WriterAccess Webinar Archive
Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 – 1:00 PM ET
We're moving into a new era of marketing, from product-centered content to customer-centric experiences that drive content strategy and performance. How do you make the transition?
Carla Johnson joins Byron for this month's webinar. Big Brands, as it turns out, are achieving content marketing performance goals much faster with delightful, sustainable brand stories that draw readers in and make them want to engage and buy. Our role as marketers is changing from the basics of describing what products and services do into understanding how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences for audiences.
In this webinar you will learn about:
- Leaping from product talk into content-driven experiences
- A framework for creating consistent and scalable brand experiences
- Immediate steps to get started and win long term
The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.
Byron: Welcome. Byron White here. Trying to tune into the 59th anniversary of our webinar series here. It’s not really an anniversary, I guess. But I’m very excited to be joined with Carla Johnson. Carla, welcome. (silence) I’ll go over, I’m not hearing you yet Carla so while you’re waiting to tune in here and figuring out your line, I’m going to go ahead and make a few announcements.
This presentation will be recorded and it will be available to everybody and sent to everyone that’s tuned in to this presentation. We’ll also be sending out a link to my book to everybody that wants to download it that doesn’t have a copy already, The Content Marketing Roadmap, and/or the other book I wrote called The Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide. I’m super excited to be joined with Carla today who is one of 27 speakers at Content Marketing Conference. I also have a special treat for everybody that tuned in today to get a 25% discount to the conference in case anybody wants to join both Carla and I there. We also have a super fun video coming out, which you’ll all get a link to pretty soon, given that you’re on our mailing list. It’s really kind of comical, sort of edgy. It’ll be a nice experience for you perhaps to see something edgy produced on the content marketing topic with all the clutter that’s out there. It’s just a fun piece. When you get it, I’ll look forward to your feedback and then have some fun.
Today we want to dive in to a topic that is actually super exciting because Carla has just published a book called, this very title of this webinar, which is called Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We’re super excited for Carla to join us. The book literally released yesterday. How fun is that? She’s hot off the press, literally. Not too many times I can say that in my life with a guest on our webinar series here. We’ve had plenty of authors and great speakers, but no one has published a book the day before – so that’s kind of fun. What we’re going to go through, just really quickly, is sort of a summary, by the way there’s some great contact information, Carla have you joined us yet? Are you live?
Carla: I have, yes. It’s nice to be here this morning, Byron. Thank you.
Byron: You bet! We’re excited to have you, Carla, It’s always a joy. It’s funny, I was talking with some folks over at CMI yesterday and I was telling them about the webinar and how excited I was. They described you, Carla, as a bundle of joy packed with positive energy.
Carla: Oh wow! That’s a lot to live up to.
Byron: Exactly. Well, it’s all true from all my experience with you. I’m truly honored to have you with us today and excited to hear your presentation. Without further ado, we’re going to talk about some really neat things today. One of those things that certainly going to be the top of my, for me to learn from Carla is this concept of building credibility for the work that I create from a writer’s perspective and even internally from your marketing department. How do I build credibility up?
Credibility becomes a critical element for earning decision-making authority within your company, within your agency, whatever the case may be. That becomes a pivotal part of the puzzle. We’ll look forward to some answers. Another question is, “How do experiences fit with marketing and why are they important?” We’ve heard a lot of very interesting chatter these days about experiential marketing and how experiences are critical and being monitored and measured and vetted through looking at various aspects of those experiences, whether it be experiencing your brand from a customer service perspective or experiencing your content assets and engaging with them. We’re also seeing a paradigm shift of starting to view our brands almost as something that can be experienced and I think Carla’s going to have some really cool insight there for us on how storytelling and the elements of our brand become something that becomes part of the experience that we need to work on diligently as content marketers.
Another interesting question that relates to this “How can engagement and experiences in the social sphere change everything?” We’ve certainly seen that in our company. Just the other day I had an interesting experience with a writer that was using Facebook to do a shout out to me saying, “Hey Byron, I had some interesting thing happen to me. I was looking through Facebook and an article I that I wrote had been spun by another company and there I was, reading some spins on my work with the exact same format, changes of headline, but not a lot of change of everything.” So, it’s kind of interesting when we start having experience online with content assets, engagements. That was obviously a negative one, in the sense that they felt violated that their content had been pillaged by somebody else that didn’t even put a lot of time into revamping it, but clearly this social platform that we’re working with everyday is bringing to us engagement and experiential marketing, if you will, in some pretty interesting ways. So, how does that change everything?
The other point really here is, “How do I pivot product marketing and move away from product marketing to more customer driven marketing?” How do I learn what the wants and needs of customers are? Do I use my search box? Do I use our conversion path analysis? Do I use some questionnaires or surveys that pop up on my website to really learn what customers want, what their pain points are? How do we learn that information and turn it into something that becomes a relevant, engaging asset that offers insight and value to customers. Difficult questions.
