5 Tips for Working with Stakeholders

Stakeholders are a necessary component of nearly every content project. Without their unique perspectives, even the most talented writers and strategists would fall short of creating the best, most customized product possible.

As a result, they are incredibly important and impactful players– and not only because of their unmatched expertise and invaluable feedback. Stakeholders have the ability to:

  • Delay or halt projects
  • Change direction or process
  • Impact budget or scope
  • Approve the final product or …
  • Send everything back to the drawing board

You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. That’s why all marketers should follow this advice: When it comes to stakeholders, handle with care.

Common Stakeholder Problems

Whether you are a client working with internal stakeholders or a marketer who regularly manages them, the challenges are the same. You may have encountered setbacks or challenges from any of these common personalities:

  • The Break Pad: These stakeholders have jam-packed schedules and may be repeat “no-shows” for interviews. They sit on content for weeks past deadline, holding the review process hostage. It’s a common situation because the most valuable stakeholders often hold very senior positions and are legitimately busy.
  • The Charlie Brown: Everybody on the project wants these people to weigh in, but they do not understand their value. Interviews are challenging because they don’t provide clear, direct answers or often defer to other people, who may or may not be stakeholders. As a result, their feedback is light on the key details you need.
  • The Expert: While all stakeholders are experts in their areas, this stakeholder is also an expert in your job – whether it’s writing content, developing an SEO strategy or designing a webpage. It may be hard to convince this stakeholder of well-accepted industry best practices if he or she disagrees. Prepare for intense edits and feedback.
  • The Monday Morning Quarterback: The no. 1 reason for project delays? Either the Charlie Brown or The Expert can morph into this stakeholder in the final stages. They see the first draft and disagree with its direction, possibly even contradicting their own input. Be aware: It’s very common for stakeholders to change their mind or be surprised when they see their words spun into something more tangible like a webpage or blog.

Best Practices for Managing Stakeholder Relationships

The best way to work with stakeholders is a very proactive approach. We have compiled our best practices for interviewing and managing stakeholders to help avoid those frustrating project delays and setbacks:

  • Establish a clear process from Day 1: Put yourself in the uninformed stakeholder’s shoes: They do an interview with you or your team, you disappear for weeks, then re-emerge with a sudden need for feedback and approval at a time that may not be convenient. You would be annoyed, too, right? Take a few minutes during your stakeholder call to walk them through the process, timeline and what you will need from them so they are prepared.
  • Don’t be afraid to over-prepare: If you want to get the most out of your stakeholder interview, do not show up as a blank slate. Do your homework by researching as much as you can about the subject matter, client, competitors and even the stakeholder ahead of the interview. Asking basic questions is the best way to waste an interview. Instead, use your time to delve deeper and get into messaging, differentiators and help with more complex topics.
  • Communicate key dates and repeat, repeat, repeat: Stakeholders are very busy. They will quickly scan your email, so make it easy for them: Clearly state your time frame in bold font. At your interview, remind them at the start and end when they will receive a draft for review. Follow up with an email reminding them of this date and how much time they will have for feedback. Send reminders ahead of the deadline.
  • Avoid sending a list of questions in advance: It may sound counter-intuitive. But if you want the most out of your discussion, don’t fence yourself in with a script. When given a list of questions, stakeholders tend to offer stiff, careful answers. You miss out on the rich details that a more organic conversation can uncover. Instead, provide an overview of topics and write a few short sentences describing your goals for the interview.
  • Control the review process: Lay the groundwork for a clear review process before scheduling the first stakeholder call. If you are working with multiple stakeholders, it’s a good idea to establish the following:
    • Which stakeholders need to review/approve the final product, and whether anyone’s feedback is more authoritative or should be last
    • How many rounds of revisions are included within project scope
    • Whether stakeholders are editing for content, accuracy, messaging, or all of the above
    • A process for ensuring consolidated feedback so you don’t get back conflicting feedback and direction
    • A clear timeline and how feedback delays will affect project completion

 

Interested in learning more about content marketing? Check out Charles River Interactive’s blog View from the Charles:

7 Email Marketing Best Practices
How to Write Strategic Calls to Action
5 Tips for Writing for Mobile

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

 

7 Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing has been around since, well, probably almost as long as emails have existed. And, why not? Email is another channel with which to communicate, so using it as a marketing medium makes a lot of sense.

The difference between email marketing and plain old emails is that plain old emails from a friend or colleague are not intrusive, or at least they shouldn’t be. Email marketing can be. So, email marketing has evolved over time to address issues that we, as recipients, don’t appreciate, and that we as marketers need to respect.

As a marketer, keep these email marketing best practices in mind when creating and sending emails to your recipients.

1) Send emails to a list of people who have agreed to receive information from your company.

Marketing emails are considered to be “spam” if sent to someone who has not opted in to the list (directly or through a 3rd party). Marketers can get in trouble if sending “spam” emails, or emails that the recipient has not agreed to receive. So, make sure—before you send emails to a list—that the list has opted in to receive information from your company, or you are marketing via a legitimate 3rd party list that people have opted into.

