Here's a Quick Way to Communicate Snackable Insights


Today’s marketer knows to “lead with story.” But how can they make sure the intended takeaways from these stories shine through and are truly heard? I will share the importance of putting the audience at the forefront in planning how to make the message more digestible.

Renowned writer Anne Lamott’s popular book on “Writing and Life” is titled “Bird by Bird.” The title is drawn from an anecdote about the author’s brother being totally overwhelmed by a report on birds while facing a stack of unopened books on various birds. His father suggested “just take it bird by bird.” Aside: I just finished Freeway Rick Ross’ autobiography and it’s tough to keep my bird references in check.

Lamott applies this advice to break big projects into small pieces to the writing process. Yet marketers could also relate this thinking to their storytelling too. If the story is long, unwieldy, or unfocused, the audience will be overwhelmed and unable to discern the main value proposition or respond to the call-to-action.

The best storytelling, whether it is found in a Lamott novel or an industry trends white paper, is in tune with its audience. In the marketing context, this can mean telling a story in several different ways for the various target audiences. I just had a conversation with a friend today about different ways to share his podcast because some people want to listed in their car and others want to watch via IG video.


Making Insights Bite-Sized

Consider the results of a qualitative research report you’ve commissioned. While the full insights, developed in-depth, can be useful for internal audiences, offering easily digestible insights can help the story to be disseminated quickly throughout the organization. These “snackable insights” are more likely to become ingrained in the organization too.

When taking those qualitative research results and sharing them with an external audience, give some thought first to the target audience and your objectives of sharing that particular story.

Approaches to telling the story could include:

  • Evidence-based white paper to boost your brand’s thought leadership credibility.
  • Gated content infographic summarizing findings to drive website traffic.
  • Social media campaigns leveraging quotes, metrics, and data insights to expand reach.
  • Short video focusing on research highlights in a visually appealing way to reach new audiences.

By creatively breaking the story into bite-sized insights, you can keep the audience coming back for more. Today we read a story by Charles Dickens in one classic book, but originally his novels were published on a serialized basis. With Americans consuming an estimated 100,000 digital words each day, better stand out by being selective about what insights you contribute to the daily digital clutter.

At the same time your approach and what you highlight can vary depending on audience. Consider the storytelling efforts of a team marketing an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabling solution. Those who are only just becoming aware of the need to get connected may need you to demystify the insights. However, you could take a more technical approach presumably, for the CIO who already recognizes how her business will benefit from the IoT and is only considering which vendor to partner with.

Another consideration in making your story accessible? The power of visuals. Creating a chart, graph, image or other visualization that speaks volumes to answer a question or address a challenge takes time. Still, by doing the work upfront you avoid your audience quickly deciding it will take too much effort to glean the essential story you’re trying to communicate.

Finally, in taking the “bird by bird” approach to snack-sizing data insights, embrace mobility. Your audience wants to get answers efficiently and glean highlights easily — on whatever device they may be using. Trying to tell your story in one, single tome of text (downloadable ebook maybe?) doesn’t always speak to audiences. Knowing people want to engage with insights they can share on social, pop into PowerPoint, cite in emails, or present to their own team, marketers need to proactively plan how they can tell their stories clearly, concisely, and in accessible, tasty morsels as insight.




How Research Teams Create Strong Brands

 Photo by  rawpixel

Photo by rawpixel

Enterprises today rely on big data, and there’s an increasing amount of it available to consult. Yet, while many research teams do a good job of collecting information about industry trends, competitors and customers, they don’t always do as well communicating and disseminating that knowledge to internal teams.

Differences between Research and Insight

Let’s begin by distinguishing between research and insights. Research is more organized, factual, and statistic based. Feedback Ferret’s Sonia Sparkes describes it as “the ‘WHAT’ of customers and markets.” On the other hand, insights, are “the ‘WHY’ of customers and brands.” Researchers are tasked with investigating to collect information. To develop insights, though, we draw on previous experience (read: historical data), subject matter expertise, and a deep understanding of human behavior.

Put simply, research delivers data while insights deliver a narrative.

Delivering Insight to an Internal Audience

Researchers are typically good with gathering data. That’s what drove them to become researchers in the first place. They enjoy asking questions — whether its through quantitative or qualitative research — and gaining knowledge and facts.

The next step, though, is delivering insights to an internal audience. After all, the goal of the information is to find solutions to problems, understand customer pain points, identify opportunities and more. This requires more than simply reporting the research findings. This demands analyzing and understanding the information and offering recommendations driven by the data. This demands internal storytelling by the research team to fuel a smarter, stronger brand.

Insights add a fresh layer to the research. But not every observation is a true insight. And there’s the rub for the research team. Making sense of the data and uncovering the “actionable insight” requires work.

Becoming an Insights Engine

As noted in “Building an Insights Engine,” in the Harvard Business Review: “What matters now is not so much the quantity of data a firm can amass but its ability to connect the dots and extract value from the information.”

The HBR authors propose seven key characteristics related to insights engines. Top performers:

  • Synthesize the data
  • Give insight groups independence from other functions
  • Play a role at all key planning stages
  • Emphasize collaboration
  • Embrace experimentation
  • Imagine the future
  • Take an action-oriented approach

One more attribute they shared? The ability to communicate the research insights through engaging narratives. The article uses Unilever as an example of an organization that has moved away from “fact-filled” talks to more Ted-style presentations or other experiential approaches.

Instead of relying only on written reports to deliver research outputs, here are a few ideas to engage internal audiences:

  • Blogs can be a more accessible means of educating internal audiences
  • Blogs can be a more accessible means of educating internal audiences
  • Posting summary boards in a common office area
  • Short videos
  • Workshops allow more people to engage with the findings and build on the insights

Data is powerful, but story resonates with an audience on another level entirely. Meaningful stories which have a personal impact will always be more persuasive than a data dashboard.

About Jeff Meade
I am the Managing Director for Tara Wilson Agency, an experiential marketing agency that recently made the Inc 5000 for the second year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. We’ve doubled in size in 2018 and plan to do it again next year. You can connect with me on Linkedin or twitter @meadeology.

5 Little Known Ways Influencers Drive Content Marketing


Influencer marketing is trending for both B2C and B2B brands. It helps that partnerships with influencers can help drive content marketing campaign goals. Here’s how.

A little context

Content marketing uses different forms of content as a business asset. These can include blogs, white papers, how-to guides, case studies, thought leadership articles…. The content will be created to serve a campaign goal while speaking to the brand’s customers and is typically published and promoted on many digital channels.

The influencer is someone with an established audience and credibility in the target niche. This can be a major celebrity or a micro-influencer who is less well-known but has a devoted following in a particular target market area.

So, how exactly do the two work hand-in-hand? There are actually several ways a brand influencer can help drive your content marketing.

#1 Co-Creating Content

You’ve partnered with influencers because they know and are trusted by your audience. Your market listens to what these individuals have to say. So, invite the influencer to share an Instagram story or bring together several influencers to serve as a panel on an online webinar. Co-create online videos together. Interview several of your influencers on a hot trend in the industry and you can publish a Q&A with several expert names drawing people in.

#2 Repurposing Content

Influencers can give more life to content you have already published. Freshen it up and ask your influencers to get the word out to their followers that you’ve got a great guide or ebook available.

