What to Do When Your Content Falls Flat: 6 Ways to Recover

Research shows that content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, yet produces 3X as many leads.

Because the rewards for executing effective content marketing are so high, it’s no surprise that in a 2016 study, it was found that 70% of B2B marketers were planning to create more content in 2017. 

If you consistently publish quality content that helps and informs your target audience, you’ll likely see your KPIs rise over time. However, even if the long-term trends of your content marketing look positive — you can’t guarantee each individual piece of content will be successful.Click here to sharpen your skills with the help of our content marketing  workbook.

Sure, you can research the type of topics your readers are interested in, use emotive titles and optimize your blog for sharing. But at the end of the day, it’s still a gamble whether or not a new post will generate engagement — and there are countless factors that determine its success.

If a post underperforms, most marketers shrug their shoulders and move onto the next piece in their busy editorial calendars. But in my opinion, it’s always worth trying to revive an underperforming post. Even if you’re unsuccessful, you should try to learn what exactly you did wrong so you can serve your audience more effectively in the future.

Here are some of the steps I take when a piece of content fails.

1. Leverage Influencers

Content marketing is a social game. Even if you’re a fantastic writer, it’s very difficult to succeed in a vacuum.

In a 2015 study, 67% of marketing professionals stated that they engage with influencers, for example, specifically for content promotion. If you’ve been able to build relationships with influencers in your niche by sharing their content and replying to their posts, you may want to call in a favor the next time you publish a piece of content and it falls flat.

If you’ve been sharing an influencer’s content for months and have helped promote his or her brand, there’s a chance that this person will share your content, too — if you ask nicely.

As an even better alternative, search for influencer quotes that you can insert into your underperforming piece of content — then, kindly ask for a share.

Influencers love the validation of being mentioned as an expert in someone else’s article. Sharing your content with their audiences can help to improve their reputations, so keep that in mind when reaching out.

2. Post at Ideal Times

Ask 10 different marketers when the best time to post your content is, and you’ll likely receive 10 different answers.

In an analysis of 20 studies on post times, CoSchedule found that the best times to post on Facebook were between 12-1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, whereas the best times to post on Twitter were between noon and 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday.

For email marketing, Kissmetrics found that open rates are the highest during the weekend.

All of this information is useful, but ultimately, you’ll receive the best results if you post when your audience is the most receptive. This means digging into your social media engagement data and forming your own conclusions.

For Facebook, the best place to start is Facebook Insights.

Click on the ‘Posts’ tab, and you’ll be shown which days and times your followers are most active on the platform. You can also compare different days of the week to determine behavioral trends — for example, comparing activity on Saturday or Sunday to a weekday.

Source: Facebook

Under the ‘All Posts Published’ menu, you can see engagement data for each post as well as the time and date the post was published. See if there are any commonalities in timing for your most popular posts.

To discover the best posting time for your audience on Twitter, I recommend using the tool Tweriod. There, you can sign in with your Twitter account, and the tool will perform an analysis of your followers and tweets. When complete, it will send you a complete report of the best times to post based on the data.

3. Make it Easy to Share

In order for a piece of content to generate maximum engagement, you need to make it as easy (and as worthwhile) as possible to share it. I recommend including bright, visible social sharing buttons directly beneath the post — and, if possible, in your sidebar.

For the most compelling quotes and statistics in your post, make them stand out and consider using something like Click To Tweet to turn them into tweetable links. This tool also provides full analytics data, so you can compare the performance of your links.

If your new piece of content is an infographic, include an HTML code to embed it beneath the infographic, so that other bloggers can easily insert it into their site — a tactic that can also be beneficial for SEO purposes.

4. Consider Facebook Ads

Depending on who you talk to, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and quality content marketing are two conflicting ideologies that cannot coincide.

But in my opinion, PPC advertising can be extremely effective for improving the reach of your content.

If you spent a few hours on a blog post and it falls flat, it isn’t a big deal. But if you’ve invested a significant amount of both time and money into a piece of premium content, like an infographic or animated video, you simply cannot afford for your efforts to be wasted on low engagement.

In this kind of situation, I recommend putting a small investment into Facebook advertising, to try and boost your engagement.

After you publish a post to promote the content on your business page’s timeline, click the “Boost Post” button. Start small and place $5 into advertising per day, then check Facebook’s engagement statistics to see if it’s worth investing more.

If you have a decent sized Facebook following (10,000 Likes or more), you can achieve great results by boosting the post and targeting your followers. However, if your following is small, you might want to try promoting the post to people who like Facebook pages related to your niche. You can find out the most popular interests within your niche by exploring Audience Insights.

Source: Facebook

5. Repurpose Your Content

If you’ve tried all of the previous tactics and can’t seem to get any momentum rolling, the problem could be with the content medium. Perhaps you’ve posted your latest customer survey findings as a blog post that didn’t generate a ton of interest — but as soon as you convert the data into a colorful infographic, people become more engaged.

