Using Consumer Data To Drive Marketing? 14 Risks To Be Aware Of

To make the best decisions about strategy, marketers today largely depend more on data than on their gut instincts. While data is valuable and can reveal important insights, there are risks involved in betting on consumer data alone.

What are some caveats that companies need to be aware of when using consumer data to inform their marketing initiatives? Here, members of Forbes Agency Council discuss 14 potential risks for businesses relying on consumer data to drive their marketing strategy.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Not Finding The ‘Why’

Data is an effective tool for finding out “what” consumers are doing. Where data falls short is in explaining “why” they are doing it. Smart marketers would be wise to take an “outside-in” approach by connecting with and listening to consumers to humanize the data and fully understand the motivations behind their behaviors. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.

2. Lacking Focus On Actual Buyers

Shopper insights are readily available and often tapped to inform marketing direction, messaging and overall strategy. I would argue that a more valuable group to tap would be the “purchasers” rather than the shoppers. Brands would be well-served by focusing on who is actually buying their items, then enhancing brand loyalty by targeting others who are of a similar mind and creating a dialogue with these purchasers. – Dave Wendland, Hamacher Resource Group

3. Relying On Hindsight

Too many times, people use data to look in the rearview mirror. This narrows action moving forward and leaves sales on the table. Instead, use data that helps predict what your target is looking for. Then, develop content that is valuable on their terms and start them down the consideration path. – Leonard Cercone, CerconeBrownCompany

4. Examining Numbers Rather Than Behaviors

The problem with consumer data is the way many brands analyze it. The data isn’t a bunch of numbers; it represents real people who are telling you something. Brands need to examine the behaviors behind the numbers. Only then can they maximize the data’s potential. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

5. Uncontrollable Variables Interfering With Collection

When relying on consumer data to help market, you’re relying heavily on pure online data. The data can lack quality due to many uncontrollable variables that could be interfering with its collection. To counteract these variables, research on the psychological data of consumers can be paired with online data to best market effectively. – Tony Pec, Y Not You Media

6. Failing To Consider The Data’s Context

You need to make sure that you’re thinking through the context of the data and any external factors that may cause shifts in consumer behaviors. For example, when planning for 2021, will you go off of 2019 consumer habits? Or will you look at 2020 and what happened during the pandemic? – Spencer Hadelman, Advantage Marketing

7. ‘Analysis Paralysis’ Leading To Indecision

When there is so much data, “analysis paralysis” can often cause advertisers to avoid making critical decisions. With Facebook ads, for example, we’ve actually seen an improvement recently with broad audiences versus highly targeted audiences because the AI and machine learning is processing and using that data at a faster and more efficient rate than an individual could. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

8. Being Misled By Self-Reported Data

There’s always a chance that consumer data, and especially self-reported data, is misleading. Ultimately, if you are relying on consumer data to fuel your marketing, make sure that the value exchange for them providing good data is substantial. In other words, if you can offer users something useful and/or improve their experience, the likelihood of accurate data collection increases. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

9. Not Accounting For Inherent Bias

Be sure to understand and account for any inherent bias in the respondents. For example, if the research data is generated by online panels, then you are likely to have respondents who skew younger in age and are more comfortable using technology. If you are not aware of this, unadjusted insights may misinform your strategies. – Brian Handrigan, Advocado

10. Data Quickly Becoming Obsolete

Relying on data rather than instinct helps marketers develop much more effective strategies and results. One factor to always keep in mind when relying on consumer data is that you have to make sure it’s up to date. With rapidly changing times, data can become obsolete rather quickly. One way to avoid this is to narrow down and combine several data points to ensure the highest quality audiences and results. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

11. Being Careless About Data Collection

One of the main risks is not being careful enough about the information you are collecting and how you are collecting it. Many new laws have been put in place recently, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) in Europe, to ensure that standards of privacy are followed. These standards include things such as how long you can retain someone’s data as well as what you can do with it in the long term. – Jon James, Ignited Results

12. Being Misinformed By Imperfect Data

Consumer data should be used knowing that the data is not perfect. The collected data could come from another member of the household who was using the device the data was collected on instead of from the intended consumer. Keep the halo effect in mind because one person could influence the purchasing decisions of another member of the household. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. A Resulting Lack Of Innovation

Did people know they wanted an iPhone before Apple created it? All the consumer data in the world can’t replace innovative thinking when it comes to developing great ideas. If you take a color-by-numbers approach to marketing based on what customers say they want, you will never produce an original work of art that inspires them in ways they had never imagined possible. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

14. Not Seeing The Full Picture

You need to understand that the data doesn’t always give the full picture. I watch a lot of people make decisions with the data they have, assuming that is all the information there could be. You need to take a step back and understand the ecosystem in which the data sits so that you can use it to make informed decisions—but don’t solely rely on it. – Erik Huberman, Hawke Media

How To Start A Social Monitoring Program: 14 Tips For Companies

While related, social monitoring and social listening are two distinct strategies to improve the customer experience. Social listening allows companies to take a broad look at the discussions occurring on social media around their brand. They then collect data and analyze it to find useful insights.

Through social monitoring, however, social media managers actively monitor their companies’ social accounts and newsfeeds, acting in a one-to-one capacity to address issues and engage with customers. In this way, companies can respond directly to the questions and comments customers post online for them.

Forbes Agency Council

We asked a panel of experts what important things companies should keep in mind when setting up social monitoring programs. If you’re considering implementing one, check out these tips from 14 members of Forbes Agency Council.

