5 Things to remember when creating your online marketing plan

Online marketing is mainstream. It’s no longer an accessory to a campaign, most often it’s the focus of your marketing activities. If you’re not a sophisticated online marketer your probably still pushing your audience online to learn about your product or service. If you are knowledgeable in the space chances are you’re talking about screens and conversions. The following is a list of the top things to consider when you’re planning or developing your online campaign. If you’re doing these things its likely that your realizing the full potential of what online marketing has to offer.

  1. Set SMART Objectives – You laugh because it’s obvious, right? The truth is 95% of marketers create objectives that are either easy to reach or so abstract you’ll never know when you’ve accomplished something. SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable,  Relevant and Timely. They are clearly transformed into targets that allow you to determine success and failure.
  2. Know your Audience – Thanks to analytics and easy-to-use online tools, it is now much easier to measure and evaluate your audience. You can tell where they are located, what they are interested in and how often they consume your content. Google Analytics provides channel information and attribution modeling so you can see how your audience reaches your website. Use this data to help you make the right choices when it comes to media.
  3. Understand your Customer’s Path to Purchase – We all go through a decision-making process when we become aware of or begin to consider purchasing a product or service. The web often plays a very important role in assisting and completing a purchase decision. If you take the time to understand the journey your customer takes when making a choice it will help you make informed choices on your media budget.
  4. Use Re-marketing to Remind Them – if you ask an marketer if they understand re-marketing they usually nod in agreement, few really get its true power.  In its simplest form re-marketing is a friendly reminder, in its most effective form its a motivator that can push your customer along their purchase journey encouraging them to buy. When you understand their decision journey you can use re-marketing to communicate the right message at the right moment. Make sure you’re using this powerful tool.
  5. Iterate your Marketing Activities – The beauty of online marketing is its flexibility. If something isn’t meeting your expectations change it or turn it off and shift your dollars somewhere else. Design your online marketing campaigns so that you can iterate and update based on your marketing targets. Don’t sign fixed contracts.

Feeling the social pressure to support ALS?

It’s always great to see how the power of the Internet can have such an incredible influence on a fundraising. The KickStarter potato salad promotion , Movember for Testicular Cancer and now the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge are great examples of how the convergence of a great cause, a big idea and a willing audience can lead to awesomeness. The ALS campaign is literally raising the online stakes for viral promotions. My Facebook feed is full of videos of friends who’ve braved the icy cold waters to honor a challenge. Never have I felt so much pressure to do something stupid for a great cause. When the numbers are in this could be one of the biggest online viral successes ever ($72 Million and counting).

I think the power of ALS challenge is setting a new bar for online marketers who are looking for viral opportunities. After seeing the impact of this promotion you can bet plenty of other organizations are going to be challenging their digital marketing partners to do it the “ALS way”. Who wouldn’t, the cost is low, the entertainment value is high and most importantly the return is exponential. What will marketers dream up next?  The pressure of finding something that will motivate and activate an audience will be huge. The ideas will flow, the campaigns will launch and the failures will follow. Why? Because although the Internet makes it easy to reach people, creating a viral reaction is often as big a surprise to the marketer as it is to the audience. It’s organic and grows from influencers who have a motivational spark that ignites a perfectly timed fire.

Appealing to basic human instincts such as guilt and compassion requires a certain magic that can’t be planned or predicted. It’s a bit like immaculate conception. Finding the formula, the chemistry that invokes this type of connection is still a mystery. Not unlike genetics and DNA, marketers are slowly unlocking the science of viral, but for now it remains a welcomed accident. I’ve been challenged twice and I’m refusing to give into the pressure, the guilt to donate the feeling of empathy for those suffering with ALS. Damn it! Where’s the ice bucket?

Facebook IPO – Fear of the Unknown

The long awaited initial product offering (IPO) for the world’s largest online social network hit the streets yesterday and seems to have received an underwhelming response by investors. Opening at $38 per share, Facebook barely nudged from its that price by end of the trading day. After months of hype and a roadshow by Zuckerberg, everyone is now left hunting for reasons why the megalith that has had such a huge impact on changing human behaviour seems to have been given the cold shoulder by the investment world.

