs the risk.” It’s here where the whole game changes. You now have a chance to do something new and special with the whole organization watching.

3)   Measure and testimonial. Stating the obvious here, but before you go forward set some simple and agreed upon goals to measure success.  Amount of engagement, number of folks that complete program (ex: how many get the Digital Essentials Certificate) and simple qualitative feedback on the learning or improvement experience.  Those quotes like “wow, I wish we had access to these social media classes online years ago. Finally, great work guys” from even the lowest level employee goes a long way. 

4)   Go for the program. Now it’s time to speak up in the strategic meeting during the planning and budget phase and ask for a complete relook at how we instill great culture, improve our employees, and make them happy! Learning is always one of the critical keys, so build that program you dreamed of years ago, and hold yourself, your leaders, and your overall team accountable to the most important investment a company can make…its people.

In summation, go get some focus and discipline around the long-term vs. short-term goals; think about true investment vs. the line item in your budget; utilize mindshare vs. a meeting agenda item of senior executives to help drive internal revenue.

And remember, truly caring vs. checking things off the list will be the difference between the winners and the losers.

A Deeper Look at the Problem

As promised, here are the unspoken challenges at the three key levels of a company: leaders, professional development/HR managers, and you, the employee.

You, the Leaders: Time for Some Long-Term Accountability

Nearly every company leader I have had the chance to talk to in my many meetings is fully consumed with the short-term and pays lip service to the long-term. The ideal example is investment in your team: giving them the tools, the motivation, the knowledge, and the culture to continuously improve (aka professional development).

Explain content to clients

Worse than this is what I call the “Yes to death” effect - where the learning, training, and professional development conversations are a line item on the annual or quarterly meeting (or budget), but the focus and priority is nothing more of a head nod, “Yes, let’s do this” and then moving on.

As a board member of a few companies, I say to other boards of both public and private companies, how many times do you ask for a report or insight on how the company is investing in its people? Maybe you and the shareholders you represent need to get off the short-term profit wagon and show a little care for the long-term health of the organization, yes?

You, the Professional Development (or Digital Head) Champion: HR, L&D, and Business Ops Needs to Take Charge 

Take HR as an example - so many battles and attempts to make the case for corporate culture and improvement programs have been waged with minimal success that even the most passionate have become disenfranchised. This causes an even more systemic risk that the good folks in charge of making sure professional development and learning are at least a line item (HR, learning and development, business operations, and for smaller companies, the CEO/president) nearly always concede to this head nod and check it off their list if the budget is approved. Little true care is given to the depth of impact on the staff, the quality of the deliverable and its total outcome to the business.

For example, in the digital marketing industry where I reside, many times this is the global head of digital, or for smaller organizations, the marketing person who is the most digitally savvy. And they are keen to help folks at least “level set” on their knowledge and improve on the ability to use new skills to drive improved execution. But, because they are understaffed and overworked (aka the talent shortage in digital), they too succumb to the “Check ‘er off the list” mentality.

It’s not that these items are completely missing from the strategic leadership meetings, there is just an unspoken element of “Yes, yes, this is important for our culture, let’s do something.” And that is much more detrimental than not having a program at all. Because now you’ll have a half thought-out, partial program that has very little energy, passion, or executive impetus to gain traction, and the malaise of learning and improvement will set in from top to bottom. Cynics who roll their eyes at words like “training” will become the norm.

As the ones responsible for job satisfaction, company culture, professional development, and learning programs know, “Having a program” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Working under the same paradigm, budget structure and a blasé training impetus is killing your culture of curiosity and learning. It’s high time we start getting the passion back and making strides toward moving the organization forward. Or are we just worried about keeping our job and related budget? If so, then you have failed leadership, and the senior executives above you have failed the organization by not asking you for more.

Mind you, there are great examples of companies taking the lead on making the long-term investment, many I have the pleasure to work with (probably why they hire us), so I do not wish to detract from the great strides and plans they are making. But, we must hold the rest of the world accountable and go a bit deeper.

You, Yourself, and I: Personal Job Satisfaction Be Thy Own

Those not in leadership positions or a professional development role need to look at themselves in the mirror as well. It’s incumbent on you to take your destiny into your hands vs. complaining about the lack of such leadership in your organization. What I mean by this is if learning and improving your skills to build a career path is important to you, then go do it. Join the local association, commit to reading the research and educational publications, and subscribe to one of the many video-based eLearning providers to watch and learn from some of the best educators in the world. Most of this is priced to be super affordable to the consumer and a lot is just plain ‘ol free.