Or, if you’ve already co-created content with that influencer, find ways to repurpose what exists already. For instance, you might turn that Q&A with several experts into fodder for an infographic or turn it into a podcast or video series.

84% of marketers repurpose influencer content on their organic social channels. — Linqia

#3 Highlighting the Relationship

In producing brand content consider ways in which you can incorporate quotes from the influencer or link to that individual’s material from your post. Highlighting your partnerships with influencers helps your brand authenticity.

You have access to someone who has cultivated a community, take advantage of the opportunities. Even having a testimonial quote from a well-known individual on your white paper can help garner attention for that content.

72% of marketers use influencer marketing to improve the performance of paid social programs. — Linqia

#4 Mentioning on Social

Not only should you be promoting any co-created content on your own social channels, but also you can expect the influencer to do the same. An @mention of the influencer on Instagram, for instance, can make it easier for your influencer to regram your content to their followers.

Posting a thanks message that names the influencers who helped co-create the content could also lead to greater awareness as they like, link, and regard your post of gratitude.

#5 Sharing Ideas

Keep in mind that your influencers are well-known for their perspective and ability to set trends. So, be open to the ways the influencer might suggest you deliver content differently. Listen to pitches for collaborations. Consider off your radar approaches to content marketing. This is how you’re going to do that something different that helps your brand stand out while you continue to build a strong relationship with an influencer who will now feel the relationship is a reciprocal one.

Building, nurturing, and maintaining relationships with influencers can bring many benefits. Adding momentum to your content marketing is just one way in which these individuals can help with lead generation, brand awareness, and more.

About Jeff Meade
I am the Managing Director for Tara Wilson Agency, an experiential marketing agency that recently made the Inc 5000 for the second year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. We’ve doubled in size in 2018 and plan to do it again next year. You can connect with me on Linkedin or twitter @meadeology.

Customer Advocacy: How to Turn B2B Customers into Platforms

Capitalizing on customers who already use and love your product or service makes sense. This audience is easier to upsell, can advocate on your behalf, and lead to more organic referrals. But, with so many businesses building B2B Customer Advocacy Programs, marketers must be smart about leveraging these individuals in a way that sells and engages.

What is a B2B Customer Advocacy Program

Marketers understand that brand advocates make a difference. Yet, too few businesses today are taking full advantage of these emotionally connected customers to drive sales, referrals, social awareness, and brand engagement.

The brand advocate is a loyal customer, an individual who can provide valuable customer insights, refer others, and help you in marketing by providing authentic user generated content.

As Forrester puts it, advocate marketing “enhances the entire customer life cycle” by:

  • Encouraging buyers to share best practices and help each other thrive
  • Rewarding loyal buyers by enhancing their reputations
  • Turning customer success into new business opportunities
Your customers are more credible to a buyer than you are. That makes them your most powerful salesforce.” — Bill Lee, founder, Center for Customer Engagement

Strengthen your customer advocacy program efforts with these simple strategies.

Bolster Company Buy-in

You can’t boost a customer advocacy program without backing up the implicit promise to customers that you will provide quality products and customer service. Bridge siloed departments so that every team is working together to make customer experience seamlessly efficient and effective.

From the C-suite down to the front lines of the company, your business should embrace a customer-centric perspective. Since advocacy depends on customer goodwill, it is everyone’s job to ensure the individual user has a positive experience at every step of the way. Review business processes to streamline customer experience. This will give advocates something to praise you for and evangelize about on social media and in discussions with their own coworkers, friends and family.

Invite Advocate Action

Technology today makes it easier to manage data, measure interactions, and even predict customer behavior. Yet identifying customer advocates isn’t enough. You want them to act too. Thus, you need to encourage them to do things that cultivate your business objectives. These could include:

  • Joining a customer advisory board
  • Referring new leads/customers
  • Providing testimonials and reviews
  • Commenting on your company’s blog
  • Promoting a company event via social media or word of mouth
  • Answering other user’s questions in a support forum

Make Action Easy

Develop ways your users can advocate simply. This could include making prevalent tools to encourage social sharing of your content marketing. Or identifying those who are often helpful in user forums and giving them a more established role teaching others how to better use your product.

Show Appreciation

Many programs today offer rewards or points, even discounts, but these may not foster emotional connection. What can you offer as a benefit for brand advocacy that is exclusive and also provides value? Don’t focus only on what your business gains from a great customer testimonial or success story. Instead, identify ways to promote that success while fostering professional relationships. Both company and customer, for instance, can benefit from speaking together at industry events, hosting webinars, and co-publishing white papers.

Ultimately, the brand advocate doesn’t need to be rewarded so much as recognized. Cultivate loyalty in creative ways. Be attentive and appreciative, but most of all keep providing a product, solution or service that best meets their business needs.


Why Agencies Should Care About Knowledge Management


Small business owner already have enough to manage. Yet developing effective knowledge management strategies can help your business or boutique agency achieve greater success. Let’s discuss what knowledge management means and how you can best incorporate it into your small business.

What is Knowledge Management?

You have plenty of business know-how. So does every individual employee that works in your small business. Each of you knows a great deal about, say, customer purchase habits, buyer personas, economic trends, manufacturing shifts, new product development, legal implications…yet how do you effectively bring all of this diverse knowing together as business knowledge?

Knowledge management.

Knowledge management organizes all the various sorts of business intelligence to drive success.

Yet many small businesses are held back in their knowledge management by the pressures of building the business while juggling many different responsibilities. Then, when new people are brought on to help drive company profitability, it’s a further struggle to onboard those individuals in a way that lets them take full advantage of pre-existing knowledge, while also learning what they can add to build competitive advantage.

5 Simple Steps to Better Knowledge Management

  1. Review your current knowledge sources. When it comes to knowledge management, you need to first identify all of your potential sources of company, customer, and competitor (also known as the 3 C’s) information. Review all of the ways this information is stored and used.
  2. Evaluate your current knowledge management. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of your system by asking yourself the following questions: a) What types of technology could you better integrate; b) Do you want to centralize information for employees to access as needed; and c) Are you overlooking sources of knowledge — vendors? new hires?
  3. Expand access to knowledge. Once you’ve identified opportunities for greater knowledge gathering, find ways to share, monitor, maintain, and retain learning. You might: a) Use software that helps you sort, store, and organize business knowledge; b) Break down silos between departments with virtual check-in meetings ensuring everyone has up-to-date information; and c) Educate your employees about the importance of collecting knowledge and optimizing its communication to drive strategy, innovation, and overall business success.
  4. Account for human nature. A challenge in knowledge management is people wanting to protect their territory. Some individuals fear that they will put themselves out of job by sharing information too freely. In this view, if they are the only ones who know a certain thing, the business can’t function without them. Or, perhaps, people don’t feel that their efforts to collaborate and share information are being appreciated. Communicate the benefits of the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing.
  5. Encourage sharing. Knowledge typically resides in people. This means your business needs to enable people to talk with the right other people to learn what they need to know. Internal websites and software like slacck can reduce the friction that is all too common in workplace communication.

