Digital Marketing News: Teens Over Facebook, Blockchain and Big Blue, MoonPie Roasts You

Social Commerce

Social Commerce Takes Hold. A study by PwC reports that 78% of consumers are influenced by social media when shopping online. According to Marketing Week, the “social commerce boom” is being fueled by young mobile consumers. Thirty-three percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would purchase items directly on Facebook, 27% on Instagram and 20% on Twitter. For 25- to 34-year-olds, the numbers decrease a bit: 30% on Facebook. For 54- to 65-years-olds, it’s 10%. MediaPost

Top 100 Social Media Trends for 2018. From Influencer Campaigns to Social Media-Friendly Designs to social media inspired dog toys, these are 100 social media trends for next year. Or are they? IRL social media filters? TrendHunter

Snapchat Looking to Publish Content on Third-Party Websites With ‘Stories Everywhere’. The word from Cheddar is that Snap is developing a new program dubbed Stories Everywhere that will allow third-party publishers to embed Snapchat content on their websites. Let’s just hope it’s not too little, too late.  Variety

The Price Of Mobile Ads Will Surge More Than 45% In 2018. Mobile programmatic pricing is about to have its hockey stick moment, set to grow more than 45% by 2019, according to a projection released by programmatic agency Goodway Group. Ad Exchanger

Data Shows Tablets Driving Highest Click-Through Rates. A new report reveals that tablet impressions drove 1.13% click-through rates that were the highest of any device in many categories such as Automotive, Consumer product Goods, Education, Financial, Food & Drink, Government, Home & Garden as well as Retail, Technology, Travel and Utilities. MediaPost

Has Teen Use of Facebook Peaked? According to Forrester Research data, Facebook is the only platform of the 6 major social networks that’s experienced a decline in usage among 12-17 year olds.  MarketingCharts

Blockchain Pumping New Life Into Old-School Companies Like IBM. Demand for blockchain, best known for supporting bitcoin, is growing so much that it will be one of the largest users of capacity next year at about 60 data centers that IBM rents out to other companies around the globe. The market for blockchain-related products and services will reach $7.7 billion in 2022, up from $242 million last year, according to researcher Markets & Markets.  Bloomberg

Love In The Inbox: Americans Are Tied To Email, Study Finds. Email is not dead! 78% of Americans expect to use email as much or more than they now do in five years, according to Inbox Report 2018. MediaPost

Artificial Intelligence

On the Lighter Side:

MoonPie is brutally roasting people who insult the snack on Twitter – Business Insider

Wendy’s social media team hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ forum on Reddit – LA Times

Jack in the Box Tests Munchie Meals for California Pot Smokers – AdAge

TopRank Marketing In the News:

Lee Odden – 140 of Today’s Top SEO Experts to Follow – Search Engine Journal

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

Happy New Year from the Team at TopRank Marketing!


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Happy 14th Birthday to @TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Happy 14th Blog Birthday TopRank Blog

Over the past 14 years this marketing blog has had numerous contributors, thousands of posts, hundreds of thousands of social shares and millions of views. To say blogging has had a positive impact on our business would be a gross understatement.

December 28 is our blog birthday and what started simply as an experimental way to share resources and develop writing skills has turned into one of our most effective recruiting, marketing and community engagement tools. That success is thanks to a team effort including Ashley Zeckman with 360 career posts, who has served as blog editor over the past 2 years, Josh Nite with 113 career posts, Caitlin Burgess with 106 career posts, Tiffani Allen with 90 career posts and our newcomers Anne Leuman, Nick Nelson and Elizabeth Williams.

Caitlin and Josh in particular have been the backbone of our great content week after week!

Additional kudos goes to Josh and Tiffani for shooting fun weekly Friday News roundup videos each and every week of 2017, which you can see at TopRank Marketing TV.

While I’ve authored over 2,500 career posts out of 4,098 total, I didn’t do much blogging in 2017. Our continued success would not have been possible this year without our TopRank Marketing team creating, contributing and helping to promote our blog. Most importantly, it would not have been possible without the support of our community, industry influencers, clients and new subscribers.

Some ask whether a blog counts as social media. I can say our blog is intimately tied to our social network activity and we continue to receive comments on posts. So yes, a blog is very much a part of social media. Content is the Kingdom after all and blog content makes up much of what people share on the social web. Companies like ours and our clients are also leveraging social networks to source content, so it’s a dynamic cycle of creation and collaboration. This is what enables a very small team of marketers to scale quality content in a way that is meaningful to customers.

Being meaningful and relevant is at the core of the purpose for this blog. Being findable, useful and actionable on marketing is the reason this blog exists. Some of our best hires have said they heard about TopRank Marketing because of our blog. Conference organizers have engaged me and other team members to speak at events because of our blog. Fortune 500 companies have reached out and engaged our agency because of our blog. A book publisher engaged me to write Optimize in part because of this blog. Numerous partnerships, and friendships have been instigated because of our blog. One of the most satisfying things to experience is when a successful marketing executive of business owner approaches me at an event or sends a card saying thank you for our blog content and sharing that the content we share here has been instrumental in their career.

To help celebrate our 14th Blog Birthday, Id like to share a list of this year’s contributors and their most popular posts.

Caitlin Burgess

Caitlin Burgess20 Talented Brand Marketers to Follow on LinkedIn 4,900 shares

Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman – 5 Digital Marketing Brain Training Exercises to Keep You Sharp 2,900 shares

Josh Nite

Josh NiteB2B Marketing: 20 Jokes Only a B2B Marketer Will Get 2,700 shares

Anne Leuman

Anne Leuman – How 7 Startups Skyrocketed to Success with Content Marketing 2,300 shares

Tiffani Allen

Tiffani Allen – Online Marketing News: Content for Millennials & Boomers, Top Data Trends & PPC for Research 1,200 shares

Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson – Digital Marketing Tools & Tactics: What the Trends Tell Us 1,200 shares

Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall – Everything You Need to Build a LinkedIn Marketing Tactical Plan 1,100 shares

Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth Williams – Elevate your Marketing Career with One Simple Word: Strategy 737 shares

Amy Higgins

Amy Higgins – Stop the Marketing Killjoy: 5 Ways You’re Turning off Audiences with Bad Video 695 shares

Steve Slater

Steve Slater – How We’re Building a Digital Advertising & SEO Dream Team 683 shares

Debbie Friez

Debbie Friez – Break All the Social Rules: Advice from Spredfast VP of Strategy Spike Jones 544 shares

Lee Odden

Lee OddenNew 2017 List: 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers 6,200 shares

The consistently awesome award goes to Josh Nite, who published 52 blog posts with an average of 936 shares each and a total of 48,653 shares across all of his posts in 2017!