But be careful with the free. While information is usually free, education is assuredly not. And, of course, ask the powers that be for more of what you need as opposed to just taking what they give you.

To summarize, leadership needs accountability and commitment to long-term investment of people; first-line managers need to take responsibility for relentlessly pushing the cause; and all levels need to look in the mirror and take professional development into their own hands.


Infographic: How to Meaure the Value of Coupons in Digital Campaigns


Coupons have always been a popular way of stretching a budget, and almost 80 percent of consumers use coupons with some regularity. Coupons have long been encouraging brand loyalty, motivating consumers to try new products, and to repeat their purchase habits.

When they were mainly distributed via printed media, the clipping of coupons used to be something of a family weekend activity. Back then, word of mouth was the most powerful way of sharing coupons. In this era of technology, consumers are both finding and sharing offers digitally. It’s the “millennials” (those born between early 1980 to early 2000) that are the most active at sharing deals with one another, and 90 percent of them do so. A massive 45 percent of them share deals through social media and 30 percent of them do so via text.

A coupon campaign’s success is attributed to a number of factors, but the key is for retailers to do their research properly and to implement a strategy that clearly defines their objectives. Gap ran one of the most successful campaigns in history and credited their success to a multi-pronged media approach:

With 62 percent of consumers spending an average of two hours per week searching for deals, and the ability to compare products and prices so easily, brands face increasingly steep competition to lure customers to make online purchases. Consumers seek high-quality products, but will take great steps to find these products at the best possible price.

It’s not just the established brands that see the benefits from coupon marketing campaigns. Seventy-four percent of online coupon users indicated that they would be likely to try a new brand if they received a coupon or promotion code, indicating that they are also a fantastic technique for emerging brands to utilize when launching online.

To find out what consumers want and how they want it, Vouchercloud has compiled an infographic utilizing the latest consumer figures to identify how coupon campaigns are becoming the driving force for digital campaigns.

For more on how to launch a successful campaign on Facebook, such as a digital coupon campaign, watch the Online Marketing Class, How to Launch a Successful Facebook Campaign. Enroll today!


5 Ways to Get the Most From Facebook


Even though the majority of businesses today are on Facebook, many small businesses don’t use the site very effectively. Perhaps they think it’s irrelevant, or they perceive it as a waste of time and money, or maybe they are simply intimidated by the prospect of a “social media strategy.” These days, if your business is not on Facebook, you are missing out on a significant marketing opportunity. If you are on Facebook, perhaps you’re wondering how you can maximize this opportunity. Here are five pointers to help you get the most from your Facebook experience. 

1.     Be engaging (and engaged). Give folks an incentive to visit your Facebook page often. Offering coupons and discounts or even holding contests can attract fans and followers, but you should also mix it up with other content that will inform and entertain your readers. A blend of short but punchy videos, product information, and interesting photos can make your page - and your brand - attractive to readers. Links to articles about issues relevant to your niche or industry, or to topics you care about that are in sync with your brand message, help establish you as a credible resource. If you maintain a blog related to your business, you can link to new blog posts or to older posts that address an issue that’s popped up in the news again. Remember: part of being engaging is to avoid under-posting or over-posting. If you post too infrequently you’ll get lost in the crowd, and if you post too frequently you may start looking a bit spammy.

Related Class: 7 Elements of Highly Effective Facebook Marketing

2.     Be accessible. Facebook is a conversation. It’s not all about you; it’s also about your customers, fans, and friends. You can conduct formal or informal surveys, perhaps asking a “Question of the Day” to encourage feedback and spur conversation. You’ll probably find that Facebook is an excellent way to engage in direct conversations with current or prospective customers. Not only can you use this dynamic medium to ask people’s opinions, but you can also address their questions and complaints. Carefully read what people have to say, and respond respectfully even if their comments are negative.

Consistency in tone is important, so even if you have a group of people managing your Facebook content, you should strive for a group “voice.” (If individual “personalities” are part of your Facebook strategy, each one needs to be clearly identified when she posts, but they all need to be consistent with your brand message.)

