Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing #2Minutes2Learn

Strategic communication aims to inform a target audience with relevant, useful and wanted content for the purpose of knowledge.

Marketing communication employs relevant, useful and wanted content to drive desired consumer behavior.

Neither one is better than the other, but they are distinct from each other in their intentions. In the spectrum of journalism to marketing, content strategy is closer to journalism and content marketing is closer to marketing. Content strategy is rooted in the goals and priorities of the entire organization (not just sales), which the created content will help achieve.



The Law of Diminishing Returns

A concept in economics that if one factor of production (number of workers, for example) is increased while other factors (machines and workspace, for example) are held constant, the output per unit of the variable factor will eventually diminish.

Although the marginal productivity of the workforce decreases as output increases, diminishing returns do not mean negative returns until (in this example) the number of workers exceeds the available machines or workspace. In everyday experience, this law is expressed as “the gain is not worth the pain.”

The Business Dictionary

The rule of diminishing returns states that if all the factors of an equation remains constant except one, the return decreases as that single factor increases.

A great example of this is productivity decreasing over time. People who regularly work 40 hours a week are more productive in the long run than those who work 60 hours a week. Long hours and leaving work late are nothing to be admired–it just demonstrates an incapability of getting work done effectively and on time.

“Long hours…are often more about proving something to ourselves than actually getting stuff done.” Jessica Stillman, Why Working More than 40 Hours a Week is Useless

According to the Sigmoid Curve, “Quit while you’re ahead” is great advice.

“When all is well and you are at the top of your game, then you know it is time to plan your exit.” – Michael, The Lesson of the Sigmoid Curve

Sigmoid formulaThe Sigmoid Curve is a concept that originated in mathematics (see formula to the right), but represents a phenomenon in businesses, life and relationships.

Essentially, all things run in a cycle. Every growth curve will plateau, and that’s when you should begin a new curve.

Sigmoid Curve

The Sigmoid Curve, from

For example, a new venture has a learning and adjustment period wherein lots of hard work may not produce any tangible results. You could network, invest in prototypes, and spend late nights trying to fix one coding error without seeing any progress.

Then, a period of growth occurs where your business or career grows; your connections pay off, a prototype works, or a website is taking shape. The upward curve continues.

It’s when you are almost at your peak (about 75 to 80 percent of the way) that you need to begin thinking of your next curve; jump off as you near the top and start again from there. Invest in a new venture, remake your blog, branch into another sector of your industry, offer a new product, change the way you advertise, switch up your marketing plan, etc.

You need to jump, because if you continue to do what you always do, eventually profits will decline. Your audience will get tired of seeing the same ad over and over again. Your customers will require change.

“Successful people are regularly reinventing themselves, their careers and their relationships, rising to new challenges and pushing through painful new phases of growth. The junction between the first and second is not easy or clean. There is always a period of confusion, where the first curve is being abandoned and the second one embraced. This is a time of overlap, or ambiguity and of confusion,” Michael says.

The dangerous part about sticking to your original curve for too long is that when it eventually falls, you will fall with it…and often the second curve relies on the profits of the first curve to begin.

“Preparing for the second curve too early is far better than waiting until it is too late and the decline has set in. If you reach phase three before jumping off, you won’t have the energy and the enthusiasm to make the change so easily and there is less chance of success. Riding the first curve while cultivating the second is always the best option. Clinging to the first and trying to prolong it is a pointless waste of energy.”

The solution is education and an unyielding sense of adventure. Learn new skills and explore new pursuits before your current ventures grow stale.

Learn more about the Sigmoid Curve (and the “strategic inflection point”) by watching this great video.

Defusing Angry Customer Service Complaints

As young millenials enter the work force, we may go into a job thinking “hooray I’ve landed a job where I never have to deal with customers.” Well, the chances are you will still have to know customer service strategies, not just to deal with unexpected clients, but coworkers and even employers.

I attended a Zendesk webinar on “How to Defuse Even the Worst Customer Situations” that covered a few steps to take in perilous customer service situations. (See slides below)

Avoid catch phrases like “I’m sorry” or “I understand,” since they are sometimes heard as “I’m not listening to you.” Instead, bring back the focus on problem solving.

The webinar was led by Rich Gallagher, a psychotherapist and a veteran of approximately 25,000 customer service transactions. Gallagher also goes over how to deliver bad news and great sample scenarios.

10 Companies Revisited

Writing has been pretty hard lately. I seem to be repeating everything I’ve already said whenever I try to create new content. As a writer, I don’t have the luxury of looking at my craft and going “I’ve gotten good enough.” The rule of 1% is to aim for a 1% improvement everyday. I’m a little behind.

A career isn’t as convenient as school, where you have semesters or trimesters that wrap up neatly in a box of notebooks and folders you put away when class is over. I don’t know how to work this way! I like being able to pack away a syllabus and start learning from scratch again. I always liked handing in a project and calling it done.

I’m taking a small step past that open-close mentality by listing 10 great companies that I’ve had a personal experience with, and a possible money-making idea for them. Without further ado, here’s a blast from my past (and present, for some of them).

Couture House, by Christine Go

Target Audience: Newly engaged couples, teenagers about to have debuts, and upper-middle class families who may need gowns and tuxedos made.

Idea: Place an ad targeted at high school students in the school papers of international schools in Manila. The ad should feature tuxedo and dress types and prices, with contact information.

McMinnville Economic Development Partnership

Target Audience: Small businesses in McMinnville who are looking for business management guidance, and potential business owners.

Idea: Implement a blog compilation of consultations with clients, questions and answers, and seminars. The blog should be categorized by department (marketing, human resources, business development, investment ideas), so it can be used as a resource for small businesses.

