Advocacy Built on a Solid Foundation

  • By Patrick Spencer
  • 21 Jun, 2016

Engaged Employees

Advocacy, NCL, customer advocacy, employee advocacy, employee engagement

The NCL Experience

We normally take a family vacation every summer. This year, we made a last-minute change in our itinerary and went on a cruise to visit some of the ruins from the former Mayan Empire in Central America. This was our fourth family cruise.

Our first was on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in the eastern Mediterranean, and it was a huge hit with everyone. We were especially impressed with the quality of service we received and how every crew member consciously personified the NCL brand. Each member of the crew was passionate about her or his work, the NCL brand, as well as every guest, understanding the intricate connection between service extended to guests and how that translates into representation of the NCL brand.

NCL certainly gets it when it comes to brand experience. It starts when you’re boarding the ship and extends to the last minute you’re onboard and about to walk across the gangway, where crew members form a line and thank thousands of guests for sailing with NCL as they depart.

Being Ordinary Doesn’t Translate into Brand Experience

When it came time for our second cruise about four years ago, the family opted to sail with a different cruise ship operator that was lower in cost than NCL. The experience was distinctly different. Staff went through perfunctory motions. Beyond being ordinary, there was nothing special in the service the delivered. There were no “ towel animals ” each night to greet guests upon their return to their rooms, dining “experiences” were absent, crew members did not show any delight in serving their passengers, the little things didn’t matter…the list could go on.

We departed the cruise with no palatable grasp of what the cruise operator sought to convey to its guests other than lower cost. Now does that mean the cruise operator didn’t talk about guest experience? No, there was an expression of commitment to customer service. But platitudes don’t equate to brand experience unless embraced and enacted by the employees of a company.

We swore after that second cruise that the next time we sailed, it would be with NCL, even if the cost was higher. So, when we went on a cruise two years ago and then the one this past week, it was with NCL—not because of cost but because of experience. Having learned our lesson, we now advocate to family and friends about our NCL and non-NCL experiences—or blog in this instance.

Don’t Build Your “Advocacy House” on a Foundation of Sand

Over the past few years, much has been said and written about the topic of customer advocacy. Companies—both B2C and B2B—invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources and technologies to nurture and reward customer advocates. Yet, too many, after expending significant time and money, discover they built their “advocacy house” on a foundation of sand. Customers don’t associate an experience with the brand. There is nothing unique about the company’s product or services; employees don’t understand how their work—even if it doesn’t require direct interaction with customers—embodies and represents the company brand.

Your Essential Brand Ambassadors: Engaged Employees

Getting your employees engaged and serving as brand ambassadors isn’t an easy undertaking, and the vast majority of companies are failing at doing so. A survey by Gallup finds that only 30 percent of employees in the United States are engaged at work (13 percent worldwide). These employees embody what crews on NCL ships convey: they are willing to go the extra mile, work with passion, feel a profound connection with their company, and consistently bring new ideas to the table.

Having engaged employees make brand a palpable reality, delighting and turning customers into brand advocates. The same Gallup study discovered that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement outperform bottom-quartile companies by 10 percent on customer ratings, 22 percent in profitability, and 21 percent in productivity. They also see less turnover (25 percent compared to 65 percent), absenteeism, fewer safety incidents, and quality defects.

Advocacy involves employees, partners, customers, jobseekers, and others who interact with your company in some manner. Those companies that initially focus on customers when constructing and implementing an advocacy program set themselves up for failure. It even starts before employee advocacy; the question is whether employees are engaged. If they aren’t, and 70 percent of employees in the U.S. are either not engaged (employees who are “checked out” and putting in time but not energy or passion into their work) or actively disengaged (employees who are busy acting out their unhappiness), then this is must be fixed before any talk of advocacy can happen.

Getting Employees Engaged and Delighting Your Customers

There are a number of things organizations can do to foster employee engagement. It starts with building healthy communications between managers and employees; this means consistent, transparent interactions. Performance must be based on a clear set of goals that are tracked and used for coaching and measuring employee outputs (with associated rewards and recognition). Strengths rather than weaknesses should serve as the basis of assessments; 67 percent of employees who strongly agree that their managers focus on their strengths are engaged as compared to only 31 percent who express that their managers focus on their weaknesses.