3.     Use Facebook ads effectively. While some Facebook users find ads annoying, many others have no objection to clicking through to something that looks interesting. A Facebook ad campaign is worth considering because of the flexibility; your campaigns can target narrow audiences based on those audiences’ characteristics and interests. One caveat: Facebook frequently changes. Facebook users often complain about the constant “improvements” Facebook makes to its user interface, and many business owners have been flummoxed by changes in its ad programs. For a more in-depth exploration of ways you can maximize the benefits offered by Facebook ads, consider a class, such as this one in the Online Marketing Institute eLearning library.

4.     Optimize for mobile. More than three-quarters of Facebook users in the U.S. primarily access the site on mobile devices. Given its importance, you need to make sure the visual content on your Facebook page is optimized for mobile. And if you’re running Facebook ads, there are specific things you need to know about mobile advertising.

5.     Gauge your results. There are numerous tools and apps to help you determine whether or not you’re achieving your Facebook objectives. For some businesses, the chief objective may be traffic to your website. You can use your website’s own analytic tool, or Google Analytics, to monitor traffic being driven to your website from Facebook. Many small businesses may measure their Facebook success by sales, and you can choose from an array of tools for completing or tracking sales from your Facebook page. Facebook has become more business-friendly in recent years and has an abundance of information on how you can track your results.

One of the advantages of Facebook marketing is that it allows you to quickly change your strategy when necessary - without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on traditional media advertising and promotions. If you haven’t yet begun to explore the opportunities Facebook offers, there is no better time to jump in and start using it to grow your business.  

Are you ready to learn more about how to use Facebook for your Small Business Marketing? Join us for a FREE Webinar on How to Craft the Ideal Content Strategy for Your Facebook Page this Wednesday at 11:00am PT, where you’ll learn how to identify the best performing content, how to use paid promotion to maximize this content, what time & day your posts will get the best results, and the tools to take you there. Register today!


How to Use Twitter for Business


Why some tweets catch on and why some businesses are killing it using Twitter.

One of the big challenges I find consistently in my daily personal Twitter activity is determining why some tweets get a lot of love and retweets and why some just sit there without a chirp to mention. This is exactly why I love this class I just watched from Nate Riggs, The Secret to Business Success on Twitter.

Here’s a summary of what I learned and how we at the Online Marketing Institute will apply it.

1)   Build new cultural habits within the entire organization.

This is the theme of the entire class, and is a strong reminder that we don’t have a culture to be social. To work on what that means for us is the first step to making Twitter useful for our brand, and not just one more fleeting project we embark on.

2)   How to be relevant in that moment.
The famous Oreo story (which like you, I am a bit tired of hearing about) on how it brought a brand manager and a social media manager together to quickly brainstorm amazing ideas to react and be relevant to the Super Bowl power outage provided a key takeaway. Be sure to ensure your brand is layered into your overall game plan.

3)   Build infrastructure – alert system, quick approval
You need to know the rules of the game. Who tweets when; how to react to the negative tweets; and how to jump on a quick trend. There’s no time to just scramble or guess.

4)   Be clear about your intentions.
Ask yourself, “Why are we on Twitter?” As my French partners would say, “What is your raison d’être?” For OMI, it’s something like this: “We are tweeting to provide good learning opportunities and places for marketers to learn digital.”

5)   Be conversational and relevant.
As most people know, being excessively promotional will hurt your brand. If you want to engage folks, be sure to keep the tone casual, conversational, and relevant. You’d be surprised how many miss the relevance piece when they try to hijack a conversation and then start a promotional chest beating.

6)   Actively participate.
Find the trending conversations that folks in the space are talking about and interested in. Don’t try too hard to create the conversation; just participate in what’s happening and offer helpful tweets on that topic.

7)   Consistently take big, calculated risks.
Newcastle’s “If We Won” and Obama’s Big Bird campaign are a few examples of how taking a risk will get folks’ attention and offer the very real possibility that they will perk up and have an opinion. Just don’t be afraid.

Bonus: frictionless sharing.
Write tweets that are easy to retweet and quote (i.e., less than 100 characters so folks can toss in their two cents). Make the tweets as shareable in tone and interest for your audience’s audience as possible. 