Research is one of the most time-consuming processes of content creation. When you repurpose content, you already have the raw data/information you originally included — so, whatever you repurpose it as can take less time and energy to produce.

Here are some of my favorite repurposing ideas:

  • Turn internal or customer survey data into an infographic.
  • Turn a blog post into a whiteboard explainer video and publish it on YouTube.
  • Convert a list of related evergreen posts into a guide, and add new visual elements.
  • Turn tradeshow presentations into Slideshare presentations for the world to see.
  • Publish webinars as tutorials on YouTube.

As you’re probably aware, video content is incredibly popular at the moment — 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. And if you can repurpose text-based content into videos, you can put your brand’s message in front of an entirely new audience.

Before you start repurposing, consider that your blog post might perform better with some rejuvenated visuals. Adding images (that you have permission to use) is a great way to break up walls of text and keep people engaged.

6. Survey Your Audience

If your engagement metrics are truly erratic and you’re not able to predict (at least, to some degree) which pieces of content will be popular — there is a likelihood that you just don’t know your audience well enough.

You’ve probably heard that in order to be successful with content marketing, you need to give value. Unfortunately, many marketers forget that “value” is subjective. You might think, for instance, that you’re giving value by publishing a new blog post that promotes your products and services. But what your readers really want is educational content that helps them to solve their pain points.

If no value is received by your audience, then you didn’t deliver value — regardless of how hard you worked on creating the content.

Don’t assume you know what your audience values — find out for certain. In the digital age, there are no excuses for basing your marketing strategies on assumptions. And with such tools as SurveyMonkey, you can whip up a survey for your email list in minutes. Ask your customers about their values, desires, favorite types of content — and most important, their pain points. With this feedback, you can make inferences about what types of content you should deliver in the future.

I’m a firm believer in the law of reciprocity. When sending out a survey, I always like to appeal to the reader’s self-interests. Offer them a free giveaway or discount code in exchange for filling out the survey, and you might find that your readers will be more passionate in their responses. And the better you know your audience, the higher your chances are of generating engagement when you publish new content.

If you’ve published a new piece of content and it fails – it doesn’t mean that the content is bad. It could just mean that you posted it at the wrong time, you didn’t promote it effectively, or the content could receive more engagement when repurposed as a different medium.

You don’t need to throw in the towel when a piece of content underperforms. Try these tactics to revive it, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Here’s What It’s Really Like to Ride in a Self-Driving Car

Remember that exciting self-driving car news we broke yesterday?

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah — largely known for its roadside assistance services — has partnered with Torc Robotics to develop safety criteria for self-driving cars.

It all started when AAA launched its autonomous vehicle shuttle in Las Vegas back in November — which reportedly got into an accident on its first day of operation.

So when I had the opportunity to go for a spin in one at CES, did I accept it anyway?


And I didn’t stop there. As long as I was in the area, I decided to hop on for a ride in a self-driving Navya taxi, too.

Here’s what it was like — and what I learned.

Here’s What It’s Really Like to Ride in a Self-Driving Car

These Vehicles Aren’t Really Driverless

When I told my friends and colleagues that I would be taking AAA’s driverless shuttle for a spin, it was met with mixed reaction. “I’ll pray for you,” “be safe,” and “that’s exciting” were among the responses.

Regardless, I was excited. Here’s how things started out:

The first thing I discovered was that most of these autonomous vehicles, at this point, are not entirely driverless. On the shuttle, for instance, riders are joined by a human operator who’s required to have a special class of driver’s license for autonomous vehicles.

So why, then, are these vehicles labeled as “self-driving”? Well, they are. The shuttle moves, brakes, and regulates its speed independently.

But the technology is still new enough that, for safety reasons, it helps to have a human present who can override the system in certain cases. That became necessary, for example, when we made a stop a donut shop and the doors closed before I could capture a photo — and the human operator was able to manually open them for me.

But these human operators are really present for safety reasons more than they are for photo ops. While I didn’t feel unsafe during the ride — we stopped for humans, traffic lights, and even birds — the Navya taxi, for its part, had trouble moving forward, even once the pigeon that had been in its path flew away. Our human operator was able to override the system to get us going again, and also had the ability to stop the vehicle in the case of an emergency.

The Biggest Selling Point: What You Can Do in the Car

One thing that continually comes up in the conversations at CES about driverless cars is how much time they give back to commuters. Instead of idly sitting in traffic, for example, riders can spend that time on the road doing something else, like catching up on work.

But when I first wrote about the AAA shuttle yesterday, you might recall that I identified autonomous vehicles as a potential new content distribution channel — an area of opportunity that Navya has seized for its fleet of self-driving taxis.

