15 Ways To Develop A Customer-Centric Content Strategy

Content marketing is a great way to get in front of and bring value to consumers without going overboard on your sales pitch. However, it can be tough to strike a balance. Your content shouldn’t completely ignore your offerings, but you want to make sure it adds value for your customer first.

Forbes Agency Council

That’s why developing a strategy focused on your target customer is the key to executing successful content marketing initiatives. To help you achieve this, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council gave their best advice on how brands can develop effective, customer-centric content.

1. Create Outcome-Based Content

People today are focused on issues, personal and social outcomes and ways that products and product providers can positively affect their lives and the lives of others. Content should be visual, interactive, emotive and outcome-based. Pick the right channel. TikTok is delivering huge numbers. – Peter Prodromou, Boston Digital

2. Implement Persona Identifiers On Your Website

Implement persona identifiers (via “tags”) into the data layer of your website. Push those identifiers into audiences within your analytics tool. This will enable you to understand which audiences are interacting with existing content, selectively build out additional content based on audience priority and run “lookalike” campaigns to promote the new content to only that audience type. – Justin Cook, 9thCO Inc.

3. Engage In Non-Commerce Dialogue With Customers

We find that most marketing plans emphasize methods for pushing content to consumers while giving little thought to methods for customers to engage in “non-commerce dialogue.” Companies that have effective customer-centric marketing have built these methods, not just “product reviews,” for engaging in these conversations. Focusing on those channels is essential to crafting better outbound content. – James Cioban, Cierant Corporation

4. Focus On Benefits Over Features

Focus on product benefits over features. Use “you” over “we.” And most importantly, do key phrase research and understand the searcher intent behind your phrases. Truly customer-centric content ties the searcher’s intent to the product on the page. It doesn’t rely on brand terms. Instead, it includes non-branded terms that speak to the product’s universe. – Brian Rutledge, GPO

5. Answer Consumer Questions

Create content that provides high-value information, answers consumer questions and guides them toward making the best purchase decision. Within your content, showcase the benefits, uses and value of your products and services as examples and case studies. This tactic will build trust with the consumer and drive them to come to you when they are ready to purchase. – Laura Cole, Vivial

6. Interview Your Customers

Start with interviewing your customers. Find a small number that best represents each audience persona you intend to target. During a brief interview, listen closely to the words each customer uses to describe why they choose your company’s solutions and how it has impacted their business and professional success. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

7. Tap Into Their Existing Motivations

For content that is truly customer-centric, campaigns should tap into the customer’s existing motivations. The reason being, you can’t motivate someone to action, but you can align your content with what that customer already is motivated to do. Once that is done, the content can prompt them to take action. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

8. Talk About Things They Love

A company’s story is nice, but if you want to engage someone, talk about things they care about or love. Take a page from the big boys: Know what you sell and why people are buying. It is always about the consumer. Apple does not sell computers; it sells a set of beliefs or a way of thinking. Starbucks does not sell coffee; its sells status quo. Even Toms Shoes sold the concept of giving back. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

9. Practice Inbound Marketing

Develop customer personas that identify the needs, concerns, dreams and opportunities of your ideal audiences. Find intersection points and create content that speaks to your personas at every point of the buyer journey. Then, make every communication, from award wins to case studies to blog posts, speak to them about their needs rather than your capabilities. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

10. Ask Customers For Video Content

Customer-generated videos where customers record themselves with the brand and showcase its benefits offer an authentic way to show true excitement and endorsement of the brand from the customer’s individual perspective, which will appeal to others too. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Make It Easy To Find Relevant Content

Make it easy for web visitors to find content suitable for their stage in the buying process. Think of your blog as a hub for insights that educate about your industry. Place evergreen content in static pages to inform about you and your capabilities. Find organic links between the two so that when prospects are ready to work themselves down the funnel, they can do so without friction. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

12. Emphasize The Problem You Solve

There’s that old saying that nobody will care about your solution before they recognize there’s a massive problem—and it applies to them. So think about your customers’ context, situation and problems, and pick them up where they are by emphasizing that they all have a common problem that you figured out how to solve! – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

13. Frame Your Message Around Their Needs

Customers largely see interactions with companies as transactional, while companies yearn for so much more. Content can help you build closer connections with customers, but only if it conveys your deep understanding of them. Always start with the emotional, social and functional outcomes they value as human beings. Then, frame your messages around the needs your offerings can deliver on. – Camille Nicita, Gongos, Inc.