Engaged employees delight customers because they assume ownership as brand ambassadors. When customers are delighted, they will advocate—without solicitation—on your behalf. The same is true of employees, as well as partners. Many of those who are engaged will advocate on behalf of your company without any prompting. Naturally, you can aid this process by using the right set of advocacy technologies and systems, making it easy and fun for employees, partners, and customers to advocate on your behalf.

Yet, without engaged employees, the advocacy house will crumble. Marketing and Customer Success organizations will fail to realize anticipated results and benefits of advocacy and abandon their investments—time, resource, and technology—and proceed to the next “shiny object” that attracts their attention and promises them business “nirvana.”

Need help architecting and building an Advocacy Program that delivers tangible returns? Contact us for help today.

The Scribe

By Patrick Spencer 04 May, 2017

Many of us probably remember the incident involving musician Dave Carroll when United baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar (he overheard other passengers say that they were throwing guitars on the tarmac during his layover at Chicago O’Hare International). After 15 months of repeated attempts to get United to reimburse him for the repairs to his guitar and innumerable calls to United customer service (he asked for $1,200 in flight vouchers as compensation), Carroll composed and performed the three sequential songs titled “United Breaks Guitars.”

The first of three music videos that Carroll released, it went viral almost immediately—generating over 150,000 views in the first 24 hours. Within three days, the video had generated over a half million. Within a month, it had hit five million. Though United responded and attempted to remediate the situation, it was too late. 

The impact to United’s brand was immediate and substantial. The incident garnered significant attention—from news networks to academic settings (including an article in the Harvard Business Review ). I thought at the time that it would be very difficult for United to trump the “guitar fiasco.”

By Patrick Spencer 25 Apr, 2017

The jury is no longer out when it comes to online communities. The evidence undeniably shows that companies with online communities see tangible business returns. For example, a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group uncovered the following:

  • Businesses with online communities achieve 54 percent faster annual growth in revenue and see 3.1 times greater customer satisfaction rates.
  • Companies with online communities decrease customer service costs by 2.6 percent.
  • Customer service issues are resolved 37 percent of the time without escalation to a customer service agent.

Online communities also facilitate better customer engagement, which translates into higher revenues. For example, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan , customers that are actively engaged in communities spend 19 percent more than other customers.

By Patrick Spencer 01 Mar, 2017

Ascendance of Customer Storytelling

The evidence is almost incontrovertible when it comes to the importance of customer case studies. This was true 15 years ago when I worked with the IBM software team to build written customer case studies that were populated into a centralized database used by their sales team. IBM account representatives used them as corroboration with buyers to demonstrate that their peers were successfully using IBM software products.

The importance of case studies—or more specifically customer stories (or testimonials), for the space has expanded to include other content artifacts such as video, podcasts, business value impact studies, and blog posts—has only grown over time. Additionally, as the buyer journey funnel has developed in recent years, the role case studies play across the buyer funnel has expanded.

Take the top of the funnel as an example. If your case studies are optimized for SEO on your website, then you’ll generate case study traffic from buyers who are just starting to gain a basic understanding of their business issues and available solutions. And as they are spending more time researching solutions (80 percent indicate they do so), the more of your content that they find at this stage of the journey, the more brand awareness you can influence. The top three resources buyers consult when initially mapping out a solution include web search (68 percent), vendor websites (54 percent), and peers and colleagues (49 percent).

Case studies typically play a greater role in the middle of the journey when buyers seek to identify their business requirements and understand what type of solution aligns most closely with those. Thirty-eight percent of buyers list that they use case studies to gain an understanding of a vendor’s capabilities and to confirm that peers with comparable business issues have successfully used the vendor’s solution to address them.

By Patrick Spencer 22 Feb, 2017

Drowned Out from the Content Decibel Levels

One of the biggest challenges for content marketers today is the volume of content noise. The decibels are at levels where it is virtually impossible for someone to sift through everything that is being published. Think about it; for blog posts alone, there are over 70 million created every month (2 million per day!). The number of indexed Google pages went from 1 trillion in 2008 to 30 trillion in 2014. 

The push doesn’t seem to be slowing down, but rather speeding up. Seventy percent of content marketers plan to increase their marketing spend as well as the amount of content they produce this coming year. And while customers report that content plays a more important role in the buying process than ever before, they also indicate that one of their biggest challenges is the quantity of content they receive and identifying that which is valuable (quality). The list could go on and on.