Finally, How do I transform the rebels on my team, if you will, that all want to change the world with marketing, how do I turn them more into a platoon that has authority, and decision-making authority and credibility so we can get more done, secure more assets and drive this content marketing train the way that it really should be driven – which is often much different than what we’re stuck with as far as budgets are concerned.
Finally, here’s a super cool code for you that is exciting. You can use code BYRON25 if you go to ContentMarketingConference.com and get a fun 25% discount on whatever rack rate is up there now, I’m not sure what it is. We were doing the math on this the other day and at the Rio and we think that meals, hotel, everything included, conference, you can basically be in less than a thousand dollars for this whole conference, which is pretty amazing. Assuming you don’t lose any gambling in Vegas, I will footnote that. That’s a pretty reasonable opportunity, I think. It’s really exciting that we can host this at the Rio, have everything right there for everybody. We really want as many people as possible to take advantage of these 27 speakers that are onboard with us. More on that later. Now let’s turn it on over to Carla to enjoy this presentation. Carla, take it away.
Carla: Thank you, Byron. I think you set the stage very well today for what marketers struggle with and it really bubbles up to credibility. I’m really happy today to talk about this with everyone. First of all, I want to thank you and I want to thank the whole WriterAccess team as we get started today. You do a great job of putting on excellent content that really helps move people forward and I appreciate that. As you said earlier, my background, the fun thing about this webinar today is that as you said, it comes right on the heels of releasing a book by this very name yesterday. Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing and that’s what we’re going to talk about a lot today. I co-authored it with a very talented man named Robert Rose and he’s the chief strategist for The Content Marketing Institute. A little bit more about my background: I’ve had an agency in Denver, Colorado since 2001 called “Type A Communications.” Since then, I’ve helped companies to unlock and nurture and strengthen their storytelling muscle across the company. Then also help them inspire and train people who are the ones tasked with actually making this happen. I also serve as the Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association. That’s a professional association that’s focused on elevating marketing within business-to-business companies. It provides a lot of education, collaboration, and networking.
As we get started on today’s topic about Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, I want to talk a little bit about where we think marketing is headed because the year 2020 sounds like it’s a long ways away, but actually it’s not. It’s only 5 years. When you think about 5 years in time, it does sound like you have a lot time for cushion to make changes and put plans in place, get technology platforms where they need to be and so forth. But when you think about even just social media and it’s impact on marketing, LinkedIn is already 12 years old. Facebook is 11 years old, Twitter’s 9, and Instagram’s 5. Right there you have a nice solid family that’s much older and much further along than even what we have to look forward to in the distance to 2020.
While it’s hard to imagine living without any of these platforms, some people still kind of consider them new and even diving into social media can feel a little trepidatious for some companies, if that’s what’s not natural for the industry. So it’s even more overwhelming and more important to think about what’s ahead between now and the year 2020 so we can get ready for that. There are so many things that are changing how buyers make decisions and that means that what we do as marketers needs to change at least as fast, if not faster if we’re going to keep up and be ahead of them on the road as we look ahead to 2020. A big part of this isn’t just because customers are changing how they research and how they review and how they buy these days, but it’s also changing a lot because what customers value is also changing dramatically.
Where does this desire for experiences come from? There’s research that came from EventBrite that has shown that the Millennials, those people under the age of 35, now account for more than a trillion dollars annually of consumer spending. Now as we’re solidly into 2015, they’re now at the helm of what is being called the experience economy. Research has also pointed out that Millennials suffer from FOMO, that irrational fear of missing out on something and that’s the primary driver for the Millennials desire for new experiences. But interestingly Millennials aren’t the only ones who have this desire. There’s a 2013 study that came out of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. and the U.K. and in it researchers found that in our constantly connected world, that what people craved most were sensory experiences over products. In fact this study found that 81% of Millennials, 79% of GenXer’s and 78% of Baby Boomers value experiences more than they do material things. In fact 65% would rather spend money on an experience than they would on a product.
Now, as we have all of this in mind, I want to ask you a question. What is it that you really do? As you come to work everyday and you think about the bigger picture or impact that you can make and what you can have – what is it that you really do? Undoubtedly, if you’re with this community today, you’re job in some way, shape or form, involves communicating the value of the products or the services that your company sells so that other people will buy them, right? Because if we don’t sell then our companies won’t stay in business and we won’t have jobs. So we ultimately do want to do that. I’d also venture to say that you’re probably finding it harder to differentiate your product from the rest of marketplace. Why is that?
Leading brands are already understanding that they need to shift from focusing on what and how much they sell to creating customer centric experiences. But the hard part is evolving the role of marketing in a way that creates an organizational structure that actually allows for this.
We’re seeing that instead of just describing the value of the products and the services that our companies sell, as marketers, what marketing really needs to do is to create differentiated, experiential value that is separate and distinct from a product and service. That’s a really important concept that we’ll dig into further here. Marketing’s need to create those differentiated, experiential value that is separate and distinct from the product and service itself. It sounds like a really big stretch, but actually, we’ve naturally kind of gotten into this. We’re going to take a look now at how we’ve gotten to where we are today.
