What’s Your 2016 Content Marketing Game Plan?

Have you ever heard anyone in marketing say “I love the annual budgeting and planning process.”?  I certainly haven’t, and most marketers I know have a bit of dread and resignation in their voice when they talk fall planning.  We’re doing something at Systym to help make the process easier and create your best content marketing plan ever.

We’ve developed Systym GAME PLAN.  GAME PLAN is a complete 2016 messaging and content strategy engagement featuring detailed, persona-specific messaging and an integrated, customer-centric tactical content plan.  A couple highlights of Systym GAME PLAN:

Nail your message – Even the most brilliant tactics won’t work as well without clear, relevant messaging.  We’ll make sure you get your message right.

An objective view – The planning process is often a political minefield, while we can’t change that, we can provide an independent, expert perspective our clients have shared is extremely helpful navigating those internal challenges.

No tactical tail wagging the strategic dog – People fall in love with tactics, channels and programs which can lead to less effective content decisions.  Our approach assures your story is clear and we find the right medium for your messages.

It’s powerful – You’ll receive a plan you’ll be proud to share far and wide within your organization that will provide a clear, pragmatic view of what to do in 2016.

This is our thing – Messaging design and content planning is our CORE business, not an aside.  We’re experts.

You can learn more about Systym GAME PLAN here or contact us and we an talk through your specific needs.  We’d love to help you get through this planning season with flying colors.


Brand Authenticity – Crafted or Contrived

Companies are striving to connect with their customers by embracing the special and unique. Brands want to emphasize an understanding of their audience and their personal connection with the customer. Unfortunately, managing perception can be tricky, especially if consumers see these initiatives as thinly veiled manipulation.

Content Studio or Content Factory?

Are you a studio or a factory?  A movie studio is focused on story, narrative and answering questions like; does the story work? Are the characters engaging?  Does the film deliver the overall experience and “feel” the Director has in his or her mind?  The underlying driver, and priority is around story.  Transformer movies excepted. […]

Marketing Automation and Content Strategy Research

We’re excited to release the results of our research from the Fall on the intersection of marketing automation and content strategy.  There’s no shortage of content and material on each of these topics individually,  we wanted to explore specifically how marketers were thinking about the integration of marketing automation technology and the challenges of content marketing.

One of the big headlines from the research is that 73% of marketing automation users in the survey felt a better understanding of customer journey would help them get more value from their marketing automation investment.  The benefits of improved customer journey insight go far beyond just marketing automation, but a very compelling response about the potential direct impact on technology value.

The full report is available for free at this link or click on the image below.  Thanks again to everyone who participated, more research to come later this quarter.

Marketing Automation and Content Strategy research

Uberflip Your Content Marketing

Hana Abaza, Director of Marketing at Uberflip joined me late last week for a quick conversation about Uberflip.  I was prompted to find out more after hearing them named as a company doing some interesting things in content marketing.  Audio file and full transcript of the conversation below.  Thanks Hana for sharing the overview.


Chris:              Today I’m speaking with Hana Abaza from Uberflip. Hana, thanks for joining me today.

Hana:             Happy to be here. Thanks.

Chris:             I came across Uberflip in an article that was calling out what they were calling next-generation marketing automation/content marketing tools and technologies. Spent some time on your site, you guys are doing some really interesting stuff and I thought you might just take a couple minutes and tell us in your own words what you’re doing at Uberflip and how it’s unique and different.

Hana:             Yeah, absolutely. At Uberflip, we’re really focused on two things. We’re focused on helping marketers create their slick, front end experience for all of their content, and then, on the back end of that, we’re focused on giving marketers the tools they need to actually leverage their content to generate leads, so we start off by helping you aggregate your content that will connect to your blog articles, your social media content, video, even ebooks and white papers.

We’ll pull them all into what we call a content hub, and then, we’ll give you the tools to actually create, to include call-to-action elements within that hub, forms to date content. All of that really connects with your marketing automation tool, whatever you might be using, MailChimp, HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, et cetera, to really create a seamless experience.

When somebody lands on your content hub, they might fill out a form for lead generation, that will automatically get sent over to your marketing ecosystem, whatever that might be, and from there, you can trigger whatever you need to in order to nurture that lead. As much as we focus on creating that great look and experience, the magic really comes in when we’re taking a look at those lead generation tools that we really provide for marketers.

Chris:              A very basic question, how would I integrate Uberflip with my existing website?

