Business 2 Community

Top 10 Branding Tools

If you are an industry veteran, you probably already know the value of having a strong professional services brand. If not, consider these benefits:
With a Strong Brand, You Can…
Command higher rates
Generate leads more easily
Achieve a higher win rate
Recruit more effectively
Few competitive bid situations
Who wouldn’t want these advantages? The question is, how do you build a leading brand? That’s where branding tools come into play.
Branding Tools Defined
Think of your professional services brand as the product of your reputation and your visibility. A branding tool is a technique that helps you build and refine your firm’s reputation or increase the visibility of that reputation. The best branding tools manage to do both at the same time.
Here’s our take on the top 10 branding tools for a professional services firm.
1. Write the definitive book on your signature topic.
This requires that you know your stuff. (Your brand has to be based on reality, so don’t complain!)
Note that the book should be written for target clients, not fellow professional practitioners. Make a complicated topic easy to understand, and you’ll be seen as a leader by the people who matter most.
We know in our own research that writing a book is one of the most best ways to build credibility and one of the quickest ways to increase the visibility of your expertise.
2. Produce a signature-quality video.
Increasingly, people don’t read—they watch. For the cost of an impressive brochure, you can produce a memorable signature video that tells the story of your firm and positions you as a leading brand.
Don’t skimp on the production budget. A ho-hum, talking-head sales piece doesn’t impress. Do it right or not at all. Here are some video cost guidelines.
3. Develop a must-read industry blog.
Make sure your blog is something that potential clients and referral sources want to read—having a blog just to have one won’t cut it. Start by defining a clear blog strategy.
Publish frequently and give your blog some features that stand out. A good blog is almost like an online magazine, with topics and features that people talk about and share with colleagues and friends.
Remember that blog posts and articles are at the top of the content funnel. Their purpose is to grow your visibility and attract prospects.

A top-quality blog will help build online visibility as well as attract search engine traffic to your website. Over time, it can position your firm as a leading brand, so don’t hesitate to get the help you need to do it well.
4. Publish a provocative industry newsletter.
Not sure if a blog is right for you? Focus on a newsletter instead.
More traditional than a blog, a newsletter provides critical industry insight and information that is not easily available elsewhere. Your newsletter’s particular slant can convey your perspective on the industry you serve.
This type of industry-focused newsletter is a proven brand-building tool. But to succeed as such, your newsletter must be robust and useful—it has to clearly stand out from the usual firm-centered fluff piece.
5. Organize a specialized industry conference.
Conference participation is a proven way to build a brand. Speaking and sponsorships are both tried and true.
But you want to be a leader. Why not be bold and develop your own specialized conference?
Let’s say your IT firm handles cloud computing security, and you have a lot of customers in the healthcare industry. Instead of presenting a panel at a health care conference, organize an entirely separate event centered on your topic.
Set a clear focus on an emerging niche that is not currently addressed. Keep the conference small and specific at first, bringing in as many partners as needed to make it successful. As the conference grows, so will your brand strength.
6. Conduct a groundbreaking research project.
Does a major question remain unanswered in the industry you serve? Do people understand their competitors well, or is perception foggy at best? Industry players rarely conduct research on their own, and when they do, they usually keep it proprietary.
As a service provider to the industry, you have more freedom. Do the research, share the results widely, and you will strengthen your brand.
7. Initiate an awards program.
People love to be recognized. What’s more, when they receive an award, they love to publicize the fact.
Put these two tendencies to work for your firm. Create your own awards program to recognize companies in the industry you serve.
Make the awards relevant to the type of work that you do. For example, a UK-based firm named Valuable Content Ltd helps companies create high-value content for their marketing efforts. They have created a program around a monthly Valuable Content Award. As proud recipients, we display their badge on our blog. Everybody benefits.
Partner with an association or trade publication to increase visibility and participation in your program. You will simultaneously strengthen your reputation as a leading brand and increase your visibility among key players.
8. Start an industry index.
The goal is to develop an index that is closely followed and widely referred to. Perhaps it’s based on industry “confidence” or “backlog” or even “sales activity.” By establishing the industry’s standard index, your firm becomes a leader.
Let’s say that you serve the chain restaurant industry. Start by recruiting a research panel of top restaurant chains. Have the panel members report average tickets and total diners each month. Standardize the information and report on it widely as the “[insert name of your firm] Dining Out Index.” Eventually, everyone in the industry will receive a monthly reminder that your firm is a leader.
9. Cultivate more Visible Experts℠.
Perhaps you have some very talented experts within the ranks of your firm (and what firm doesn’t?). Consider working to increase these professionals’ personal brands and visibility. In our research, we found that cultivate these experts can have major impacts on your firm’s brand.