Travel Yamhill Valley

Target Audience: Businesses in the Yamhill Valley; wineries, restaurants, lodging and services.

Idea: Host influential bloggers and writers, and partner with members to offer a Yamhill Valley experience to write home about.

Profiles Asia Pacific

Target Audience: Human resource managers and executives involved in hiring and company development.

Idea: Offer in-house training seminars to current clients based on what they feel is their workforce’s biggest challenge. Ex. teamwork, leadership, creativity, efficiency, motivation.

Tajimaya Yakiniku Restaurant

Target Audience: The “foodies” of Manila.

Idea: Sponsor a charity event wherein food is served, and bring 5 to 10 percent off vouchers.

Yamhill Action Community Partnership

Target Audience: Potential donors, volunteers, and individuals who may need assistance living self-sufficiently.

Idea: Hold a drawing at the next YCAP auction or event with business cards as entry tickets to capture information.

237 Marketing + Web

Target Audience: Small business owners who take their company marketing into their own hands and may need a little help and guidance navigating the waters.

Idea: Hold free quarterly educational webinars for WebCare clients and former marketing/website clients. Participants can send in questions they’d like answered beforehand or at the end of the webinar.

Eyrie Vineyards

Target Audience: Upper-middle class wine lovers nationwide, and distributors.

Idea: Partner with a travel agency to offer a foodie tour of all the restaurants and establishments where Eyrie wine is served in the Pacific Northwest. OR host a book and wine pairing event. Partner with Third Street Books or Powell’s and hold an event wherein people try wine and read book excerpts. Entrance fee covers the cost of their favorite bottle and book.

Fast Company Magazine

*I haven’t worked with Fast Co. personally, but I enjoy their content and have followed their stories for a while now.

Target Audience: Highly educated media consumers and innovative creatives, who may work in a marketing or design company or freelance for the arts. Writers, young professionals, and social media influencers.

Idea: Publish a book of their features from past magazine issues. They have amazing content online.

Velvet Monkey Tea

*I haven’t worked with this company either, so I don’t understand their strategy from an insider’s perspective. But while I lived in McMinnville, I spent afternoons reading, working, and enjoying tea here.

Target Audience: Tea enthusiasts.

Idea: Host a mix-your-own-tea workshop wherein participants can experiment and create their own custom blends. Include a list of special health benefits beside all teas, so participants can also customize based on what ails them.

Are you pitching to travel writers soon?

Travel Yamhill Valley has published a great article, which quotes Travel Writer Jennifer Nice about Travel Writers: What they are looking for and how to provide it.

Here are some of the tips she provided…

  • Know your target market explicitly. Is it couples? Families? The budget traveler? The wine aficionado? Foodies? Your marketing message must resonate with your prospective customers.
  • Communicate consistently with your return customers to cultivate a relationship. They will return, and they’ll talk about your business. You can do this through enewsletters and social media. And keep your website updated with fresh content so people have a reason to visit it again and again.
  • Figure out your niche. (your unique selling proposition -USP) and market it. Travel writers are drawn to new and/or unique destinations. They like to “discover” niches. What makes you different and/or better than your competition?
  • Convey a sense of place (“paint a picture”) in your online and print marketing materials. Show, don’t tell. If this is too challenging, hire a qualified copywriter to do it for you.
  • Submit a press release to local publications whenever you have a news-worthy event to promote. Sometimes these get picked up by major newspapers and magazines.
  • Give travel writers a discount or comp if they ask. By all means, request to see their credentials and/or published clips to make sure they’re legitimate. And once the story is published, send a thank you note. They may pitch another story about your business in the future!”

Jennifer Nice

Branding Concepts

Stroop Test: Your perceptions affect subsequent behavior, even if you are aware of preconceptions. Perceptions are automatic, and it’s hard to block their effect.

Optical Illusions: You believe what you perceive to be true, even if it can be proven otherwise. Which of the lines below is longer?

optical illusion

They are the same length

“Hidden” Pictures: Prior expectations and surroundings influence perception. For example, do you see a “B” or a “13” in the center of the image below?

illusion_13Perceptual Organization: Consumers often assume things that are close in proximity, or similar to each other, belong together.

1. Place the four lines in the image below in two pairs. Which did you group together?
2. How do you view the cluster of Xs and Os to the right? Did you see the image as columns or rows?

Perceptual organizationPerceptual inferences determine behavior and how consumers treat a brand. Once you put a brand on a product, people conceive the product to be either better or worse quality.

“People are very much influenced by the brand name that’s put on the product independently of the product quality.” -An Introduction to Marketing

From An Introduction to Marketing by David Bell, Peter Fader, Barbara E. Kahn. From Wharton and Coursera.

A brand is an experience

Some questions to consider when defining what your brand stands for:

  • What do consumers think when they see your logo?
  • What’s the color of your brand?
  • What emotion is your brand?
  • What senses does your brand interact with?
  • How do people act with or around your brand?
  • What kind of people use your brand?

A brand is more than just a logo and a product; it’s an experience your customers have that keeps them coming back.

experiential componentsAn Introduction to Marketing by David Bell, Peter Fader, Barbara E. Kahn. From Wharton and Coursera.

Communicate, simplify, inspire

Creating an elevator speech for your company requires you to intimately know what your brand stands for and what consumers view it as. Then,

  1. Communicate the brand function.
  2. Simplify what you do best with a descriptive modifier.
  3. Show how the brand provides benefits and in what way using an emotional modifier.

Some examples of “brand mantras,” which define what your company is and what it is not, and should guide all your actions/communication pieces.

brand mantra examples An Introduction to Marketing by David Bell, Peter Fader, Barbara E. Kahn. From Wharton and Coursera.