Author: Dan Steiner

Two SMB Content Marketing Strategies the Fortune 500s Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2019

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that David really can take it to Goliath in a 21st century marketplace. Today's Davids are small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) that act as “disruptors,” while modern-day Goliaths that have been swept into the dustbin of economic history include Sears, Toys R Us, and RadioShack.

The way that consumers connect with brands, make a buying decision, and receive goods and services is changing. Innovative companies, like Amazon and Lyft, are doing an excellent job positioning themselves where customers need them.

Massive Fortune 500s, with multi-million-dollar marketing budgets, are not insulated by their size from savvy marketers and innovators in today’s digital landscape. This is proven by the fact that Fortune 500s are gobbling up smaller startups through acquisitions at a break-neck pace.

Goliaths needs to take note of the strategies that Davids are using to outmaneuver them. Let’s talk about two of the best strategies SMBs are using to steal market share and build their brands:

  • Leveraging personalization to finesse the digital journey of every market segment
  • Leveraging AI to prepare for the next evolution in content marketing
Leveraging Personalization to Finesse the Digital Journey of Every Market Segment

What is the first thing you do when considering a major purchase? Google it! You reach for your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and dive into what the review sites have to say and what competitors have to offer.

This isn’t shocking news. The problem is that Fortune 500s are trying to fight too many battles while SMBs might be better off focusing their limited resources on winning a few key digital battles.

In a recent article, Digital Marketer Justin Morgan weighs the pros and cons of SMBs diving into a PPC campaign. The relatively inexpensive barrier to entry (around a couple of dollars per click) might sound more palatable than diving into a content marketing digital bonanza.

But, as he outlines, smaller businesses need to build a digital foundation before bringing in traffic to irrelevant or sub-par landing pages that fail to immediately address the needs of the visitor. He advises that SMBs first invest in high-quality digital branding and ensuring a uniform experience across every digital platform. Then they need to craft a digital experience that is hyper-focused on the journey of the visitor, allowing traffic (organic and paid) to have the best conversion rate possible.

This same advice can and should be applied to large companies. While their generic, brand-wide digital footprint is usually consistent and high-quality, they sometimes forget to customize the experience for different segments of their customer base.

I’ve worked with my fair share of corporate juggernauts that mistakenly believed they can send customers through their generic, branded digital assets and score a conversion. If the little guy is aggressively targeting a single type of customer, while you fail to personalize the experience, your flagging conversion rate will make customer acquisition a lot more expensive.

Leveraging AI to Prepare for the Next Evolution in Content Marketing

If you’re looking for inspiration to help you market your startup effectively, this Forbes article provides plenty of success stories. My personal favorite is Casper’s use of AI to provide a digital companion to insomniacs via interactive text messaging.

Casper launched their mattress-in-a-box concept in 2014. In the hyper-competitive mattress arena, they now have a respectable market share, approaching 1%. If you consider that their largest competitor only has 11% of the market, 1% starts to sound more respectable.

While the retail mattress chains leveraged traditional broadcast and print advertising to drive foot traffic to their stores, Casper drove their message home via multiple viral YouTube videos and digital advertising. Then they took things to the next level with their AI-powered chatbot. And by targeting insomniacs, they’ve positioned themselves as a brand that cares about your sleep, even if you aren’t sleeping on one of their products.

Their push to reach insomniacs means that they are connecting with those most likely to invest in a better mattress.

Large brands could more easily afford to invest in AI-powered, two-way content marketing strategies. Casper had to eat up some valuable runway to launch theirs, but the media buzz has more than vindicated their financial gamble.

Large brands cannot afford to be one dimensional in a digital world. Customers need to feel like they are interacting with a brand that uniquely understands their needs and desires. SMBs get to leverage their smaller target by becoming more personalized. And with the rise of AI, it’s clear that content marketers will be evolving in 2019 to better deal with inbound content from the customers they want to win over.

Goliath needs to get up to speed  or prepare to surrender market share to the new kids on the block.

Find out how you can win over customers with your content marketing with “Do More with B2B Content Marketing.”

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Are CMOs Losing Their Best Ideas to The Competition?

In my previous article, I discussed how CMOs can lead more diverse teams and elevate employee engagement in 2019. Last year around this time, I took a hard look at the ways CMOs can mitigate risks when bringing in outside teams.

A fresh calendar year is fast approaching. So, I’d like to dive deeper into ways CMOs can protect both their ideas and talent from falling into enemy hands. And I’ll provide an update on how data security is changing in 2019, which is also creating new threats and opportunities for CMOs looking to protect their golden playbook.

Blockchain Could Help CMOs Protect Their Team’s Intellectual Property in 2019

The media is reporting breathlessly on the rollercoaster valuations of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. That might get the ratings, but I’m more interested in the technology behind bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

Blockchain is the digital ledger system that allows for digital currency to be mined and transferred between internet users. For content marketers, this same technology could help reduce the risk of content being ripped off and duplicated by less scrupulous marketing teams, often overseas.