There you have it. Feel free to watch the class and go a bit deeper into Twitter strategies for driving real sustainable engagement.



How to Optimize Your Social Media Content


Last week, we shared with you the results of the Online Marketing Institute, Forrester Research, and Business Marketing Association Content Marketing Survey, indicating that B2B content marketing has a long way to go.

Today, we are diving deeper into the content marketing debate with an interview with Jay Ivey from Software Advice, an online review firm for social CRM systems, to answer a few questions on the first ever Social Media Content Optimization Survey done in partnership with Adobe. The survey was taken to better understand the strategies marketers are using to currently optimize their social media content and to gauge the overall effectiveness of these strategies.

1. According to your survey, 65 percent of marketers schedule their social content at least one day in advance. What's the benefit of creating a social plan like that?

Having a structured social content timeline encourages you to post consistently and to be thoughtful about what it is you’re posting. For instance, when you plan in advance, you do a better job ensuring that you’re posting a good variety of content to keep all of your various target audience segments engaged.

Related Class: Tips and Tricks for Making Your Content Marketing Work

2. Are there any drawbacks or possible conflicts marketers should be aware of when scheduling social posts several weeks or a month in advance? 

When you’re posting that far in advance, timeliness can definitely be an issue. For better or worse, social media is all about keeping up with the hottest, most current topics and trends, so if your posts are consistently stale, that’s going to have a negative effect on engagement.

3. Your survey shows that nearly half of all marketers are managing their social media accounts without any software or services, such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite. Could this be negatively affecting those marketers' overall social media strategy? How?

Managing your social media accounts without tools will absolutely have a negative effect. If marketers want to achieve real, measurable success through social media, they need to treat it like they treat any other channel: thoughtfully and methodically. You come in with a clear, overarching strategy; you develop specific tactics as part of that strategy; and you measure the results of those tactics to see what works best. But without the visibility provided by social media tools, you can’t measure your success, which means you can’t optimize your tactics. If you’re going on gut instinct and “Likes” alone, you’re flying almost completely blind. Unfortunately, this isn’t Star Wars, and you don’t have mystical powers. So you might as well turn on your targeting computer. Not everyone can afford a fancy comprehensive marketing cloud solution with advanced social analytics. But there are a lot of free and affordable options out there. So, why not?

4. Of your respondents, 67 percent said using images or photos is "very important" to their social media strategy. How can marketers know exactly what kind of images will attract not just any audience, but the right audience?

I tend to agree with our expert, Liz Strauss, that prioritizing the use of images over targeting specific audiences seems to reflect a misunderstanding of how social media marketing works. You have to start with the top-down strategy before you focus on specific tactics, which is to say that you need to spend a lot of time thinking about who “the right audience” is before you worry about which images will attract them. For most companies this means putting real thought, energy, and resources into developing distinct, targetable buyer personas. Then those little tactical decisions are easy. You know what kind of content your closest friends will respond positively to, right? Once you know understand your subsegments as well as you understand your friends (i.e., as humans) you will know intuitively which kinds of images will attract them.

Looking for ways to optimize your social media content? In this class, Content Marketing + Social Media = Success, you will learn how to amplify existing content with social media to maximize customer acquisition. Enroll today!


A Very Short Guide on How-To Get Your Content Seen on Facebook


Demystifying Facebook reach and the EdgeRank process.

Many fellow entrepreneurs, small local business owners, and marketers get a little befuddled by Facebook. This can be especially true for B2B folk, but not exclusively (as evidenced by my local yoga studio). Consequently, I thought it could be useful to get a very simple understanding of how it works so your time and efforts don’t get wasted.

True: Getting your message seen on Facebook is getting harder and harder.

False: How to get seen on Facebook is a total mystery.

As my good friend and the smartest Facebook marketer I know, Emeric Ernoult tells us in classes like Facebook Marketing Myths and Tips that there are many ways to improve Facebook relevancy, and yes, it’s hard, but not a mystery. The basics are as follows:

Facebook is looking for related activity to your page, brand, or personal profile to determine what to show in the news feed of folks that are your friends or followers. It’s that simple. Has this person recently had any interaction, activity, and most importantly engagement with you, your content on Facebook, or your page? This is essentially how Facebook can tell if you are interested in this person or page and will serve you content related to that interest.