14. Align Your Brand Ethos With Their Values

Newer generations care less about products’ USPs and more about how the brand’s ethos aligns with their values. To create a customer-centric content strategy, you have to understand what values are important for your audience and authentically align not only your brand message, but also your actions with those values. Brands that can create content around that will see the benefits of a customer-centric approach. – Emilie Tabor, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

15. Showcase Your Solution Through Testimonials

True customer-centric content needs to answer the questions your audience is asking. Rather than touting how great your products or services are, you need to provide a solution to their problems. Some of the best customer-centric content actually includes customer testimonials. This is especially helpful as video content: Let your customers speak to how you helped them solve a problem. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

Midsize companies: Avoid these 15 sales-stifling marketing mistakes

Middle-market companies are in a unique position when it comes to seeking growth. While these companies may not have the immediate brand recognition of an industry giant, they often have the resources to run a multichannel marketing campaign. However, all the ad money in the world won’t drive growth if a company isn’t using the right strategies.

The Business Journals

Below, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 15 common marketing mistakes midsize companies make that might be inhibiting their sales and growth — and what they should be doing instead.

1. Talking about what you do rather than the problem you solve
A common mistake is creating marketing content that sells what you do versus talking about the problems you solve for your customers. It’s easy to write content that details the services you provide. It requires much more time and research to understand how your clients experience your service and the impact that it has on their day-to-day operations. – Tim Tiller, MyTek Technology Solutions

2. Cutting the marketing budget too soon
One big mistake is to cut back on marketing spending when positive results appear. I would argue that a growth-oriented company needs to let its marketing budget grow with revenue rather than thinking, “It worked!” at the first small result. – Beth Waterfall, Beth Waterfall Creative

3. Not being bold about your story
Many middle-market brands are afraid to present their stories in a bold, differentiated way. They are humble — sometimes even deferential — to the behemoths in their category. Own your story and stand out! – Lauren Parker, FrazierHeiby

4. Being too focused on short-term goals
Middle-market companies tend to prioritize short-term objectives, which often results in paid advertising campaigns. The mistake is a failure to invest in long-term marketing strategies such as search engine optimization. Companies that can balance short-term objectives with long-term marketing investments can build a strong and sustainable sales and growth engine. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

5. Not catering to each stage of the buying process
One mistake is not using the right resources for the unique stages of the customer’s buying process. This includes creating awareness about the firm’s very differentiated product, getting customers interested enough to try the product and then purchase it, and setting the repurchasing cycle. Depending on products and markets, firms need unique, effective resources for success in each stage as well as a way to hand off from one stage to another. – Pradeep Anand, Seeta Resources

6. Failing to identify and measure success metrics
Marketing needs to deliver a concrete return on investment. Many mid-market companies get tricked into expensive marketing programs without identifying the success metrics and return in advance. Any marketing program that doesn’t deliver results in 90 days should be scrutinized very carefully. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

7. Creating a too-short marketing communications plan
Sales cycles can stretch out for months. One common marketing mistake of mid-market companies is creating a tactical marketing communications plan that’s too short for the cycle. When the communication flow dries up before the lead is ready to take the next step, you miss opportunities. To fix it, look at the cycle length and your communication flow. If they are not in sync, adjust. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

8. Thinking marketing is a waste of money
First and foremost, a middle-market company needs to understand the importance of marketing to know it’s a necessary expense to grow a brand. They should also understand that marketing can and should have ROI associated with it so they don’t think it will be wasted money — just part of the overall business investment. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Turning efforts on and off
A common mistake is turning marketing on and off, whether that be a focus on SEO, advertising or anything else. Too often companies are reactionary and don’t stay the course. It’s important to react if something isn’t working or push further when something is working, but you also have to cultivate your marketing, just as you do any other part of your business. – Eric Moraczewski, NMBL Strategies

