The skills we teach deliver real ROI.

Archive of ‘Creativity’ category

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: Lyft

The ridesharing trend has skyrocketed in the past couple years in the United States. Specifically, Lyft has taken the streets by pink moustache and impressed marketers with their content marketing, earning them this week’s Content Marketing Campaign of the week. While slightly older rival Uber has more social media followers, Lyft outshines its main competitor for one simple reason:  memorable storytelling.

From its home page to the blog, Lyft focuses on people. It only makes sense considering the prime resource and the customer are both people, and each person has a story. Lyft has capitalized on the value of human interactions between drivers and passengers by posting funny and sentimental stories on their blog, and then sharing those stories and more via social media.

The Passengers

People use Lyft for a variety of reasons:  a ride to the airport, a safe way home, Lyft Line is even beginning in some cities as a commuting rideshare program. But we all know there are plenty more unique reasons, and Lyft loves to share them. The weirder, the better – their logo is a pink moustache, would you expect anything else? Here is one favorite:



Wait…Microsoft Paint Still Exists?!

Yes it still exists. And it can be a fantastic tool for creating fast, and free, graphics!

Images constitute a huge chunk of content marketing today — especially eye-catching photos or graphics that stand out on our social media streams. In order to create a good image, it’s easy to think you’ll need to spend money on Photoshop or a similar high-quality editing program, or on access to unique fonts and colors. Not quite — as long as you have an eye for design, you can get by without spending a dime.

I do have to qualify this post and say that there is a difference in quality between Photoshop and Paint. However, if you’re only looking to add some flair to your all-text posts or you don’t have the budget for Photoshop, you can definitely get by without forking over a few hundred dollars. I feel very comfortable using images I’ve made in Paint for clients’ pages, and here’s how:

Types of images:

Like most programs, Paint works better with some types of images than others. Photos usually do not look good after you’ve saved them in Paint; however, graphics look just fine. The most common images I create include:

  • Blog posts pull quotes: Sometimes, a good photo works well with a blog. Other times, you may want to pull out a punchy quote. Why not make the quote into a graphic?
  • Dates/events: To announce an event, use paint to make a graphic for social media. Also, you could make a series of graphics to count down to an event.
  • Inspirational quotes: I’ve said this before in previous posts, but I often notice inspirational quotes and sayings perform well on social media pages, regardless of the audience. Spice up the quote by turning into a graphic in Paint.
  • Other text-based posts: Things like hashtags, or even recipes can all be made more eye-catching through Paint.

I definitely wouldn’t give up photos completely, but when it comes to text, what’s more likely to get noticed, this:

Status: Hey everyone, don’t forget! Our big event is this weekend, so get ready! 3 days. #EventName2014

Or this:

Status: Get pumped. (With accompanying photo)

Fast Graphics in Microsoft Paint



Why Every B2B Company Needs a Content Marketing Plan

If you want to convert the people who visit your B2B company’s website into customers, you should probably familiarize yourself with the term “content marketing.” During the last five years, online and digital marketing has changed a lot, and the result is simple: producing high quality content will help reach the end goal of growing your business.

There are three easy steps that illustrate how content marketing is a driving force of successful business practices, and why it works.
1.What has changed in the marketing environment and how we have to adapt.
2.Examples of five B2B companies who understand and practice great content marketing.
3.How to create a plan that not only drives results but can also replace other, less effective marketing strategies.

The need to adapt

Why does marketing have to change? In our noisy world, indifference towards traditional advertising is higher and higher. Marketing mes¬sages are everywhere and people are not affected by hard selling techniques as they used to be. Have you heard that advertising is going “native”? In the Attention Age, we need to give people a reason to trust us and care about what we offer. That’s why content marketing comes into play. When we provide people with information that is useful, entertaining and unique, we lay the ground to turn that “stranger” into some¬body who appreciates us and might buy our products or services.There are B2B brands doing a great job at content marketing. To improve online conversions, we can definitely learn from their success stories. Limelight Networks understood that teaching sells. With a “For Dummies” campaign educating their prospective clients on how to handle their digital presence, the company gained incredible exposure and new business for $200K, TopRankBlog reports. Crowe Horwath, a big accounting and consulting firm, created a content marketing campaign based on case studies, infographics, executive briefs on regulatory compliance and risk management for financial institutions. The results? 778 prospects engaged and $250K in revenue. InsideOut, a provider of management, leadership and other types of corporate training, reported a +338% increase in leads through content marketing. With a series of slide decks, articles and videos on coaching and business strategy, the company managed to attract a much wider audience compared to its previous outbound marketing tactics. Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein found out that the attorney bio pages attracted thousands of visits on their website. They decided to give prospective clients more than a simple profile page with basic information on the attorney. The firm filmed short inter¬views with each attorney, engaging them in conversations beyond legal matters and answering questions on life, work and love. This kind of content creates an emotional bond between your company and prospects and addresses possible objections. In this example, Levenfeld Pearlstein disputed that the law and lawyers are boring and impersonal. Last but not least, Aternity. This software company managed to triple its database list with a content curation experiment named End User Experience, an online magazine aggregating news and interesting content on enterprise mobility, cloud computing, UX and more. The campaign, started in 2010, led to a 130% increase in newsletter subscribers between 2010 and 2011, and a 70% increase the following 12 months.