There are several routes to this goal—think in terms of books, publications, speaking engagements, etc.
The key point is that by increasing the visibility of your experts, you also increase the profile of the firm they are associated with. Having one superstar expert is notable, but having multiple world-class experts makes yours a superstar firm.
10. Create a high-profile interview series.
Let’s say that you market your services to CIOs. Imagine that you set up video interviews with the most visible CIOs from the entire industry you serve. Now all these high-profile CIOs know your firm.
Other CIOs are interested in what the leading CIOs have to say—and now they are also exposed to your firm.
Everyone assumes that your firm knows a great deal about CIOs (which it does). In short, your brand benefits from others’ credibility and visibility. The result is a strengthening of your brand.
Share the full videos, excerpts, summaries, etc., in a variety of formats to maximize your overall visibility.
Each of these branding tools can help to reposition your firm, improve its reputation, and increase its visibility. While some of the techniques may be time-consuming and can require an ongoing investment, the benefits they return are typically substantial. It’s what leading professional services brands do.

Where Are The Landing Pages Used With eMail Marketing?

In the last post, we saw how landing pages work in tandem with email marketing to grow an audience base.
We also discussed how landing pages are different from home pages:
In the audience they serve and
The objectives they help to achieve
This video that demonstrates how the pages are different:
Landing pages or opt-in pages are tools used to attract visitors who are interested in your content. However, very often, you don’t see too many landing pages on sites that you visit. That is perhaps why, we hear the following:
“But not too many businesses are using landing pages.” and “Are you sure I need one?”
What do you say?
Glad that the question was raised so it can be addressed. And ‘ll let you draw your own conclusion at the end of the post.
“I don’t see many opt in pages or free incentivized giveaways (lead magnets)
You may not see landing pages but they are everywhere.
1. Many businesses use landing pages with opt-in forms
Way back in 1996, Seth Godin taught the importance of permission marketing; that’s requesting for explicit permission before sending valuable follow-up communications to those who value your free giveaways (ebook, free consult or free trial), sometimes referred to as freebies or lead magnets.
Opt-in forms, lead magnets and email marketing, they all work together to offer something of great value to a specific audience group in exchange for the privilege to build a relationship with the audience via a series of emails.
This is with the intention of winning them over for sales further down the road.
Till this day, hundreds of smart marketers and businesses have built (and continue to build) a huge database (with permission) using landing pages.
Companies that offer landing pages templates are sprouting and these include: Unbounce, Lead Pages, Rainmaker to name just a few. We also have business owners and professionals who prefers to design their own landing pages with their designers.
2. Landing pages may not be visible on the main sites, but they are working in the background
For example, this is a landing page, but you won’t see it if you visit the main site.
Not seeing too many landing pages does not follow that these are not used.
Some stream-lined sites may only have 5 or 6 pages and they may have tons of dedicated landing pages and sales pages that work hard for the business behind the scene.
3. The concept of Landing Pages are used in other forms
Another thing to note is that the concept of landing pages have been applied to pop up forms or attention grabbing hello bars.
Pop up forms are forms that pop up from nowhere when you are visiting a page and they specifically ask for your emails. Some people find pop-up forms a little annoying as they appear unexpected and sometimes you are not sure how to close off the box.
Hello bars are more subtle; they are usually across the top of the page, asking for an email address in exchange for some incentives.
Pay attention the next time you visit sites and you’ll see these forms on most web pages of savvy marketers. While they serve the same purpose as landing page, they don’t convert as well because there are other things to distract the visitor.
Having these on a dedicated page (a landing page) removes all distractions and increase the chance of conversion. This infograph shows why this is so.
Lastly the “majority” is not always on the right track
It is a dangerous thing to follow blindly as the majority is not necessarily always doing the right thing.
Early adopters know this very well. By the time a concept is embraced, it is proven to be working and has gone mainstream. That means many people are already using it and you are only just playing catch up.
Trendsetters and early adopters are the minority, refer to Seth Godin’s post here.
Lead magnets and opt-in forms are nothing new. Increasingly, more businesses are starting to see the benefits of using them. But by now, a simple incentive may no be sufficient to be attractive. Trendsetters and early adopters are now using gated sites to grow their following (something for another post).
When too many people are rushing to jump onto the bandwagon, it is time to re-evaluate the situation. Much like the case of the trading in the stock market (no, I don’t trade on the stock market).
Consider yourself fortunate to have this knowledge
So if you think not too many businesses are using email marketing right today, then consider yourself fortunate to have this knowledge. You are now ahead of the many others – provided you implement what you know.
There us not a short cut. email marketing does not provide instantaneous results for those looking for quick results. It takes time to build your database and your online authority. Permission marketing and landing pages are for those interested in building long term sustainable business
Your thoughts?
If you have another question, just send those in as well and we can discuss it together.

