We’ve already discussed what we see as the Biggest Inbound Marketing Trends Shaping Up 2017. Below are five key ingredients for a successful integrated marketing and PR program that should be top-of-mind with all CMOs.
First up: Get to know your ideal audience. Cultivating your buyer personas through research, surveys, and interviews can be incredibly effective. Buyer personas are fictionalized versions of your ideal buyer. Overall, they make it easier for companies to adapt their content to best reach the real-life customer. Understanding and predicting the behaviors of your target audience can help you create content more easily.
Gathering data to identify personas helps make marketing strategies more effective and efficient. Companies who use buyer personas can see higher click-through and conversion rates, and up to 18 times more revenue.
Learn how to master this process in the e-book: Buyer Persona, and apply these concepts to develop more dynamic personas and personalized stories that deliver results.
Like buyer personas, getting to know your audience on social is key. Listening to their conversations across social platforms will help you create the personalized content that customers have come to expect from brands, and it will help you engage in dynamic conversations with them that will lead to a customized experience. If you are focusing on an ABM (account-based marketing) approach, this technique proves to be critical when making that initial connection. Start moving these parts strategically, and you will begin to see some significant changes in ROI.
Taking the time to gather data and determine who you are trying to engage with will pay off by making it easier to deliver a compelling message to potential customers and to integrate your communication efforts. You’ll also have the means to turn these customers into advocates for your brand and fuel word-of-mouth and referral-based opportunities.
2. Creative Storytelling & Campaign Building
As the relationship between the buyer and the marketer continues to shift, modern marketers need to create personalized, cohesive stories to drive engagement. Yet, we’ve found that many teams are still struggling to break out of their silos and collaborate. In fact, only 14 percent of marketers believe that they have managed to come together and integrate their campaigns across all of their channels. Today, buyers expect cohesive and connected content that’s tailored to their interests. As a result of these new demands, ensuring a seamless journey across owned, earned, shared, and paid media should be a top priority for any campaign.
Consistent multichannel messaging is crucial to this interactive story. Your campaigns should be shareable across any platform: think mobile, social, email, or even a press release. This will give customers the ability to interact with your brand across their device of choice.
Marketers need to think on their feet and be able to stay one step ahead of their target audience along the way. According to a recent stat, most marketers believe that buyers are almost 60 percent of the way through the buying process by the time a sales rep takes the lead. To defeat this bias, know that a good story, and insight-driven content will propel the buyer along the journey to a purchase. Depending on where they are in the buying process, it could help them evaluate a product, narrow down their decision, aid with a purchase, or build brand loyalty and create advocates.
You can create better, personalized content when you know your buyer and are able to create a rough narrative to anticipate their response. Whether you’re a marketer creating content to a wide audience or a CMO looking to execute ABM, this integrated content should be consistently adjusted to meet the needs of your customer.
3. Content Marketing Development & Asset Building
The adage still rings true: Content is King. Good content drives your paid, shared, and earned strategy, so it’s crucial to an integrated approach. Another perk of content marketing is that if you understand your customer’s pain points and you’ve researched your buyer personas, you will be able to create more effective content.
Most customers actively use multiple platforms and make informed buying decisions based on content they acquire, so brands only have a few seconds to make an impact. Regularly generating fresh content that will appeal to your buyer personas can be challenging and time-consuming, but knowing your buyers and keeping them in mind is the only way you’re going to grab their attention.
We recently sat down with social media expert and influencer Ted Rubin. He had some very compelling insight into what leads customers to a path of conversion in terms of content. He stated that:
“I’ve had brands say to me, ‘Well, we don’t want to open up that channel because we’re afraid — Oh my god, everybody is going to communicate!’ I’m like, ‘No, they’re not. They don’t care about you in that way.’
Most don’t want to communicate, but what they want is to know they can, when they need to. So, when they see the brand respond to Mark, who’s got a concern — and that concern can be something or little — they recognize that concern. Everybody feels that connection. To me that’s where the real opportunity is on social, and that’s why I talk about converse and convert. I like to say the conversation is the best content. I’m sure there’s other great content and there’s better content, but that’s great content for a brand because they’re getting people talking in one way or another.”
Almost half of marketers say that blogging is their most important content strategy. Blogs help drive ROI and provide a home for content, while social media is a portal used to drive more website traffic to that content. Since posts are used mainly for lead generation, it’s most effective to develop content about your industry and pain points experienced by your customer.
