Most digital marketers are used to negotiating while closing a deal with a client or bringing on a new hire. But what you might not know is that the same skills you use to be a good negotiator can transfer to fueling your content marketing. When you post a piece of web content, you are basically negotiating for the consumer’s time. This is what makes content marketing so important. You are convincing the reader that something about your content is compelling and worth the investment in time and energy. With the proliferation of content shock, people’s attentions are pulled towards consuming content from a million sources. Mastering negotiations as it applies to content marketing is a powerful way to win the battle for attention.
Higher education is more competitive than it has ever been. With public and private colleges and universities, online colleges and universities, trade and vocational schools, community colleges and everything in between vying for the attention of today’s students, it is increasingly difficult to attract and enroll the best students for your school.
These days, messages move at the speed of light. During the presidential debates, memes and hashtags of the candidates’ comments become trending topics before they even have time to take a breath at the end of their sentence. A few hours later, those same statements have been analyzed, Twitter streams sorted through, and the morning news programs have built an entire segment around the topic. Twelve hours later, we’ve all moved onto the next story, as this has already become old news. Any regular viewer of ABC’s Shark Tank knows that the key to success for a featured entrepreneur is having a website and production system capable of handling the massive amounts of traffic they will receive during the one-hour airing of the program, regardless of whether they land a deal with the investors or not. The point is, for businesses that are able to move on a dime and capitalize on real-time conversations, there is a tremendous opportunity to be had. But if you miss that window, you’ll miss the opportunity. Last week, news came out that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, America’s answer to royalty, had filed for divorce. News of the breakup hit every news station and Facebook and Twitter feed – Brad was soon to be eligible again! Within a couple days, Norwegian Airlines placed a print ad in the newspaper: Brad is single. Los Angeles. From/one way, incl. taxes £169* No fanfare, no need for an explanation. The message was simple, the timing was perfect, and when you saw it, you got the point. In fact, I didn’t even see it in print. I saw it on a friend’s Facebook profile because someone else who saw it in print thought it was so amusing that she took a photo of it and shared it on social media. And the power of social media has now taken a PRINT AD viral on social media. Think of the millions of unpaid views this message has now seen. Brilliant. So how do you do it if you’re not Norwegian Airlines? Can you position your business to take advantage of timely marketing opportunities? Absolutely, the key is to be ready and able to move on a dime.
‘Just Be Creative’.Marketers, web developers, and graphic designers shudder at this commonly-delivered phrase in meetings with clients. There’s nothing wrong with creativity in design of course, and you want your website to stand out from the sea of other similar companies and organizations. The problem is not with the idea of being creative, it’s in the focus on uniqueness and creativity over strategy and user experience. ‘Just be creative’ leads the web development team and the client down a path that has no strategic goal, and is one of the biggest website redesign mistakes you can make. Before undertaking a website redesign, there are many factors that your organization should consider. Notice that the actual design is at the end of this list for a reason: the design should work toward achieving the strategic plan that you’ve laid out and should support your goals. If you focus first on the ‘pretty pictures’, you’ll end up trying to fit your strategy into a specific design, and you’ll lose sight of the path to reach your goals. Before you start considering new designs, take some time to answer these questions:
If you own a physical location such as a restaurant or retail shop, it’s pretty easy to see how prospective customers interact with your products and services. They walk in, pay attention to certain items, ignore or don’t notice others, and over time, show you the path that the majority of people will take toward purchasing (or not purchasing) from you. In a coffee shop, for example, it’s pretty easy to watch customers and notice if they are more drawn to high cocktail style tables or comfy armchairs. You can see if they’re searching under the tables for outlets to power their laptops or asking for the WiFi password. You know which drinks they are most interested in (mmm… pumpkin spice!) or which they are turned off by (was it the name or the ingredients that they hated?). But how can you gather that same information from digital customers – those who check out your website but never make a purchase? How can you learn what brought them in, got them to click through, or ultimately turned them off before they completed their purchase? There are many ways to get this information. All you need to know is how to ask.
Now that you know how an email address can help you see what prospective customers are interested in and looking for on your website, and how it can help you build relationships with prospects and lead you to future clients, you’re probably wondering how to best ask for those email addresses. After all, asking someone for their email address immediately tells them ‘I’m probably going to start sending you a bunch of stuff you may not want, which will clutter up your inbox and cost you time in sorting through and deleting it.’ So how do you ensure prospective clients that not only will you send them high-value information that they’ll appreciate and enjoy, but that you’ll do it on a schedule that doesn’t overwhelm them? Essentially, that you’re ‘not like every other company sending out unsolicited email’? The key is how you collect the information from at the very beginning.
In most customer interactions, such as when a prospect is visiting your website, chatting with a store employee, sampling your items at a market, or calling to ask a question, there is an opportunity for your business or organization to collect a single piece of information that will allow you to learn more about their needs and interests and how to serve them better. It can help you to find other people with similar needs and interests whom you can market to. Over time, this single piece of information can show you where to find your best customers, and you can learn where your limited marketing and advertising budget is best spent.
The key to selling is to get into your prospective customers’ heads and give them exactly what they have been waiting for, before they ever think to ask for it, or even know what it is that they want. Sound crazy? This is the theory that turned ordinary CEO’s Henry Ford and Steve Jobs into business celebrities and two of the most successful entrepreneurs in history. Henry Ford famously stated “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” When Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone, he didn’t have hordes of customers asking for a phone that could hold an entire music library and replace your music player, or one that you could watch movies and download audio books on. Nobody was asking for it, because no one had considered that it could be done – but now it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t have immediate access to all of the information in the world right in our back pockets.
The Problem of Recruiting without a Marketing StrategyTraditionally, human resources and marketing have always maintained their own unique educations, their own tracks toward career advancement, and their own goals and agendas. Human resources is focused primarily on recruiting, hiring and retaining staff, and improving the culture and efficiency of the workplace, among many other roles. Marketing is focused on building the brand, increasing awareness of the organization’s products and services in the market, generating leads and drawing prospective customers into the sales cycle, among many other roles. It’s hard to picture a situation where these two would overlap, and in many organizations the problem is that they are in fact, completely separate. Here’s the problem: in order to attract, hire and retain the best talent, the people who will go ‘all in’ for your organization, who will give their best every day, and who will be your biggest cheerleaders, you need to market to them. The same way that marketing presents your organization’s products and services, and the brand itself, to prospective customers, you need to present the company to prospective employees. In the current economy, there is a lot of demand for high-skilled workers, and a smaller pool of individuals looking for a new job. So you’re now competing with many other organizations to attract and retain those employees, and if you don’t have an attractive story, you’re going to have a hard time getting their attention.
According to a 2016 Hubspot consumer research study, 23% of consumers listened, and paid close attention to podcasts, while 36% admitted to ‘skimming’ podcasts. At the same time, 55% of the respondents stated that they thoroughly consumed video content. If your organization uses podcasting as a way to deliver your marketing message and develop relationships with prospects and current customers, this may be concerning. How is that people are ‘skimming’ podcasts, and what can you do to make sure they’re actively listening to your content? Should you completely abandon your podcasting efforts and move toward video, or develop a multi-channel content strategy?