Was it the numbers that scared them all away? The Facebook IPO is targeted to raise 16 billion in revenue for the social networking company. This would place the offering in the top 3 largest IPOs in the history of Wall Street. Or is it that lingering memory of early 2000 when tech stocks like Facebook burst their swollen financial bubbles spewing red all over the trading floor? Or… is it just common sense cutting into the investment decision? Something that is often hidden by hype and the lure to be become a millionaire over night by getting a piece of the excitement. I can’t imagine it has anything to do with earnings or the potential to generate revenue. Wall street knows how to position important things like earnings per share and long-term revenue projections when they really believe in the leadership of a company. Simple facts and the reality of the situation never seem to stop the bus. The power brokers know how to paint that with optimism and potential as opposed to the skepticism which has surrounded the Facebook IPO. Obviously they didn’t see the opportunity to line their own pockets.

Or … is this lack luster launch into public ownership a reflection on leadership and the difficulty people have trusting a 26 year old with billions of shareholder dollars? Zuckerberg’s a smart guy, but does he have the presences to make people believe in things that they either can’t see or that don’t yet exist? The outcome of yesterday’s IPO is a clear sign that he’s not God as some would have you think. In fact it brings into question whether or not he’s the right person to steer the ship of a publicly traded company. Now that the control of it is in the shareholder’s hands Facebook’s approach to doing business will need to take on a softer, more controlled and careful approach to how it evolves. Something Zuckerberg has never demonstrated to date. Something that tends to come with more experience.

2012 Online Revealed Tourism Conference takes on a Storytelling theme

This year’s Online Revealed Conference (ORC) in Toronto hosted over 500 Tourism Professionals from across Canada eager to learn about online tourism trends and hear all the industry success stories. I arrived at the conference armed with my iPad set to tweet my way to the top of the ORC Twitter contest (#orc2012) pounding out nuggets of insight at a lightning pace. The conference agenda was filled with interesting content and a few very high profile speakers so I was quite confident there would be lots of “tweetworthy” snippets. Like any conference I’ve ever attended, the real challenge lies in how you tie those snippets together to form a theme or a takeaway. My takeaway, although a bit of an underlying theme, was a very valuable reminder about the power of great storytellers.

The first day of the conference was interconnected with the Hotelier Association of Canada’s (HAC) annual event broadening speaker options and making it a challenge for me to decide where to go and who to see. It felt a bit like Podcamp, I started out in the ORC morning plenary where Steve Irvine from Facebook delivered a interesting piece on how the web is re-organizing itself into a “people-centric” model. Steve was followed by Nikki Germany from Google who spoke about the “Zero moment of Truth” and how mobile browsing is transforming the way people make their buying decisions. But, despite the gravity of these two heavyweights, I kept thinking David Suzuki is less than a 100 ft. away delivering what was likely an even more riveting presentation on his passion, the environment. I had to see Suzuki so I ducked out of ORC and snuck across the hall.

Suzuki did not disappoint. This man is a true Canadian icon. Watching him speak was like watching a good soap opera (fyi.. I’m a Coronation Street fan), there were moments when you grinned ear-to-ear and moments when you reach for the Kleenex to wipe away a tear. I kept thinking to myself, if only I could be so passionate and yet so smooth. This guy is an amazing storyteller, his presentation weaved a series of experiences into a lesson with a simple meaning, smarten up and start giving back to the environment OR ELSE! Suzuki’s appearance at the conference set an Ecotourism tone with a less than subtle reminder of how beautiful parts of country are being decimated by poorly managed, environmentally unfriendly Government policies.

