Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:14:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Who moved my cheese? Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:10:19 +0000 Digital change management and getting buy-in for digital marketing transformation

Digital transformational buy-in

One of the key aspects of evolving a traditional company into a digital company is getting buy-in. One of the challenges is that digital simply isn’t understood. Some Chief Executives think digital is tactical, it refers to activities like sending out newsletters, improving Facebook page or online catalogue. As a result, digital is often delegated to the most junior person in the building who is perceived to have a great understanding of the business functionality of tools like Facebook.

The exec team are missing the bigger picture. What’s worse is that less reputable agencies have constructed myths that it’s complicated and difficult and explain that only ‘masters of the art’ are able to access analytics, manage Instagram or increase Twitter followers.

The path towards digital transformation is littered with disaster. There have been many Twitter fiascos from the furniture store Habitat and McDonalds to the New York Police Department (NYPD) and you can read more examples here.

This has created fear. It’s nearly a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ moment. So how do you achieve buy-in and get the C-suite to adopt digital? Here are the 4 key elements you need to consider when getting buy-in for digital marketing transformation.

#1 Without understanding, you won’t get buy-in.

Your exec team need to get some training. Ok, it’s not reasonable to ask them to attend a full day session on how Facebook works, but you might get them to sign up for digital strategy courses, so they can see the bigger picture.

  • It’s essential that they understand that digital is about revenue, profit and growth.
  • It’s essential they understand that customers (regardless of age) are becoming more digital.
  • It’s essential they understand that the competition are probably working on their digital plan right now, if it’s not already in place.

So identify some appropriate training and organise a course. Bizarrely, I’ve found that many in-house teams have expertise, but it’s easier to engage an external expert to come in and deliver the tougher messages.

#2 Your cheese is moving and you haven’t noticed.

Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” was a useful management book originally popular in the 1990s that explained very simply how life changes and provided responses to adapt to the changes. It involves mice and human-like characters looking to find food as the supply changes in their maze. One of the characters highlights the attitudes and actions that are needed to respond to change.

Change Happens

They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change

Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change

Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly

The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese


Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!

Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again

They Keep Moving The Cheese.


The challenge for managers in many businesses is that because of digital technology developments their world (or cheese) is moving and they haven’t noticed or aren’t prepared to take action.

Interestingly, most of these changes impact the Marketing mix of the 7Ps which highlights the need for a digital audit to see where your business is right now.

There are many examples of where companies in a sector have not been as agile as their competitors, here are a couple:

Clinton Cards – stores closing, business sold

Clintons card

Established nearly 50 years ago in the UK, now owned by the US corporation, Schurmans and as Clintons new CEO Dominique Schurman commented when interviewed on Bloomberg “to succeed an organisation needs to keep pace, stay relevant and be in tune with its customers.” While the Internet and new competitors like Moonpig weren’t the sole reason for the demise of Clinton Cards, they were certainly contributory factors to the speed of the downfall.


Just look at the contrast within these two Facebook pages. Clintons is focusing on a sale, it has fewer than 25,000 likes. Moonpig is focusing on the season and has over 100,000 more likes. Whilst we all know that digital marketing is not a competition about likes, it does show how Moonpig has understood and engaged with its audience.

You could argue this is about the product offer (personalised versus off the peg), place (in store or online) and promotion (Moonpig offers ‘packages’ and has an easy to use app).

Uber – disruptive new business

You will have heard on the news how Taxi firms in London, Berlin, Paris and Madrid are complaining about Uber, the taxi service app, which will impact their business. This is clearly a fight over processes (hail a cab in the street or use an app) but it’s also about pricing, plus cabbies have access to their own app, Hailo, but the starting price for any journey is £10.

Uber app

How many other traditional businesses do you know, in your sector, that are going through the same issues?

#3 Explore options and share the news

Change rarely happens overnight. It’s often a series of factors that have been considered for a while, but haven’t materialised. This can occur when the senior team resist change. You may hear ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘it’s worked for years, nothing has really changed’.