You’ll see the benefits of knowledge management when you strategically communicate with one another and identify ways (including the right technology) to share, monitor and retain information. Encourage a company culture that not only fosters trust but also encourages ongoing learning to see competitive gains while driving business success.

About Jeff

I’m a color commentator trapped in the body of a marketing strategist. So, while the marketing guy consults; the color commentator writes these articles. You can connect with me on Linkedin.

A Guide to Influencer Marketing for Healthcare

 Photo by  bruce mars  on  Unsplash

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

People looking for information about medical facilities, doctors, insurance, and other healthcare providers search online. Patients are also comfortable posting reviews and sharing their experience with service providers. This is why healthcare marketers today are turning to influencer marketing on digital channels to give their efforts a boost.

What is Influencer Marketing?

This blog has addressed the influencer marketing trend before, but in short this tactic would see a healthcare service provider partnering with someone who has an engaged following in the target niche.

This could be someone with a large following via Instagram or a YouTube channel or someone with a smaller, but very targeted and loyal following on social media.

These individuals are influencers because their followers generally identify with them in a way that they can’t relate to a brand. Your target audience will value and trust these individuals’ opinions.

How Influencer Marketing Can Help Healthcare

Influencer marketing can have several positive impacts on healthcare marketing:

  • Influence patients’ healthcare choices
  • Raise awareness of lifestyle and wellness programs
  • Foster better community health

For example, a Chicago-area hospital partnered with racecar driver Danica Patrick to influence her followers to participate in its Healthy Driven campaign focusing on disease prevention and health screenings.



Methods of Influencer Marketing

Having a celebrity tout a product or service is one of the main methods of influencer marketing. Even when not a celebrity, the right influencer portraying a particular doctor, treatment, or wellness program in a positive light, can prompt followers to want to try the same approach.

Influencers can also post favorable reviews of a service, product, or service provider via blog, video, or social media. This is typically something the marketer rewards the influencers for doing through its partnership program.

The marketer might also try to boost brand awareness with a sponsored contest on an influencer’s digital channels. This could be something as simple as inviting them to post a selfie in your facility or using your program’s hashtag in a social post to enter.

The relationship with the influencer can also play out in your own content marketing. For instance, quoting a key patient influencer’s advice on living with chronic pain on your marketing materials can supplement having that individual praising the benefits of a certain pain relief product in their messaging.

Tip:Identify top health influencers using tools such as

When it comes to healthcare influencer marketing it is important to understand the regulations applying to your industry. For instance, if money exchanges hands the FTC typically mandates consumers must be notified.

Yet, one advantage of influencer marketing is that it can also happen organically, no matter how niche your product, service, association, program or organization. I think internet rule #4080 goes something like this: If you can think of it, then there is probably a community for it. 

Having a dedicated person on the marketing team handling influencer interactions can help you identify the influencers who will best align with your messaging and start making a difference for your marketing campaigns.

About Jeff Meade
I am the Managing Director for Tara Wilson Agency, an experiential marketing agency that recently made the Inc 5000 for the second year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. We’ve doubled in size in 2018 and plan to do it again next year. You can connect with me on Linkedin or twitter @meadeology.


Previously published on Medium

5 Key Metrics That Matter to Marketing Agencies

 Photo by  Daryn Stumbaugh

We had a great week onboarding four new members to our team. We went over everything from agency vision, growth plan, to how we measure our experiential marketing. 

My key message was this: part of running a successful agency is taking the time to track and analyze key metrics that can help gauge the  health of our business. 

Some of these are obvious and essential to any business owner, but in the agency world we have a few that can really speak to what we do every day. Paying attention to these metrics keeps our agency humming along.  

#1 Income. Clearly you are tracking this metric; otherwise you were already ballin’ when you opened your agency as a “pet project.” The rest of us agency folks need to pay attention to client income trends. Is this number growing or shrinking? Particularly, is it declining while hours spent working are increasing? That’s not a good thing for your agency.

#2 Staff-cost ratio. Payroll is an expenditure you’re keeping a close eye on. Marketing agencies require talented, experienced, creative staff to provide the innovative services clients demand. Yet the percentage of payroll expenditures against gross revenues, for instance, can be telling about agency health. While many businesses aim for payroll to represent only 30% of gross revenue, an agency could easily reach 50%. Here’s why… the "elevator assets" aka people on the payroll are the ones producing the revenue. There really isn’t any other substantial costs like there are in other industries. 

#3 Hourly rate. In addition to knowing what hourly rate you are earning from various clients, you can track your labor billing rates against industry norms. Since agency labor rates are based on considerations such as agency reputation, pricing policies, services provided, market forces, value provided, opportunity cost, and negotiated rates, you’ll want to review the competitiveness of your hourly rates.

#4 Overhead rate. Overhead is usually about 30% in the agency world. That’s a pretty big blanket statement considering there are many factors contributing to overhead variability at agencies. These include agency service type, business practices, location, and the period for which you are calculating the rate.

#5 Profit margin. #5 should have been # 1 to me. Profit margin is the metric you want to manage against. An increase in revenue doesn’t matter if you can’t manage costs. This metric highlights your ability to increase revenue while managing costs i.e. grow a healthy, sustainable business. Anyone looking to grow an agency pays attention to their profit margin.

In the agency world, we can get caught up in the creative and developing engaging experiences for our clients. Still, there have to be people on your agency’s operational side regularly reviewing finances and tracking these key metrics which provide important insights into agency health. 

Please share any metrics your agency uses to keep everything humming along.

How B2B brands can boost engagement with videos

 Photo by  Avel Chuklanov

Whether its Netflix and chill or Hulu and relax, people love to watch videos — and B2B customers are people too! Still, B2B marketers need to do video well to truly leverage our proclivity for moving pictures.

In a past article, I offered examples of types of B2B videos. Yet, whatever type you pick can drive action — if done well. Adding a video component to content marketing efforts can make a difference across industries. According to Comscore, adding a video to your website can improve by 53%the chances your site will be on Google’s first page for search results.

Videos also capture consumer attention, drive higher engagement, and increase customer conversions. They even provide more detailed feedback as it’s easy to measure click-through rates, drop-off points, or numbers of time watched.

Tips to leverage video in B2B marketing

Have a clear objective. Before scripting and filming a video think first about what you want the video to accomplish. Whether it’s brand building, building trust, explaining a process, encouraging applications, or driving conversions, focus the video on that one mission. One video = one goal. This is not a feature-length film after all.

Know your audience. Focus your single, simple, and accessible message on a particular target audience. A Software as a Service (SaaS) company, for instance, addressing a C-suite executive might speak to the bigger picture and focus on ROI and driving innovation. Yet the same company, doing a video for the engineers who will be actually employing the solution, might go into more specific detail about how the SaaS works and value-added to internal processes.

Make ’em laugh. We love to laugh, so humor helps you to engage audiences in the video. Still, don’t go overboard in an attempt to create the next viral sensation. That’s a long shot. Focus on your overall objective, inject some humor into the video script, and overall aim for engaging and energetic. Poking fun at your own brand or business, or laughing at a common customer pain point, can give the audience an opportunity to relate and smile.

Make ’em cry. Well, you don’t necessarily want them to be sobbing over your solution explainer video. Although Go Pro does a good job of making viewers tear up in this example.