I left Suzuki’s presentation feeling a bit depressed about the fact the world was in such a mess….according to David. As my mind raced through all the “Suzukisms” trying to figure out how I was going to become an environmentalist,  I realized the power of great storytellers and started to think about how important storytelling is to the the tourism business. Great storytellers connect with our emotions and take us on roller coaster rides from smiles to tears. Suzuki had done that for me. He connected, made me emotional and had me wanting to change my behaviour. It was as simple as picking the right word, pausing at the right moment or showing the right photo, but as complicated as building a 10,000 piece puzzle. Suzuki has  a very powerful gift.

The storytelling at ORC didn’t end with Suzuki. On the second day Jowi Taylor took the stage. I’d never heard of this guy, but apparently he’s been traveling the world for the past 7 years with a guitar built from parts of Canadian history. This incredible piece of craftsmanship contains over 100 fragments of Canadian heritage including gold from the first set of Stanley Cup rings commissioned by Maurice “The Rocket” Richard in 1955 to a piece of wood from a door frame in Canada’s House of Parliament. Each piece with its own story. Each story told by an incredible storyteller whose passion and talent ranks up there with the likes of Bob Dylan and Harry Chapin. I sat there glued to every word as Jowi took me on a completely unexpected, highly emotional journey that left me feeling proud to be a Canadian. At the end of his presentation he handed the guitar to a member of the audience who played two Canadian folk songs followed by a standing ovation.

Between the compelling, but sometimes horrifying Suzuki tales and Taylor’s patriotic yellow brick road, I realized my takeaway for ORC. It’s no secret. There was no epiphany, just a reminder that great storytelling can create a very powerful emotional connection with an audience. Telling compelling, authentic stories for your destination will generate an emotional connection that will create a desire. The desire to travel and experience the stories, to feel the emotions that the storyteller so carefully articulates and to be a part of something that will become a unforgettable part of your own history.

“We’re no longer hunters in online marketing, we’re farmers nurturing content and telling stories that engage, emote and enlighten.”

Textbooks on tablets – Is this the beginning of a revolution or a revelation in the publishing business?

Apple unveiled a new textbook iPad app yesterday that is expected have a huge impact on the education industry. The question is will this new product revolutionize education or is it just a revelation that will help the struggling education publisher business?

The Internet has already changed education by putting content at the student’s fingertips and providing them with the ability to search for it in many amazingly efficient ways. In the past a book was the search result for student’s looking for content. Its design allows it to neatly fit into a space on a shelf in a library laminated with an ISBN destination so searchers can find it. “Old School” information searching bound to books is, a time-involved process with lots of reading and piles of paper. It’s a physical exercise that is slowly being replaced by a virtual landscape that has no physical boundaries.

Students no longer have the patience to scour books. They expect to be taken to content instantly via a search engine. I’m sure iBook2 has great search features that takes the user to their information of interest much like Google, but why do we need to confine that search to a traditional “Old School” organizational unit?

I believe textbooks are a thing of the past. The creation of a virtual textbook is really just a great business idea that has a huge monetary upside for a company like Apple and for the struggling educational publishing business. Apple’s new iPad app is a revelation for the publisher, a great idea that could help to prop up a dying business model. It’s certainly not a revolution.

If we want to revolutionize the educational system we need get rid of the textbook and introduce the concept of an information directory. Instead restricting students to set curriculums built around textbooks, educational subject matter needs to contain information blocks put together to form the foundation of an educational unit. For those who like to think traditionally these blocks might be considered chapters in a book. The big difference is the educator selects the block based on its relevance, currency and quality. Blocks are not confined to the opinion of one author or publisher. They can evolve along with the educational process.

An information directory could be student-managed and teacher governed.  Acting as a hub for information. It would change the learning process by introducing collaboration, information sharing and idea generation. A change of this magnitude could fundamentally alter our educational system by encouraging collective thought as opposed to elevating individual performance. That’s a revolution and it’s already well underway. What’s missing is the realization that it’s happening and the transformation of “Old School” secondary systems into “New School” learning hubs is imminent.