How to create a content marketing plan that converts

How do these companies manage to create such powerful and high converting content marketing campaigns? It all starts with a plan which addresses two main issues: what kind of content to produce and how to distribute it. How can you help and connect with your prospective clients?

Target definition and contextual understanding
First of all, let’s try to focus. If you want your content marketing campaign to be successful, one of the first things to do is to concentrate on only one customer segment, your best one. Modeling your best customer will allow you to create a buyer persona to direct your content efforts.A deep understanding is needed to be able to provide prospects with the best we can offer. You need to analyze those people and evaluate:
1.Their motivations and pains.
2.Their buyer journey.
3.Their attitude towards your company.
Understanding who your ideal clients are is of utmost importance to create the right kind of content.

Content ideas
So, what content should you create and publish? Let’s see a few ques­tions you should ask yourself about your personas to brainstorm effectively.
1.What can you teach them?
2.How can you help them make better buying decisions?
3.How can you entertain them?
4.How can you help them save time?
5.How can you create an emotional bond?
6.How can you empower them?
7.How can you keep them updated on relevant news?

Along with more creative ideas, some traditional content genera­tion templates exist which can help content producers and cre­ators, for instance:
How to ____
Mistakes to avoid when ____
Best practices in  ____
Top products for ____
Should you  ____ or not?
Why you should  ____

These are particularly useful when deciding on blog post topics, but the same main concept lies at the heart of more complex content forms, such as: White Papers/Ebooks, Videos, Newsletters, Slide Decks, Membership Websites & Infographics.

Your conversion goals
What actions do you want content consumers to take as a result of your efforts? Having clear conversion goals is essential. It is marketing after all! Results are what matter, and you want your investment to pay huge dividends. While your ultimate marketing goal is acquiring new paying clients, you should consider smaller goals along the buyers’ journey, such as social media shares, email subscriptions and free trials. It’s important to establish and quantify those goals earlier. For exam­ple, you might set a “1,000 new subscribers in 3 months” goal, or “50% increase in free trials”.

Step by step
It’s important to keep the way you engage with your prospects aligned with who they are and where they are in their journey from “apathy” to “interest,” to when they finally become clients. Less commitment at first, more later. If people don’t know you, they won’t give you their email to access a free trial of something they barely know. Instead, they might read your article, share it on social networks and follow you on Twitter. Later on you will be able to help them move through the funnel, commit more to your brand (signing up, trying your products) and buy from you.

How to keep going
The number one challenge for B2B content marketers in North America, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is the lack of time. One should plan how to keep content producing efforts alive over the long term; results can’t be immediate and persis­tence is needed. How do you do that? Simple: repurpose. Don’t even think about using your ideas only once! Does this mean you have to plagiarize? Of course not. Repurposing your content means simply being able to scale. Here are three things you can do:
1.Produce 5 articles based on your ebook’s main ideas
2.Aggregate smaller pieces of content to produce a useful collection
3.Convert one form into another: from slide deck to article, from ebook to videos, etc.
You will be able to provide more value and reach more people across several platforms. With the right strategy and mindset, you’ll be able to turn your ideas and published content into a lead generation machine that will grow your business much faster than traditional marketing.

Social Media Presence
Build a social media presence for your business. You do not need to be everywhere, but you can concentrate your efforts on one or two social media websites to start. Post regularly and make an effort to connect with your audience instead of trying to sell products. Work on not only building a social media presence but actually getting your audience to share your content as well.

Link Building
Generate links for your site by doing guest posts, promoting your blog posts, sending press releases, doing interviews, getting media coverage, and by giving away free stuff (ebooks and white papers). Again, you need to generate quality content that people actually want to read because it has interesting insights, statistics or any other information that would be relevant to your audience.

High Conversion Rates
Conversion rates are the lifeblood of any business. Your conversion rate tells you how many visitors actually become customers. Your site could get a lot of traffic, but you may realize that they are not really buying anything. There are other conversion rates to consider in terms of how many people subscribe to your mailing list or sign up for a free trial. This factor will have a huge bearing on the amount of revenue that your company will be able to generate.  Here are some tips about how to boost your conversion rates.