Is this resistance or denial? In some cases it can be both.

To show the C-suite that life has changed, their cheese has moved, you can recommend ‘exploring options’. This really means capturing evidence. Here are 5 ways to do this:

  1. Commission or conduct a digital marketing audit and present the findings to the CEO and exec team. You can use PR Smith’s SOSTAC® model  to get started.
  2. Benchmark the business using this tool.
  3. Prepare a presentation to highlight how the world is changing. Dave’s blog post 10 reasons why you may need a digital channel strategy?  is a great primer for this.
  4. Share external research such as this infographic prepared by Danyl showing how marketing spend is moving.
  5. Build a business case and focus on the numbers.

#4 And here’s a key tip. Consider the timing.

Deliver your information, along with some ‘next steps’ just before the planning for shareholder, board or other key meeting stake place. There’s no better time to get a captive audience that’s seeking some good news!

Once the exec team have agreed that action is needed, you’re moving toward commitment. This is the time to catch up with the competition. More on this in my next post!

Annmarie will be facilitating the Digital Transformation breakout workshop at the Smart Insights conference where we will discuss approaches to digital strategy development and change management.

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How can companies use the knowledge at their fingertips to create shareable, unique content in-house? Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:25:00 +0000 A 4 Step guide to maximising your own resources for your content strategy

When it comes to building a strong digital campaign, many businesses underestimate the value of the information and resources they already have – particularly if they are specialists such as negligence lawyers and recruiters who have a wealth of statistics at their fingertips.

The key to creating engaging content is to assess how you can transform the information you already have into a resource that portrays user-friendly and valuable facts about your industry. This will automatically increase the chance of someone who requires your services finding your business organically online.

4 ways to create shareable and unique content using your own resources

1. Define your end goal?

As with all marketing strategies, identify your goal before devising a plan to achieve it. This will give you the information required to assess the customer you are looking to attract and the type of content that will best engage that individual.

For instance, if your goal is to draw graduates to your business, a content heavy whitepaper would be an inappropriate medium – while an infographic or social media led campaign is more likely to enter their natural sphere of consciousness.

2. Focus on your niche

What characteristic makes you stand out when you meet someone for the first time? Transferring this identifiable quality online is considerably harder; particularly when applying this to your business.

Identify your business’s niche, what you have that others do not. For example, do you take a unique approach to client relations? Do you have a vast amount of experience in a certain area of your industry that few others are likely to have?

Discovering the trait that increases your value will allow you to better utilise your expertise towards your target customer by learning what it is that they are looking for, and meeting those needs. For instance, a travel company has ample opportunity to collect fantastic images and video footage from around the world which could lead to a stunning video led advertising campaign.

3. Don’t shy away from being different

Do you have a stack of statistics that you always considered too controversial to publish? Is your company trialling a new working method that is miles away from anything your competitors are doing?

Thinking and doing things differently is more likely to attract attention to your business than simply mimicking competitors or re-hashing marketing campaigns of your own. Be colourful, give your content character and think outside the box when marketing it to the public – getting your brand noticed is infinitely simpler when you stand out from the crowd.

For example, The Cooperative Bank approached us to create a digital interface that would explain to executives and senior employees what banking would be like in 2020. Having this goal allowed our team of designers and developers to build something that had a very specific purpose and audience.


4. Think about your distribution strategy

Creating fantastic, unique and valuable content and leaving it sat on your site won’t get you the results you need. You have your goal, your next move is assessing a distribution strategy to achieve it. As discussed in the first point, you must think carefully about who your audience is, what will appeal to them and how to attract them to your content – this is the same for your distribution.

Consider who you want to notice your infographic, blog or whitepaper and importantly, when. It can be tempting to give your content one big push onto as many social channels and platforms as possible in one go – think instead about the networks your target audience is likely to be on at what times, taking in to account weekends, and gradually distribute your content.