The consistently popular award goes to Caitlin Burgess who published 49 blog posts and had the most popular post amongst our team for all of 2017!

Thank you to our team for your contributions in 2017!

Going forward into 2018, we’ll be taking much of Steve Rayson’s advice from his analysis and focus on fewer, but more in-depth posts. We’ll be publishing three times weekly instead of 5 during the first Quarter and see how our readers respond. While our editorial plan is very much driven by our own marketing objectives, performance analysis and understanding of customers, our community’s interests are also very important to us. What topics would you like us to cover in 2018? What formats are you most interested in? Who are your favorite writers here at Online Marketing Blog?

Thank you for reading and we wish you a happy and prosperous new year!

 


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25 Women Who Rock at Digital Marketing

25 Women Digital Marketing 2017

2017 marks the 8th year we’ve published a list featuring “women who rock” in the digital marketing space. I started the list in 2010 with social media specifically and after 5 years handed the reins over to Ashley Zeckman for a few years when the focus has broadened to digital marketing.

In the past I would ask each years’ honorees to nominate someone for the following year and so on. Following that we started ranking the huge list of women in marketing that we had compiled over the years using Traackr’s influencer marketing software.

In 2017 I’m making another change: to ask influential men in the marketing industry to nominate women who are leading in the marketing world.  I thought this was a timely and relevant way to help male leaders in our industry shine a light on their female counterparts, peers, superiors or subordinates.

The response from those who have shared nominations including multiple from Seth Godin has been great. I can’t thank the CEOs, CMOs and Entrepreneurs enough who took time during the holidays to share nominees and their reasons why.

Interestingly, less than a third of the men I reached out to replied at all. In previous years when I have reached out to women, more than 75% would respond. I don’t know whether the holidays affected responses, but I didn’t get many “out of office” emails, so maybe it was something else.

Of greater importance is that this is a topic of interest to me and based on the response over the past 7 years, it is definitely of interest to our community. Below you’ll find a combination of familiar names and some that will likely be new. That’s what makes lists like this special – to find new talent, smarts and engagement amongst people you might not otherwise learn about.

A few notes: this list is not sorted in any particular order and along with the name of the nominee and credentials, I’ve included the name of the person nominating them and why. Enjoy!

Bernadette Jiwa

Bernadette Jiwa @bernadettejiwa is Author of Thestoryoftelling.com

Bernadette was nominated by Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog – Founder at altMBA.

“Bernadette has written one bestseller after another, highlighting the real work of marketing. It’s not about manipulating clicks, it’s about doing work that matters.”

Porter Gale

Porter Gale @portergale is SVP of Partnerships at Globality Inc

Porter was nominated by Brian Solis @briansolis – Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet co.

“I first met Porter when she was CMO of Virgin America. But we didn’t meet because of her role, we met because she was looking to expand her horizons to help her brand but more importantly, her mind, explore new possibilities on the horizon. To this day, she inspires me with her humility and her drive to learn what’s next and apply it in places that are out of the proverbial “CMO” spotlight. She works with startups and big brands alike, but always with the same hunger and desire to help. To this day, she inspires me.”

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte @nancyduarte is Principal at Duarte, Inc.

Nancy was nominated by Brian Halligan @bhalligan – CEO at HubSpot.

“Nancy has made true science out of how to convince people through the presentation format. I first found her by Googling who did the slides for Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth a decade ago and frequently refer back to her work when building any important presentation.”

Aria Finger

Aria Finger @AriaIrene is CEO at DoSomething.org

Aria was nominated by Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog – Founder at altMBA.

“Aria runs the largest teen charity in the world exclusively via digital marketing. And they probably send more texts every day than any other organization I can think of. And she’s an extraordinary human, too.”

Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson @CarlaJohnson is Chief Experience Officer at Type A Communications

Carla was nominated by Michael Brenner @BrennerMichael – CEO at Marketing Insider Group.

“Carla in one of the brightest minds in B2B and always brings a strategic and creative approach to solving her clients’ top challenges. When she’s on the stage delivering her awesome keynotes, Carla delights audiences with surprising insights and candor. An amazing storyteller, Carla has co-authored or authored 7 books, the most recent is the must-read “Experiences, the 7th Era of Marketing” co-authored by Robert Rose. Carla is also an amazing, fun, friendly and super-smart person so if you ever get the chance to meet her, just walk right up and say hello.”

Virginia Miracle

Virginia Miracle @VirginiaMiracle is Chief Customer Officer at Spredfast

Virginia was nominated by John Bell @jbell99 – VP Enterprise Digital Marketing at Travelers.

“Virginia brings a business rigor to marketing and a lifelong commitment to nurturing talent. She can quickly see through to marketing-that-matters, marketing that produces a result. At the same time, she is a magnet for smart people whom she has an innate ability to help develop. She is an empowering leader not a controlling one and that has helped so many top marketers – men and women become smarter, better, and terrific to work with.”

Ann Handley

Ann Handley @marketingprofs is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs.

Ann was nominated by Lee Odden @leeodden – CEO at TopRank Marketing.

“Ann brings humor, intelligence and the power to see right through marketing mediocrity to her ongoing content marketing party. Her advice, whether from the stage, one of her best selling books or our one on one discussions is always useful, clever and from the heart.”

Brooks Bell

Brooks Bell @brooksbell is CEO at Brooks Bell

Brooks was nominated by Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog – Founder at altMBA.

“The doyenne of landing pages. Her firm now has more than fifty people who are helping the biggest companies in the world optimize their landing pages. Built from scratch, by hand.”

Liz Smith

Liz Smith @adestraliz is Head of Marketing and Partnerships at Adestra

Liz was nominated by Matt McGowan @matt_mcgowan – President at Adestra.

“Liz brings professionalism, humor, and extremely relevant and thorough guidance to the marketing organization within Adestra. Her understanding of consumer behavior coupled with the nuances that exist within the connected martech landscapes across Europe, North America, and APAC has helped drive success in each of these regions. She is well respected by all that work with her, moreover, she is a strong communicator, and nothing but a pleasure to work with. I am honored to be able to call her a friend and colleague.”

Maryna Hradovich

Maryna Hradovich @realMarynah is Vice President – Strategic Growth and Development at SEMrush

Maryna was nominated by Larry Kim @larrykim – CEO at Mobile Monkey.

“Maryna and SEMRush are building truly fantastic SEO products and doing a good job at marketing them, too. These products are helping millions of SEOs every day, including myself.”

