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Finding Your Voice

Finding Your Voice

Voice.

Think about what that means for a moment.

As a child we learn to use it, as an adolescent to develop it, and as an adult to define us, to detract, attract, oppose, support, cajole, admonish, praise, thank, and more. We learn early on that each voice is unique. I love watching my daughter react to her tiny, happy voice in toddler videos. And I love helping a client find their voice.

Voice is more than sounds emanating from a box in the human throat. Voice reflects the tone and tenor of a company, a campaign – whether political, cause-related, or commercial. And yet, even when you are in command of your own voice, it’s easy to trip up when asked to give voice to the mission of your company. Voice can be elusive.  Continue Reading

Earned and Owned Media in Content Marketing – How it Works

Earned and Owned Media in Content Marketing – How it Works

B2B marketing is different from the consumer world, in part because it relies on engaging with an audience that wants a lot of information on how best to solve what can be complex and sophisticated business problems. While paid media (including advertising and content syndication) fits well in marketing plans for some businesses, there is a role for earned and owned media in content marketing plans for just about every B2B firm. Buyers rank earned media as their most trusted source of information, and marketers list it as among the most cost-effective tools. Earned and owned media deliver results throughout the entire B2B sales process, from generating awareness, to demonstrating thought leadership, to closing the deal. Here’s an example of how we’ve used earned and owned media in content marketing plans for B2B customers.

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Will my blood, sweat and tears about your lack of a content marketing strategy go up in smoke?

Will my blood, sweat and tears about your lack of a content marketing strategy go up in smoke?

On my first Mother’s Day, nearly 11 years ago, my husband, our nine-month-old daughter, and my 89-year-old Grandma spent the good part of a road trip downstate making a list of all the idioms we knew. We came up with about 70. I was reminded of that trip recently when I read an article by Joe Pulizzi, “B2B Manufacturers Stuck When It Comes to Content Marketing,” in which he led with “at the risk of sounding like a broken record” and ended with his bio that described him as a “poster boy for content marketing”.

So, how do these two events connect? Continue Reading

Pitch Perfect: How to Craft a Pitch to Get Results

Pitch Perfect: How to Craft a Pitch to Get Results

At its core, Harris Media Services helps people communicate. We work with people in all phases of business – entrepreneurs, execs in ongoing businesses, and startups with every kind of “ask”. Before you have a shot at landing your “ask”, you need to perfect your pitch. Here are some lessons learned from the hundreds of pitches we have developed for and with our customers.

First of all, your pitch needs to answer the Five W’s (and one H) in 90 seconds or less. The reason it’s called an “elevator pitch” is because you should be able to tell your story while you have someone trapped for at least a few floors – when that door opens, you want them to stick around, not bolt off. Your job is to answer these five questions:
Continue Reading

The Human Experience Matters in Marketing

The Human Experience Matters in Marketing

Have you had a moment when someone who clearly is out of their league tells you how you should do your job? Like when the Controller tells you there is not enough white space in a brochure, the web content needs to be jazzed up, or that blog is just plain boring. My reaction inside gets all fired up by the gall of the person, while outside I graciously accept the feedback/criticism. While the Controller is hardly an expert in marketing communication, I hate to admit the response is valid. Why? Because the human experience matters in marketing. More on this in a minute.

First, I want to share a picture of Sunita Malhorta, who sat next to me at the Intro to Design workshop that we attended at MATTER, in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. I asked Sunita if I could share this and she kindly agreed. Please know that this picture does not do her justice.

the human experience matters for marketingLooking at picture you will probably agree with my father, who told me when I was in fourth grade that an artist I was not.

I’d like to argue that I am a designer. And in fact, we all are.

Why were we doing drawing pictures at MATTER? Well, MATTER is a pretty cool outfit that describes itself as “a community of healthcare entrepreneurs and industry leaders working together in a shared space to individually and collectively fuel the future of healthcare innovation”. So, what does design have anything to do with healthcare innovation? Everything, according to our speaker and presenter, David Schonthal.

Design is not a discipline, it’s a way of looking at the world through a human lens, Schonthal told us.

Using that lens, he instructed us to spend 60 seconds trying to draw our neighbor. It was the first exercise intended to impress on us that we are designers. Schonthal’s take on design is that your degree, profession, or industry do not exclude you from being an important contributor to the design process. Each one of us has a unique perspective that collectively benefit a product, a program, or service. The workshop was focused on health care – it being emotionally driven because the human experience is at its core – and how empathy is often absent from the very people designing new technologies, products, and programs.