Top 5 things I hope to see for 2012 and beyond

I’ve watched Sci-Fi movies and read Sci-Fi books for the past forty years and what continues to amaze me is how reality imitates art. I’m a huge fan of Gene Roddenberry (i.e. Star Trek creator) and have often marveled at how some of Gene’s most creative ideas have made their way into new technology. Ideas that have help to re-shape our world. Star Trek communicators became Motorola flip phones, digital clipboards turned into iPads and tricorders turned into MRIs. The creative brilliance of visionaries such as Roddenberry, Jobs, and other geeks has help to shape technology through artistic innovation and the competitive desire to be the first. The first person to think of that big idea. The first to “go where no man has gone before”.

I believe mobile technology is at the precipitous of this level of innovation. Media Post recently posted an article indicating that new smartphone activations following Christmas grew by 140% over last year during the same time period.  Google and Apple are at the forefront of this growth with their iOS and Android systems. These two giants are well positioned to lead the world into a new age – the Mobile Age. This age will without a doubt be filled with creative inspirations that will transform our lifestyle. The following is a list of the things I envision will come out of the Mobile Age. Call it my list of mobile ideas that will change the way we interact in the future.

1. Social Identification – For those who are a little more advanced in age you may remember the day of the Phone Bar. Each table in the bar had a phone on it and if you saw an person across the room that you wanted to meet you picked up the phone and called their table.

The modern version of this social ice breaker will involve the mobile phone. With the help of geo-location and NFC technology people will be able to share their profiles at social gatherings in a advanced version of mobile “mate-matching” that allows you to screen your potential suitor before you say “hello”. No more chatting about the weather or those awkward “getting-to-know” moments where you search for the words. You’ll be able to “scan’em” “keep’em”, or “can’em”.  The whole dynamic of social interaction will be pushed forward using social pattern matching. If you’re in range of a potential match your mobile device will alert you and provide some background. If you decide to interact you’ll be able to initiate the conversation knowing the recipients interests and eliminating that socially awkward behavior that happens when you try to find a common ground for discussion. Companies such as Lavalife and eHarmony will thrive on this technology which will make it easier to find that perfect person. Most of it already exists online now in social chat rooms. Mobile will take the person out from behind the computer and place them back into the physical social environment.

2. Social Erasing – There is always the issue of privacy when talking about social networks. Although I think the Internet Generation (Gen M) don’t see this as a big issue, the time may come where they’ll need a social erasing service that cleans up their online profile. They may want a persona for their professional life that’s somewhat different than the one they share with friends.  Online profiles will become a page in a personal catalogue (e.g. Facebook) that people will use to assess their friends, business acquaintances and social circles. We’ll review, group and categorize personas so that we can communicate with them accordingly. Having the right online persona for the right situation will be important when it comes to lifestyle and business in the future.

As a result the business of “online social erasing” will thrive as personas get changed to meet new needs and as people look to re-invent themselves. We will reach a point where each person will have an inventory of personal profiles designed to address a different type of life experience. These personas will be integrated into our mobile devices and will act as a virtual business card that we will transmit based on our location needs, our preferences and our social circles. When we want to change them we’ll use a Social Erasing service to adjust the information stored across the Internet. I know it sounds a bit covert, but given the rate at we’re dumping information on to the web it’s only a matter of time before we’ll need a junk collector to tidy up our mess.

3. Social Networks will connect to Professional Services – Social networks will eventually be connected to professional services. You will be able to subscribe to a service offering and in turn that service will use your real-time profile information to monitor your status and notify you if there is a need to act.

A mobile device is a 24/7 accessory that most people monitor every minute of the day. If this device were capable of monitoring its owner it could easily forward information to a service on a regular basis. A great example of how this may work is rooted in the healthcare industry.

As our population ages there is a growing need to visit the doctor for regular checkups. Mobile innovation will eventually allow doctors to monitor patient health in real-time. People will connect their health profiles to a health system that will monitor their personal health goals. This system may also help to reduce doctor visits and inform them when their is a need for immediate assistance. For the elderly this could be a mobile “help button” that they push when they are in crisis. By monitoring health profiles early responders will know patient information prior to arrival making treatment faster and more effective.