1. Have A Well-Defined Social Strategy

The customer makes the first move by reaching out to the brand, tagging them or mentioning them. Then, it’s up to the company to respond appropriately. It’s crucial to have a well-defined social strategy that helps your team know how to interact with your audience. Brands often have multiple audiences, and what you share, comment on or like differs, depending on the audience. – Tim Sellers, Inferno

2. Start With Intention

Have clearly stated expectations and goals, then share those with key stakeholders as well as the people executing the social media monitoring. If everyone is on the same page in regard to the intent behind the financial and time investment, you will better understand the key performance indicators and the value the investment will bring to the organization. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

3. Give The Team Flexibility To Customize Responses

While brands should anticipate common questions and their answers, give the team flexibility to customize a response. Cut-and-paste answers make things worse. Your team needs marketing awareness, as their answers are read by others beyond the original poster. Also, take the conversation out of the news feed as quickly as possible on the way to resolving the issue. – Jim Tobin, Carusele and Ignite Social Media

4. Develop A Messaging Grid

Developing a messaging grid is key so that community managers are empowered to monitor and respond to mentions in real time. Account leaders should tap social, creative and PR teams and have them role-play potential responses. Community managers will be aware of frequent topics from past social listening, creative will provide the right tone of voice, and PR can play out any possible crisis scenarios. – Elliott Phear, Night After Night

5. Leverage Social Monitoring Tools

Social media is a sea teeming with brand mentions. Trying to monitor and respond manually will burn out even the most passionate marketer. Use social monitoring and management tools, such as Talkwalker, Google Alerts, Hootsuite and Reputology, to save time that you can spend on social media strategy and tactics to garner your audience’s attention. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

6. Highlight Positive Mentions

Social media has transformed the customer service experience. It’s become a public forum. Highlight your positive brand mentions as a part of your social media messaging campaign. Boost posts on social media to support positive interactions and foster community. – Michael Kalman, MediaCrossing Inc.

7. Address Negative Mentions

Reaching out to your fans is great, but remember that negative attention can also offer a chance to engage and show off your customer-service muscles. If you’re able to correct the situation and make the customer happy, they’re likely to share that experience as widely as they shared the first interaction. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

8. Learn How To Anticipate

My No. 1 tip is to anticipate. Before starting the program, define common workflows around who will answer the questions or comments. Determine ahead of time what common answers and approvals will be, if needed, so that all stakeholders are aware of what is happening. Social media responses go quickly, so we want to be ready to react versus waiting for approvals so that the program accomplishes the goals at launch. – Gavin Baker, Baker Labs

9. Work Backward From Your Goals

If you want sales, for example, you need to measure traffic to the site where you sell. If you want awareness, then you might want to measure reach and engagement. If you measure just for the sake of measuring, you risk not getting the whole picture. Many software solutions currently available offer far more metrics than you’ll ever need to know. – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR

10. Understand What The Numbers Mean

The No. 1 tip is to first understand what the numbers that you are seeing mean. How interactive are people on the platform you’re using? What age are they? What other demographics do they fill? Your program will give you a number that represents how many people mention your company, but unless you know who those people are, it won’t do you any good in the long run. – Jason Hall, FiveChannels Marketing

11. Don’t Be Creepy

Everyone knows that the things we do online are being tracked and codified. But how companies use that information can make all the difference in how their brands are perceived. Most people on social media appreciate or will at least tolerate engagement from brands as long as it feels above-board and not as if they’re being stalked. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

12. Be Consistent Across The Board

When you begin the process of social monitoring and responding to individual brand mentions, make sure you are consistent across the board with responses. Consumers are very smart and will see if a brand responds to some comments and not others. Consistency is key to ensuring that consumers continue engaging with the brand on social channels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. Find Balance Between Responding And Observing

I’ve found that the key to social monitoring is finding a balance between responding and observing. Some believe that responding to every single mention of their product is a good idea, but you can easily get lost in the weeds and not really see the big picture. Take the opportunity to step back and see the broader trends of reactions, and then use the perspective you gain to create your marketing and PR strategies. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

14. Don’t ‘Farm It Out’

It’s understandable to want to hire a freelancer to monitor and engage on your behalf in an attempt to save costs. To keep your brand voice on-point, to hear what is actually being said on social and to engage effectively, you need a dedicated team member. Without this, you won’t be able to formulate engagement strategies around any possible PR issues, should any arise. – Bernard May, National Positions

11 Inspiring Ways To Market A Strong Company Culture

Company culture can be a huge selling point for potential employees as well as potential clients. Both of these audiences want to know that the people behind the scenes not only believe in what the company offers, but also collaborate well with each other to deliver it it.

Highlighting a thriving culture is an effective marketing technique that capitalizes on the internal strength of a business and its people. That’s why we asked members of Forbes Agency Council to tell us about some of the best ways to do it. To inspire you, here are 11 of their top recommendations for showcasing your company culture in your marketing efforts.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Communicate Through Visuals

When it comes to marketing your company’s culture, it’s important to remember that it comes down to transparency and trust. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through incredible visuals that allow members of the public to interact with and learn more about your company on a personal level. Every member of the team creates a company, and it’s a great idea to get this message across. – James Blake, Vindicta Digital

2. Highlight The Hiring Process

With a mission of “empowering our people to be the best versions of themselves,” we highlight how our hiring practice aligns employees with the roles that they will most likely love and wildly succeed at. We also share stories of our core values in action and how our daily huddle (where everyone shares gratitude, their next 24 hours of activity and any places they’re stuck) keeps everyone connected. – Brian Handrigan, Advocado

3. Illuminate Your Humanity

We focus on highlighting our employees, first, to illuminate the humanity of our company. Organizations often focus on the company’s views and actions rather than those of their employees; we do the opposite. One of our most-used slogans is “#behuman” because, at the end of the day, we want to create a space where you can be yourself. – Melissa Chang, PureB2B

