Marketing Boot Camp Emphasizes Strategy, Personalization and Empowerment

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“Why do I want to do this [particular initiative] ?” asked Joe Benson, president of Knowledge Marketing. 

“If you start without asking this, then you haven’t thought it through,” added Joel Hughes, chief digital officer for Ensemble IQ, and Benson's co-presenter in this well-synced, kick-off session, Own Your Audience and Own Your Data at yesterday's Marketing Boot Camp in Chicago. The well-attended event preceded the Connectiv Executive Summit  which continues today.

The “it” Hughes referred to is the organization of all your valuable data. But the question, as was made clear as the day wore on, should apply to anything you embark on. (In fact, Alice Ting, VP of licensing & content for The New York Times, began her keynote this morning asking, "Why do you want to license or syndicate your content? Where does it fit in your primary strategy?")

The idea of talking your strategy through before you jump into it was a theme for the Boot Camp, the second in an ongoing series—kind of an all-star road show—that SIIA is putting on this year. The next one will accompany the SIPA Annual 2017 Conference, June 5-7 in Washington, D.C.

Here are 9 key takeaways from yesterday’s sessions.

1. Form a strategy. “Without a strategy, you have little chance for success,” said Mitch Eisen, chief technology officer for Real Magnet, in his session on marketing automation. “What are you trying to accomplish? New customers, upselling, inbound,  lead gen? Without knowing those, people lose their way. Also, choosing the right platform [is essential]. Once you selected it, it’s [very hard] to unravel.” 

2. Look closely at your content's analytics. “What content is working [to engage people]?” asked Eisen. “We see shorter, visual content [working best]. We don’t see as much engagement in newsletters anymore. Short blurbs with links. He also emphasized the importance of centralized data., so it can be mined for opportunities.” Data can tell you what content in an email is most likely to get your prospects to purchase a publication. He summed up this era as Mad Men to Math Men, but maintained that people remain the focus. “You’re still trying to predict human intent,” he said.

3. "Do a general company valuation," said Hughes. "Look at your webinars, registration forms, lead gen, multiple publications, bulk emails. You have no idea what you’ve got until it’s all in one place.”

4. Look for “emotional taxonomies.” Frank Cutitta, director of the center for content analytics for HIMSS, highly values the importance of our feelings in choosing what we read. “You cannot separate emotion from predictive behavior,” he said. “Find out what kind of business emotion that content has.” He said that content about health care reform has emotion and gets lots of attention.

5. “We’re seeing success with paid social,” driving people back to your website, said Tracy Samantha Schmidt, principal of Socially Authentic, in a session on social media. Schmidt said she has had great success—an over-50% open rate—with a Sunday night “memo” that goes to executives. “It takes two-minutes to read and we really think value. CEOs are thinking about work at 7 pm on Sunday. I’m totally against putting everything on social media at 9 am Monday morning.”

6. “Empower your sales team to become brands themselves,” said Schmidt. “How do we empower employees to be advocates of our brands? Video is everything this year. [Brands] can make money off of that. And images are essential for all content being shared. Create images to support your content.” LinkedIn is becoming a thought leadership place, she added.

7. “Think like a business user in your send timing,” said Christina Karabetsos, executive vice president, QCSS, Inc., in her session on email marketing. She reiterated the value of subject lines—33% decide to open based on subject line alone. “Be short and sweet, less than 50 characters,” she said. Interestingly, she asked, who writes subject lines before writing his or her post. Only one person raised her hand. “That might be interesting to test.” I agree.

8. “Everything they do is like gold,” said James Arnold, vice president of digital sales for Farm Journal, describing data scientists during his session on segmentation. “They come in and look at data fresh. ‘That’s valuable,’ they’ll say, ‘and I’ll do the work to create [the work around it].' Be aggressive in your growth.”

9. Segment and personalize. Arnold said that Farm Journal had 20-25 e-newsletters four years ago and they killed them all except for five—replacing them with much more personalized versions. Using any service provider they can now deliver the top-ranked one based on the recipient. It was a telling idea for a day chock full of them.


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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…