GoPro: Fireman Saves Kitten

Nevertheless, tapping into emotion is a smart move. Video offers immersion and can truly draw the audience into an experience. Don’t rely only on stats and figures to win over your potential buyer. Pair logic with an emotional appeal in crafting a call to action that connects.

Be concise. You are competing with kittens playing piano, Carpool Karaoke, and the In My Feeling Challenge . Don’t waste your viewer’s time. Get to the point. Get there quickly. Keep your video concise, be authentic, and share the most necessary details in a direct, engaging way.

Videos over 30 minutes retain only 10% of viewers while those under 90 seconds retain 53% of viewers on average. — Vidyard

 Your videos need to be useful, relevant, and timely to capture audience attention. This means this may not be the right project for employing your teenage daughter — unless she’s a young Sofia Coppolla in the making. Otherwise your marketing message may literally get Lost in Translation.

About Jeff Meade

I am the Managing Director for Tara Wilson Agency, an experiential marketing agency that recently made the Inc 5000 for the second year in a row as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. We’ve doubled in size in 2018 and plan to do it again next year.

You can connect with me on Linkedin or twitter @meadeology.

4 Ways Blockchain will impact Influencer Marketing

 Photo by: Jasmin Awad

Photo by: Jasmin Awad

Influencer marketing is a popular digital marketing tactic. Yet, as effective as it is, there can be issues. Verifying authenticity of followers can prove difficult. Understanding how to set prices and determine ROI has proven to be challenging. Plus, with so many moving parts, influencer marketing is time-consuming to manage. Blockchain technology can help address many of these concerns.

What is Blockchain?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Bitcoin and like me, watched the documentary “Banking on Bitcoin” on Netflix. This digital currency, though, is only part of the blockchain. All kinds of transactions can be requested, validated, verified, and added to the digital ledger of the blockchain. 

According to Alex Nascimento, co-founder and faculty of the UCLA Blockchain Lab, “The benefits of blockchain are the use of this decentralized, immutable and transparent new form of database to mainly eliminate the need of a middleman in any transaction where parties don’t fully trust each other.”

Blockchain’s benefits include:

  • Data isn’t stored in any single location
  • Records are public and easily verifiable
  • No one centralized version for a hacker to corrupt

4 Ways Blockchain will Impact Influencer Marketing

The main use of blockchain today is in finance with blockchain enabling transactions without a middleman. The technology is often supported by identity management processes, which can help users preserve their online identity from theft. But, how will blockchain make a difference in influencer marketing? Here are four ideas.

  1. Payment Facilitation. Blockchain’s decentralization enables transactions without paying fees to financial institutions. A large brand with relationships with many different micro-influencers could save marketing budget dollars by doing its business interaction with the influencers directly through blockchain. This is especially helpful when dealing with influencers all over the globe. Since brands are always looking for influencers who often represent themselves (i.e. they don’t come packaged with media buying firms), the ease of transferring money reliably via blockchain will have advantages for both brand and influencer.
  2. Smart Contracts. Smart contracts are simple contracts coded to execute when specific conditions are met. A brand, therefore, can program all of its influencers’ contracts to respond to specific targets without having to monitor each one individually. When the benchmark is met, the influencer is paid with blockchain technology automating the payout. For instance, a specific hashtag being shared X number of times triggers a payment.
  3. Validates Identity. Dealing with social media influencers potentially opens a brand up to interactions with a host of individuals worldwide, yet blockchain technology offers enhanced reassurance that people are who they say they are. With blockchain’s digital identity standards, your marketing team can enjoy greater confidence in not only the online interactions but the actual identity and reputation of your influencers. 
  4. Private File Sharing. Your marketing team also might benefit from the decentralized file storage of the blockchain. Without the need for centralized client-server relationships (as on the traditional web), brands can distribute information to influencers on protected networks that are convenient and quick. As a result, no matter where the influencer is located, the brand can share streaming content or files without adding the concerns of proprietary data being easily accessible on the web.

As ad dollars move to influencers, its wise for marketers to understand how to leverage Blockchain technology in their marketing efforts.

The Rise of Micro-Influencers

 Photo: George Panchev

Photo: George Panchev

Small is the new big when it comes to influencer marketing. Businesses are beginning to value the diversity and niche-focus of these influencers to further their targeted campaigns. Let’s examine the rise of micro-influencers, the macro impact they can have, and how to best partner with these small but mighty influencers.

What is a micro-influencer?

Influencers are active social media users or bloggers that a brand partners with in promoting a product or service to a niche, targeted audience. These are often individuals, often celebrities or experts or otherwise public figures, with 10s of thousands of followers on social channels.

But what truly makes someone a micro-influencer ? These are the social media users who may not be walking the red carpet at the Emmy’s or being interviewed by CNN. But they still have a robust and loyal following in their particular lane.

Their numbers of followers may not compete with the likes of Taylor Swift or Chef Curry, but the micro-influencer has a hyper-engaged audience that is keenly interested in what these individuals posts about their particular interests.

So, while the quantitative reach may seem smaller, partnering with a micro-influencer actually puts your content in front of a much more focused, relevant audience.

The appeal of micro-influencers

Consider the findings of a Markerly study of Instagram users’ engagement: The key finding of our data is that as an influencer’s follower total rises, the rate of engagement (likes and comments) with followers decreases.”

  • Those with less than 1,000 followers generally received likes on their posts 8% of the time.
  • Users with 10 million+ followers only received likes 1.6% of the time.

This represents the audience engagement a micro-influencer can offer. But another advantage is their niche-focus. These are people who inspire and encourage followers to buy the product/services they suggest. In fact, according to Experticity, micro-influencers have up to 22.2 times more buying conversations each week than the average consumer.

82% of consumers are highly likely to follow a micro-influencer’s recommendation — Experticity

Micro-influencers are also more affordable. Instead of paying a celebrity an exorbitant amount of money for an endorsement, you might gain the enthusiasm of a micro-influencer with free product compensation instead.

By partnering with the right micro-influencers, you can diversify your efforts and gain a foothold with a fan base that truly listens to the social conversations these individuals post.

Partnering with micro-influencers

How can you best partner with a micro-influencer? You have to find them first, and the best place to start is your own social media. Who follows your brand already and offers personalized, authentic content that is engaging thousands of followers?

Once you’ve approached the people who already know and are interested in your brand, don’t be afraid to reach out to other micro-influencers you might find by searching relevant hashtags.

You might also check your own employees social activity to see who has a loyal following that could help you further grow your business. 

Do a Google search also to find top local bloggers in your area. For example, a restaurant in Dallas,TX might search “Dallas + food blog” to see what turns up. You can also do a google search to identify influencer outreach agencies. There is an entire cottage industry developing around influencer matchmaking.  

Ultimately, micro-influencers are what’s next with influencer marketing. They have credibility with an audience that brands can’t match with sponsored ads or even with celebrity endorsements.

“Micro-influencers are the new vehicles through which marketing efforts will travel the fastest. It’s a long, tried, tested and true adage that word of mouth is among the most trusted methods of growing a brand or acquiring new customers. Social media only amplifies this. Now instead of an individual speaking with just one person, one person can effectively share communication with tens of thousands of people who are sure to react in one way or another. Celebrity is great and don’t get me wrong, so are their social media numbers which are beyond incredible but what’s to be measured is the ability for one to connect. It’s way easier for me to relate to someone who seems way more reachable than the prior, which in turn is probably what is evident in the conversion that micro-influencers are able to achieve.”