4. Let Your People Do The Talking

I’ve always been wary of firms that overtly “market” culture. It tends to come off as “clubby” or exclusive. Flip the script. Build a team of customer-service-centric people and let them do the talking. Whether interacting with current or potential clients or attracting talent, an authentic customer-service-driven team will go above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

5. Explain How You’re Different

We market our culture based on the differences between our environment and that of most corporate jobs. We believe that finding a flow in work instead of being in endless meetings gives both our employees as well as our clients the best results. Working autonomously hasn’t ever been more important, and remote work has a culture that works wonderfully for self-starters. – Lee Salisbury, UnitOneNine

6. Show It Off In-Office

We market our culture by proclaiming it on the walls of our offices in the form of posters of our core values, DiSC scores on everyone’s office door and a “kudos” board in the kitchen for notes about team members who have done something wonderful. Our core values are dominant on our website and featured in our sales proposals, and we also blog about them, which helps with recruitment. – Jeff Bradford, the Bradford Group

7. Create A Culture Presentation Deck

I’ve often seen companies promote culture by putting their culture presentation deck on SlideShare, and then promoting it via the press, blog articles or social media. It’s a great way to help others who are searching for your company to find and understand your culture and core values. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

8. Livestream Daily Operations

One of the best ways to market company culture is to look at daily operations and do livestreams. This is very valuable to your customers because it shows that you follow the talk with the walk. You are not afraid to open your doors to ensure that it is possible for everyone who is following you to see inside your operation. – Jon James, Ignited Results

9. Share Screenshots Of Teamwork

There is no “I” in “team,” and all great work is done in a collaborative way. Highlighting the team aspect of culture is important, and in these virtual times, is made more creative through screenshots of team meetups and collaboration sessions. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

10. Prove Your Culture Through Your Actions

Although we do promote our team (and, in turn, our culture) on platforms such as Instagram, actions speak louder than words. If we promote a culture of results and collaboration, it is our responsibility to prove these repeatedly through our actions. If these actions are good enough, and we are graced with a positive email or review, we can repurpose these in our content to further promote our culture. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Produce Blogs And Podcasts

Podcasts are big for us. Through our podcasts and blogs, others can see the culture that we have built. To see our team and spend time with us is to see our strength as a team. Because we’re proud of the culture we’ve created, we want to make it as transparent as possible. Our podcasts are like opening a door on one of our fun but informative meetings. – Danny Star, Website Depot

15 Marketing Strategies To Make The Most Of Customer Testimonials

It’s often said that the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth praise from happy customers. People are more likely to buy products or services if they hear a positive review from another consumer in their position.

Your company can promote its offerings and leverage peer-to-peer trust by amplifying customer testimonials and mobilizing organic brand ambassadors. To help, we asked members of Forbes Agency Council how marketers can make the most of testimonials from satisfied customers. Here’s what they had to say.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Collaborate With Your Customer Advisory Board

Generate these from your customer advisory board. Your CAB members are likely not only your biggest fans, but also invested in your products, having helped shape and improve them over time. The CAB members may have extensive networks to tap into and may also write blogs or speak on industry webinars where your product can be included. – Eyal Danon, Ignite Advisory Group

2. Leverage Testimonials To Humanize Your Brand

Share them on social media and on your website and weave them into blog posts. Customers respond best to others’ stories. And be sure to respond to testimonials to show your commitment to the customer experience. – Laura Cole, Vivial

3. Retarget Warm Audiences

One great way to leverage customer testimonials is by using them as creatives in ad campaigns, especially when retargeting warm audiences. Oftentimes users visit a website or social profile and leave without taking action, and that is a perfect time for brands to stay top of mind and retarget those users with customer testimonials, giving them the last push they need to convert. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc.

4. Share New Product Lines With Brand Ambassadors

Customer testimonials are gold. When those customers are truly engaged, they are the best brand ambassadors and marketers for your product. By supporting them with additional or new product lines within your brand, you can encourage them to naturally push out organic social content that supports the features and benefits of your brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Nudge Prospects Down The Sales Funnel

Leverage customer testimonials to abet your prospects who are in the consideration phase. Showing testimonials is an effective way to push your prospects down the funnel. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

6. Incorporate Testimonials Into Social Media Ads

One of the most effective ways to leverage testimonials is to create social media ads promoting the product. The experience customers had using that product, not the product itself, is the main focus. – Stefano Mongardi, TheWebMate

7. Rotate Testimonials On Your Website

The best way is to feature testimonials on your website, rotating them so that they don’t get stale. Another very effective way is to use them in publicity efforts by either quoting happy customers in a press release or by steering reporters their way to talk about your company. – Jeff Bradford, the Bradford Group

8. Empower And Incentivize Ambassadors

Don’t tell ambassadors what to do; empower them. The key to a successful testimonial is authenticity—not just of the testimonial, but also of the action. Create opportunities and incentives for others to act, but make sure both the action and the message, while on brand, are theirs. Top-down doesn’t work. Empowerment does. – Craig Greiwe, Rogers & Cowan

9. Encourage Customers To Record Video Testimonials

Make heroes out of your existing customers and put them at the center of your marketing and communication strategy. The most powerful way is to get them to record a video explaining their challenge and how they resolved it (hint: with your help), and then provide that to sales to put into a pitch deck or to share with prospects by email. Video is incredibly powerful and easily shareable. – Mike Boogaard, MOI Global

10. Target Your Brand Ambassadors’ Networks

The most effective way to leverage testimonials from customers and organic brand ambassadors is to identify and locate the social audience for those individuals. Then, share the testimonial feedback within an organic structured campaign directed at their family, friends and followers. – Greg Carney, Freedom United Social