CMOs know that developing cornerstone content for a marketing campaign requires a serious investment of skilled labor. Great content requires in-depth research and multiple drafts to finely tune the message it conveys to the reader.

Unfortunately, content theft is a major issue for content that’s published online. I think it is highly likely that we’ll see¾as part of the effort to combat fake news a public blockchain ledger that shows when original content has been published online. The source and timestamp can serve as a proof of intellectual rights to the content.

And in a world dominated by Google’s search algorithms, this type of information can help ensure original content producers are not penalized when others rip-off their work, creating duplicate copies online without crediting the original author(s).

A potential side-effect of this blockchain ledger will be a race to pump out content before the other guys. And there will always be efforts to steal content from other people before they hit the publish button on their own sites effectively establishing ownership of stolen content.

Again, I think this type of activity will be most prevalent overseas where bad actors can retreat beyond the reach of law enforcement or judicial proceedings.  

Corporate VPNs Will Continue to Benefit From the Rise of Consumer VPN Services

For CMOs, VPNs are essential tools for providing their entire workforce with secure access to internal corporate resources. It’s no secret that governments and corporations are collecting data and logging our use of the internet whenever possible.

And, just as unscrupulous websites plagiarize costly pieces of content, corporate espionage is alive and well as we head into 2019.  

The most effective content marketing strategies come from diverse teams of skilled creative. Freelancing is a powerful ingredient, but remote workforces force CMOs to electronically send bits and pieces of their playbook around the world.

Encrypting this kind of sensitive corporate data is a cat-and-mouse game. Corporations roll out new pieces of defensive technology, and hackers find more sophisticated approaches to breaking through. Or they just send Carl in account services a phishing email, which is not always sophisticated, but devastatingly effective, if they can score login credentials.

So, say it with me now, “Two-factor authentication is now mandatory!”

If your team can keep their access credentials out of enemy hands, the latest generation of VPN protocols support bank-grade AES-256 encryption with IKEv2 for fast, secure reconnection. This means that the data being sent around the world is only visible to the source and the authorized recipient.

These newer protocols are the result of an increased public awareness around data security and privacy. The consumer VPN services are contributing to and spurring new corporate VPN enhancements that will continue to make it safe for CMOs to leverage the benefits of outsourced labor.

CMOs Will Have the Power to Defend Their Intellectual Property in 2019

To summarize, 2019 will be an exciting year for CMOs. The type of content that is being consumed, and how we are consuming it is changing. The labor market for skilled content marketers has never been hotter. And we are finally going to start building a better online system for accurately attributing content to the right people.

If CMOs can keep the talented members of their team happy and engaged, the only way internal campaign information will fall into enemy hands is if it is digitally intercepted. However, enhanced encryption and more user-friendly VPN platforms are proving to be reliable tools for staying ahead of the black hats. 

Data is one of your most powerful tools. See how you can put it to even better use with “Go Further with Data Management.”

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Here’s How CMOs Can Build More Diverse and Creative Teams in 2019

Chief Marketing Officers, you can’t be a chief if you aren’t leading a team, and every CMO knows that creating powerful marketing campaigns is a team sport.

CMOs Will Battle the Temptation for Creatives to Job Hop in 2019

In 2019, employers will need to be ready to go above and beyond to compete for the best talent. In the latest BLS report, unemployment remained steady at 3.7%. This is the highest level of employment in America since 1969.

This means it has never been easier for creative talent to job hop and chase new opportunities. If you’re like me, I want the most talented marketing pros to hop aboard my team. And the last thing I want to do is to bleed creative to the competition, with them taking all the skills and knowledge they gained on our team to a new employer.

Attracting and Retaining a Diverse Team Is a Key Ingredient for Marketing Success

The other over-arching goal of great CMOs is to attract a diverse team of talent. The customers that you target with your marketing campaigns will have a variety of backgrounds and experiences. When you embrace organizational diversity empowering those with different perspectives to contribute to the work-flow you dramatically improve the chance of making a connection with your target audience.

You might be scratching your head, thinking that it’s the HR team’s responsibility to go out and recruit, recruit, recruit. This is partially true, but retention falls solely on management. A recent study of Facebook’s talent retention challenges shows that employees are leaving jobs when managers fail to create an environment that speaks to their passions and unique abilities. CMOs need to empower their management team to effectively nurture creativity and employee engagement.

That said, let’s dive into a few key things CMOs can do in the New Year to improve their chances of building and maintaining a killer team of creative gurus.

Nurture an Environment Where Team Members Can Pursue the Roles That Best Fit Them

I recently worked with a creative team that was tasked with creating a marketing rollout for a new snack bar. If you know anything about the grocery industry, you know that a supermarket shelf is one of the fiercest places to compete in retail.

