5 Ingredients to Master the Perfect Content Marketing Recipe #DSMPLS

Creating content day in and day out is exhausting. Constantly coming up with creative ideas and pushing yourself to come up with things you’ve never thought of is incredibly hard. But luckily, TopRank Marketing’s Executive Content Chef, Ashley Zeckman, was in the kitchen to help us cook up strategies for content creation at Digital Summit Minneapolis.

To help set the stage for her session, Ashley asked: who is fried on content marketing? To no one’s surprise, nearly every marketer in the room raised their hands.

As Ashley shared, there are four reasons why content creation and strategy fries our brains:

  • Consumers are overloaded
  • Audiences are becoming more sophisticated and demanding
  • Teams aren’t strategic with their content
  • Brands can’t keep up with demand

But even when faced with this problem, content teams still focus too much on brand over audience, care about quality over quantity, and are scared to take risks and fail.

So how can brands and marketing teams rise to the challenge and create and distribute content that is different than anything else out there? Ashley provides three preparations tips and five content ingredients that will help you do just that.

Prepping the Content Kitchen

1. Know Your Audience

Before you create content, you need to discover as much as you possibly can about your audience. You need to know what you’re cooking with! Find out who influences them, what they like to read, where they like to read it, and what type of pieces their reading. Are they reading infographics or eBooks? What captures their attention?

To help you discover some of this information, Ashley swears by the tool Answer the Public to find out what readers want to know and how they search for it.

2. Define Your Content Mission

Before embarking on any life-changing content missions, you need to document your content strategy and goals. Don’t just talk about it–write it down! This includes defining your audience, the message you want to deliver to that audience, and the intended outcome for your audience.

3. Commit to Content Impact

Here, Ashley reminds us that content engagement levels, on average, are super low at only 37 seconds per blog post or article (NewsCred Insights). She points out that if you’re audience isn’t engaged, they don’t care, so stop creating content that your audience may or may not read. Instead, create valuable pieces that will have an impact.

Baking the Perfect Content Dish

1. Influencer-Driven Content

“Today’s consumers don’t trust brands, they want to hear from experts they know and trust.”

Creating influencer content helps you establish trust with your audiences, scale your content to greater heights, and reach new audiences by tapping the right person at the right time. Plus, pairing content with influencer marketing is a great combination, as 80% of marketers rate content marketing as the most impacted by influencer marketing (TopRank Marketing, Traackr, and Altimeter Group).

To drive the point home, Ashley shared how a client eBook with an influencer-written forward directly generated $1.5 million in new revenue alone.

2. Video

People spend so much time on their mobile devices, video is a great way to halt scrolling thumbs and grab attention. Video formats also enable marketers and brands to tell more emotional, thought provoking stories, increasing the amount of time people spend with your content.

  • ? of all online activity is spent watching video (Wordstream)

When applied in the real-world, a short video created to amplify one client campaign, drove a 2,000% increase in views.

Ashley doesn’t want you to be intimidated by video, though. It might be hard without a full team, but as long as you have solid content behind your video you can at the very least create a compelling film on your iPhone.

3. Surveys & Research

According to Ashley, surveys and research help you to discover audience needs you didn’t know existed, build authority on a specific topic, and uncover new marketing opportunities.

The best way to conduct your research? Email. Forty-two percent is the average survey response rate in emails (FluidSurveys).

With one industry survey on influencer marketing, TopRank Marketing had a 30% conversion rate, over 2,000 research report downloads, and generated over 1,000 new contacts.

4. Content Repurposing

“Of the content ingredients in your pantry, this is the lowest hanging fruit.”

With repurposed content, Ashley believes you can tailor, diversify, and reduce the production time of your content in one fell swoop. Working off of a top performing piece of content, you can segment it for different verticals and create a series of posts that will be put in front of more people. Content repurposing isn’t new, 29% of leading marketers systematically repurpose content (Curata).

In her session, Ashley shared how one series of interviews turned into five different posts. The best part? The repurposed content generated 1,000 additional social shares alone.

5. Interactive Content

“With interactive content, audiences become a part of your content. Your message becomes sticky because they’re doing something.”

If you’re doing something, not just absorbing it, you’ll remember it more. That’s the premise Ashley shared behind interactive content. And it cannot be ignored because interactive content receives twice the amount of conversions than static content (Kapost). Ashley recommends all marketers test interactive content based on that stat alone.

What results has Ashley seen from interactive content? An interactive quiz created with SnapApp, had a 30% completion rate and even had readers asking for more.