Hana:             That’s a great question, so there’s actually several different need cases for it. One of the most popular things that we see is marketers coming in and wanting to maybe revamp something like a resource center on their site. Most B2B companies, especially when you go on their website have some sort of a resource center or learning center, which is full of content, like ebooks, videos, maybe blog articles. Generally speaking, most of them are pretty sketchy looking. They look like they were designed in 1995.

What we do is we can actually power that resource center. You can implement it a couple of different ways. You can either have a link to your resource center in a top navigation and you can link out to your hub, which can fit externally or you can take your hub and you can just embed it directly within your website, so when somebody clicks on resource center, they go to that page within your site and your content have it embedded there.

Chris:              Well, that’s great. Now, that makes a lot of sense. Talk about multi-platform, so does Uberflip automatically do any kind of optimization of your content from multiple platforms? Talk about that a little bit.

Hana:             A hundred percent, so when we’re taking a look at Uberflip, it is, well, number one, it’s a 100% responsive. Regardless of where you’re looking at a content hub, whether it’s on your mobile device, on your tablet, on a big a screen, it’s going to look fantastic. That was first and foremost, because we all know how much we’re sacrificing in terms of conversion rates and engagement when somebody hits a content experience that’s not optimized for mobile.

I promise you, you’ll sacrifice things in major dollars there, and that’s something we’d really take in into account in terms of optimizing the experience for not just the marketer but for the end user as well.

Chris:              In looking at your site, I noticed something interesting that I’ve not ever seen with any technology provider yet is you guys have this Flipbook functionality, where you can turn PDFs into Flipbooks. Can you talk a little bit about that, both what the feature is and also what led you to develop a feature like that? That’s kind of an interesting innovative thing.

Hana:             You know what’s funny, is Flipbooks was actually our core product initially. Before we actually rebranded to Uberflip and kind of expanded from just a tool to a content marketing platform. Flipbooks was what we did, so essentially, what flipbook is, is it allows publishers, content marketers, anybody that’s got any sort of PDF content, like a magazine or catalog, or brochure, an ebook or white paper.

We allow you to take that PDF and convert it into what we call a flipbook, which is far more interactive than a boring PDF. When you convert something to a flipbook, you then have the ability to embed videos directly within that content. Imagine a video within your white paper that just plays for you.

You have the option to add call-to-actions and additional links, and the real, real sort of magic behind the flipbook is the metrics that you actually get from it. If you’ve got a PDF that’s there, you’re really not going to get any feedback in terms of how people are engaging with it, whereas with a flipbook, you know how far they’ve read in the flipbook, which pages they’re reading, where they’re zooming in, which videos they’re playing.

It’s actually, I can’t even … I don’t even remember how many metrics we have available for flipbooks, but I think it’s 30 different metrics that you can look at to determine how engaged people are with your actual flipbook. That is definitely something that’s unique to the Uberflip platform.

There are other companies that will do sort of the social media aggregation in the content aggregation piece, but none of them have the flipbooks component which actually help turn PDF content into something much more engaging and very few of them also focus on lead generation, so the lead gen piece is definitely the other big piece which makes it as cool for a not just resource center but we use it for sales enablement, we use it for events, we use it for so many other things.

Chris:              I just thought that it’s really, really great and so many companies have so much great content but locked up in PDFs and flipbooks make it more interesting. On your site, there’s a number of customers that you call out, I’m curious from your perspective, who are the customers that are doing some of the coolest stuff with Uberflip?

Hana:             There’s a couple, so, there’s a company called Monetate, really cool company, very niche. They do personalization software for marketers essentially, so if you go to a website and they know who you are, they can personalize the copy on that website for you. They’re doing some very cool things. If you go to monetate.com, you click on their resource center, that’s all powered by Uberflip. They got some great content up there, and they’re really leveraging the call-to-actions really well.

I know Monetate, they do this quarterly where they’re releasing the e-commerce quarterly. I actually tested that flipbook, those behind a traditional landing page, which is how you see most content data these days, and then they tested it behind on Uberflip call-to-action where we gauge the piece of content for them and I actually saw 250% increase in conversion rates with our platform. Really cool to see that and really cool to see a company that’s actually testing those things.

So many companies don’t actually have a really good pulse on their metrics when it comes to that stuff. The other company that’s doing some great stuff. Actually, there’s two more that I’ll mention to you. A company called Captora, which is also in the content marketing space. They had an awesome director of marketing, Dina is her name, and she put together a killer content hub. The last one I’ll point you to, there’s so many good ones to choose from. Let’s say Visual.ly.