The seven people that reported to me were experienced and capable¾all a real pleasure to work with. But I noticed something: One of our team members responsible for PPC graphic design was spending a ton of time with our packaging team. She had some killer ideas for helping the box visually leap off the shelf.

Her work on the PPC graphics was solid, but it was clear her interest lay elsewhere. She couldn’t help herself, and I was loving the synergy. As my time with the organization came to a close, I provided some thoughts in my exit interview about realigning their creative team to give this woman an opportunity to pursue her passions without being forced to leave.

My instincts were right. I later learned that she left the team for another opportunity shortly after my departure. She knew what she found interesting, and she was talented enough to make it happen with someone else, since we couldn’t better accommodate her.

If CMOs want to hold onto killer talent, it’s time to empower team members to job hop within the organization. This might sound chaotic, but it can be done. And if you fail to pursue a more flexible organization chart, they might just job hop across the street.

Generation Z Craves Mentorship, and They’re on The Way In

Those born after 1995 are rapidly climbing the ladders of corporate America. CMOs need to future-proof their retention strategies by adopting policies that speak to the unique desires of a generation that skipped dial-up internet and sent text messages in middle school.

According to a recent report on Generation Z entering the workforce, they crave mentorship and opportunities to constantly learn which is  only natural considering they probably learned how to perform basic coding functions in high school. This builds upon my previous point about empowering employees to discover and pursue their passions within your organization. Millennials of all stripes prefer to work in organizations that provide mentors. In fact, more than two-thirds are likelier to stay with a company for more than five years if they are part of a mentorship program.

A mentorship program has an added benefit in that it strengthens the bonds between senior management and entry-level team members. For CMOs, this can mean a management team that is more well versed in the perspectives and desires of younger generations.

Gen Z has a buying power of $500 billion in today’s economy. Any initiative that helps creative management speak to this demographic has the potential to move the needle in the right direction.

In conclusion, CMOs need to double-down on workforce diversity initiatives in 2019. By combining a flatter organizational structure with enhanced mentorship programs, CMOs can better meet the needs of their brand’s customers and the people that craft their marketing initiatives in the year ahead.  

Interested in finding out how else you can fine tune, tweak, and enhance your marketing efforts?  See what habits successful modern marketers are adopting with “Getting the Digital Handshake Right.”

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Is Text Messaging the Next Frontier of Content Marketing?

Most millennials prefer texting to talking on the phone, and it’s more and more accepted in all generations. For instance, when you fill a prescription, the pharmacy texts to let you know when it’s ready. Text messages can now be used as evidence in deciding legal cases. What I’m saying is that text messaging now has great potential as a marketing channel. 

In the world of marketing, we talk a lot about content marketing. “Content is king!” But what does that mean for text messaging? Millennials demand it, companies are rolling out automated texting platforms to keep customers informed, and text message threads serve as a permanent archive of a past interaction.

So, is text messaging the next frontier in content marketing? Let’s dig a little further.

Delivering a Unified Brand Voice Across Text, Website, and Video Content

Brand voice is the art of empowering your entire team to communicate with customers in a uniform way. When a customer reads content on your website, watches one of your videos on your YouTube channel, and emails or chats with one of your customer reps, they need to feel like they’re interacting with the same company.

Jeep does this by emphasizing adventure at every turn. PayPal does this by focusing on safely empowering businesses and customers to do business online. And Coca-Cola wins by communicating a brand voice that evokes happiness and good times.

Text messaging is probably the last thing you think about when trying to audit and control the consistency of your brand voice. But it shouldn’t be. Consumers have their smartphones within arm’s reach at all times, and according to Pew Research, text messaging is the most widely used smartphone feature. How can you disregard a channel with so much potential for reaching and satisfying your customers?

How Does SMS Fit into the Marketing Funnel?

There are two ways that I use SMS text messaging to delight customers. First, I actually offer it as an option. This immediately separates my online presence from most of my competitors. I’m not forcing customers to use it, but I’ve opened up this new channel of communication. And when it comes to solving client issues, busy customers love the convenience of sending a quick text in-between everything else going on in their hectic schedule.

Sidenote: Best practices (and in some cases regulatory compliance) require you to get formal consent before sending text messages to consumers.

Second, I use my SMS text plan on my smartphone to supplement the on-site chat. If I’m away from my computer, I’ve configured my website’s chat app to forward messages to my smartphone. First, I receive an alert, in case I’m near my screen and keyboard. If I’m away from the office, I can request all messages be forwarded to my phone. This gives my online marketing efforts the added benefit of real-time communication anytime I’m awake.

The Pitfalls of SMS

There are a number of texting mistakes that you’ll want to avoid when interacting with customers over text. The most obvious one is to practice professionalism – you aren’t texting your college roommate. But the one that took me a while to master was the art of quickly replying without getting sucked in.

