Posts Tagged "Advertising"

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How to Become a Knowledge Source and Win the SEO Game

Win the SEO Game

If you can’t figure out how your competitors manage to get to the top of the Google rankings while your brand lurks on page 3, or how to attract more visitors to your blog or website, or even what content to create, don’t worry you’re not alone.

The constant tweaks by search engines in the last 3 years have left many marketers wondering if their next SEO tactic will get them traffic or a penalty from Google. The search engines have always wrestled with how to present consumers with results that actually meet their needs.

But it’s been a game of cat and mouse as marketers create cleverly optimized sales pages and users never know if they are going to land on real, valuable content or a pitch. Over time the game got very complicated and Google’s algorithm evolved to the point where it evaluated over 200 factors about each webpage in order to decide whether that page actually met a searchers’ needs.

The Turning Point

In the last three years, however, there’s been a turning point. With Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates there has been a new focus on the quality of content versus the quantity. Instead of relying merely on the attributes of the content on the page, or using links from webpages to judge the quality of a webpage’s content, the search engines are now finally able to incorporate social media signals.

Using social media likes and shares, Google finally developed a way for people to in essence vote on which pages had the best quality information. Today search engine rankings are essentially being heavily influenced by the actual preferences of real people.

Unfortunately this makes your job as a marketer more difficult, because these search engine changes require you to really get into the customer’s head and create content that genuinely meets their needs. This has caused some old hands to throw their hands in the air and declare SEO to be dead. But the reality is that the game is just more demanding.

High-Quality Content

It would, therefore, appear that now the only reliable way to increase search rankings is with high-quality content that people will like and share with others. Creating a continuous stream of relevant and useful content that meets customer needs is the most effective way to dramatically grow your traffic from both social sharing and from search engines.

Value First

Looking back on my experience with online content building, I’ve seen many cases where this approach to quality content has paid off dramatically. For example a financial services client focused on creating articles, blog content and videos that answered actual user questions and met customer needs for financial education. This value first approach built trust and triggered social sharing. As a result search optimization started to increase web traffic dramatically within the first three months of the content building process.

The Right Content at the Right Time

Guiding this process is our understanding of the Consumer Decision Journey, which helps brands map what content they will need at various points on the path to purchase and beyond. This approach allows brands to prepare exactly the right content for each step along the way, and is equally important in search and social visibility when the consumer is searching for answers.

For example a company in the housing vertical combined social media sharing and search optimization to promote content on their website that was useful to apartment seekers. Research revealed that the two main target segments had different needs. The Young Singles were concerned with sports and activities near their potential apartment location. The Young Family group on the other hand, was more concerned with nearby schools and the neighborhood quality for their children.

Surprisingly, further research uncovered that the Young Singles group, frequently owned pets and that they would actually change their choice of apartments if offered nearby pet parks. With these insights in hand, the content team set about building hundreds of pages of neighborhood-specific content, covering schools, sports, activities and, yes, pet parks. The payoff for meeting consumer needs was dramatic. The peak search and social traffic grew from 1.1 million visits per month to 2.1 million visits per month.

Finding Out What Content to Make

It starts with listening to target consumers. Find the forums, social media networks and blogs where your potential customers are asking questions and talking about their problems. There are lots of ways to do this, but at IQ we find the fastest way is to use a social listening platform.

For many, just making a list of customer questions about problems and challenges that customers care about can be a powerful starting point. If you can generate a list of 50 to 100 questions that consumers routinely ask, you can start to hone in on a content strategy.

When consumers begin to look for a product that meets their needs or that solves a problem they usually start with very little information. So the opportunity is to intersect that process and become a knowledge source for their journey.

How do you create this type of content?

