Friday, June 30, 2017

Sales' Secret Weapon

There's a time to groom and a time to go for it.

If you only groom prospects by sending them emails and posting cute pictures on social media, you'll wind up the dateless wonder on prom night.

Sales' secret weapon isn't so secret.

It's not even a weapon.

It's your phone.

Selling is all about engaging prospects in conversation. Social media can do that, but only in a shallow way.

If your outbound marketing doesn't spur lots of inbound phone calls, then you're just marketing. You're not selling.

So if you want to sell, pick up the phone for at least an hour a day and dial. You won't reach many prospects, so leave voicemail messages. Here's mine:

Hi, this is Bob James… 202.641.5131. Hope your day’s going better than mine. Look, I need money to pay for my art classes every Saturday… so I’m hoping you’ll hire my ad agency. Bob and David James… at

Rinse, repeat.

You might also follow every call with an email or LinkedIn connection request.

If you need more guidance, read Dan Pink's remarkable book, To Sell is Human.

It's up to you to build your own pipeline. To do so, you must set aside at least an hour a day for outbound prospecting on the phone. Build your brand in the other hours.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Reasons Your Content Stinks

Only 6% of B2B marketers say they're "sophisticated" content marketers, according to Content Marketing Institute.

The rest worry their content stinks.

Content can stink for 5 reasons, says Alicia Esposito of Content4Demand:

Your copy stinks. Is your copy clear, concise and captivating? Or foggy, flowery and forgettable? I often see content marketing misfires mostly attributable to poor writing. The substance is great; how it's conveyed, anything but.

Your design stinks. Is your content engaging? Or merely an eyesore? Don't underestimate the importance layout, colors and images have in lead generation.

Your promotion stinks. You can’t just hit "publish" and expect leads. "Content needs to be supported by a multi-channel promotional strategy that includes email, social, digital advertising and other tactics," Esposito says.

Your choice of channels stinks. You also have to pick the right channels to amplify your content. Maybe your target audience prefers LinkedIn over Twitter, or your industry's trade magazine over The Wall Street Journal. "It’s not just about promoting your content to as many people as possible," Esposito says, "it’s about promoting your content to the right people."

Your UX stinks. Is your content swiftly and easily navigated? Or do you often send audiences down a rabbit hole? Don't let things like misleading images, hidden calls to action, and broken links frustrate prospects.

Before you rip and replace your content, figure out why it stinks.

"There are a lot of factors that influence your content’s results," Esposito says, "and there are a few questions you can ask to ensure you’ve covered all your bases before you go back to the drawing board."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Big 4

I personally want to continue to live in a country where I can think as I please, go to any church I please, or to none if that is my desire; say what I please, and within the limits of any free society, do what I please. I want the right to work, and I want that opportunity to be extended to all my fellow citizens. I want them to have an equal opportunity for educational development, for health and for recreation, which is all part of the building of a human being capable of coping with the modern world.

— Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, July 4, 1940

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president a third time, in November 1940, the country was in trouble. Economic insecurity gripped most Americans, and imperial armies threatened the nation from abroad.

The president thought it necessary to deliver a State of the Union Address the following January that would sound an alarm. Too many Americans, he felt, were caught up in make-believe. If every citizen just minded his or her own business, they said, the country could weather the storm.

So FDR turned to his top advisors and speechwriters and, after seven drafts, hammered out an address as famous as any in American history, the "Four Freedoms Speech."

America had to steel itself, the speech went, for the sake of four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Important ideas.

This July 4, think about the four freedoms while you enjoy the day. And steel yourself for an assault.

We're under the thumb of a psychotic pack of robber barons, both elected and appointed. And, with help from their lapdogs, they're hell bent on stripping you of all four freedoms.

Why? To shore up their unhealthy egos and feed a biblical lust for wealth and dominion.

Steel yourself.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Callender: An American Musical

"Fake news" is the reason Alexander Hamilton—George Washington's Treasury Secretary and the leading voice of the Federalists—never became president.

And, though he may not rate a musical, you can thank the infamous journalist
James Callender for it.

A renowned drunkard and scalawag, in 1796 Callender was paid by the Treasury Secretary's chief rival—Washington's Secretary of State and the leading voice of the Republicans, Thomas Jefferson—to see to it Hamilton would never become president.