Don’t overlook premium content: Sharing valuable knowledge encourages customers to view your brand as a subject matter expert. That, in turn, gives the brand credibility, which can lead to increased sales and product adoption. Just watch out: Premium content must be different and persuasive. It can include things like eBooks, infographics, and Q&As from industry leaders. Premium content pieces can be easily integrated into an influencer strategy or your demand-generation strategy, and it should be integrated across these programs.
Because premium content has a longer lead time, it’s important to maximize its exposure. You can do that by incorporating releases into such demand-generation efforts as webinars, events, and shows. This approach gives your sales team a new reason to reach out to their target account and can also help build anticipation of the events. All of these factors result in a larger audience and the opportunity for higher ROI.
Visual content can be a great way to drive engagement. Creating an image or video to associate with your text can easily make your message stand out and be more memorable.
Video tells a story and provides both an experience and a message. Another perk: It works across all channels, from YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to mobile, websites, and email. Video is easy to digest for audiences because it caters to all learning types, increasing the value added. Your audience has the attention span of about 8 seconds which is why new features like Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Instagram stories are currently taking off. Start capitalizing on these new tools in creative and unique ways so that your company has first advantage over these platforms. Don’t forget that visual content is also easy to measure and track in terms of views and interactions, which translates into successful reporting and ROI results.
You can read more about growing and improving content in our Brand Awareness eBook.
4. Execution, Distribution and Optimization
Once you’ve established ideal buyer personas, developed an integrated strategy, and created compelling content, it all comes down to execution. One of the most effective — and the fastest-growing — distribution strategies today is influencer marketing.
Building influencer relations and adding earned media to your content marketing strategy can have a huge impact on brand awareness. Each small engagement you have with an influencer has the potential to evolve into a deeper relationship. As marketing guru, Ted Rubin says, “we all influence somebody.”
When it comes to choosing which influencers are the best matches for your brand, remember that quality is better than quantity and choosing one influencer that’s a perfect match is better than having a dozen that can’t relate to your audience. Adding influencers you’ve identified as a good fit for your brand, sharing their content, and engaging with them can help boost your brand awareness. It has the added benefit of creating a relationship with a professional customer who can provide feedback about your brand, what’s working, and what can be improved upon.
Independent bloggers are having an enormous effect on brands. Many buyers now say that they research products on blogs before making purchases. PR can often connect with bloggers to promote products and services via word-of-mouth, however many bloggers are looking for paid partnership opportunities, which is why micro-influencers are becoming more popular in organic relationship building. It’s important for marketing teams to work together to limit overlap and streamline marketing/PR efforts.
For step-by-step suggestions, check out our e-book The Pathway to Integrated Marketing Communications.
5. Measurement, Analysis, and Goals
So, how do you know if a campaign is successful? Data, analytics, and insight are the tools marketers use to reflect on and size campaign success. Pausing to evaluate and working to adjust and optimize your marketing efforts is important to the success of an overall campaign.
Google is without a doubt the number one influence today in terms of measurement and success. In fact, my colleague Michele captured it perfectly in a recent blog post, stating that: “Google’s search engine is your number one influencer. If you aren’t visible — if you can’t be found by Google, you’re not able to influence others. To succeed, remember that Google and happy customers are your top influencers. Focus on them and the rest will follow.”
In today’s world, digital results mean we have continuous opportunities to optimize. Analyzing campaigns across platforms will give you insight into how your customers respond on each channel, and which content resonates best with them. Measure both social and traditional components of a campaign — one can’t exist without the other, and they often amplify each other. Integrated campaign elements rely on all channels to be successful.
By using data-driven techniques throughout the process, we can take a step back, evaluate success, and brainstorm and execute creative, high-impact, action-oriented campaigns. It’s important to build strategy on results to increase effectiveness. Know your customers, but also anticipate where they’ll be next and how to best grow your audience.
Closing the Loop
Developing omni-channel marketing strategies is critical to success in today’s environment. The five elements we’ve discussed here can move brand strategies from disparate (or disconnected) to tightly integrated. Building personas helps develop creative brand stories, which lead to better content development. From there, engaging in smart campaign execution and frequent analysis of metrics will close the loop on a cohesive, integrated strategy. At the end of the day, leveraging PR across integrated marketing in an intentional way can help brands gain insight into their audiences, align strategy based on the customer’s needs and interests, and uncover opportunities to join in on the existing customer conversation in an authentic way that can drive results.