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7 Ways to Kill it with your Content Marketing

I was thinking over the weekend how many marketer’s become interested in human psychology.  It makes sense because the best marketers spend a great deal of time trying to understand their audience so they can create a message that will move them.

Here are seven ways to kill it with your content marketing and truly connect with your desired audience.

1 – CREATE A COMPELLING LOOK FOR YOUR BRAND.
You need a strong and compelling story to tell with a brand that is visually appealing.   If your website looks like it was last updated in 1999 and your logo was drawn up on cocktail napkins, you likely need a refresh.  There is no point in creating digital content if people are going to fall off the second they hit your site.  

For example, check out www.strangetrailsmarketing.com (It was a skunkworks experiment of mine).  Regardless of the information present, I bet you’re impressed by the visuals.  Those alone will keep you on the site. 

2 – KNOW YOUR PRODUCT / SERVICE INSIDE OUT
Once you have a strong brand and a great story to tell you need to focus on the information you will provide.  Like anything else in this world, you need to know yourself and what you want before you can go get it.  The same is true of your company.  

… and don’t overwhelm your audience with options.  Ever heard of the Jelly scenario?  A lady selling Jelly offered 12 flavors and she could barely get any of her shelves.   She brought it down to 3 flavors and sold out every day.  The more options, the harder it is to select something.  Keep it all as simple as possible. 

3 – TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE THEY WILL GO THROUGH WITH YOU
There’s a popular saying that people will forget what you said and what you did … but they will never forget how you made them feel.  Does your product / service offer that?  My business partner talks about how products/services are more than just providing a simple solution, but rather enabling people through an experience.  

For example, a coffee shop sells coffee.  They aren’t so much selling coffee as much as they are the ability for you to make it through a long afternoon.  Your nose can smell the brew once 3 pm starts and you can imagine the wooden floors, quirky atmosphere surrounded with local art and indie music in the background.  People can get coffee anywhere, but probably not that exact experience…

Does your product/service offer something like that? No reason it couldn’t..

Yep. I know where I’ll be at 3 pm tomorrow..

4 – DON’T ASK FOR ANYTHING DIRECTLY
People like the soft approach.  When was the last time that coming on too strong worked for you?  Probably never.  The same needs to be true of your content.  It doesn’t need to be gated, it doesn’t need to be followed up with immediately via a phone call.  Give away pertinent information and ask for nothing.  It sets the tone for how your relationship with the client will be.  The last thing you want to do is give a prospect the impression that you will constantly be badgering them for more, more, more. 

This is a balancing act, of course.  A good middle ground is to focus on giving away basic information, but not the whole house.  For example, I’m writing this blog about content marketing, but I’m not writing your content.  You’d have to ask for that…

5 – BE DIRECT WITH HOW YOU CAN HELP
Soft selling doesn’t mean keeping your intentions a secret.  Quite the opposite.  Just because you’re not going to badger them to partner, doesn’t mean it should be a secret what that partnership would be like.  Make it clear that if people enjoy your content, they should contact you to continue the conversation with x, y and z.

For example, my company helps people align the technologies, people and processes needed to be successful on the Digital Landscape for Lead Generation and increased Brand Awarness.  This includes branding/content creation and setting up all digital marketing components such as e-mail marketing, social media marketing, pay per click, Search Engine Optimization and websites.  We also do technical consultation with Marketing Automation platforms.  

^ Just remember that a post like that isn’t probably going to get a lot of likes or responses.  It’s not safe, especially if no one else is liking it… but it doesn’t mean people aren’t seeing it or remembering it. 

6 – BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR POSTING SCHEDULE
More on that last point, people want to know they are always safe, above all else.  A sporadic posting schedule gives people the impression that you are a start-up, immature or don’t take your commitments seriously.  Good luck getting business in that case. 

By being consistent, people can check up and see what kind of business you are, who you’re working with and try to get a sense of what it would be like to partner with you.  

7 – HIGHLIGHT YOUR PEOPLE
Humans connect most with other humans.  Unlike point number 5, expect posts involving your employees around the office or colleagues in action doing their jobs to get a lot of love.  People crave genuine connections with others, so it’s a good way to find people who will enjoy your product/service…or just need it.  If you can do it via video, even better.  Photos can be deceiving, but videos have a tendency to show off more authenticy. 

Take my below video as an example.  It’s just me having fun and messing up an answer, but it shows a human element and gives people a sense of what it’s like to be in a room with me.  

One of my clients is a law firm in Milwaukee and there was a post of one of their attorneys advising his client in an intense photo.  It screamed, “I’ve got your back and I’m by your side no matter what through this.”  People lined up around the block to work with the guy and it goes back to the idea of feeling safe.  Digital shouldn’t replace humans, it should speed up selection and interaction. 


I’m telling you, I should have been a psychologist.  Thanks for reading!

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One Year Later. My Musings about Starting & Running a Small Marketing Company.

It’s been one year since I started my marketing business and I find myself in a reflective mood, analyzing the road I’ve traveled. 

Eight clients later, a small team of incredibly smart people and a new name has me feeling good.  I’ve found the general theme is around people and to “Know thyself well.” 

Here are my thoughts on starting and running a small digital marketing shop over the past year.

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
I have a business adviser and I’m pretty comfortable sharing information with him.  One of our recent chats I expressed my frustration that I feel at times I’m fighting a, “Too good to be true” factor.  Upon many of my first interactions or engagements, people tend to be really excited around me and build me up to be better than I am.  Kudos to me as a sales man? That’s hard to live up to and usually leads to the same ending.  Things go well for a long time, but eventually something will go wrong. When that happens, I wonder if it’s magnified just as much and I don’t want that to be any part of my reputation moving forward.

He said in his experience many people do in fact just judge a book by it’s cover. If people aren’t willing to hang on or read the additional chapters, there isn’t much you can do. The only thing you can control is putting your energies into finding people who will. I’ve largely had this in mind when working with clients. We’re looking for long term..