The service works much like most ride-sharing programs like Lyft and Uber do now: You hail a car from your phone, which you also must use to open the vehicle’s door (this is most likely a security play, since there won’t be a human driver to ask riders to identify themselves).

Once you’re in the car, you can play the music of your choice, and use the many screens built into the vehicle to check on your flight status, buy movie tickets, and more.

But if this technology sounds redundant to you — you’re not alone.

For example, many of us (yours truly included) already do these things during rides on our phones. As someone who doesn’t own a car, for example, I already use the time during rides to the airport, for example, to check my flight status, make restaurant reservations, and — well, many of the other things that are built into the Navya taxi’s capabilities.

However, it is a fairly novel concept to those who are often the ones behind the wheel, and lose that time to watching the road instead of executing tasks on their phones. And to me, that’s one of the biggest upsides to self-driving technology on a macro level: the reduction of car ownership, and the added transportation accessibility it provides for aging populations and persons with disabilities.

It All Feels Remarkably Familiar — and That’s a Good Thing

But for all of this innovation, there’s a problem: Only 38% of Americans are enthusiastic about the idea of riding in self-driving vehicles.

Allow me to put those fears to rest. My broad takeaway from my driverless shuttle and taxi ride is that if you’re used to riding on buses and subways — this is anticlimactic.

Maybe riding in a standard, four-person sedan with no driver would feel a bit weirder — an opportunity that Lyft was providing to a lucky few at CES who weren’t met with this message:

But as far as my experience goes, riding in these autonomous vehicles feels like riding on public transportation. And ultimately, I believe that’s a good thing — the sense of familiarity means less of a “learning curve” for passengers, especially in the urban settings where many of these programs are being piloted. It won’t seem as scary or extremely new.

Instead, I anticipate that most riders will have more of a reaction of, “Well, that’s cool,” and then return to their standard public transportation activities of choice, like listening to music or reading a book. For my part, if I had my earbuds on and was simply staring out the window, I’ll be honest: This wouldn’t have felt like a particularly groundbreaking experience.

Looking Ahead

The human operator element plays a part here, too. Earlier this week, during the LG CES press event, a new feature was announced in which home appliances are able — by way of machine learning, I suspect — to proactively detect and remotely repair mechanical issues, often before the user even knows that there’s a problem.

Self-driving cars, I anticipate, are learning how to do the same thing. But the stakes are much higher for a vehicle than, say, a washing machine — and that’s why, while the machines collect data and learn how to fix themselves, the human presence is both crucial and reassuring.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, we’re just getting started. The topic dominated much of the dialogue at CES, with several brands announcing their latest innovations and progress within the realm.

And while public fears are not entirely unfounded — no technology is perfect, I would agree — I believe that market permeation of self-driving cars on a large scale will ultimately carry more environmental, social, and accessibility benefits than not.

As always, I’m open to your take on things. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter — and to see more insights and announcements from CES 2018.

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Is This The End of Email Marketing? How to Survive the GDPR Regulations [Video]

Disclaimer: This video is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EU data privacy laws like the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

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How I Learned the Hard Way Not to Associate My Company With Buzzwords

“Ladder — a growth hacking company” had a nice ring to it when I started my company a few years ago.

As one of the few agencies in the industry using data-driven methods to launch and scale companies, I thought associating our brand with “growth hacking” would make us seem like a valuable, forward-thinking group.Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Without an established brand, I needed something relatable, accurate, and marketable that our audience could use to identify the type of service we provided. By the time “growth hacking” had become a common term — but not yet a ubiquitous buzzword — our ads and articles using the phrase performed exceptionally well, which told me our audience thought growth hacking was important.

Little did I know, riding the wave of a shared industry term instead of our own identity would get us in major trouble.

As the term “growth hacking” eventually evolved into a tired buzzword, we had no other choice but to distance ourselves from a phrase that now carried negative connotations.

The Rise and Fall of Growth Hacking

After Sean Ellis coined the phrase in 2010, growth hacking caught on quickly. Before long, it was being used to describe all kinds of marketing: technical marketing, data-driven marketing, or anything else a rising marketing firm wanted it to mean.

The term’s versatility became its undoing. No one knew specifically what growth hacking was, which led shady startups to use it to describe all sorts of black hat, abusive marketing practices. A growth hacker might offer beneficial data-driven, high-value ad campaigns, or detrimental one-off social media services that didn’t scale.

Almost overnight, growth hacking became a cover for shoddy marketing practices instead of the catchall phrase for data-driven strategies that it once was. It led people to try tactics for the sake of trying them, throw data completely out the window, and toss marketing strategies at the wall to see what stuck. As the phrase’s reputation began to suffer, it started to drag our company down with it.