Why Every CEO Needs a Solid Online Presence [Infographic]

Running a business in the global marketplace is very competitive and if an organization wants to differentiate themselves from their competitors they need to work on their brand. One of the most effective ways to develop this brand is by having the CEO work as the face of the company. Whenever someone mentions the name Microsoft they think of Bill Gates and the same is true for the late Steve Jobs who took Apple Computer to the company it is today.
Today we are going to look at why CEOs need a solid online presence by first understanding consumer behavior. Consumers tend to buy from companies that have a well-documented reputation and the way these consumers substantiate the reputation is by doing online research. If a company has a CEO that is proactive with the public then that company is going to receive a considerable amount of publicity. We could look at Richard Branson who has embarked on a series of world record attempts to try and build up his online presence. Now whenever someone mentioned his name they will think of his company Virgin Airlines.
Benefits of Having a Solid Online Presence
Aside from generating more sales when a CEO has a solid online presence they are able to get behind a variety of social programs. Like the late Dave Thomas who founded Wendy’s restaurants and helped with the development of KFC franchises across the USA. Dave Thomas was adopted and used his online presence to bring attention to this adoption programs As a CEO with a well establish online presence there is a considerable amount of social good that can be done aside from economic benefits.
Steps to Take When Trying to Establish an Online Presence
In order to establish a solid online presence the CEO will need to seek out the help of an expert in this field. The Internet is very complex and without the right support the CEO will not be able to create the online presence they want to attain. A very important rule to keep in mind when trying to establish this online presence is to keep the message simple and to the point. By following that approach the CEO stands a better chance of succeeding.
When a CEO builds a solid online presence they are helping their organization gain a competitive edge over their rivals so this is something that should be embraced and leveraged.

How To Write The Perfect Blog Post

Bloggers community
So you want to write a blog that will go viral? The good folks at blogpros.com have taken a close look at the top 100 blogs and are willing to share what they have learned about them. Their findings were pretty consistent across the board, and the results might raise a few eyebrows. Here are some of their findings on what makes these blogs so popular, and you can learn from their research.
Blogpros.com discovered that each blog has an average of just over 3 images per blog. So, three might be a minimum number, but if you have more than 4, it may be just a bit too much. These articles were also found to be rife with external links, with an average of 9.96. So if you are going to make a claim, it is in your best interest to back it up with a reputable source.
Another thing these 100 blogs had in common was an average title length of 50.7 characters and an average word count in the body of the blogs of 1149. 22% of the blogs contained quotes, and 92% of them had social buttons.
A full three-quarters of these blogs allowed comments to be posted to them, encouraging reader input. Any regular reader of blogs knows how much people love to interject their opinions to have their voice heard on a variety of hot-button topics. Only 5% of the blogs had videos embedded in them.
So what type of subjects are these popular blogs addressing? The results might surprise you. 11% of them answer some type of question. People also seem to love numbered lists, as 45% of these popular blogs contain them or use them as a topic. 35% of these blogs are a type of guide, or teach someone how to do something.
So if you have a skill you can teach, are good at embedding images into a blog, and can keep the blog on the short side, around 2 pages, you are well on your way to writing the perfect blog post. If you post information it is best to back it up with a reputable source, with a link within your blog.
Does any of this ensure you’ll soon be cracking the top 100 anytime soon? No, but practice makes perfect, and if you follow these simple suggestions, chances are you’ll see your number of readers grow.

