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First Impressions in the Internet Age: A Lesson in Branding Yourself

By Kate Lee | 11/21/2016 | 10:22 PM

Branding-yourself

What do people find when they Google your name? Branding yourself can help sway their first impression.

Face it: Potential employers, customers, and other associates have likely searched your name on the internet before they meet you in person. What do they see?

Your LinkedIn and Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram accounts, personal blog, and even your pins on Pinterest are all subject to public scrutiny. The sum of those findings is your brand image, what you put forth to the world to define who you are and what you are about.

The reality is that when you walk into a job interview, client meeting, or other engagement, you are likely being evaluated against the first impression the person made prior to your arrival through an internet search. Shouldn’t you think carefully about your brand and how you want people to perceive you?

To be successful, you need to take steps to build and enhance your brand. Here are four steps to branding yourself.

1) Define your brand

A brand is a story. What is your story? Take the time to sit down and look at where you have been and where you are. Where you want to be? What is your skill set? What experiences do you have? How are you unique? Take all of this information and knowledge and define your brand — tell your story. Be clear, be concise, and be direct. If you can’t define your brand in a sentence or two, you have lost an opportunity.

2. Take stock

What information is “out there?” Start by making a list of all the social media accounts you have, even if you no longer actively use them. Next, Google yourself. What do you find? As G.I. Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.”

3. Define a strategy

At this point you have a brand and you know what information about your brand is publicly available. Is the information enhancing or hurting your brand? What steps can you take to strengthen your brand? For example, should you adjust your privacy settings on some of your accounts so that personal information and exploits are not available for all to see? Does your LinkedIn page need to be updated? If you don’t take the time to define your strategy, you will not be able to execute it effectively.

4. Take action

Morris Chang, CEO TSMC said: “Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” 

Don’t stop at creating the strategy — execute. And remember, the internet is not static. What information about you gets added over time? Furthermore, it is important to periodically look at your brand. Is it still representative of where are and where you want to be? If not, take the time to re-brand yourself.

When you take the time to brand yourself, you have the opportunity to define that first impression.

A Web Search is a B2B Buyer’s First Move in the Purchase Process

By Kate Lee | 11/14/2016 | 10:55 PM

Web-search

The web search has changed the way businesses shop for products and services — and content marketing is your key to reaching them.

What’s the first thing we all do when we want to try a new restaurant, can’t think of a song lyric, or need to buy a new appliance? We Google it.

The world of B2B sales is no different. Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report found that 62% of B2B buyers say that a web search was one of the first three resources they use to learn about a solution. In fact, 94% of buyers reported using online research at some point in the purchasing process.

That means businesses must be more than just conscious of their digital presence: They must actively manage their website and digital content assets to accommodate the ways buyers are conducting research.

Seeing opportunity in the new reality

In the pre-internet age, the salesperson’s role began relatively early in the buyer’s journey. Today’s average B2B buyer, however, progresses nearly 60% of the way through this process before making any sort of contact with a sales rep. That means your prospects are forming their early opinions about your business and your products based on what they find on the web.

This new reality may seem daunting, given how much of the purchase decision-making process occurs before you have the opportunity to engage with a potential client. But in reality, this changing climate offers serious opportunities for businesses to demonstrate their expertise, without turning buyers off with overt sales pitches.

Content is king/key

To make the most of the potential purchaser’s experience with your business, content is key.

A robust content marketing strategy builds brand awareness, establishes trust and rapport with prospects, and generates traffic to your website. Thoughtfully generated and curated content catches the attention of buyers and keeps them interested in your business through the time of purchase.

Specifically, 67% more leads will be generated by companies with an active blog in 2016. And content isn’t limited to your website: a vibrant social media presence helps buyers conduct their research, with 57% of consumers reporting that they are influenced to think more highly of a business after seeing positive comments online.

Again, while this new reality may seem like a challenge, it’s actually a golden opportunity for your business to put its best foot forward with potential buyers. By thoughtfully generating and curating focused, informative content, companies can guide B2B buyers through the sales process, and develop an engaged and loyal customer base.