Start Cooking Awesome Results at Your Organization

Before giving us free reign in the kitchen, Ashley asked the most important questions of the day. What would it cost for you to be more creative in your marketing? And, more importantly, what would it cost your organization if you don’t?

Sound off in the comments below on how creative content could make an impact on your audiences and your business.

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12 Must-See Speakers at Digital Marketing Summit Minneapolis #DSMPLS

As marketers, our jobs require that we prioritize ongoing education and learning in order to remain relevant and competitive. Fortunately for us, there are a plethora of ways to gain this knowledge.

One of the most effective (and my personal favorite) ways to keep learning is to attend industry conferences. Not only do these events provide a ton of information, but they also allow you to surround yourself with other like-minded marketers that you can connect with and learn from.

Not everyone can attend multiple conferences throughout the year so it’s essential to make those that you do go to, count. I know from experience that it can be incredibly overwhelming to decide which sessions to attend  So don’t get caught working out your itinerary between sessions, because you may kick yourself later for missing something important.

Today kicks off the two day Digital Marketing Summit in Minneapolis. To help you get the most of this great event, below are some of my recommendations for must-see sessions for each day.

Digital Marketing Summit: Monday August 14th, 2017

Seth Godin

Best Selling Author

Opening Keynote

If you haven’t seen Seth Godin speak before (or even if you have), you’re in for a big treat. Seth is the author of 17 bestselling books and an authority on marketing, the post-industrial revolution  leadership and so much more. While his keynote topic is a surprise, it is sure to be a session you can’t afford to miss.

Mina Seetharaman

SVP, Global Managing Director, Marketing Solutions – The Economist

Thought Leadership Disrupted

Brands large and small are competing to become the authority on topics related to their industry. But instead of focusing on thought leadership solely, marketers have an opportunity to reframe their approach to become thought partners. Mina’s session will help attendees uncover:

  • What content works best for B2B
  • How to become the go-to source of content for stakeholders
  • Ways to reach your target audience through distribution, format and content cadence

Cliff Seal

UX Lead – Salesforce Pardot

Death to Boring B2B Marketing: Driving Innovation with Design Thinking

B2B marketers have a huge opportunity to crush perception that B2B stands for Boring to Boring. Cliff’s session will focus on breathing new life into your B2B marketing with creativity, experimentation, collaboration and refining goals to be more trackable and attainable.

Grad Conn

GM, B2B Marketing – Microsoft

Superhero Selling: Reaching and Engaging the People That Count

Too often, marketing teams struggle to figure out exactly how to reach their target audience. Or worse yet, aren’t exactly sure who that audience is or what they care about. In his session, Grad will take a dive into helping you expand your connections so that you can reach the right people, ways to develop a customer-centric experience that will resonate with your buyers and the impact of collaborative technology systems.

Gabe Tartaglia

VP of Sales – Pandora

Engaging in a Connected World with the Power of Audio

Not only are we now concerned with the multiple screens that our audience uses, but we also have to think about the screen-less world. Audiences are now spending more time, and often more engaged when listening to audio such as podcasts, interviews and more. This session will uncover the power of audio as a way to make meaningful connections with consumers.

Ashley Zeckman

Director of Agency Marketing – TopRank Marketing

Mastering the Perfect Content Recipe: 5 Key Ingredients for Insanely Effective Content Marketing

What kind of marketer would I be if I didn’t recommend that you attend my session?!? As the content landscape becomes increasingly competitive, it has become even more essential that marketers get creative and focus on content impact versus quantity. This session will walk you through five content tactics to take your marketing from drab to delicious.

Digital Marketing Summit: Tuesday August 15th, 2017

McLean Donnelly

Vice President of User Experience – Shutterstock

Design & Business: A New Model of Product Strategy

Great Design and UX have become increasingly important as consumers needs and sophisticated evolves. Unfortunately, design teams are often left in the dark about larger business strategies and product management. This McLean’s session will help to solve some of these issues by presenting frameworks for design team management and actionable methods to deliver Human Centered Design.

Ryan Phelan

VP, Marketing Insights – Adestra

First Person Marketing: Using Data to Drive Higher Email Results

Targeted email is effective, email blasts, not so much. Break free of outdated and spammy email tactics by attending Ryan’s session where you’ll learn how email marketing has evolved, what you can do to stay up with customer needs and ways to use data to your advantage.