Too many brands make the mistake of generating quantity over quality, failing to recognize the implications of Google Hummingbird on SEO . Rather than measuring business results, too many CEOs, and even CMOs, focus on volume—particularly when it comes to blog posts. I’ve lost count of the prospects and customers with whom I have spoken over the past couple years who nod their head in agreement when I speak to them about the need to increase the length and quality of posts while reducing the frequency of posts.


Content That Resonates Above and Through the Noise  

So, how many words are we talking about for a long-form post? It depends on the research, but most pin the “magic number” over 2,000 words . These long-form posts generate longer time spent on a page and more page views on a site. They also generate much better conversion rates —anywhere from 3x to 12x—than the typical 500- or 600-word post. (Note: This doesn’t discount the value of quality short blog posts. But a blog strategy that fails to incorporate quality, long-form content posts will not succeed in the era of Hummingbird).

Yet, at the same time, the same content leaders who agree with me indicate that they are unable to change their blog strategy from one targeting quantity as a core objective to one focused on quality content. What is their rationale? Their CEO or CMO mandates a certain number of blog posts per week, and moreover post volume is one of their primary measurements. Another factor is that they are unwilling to pay for more substantive blog posts. The adage, “you get what you pay” is quite apropos.

Looking at the broader content picture, what types of content do buyers value the most? The answer is content that reveals insightful research findings in their business segment and content that enables them to gain a deeper and broader understand of the available solutions. Buyers rank research as the most-valued form of content, with nearly three-quarters wanting vendors to “curb their sales messages” and do a better job of creating business issue-oriented content.

Examples Where Quality Content Matters

TIRO Communications was founded on the premise that quality content matters, and our ability to research, analyze, and write about varying topics in engaging and interesting ways differentiates the content we produce against that generated by other agencies and freelancers specializing in content and customer marketing. The following are a few of many examples where we have drawn upon our prowess in the areas of delivering Ph.D.-level research, analysis, and content authoring for clients: 

1. Comprehensive Content Strategy and Execution. TIRO Communications served as strategic content marketing consultant for MightyRecruiter and oversaw research and development of 30-plus different types of content (including 4 in-depth eBooks) used across the buyer journey that have generated hundreds of leads and nurtured hundreds to conversion. Check out the latest eBook that we researched and authored: “ 2017 Hiring Trends & Predictions: Industry Experts Weigh In .”

2. Solutions Guides. Researched and authored Solutions Guides on various topics for companies such as Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, Reverbant, VIEVU, and Fortinet to pinpoint industry trends, reasons for organizations to deploy a solution, and checklists of issues to consider when selecting a solutions provider and implementing a solution.

3. Blogging Strategy. Collaborated with the Davinci Virtual Office Solutions team to develop a new blog strategy . Initiatives included moving to longer-form industry research posts. Key results include:

  • Increase in SEO Inbound Traffic, 67%
  • Reduction in Quantity of Blog Posts, 45%
  • Increase in Social Shares and Likes, 25%
  • Growth in Opportunities from Blog Posts, 3%

By Patrick Spencer 21 Feb, 2017

One of the areas where TIRO Communications specializes is in creating substantive, in-depth content that is highly engaging and educational. Our award-winning content team has done it over and over for more than 15 years and for companies ranging from fast-growth startups to Fortune 200 companies.

Data Analytics, BI, and ML Add New Element to Thought Leadership Content  

As a complement to our Ph.D.-level research capabilities, we recently added data analytics, business intelligence (BI), and machine learning (ML). Not only are we developing cognition tools such as TIRO Cognition Insights that enable organizations to gain business insights that improve efficiencies, capture new revenue opportunities, and transform customer experience, but we’re also able to research and author in-depth research reports that uncover unique insights. 

With regard to researching and authoring thought leadership reports, many companies expend tens of thousands of dollars surveying decision makers and end users at a high level. And while survey findings remain relevant and valuable for many research reports, additional analysis of survey findings and other information sources such as CRM and ERP environments can turbocharge the findings from surveys. Our approach is based on real-world data, providing readers with actionable insights that produce measurable business outcomes.

2017 Workspace and Communications Services Report

 One of our existing clients, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions approached us late last year with a request to produce an industry thought leadership report on on-demand workspace and communications services. In addition to leveraging existing industry data and research, Davinci Virtual Office Solutions wanted to tap its vast reservoir of information residing in its customer relationship management (CRM) environment. As part of the project, we analyzed several hundred thousand records to reveal business insights used to generate a portion of the report: “2017 State of Workspace and Communications Services Report.”