I think most of us are familiar with Visual.ly. They’re basically a marketplace for all these great visuals and infographics. Their content hub is one of the top-scoring hubs we have, so one of the features we have in our platform is we actually provide you with a content score for every single piece of content so you could see how each score is performing relative to the number of subscribers or leads that generating. Depending on what your goals are.

Visually is one of the top ranking ones across all of our customer base, so they’re definitely doing some cool stuff.

Chris:              That’s great. I know you just mentioned a couple of metrics, but is there any kind of a general metric that you have? Let’s just take marketing automation users. People who are using marketing automation that use your hub versus people who are using automation and not using your hub. What kind of a lift are you seeing just generally with people who are using Uberflip in terms of the performance of their content? Do you have any metrics around that?

Hana:             We have micrometrics around how people are using like the Monetate example that I gave you. In terms of lead generation, we’re actually working with customers now to get some of their metrics. We have some internally that unfortunately I can’t share, because customers shared it with us in confidence, but yeah, we are definitely seeing a lift.

The majority of that really comes down to the content experience, so remembering that most of these people are going from a content marketing that’s very 1995 to a content marketing hub that is designed to up engagement. It’s very visual and it has all of the lead gen tools that you need there. I don’t know if you checked it out, but if you go to our hub, there’s a blog article. We actually did an analysis of a hundred marketing software blogs and we basically did an analysis of their content experience and how good it was.

We did it based on a few different criteria like, for example, whether or not it has a call-to-action, whether or not the content was matching the buyer persona, whether or not it had any visuals included, so really a list of criteria that really focus on the experience.

This is marketing software blog, so you would think that being in the marketing industry, they do have a better pulse on it, but you’d be surprised at how poorly the vast majority of these blogs make in terms of their experience. It was hard to find things. It was hard to give them any information. You couldn’t sign up for anything. You didn’t know where to go next.

It really does come down to the experience first and foremost and the bar has definitely been raised. When you take a look at all of us interacting online, and I mean whether we blame Pinterest for this or not, everything online is much more visual, every experience online is much more interactive. If you’re a marketer, whether it’s B2B or B2C and you’re not leveraging that, you’re definitely sacrificing a lot in terms of conversion rates, dollars and gross.

Chris:              You guys are doing some really, really great stuff. I appreciate you taking a few minutes to share what you’re up to and giving everyone a little flavor for what you’re doing at Uberflip. Thank you so much, Hana.

Hana:             Yeah, no problem at all. Thank you, Chris.

Content Isn’t Concrete

Scan the mass of content marketing conversations and resources and you’ll find plenty of information about how to create, curate, distribute and track content. The tone of the collective dialogue can give the sense that “content” is a generic raw material, a basic, non-descript, concrete we pour into whatever content marketing form we need in the moment. Content isn’t concrete.

When we’re in the throes of managing all the many moving parts of a content marketing program we can lose sight of how the details of each piece support the larger idea. The “brand story” your team painstakingly developed can seem like a vague and distant memory. The management of an active content marketing program can be like having a tiger by the tail, you’re putting all your effort into just hanging on. You’re not thinking about the “narrative”, or the tiger’s motivation and backstory.

How do we manage feeding the content marketing beast and making sure each piece of content we create has a clear message AND connects to a cohesive whole?

Clarify your story – It’s impossible to create content that effectively supports a fuzzy story. Spend the time to crystalize your messaging. Do it with your internal team, hire an agency or consultant or use any of the million available resources to help with this. Clear messaging is your touchstone.

Who’s it for? – Basic stuff, but really think about who your content will work for. There will be content that works reasonably well across all audiences and some will need to be focused on specific market segments or profiles. All-purpose content has a place, but like many things billed as all-purpose, you may get something that is broadly mediocre instead of narrowly effective.

Battle conditions – “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” You’ve no doubt heard some variation of this famous quote. In the heat of managing an active content marketing program your well-documented, defined plan can go right out the window. Leave capacity to respond to the ad hoc program changes, mandates from the corner office or in-the-moment opportunities.

Hit the pause button – Before you hit publish, send or post take a minute to bump your content against your true north messaging. Ideally this mapping should have happened at the onset, but do that last check and make sure things ring true. You may be inspired to frame what you publish slightly differently after reminding yourself how it fits into the big picture.