Most marketing textbooks generally agree that the development of marketing as a process happened over 5 distinct eras that covered about 125 years. It started in the U.S. with The Trade Era during the Industrial Revolution. Companies began selling their excess products and began to get better at their marketing during this time. It was basically characterized by where companies could ideally sell and trade their goods. Companies focused on talking about the value of their products. In this ad for example, Dr. Price’s Baking Powder felt that it was really important to point out that their product was free from ammonia, lime, or aluminum. We’ve come a long way since then, that’s for sure. As we think about the classic 4P’s of marketing, this era focused on the place, the availability of a product.
The next era was The Production Era. By the time the 1900s roll around, the US economy was thriving and a lot of people were getting used to a more urban lifestyle. This era was really defined by mass production. Marketing focused on production and distribution as competitive differentiators. For example, this is an example from the 1920s for Schlitz beer. The ad highlighted that the beer was bottled in brown glass, which meant that it was less likely to have a skunky taste than beer that was bottled in a light colored bottle. This era was clearly focusing on the product part of the 4Ps.
Next came The Sales Era. This was a period of time that had the Roaring 20s and the bust of the Depression and at the center of all this was the salesman. In 1937, Dale Carnegie wrote he’s famous book that we still hear a great deal about today, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Customers were becoming skeptical of the promises that he ads were giving them and they wanted to be more informed to have proof that what marketing was saying was actually true. So strategies swung to price and what you were getting. This is an ad from Pontiac and it’s a really good example because they wanted to know from sales people what was the biggest value that they were receiving for the price that they were paying. Interestingly, when you look at the fact that this compared the facts and the details of one product to another, the later part of this era began to shift into the next era. We began to see really beautiful, artful advertising that showed the positive side of life. It was led by a booming economy coming out of World War II, full employment, and a futuristic vision of the future. Marketing was about to experience a real, true renaissance.
If you’ve ever seen, or even heard of Mad Men, then you’re really familiar with The Marketing Department Era. After WWII and the economic boom that followed it, advertising agencies were all the rage on Madison Avenue. It was a really glamorous place to work. The corporate marketing department was born and it was staffed with young graduates who had all studied the 4Ps of marketing. This is when creativity really started to blossom and television and computers came into play. In 1941, Bulova aired the first television advertisement. It was just what you see here on the screen, a plain picture of a watch face, centered on a picture of the US and a voiceover said, “America runs on Bulova time.” The whole commercial lasted all of ten seconds. But it was the beginning of content being created outside of just the product itself. It was the short jingles and animated characters that began to give brands very distinct personalities.
As we move into The Marketing Company Era, we begin to see the evolution from just selling a product to developing more meaningful branding. This is when we first started to see the company as a brand itself, rather than just what it sold. So what did a company stand for? This was the first time that we started to see people become aware of customer-focused marketing rather than just product focused marketing. As we think of all the things we hear today about moving away from product marketing and into customer marketing, we can see that it’s really been on this trajectory for quite some time.
During this era, homes everywhere started to welcome cable TV and marketers paid attention to how they could target segmented audiences. When it came to establishing companies as a brand this era was mostly recognized by Apple’s iconic 1984 ad. Which wasn’t about a product at all, but rather how an innovative company would set us free. It captured the feelings and emotions of a public that was ready to embrace what the company stood for.
Then as we entered the 1990s, a new trend was emerging. One that moved toward creating personalized relationships with the customer. Businesses were using databases for more direct marketing in late 1980s and marketers were introduced to a new technology called “customer relationship management.” It was the dawn of the 6th Era, one that we’re still today moving out of; it’s called The Relationship Era.
In 1993, authors Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote a book called, The One to One Future. That changed the entire marketing landscape. It set the stage for developing closer, deeper relationships with customers. It’s about the right message at the right time and at the right place. In 1997, The Clue Train Manifesto was released and the author started to talk about markets as conversations instead of as products. We made our way through the craziness of the dot com boom and the dot com bust. For the last 8 years, we’ve been trying to develop our customers into our friends. We learn how to develop relationships, so they’ll like us and use that to whatever extent that we can to build a community with them. Social media, marketing automation, and building conversations with customers became our focus. Even all of this is becoming more and more complicated. Much of it because of the globalization of both content and products.
Now, as we look at the 7th Era of marketing, as I talked earlier, it’s really clear that we’re moving into the Era of Experiences, one that’s defined by the experiences that we’re able to create for audiences. But in order to create experiences, marketing has to be able to create value and not just describe the value of the products and services that we sell. We’re classically trained as marketers to describe value across the 4Ps, but now we have to begin creating value using both content and experiences. In this new era of marketing, unique, impactful, and differentiating content-driven experiences will become as important as product development. Successful marketers will adapt and change in a constantly evolving environment that focuses on creating delightful experiences to inform, to entertain, to engage, and to ultimately evolve customers. It’s no longer about what product or service that you sell. It’s about a loyalty to a brand’s approach to how you solve problems and the value that you deliver. Marketing is the one role that can deliver everything of value to customers because we’re the one role that touches every area within a company.