Read the blog post and press release announcing the availability of the report. Or simply download and read it.

The 30-page report is broken into seven sections: 

  1. Business Disruption
  2. The Solution Providers
  3. Market Opportunities
  4. Business Drivers
  5. The Market
  6. Customer Acquisition
  7. Key Takeaways

A couple insights in the report that we identified using our data analytics and BI tools include:

  1. Historical cross-sell and up-sell rates reveal significant market opportunities for business office service providers to grow their revenues and expand their margins.
  2. Our analysis identified which industry segments exhibit the highest percentage of revenue across all four products: workspaces and meeting rooms, virtual offices, live receptionists, and live web chat. It also pinpointed repeat workspace and meeting room bookings for each industry segment.

Other insights include:

  1. The average booking ratio for live inventory is 49 percent higher than non-live inventory and at a 38 percent higher rate.
  2. Churn rate for subscription services is less than half of standard SaaS-accepted rates.
  3. Customers continue to prefer multiple engagement channels (for lead origin), with phone remaining the leading preference across all four product groups.
  4. For business office service providers offering multiple products, there is a significant opportunity to grow revenue through cross-selling (e.g., 20 percent of live receptionist leads come from cross-selling).

By Patrick Spencer 03 Feb, 2017

Seeking to pinpoint how their customers rate and value their product and service experiences, many businesses embrace some form of customer experience survey program today. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) Index is the most prevalent. Research demonstrates that the companies with the highest scores in their industry segments outperform their competitors , generating higher margins and greater customer lifetime value. In addition to companies developing tunnel vision and becoming infatuated with high NPS scores, many realize NPS and other survey results are inadequate when left on their own.

Augmenting and  Amplifying Customer Experience Survey Models

To begin, in too many cases, companies are “cooking the books” when it comes to their NPS and customer experience scores. Employees from over half of companies that use NPS as a business measurement indicate their organizations are more interested in achieving a high score than in actually improving customer experience. You don’t need to go very far for a reference point; automobile manufacturers are notorious for attempting to elicit biased scores by incenting customers to mark off high scores in exchange for discounted services. 

On a similar note, though it goes without saying that NPS and other customer experience survey methodologies, when used correctly, offer organizations valuable insights on their customers, they do not reveal the why behind the answers they provide. These surveys also only capture a segment of total customer feedback; existing customers and not former customers. In addition, the percentage of customers responding to surveys has plummeted (and continues to do so), further limiting the breath of insights that can be collected from them. The reality is that there is simply too much digital “noise,” and survey fatigue is a tangible problem.

Online Review Sites and Community Forums: Latent Intelligence Opportunity  

Online review sites and community forums offer a rich repository of objective, unfiltered customer comments and feedback. In B2B instances, we’re talking about hundreds or even thousands of reviews and thousands or tens of thousands of comments on community forums. B2C companies typically have even more reviews and forum comments at their disposal.

However, the intelligence contained within these data sources remains latent with regard to evaluating, measuring, and modifying customer experience. Companies see the review sites as a marketing tool; a means for eliciting customer content, generating new marketing and sales leads, and identifying new customer advocates. They aren’t looking to review sites for customer insights.

When it comes to online community forums, the primary reason organizations build them is to provide customers with self-service opportunities. Secondary use cases include delivering educational content to customers, enabling prospects to connect with customers and evaluate their solution based on customer comments and feedback, and engaging and mobilizing customers for advocacy activities.


Creation of TIRO Cognition Insights

With this in mind, we created and built TIRO Cognition Insights. We scrape, organize, and analyze your customer information – along with competitors’ customers – to pinpoint actionable insights that allow organizations to improve efficiencies and capture new opportunities. Configured as a managed service, the TIRO Communications team works with the customer to determine which competitive products, review sites, and online communities to include in the analysis. Potential outputs include:

  • Sentiment scores at various of levels of granularity over time for your product and your competitors’ product – in aggregate and per online review site and community forum.
  • Smart SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) based on NLP (Natural Language Processing) for your product as well as for each of the competitor products included in the study
  • Key-phrase and entity analysis pinpoint areas of intelligence such as the most positively and negatively rated aspects of your (and your competitors’) product, comparison of product messaging with the what customers are saying, and alignment of demand-gen marketing tactics and strategies with what resonates with customers.
  • Honing of content messaging, tone, and brand voice a well as creation of demand-gen programs and communications based on understanding of customer values, needs, and personality types.