This type of mobile technology may become an absolute necessity as our aging population grows and the cost of healthcare skyrockets we will need a way to increase healthcare efficiency.

4. Mobile Retail – Mobile is set to transform the retail shopping business. If I were a retailer in 2011 I would be taking a hard look at the fix roof retail side of my business. Just like Twitter and the Internet changed the newspaper business, online shopping is steadily transforming retail. More and more people are becoming comfortable with e-commerce and as a result are spending less time in shopping malls.

Do I think fix roof retail will disappear? No, much like the printed newspaper there will always be an audience for a “retail experience”. But that experience will be much different with the addition of mobile NFC technology. Mobile devices will speed up the retail process allowing users to buy in the moment, whenever the urge to do so arises.  They may see someone wearing a pair of shoes they like or they may be watching their favourite show and see a new shirt they want. Mobile technology will allow them to search, click and buy at the point when the need or desire happens. No more wandering around a mall looking for what they want in every store. Much like information today, buying products and services will eventually move to instantaneous fulfillment.

5. Virtual Business Meetings – Mobile holograms will allow us to meet anywhere in the world without having to step on a plane. Mobile technology will be capable of creating synthetic environments where we will get together with other virtual personas eliminating the need for business travel. A telephone booth will become a virtual portal where we will be able to enter and participate in a virtual interaction. This will reduce our carbon footprint, increase productivity and efficiency while allowing us to spend more time doing the things we love to do. Another Gene Roddenberry vision straight from the “Holo-deck” of the USS Enterprise. It’s likely not going to happen in 2012, but it’s certainly a possibility in 5-10 years time.

Google vs. Apple – mobile warefare

When Google purchased Motorola back in August the secret was out of the bag, Google had decided to enter the mobile hardware business in order to compete with Apple.  There’s been lots of speculation since the announcement; some think it was a bad move on Google’s behalf and that they should stick to what they do best. Others believe it was a move to grab valuable patents in the mobile space to fight off Apple’s patent suits. Despite all of the hype, chatter and speculation, I honestly believe they simply wanted to get into the mobile hardware business.

In a recent interview with an Italian newspaper Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested that Google would be coming out with a new “high quality” tablet in the next 6 months. Schmidt didn’t specify if it would be a Google product and by not doing so he’s created lots of buzz. Will this be the next step for Google’s Nexus line of products? Is this the beginning of a new wave of mobile soldiers designed to battle it out with the ‘i” world? I think Eric is setting the stage for the launch of a major offensive in the mobile hardware business.

Despite Schmidt’s efforts to down play rumors that Google’s purchase of Motorola will put OEM (e.g. HTC, Samsung) Android resellers at a disadvantage, one can’t help but wonder when his story will change. Apple has proven that controlling the hardware has huge benefits when it comes to software and system integration. The smooth connections between iTunes, iCloud and iMacs are addictive for Apple users. When you buy one Apple product you often go on to buy 2 or 3 more because it’s so simple to do.  Google must be looking at the potential growth for their business if they can create a similar business model. It’s likely they’re just buying time so they can figure out how to do it without derailing their current business model.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google mobile stores within the two years staffed with Google gurus selling smartphones, tablets and laptops. Google Music will explode on to the International scene as the Android OS grows its market share. Seamless integration with Google and Android apps will allow users to easily mobilize their Google world. No doubt the Google mobile device will have unique features designed to “Googlify” for coolness.

But the real value add for the new Google hardware will be Android’s total integration with Google Maps. If Google is smart they will leverage their massive world map database and use it as a competitive advantage taking geo-location technology to a new level.  The growing interest in NFC technology will make this easy for Google.