This will increase the likelihood of relevant people seeing what your brand is doing and sharing it with others, thus spreading your overall reach.

Keep Britain Campaign

When the motorcycle insurers Keep Britain asked us to launch its new site, the team worked with social media platforms Twitter and Facebook as well as contacting blogs to increase the reach and therefore opportunities available to the brand. The Cuckoo Design team recognised that the motorcycling community was largely a young one that would frequently visit social media sites, and this was therefore an appropriate method for instigating a relationship with that potential customer base.


Think about your content marketing strategy

The key to successful content marketing is carefully considering the process from start to finish, it is as much about what you will do with your content as what you are creating. Begin with your goal, your audience, identifying your niche and follow on to continuously produce fantastic, engaging and unique content.

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Why animated #videos trump traditional video #marketing Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:20:00 +0000 Avoid the mistakes of video marketing by using animated videos effectively

Traditional video marketing is declining in viewing popularity – this post looks at what can be done to reverse this trend and highlights animated videos as a simple, cost-effective and highly engaging way to get more eyeballs on your video content

Video marketing is becoming increasingly popular with more and more marketers using videos to get their message out there, as well as competing for as many eyeballs as possible!  In fact 50% of users watch business related videos On YouTube once a week.

But whilst we’re seeing a rise in brands creating videos we’re also witnessing a slight decline in people actually viewing them.  Is it because we’re now being flooded with videos and it’s becoming a saturated marketplace? Or is it because this flood is marked by boring, ‘me too’,, non-engaging videos

The answer is both.  But while the flood is beyond your control, it’s good to note the mistakes of others before producing your next video.

Video marketing mistakes

Many marketers are still making the error of creating long videos.  One of the main benefits of videos is the ease and simplicity of getting your message across.  What a viewer would read in several minutes from a written article they can watch in seconds with video!

With the popularity of video marketing we’re also seeing an increase in videos that are often very salesy or all about the brand or product.  This doesn’t inform or educate, or even amuse, and so turns people off!

Quality is also key.  There’s nothing worse than watching a video that has either low quality picture output and / or sound. And they will have a detrimental effect on your reputation. Without using the proper equipment (e.g. using cheap, non-HD cameras without a lighting kit) you will most likely produce a grainy picture.

You also risk ending up with noisy, tinny audio due to having the wrong microphone as well as not being able to insulate any external background noise.  And if you’re shooting exteriors then you’re at the mercy of the weather – which can be unpredictable to say the least!

So is traditional video marketing destined to become a dying art? What can marketers do to re-engage consumers and increase viewing rates?

Animated videos are a great way to connect with your viewer.  For example, Dropbox transformed their business by creating a simple animated explainer video on their home page.  Not only did it lead to an additional 10 million customers but also a staggering $48,000,000 in extra revenue – so it’s no surprise that animated explainer videos have become popular!

Animated videos – best types of content

Clearly certain types of content lend themselves better to having an animated video produced.  Explainer and tutorials are the most popular.  Animated videos are also a great way to compare and highlight different types of products, such as Bitcoin versus traditional currency.  They also allow you to reduce complex topics to simple, friendly visuals and emphasize character expressions.

Animated explainer videos are increasingly becoming popular. They get the message across in a simple and quick way by allowing the producer to focus 100% on representing the content that matters while stripping away any non-relevant detail. Consequently however, leading production houses have become more in-demand and therefore more expensive,  placing them beyond the reach of many marketing budgets.

The market has been crying out for cost effective solutions that allow the business owner or agency to deliver useful video content quickly and easily.  As a result new tools have been invented which help marketers clear the skill and budget barriers to creating compelling animated videos.

Animated videos democratise the process

At GoAnimate, we see ourselves as one of these new tools that has democratised the process.  Our animated video tools enable anyone, from individuals to small businesses and beyond to produce professional-looking animated videos without the need to set up a studio or purchase advanced editing software.  Testing and editing of the video can be carried out in private from anywhere in the world by anyone in your team because everything is hosted in the cloud.