How do companies in the logistics and supply chain industries use content and social media?

By Kate Lee | 11/09/2016 | 9:20 AM

Online-surveys

In 2014 Fronetics conducted industry-wide surveys to learn how logistics and supply chain companies were using content and social media as part of their marketing programs.  The reports, Content Use in the Logistics and Supply Chain Industries and Social Media Use in the Logistics and Supply Chain Industries, have informed companies on use, motivations, preferences, benefits, and challenges.

In an effort to learn how companies are using social media and content today, Fronetics has just launched two new surveys.  Fronetics invites individuals working in the logistics and supply chain industries to weigh in and share what their companies doing.

Each survey takes about 3 minutes to complete. Results will be reported in aggregate, using no personal or company information from respondents.

Take the social media survey 

Take the content survey 

Strapped for Content to Share? Try Reddit

By Kate Lee | 10/03/2016 | 11:00 PM

Reddit

Reddit is a gold mine for relevant, engaging content to share with your social media followers.

You probably have heard that Reddit is useful in content marketing. But what, exactly, is it, and how do you use it?

Reddit is a news website/social network in which registered users submit content, such as posts and links, which the community of users (called redditors) curates by voting up or down. The more positive votes, the higher the content will appear on the page. Users also can comment on the content, and their comments are organized by the same up-down voting system. The discussion by redditors is often the most important part of any post.

Content is organized into categories, called subreddits. Subreddits can be as broad as News and Music and as specific as Supply Chain Risk Management and 3-D Printing News. Users can subscribe to a subreddit to have popular posts from that category published on their homepages.

Reddit, which ranks as the 9th most popular website in the U.S. and 31st globally, refers to itself as “the front page of the internet” for a good reason. Whatever the industry, topic, or perspective, there is content about it, ready for you to share.

That’s what makes Reddit great for content marketers, who are always looking for content to distribute to followers to keep them engaged. It is also intuitive to find and share exactly what you need.

5 easy steps to get started on Reddit

1) Sign up

First, you must register. Go to Reddit.com and click the “Sign Up” link in the upper-right-hand corner. Mobile users can download the Reddit app.

2) Get to know the community

After setting up a user account, you begin following a default set of subreddits, including topics like Art, Jokes, and Sports. Access them by clicking the “My Subreddits” dropdown menu on the upper-left corner of the homepage. These default subreddits are great for learning about the community.

3) Customize your subreddits

Find subreddits in your niche. It can take time to browse individual subreddits, but you can slash your search time by creating a multireddit, which is a custom dashboard of content around your particular topic of interest. First, find subreddits you want to include with the subreddit search box . This lets you search for all subreddits related to a keyword (for example, supply chain technology). Narrow down further with advanced search options.

4) Create a multireddit

Next, compile a master list of subreddit names, organized by topic, and save them in a multireddit. So, sign into your account, then go to the Reddit front page, and click on the dotted line on the left side. Click the “Create” button, and type in a name for your multireddit. (You can’t use spaces or symbols in the multireddit name.) When you’re finished, click “Create.” You can then filter the posts you see by those that are:

  • Hot: Posts that receive the highest engagement (upvotes/comments)
  • New: The most recent posts
  • Rising: Posts that are gaining popularity
  • Controversial: Posts that receive an equal mix of upvotes and downvotes
  • Top: The most popular posts of all time
  • Gilded: Posts that received reddit gold
  • Promoted: Sponsored content

5) Share

Once you find a link you would like to share on social media, you can queue up content directly from Reddit using Buffer and/or IFTTT. If you have the Buffer extension installed in your browser, you’ll see its link for each Reddit post. Click the link and schedule the Reddit post in your Buffer queue. You can also set up IFTTT recipes, which connect your Reddit activity to Buffer.

Can you post content on Reddit? Yes, but directly marketing your business and self-promotion is not allowed. Instead, create a presence by being relevant within a specific community. Check out reddiquette and FAQs to learn what posts are acceptable. Essentially, 10% or less of your posts and dialogue should link to your own content.