8 Big Myths of Content Marketing

Myths are woven into our DNA.
We have heard about the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, dragons and other man made creations and legends that live more within the imagination than reality. But without those tales, the tapestry of our lives would be a little less.
Who wants to take away the fairies, super heroes and Santa Claus. Stories are intrinsic to what makes us human.
The art of storytelling is part of every culture. Sharing the events of the day around a camp fire, the kitchen table or the company water filter often sees us conjuring up a romantic image of the compelling wordsmith and the entertaining jokester.
“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” is something that needs to be embraced.
Content marketing is an art and a science
Content marketing has become an art and a science with a dash of promotion in the mix. Like any good cake recipe, the right types of ingredients and the quantities will be the difference between success and failure. In that mix sit terms like engagement, trust and credibility. All good, but on their own the cake won’t rise.
So what are some of the myths that have emerged around the digital content campfire?
Myth #1. Build it and they will come
Content marketing is synonymous with the term inbound marketing. Add the other phrase “attraction marketing” to the discussion and people think that content on its own will produce traffic and leads.
The misunderstanding of the true meaning of these terms leads people to think that just creating the content will attract opportunities and produce business changing marketing strategies.
Content marketing is two words and content is only one of them.
Myth #2. Content creation is more important than the marketing
This follows on from the first myth.
The creatives and the writers of this world often fall into this trap. Their misguided mantra is often “I create and therefore I will succeed”.
Sorry, that won’t do.
Some of the best artists of this world often had a “hustle gene” or a partner that went out and made it happen. Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish surrealist painter was a painter that was not only the creator but the marketer. He maybe took it a little bit too far.
But he knew how to get attention.
In a digital world the sheer noise, velocity and volume of content creation means that the marketing is 50% of the game.
Viral content is often associated with luck.
Publishers like Buzzfeed and Upworthy have made us realize that leaving it to luck is not an option. Content marketing success is now more science, big data and the relentless pursuit of optimizing content for sharing and traffic.

Myth #3. Tons of ordinary content is enough
What is ordinary content?
To me it means a bland, 400-600 word blog post that is missing a voice, insights and an x-factor. Visuals are also vital.
I could go on, but you know what I mean.
Ordinary content shouts out these messages. I don’t care, just having a go or maybe it reveals an underlying lack of confidence that says “who would want to read my stuff anyway”.
The competition for online attention is getting harder and when I started 6 years ago the content standard required wasn’t as high.
This is one of first blog posts that I published on March 25, 2009. This will not do today. Disclaimer: But, don’t let that stop you from starting the content marketing journey.

Some recent research by Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media about the standard of content for bloggers (and content marketers) is revealing with 1.500 word posts becoming mainstream.
Content marketing is growing up.
Taking something from “good to great” means more reading, more polishing and maybe some deeper research. It means wrestling and wrangling the content into an art form that reveals your brand purpose and mission.
But I forgot something. Passion.
Being passionate about your topic is often the difference at the end of the day. Content that is written just for inbound links and search is often missing the heart and soul of what awesome content is all about.
Myth #4. Content marketing is more about search engines
Google’s mission “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” has sometimes lead to an abomination or two in content marketing strategy execution. Their motto “don’t be evil” is maybe something that good content marketers should embrace.
Writing content that is just written for search engines should be made a sin.
Write for humans, touch their emotions and your content has a much better chance of being shared with viral velocity.
Myth #6. Good content marketing doesn’t need much technology
Social media and content marketing are almost like kissing cousins.
Related, close but not the same.
When content marketing emerged, the technology that surrounded it was either raw or non-existent. Using social content was seen as a manual job otherwise it was not proper.
The thinking was often that “using technology made social not social“.
The reality is that content marketing is many moving parts. This includes images, videos, blog posts, many social networks, multiple media, metrics, optimization, email, search and more.
You will need technology, apps and digital marketing technology platforms to create, publish, launch, manage and measure “at scale”.
This means marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Infusionsoft and Marketo are becoming essential for even small to medium businesses.