We provide all the tools, styles and assets (including the ever important lip synching) so you can simply focus on your story. Sound and picture are ‘Full HD’ Blu-Ray quality and therefore consistently better too!  The learning curve on these tools is very low, giving you the ability to create visually engaging animated videos in minutes!

Top tips for animated videos

But where do you start? And how long should your video be?  Below are our top tips on how to create an animated video:

  • A very good place to start… is with an outline script!  Ensure that your messaging is consistent with your brand and that the story flows.
  • Headline – the title (as with any piece of content) needs to grab the viewer’s attention, but also deliver on what the actual video is about.
  • Ensure that the first few seconds capture your audience and engage them.  This speed of engagement is vital to ensure they want to stay and watch your video to the end. This will also help decrease your bounce rate and, more importantly if your call to action is at the end, they will have the opportunity to see it!
  • Length of video – Ideally keep it snappy and fast-paced.  The ideal time will vary on whether your video is a commercial advert or an explainer/tutorial.  For optimal timing try to keep it under 2 minutes – the shorter the better.
  • Calls to Action (CTAs) – ensure your video has a clear CTA (or CTAs – but be careful not to give too many). As with all CTA’s it’s important that you can measure the results to know how effective your video is.
  • Host ‘teasers’ of your video on sites like YouTube where it will get maximum exposure


  • Publish the full version of your animated video on your own website – don’t just rely on YouTube.  You want to drive as much traffic back to your own website and engage with your viewers there.


  • Make sure that your branding is consistent throughout the video, not just the tone but visually.

Do you think traditional videos are a dying breed?  Are you using animated videos for your marketing?  If so what tool are you using?  Please do leave a comment and share this post to let us know your thoughts!


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What’s New in Marketing for August 2014? Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:44:06 +0000 Our alerts and advice on the “must-know” developments in digital marketing

In August our two most significant alerts were about changes to the Facebook and Google algorithm – check these out in the sections on search and social media marketing below.

Now we’re into September we’re into the final build-up to our Digital Impact conference which is in central London on the 17th September.

We’re looking forward to meeting members at the event where we’ll show how to make a bigger impact with your digital marketing with in-depth case studies and workshops covering all the digital marketing techniques we cover in our monthly updates, that’s Digital Transformation, SEO, AdWords, Content, Social and Email marketing plus improving desktop and mobile experiences using CRO and analytics.

Strategy and planning

Social media marketing

Search and content marketing

User experience, analytics and conversion optimisation

Email marketing and CRM

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Digital marketing statistics 2014 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:50:02 +0000 The top 10 free sources for UK, European, US, Asian and Global digital marketing statistics

Online marketers love statistics about digital marketing. They allow us to review customer adoption of the latest digital platforms, make business cases for investment in marketing and allow us to benchmark our performance against competitors.

For Expert members, we compile a regularly updated set of usage statistics to use in presentations.


If you’re compiling your own stats, which are the best, most reliable free and paid sources? Everyone has their favourites, but I thought it would be useful to share the ones that I go back to most often as I research online to update books and posts and I recommend to students on marketing qualifications.

If we had to choose a single source with the most up-to-date statistics for 2013 it’s the comScore Digital Future in Focus series- this has separate reports for the UK, Europe, France, Germany, Spain, US, Latin America and South East Asia . We also have a page on mobile statistics we’re updating though 2014, so take a look at that.

Quite a few visitors have added to the suggestions in the comments – thank you for adding to this free resource with your recommendations!

Digital marketing statistics search engine

To save myself time, last year I spent 10 minutes creating a custom Google search engine covering these sources. I hope you find it useful too:


Top 10 sites for digital marketing statistics

These sites cover global stats including UK, Europe, US and global. Thanks for adding the other suggestions to the comments – well worth checking out for anyone searching for statistics sources who passes this way. I’ve added these to the custom search engine too.

One other source worth being aware of is the posts tagged statistics from the Econsultancy blog.