In reverse order, Facebook gives strong signals to its content publishing in the news feed to the big three actions you can take: “Like,” “Comment,” and “Share.” It’s indirectly the user’s way to indicate how interesting that content or page is to her. So think of it as a sliding scale, or in romantic terms.

1)   Likes: The low end of the totem pole but a good indicator of relevancy and shared interest. Getting a “Like” will make it more likely (pun intended) you will be seen on this person’s page. Additionally, you will get more likes overall on a given post and that popularity will help you rise to the top of news feeds everywhere.

It’s easy to like something, so the barrier is low for this action and Facebook knows this. We also like a lot of things in life, so it’s an endorsement but not a strong one. Think of it as someone saying:

“I like Aaron.”  

2)   Comments: A big jump up from a “Like.” It’s a super good indicator to Facebook that you have a strong interest in this page’s or person’s content. You took the time to write and share your feelings and that is a big bump up on the Richter scale in importance. As you know being a Facebook user, you can get 30, 40, or 100 likes, but for every 20 likes you might get one or two comments. So this is a big deal. Romantic analogy:

“I really dig Aaron and the great stories he shares about his world travels.”

3)   Shares: The coup de grâce of never-seen Facebook posts. Get some folks to share your stuff and end the suffering of three measly likes and zero comments. More poignantly, when someone shares your post, she is basically promoting it to the world. Not only does that kick in the fantastic viral butterfly effect of getting the word out to many new audiences, but it tells Facebook that this person feels strongly about the value and relevance of this content. This is the ultimate, albeit hard to get and even harder to ask for, triumph. It’s analogous to:

“Aaron, wow! Love that guy. Not only is he a successful entrepreneur but the whole spirituality aspect is amazing. Can’t get enough of him!”

So, the very simple and short recommendations for increasing your Facebook reach include:

a)    Posting content to evoke an emotion so many folks will “Like” it.

b)   Creating a compelling question or statement on that post to get folks naturally “Commenting.”

c)    Making your content so awesome (aka Great Content Marketing Tactics) that folks can’t help but want to be associated with this content and have all their friends benefit from it. 

Facebook Like

Easy enough, right? The hard part is actually spending the time consistently doing it. Good luck. And remember to share this post! 🙂




Infographic: How to Launch a Successful Meme Campaign


Memes are a marketing marvel when you get a hit on your hands, as they can make a lasting impression on your target audience and a good impression on your bottom line.

Memes come in all shapes and sizes and there are many examples of how they can take on a life of their own and spawn an almost endless wave of remixes. A great example of this phenomenon at work is the marketing campaign carried out for the Dos Equis beer brand, which was titled “The Most Interesting Man in the World”. Since this first hit internet screens in 2006, it has pretty much become the go-to example for anyone wanting to compare themselves to “interesting”, irrespective of whether you are being sincere or ironic. This infographic takes a look at the history of memes and its spike in popularity in recent years.


 Source: WhoIsHostingThis?

There are all sorts of examples of different forms of memes and also some background on why memejacking (“hijacking popular memes for your own benefit”) can actually be a good idea. But, if you are going to adopt a memejacking strategy you need to act fast.

You should also take the time to consider whether your customers will be able to understand the meme's meaning and context to your marketing values. If you get it wrong and fail to strike the right chord with your target demographic, you could always resort to the “You're Doing it Wrong” meme which is often associated with FAIL images across the net. If you are struggling for a bit of original inspiration, you could even use a meme generator like or use Google trends to see what your customers want and what is on-trend at this point in time.

This social media marketing class, How to Use Visual Storytelling to Improve Your Marketing, led by instructor Brandon Whalen, explains how visual storytelling through social media is a powerful way of connecting with people online and generating great content that builds brand awareness as well as brand loyalty. You'll learn how strong content that uses visual storytelling on social platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter engages the right audience in the right way.




How to Fix the Content Marketing Problem with Big Data, Marketing Automation and Good Analytics


83% of marketers are clueless on the value of content marketing, latest research reveals.

The new content marketing research released from Forrester in partnership with the Online Marketing Institute and the Business Marketing Association reminds us all how far we have to go to be really effective "content marketers." There is a boatload of great stats in this report that reveal the true state of content marketing, but instead of restating all those (which you can download here), I will focus on the one that tells the story. Eighty-three percent of marketers and marketing executives cannot tie business value back to content marketing. In that, I'd like to focus on how to fix the problem...instead of sulking.