Callender achieved Jefferson's goal by publishing a juicy book detailing two Hamiltonian indiscretions: the first, an adulterous affair between Hamilton and a 23-year-old married woman, Maria Reynolds; and the second, payments of blackmail by Hamilton to Mrs. Reynold's husband (who had colluded with his wife to entrap Hamilton in the affair).

At first, Hamilton's fans cried "Fake news!" But the Treasury Secretary decided he could exonerate himself by admitting, in writing, to both deeds.

The American public never forgave him; and so he's only the subject of a musical, not the second or third POTUS.

But the story has an ironic second chapter: Callender turned around and attacked his sponsor, Jefferson.

Fined and imprisoned in 1800 for defaming the then-sitting President John Adams—he had called Adams a hideous hermaphrodite—Callender wrote to Jefferson asking for his help.

But Jefferson, elected to the presidency a month after Callender's trial, betrayed the journalist. Although he gave him a pardon, Jefferson cut all ties. A president, after all, shouldn't associate with a drunken scandalmonger.

So Callender retaliated.

First, he published documents proving he'd colluded with Jefferson to defame both Hamilton and Adams; then, he published newspaper stories about "Black Sally," the slave he claimed was the president's mistress—and the mother of his many illegitimate children.

Callender's stories went viral; but they won him no new sponsor. He was deemed too reckless to be trusted by anyone, including Jefferson's enemies.

He died in July 1803, when, in a drunken stupor, he fell into the James River at Richmond and drowned.

“It was the happy privilege of an American that he may prattle and print in what way he pleases, and without anyone to make him afraid,” Callender once wrote.

When it came to fake news, he was fearless.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to Succeed at Blogging without Really Trying

Want to make your blog "a machine for lead generation?" It's easy, says Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group:

Craft Your Hook. "The average time someone spends on a post is a whopping 37 seconds," Brenner says. Create a strong opening, so they'll  spend at least that much time on your posts. "Try asking a question, leading with a beguiling fact or statistic, or just going all out, guns blazing at the beginning and present the reader’s problem and answer all within the first three sentences." A highly personal opening hooks readers, too.

Write Long-Form. Readers unwilling to spend more than 37 seconds on your post are tire-kickers. Write for the readers who are qualified leads. "They are more likely to take action after reading." Long-form posts generate nine times more leads than short-form posts.

Use Many CTAs. Pepper your posts with calls-to-action. Add links that direct readers to more resources. Remember: they may never get to your punchy closing.

Post on a Schedule. When you post regularly, you boost your Google rankings and give readers a reliable resource. "Your readers may even come to expect a new post, seeing it as something to look forward to while waiting for the bus or stopping by their favorite coffee shop for a work break," Brenner says. "Don’t rob people of their blog reading rituals because you post intermittently."

Use Visuals. Add more emotion to your posts with visual content―and not just photos, drawings, videos, and infographics, but illustrated CTAs. "Illustrations will help your readers know how they can take that all important next step to download content, sign up for your special offer, or in any other way become a lead."

Satisfy Readers. Your efforts are for naught, if your content doesn't inform readers and inspire them to read further. Be sure readers "are confident that when they need more information on your business’s niche subject, they know where to turn for more―your blog," Brenner says.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trade Shows Take the Art World by Storm

Unless brick-and-mortar galleries make a comeback, you may buy your first Basquiat at a trade show, says The Art Newspaper.

Brick-and-mortar galleries once guaranteed collector confidence, but no longer.

Today, collectors are accustomed to buying art at trade shows, on line, and directly from the artists, making a dealer's "home base" irrelevant.

Art Basel, king of the art show organizers, still insists dealers operate a gallery to qualify to exhibit.

As global director Marc Spiegler told The Art Newspaper, running a brick-and-mortar gallery signals you're a "real" dealer.

“Paying rent, staging shows and employing people simply represents a higher level of commitment to the artists the galleries are working with and to the cultural landscape of the cities in which they are sited,” he said.

But the rule is under scrutiny; and the pressure's on to drop it.