Our Journey Alongside a Buzzword

As we were trying to grow our own company in the midst of this transformation, we continued to do things the right way: looking at real data to make educated decisions and striving to do right by our clients. And yet, we continued to call ourselves “growth hackers” — a term that had eventually embodied the exact opposite of what we wanted to convey.

I realized we needed to change direction when our previously successful content was suddenly met with scorn. Editors and publications rejected our articles, telling us the term was an outdated buzzword. Our PR mentions dried up, and as they did, our revenue took a hit.

After working so hard to become the premier growth agency on the market, we knew it would take a deliberate effort to distance ourselves from the term. Not only would we need to eliminate it from our official collateral, but we would also need to find new phrasing to attach to our philosophy. We started using new terms like “scientific marketing,” “test-driven marketing,” and “data-driven strategy” in an effort to shed the growth hacker label.

Shunning a term we’d spent so long embracing wasn’t easy, but over time we realized the pivot was well worth it. Taking the lesson to heart, we vowed to be more cautious and conscientious about which terms we associate our company with in the future.

We learned several lessons from the dramatic rise and fall of growth hacking. The following strategies will help other companies learn from our example and avoid getting caught up in a marketing trend over which they have no control.

Don’t Assimilate — Differentiate

When everyone else zigs one way, zag to the other.

We tried to fit in with the mainstream, so people would notice us and understand us. The messaging worked at first, but was it because people believed in our approach, or because the term was popular?

Now we position ourselves exactly as we want to be described. Instead of jumping on the buzzword bandwagon, we put things in plain language, explaining to prospects who we are and what we do without any superfluous fluff. We are more than just growth hackers; we are a growth technology and services company, combining marketing with the scientific method to test new strategies and help businesses reach their goals.

No, that doesn’t sound quite as flashy as “growth hacking,” but it functions in more ways than one. Not only do we now have more control over our own image, but we also attract higher-quality clients who know what they want and what to expect from our partnership.

Aim to Inform, Not to Impress

Buzzwords with ambiguous definitions confuse and alienate audiences. By implementing clear, direct messaging, audiences now know exactly who we are and what we do. That increases our credibility much more than it did to throw out a term that thousands of others were using to describe themselves.

We learned to never try to impress someone by making services sound like more than they are. We strive to eliminate jargon and explain things in terms that even people outside the industry can understand.

For instance, we have found that the term “scientific approach” means more to people than “growth hack” ever did. It describes why our process is all about removing guesswork and outlining strategies with clear, easy-to-follow reasoning, and advertising our scientific approach reflects that.

“Science” may not have the same curb appeal as “hacking,” but it works. Prospects and clients understand what our brand is about, and no one feels uneasy trusting us to help them hack their way to success through some kind of inexplicable marketing magic. As a bonus, clients don’t have wild expectations that we will somehow hack their way to the first page of every Google search overnight — a win-win scenario.

Think Like a Prospect

Founders and marketing professionals see their companies far differently than prospects do. Rather than worry about positioning the brand, we have shifted our focus to discovering what solutions prospective clients want to see.

Do prospects want “an innovative, agile, full-stack app development firm specializing in UX” or would they rather have “a partner who creates and develops user-friendly technology quickly”? (Spoiler alert: Most people would prefer the latter.)

What sounds savvy and sophisticated to marketers often makes customers question whether the company offers the specific solution they need.

Startups love to call themselves “disrupters,” but disruption outside of tech innovation isn’t always a great thing. Similarly, while founders want to tout their “innovative” approaches, certain customer segments prefer safe and reliable over innovative and unknown.

During our transition, we realized that our prospects didn’t actually want someone to hack their growth. They wanted a partner to provide reasonable, data-driven strategies that would achieve measurable results. Once we realized that, it was easy to drop the label and be ourselves.

If you get caught up in the latest craze, you could lose sight of your genuine differentiators. Being honest in marketing communications and telling customers the plain truth might not be exciting, but people will appreciate the openness — and honesty never goes out of style.

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The Introvert’s Guide to Nailing a Job Interview [Infographic]

When people see the word “introvert,” they often think of qualities that don’t actually describe introverted people at all.

“Shy.” “Quiet.” Even “antisocial.”

But how we have grown to think of introverts has strayed far from realities. In fact, according to Dictionary.com, is “a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.”

That’s doesn’t mean that introverts are shy or antisocial — it means they’re introspective individuals who can still be outgoing. They just don’t crave being around other people, speaking and presenting, all the time.Use these marketing resume templates to create a killer resume. 

But the former impression might make one think that something like a job interview, for example, is particularly tricky for an introvert. That isn’t necessarily the case, however. Sure, it might require more energy — but there are certain qualities of introversion that might actually help them excel at job interviews.