11. Embrace Customer Review Tools

There are great tools for B2C products, such as Yotpo and Bazaarvoice. Then, there are tools and sites like Clutch.co, where you can ask for reviews. Public reviews go a long way in building credibility. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

12. Provide Social Proof In Facebook And Instagram Ads

The best way to leverage customer testimonials or organic brand ambassadors is to use them for retargeting ads on Facebook and Instagram. This provides social proof and a great visual to let your prospective customers see others using your product or service. Also, featuring them on your website will help to establish credibility and trust with your visitors. – Jonas Muthoni, Deviate Agency

13. Fold Great Reviews Into Other Content

The great thing about reviews and testimonials is that usually they’re public, so we can repurpose them into other content, emails and social posts. If we have a great review regarding the SEO results we achieve for a client, then folding this review into our own SEO content makes it that much more valuable. Positivity from a client will almost always speak louder. – Bernard May, National Positions

14. Create Assets To Engage With New Clients

Customer testimonials are fantastic content assets for web and social platforms as well as case studies, brochures, proposals and any other asset that you might use when engaging with new clients. If you can get those reviews on video, that is marketing gold! – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

15. Place Video Testimonials Up Top On Your Website

Many times, when customer quotes are used on websites, the testimonial sections appear at the end of the home page, and consumers do not scroll down far enough to see the quotes in that section. Video testimonials are much better tools. An explanation of a problem that was solved by a brand or a campaign that was successful is a great way for customers to organically endorse a company. – Sherri Nourse, Ambition Media

13 Pragmatic Ways To Leverage Seasonal Products This Year

The holidays are coming soon, which means an influx of seasonal marketing campaigns between Halloween and Christmas. While marketers seek ways to innovate and improve their tactics to capitalize on the guaranteed festive spirit, consumers might approach their holiday shopping a bit differently this year.

With so many people preoccupied by the impact of current events and possibly facing social or financial constraints in their own lives, what is the best way to leverage seasonal products?

Forbes Agency Council

Here, 13 members of Forbes Agency Council offer practical tips for creating effective seasonal marketing campaigns, taking into account the evolving buying behaviors of shoppers this holiday season.

1. Promote Products And Special Offers Digitally

Due to the pandemic, I predict that consumers will be shopping online this holiday season more than they ever have before. Therefore, being easily found online will be crucial for businesses through the end of the year and into 2021. Promote products and special offers digitally via online advertising and social media early and consistently throughout the season. – Laura Cole, Vivial

2. Use Context In Your Advertising

One way to leverage seasonal products is to make sure to use context in your advertising. Mentioning the season directly in our marketing creative and copywriting helps add a sense of urgency. We generate urgency by showing them the gap and then bridging the gap with the sale of our products. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

3. Adjust To The Environment

Adjusting to the environment is key during this unusual time. For example, highlighting products used for virtual learning is a smart way to leverage seasonal products. In addition, products in the outdoor living and home improvement categories, which are in demand during spring and summer, will likely see popularity through the rest of the year as consumers continue to focus on their homes and families. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Focus More On Safety And Security

A greater focus on safety and security is essential. Whether it’s a business that sells Christmas trees or fixes heating (or anything in between), customers are going to want to know that the company is doing everything possible to maintain the safety of its customers as well as its staff. The businesses that keep people safe and let everyone know that they do stand a good chance of coming out on top. – Danny Star, Website Depot

5. Brainstorm What Might Be Popular This Christmas

Novelty items making fun of 2020 and Christmas-themed masks could be the next “ugly Christmas sweater” trend. Whatever starts flying off your e-commerce shelves, go in that direction. A huge beauty brand that I used to work with created holiday-themed makeup palettes for a limited time only, and gift hunters gobbled them up. – Sophie Bowman, Business Owner Society

6. Focus On Mobile Campaigns

Email marketing was the one thing that worked really well for one of our clients in the last holiday season. Due to Covid-19, more sales are expected from digital channels this year. People will be using their smart devices to send gifts to their friends and families. Therefore, mobile campaigns should surge this year. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

7. Embrace Empathetic Marketing

The holiday shopping season is always a “make it or break it” time for retailers. In 2020, that is all the more true. Even if consumers have less to spend, they will be hunting—largely but not entirely online—for that special gift for a friend or family member. Empathetic marketing can help you drive sales. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when planning your fall campaign. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Make It Relevant To Each Channel

Marketing seasonal products is going to look a lot different this year. Because of Covid-19, consumer buying behaviors have dramatically changed. Brands that haven’t adopted a digital-first approach are going to lose out. That said, to make your seasonal marketing effective, the relevance of a product within a channel’s behavior pattern is going to be more critical than ever. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

9. Take Advantage Of Seasonal SEO Traffic

Naturally, there will be a spike in the usage of keywords such as “New Year’s Eve” and “Christmas.” Use SEO to get more traffic to your site by simply updating the dates and images and optimizing the seasonal keywords. You don’t have to create a new page for the season; just optimize! – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

10. Lean Into This Year’s Themes

Given the restrictions of Covid-19, people will likely be staying home instead of traveling, and shopping online versus taking part in the brick-and-mortar rush of Black Friday. Lean into the 2020 themes of self-care, staying home, slowing down and connecting with loved ones digitally. – Corbett Drummey, Popular Pays

11. Build Your Digital Ads In Advance

With a majority of people online due to Covid-19, normal sales events such as Black Friday will likely start several days before the actual date. Sellers will be fighting for attention and expect it to be competitive this year. Build your digital ads in advance and get them ready to start running up to a week in advance of the actual sale date. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

12. Implement Always-On Marketing

We’ve done many Black Friday campaigns, with enormous focus on maximizing sales on that day. That’s been changing because, both in-store and online, Black Friday promotions are now being spread out over days and even weeks. Because of Covid-19, we expect seasonal shopping to be spread out even more diffusely. This means always-on marketing and promotional strategies are more important than ever. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

13. Build Experiential Streaming Ads

I think we may start to see more advertisers leaning into streaming services for their ad spend and using interactive ad placement to streamline the possible conversion process. With the gradual shift of consumers dropping cable and local TV service for services such as Hulu, this opens up opportunities to build experiential marketing mechanics into your advertising and potentially increase conversion. – Paul E. Benninghove, Pavone Marketing Group

11 Expert Insights On How To Run An Effective Co-Marketing Campaign

When executed correctly, cross-promoting a product with that of another, noncompeting brand is a valuable and effective way to maximize your marketing efforts. Developing a co-marketing campaign gives both you and your partner brand the opportunity to expand your audiences by promoting each other’s products or services.