1 Ofcom ( The Office of Communication has reports on adoption of digital media including telecommunications and the Internet (including broadband adoption), digital television and wireless services.

2 UK National Statistics Consumer trends ( Family spending and technology adoption.

3 European Union Digital Marketing statistics ( – based on assessments of ICT adoption.

4 Comscore The The Comscore press releases are one of the best sources of the latest stats releases. Their blog can also be helpful – I have included within the custom search engine. A similar service included in this search engine is Nielen Netratings.

Comscore have a new Digital Future series of reports covering the UK, US, several European countries, Canada and Brazil – we have a summary post on Online media statistics from Comscore summarising this.

5 International Telecomms Union ( World telecommunications and ICT adoption statistics with the emphasis on broadband and mobile

6 Marketing Charts ( An aggregator of information about consumer and business adoption of technologies and approaches.

7 ClickZ Stats ( A source agggregating news on digital marketing developments, reports by experts and calculators.

8 eMarketer ( A compilation of digital statistics for online marketers – more US oriented.

9 Hitwise Hitwise blog – one of the best sources giving interpretation of a selection of their stats by their analysts. It’s also worth checking their data centres – which have summaries of the most popular sites and search engines.

10 IAB Research Research reports on online advertising effectiveness

The best global sources in terms of frequency of update, although with a US bias are, for me, the blogs/press release sections from Comscore, Hitwise and Nielsen Netratings. These are the ones you will find are most common results within the custom search engine.

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Twitter Analytics now free to all users [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:28:45 +0000 Just head to when signed-in


Recommended link: Twitter Analytics

Previously Twitter’s analytics service has been limited to advertisers, but that changed this week with an announcement via Twitter:

How to access Twitter analytics?

Just as it says in the title to this article, if you’re already signed into Twitter in your browser, if you go to There is no registration process, but a little bizarrely, you just have to access the dashboard URL and you should then see updates. Until then you will just see a blank dashboard:


For more information on what you can see in Twitter’s analytics see this post from Twitter introducing the Twitter Analytics dashboard.


This is the type of insight you will get, but possibly you wont see this many impressions… or this amount of engagement…

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The latest changes to the Facebook algorithm [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:28:58 +0000 Changes to how you share photos, clickbait and likegating on Facebook


Recommended link: Facebook announcement on algorithm updates

Given the amount of traffic that Facebook drives to sites, any significant changes to Facebook’s algorithm are now big news in the way that Google’s algorithm updates have been for years. So in our alerts we look to update readers on all the major changes made by Facebook. This data on visits prompted by shares of articles via social networks shows that Facebook is far more important for driving visits than other social networks across all sites, although this may be different for B2B sites.


The major change to the Facebook algorithm announced this week has two main parts: a Clickbait filter and a change to processing of links related to status updates. While most commentary on the changes has focused on Clickbait, this is less relevant to most businesses so we start by looking at the changes to how you should best use links in status updates.

Summary of the change to Facebook’s algorithm

1. Sharing links in status updates.

It’s common to use visuals in Facebook to make your updates more engaging and shareable. Naturally Marie Page recommends it, with lots of examples in our guide to Facebook marketing. If you do this it then it often appears in the Facebook News Feed with a large picture, a headline and some text that gives context on the link. For example:


In this new update Facebook has says it will favour status updates using the “Link format”:

We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen”.

Facebook explains that it’s common practice for brands to share photos with a link next to it, but without a preview.

So, how should you do this in practice? If you paste a link into an update or use a tool like Hootsuite to manage social media like we mainly do across the main social networks, by sharing a short caption and link to relevant content then you may already be doing this. Facebook explains it this way:

The best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format. In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video”.

2. Cracking down on Clickbait

Marketers will know “Click-baiting” as a “Teaser headline”. It’s when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more details, without giving much away. Here’s an example:

Facebook has noticed that some sites like Buzzfeed are engineering so many posts like this that get a lot of clicks that they are now seeing a lot of them in the newsfeed so have decided to take action.