How to Identify Brand Advocates

How to identify brand advocates.jpg

Businesses embrace the value of customers singing their brand’s praises to colleagues, family, and friends whether in-person or online. Yet many don’t know who their brand enthusiasts are. Make it a priority to identify those brand advocates who are championing your products or services. Only then can you develop them into a marketer’s dream army.

Defining Brand Advocacy

There is a difference between brand loyalty and brand advocacy. Someone who is loyal consistently purchases your product or service. Someone who is an advocate champions your brand and actively promotes your products or services to others.

Take a look at this visualization from Deloitte to understand where advocates sit on the customer spectrum:


We all want customers who are loyal; they represent repeat sales and are often easier to up-sell and cross-sell. But, brand advocates (sometimes called brand evangelists or brand champions), are more active and vocal on your behalf. These are the people who will make referrals and provide valuable insights. They also give the marketing team access to user generated content, which can offer authenticity and credibility to campaigns to convert prospects into customers.

84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and trust
— Nielsen

Brand Advocate Behaviors

You have no shortage of data on your customers, but how exactly do you identify the people who will advocate for your brand? There are several behaviors you can look for:

Social shoutouts  — Existing customers who take to social media to share positive experiences are a good start. It’s especially good when they also take the time to find your Instagram, twitter handle, Facebook page, or other social channel profile to make sure you hear them!

Social shares  — People who share your social content on their own feeds are helping out your marketing team. Identify the people who are consistently linking to your content or giving your own social posts greater reach.

Returning visitors  — Site visitors who regularly return to engage with your content, spend longer on your site, and subscribe to content are likely advocates.

Other Ways to Identify Advocates

How else can you find the brand advocates in your databases? Talk to other departments — customer support or sales, for instance — and ask them to identify people who have shared their satisfaction with your product or services.

Follow up with the people who have sent positive feedback via email, in forums, or on social media. Consider how uncommon it is for people to take the time to share accolades — as ready as we are to complain — and empower (read: provide an incentive) those brand enthusiasts to share their passion for your product more widely as brand advocates.

Reach out to the customers who 1. Actually fill out the follow-up survey you send after a brand engagement and 2. Answer that they are “highly likely” to recommend your brand. Ask them to actually do so!

Finally, track brand activity on sites such as Google Plus or Yelp. Identify people who are sharing the love. Thank them.

At the same time, don’t overlook the critics. When you encounter someone with something negative to say, work to turn the experience around. By doing all you can to make things better, you might be cultivating a new brand advocate along the way!

Doing Innovation Labs the Right Way


This article is inspired by a client who is looking to launch an innovation lab.

If you were playing “buzzword bingo” at a business meeting, you can bet you’d see “innovation” in one of the squares. Yet it’s a lot easier to say innovation than it is to do it. That’s why many businesses today are focusing their game-changing efforts in an environment they label an Innovation Lab.

What is an Innovation Lab?

Innovation labs are intended to jumpstart creativity and change, but they aren’t going to look identical at every organization.

How can they? The goals are going to be different for every business. A site devoted to designing the environments for Innovation Labs outlines several objectives:

  • Inspire new types of interactions between your teams! 
  • Shrink product development cycle times!
  • Accelerate alignment of large groups of people around new strategies!
  • Accelerate new product development!

Defining Features

Although the objective of an innovation lab is specific to each business, there are features that are common to all innovation labs.  For instance, most innovation labs “strive to engage a wide range of stakeholders in problem-solving activities,” according to Stanford’s Social Innovation Review. But, what else defines these distinctively collaborative environments designed to drive change?

Focus with an open mind.

Even though innovation labs typically have a set topic or theme established as a focal point at the outset, successful labs remain flexible. The goal is to get a fresh perspective, cross boundaries, and leave the traditional top-down approach to problem solving behind. A truly collaborative innovation lab will allow participants room to co-create meaning around the central focal point.

Imagining the impossible.

As Lowe’s Innovation Labs note on their site, “the pace of change is exponential, creating an imperative for organizations to see their own narrative for the future and be proactive about building long-term competitive advantage.” To do that, lab participants need to be aiming to change the future — of a campaign, of how the brand story is told, of a product line, of a service offering, of a business process, or even of the industry.

Embracing experimentation.

Innovation labs will also be opened with the expectation of experimentation. This means that even the C-suite is aware in advance that failure is a possibility, but that it’s part of the pursuit of progress. Ben Davis of eConsultancy suggested the lab be “a form of insulation against short term accounting that some see as the enemy of innovation.” 

Diverse participant pool.

These labs aim to break down boundaries and give voice to a wide range of different perspectives. Stanford’s research noted labs describing their “unusual bunch” or “uncommon partners” or touting their “multidisciplinary dialogue, cross-sector partnerships.” No matter how it’s worded, the goal is to work collaboratively to generate long-term “breakthroughs.”

Now that you have a fundamental idea of the “what” of innovation labs, look out for a future blog on the “how.” I’ll give some insight into my work launching an Innovation Lab.

5 Marketing Metrics that Matter


Big numbers can boost organizational ego. But as I’ve recently discussed, some businesses are distracted by vanity metrics. Focus instead of the metrics that matter, those that indicate meaningful behaviors related to leads, conversions, and sales.

Marketing Metrics that Matter

Digital marketing is certainly making one thing more accessible — data. Yet all the information about leads, prospects, customers, and brand advocates doesn’t help if you don’t analyze the metrics that can drive future action.

Here, then, are some important questions to ask yourself when poring over all of the data about customer journeys, bounce rates, turning returning customers into loyalists, and all that other good stuff.

#1 Where is your traffic coming from?

Measuring traffic numbers alone is not enough. You need to be aware of your traffic sources. Really, you want to be bringing visitors to your site from a number of different sources:

•   Direct — visitors who arrive at your site after directly typing your URL

•   Search — those who find you based on your ranking in relation to their search query

•   Referral — people drawn to your site from influencers or another site.

#2 Who are you converting?

You also want to understand what is making people convert. You might compare the site interactions of different groups to determine what first-time visitors do differently from a loyal or returning customer.

In addressing new visitor conversions think about how responsive your site is and how easy it is to find needed information. Returning customers have the advantage of knowing what they are looking for, but you’ll need to analyze new visitor actions to see where they struggle or get frustrated and even leave.

#3 What are those conversions costing?

This one is truly important. Having high numbers of visitors, who spend a great deal of time on your page, and return and convert and all of that good stuff isn’t worth much if it costs you an arm and a leg to get them to do so. Your business can’t afford to go broke generating its leads.

In other words, make sure your marginal profit per customer is more than your customer acquisition costs.

Here’s an example of how Marketing Insider Group did the conversion cost math on two content guides it produced:


#4 What are people doing on your site?

Understanding what a user did on your website, what they saw, and what they clicked helps you tell a deeper story about your visitors.

You need to recognize what is driving conversions to try to influence the other users to act in the same way. So, keep an eye on page view rates per visitor, time spent, actions taken and determine what can be done to increase the time spent on your site and how you can leverage that time into increased conversions.