The democratization of content is making it easier for everybody to distribute and harder for everybody to capture people’s attention. There’s so many ways and places to publish, but you have to be really really good at it to get people’s attention and to be able to maintain it. You have to be able to continually create value, which is why the purpose of marketing within a company is changing. Now you’ve probably asked yourself if the 4Ps are no longer relevant than what do I do? I’m going to show you an example of how to focus on solving customer problems rather than selling products.
In a Harvard Business Review Article that’s called, “Rethinking the 4P’s” the authors talked about how to refine the 4 principles of marketing. Product, place, price, and promotion, which define much of the first 5 eras of marketing, because they no longer reflected how customers behaved today. Especially B2B customers. They found that the 4Ps fell short in three important ways. First, is that they stressed product, quality, and technology even though those table stakes in today’s world. Second, they failed to spotlight the value of solutions for solving customers’ problems. Third, they distracted from taking advantage of opportunities to serve as trusted advisors and strategic partners.
Then the authors presented a new framework that they called SAVE: Solution, Access, Value, and Education. With the SAVE model, instead of focusing on the features and the benefits of a product and how great it is, we focus on the solution. We talk about how what we do as a company, from the perspective of how we solve problems for our customers. It’s how we become customer centric, instead of product centric.
Next, instead of thinking about places where people can buy our products and service because we have so many more channels than we did in the 1960s when the 4Ps were created, we focus on access. We look at all of the channels that we can reach a customer or prospect with across his or her entire buying journey. We look at how we can be right there at the right time and in the right place.
Third, we have price. Remember back to the Pontiac ad and how it was all about the price and comparison-shopping. Now we look at the value that we deliver because when you can focus on the value that you deliver, based on the problems that you solve, that’s when you get away from price sensitivity.
Last, is promotion. I think of any of these concepts, this is the hardest for marketers to get their heads around. We’re so used to promoting what we sell but we need to shift that. We need to focus on education that’s relevant to buyers in those specific moments in time when they’re making a decision. It may not always be an “I’m ready to buy” kind of decision, but it’s a decision about whether or not they continue to engage with your brand and move forward toward a purchase.
Our next step is how we look at the SAVE model and turn it into a framework for creating consistent and scalable brand experiences. That’s where we come to Content Creation Management framework. Too many marketers are still focused on campaigns instead of creating ongoing two-way conversations with customers. Chasing campaigns around every channel is exhausting. It certainly isn’t creating value that’s separate and distinct from the product or service itself. In order for marketing to create this kind of value, the creation, the management, publishing and promotion of content driven experiences has to become a strategic function of the business.
Every organization thinks that they know how to create content. If you ask them how they actually do it, rarely can they explain the process. It just kind of happens. Content creation management is a framework, it’s not a template, it’s a framework that helps companies move away from ad hoc content creation into a process that’s repeatable and scalable. As you can see here, we have four main areas: create, organize, management, and measure.
In almost every case, the idea of creating delightful experiences comes from a pocket within the business. It might be a demand gen marketer who wants to create more value or more leads, or it could be someone in social media who wants to feed channels with more engaging or maybe more conversational content. Wherever it comes from, this hunch of inspiration usually comes from a practitioner who wants to improve how they do business. They want to improve the way that business is done. From there, it can spread to other parts of the organization. It can move up, it can move down, it can go sideways across departments. It really doesn’t matter. But with this inspiration can come an experimental project, based on where things hurt the most. It could be a very small project to use as an experiment around brand awareness. It could be something that you do within lead gen or anywhere where somebody is ready and willing to experiment.
The next step is that you recruit a team because without a content being a specific person’s responsibility, then it becomes no one’s responsibility. In fact, it’s the gap between when the inspiration happens and the need to address a pain and then actually forming a team that responsible for it. That gap is one of the biggest reasons that content marketing fails in most organizations. Because unless somebody’s responsible for it, then no one’s responsible for it. To have a long game, a long-term strategy, you have to have an integrated team. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a formal content team or just a loose affiliation of people from different areas who really want to make an impact and change things. The point is that you have to designate a group that the organization will recognize as being responsible for the content function.
Next, you plan an evolution. By evolution, I mean evolving from the beginning of the group into one that has built a business case for the team to be recognized by the organization. The team will probably evolve in including roles such as steering team that helps with the business case and official recognition. There’s an editorial team that makes decisions about priorities, platforms and budgets. This group will eventually manage a portfolio of experiences in later phases. Then a contributor team that’s made up of representatives from many different areas in your company. This is the team that manages and will execute the programs that the editorial team develops.