Lisa Marcyes

Sr. Social Media marketing Manager – Marketo

5 Biggest Mistakes Social Media Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them

A small whoops, can mean big impact on the social web. No matter how quickly you delete a post or comment, you can bet someone has already taken a screenshot. To avoid making further and larger mistakes, Lisa will walk attendees through a data-centric approach that can accurately measure social ROI, how an audience analysis can ensure your efforts are effective and how to incorporate channel specific tactics to drive reach and engagement.

Ann Handley

Chief Content Officer – MarketingProfs

Lunch Keynote – Good Content Vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight for Sore Eyes

Need advice on how to create great content? You’re in luck that the Queen of Content herself, Ann Handley will be sharing insights on how to tell bolder stories and create better content that is ridiculously engaging and irresistible to your audience.

Carlos Gil

Head of Global Social Media – BMC Software

Snapchat Strategies for Marketing Your Business

What’s up Snapchat fam? Join Snapchat master, Carlos Gil for insights into how to reach a younger audience with digital marketing. This session will provide advanced strategies for dominating Snapchat by developing integrated content strategies, working with influencers and effectively measuring the ROI of your Snapchat efforts.

Lee Odden

CEO – TopRank Marketing

Closing Keynote – Supercharge Your Content with Influencer Marketing

How can you stand out in a sea of content when consumers are unengaged? One way is to harness the power of influencers to supercharge your marketing efforts. In his closing keynote, Lee will provide a framework, best practices, tools and examples for effectively integrating influencers into your content marketing.

Join us on Monday Night for Happy Hour!

After the end of the conference on Monday August 14, TopRank Marketing will be hosting a fun happy hour starting at 6:30pm exclusively for Digital Marketing Summit attendees. It will be a great chance to unwind and network.

Check out the details here and sign up for your free ticket!


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Digital Marketing News: VR is Growing, AI is Watching & 3 Billion are on Social Media

Global Social Media User Base Reaches 3 Billion
A new report compiled by HootSuite and We Are Social found that the total number of social media users has now exceeded 3 billion, accounting for about 40 percent of the global population. Truly an incredible number, and one that speaks to the contemporary ubiquity of these networks. Mashable

AI is Analyzing You on Social Media for Marketing Research
With so many people using social media, there are no shortage of habits and behaviors to monitor and aggregate. AI marketing solutions company Ayzenberg is using machine-learning algorithms to analyze social speech and create actionable data for segmenting and profiling customers. The Next Web

AR and VR Revenue Projected at $215 Billion by 2021
Although everyone is still trying to figure out the best ways to utilize augmented and virtual reality, there is no question these technologies are gaining serious traction. The latest forecast from IDC suggests that spending on AR and VR products and services will reach $11 billion this year, with revenues expected to surpass $215 billion by 2021. As Jamiroquai once told us: the future’s made of virtual insanity. Media Post

Snapchat Takes a Page from Facebook Ads’ Power Editor
Hoping to make itself a more attractive destination for advertisers, Snapchat is beefing up its Ads Manager functionality with a new “Advanced Mode” that brings in new targeting, testing, and tweaking features. We’ll see if it helps turn around the company’s sluggish stock performance. TechCrunch

LinkedIn Expands Marketing Program, with Eye on Targeting, Measurement
In efforts to help marketers better measure and increase ROI, LinkedIn is expanding and diversifying its Marketing Partners Program, which originally launched three years ago. The program helps business users connect with LinkedIn-approved third-party technology partners. The three new categories added are marketing analytics, audience management, and media buying. Newly introduced partners include HootSuite and Marketo. Marketing Dive

People Take More Time to Read Emails on Mobile Than Desktop
It probably doesn’t shock you that more people now read emails on their mobile devices than desktop. But this nugget may come as a surprise: recipients spend more time reading emails on mobile, and are more likely to go through the entire message instead of quickly exiting. This runs contrary to conventional thinking that smartphone users are apt to skim-and-skip emails. Marketers, take note. Marketing Charts

Brands Use Instagram Stories More Than Twice as Often as Snapchat
Snapchat is the most popular platform for taking a picture of yourself with a glittery unicorn filter, but its business utility remains dubious. This is evidenced by the fact that, per business intelligence firm L2, brands are using Instagram Stories far more often. “As Instagram becomes the mainstream choice for brand Stories, Snapchat risks being niche-ified,” L2 suggested in its report. AdWeek

Linqia Unveils ‘First’ Platform for Predicting Influencer Engagement
More interesting news out of Silicon Valley: Linqia is releasing an updated version of its flagship platform, which the company is dubbing as the first to predictively analyze influencer performance. The company claims its tool will deliver better than 90 percent accuracy in forecasting influencer campaign engagement metrics. MarTech Today

40 Facts About How the Psychology of Color Can Boost Your Website Conversions [Infographic]
How can you boost website conversions? By changing up your color pallette, according to this infographic via the review site Skilled. Dig into the data for some intriguing insights on the psychology of color and how it affects decision-making. MarketingProfs

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more top digital marketing news! As always, if you need more in the meantime follow @toprank on Twitter or subscribe to the TopRank Marketing blog for daily insights to your inbox.