It also means using technology and apps like Shuttlerock that enable you to crowd source content from your readers, fans and advocates.
Make it easy for your marketing team to collect, curate and publish brand content.

Myth #7. Content marketing is just about giving away free content
Bloggers are the epitome and essence of content marketing. Many bloggers (and content marketers) have fallen into the trap of only giving away free content. They forget to ask for something in return. They think that conversion from traffic to leads and sales will happen on its own.
You need optimized ”Calls to Action”.
Want something for free like a free PDF then I need an email in return. Want to read that ebook. That will be $7 thank you. Want some premium resources and maybe online training then the credit card needs some loving.
Great content marketing achieves 3 goals. It’s a lot like dating. Attraction, seduction and commitment. In digital marketing that translates to the following.
Traffic
Engagement
Conversion
If you don’t achieve the last goal then you are doomed to fiscal failure.
Myth #8. Content marketing automation is evil
Content first has to be created, then it needs to published and finally it needs to be free to be pushed out into the big wide digital world and achieve its mission. That will mean it may have to achieve many roles:
Growing brand awareness
Building credibility and trust
Drive link building
Create thought leadership
For a noisy world with 2 billion smart phones and 1 billion websites, this means that automation will be a necessary evil. Some call it inhuman and others call it smart. My mantra is this:
“Automate the content distribution but not the conversation”
This means you can be authentic and smart!
Over to you
Are you using digital marketing automation software as part of your content marketing strategy? What is the standard of your blog posts?

2017 Bentley Bentayga Officially Revealed

If you’re rich and the only thing you haven’t been able to buy is a super luxury, super expensive SUV, then we have some good news for you. Enter stage left the 2017 Bentley Bentayga, which is not only Bentley’s first production SUV, but also the fastest and most powerful one on the planet, set to make its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Interesting name, it comes from a rock formation on the island of Gran Canaria, and interesting looks in a weird sort of way, but what’s really interesting is the numbers. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 6-litre W12 engine producing 600 hp and 663 ft- lb of torque sufficient to push the 5,400-pound SUV from zero to 60mph in a mere 4 seconds. A top speed of 187 mph makes it the fastest SUV ever, that is, until something faster comes along.
The Bentley offers 8 selectable drive modes, four for on-road (Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Custom) and, with the available All-Terrain Specification, four off-road settings (Mud/Trail; Sand; Dirt/Gravel/Snow; and Ice/Wet Grass). Wet Grass would be the one you use for those trips to the polo matches.

Inside
According to my wife I am slightly color blind, I never know if the shirt is green or brown. In the case of placing an order for the new Bentley I would have to defer to her as there are 15 color choices for the Bentayga’s interior leather — from hand selected cows no less. Add to that, the carpeting comes in 15 colors as well. 7 different wood species are available for the interior veneer, all hand finished by Bentley craftsmen.
The individual rear seats offer 18 possible adjustments including a six-program massage function, heating and ventilation, and footrests, for the weary passenger.
The Bentley is packed with tech too. The Bentayga’s navigation and infotainment system offers 30 languages and uses an eight-inch touchscreen display and a 60-gigabyte hard drive. While you are relaxing in the back you can wake yourself up with the Bentayga’s 18-speaker Naim for Bentley Premium Audio system with 1900 watts of power.
How Much Is It?
The Bentayga’s starting price in the UK is 160,200 in pounds which translates about $246,000.