Nicole Walters

Nicole Walters @NapturalNicole is Founder at Monetize Thyself

Nicole was nominated by Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog – Founder at altMBA.

“Nicole is funny, fast and smart. She’s exfoliated, honest and connected to an ever-increasing tribe of soloists, digital marketers and people intent on making a ruckus. Did I mention that she’s smart and funny?”

Molly Pittman

Molly Pittman is Vice President Marketing at DigitalMarketer

Molly was nominated by Mike Stelzner @Mike_Stelzner – CEO at Social Media Examiner.

“She is one of the leading experts in Facebook Messenger and bots. What I love about her is how she quickly understands and distills complex topics into actionable techniques that marketers can follow.”

Heidi Bullock

Heidi Bullock @HeidiBullock is CMO at Engagio

Heidi was nominated by Jon Miller @jonmiller – CEO at Engagio.

“Heidi has a unique skill set that makes her one of the most diverse marketers in B2B marketing. She perfectly blends creativity and innovation with a data-driven approach and an awesome, positive attitude. Her expertise in Account Based Marketing as well as traditional demand gen tactics are critical to our success; it’s the reason I knew I wanted her to lead my marketing organization.”

Alicianne Rand

Alicianne Rand @aliciannerand is Executive Director, Global Content Marketing at Estée Lauder Companies

Alicianne was nominated by Shafqat Islam @shafqatislam – CEO at NewsCred.

“Alicianne may be the best content marketing practitioner in the industry. She’s been in the trenches and done it, both at a high growth startup and a large enterprise. At NewsCred, 40% of our revenue was directly generated by her marketing team. At ELC, she ties content directly to online sales, not easy to do at a large company. Best of all, she is fearless, brilliant and an entrepreneur.”

Sonia Simone

Sonia Simone @soniasimone is Chief Content Officer at Copyblogger

Sonia was nominated by Brian Clark @brianclark – Founder and CEO at Rainmaker Digital.

“Sonia is not only one of the strongest female writers in the content marketing space, she’s one of the best writers period. Her unique mix of expertise, sass, and empathy clearly demonstrate how a distinctive voice can lead to content that resonates with the right people.”

Tina Eisenberg

Tina Eisenberg @swissmiss is Founder at Creative Mornings

Tina was nominated by Seth Godin @ThisIsSethsBlog – Founder at altMBA.

“Tina makes online marketing breathe by taking it offline. Creative Mornings connects hundreds of thousands of people into a network that makes a difference happen, and she does it with flair and selflessness.”

Kerry Gorgone

Kerry Gorgone @KerryGorgone is Director of Product Strategy, Training at MarketingProfs

Kerry was nominated by Chris Brogan @chrisbrogan – CEO at Owner Media Group.

“Kerry delivers a lot of important underpinning work about legal and other structural issues. Plus her Marketing Profs podcast is informative and actually well researched.”

Monica Norton

Monica Norton @monicalnorton is Senior Director of Content Marketing at ZenDesk

Monica was nominated by Pawan Deshpande @TweetsFromPawan – CEO at Curata.

“Monica was a finalist for CMI’s Content Marketer of the Year. Monica created Relate, a brand media entity for Zendesk that barely mentions their product that is across a variety of content formats – articles, podcasts, print magazine, and in-person event. Relate’s website has in over 40,000 monthly visitors, an email database of 10,000, and hosts in-person events that attract 2,000 attendees. with 68% of the audience not being in their database previously.”

Britney Mulle

Britney Muller @BritneyMuller is Senior SEO Scientist at Moz

Britney was nominated by Michael King @iPullRank – Managing Director at iPullRank.

“Britney has incredible technical marketing skills, is a great speaker and someone I continue to learn from.”

Aimee Faulk

Aimee Falk is Customer Experience and Content Leader at 3M Safety & Graphics Business Group

Aimee was nominated by Carlos Abler @Carlos_Abler – Leader – Content Marketing and Strategy, Global eTransformation at 3M.

“Aimee embodies the rarest combination of vision, perseverance, excellence, adaptability, and generosity. Over the years I have watched her not only tirelessly innovate in the application of modern marketing strategies and techniques that add real value for the customer while driving quantifiable business results, but I have seen her generously work to lift up the practice of others. She has set an example of the future of marketing practice at 3M, and has the rhinoceros hide skin required to endure walk through the blazing headwinds of culture change to see her strategies through, and pave the way for future talent. I have seen her not only win internal awards, but mentor others to also be award winners. The world would be a much better place, with more Aimee Falks in it. It has been an honor to work by her side and count her as a friend.”

Michelle Robbins

Michelle Robbins @MichelleRobbins is SVP Content & Marketing Technology at Third Door Media

Michelle was nominated by Dennis Goedegebuure @TheNextCorner – VP Growth & SEO at Fanatics.

“Michelle brings years of experience in the search industry, shares this knowledge through multiple channels and inspires through constant learning new aspects of Marketing. Most importantly, she is the most wonderful person on the planet!”

Sophie Howard

Sophie Howard is CEO at Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Sophie was nominated by Jeff Bullas @jeffbullas – CEO at Jeff Bullas.

“Sophie is founder of several Amazon businesses. In 2017 she sold one of them for 7 figures after starting it just 14 months earlier. Now she teaches other aspiring entrepreneurs how to do it all without storing goods or even going near a post office. Today Sophie also runs a community to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs how to sell physical products online at “Product University”. She does all this while raising 2 young children in one of the beautiful corners of the world in Wanaka on the South Island of New Zealand. ”

Lucy Moran

Lucy Moran @lucymoran is Vice President Content and Demand Generation at Dun & Bradstreet

Lucy was nominated by Rishi Dave – @RishiPDave – CMO at Dun & Bradstreet.

“Lucy commands expertise in driving digital demand and she uses that knowledge to strategically grow the business. She demonstrates a keen ability to scale by taking on more and improving outcomes of all the things she takes on by finding synergies amongst the functions she leads.”

Margaret Molloy

Margaret Molloy @MargaretMolloy Global CMO at Siegel+Gale

Margaret was nominated by Sean Callahan @sean_f_callahan – Senior Manager, Content Marketing at LinkedIn.

“In her role at Siegel+Gale, Molloy has a platform to influence marketers in the U.S., in her native Ireland, and across the globe. One of her key messages, which is a useful one in today’s constantly transforming world, is that marketers must simplify their brand messages and customer experiences. For her insights and her results, The Drum recently recognized her as B2B Marketer of the Year. You’ll get absolutely no argument from me.”