Each and every piece of content you create, or curate, has it’s own unique characteristics and should tie to the larger story. When the content in content marketing is strong, we see the full potential of medium and message working together. In the end we all love a good, well-constructed story. You’ll need a lot more than just concrete to build it.

Learn more about our vision for marketing experience designdownload our vision document

Marketing Automation Foundation

No, this is not an announcement of a new non-profit benefiting marketing automation companies. They all seem to be doing just fine for themselves. This is about the importance — and necessity — of doing foundational work to realize the full potential of marketing automation.

Marketing automation has exploded over the last few years. There’s more vendors than you can keep track of and a range of sizes and sophistication levels. A handful have been acquired/integrated/assimilated by the software titans like Salesforce.com, Oracle and Adobe, while others are still out there feisty and independent. Adoption continues to grow and most marketers have at least kicked the tires on a marketing automation solution at some point.

We all love the vision of how marketing automation can make our lives better and easier; reducing manual work, dynamically generating highly–targeted messages, scoring leads and providing great measurement and analytics. Whether you’re already down the road with a marketing automation solution or thinking of getting started, it’s absolutely essential that you pause for a moment and assess your status in some core areas.

Accurate view of current state – Knowing where you are now in terms of communication and process is essential as a grounding element and baseline for creation of new communication plans.

Defined target profiles – Every business has a handful of core buyer profiles.  These profiles can be based on a wide variety of criteria, but defining your profiles is a requirement for developing targeted messages.

Understanding of prospect/customer experience – It’s difficult, if not impossible, to configure and automate an experience that you don’t fully understand. Clarification of the buying stages and dynamics will inform how and where you can best leverage marketing automation.

Clear messages – While this may seem like one of the most obvious areas to have crisply defined, surprisingly many organizations are murky on their messaging. Developing and defining your message is a distinctly human exercise, technology can help amplify your message, but the messages themselves need that human touch. Get clear on your messaging.

At Systym, we occasionally see instances of marketing automation backlash: marketers who have made the technology investment but are disappointed in the business impact. It’s rarely a technology problem, most often it’s a marketer who hasn’t done the important core work and is still using powerful technology the same way they were using a $29 per month email solution.

What we do at Systym is help marketers define relevant, insightful marketing experiences. The plans we create can then be used as a detailed blueprint for configuring a marketing automation solution. Our belief is a more relevant experience better serves the interests of both customers and businesses.

Regardless of how you do it, invest the time and effort in the foundational work. Marketing automation in some form is likely in your future, nail the basics and realize the full value of whatever flavor of marketing automation solution you select.

This post approved by the Marketing Automation Foundation

The Chief Digital Officer. Doomed or Destiny?

Chief Digital Officer Graphic

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new title making its way to a C-suite near you: Chief Digital Officer.  I’m certainly not breaking this news, MIT, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and an array of others have covered the emergence of the CDO in the last few months.  There’s already a Chief Digital Officer Summit and a long and growing list of respected organizations who’ve made the jump and hired CDOs.  The Chief Digital Officer is here.  Whether the CDO is here to stay is another question.

The business world is still getting its collective head around the idea of a CDO with perspectives ranging from overtly negative to extremely bullish.  A Russell Reynolds Associates piece states  “In many cases, the CDO will be the senior executive handling the fastest growing revenue streams within the business or will be the executive holding the keys to the company’s future—placing him or her squarely in line to replace the CEO.”  Sounds like a position a few people might be interested in.

Whether or not you’re a believer in the CDO role, it’s clear we are in a state of massive transition and accelerated organizational evolution.  Gone are the days of neatly parsing functional roles and responsibilities and managing an organization in old-school silos.  The modern business fabric should be tightly-woven, highly connected and effectively blended.  The CDO role could be a catalyst to create more collaborative, multidimensional businesses if that isn’t happening organically, or the role could be quickly marginalized and tossed on the “great idea, didn’t quite work the way we thought” heap.

While we wait to see how things evolve, I see a handful of reasons a CDO might be a fantastic idea:

Hybrid power – Whether it’s a marketing-minded technologist or a technology-minded marketer we need leaders with a hybrid skill set.  To some extent this is happening now where marketers are increasingly tech-savvy and a surprising number of IT-professionals are becoming much more knowledgeable about marketing.  Still a long way to go on both sides of that equation so a CDO with skills in both areas would be valuable.