7 Analytical Areas Examined by TIRO Cognition Insights  

TIRO Cognition Insights draws upon seven different analytical areas to develop actionable business insights. These include:

  • Customer Experience. For customer experience teams that are serious about improving customer experience and tapping new business opportunities based on what their customers and those of their competitors are saying, TIRO Cognition offers them the ability to augment and amplify the insights gathered from survey tools such as NPS by revealing granular detail.
  • Product Management . Pinpoint what customers like and don’t like in a product. Refine development roadmaps based on market threats and opportunities.
  • Sales Enablement. Exploit product strengths and competitor weaknesses with sales plays and programs, battle cards, and market opportunities.
  • Demand-Gen Marketing. Create competitive takeout campaigns based on competitive weaknesses and threats while creating precision-point campaigns and content based on what customers want.
  • Product Marketing. Align messaging and content tone with customer insights and differentiate product and services from competitive products and services based on Smart SWOT analysis.
  • Customer Success and Support. Tune support and relationship management by identifying gaps and capitalizing on strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) can benefit greatly from the actionable insights generated by Cognition Insights.
  • Advocacy Marketing. Fill capability and feature gaps on online review sites and community sites as well as regularly monitor aggregate and individual sentiment site sentiment for your product as well as competitive products.

Check Out the Demo of TIRO Cognition Insights

Data analytics and business intelligence (BI) offer companies new opportunities to pinpoint actionable business insights that can have a direct, immediate, and long-term impact on their businesses. Check out our Demo Video on TIRO Cognition Insights for more details. Or schedule time with us for a deeper look at TIRO Cognition Insights and how it can help you improve your efficiencies, achieve better margins, and tap into new business opportunities.

By Patrick Spencer 16 Aug, 2016

With the right strategy in place, blogs can serve as critical engines for a marketing organization. As a starting point, blogs are great tools for generating inbound traffic, a significantly cheaper channel than outbound lead-generation programs. Eighty-two percent of companies that blog see a positive ROI for their inbound marketing programs. Outcomes organizations typically see as a result of blogs include more leads and opportunities, better prospect and customer engagement, and higher revenue.

 And compared to companies that do not have blogs, those with blogs see better business outcomes:

·    Produce 67% more leads

·     13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI

·    Generate 97% more links to their website

The level of success your blog generates is contingent on a number of factors. The following are 15 recommendations that will help ensure that your blog is successful. For organizations just launching a blog, these serve as a critical checklist of things to do. For organizations with a blog, they provide you with the means to evaluate your blog strategy and execution and ascertain if changes are needed.

1. Design. How your blog site is designed makes a big difference when it comes to readership engagement. Critical factors you need to consider include the colors used (keep them simple), placement of the sidebar on the right side (readership decreases 15 to 25 percent when it is on the left side), utilization of a larger font size (at least 11 pt.), among others.

2. Brand Voice. Your blog is a critical part of your company’s brand voice . It needs to be consistent with your brand messaging and style guides. The following are some of the things that you need to consider: 1) vernacular (e.g., acronyms, use of conjunctions), 2) formal or casual—or somewhere between, 3) use of emoticons, 4) use of humor, 5) types of visuals used, and 6) overall tone.

3. SEO. Since one of the primary reasons for blogging is for inbound SEO traffic, making sure your website—or online community—as well as your posts are optimized for SEO is a critical requirement. There are a number of things that you need to remember here: 1) make sure your blog pages have appropriate title tags (viz., contain relevant and informative keywords) as well as meta descriptions (search results that appear below title tag), 2) always use ALT image tags in your blog posts, 3) use keywords found in the body of the blog post in your title, 4) pinpoint keywords (and associated topics) with the lowest competition and highest search volume, and 5) use titles no longer than 55 to 60 characters (as they get cut off in Google Search.

4. Curation. Curation can provide you with ideation for blog posts, as well as other content assets and even demand-gen campaigns. For blogs, curation generates measurable results such as 1) an increase in the number of posts, 2) higher inbound SEO traffic, 3) improved social engagement, 4) build your audience and leads, and 5) more time spent on your website. If you are curating content, there are a couple of things to remember. First, you need to ensure that you include your take on the curated asset; these need to be approximately 300 words in length. Second, in addition to short-form curated blog posts, you need to ensure that you follow a 60/40 rule and include a significant number of long-form posts with those curated short-form posts.