In the second area of content creation management, after you have the recognition and buy in as an official function, you’ll formalize this group with specific roles and responsibilities. This is where you’ll add specific responsibilities around content to people’s job functions. You’ll start to see titles like, Chief Content Officer, or a designated group like the Content Center of Excellence. Once you have recognition for your group within the organization and you’ve defined roles fro them, now you’re going to write a charter so that the group can execute against a unified strategy. You have something to refer back to that keeps everybody on the same page and everybody pointed in the same direction.
The last step is to create content mission statement, one that truly defines why you are in the business that you’re in. While you’re creating this for the content team; this is something that can serve as the North Star for all marketing teams. In a nutshell, the content mission should answer the question: Why do we exist? Sometimes it’s hard to answer that question. You have to do a lot of digging. One way to think about it is, if we went away tomorrow, what hole would be there that our customer would miss? For example, I’ll take a really well know consumer brand, Southwest Airlines. Their mission is that they give people the freedom to fly. It’s not about what you sell; it’s about the difference that you make in the lives of your customers.
Next, we’ll take about the management section of content creation management. As we move into managing the content driven experiences, we’ll start out with mapping. This is where most groups tend to start. They don’t even look at how they create inspiration. They don’t look at how they organize. They just want to start by mapping out a story. But the problem is that they don’t understand the organizational structure that it takes to get to here and that’s what’s really necessary to create success for the long term. Now is when the work of your team gets real. You’ve moved beyond the phase where, “This is a good idea,” to actually defining business goals and how you’ll execute your editorial and project plans. This is where you start to map out specific experiences that you’ll create and how you’ll sustain them over time. We’ll look at an example of this in a few minutes.
You can think of the management phase as the idea factory. This is where you’ll build out maps for how you’ll use content creatively and effectively, keyword and effectively. It’s where you’ll strategically look at how it all ties together and it supports each other. Rather than creating campaign after campaign that doesn’t have a long-term engagement with your audience.
As we move into Measure, of all the steps I think measurement can be the most challenging. To be honest, measurement can the hardest step in all of marketing. Whenever you bring up measurement I think it’s certain that there’s going to be tension. It’s important to look at performance across the entire content portfolio, not just specific areas and not just the performance of individual pieces of content. This is because that while demand gen may be rocking it, what they’re doing may be affecting, and not always in a good way, other areas. What you have to do is look at the performance across the entirety of the portfolio.
Successful content creation management comes from tapping the strengths and talents of all of the people in the organization. The only way that you have line of sight into what will happen as you create, manage, and evolve experiences is with teams from across all functions of the organization. This is also where you need to look at the balance of the experience that you’re creating as a team and the talk about whether you need to adjust them or not. Are you focusing too much on the area that doesn’t need as much support as it used to? Maybe it’s doing well. Are other areas struggling? This is where you make adjustments.
Now I want to talk a little bit about an example of how the changing focus on marketing can transition away from talking about products and into more customer centric conversations. In the content creation management framework that lets you create consistent experiences at scale. Emerson is a B2B company that’s doing a fabulous job at exactly this. It’s a 125 year old, $24 billion, global manufacturing company. It’s filled with engineers and they have 133,000 employees around the world. Its culture is heavily rooted in that engineering heritage. If you think about a company that’s complex and has a lot of moving parts all over the world, Emerson certainly fits that bill.
Their Chief Marketing Officer is Kathy Button Bell. Her team has cultivated a brand story that resonates with buyers. She talks about what it’s been like over the last 15 years that she’s been there. In the beginning, they realized they weren’t telling meaningful, problem-solving stories. Like many of us, they just talked about the products. They talked about features. They talked about benefits. All the things that engineers love to cover. Now that they’ve brought in social media, they realize that they 133,000 employees trying to tell stories and create a dialogue. You talk about managing chaos, right there is chaos. What they did then is that they figured out how they could aggregate all of these storytellers and keep them in sync so that they didn’t appear insane as a company. They had to feel that there was a main story. They had to feel that it was a consistent experience whether it was the company telling that story or whether it was the employees themselves telling those stories.
The brand story that Emerson came up with is called “Consider it Solved.” It centers around reducing complexity and how the company solves people’s problems. Every story that the customer tells and experience that they create stems from the “Consider it Solved” story. When they talk about solving a problem it doesn’t always mean developing a product. This came out because they launched products and they were having disappointing results. It was clear that marketing needed to move upstream and help uncover the real problems that customers were trying solve. They were having engineers trying to solve those problems, but when engineers do discovery they ask feature-oriented type of questions. They don’t get to the real problem or really uncover opportunities for innovation. They didn’t understand, as Forrester analyst Jeff Burns said earlier, “The need to have customers buy into the approach” to how Emerson solved problems. It was to the point that they realized that solving a problem didn’t necessarily have to involve a product. Sometimes it could mean something as simple as, they made sure that it was easier for their customers to do business with the. If as a business, especially in a complex B2B environment, if you can make it easy for you customers to do business with you then you’re absolutely golden.