Tutorial: Customizing the WordPress Dashboard

If you need help using WordPress, you may want to see this step-by-step tutorial on how to use your site’s administration area: The WP Administration Section – An Overview.
Is your website or blog powered by WordPress? If so, and you have to log in and out of your admin area on a regular basis, it’s useful to know how to customize your WordPress Dashboard.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you a number of simple things you can do to customize the WordPress back-end without modifying any web code.
How To Declutter The Dashboard Area
As your site gets bigger, your admin area can start looking quite busy …

Fortunately, you can “tidy up” your work area by hiding, minimizing and rearranging your admin panels.
Hiding Information Panels
The Screen Options feature is located in the top-right corner of your WordPress admin screen, in the header area …

In the main Dashboard, clicking on the Screen Options tab lets you specify options like which panels of your Dashboard screen you want to hide or display …

By hiding/displaying, you can organize your admin dashboard, and display only necessary information …

Minimizing WP Dashboard Panels
As well as hiding elements, you can minimize content blocks in your dashboard area by clicking on the little inverted triangle in the corner of a panel’s title bar …

This will help keep your working area uncluttered. You can expand/collapse as much information in your dashboard section as you like …

Rearranging WordPress Dashboard Elements
You can also rearrange the layout of your admin dashboard just by dragging and dropping these around …

Some content panels allow you to configure additional display options that may not be obvious at first glance …

If you hover over the panel with your mouse, however, you will see a link appear that lets you further configure the information …

As well as being able to reorganize information inside your dashboard, you can also change the color scheme of your admin area directly from within your WordPress settings, or by using plugins …

To change the color scheme of your WordPress dashboard, click on the “Howdy, User” tab at the very top right hand corner of your admin screen and choose Edit My Profile…

You can also get to this screen by clicking on Your Profile in the menu …

Don’t forget to click the Update Profile button at the bottom of your page to update your settings …

Your new dashboard colour scheme will take effect immediately …

Hopefully, this tutorial has shown you a number of simple ways to customize your control panel without touching code or adding extra plugins. All it takes is a few clicks of your mouse button.

Design Iterations – Keeping the Client on Board

If we got paid every time we heard a client say things like “can the logo be bigger?” we would be rich. Endless iteration with a client can not only be irritating, but can make projects overrun. One approach is to exclude the client altogether, however obviously that won’t work! Here is how and why you should collaborate with the client on the project, and still maintain your profit margin.
Psychology
One of the reasons clients interfere with the design process is psychology.
If they are not experts in web design they’ll feel out of their depth and try to regain a measure of control. Remember: you want them to sign off on the design; if the design fails, they will be responsible. It isn’t unreasonable this scares them, particularly if the design process is unknown to them.
By collaborating with them, you give them that vital sense of control and also educate them about the design process. Because the process is not then unknown to them, their fears will be laid to rest.
Early Involvement
Avoid situations where it feels like the client is making huge last minute changes, by involving them straight away. If a client is engaged from the ground floor, they’ll notice something that isn’t going to work sooner rather than later, saving a great deal of wasted time.
What Are They Looking For?
We’re not suggesting you reduce yourself to pushing pixels around whilst your client looks over your shoulder. Ideally though, if you can sit in the same room and show them things as you work, this will be treating your client as part of the team. You’ll instantly get feedback on things like colour scheme and layout, rather than having endless iterations where “all of that needs to be changed”.
It’s not always possible to work with the client in your office, though, so you should work out ways to establish what they will go for.
A good way to do that is by getting them to tell you a famous person they feel could represent the nature of their business, and why. Designing a website that represents someone famous is easier than building it around vague branding values.
Another approach is to ask your client to design a reception area for their business. Where is the logo and how big is it? What else is on the walls? What music is playing?
Mood boards enable you to deal with fonts, styles, images and colours in a simple and straightforward on way
Finally you can look at successful websites. Get a feel for what the client likes to see in a design, and how those aspects of layout can be applied to your work.
These methods help by getting the client to think about design, without worrying about website specifics. When applied to the website they will be recognisable, and you can refer back to these exercises when dealing with the project.
It’s likely that the idea of collaborating with a client is worrying. You risk losing control or having to use impractical ideas. However, by learning to collaborate, you’ll find ways to take onboard suggestions, working through them towards a solution. This leaves you in charge, but with your client feeling like they are a vital part of the process. This will save time, limit frustration and lead to great results for both yourself and the client.