Ok, pause and breathe. I know what you thinking. “Why is she writing about design, and health care and empathy when she works for a B2B marketing and communication firm?”

Empathy is the answer and the human experience matters. I am not an engineer, chemist, or designer by trade. I certainly am not a Controller or by any stretch of the imagination an expert in Finance. But, Alison and I are communicators and marketers. We were journalists first and learned long ago that rule number one is to know your audience. Before we propose a path, tactic, or strategy, we always envision the finish line first. How will this be received? Will the audience connect? Does this make the company look human? Does the story resonate? Will it create urgency and spur action?

When it comes to communicating to an audience, our job is to understand the nuances, respect their strengths, and have empathy for their challenges. And no matter what, making the human connection is imperative. Any buyer wants to feel like the seller gets them, wants their business, and is grateful for it.

With February already underway, stop for a moment and do the following. Make a list of areas of expertise in your company and compare that with your business goals. Do you have the team to realize those goals? What “designers” are needed to complete your team?

I learned at Schonthal’s workshop that collectively, we can accomplish more together. Even if you are the Controller, whether at the forefront of a project or future iterations, all of our observations are valuable. For when we put the human experience first, and bring an array of expertise to the table, extraordinary ideas and perspectives will flourish.

At Harris Media Services, we consider ourselves to be part of your kitchen cabinet. We are the marketing strategists and communicators, who together with your vision and insight can design the strategy to help you meet those business goals. And we know our limits: We readily outsource graphic design work because like you, we aren’t experts at everything.

Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend, and contact me to learn how we can help grow your business.

Schonthal is on the board at MATTER. You can learn more about at him The Next Best Thing. He is one wickedly smart and engaging presenter.

Karen Craven is an associate with Harris Media Services, based in Portland, ME. After 16 years of communications roles in government & politics, education, corporate and not for profits, Karen joined Harris Media Services in 2015, 15 years after Alison first hired her to join United Publications in Yarmouth, ME.

Churned Content Will Burn: Keep the Trade Press in Your Toolkit

Churned Content Will Burn: Keep the Trade Press in Your Toolkit

I received an email this morning with the subject line “How to Churn Out Content”. Ugh, no. That may have worked in the early days of inbound marketing, but there’s way too much competition for your prospect’s attention today. Mark Schaefer recognized the impact of “Content Shock” back in January of 2014, noting that content marketing as a strategy was drowning in a flood of content. It’s only gotten more challenging in the two years since he wrote that post: social media influencer monitoring tool Buzzsumo has found that half of all content is shared eight times or less. If your company is solely relying on an inbound marketing strategy driven by content, these numbers are not going to make you happy.

We’ve seen this firsthand with companies that we have pitched for business – many companies wanted to skip working with trade press or other earned media outlets and Continue Reading

Communication is key to “Great Leader = Great Job”

Communication is key to “Great Leader = Great Job”

Have you seen the book excerpt underlined above? It’s from Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

In full disclosure, I didn’t read Sinek’s book. But this excerpt really spoke to me, and made me think about the common denominator of leaders who have inspired me. I’ve experienced good, bad, and ugly leaders and in order to make the most sense of them I created a few simple categories:

• Great leader = Great job

• Good leader = Good job

• Bad leader = Bad job.

As I reflected on my career, I recall some positions did have the potential to move up and down, based on the leader. More often than not, when the leader was a poor communicator, I was left uninspired, and I typically saw a great or good job go to bad.

When I thought of the great job category I was immediately reminded of my former CEO who told me, “What’s good for kids is good for business”. With that statement, he gave me a solid mission with parameters and a moral compass; I was equipped with the tools to set a strategy to bring in millions of dollars in state and federal funds for the privately held company. And I wasn’t alone. The majority of the employees at the company was also motivated and inspired by a great leader.

Another leader once casually told me that my job was to manage her. And she was right. I was there to support her, backstop her, and help manage her. And because of that successes were shared and the work and job were fulfilling.

Conversely, another CEO once directed me to fundraise so the additional revenue would trigger management bonuses. Needless to say, raising money for management bonuses was neither motivating or inspiring, even when I was part of management!

Those examples affirm that motivation does matter. Moreover, what Sinek is driving at with that paragraph is precisely why many others have responded to it: People want to believe that what they do for a living really matters. That occurs when their leader sets forth clear intentions through thoughtful and purposeful communication.