Next, Emerson looked at how, when, and where they could tell those stories about the experiences that they were creating for customers. They took the “Consider it Solved” story and they expanded it into spotlighting the experiences that they were creating for customers. Here we have two examples.
On the left is how Emerson Climate Division was able to turn frigid waters of the North Sea into heat for an entire city with zero impact on global warming. That’s huge anyone in the climate control industry. On the right they spotlight how they were able to create a single broadband connection across the continent of Australia. At the bottom they take you to a site, it’s Emerson.com/NBNAustralia. On this site, it’s story after story of innovation breakthroughs that Emerson engineers have designed that keep the world humming.
One of the ways that Emerson was able to be so successful at consistently telling their story at scale is that they were able to breakdown silos between groups within the company. They focused on how they could integrate the brand story internally and externally. An approach helped them to get buy in, especially at the executive level, is that they had the senior executive. His name is Charlie Peters, that’s Charlie’s picture here, who was willing to serve as the communications vehicle.
The Extra Mile is a blog that’s written to a large degree by Charlie. He’s a Senior Vice President for Emerson. In it he covers a huge range of things. He’s an expert in a lot of areas. He’s an expert in business, so he’ll blog about that. He is an avid and excellent runner, sometimes he writes about that. There’s been times when he’s even shared letters that he’s written to his son in Afghanistan. He’s a share a lot of life lessons from a different decade and it creates a very personal conversation and an experience with both Emerson employees and people outside of the company.
In the last month, Emerson focused on another area that’s a very important problem that they’re looking to solve and not just for their customers. That’s encouraging in people in science, particularly getting people involved in STEM so they can fuel the engineering profession. At the end of February, in line with the company’s 125th anniversary, they partnered with the internet and science celebrity, Hank Green, to inspire and empower the next generation of engineers and scientists through an “I love STEM” initiative. The genius of Emerson partnering with Hank Green is enhanced by the fact they first aired this commercial that you see here on screen during The Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory is geared toward a younger, science geek kind of audience and it reinforced the hip outlook that Emerson wanted to convey. It gave them a natural context in which to tell their story and it helping to change the perception of this 125 year old, engineering based company to one that’s more youthful, fun, and hip so that they can attract the future engineers of tomorrow.
From a big picture perspective, the real beauty of Emerson’s work is that they’ve built longevity into their content marketing program. They’re smart about how they’re executing the story. This isn’t just a 3-6 month campaign that will wrap up and then they move on to another thing. They’ve successfully made the leap from traditional storytelling to creating a true brand experience for broader audiences. Those who are young and hip who they hope to recruit in the engineering profession, as well as senior business executives who they still target as customers. They’ve also made it fun and interesting as they bring the rest of the science fans along the way. Here you see the “I love STEM” section of the Emerson website. You can Emerson.com/ILoveSTEM and it is the promised land for science geeks. A lot of it is content that’s been developed in conjunction with Hank Green, the science geek.
As we wrap up, I’m going to come full circle to the question that I asked at the beginning of our webinar. What is it that you really do? You don’t just sell products or services. You don’t just create content. I hope realize that your role and the impact that you have in the lives your customers and within your organization is much much bigger than that. I hope that when someone asks you what you really do, I hope that you tell them, “I create remarkable experiences.” Thank you all, so much for your time. Byron?
Byron: Thank you so much Carla. That was really, a journey into history and perhaps where we are going or need to go. Carla, I have some questions for you and then we’ll field some questions that people I’m sure will have, so keep the questions coming everybody. Tell me a little bit about making this transition. Let’s just use a situation where, let’s just take an agency or a solo practitioner that’s trying to sell content marketing services into companies. Like into a much smaller version of Emerson. How are people selling this concept of experience marketing as the next era we need to go? Your book is really helpful, but what are you doing right now as an agency is trying to convince companies to make this transition?
Carla: Well, the biggest thing that I see that resonates with companies is that you have to talk in the voice of “What’s the business objective that content can help move forward?” At the end of the day, if content isn’t helping the business advance and if it isn’t helping to attract and retain more customers and draw more business, it won’t get the attention of the people who approve budgets who will let you expand this within your company. What I see working within companies is we talk about what content marketing can do and how creating experiences, customer centered experiences, will help move forward those business objectives of a company in the bigger picture.
Byron: Thanks. Another question: How will customer service fit into this equation? In trying to harvest the pain points and the problems that customers are having to then develop solutions around those problems?
Carla: I think customer service is a big part of how you understand what matters most to customers and what experience that they value most. Customer service hears the problems and the struggles that people have, so it’s very important as we talk about building those cross-functional teams to understand what it is we need to address and the experiences we need to create that we have that voice of customer service in this conversation. Without it you aren’t able to close that full feedback loop to really understand what happens to a customer’s experience after they actually become a customer. It’s critical that they’re part of that conversation.