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Behind the Marketing Curtain: An Interview With Comedian, Marketer Tim Washer

Behind the Marketing Curtain - Tim Washer As we marketers long to make meaningful connections with our audience, we often look deep into our figurative crystal balls in hopes of finding a way to lay an irresistible field of content that will trap their attention. Unfortunately, we can end up putting our audience to sleep—leaving the door open for more colorful characters to swoop in and carry them away. So, how can we take to the sky and get our audience to surrender to our content? By crafting a  narrative that has empathy, humility and wit. And there’s certainly no better person to look to for inspiration than comedic treasure Tim Washer, Creative Director of Marketing for the Service Provider Division for Cisco. As part of our Wizard of Oz-inspired Behind the Marketing Curtain interview series, today we’ll pull back the fabric and get to know more about how Mr. Washer arrived in the wonderful world of marketing, and share insights that can help you harness the power of comedy to humanize your brand and connect with your audience. Enjoy!

The Man Behind the Curtain

Tim grew up in Houston, TX and attended college at Texas A&M University, majoring in—you guessed it—marketing. But after graduation he took a sales job at Xerox—which was certainly not in his original plan. “As I was getting close to graduation, there was one thing I knew I didn’t want to do: work in sales,” Tim recalled. “But as I was looking at marketing jobs, most open positions seemed to be promotional jobs—and I wasn’t turned on by that.” “Then a professor of mine mentioned Xerox, and said their sales team was rated No. 1,” he added. “So, then I thought: ‘Why not start there?’ This seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a better idea of how customers think and what their needs are, which is essential in marketing. It was a total one-eighty for me.” After snagging a meeting and shadowing someone for a day, Tim landed the gig at Xerox—laying the foundation for what would be a long career in the software and technology space. A few years later, he went back to school to get his MBA. Then, in the late 1990s, he made his way to New York City and has been there ever since. But shortly after his move, Tim realized he wasn’t exactly working in his calling. “What I really enjoy doing is comedy and improv, and making people laugh,” he said. “That’s where I feel at home. That’s my Kansas.” As it stands today, Tim has been able to merge his practical sales and marketing experience with his true passion. As previously mentioned, he’s currently Cisco’s Creative Director of Marketing for the Service Provider Division, and specializes in corporate humor and video content. Here’s a little taste of his work:

Prior to Cisco, he spent about six years doing similar work at IBM. In addition, he’s still active in the comedy arena, with writing and acting credits for his work on Saturday Night Live, Conan, The Onion, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But how exactly did he get here? We’ll get to that in the next section.

Following His Yellow Brick Road

Like Dorothy Gale, an unexpected twister hit Tim without warning, sending him on a long and winding path. “I know the exact moment it happened,” Tim remembered. “It was March 3, 1998.” It was the season of Lent, and Tim said he was thumbing through a devotional guide that his church— Fifth Avenue Presbyterian—had created for the season. “In there, I saw a Frederick Buechner quote that said: ‘The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger coincide,’” he recited. “And there were a series of reflection questions, the first one was: ‘What is your spiritual gift?’” For Tim, that answer was easy. It was making people laugh—but he asked around just to make sure others felt the same way. But it was the next question that sealed his fate. “The question asked: ‘How good of a steward are you being to this gift?’” Tim explained. “And at that moment I had this feeling of obligation come over me. I realized it was no longer a choice. It wasn’t something I wanted to do—it was something I had to do. I was going to be a comedian.” [bctt tweet=”#Comedy wasn’t something I wanted to do. It was something I had to do. @timwasher” username=”toprank”] After that, Tim joined the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) in New York City, and studied improv under the incomparable Amy Poehler. She actually helped him get one of his first big breaks—writing for SNL. “She was extremely influential and helpful,” Tim said, likening her help to the kind Dorothy received from Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion. He had a few other trusty helpers along the way, too, including Tony Hale, known for his role as Buster Bluth on Arrested Development and Gary Walsh on Veep, as well as film director Scott Teems. “Scott is without a doubt one of the most influential people on my career,” Tim said. “When I pitched my first comedy video to IBM, I didn’t have any budget, but I called him up and he worked with me on it. And they loved it. He’s been a dear friend, and whenever he’s available I ask him to work with me.” Nearly two decades later, and several of his signature and wildly successful PowerPoint bits later, Tim has carved out a unique career niche for himself and he’s turning out award-winning corporate work.