5. Long-Form Posts. Just a few years ago, we were talking about the optimal length of blog posts between 600 and 700 words. But ongoing search changes by Google have completely changed this landscape. The average length of time spent reading a post today is seven minutes ; this equates to about 1,600 words. Some are arguing for even longer posts—between 2,250 and 2,500 words . These long-form posts not only generate a higher SEO ranking, but they elicit much better engagement (social shares, etc.).

6. Cross-Links. Building cross-links into your blog posts increases the stickiness of your website while allowing you to direct readers to demand-gen content that requires registration (for lead capture). One strategy that many marketers forget to do is adding cross-links into previously written blog posts (e.g., as new posts are added). What’s nice about cross-linking is that it is not only helpful to the reader (by supplying additional information or resources), but it is helpful to your SEO.

7. Interactive Engagement. Including the ability for readers to comment and even have interactive discussions on your blog posts drives higher engagement. One of the most effective ways to get readers to comment on the blog post is to employ pathos or ethos—make them feel something (inspirational, sadness, happiness, etc.). And if you want readers to comment, then you’d better respond to them when they do so. You can even make it fun by adding a top commentator widget to your blog navigation sidebar, a move that could increase commenting by 50 percent or more.

8. Subscription. Include the ability for visitors to subscribe to your posts. Email is the preferred over RSS, as the engagement of readers who subscribe to email is about four times higher than those who subscribe to RSS feeds. (I realize that we don’t have an email subscription on our blog. I remain hopeful that adds the feature shortly.)

9. Visuals. You’ve probably heard the saying, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”? Make it 60,000, and you would be closer to the truth. Ninety percent of the information the human brain processes are visual images, and these are processed at a rate of 60,000 faster than words. Retention of visual images is dramatically better as well: 10 to 20 percent of written or spoken information is retained after three days, while 65 percent of visuals can still be culled after that same timeframe.

10. Social Integration. Including your social buttons on your blog makes your posts more viral and ultimately drives more inbound SEO traffic to your blog (and website). Scrolling social buttons on the left-hand side make it much easier for readers to promote and/or comment about the post on their social channels, as much as 27 percent in some cases. (This is another feature I hope will add to their platform.) Beyond promoting each blog post on different social networks, you should also post them to popular social bookmarking sites (e.g., Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.). These give you backlinks and help drive inbound SEO traffic.

11. Demand-Gen Integration. Two-thirds of buyers list blog posts as one of the content assets they leverage to research their solution options. Almost the same percentage indicate they share blog posts with colleagues and peers—a number that went up significantly this year. This makes sense considering that blog posts are a great way to distill prescriptive recommendations (prescriptive content is listed as the top content preference by buyers). With buyers listing web search and vendor websites as the top two ways they are informed about a solution, quality blog content that is integrated with your demand-gen strategy should be a top priority. Specifically, each of your campaigns need to have blog posts dedicated to driving awareness and ultimately traffic to content assets requiring lead-generation capture. But it is broader than above-the-funnel or top-of-the funnel activities, blog posts—either individually or aggregated in groups—can be used for middle-of-the-funnel activities as well (from email, to account-based marketing, to social, to ad retargeting).

12. Guest and Influencer Blog Posts. The well-known saying, “the more, the merrier,” certainly applies to blog posting. Companies with lower ROI call on fewer guest bloggers and staff writers, using only one author or a small handful of executives (some companies even make the egregious mistake of posting anonymously). Tapping guest bloggers—partners, influencers, and customers—builds your audience when they promote their posts on their own social and marketing channels. This also gives your advocates a chance to shine by showcasing their prowess while blogging about topics that are important to you and them.

13. BIOs. Building a connection with readers is an important part of a blog strategy. In fact, they actually are less likely to comment on blog posts unless they know something about the author. They also need to see the author in addition to reading about her or him; make sure to include a photo of the author along with her or his BIO.

14. Analytics and Reporting. There are a lot of different data points that you can measure when it comes to blogging. The Content Marketing Institute spells out 21 potential blog metrics that should be tracked. These can be consolidated into three primary buckets: 1) activities (blog posts published, threaded comment discussions, etc.), 2) brand awareness and engagement (blog audience and subscribers, inbound SEO traffic, social and email shares, etc.), and 3) business outcomes (leads generated, leads and opportunities influenced, etc.).