Aleyda Solis

Aleyda Solis @aleyda is International SEO & Founder at Orainti

Aleyda was nominated by Dennis Goedegebuure @TheNextCorner – VP Growth & SEO at Fanatics.

“Aleyda flies the world to share knowledge, work with global clients and post the most awesome travel pictures of her adventures. Sometimes I refer to her as the hardest working woman in search, although there are so many other women who would fit that title.”

If you would like to see the previous lists of women who rock social and digital marketing  that we’ve been publishing since 2010, here’s a list:

2010 – 25 Women That Rock Social Media

2011 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2012 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2013 – 25 Women That Rocked Social Media

2014 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2015 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing

2016 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing: North Stars & Rising Stars

This year’s list is really just a sample, so for the men reading this post that would like to shine a light on a top digital marketing leader that also happens to be a woman, please share their name, title, company and why in the comments.


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Top 10 Content Marketing Posts of 2017

top content marketing posts

Content makes the Marketing world go ’round, especially with our work here at TopRank Marketing. While content has been a steady drumbeat in the marketing mix over the past 7-8 years, marketers are still hungry for best practices, examples and the latest trends.

Lucky for our readers, we have excellent content marketers contributing to our blog including Ashley Zeckman, Josh Nite, Caitlin Burgess and one of our new content team members this year who has made quite a splash: Anne Leuman.

As a body of work, this collection of our top 10 content marketing posts represents an incredibly useful resource, full of practical examples and relevant topics for CMOs to copywriters. As you put finishing touches on your 2018 content marketing planning, I hope these posts prove useful.

I’m going to take the most popular content marketing post with 5,500+ social shares (50 Influential Women in Content Marketing 2017) out of the list below because it’s not an article per se. You may still find it useful though, as it recognizes 50 talented professionals in the content marketing world ranging from Ann Handley to Amanda Todorovich to Amisha Gandhi and many more.

Now, on to the top 10! These are ordered by a combination of search visibility and social engagement:

Data Informed Content Marketing

What CMOs Need to Know About Data Informed Content Marketing – Lee Odden

39% of marketers are increasing spending on content marketing but only 41% are clear on what an effective content marketing program looks like. The missing link is data and this post highlights 3 sources of data marketers can use to better inform their content and 3 areas of focus for creating better content experiences. Expertise is also shared from experts including Tami Cannizzaro from CA Technologies and Josh Mueller from Dun & Bradstreet.

How 7 Startups Skyrocketed to Success with Content Marketing – Anne Leuman

Anne hit it out of the park with her first post ranking in the top 10 content marketing posts of the year! As marketers, we learn from examples and in this post, Anne outlines 7 blog and content marketing success stories ranging from Blue Apron to Glossier.

[Infographic] The In-Flight Guide to Content Marketing – Ashley Zeckman

It wouldn’t be a great list of content marketing posts if it didn’t include an example of how we co-created content with content marketing experts to promote the Content Marketing World conference to other content marketers! With a “fly the friendly skies” metaphor, this infographic and advice from top experts highlights how marketers can plan their content marketing programs more effectively. Experts featured include: Tim Washer, Michael Brenner, Zerlina Jackson, Adele Revella, Ardath Albee and many more.

11 Content Marketing Tips to Build Your B2B Business – Josh Nite

Josh brings his special writing magic to the topic of content marketing more consistently than any writer I know. In this post Josh builds upon another post on content marketing strategy (also included in this list) to highlight 11 practical steps B2B marketers can take to make content more valuable to customers and in turn, driving business goal achievement.

Content Conversations: Top Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 2017 – Ashley Zeckman

During the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Ashley and our team shot video interviews with an impressive cast of content marketing influencers including conference organizer Ann Handley and famous content marketing pros like Joe Pulizzi and Chris Brogan. The post also includes highly quotable tips from brand marketers at GE Digital, LinkedIn, and Cisco as well.

How 6 B2B Brands Climbed to New Heights with Content Marketing – Anne Leuman

At TopRank Marketing, we are very much focused on B2B marketing and in this post, Anne shines a light on 6 examples of B2B brands ranging from IBM to Slack plus takeaways for each to help marketers learn from the success of others in our industry.

The 5 W’s (and an H) That Guide Your Content Marketing Strategy – Josh Nite

This post should be a pre-requisite for anyone making decisions about how their company will invest in, plan, create and promote content to affect business goals. Josh outlines the essentials of who, what, why, when, where and how of content marketing that is sure to guide you in the right direction.

Feeling Stuck? 5 Tips to Restart your Content-Creating Brain – Josh Nite

Every writer and content marketer that is responsible for creating high quality content on a consistent basis runs into this situation: being stuck. With great empathy for his fellow content creators, Josh outlines 5 practical tips that content marketers can use to put your brain back on the track to creative content success.

Cracking the Code: 3 Steps to Building Influence with Content Marketing – Ashley Zeckman

At TopRank Marketing, we walk the talk with our own marketing, especially when it comes to content collaboration with industry experts. Evidence of that fact is that many of the posts in this top 10 list include contributions from influencers. In this post, Ashley shares some of the secret sauce of how companies of any size or type can approach their content marketing collaboration efforts more effectively.

5 Outdated Content Marketing Tactics (And What to Do Instead) – Josh Nite

Up to his neck in content creation on a daily basis, Josh has deep experience to draw from when it comes to sharing advice with other content marketers. In this post Josh highlights what he feels are tired tactics and their fresh replacements.

There you go – 10 of our top content marketing posts for 2017. A HUGE THANK YOU to Ashley Zeckman, Josh Nite, Anne Lueman, Caitlin Burgess, Nick Nelson, Tiffani Allen, Alexis Hall and Elizabeth Williams for contributing posts on content marketing topics!

We published well over 100 posts specifically about content marketing this year and we’re working to improve the effectiveness of those efforts. To that end, we’re making a number of editorial changes to our blog in 2018 and one of them is a refinement of our topical focus to make sure we are delivering what our community is most interested in.

What content marketing and content focused topics would you like us to focus on for 2018? Data? AI? Technology? Video and Interactive? Basics or advanced tactics? Case studies? We’re all ears and welcome your feedback.

Of course, with the success of our content marketing efforts for brands like LinkedIn, SAP, Dell and many more B2B industry giants, we are continuing to grow our content marketing dream team. If you’re an experienced B2B content marketing manager that wants to start 2018 with a great team of smart content marketers, you’ll want to check this out.


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Happy Holidays from the Team at TopRank Marketing

It’s that time of year again, where here in Minnesota the snow is falling, the temperatures are dropping and hearts are warming with thankfulness and appreciation.