2) Know your audience and be respectful.

Email marketing should offer something of interest and value to your recipient. An invitation to an event, an offer to receive a product discount, complimentary information, or a discount, something that you know they would like and respond well to. Make the offer (also referred to as the “Call to Action”) clear so it’s obvious what you are asking of your recipients.

3) Write engaging subject lines.

The best subject lines are the ones that get people to open the email, assuming you aren’t being deceptive or sneaky with your subject line. Some folks say short is the way to go; others opt for longer subject lines. I love subject lines that are questions. Good questions draw in the reader. A subject line like: “Want to know the #1 mistake every company makes?” would grab my attention. Or, make the subject line super direct: for example, when offering content, make the subject about what someone can take away from reading this email, e.g.,  “The top 5 mistakes every company makes”.

4) Determine the sender.

If you don’t have your own database of email recipients, or your company is new and no one knows it, you should consider using a 3rd party list with a well-known name that allows sponsors (advertisers) to send a marketing email to their list. (You don’t get access to the list; you send your email to the company that sends it out on your behalf.) Think of it this way:  if The New York Times is sending out your email to their subscriber list (who have agreed to receive 3rd party information), then the likelihood of the recipient opening that email is much higher than if the sender is “No Name Co.”. Also, think about whether the email sender should have a person’s name vs. the company name. Different approaches work based on what the content is.

5) Keep mobile in mind, always.

Many people are viewing emails on their mobile devices and that trend is only growing. For those reading emails on their SmartPhones, you need to keep the snippet text (aka preview text or preview header) relevant—it’s the blurb that summarizes what the email is about and is viewable after the subject line. If the subject line is interesting and the snippet text is relevant, you will get more opens. Another thing to keep in mind: if your emails include graphics, you want the graphics to download quickly; this is super important with mobile users.

6) Timing in life is everything, right?

It used to be that companies wouldn’t send marketing emails after work hours or on weekends. Now that people are viewing their emails on their devices around the clock, you may cut through the clutter in the evening or on weekends. Test your send times to see when you get the best open rates.

7) Last, but most importantly, think like your customers and prospects.

If you wouldn’t like, read, or respond positively to an email that you are about to send to your list, it’s likely your recipients won’t either. (This ties back to the “be respectful” comment above.) Be clear about what you are asking of them. Make it easy for them to learn more about your business, your offerings, and most of all, make it really easy for them to buy from you. After all, that’s what marketing is all about.

Interested in learning more about email marketing? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

5 Tips for Writing for Mobile
How to Write Strategic Calls to Action

The Importance of Implementation for SEO Success

Implementation is one of the toughest challenges any SEO consultant faces. That’s because making many of the key changes we recommend takes an investment of time, resources and planning from the client.

The most successful client engagements develop from a true partnership among teams, including the SEO consultants and account managers working closely with client-side project managers, developers and key stakeholders.

We make customized recommendations based on your product, target audience and marketing goals, and then continue to support you throughout implementation as needed. In some cases, the CRI team can even implement the recommendations for you.

Roadblocks to SEO Implementation

However, as client managers, it’s important for us to understand that it’s not always an easy process.

There are a number of reasons that could prevent clients from implementing SEO recommendations:

  • The CMS may not be as easily customizable as the client team initially believed.
  • There may be a lengthy approval process that recommendations need to go through first.
  • The website may be in line for a redesign and the webmaster is pushing back with making any updates before the refresh launches.

Often, it’s simply a resource issue that puts SEO recommendations on the back-burner.

The Importance of Prioritizing SEO Implementation

While all of these are valid, keep in mind the following:

  • Without making any major updates to the site, you can’t expect the results that you’re trying to accomplish. It’s very important to understand that implementing recommendations is crucial to any SEO program success.
  • It does take time with search engines to register your site’s updates. So, the sooner you implement the SEO recommendations, the sooner you will see a boost in performance.
  • Testing things out can lead to more effective strategy and tactics. What makes paid search so flexible and powerful is the ability to constantly test the ad copy to determine what brings the highest click-through rate at the lowest cost. Of course, organic optimization is completely different and you won’t be able to see the same results in the same timeframe as with a PPC campaign. However, implementing SEO recommendations quickly, monitoring performance and adjusting tactics as needed can significantly boost organic results.

Troubleshooting SEO Challenges

Here at CRI, we perform implementations for a number of clients and have seen great success.

When this method is not possible, educating clients on the importance of SEO implementation, explaining potential results and providing competitive examples help the most.

What helps you to make sure the SEO recommendations get implemented? How do you overcome obstacles on this front if there are limitations as to what can be done?

Interested in learning more about trends and developments with Google? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
What You Need to Know about Google Symptom Search
Make Google Alerts Work for You

What You Need to Know About Google Symptom Search

The search world is buzzing with the release of Google’s newest feature, symptom search. Currently available on mobile devices, this feature provides users with general information and a selection of possible conditions that fit the symptom. The intent is to make it easier for users, and help them “quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.”