I’ve found that setting boundaries and being very careful what you sell is the path forward … a luxury I have as the owner 🙂

BEING POLITE / CONSIDERATE DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE WEAK
One of the primary reasons I started a business was because I didn’t like the experience I had at past, smaller agencies.  The mantra was to sell stuff we couldn’t execute with promises to expand once the deal was done.  Talk was cheap.  I also found that trying to talk things through or a willingness to be apologetic when a mistake was made was viewed as a weakness.  Project strength no matter what!  I’ve never felt that way and was determined to create examples where that wasn’t the case.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was going 80 miles an hour through a construction zone and got pulled over.  The officer informed me my license was suspended from an unpaid parking ticket, I was speeding (obviously), and not having a front license plate was a problem.  I expected a mammoth ticket, but treated the officer cordially and told him the truth.  I didn’t know about the parking violations and was speeding because I was nervous about the sales meeting I was going to.

My jaw hit the ground when he informed me I wasn’t getting any tickets.  He wished me luck on the call, asked me to take care of the outstanding items and had me on my way.  Was it because I was polite?  I don’t know…but I have zero examples where me or someone else loses our head (and it’s definitely happened before) and had it work out well.  

Anywho, this mode of operation has been on full display with our clients and one of the reasons for naming the company after myself.  My reputation is my livelihood..

IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE A REAL HUMAN BEING
Being polite doesn’t mean that you should try to please everyone, though.  As mentioned, we’ve gotten good at setting boundaries with clients and just in life.  I think a big part of that is saying what you mean and then doing what you say.  I am very upfront on sales calls and with current clients on the areas of marketing that we can help them in, along with the things we cannot do.  I believe sometimes (actually I’m certain) it resulted in a lost sale, but at the same time it weeds out companies that wouldn’t be a good fit.  You know what else that does?  Puts the focus on creating great relationships with the clients that do sign up.

In a world full of business executives that are Steve Jobs wannabes, the mantra is to charge hard and move forward no matter the cost.  Another thing my adviser shared with me was what it means to be a decent person.  I already knew this from my upbringing, but it was nice to hear him say that being a real human being at times means sacrificing parts of your own agenda for the sake of personal considerations. That sounded a lot like me and something that I think will set me apart as a business executive.

FIND YOUR TRIBE
We are an affiliate partner of Mabbly, a Chicago Digital Marketing agency, helping to manage any lead overflow.  They have a strong message about finding your tribe.  

Isn’t that what it all boils down to?  Finding acceptance for who you are.  To do that, you have to tell your story and open yourself up to rejection and possible ridicule in the marketplace.  If you do that well, you will find the right clients who need what you offer. 

I’m very proud of the team we’ve put together.  We trust each other and we have all sorts of conversations.  Most of them are great, but occasionally you run into bumps or have differing opinions.  I’m very pleased that in all cases, people sit down and talk through them rather than just get mad about it. 

THERE IS NO WAY AROUND AN OCCASIONAL MISTAKE
Mistakes tend to be great fodder for criticism or reasons to pick apart an initiative.  When that goes on long enough, good luck with whatever initiative you’re working on.  It’s going to fail.    

I’m always fascinated by the idea that the more you’re involved in, the higher the margin for error.  It makes sense.  If you only do one thing, you only have to be really good at one thing.  If you’re doing ten things, you have to strive to be really good at all ten.  That’s much harder, obviously and results in an occasional mistake.  For perfectionists who found it, they are going to hone in, judge the hell out of you and ignore all the other good stuff.   This is largely responsible for that magnification…


John F. Kennedy said that, “Victory has a thousand fathers and Failure is an orphan.”

That hasn’t been a problem with us this past year.  Our egos (yes, they exist) are no longer that big or fragile.  We know who we are. If you want to do a ton of marketing and to get started on initiatives that have failed in the past, we’ll get you moving.  Unfortunately, that mode of operation tends to come with an occasional mistake or two.  I’m not suggesting that is okay, just that we’ll acknowledge them, fix them, learn from them and keep things progressing. 

THE STORY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
In this day and age, I think like many of us, I find that image is everything.  I don’t like that.  It seems more important to project yourself a certain way, regardless of the actual reality of the situation.  In these cases, if you poke past the facades, you will likely find a paper thin back story that crumbles.  No meat and potatoes … just some really nice looking vegetables.  

I was part of a campaign that wrapped up just a week ago.  We lost, but I’m extremely proud of our efforts.  The candidate focused on her strengths and we came up with a great story about offering a fresh start and selling her values around integrity, commitment, family and faith.  When she walked into a room, it wasn’t just her talking points…she exuded it.  You could feel it.  Maybe that seems like any other campaign or politician, but there was a lot of meat behind it and an entire county in Wisconsin now knows who she is.   I’m convinced she is just getting started… This isn’t a dig at her opponent, either.  He also had a great story around his experience.

The reason I bring this up, though is because it goes back to the idea of being true to yourself, your product or your service.  This is something we talk about a lot with clients.  There is no point in setting up a bunch of Digital Marketing if you don’t have a story that will resonate with people or be backed up with credibility.

THE RACE ISN’T WITH OTHERS.  IT’S WITH YOURSELF.
The only reason I can think that people sell things they can’t execute on is due to ego (complete the sale no matter what!) or because the company wants to rapidly expand so it can be sold off.  You know who suffers in those cases?  The client.  You know who gets blamed when things go wrong?  Not the one who sold it because they’ve already moved on to their next victim. The last thing I want to do is hire the wrong person or take on so much work that anxiety begins to run rampant.  The way around that is to expand only as needed. 