For example, I’m usually tackling five or six different projects in a given day. A random message ding on my phone is tempting to ignore. But you’ve gotta get your head in the game here. Pause. Read what’s been sent. Then find a way to craft a message that shows you care, while respecting all the other irons you’ve got in the fire.

Here’s an example:

“Hi Eric! Thanks for your message. We can help supply the custom tablecloths for your event planning business. Can you please email a detailed description of what you’re looking for to Bob@FirstRateTablecoths.com? We’ll get back to you with an estimate ASAP.”

This message is a winner because it names the customer, identifies the issue, and tells them what the next step is. It also provides them with what action you’ll take to help them further. Because it hammers all of these points, you avoid getting sucked into a back-and-forth text-a-thon.

This message is also a loser. It’s more than 160-characters. So, for some wireless customers, its content will be split between two separate messages. And worse yet, the email address you are asking them to send content to is going to be broken in half – killing the hyperlink. And if there’s one thing we know from working in marketing, it’s that adding steps to a process is a conversion killer.

Next Steps?

If you want to use text message marketing as a highly-personalized aspect of your marketing mix, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Envision the situations where customers could use a text message to interact with your brand.
  2. Create text message templates – I save mine in Google Keep – that can be quickly customized to handle the most common situations.
  3. Leverage your Twitter skills to hone your messages to under 160 characters.
  4. Commit to quickly responding to messages throughout the day.
  5. Insert call-to-action buttons and notices so that customers can text you with their questions.
  6. Develop a work-flow that allows your entire team to easily insert text interactions into your customer management software (CMS).

There are a variety of ways to streamline this entire process, but we’ll cover those aspects in a future article. Until then, best of luck using text messages to maintain your brand voice and build more personalized relationships with clients.

CMOs Need to Diversify How They Present Products to Improve Online Presence

The job of a CMO has never been more difficult. Consumers are spending a huge part of their lives in a virtual world, powered by digital content and social media feeds. We might be using the same fiber optic cables, but the shape and form of the content we send through these digital pipelines is changing at the speed of light.

The social media landscape is changing dramatically. Facebook is losing ground to Reddit among millennials – an interesting trend that was predictable in 2013 and has gone into overdrive with recent news stories highlighting how vulnerable Facebook activity is to intrusion by third parties.

During Digital Upheavals, Innovative CMOs Focus on the "How"

The shifting sands have prompted headlines claiming we are experiencing a generational shift in how we interact online. They draw comparisons to how Myspace was gutted by Facebook and other platforms that evolved much more quickly. If this is true, there are two key lessons that matter:

  1. Our digital future is decided by younger generations.
  2. The key to survival is hyper fast evolution to accommodate their needs.

Peering behind the digital curtain, you might wonder which comes first – evolution or change. Did Twitter expand their character limit to accommodate a changing role for their platform, or has the character limit increase spurred a change in how we communicate?

CMOs don't need the distraction of understanding "why." That's a question for historians, because by the time it's been answered, the shift has already happened. If they have their finger on the pulse of "how," they can react to change in progress and meet the market where it is.

CMOs Need a Thorough Understanding of Their Target Audience's Habits

As a freelance marketer, I've come to respect that an advertising campaign is the result of two powerful forces: (1) the preconceived notions of the marketing guru that puts the project together, and (2) the definable habits of the target audience. Today it seems like there are as many marketing professionals as there are stars in the sky. So, let's focus on the second force - the habits of the target audience.

To accommodate the habits of a diverse target audience, savvy marketers are presenting the same collection of digital artifacts in a variety of formats. If you were to try and create completely original content for every digital medium out there, you would balloon the cost of the campaign to the point of insanity.

Putting These Insights into Action

For an example, let's pretend that you needed to market a new line of women's shoes, designed for fashion-conscious women of all ages. Your first step is going to be a professional photo shoot with the shoes. Some of the photos will have models showing how they play into a trendy outfit, while other photos will be focused on helping an online shopper get a clear idea of how the products look from various angles.

Once the photos are optimized, it's time to shoot a few fivw-second video clips or animations for social feeds, along with a longer set of videos for YouTube and other video sites. At this stage, you've invested more than a few thousand dollars in producing your digital media artifacts for this campaign. The next step is deploying these artifacts in a way that connects with the target audience, based on their digital habits.

Compensate for Audience Diversity with a Variety of Digital Channels

Remember, these habits are changing at the speed of light. So, you can't put all of your eggs in one or two paid advertising channels. If I were in your shoes (pun intended), I would crank out a variety of social ads designed to speak to specific types of consumers. I'd make sure that our video content included an influencer showing off how the products fit their lifestyle.

But the problem is that once you get beyond a certain age group, it becomes more difficult to reach them on social media and online video. For example, what about your old-school catalogue shopper that's still transitioning from mail-in catalogues to shopping on an iPad?