Posting your content can benefit your business. If your post rises to the front page of Reddit, it can drive more than 200K visitors to your content, get picked up by other websites, and garner a ton of social shares.

 

5 Tips to Build Relationships on Social Media

By Kate Lee | 09/26/2016 | 10:59 PM

5-tips-for-building-relationships-on-social-media

Participating in social media is not about earning followers; it’s about building relationships.

Posting content to social media is a great way to earn followers. But a follower doesn’t necessarily equal a customer. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that participating in social media is not only about earning a large following; it’s about building relationships with those people.

An article published in Entrepreneur says it best, “Content equals marketing; conversation equals a relationship.” Using social media to converse with people and form relationships is what will ultimately drive sales.

Research from Social Sprout shows that social media messages to brands from customers rose 110% between 2014 and 2015. And that number keeps going up.

So, don’t just hand out your content like a business card and walk away. Customers increasingly expect businesses to converse with them through social networking, so it is critical that your business is online and ready to respond.

Here are five tips to build relationships on social media:

1) Be the person representing a brand.

Represent your company, but be a real person to whom your customers can relate. Do not appear as a brand who is a person; show up as a person who has a brand.

2) Be a real person.

Be personable and real. Open yourself up to conversations that show a bit of the real you. Nothing builds a relationship better than making a genuine connection. In other words, be a real person, not a personality.

3) Show who you are.

In addition to sharing information and knowledge related to your business, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a bit of what matters to you in your posts. Photos of bring-your-child-to-work day, pets who regularly visit the office, or even your extra-large coffee during a particularly busy week tell a story that your followers can relate to. These kinds of things are excellent starting points for conversation!

4) Show that you care.

To build a relationship of trust, people need to feel that you care about what is important to them. Go beyond just liking, retweeting, or leaving an encouraging message on your followers’ posts. Actually put yourself out there and respond, invite dialog, and demonstrate that they are someone you value.

5) Be a regular.

Show up on a regular basis to interact with your audience and answer questions. And make sure to respond quickly when someone reaches out to you. Don’t underestimate the power of being there when a customer needs you. Remember 7 in 8 messages go unanswered for 72 hours, so if you can be the brand that is always there, you’re head-and-shoulders above the crowd.

Only 30% of Content Marketers Feel They Are Effective

By Kate Lee | 09/19/2016 | 10:56 PM

Content-marketers

Effective content marketers have these four things in common.

Think your content marketing could be better? You are not alone. Only 30% of content marketers feel they are effective, and, according to a recent survey, 55% of B2B marketers say they do not actually know what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like.

In fact, some of the key findings from the report, B2B Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, may surprise you.

Recognizing success

First, the team must understand what they are striving for:

  • Only 44% of B2B marketers say their organization is clear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like; 55% are uncertain. For success, everyone must understand what to look for.
  • Only 32% of B2B marketers consider themselves sophisticated or mature in their skill-level. Sixty-four percent of those in the sophisticated/mature phase say they are effective at content marketing, while only 23% in the less-experienced adolescent phase express confidence. But, when strategies are documented, it appears to increase the confidence and success at every skill level.

What makes a team more effective at content marketing?

One key theme that emerged from the survey is that effective content marketers do these four things.

1) They know what effective content marketing looks like.

Effectiveness can be defined as meeting your overall goals and objectives — but in order to do so, those goals must be clear. B2B organizations that have a clear vision of content marketing success are more effective than those that do not. In fact, 79% of the most effective marketers report having that clarity, while 77% of the least effective say they lack it.

2) They have continuous communication.

The most effective B2B marketers (61%) meet daily or weekly with their content marketing team — either virtually or in person. Fifty-four percent say team meetings are valuable.

3) They document their content marketing strategy.

Documenting your content strategies can directly improve a marketer’s overall effectiveness. Fewer B2B marketers are doing this (32% in 2016 vs. 35% last year), even though research supports that a documented strategy can significantly improve results.