CashNetUSA has outlined these ideas in the infographic below, which provides a job interview toolkit for those who, well, don’t exactly look forward to a day of answering and asking questions of potential new employers. Have a look, and discover what all of us can learn from an introvert’s guide and approach to job interviews.

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Self-Driving Cars Have Landed at #CES2018, and Marketers Really Need to Pay Attention

Here I am, on my fourth day at CES 2018, and man — there has been a lot of content on emerging technologies.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s been an interesting challenge to figure out which topics would be the most helpful to those of you reading. Emerging trends? Check. Brand loyalty and connected ecosystems? Check. Self-driving cars? But, of course.

Hold up. What? What does autonomous vehicle driving technology have to do with the broader world of marketing?

As it turns out — the answer to that question is, “A lot.”

Here’s why.

Why Self-Driving Cars Matter to Your Business

Emerging Tech Is Changing the Landscape for Marketers — Fast

Autonomous vehicles serve as shining examples of how quickly and significantly emerging technology can disrupt an entire industry.

As the Consumer Technology Association informed us earlier this week, the in-vehicle technology that will become more prevalent with the rise of self-driving cars accounts for one of the top trends for 2018, with a forecasted revenue of $15.9 billion.

On top of that, it’s predicted that driverless cars have the potential to save 1.2 million lives per year from traffic accidents, and 157 hours of commute time per person every year, according to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s opening keynote on Monday night.

Where marketers enter the picture, however, is where the rise of this technology causes a ripple effect on other industries.

“We’re shifting from a transportation model that is built on the private car ownership model to a transportation-as-a-service model,” says Mike Blasky, Media Relations Specialist at AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (which recently launched the first driverless shuttle in the U.S.), to one that could leave businesses within private car ownership — such as auto dealerships and the like — nearly obsolete.


Source: AAA

But fear not. Blasky also believes that it will generate greater opportunities for marketers.

The Self-Driving Opportunity for Marketers

That could come, for example, in the form of something like a subscription to a transportation-as-a-service provider. Even if autonomous vehicles completely penetrate the market, it doesn’t equate to accessibility — meaning that those who can’t afford to own such a vehicle will have to rely on self-driving ride-sharing companies.

Let’s say, for example, “you subscribe to a Lyft, and you always get a Starbucks at 8:30 am before work,” says Blasky. “Nearby coffee companies would love to pitch you coffee deals … and they’ll have access to that data” on every user’s commute.

That might raise some questions about user and rider privacy. As marketers begin to shift away from email and move toward other promotional content models — like ride-sharing “infotainment systems,” as Blasky calls them — they’ll also need to explore the new model of letting users opt-out.

But should marketers become privy to this data on user behavior and preferences, it does, in fact, create new areas of opportunity, just as Blasky suggested.

There are the self-driving vehicles themselves serving as a content distribution channel (e.g., sending a user a branded or personalized briefing during her ride), as well as the opportunity for businesses to create and offer the aforementioned promotions based on each user’s riding habits.

How Businesses Are Already Adapting

In fact, that’s quite parallel to what AAA itself is doing, Blasky says. “Our club recognizes consumers’ changing habits, which is a reason we launched GIG Car Share in Oakland and Berkeley last year” — which is a one-way car share program that doesn’t require users to return the vehicle to a designated spot.

But remember this: AAA’s long-held model of emergency roadside service relies heavily on private car ownership model. And as we move away from that, the organization is adapting to the shift by identifying new opportunities with a brand fit.

That’s not to say, however, that the need for something like emergency service will be diminished with the permeation of autonomous vehicles — it’s just that the process of alerting the necessary parties that it’s needed will be digitized, and hopefully, become more seamless and efficient.

We wrote a bit earlier this week about how LG is using AI to help its home appliances proactively detect and repair potential problems before they happen. Here, a similar opportunity exists for something like vehicular safety and maintenance.

In fact, AAA Northern California Nevada & Utah (NCNU) today announced its partnership with Torc Robotics to develop safety criteria for self-driving cars. Like so many of the other emerging technologies we’ve heard about this week, this program begins with a machine learning program to collect data Torc’s self-driving system Asimov, and use it to train autonomous vehicles how to react to various traffic issues.

(CES 2018 attendees looking to learn more about this should check out tomorrow’s session on Developing Safety Criteria for Self-Driving Cars.)

There’s also the idea of partnering with autonomous driving service providers to deliver products — much in the way that Toyota announced on Monday it would be doing so with Uber to create a fleet of driverless shuttles with to deliver goods from Amazon and Pizza Hut, among others.

Source: Toyota

The Key Takeaway

I know that I harp a lot on the importance of marketers staying ahead of the curve on emerging trends. And if you’re getting sick of hearing me emphasize it, that’s understandable — but also, I’ll continue to do so.

Self-driving technology is an area where I really want you to pay attention, and begin thinking of the ways your business — regardless of the industry — could not only be impacted by it, but could also use it as an opportunity.