How will they determine Clickbait? It will be similar to the way that Google assesses relevant content. If the dwell time on the content after the click is low then that suggests less relevant content and it will be filtered out of the News Feed. If you’re interested to know more, I recommend this article by Jon Loomer on the updates. Jon is a great source for detailed analysis of Facebook marketing techniques.

3. An end to ‘Likegating’

Jon also has a reminder about another significant, but less often reported update from earlier in August that outlaws incentivised likegating. This was not widely reported since it was hidden in an update from the Facebook developer site related to a change to their programming API:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page”.

You still see this Likegating approach quite often, so take note if you’re planning a Facebook campaign at the moment.

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Google ends Authorship functionality [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:15:33 +0000 Google’s use of “rel=author” markup to stop but Google+ posts to continue featuring in search results


Recommended link: Google announcement of end of Authorship

Summary of the change

John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced in a personal Google+ post on 28th August that Google will now stop showing authorship results in Google Search, and will no longer be tracking data from content using rel=author markup.

From a Google user point of view this means you will no longer see author images in pictures like this one from a briefing written by Chris Soames in 2012:

In fact, you may have noticed from around a month ago that Google removed the author images. In this new announcement they are taking the next step and removing the author information too.

We’re also alerting you to this since more significantly from an SEO point of view Google has said that they are no longer using the data associated with markup.

The Reasons for the Removal of Authorship?

Google gives these reasons:

  1. 1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters. While many marketing sites like our have enthusiastically adopted Authorship, this was not the case in other sectors.Searchengineland reports on this test that showed that even amongst major publishers journalists were not integrating their Google+ profiles:


  2. 2. Low value to searchers. Google has said there is limited difference in click behaviour, i.e. clickthrough rate from results with these rich author snippets. This goes against what we have found and others have reported, but the decision has been made anyway. John Mueller has said:

    If you’re curious – in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience”.

Implications for Marketers?

Well, if you were planning to implement authorship, you can discard that task! If you already have you can disable the feature to slightly reduce page bloat, although most will keep the markup even if it’s redundant I imagine.

Is this the end of Google+?

Many have taken this change as a yet another sign of the impending end of Google+. While it certainly removes a key feature integrating Google+ into the search results Jon Mueller reminds us that Google will still feature personalised Google+ link recommendations in the search results page, so this is not a reason to stop activity on Google+:

It’s also worth mentioning that Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they’re relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features”.

Google has also stated that it is committed to other forms of markup – so we still encourage these for SEO purposes.

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How to make SEO, social media, email marketing and more work together Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 Integrating different inbound channels as part of a content-led digital strategy

Here’s the only way to approach your marketing: What content will your customers thank you for?

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs @MarketingProfs

In the ever-evolving sphere of digital marketing, creating compelling content just isn’t enough. Instead, what you need to do is develop a strategic plan that is both consistent and integrated and will help drive traffic, generate leads and increase your conversions. While content creation still plays a pivotal role in an effective marketing strategy, smart brands are taking a more holistic approach – and that means focusing on how content marketing, SEO, social media, blogging and email marketing all work in sync.   integration 123rfphoto30659712_s

Along with our own tips and tricks of the trade, in this article AWeber has enlisted a few industry leaders to share their insights and best practices to help you craft a solid, comprehensive digital marketing strategy. These are the pillars of an integrated strategy as we and they see them.


‘Content Marketing is an imperative because it represents the gap between the content brands want to produce and what consumers actually want’. 

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at Newscred @BrennerMichael

Let’s face it: content marketing ain’t easy. In order to fully satisfy the needs of your audience, your content needs to be:

  • Valuable: What’s in it for your customers and prospects? Are you speaking their language? Are you giving them something they can’t find anywhere else?
  • Timely: Can you put a newsworthy, industry-specific spin on your content? Is your subject matter different from what others have addressed before?
  • Solutions-oriented: Are you providing a solution to your customers’ biggest pain points? Can you deliver real, actionable information that people can implement right away? Would a prospect see this and think, ‘Wow, I need to learn more!?’