Through my first 33 years on this earth, I have not shied away from making big decisions or jumping into situations with both feet.  So getting comfortable with the fact that it’s going to take me time and patience to get the right clients and the right team was a huge hurdle to overcome.  If I was building a company to prove how great I was or looking for some sort of misplaced vindication, I believed I would fail in the long run.  Luckily, I don’t feel that way anymore.  While we certainly have competitors, we’re not competing with them for the sake of it.  We’ll all get to where we want to go, eventually. 


So there you have it.  What’s on tap next?  Growing and honing in on good business processes.  I’m still a terrible accountant, but luckily I have someone helping with that now … and he’s very good at it.  

I like talking about this stuff.  Shoot me a message if you’d like to continue the conversation!

+ E-mail Marketing

Automate E-mail Marketing with these 5 steps

Have you been thinking about establishing E-mail Marketing at your company?

Assuming you have all the approvals needed, below are steps to realize that goal. No more excuses!

1 – Sign up for a Mail Chimp Account
There are many E-mail and/or Marketing Automation platforms out there. If budget is an issue, you can do everything you need to for $50.00 per month with MailChimp. Signing up takes about 1 minute and the interface is extremely intuitive and easy to use.

2 – Integrate Mail Chimp with your web provider
Assuming you are using WordPress or Sqaurespace, integrating to your website shouldn’t take you more than an hour. After logging in to Mailchimp, click on your name and Connected Sites. Mailchimp will walk you through how to integrate, but most of the time it’s just logging into your web portal from Mailchimp to do the authorization.

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Mailchimp Login Screen

3 – Create Lists that populate from your web form submissions
After you’ve integrated your website, you can create lists in Mailchimp that correspond to them. To do so, stay in Mailchimp and create the lists you want to use. Afterwards, login to your website and select your forms. There should be an option to send the contacts directly over to your Mailchimp list. The catch? You’ll have to make sure the fields all line up accordingly…

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Integrating with Sqaurespace

4 – Create Simple E-mail Templates for a Thank You E-mail and a follow-up E-mail
Now you’re ready to create the actual e-mails and keep it simple! To get started, create a Thank You e-mail that does just that and mentions someone will be in touch within 24 hours. Include links back to your site and social media pages. Create an additional one that asks how their experience with the company was with a link back to your website or google to post a review.

MailChimp Template.png

Template Creation

If you can get a graphic designer or find some budget to hire a professional, great!

Although to get started, an administrator should be able to whip up some nice out of the box templates. All of them are responsive and guide you on how to create.

5 – Create automated campaigns
Finally, go to the campaign function and create an automated one. Again, it’s pretty intuitive, but the entry point should be, “immediately after a subscriber enters list.” Then select the Thank You e-mail template. Create another step that sends the Follow-up e-mail 30 days later.


…and that’s it! Afterwards, launch and monitor activity. I always say we don’t have to be perfect to get started. Now that you’re up and running, you can fine-tune everything, enhance templates and add in more steps.

This is just the basics. Our team has been around the block more than a few times on this, so holler if you need some help!

Contact Us

+ Marketing Automation

Battle Royale: Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Pardot?

Marketing Cloud or Pardot?

Salesforce has two amazing Marketing Automation platforms on their hands. Marketing Cloud (formerly Exact Target) and Pardot. It can be difficult for a company to pick which one is right for them. Salesforce Account Executives will certainly tell you, but below is an inside scoop from someone who has worked at multiple agencies and saw the Pro’s and Con’s of both.

Number of Contacts
Pardot generally starts by offering 10,000 contacts and goes up from there. It can handle those 10,000 with ease. Once you get into the 100,000’s, the system will slow down with the platform taking longer to load screens and perform certain functions. It generally won’t affect your users experience, but it can be frustrating for your internal marketing team or administrator to get things done.

Marketing Cloud really has no limit when it comes to contacts. I’ve always told clients one of the main differentiators between the two is that if you’re looking to send tons of e-mail blasts and have 100,000’s of contacts, Marketing Cloud does it with ease. The user interface won’t miss a beat even if you add in a few hundred thousand more…

The winner: Marketing Cloud

Segmentation Ability
Pardot has a feature known as dynamic segmentation, which allows you to automatically segment your main contact list by setting If/Then statements. It works incredibly well and only takes a few seconds to setup. When synced with CRM, it will pull across all objects (contact, lead, account, etc) with ease.

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Pardot’s Dynamic Segmentation

Marketing Cloud has what is known as data extensions, which allow you to carve up your main contact list with ease. There is a catch, though. If you’re synced with CRM, it only segments off individual objects, so unless your data is flat, you will likely run into trouble. You can write SQL tables to do so, but it will require someone with coding knowledge on your staff or selected partner. There is a feature called Audience builder that mimics some of the Pardot automation, but it’s very expensive.

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Marketing Cloud’s Audience Builder

The winner: Pardot

General Automation Functionality
Pardot has a great looking interface that offers an outline view of all functionality. Under the Marketing tab, you can easily find all of its features, whether it be automation rules, dynamic segmentation, creating e-mail templates, adjusting the scoring model, etc. It’s very intuitive and your Marketing Administrator won’t be intimidated when logging in. Campaign creation is mainly done through what is known as engagement studio. It looks good and works very well.

Pardot Engagement Studio

Pardot’s Engagement Studio

Marketing Cloud also has a good looking interface, but you have to scroll across multiple studio’s, including E-mail, Advertising, CloudPages, Social, etc (assuming you’ve purchased them all). Each has it own admin panel that needs to be setup and while they are very powerful individually, they don’t always tie together so well. Many features that you would assume are drag and drop still require a fair amount of coding behind the scenes. Campaign creation is done through whats known as Journey Builder and while it looks a little different, it works mostly the same as Pardot’s engagement studio.

