Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Take on Building A Better Content Marketing Strategy

Building a content marketing strategy can be a lot like building a house of cards.  You start with a goal and, hopefully, a plan.  Then, each card must be carefully positioned and placed for a house to stand up for the long term. 

If you don’t pay attention to every aspect of the process, your “house” will fall.

To avoid that unfortunate situation, most content marketers will agree that a great content marketing strategy contains these key elements:

1.  Define your goals – Why are you creating content and what value(s) are you looking to gain from it?
2.  Identify and understand your audience – Who are you creating this content for and how will they benefit from reading and applying the content?
3.  Find relevant stories to tell – What specific and valuable topics will you build your content around?  
4.  Manage the process – How will you structure and manage your content marketing program?  Who in your organization will concept and develop content, and how will it be delivered by channel?
5.  Measure and adapt your approach – How will you gauge and optimize your effectiveness and value to the organization?

All of these elements are critical, but in my experience the most important one is #2 – Identify and understand your audience.  And that may be harder to do than you think. 

Oh sure, you can define your audience, but do you truly understand them? 
Here are a few of the key questions to ask if you want to create the best possible content marketing program.
How does your audience perceive the current market environment? Do they know who you are and what your brand/company stand for?

What are your customer’s goals?  If you don’t truly understand what your customer is trying to accomplish, you won’t know if your company can help them to accomplish them.

What are the key needs your audience has, and how do the prioritize them?  While you may think you understand their goals and needs, you must look at each customer from their perspective, not from your own.  As an example, for some companies speed of delivery may overshadow quality or price, while others are not willing to compromise on any of these elements.

How does your target audience feel about your company? Do they recognize any unique values that your company has that are important to them?

How does your target feel about your competitors?  What strengths do they see for your chief competitors, and what do you need to do to win them over?

Most importantly, what does your audience need to know about your company to choose you over a competitor?  This is the most difficult aspect of this entire process, but understanding this is key to providing content that is relevant to your audience. 

Never forget that the best content is written for your audience, 
not for your brand or company.

Much of understanding your audience can be derived from your sales force and other contact points, a well as secondary resources. But sometimes you may need some primary research to go directly to your audience to ask them some of those key questions.   

Whichever path you choose, you must find that “big idea” that can mean the difference between a good content program and a great one.

It may be easy to identify who your audience is, but, in many ways, truly understanding them is much, much harder.  And if you don’t understand each of your customers attitudes, needs and goals, you will never create or provide the optimal content strategy.

- Don Morgan

Don Morgan is past-president of Puget Sound chapter of American Marketing Association, and principal of Raindance Consulting, a brand and content consulting company in Seattle.  He can be reached at

Saturday, June 3, 2017

How to ensure proper digital transformation in your company

Forbes Magazine predicts that a complete digital transformation will become the key strategic thrust for most CEOs in the future.  But what is “digital transformation”? 

The term has been used to describe many aspects of how a company is responding to new technologies and channel strategies.  It is used to describe everything from a responsive mobile website to a newly formed social media strategy to a revamped IT approach. 

In reality, digital transformation of a company must encompass much more than a single part of marketing or IT plan.  It needs to involve all elements of the business to take advantage of what some have called the “digital transformation economy of the future”.
According to Forrester, only 27% of today’s businesses have a coherent digital strategy to perform as a true digital business.  This number is predicted to double over the next five years, but companies must embrace the concept of a total corporate and business transformation now, in order to meet the changing consumer demand and the continued technological advances that will impact how we buy, sell and market products and services.

Here are some thoughts on how to begin this process.
Digital transformation will require integrating and consolidating all departments and functions of a corporation.
Marketing, sales and IT must come together to generate a single vision and strategy for how and why products and services will be offered and serviced to customers.  All investments in IT and other functions must build on and contribute to this single-minded focus, that is based on optimizing the customer experience both pre and post sell.

Big data will be the foundation of creating an optimized customer experience.
Successful companies will find a way to harness and use the massive data that is available to develop new insights on how to personalize their products and services.  As new data sources are discovered, digital transformation will require evaluation and adoption of new ways to meet customer needs based on these data streams.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will be catalysts for expanding digital interaction between companies and their customers.
Forecasters predict that by 2018, there will be more than 22 billion IoT devices impacting over 200,000 new apps and services.  They also predict that we will see a shift in focus from gathering and mining data to creating new data streams to support customers in their buying decisions.  By 2018, at least 20% of all workers will use “automated assistance technologies to make decisions, and robots will interact and supervise over 3 million workers worldwide.