  1. Find the relevant forums, social networks and blogs where customers complain about their problems and ask each other for advice.
  2. Catalog all the consumer questions that your brand can solve.
  3. Identify solutions to common questions that you uncovered in your list of the most common 50 to 100 questions.
  4. Create useful content that answers questions in multiple ways, such as infographics, presentation slides, articles, blog posts, videos and images.
  5. Make sure the content is useful and actionable so that it helps users to understand the most important parts of solving their problem.
  6. Distribute your content to your owned media and get it shared using social media to expand your reach.
  7. Build links from social sites and forum sites that are authoritative sources on this topic.
  8. As you answer these questions, target long-tail phrases rather than single keywords in your SEO.
  9. Structure your website content to clearly and concisely answer all the key questions that you uncovered in the earlier steps.

Search engines reward content that answers customer questions and meets customer needs with a higher search engine rank. The key is content that is relevant to the searcher at that particular moment in their journey.

If a brand maps the journey correctly, makes engaging, valuable content for every key step on the way, and makes it easy to find, it will become the trusted knowledge source for the entire journey and for consumers throughout the category.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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4 Reasons Brands Need Agile Agencies

Is your agency Agile? IQ is.

Agile is the latest buzzword in the agency world. It was created as a software development method to solve huge failures in the way people were working.

For example, a study by McKinsey came to this staggering conclusion: “On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted”

Agile was designed to stop the bleeding in software creation, but quickly people began to see that it would work on more than just big IT projects. That’s why forward thinking agencies, especially those that do digital, began to replace their old waterfall methodologies with agile across the spectrum of their work.

The advantages for brands of working with agile agencies are many, but can be boiled down to the four benefits outlined below. They sum up how agile works and why it makes sense to have a partner which knows how to do it.

The 4 biggest benefits that agencies using Agile bring to brands:

1. Saves time

All agile projects finish on time.  No hype here, this is absolutely true.  At IQ for example, we use the popular agile methodology called Scrum, which uses time blocks called sprints.  Say each sprint is two weeks. Within each of these two-week sprints, you and your team decide what is going to be completed.  At the end of each sprint you have a working prototype.  It has only a subset of your requirements, but it is a true working model or draft of the end product — not just wires or comps.

This process reduces a lot of time-consuming processes that traditional methods require. Change orders are also completely eliminated, as change control becomes part of the overall process.

2. Saves money

The agile process gives a client a clear and accurate understanding of cost. The team knows how many “stories,” as agile Scrum requirements are called, can be completed in each sprint, and since each sprint is time boxed, you know what each sprint costs.   The team then puts all your stories into sprints, which results in a complete cost and timeline. Gone are cost over-runs and being nickel and dime’d to death with change orders.  Estimation is part of the agile process — not something extra and apart from it. Eliminating all that process and overhead also often allows the agile agency to cost less.

3. No more surprises

At the end of each sprint, you get to see a working model— called a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The magic here is that you are no longer forced to imagine the final product from a treatment or wireframes. By being able to see a tangible deliverable at regular intervals, you can easily identify problems and enhancements you want to make early on. Gone are the days of waiting eight weeks to finally get your first look, and then having to fight with your agency about what was or wasn’t “in scope”.

4. Greater flexibility

How many times have you had a great idea, or come up with the perfect addition after your project was finished or far along? Try bringing ideas late in the process to a traditional non-agile agency, and get ready to be bombarded with change orders, fees, delays or the inevitable “Let’s do that in phase two” response.  With the agile method, however, your last-minute ideas are welcome. The team simply adds another story, gets you to prioritize it and includes it in the next sprint.

First, agile revolutionized the way software is created, now it’s revolutionizing the way work is delivered in the agency world. For both digital and traditional projects (from websites to print ads), the savings in time and dollars, the flexibility, and the continuous insight you get into a project’s progress have made Agile a game changer for how brands and their agencies work.

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4 Reasons to Kiss Your Agency this Valentine’s Day

4 reasons to kiss your agency

If you don’t love your agency, you should. Life’s too short to have an agency that makes you miserable.

The fastest way to marketing bliss, however, is not just a likable agency, but also an agency that has the ability to help your brand win the digitally centric consumer.

It’s amazing to me that digital is still an after-thought for so many, even though it has clearly become the center of the marketing universe. I think it’s just because many agencies and their clients don’t know how to comprehensively go about planning for it, and instead seem to lurch from tactic to tactic.