Of course, to do this well, you need to find the right partner and have the right strategy in place. To help you pull it off, we turned to the members of Forbes Agency Council. Below, they share their best tips for brands planning to align their efforts and create a co-marketing campaign with another company.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Align Products And Services That Support Each Other

Two brands can align nicely with noncompetitive but supportive services. For instance, a home services company could align with an appliances company and cross-market services and brands, showcasing how the entire picture could come together for the consumer. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

2. Focus On A Specific Event

There are so many ways to create a co-marketing campaign, and the best way to do it is to focus the effort on a specific event. For example, because of Covid-19, a brand in the food industry could collaborate with a brand in the healthcare industry to create an educational campaign around prevention. Create content first, and then focus on product placement. – Stefano Mongardi, TheWebMate

3. Co-Host A Webinar Or Panel Together

I have found that some of the most effective co-marketing campaign tactics are educational webinars and panels. These give the opportunity for both companies to prove themselves as thought leaders and strategic advisors. Rather than just giving a joint sales pitch, providing an educational opportunity to clients and prospects is much more effective to help spread your message. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

4. Link To Your Partner’s Social Media Channels

If using Facebook ads, you can link to your partner’s Facebook or Instagram account in your ads using the branded content feature. This allows consumers to see that the ads are being promoted by both companies. It’s a great way to get double exposure while still paying for a single ad. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

5. Get Firsthand Experience With Your Partner’s Product

To align with a noncompeting company to develop a larger reach within the market, you first need to make sure that you believe in the noncompeting product. Use the product firsthand or hand out samples for feedback so that you can organically understand the co-marketing campaign as you promote each other. – Greg Carney, Freedom United Social

6. Find Common Customer Pain Points

Find common pain points and interests that each company’s customer profiles share. Focus on these areas of overlap and help solve problems that apply to both customer bases. It’s also important to remember to keep the messaging positive. – Jonas Muthoni, Deviate Agency

7. Show The Value Of Using The Products Or Services Together

Collaborate with your co-marketing partner to create messaging that clearly communicates how your respective products provide more value for the customer when used together. Back up this message with proof points, case studies and other supporting data. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

8. Evaluate Decisions Against Your Own Company Goals

Evaluate every decision and the final agreement against your individual brand and company goals. Partnerships require compromise so that every brand wins, but it’s easy to dilute your desired outcome in the spirit of collaboration. This practice will ensure that you’re set up for success. There’s no shame in respectfully speaking up for what you need to succeed. Otherwise, it’s not the right partnership. – Edward Hoffman, Spool Marketing & Communications

9. Have Each Party Promote Different Aspects

Brand partnerships will work for both companies if you promote different aspects of the collaboration in your communications strategy. Since each company has its own identity and audience, it will serve as part of a strategic alliance that can increase brand awareness, provide positive associations and strengthen your efforts marketing to new markets. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

10. Create Mutual Value

Create a partnership with mutual value. For example, if there is a service provider (perhaps a payment platform) that you want to fold into your own product stack, promoting yourself as a “proud partner of XYZ” in exchange for a reduced fee would be mutually beneficial. You are promoting their brand along with your own (while saving some cash). – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Do Your Homework On Your Partner

As you consider partnering with another company for a co-branding campaign, be sure to do your homework on your partners at the other company. Do you trust them? Is their culture similar to yours? Are their values similar to your values? As you associate more closely with the other company, if they fail to live up to customer expectations or do something negative, that can fall back on your brand as well. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

Launching A New Product Or Service? 15 Creative Ways To Showcase It

With so many newly released products and services constantly being announced, it can be difficult for companies to get the attention of consumers when they bring something new to market. Many marketers rely on traditional ad campaigns for launches. In the digital age, however, there are countless ways to garner attention for a new offering. What’s the best way to help it stand out from the rest?

Forbes Agency Council

We asked members of Forbes Agency Council to tell us about creative ways a company can showcase a new product or service being launched. See 15 of their best suggestions below to find out how to make sure new offerings make a splash in the market.

1. Challenge The Current Status Quo

A creative way to showcase a product or service your company is launching is by differentiating from tradition. Take on an expansive view of your customers’ current lives, how they are interacting with the service and how they will benefit from it. Challenge the current status quo to appeal to a new audience and reinvigorate your current base. – Sarah Tourville, Media Frenzy Global

2.Preview It With Your Customer Advisory Board

Your customer advisory board likely provided the impetus for creating it and may have even helped to test it with you. They may have some insights and ideas for how to best communicate its value and reach other prospects as well. – Eyal Danon, Ignite Advisory Group

3. Push The Envelope With Video

Video is the powerhouse. Make it short, original, humorous and authentic. The best content is produced when one is willing to push the envelope. For example, let’s say you have a new line of shoes. Instead of hiring models, hire the best long-legged poodles or labradoodles with colored fur, do a photoshoot and create a video. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

4. Tell A Compelling Story

For a new product or service launch, companies should create an engaging piece of content that tells the story of the product or service. Explain why you created it and how it will make the potential customer’s life better, easier, etc. There is so much competition for attention in the market right now, so products and services that tell a story stand out. – Aliza Freud, SheSpeaks, Inc.