Most of the other 270 trade shows allow dealers without fixed abodes―dealers who only sell art on line, or through coops, popups, or trade shows―to exhibit.

Only Art Basel excludes them.

And the stakes are high. Last year, 41% of dealers' sales took place at trade shows.

Dealers are loving them.

Another reason dealers are loving trade shows: they enable collaboration.

They can rent adjacent booths and commingle the works of a single artist or school.

Hungry collectors can see many related works displayed together―maybe even go on a buying spree.

HAT TIP: Appraiser Todd Sigety pointed me to this story in The Art Newspaper.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Never Trust Anyone under 30

With apologies to '60s activist Jack Weinberg, never trust anyone under 30.

With exceptions, they lack any sense of propriety―and all sense of history.

Case in point.

On behalf of content marketer Sally O'Dowd, one of these young invincibles―a hired social media expert, no doubt―posted the following comment on my blog today:

Adlof Hitlar has left a new comment on your post 4 Keys to Content Marketing for Events:

Thanks for the great information. I mostly follow
sally O'Dowd's blogs. Her writings are really creative, follows an innovative and different style. She's my favorite.

Sally looks to be an extremely delightful and imaginative soul, judging from her two blogs.

She's either that, or, as her agent's comment suggests, an unrepentant anti-Semite with bad grammar.

When everything's a cartoon, everything goes.

Never trust anyone under 30.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Drip Marketing Can Sink You

Although your customers won’t love you if you
give bad service, your competitors will.

― Kate Zabriskie

Making the rounds on LinkedIn this week is a photo of a whiteboard.

On it, an anonymous scribbler has written, "Amazon didn't kill the retail industry. They did it to themselves with bad customer service."

Dear Whoever You Are: You got that right.

Drip by drip, retailers are driving away their few remaining customers, right before our eyes. Call it an odd form of drip marketing.

Case in point.

The faucet on my kitchen sink is leaking.

On Saturday afternoon, I took the faucet apart and discovered the likely source of the leak to be a failing "valve cartridge." So I removed the part and went out in search of a replacement.

The first two hardware retailers I visited didn't stock the part, and wouldn't consider ordering it. The third store I visited was a plumbing specialty retailer,
Plumbing Parts Plus.

At Plumbing Parts Plus, I was made to stand in a queue for 45 minutes in front of the parts desk, all by myself. A brusque sign said, "Sign into the log with your time of arrival." But there was no log. During the 45 minutes, no one acknowledged I was there.

I stopped an employee and asked him to venture a guess as to how long it might take to receive help. "He's busy," was his response. When the parts man finally deigned to help me, he couldn't identify the cartridge I had. The store was about to close, so he wrote down my contact information and promised to call me Monday morning.

Of course, he didn't.

I phoned the store Tuesday morning. The recorded message said―repeatedly―"Thank you for calling Plumbing Parts Plus. We value every one of our customers and promise the utmost in personalized customer service. Please stay on the line until someone answers your call."

When my call was at last answered, I was told the parts man, Pete, took Tuesdays off, and since no one but Pete could assist me, I should return to the store with the part.

I just bought the cartridge on Amazon, after only four―count 'em―four clicks
. I should have it in two days.

Dear Plumbing Parts Plus: Your form of drip marketing's all wet!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Felix had gone to live in a lotus land of his imagination. Where what is desired is dreamed of as already happened, where obstacles dissolve under the weight of desire, and where reality has vanished entirely.

― Iain Pears

President Trump's grip on reality is so slim, you might say he lives in Cloud Cuckoo Land, the creation of the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes.

In Aristophanes' "The Birds," a character named Pisthetaerus incites the world's birds to challenge the Olympian gods. He persuades them to build a city-in-the-sky that blocks the gods' view of Earth, denying them dominion over men. Pisthetaerus names the great city Cloud Cuckoo Land.

For his brilliance, at the end of the play Pisthetaerus is made king of the Olympians, exceeding even Zeus in power.

Since Aristophanes' time, the name is used to denote any idealistic Neverland.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Torment Tuesday

Call me a curmudgeon, but I've grown to loathe social media marketers who use weekday hashtags.

You know who you are.