Flipsnack has a nifty online catalogue maker that lets your team quickly import your artifacts into a versatile format that is familiar to more traditional offline shoppers. If you can place your product at the crossroads of an elderly customer that is transitioning to an online shopper, you will greatly expand your potential market. And the good news is that older customers have deeper pockets than other market segments.

In conclusion, CMOs shouldn't fear a changing digital landscape. A variety of digital marketing platforms can be used to help offset uncertainty. And the engagement data that comes back from your campaigns will help you fine tune your next push.

CMOs Should Leverage Identity Confirmation Tools to Validate Stakeholder Sign-Off

As an outside marketing consultant working in the corporate arena, much of my day is spent chasing down approvals for campaigns, ad schemes and promotions. Even career, in-house marketing gurus struggle at times with the many sign-offs that are needed to move a project forward.

Allow me to offer a brief word of advice to companies looking to leverage the fresh perspective of an outside consultant:

Please, streamline the approval process as much as possible. Most outside consultants have chosen this path because they enjoy the freedom of performing their craft outside of the traditional corporate hierarchy. Creative spontaneity is what gives a new ad campaign wings. And nothing makes me regret taking on a new client more than being subject to the whims of fifteen different stakeholders and their endless, asynchronous requests for revisions.

The First Challenge is Confirming that Sign-Off Has Been Granted

One of my more frustrating experiences came during my birth by fire into the corporate arena. Our team created a powerful brand refresh; complete with concepts for YouTube videos, new social media pages, reactive animation ads and landing pages.

The only thing that was missing was a VR campaign – something that Mack managed to dominate with their Mack Anthem rollout.

During individual conversations with each stakeholder, I gained their verbal approval to move forward. And, of course, there were requests for minor tweaks along the way. Once these tweaks were incorporated, I asked for a meeting to present our concept to the entire leadership team.

Half-way through the meeting, as I hit play on our YouTube video concepts, I started to hear some grumbling from the back of the room. For the remainder of the presentation, this low conversational buzz continued. Finally, it was time for input – something I had hoped would come in the form of a quick thumbs up.

Boy, was I wrong. Nearly every member of the c-suite started in with their concerns. It was a disaster. I had to try and rebuild the entire campaign from scratch. There were just too many objections, and each one pulled the project in a different direction. Reconciling everything would be a challenge, and it was just easier to hit restart.

I’ve since learned my lesson. Getting verified sign-off from each member of the c-suite requires a lot more than a verbal commitment from each decision-maker.

Use Third-Party Verification to Confirm Sign-Off

There are many ways to authenticate an e-signature. The main things that I look for in an e-signature solution are:

  1. Does it allow for stakeholders to sign-off from anywhere?

  2. Does it require some sort of challenge, to confirm that the stakeholder is signing-off, and not one of their executive assistants?

  3. Can I easily access the executed document from any device?

  4. If a revision is made, can I easily highlight the changes and gain an electronic sign-off for those changes from each stakeholder?

This may sound extreme, but you’ll find that when you’re working with a diverse team of decision-makers, you need them to execute their sign-off privileges responsibly. This tool, which is legally the same as a handwritten signature, grabs the attention of decision-makers. They take an extra moment to look things over and ensure that they really are happy with what they’re signing off on – something that dramatically reduces last minute objections to things they previously overlooked.

Everyone on the team, whether a stakeholder or an outside consultant, has an endless list of fires to put out – demanding immediate attention and distracting from the organizational goals. As an outsider coming into the fray, it’s best to carefully document interactions with each key decision-maker. This not only ensures that their input is taken into consideration, but helps you to earn their attention at critical moments.

For more tips, tools, and hacks to make your life as a marketer easier- join us at Modern Customer Experience 2018. ModernCX’s Modern Marketing track offers more than 200 expert-led sessions geared to equip you with new skills you can immediately apply to your work.

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Strategies for CMOs to Protect the Golden Playbook

CMOs have a tough enough job as it is. The way that consumers interact with their brands is changing at lightning speed. And there’s the constant drumbeat of new technology disrupting traditional advertising channels.

To keep up with the rapid pace of change, it’s tempting to broaden the circle and find new perspectives to help create fresh marketing strategies. But, you need to balance this gut instinct with the reality that your marketing strategies are your company’s nuclear launch codes.

If a proactive competitor knows how you’ll spend your ad budget, and what the messages will be, you’re sunk.

The Threat of Corporate Espionage is Real – Especially in Marketing

Examples of corporate espionage aren’t difficult to find. However, companies usually don’t broadcast the fact that they’ve suffered a marketing team defection. So, the overwhelming majority of these events remain in the shadows.