Mobile Marketing- 10 things you should keep in mind when developing a mobile marketing plan

It’s no secret; mobile marketing is the next new thing for marketers. The buzz about smart phones, mobile web browsing and text messaging has the big spenders chasing new ideas on how to reach out to the mobile user. With 5.3 billion mobile subscribers in the world (77% of the world’s population) it’s not surprising especially when you consider that most subscribers are connected 24/7.  One in five of these subscribers have high-speed mobile network access and more importantly, forecasts are suggesting that the use of mobile networks will double in the next five years.

Hell if I were a marketer….oh right I guess I’m…well anyway I would be taking a very serious look at mobile.  In 2011 the worldwide mobile marketing spend is estimated at 3.3 billion dollars, no big deal at the moment. Especially when you compare it to television/online at $78 billion, it sort of makes mobile marketing looks rather incidental. But, think about the potential. Mobile Internet usage is growing at an exponential rate and as a result marketers believe that the spend will follow. In fact, analysts are so confident in the shift that they are predicting a 500% increase in the marketing spend over the next four years.  If you’re serious about marketing you have to be prepared to take advantage of this transformation.

Combine this grow potential, mobile reach and the rapid change in our socioeconomic landscape thanks to the steady growth of social media and you have a marketer’s match made in heaven. Smart phones are connecting people and tighten the social fabric of the web. For the past 10 years I’ve heralded the importance of one-to-one marketing. Reaching the right person, at the right moment, in the right place with the right message. Mobile marketing has the potential to become the most powerful marketing tool in the marketer’s tool belt if we can avoid the splatter and focus on the matter.

Here are the 10 things I believe will help you become an effective mobile marketer:

  1. Don’t worry about the numbers focus on the message – To often we get measure success by size. Don’t go looking for an audience of millions expecting your message to mean something to everyone.  -  Find your true enthusiasts and reach out to them through mobile. The rest will follow.
  2. Remember mobile is Now – unlike television or the Internet where users often sit in front of a screen leisurely reviewing content the mobile user is working in the moment and needs immediate, relevant responses. They are not interested in surfing; they’re interested in finding. They go looking for information at a point when they need it.  - Your message has to consider the moment and the location.
  3. It’s a phone, phones can ring. Make sure you call - one of the biggest concerns with the introduction of the Internet into the marketing media mix was the shift in how people consumed the medium. Marketers no longer had the ability to control the delivery of the message. Mobile puts some control back in the marketer’s hands. Location based software, text messaging and Near Field Chip (NFC) technology allow the marketer to push out a message when and where they want making it easier to reach their audience at the right time and place.   -  Build a mobile contact database and use it to engage your audience.
  4. Use mobile technology for measurement– counting customers, surveying audiences and measuring traffic in areas of interest have all been KPI for marketers in the past. Quite often this research was a statistical exercise that involved formulas for extrapolating total numbers based on sample measurements. Now mobile can allow marketers to measure real totals and connect them to real people.   - Make sure you look at ways to measure the physical by using the virtual.
  5. Mobile phones are “Sociocentric” tools – the younger audience, in most developed worlds, don’t know what it means to be without a mobile phone. They talk to the person standing next to them via text messages. I laugh (i.e. LOL) every time I see it happen, but for some reason the person doing it doesn’t laugh with me. They usually give me that ugly face and continue doing it. For them their phone is “Sociocentric” to their life.  -  Remember that when you reach out to a younger audience, use the right message and you will become a part of their social universe.
  6. Make sure you have a mobile web presence – mobile web searching has quadrupled in the last year.  Mobile web browsing volume is expected to surpass computer web browsing volume with in the next 5 years. The increased use of mobile web browsing means that your web site has to be able to adjust to a mobile screen.  If you haven’t already designed a mobile website now is the time or you’ll get left behind. – Look at content management platforms that offer mobile templates or consider using responsive design techniques if you’re budget sensitive.
  7. Mobile Apps are cool, but they limit your audience – Apple’s App store has created a lot of work for mobile app developers. The popularity of mobile app development has help to drive the adoption of smart phone technology. It’s been a great sales tool for iPhones. The danger with mobile apps is the rapid change of phone technology. New types of phones and evolving versions of their operating systems make it very difficult for a marketer to reach all of their potential audience.  - Beware of mobile app development; it can suck the life out of a budget while yielding a relatively small return.
  8. Start thinking about NFC technology and how it could change your business – Google Wallet, Mobile Payment, Paypal are a few of the platforms who offer NFC payment processing. Over the next five years NFC phones will transform how customers pay for their goods and services.  - You need to start looking at how NFC could change your business.
  9. Develop a SMS strategy – 6.9 trillion text messages where sent in 2010.  It’s expected that this will climb to 8 trillion in 2011. Of all the different types of mobile marketing, opt-in SMS messages have the highest rate of return on marketing investment with 40% of message recipients who say they respond to their SMS marketing messages.  - Develop a SMS contact list and start to profile your database. Create a strategy for building your list and remember not to be careful not to wear out your welcome.
  10. Mobile couponing is going to grow - if you’re in a business where couponing could have an impact start thinking about mobile couponing. In the US alone over 3.8 billion dollars in coupons traded hands in 2010. If you consider that a coupon is usually 10 -15% of the sale value that means $300 – $380 billion in business resulted from coupon transactions. Mobile couponing tied to NFC technology will mean that customers will no longer have to worry about searching for the right coupon. Using a combination of geo-location and push messaging marketers will be able to initiate coupon deliver when their customer is near the redemption opportunity.  - Develop a mobile coupon plan.