The One Person You’re Not Paying Enough Attention to At Work

Understanding the business value IT professionals bring and a call to celebrate IT Professionals Day
Imagine the world without technology—void of computers, the Internet and smartphones.
I know, it’s difficult to do. Technology not only plays an enormous role in the way we live, communicate and interact with each other on a personal basis, but it has arguably an even more significant impact on the way we work—nearly everything in modern business is digitized.
In fact, a recent Harris Poll sponsored by SolarWinds found that three out of five people indicate work productivity is lost without the use of technology, with one-third saying one day’s work would take an additional business day or longer to complete without said technology. Furthermore, fifteen percent said it would not at all be possible to carry out their daily work without it.
Think about your own relationship with technology in the workplace. Can you remember a time when the network went down, your laptop crashed or corporate email was slow? Chances are you can, and vividly so (my apologies if this induced post-traumatic stress). Now think about the “ahh” moment when those technology issues were resolved. It was good feeling, wasn’t it? But how often do you think about the person who gives you that feeling of relief when he or she seemingly magically makes your sacred technology and devices work like they’re expected?
Unfortunately, if you’re like most, it’s probably not that often. See, that person, or often a set of people, is the IT professional, or department, as it were, working tirelessly behind the scenes putting in place, managing and fixing the technologies used to make businesses run. And they often don’t feel appreciated for the work or value they bring to the business, despite that value being very high. How do I know this? Another recent SolarWinds survey found that three out of five IT professionals feel at most moderately valued at work, with more than one-quarter feeling only slightly valued.
I believe the reason for this is because most people don’t fully understand all that IT professionals really do. In fact, according to the Harris Poll, half of non-IT folks either don’t understand at all or have just a little understanding of the role IT professionals play in business beyond responding to employees’ occasional technology issues. Perhaps this describes you at least to some degree.
However, there is so much more that IT professionals do to keep you productive and your company up and running. The behind-the-scenes technology foundation of modern business is an incredibly complex set of computing systems, applications, networks, digital storage, databases and more that all must be built and then run in harmony with each other to provide you with the level of productivity you enjoy at work, not to mention that it must all be secured against cyber-attacks. If all this is done well, and more often than you realize, it is, you probably don’t question or even notice that’s it happening.
Yes, technology and the IT professionals behind it impact nearly everything we do today. As a result, IT professionals are now being called upon to do even more than keep the technological foundation of modern businesses strong—with technology at the heart of success, they are now also expected to help their companies make informed, strategic business decisions concerning emerging technologies, where more or fewer resources are needed, where compliance and security risks lie and how technology can best be used to meet critical business goals. In short, they now play an important part in determining how innovative and transformative companies can be. It’s a heavy new responsibility on top of an already weighty role for sure.
What’s my point in all this? I’m here to suggest that we do a little more to give IT professionals the recognition they deserve.
One way to do that is through IT Professionals Day. Taking place on September 15, 2015 and every third Tuesday of September thereafter, IT Professionals Day has been created to honor not only system administrators, but network engineers, database administrators, information security professionals, software developers, IT support technicians and all other professionals serving in IT-related roles. It’s a simple way to say thank you for all they do to keep business on the whole running smoothly.
So, the next time you see one of your company’s IT professionals at the water cooler, please reach out to say happy IT Professionals Day and thanks for the hard work they do to keep you connected and productive. Knowing quite a few IT professionals, my guess is that they’ll return the gratitude with a thank you of their own for the hard work you do, too.