How can use it as a content distribution channel? What types of content could you potentially create for in-vehicle experiences? What sort of promotions could you create based on predicted user and rider behavior?

The possibilities are great. And, as always, I’m open to your take on them. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter — and to see more insights and announcements from CES 2018.

Featured image credit: Torc

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Data Is Cooler Than You Think. Here’s What Marketers Need to Know About It Today.

It’s my third day here at CES, and today marks the opening of the 2018 event to the public. Last night marked the end of the event’s two major media days, which concluded with a keynote from Intel.

To say the least, it was … interesting.

The keynote was titled “How Data Is Shaping Innovation of the Future,” and advertised as a deep dive into how data is necessary — and profoundly powerful — to continue the growth and innovation of AI.

But it took a while to actually get to the meat of the event. Things kicked off with a performance from what was labeled a “data-only band” called the Algorithm & Blues, which I can only describe as a very bizarre, well-funded production of air-guitar and drumming. And apparently, I wasn’t alone in that impression.

But after roughly 20 minutes of this bizarre performance, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took the stage and wasted no time addressing Meltdown and Spectre — a 20-year-old security flaw discovered last week in Intel chips — noting that 90% of the updates needed to resolve the issue have already been shipped, and that the rest will be ready by the end of the month.

And that was it.

Trying to tie together the concepts of data and AI and bring them full-circle is a tall order, and Intel may not have been up to the challenge. Dieter Bohn of The Verge may have put it best: 

” … that story about translating space into data into experiences got a little lost. It’s a difficult, cerebral thing to try to convey, and Intel didn’t quite pull it off.”

But there were dots to be connected — especially when it comes to the fundamental takeaways for marketers that I was able to derive from last night’s event.

Here are some of the key conclusions I came away with.

1. Data is what powers AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is, in my humble opinion, one of the most important and rapidly-growing frontiers in technology. Take machine learning, for example. It’s what allows us, including marketers, to observe, learn, and make conclusions on audience behaviors and preferences … thanks to the ability of a machine to process the data related to these items much more efficiently than humans can do alone.

Source: Intel

And, there’s a good chance that you might be working with a massive amount of data in this type of situation. As AI-enabled technology allows us to both capture and synthesize it in an increasingly seamless way, we’re able to make more advances in a shorter amount of time.

For the marketer, those advances often come in the form of creating a remarkable and unique user experience.

2. In order to create a truly immersive user experience, we need data.

When it comes to the AI-analyzed data that can be leveraged to create an immersive user experience, I like to shift to the realm of virtual reality. That’s where Intel demonstrated the greatest use cases during its keynote, and it’s another emerging — but incredibly important and valuable — area of technology.

While there was a heavy emphasis on sports- and athletic-event-related experiences last night, the takeaways and technologies shown are more widely applicable than that. Take, for example, Intel’s multi-camera (each of which is equipped with multiple lenses) system that captures so many different perspectives of an event that it allows the user, as Krzanich put it, to “select the best seat in the house, every time.”

It’s a theme that echoed throughout the CES media days, and reminded me of remarks made by NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang at a press conference less than 24 hours earlier:

What’s an alternative name, though, for those perspectives that are being captured to create such an immersive experience? You guessed it: data.

To get a bit more technical about it, that type of data capture is powered in part by something called voxels: pixels that are placed into a three-dimensional space, adding depth to whatever is being recorded. And when you use that type of technology to build upon a multi-camera and multi-lens system, said Krzanich, “you’re recording everything.”

To put that massive amount of information in context, this type of capture often requires data creation at a rate of 3TB/minute. That’s the equivalent, Krzanich claimed, of producing all of the content of the Library of Congress in the first quarter of a football game.

3. Data-powered experiences allow marketers to show (instead of tell).

When I was live-tweeting this keynote last night, I made fun of myself for “ranting” a bit about the above. But there’s a point — and we’ve finally arrived at it.

Marketers are often challenged with communicating a product or service in a captivating way that reaches precisely the right audience. And sometimes, those products or services are profoundly difficult to describe, or — on the surface at least — kind of boring.

That’s where this immersive data and perspective capture becomes so valuable. Marketers are frequently tasked with proactively answering questions. How does your stuff work? How does it fix things? Why do — and should — your customers come to you?

With a difficult-to-describe product or service, answering those questions with words alone is, simply put, really hard. But now, the data-powered VR technology covered at this keynote can be used to show people the answer, rather than just telling them. 

Source: Intel

Now, you can show people how your stuff works. You can insert them into a virtual experience that immersively demonstrates how you solve problems. As Krzanich put it — marketers are now empowered to create “a perspective that nobody else can provide.”

Cool, huh?

As always, I’m open to your take on these insights. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter, or follow along for my latest coverage of CES 2018.