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Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder

The winner: Pardot

Attribution
Attribution is a hot topic among Marketing departments as they try to tie Return on Investment back to their multiple campaigns across social, web, e-mail, PPC, etc. Pardot has some ability to do so as it relates to e-mails, landing pages and to some extent, social. It utilizes what is known as campaigns as the entry point. These work extremely well, but for true attribution, you need to log all touchpoints. It’s doable if you get creative with salesforce campaigns, but it’s not exactly plug and play.

Marketing Cloud does a nice job of plugging in all their studios to the major advertising mediums. In most cases, you can integrate directly with your Google Adwords Campaign, your Facebook campaign and other web efforts. If your segmentation is setup correctly, getting individual reports for how each campaign performed is very realistic. Although, you’ll still have to use salesforce campaigns and use salesforce CRM to get the master report…

The winner: Marketing Cloud

Social Media
Pardot has a basic social feature that allows you to integrate to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You can then schedule posts directly from the platform and track which of your prospects have interacted with your posts. It’s actually a very cool feature, but is somewhat clunky. For example, it doesn’t fetch previews, so you have to just trust the url and images are all going to look how you want them when you post.

Marketing Cloud is much more advanced. You can integrate with over 10 social media platforms and do the same scheduling/posting as Pardot, but it’s much better (and fetches). You can also automate responses, alert certain internal stakeholders of activity and do what’s known as social listening. It’s very powerful. The catch? It doesn’t currently integrate with your E-mail and Advertising audiences.

The winner: Marketing Cloud

Lead Scoring:
Lead Scoring is a powerful way to qualify leads. Pardot has an out of the box scoring model that can be tailored to an organization.

Marketing Cloud has no scoring model. Salesforce often sells companies both platforms. Marketing Cloud handles the bulk of the promotions, e-mail blasts, etc and then a small portion of that is taken and put into Pardot for lead scoring. I’m not a fan of it, but some companies have made it work for them.

The winner: Pardot

Template Creation:
Both platforms offer the ability to create e-mails, landing pages and forms. They look a little different, but they both offer flexibility and drag/drop features.

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Template creation in Pardot

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Template creation in Marketing Cloud

The winner: Tie

Integrations:
Pardot has many out of the box integrations to all sorts of platforms. It can be customized to an extent, but you need permissions from the company. As it relates to CRM, I’ve always described it like flipping a light switch. It’s very easy.

Marketing Cloud is wide open. Through their SOAP and REST API’s, you can custom build pretty anything you want if you have the ideas, time and resources. Likely goes without saying, but you’ll need people who are well versed in Salesforce coding to be able to do so. As it relates to CRM, it’s doable, but slightly more complicated than Pardot.

The winner: Marketing Cloud

Platform Standup:
Salesforce encourages you to utilize a Marketing Agency to help with the platform standpoint. Most agencies have a checklist or Quick Start as they are known, that they can walk you through. Pardot can take them anywhere between one week and one month for the initial standup depending on time/resources limitations. Much of this is training and overviews of how the platform works, which because it’s so intuitive usually goes very well. It usually requires a short term partner.

Marketing Cloud is usually more complex.

Many discussions need to be had around how data is structured and how the org needs to be setup. This can take weeks or months depending on how organized both parties are. After that, the demo’s and setup usually go fine, but because it’s not as intuitive it takes longer to complete the hand-off and likely requires a long term partner.

Tying it all together:
It largely depends on your company’s size and what you’re looking for. If you’re a small business, Pardot is a better match and price for you. If you’re mid-size and up, Marketing Cloud may offer the functionality you need, especially if you’re looking to sends tons of e-mails on a daily basis as well as bring an attribution model to your company. Just be prepared for a longer and more complex build…

If you’ve got a similar project or need further guidance, our team has been around the block more than a few times. Give us a shout!

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The train is leaving. We want you on it, but it is leaving…

Are you an entrepreneur or a younger individual poised to take over some leadership duties at your company?

If so, you may find it’s difficult at times to sell new initiatives, especially as it relates to Digital Marketing and Digital Transformation. Here are some tips to help you on your journey.

1 – Put yourself in the current leaders’ shoes … and show some respect
It’s probably an exciting time for you and probably a nerve-wracking time for older (wiser) generations. They’ve spent the past 20, 30, 40 etc. years building and protecting the company you work for and it was their blood, sweat and tears that has the company in it’s current (successful) spot. They have sentimental value about their brand, about the culture of the company, their history, etc… and they should! Above all else, they want to make sure their efforts have a lasting and positive effect. Handing the reins to young, (at times) untested newbies can be scary (and rightfully so!).

We will feel the same way someday about our efforts. If you can put in an effort to understand this, it will naturally show and it will go a long way with them inviting you to the table.

2 – Find the most progressive and open minded leader at the company
There is bound to be someone at the firm that is always open to new thoughts and ideas. Find this person. Take this person out to lunch and keep the conversation loose. Mention that over the next 6-12 months, the company needs to start exploring becoming more Digital. To do so, it should be done in a parallel path to what is tried and true. If the company currently likes hard mailers, directory listings and magazine advertisements, fine. Keep doing them, but also carve out some budget to explore a Digital Marketing Roadmap and some quick wins like a refreshed website, E-mail newsletters & nurture campaigns, SEM & PPC, Social etc.

I always say, it’s more important to get started then it is to be perfect with new initiatives (because it’s the hardest part). Once moving, you can use the momentum to keep building.

Having an Executive on board that knows the other Executives will naturally be able to get them on board with giving things a chance, whether it’s because of friendships, reputation, ownership, etc.

3 – Don’t be afraid to admit what’s not going well, but make sure the whole story is told
There are a lot of people out there that are not big picture thinkers, which is totally fine. Although, you need to be ready to both appease and disarm them. With Digital Marketing, there will likely be multiple mini projects in the beginning. In an ideal world, they will all go well. In the real world, it’s more likely that some will go really well, some will go okay and some will fail. The ones that fail are likely to be honed in on by certain people who want to shut everything down as a result.