10. Not integrating sales and marketing efforts
The biggest growth-inhibiting mistake I’ve seen mid-market companies make is not integrating sales and marketing efforts. I’ve worked with more than a thousand clients over my career, and time and again I see sales and marketing teams that are siloed and do not talk. Even if the technology is shared or integrated, the company culture can create barriers to success. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

11. Not keeping up with the times
Common mistakes in creating and deploying effective marketing strategies include failure to set and measure performance and return on investment targets and not keeping up with the times. Engagement, reactions and SEO-related analytics should be measured by channel and/or medium. Similarly, if your target audience is on TikTok or MeWe, you may need to add those channels. – Joey Johnsen, Zeevo Group LLC

12. Not concentrating resources
Some companies neglect to plan out their marketing efforts. Before investing money, you need to have clear goals for results. Don’t try to market to everyone, because your message could get lost. Concentrate your resources to have the greatest impact. Know your target customers’ needs, the way they consume information and how they make purchasing decisions. – Chris Friel, VoDaVi Technologies

13. Measuring ROI based on short-term results
A big mistake is to measure marketing investments based on immediate, short-term results. Yes, it’s important to monitor and adjust as needed, but often marketing investments are better measured over a longer horizon, which can be months or years. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm

14. Assuming you don’t have to market yourself
Avoid the mistake of assuming you do not have to market yourself! The best thing to do for your business includes knowing how you will deal with excess business when you do not yet have the business or once you are in a slump. If you wait until you have an overabundance of business to begin considering this, you will be too late. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

15. Not having the right partner
Just like buying a house or a car, when marketing it’s important to find the right partner who understands and has the reference to walk you through what you are trying to do. Let them provide their vision. This also means you need to let go of control and let the experts do it. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

11 Valuable Data Points To Be Gleaned From Clients’ Google Analytics

Some agency clients aren’t able to address important questions their marketing partners need answered in order to devise the best strategy to meet their needs. Luckily, analytics tools can help agencies uncover illuminating data points that clients can’t provide up front.

The key to informing a strategy that will achieve a client’s marketing goals is to identify which specific types of data you’re looking for before diving into the analysis. Below, experts from Forbes Agency Council share 11 of the most valuable pieces of information you can glean by analyzing your clients’ Google Analytics.

Forbes Agency Council

1. What Attracts Versus Repels

As communications experts, we love reviewing Google Analytics to better understand how customers are engaging with a brand and what’s attracting them versus repelling them. This establishes information that allows us to develop more compelling content strategies. You’re able to see the level of leads coming from media relations and placed articles, which is a strong indicator of campaign success. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

2. The Client’s Audience

At the end of the day, the most valuable element of successful marketing is understanding the consumer. Google Analytics can provide some insight into a client’s audience. Combining this with other data sets and marrying the research with strategic analysis can inform an insight-driven marketing strategy. This can inspire consumer targeting, creative, media and more. – Marc Becker, The Tangent Agency

3. ROI On Marketing Investments

No matter what, you want to make sure that you are getting ROI on any marketing investment. Even if your Google Analytics are telling a positive story, if you aren’t getting actual ROI, there is data that either is not accurate or needs to be looked at holistically. There should always be a system of checks and balances, and all touch points should be telling the same story. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Return On Ad Spend Performance

The most important piece of data you can glean from Google Analytics is the ROAS performance of your clients’ media buying across the various websites they are advertising on. By tracking where the users are coming from and tracking their activity on your clients’ sites, you can determine their ROAS. You can then shift media investment to the top-performing websites. – Dennis Cook, Gamut. Smart Media from Cox.