For example, does your agency exhaust the possibilities of Owned media (websites/mobile/CRM/SEO) and Earned media (social media/content syndication) before they dive into the pricey waters of Paid media (broadcast/print/banners)? Of course, they should.  But before anyone starts worrying about tactics, you first need a strategy that will work.

Today digital is so central that any agency that isn’t developing a digitally centric strategy is living in the past. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, consumers discover, explore, evaluate and decide on brands in digital channels. So even though TV, print and outdoor ads are still important, their role in the orchestrated process of influencing a buying decision has changed.

The reality today for marketers is simple: creative and execution today are worthless unless led by the right strategy; almost invariably now a digitally centric strategy.

So as you consider your Valentine’s list make sure your agency has done the following:

1.     Develop segments and personas for your buyers

The consumer is king and needs to be super-served. So you need to identify your target segments and turn them into personas, which allow you to understand what makes them tick.

2.     Map the Consumer Decision Journey for each persona

The path to purchase and beyond is where brands are made or broken, and it’s packed with influences. The only way to know how to connect with consumers at every step along the way is to understand what is important to them at each juncture; and you have to do it for every major persona because they are all different.

3.     Develop a content strategy

Being in the right place at the right time is the first challenge. Then you have to know exactly what to say in order to be relevant and compelling at that particular moment. Content strategy is the bible for your agency, and tells them what to say and how to say it at every point in the consumer decision journey.

4.     Make a Roadmap and Playbook

When you have personas, a map of their decision journey and have a content strategy in hand, you then need to turn it into a plan. This lays out what you should do and when you should do it in detail. For each tactic it shows the rationale for its inclusion, how it ladders up to the strategy, what specific results and ROI are expected, what it will cost, how performance will be measured, what resources are needed and the dates for development and launch.

Most importantly it prioritizes tactics and initiatives over time recognizing that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It not only covers the campaigns and promotions you need to activate the audience, but also the infrastructure you need to make it all work, from websites to mobile apps and POS.

I couldn’t imagine any client moving forward except in the context of these four steps. I suppose every now and then a brand might bet everything on a spot on the Super Bowl and hit it out of the park, but usually the Hail Mary pass fails.

That’s why there is no substitute for a rigorous, digitally centric strategic process. Nothing delivers a reliable stream of prospects like smart strategy, so if you’ve got one, remember to give your agency a big kiss this Valentine’s Day.

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5 Secrets of the Super-Service Economy

5 Secrets of the Super-Service Economy

The Super-Service economy is here and brands need to adjust their thinking to the realities of consumer expectations.

1. Don’t rely on relationship

In a recent study published in the magazine “Marketing Week,” consumers thought the whole idea of having a conversation with a brand was silly. That caught my eye because so many of us in the marketing world talk about having discussions, conversations, dialogue and relationships with consumers.   Are we kidding ourselves?

According to a recent Deloitte survey of 4,047 respondents in 28 product categories and more than 350 brands, brand loyalty is declining. That’s the 3rd straight year that brand loyalty has gone down. On the surface that would seem to tell us that the relationship approach to marketing isn’t working very well.

2. Conditional Love or none at all

The shift in power from brands to consumers has meant brands have had to come up with a new way to woo buyers. In this 1:1 vs. one to many age, it seemed only logical that the approach should be to make consumers our friends. The thinking went that we could use email, social media, and the rest of the digital toolbox, to simulate a personal, real time relationship. In the end our brand would become a trusted friend and knowledge source, and loyalty would lead to easier and cheaper sales.

Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Consumers have really taken their empowerment to heart and like a pretty girl surrounded by admirers, are enjoying all the attention. Consequently, their minimum expectations of brand performance have only risen as they have experienced brands with the Super-Service approach.

Now with many brands delivering the valuable content, great user experiences and terrific customer service that characterize Super-Service, consumer loyalty has surprisingly become even more flighty and conditional.

3. The table stakes just got higher

The Super-Service model, which until recently set only a few brands apart, is now quickly becoming table-stakes.