Don’t overreact. In the words of my former boss, put yourself in a shit sandwhich. Start by talking about the state of the project, as a whole, reiterating how great it is that the company is moving with the times. Then admit the pieces that are not going well along with your plan to remedy them. Close out by also talking about the things that did go well. People will appreciate the honesty and good executives will see that the over-all initiative is important and moving forward.

If you just focus on the bad right away, that will take over the conversation and shut you down. Trust me…

4 – Don’t try to please everyone
Also remember that there is a limit to everything. It’s important to bring people along with you, but the naysayers can sap your energy and the project’s. At some point, you might have to just politely keep your head down and stay out of their way.

Focus on the good stuff you’re doing…and more importantly the people that are on board.

5 – Have Fun and make your intentions known
Probably the most important aspect. Have fun. Smile more. Joke around. In dealing with Digital Marketing, we’re not heart surgeons where the smallest mistake can be fatal. This project should be exciting and well known among the company. If done right, it builds culture, excites the community and gets your client new clients.

… and in doing so, don’t be secretive about it. Give regular updates, celebrate the quick wins, and update people on the failures (and their associated adjustments). At some point, you’ll realize you’re no longer in a Digital Transformation stage. Instead, you just work at a company that is now on the leading edge of all things Digital.


Coming full circle with the title, I always advise my clients to tell their Executive Teams that the train is leaving.

We want as many people on that train as possible. We will hold the train at the station for as long as possible. We will make the ride as comfortable as possible. However, that train is leaving and if you chose not to get on it, you’ll be left at the station.

Shameless plug. If you are in the midst of this or need help with your digital marketing, my team and I are well versed and at your service 🙂

Free Digital Marketing Guide

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We’re not as sensitive as you think. So why does Culture matter so much to us?

Okay, so maybe we are, but it’s not quite what you think.

When I think of that word, sensitive, I find people associate it with weak individuals who are always sad or depressed or have a victim mentality. As I get older, though, I’ve come to despise that perception. I think it’s interesting that many employers tend to think because they are giving someone a place to work, a salary and other benefits that everything is good. You’re unhappy? Well you’re probably ungrateful, entitled, thin skinned, not a hard worker, etc.

What does being sensitive entail, anyways? A google search brings up two definitions:

  1. quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.
  2. (of a person or a person’s behavior) having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.

These are things constantly on my mind as I build my businesses.  While I certainly appreciate number 2 (and have been working on that for years), I’m moreso referring to the first part of the definition. A sensitive person is indeed going to pick up on everything as it relates to their external stimuli. Every word said, action took (or not took) is going to be analyzed. They are going to connect it, see patterns and develop an over-all understanding. Add in worrying about how others are affected or feeling and it’s easy to see how a person like this could get overloaded or burn out. It can be downright exhausting at times (and they think it’s strange, too).

What’s funny to me (and getting a little out there I suppose), is that in this day and age, I don’t believe these types of people are in high abundance. There are indeed lots of entitled people out there in what I’ve come to know as the McDonalization of the world. Bright, Shiny objects are everywhere and everyone wants something quick and easy. You want a boyfriend/girlfriend? Go on Tinder. You have a problem? There’s probably a pill you can take. You have an idea for a business? You probably have an expectation that it’s going to be a success in a matter of months. The list goes on, but I find all of these situations aren’t built to last, because there is a lack of understanding or foundation for why something is happening. Things like these take time and include difficult challenges, which no one has time for anymore.

The foundation is the key… and you know what? Truly sensitive people are great at establishing that… and if you want to build a business, practice area, new service offering, go find one. The catch? You also need a great culture. These people are high in demand and they know it. They aren’t going to suffer through a roller coaster of successes/failures for the wrong reasons… which a great culture can prevent.

I’ve often said my goal from a business standpoint is to become a CEO or CMO of a major organization. I’d only worry about three things. Protecting the brand, the assets and people of the organization. When it comes to the employees, I find that many CEO’s are so egotistical that it’s the employees job to take care of him/her. You have to assure them everything is okay, let them know how much they are appreciated, etc. Are you kidding me? It should be the other way around and I’ll tell you why. You need employees to perform their specialty and to do so, they need to be in a great state of mind. They can’t do that if they are too busy taking care of you or worrying about you. The other thing these leaders have in common? They are intimidating. They walk into a room and people instantly become unsettled (and I personally think they enjoy it). Why am I mentioning this?

…because it’s the perfect storm of badness for sensitive people. They are likely leading major initiatives and they need to be in that right state of mind to be able to continue producing (especially creatives). They are resilient, too, so they will probably make it appear as if everything above the surface is just fine, but they are truly a duck on a pond. Start adding in unwanted stress and you’ve started a ticking time bomb. What a lot of people don’t understand is the internalization element. As things add up they take their toll mentally and physically. In the long run, no amount of money or promises are worth going down certain roads …

Some people reading are probably rolling their eyes, right now, but I’ve seen it time and time again. If you want someone invested in you, you need to invest in them and put in some effort to understand them. If they feel the last part, you’ll have an ally for life.

That’s the difference between a good culture and a bad one. That’s literally it.

Coming full circle, if you have a sensitive person on your staff…lucky you, as you’ve likely got a very passionate individual. Show some understanding and watch those energy levels rise to the max!

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5 Tips for creating a Marketing Automation Project Plan

Are you looking to create a Marketing Automation Project Plan for your organization? 

Before you create a Marketing Automation Project Plan, ask yourself this question.  How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
 
Marketing Automation is no different. Take your time when you’re starting out and make sure you have certain resources in place.  Here are five tips to consider:
 
1. CHOOSE A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM 
 
Understand you have many options for a platform. There are many third party Marketing Automation tools on the market (Over 150+). Most of these platforms all have the ability to store contacts, design/ send e-mails, design/manage landing pages and form activity, scoring mechanisms that rank your contacts likelihood to buy, and the rest of the tools you’ll need to set up the automation
 
2. PICK YOUR ADMINISTRATOR 
 
Identify at least one person who is technically savvy, with an interest in digital marketing. This person doesn’t have to have a degree in rocket science. Rather, a willingness to learn and explore will be far more valuable. The role of this individual will be to design marketing automation processes according to your objectives.
He or she will be at the center of all activities for the platform.  
 