Featured image source: Intel

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The Tax Bill Has Passed. Do You Know How It Will Impact Your Business?

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — better known, generally, as “the tax bill” — was signed into law on December 22, 2017, there was a broad spectrum of reaction.

Many people were worried. Even more were angry. A small percentage were pleased — and most of all, it seemed, the public was somewhat confused.

How exactly would this impact day-to-day life — and for businesses, operations, and practices? Would we pay more? Less? Just how much will this change the way we do things?

And one place where that confusion is especially widespread, it seems, is within the small to midsize business (SMB) community.

HubSpot Research surveyed 1,046 SMB owners and VP-level leaders in the U.S. to learn more about their impressions of the tax bill — how prepared they are for it, how well they understand its impact, and who they think has the most to gain or lose from it.

Our findings are below.

This information, understandably, could be disconcerting to SMBs. If the highest-income or largest businesses stand to benefit the most from the bill, how does that impact the smaller ones?

However, this post is not intended to be a deep-dive into the implications of the tax bill for SMBs — rather, it’s an examination of the overall reactions, sentiments, and expectations experienced by SMBs. We will be monitoring any additional modifications as the bill actually goes into effect for the fiscal year 2018.

1. How well do you understand the tax bill’s potential financial impact on your business?

Our research found that 88.5% of SMB leaders don’t know the full impact of the tax bill. That comprises a fairly even split between those who have some idea of its financial impact, and those who simply don’t know what the impact will be.

2. Do you think the tax bill’s financial impact will benefit or harm your business?

The highest number of respondents indicated that they don’t know whether the bill will financially benefit or harm your business, but that group amounted to less than half of the audience surveyed — about 30%.

Meanwhile, there was a somewhat even split between those who believe the bill’s financial impact will benefit their businesses (18.6%) and those who believe it will harm them (19.4%).

3. Do you think the tax bill will benefit or harm your employees?

Again, we found that several respondents simply aren’t aware of how the tax bill will benefit or harm their businesses — about 34%.

Overall, however, a greater number of respondents generally believe that the tax bill will negatively affect their employees (32.2%) than those who believe it could benefit them (22.6%).

4. What kind of businesses do you think will benefit the most from the tax bill?

Our research somewhat overwhelming found that the majority of respondents view the tax bill as a boon for large businesses, with over half (63.7%) responding that they believe this sector will reap the greatest reward.

5. Do you account for legislation or regulations when it comes to your business’s financial planning, budgets, and hiring goals?

Typically, our research found, SMB leaders don’t factor legislation or regulation into their business planning, with just about half responding as such.

While some respondents occasionally account for it (36.5%), an even smaller number indicate that they always do (12.6%).

6. Does the passage of the tax bill change any of your business plans for the near future?

The lack of certainty around the tax bill’s impact, it seems, is largely resulting in inaction among SMB leaders, with 66.6% indicating that they will not change any business plans as a result.

Just under a quarter say they’ll reign in spending and hiring efforts, while roughly 10% actually plan to increase their expenditures.

7. Do you think your business will be prepared for the changes the tax bill will implement once they go into effect?

Finally, most SMB leaders (51.3%) believe that they, at least on some level, will be prepared for any changes to their tax and benefits liabilities resulting from the tax bill when it takes effect.

And despite being unclear on its full impact, less than a quarter (23.4%) believe that they won’t be prepared.

We’ll be monitoring the situation as it unfolds, and watching the tax bill’s impact on all businesses as it takes effect.

As always, I’m open to your take on the matter — feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter.

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At #CES2018, Lessons Emerge on Brand Loyalty and a Connected Ecosystem

Today marks the second Media Day of CES 2018, and to kick things off, LG debuted a number of new technologies at this morning’s press conference.

As one might expect, the announcements leaned quite heavily toward Smart Home, with LG’s ecosystem boasting a suite of abilities — many of them AI-powered. There’s the “Smart Service” feature, for instance: the technology that detects potential problems with appliances (like your washer or dryer) and proactively notifies the service center, often fixing the issue before the user even knows there is one.

It was reminiscent, for me, of many of the announcements made in October at the Samsung Developer Conference — the idea of a unified ecosystem (LG’s is called ThinQ) that’s powered by machine learning solutions, all on an open platform. One of the differentiating factors announced today, for example, is LG’s connectivity among home, car, and office: the type of technology that allows, for example, your refrigerator to send a message to your car notifying you if you need to go to the grocery store.

But as I was busy live-tweeting and day-dreaming about filling my home with these oh-so-smart devices, I noticed this:

The flaw, Fowler points out, is the thinking that most consumers exclusively equip their homes with appliances from a single brand. It proposes a world, for example, where you don’t have GE appliances in your kitchen and a Samsung TV (such as yours truly) — you have one, single brand filling your home with everything.