4) They document their editorial mission/long-term goals.

Research found that 48% of the most effective content marketers also have a documented editorial mission statement. This statement clearly defines who your audience is and why your content will be effective — it defines your brand. You should also document any long-term goals, like lead generation and sales, for example, will be the most important for most B2B content marketers over the next 12 months.

Having clear communication, documented goals, and defined strategies will provide direction, which can be the guiding light to effective content marketing. Implement these proven steps to better focus your team and to make effective content marketing clear and recognizable.

5 Ways to Advance Your Supply Chain Career

By Kate Lee | 09/12/2016 | 10:53 PM

5-Ways-to-Advance-Your-Supply-Chain-Career

The talent gap represents a professional opportunity for motivated individuals looking to advance their supply chain career.

The global supply chain is continuously evolving, offering new opportunities as demands shift and new technologies are born. But how do you evolve with it?

The key is knowing where to look and how to leverage your talent and skills to fit demand. Opportunities are abundant now, but they are also growing, according to the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics. It predicts there will be 1.4 million new jobs in the logistics and supply chain field by 2018.

In fact, the number of supply chain employees is expected to double by 2017, with a high demand for managerial talent. That equates double the opportunity for you to move your career forward!

Here are 5 key actions to advance your logistics or supply chain career:

1) Consider all the skills in your wheelhouse.

Evaluate and take stock of your skills and experience. Know how to articulate exactly what you bring to the table when you consider a new position. Your skills may also be highly transferable, so it is wise to be open to new opportunities. Finally, expand those skills with certifications that will give you a competitive advantage. Look for certifications that enhance your operations and supply chain management skills, like those through the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS).

2) Network within the industry.

Employers seeking supply chain talent have to be able to find you. Join associations like APICS, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSMCP). You will gain access to career advice and be a part of a network of supply chain professionals. Join online interest groups and professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn. Follow industry blogs and make connections that relate to, and promote, your career aspirations.

3) Expand your software and technology skills.

This is a constantly evolving area in the supply chain, with new software emerging and a growing demand for talent that knows how to use it. Educate yourself within the software and technology space, and you will open many new doors of opportunity.

4) Know how to promote your soft skills.

Do you have problem-solving experience? A background in communication? Leverage those skills on your resume. Recruiters typically have a list of about 30 job skills that they look at when reviewing job candidates. But soft skills take priority because they produce the most successful new hires. These include: knowledge of basic business ethics, problem-solving acumen, and solid communication skills.

5) Let your differences shine.

You may not see much young or female talent in today’s supply chain industry, but don’t let that discourage you. In fact, this signals opportunity. Many companies are ramping up efforts to recruit (and keep) young talent. And women tend to be strong in many of the soft skills needed for the future of SCM. According to  Shanton J. Wilcox, vice president, North America, and lead for logistics and fulfillment at Capgemini, “Many so-called tactical jobs will be replaced by positions requiring more interpersonal and relationship management skills.”

With the present challenges in securing supply chain talent, recruiters are actively searching for specific skills and new employees. You can answer to this demand if you know how to leverage, expand, and promote your skill set to the right people.

9 Career-Strengthening Moves to Make This Fall

By Kate Lee | 09/06/2016 | 10:53 AM

Career

If your job has left you to feeling stuck in a rut, try these steps to improve your professional life.

Summer vacations are over, and the year is more than half gone. Perhaps all those best-laid plans for boosting your career this year have yet to come to fruition. You may be feeling as burnt out as those last colorful leaves before they surrender to the fall.

If this frustration sounds familiar, it may be time to shake things up and move your career in a new direction. 

Here are 9 tips to propel your career forward:

Make the move

Unhappy at your present job? Identify the reasons. If you are frustrated with your current role but you like your company, inquire about other positions within the organization. If none are a good fit or there are no growth opportunities, consider looking elsewhere. Use every job-search tool available — network, use a recruiter, and/or work with an executive search firm.