3. PREPARE FOR THE LEARNING CURVE 
 
Mentally prepare yourself for some trial and error. Plan to turn on the platform and then send out some initial low risk campaigns like a newsletter. Also, identify a product category or brand that you will put through a Pilot program in the coming months. 
 
4. START THINKING ABOUT CONTENT 
 
What types of material do you want to send your readers? Think about content for the Pilot program, as well as generally-speaking. Most importantly: Include a strong callto-action on all e-mails and the follow-through strategy. For example, if your reader should click a hyperlink or button in the e-mail for a landing page, what are your goals and objectives for this person
 
5. SET TARGETS AND MEASURE 
 
Write down your TOP FIVE METRICS you’d like to achieve. It can be open/click rates or form conversions. Take it further and request close rates or opportunities won. Get this in the hands of your administrator who would, in turn, follow through to create a roadmap.

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Marketing Automation and Social Media | Stronger Together

Social media has become an integral part of our life, both personally and professionally.

This is especially true for business owners looking to connect with customers and potential customers.  Social Media and Marketing Automation are stronger together.  Having a strategy is important, so that’s the first step.  You should identify an objective for the project and ask yourself how it will benefit the organization.  Part of that should be determining how that fits into a greater marketing automation process.  Here are 5 ways to do that:

1 – Schedule posts
Platforms such as Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot and Salesforce Marketing Cloud all allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, which is a huge time saver.

When selecting a marketing automation platform consider that Pardot and Marketo have a more simple interface.  Hubspot and especially Salesforce Marketing Cloud have advanced features that go pretty in depth with their capabilities.

Don’t forget about the content, either.  You should be consistent with your schedule.  Perhaps every Monday is a new blog highlighting a service, new pictures uploaded for Throwback Thursday and Fridays reserved for highlighting the community or company culture.

2 – Score or rate your posts
The platforms give you a huge opportunity to take your social media efforts to the next level.  Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot come with a scoring model that allows you to rank your prospect’s activity, which includes social posts.  When you identify them through a form submit or an e-mail send, you can cookie them (which just means you’re tracking them).

You can place a higher emphasis on your business related posts and a lower emphasis on the more fun posts.  Include this in a greater scoring model that includes web forms, e-mail clicks, webpage visits, etc and you can start to tie back ROI to your social media efforts.

You’ll look like a rock star within your organization, too.

3 – Re-target on Facebook
Giving some much needed love to MailChimp.  Until recently, it was mostly known as an e-mail tool.  They’ve really upped their game by adding on some automation elements and the ability to re-target on Facebook.

When a person fills out a form on your website, they enter into a list in MailChimp, where you can track their activity and send e-mails.  Now, it will also put advertisements up on Facebook when that person logs on to the account, yet another way to touch them.

Hubspot and Marketo have similar features.  In both cases, you’ll still need to create the advertisements in Facebook.

4 – Include links on emails
Every platform has the ability to add social media icons to the bottom of your e-mail templates.  While this is very common on web pages, you’d be amazed at how many companies still don’t include them on e-mails.

It’s an easy way to get your existing contact database to also follow you on social media.  Also, you don’t have to pay anything for the likes and follows.

5 – Automate replies on social media
Salesforce Marketing Cloud reigns supreme in this last category.  Their social studio features allow you to monitor posts across all of your platforms.  In addition, you can do what’s known as social listening and search for key words or competitors that you want to track.

In both cases, you can create what is known as a macro that will automatically respond to posts.  Use it to handle critical PR issues immediately, thank people for their interest and attract people away from your competitors when they drop the ball.

Learn more about that here: https://www.salesforce.com/products/marketing-cloud/social-media-marketing/

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What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation isn’t so much a tool as it is a set of different technologies and processes.

It started when companies were onboarding commercial processes through a CRM system. As a result, among the streamlined processes was filling sales people’s pipelines with leads. Before this, the number one request of Marketing Departments was “Give me leads! Any of them!” They were hungry. Now they are to a point where they are actually overwhelmed. They are now saying “Enough!” Only give me the best leads that are ready to buy”. The tension between Sales and Marketing lives on.

So what is Marketing Automation exactly? Many people think it’s a platform that sends emails out and tracks their open/click rates. Not quite.

It’s a collection of technologies that allows companies to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows. Doing so increases operational efficiency and helps firms grow revenue faster. There are three components:

  1. A Central Marketing Database: A place for all of your marketing data (think of it as the brain). A place where you can score and rank the relevancies of each lead and put them into groups. A place where you can gather insights into the conversations that took place with them.
  2. An Engagement Engine: A canvas where you can interact with the database (think of it as the legs). A place to send information and relevant content to your contacts.
  3. An Advanced Internal Team: Not so much technology as it is automation of internal marketing processes and fuller understanding of what a platform can do (think of it as the heart). This increase’s marketer’s ability to deliver relevant content to relevant individuals and arrange their sales team’s leads based on priorities. It’s also the human element.

To get started, look at the following platforms such as, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot and others.

MAKE YOUR SALES TEAMS CHAMPIONS OF THE OPPORTUNITIES YOU GIVE THEM. (Cham-pi-on/CHampeen/verb 1. Support the cause of; fight for, defend)

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Did you just start a new business? 5 things to consider when you become an entrepreneur.

I’ve recently re-ignited my business entity… and I enjoy keeping the world updated on my thoughts and progress throughout.