LG did note that users will be able to control IoT devices manufactured by other brands from your refrigerator panel. But there enters the concept of practicality — how often are you in standing directly in front of your fridge when you need to, for example, remotely control any other given device in your home?

Which leads me to another question: Just how far will consumers go when it comes to brand loyalty?

When it comes to the marketer’s job, there are two key takeaways here. The first is to determine how — and to begin, if — your brand is equipped to build such an ecosystem, regardless of your industry. Are your products and services connected to complement each other and work in synergy to enhance the customer or user experience? 

But building a branded ecosystem with the customer in mind is a double-edged sword. Is built in a way, for example, that if the products and services are fragmented — for example, the customer has bought into one piece of the ecosystem, but not the whole thing — the user experience is somehow diminished?

As marketers begin to build upon and work to stay ahead of these emerging trends and technologies — the Internet of Things, voice search, and growing AI-powered capabilities — these are crucial questions to ask until they are answered in a way that, without a doubt, only enhances the user experience, even if they don’t or can’t buy into an entire ecosystem.

That’s not to say I discourage this type of connected thinking — in fact, I still recommend at least thinking about the ways brands and marketers can build a suite of products and services with complementary connectivity at this sort. But as I often emphasize: Do so with the user in mind.

As always, I’m open to your take. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter — and to see more insights and announcements from CES 2018.

Featured image credit: LG

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6 Expert B2B Instagram Tips for 2018


With more than 800 million monthly users, Instagram is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re a B2B brand, you might think the hype isn’t relevant to you — but in 2018, it most certainly is.

As it stands, there are thousands of brands and a number of high-profile B2B organizations using Instagram to drive brand awareness, engage with their audience, and ultimately, to attract new customers.New Call-to-action

To inspire you to take your Instagram game to the next level this year, our team at The B2B Marketing Lab wanted to share some concise, actionable tips you can put into practice right away.

1. Use authentic, real-time user-generated content.

Forget stock photography and staged promotional pictures — it’s time to go real-time. On Instagram, your prospects and leads want authentic content that offers a personal glimpse into your company’s culture and product offerings.

Real-time content, such as live video/live streaming, is unfiltered and 100% you. It adds a much-needed human element to B2B businesses, and helps you form a genuine connection with your audience and potential customers. Extremely professional-looking content can often feel cold and dispassionate — your customers want to know there are real people and real stories behind the branding.

2. Go fast, and mix it up.

Instagram makes it incredibly easy for you to post photos or videos on your phone directly through its application. Just fire the application up, press the add button and select the photo or video you want to upload — it’s that simple.

The advantage of this is that you don’t have to spend ages creating content. You can upload a variety of content wherever, whenever, without much pre-planning or editing required. Different types of content will not only attract and appeal to different members of your audience, but also show different sides to your business. No one wants to just look at images or just quotes on Instagram all day now, do they?

3. Get involved in your niche.

Stop looking through the window at what’s going on inside. Join the party.

Just like any other social media channel, it’s important that you not only post content to your feed, but also partake in the wider conversation. Don’t just post images and videos, reply to your community when they leave a response. Take the time to check out other Instagram profiles, have a browse, like some content and maybe leave a friendly comment here and there.

If you take the time to engage with others, they’re more likely to take the time to engage with you.

4. Make the most of the link in your bio.

While Instagram doesn’t let you link to websites within the captions of posts, you can include one in your bio. You can include up to 150 characters in your Instagram bio — including a link. Your bio is the perfect real estate for a link to your latest blog post or offers. You can also use tools such as Linktree to create a custom link that includes a page with more links, allowing you to share up to five links and get the most out of your bio link!

Alternatively, Instagram Stories are a great way of including links with your content. However, stories only last for 24 hours — this is a limitation, but also a fantastic tool for you to provide real-time offers and value.

5. Tell a story with every single post.

On Instagram, the businesses that tell the most interesting stories build the largest audiences. If you want to attract people to your business and get them to engage with you, you need consistent visual storytelling that cuts through all the noise on Instagram.

Don’t limit your focus to your general photo and video feed. Instagram’s Stories feature allows you to create a slideshow or montage of photo or video. When strung together, tell a story and provide your audience with a more personal experience.

6. Stay away from vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics don’t tell the whole story. While an increase in clicks and likes are beneficial, they don’t tell you if the right people are actually interested your content. Instead, look for indicators of real engagement, such as people commenting on your posts and new followers in your niche. These two metrics give a better indication of how well you are performing and how much exposure your business is actually getting.

Take the time to consider Instagram.

While it has predominantly been used by B2C brands up to this point, it holds great potential for B2B businesses when utilized correctly — and with the points above in mind!

how to use instagram for business

how to use instagram for business

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