Week upon week, you insist on reminding me it's:

  • Motivation Monday
  • Transformation Tuesday
  • Win Wednesday
  • Thankful Thursday
  • Fearless Friday
  • Social Saturday
  • Fun Day Sunday
Your vapid diurnal emissions make every day feel like Munch Monday.

The word curmudgeon, by the way, originated in the 1500s; but its source is unknown.

According to Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary, the word is a corruption of the French coeur méchant, meaning "evil heart."

But according to other dictionaries, it's a mashup of the English cur, meaning "mutt," and the Gaelic muigean, meaning "grouch."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Slippery Slope

You prohibit tradeshow attendance.

You cancel the newspapers.

You fire the agency.

You outsource customer service.

You automate marketing.

You discount.

You rush it out.

You praise only the rock stars.

You let everyone over 50 go.

You delete the phone numbers on your website.

You cancel the Christmas party.

You sublet to a multi-marketing firm.

You close your office door.

You never ask why.

You initiate Chapter 7.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Our Customers? Who Cares?

On CEIR's blog, adman Gary Slack laments the tradeshow industry's thundering indifference to customers—an indifference, alas, I can vouch for.

"More than any other B2B medium or sales channel, the exhibition industry—meaning trade show producers, contractors, CVBs—is remarkably unconnected with senior B2B marketing leadership, the people who set marketing budgets and make the ultimate decisions on how much gets invested in face-to-face marketing," Slack says.

No matter where or when B2B marketers gather, you can count on the show industry to be a no-show, Slack says.

"Go to any B2B marketing conference and rarely if ever do you hear exhibition industry execs attending, much less speaking or even exhibiting. Yet practically every other recipient of B2B marketing dollars is represented, either in the audience or on the dais or in the exhibit hall, or all three."

This week is bittersweet for me.

It would have seen the inauguration of DARE, a marketing conference I planned with two partners to help bridge the gap between B2B CMOs and the exhibition industry.

We had to cancel the event 120 days out, for lack of sponsors and endorsements by show organizers.

Despite 12 months' effort to reach hundreds of tradeshow industry players, both large and small, only three suppliers—Freeman, Kubik and SpotMe—bought sponsorships before we cancelled DARE; and only one show organizer—NAB Show—endorsed the conference.

DARE sank in the vast sea of indifference to customers.

I'd chalk it up to a severe case of "fat, dumb and happy."

"As long as exhibitions themselves remain so essential to B2B sales success, maybe you don’t have to work as hard trying to grow your slice of the big B2B budget pie," Slack says.

"But by not engaging directly with senior B2B marketers at the events they attend to learn the latest, you are jeopardizing mindshare that some day may be critical to your survival."

There's a melancholic jazz song entitled, "
Due to Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Canceled."

It might be DARE's theme song—or, if things don't change, the tradeshow industry's.

DISCLOSURE: I am the managing editor of CEIR's blog. Please contact me, if you'd like to contribute content.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Merging State of Mind

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

― John Donne

In Pre-Suasion, psychologist Robert Cialdini describes a seventh principle of persuasion: unity.

When customers come and act together, Cialdini says, they become more likely to buy.

"Co-creating" exemplifies the principle in action.

When a new fast-food restaurant asked prospects to assess its business plan, those asked for "advice," rather than "opinions,” or “expectations,” were more likely to eat at the new restaurant.

The use of the word "advice," in effect, invited prospects to co-create the restaurant. That triggered a gratifying sense of tribal togetherness.

"Companies struggle to get consumers to feel bonded with and therefore loyal to their brands," Cialdini says. "It’s a battle they’ve been winning by inviting current and prospective customers to co-create with them novel or updated products and services, most often by providing the company with information as to desirable features.

"However, within such marketing partnerships, consumer input must be framed as advice to the company, not as opinions about or expectations for the company.

"The differential phrasing might seem minor, but it is critical to achieving the company’s unitization goal. Providing advice puts a person in a merging state of mind, which stimulates a linking of one’s own identity with another party’s. Providing an opinion or expectation, on the other hand, puts a person in an introspective state of mind, which involves focusing on oneself. These only slightly different forms of consumer feedback—and the nonetheless vitally different merging-versus-separating mind-sets they produce—can have a significant impact on consumer engagement with a brand.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ready to Work Two Jobs?