Many companies think of “communication” in terms of external outreach. A huge part of the services we offer at Harris Media Services are to external sources such as prospects, customers, journalists, and other influencers. But it’s important to point out that internal communications have a huge impact on your company, including employee engagement and morale. If motivating your employees is on the top of your 2016 to-do list, let us know if we can help. Executing internal and external communication strategy is one facet of being the type of leader in the “Great Job” category. Focusing on the who, what, why and how you do what you do, and being able to effectively communicate that is the first step to your employees describing you as a “Great Leader”.

How to Choose a Marketing Services Partner – Values to Work Together By

How to Choose a Marketing Services Partner – Values to Work Together By

After working with a customer on a story about its values, it seemed appropriate to codify them for Harris Media Services. It turns out that this list is a good framework for choosing a marketing service partner, including whether or not Harris Medias Services is the right firm for your organization. These values are based on the key characteristics of our most successful relationships and the drivers behind our approach: Commitment to Partnership, Willingness to Engage, Curiosity, Trust and Risk, Ethics and Integrity, and Hunger for Growth.

  • Partnership: We want to be your partner because we are motivated by being able to contribute over the long term. We want to help you understand the key drivers of your business, track market changes, identify current customers and how to best engage them, discover new customers, and win them over by communicating with them about how you can solve their problems. In short, we work best when we are a part of your team.
  • Conversations: Good marketing starts with questions. Our engagement is the first step of building a relationship, so we need to understand why you’ve established certain priorities, how you developed strategies, and why you embrace certain tactics or projects. This process will allow us to find a fresh approach, refine existing strategy, share expertise, or get results that deliver value. Our collaboration is inherent to our success and makes for a stronger partnership with more growth.
  • Risks are OK: Growth requires a willingness to try new things. We practice agile marketing, which means we conduct limited tests of new ideas, measure results, then make adjustments moving forward. Not everything works, but when something is a hit, we move full-steam ahead. When it doesn’t, we stop it in its tracks. In other words, we need to take measured and calculated risks to get results for you.
  • Ethics: If you’re interested in breaking laws, cheating (especially cheating customers), lying to reporters (or anyone), or other unethical business practices, find another agency. We value our reputation, but also know these behaviors will undo any good we can achieve for you, and fast.
  • Integrity: Building a bench of great talent takes time. We treat our team fairly, and expect the same from you. We work with highly trained professionals who excel at graphic design, web development, research, videography, digital marketing, and content creation. They have invested years of time and lots of money on training and tools to get to where they are. They jump through hoops to help you succeed. Please don’t ask us to negotiate them down, wait for payment, or engage in unethical behavior. When in doubt, consider the Golden Rule. If you don’t want someone asking it of you, don’t ask it of our team.
  • Hunger for Growth: If you’re happy with your business the way it is now, or if you just want someone to help you maintain the status quo, the chances are good that we will drive you crazy. We are not interested in repeating yesterday; we are hungry to change tomorrow. When you’re interested in making something happen, please give us a call.

Can we answer more questions about our approach, our services, or our ideas for your company? Just reach out – we would love to connect.

Marketing Automation Software – How to Make Your Investment Pay Off

Marketing Automation Software – How to Make Your Investment Pay Off

B2BNewsNetworkLogoHave you wondered about the ROI of marketing automation software? I have, too, so I reached out to a bunch of marketing managers to ask them about the tools they use.

In addition to stats on ROI, I asked their advice to those thinking of rolling out a solution. This story ran in the B2B News Network, and covered tips on adding up the total costs of deployment, making sure to calculate enough time for roll out, working with others on the team, and creating a content library.

Read the full story here – and let me know if you think I missed anything. What is your experience with marketing automation software?  I’d be happy to share your advice.

 

 

How to Market Complex Products to B2B Audiences: Break it Down

How to Market Complex Products to B2B Audiences: Break it Down

Marketing complex products to a B2B audience requires a meaty content promotion strategy. The stakes are high for these purchasers, because complex products and services tend to be more expensive, usually are technical in nature, and are often deployed at an enterprise level so they have a significant impact on the organization. The good news is that your audience is likely to pay close attention to what you say. The challenge is to find the best way to communicate with your target audience.

While many promotion strategies will tell you to keep your content bite-sized, when it comes to complex products and services you can expand your word count. People buying a complex product are willing to do the research to make sure that the solution is a right fit for their organization, so the buyer journey must be highly educational.

Business consulting firm Bain has written an interesting piece on how to best develop and align your complex products and services for sale; the tactics they outline demonstrate the value of an educational sale, versus the traditional features-and-functionality pitch of the past. The bottom line: Educational content is an excellent marketing tool for complex products and services sold to a B2B market. Continue Reading