2017 has been a year of change, evolution and innovation for the digital marketing industry and at TopRank Marketing, we are incredibly grateful for the attention and trust that our community and clients and have put into our mutual success.

Few people ever reach a fraction of their true potential and we are dedicated to continue supporting and growing an environment where each of our clients, agency team and community can realize their true potential as marketers. As we evolve as marketing professionals, TopRank Marketing is also focused on helping the marketing industry community find clarity, confidence and purpose in the growing complexity of modern business.

There’s something magical about the holidays, but there’s no magic solution for actualizing as professionals. It takes hard work, smart work, flexibility, patience, determination, passion and most of all, teamwork. We are happy to be on that journey with our community!

Happy Holidays 2017

At TopRank Marketing I am proud to say that we have an incredible team of smart, creative and results focused professional marketers (who also have a great sense of humor!).

Along with an incredible portfolio of new clients, we’ve added 15 new team members in 2017 including designers, content strategists, search marketers, social media and influencer marketers, account management and senior management, each with minds full of optimism, ambition and talent. All of that energy is bringing us into 2018 with pride, momentum and the knowledge that we’ve barely scratched the surface of our individual and collective potential.

We are continuing to grow and hiring in many roles ranging from Account Management to Content Marketing to Digital Marketing Analyst. See our careers page for a full list.

We’ve learned many lessons in 2017 including that SEO, social media, content marketing and online advertising are not competitors to influencer marketing, but component pieces of a customer-centric, integrated approach that we call “A Best Answer Strategy”.

It has been very satisfying to see that many of our clients have evolved their marketing from core SEO, advertising and basic content creation engagements to more sophisticated and integrated “Best Answer” programs that incorporate research based strategy, data, interactive, creative, influence and more robust content and analytics. That trend toward data informed, integrated and creative content experiences will drive much of our solutions in the next 12 months.

Thank you to our readers for your trust and choosing TopRank Marketing as a source of expertise in your digital marketing journey. And most of all, thank you for being a part of our community!


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Digital Marketing News: Top Ads 2017, Marketing Jobs 2018, Google Mobile First

Top 10 Most Watched Videos of 2017

The 10 Most Watched Ads on YouTube in 2017 – This impressive collection of work includes two video ads that exceeded 100 million views. Which was your favorite? Natalie Portman for Miss Dior or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” for Apple?  AdWeek

B2B Tech Buyers More Motivated by Reliability & Ease of Use Claims Than Price. A study by Lavidge of 400 B2B decision makers in the US reports that technology buyers prefer reliability (64) over low cost (49%) when justifying purchasing decisions. MarketingCharts

The 2018 Hiring Outlook for Marketing and Advertising Jobs. 46% of marketing and advertising executives say it is somewhat challenging to find skilled workers today; 7% say it is very challenging – MarketingProfs

New IRI Report Details Value of Contextually Relevant Advertising. Marketers who instead mix in relevant context strategies can bolster sales lift and further increase return on investment (ROI) by up to 30%. Morningstar

The Advertising Media That Consumers Trust Most. Research from Clutch reports 61% of respondents trust TV/broadcast video; 58% trust print; 45%, radio/podcast; 42%, out-of-home/billboards; 41%, online; and 38%, social media. MarketingProfs

How Twitter Celebrated The Last Jedi in Style With Real-Time Billboards. Disney teamed up with Twitter to plaster fan tweets across giant billboards in real time. AdWeek

Google Mobile-First Index Rolls Out For ‘Handful Of Sites’. Webmasters will see significantly increased crawling by Smartphone Googlebot, and the snippets in the results, as well as the content on the Google cache pages, will be from the mobile version of the pages. SearchMarketing Daily

Google faces fresh EU showdown as rivals attack search giant’s response to record fine. “(Google) continues to place its shopping service at an advantage in search results.” Telegraph

B2B Mobile Ad Spend 2017

Instagram ad revenue to double to $10.87bn by 2019. eMarketer predicts a thirds of social media users will use Instagram by 2021 – The Drum

How Instagram’s new features will impact organic reach. The addition of follow hashtags and a Recommended for you section have favorable and unfortunate implications for brands, publishers and influencers. Here’s a rundown – DigiDay

Facebook adds Snooze button to mute annoying friends and Pages. For when you don’t want to unfriend or unfollow and just need a break. The Next Web

Facebook Will Now Punish Posts That Beg for Likes and Comments. Facebook said in a statement on Monday that it will begin clamping down on “engagement bait” across its social network starting this week. Fortune

Facebook’s Plan To Take On TV. That’s right. And for starters, in January Facebook Watch will host a live show, “Mixed Match Challenge,” produced by the WWE. MediaPost

On the Lighter Side:

Giphy’s List of the Most Popular GIFs in 2017 Is a Gift to Behold. From NFL celebrations to dancing Wonder Woman. AdWeek

Awww. Samsung and Casey Neistat Turned an Abandoned Shopping Mall Into a Winter Wonderland for Kids. Happy holidays to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee! AdWeek

TopRank Marketing in the News:

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.


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Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience

Right Message Wrong Time

I love how Tom Fishburne aka marketoonist always does a great job of showcasing marketing truths. While the focus for marketers to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time is nothing new, it’s also safe to say that we have a lot of work to do.

External Battery Charger SERP

For example, I was recently in the position of having to look for a new external battery charger. I seem to burn through these things like candy. A search on Google gave me relevant ads right on top. I clicked on a Best Buy ad and checked out the RAZORMAX Portable Power Bank.

raxormax portable power bank

It looked interesting enough and while I noticed reviews from the Best Buy site, I’m the kind of person that likes validation from 3rd party review sites. So I went back to search and looked for reviews.

portable charger review

I arrived on Tom’s Guide and what ad from Best Buy dominated the page reviewing the best portable chargers?

Best Buy 4K TV ad

An ad for Sony 4K TVs.

This seemed like a lost opportunity for Best Buy. I was hunting for something specific and leaving data trails, but the brand I was considering most wasn’t connecting those dots.

This is a scenario that extends across channels of course. As I am prone to do with tech purchases, I went to Facebook to ask my network essentially the same question I searched for on Google. I received a cornucopia of suggestions from my network of tech savvy connections. But what ads did I see?

Facebook ads

Purple mattresses and clothing ads featuring photos of guys that don’t really represent me or what I’m looking for. Of course if they were more like me, that would be scary. But I think you get the point. I was creating data crumbs of intent across channels and the dots were not being connected by the right brands when it came to my customer experience.