Byron: I want to ask you about Charlie. Every company needs a Charlie, a Charlie story, this wonderful evangelist. Does Charlie realize the impact that he’s having? Is he a content marketing evangelist, for example? Does he get this stuff or was he more nominated by his peers to be the guy that analyzes businesses as you describe and tells a story from his perspective. How did that surface? How did you find Charlie in this example?
Carla: I think the really fascinating thing about Charlie is that he is so unique. One of the things that makes him so unique is that he has this amazing and constant curiosity about all things in general. When I talked about Emerson looking at how marketing could move upstream and be part of those earlier conversations about what mattered to customers, so that product launches were successful, he very much had a curiosity and a zest of interest that he worked with Kathy Button Bell on to involve market research and really find out more. He also brought that immense curiosity to what could happen if he became involved in social media. You see him on social media, he’s on Twitter and they look at the cadence of how creates content and posts on his blog what he talks about there and how it integrates with all other social platforms. He is a very unique person, but I definitely think that if you’re trying to look for credibility in the C suite or at an executive level and they’re hesitant, he’s certainly someone that you can hold up as an example of how it can be done right in a company that, you think about complex companies that maybe don’t move so fast, Emerson’s probably right up there at the top. You can see how his willingness to sort be that experiment and see how it worked helped both people internally especially, but also externally, see that it’s something that could work.
Byron: A question came in, What automation platform do you recommend for companies that are currently producing one off campaigns and do not have much experience with creating connections between the content and the overall experience?”
Carla: That’s kind of a hard one to answer, just straight out of the box, with that kind of a question because a lot kind of depends on what platforms you already have in place, what you’re bigger goals are and some other things that you’re trying to accomplish. I try not to give just specific recommendations on technology like that because I think it’s sometimes misleading because I don’t always know a company’s specific situation.
Byron: I’m going to direct Kaitlin to perhaps offer some help over to Content Marketing Conference.com, we’re about to pop up over 30 interviews I’ve done with the top 100 content marketing tool providers broken up into different categories: content planning, creation, optimization, distribution, and performance measurement in content management. It’s been an exhausting effort doing those interviews, but it’s really really cool what’s back in there. There’s literally a 20-30 minute pdf recording with me interviewing the CEOs and founders of these incredible companies doing awesome things.
Carla: That’s fabulous Byron, that you did that because I think that’s really good to give anybody context for what they offer and what problem or situation a person’s trying to address.
Byron: Yeah. In future webinars, I’m sure I’ll be giving away free copies of my next book, which is on this whole content tools topic. It’s super hot right now. The book is in production as we speak right now to prepare itself for the launch of Content Marketing Conference, but that’s going to be another quick summary of all these tools. You can see all the tools listed and go poke around over there, we’re about to pop up the MP3s. another great question came in: Are there any metrics that can be used at multiple levels from individual campaigns through to a broader impact of a content strategy? Everyone’s into tools and metrics these days, our listeners. It’s kind of interesting.
Carla: I think that’s really important because, as I said, measurement is really a hot button. I think the ability to understand what it is that you’re trying to move forward in a big picture is what has to influence what it is that you measure. What it is that you look toward for meaning. Again, I’m a big proponent of get away from that campaign mentality because what it does is that it engages people for 3 maybe 6 months and then you turn that off and you shelf it and then you move on to the next one. So you have a lot of start and stop engagement. If you can sustain that engagement with your audience, for me that’s where I really think it’s so important to keep that sustainable ongoing brand storytelling that portfolio of experiences that connects the people at that right place in that right time when it matters most to them. It really is looking at what’s that portfolio of experiences that’s going to move forward because again, it’s not just individual pieces of content, it’s not 3 to 6 month campaign, it’s that overall long-term experience that you want to create that engages, converts, and retains people that matters most.
Byron: Somebody asked a really good question but by accident I hit the trash button so if somebody that just asked a question, if they could ask it again I would be happy to ask it, but while you’re getting there, I wanted to ask you, in your experience, big companies, small companies, they’re faced with the same challenge: banging out really good, engaging content. Do you have any thoughts for the smaller companies, the SMBs out there that are struggling, more than likely with one person creating content or managing the content process. Certainly at WriterAccess, our customer base, a lot of people using our platform they have one in-house orchestrator, they’re using our platform, but how do you drum up those stories? We’re drinking your Kool-aid certainly all of us that experiences are great, storytelling is great. But pedal against the metal here, Carla. What do we do to find and harvest great stories that engage with people? Can you help us with that?
Carla: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge that I see in SMBs is time. You said it exactly, a lot of time it is just one person who is in charge of all of this. I’ve been at companies when I started my career and I was that one person. I totally get it. Something that’s really important is to look at where you’re spending your time now and look at how you can start to spend a little bit of it differently. If you know that there are things that your boss is just going to require you to do, if they’re not quite open to making a big shift all at once, look at how can you carve out just 10% of your time and spend that talking with your sales team. Sometimes sales teams are just a few people, may 10 or 20. Spend time talking to them and asking them what they hear from customers. I’d really encourage any marketer, any writer, if you can to get on calls with the sales teams and with customers and to talk to them directly. What a sales person hears and what a marketer or a writer hears can often be different things. Sales people listen for cues and indicators that will help move a person forward toward a yes. Marketers and writers are much better at digging in and discovering some of those root motivations and inspirations for why a customer is wanting to do something or why they did do something.