#5 When are people bouncing and why?

The bounce rate is a metric you want to minimize. This is the rate at which visitors to your site leave without moving onto another page. Bounce rates vary by industry so a quick search will shed light into your industry.

Visitors may bounce for several reasons such as:

  1. Weak Site Match - they were looking for eye glasses and ended up on your site selling monogrammed wineglasses.
  2. Bad User Experience - with more and more people coming from mobile devices but desktop traffic not dwindling, you need to make sure that your website presents well on smartphones, tablets and laptops. 
  3. Poor Design - difficult to find the information they want, endless scrolling on mobile devices, too busy, plain ugly.
  4. High Load Times - too slow and they'll go somewhere more responsive.
I spoke to Keenan Davis, Senior Director of Marketing for SVS, to gain insight into how to remedy the situation. Keenan says "the best way to remedy bounce rates is to think through the click path you want visitors to take.  If someone lands on your latest blog post is there a call to action referring that reader to a 2nd blog that acts as a great follow-up piece?  Are you directing them to resources or tools on your site that could be useful for them?  Are you introducing your product or service in an organic way that isn’t too over-the-top salesy?  There may be a path to conversion that is broken, or a weak call to action on the third page into the process. Identify the possible reasons exits are happening at a high rate and this can lead you to several small fixes to better optimize your site."

Key Takeaway

Having a useful product or service is only part of the battle. Marketers must also get their brand (and its content) noticed so that sales can convert that audience into customers. Doing so depends on using the right metrics to tweak campaigns, optimize marketing efforts, and better target the audience that will want to buy and become loyal to your brand.

Vanity Metrics: They Seduce and Blind Us

 Photo: Carlos Muza

Photo: Carlos Muza

In the words of Whodini … friends, how many of us have them. Now, replace the word friends, with KPI’s. Doesn’t have the same ring to it but these are the references you get when I’m writing and listening to backspin. Back to the story. When it comes to online marketing, there are some indicators (The I in KPIs) that are really nothing more than vanity metrics. Sure, they can make the organization feel successful, but the data generated isn’t actionable. Since vanity metrics can be easily manipulated, you do not want to focus on vanity metrics.

Your Vanity Metrics Cheat Sheet

Identifying vanity metrics will be easier than deciphering some vanity license plates with this helpful list.

#1 Unique Site Visits

This very common metric indicates that a web page or website is popular. But does it tell you anything about what individuals are doing on the site? Without knowing what they see, click on, and act upon or where they came from, you’re not getting actionable insight into the site success.

#2 Number of Hits/Page Views

Tracking hits or views doesn’t actually tell you anything useful. Maybe a frustrated user is looking for something particular on your site and keeps clicking on things to find the right solution (at least you’d be lucky enough they are sticking with your site). Page views is better than number of hits, yes, but this information needs to be contextualized with information about time spent or actions taken. Ultimately, it’s not just about the number, but about the behavior that accompanies the number.


Without any accompanying data for this metric, all you know is that a user downloaded your gated content. There is so much more you could know:

  • Did they use it?
  • Did they share it?
  • Did they find it useful?
  • What did they do next?
  • Did they follow up with sales after reading it?
  • What brought them to the download in the first place?


It’s very rewarding to have thousands of followers. But think about a teenager on Facebook with 1,617 friends. Would you believe that individual actually interacts, let alone meaningfully engages, with even 117 of those “friends”? Not likely.

So, why would it be any different for an organization with 10,000 followers? If those followers aren’t real people who are interested in the business and its content then this is mere vanity.

#5 Time on Site or Page

If you have ever been on a website and then turned away to join a conversation about Power then you know why this one doesn’t matter much. You might be sucked into ten minutes of conversation about Ghost or Kanan before turning back to view the site again. An organization that is on the other end applauding itself on its keeping your interest for those five minutes is misled.

Again, time spent means little taken as a solo metric. This needs to be considered in conjunction with other details such as what actions the individual takes on the site or what they do next.

Focus on Metrics that Matter

These vanity metrics don’t necessarily correlate to what really matters for an organization. Organizations should focus instead on metrics that can guide action. What are some of the important ones? I’ll address that in the next article!

Elements in Creating A Customer Journey Map


The customer journey map is one map that marketers, male and female alike, are both willing to consult for direction. Illustrating points at which the customer engages with the company, these maps provide an overview of the many possible points at which marketers can connect with and add value to potential customers.

The customer journey map can trace the customer’s experience from first engagement (via web search, social media mention or influencer post), through buying the product or service, using it, offering feedback and possibly upgrading or adding on to the purchase. The map can also look more specifically at the touchpoints within a particular stage. A marketer might specifically outline the paths a potential customer takes traveling from awareness of their need and consideration of product or service offerings before making a decision.

Elements of a Customer Journey Map

The best customer journey map will be as detailed as you can make it, regardless of whether it is a deep dive into a particular stage or an all-encompassing view of process. The following elements can help marketers make better decisions based on customer journey maps.

Actions. Know what activities the customer will take at each stage on the journey map. You should be able to differentiate, for instance, what someone will do on your site, or in your store, or on social media when they are weighing options versus when they are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.

Motivations. What is driving the customer’s awareness, research, consideration, purchase, feedback or continued loyalty? A good way to better understand what motivates your prospects and customers is to ask them. I know, crazy idea. Use feedback tools to solicit information from people engaging with your business at all points on the map.  

Questions. Customers today avoid interaction with sales teams for the majority of their trip. The truth is they can gather all the information they need without speaking to someone in your organization.  Paying attention to keyword searches, asking the sales team for their perspective, and perusing social media, can help you identify typical questions asked at each stage of the journey. Making the process easier for them makes a difference.

Barriers. What stands in the way of the customer making a purchase? There may be cost, process, or friction in the buying process you may have to address. If marketing identifies these in advance, then the team can better provide content marketing that helps address these barriers.

Muse. We already know how to find our brand muse.  And we all wish the customer journey map was a linear tool that applies to every customer and potential customer, but it just doesn’t work that way. A journey map can’t show only the route you want someone to follow. They’ll add U-turns or long and unexpected detours. You need to truly leverage insight from your brand muse.   

One last tip: don’t hog the customer journey map. Other departments — sales, product development, and legal for example — can offer fresh insights too. They can benefit too from the trailblazing marketing does to map out this navigational tool in the first place.

Essential Guide to Launching a Pop-Up Store


Pop-ups represent a welcome respite from retail fatigue. Today we can see restaurants, bars, events, and experiences pop up almost anywhere. For brevity’s sake, though, let’s focus on the essentials you need to know to successfully launch a pop-up store.

Defining the Pop-Up

A pop-up store offers something new and leverages people’s natural curiosity. Enthusiasm for the pop-up store relies on:

  • Word of mouth to gain momentum
  • Limited time availability of the goods
  • Added desirability tied to the fact that the shopper must be “in the know” about the shop’s presence.

Pop-up stores started out as a way for a new brand to test the market and determine if there was enough interest to support a permanent store. Today, however, you might see Kendrick Lamar and his DAMN pop-up shops or an independent clothing designer just as easily as you might see a big brand using a clever pop-up concept to launch a new product.

