Earlier this week we welcomed a number of clients to the Sift Media offices for our first ever Digital Marketing 101 Workshop. As lots of our advertisers continue to plan for the year ahead it seemed a good time to share the expertise of our staff and help clients to get the most from their digital marketing activity. The degree of knowledge sharing and the resulting discussions were so well received we’re already thinking this will become a regular event!

The sessions offered a mix of in-depth insight (following on from our recent Digital Marketing Landscape Report) and practical tips on optimising B2B campaign success. In the coming days and weeks we’ll be sharing more detailed content about the individual sessions, but hopefully this event overview will provide some food for thought…

1. Digital Marketing Best Practice
The day began with Sift Media’s Head of Campaigns, Gemma Screen, giving a welcome refresher on digital marketing best practice. The audience was reminded to be brave when it comes to B2B marketing (get it right and the investment can really pay off) and that by being agile and adapting your approach you will be better able to take advantage of new innovations such as emerging social platforms.

Brands need to earn customer trust, not only through the provision of quality content, but also by considering elements such as user generated content and crowdsourcing as part of  a campaign. Ultimately prospects need to see a clear value exchange if they are to fully trust a brand – after all, if they are to take action such as responding to a campaign and provide their data in return for high-value content, that content must be of a sufficient quality. Repurposing (or “stealing”) from elsewhere was said to be an acceptable and valid method of curating content, so long as it was relevant and of enough value to the reader

Finally, Gemma reminded us that some of the old ways are the best, pointing out that marketing theory from over 60 years ago can still be valid today This included Shannon and Weaver’s Model of Communication (below), which continues to represent communication between advertiser and prospect even with the advent of web, email and social channels coming decades after the model was developed.

Keep an eye out on the Sift Media site and via our social channels for more detail about Gemma’s session.

2.  Effective copywriting and getting calls to action right
Next up, I had the pleasure of discussing the power of engaging copy and effective calls to action. It was agreed that messaging is more important than the precise wording and we went on to look at how the brain scans copy and why it is so important to be clear and concise when producing engaging text. It was suggested that the most effective way to cut through the content clutter (in this day of information overload) was to put yourself in the place of the reader by considering their challenges, environment, how time-poor they may be and then use the power of storytelling to deliver a truly compelling message.

A number of practical tips were put forward for optimising email, web and social copy, before summarising a few golden rules.

The session ended with a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to clickable calls to action. For example, try to avoid using the word “submit” on your form buttons – people don’t like the idea of submitting data, so use valuable action text such as “download whitepaper” or a similar alternative for a greater response. Be sure to make your call to action prominent, clear, and avoid using too many words when one will do. Also during this part of the presentation we looked at ways to optimise calls to action for mobile devices and why user journey consistency is important.
We’ll be sharing more on this session very soon.

3. Email marketing optimisation
As the morning moved on we turned to the subject of email marketing and how to go from inbox to conversion, courtesy of our in-house experts Kate Phelon and Jack Filose. The audience were told that 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices which has a tremendous impact on the quality of user experience and why responsive design is key.

When it comes to avoiding spam filters, we were advised not to use repetition in email content (in terms of words, images and links)  and to avoid using special characters in subject lines. On the ‘subject’ of subject lines… it is has been identified that lines with over 39 characters are more likely to get caught in spam filters – the advice is to keep it short and sweet where possible.

It was acknowledged that the best click-throughs come from the part of the email that is displayed within the preview pane, which presents a challenge to marketers as this is just 200 pixels (a mere 3 inches) of your bulletin. It is clear that careful consideration must be given to design when looking to achieve maximum click through rates.

4. Content
The final session before lunch saw HRZone.com Editor, Jamie Lawrence, cover the ongoing ‘hot topic’ of content marketing. There was a look at the Sift Media approach to content marketing and the importance in this being evidence based and how it is essential to work collaboratively with clients.

The definition which Jamie used to describe content marketing was, “Creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behaviour.” B2B and consumer case studies were then shown, highlighting some inspirational best practice examples of content marketing that were highly popular and widely shared through social media channels.

