Why You Should be Leveraging Data-Driven Insights in Your Marketing Strategy 

In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, one concept has risen to prominence—data-driven marketing. In an era where every click, view, and interaction generates a data point, businesses have a goldmine of information at their fingertips. Gone are the days of relying solely on intuition. Today, successful marketing is rooted in the insights gleaned from data analytics. The transition from intuition-based decision-making to a data-driven approach marks a paradigm shift in how we perceive and execute marketing strategies.

In this blog, we will delve into the importance of data in shaping marketing strategies, exploring the tools and techniques that transform raw data into actionable insights for better decision-making.

What is Data-Driven Marketing?

Data-driven marketing goes beyond the mere collection of data—it involves using that data to inform and guide every aspect of a marketing strategy. It’s about harnessing the power of information to understand customer behavior, preferences, and trends. 

Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of effective marketing. Data provides a window into the minds of your customers, allowing you to tailor your strategies to meet their needs. 

Overview of Data Collection Tools

The first step in data-driven marketing is collecting relevant and meaningful data. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of tools designed to make this process efficient. From Google Analytics to social media insights, businesses have access to a plethora of platforms that capture valuable data points.

Amidst the sea of available data, the challenge lies in capturing the right information without drowning in the details. Smart businesses employ techniques that align with their goals, ensuring that data collection is purposeful and not just a numbers game.

Consider how e-commerce giant, Amazon, utilizes data collection tools to monitor user behavior on their platform. By analyzing which products customers view the most, how long they stay on the site, and at what point they abandon their carts, Amazon optimizes its user experience to boost conversions.

Interpreting the Goldmine: Techniques for Data Analysis

Collecting data is only half the battle; the real magic happens in the interpretation phase. Understanding the story behind the numbers requires a keen analytical eye. For instance, a spike in website traffic may indicate successful marketing efforts, but a closer look might reveal that the majority of visitors are bouncing off after a few seconds.

Fortunately, the market offers a variety of tools to aid in data interpretation. From sophisticated analytics platforms to user-friendly dashboards, businesses can choose the tools that align with their expertise and requirements.

Let’s examine the case of Travel Trek, a travel agency that analyzed customer feedback and booking patterns to refine its marketing approach. By identifying popular destinations and understanding customer preferences, Travel Trek was able to craft personalized marketing campaigns that saw a notable increase in bookings and customer satisfaction.

Driving Decision-Making: Applying Data Insights

In the age of personalization, understanding your audience on a granular level is paramount. Data-driven insights enable businesses to identify and target specific audience segments, ensuring that marketing efforts resonate with the right people.

However, not all marketing channels are created equal. Data-driven insights empower businesses to allocate resources effectively by identifying the most fruitful channels for reaching their target audience. This strategic approach maximizes ROI and minimizes wasted efforts.

Challenges and Solutions in Data-Driven Marketing

Implementing a data-driven marketing strategy isn’t without its challenges. Businesses often face hurdles such as data privacy concerns, the need for skilled analysts, and the sheer volume of available data.

Overcoming these challenges requires a proactive approach. From ensuring compliance with data regulations to investing in employee training, businesses can navigate the complexities of data-driven marketing with careful planning and execution.

As technology continues to advance, so too will the capabilities of data-driven marketing. Emerging trends include the integration of artificial intelligence for predictive analytics, the rise of customer journey mapping, and the increasing importance of real-time data for agile decision-making.


The era of data-driven marketing is upon us, offering businesses unprecedented insights and opportunities. By understanding the importance of data analytics, exploring effective data gathering techniques, and applying insights to drive decision-making, businesses can not only survive but thrive in a competitive market. The future belongs to those who harness the power of data to create meaningful and personalized experiences for their audience. Embrace the data revolution and let your marketing strategies evolve with the insights that lie within the numbers.

If you’re interested in harnessing the power of customer data to inform your marketing strategy but unsure where to start, O’Keeffe PR can help. Contact us for a complimentary marketing analysis. 

The 8 Golden Rules for Effective PR Crisis Management

In today’s age of social media and instant communication, businesses, organizations, and individuals must be prepared to face a crisis at any time. Whether it is a product recall, a data breach, or a social media scandal, a crisis can damage a company’s reputation and have long-lasting effects on its success. Therefore, it is essential to have a well-planned crisis management strategy in place to handle the situation effectively.