I often encounter folks who've opted, or been forced, to freelance.

A great many share something in common: they don't want to work two jobs.

Unfortunately, that's what you have to do to succeed.

Because it ain't easy to cultivate "1,000 true fans." Else, we'd all do it.

Editor Kevin Kelly first expressed the idea a decade ago:

You can define a "true fan" as anyone willing to send you $100 a year for your product. Provided your cost of goods is low, a freelancer can get by comfortably with only 1,000 true fans.

And the money need not arrive in lump sums; it can trickle in (fans can subscribe, say, at the price of $8.34 a month for 12 months).

However you're paid, the bar to success is low, Kelly says.

"To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans."

Besides keeping costs low, the challenge freelancers face is difficult enough to put most of them off.

To succeed, you have to cultivate 1,000 solid relationships―both financial ones (no one else can profit from your work) and professional ones (fans must like and trust you).

It's easy to attract 1,000 or more fair-weather fans (just ask Paul Reubens). But you need 1,000 diehards.

And, although digital platforms that enable relationships with diehards abound, nurturing those relationships could kill you.

"The truth is that cultivating a thousand true fans is time consuming, sometimes nerve racking, and not for everyone," Kelly says.

"Done well it can become another full-time job."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Art of the Real

In the face of historically low approval ratings, President Trump mounted a puzzling charade on Monday.

He opened a Cabinet meeting to the media and filled the hour with a ham-fisted celebration of unearned and imaginary achievements in jobs creation, crime reduction, and national security.

Little wonder.

Forget fake: constituents―and customers―want real.

Nine of 10, in fact, told Bonfire Marketing they value real over every other brand attribute.

Customers today back brands they perceive to be honest, and shy from those they don't, says Andrew Reid, author of The Authenticity Handbook. "Authenticity is now a business imperative," Reid says.

I urge President Trump and his handlers to read my whitepaper, Path of Persuasion: Winning Customers in the Age of Suspicion.

It's an Oldy, but Goodly.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grammar Police

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach;
those who can't teach, police grammar on the Internet.

Ruadhán J. McElroy

Two psycholinguistics at the University of Michigan have proven the judgmental behavior of grammar policemen reflects a bigger issue: they're annoying people all round.

Tests of 83 subjects revealed a correlation between crabbing about typos and grammatical slips and three of the "Big 5" personality traits.

People who spot and judge others harshly for sloppy typing and grammar, the study showed, are dogmatic, antagonistic, and introverted.

"This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language," says lead researcher Julie Boland.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Land of the Living

The basest of all things is to be afraid.

― William Faulkner

When he accepted the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature―the same year Russia exploded its first atom bomb―William Faulkner asked writers to put aside physical fear and choose life over death.

"There are no longer problems of the spirit," Faulkner said. "There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing, because only that is worth writing about."

Until the writer rediscovers "the old verities and truths of the heart," Faulkner said, he "will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man."

Last week―while terror reigned in London, Paris, Melbourne, Kabul and Tehran―
Bob Dylan delivered his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, a biblio-memoir seven times longer than Faulkner's address.

Where Faulkner was brief, Dylan rambles, Kerouac-style.

But one chord sounds the same.

Midway through, Dylan describes reading All Quiet on the Western Front as a schoolboy:

"This is a book where you lose your childhood, your faith in a meaningful world, and your concern for individuals. You're stuck in a nightmare. Sucked up into a mysterious whirlpool of death and pain. You're defending yourself from elimination. You're being wiped off the face of the map."

Dylan found the novel's depiction of war exhausting. "I put this book down and closed it up. I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did."

He discovered the "old verities and truths of the heart" instead in an adventure tale, The Odyssey, where the hero determinedly chooses life over death.

Dylan describes Odysseus' visit with Achilles in the underworld. Odysseus is shocked to hear the condemned warrior say, "I traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory. I just died, that's all. There was no honor. No immortality."

Were he able, Achilles says, he'd return to the world, even if that meant he'd be some farmer's slave. "Whatever his struggles of life were," Dylan says, "they were preferable to being here in this dead place. That's what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living."