While brands are collecting more data than ever before, and have become more sophisticated at implementing effective campaigns on specific channels, there are disconnects in terms of meeting increasing expectations of consumers. Buyers don’t care how hard it is. They care about finding the best information that is relevant, meaningful and specific to them. Right time, right place and message.

The customer journey has evolved from what we’ve traditionally explained as a linear path (was it ever linear?) to something far more sophisticated across devices and channels. Customer expectations have evolved and are focused more on experiences as a differentiator. At the same time, the sheer volume of content being produced creates information overload.

Of course there’s no “one size fits all” customer journey, but the importance of mapping and matching content and media types to stages of the journey are more important than ever. The question is, how are brands understanding the context of these journeys to create relevant experiences?

Internet access is ubiquitous with over 50 billion connected devices expected by 2020. I’m sure some of the people reading this post are using multiple devices right now–a laptop, and phone for example. How are brands meeting the expectations of customers who have always on, everywhere access to information?

Competing with marketers’ good intentions for relevant and meaningful experiences across channels is the fact that on average, consumers in the US are consuming media for 12 hours and 7 minutes per day (eMarketer). That’s a paradox of choice at scale. At the same time, 70% of marketers are not using the insights they’re pulling from data because it’s too complex or difficult (Ensighten).

A lot of that difficulty comes from data fragmentation across tools, tactics and organizational silos. Today’s marketing mix includes more tactics than ever to meet consumers’ insatiable demands for information. Back in 2001 when Susan Misukanis started a Public Relations firm, PR and light content was it. Then we brought in SEO. And blogging. Online Advertising was added. Then Social Media, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing and so on.

martech landscape 2017

The proliferation of marketing technology tools isn’t helping either. Infographics like the one above from Scott Brinker with over 5,000 martech tools and platforms can put marketers into shock– or “martech shock” as I like to call it. As for data, there are often silos between departments where each is creating unique data or even the same data in different contexts. Suffice it to say, data fragmentation is a problem.

So what is a solution? One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing is about the power of information specific to customers’ that are actively searching for solutions. To be the best answer is a strategic approach to marketing that naturally empathizes with the customer journey to deliver the most relevant experiences at all the touchpoints that matter most for customers. Combined with cognitive solutions, a best answer strategy for marketing is something that can actually scale. A great start is a data-informed approach to content marketing that uses context and insights to create conversations with customers that are relevant, personalized and meaningful across channels.

You simply cannot create a best answer approach to marketing without customer insight. It’s important to ask key questions that empathize with the customer journey. Especially, “What experiences do your customers need on which channels in order to buy?” This is an essential question because when customers are seeking solutions, one of the most important jobs we have as marketers is to ensure that brand content is the best answer where ever customers are looking.

Understanding context and preferences for the customer information journey as it relates to how buyers discover solutions content is the key. Those insights about preferences for content types, topics and devices, and the triggers that motivate action, all combine to inform an effective best answer strategy.

hub spoke best answer

With those insights about content discovery, consumption preferences and triggers for action, marketers can use connected data to architect best answer content programs that are accountable to attracting the right customers, engaging them with meaningful experiences and inspiring them to take action and convert. Making sense of a best answer approach to marketing at scale means reflecting on the possible: What if you could make your marketing easier and more meaningful at the same time?

It’s been reported that customers can hit 17 touch points before they buy. Imagine if every single one those interactions delivered on your brand promise with meaningful personalization? How to be the best answer for customers with as many of those touchpoints as possible is one of the most important challenges for marketers as we move into 2018.

Ultimately, the information is there. The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences? Certainly, AI is part of a new era of marketing to answer that question. If you want to learn more about how AI, machine learning and cognitive solutions can help connect the dots of data for better customer experiences, keep reading.

Connecting Dots from Data to Experiences

I recorded a webinar with Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Leader at Watson Marketing on this topic where he dives a bit deeper into how marketers can connect their ecosystems with AI solutions. You can view that webinar here.


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The Content Marketing Juggling Act: How to Consistently Create Quality, Engaging Content

The secret to juggling is to always have one of your chainsaws in the air. Simple, right? You have one more chainsaw than you have hands, so don’t try and hold all three at the same time. Simply, always be throwing and catching at least one.

Ready to rev up your chainsaws and try it? Raise your hand… if you have one left.

As anyone in the industry knows, content marketing is a lot like juggling chainsaws. It’s easy, we’re told: You just have to consistently produce high-quality, engaging content. But if it were that easy, everyone would already be good at it. Statistics show we’re not there yet: 54% of B2B marketers say producing engaging content is their top challenge, and 50% say producing content consistently is.

Fortunately, just as you can learn to juggle chainsaws with practice and instruction (please don’t try this at home), you can learn to deliver quality, engaging content with a regular cadence. As you master the process, it will get easier. Eventually it will seem effortless to your audience. It might even feel (mostly) effortless to your content team.

Here’s how the team at TopRank Marketing keeps our chainsaws in the air.

#1: Consistency

A steady content cadence is invaluable for building your audience and serving your existing readership. The goal is to make your blog (or content hub) a habit – a reliable resource for fresh content. Setting that expectation with your readers, and then meeting it consistently, takes planning.

Start by creating your content marketing strategy. This document will help determine what your goals are, who your audience is, what type of content they need, and what types you will create.

Let your audience’s needs drive your goals. For example, a goal that states, “we will create fresh, high-quality content on X topics” is better than “We will post to the blog every day this year.” The latter is about deliverables; the former is about purpose, and is more likely to help you find the right cadence to meet needs.

With a strategy in place, you can develop your editorial calendar. This is where you will find the cadence that will allow you to deliver content consistently. Whether it’s once a week, every weekday, or twice a month, quality and consistency are far more important than quantity.

Plan your topics and content types at least a month in advance, but leave room in your calendar for timely posts, or random bursts of inspiration. Fill in any remaining gaps with plans for repurposing.

With a strategy in place to guide content creation, and a plan for what you’ll create, you can nail the consistency part of the juggling act.

#2: Quality

At first glance, “quality” seems like a subjective term. Your listicle on cat juggling might be pure gold for one reader, and pure lead for another. And it’s true that quality is dependent on the audience – so make sure your content is valuable to the people you want to reach.

First, make sure your content serves an existing search need. If people aren’t looking for help on your topic, you won’t have an audience. Use tools like Semrush, Keyword Planner, Google Search and Buzzsumo to explore. You’re not just looking for keywords to use: Look to see what type of content is already meeting people’s needs. That can help you get an idea of what high-quality content looks like for your audience.