5. The Source Of Relevant Traffic

Analyzing their clients’ Google Analytics allows agencies to see where relevant traffic is coming from, identify trends and target opportunities. Additionally, optimizing your campaigns based on the data feedback will lead to higher conversion rates. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC

6. Time On Page

Time on page is the most important Google Analytics statistic. Once you get traffic to your site, do they stay? What content do they consume? How much mindshare do they give you? What pages are sticky and not transactional? Time on page tells you what prospects value and where they give your ideas credence. Know this, and you’ll know your audience. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

7. Where Viewers Leave The Website

The pages where viewers are leaving the client’s website at abnormally high rates is where to focus. By finding out what pages are causing website viewers to drop off the most, clients can analyze these pages and make necessary adjustments to better grab the attention of future visitors. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

8. Behavior Flow

Behavior Flow is still my favorite feature offered by Google Analytics. Studying the flow of the visitors and the path they take while interacting with a website helps business owners understand what a page means to the customer. This information helps business owners understand how to prioritize and optimize pages to offer visitors a better user experience. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

9. Goal Conversion Data

Google Analytics can be overwhelming, so a great place to start is by looking at a client’s goal conversions (the number of visitors that took the action your client intended for them to take). This one area can give quick insight into how and why a website was built, as well as whether or not the site is performing the way it’s meant to. If goals have not yet been set up, this is a great opportunity to start a conversation with your client about short- and long-term objectives. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

10. The Most Popular Content

Simply looking at your website’s most popular content can tell you if that website really serves your target customer. All too often, content serves another purpose or user. My agency’s example is that the bio I wrote for our vice president was the most popular piece of content, which proved that web visitors came to copy that bio rather than to hire our agency. – Jim Caruso, M1PR, Inc. d/b/a MediaFirst PR – Atlanta

11. Device Usage

One often overlooked piece of data in Google Analytics is device usage. All clients basically have two websites: a desktop site and a mobile site. Understanding what visitors are doing on both sites is critical, especially when it comes to advertising and landing pages. – T. Maxwell, eMaximize

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

6 Issues You’ll Never See In Truly Excellent Marketing Copy

With today’s preference for short-form copy and visual ads, it may seem like anyone in your company, regardless of writing skill, is eligible to be a marketing copywriter. It’s true that anyone can string words together to accompany your ads, but it may also mean their copy could end up poorly written and ineffective.

AdAge

The art of copywriting takes time and effort to master. You need to be able to both capture your brand’s voice and deliver a message customers want to hear, and sometimes even experienced marketers can get it wrong.

According to six members of Ad Age Collective, there are a few elements of poorly written marketing copy that you just won’t find in a well-crafted piece of content. These are what you should look out for if you want to be taken seriously in the industry.

1. Complicated jargon
The use of long-winded sentences and complicated jargon is something you’ll never see in great copy. This is the case even with technical B2B content. Great copy is about providing information while attracting customers and speaking to people on a personal level. Complex and hard-to-follow content puts people off as it can sound superior and unwelcoming. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

2. Too many words
Less is more. Excellent copy will never use more words to convey the same message that can be said with fewer. As the old adage goes, it takes longer to write something shorter. Well-written copy takes time. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

3. A boring opening sentence
Excellent copy will grab you from the first few words and will engage you throughout. If a consumer is not hooked from the very beginning, it will be hard to hold their interest and gain the momentum needed to grab their attention and get them excited about your message. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

4. Jarring assumptions about the target audience
In the obsession for communication at scale, marketers often fall into the trap of using grotesque assumptions about the persona they are emailing. A classic example I receive in cold email pitches is referring to me as a “B2B SaaS marketer,” which is not true at all. Excellent copy balances the need for personalization without jarring assumptions that spoil the message. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Bad spelling, grammar and information
Poorly written copy on a website has the same keyword printed over and over again on the same page with typos, bad grammar and incorrect information. This gets negative attention from the Google algorithm and gets the article flagged for poor performance. If you have a great copywriter, they will avoid this. Their pages will be relevant and well-researched. Then your pages will rank higher. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

6. Excessive repetition
Occasionally, marketers are so excited to push their points of difference that they get caught in the trap of repeating themselves over and over again. Whether it’s within a single post or an entire marketing strategy, “driving the point home” can actually do the opposite. Write like a journalist and keep your copy concise to most efficiently and effectively state your claim. – Kelly Ehlers, Ideas That Evoke

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