Meeting the Wizard

Without further ado, let’s dive into Tim’s tips and insights for infusing comedy into your marketing strategy. That’s a horse of a different color. How can comedy and content come together to create a unique audience experience and bolster brand voice? Comedy is the most powerful way to humanize a brand because it demonstrates empathy. Let’s face it, a lot of true comedy comes from pain. So, when we can come out and touch on a customer pain point, we show them that we understand their point of view. When we do something that is self-deprecating, when we look vulnerable, and when we let our guard down a little bit that’s when we make a connection. These days, there’s so little content out there that truly connects with people. So often we start off with a good idea, it goes through a committee where everyone wants to have a say in something, and the idea begins to soften. Then you end up with the lowest common denominator of something safe. So much of marketing is telling people how great we are. But with comedy—especially in the form of video—we can show them that we’re not always going to tell you how great we are. And if you can make someone laugh, that is the most intimate connection you can make. [bctt tweet=”If you can make someone laugh, that is the most intimate connection you can make. @timwasher” username=”toprank”] The Wicked Witch was defeated with just a pail of water. What creative tactics and tools can marketers use to create an engaging video experience? If you’re going to do comedy, it’s critical to get a comedy writing and a video production team that are experienced with producing comedy. One of the biggest mistakes people make is saying: “Let’s make a funny video. Our in-house video guy can probably do it.” But when it falls flat, they often think comedy just doesn’t work for their brand. Comedy is very much a social sport. You need to have a partner with the right chemistry, and someone to bounce ideas off—and someone to tell you when something just isn’t funny. This dramatically enhances the work. As a more general rule for creating great video, you need to be able to tell a story—a story that doesn’t focus on hitting all your product talking points. For example, we did a mini documentary for Cisco that showed how smaller service providers are serving third-world countries. It focused on how our customers are making a difference, and of course inferred that our technologies are helping them make that difference. [bctt tweet=”If you want to add #comedy to your #marketing, get an experienced team. @timwasher” username=”toprank”] Dorothy’s ruby slippers were the key to achieving her end goal of returning home. How can marketers leverage their existing resources to unlock creative video content ideas? These days budgets are being cut, yet we still need to produce more content. So, we need to transition from marketers to content creators—and those are two very different skillsets. But the bottom line is that you need to focus on telling the story. Get away from the product and focus on finding out how people are actually using your product or service. Ask yourself what people want to watch. Ask yourself how you could make something visually interesting and compelling. If you don’t have a big video budget, invest in a cheap light, tripod and camera, and start shooting. Make 10 videos, and then publish the 11th one. Once you get comfortable with it, great things can happen. [bctt tweet=”When doing any kind of video #content, you need to focus on telling the story. @timwasher #marketing” username=”toprank”] Good witch or bad witch? What’s a bad habit all marketers should drop? Letting fear have too much influence over their decisions—and dropping this habit certainly requires some deep personal reflection. Ask yourself how does fear hold me back in my job? Is it a risk-averse boss? Is it fear of failure? You need to figure out how fear is impacting you right now, in this very moment. Then you can start to find solutions to work around it. [bctt tweet=”Ask: How does fear hold me back? Once you figure it out, you can look for solutions. @timwasher” username=”toprank”] What’s one thing you would ask the all-powerful marketing wizard for? (More budget, more resources, better data?) Well, I’d always ask for more budget. But I’d also ask for a committee of “yes” people. Those who are more open to risk-taking. I’m fortunate to work for a company that is open to all of that, and wants to be leaders in the creative space and embrace risk-taking.

We’re Off to Meet More Wizards

I’d like to sincerely thank Tim for taking the time to open up about who he is, where he comes from and how he approaches content and comedy. Thank you so much, Tim. Of course, TopRank Marketing’s journey to Emerald City is still underway. In the coming months, we’ll be bringing you more exclusive interviews and insights from industry wizards to add some smarts, heart and nerve to your marketing efforts. Stay tuned for our next installment, my pretty! What’s one thing you’d ask the all-powerful marketing wizard for? Tell us in the comments section below.

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