So how do brands differentiate themselves in a Super-Service world? How do they win when everyone is delivering a consistent, top-notch experience?

That depends on what kind of brand you have. For many the answer is product innovation, for others creative differentiation, even data can be a route to differentiation and loyalty.

For example, Hyundai already had great prices and a terrific consumer experience in every part of the customer cycle, but it wasn’t enough. So they focused on developing a product that would set them apart, in their case unexpectedly in the higher end segment.  This not only delighted customers, but also redefined the brand.

Amazon built its business on low prices and service, but as its model and competition has matured, it has turned to building loyalty based on data ownership and insights, from Amazon Prime to product recommendations. Banks and financial companies have also started to see data as a route to loyalty, because customers are averse to leaving organizations that hold data that they need.

4. Reciprocity buys less

Wins with the fickle consumer can be very short lived in a “what have you done for me lately” world. The reciprocity that brands used to rely on in building loyalty now has a much shorter echo, with the result that consumers want something new more often. That’s why Hyundai went on to develop innovative, integrated mobile technology and Amazon seems to have a new innovation every day drone delivery It’s also why the blush is fading slightly on Apple, as its products age, its competition strengthens and its customers grow impatient. Unfortunately resting on your laurels today, for even a moment, is risky.

Many brands, however, don’t lend themselves to product innovation like an Apple and Hyundai, or data innovation like Amazon. While a beer can that tells me when it’s cold is cool, it doesn’t change the essential experience of the brand in the same way as introducing the iPhone can.

So instead of trying to create new product attributes, those categories need to focus on attaching new emotional attributes to the brand. Old Spice has famously committed itself to this kind of creative differentiation.

The product doesn’t change, the value doesn’t change, but the story, however, is always changing (the latest: Old Spice). But this takes a really a big commitment to feeding the beast, because, like Chinese food, the fickle audience is hungry again twenty minutes later.

5. Customer experience is the foundation

The foundation for success in the Super-Service economy is the customer experience. Even more so since social media has connected all the parts of the customer cycle, from pre-sale to post-sale, with the result that the customer experience has also become very influential on the acquisition process.  Being a customer and being a prospect used to be two fairly separate states. Of course there was a bit of word of mouth between the two, but nothing like the organized deluge today.

Now, other than the performance of the product or service itself, the experience of being a customer of your brand has become your most important marketing asset or liability.  Which is why it’s amazing to me how so many companies still treat their customers so poorly, putting at risk not only customer loyalty, but also their reputation.

Cable providers and Direct-TV, for example, are notorious. How often do they do anything for their customers except jack up the rates? But for prospects, there’s always a new deal, a new benefit, a new offer, virtually every day.

The good news is that this marketplace is navigable despite its complexity and demanding consumers. With the right modeling and process (3Cs) it can be broken down, understood and managed. This starts with carefully mapping all the connections that make up the consumer journey, and the surrounding influence eco-system. Then the game becomes to decide where you want your brand to sit on the continuum, between product innovation on one end and creative innovation on the other.

However, no matter where you end up, in the Super-Service economy you have to start by making sure that customer expectations, online and offline, are always met and exceeded.

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9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed

Winning at Warp Speed

I just read an article in the New York Times in which an engineer talks about how technology now allows us to embrace complexity instead of run from it, and how the process from having an idea to testing it can now happen in hours or days versus the years it took in the past. This allows companies to test many more ideas, measure their potential and quickly weed the good ones from the bad.

The result is more good ideas found much faster. Of course, this is how all innovation happens. The difference today is the velocity.

This concept of the velocity of ideas makes me think of two conversations that are very active in my agency and the industry. The first is about data. Everywhere I read about “big data” but I have begun to just think of it as just data, and more specifically as analytics.

Our ability to measure everything we do in real-time is not only holding marketing accountable, but more importantly allows us to really understand what’s working and what’s not.

The second is the conversation about agile marketing, an evolution from the agile development approach used in technology. The essential idea of agile is to move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner. Some have called it being in a perpetual state of beta.

