PowerViews with Ann Handley: First, Get Your Strategy, Messaging & Story Right


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Today’s guest is Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and co-author of Content Rules. She also writes the MarketingProfs “Daily Fix” blog. Her focus is on the conceptualization, development, and management of content for both B2B and consumer publications, particularly for the Web.

Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.

2012 Challenge: How to Tell Stories, Create Compelling Content and Drive Interest

Click to start video at this pointAsked about what is happening or not happening in marketing and sales that is surprising this year, Ann references research that MarketingProfs did with the Content Marketing Institute last year. Among the findings: while 90% of companies are using some sort of content in their marketing, 40% are struggling with how to tell that story in an engaging way. Ann notes, “I think it’s easy to say that content is a big part of it, and, while that’s absolutely true, I still think what we’re seeing is a lot of companies are struggling with how to tell their stories, how to create compelling content, and how to get people interested in the content they’re putting out there.”

Outbound vs. Inbound: The Right Mix is a Blend of Both

Click to start video at this pointIn response to a question about outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing, Ann talks about the right mix being a blend of both. She notes inbound marketing is the hot and sexy new thing, and she adds, “I know there are some inbound marketers who take a real hard line and say, ‘Don’t do any broadcast. Don’t do any outbound.’ But I don’t see it that way.”

She notes that the success of inbound doesn’t mean that marketers should turn away from outbound channels: “I do think that inbound is important, but that doesn’t mean you need to abandon all the things that you’re already doing that you know work.” Referencing content published on MarketingProfs, she says, “We ran a whole series on marketing through radio, for example. It’s a clear outbound tactic. I’m a huge listener and supporter of NPR. I pay attention to people who are broadcasting and advertising there.”

Social Media: Less About Lead Gen and More About Creating Relationships

Click to start video at this pointRecent research reports high social media use by senior execs for staying in touch but low use for buying, and Ann comments, “I think people have really tried to shoehorn lead generation tactics into social media. I’m not sure that that’s the best use of it. I think that can be a part of it. There are examples of companies that do it pretty well like Dell and Amazon Deals. That’s pure lead generation. But I also think that social in my mind is part of the process. So it is a great way to keep in touch. But more than that—to really nurture those leads, to create those relationships—so that ultimately they can go on to become an actual purchase.”

She adds, “I see social tools as being more nurturing tools than anything else. I think it’s definitely an opportunity to reach customers on a more intimate and personal level.” She talks about her own experiences on Twitter for MarketingProfs: “I’m on that channel on behalf of MarketingProfs, and I love talking to customers there. But I’m not necessarily expecting that each one is going to convert and become a Pro member and actually buy a membership at MarketingProfs. I don’t expect that all of them are going to attend our events. But yet they’re getting to know us. They’re getting to know me. They’re getting to know our content. So I see it as a step in that process.”

Emphasizing the personal relationship aspect of social media, she adds, “The reality is there is a certain percentage of people who will never buy. They’ll never convert. But I’m not looking at those people. I’m looking for the ones that have found a true connection with me. And I would say that there is that conversion happening.”

She also notes a challenge for marketers is how these interactions are measured and quantified as a step in the process.

Marketing and Sales Alignment: Content Development Helps Close the Gap

Click to start video at this pointIn response to a question about what she sees happening around marketing and sales alignment, Ann talks about a positive evolution when the two groups collaborate on content: “I think some of the content stuff I’ve seen does bring those two camps closer together. I’m seeing a little bit more of an integration between the content that marketing is putting together that they’re targeting for salespeople to use in the field. Companies that are doing it well are doing it particularly well. I do see things like marketing getting a better sense of not just putting out a white paper and handing it to their salespeople and then saying, ‘OK, here—use this as a nurturing tool.’ But I see them actually having a little bit more of a dialog going about ‘how do we actually create the kind of stuff that will help you sell?'”

2012 Recommendations: Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

Click to start video at this pointAsked about recommended top priorities for senior executives during the balance of the year, Ann notes that execs should really be paying attention to the quality of the content they’re producing—and not publish just any content. She says, “Good enough isn’t good enough any more. At least when it comes to content, you’ve really got to be producing stuff that is going to connect with your audience in a significant way.”

She adds that it’s also important to put social media in perspective: “Things like social media are great, but bear in mind that social is just a set of tools. If you don’t think about what your messaging is, if you’re not telling your story in a compelling way, then social media isn’t going to do much for you. It really is learning how to use those tools effectively, how to use them to tell your story, and to connect to your audiences in a more meaningful way.”

Ann also comments that mobile warrants higher emphasis—and not just about making your site accessible on a mobile device. Attention should also be paid to some of the mobile platforms and tools out there like Instagram.

Bottom Line: Tools Are Great, But Be Clear About Why You’re Using Them

Click to start video at this pointAnn concludes by emphasizing that the right strategy and underlying messaging need to be in place to achieve the full value of social media: “The bottom line for me is that all those things are just a set of tools. In the right hands, they can do a lot of great good. In the wrong hands, they can cause kind of a mess.”

Commenting on priorities, she adds, “So really be clear about why you’re using those tools. Really think through the strategy behind them. A lot of companies that I talk to will say, ‘Oh well, we need to be on Twitter—we need a Twitter strategy.’ This is ridiculous when you think about it. Or we need a Facebook strategy, or we need a Pinterest strategy. All that stuff is just silly, because those are tools that you can use to extend your brand, tell your story, and all the stuff that we’ve been talking about. But really it has to stem from strategy, getting your messaging right, getting your story right, and then allow the tools to help you amplify it from there.”

You can connect with Ann and learn more about her work at MarketingProfs via the following resources:

Ann Handley
Ann’s Email Address: ann at marketingprofs dot com

Ann on Twitter: @MarketingProfs

MarketingProfs Blog: MarketingProfs Daily Fix

Ann’s Website: www.annhandley.com

The next PowerViews will be with Brian Carroll of MECLABS. Stay Tuned.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dan McDade
Dan McDade founded PointClear in 1997 with the mission to be the first and best company providing prospect development services to business-to-business companies with complex sales processes. He has been instrumental in developing the innovative strategies that drive revenue for PointClear clients nationwide.


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