5. Run Targeted Ad Campaigns Across Social Media

One creative way to showcase a product or service your company is launching is by getting ahead with your digital marketing efforts by running paid content distribution across social media. Paying to get in front of your target audience by leveraging targeted social media advertising campaigns will create the meaningful awareness needed for a successful launch. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc.

6. Tie It To An Event

If there is a local or national event happening, your company can help support it with a new product or service. This naturally shows the benefits of your new service, but also cross-promotes the event where your product or service will be in action. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

7. Tap Into Existing Viral Conversations

Tap into existing high-profile, highly viral conversations to promote your product or service. If you are promoting a virtual event service, identify popular, real-world examples that you can use to promote yourself. For example, you could repost a Twitter post of Britain’s Got Talent going virtual and suggest that, if they can do it, so can you! – Mike Boogaard, MOI Global

8. Try TikTok If Your Audience Is There

This advice is not for every business, and it’s definitely not for B2B, but if you’re working with your customers directly, have you considered TikTok? With a little creativity and a pinch of humor, you have all the chances of reaching a pretty big chunk of your audience, if not going viral. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. Plan A Multi-Touch Campaign

Depending on the magnitude of the product or service, a multi-touch campaign is powerful. Think email, social and direct mail to your existing clients. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

10. Perform A Live Case Study

A creative way to stand out is to perform a live case study prior to your launch. Customers love to see the proven value before buying a product or service. Using the opportunity as an educational resource will also help spread the news through word of mouth and social media. – Jonas Muthoni, Deviate Agency

11. Host A Virtual Press Conference

New products or services can be launched with a number of creative initiatives, including press releases, videos, short videos for social sharing, digital marketing and direct mailers. Virtual press conferences and promotions help to make it a true “event.” It can be cost-effectively achieved and still keep true to some major tech consumer launches, such as Apple’s. Have fun with it and celebrate it. – Ilissa Miller, IMiller Public Relations

12. Create An Interactive Digital Experience

Create an interactive digital experience to walk someone through your solution. This may be dynamic images with mouse-over information boxes, quizzes, product configurators or chatbots. Webinars provide another great way to engage with prospects through in-session surveys and Q&A. These tactics provide a richer and more memorable experience for prospects as well as opportunities for you to gain market feedback. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

13. Collaborate With Influencers

Collaborating with influencers can be a very effective way of showcasing a recently launched product or service. Having these creators try your offerings early on and sharing with their communities what they really think about it will not only raise awareness directly with your target audience, but also offer them a relatable and trustworthy opinion that can move the needle for you. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

14. Collect Testimonials

Testimonials are a great way to showcase what your company is capable of. The main reason for this is that, when you are sharing what is possible, you will see many new people interested in the products and services that you are offering. – Jon James, Ignited Results

15. Send A Creative PR Package Via Mail

With the digital era that we live in, sending a package via mail definitely holds its weight and cuts through—especially when dealing with the press. Sending a creative PR pack to prospective clients or journalists through the mail, rather than simply emailing them a link to your website and attaching a press release, will put you above the rest. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

How To Bring A Brand To Life: 14 Lessons In Effective Storytelling

An agency doesn’t just sell a product; it builds a story around the item that gives it a life of its own. Effective storytelling is one of a marketer’s most critical skills, and while practice can help you improve your ability to craft a compelling narrative, learning from the masters is an important part of excelling at any art.

Forbes Agency Council

The key is to help audience members see themselves as protagonists in your brand story. Below, 14 experts from Forbes Agency Council discuss how lessons they’ve learned about storytelling have informed their approach to the process.

1. Be Yourself

In other words, remain authentic. I realize this may sound as though I have personified the brand, and that was purposeful. Brands need to have their own identities, and the story behind each brand has to not only be believable, but also true. If a brand is shrouded by mistruths or misleading claims, it will likely not survive, and it will definitely not thrive. – Dave Wendland, Hamacher Resource Group

2. Aim To Inspire And Motivate

Stories should inspire and motivate. A story simplifies complex messages and helps a viewer or listener feel more connected. We have seen a 20% to 30% increase in brand engagement through storytelling marketing. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

3. Make Sure The Timing Is Right

It doesn’t matter how good a story is, if the timing is wrong, especially in times of turmoil, it will come across as tone-deaf. Keep in mind what is going on in the world and assess whether it will impact how people respond to your message. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing the opportunity—and your audience—completely. – Valerie Chan, Plat4orm PR

4. Incorporate Trust Signals

When telling a story, it’s important to send trust signals that communicate your story’s authenticity. That’s what makes your narrative relatable and believable to buyers. Trust signals include customer testimonials, verification of your story by third-party experts or data and many other forms of validation. Your story simply won’t have the impact you’re seeking if people don’t believe it. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

5. Focus On Creating An Emotion

Great storytelling is focused around creating an emotion, and brands need storytelling to create an action toward purchase, sharing, awareness or recall. During the creative process, make sure that the desired action is the focus of the creative, then test and measure prior to launch. Creating a great story without a desired response in mind will usually be a waste of time, resources and money. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

6. Make It Compelling For The Audience

The most valuable lesson I have learned about storytelling is that, when it is done well, it makes others want to retell the story. The story can’t be about the person telling it; the story should be compelling for the audience. If the audience members (employees, customers, etc.) are moved, they will carry the story on to others. – Chris Wallace, InnerView Group

