Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Instructional Design Can Help You Plan Better Content Marketing

If you're in marketing, you've probably heard of "content marketing." It's the latest marketing trend, but it's also sort of a culmination of a number of other trends (social media marketing, SEO optimization, inbound marketing, online marketing, etc.) that have been growing and changing since the internet really look off in the late 90's.

Put simply, content marketing is the idea that rather than spend your time flooding your user with messages (which used to work back in the 60's and 70's), you create great informational pieces that users then find through search or as the "carrot" at the end of some outbound marketing campaign. Stats back up this approach, because just in the past few years, users went from reviewing 5 pieces of marketing content to 10 pieces of content before making a decision. In fact, B2B customers are usually 60% of the way through the buying process before they ever contact a sales person. B2C customers are, no doubt even farther through the process before ever walking into a store or logging onto Amazon. So, if you create great informative pieces that may or may not be about your product, users do that research where the content reflects your message and goals.

Now, when this trend started to flair up some time in 2012, a lot of people said, "Hey, I've been doing that for years! I know how to write white papers and create blog posts!" And so, these people became experts, helping out everyone else who hadn't been on the content train for quite as long. However, as great as all the resources are (a couple good places are the Content Marketing Institute and the Resonance Content Marketing blog), there isn't a lot of information out there on how to actually CREATE the content. The idea has been more of "...and then you create great content. Now, once you've done that, here's how you distribute it..."

Unfortunately, creating content isn't that simple. Sure, you can find lots of hints on how to develop a blog post, and there's information on how to get ideas for content topics, but what about content strategy? How do you make sure your overall approach ties together, rather than going forward with a shotgun approach to content? It's hard to be strategic with a splatter-gun.

Now, to be fair, in the past, we haven't needed to be as strategic with marketing content. Users didn't do as much research before, remember? But now, we need to have more top-level planning, and the marketing field just doesn't have the history to really show what does and doesn't work in that area. So what do you do? Well, that's where you can look to an unlikely source. There is a field that has, for a number of years, categorically studied the art of creating and organizing information that informs the user. That field is instructional design.

Are you this purposeful with your content development?
Believe it or not, training and marketing are actually very similar. Both fields develop content that informs users. And if you look at client training (which I did for 5 years), they're even more similar, because the ultimate goal of client training is to drive sales. So, if we look at the tactics honed by the instructional design field through years and years of research, we can develop better content. By focusing on goals that are sub-divided into actionable objectives for the user, we can develop really informative, helpful content that will keep people coming back and diving in. You can use task analysis to align content to users in every stage in your sales funnel, helping you convert users to MQLs to customers.

Stay tuned to the blog to find out more!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Apple losing market share actually does matter

I've seen a lot of discussion about recent market share reports for mobile. These reports indicate that Apple is losing market share to Android. The most recent reports indicate that Android took 81% of the quarter (though that was in the quarter right before a new iPhone, so that isn't entirely indicative). 

In response to this, a number of journalists have been arguing that it isn't a big deal that Apple has lost market share. The argument is that Android is mostly taking the "middle market" (that is, the cheaper phones) and Apple has the lead in the high-end market. It would be like saying that BMW should be concerned that more people are buying Kias and Saturns. BMW has never marketed itself to people who buy Kias and Saturns, so why should they care? More people are buying cars, yes, and no, they aren't buying BMWs. But that's fine. Not everyone needs a BMW, and there's plenty of the market for everyone to share.

Sure, that's fine to say, but it's ignoring a key point: with cars there is no ecosystem (other than the LITERAL ecosystem, I suppose, but then I digress...). There are no major ancillary businesses or services around cars that impact which brand I buy (with the possible exception of repair costs). The point is that my car can run no matter which brand I buy. This isn't true of PCs and Mobile devices, which require applications to run. Apps are OS-specific, and if a particular OS isn't as popular, it will impact sales.

Let's say there was an Apple iCar. The car would, no doubt, be beautiful. It would be intelligent and fun, would do things you never thought of doing in a car, would be fast and smooth to operate... and would be really expensive. Still, it would sell like hotcakes. Everywhere you looked, someone would be rolling past in an iCar. Of course, being Apple, the iCar would run off of iGas, and you'd see iGas Stations all over the place.

Apple Car, iMove, Futuristic Car, Electric vehicle
Someone actually came up with an Apple concept car called iMove. Are you suprised? Details:
Now, let's imagine that after a few years, Apple started selling less of the overall car market because buyers were opting for cheaper models from Saturn and Kia. Market position in and of itself wouldn't be a concern, as long as sales remain steady. You can target different portions of the market and do well. Apple is doing extremely well in the highest end of the smartphone market, after all. However, these cheaper cars, like every other car in the world, run off of unleaded gasoline, not iGas. If less people buy iCars, then less businessmen will want to open iGas Stations. 

Let's modify the illustration and look at electric cars. eCars have trouble getting started because electric "pumps" haven't really caught on. But that's partially because eCars haven't sold very well. Less eCars, less pumps, and thus less eCars. However, in this case, it would be as if eCars came out first, and there were electric pumps everywhere, but then the number of eCars sold was going down, and more and more stations were selling gas and electric simultaneously. 

While not guaranteed, it is entirely possible in that scenario that a portion of those stations would eventually stop supporting the electric pumps, as it would cost them money to have them. This would, in turn, start lowering the number of eCars sold. You probably wouldn't see a total lowering to 0 unless a truly superior product came on the market, but you would see it lose a good portion of market share.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mornings w/ Kyle | Episode 1: in which I recap 2 years in a handy 4 min video

Hello everyone!

It's been a long time since I've blogged, but I'm starting up again, focusing on "VLOGs" (video blogs). These seem easier for me to do. Check out my first one for a recap of what all's been going on recently with me!