‘Honest and transparent content is the best sales tool in the world. Period’,

Marcus Sheridan, Author of The Sales Lion @TheSalesLion

Your blog should be a trusted resource that both customers and prospects alike can use a tool to learn more about your industry. It’s a huge part of your content strategy because it combines SEO, social media and can serve as the basis for your email marketing campaign. Keep these tips in mind before you hit ‘publish.’

  • Cadence: How often are others in your industry posting? Is there a specific time that your readers are paying more attention to social shares? Experiment with timing and frequency, then pick a schedule and stick to it.
  • Titles and bullets: Don’t make your readers work to find the sections and subsections that they are most interested in. Break up your text with bullets and engaging titles to make your content easy to read.
  • Go-to resource: Think of your blog as a resource for your most valued customers. Tease it via social media and email marketing and use it to inform future content.


‘If you think number of links is how you are going to win Google, you are doing it wrong’,

Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive @WilReynolds

While SEO is super important, engaging content always wins. Nobody wants to read something that sounds like it was written by a robot. You’re writing for real customers with real needs and your words should reflect that. SEO only helps enhance that experience.

  • Headlines: Your headlines should be attention-grabbing, yet concise. Be wary of creating click bait – a few return customers are more valuable than a lot of short-attention spans.
  • Keyword research: What are the terms that your audience is using to speak about your services? To get on their level, you need to first do your keyword research.
  • Inbound links: Guest-blogging is a great way to get more eyes on your content (we’re doing it right now!). Be sure to share your content on the appropriate channels including social media, forums and other blogs to up your chances of getting inbound links.

Social Media

‘When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof’

Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at Orbit Media @Crestodina

Social media presents limitless opportunities for extending the reach of your content, which means more impressions, more clicks and more conversions. Take note of some of the easily-implemented practices you can use to optimize your social presence:

  • Share: Does all of your content have social sharing icons prominently displayed and properly configured? Unless you’ve written a killer piece of content, nobody is going to go out of their way to spread the word.
  • Engagement: Ask your followers to repost, retweet and converse with your content. While it may sound obvious, it’s an effective step that’s often overlooked.
  • Tease Content: Do you link to your email sign-up on your social pages? Have you shared your latest blog post via Facebook or Twitter? Giving fans and followers a glimpse at your content will leave them hungry for more.

Email Marketing

‘If you send responsive or mobile-optimized emails, be sure your landing pages are mobile-friendly too’,

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus @meladorri

Make note: email isn’t dead, it’s evolving.

In fact, email has cemented its status as the primary form of business communication. It’s no wonder businesses aren’t eager to ditch this ‘old-school’ form of communication in favor of it’s newer, shinier competition: email is consistent and measurable. Along with a solid strategy, it delivers better ROI than any other marketing tactic.

So how are marketers utilizing email in new ways to bolster sales and increase conversion rates?

  • Email testing: The only way to know for sure how your subscribers will respond to your emails is test, test and test some more. You can improve your open rates significantly just by split-testing subject lines, or you can experiment with content and images to deliver the most effective emails possible to your audience.
  • Segmented lists: Can you group subscribers on your list by location, interests or their stage in your sales funnel? These groups each have different needs, and by segmenting your list you ensure that the right people are receiving the right information – and that means more sales for you.
  • Consistency: It will take some testing, but grabbing your audience at the right times with the right frequency of emails can mean the difference between driving sales and unopened messages.

Ready to take your marketing initiatives to the next level? Join AWeber and our all star lineup of digital marketing experts at ASCEND Digital Marketing Summit this October 22-24 in Philadelphia. This two-day, three-night conference is your opportunity to network and learn from the industry’s best, including Ann Handley, Michael Brenner, Andy Crestodina and more. Reserve your tickets to ASCEND now.

Image credit / Copyright: Mathias Rosenthal/ 123RF Stock Photo.