The following are some of the golden rules of effective PR crisis management that every organization should follow:

Rule 1: Be Prepared

The first and most crucial rule of crisis management is to be prepared. Anticipate potential crises and create a detailed crisis management plan. The plan should outline how to respond to different types of crises, who will be responsible for what tasks, and the communication channels that will be used to deliver messages to the public.

Rule 2: Act Fast

When a crisis occurs, time is of the essence. The longer you wait to respond, the more damage can be done to your reputation. Therefore, it is essential to act quickly and decisively. As soon as a crisis occurs, assemble your crisis management team and execute your crisis management plan.

Rule 3: Be Transparent

In a crisis situation, it is essential to be transparent with the public. This means being honest about what happened, what you are doing to address the situation, and what steps you are taking to prevent it from happening again. Transparency builds trust and credibility with the public and can help to minimize the damage to your reputation.

Rule 4: Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is critical during a crisis situation. Ensure that your crisis management team is trained in crisis communication and has the skills necessary to deliver clear, concise, and accurate messages to the public. Use the appropriate communication channels, such as social media, press releases, and interviews, to reach your target audience.

Rule 5: Monitor and Evaluate

During a crisis, it is essential to monitor the situation closely and evaluate the effectiveness of your crisis management plan. This includes tracking social media and news coverage, monitoring public sentiment, and evaluating the effectiveness of your communication strategies. This will help you to make necessary adjustments to your plan and improve your crisis management strategy for the future.

Rule 6: Show Empathy

In a crisis situation, it is important to show empathy for those affected by the crisis. This means acknowledging their concerns and providing support and assistance where possible. Empathy can help to build trust and credibility with the public and can minimize the damage to your reputation.

Rule 7: Learn from the Crisis

Conduct a post-crisis analysis to identify what went well and what could be improved in your crisis management plan. Use this information to update your plan and ensure that you are better prepared for any future crises.

Rule 8: Be Proactive

While it is impossible to prevent every crisis, organizations can take proactive steps to minimize the likelihood of a crisis occurring. This includes conducting regular risk assessments, implementing strict quality control measures, and investing in employee training and development. By being proactive, organizations can reduce the impact of a crisis and demonstrate their commitment to the safety and well-being of their stakeholders.


Effective PR crisis management is critical for any organization that wants to protect its reputation and maintain the trust of its stakeholders. By following the golden rules of crisis management, including being prepared, acting fast, being transparent, communicating effectively, monitoring and evaluating, showing empathy, learning from the crisis, and being proactive, organizations can minimize the damage caused by a crisis and emerge stronger and more resilient in the future.

At O’Keeffe PR, one of our guiding principles is being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to PR crisis management. 

By working with us, you can rest assured that your organization will be well-prepared for any potential crisis and that we will be there to guide you every step of the way.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business!

Dan O’Keeffe Featured on “Side Hustle City” Podcast

Dan O’Keeffe, CEO & President of O’Keeffe PR, appeared on an episode of “Side Hustle City,” a podcast that shares experiences, provides inspiration and lessons learned with listeners who are working hard to achieve their dreams.

In this episode, Dan shares his perspective on how you can become a successful marketer and grow your business, even if it’s a side hustle.

Communicating Through a Crisis

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. The coronavirus may be the most global and universal crisis business leaders have had to face in their careers, but it is far from the only one. Cyber attacks, the #MeToo movement, and account fraud scandals have forced many businesses – both big and small into crisis management mode.

In times like these you can see the that there are companies that are ready to communicate effectively during a crisis, and those that aren’t.

A crisis doesn’t have to be cataclysmic, like communicating with employees and customers during a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Maybe it’s a workplace accident that highlights your safety protocols. Or a failure to deliver hundreds of products on time to various customers.

Managing Communications in a Crisis

Managing a company through a crisis is about relaying essential information to the right people, efficiently and effectively.

A crisis really multiplies when it catches the attention of the media. Whether that media is social, traditional or otherwise, it can put your problems under an unwanted spotlight.

Planning is Key

The point is to be ready, and to have a plan. Think about the ways in which your company might be susceptible to an unfortunate event. Then map out what might happen, what the ramifications might be and what the public might see or hear. In today’s fast-moving news world, you can expect that news of your crisis will spread quickly so you want to be in control of the message.