Jamie’s 6 steps to creating quality content include:

1. Understand and codify your company’s WHY
2. Understand how people consume online
3. Work out who you’re making content for
4. Work out what drives these people – link to WHY
5. Decision time: curation v creation
6. Create with WHY in mind – aiming for CONNECTION

We’ll be posting more on the theory and practice behind creating quality content (and some mistakes to avoid) in the coming days.

5. How to use social media to boost your campaign
Next up we heard from Dan Martin (of BusinessZone.co.uk fame) who delivered an engaging session on optimising opportunities through social media. The potential for extended reach for brands was highlighted by pointing out that Sift Media titles have a combined 700,000 profiled community members, but a further 100,000 followers through social media channels. Growing your follower numbers through quality shareable content and not salesy posts was recommended, with examples shown where brands have succeeded in using hashtags to develop an audience around a specific topic (a community in its own right).

Content curation through social channels was shown to be a great opportunity for engagement with followers although you must be prepared to have conversations and give credit as appropriate.
Scheduling of posts can be a great way of putting out relevant content throughout the day or week, but if this becomes the only way you communicate with your social audiences it will quickly become obvious and you will lose the opportunity for genuine engagement and conversation.

As with social scheduling tools there are also plenty of tools (both free and paid-for) for monitoring social activity in relation to your brand. Ultimately it depends on budget and resource as to how much you are able to invest in this, but so long as you have some sort of plan to monitor what people are saying about you via social channels you will be well placed to deal with social challenges and be better able to turn them into opportunities.

Dan’s 5 top tips for social success:
1. Content is king
2. Go where you audience is
3. It’s a conversation
4. Don’t overschedule
5. Measure and monitor

Look out for a more detailed update on Dan’s presentation in the coming days.

6. Marketing to a Community
This is no easy or straight forward task, but Andy North (Publisher for AccountingWEB.co.uk) was happy to offer his wealth of experience in the matter and steer the audience through what can be a potential minefield.

First and foremost marketers must get to know a community before launching a campaign.Get to understand their common interests, observe the type of content and conversations being had between like minded individuals and understand that people want to be there and feel a sense of ownership of ‘their’ community.

Andy likens online communities to a party, whereby there are a number of house rules to adhere to. Most importantly is that fact that it’s not your party so don’t try to take over! Brands must restrain from endlessly trying to turn the conversation towards themselves or their agenda. Engage on the terms of the audience or there will be a risk of a negative backlash.

Also much like a party, it is worth identifying who the movers and shakers are and then finding out where they hang out. Finally, Andy says to “bring beer”. After all, you should always bring something valuable to a party.

7. How best to engage audiences across mobile devices
The final session of the day was delivered by Sift Digital’s Head of User Experience, Alex Barker, who explored how to provide the optimal user experience via mobile devices. The audience were asked to confirm where they felt their brand was on the mobile journey from ‘fearful first steps’ to ‘mobile innovators’, with most suggesting somewhere in between.

It was discussed that there is a lot more to providing a fully mobile experience than simply investing in technology, the reality is that multiscreen journeys must be user-centred, optimised & prioritised with content presenting a particular challenge to many organisations. Mobile and user experience are very much hand-in-hand and, to avoid dangerous assumptions, businesses need to invest in researching those users and finding out what their needs and motivations are.

Developing a content strategy is an important first step prior to looking at content production (tone, quality and values). By adapting rigid and deep navigation structures, questioning complex functionality and using taxonomies (tagging) to help navigate and filter content, brands will be well placed to get their information architecture right. It is only at this point, Alex suggests, that you can start to define a solution. Now you will be better placed to decide on a responsive (or adaptive?) site, start to build modular component libraries and begin to prototype, user test, iterate (with real content).

We’ll be sharing more detail on Alex’s presentation (and all the other sessions) very soon. If you can’t wait that long and you want more information right now on how to get the most from your B2B campaign why not download our free guide to Campaign Optimisation?