Test Your Current Website
Before you start making any type of changes on your site, you should first create an overview of your entire customer acquisition process. Take a look at your landing page and think of each step your cus­tomer must take in order to make a purchase. Create a hypothesis of what you think is going on in your customer’s mind and look at where people are falling off. Have a clear goal and vision for what people will think and do when they visit your website for the first time.

Use a Heatmap
Use a heatmap to track and record your customer’s every move on the site. Again, before you make changes you need to understand what is going before and after you make the changes to figure out what is and what is not working. You can use an app like Mouseflow to do this.

There is no right or wrong answer as to which colors you should use on your website. The colors that you select will depend on your branding and your audience’s preference. You will probably need to test a few different colors on different areas of your website to figure out which ones have a higher conversion rate. In many cases, blue happens to be a safe color to use for links and buttons. However, be careful with red and green because people that are colorblind may have some difficulty distinguishing the two.

It is important to not just look at a bunch of numbers in a vacuum when you make choices for your site. As you consider the numbers, take some time to literally talk to people that use your site and get their opinions too. Have some friends use your website and give you feedback in real time and also create some simple surveys that your customers can complete on your site to provide feedback. If you start to hear a lot of people complain about something on your site, then you should probably work on changing that aspect first.

A/B Split Testing
A/B split testing is basically a method used to test two different things on a website. This could mean that you try using a green or blue but­ton to sign up for a trial subscription. It could mean that you use a dif­ferent headline at the top of your page and see which one works better. In order to figure out what is going, you will need to closely monitor your analytics each time you make any type of change.

Know When to Make Big or Small Changes
Changing your conversion rates will depend on the types of changes that you are willing to make on your site. Sometimes it is fine to make minor adjustments, but if you notice that there is a serious problem on your site then you may need to make a significant change to see an improvement. This could mean that you need to change the col­ors, webcopy, reorganize the site, or have the site redesigned entirely. In either case, you must be prepared to make any type of change that will give you the desired result.

Identify Key Metrics
Identify key metrics for your site, which could include not only the number of people that make a purchase, but the bounce rate, email opt-in rates and the cost per acquisition. There is no specific number to look for because it really depends on the nature of site and your goals.

Simple Registration
A lot of websites lose customers when they have complicated regis­trations to sign up or make a purchase. You should focus on asking people for the bare minimum to avoid scaring them away and use an API to allow them to login in with another account like Facebook, Google or Twitter.

Test Your Value Proposition
Sometimes changing the copy on certain parts of your website can make a really big difference. One of easiest things to work on is your value proposition. Create a few different versions of your value propo­sition and experiment to see which one generates more conversions.

This is honestly a lot of information and the only way to tackle it is by creating a plan and breaking it down into steps. Set some goals for your company and then use these tips to organize a plan and a weekly schedule to keep yourself on the right track. To view this article and other marketing related trends and tips, subscribe to the ASPE-ROI newsletter.

Why Every Company Needs a Journalist for Content Marketing

Learn to optimize your search visibility and website traffic using concise, high–impact content marketing strategies. Check out our 2-day Content Marketing training course.

Attention spans are getting even shorter, dependency on short titles and key phrases to grab attention is standard, and great content is finally being rewarded in the world of SEO. What professionals can deliver all of those with their eyes closed? Journalists.

Some say journalism started dying as a profession when the newspaper business faced the beginning of its downfall about 15 years ago. While I do think journalistic standards have fallen thanks to the advent of bloggers who call themselves journalists and sensationalist reporting in Western culture, I think journalists have a much needed position within corporate marketing and communication departments, especially when it comes to content marketing.

In 2012, content marketing became one of the hottest buzzwords for marketers. Content strategy consisting of web seminars, ebooks, speeches, blog posts, videos and more was frenzied into production and published quickly. Then editorial calendars became a tool for marketing managers to schedule and track blog posts. Now landing pages aren’t only being ranked based on keywords but based on the relevance Google determines they have to the searcher.

Copywriters might be able to get you a great headline. Search engine optimizers can figure out how to improve your landing page to get you ranked on Google. Technical writers can absorb information and write it with clarity to specific audiences. But that still doesn’t give you the heart, determination and skill of a journalist who can help you with content marketing.

The current demand is for high-quality, engaging content. But what does that mean? And how does that match up with journalistic skills?