Your first reaction might be, “WTF!” But if you let it sit for a moment, I think most of us will nod our head in a bit of disaffection and concur. We simply haven't matured, educated, or spent the right amount of time pulling the strategic into the analytic to make content a well-understood driver of sales revenue. More simply put, our team is not there yet and it is painfully overdue.

Let's fix it. Agreed?

Clear and Unilateral Understanding of Customers’ Buying Behavior

It all starts here. Getting everyone from the CEO to the intern understanding how customers purchase is critical. Otherwise, opinions and outdated marketing mantras will reign supreme.

Google Analytics Evangelist Justin Cutroni states that there is no funnel; customers do a lot of things and 90 percent of them are online when it comes to learning and deciding on your product. They, of course, Google a term, then read a blog post, tweet or Facebook like the post, read reviews, read another blog post or industry rag article, and bounce around like a fly you just swatted that is trying to escape the next attempt. In other words, they are all over the place.

The takeaway is, if your content is not found in those streams of research and searching,  you have no chance. Remember, no one is going to read your great product spec sheet or website until they have proof that you have what they need first. And that is the core of content marketing. Let them discover useful content to help them eventually drive into a place of decision-making on your site.

Content is the core of your marketing. Without it, there is nothing.

Mapping It to Marketing Automation

Now, most B2B organizations have some sort of marketing automation (sometimes referred to as demand generation) program in place. Lead nurturing, lead scoring, and drip campaigns are all part of this strategic effort. Where 83 percent of us are failing is tying specific content to each of the stages we identify (for the more traditional sales-driven org, these are the "sales stages" we identify like lead, warm lead, opportunity,  opportunity consideration, closed/lost, etc.).

For example, if we can identify a blog post as early stage content, a webinar as warm lead content, and so on, you'll see you can now assign relevant value to that touch in the sales cycle, and then use that value to determine the effectiveness of getting a prospect with that content to the next stage. Taking it a step further, you can assign a dollar value. So, if the average purchase for your product is $10,000, you might assign a $1,000 value to the blog post that your consumer reads, and $5,000 for the white paper she downloads, and so on. This will help get everyone’s attention when you start tossing dollar figures at them, albeit representative, in your monthly reports and meetings.

If you don't have a marketing automation tool or system in place, you can use your equivalent and track there, or even a spreadsheet. But you need to track, and more importantly, you need to have content for each stage of the sales cycle or you won't be in the consideration process when it comes time to purchase.

Got it? Good. Let's finish off on measurement (aka attribution).

You Can't See What You Don't Measure

The chicken and the egg dilemma comes to mind in this topic. We don't know the business value of content marketing because we haven't measured it. We haven't measured it because we don't see the business value. Well, it is pretty straightforward. If you use a little bit of the above marketing automation/lead scoring, then you are half way there. Now, we need to use our analytics (whether it is Adobe or Google Analytics) to track trends in what content is having the greatest effect on sales. You need to correlate who actually purchased to what content they absorbed, and you need to see the trends of what content is accessed and its frequency on the effect of net new leads, lead velocity, and sales. There are two key ways to doing this:

1)    Set up your attribution modeling (assisted sales) report where you tie conversions back to an action of someone reading a post, clicking on a webinar signup page, or downloading a whitepaper. Set up these goals and then tie them to the attribution modeling reports (in Google these are at the bottom left of your sidebar navigation reports).

2)    Use big data. Tying visits back to third-party data sources (and your own CRM data), you can actually understand what company and even what person is looking at your information. For the smaller business, this will have to be more internal as budgets may not allow for external spending. But for the enterprise marketer, there is simply no excuse. This is also called predictive analytics, predictive CRM, or big data marketing. And, of course, I am happy to provide a list of folks who do a good job here if you are so inclined (just ping me on LinkedIn).

So, start tracking value through simple analytic goal setting and attribution, and then start mapping it back to actual customers with big data. Yes, this takes time, but there are small immediate steps that can help right away.