Three Basic Rules

The basic rules for crisis communications are simple:

  • Tell the truth.
  • Stay focused on those affected by the crisis.
  • Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know.

Think about the people who need to know what’s happening. People in your company deserve to know first.

Even if your company has managed to avoid the spotlight, you’ll want to be ready for a sudden increase in attention.

In all of these conversations, your goal is to be consistent. Work with one set of facts and statements and return to them often.

Navigating To the End

The goal is to offer as much information as you can, to do it quickly, and to the right audiences. This simplified plan helps you with the other job: solving the problem that created the crisis in the first place.

Finally, know when you need some expert help. When you’re faced with a communications challenge, contact us.

O’Keeffe PR launches Brand Steward Services; led by former P&G NA Regulatory and Technical External Relations Manager

New service helps organizations evaluate product and business risks and develop action plans to mitigate risks; advises on interaction with government agencies.

O’Keeffe PR, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based content marketing and public relations agency, announces that Rick Hackman, former leader of The Procter & Gamble Company’s (PG) North America Regulatory and Technical External Relations Organization, has joined the O’Keeffe team to launch its Brand Steward Services division.

Brand Steward Services leverages Hackman’s 33 years of experience at P&G to advise companies and organizations in diverse industries on how to identify and assess business risks related to products and services, how to create plans to mitigate risks, and how to interact with government agencies in managing risk and crisis situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Enhanced by Hackman’s expertise, O’Keeffe can guide organizations in addressing top threats to their brands, training key personnel, providing scenario planning, and developing respected external stakeholders who will stand by an organization in times of need. 

“The potential for damage to brands seems to lurk around every corner in today’s hyper-social and visualized world. Rick brings an unparalleled mix of experience, wisdom and clarity that can help brands navigate and overcome obstacles that otherwise could sink an organization’s future,” said Dan O’Keeffe, O’Keeffe PR’s CEO and founder. “We’re excited to have Rick join our team and now raise the bar globally for quality and longevity to enterprises and brands.”

During his time with P&G, Hackman led key interactions with critical regulatory agencies, developed trusting relationships with key external stakeholders to build and protect the business, and led crisis preparedness and business continuity planning (BCP) for P&G’s North American organization. Hackman was instrumental in helping to resolve important product safety issues and challenges across a variety of P&G brands. At O’Keeffe, Hackman will help organizations evaluate their product and business risks, develop action plans to mitigate identified risks and develop business-building relationships with professional and technical thought leaders.

Hackman joining O’Keeffe broadens O’Keeffe’s services to include:

  • Guidance for new product launches
  • Reputation management
  • Interactions with government agencies
  • Crisis preparedness and management
  • Risk communication
  • Stakeholder outreach and development
  • Scenario planning
  • Corporate governance
  • Product stewardship
  • Advisory board development
  • Media Relations and internal communications.

About O’Keeffe PR

O’Keeffe PR is a public relations and content marketing agency focused on helping its clients tell the right story, on the right channel, to the right audience, at the right time. Founded nearly two decades, O’Keeffe specializes in both B2C and B2B outreach, with clients ranging from technical organizations to nonprofits to retail, restaurants, and CPG organizations. From media placements to social media engagement, O’Keeffe delivers outcomes that extend beyond the limitations of traditional PR methods and works to become a seamless extension of its clients’ marketing teams. With the right mix of strategy and outreach, O’Keeffe can drive awareness and create opportunities for prospects to convert to customers and even advocates. O’Keeffe aims to be the best partner in storytelling by providing best-in-class strategy and services to its clients.

50 Years of Content, Fact-Finding and The Internet

Dan reflects on 50 years of the internet and discusses how it has changed storytelling and news over the years.

Two amazing things happened this year that have caused me to reflect heavily on my life and career as a public relations professional, content marketer and storyteller. I turned 50, and the Internet turned 50. Why then do I just keep getting grayer and grayer every year while the Internet appears to get more and more colorful by the day?

Reflecting on 50 Years of the Internet

My self-reflection kicked off Saturday night, October 26, at an annual event held by The Mercantile Library, a historic library in downtown Cincinnati that promotes history, reading, enrichment and community engagement. The event was the Library’s 32nd annual Niehoff Lecture, which featured Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward (one of the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Watergate story on June 19, 1972). As the guest of my good friend and fellow former journalist Carolyn Pione Micheli, I had the great fortune to meet Mr. Woodward. That evening, a dream I never thought would come true was realized.