Digital transformation will demand a culture change to work with new technology and create a business model change.
Simply adapting your current corporate structure will no t be enough.  Companies and business leaders need to rethink how and why they go to market, and how to best integrate that structure to communicate and interact with customers.  In a digital economy, a two-way communication with customers is required as customers control products, services, and interfaces.  Shared communications will demand new business models for many companies, and will require they use social and other digital media to generate new insights on consumer needs and demands.

Digital transformation will be a continuous journey, not just tomorrow’s destination.
Consumer behavior is constantly changing as new technologies and systems create new products and service capabilities.  Companies must recognize and accept that their long term strategic approach needs to be constantly evaluated and updated for long term success.  And how that understanding will affect their business model and corporate structure will be the true challenge for digital transformation.

We must avoid one-off thinking and recognize that true transformation is a project that will never end.  That thought can either frighten you, or motivate you.  The choice is yours.         

Don Morgan
Don Morgan is Blog Editor and a past-president of PSAMA,  He is Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a brand strategy and content marketing company.  He can be reached at

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How to Define the Role of Marketing in the Firm and the C-Suite

This post is the second in a series that will address the biggest problems that marketers face today (as identified by AMA). The purpose is to make you think . . . and hopefully help you address these problems in a new way.

There is no doubt that the role of marketing is continuing to evolve, as technology and consumer behaviors undergo dramatic changes. 

So it stands to reason that the marketing function must grow in both its function and its perception, and then be given more prominence and authority in the C-sui9te.

Unfortunately, marketing has often been ill-defined and given a narrow role in many organizations.  In some, marketing is solely focused on external advertising, brand management, and research, while in others, the term marketing is used only in their sales department.
In still other organizations, marketing’s role is as an adjunct to sales, and its function is to communicate via outside channels and provide insight on customer attitudes.  And then to merely transmit that information and insight to sales.

In order to gain influence and earn a seat at the executive table, marketers must become customer experience experts who understand and contribute to how the entire organization functions. If we continue to limit our role to one of just communication, or as an in-house agency to sales, we won’t be able to transform organizations or the way marketing operates.

As more than one author has noted, now is the time that we shift from describing the value of the products or services that our company sells to creating value through the work that we do. That is an admirable goal for marketing, but how do we begin to accomplish it?

Tomorrow’s marketers must create value for all departments within the organization by understanding how new consumer buying behaviors affect all aspects of the corporation.
Companies will not succeed long term without understanding and heeding the voice of their customers.  Tomorrow’s marketers must be able to not only listen to their customers, but provide insight on how their behavior impacts product development and improvements, business models, selling strategies, cost structures, technology needs, etc. .  

Tomorrow’s marketer must be a collaborator that understands and impacts content, channels, and data analysis.
The Chief Marketing Officer must wear many hats.  He must be the internal “voice of the consumer’ and ensure that and external communications are providing relevant content via the right channels while gathering, analyzing, and using consumer attitude and usage data to update and evolve marketing programs.

Most importantly, tomorrow’s marketers must  gain visibility and internal prestige by educating the company on the needs and wants of the customer.
One way we can do this is by identifying the most profitable customer segments, and defining how their buying behavior can be capitalized on by other departments and functions.  

Senior marketing executives must be seen as business leaders, not just marketing leaders.  
Tomorrow's marketers must demonstrate a strong profit-and-loss focus to illustrate how marketing activity fits with the overall business objectives of the corporation.  It is essential for marketing to use their consumer knowledge to become an integral part of all decision-making within the organization. 

In today’s fast-paced economy, every dollar needs to work as hard as it can, and marketing, in particular, is under tremendous pressure.  We need to not only demonstrate that we understand the need for accountability, but we must show how our actions impact the bottom line.

Accountability is the key to credibility and a seat at the executive table.  And unless marketers can demonstrate their value to the corporation beyond its current limited viewpoint, we will continue to be nothing more that another cog in the corporate wheel. 

Shouldn’t we be the driver and not just a cog?