Network

There is tremendous opportunity in networking. Studies have found that the majority of jobs (between 49% and 80%) come about through networking. But networking offers more, like professional development and sage advice. You will make important connections that could bring you career success.

Create your own brand

A quick search on the internet or on LinkedIn and you will see: You are a brand.  First impressions are now inclusive of your Facebook page, personal blog, your Instagram page, and Twitter account. Even your pins on Pinterest say something about you. Keep that in mind as you are posting personal content.

Work for someone intelligent

Working for someone smart brings you more knowledge and critical thinking skills simply through observation and example. You will grow professionally and personally.

Plan for the 12-24 months

Don’t get hung up on making a 10-year career plan.  Look for the right opportunities, be flexible, and know the direction you are headed in, but don’t lock into a long-term direction.

Use your muscles

Research has found that a regular exercise routine can make you happier, smarter, and more energetic. Being fit can also brand you — giving a perception of health and stamina that signifies effectiveness, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Explore something new

Is there something your colleagues are doing or using that you aren’t? LinkedIn or Twitter for example. Take the leap!

Find your balance

Research by the Families and Work Institute found that 55% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on their plate. A different survey found that 80% of people are unhappy with their work-life balance. Look at your priorities and keep only what matters.

Take a vacation

Have leftover vacation days? About 57% of Americans don’t use their vacation time. Taking time off is important to both your mental and physical health — and it has a positive impact on work performance and productivity.

How to Gain C-Suite Support for Content Marketing

By Kate Lee | 07/11/2016 | 9:21 PM

Content marketing

Speak the language of the C-suite with metrics, statistics, and facts that articulate content marketing’s impact on customer acquisition and sales.

Garnering C-suite support for your content marketing program can be a challenge. Your team knows that your strategy is working by evaluating a series of metrics (e.g., shares, website traffic, email click-through rates), but executives do not always understand the value of such measures. It is almost like marketers speak another language.

So, how do you articulate the value of content marketing in a way that your executives will understand and support? Think of it this way: It is like that scene in the movie Jerry Maguire, only it is your boss demanding, “Show me the money!” The C-suite wants to know the cost to the company and the dollar amount of the return for any marketing initiative you undertake. To gain C-suite support you need to quantify success in terms of customer acquisitions and new sales.

Don’t focus on the secondary results, or “soft” metrics like per-post Facebook engagement. Talk the C-suite’s language, and demonstrate how your content marketing efforts led to new customers and what those customers are worth to the company’s growth and success.

Report these six metrics to win C-suite support

  1. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This is the total average cost your company spends to acquire a new customer. Basically, what your company spends in marketing costs, divided by the number of new customers it produced.
  2. Marketing Percentage of the CAC: This is the marketing department costs divided the costs of the sales and marketing costs to get the marketing percentage of overall cost per new customer. The figure demonstrates if more is going into the sales team or the marketing team to produce the current result, and the lower the percentage the better.
  3. Ratio of Customer Lifetime Value to CAC: This figure estimates the total value that your company derives from each customer versus what you spend to acquire them.
  4. Time to Payback CAC: This estimate demonstrates how many months it takes for your company to earn back the CAC it spent acquiring your new customers.
  5. Marketing-Originated Customer Percentage: This is where you look at all of the new customers from a set time period and determine what percentage of them started with a lead generated by your marketing team.
  6. Marketing-Influenced Customer Percentage: This figure highlights all of the new customers that marketing interacted with at the time they were still just leads.

Additional selling points for content marketing

Content marketing can make a big impact on your company in terms of spreading brand awareness, growing your audience, and helping form business relationships. Though these benefits are difficult to quantify, try using the following statistics and facts to articulate the value your program could have in a way your executives will understand.