7. Remember That Great Stories Are True

Over the years, we’ve learned that understanding what matters, combined with being honest about what you can deliver, creates brand value. The day a brand starts to follow trends that don’t align with it or makes changes to make customers happy is the day its story starts to become hollow. And, sadly, the brand begins to die. – Bo Bothe, BrandExtract, LLC

8. Reflect Your Brand’s Purpose And Values

Stories that are disconnected from purpose and values will backfire because they won’t be authentic or believable. But when an audience sees a clear connection between your story, values and purpose, the storytelling will be more credible, and your audience will feel an emotional connection with your brand. – Don Scales, Investis Digital

9. Be A Problem-Solver Rather Than An Expert

Being a problem-solver rather than an expert has paid off immensely. People are not interested in digging through archives of information. Tell the story, provide immediate value and help with a challenge your prospect is facing. It’s no different with brand marketing. Position your brand to serve your customers, focusing heavily on creating a buyer-centric experience. – Melissa Chang, PureB2B

10. Don’t Go Out Of Your Way To Reinvent The Wheel

Stories have conventions, and audiences are familiar with those conventions because we have been telling each other stories for thousands of years. Also, high production values are nice to have, but they won’t matter if your narrative is not compelling or emotionally engaging. The content matters much more than the sheen. – Tripp Donnelly, REQ

11. Immerse Yourself In Your Client’s World

The best way to be successful as a storytelling agency is to immerse yourself in your client’s world before choosing words to create their narrative. I’ve spent time on the campuses of education clients, sat in classrooms and been a fly on the wall at staff meetings, and those experiences have helped me understand what truly makes my clients’ hearts beat. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

12. Don’t Make The Brand The Hero

Do you know the most common mistake some brands still make? They make the brand the hero of the story: “Our product does XYZ. It’s amazing; look how many people use it.” This is the wrong approach. What they want to do instead is put the limelight on the potential buyer: “You have XYZ problems, and here’s how you can solve them using our product.” – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

13. Provide Value Or Entertainment

When it comes to effective storytelling, a brand needs to realize that, before selling to an audience, it must provide one of two things: value or entertainment. The most valuable lesson I learned about storytelling is to make sure we create a strong foundation for our brand’s persona and the right framing prior to pushing our content. A strong plan will create a strong result. – Garrett Atkins, VIE Media

14. Tell Stories Of Real People

Telling stories of real people whose lives have been positively impacted by a brand or product continues to be one of the most authentic ways to bring a brand to life and reach consumers on an emotional level. Consumers can relate to another consumer’s story and see for themselves how a brand can also enhance their own lives. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

10 Ways To Create An Authentic Branded Podcast Audiences Value

Consumers quickly lose interest in brands that they sense aren’t completely genuine. Honesty and trust are table stakes for modern marketers, and when it comes to branded podcasts, audiences demand authentic value.

Forbes Agency Council

The medium is so personal, podcast content must resonate with listeners if a brand hopes to use it to build a following and have a positive impact. Done well, branded podcasts that consistently deliver meaningful, useful content can become powerful channels to build deeper connections with your target audiences.

We asked the members of Forbes Agency Council how to create the most valuable and authentic branded podcast content that will help attract loyal listeners. Here are 10 of their top recommendations.

1. Operate Within Your Strengths

Always make sure you operate within your strengths. Deliver podcast topics and content that energizes you, motivates you and ignites your curiosities and passions. This will come through in your delivery and help you as you work to set the tone for your podcast. Deliver content regularly; consistency is key for keeping your audience engaged. – Ana Miller, A2 Communications Group

2. Don’t Script It Word By Word

Don’t script your podcast word by word—let it flow. This makes it authentic but hits your important key messages. Talk about the main problem you solve, as that will resonate with the audience. Don’t take yourself or company too seriously, accept and acknowledge criticism, talk about the flaws you have and maybe even mention the competition. This makes every benefit that you mention much more authentic. – Timon Hartung, True Impact Consulting

3. Let Your Curiosity Lead

I’ve been podcasting for two years, and the only way I know how to do it is to let curiosity lead. Of course, I bring a journalistic background to the task, and that’s really what is needed. Podcasts require conversation, inquisitiveness, honesty and listening. If you can do that and explore timely issues (not just issues in your industry), your podcast will be authentic as well as valuable. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

4. Weave Sponsorships In Throughout

In my experience, 99% of the time, the quality and relevance of the content are more important to a viewer than the “who” or “why” of the sponsorship. The problem is not who is funding the content, but how good the content is, and how naturally the sponsorship is woven into the entire experience, versus a “commercial” at the beginning and the end. – Abigail Hirschhorn, Human Intelligence | H.I.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

5. Get Introductions From Influencers

Influencers can help establish your authenticity within a niche. If influencers are introducing you to their communities, know that the communities will follow their recommendations and will definitely come to listen to your podcast. – Mandeep Singh, SEO Discovery Pvt Ltd.

6. Focus On The Lives And Stories Of People

Podcasts that focus on the lives and stories of people are authentic and always resonate with the audience. Listeners love to hear where people have come from and how they persevered. No matter where they are in life, listeners can easily identify with the goals and struggles highlighted on a podcast, as we are all on a path to reach our individual goals. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

7. Inject Personality Into Your Content

You can achieve authenticity by injecting personality into your content and just by being yourself. It’s also important to be consistent because people will be looking forward to your content once they’ve heard your first episode. Sharing personal stories with your audience is also priceless, as it will resonate with your listeners. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

8. Don’t Use It As A Promotion Channel

Most companies can argue that they’re authorities in their domain of expertise and can start building a platform based on that. But what’s crucial is to avoid the trap of using it as a promotion channel. Instead, share real experiences as well as insights about what does not work; invite guests that might not be your fans and have honest conversations that provide value to listeners. – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