Songs may not be literature in the same sense novels are, Dylan says, but they come from the same neck of the woods, a country where physical fear is so base it's forgotten.

Or as the evangelist John said, "There is no fear in love."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The D Word

What's the fastest way to stampede a herd of exhibitors?

A. Use the "D word."


Its mere mention thrusts otherwise serene folks into fits of apoplexy, turning lambs into lions and Jekylls into Hydes.

"Arbitrary and greedy," they gasp. "A complete scam."

Drayage is the price a tradeshow decorator charges exhibitors to move materials from the convention center's loading dock to the exhibit space on the show floor. Charged by the "hundred weight," it increases as the weight of an exhibit does.

Exhibitors loathe the pricing scheme, wondering where it originated and why it's perpetuated.

You can blame J.W. Midgley.

Midgely was a railroad engineer in the 19th century. He's the man who instituted the "hundred weight."

The word "drayage" comes from the maritime industry, and denotes the transport of goods over a short distance, often as part of a long-distance move (for example, a pickup of goods by truck from a seaport and their delivery to an inland warehouse).

The word's also used to denote the price of the transportation.

Drayage originally meant "to transport by a sideless cart", or dray. These carts, pulled by dray horses, were used to move goods short distances (short because of the physical limitations of the dray horse). Over time, the dray horse was replaced by the delivery truck.

Pricing the service by hundred weight is a scheme that allowed operators of the various modes of transport (ships, trains, carts, etc.) to charge uniformly and treat all users fairly (farmers, for example, paid no more than ranchers, miners, or loggers to have their goods hauled). It also allowed for easy verification of the charges.

J. W. Midgley, although disavowing that he originated the practice, took credit for making the hundred weight a national standard for charging for freight hauling.

Midgley wanted to help harmonize hauling. And that's a good thing, because harmony breeds efficiency.

Runaway drayage has certainly altered the tradeshow industry, causing, most notably, exhibitors' flight to fabric. (I remember a time when US tradeshows were chock full of hardwall).

The industry players point fingers whenever runaway drayage gets mentioned. Exhibitors scapegoat decorators. Decorators scapegoat organizers. Organizers scapegoat convention centers. Everybody scapegoats labor.

But nobody scapegoats J.W. Midgley.

It's high time they did.

It's also time to put drayage into context:
  • A woman once asked Picasso to sketch her on a piece of paper. The artist complied, and handed her the sketch. “That will cost you $10,000.” The woman was astounded. “Isn't $10,000 a lot for only five minutes work?" Picasso replied, “The sketch may have taken five minutes, but the learning took 30 years."

  • Hospitals typically charge you $20 for an aspirin. That's because they "cost shift" constantly. They couldn't function if they didn't charge insured patients $20 for an aspirin, because their beds are filled by poor, uninsured patients, as well.
  • Starbucks charges $3 for a small latte, but a whole pound of Arabica coffee beans costs only $1.50. When you buy a latte, you're also paying for labor, store rent, furniture, and college tuition for 4,000 employees. The beans comprise only 20% of the price.
Exhibitors, sure, you may want to squeeze runaway drayage.

But remember: when you clamp down on one side of a balloon, the other side just gets bigger.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Return of the Native

At a workshop on ad retargeting I recently attended, a well-seasoned colleague dropped the word "advertorial" in conversation.

My response: "I bet that's something no Millennial's ever heard of."

The New Rules of Marketing and PR ushered in the era of "brand journalism," advertorials were a staple of B2B advertisers and publishers.

And they still are—even more so. But today we call them "
native ads."

A wolf in sheep's clothing, a native ad is meant to trick the reader.

The term "native" implies the ad has infiltrated the flock.

It says nothing about its clothing—its look and feel.

But that's misleading, says ad salesman Rich Rosenzweig.

An ad isn't "native" just because it's commingled with non-branded content, Rosenweig says. It's native because it disguises itself—and doesn't "interrupt" the reader.

"An ad unit is native only when it matches the look, feel, user path, and quality standards of the editorial content to which it’s adjacent," Rosenzweig says.

Artless native ads—non-skippable video ads, in particular—backfire, because they interrupt readers.