  • As any business knows, it is essential to be where you customers are, and they are online. Your competitors know this, too. In fact, a recent study indicated that that 77% of companies surveyed, across industries, had plans to increase their digital marketing budgets in the coming year.
  • The B2B buying process has evolved, and now content is an essential tool for generating and nurturing leads. Reportedly, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing as part of their programs, with lead generation (85%) and sales (84%) being the most important goals.
  • Blog content has long-term value, as what you post today may continue attracting traffic months (or years) from now.Your posts last indefinitely, outliving more traditional marketing methods, such as a print advertisement in a magazine.
  • Consistently publishing quality content can earn your company a reputation as a thought leader in your industry. The public will come to trust your company as a respected source of knowledge, and you’ll begin forming relationships with readers who want to know more about your products and services. People buy from companies that they trust and feel connected to.
  • Content marketing will get you more bang for your buck. Results are not instant, but, with time, you can actually reduce your marketing expenses while increasing your reach and growing your business.
  • Content marketing is a valuable business intelligence tool. By distributing content through social media platforms, you not only engage potential customers, but you get their feedback and learn more about their needs and wants.

What you need to know about content marketing during the slow season

By Kate Lee | 07/06/2016 | 9:19 AM

Content marketing

Keep producing consistent, quality content during your slow season to win business when things pick back up.

For everything there is a season, and that expression holds true for most businesses. When is your slow season? That depends largely on your industry and customer demographic, but you are probably well aware which quarter your sales historically drop off and your customer engagement wanes.

The calendar is heading into a slow season for many companies, especially those in IT systems or the capital equipment marketplace. In these industries, the highest sales volumes typically occur in the first two business quarters. That is when potential customers are busy creating and implementing their new business initiatives and doing the bulk of their purchases for the year.

By third quarter, many businesses are past purchasing and have moved into problem-resolution mode. They are trying to meet the goals they set and stay within budget. Purchasing capital equipment is not on their agenda, at least not for now.

Should you head to the beach during that quarter? Should you ditch your current content marketing strategy because it suddenly is producing fewer leads? According to  Daniel Pastuszak, marketing expert and head of customer acquisition and lifestyle marketing for LinkedIn, absolutely not. 

Tips for effective content marketing during a slow season:

Provide content that demonstrates your expertise and positions you as a thought leader.

Don’t write a sales pitch! In your blog posts, offer helpful advice in an easy-to-digest format. For example, explain a recent case study or trend within your industry in a way your customers will understand it. This type of content keeps your customers engaged with your business, so when it comes time to purchase, they remember you as a trusted source of knowledge.

Share customer testimonials and their backstory.

Nothing is more memorable than telling a great success story. Now is the time to share reviews that demonstrate how your company expertly fulfilled customers’ needs, exceeded their expectations, or provided solutions to a tough challenge.

Cover events attended by your company’s management or leaders.

This can make for a great post on industry-related news, and can support branding the company as an industry leader. Again, there’s no need to include a sales pitch. You’re simply demonstrating how your company is among the movers and shakers in the industry.

Cultivate content that is fun, like customer contests.

Get customers involved with some friendly competition, and show them you are listening by sharing their responses. For example, one of Fronetics’ clients, a wholesale food distributor, recently challenged food service customers to create a meal using ingredients purchased from the wholesaler. They were then asked to post photos of their entries on social media with the contest hashtag. Fun and engaging, this contest captivated the customers’ attention and had them sharing content (and the client’s name).

Write for your (very specific) audience.

That means knowing who they are and what peaks their interest. If creating engaging content has proven to be challenging for your business, consider outsourcing your content creation, or your marketing program all together. Your slow season is the perfect time to boost the quality and consistency of your efforts to engage your audience and expand your outreach.

All businesses experience seasonal cycles, but that does not indicate your sales or content marketing strategies are in need of major revisions. Slow periods are the perfect time to take a deep breath, revitalize, and strategize. Use this time to research information you need to accelerate your efforts for the next hectic season of sales.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Lee

Kate Lee

Kate Lee is the senior director of research and strategy for Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a Newburyport, Mass.-based consultancy that works with clients in industries including logistics and supply chain. She has over 20 years of domestic and international experience as a writer, researcher, and strategist.



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