What Does This Mean for Organic Search?
Since this feature just rolled out, it is not yet known what the impact is on SEO. For healthcare provider’s websites, this has the potential to be a favorable development.

Consider this: Your child wakes in the morning with stomach pains. Rather than spending time searching through sites laden with medical terminology and driving you to terrifying possibilities, you search in Google for an individual symptom such as “stomach pain” brings up a brief summary of the symptom.Google Symptom Search

Scroll down a little further and you will find the symptom cards with possible conditions that may be causing this. As you look through the cards, you hit upon one that fits your child’s complaints. Clicking upon the symptom card brings up the health conditions knowledge graph with more detailed information, followed by organic search results related to the condition.

Narrowing things down in this manner can lead a user more quickly to a physician or hospital website where treatment is offered. While this change does affect the visibility of organic search results, it provides a better user experience which has been a primary focus for Google over the past year or more. For website owners, the positive aspect is that users who follow this path to arrive at their website will be more qualified and engaged.

Filtering out individuals conducting top of funnel research (think students writing a research paper), visitors arriving at your site after completing a symptom search are more likely to request an appointment or contact you for additional information.

For individual websites, there is not much that can be done to influence the symptom search results. However, ensuring that your site ranks well through use of structured markup, relevant content, and clear user paths to make an appointment and gather additional information will help attract these qualified visitors.

Interested in learning more in SEO trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
How Does the New Google Ad Layout Impact SEO?
SEO Tactics that work for Pharmaceutical Companies

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

Make Google Alerts Work for You

What is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results—such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research—that match the user’s search term(s). It’s a really powerful tool to keep track of trends, interesting topics, or anything really new that appears on the web.

What Triggers a Google Alert?

A google alert is triggered when something is indexed by Google on a given subject or topic. Here are a few ways that happens:

  • New blog posts are published.
  • Significant content changes are made on a website and are detected and re-indexed in Google.
  • A notable outside website publishes a blog post, writes a review or mentions the topic in an article.
  • Press Release issued.

How can Google Alerts Help Your Business?

  • Find Out Who’s Talking About Your Company. One of the best uses for Google Alerts is to keep track of how often people are talking about your Company on the web and what they’re saying.
  • Track your products. Set Google Alerts to gather information on your products to stay informed on how your product is perceive in the marketplace. See who is reading and sharing your information.
  • Stay ahead of your competition. Set alerts for businesses that have similar offerings. It’s good to know what is happening in the industry so you can stay fresh and current.
  • Timely Client Research. Track activity for your top ten or twenty existing clients. This can give you valuable insight into what they’re up to, and also provide you with reasons to contact them.
  • Follow a Trending Story, or Get a Snapshot of Events On Your Own Time Google Alerts lets you take control of the news stream and get up to speed on a specific topic when you’re ready. Tweak the search terms for the issue you’re following, and change the “How Often” to once a day for a simple digest.

More information on how to set up Google Alerts can be found here: https://support.google.com/alerts

Hopefully you find these tips useful so you can begin to fully leverage this amazing resource as another tool in your company’s marketing toolbox.

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

Why Brand Advocacy Matters

As the digital landscape continues to develop into 2017, expectations of brand communications has evolved beyond single channels of discovery and consumption. Digital marketers are constantly seeking ways to optimize content, digital ads, and media channels to cut through the clutter, generate buzz, drive engagement, and influence actions. In fact, one-time viral marketing campaigns are quickly losing efficacy due to short-term engagement and lack of depth for ongoing social evolution. To survive in an era where the customer is king, brands must go beyond counting video views and focus on a much more important goal: turning customers into brand advocates.

What is a brand advocate?

Brand advocates are satisfied customers who believe in a brand’s products and services so much that they promote it to friends, colleagues, and peers. The also share brand content on social networks and protect brand reputations with positive perceptions. That’s not to mention they do it for free. A recent study by Influitive and Heinz Marketing suggests that:

  • 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral
  • 82% of sales leaders say referrals are key to sales success
  • 78% of marketers said that referrals have a higher conversion rate compared to any other type of lead.

Buyers trust recommendations from people they know, and in the digital age, word of mouth interactions are readily available through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and review forums. A strong referral program that builds emotional and behavioral connections with customers will not only help increase profit for brands, but will also drive higher customer lifetime value.

Most Trusted Sources for B2B Buyers

How can businesses leverage brand advocacy?

Businesses that develop strong brand advocacy or referral programs, spend less on advertising and create higher engagement through user-generated content. To be effective, brands should identify the specific reasons behind why people share content and then amplify them. For instance, Jonah Berger, an expert on word of mouth and social influence, recommends crafting content that makes consumers feel like exclusive insiders and in-the-know. In other words, consumers like to share information that makes them look good. Another way to motivate people to talk about a brand is creating memorable, immersive experiences for consumers. When interactivity is executed well, immersive experiences tap into consumer emotions, resulting in a stronger opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. After all, emotions drive people to take action. Lastly, businesses should promote and celebrate their brand advocates to show they are valued and appreciated. When consumers know they are valued, they become attached to the brand through trust.

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.