9. Back Your Advice With Proper Data

When a brand provides expert advice while sharing content, it not only offers value to its listeners, but it also ensures that the content comes across as authentic, coming from “the” expert in the subject field. Brands should carefully research the topics they share and back them with sound and proper data. This gives content more credibility, showing the brand went the extra mile in its preparations. – Elissar Hajj Zarwi, Comma Hub

10. Approach It As You Do Any Other Ad Content

Approach your podcast content with the same mentality as you do any other advertising content: Remain true to your brand and aim to solve a problem. Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes. Ask yourself, “What makes people tune into their favorite podcasts?” Meet your audience where they are and provide them with transparent and direct content to keep them engaged and coming back for more. – Corbett Drummey, Popular Pays

What Not To Do When Algorithms Change: 13 Common SEO Errors

When search engine algorithms change, businesses typically try to adapt their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to deal with the shift as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, without adequate understanding of the basis of these changes, a company’s response often runs afoul of a search engine’s new rules. Missteps in the approach to optimizing a site after algorithms shift can lead to a fall in ranking, potentially knocking it off the first several pages of search results and decreasing traffic.

Forbes Agency Council

Fewer visitors to your site can strike a blow to your company’s bottom line, especially if you rely on consumers finding your offerings through organic search. To help your company avoid these consequences, experts from Forbes Agency Council examine 13 common SEO errors that brands make when search engine algorithms change.

1. Making Rash Decisions

Companies jump to conclusions and start changing ranking pages and disavowing links or building new links. This will damage their rankings long-term, and they won’t recover fast. First of all, always check if the loss in rankings actually resulted in a loss in real traffic. Many times, the traffic is back a few days later. Then, carefully update bit by bit and, like Google, keep the user experience first. – Timon Hartung, True Impact Consulting

2. Overcorrecting With SEO ‘Hacks’

Overcorrecting is a big mistake. Chasing SEO “hacks” after each major update is like day trading. It may yield some short-term wins, but over time, you’ll likely be at a loss, compared to sticking with the basic strategy of frequently creating unique, quality content that’s relevant to your customers. Any major dips in page rank that don’t come from bending the rules will likely be corrected in a subsequent update. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding

3. Not Understanding Underlying Factors

A common mistake is not taking the time to understand the underlying factors that led to the change. This can lead brands to continue following “best practices” that the changes have now made obsolete, such as keyword stuffing, which at one time helped and then, overnight, hurt search rankings. If you understand why the algorithm was changed, you will do a better job of adjusting your strategy to the new reality. – Jodi Amendola, Amendola Communications

4. Chasing The Change

Chasing the change is a mistake I see often. Search algorithms are simply trying to prioritize what people find most valuable. Organizations that constantly chase and complain about the changes likely are missing the mark on what is actually important: building content that is actually valuable to those you serve, not just content that makes the current algorithm version happy. – Tyler Farnsworth, August United

5. Not Creating Content For Humans

Create content for humans first, not search engines. A common mistake marketers make when trying to “game SEO” is publishing content in awkward formats to appeal to search engines. This results in a poor experience for your web visitors, and it won’t provide an SEO boost for long as search engines continue to root out these tactics in favor of authentic content. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

6. Making A Drastic Change In SEO Strategy

Algorithm changes are typically subtle and rarely present a case for uprooting your entire SEO strategy. A common error is for brands to make a drastic change in strategy without considering what is working and will continue to work. Improving existing content is a more sensible, short-term move until the algorithm change is fully proven and a new direction is clear. – A. Lee Judge, Content Monsta

7. Focusing Too Much On Brand Name

A common SEO error is putting too much focus on brand name or “inside baseball” jargon and not enough focus on how people actually search for services. Use keyword tools to understand how people are searching for solutions you offer. Focus on what audiences need, not on what you offer. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

8. Buying Backlinks

I’ve seen businesses buying backlinks, which generally means having your URL inside disreputable websites blocked by crawlers and dragging your reputation down as well. They make the copy super hard to read and understand just because they want to achieve the keyword saturation. Robots are super smart today; you must make your copy easy to read and understand and relatable to the web page’s topic. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

9. Removing Content That Ranks Well

The most common SEO error I’ve seen brands make after search engine algorithms suddenly change is removing blog posts or website pages that have high notoriety and already rank well in the search engines. All of the built-up SEO that already exists is lost and must then be restored. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

10. Trying To Exploit Loopholes

Some brands try to exploit the weaknesses of a search engine to rank higher on a search engine results page (SERP), which typically refers to the first page of organic results for specific keyword searches. However, when they do this, they constantly have to make adjustments and find new loopholes to exploit. Creating engaging, original content that fulfills a user’s needs will always be the best way forward, no matter what changes are made. – Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing

11. Keyword Stuffing As An Afterthought

Companies tend to treat SEO as an afterthought to a web build. We like to bring that conversation upfront. One of the biggest SEO errors I have seen is keyword stuffing at later stages in a panic to score better on search engines. With algorithms always changing, that strategy is just setting up the brand for failure. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller

12. Not Reacting Quickly Enough

Not jumping quickly enough on SEO changes can decimate revenue overnight if algorithms change and redirect traffic to a competitor’s site. Be ready to not only adjust SEO content on your site at a moment’s notice, but also potentially overhaul the entire website to make sure you’re back on top of the SEO game. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. Forgetting The Brand’s Goals

Most SEO experts feel too pressured by Google’s algorithms. When there are changes, they are eager to address them, but forget to follow the brand’s goals for positioning. Google loves known brands, so having a brand that is recognized by consumers should be your goal, regardless of Google’s algorithms. In conclusion, don’t adjust your brand identity; instead, adjust Google to your brand. – Nikolay Stoyanov, Influence Vibes