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Exploring alternative structures for better integrating digital marketing activity into your business Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:25:58 +0000 Do We Need a Digital Department At All?

When I began working on the Smart Insights Digital Transformation guide, I believed that the days of the digital department were numbered. After all, if digital integration was a true goal of a business, shouldn’t this department simply be merged into marketing and other ‘non-digital’ departments? I felt that we’d only created digital departments as a bolt on reaction to the changing landscape, and that over time different skills would simply be ‘absorbed’ into the rest of the business.

While this sentiment may run true amongst some readers, I soon found that this ideal has seldom been reached, and may never occur in many verticals. After all, it often seems that there will always be requirements for specific skills that need to sit within a specialist team. Rather than saying whether we ‘should’ or ‘should not’ have a digital department, there are varying ‘phases’ of digital integration.

Structuring Digital Marketing Activities

A common model for structuring digital marketing is based upon The Altimeter Group’s The Evolution of Social Business, which outlines five stages of social media integration.

Different Levels of Digital Marketing Integration

The same phased approach can be seen where Neil Perkin writes for Econsultancy about these alternative digital marketing structures as explained below:

  1. Dispersed – an early stage reaction to digital staffing, whereby skills are dispersed throughout an organisation.
  2. Centre of Excellence – digital marketing personnel sit within one bespoke team, usually reporting to one Head of Digital. 
  3. Hub and Spoke – a combination of a digital ‘centre of excellence’ (hub) and ‘spokes’ that sit within separate departments.
  4. Multiple Hub and Spoke – there are a number of separate digital hubs within departments, each with their own spokes in further business units.
  5. Holistic – digital knowledge is at a strong level throughout the organisation.

No respondents within Econsultancy’s report, and only 2.4% in Altimeter’s study, answered that a ‘holistic’ level of integration had been reached. This obviously casts doubt on my initial suppositions: digital departments are likely to stay for the considerable future.

Having a Digital Centre is Standard Practice

In many companies, the digital department exists is a separate entity to other divisions and is not wholly integrated into other departments – indeed, Altimeter’s study would suggest some 85% of companies are somewhere between stages 2-4 –all which demand a digital centre.

Why the Need for a Centre?

Establishing a digital centre can be a reaction against a decentralized (largely ungoverned) structure. With the appointment of a head of department, there is greater emphasis on establishing process and a move towards a formal structure. Of course, by bringing this centrally, there can be a number of inherent weaknesses, the clearest being:

  1. Potential barrier to effective multichannel marketing.
  2. Lack of shared learning in the wider organisation.
  3. Lack of focus on smaller business units.

So once a formal central structure is established, the next phase is to better integrate digital through the creation of ‘spokes’ – that is, digital skilled people sitting directly within particular teams. As demand progresses this model, these spokes may become larger, eventually with the ideal of the holistic stage being reached.

A Digital Centre Maybe Wholly Necessary

Since digital is such a different and complex arena to more established channels, it appears there will still be a requirement for groups of specialists to sit together and work almost as an agency for the rest of the company. Thus it may not be possible for some businesses to completely move away from having a digital centre.

Some digital skills are distinct specialisms, and do not always require many hires for the business to operate well in these areas. For instance, analytics and SEO are often deemed to be the realm of specialists (although you might now argue SEO has become more of a ‘generalist’ role). Additionally, some companies simply may not be able to afford the fixed costs and headcount necessary to evolve to a hub and spoke approach.

It is also possible that the centre of excellence functions as an ‘innovation hub’ while the more integrated spokes work on digital execution. For instance, the central hub researches and tests new approaches and technology, and while the spokes are responsible for digital change management.

It is quite clear that full or holistic digital integration may not be possible in large companies. But conversely, maintaining a separated ‘digital center of excellence’ presents its own pitfalls, particularly in widening company understanding of digital marketing. It’s not time we said goodbye to the digital department, and for many, it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon either. How do you see it?

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