Measure B2B Social Media

Finally, It All Starts and Ends With the Culture of Learning

Instilling a level-setting education mechanism across the organization is key. You have to do it or else it is just little ‘ol you screaming (for the nth time) about this. Get ‘em reading the book, watching the video, taking eLearning classes (shameless plug, I know), or reading the research, and make it part of a regular process, not a one-off. A sustainable, consistent culture of learning is what will win the long-term attention and budget battles.

If you would like to learn more on the internal culture, talent acquisition/retention, and simple learning mindset, we have some research (our digital talent and skills study) to fire at those team leads, HR folks, and senior management.

And if this culture shift is not possible at your current company...frankly, I would be looking to go work for the competitor where it is possible. Sorry, HR.



Survey Results Revealed: Are B2B Marketers As Mature As They Think?


When it comes to B2B Content Marketing, the bad news is a skills gap is emerging as most senior marketers are far behind in the effort to produce content that engages buyers. The good news is, we can only go up from here.

In a recent content marketing benchmark study, the Online Marketing Institute, teamed up with Forrester Research and the Business Marketing Association to understand how well B2B marketers gauge their content development skills and maturity.

113 senior marketer survey respondents provided insight on the following five dimensions. How do they:

1.) Understand customers' interests and needs;

2) Align content themes to buyer concerns and business objectives;

3) Develop content that engages buyers;

4) Distribute it to intersect with their purchase journey; and

5) Monitor how they interact with it.

Surprisingly, the results venture far from the age-old theory that “Content is King” and rather show us that from a B2B perspective, the role of content marketing is far behind showing its value when it comes to consistently delivering information with prospects and customers.

Here are some of the key findings show that most B2B Marketers:

  • Do not have Content marketing in their job description. A startling 72% of surveyed marketers say less than half of their marketing staff plays a primary role in content marketing today — leaving content to simply talk of products and features, rather than interesting insights buyers seek. It's no surprise, then, that 87% say they struggle to produce content that truly engages their buyers.

  • Are too focused on acquisition and less about the whole customer lifecycle . Sixty-two percent admit to producing content on a campaign-by-campaign basis while 47% said that they focus primarily on creating content for distribution channels like their company website, online advertising, email, and social media. Another 16% said they mainly develop sales collateral.
  • Fail to help & teach the customer how to be successful with their product. While 71% of surveyed marketers say their content features case studies or customer stories, only 3% admit this is a primary focus of their efforts.
  • Struggle to create long-term loyalty. While more than three-quarters of respondents say they frequently communicate to their customer base, only 5% make this a priority, proving that marketers are too focused on acquisition rather than creating long-term loyalty.


See here for full press release.

The Skills Gap

It’s hard to ignore the deficiencies the report suggests. And as long as this talent gap exists, CMO’s and Marketing Leaders will need to take a long & hard look at the skills, staff, and resources directed at content marketing development.

“The gap between content marketing awareness and good content marketing execution is not surprising.  It's something we run into every day at the Institute - what we call the digital skills gap,” said Online Marketing Institute Founder & CEO, Aaron Kahlow. “There simply aren't enough trained content marketers to do the leg work.  But the imperative for education is here and seen across the board, from entry level to CMO.”

With only 4% of those we surveyed are true “masters” of content marketing, the rest of the content marketers out there have a lot of catching up to do. Some companies leading the charge – Computer Sciences Corp, Deltek, Kapost, Sungard Availability Services, and Verizon – have shared their best practices with us, all of which can be found in the full survey report and with plenty of real life examples to learn from.

So, B2B marketers, if you are reading this, you may be asking, “What can I do to improve & raise the maturity of my content marketing strategy?”

In the spirit of our digital marketing education mission, we encourage you to invest in the advancement of your career, overall success of your team and business as a whole by educating yourself on the latest fundamentals, strategy, and tactics in content marketing. To get started, we recommend checking out OMI's current Content Marketing Classes and Content Marketing Certification.

In a subsequent post, we will talk in more detail about how you can help to fix this skills gap problem and execute smarter.

And for those BMA and OMI members, as well as qualified marketers who are interested, you can access a complimentary copy of the research report on the BMA website here.