I’ve had to clean-up the aftermath of a rogue marketing employee jumping ship. While I would never embarrass that client here, I’ll just share that the former ad placement specialist was offered a $40,000 sign-on bonus by a competitor. Eventually the employee was sued for violation of their NDA, but it was an expensive legal battle. Not to mention the cost of rewriting the entire marketing playbook from scratch.

Some of the most highly publicized acts of corporate espionage involve attacks on U.S. businesses by Chinese intelligence operatives. The relationship between China’s businesses and government is very different than the corporate / government landscape in the US.

From marketing plans to corporate negotiating strategies, the threat of a breach is always there. It’s always better to invest in safeguards, rather than suffer through an expensive clean-up. 

CMOs Need to Build a Digital Moat Around Their Marketing Intel

There are a number of ways that CMOs can better defend their marketing data against bad actors.

Data Encryption

Data encryption involves the use of complex algorithms to encode information in storage and in transit. Once information is encrypted, it can only be decoded by other authorized devices with the key. Even if the data is intercepted, or firewalls are breached, the information is unreadable.

While it is possible for quantum computers to run a series of tests until the right combination of variables are found, it would take months or even years for the mathematical puzzle to be solved.

Protecting Data in the Field

If you’re anything like me, you live a mobile lifestyle. I regularly work from coffee shops, hotel rooms and in-flight WIFI. It’s the nature of being a consultant. To help protect my privacy, and all of the corporate data my device comes in contact with, I use a VPN service that utilizes OpenVPN protocols.

This is the most private and secure type of connection because it involves multiple layers of encryption, a tightly controlled set of keys and is still being updated to compensate for emerging threats.

I feel confident servicing my clients and handling sensitive campaign data when properly secured behind a quality VPN connection.

Per-User Access Restrictions and Logs

The other important thing that I see more and more companies deploying are per-user access logs with account-level restrictions. While this is old-hat in many industries, marketing teams have, until recently, valued diverse input over data security.

After all, the hackers are going after corporate financials and customer data, not boring marketing plans, right? Wrong. Thankfully, CMOs are waking up and smelling the coffee.

The most secure companies that I work with use the same virtual data handling protocols deployed by high-level government agencies. Everytime I access an internal marketing file, my credentials are watermarked into the document. I am required to reauthenticate everytime I access the database, and anything I download or print is heavily watermarked with my personal information.  

Access logs allow for internal security teams to monitor access and quickly identify potentially compromised accounts. And per-user access levels only allow me to view a narrowly focused set of information.

Prioritize Engagement of Marketing Employees by Communicating Value

But, even with the best technology and access protocols in the industry, losing key marketing personnel can be a body blow – especially in the leadup to a busy holiday shopping season, where retail fiscal years are made or lost. And if that individual heads to a competitor, things go from bad to worse. All of the training and insight into your operations travel with the people you hire and fire.

The things that have the biggest impact on an employee’s decision to stay or leave include:

  1. The ability of leaders to communicate a clear vision to their team and gain buy-in.

  2. The opportunities for training, advancement and interesting projects that broaden horizons.

  3. The sense of respect an employee feels – something that can be difficult to balance with oppressive security protocols.

The happiest marketing teams that I’ve had the pleasure of working with operated like a team of freelancers. Everytime few months, members were offered to opportunity to jump between campaigns. This kept the team feeling engaged and excited about what was coming around the corner, and how they could contribute to the company’s bottom-line in a fresh, creative way.

If CMOs can learn to better secure their human talent, and develop better strategies to secure their marketing data, they’ll enjoy a less stressful and more productive career. Maybe it’s time for you and your CTO to grab coffee and discuss some new protocols for the new year?

Now that you know how to defend your data, learn how CMOs weigh in on other challenges, including how they can skillfully decipher, understand, and leverage the abundance of available data to engage with customers. Download The Data Driven CMO

CMOs: In the race to provide more, don’t forget about the need for speed

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed CMOs get bullied into adding “just one more thing” the customer experience during a boardroom meeting. It’s tough to say no. Everyone wants to move the needle and deliver an exceptional quarter, but sometimes the answer needs to be no, or a compromise needs to be made.

For example, I consulted for a startup last year that was in the perfect position to disrupt their industry. As the finishing touches were being put on the platform, the CEO asks if it’s possible to add video chat to the inbound customer communication options.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do while browsing the internet in my pajamas is start a video chat with some random customer service rep. But, the CEO was convinced that delivering customer service via video conference would be a differentiator.

The CMO should have said no, or at least offered to look into it and circle back on it at a later date. Adding “just one more thing” to a platform towards the end of development causes two problems. First, it distracts a focused team from the original project specs. And second, it increases the load on the underlying technology – usually resulting in decreased responsiveness.

Loading Times Dramatically Impact Abandonment

It’s a fact of life. The internet has given us the expectation that we can quickly and effortlessly find answers to questions, order products to be delivered to our front door and communicate with the people we care about.