Both analytics and agile marketing support this concept of increasing velocity. At its core is the fundamental notion that we just don’t know if our ideas will work until we try them, and the more ideas we try the more likely we are to hit something really big.

The number of industries that use this approach is remarkable; financial services, movie studios, toy manufacturers, big food companies, all take a portfolio approach. In essence, they are admitting, that despite their knowledge and experience, they just don’t know what’s going to work, so they are hoping that probabilities will do the trick (and the truth is most times they do).

Movie studios, for example, produce a slate of movies knowing that some will be disasters, most will barely break-even and one or two will become hits. Those last two pay for all the others and then some.

Faced with a much more complex marketplace thanks to digital channels, it’s time for brands and their agencies to take up this velocity approach. With nearly real-time analytics at our side, we should produce and test many more ideas, evaluate them quickly, dump the dogs and move on with the winners.

This approach requires, however, a change in how we do business.

It means we need to rethink how we develop ideas. Instead of working toward the launch of a single idea, we need to develop and test many ideas simultaneously. And not just test them with research, but put them out in the real world where we can see the real consumer dynamics.

With this data in hand, either real winners will reveal themselves, or we will discover clear insights that tell us how to craft a winner. Then imagine doing it over and over again.

As I think about many of the brand and agency organizations I have worked with over the years trying this, the challenges are many, but not insurmountable.

First, you need a culture that from the top encourages risk-taking and embraces the value of appropriate failure. It’s why Google wants to hire entrepreneurs who have a history of trying and failing. They want people who are comfortable with tactical failure and don’t give up. It’s the way of science where famously inventors and scientists are encouraged to try and fail hundreds of times only then to find the prize.

I believe we are rapidly moving back to a marketplace where ideas instead of technology and process will drive success. That’s why I think it’s time for our marketing world to embrace the velocity of ideas approach. It will take changing old cultures, but for the brands that pull it off the results will be spectacular.

9 Ways to Win at Warp Speed:

  1. Ideas drive success, not technology or process.
  2. Rethink how you develop ideas.
  3. More ideas means more chances for the big win.
  4. Don’t launch a single idea. Develop and test many ideas simultaneously.
  5. Move faster with less developed work in order to discover problems and opportunities sooner.
  6. Measuring performance in real-time allows you to know what’s working
  7. Try many ideas, measure and quickly weed the good from bad.
  8. Publish in the real world with real consumer dynamics.
  9. Rinse and repeat

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Have You Been Scraped Lately?

Has Your Site Been Scraped Lately?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, scraping has to be right up there.

Last week, we discovered a website hosted in the Bahamas called www.iqadvertisingagency.com. Some delightful individual, who was clearly not raised right, decided to scrape (or steal in the old vernacular) our website for some nefarious purpose. They changed the contact info to the address of an internet café in Toronto and replaced our telephone number with theirs. Worse, they seem to have persuaded my entire team of executives to go and work for them…traitors.

I can’t help but wonder what they think they can achieve. Opinions in the office range from they are trying to get a loan and needed a cool site to show their banker to they are trying to sell themselves as us to get business. Clearly they have never been in any competitive pitches. Most clients today not only want to meet and grill the entire team before they hire you, but many actually want the agency to do the work in advance to see how good you are.  Good luck with that.

We sent off the necessary communications to the hosting provider and requested that the site be be removed from Google which should put them in hot water, but part of me thinks that maybe we can do an outsourcing deal where IQ can handle any business they bring in.

*Note: after sending their hosting provider a formal DMCA take down request, it seems the site is now “under construction”.

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Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

Delayed Gratification and the Fear of the Future

We’ve all heard of the experiment that was done in the 60’s where kids were promised big treats, but only if they didn’t eat the yummy marshmallow sitting in front of them. The researchers were testing the degree to which kids could delay gratification in order to receive a greater reward in the future.

The kids didn’t do very well, and since then our increasingly instant gratification world has left many with the impression that perhaps our culture suffers from a lack of self-control.

An article in the New York Times last Sunday outlined recent studies that seem to point to a different reason why people opt for short-term rewards vs. the promise in the future. The research points to our uncertainty of the future as a key influence in decision-making.