Powering Your Pop-Up Launch

Pop-ups are reaching the point at which they are a common retail offering. This makes it all the more important to launch your pop-up store smartly. Consider this advice:

Get Creative.

A pop-up store can’t be a standard brick and mortar affair offering the same products someone might get at the mall or somewhere else for that matter. These small, temporary retail environments should be unique and invite customer interaction in a fresh way.

Ideally, you’re renting a vacant space at a low cost. Put those rent savings into creating a truly imaginative, memorable space. If you can wow people in-store, then you’re more likely to see them sharing their experiences on their social networking platforms.

Shop for your location.

Finding the perfect place for your pop-up will take research and planning, but it’s important. Look into demographics in the neighborhood, competitive landscape, visibility and traffic opportunities just as you would for a traditional store. Yes, you will be in this spot a shorter amount of time. But, really, that just means you have to be more confident that you’re going to be able to make your mark and see sales success more quickly.

The nomadic nature of the pop-up means you can take your product to your customers. Selling handmade hammocks? Find a space near a sprawling park or music festival that draws frequent campers. Customizing pet crates for a living? Get a short-term lease by a dog park or near where people frequently walk their dogs.   

Be fleeting.

Sign a short-term lease for your shop. Have a set start and end date to your pop-up shop experiment. Claiming to be a pop-up and then staying in that same location for a year offering the same products undermines the very pop-up-ness of your venture. Your effort should be unexpected and surprising, as flash retailing depends on what American Express called the trend’s “ephemeral charm.”

Take this seriously.

Even though you want to make customers feel that their discovery of your shop is serendipitous, make sure your shop has a professional look and feel. Adrian Gonzalez, Brand Manager at VILLA, has launched a few pop-ups in his time and offers the following tips when thinking about your pop-up space.

AG’s Rules for Launching a Pop-up Shop: 

  1. Create an experience by telling a powerful product story using the merchandise being sold.
  2. Have the “WOW” factor either through the product or through the activities done at the shop.
  3. Integrate your shop with the surrounding neighborhood.
  4. Partner with local influencers to share the message.
  5. Keep store organized and clean.
  6. Rotate product regularly to help create a sense of urgency.
  7. Hire quality staff with retail experience.
  8. Educate your staff to communicate your unique selling points.

Get social.

Use social media to let people know you are in business. Encourage customers to share their experiences with your brand on their own channels. Post messages about your pop-up to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Use images of products and creative posts to help feed a steady flow of customers to your pop-up.

Pop-ups are pervasive — especially in this upcoming holiday season. Make the most of your unique opportunity with proper planning and smart strategizing.


Little Known Ways to use VR in your Marketing

 Image by Paulo Oliveira

Image by Paulo Oliveira

Virtual reality (VR) has actually been around since the 1950s. You read that right, the nineteen fifties. But it’s only in this current decade that the technology has achieved mainstream acceptance. Providing the opportunity for people to engage and interact in immersive experiences, regardless of where they are, VR is fast leveling-up from gaming applications to become a marketing tool too.

Virtual Reality’s Real Advantages

Virtual reality is more memorable. As Lao Tse said literally ages ago, “If you tell me, I will listen. If you show me, I will see. But if you let me experience, I will learn.” With VR instead of relying on an email campaign or product pitch, the marketing becomes truly immersive.

The Virtual Reality Society (yes, such a thing exists) also outlines additional benefits:

  • Provides realistic scenarios in a safe, controlled setting
  • Enables remote access
  • Simplifies complex problems/situations
  • Suits different learning styles in an enjoyable way that improves retention and recall

Applications of VR in Marketing

I’ve written before about the marketing applications of augmented reality. VR, though, is more in-depth. Instead of simply adding a layer to the existing, real-time reality (augmenting), VR marketing puts the customer or client into a convincing virtual environment.

Volvo was the first car manufacturer to get on the VR highway when it released a virtual reality test drive campaign with Google Cardboard to amp up enthusiasm for its new XC90.

JaguarUK took a different direction with its VR by inviting its customers to experience Wimbledon, which it sponsored. The viewer even ended up slamming the final match point as Andy Murray. See the video (sorry, you’ll need your own headset to get the full experience):

Fashion retailer TopShop also used VR to provide visibility and give customers a unique experience. The brand building VR experience took place during London Fashion Week and offered contest winners a chance to participate in a virtual catwalk experience. The VR event was held in a special pop-up space in the window display of the company’s flagship London store.

Hotel chain Marriott also uses VR to enhance customer engagement by offering virtual journeys. In one of their campaigns, guests step into a booth that uses heaters, wind jets, and VR headsets to teleport them to a new location. Starting out at a Marriott Hotel (of course) visitors might be taken on a trip to Hawaii or London. This transports them into a possible future vacation destination while boosting brand loyalty along the way.

At the same time, virtual reality can bring customers to the marketers’ home location. A university admissions team, for instance, might use VR at a college fair in St. Louis to lead a virtual tour of its Boston campus. Or, admissions could send a link to the video and mail an inexpensive headset to let international students (who pay more to university coffers) see the institution from their own phones.

Virtual focus groups can also interact with products from anywhere in the world. This lets marketers solicit information about product packaging or test placement on shelves, without having to travel to each new market. This not only saves money, but could also save time in already tight product development timelines.

Additionally, retailers are using virtual reality to do floor sets and get feedback from vendors and brand teams to ensure messages are communicated effectively. VR headsets are also being used to teach Walmart employees how to properly merchandise and even prepare for Black Friday mayhem. Running through these types of simulations in training, can also help with brand consistency across stores and, in the long run, enhance customer satisfaction with the retail chain.

These are only some examples of how VR is being used creatively in marketing today. Perhaps these will inspire you to come up with the next innovative use of virtual reality. Think about where in the buyer’s journey actually experiencing your product or service would make the most difference. Now make it happen.


How to Find your Brand Muse

 Photo by  Brad Neathery  

Photo by Brad Neathery 

Picasso had Sylvette David. John Lennon had Yoko One. And you have… btw, who is your muse? Marketing is a creative field. So, we too should have a muse to direct and guide our creativity. Here are some ideas to help you find a brand muse and inspire you to take a fresh, focused approach.

What’s a Brand Muse?

Let’s first agree on the definition of a brand muse. Traditionally, a muse has been seen as a beautiful woman who inspires a man. This goes back to Greek mythology when several of Zeus’s daughters were seen as goddesses inspiring certain arts and sciences. For instance, Calliope was the muse of epic poetry while Terpsichore was the muse of dance. 

Of course, the woman inspiring man definition is outdated today. Women get to be inspired too! In thinking of the muse in a marketing context, though, lets think of a brand muse as someone who inspires the marketers to do their best, most innovative work. There’s levels to this and having a muse gets you to a higher level. This muse can’t be a nebulous idea. Instead, this is a specific, detailed idea of the person you want to interact with your brand. This muse, then, can serve as the hero of your brand’s story.

A brand muse provides a focal point. With a brand muse in mind, you can avoid: 

  • Getting distracted by what the competitors are doing; you’ll stick to what works for your brand muse.
  • Being drawn into technology or brand channels just because they are the new, shiny things; instead they’ll have to speak to the muse.
  • Losing site of your brand values — the brand muse keeps you authentic.