B2B Marketers Struggle To Connect Content Marketing With Business Value


Results Of The Q2 2014 Online Marketing Institute/Forrester Research/Business Marketing Association Joint Study

SAN FRANCISCO, July 16, 2014 - Most B2B marketers have wised up to the value of content marketing, but many are still early on in the journey from product-focused to relationship-building content marketing. According to the 2014 Online Marketing Institute, Forrester Research, and Business Marketing Association joint study, “Compare Your B2B Content Marketing Maturity,” while 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty. In fact, when asked to look back at the past 12 months and rate the effectiveness of content marketing efforts, only 14% of those surveyed gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.

“The majority of marketers find producing content that engages buyers to be a major challenge,” said Business Marketing Association Chair Steve Liguori. “And that’s for good reason. Our survey results show that the majority of B2B content practices focus too narrowly on early-stage buyer acquisition — which fails to engage buyers throughout their lifetime. To create content that attracts and builds customer relationships throughout the customer life cycle, B2B marketers must make a fundamental shift from writing about features and benefits to delivering valuable information that drives business results.”

Marketers Struggle To Create More Powerful Content That Customers Value

B2B marketers have more work to do when it comes to using content to consistently deliver a valuable exchange of information with prospective buyers. To start, too many marketers continue to downplay the importance of content as marketing’s main job. A startling 72% of surveyed marketers say less than half of their marketing staff plays a primary role in content marketing today — leaving content to quickly degrade to talk of products, features, and what the company has to offer, rather than cleverly packaged bits of the interesting insights buyers crave.

“The gap between content marketing awareness and good content marketing execution is not surprising.  It's something we run into every day at the Institute - what we call the digital skills gap,” said Online Marketing Institute Founder & CEO, Aaron Kahlow. “There simply aren't enough trained content marketers to do the leg work.  But the imperative for education is here and seen across the board, from entry level to CMO.”

Currently, content production:

  • Fails to highlight how products and services help customers become successful. While 71% of surveyed marketers say their content features case studies or customer stories, only 3% admit this is a primary focus of their efforts.
  • Lacks forward-leaning insights that buyers can turn into action. Only 12% of respondents make publishing research and perspectives the main focus of their content marketing, and no one said they engage external experts to validate those ideas.
  • Focuses on closing the deal, not on building relationships. While more than three-quarters of respondents say they frequently communicate to their customer base, only 5% make this a priority, proving that marketers are too focused on acquisition rather than long-term loyalty.

Business buyers can now access an abundance of digital information to research and shop for solutions on their own terms,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos. “That means many B2B firms risk losing more empowered customers to more responsive competitors — if they don’t take the time to assess the true maturity of their content marketing engines and make sure that content connects with what concerns and interests buyers.”

The good news, says Ramos: “Once marketing leaders have made the shift to relationship-building content marketing, they will find that it regularly fuels the demand generation engine, boosts brand visibility, and attracts buyers interested in the problems their company can solve.”

About The Survey

This study uses data based on a survey of 113 B2B marketing executives, fielded in Q2 2014. BMA and OMI members, as well as qualified marketers, can access a complimentary copy of the research report on the BMA website at 

About Online Marketing Institute

Founded in 2007, the Online Marketing Institute offers the world’s largest online library of digital marketing classes taught by leading practitioners. Over 41,000 professionals, entrepreneurs, agencies, students, and teams across the globe use their Online Marketing Institute education to advance their careers and drive business results. Unlike traditional and generic education sources, OMI provides high quality, affordable, on-demand classes covering the most innovative and proven best practices in all areas of digital marketing. To learn more, visit

About Forrester Research

Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) is a global research and advisory firm serving professionals in 13 key roles across three distinct client segments. Our clients face progressively complex business and technology decisions every day. To help them understand, strategize, and act upon opportunities brought by change, Forrester provides proprietary research, consumer and business data, custom consulting, events and online communities, and peer-to-peer executive programs. We guide leaders in business technology, marketing and strategy, and the technology industry through independent fact-based insight, ensuring their business success today and tomorrow. For more information, visit

About the Business Marketing Association

For more than 90 years, the Business Marketing Association (BMA) has dedicated itself exclusively to the discipline of business-to-business marketing. We enrich the lives of B2B marketer by providing a forum to connect them to learn about new trends and network with peers to exchange ideas. As the largest organization in the world dedicated to B2B marketing, our 18 chapters and 2,500 members represent corporate professionals, agencies, small businesses and suppliers committed to advancing the practice of B2B marketing. To learn more, visit