  • Audience – Content should be written with a purpose, not just to insert keywords into a fluff piece. To do that the first step is to know what your audience wants to hear about. Journalists from local gazettes to national periodicals know what topics are important to their readers.
  • Research – There are so many people who want to cut corners. Journalists are ingrained with the need to fact check. And they aren’t afraid to call sources, customers or vendors and ask questions.
  • Details – Reading an opinion blog is great, but most people, regardless of professional industry, want something tangible to use or take away. Supporting detail, facts and statistics that journalists use to support their story are standard for them and help greatly with content marketing.
  • Grammar and spelling – I cannot stress this one enough. When reading a company blog, would you want to buy their product if they didn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re? Personally, I skipped getting a quote from one company when a main heading said they sold “hardwood floring.” No thanks.
  • Timely – Many times companies need to quickly turn around blog posts, speeches, press releases, etc. for content marketing in order to keep up with trends its customers are interested in. What journalist hasn’t been required to meet tight deadline demands and function well under pressure?
  • Inquisitive – To write great content you need to have great information. Journalism requires reporters to adopt skills enabling them to seek information relevant and purposeful.
  • Storytellers – At the Internet Summit in Raleigh last year, telling a story was the hot topic in what works with content marketing. Who better to write a story than someone who has written stories their whole career?


9 Things About Writing Headlines Your Teacher Wouldn’t Tell You

You know when you write a great blog post, or have great copy for an ad, but you just can’t seem to find the right way to capture its essence? You rack your brain trying to come up with something creative and funny for the title or headline that will resonate with your target audience, making them want to read more. But it just doesn’t come to you. You fear you’ll be dreaming about what to name that piece of writing all night, and you still won’t have an answer in the morning.

Well, fear those sleepless nights no longer (at least as far as headlines are concerned). Portent’s Content Idea Generator can help even the least creative writer get motivated, and have a whimsical title. For instance, I wanted to give our blog readers an idea of why headlines and titles are the most important part of your blog post, post on Facebook, landing page or any other channel you use to engage your audience with marketing. However, I was having a little writer’s block, or lack of motivation, of my own. So I turned to the Portent generator for help. I typed in “writing headlines” and here is what I got:


My Product is Boring. What Marketing Can I Do?

Many times we have students in class, or potential clients who say to our instructors, “My product is boring. How am I supposed to market something that’s so plain?” The answer is simple:  think outside the box. You’re a marketer, that’s part of your responsibility. Not to mention the fact that even if you think your product or service is boring, it exists because there is a demand from some audience, no matter how small. There is a need for it, and if not, your company may want to take a look at its business plan.

So where do you start? You already have collateral that describes what your product is, or explains what is provided with your service. Those are great ad-ons for your sales team to use that look professional to their clients. What more can you do with content marketing to engage customers and make them aware? Here are five examples of companies with so-called boring products or services that did a great job making themselves stand out and appeal to their consumers with content marketing. (more…)

Web Seminar Recap: Product Theory

Real-World Innovation and Creativity Enablement

Innovation and creativity are business bingo words for sure. Even though they conjure up visions of verbose, empty-suite executives clamoring on and on, they are still critical. At the end of the day, your business grows by entering new markets, adding new products and reacting to changes that impact your products or customers. All which are empowered and amplified by innovation and creativity.

A product portfolio is like a well. The deeper you have to go to find interested customers, the more expensive it gets, and the more work you have to put in to getting business. So if you can find new products or quickly locate new customers, you continue to get the “richness” of margin and easy customers from the beginning stages of the well. (more…)

Vine: How Much Can You Really Do in Six Seconds

by , Director of Social Media – Shelten Media, LLC
When Twitter announced its acquisition of Vine, a video-based app that allows users to share six-second repeating videos, the initial reaction was one of confusion. “Great,” people said, “but what are we supposed to do with it?” Six seconds isn’t long enough to release a how-to video, a PSA or any kind of detailed employee bio.

Providing information isn’t the point. Similar to Twitter and Instagram, Vine is all about adding personality to an organization. recently declared that Vine is going to be “Big. Really, really big.” Just look at Vinepeek and Vinecats for examples of online Vine-based cultures cropping up already. (more…)

Building Your Brand on Pinterest

What started off as another social photo sharing site has quickly turned into the number one social site for generating online retail sales. According to the Social Shopping 2012 Survey, “59% of Pinterest users have purchased an item they saw on the site,” while only 33% of Facebook users make that same claim. So how does a business harness this potential and convert it to sales?

Your profile
Pinterest doesn’t differentiate between personal and professional profiles, so this is your chance to “humanize” your brand. Use a headshot rather than a logo as your avatar and drop the stuffy company mission statement. Instead, in the “about” section of your profile, use laymen terms to discuss what makes your company different from your competitors.

Your boards
First and foremost, Pinterest is a SOCIAL media site and therefor e you must be social. Follow those that follow you. This goodwill goes a long way.  It is also important to note that your boards are the first thing people see when they look at your profile. You want to have a variety that will spark someone’s interest and this means going beyond the “This is what we sell” approach. Does your company have a charity component? There should be a board for that.  How about product ideas and uses? There should be a board for that also.  What common interests do your followers have? Again, create a board for that. (more…)