Independent perspective – A CDO may be in a position to provide counsel or make key decisions without the innate organizational biases of their CIO/CMO counterparts.  It may be naive to think a member of any organization is without bias and not impacted by political factors, but a new role could disrupt entrenched structures and allow new approaches and ideas to take hold.

Holistic thinking – In Marketing and IT we often gravitate to thinking about things in terms of technologies, tools, campaigns, and programs.  Even when thinking strategically there seems to be a natural inclination to slide into these more tactical or narrowly focused frames.  A CDO might be in a position to think more holistically.

And there are of course a handful of reasons a Chief Digital Officer might not work well:

Not a one size fits all – Both the definition of the CDO role as well as unique organizational dynamics will define the success or failure of the CDO.  These definitions and dynamics will vary wildly as will the success rate of the CDO.  Adjusting to a new member of an executive team could be a bumpy transition even where the CDO role and individual in that position are seen as significant contributors.

CIO/CMO marginalization – How will current CIO/CMO’s react to a CDO?  Will this new position be seen as a valuable resource or perceived as a wedge driving them further from the CEO and hijacking their budgets, talent, and internal influence?  It’s easy to think about the insertion of the CDO rationally without considering the human reality of how existing leadership may react.  A likely reality is many CIO/CMOs may not be wild about the impact of a CDO.  How would you feel?

Collaborative culture – Whether it’s a CDO leading the way or the existing CIO/CMO team the key to digital success will be organizational alignment, shared objectives and a collaborative culture.  Businesses who understand this will ultimately get where they need to go.  Businesses who don’t will end up crashed on the rocks, regardless of which C-title is running the show.  A CDO in the wrong culture will have a tough path to success.

Overall organizational alignment, shared vision, and objectives is the CEO’s job.  I personally believe the CEO needs to be the CDO.  Who better than the CEO to create and communicate a vision and organizational framework coupled with a smart, empowered team to execute around that structure?  Stepping back a bit, the CDO role is only a little piece of the bigger story of how businesses will adapt to the convergence of tools, technologies, and consumer expectations in an always-on, multi-platform world.  The Chief Digital Officer experiment is underway.

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Augmented Reality Check

Augmented Reality World Image

I was fortunate to attend the Augmented World Expo earlier this week and I think I can say my reality has been augmented in a very positive way.  The event itself was very well run (Great job to Ori Inbar and his team) with an impressive roster of presenters, vendors and AR experts.  For me this event crystallized many of my thoughts about AR and opened my eyes to an infinite number of possibilities.  We are currently working on a research project for this Fall which will dig into AR in more detail and explore how marketers can begin thinking about tapping the amazing potential of this new set of capabilities.  In the interim a few quick thoughts related to Augmented Reality for marketers:

AR is amazing!  The experiences and capabilities available right now, today, are incredible.  I could fill an entire blog post with links to demonstrations of AR that showcase the whiz-bang, oooh, aaaah impact of well executed AR campaigns.  With great restraint I’m including a handful of links to provide a flavor of what’s possible.  This truly only scratches the surface.

No shortage of Hype.  Given the nature of AR and the new experiences it can provide the hype factor around this new bright, shiny object is high.  I contributed to the hype myself with the initial portion of this post.  Reliable data about the industry and AR impact on marketing campaign performance is tough to find at this early stage.  Our upcoming report will include a sampling of metrics, but right now there is at best a loose connection back to specific marketing ROI in most cases.  If you’re looking into AR from a marketing perspective, ask a lot of questions and make sure you push for clarity on what vendors can actually provide, which pieces they don’t offer and what success stories they have in your space.

AR is in it’s Wild West phase.  It’s a little chaotic, there’s a ton of energy, talent and potential but also a lot to sort through.  Being involved with AR at this early stage is likely to be a little bumpy, but an exciting ride.

The future is now.  It’s not big news we’re living in a mobile, multi-platform, always-on world.   AR is in many ways just an extension of this mobile lifestyle.  As devices continue to become more pervasive and seamlessly integrated into our lives the more valuable and effective AR-style marketing programs will become.  If you’re in marketing you WILL be involved in AR marketing in some shape or form sooner than you think.

So much more to cover on Augmented Reality for marketers, much of it to be included in our upcoming report.  The YouTube channel for Augmented Reality Expo is worth some time, a solid collection of interviews with many of the key players in the space.  Learn what you can, AR is here to stay.