This is my third stint, backed up by over 10 years of experience from the corporate world. The first time, frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. I did simple things like setup a bank account, create a website, create the service offering, do some basic marketing…but it was all disconnected and it was more of a hobby than anything else.

The second time I had seen up close and personal how other companies established new services or took themselves from small to medium sized. I built on all of those experiences and ended up securing over five clients.

This time, the focus is on scaling and turning it into a true business, rather than just me as an Independent Consultant. Here are things I’ve learned so far:

1 – Keep a strict routine
My second stint started in January of 2017. I found I loved my new found time to myself and how enjoyable it was to sip coffee on my couch through the morning while writing blogs and sending e-mails. One morning I woke up, though, realizing I was well rested and somewhat bored … and I started driving myself crazy without having my daily agenda’s defined. The past ten years I always had a time I needed to be at work, a To Do List to move me through the day and various activities that let me burn off energy. That was all gone and I found myself getting anxious sitting in my condo all day.

The solution was to develop a strict routine and follow it no matter what. These days, I wake up, eat breakfast (and I’m only allowed one cup of coffee) and shower before 8 am.  I am not allowed to be at home between the hours of 10 am – 4 pm and have to achieve at least 10,000 steps someway, somehow… Finally, I need to attend a non related work event or do something social at least three times per week.

I find it works, too. Once the engine is started, it’s easy to keep it running and somewhat enjoyable to shut it back down at the end of a long day.  Shutting it off and on, though at random isn’t… and is exhausting.

2 – Friends and family are everything
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely in the beginning. Luckily, that problem goes away once you sign enough clients to keep you busy.

Especially in the beginning, I found it’s imperative to keep a good support team. One thing I find fascinating about the corporate world is that it took up all my time. I worked around the clock and any free time I had was spent collecting myself so I could do it all over again. That goes away once you’re on your own.

At the same time, I’ve been catching up with friends from middle/high school, college and from when I first moved to Milwaukee. It’s always great to see them and I always leave with an extra boost in my step … It makes you remember your roots and who you really are. My best friend is getting married this year and I’m the best man. I find myself feeling fortunate I have time to actually be around and celebrate our friendship before he ties the knot…rather than just working all the time and making what otherwise would have been just a guest appearance at his wedding…

3 – Sales cures all
Being an entrepreneur can also bring uncertain times..at times. Cutting off your income and then spending your own money to generate business is very uncomfortable. It makes you question your confidence, general ability and sanity.

I find it funny, though. Last Friday (4/20) I sold a deal with a Law firm…and everything was immediately fine. No worries about anything whatsoever…all was right in the world…and then I took a nap.

4 – Get monkeys off your back
Truth be told, I never fully understood the phrase until now. Like anyone, there are tons of things that bother me and I find that my brain is at times wired to spend all of its time analyzing what it doesn’t like. This worked great in the corporate world, because companies had problems they were relying on me to solve and I was eager to dig in.

When you’re trying to build a business, though..it’s counter productive to spend time being mad about things that happened in the past. I find it’s more important than ever to get mad about it, get over it, try to solve it if possible and then move on.

Every week I write down something that bothers me and I keep it front and center where I can see it in my home. I refuse to be afraid of it or let it stop me from getting on with life. I do allow myself to try out various solutions and then I tell myself, “Okay so we know this bothers you…now what? What’s next?” and then I carry on.

I’d say I’m 50/50 right now. Some things I can solve, others I just have to fall on my sword or accept that I can’t change the situation, just learn from it. My dad told me something interesting the other week. Bringing up the failure or trying to solve something that isn’t solvable can also prevent the wound from healing on the other side, too. Sometimes you’ve got to just let it go or at least give it some time…

It’s not always easy, but it’s usually not that hard either… and I feel this is something I can become really good at.

5 – Appreciate what you’re doing
There are going to be so many errors and bumps when you first start out. Like anything in life, though, it’s all about the journey and racking up more wins than losses. If you’re lucky, even the initial losses will be viewed as wins in the long run and it’s the sort of thing you’ll be longing for after you’ve mastered the art of it.

Being an entrepreneur tests my will, my determination and my spirit. I worry constantly about those things..and then tell myself if I wasn’t worried, there would probably be a bigger problem :-).

It also allows you time to pursue other interests. For me, I had no idea that I enjoyed writing so much (hence blogs like this one). It’s something I want to continue to do more of.


James Pellizzi helps companies align the right people, processes and technology needed to enhance their marketing efforts. He loves meeting new people, networking and talking about new ideas. Please e-mail him at James.Pellizzi@strategicdigitalmkting.com or fill out this form if that also sounds like you.

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5 Reasons you need a Digital Transformation strategy.

As 2018 roars on, the idea of a Digital Transformation strategy isn’t one that needs convincing. Companies believe in the power of Marketing Automation.

A few years ago I would have wrote about the definitions of those and how to get started. Now? Not needed as much.

What companies are now hungry for is a strategy that ties those elements together. Components such as SEM, PPC, Email Marketing, Web Personalisation, Branding, etc.

I like military metaphors. In any type of operation, there will be various things available. Soldiers, Vehicles, Air Support and other equipment. It’s crucial for any operation, but you know what else is too? A strategy that enables those components at a tactical level. If they aren’t all combined for a common goal and interconnected, any military exercise will fail. When do the troops go in? Before or after air support? Are they travelling via the vehicles or foot? If the latter, why are there vehicles? What is their goal and how long will they be there? Do they have enough food for the duration? The list could go on…but there needs to be a strategy that gives direction for the why and how.

Digital Marketing is the same way. Here are Five reasons you need a Digital Marketing strategy:

1 – One to One Marketing is all the rage (and always will be).
The most powerful marketing is one to one marketing. If you can speak to someone direct, that will resonate more than anything else. You’ll receive some kind of partnership as a reward. To do that right, you need the various components described above.