How to Find Your Brand Muse

Finding a brand muse takes strategic effort. The clearer the view you have of your muse, the more inspired you can become. Here are some steps to take:

Step 1. Look Inward

Gather together all the folks in your organization that interact with your customer. These are the marketing, customer service, sales teams, etc. Leverage their combined knowledge to determine what makes the customer tick. Use this insight to create a concrete, comprehensive view of your brand muse.

Step 2. Look Outward

Survey your social media channels to identify the folks who are hungry for more information about your brand. Determine the common thread among these individuals. Add their attributes to the brand muse’s persona.

Step 3. Research

Start your additional research by having conversations with your real-life customers. Talk, in-person or online, with people already interacting with your brand; identify their pain points and aspirations. I once heard a story about a company who would save an empty seat at meetings so they would always think about the customer. They wouldn't talk to a real customer, they would just save an empty seat in meetings. Don't do that. Instead, figure out how you can not only solve their concerns, but also help them reach their goals. Now, incorporate this information into your view of the brand muse.

Step 4. Give the Muse Dimension

You’ve gathered a lot of information to work with, but take the time also to cultivate a definite view of the muse. Benefit from:

  • Naming your muse. 

  • Creating a visualization of your muse.

  • Imagining the personality of your muse.

  • Developing an ongoing relationship with your muse — the muse can’t be a static concept (unless you want your marketing to stagnate too).

Cultivating a brand muse takes work. Yet, the inspiration that results can help you create relevant and remarkable brand communications that are cohesive and authentic. [insert one of Flex's bombs here]


Augmented Reality: The B2B Marketing Playbook


Not too long ago, if you saw people at the park swiping at their phone and inexplicably shouting with joy, you might have a) thought their tinder game was on a hundred or b) assumed they were playing Pokemon Go. Even as downloads of the hit Augmented Reality (AR) game have slowed, B2B marketer interest in AR continues to increase. And Apple going all in with AR has definitely made people pay attention. Here’s what it can add to the digital marketer’s arsenal.

First, what is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality uses the camera view of a mobile or tablet device to superimpose digital images on the real-time reality in that space. The virtual object is, ideally, scaled to fit the camera view’s spatial layout for an even more effective immersive experience. Or, AR might involve glasses — such as Spectacles by Snap — through which users can see the real world and a virtual overlay simultaneously. I was very close to snapping (see what I did there) up a pair at the Grove in LA this past weekend.

We’ve seen several AR business application already. Car manufacturers have made it easier to park our vehicles with guidelines on the camera when we put the car in reverse. Lowe’s has “holorooms” in some of its stores to help customers envision their remodeled homes. But this technology can also be effective in B2B marketing efforts.

Augmented and virtual reality markets are poised to jump dramatically by 2020, according to Statista:


B2B marketers are speaking to an already information overloaded audience, and trying to stand out from the competition. This requires being on the cutting edge and crafting brand stories that resonate with the target customers. AR can help with this by extending the effectiveness of the brand storytelling. Here’s how:

#1 Customer Engagement

AR is immersive. Successful marketing connects with customers emotionally. Effectively designed AR experiences can surprise and delight your target audience and provide a memorable impression.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are paving the way to an $80 billion market opportunity by 2025. — Goldman Sachs

#2 Customer Education

An AR marketing campaign can give your prospective client an opportunity to interact with the product or brand on an experiential level. Using their own device, they are able to learn about the solution and absorb useful information on their own terms.

#3 Customer Independence

Consider the oft-repeated statistics about how much research the buyer is doing on their own now, before even interacting with a brand representative. With AR marketing offerings, your prospect is interacting with the brand independently — still without needing to engage directly with a human sales rep — at a much deeper level.

#4 Customization to Customer

With AR, the B2B marketer can better personalize their products and services to the prospect’s particular context. Imagine the potential at a conference or trade show where a B2B company could immerse attendees in an informative experience specific to their vertical, rather than simply handing out a flier with product specs.

Though not as immersive as virtual reality, which puts the person inside a virtual space and enables them to feel as if they are in a real, physical environment, AR has impact. B2B marketers looking to innovate can find great value in developing exciting and interesting AR opportunities as part of any digital B2B campaign.


Why Brands Need to Gamify Experiences

Across industries, brands are getting into the “gamification” game. By leveraging the human desire for fun, competition, and socialization, adding a game element to an experience can make a difference for B2C and B2B brands. Are you ready to level up?

What does it mean to gamify?

Gamification is being embraced across industries today as a way to drive engagement, increase customer commitment and boost loyalty. By incorporating elements of fun and competition (really, who doesn’t like those) into your marketing strategy, your brand can better connect with its target audience. Consider the success of the Starbucks seasonal Bingo game or McDonald’s Monopoly game.

Offering a small incentive or game can encourage people to take an action they might not have otherwise. For example, many people have purchased a FitBit and enrolled in the brand’s online community drawn in by the ability to challenge friends and see who will earn the most steps in a day.

This relates to event marketing too. At a trade show, a brand might encourage different sales regions or individuals to compete against one another in an on-site gaming experience that sees them interacting with the brand’s product. A real-time leader board could foster healthy competition and encourage repeat business at the brand’s trade show booth.

Why Gamification is Good for Brand Experiences

#1 Data.

Data is king these days. Gamification gives the brand access to a huge amount of information. By incorporating gaming elements into experiences, the brand’s sales, marketing, and product development teams can all gather useful data about potential and current customers. This can be analyzed to drive product decisions, analyze customer needs, segment audience populations, personalize future marketing and more. All while the customer is engaging more often with the brand.

#2 Brand Building.

Bringing a brand to someone’s attention via a game can also help capture new potential leads. Take Target’s animated Holiday Wish app, which allowed kids to create Christmas lists to send to Santa. Over 100,000 wish lists were created along with 9,200 new accounts. Over six weeks a total 1.7 million items were added to wish lists, for a potential sales total of $92.3 million.


#3 Social Amplification

When users are enjoying the experience, they’ll often share that enthusiasm with friends and family. Associating a hashtag with the experience can lead to increased customer awareness and grab the attention of new users via word of mouth.

Gamification can turn customers into influencers when they are sharing something fun, suggesting a cool competition, or pointing out a cool freebie to their friends and other consumers. Giving participants something to tweet, gram or post to Facebook about can also help drive more people to actually seek out your brand’s experience for themselves.

#4 Educate Users

Making a video tutorial or instructions more fun can also lead to greater customer satisfaction. They are more likely to learn how to use the product or service more fully if they have an incentive to participate in the education.

In a B2C example, a marketing company created a gamified “tour” of Singapore for its Tourism Board client. The tour, which ran through attractions with high impact imagery and video, netted more than 5,000 sessions and more than 300 game completions in just two months.

Friendly competition or making an on-site training into more of a game involving people working together to solve a puzzle (industry-related of course) brings a new dimension. Plus, it’s more memorable and will help your brand stand out from the competition.

Game over!

This may sound exciting, and it can be. However, you can’t just make a game of your product or service without careful planning. The gamification should suit the brand value and marketing message to further educate and engage customers and increase brand awareness and loyalty.