"Poorly executed native ads wind up tarnishing both the advertiser and the publisher; an unexpected interruption contributes to ad blindness, ad avoidance, and ultimately, ad blocking," Rosenzweig says.

Publishers are more to blame than advertisers, because they've dropped all standards.

"The relationship between branded content and the editorial feed is very much in flux," Rosenwieg says, "with different publishers taking wildly different approaches to how they position one against the other."

If publishers don't adopt a few reader-friendly standards soon, they're likely to drive them all to safer pastures.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

How to Measure Content Marketing Success

Measuring your content marketing success is easy, digital marketer Barry Feldman says. Just apply these 10 metrics:

Website traffic. Use Google Analytics to determine how many people visited your site, where they came from, and which pages they went to.

Subscriber growth. Monitor your headcount, because email is "your most important play for staying top-of mind with prospects," Feldman says.

Search rankings. Gauge your rankings with Google Analytics, with the goal of reaching Page 1 for any relevant search.

Time. Digital channels are unique, because they allow you to monitor "engagement" without fancy studies. You want visitors to dwell on a page for as long as it takes the average person to read the content there.

Social media followers. Far from being a “vanity metric,” audience size indicates whether the content you publish has appeal.

Social media shares. Social sharing is often automated, and people routinely share content without reading it, so shares don't mean much. But they do loosely correlate to website traffic and search rankings, so are worth your attention.

Links. "Measuring links will help you to gauge the traction your content is gaining," Feldman says. Inbound links indicate your content's cool. To measure them, set up a Talkwalker Alert.

Click-through rate. Click-through rate (CRT) is the be-all, end-all, because "marketers who earn high CTR will win regardless of the channel." CTR proves you've won the competition for people's attention.

Leads. Leads are paramount; but, remember, a lead's more than a subscriber. A lead has to "raise her hand" by registering for an event, requesting a demo, downloading a brochure, or taking some similar step.

Feedback. Comments come in many forms: social media updates, shares and direct messages; blog comments; emails and phone calls; form submissions; and reviews. Taking comments into account helps you improve your content.

Writers are All Vampires

Writers are all vampires.
― Herman Wouk

Writer Trisha Richards asked me where I find ideas for blog posts. 

Novelist Herman Wouk provides the answer.

When it comes to sources for ideas, I'm indiscriminate; an equal opportunity vampire.

More or less in rank order, I derive ideas from:
  • Nonfiction books
  • Bloggers
  • Everyday conversations
  • Everyday experiences
  • $#*! my spouse says
  • Print articles
  • White papers
  • Fiction
  • Movies
  • News programs
  • Fantasies
  • Memories
  • Dreams
  • Songs
  • B2B events
  • People and things not otherwise listed
Whenever an idea for a blog post comes to mind, I always write it down.


Sometimes I grab a napkin or a piece of trash; most often I send an email to myself.

Writer Neil Gaiman says there's no lack of ideas; only of attention to them.

"You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Blogger Josh Bernoff has discovered the meaning of the word "covfefe" in the president's famous and now-deleted Tweet.

"Here’s what the word 'covfefe' means: It means 'I am a crazy person,'" Bernoff says.

"This president is not a master manipulator of media. He is a wacko with little grasp of reality that says the first thing that comes into his mind. That is the meaning of 'covfefe.' It’s a variant of 'crazy.'"

Many critics of the president have reached a similar conclusion.

But do typos imply the writer is dotty? Or are they, as sociologists argue, joyful centerpieces of digital writing?

"Digital writing is inherently playful, first of all, because the medium, the computer, invites participants to 'fiddle,' and to invoke the frame of 'make-believe,'” says Brenda Danet. 

"When this frame is operating, participants understand and accept the meta-message 'this is play.'”

Digital writing's hallmarks, Danet says, are four: haste, ephemerality, interactivity, and freedom from the "tyranny" of paper. In essence, digital writing is just like kibitzing, a stream-of-conscious game people play. There, like lots of nonsense, typos are the rule.
So do typos ever matter?

They do, in my book, when they riddle public-facing communications, because they open you to ridicule.

Ridiculous people (and brands) aren't merely hacks: they're clowns. 

And clowns aren't trustworthy. 

Clowns can even be scary. 

Or covfefe, if you prefer.

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