Of course, quality means more than “designed to rank in organic search.” Your content should hit the center of this Venn diagram:

It’s vital to create at the intersection of your brand’s expertise, your unique insights, and your audience’s needs. Without unique insight, your content is indistinguishable from the rest. Without serving the audience’s needs, you’re irrelevant. And without expertise, your content will lack value.

Your content serves a business goal, naturally – that’s why it’s content marketing and not just “publishing.” But value is the engine that will get your content to that goal. Quality content is good for your readers and your business.

#3: Engaging

So now you have a plan for consistent publishing and you’ve done the research to create high-quality content. The final chainsaw to juggle is making the content engaging. The information in your content can be great, but if it’s a chore to read, people won’t get to the value.

There’s only one way to make content engaging: Write like a person. That means writing from the heart, with warmth and clarity and wit. That kind of writing invites people into a conversation, rather than trapping them in a lecture.

“But Josh,” you say, “I’m not writing about gooshy touch-feely stuff. I’m writing about cloud-based SaaS solutions. How do I write that from the heart?”

Excellent question, rhetorical person I made up. Regardless of what you’re writing about, think of who you’re writing for. You’re not writing to sell a SaaS solution. You’re writing to solve a problem for someone who desperately needs your expertise – and if you’re not doing that, go back to the planning stage. When you need help, you don’t want a lecture. You want someone who will empathize, even entertain, and gently guide you to a solution.  

As a writer at an agency, I will admit not every client’s product offerings thrill me to the core. Until we have a roster that’s exclusively jetpack, hot tub, and nacho companies, I may not emotionally engage with each business. But I can always engage with people.

That’s our job as content creators – to think of the person behind the problem we’re solving, reach out from the screen, and make a connection.

You May Start Your Chainsaws

Content marketing is a juggling act, and it takes time and practice to keep all the chainsaws in the air. Start with planning and strategy to enable consistency, put in the research to ensure quality, and practice empathy to make your content engaging. It’s not simple, but it’s possible to learn. Once you get in the rhythm you’ll delight your audience without risking life or limb.

Need help juggling your chainsaws? We’re here for you.


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Year In Review: 6 Platform Changes That Shook Up Social Media Marketing in 2017

With 2018 on the horizon, we’re all in a state of reflection, looking back on all the good, the bad and the ugly 2017 brought us. When it comes to social media, it’s hard not to think about the latter two. With all the political turmoil and uptick in trolling, even Facebook recently admitted that its digging deep to turn the tide and bring well-being principles into the social experience.

But while there’s little doubt that 2017 surfaced new concerns and challenges in the social media space, there were some positive developments for everyday users and marketers alike. In this piece, we highlight some of those interesting and encouraging changes that occurred across platforms.

While this is certainly not a complete list, we think these are some changes that can be celebrated by marketers-as well as leveraged in 2018 and beyond.

#1 – Facebook continues its push to help users and brands tell Stories.

While Snapchat came on the scene in 2013, the platform began gaining major ground in 2016 as a formidable contender within the social media space, drawing younger audiences and causing Facebook to sit up, take notice and form an action plan.

While Snapchat’s main interface is totally unique, the one thing that could be cloned is its Stories feature-something that Facebook got to work on by first rolling out a similar feature on Instagram in the summer of 2016 and then in its own Messenger app shortly thereafter.

Facebook Stories Example

(Credit: Facebook)

But 2017 brought Facebook Stories to a new level. In early October, it was confirmed that Facebook was rolling out an option to syndicate Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories. Not long after, TechCrunch learned that Facebook Stories would soon be opened up to Pages, which would let brands, news publishers, athletes and nonprofits get in on all the fun. That full rollout to Pages appears to still be in the works, but its something marketers should be on the lookout for as they enter the new year.

#2 – LinkedIn implements lead gen forms on ads.

For B2B brands, there’s little doubt that LinkedIn can be an especially effective digital advertising platform with the right message, budget and targeting in place. And LinkedIn sweetened the pot earlier this year by adding a Lead Generation Forms option to its ad platform, allowing users to opt into your offer with just one click.

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms Example

As TopRank Marketing’s own Steve Slater, Digital Advertising Manager, said in a post on the subject:

“Lead generation form ads encourage the impulse buy. With one click, you can gain access to prospect information in a way that required little time or effort on their end. The beauty of this approach for advertisers is that you can show your ads to the right audience and receive one click conversions.”

Of course, a few months after releasing the offering into the wild, LinkedIn has made some enhancement to the offering, including the ability to add custom questions to the forms, according to AdWeek. In addition, AdWeek said marketers have reported that using the lead gen forms have helped lower their average cost per lead by more than 20%-something that’s certainly worthy of your consideration as we head into 2018.

Read: Master LinkedIn’s New Lead Generation Forms in 10 Easy Steps

#3 – Instagram begins its rollout of the “paid partnership with” tag.

Influencer marketing is exploding right now, with brands of all sizes have forming both paid and unpaid partnerships with influencers-and using social platforms, especially Instagram, to spread their message.

In the spirit of enhanced transparency-and the added benefit of bringing even more credibility to your influencer marketing initiatives-Instagram rolled out a “paid partnership with” tag in June 2017 for posts and stories. Then, after a couple months of testing and data gathering, Instagram announced it would expand the tool.

“We have been closely working with a select group of creators and businesses throughout the Instagram community to test our new ‘Paid partnership with’ tag,” Instagram said in an update on Aug. 29. “And now, after months of gathering feedback from this test release, we’re excited to announce that access to this tool will be expanded to more of our partners across Instagram-with the global rollout being gradually released over the next few months.”

Read: What Brands Need to Know About Instagram’s New ‘Paid Partnership’ Feature

#4 – LinkedIn launches its own video capabilities.

As TopRank Marketing’s own Josh Nite so eloquently said:

“Video content is eating the internet. It started with video-specific platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Then Twitter and Facebook added support for live and pre-recorded video. Now these insatiable moving pictures are becoming serious business: LinkedIn now supports native video.”

Yes. When LinkedIn rolled out native video capabilities this year, B2B marketers everywhere rejoiced at the prospect of being able to serve up live, raw video to a professional audience. While the new offering is still in its infancy, you can bet that LinkedIn will make investments in evolving the offering to make it even easier to use in the future.

#5 – Twitter doubles its character count.

Perhaps one of the biggest social media news items of 2017 was Twitter’s decision to expand its character limit from 140 to 280. The company had been toying with the idea of super sizing its limit for a while-with rumors circulating that the limit could go as high as 10,000 characters-but it began with removing photos and links from the count in mid-2016.

The official switch to a 280-character limit came in early November, giving users (and brands and marketers) more space to express themselves-while still staying as true as possible to its commitment to brevity.