The basic idea is a bird in the hand is real, but who knows what could happen if you go for the two in the bush. This reflects our universal experience of the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future.

For example, if you arrive at a train platform and it is packed with people, do you assume that the train is likely to arrive soon or that it has been delayed? Without more data, many would be influenced by the unpredictability of life and some might opt for a cab rather than an undefined wait. On the other hand, a simple clock showing when the next train was due would take all the uncertainty out of the situation.

In another version of the marshmallow experiment, two groups of kids were promised a reward from a researcher for not eating the marshmallow. In one group, before the experiment started the researcher demonstrated behavior that showed he was unreliable, in the other group the researcher showed himself to be completely reliable. The kids with the unreliable researcher waited 3 minutes before eating the marshmallow, the kids with the reliable researcher waited 12 minutes.

All of this got me thinking about behaviors brands ask of consumers such as filling out forms, watching videos and so on. In so many instances we require a consumer to do something based on the promise of something that will (or more likely may) happen in the future.

All too often, consumers do not know when it will happen, how long they will have to wait, or what will happen while they are waiting.  I can easily see this feeding that fundamental sense of future uncertainty that the researchers talk about.

So, how as marketers can we bring a sense of certainty to these interactions?

One answer is to tell people how long things are going to take. We can also tell them exactly what is going to happen while they are waiting.

It’s clear that before consumers invest time in an action or an activity they go through a risk or reward calculation. If the uncertainty of the future is a part of their calculation, it’s up to us to come up with ways to minimize its effect.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below!

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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Why I Love SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies)

Society of Digital Agencies

I have just returned from the annual global member meeting of SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies) and thought I would share a little bit about this truly remarkable organization.

I was one of the founders of SoDA seven years ago and now serve as the board chair. I have watched it grow from the original 13 members to 74 agencies with almost 200 offices around the world. Many of these agencies are what we think of as full-service digital agencies, but there are also creative production companies and specialists in particular disciplines such as user experience, technology, and social media. The result is a diversity of experience that inspires new ideas and perspectives.

SoDA is a very exclusive organization. Only 11% of agencies that apply for membership are invited to become SoDA members. It’s a rigorous process. First agencies are nominated by a member, then a regional membership committee reviews their work and gets to know their senior management. Those that pass are reviewed by the board, which presents its recommendations to the entire membership.

Members vote on the candidates and can strike any that they do not believe meet SoDA standards.  This commitment to only having the best digital agencies in the world in SoDA has produced an extraordinary peer group that is unique in the digital marketing world.

Unlike most trade associations SoDA requires active C-level participation, and despite frequent competition between members, operates with a transparency that some might find shocking. The culture of trust and candor that is the foundation of SoDA enables every member to share their knowledge, experiences, insights, and advice.

Our mission is to help one another create more successful digital companies and we believe that we gain much more by collaborating than by operating in isolation. We recognize that many factors influence the success or failure of a digital agency, but we choose to compete based on the quality of our ideas and innovation not on the mechanics of our business.

That means we share best practices for everything, including: documents, techniques, technologies and systems. This rich knowledge exchange is spread throughout our agencies with additional peer groups for the leads of our 16 primary disciplines.  The result is that the best digital agencies in the world keep getting better.

SoDA also produces extensive research, thought leadership, and events throughout the year for the agency, brand and marketing communities, including the regular SoDA Reports, which have a readership of over 150,000 per issue worldwide.

As SoDA enters its 7th year as an organization, it is gaining significant recognition and momentum around the world. In the coming year I am more excited than ever by the ambitious agenda we have laid out and the continuing contribution SoDA will make to the digital agency and marketing communities.

To learn more about SoDA please visit www.sodaspeaks.com

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Content Strategy: 7 Steps for a Better Voice & Tone

content strategy

Publishing branded content in traditional spaces — better known as native advertising — has been a popular topic buzzing around lately.