If you add more and more to your platform in a way that sacrifices speed, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Almost half of your site’s visitors arrive with the expectation that the site will load in less than 2 seconds. If your site hangs past three seconds, 40% will leave and go elsewhere.

As the person in the c-suite with the responsibility of successfully delivering customers to your company’s online and physical presence, the last thing you need is to lose nearly half of your hard-earned leads to a slow site.

And if your site’s launch is hamstrung by last minute platform changes, where will you send the customers that you’re driving through your marketing channels?

Strategies for Effectively Saying “No!” to the C-Suite Pressure Cooker

Your best ally in the struggle to keep platform bloat at bay is your CTO. While you understand how speed and the customer experience impacts sales, they understand the value of efficient technical operations.

Legendary folk artist Pete Seeger once wrote: “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

Take that folksy advice to heart. Try to sell your CEO on simplified, streamlined operations behind the scenes. If they don’t buy into the need to reduce workload and potential complications, proceed through the following tactics:

  1. Explain, in detail, how the requested addition would add tremendous strain to your existing hardware and software configuration.

  2. Request for 24 hours to research the additional cost in both dollars and time that the new feature would require. Then present this information in a way that highlights how the costs outweigh the benefits. You could also play possum after you do the research. Sometimes moments of inspiration in the boardroom fail to survive into the following day. But make sure you have the information at your fingertips in case you get pinged.

  3. Commit to offering this additional feature in version 2.0 or 3.0. You could suggest a timeline, but I wouldn’t make a firm commitment. The goal at this stage is to find a solution that gives your executives what they want, without sacrificing the focus of your team and the loading time of the site.

It can be really challenging to communicate how something that sounds like a simple request can wreak havoc on an existing or soon-to-launch platform. Don’t be afraid to share your honest feedback, because if you just go along with something and it doesn’t work, you’ll own it.

Today’s CMO is tasked with many demands, made even more challenging with the ever-evolving digital domain. Download this report from Argyle Executive Forum to see how leading CMOs weigh in on other challenges, including how they can skillfully decipher, understand, and leverage the abundance of available data to engage with customers.

 

CMOs Can Still Add Value to a Startup without Obliterating the Budget

The median salary for a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is reported to be $169,066 per year. That’s an expense that very few startups can afford. Some entrepreneurs try to hire key personnel with less experience in order to reduce costs, but even then, you’re looking at an $80,000 salary to hire a CMO with limited product marketing experience.

As someone that works closely with entrepreneurs and startups every day, I highly recommend that you avoid spending more than $30,000 - $50,000 per year on any one individual, at least until your startup has some serious market traction.

For startups, if something can go wrong, it will. You need every spare penny to fund your runway, as money in the bank is the safety net that keeps Monday’s accident from becoming Friday’s out of business sign.

Consider a Strategic Partnership to Share the Burden and the Rewards

If you can’t afford to pay the salary of a CMO, the next logical step is to give up equity. Unfortunately, there are many, many reasons that partnerships just don’t work. When you enter into a partnership, you’re entering into a corporate marriage. And if things go wrong, you aren’t just sleeping on the couch, you might end up sleeping on the street.

I recommend a strategic partnership instead. With a strategic partnership, both parties retain full ownership of their individual brand. A common arrangement that I’ve seen work well is when two parties work together under a contract that splits revenue from a product or service.

For example, a founder can maintain full ownership of their product and brand. And a talented marketer will offer their services under a contract that entitles them to a quarterly commission on sales they help to generate.

If things go sideways, both parties can simply terminate the contract. But, this isn’t likely, because both parties are incentivized to help move product and grow market share.

I’ll be honest, most CMOs aren't open to this idea, unless they like to gamble and potentially win big if a product is a real hit. But, there are marketing firms that will agree to this type of arrangement. They will take the salary hit for a quality CMO while your startup gains access to an experienced marketing team often resulting in a win-win.

Guerrilla Marketing is Still Effective

When entrepreneurs get innovative, both customers and shareholders win. If you decide to enter into a strategic partnership with a marketing firm, or an experienced CMO, you’ll find that marketing a product is just as challenging as developing it.

Grabbing market share on a shoestring budget requires out-of-the-box thinking. Guerilla marketing is the art of getting your message out there without spending money on expensive advertising. Free media is a beautiful thing and there are plenty of examples of viral stories.

For example, a Minnesota insurance salesman decided to get out of his office and start doing good deeds around town. After paying for someone’s expired meter, the salesman left a note that read “I paid your parking meter. Imagine what else I’m willing to do to protect your car.” A business card was attached. The story went viral after someone posted a picture of his note on the internet and the free media this act of generosity generated only cost the insurance salesman a few quarters, but his blatantly promotional good deed paid off.