Content Marketing – What is it and why is it so important?

I’m a huge fan of anyone who has the ability to write. Not just pound out a paragraph or post a blog entry, but truly write something that motivates or initiates an emotion from the reader. It’s an incredible art form that is slowly fading away in this world of LOL, LMAO and BRB. Well-written content is golden when it comes to marketing. It’s not just a product description or an “About Us” page on your website, Content Marketing is a holistic approach to managing your company’s message to its target audience. Getting it right is essential to being successful.

The Internet has changed how we consume content. At one time we would reach for a catalogue or pick-up magazine to learn more about a product or service. Today we Google it and if we don’t find what we’re looking for on the first couple of result pages we type in another search. We search and re-search until something jumps out at us. The right word or phrase that is relevant to our topic of interest. Finding an answer or the desired information is completely dependent on the marketer’s ability to use the right content when writing about their product or service.

With over 11 billion searches per month on Google.com, using the right words, the ones that actually mean something to your audience, has never been as important as it is today online.  The need to be consistent and relevant across a variety of media has pushed the practice of Content Marketing to the forefront for marketers.

Content Marketing is nothing new; copywriters have been doing it for some time.  Writing articles, press releases, ads, tag lines, website content and television spots. There’s always a hook and a consistent theme that transcends all media. So what’s different about Content Marketing now?

Content is no longer being driven by the copywriter’s creative elbow or funny bone. Thanks to online search and social media, Content Marketing has taken on a new meaning. Words need to be relevant and should be part of the target audience’s vernacular else it will get lost or discounted.

The sheer volume of content both on and off-line makes it extremely difficult for your message to stand out and grab attention. Today’s content has to provide its audience with value. It has to demonstrate thought leadership with the overall goal of creating awareness and motivating the reader.  If it’s not authentic it will be ignored.

What is good Content Marketing? Planned, well-written content that is designed and measured to meet specific goals. It uses relevant terms that appeal to its audience. It appears in the right places and the right formats. It can be as simple as a Facebook Wall post or as expensive as a Superbowl television ad. What’s important is that the placement, delivery, context and the content of the message be relevant and on queue.

Getting Content Marketing right can lead to a significant increase in ROI for your company. Good content and thought leadership can contribute to audience trust. In a world of perpetual change and billions of marketing messages, trust is the key to brand loyalty and long-term customer relationships. The more your audience trusts your brand, the more likely they will respond to your marketing message.