From the Native Advertising Summit that stopped by Atlanta this summer to this absolutely awesome (though slightly inconclusive) eMarketer study that popped up on my Twitter feed last week, native advertising is without a doubt shaping the content that brands are creating right now. And according to that eMarketer study, 73% of U.S. publishers are offering some form native advertising on their websites.

The growth of native advertising means more opportunities for brand produced content to be integrated in the design of a publisher’s site. As brands are taking advantage of this opportunity, they’ve become responsible for vastly more content the public sees and interacts with.

But keeping that content on track is easier said than done. From social posts to blog entries and targeted ads, it’s a challenge for businesses to manage all the content they create all the time. The solution is a holistic content strategy including SEO keyword analysis, which prioritizes content and details guidelines for consistent voice and tone.

From a small ‘mom and pop’ shop to a Fortune 500 companies, a defined “voice and tone” keeps the people (and agencies) working on a brand’s behalf on the same page when it comes to how a brand should sound and act in different situations.

A fantastic example is MailChimp’s voice and tone microsite guide that sorts the company’s V+T best practices based on situation, then color codes the tone needed for each situation from green to red.

Green is for situations that call for humor and positivity, red for content that is serious and informative. All entries feature examples and as an added bonus, the site is responsive and remarkably pleasant to use on a smartphone.

But not all voice and tone guidelines need to be as expansive as a color-coded microsite.

Creating or updating your voice and tone is as simple as following a few key steps:

1. Understand the difference between voice and tone

Voice doesn’t change, but tone does. Your brand voice should always be consistent, but tone will vary depending on the situation and emotion you’re trying to communicate to a consumer.

2. Set your boundaries

Decide if your voice and tone is a guide for all of your business communications or just a certain part. Narrow your focus by deciding if you need a voice and tone specifically for something like your company’s digital spaces or for a smaller initiative like social networks. You can easily make a separate voice and tone guide, if needed, for different parts of your business.

3. Interview stakeholders

This is key because your employees are already speaking your brand’s voice and tone. Interview key stakeholders and employees and ask them to share why they’re passionate about the company. Also ask what kind of content they think would be compelling coming from the brand. Their language will give you insight into what your brand voice and tone should sound like.

4. Determine voice with keywords

Start by creating a massive list of words that define the brand — we’re not talking about product names, but instead how a product or service makes the customer feel. Use these important adjectives to shape a mission statement paragraph that defines overall how your brand should sound. Follow up with a list of keywords.

5. Define tone based on situation  

Think of the different situations where you will use voice and tone guidelines to structure copy or content for your brand. Define these situations one by one — from social copy to company blog entries — then decide what tone is needed to communicate with a reader during these situations. With its list of uses, MailChimp’s V+T is a fantastic examples of this.

6. List your “watch outs”

Define words, phrases or messages that absolutely cannot be used in content produced by your company. Additionally, define customer service protocol for dealing with negative feedback — like finding a way to direct a customer complaining on your blog post to customer service quickly.

7. Share and get feedback from key stakeholders

Once you’ve created a preliminary document, come back to the stakeholders you interviewed to get feedback. Constructive feedback will help you continue to improve your voice and tone — rinse and repeat until you have the guidelines you need.

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All Content is Not Created Equal

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Omnicom/Publicis Merger – Will Data Rule?

Omnicom Publicis Merger

The big merger announcement of Omnicom and Publicis focuses squarely on the data side of the marketing business, specifically the use of data to target advertising and messaging. While this promises huge opportunities for brands to spend their media money more effectively, it doesn’t speak to the other big shift in the marketing world. That shift is the evolution of the consumer decision journey, a concept originated by McKinsey.

The consumer’s path to making a purchase and what happens after has been inexorably changed by technology. Consumers still consume advertising, but only as a part of many influences that determine who gets the sale. This is now a game of content, user experience and customer service, as well as advertising.

So while spending client media dollars more effectively is an attractive prospect for brands, they will need even better soft skills, such as strategy and creative, to succeed. This will be even more important with medium and smaller sized brands which cannot just throw media money at consumers like the big brands, but are forced to produce smarter more creative marketing in order to win.

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