How Scaling Companies Lean on Content to Grow, Engage and Entertain Customers

I’ve been a content marketer for a whopping two and half years. That’s not a lot of time. In my past life, I considered myself a journalist. I wrote fashion and beauty news for ELLE, and then moved to writing branded content for Mashable — which became my launching pad for a career in content marketing.
As it turns out, there isn’t too much different about a branded content article on a site like Mashable or Buzzfeed or Forbes or Fast Company — nearly everyone is doing them these days — and writing article copy for an actual brand. At least, there really isn’t that much different in theory.
After all, public perception of your brand is your brand. There are plenty of stats that tell us that:
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated
80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service
8% of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service
Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 people about poor experiences
This is why it is so crucial that brands be efficient in speaking to their customers on social, in blog posts and, yes, on sites like Mashable, Buzzfeed, Forbes and Fast Company. Wherever your audience is, whatever it is that they are reading, your content –– i.e. your brand’s voice –– should be there too.
And what if it isn’t? What if you opt to do display and banner ads instead? What if you sponsor ads on Google? What if you retarget and follow your customers all around the web? What if you do all of these without providing any context or enabling any other connection point between your customer and your brand?
Well, then you’re a stalker.
Let’s take that very same idea, and drop it into a different scenario. What if you hosted a party, and someone attractive came. You didn’t speak. There was no verbal connection and they may not have even made eye contact with you. After the party, though, you begin to show up everywhere they go. Your OKCupid profile picture pops up on their Facebook feed. You begin going to their church or their yoga class or their business presentation (or all three!). You want them to be interested, you want them to feel the same connection you do — that one you never actually created. What are you?
You’re a stalker. A relatively innovative one, but a stalker nonetheless.
Now, just as for actual people, your presence doesn’t make an immediate connection — and even if it does, its fleeting. What people remember, what your target audience, what your prospective customer, what your next possible date, will most remember about you — and this applies to brands — is what you say, how you say it and how well you prove that what you said is true, honest and human.
Content doesn’t just control your brand then. Content is your brand, because customer perception is your brand — and customer perception is shaped most significantly by your content.
Now, content is everything. It is your tweet, it is the LinkedIn article your CEO writes, it is what your sales person says to close a deal, it is even what your sales person says when a deal suddenly falls through and the person on the other end of the line is being insanely rude. Content is every single aspect of tone, charisma, thought leadership and engagement that your brand participates in in one way or another.
This sounds like a lot to manage — and rest assured, it is. But the trick isn’t to be perfect. The trick isn’t even to be identical in how you talk to customers, as if every single person that works at your company is a clone of the next. The trick is to be human, it is to be honest, it is to be true to what you say.
That’s how you make friends in real life — and that’s how you win loyal customers for your brand.
OK — so, you don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be strategic. Brands aren’t people. Brands are a conglomerate of many, many agile and intelligent minds all working toward a similar and agreed upon goal.
People on the other hand are not conglomerates. People are free agents acting according to their own individual goals — or often just whims. Brands need more guidance than that. Brands need to ask, they need to double check, they need someone at the executive level to sign off (depending on your org chart). And that’s not a bad thing. What it is, though, is a lot of work for a content team.
The Hubspot Content Model
Let’s take Hubspot for example. I’m sure most of you, perhaps even all of you, have read a blog post or two from them. They manage three different blog verticals, at least that’s what a reader can see. Likely, because they are Hubspot, they segment much more once you fall into one of their nurture streams. Speaking of nurture streams, more content is needed in there to push warm leads to becoming hot leads — or at least engaged members of the Hubspot readership community. To get those warm leads, they first have to pull in completely cold leads and they do this through their social channels.
Ah, yes, more content.
They tweet, post and share their own blog posts as well as that of other brands and publishers. Their editors and content team members also tweet, post and share blog posts they worked on. All of that is Hubspot branded content — even when it is coming from an editor’s personal account. That message needs to be on brand — but fitting for both the editor and Hubspot.
Then, when you actually talk to Hubspot, like actually get into their sales funnel, these guys are great! They talk to you about blog posts, they send you blog posts, they reference blog posts, they make you feel like if you aren’t reading their blog posts — well, what are you doing online?
All in all, these guys are zipped up. The sales team knows their content and they know that content is their brand. And, everyone at their company knows it, too.
So, let’s wrangle all of this down a bit. Few of us are at a Hubspot business level. How does a scaling company implement this content is the brand philosophy? Well, you first put in place a cross-organizational content team. This means that every single person at your business can and ideally will be a content contributor. This doesn’t mean they have to be the best writer in the building. That’s what you hire a content marketer for — to do the edits, to rewrite when necessary, to make sure everything going out is on-brand, even when the tone varies based on the author.
For most content teams, the best way to do this is by working closely with your sales, campaigns, support, product and BI teams. For more information on exactly how a business, like Bigcommerce, puts this to work, stay tuned for a future blog post.