Twitter Character Count

The good news for marketers? While it’s still early, some preliminary research indicates that tweets longer than 140 characters get more engagement. SocialFlow, a social media analytics company, reported that their latest data showed that people are liking and retweeting longer tweets almost two-times more than shorter ones.

However, remember, value and resonance are what hook your audience-not your character count. So, before your rewrite all of your tweeting best practices, do your due diligence through some testing, and data collection and analysis to determine what your audience really responds to.

Read: Will More Tweet Space Equal More Value for Your Twitter Audience?

#6 – Facebook refreshes poll feature to include GIFs.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the invention and rising use of GIFs has made the internet so much better. And, well, Facebook just took it all to the next level by refreshing its “old” polling feature to support GIFs.

The new feature made its debut in early November and it’s pretty simple. At the top of your News Feed, click on the “What’s on your mind” section and select the ellipsis to reveal all your options, including “Poll.” For pages, select the “Event, Products, Job+” option at the top of your page. Then ask your question in the top and then select your two options via an image upload or GIF search, and hit publish.

Facebook Polls with GIFs Example

From what we can tell, this new feature isn’t widely used yet, but could pack big engagement potential. After all, it allows you to combine multiple social media best practices into one post: visual imagery, a compelling and engaging question, and a spark of humor and personality.

What’s On the Horizon for 2018?

As the old adage goes, the only constant is change-and we can certainly expect that to hold true for the social media landscape in 2018 and beyond. Of course, some of the change we can expect is already in the works-especially for Instagram.

Rumor has it that Instagram is in the midst of testing several new features on its mobile app-including a “regram” button. A couple weeks ago, The Next Web broke the news that Instagram was “secretly” testing the new feature.

As any Instagram user knows, at this point the only way to share posts from other users’ accounts is through third-party tools, or to download and re-upload to their account. If this does come to fruition, this could mean big things for brands that want to foster engagement and connect with influencers.

Other features that are reportedly being tested include: GIF search (via Giphy) to add animated GIFS to Stories, the ability to follow specific hashtags (which would be a real win for marketers), and the ability to “archive” stories.

Of course, you can bet that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube to continuously looks for ways to engage users and support advertisers. In early 2018, TopRank Marketing will release our annual Social Media Marketing Predictions, featuring insights from industry experts and thought leaders-so stay tuned for that!

What change to a social media platform got you excited, annoyed or scared in 2017? Tell us in the comments section below.


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Innovative Marketers Must Not Just Face, But Embrace, Their Fears

How can you confidently pour your heart and soul into a non-traditional marketing strategy, knowing it could either take flight or fizzle?

It’s a dilemma that outside-the-box marketers must wrestle with if they truly wish to innovate and transform their industry. The idea of experimenting with methods that haven’t been substantiated through successful practice is both exhilarating and terrifying.

When facing tight budgets, client expectations, and ROI demands, fear of failure often wins out. But to quote Seth Godin: “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”

The marketplace is now busier and more crowded than ever, so perhaps what we should really be afraid of is following the same established blueprint as everyone else.

“What Is He Doing?”

A while back, I came across a thought-provoking blog post from Ken Tremendous (that’s the online pseudonym for Michael Schur, writer for such TV comedies as The Office and Parks & Rec). One of the topics he covered was the process Lin-Manuel Miranda went through while creating his eventual Broadway hit, Hamilton: An American Musical.

Miranda spent many years writing this hip-hop history lesson, despite having no clue whether there was actually an appetite for such an unconventional piece of theatre. Schur summarized the internal conflict nicely in this excerpt from his post (edited to censor out the swears – this is a family blog!):

I’m far from the first person to say this – I’m probably somewhere around the millionth person to write about Hamilton, and the maybe 500,000th to make this particular point, but it needs to be said – a hip-hop Broadway musical about the founding fathers is an astoundingly terrible idea. Lin-Manuel Miranda should never have written it. As soon as he started to write it, he should’ve said to himself, “What the f*** am I doing?!” and stopped. And after he got halfway through, he should’ve junked it, gotten really drunk, and moved on with his life, and made his wife and friends swear to never mention the weird six months where he was trying to write a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton. I literally guarantee you that when Lin-Manuel Miranda first told his friends what he was writing, every one of them reacted with at best a frozen smile, and at worst a horrified recoiling. Some of them might have been outwardly encouraging – “sounds awesome bud! Go get ’em!” But then later, alone, they would call each other and say What the f*** is he doing?

In response to the blog post, Miranda tweeted, “I can confirm my friends were worried about me.”

Of course, if the Hamilton creator had given into self-doubt, or allowed the concerns of his well-meaning peers to derail him, the world would have never been able to experience his masterpiece, which went on to win countless awards while crushing at the box office still to this day.

Image via Playbill

Shifting Ahead 

Schur’s oddly inspirational rant about Miranda stuck in my mind, and resurfaced as I was paging through Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World, a new book from Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel. Examining dozens of case studies, the authors argue that the biggest mistake a business can make is getting too comfortable with success.

As Andrew Grove once observed, “Only the paranoid survive.”

In their book, Adamson and Steckel share a quote from Maryam Banikarim, CMO of Hyatt:

“Look at Airbnb and Uber,” she said. “If you had said to somebody ten years ago there’s going to be a business where you’re riding in someone’s car, they would have been like, ‘Are you crazy?’ There is no question that what will be here in ten years will not look like what it looks like today.”

That really is the crux of the matter. Marketers need to formulate their plans based on what the world will look like tomorrow, not today. No one can predict the future, but by relying on good data, meaningful trends, and your own intuition, you can make smart bets and get the necessary buy-in to execute.

Boldness, Belief, Balance

At a time where businesses everywhere are trying to find deeper meaning and purpose in what they do, it’s wise to reflect on the core values that will drive you forward in the coming year. Here at TopRank Marketing, our focus is on nurturing a culture of brave marketers who aren’t afraid to be inventive and color outside the lines.

Developing this mindset requires three key ingredients, and whether you operate in marketing or any other line of business, I think they can apply in some way.

Boldness: The dictionary defines bold as “showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.” That pretty much sums it up.

Belief: In order to truly deliver on a bold idea, you need to believe – in your expertise, in your conviction, and in the ability of our team to help you achieve the results you envision.

Balance: It’s great to think big, but it’s also important to balance this ambition with evidence, realism, and respected outside input.

With that being said, don’t let yourself be discouraged by the occasional “What is (s)he doing?” or “Are you crazy?” In fact, sometimes these can be the very signs you’re on the right track.

Innovation rarely occurs without a bit of incredulity.


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