15. Frequency. The frequency of your blog posts directly determine your success. Sporadic blog posts don’t cut it, as you cannot build audience and thought leadership unless you post on a consistent and regular basis. For companies that do so , their blogs generate 55 percent more site visits, 97 percent more links to their websites, and a 434 percent higher page-indexing rate than those that fail to do so.

While the above isn’t a comprehensive list, it is a darn good start. You certainly have a much better chance of being in the 82 percent of companies with positive marketing ROI if you adhere to these.

By Patrick Spencer 21 Jun, 2016

We normally take a family vacation every summer. This year, we made a last-minute change in our itinerary and went on a cruise to visit some of the ruins from the former Mayan Empire in Central America. This was our fourth family cruise.

Our first was on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in the eastern Mediterranean, and it was a huge hit with everyone. We were especially impressed with the quality of service we received and how every crew member consciously personified the NCL brand. Each member of the crew was passionate about her or his work, the NCL brand, as well as every guest, understanding the intricate connection between service extended to guests and how that translates into representation of the NCL brand.

NCL certainly gets it when it comes to brand experience. It starts when you’re boarding the ship and extends to the last minute you’re onboard and about to walk across the gangway, where crew members form a line and thank thousands of guests for sailing with NCL as they depart.

By Patrick Spencer 07 May, 2016

Small businesses are faced with countless challenges. One of them is overhead of leasing physical office space. On average, ranking only behind employee wages and benefits and inventories, small businesses spend nearly 10 percent on office space.

But what would many of these small businesses do if an alternative existed? They could take all of that capital and put it back into the business, developing better products, hiring better talent, and spending more time building relationships with prospects and customers.

Another problem with leased office space is that it likely isn’t in a prime location. High-end, professional office space is far beyond what a small business is able to pay. However, a subpar office address diminishes your brand and value proposition. First impressions count after all.

But there is a better solution. Small businesses in growing numbers are opting to get rid of leased office space in exchange for rented office space. Indeed, 22 percent of companies using virtual offices today previously had physical offices and gave them up. In exchange, they get a great address to hang their license and receive mail. The following are six recommendations that small businesses need to put into place to ensure a successful move from a physical to virtual office space:

1. Location. Find a virtual office with great addresses that demand respect.

2. Business Services. Make sure your virtual office comes with some requisite business services such as mail receipt and forwarding, registered agent and license hanging, a lobby directory listing, and more.

3. Meeting Rooms and Day Offices. Although you no longer need permanent office space, you likely still need office space for employee, prospect, customer, and partner meetings as well as day offices for employees when a physical office is required. Not every virtual office has the option of rented meeting rooms. Pick your virtual address careful.

4. Remote Locations. Check out to verify the locations of your virtual office provider. If they are limited, then you will be limited (or using multiple solution providers).

5. Technology Tools. Assuming your virtual office location also has rented meeting room capabilities (from conference rooms to day offices), find out what technology tools are available. Do they provide audio and video conferencing? Auto and virtual receptionists? Project management and communications tools?

For the original blog post on “ Why Small Businesses Are Opting to Go from Physical to Virtual Offices ,” visit the Davinci Virtual Blog. And in the case you’re interested in learning more about virtual office solutions, download the Solutions Guide “ Davinci Virtual Office Solutions: Boosting Businesses with High-Profile Virtual Addresses and Offices .”

By Patrick Spencer 05 May, 2016

Outside of the occasion encounter with an older bully who padded their self-esteem by picking on younger kids, I liked riding at the back of the bus. As my brothers and I were the first ones on in the morning and last ones off in the evening (it was a more than one-hour long ride each way), I spent a lot of time cutting my teeth on piles of books from the school and county libraries.

When I started my marketing career after finishing up my academic treks, I found myself riding at the back of the figurative professional bus. You see, Customer Marketing or Advocacy Marketing was relegated to the back of the marketing bus back at the turn of the century. Programs that measured their results based on the numbers of case studies and video testimonials they produced and managed to keep complaints from sales, AR, and PR professionals and other marketing colleagues to a minimal were considered upper-quadrant leaders. With such a low bar, it is no wonder Customer Marketing practitioners rode on the back of the bus. 
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