Work with an experienced CMO to brainstorm effective marketing strategies, both inside and outside of the box. You’ll want to zero in on ideas that generate goodwill, put your brand in a positive light, and have the potential to generate maximum sales with minimum up-front investment of time and money.

Lean on Expert Advice Networks

If you’re struggling to find a CMO that’s willing to enter into a strategic partnership, there’s always a CMO willing to charge you a consulting fee for a few hours of their time. Professional advice networks connect curious entrepreneurs with experienced experts ready to provide guidance for a pretty penny.

Do you have $10,000 sitting around? If so, Dallas Maverick’s Owner and Investor, Mark Cuban is willing to take your 1-hour call. Many CMOs are willing to give you an hour of their time for far less, if you’re willing to fairly compensate them for their time and experience.

You don’t have to sign a partnership agreement, employment contract, or enter into a strategic partnership to get great advice and insights. It all comes down to the best fit for your startup.

So, what are you waiting for? Start searching for available solutions that give you the information you need to find your CMO, at a price that won’t break the bank. Read up on how to integrate marketers into your boardroom. The CMO Marketers in the Boardroom paper reveals the value that marketers will add to your company when they participate at the highest level.

CMO Marketers in the Boardroom

Pipeline Marketing Helps CMOs Thrive in a Post Lead-Generation World

Is your sales team suffering from “rejection fatigue”? No matter how many times managers and supervisors spout off platitudes like “coffee’s for closers”, “always be closing”, and “sell high or die”, your sales team is continually suffering through the grinder of customer rejection.

80% of successful sales require five follow-ups. That leaves room for a lot of rejection. CMOs can partner with their sales teams by helping to lead them out of any resulting deserts of rejection fatigue.

Pipeline Marketing is Taking the Place of Traditional Lead Generation

The lead generation strategies first put into use in the 50’s and 60’s, have been obliterated by the digital revolution. This was for good reason as a tiny percentage of the leads generated using old-school strategies resulted in revenue.

Instead of trying to grab the attention of anyone and everyone that might enjoy your product or service, pipeline marketing involves multiple steps that qualify every lead. And no, it doesn’t start with “dialing for dollars”.

How does Pipeline Marketing work?

Effective pipeline marketing measures success in terms of the revenue that’s generated. Every marketing strategy that utilized is encompassed within a pipeline that allows consumers and future clients to identify themselves as qualified leads.

Sound too good to be true? Most sales teams will rejoice at this news alone but, they’re going to love the next part of the formula more.

The sales mission is changing. Instead of blindly calling people in the phonebook, or stalking leads on LinkedIn, the mission is now to engage with clients that have already placed themselves in front of the finish line. A well-timed nudge from a friendly, helpful client solutions rep (title change!) can win a customer to your platform, product or solution.

Phases of Pipeline Marketing  
  1. Learn everything you can about your target customer. Ask “what matters to them?” and “how do they enjoy consuming new information?”.
  2. Create advertising collateral that communicates the value of your product or service. This includes paid advertising, curated social media channels, a focus on SEO and solidifying your web presence.
  3. Empower potential customers to engage with your brand on their terms. One way to do so is to offer a strong online presence that operates 24/7. Another is to allow interested clients to sign-up for email newsletters, subscribe to your YouTube channel, and dive into your site filled with product tutorials and other useful information).
  4. As the new client engages with your marketing collateral, they should be encouraged to provide you with their contact details. This can be accomplished with a sign-up to access a Whitepaper or, it can attained by clicking on a “Chat Now” button on your website.
  5. Let your client solution reps do their magic; give them access to data that documents what the new client has already interacted with. This will enable them to build upon previous interactions during their conversation via phone, email, or chat.
CMOs Need to Shift Their Attention

The labor aspect of old-school lead generation has shifted. Instead of a boiler room full of sales reps dialing for dollars or an investment in paid advertising, today curated content and influencer marketing is required. Doing so creates the magnet that attracts future customers.

Because 81% of consumers perform research online before making their purchase, it’s imperative that your brand’s web presence is bulletproof. To deliver an exceptional online experience, you need to offer fast, easy-to-digest answers to the questions your target audience has about your product, service, or the problems you can solve for them.

The first ingredient in a fast answer is a web platform that loads quickly, on any device. This analysis of common web hosts shows that there is a big difference in performance between different hosting providers. That’s important to understand because 40% of website visitors abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

CMOs that thrive in a post-lead-generation world use pipeline marketing to more efficiently deploy their sales teams. Expensive human capital is only spent engaging new clients that have prequalified themselves. It’s my hope that this article has helped outline what pipeline marketing is, and how you can better prepare your brand to compete, without shattering the bottom-line. To see how leading CMOs weigh in on other challenges, including how they can skillfully decipher, understand, and leverage the abundance of available data to engage with customers, download The Data-Driven CMO!

The Data-Driven CMO

Featured image source: pexels