If you can start to shift some of your time from what you know needs to be done into really discovering those stories, that’s a great way to start fuel it. What you want to do is to be able to look at starting a content program that has a consistent publishing cadence. Maybe it’s an opportunity where you can tap some of those customers and they can contribute to those stories rather than that one person being the person who has to create all the content themselves.
Byron: Tell me about brand personality and your take on that.
Carla: I think brand personality is really important because depending on the kind of company that you are, it greatly affects the kind of personality that you have. A company that may be a pharmaceutical company that sells drugs to treat cancer patients would have maybe a much different personality from one that sell sporting equipment to retail outlets. One may be very much about continuing life, quality of life, getting together with family and friends and doing things that matter most, all around health and the other is about family and fun and outdoors and much more playful where the pharmaceutical would be much more serious. These are things that you need to keep in mind as you think about your content charter and your content mission because that’s what brings content to life, is that brand personality. It’s also what engages employees internally because marketing and sales are the frontline people who connect with customers and prospects, but it’s the rest of the employees that make that brand story and that brand personality really come to life. It’s something that they have to understand as well.
Byron: Finding your personality is extraordinarily difficult. I’m speaking on that very topic tomorrow and we’ll more than likely make this an interesting topic. Tell me your thoughts on discovering personality. Do you believe in the methodology like a Jennifer Aaker, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with her, but she wrote a great article many years ago in 1997, that is a long time ago, called “Dimensions of Brand Personality” and she did an exhaustive study that determined that brands really fit into 5 different categories: sincerity, excitement, confidence, sophistication or ruggedness.
Let’s take the last one, ruggedness, tough, strong, outdoorsy, rugged obviously versus sincerity: domestic, honest, genuine, cheerful. Do you believe that someday in the near future, hopefully sooner rather than later, folks like you and I can try to figure this stuff out and many other people and help brands develop and arrive at their personalities. I think arriving at your personality is the first step and then execute on that personality flawlessly with really bringing the team players into that brand. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Carla: Absolutely. I haven’t heard of this one in particular, but when I do brand personality and brand purpose and that kind of work, I look at things like hero personalities, professor personalities, rebel personalities, things like that. We can use Emerson as that example. They’re looking at changing that brand personality from probably more of academic professor type, because they’re more than a century of these hardcore engineers, into being something that’s more fun and more playful and that brand personality affects everything that you do. For Emerson, they wanted to bring a lot of color, light, and sound. They wanted energy. They wanted excitement because that’s what they knew put the idea of innovation and creative problem solving into the minds of their audience. It’s also what would attract a younger millennial generation to them from STEM programs.
For me it’s absolutely critical. That should be part of that first one or 2 steps as we look at the content creation management is understanding what that brand personality is and then really really owning it through and through. You cannot be timid. If that’s who you are just own it and go for it, full force.
Byron: I’m going to leave you with one other teaser related to future webinars that I’m working diligently on, and hopefully my next book as well, and that is your take on metaphors. Metaphors being used in writing and in branding, in everything. What’s your take on metaphors?
Carla: I absolutely them because I think metaphors are crucial in storytelling. It’s what makes things real for people because metaphors are ways that people relate to things. Especially if you’re in an area where you’re trying to convey things that are data driven. There’s an author, her name is Brene Brown and she’s said, “Maybe brand stories are just data with a soul.” It’s a way to make them human and relatable. I think they’re so critical in the writing that we do. I think it’s often something that isn’t often appreciated in business writing and especially as you get into bigger companies, but I think they’re absolutely important.
Byron: Certainly related to Emerson in the sense that this distinction between rational thinking, the way the mind works, versus emotional, which dive deeply into the semi-unconscious association we make with metaphors. This stuff is just so so exciting. I cannot read enough or absorb enough in this space. I’m finding a way to channel this into content creation, which I think is the next frontier is to get down and dirty with people and show them great content, how it’s written, how it’s constructed, why metaphors work, why metaphors need to align with your brand, right? Because that gets very interesting as well. And start looking at these different types of metaphors. It’s just so much fun, so exciting. Anyway, we are out of time and out of questions. Once again, this chat has been wonderful. Seemingly every time I get on the phone with you Carla I don’t want to hang the phone up. It’s always fun with you and your ideas are so wonderful. Thank you again for being a guest on our 59th webinar here at WriterAccess.
Carla: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here and I appreciate everyone who shared part of their day with us today. Thank you.
Byron: Thanks again everyone. Until next month, I hope you enjoyed today’s webinar and it brought great experiences to you and your work. Thanks again for tuning in.