2 – Companies have able bodies, but not Thought Leadership.
I find it interesting that at this point in time everyone is the next marketing genius (myself included..). Companies aren’t looking for bodies or to outsource for this kind of work. They are looking to train their resources. The people who know what they are doing in this space aren’t working at a private company. They are either on their own or at a marketing services agency, which is how the wheel spins for them. They give their experience and get more in the process, which keeps companies after them.

3 – If people don’t know the why, they won’t care about the how.
Goes back to my military example. Yes – your company likely has an email platform. It likely has some web personalization and someone that can generate content. Why are you doing it, though? Is there a roadmap that spells out a goal, as well as the items needed to have a chance at being successful? Do sales know what to do once a lead is ready? Disconnected elements do more harm then good and start competing with each other. Trust me…that’s a mess you don’t want to deal with.

4 – … because it doesn’t have to be only about demand gen.
I’ve spent a lot of time in B2B markets and the normal conversation is to use Digital Marketing to generate leads. I’m a big believer in it, but it doesn’t have to only be that. Companies should consider tracking their brand awareness, too.

Get creative with the why.

5 – Guts versus Glory.
The best professionals aren’t doing this for individual companies. They are a unique breed. The right strategy takes guts and bold risk taking. The roller coaster that comes with that (The glory aspect) isn’t something most people want to stomach. Who can blame them? You likely don’t have that person on staff, though (if you do, let them loose on idea generation!)

So there you have it. There is no better time to be in marketing than now! No longer are we viewed as tactical doer’s. We’re now the strategic dreamers that can move organization’s forward. How awesome is that?

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6 ways to become more coachable in your career

I read a lot of articles about emotional intelligence… and I must say, I’ve very much bought into it.

I think it’s important in all facets of life to understand yourself and others … and have them understand you so that all parties can move forward.

At the moment, I am a Marketing Director at a Digital Technology company. I firmly believe I have achieved the level of Director (and perhaps have too much confidence regarding it). I can close deals, I manage a team of Digital Marketing professionals and I know how to execute what we sell. Although, my goal is to become a top level Marketing Executive… and I’m not there yet.

… and how does one achieve that, anyway? One way is through coaching and feedback from other Executives. I find it’s a nice thought, but they usually aren’t easy conversations to have.

I’ll share some takeaways from a recent example involving myself.


Takeaway 1: Hear the person out.
I was called into my bosses office where he gave me feedback on a recent client interaction and sales call. I’ve been here before and knew it wasn’t an easy conversation for him, either. It was important to me to let him share the feedback. Basic listening 101. The fact that I was getting feedback was important. You’re in trouble when those conversations cease to exist altogether…

Takeaway 2: Don’t rationalize.
Although, I admit that as I sat listening to him, immediately my mind started racing to justify my actions. I thought to myself, “Is this happening again?”  I’m managing more than a handful of clients, helping close deals, mentoring the team and working almost 60 hours a week. 18 out of 20 things are going great, why aren’t we talking about those instead of the 2 that aren’t? Then I realized I was just rationalizing. No one was saying things weren’t going good, they were just saying a few things needed improvement.

Takeaway 3: Get mad… and then get over it.
For the rest of the day I was annoyed, mostly with myself. I wrote out all of the justifications and stewed over it all night. Then I also realized that if I was this upset about it, they must have a point, which I began to feel great about. If I wasn’t upset, it really wouldn’t have meant anything, nor would I be moving forward… and then I fell asleep.

Takeaway 4: Perfection doesn’t exist, but you can strive for excellence
I tell clients on a regular basis. You don’t have to be perfect to get started, we just have to start. You can polish process later. I feel the same way about people in their careers. No one was attempting to take away from me my past experiences or level (that was my own insecurities speaking). I had gotten myself this far before the age of 30. I effectively got started on the path. They were helping me polish myself.

There is a story about Brett Favre in his early tenure with the Green Bay Packers. No one doubted his ability to win games or athleticism and he captured the hearts of an entire fanbase. Although, people did question his ability to win a Super Bowl … and his disastrous, prior stint in Atlanta was well known. I was at his retirement ceremony where Mike Holmgren talked about the challenges of coaching him. He recounted the moment he knew the Packers were on the cusp of greatness. He said Brett came over to him on a plane ride home and said he understood the value of being coached and placing his trust in him. He had a role to play and if he wanted to go to the next level, he needed help. Favre went on to win three MVPs and the Packers won the Super Bowl during the 1996 season.

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Takeaway 5: We are the masters of our domains
I also thought about what I was going to do with the feedback… and realized yet another thing. No one was necessarily right or wrong regarding the scenarios. I wasn’t being forced to do anything, I was being given suggestions. I think about US Presidents and all of the responsibility they have. There are tons of stories about how much feedback and advice they request regarding various decisions, but ultimately, they have to make a call on what they will and won’t do. The same applied here. I’ll likely take the majority of the feedback that was given to me and some of it I probably won’t based on what is and isn’t important to me… and I think that’s okay.

Takeaway 6: Know that what comes around, goes around
I’ve written in the past how we are all just in a race with ourselves to get where we want to go. Some of us are farther along, some farther behind, but we’ll all get to our destinations.

Interestingly enough, on the same week I had to give feedback of my own to a colleague… and I wanted to take some of my frustrations into account while giving it. In this example, this person was giving a demo for the first time to a client. I had to imagine this particular individual was nervous and I knew for a fact how much prep time went into it. Just the fact that this person was so willing to grow was very much appreciated by me…so I said so. I said how good I thought the presentation skills were (and meant it) and that this person had an ability to establish rapport with the client. Only after I led with the positive did I suggest some improvements to the actual pitch. I suppose I’ll never know for certain, but it wasn’t uncomfortable and I believe this person will continue to grow with some of my recommendations.

At the very least, hopefully they didn’t go home and over analyze the situation, but if they did they can at least read this blog ;-).


Until next time…