Back to the Beginning

Growing up, I remember studying about Watergate, which led to Richard Nixon’s resignation from office. Of course, I also was mesmerized as I watched Robert Redford portray Woodward on the silver screen in 1976’s All the President’s Men. I knew that Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting was at the center of this national scandal, and as I grew older and began pursuing an education and career in journalism, I came to better appreciate the process the two journalists pursued to uncover the facts, apart from rumor and partisan politics. I was inspired to pursue and then obtain a degree in print Journalism.

I emphasize “print” for a reason. Because as I was making my way as a newspaper and magazine reporter, editor and eventually public relations consultant, a game-changing technology was slowly percolating within the halls of academia and government that in the mid-90s would begin to turn the world of journalism on its head. On October 29, 1969, just a few months after I entered the world, the Internet was born. And just three days after I met a bona fide living legend of journalism, the Internet celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The irony of these two occurrences happening around me within days of each other is staggering. The person who epitomizes investigative print journalism in its most ethical and objective form stands contrasted in my mind against the very platform that enables so many to share information in its most raw and unverified form, causing chaotic firestorms of misinformation and rhetoric on a daily basis.

Amidst the chaos, I believe we must look hard for meaning. Since the beginning of human existence, information has been communicated and shared as stories. Over the eons, the vehicles by which that information was shared has evolved and advanced with one consistent objective at play—to communicate facts. Yet, today, the facts are relegated to a supporting role in telling stories, and those trusted to convey the news that we trust to inform our decisions are…well…you and me. We no longer depend on newspapers and magazines or the once modern mediums of television and radio to deliver our news. We seek it out on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, on blogs and subscription news feeds, and of course the websites belonging to those news outlets that used to only exist in print and on our air waves. And each one of these outlets and platforms is competing for clicks, impressions and unique users. The rush was always on to break a story, but never until the facts were collected and verified. Today, we’re simply in a rush to be first, as he or she who gets the most visits wins.

What Does the Future Look Like?

No telling what the future looks like, especially as technology continues to advance. My hope is that we can find a compromise between our voracious appetites for information and minute-by-minute updates to that information and the ability of professional storytellers to once again be afforded the time and resources to tell their stories with all of the facts in tow. Until that time, we must embrace one of the many pros the Internet affords us today—the ability to research for ourselves the facts, and the boundless ways in which we can tell our stories.

Looking back on this past year, especially with respect to these recent milestones I’ve just shared, I see 2019 as neither the end to my first 50 years nor a new beginning. Rather, it’s like the fold in the newspaper I still read every morning. In Journalism school, having a story appear on the front page was never enough. It had to appear “above the fold.” That was the money shot, because…in theory…that story always got read first. The funny thing is that it didn’t really matter where a story landed on the front page, because it was only the beginning, and often was only a couple of paragraphs in length. You still had to open the paper to get to the meat of the story and digest all of the details. That’s where you decided your opinion of the story and those in it.

After 50 Years of the Internet — What Now?

For my next 50 years, I will continue to follow Mr. Woodward’s example of doing the hard work, resisting the urge to be first, and focusing on getting it right…whatever “it” happens to be in my case. I’ll use the Internet as a resource for achieving my objective, not as the objective. I’ll search for the truth, and do my best to encourage those around me to do the same. And as a storyteller, I’ll strive to shed light on all sides of those stories, and hopefully encourage those after me to do the same.

All PR is Good PR! Unless You’re Chernobyl.

Dan discusses some important lessons for preparing and managing a crisis.

If you’ve not yet binged HBO’s miniseries, “Chernobyl,” about the Russian nuclear reactor explosion on April 26, 1986 and its tragic aftermath, that’s probably best. You’ll sleep better. It’s not exactly an uplifting or inspiring tale. It’s also a fictionalized telling of the actual disaster and the attempts the Soviet Union took to cover it up, so inaccuracies and untruths abound. But, if you appreciate stellar acting and a compelling story, and you have five and a half hours to kill, then sit down and get ready to learn how not to manage and communicate a crisis.

Can a Crisis Happen to You?

The first mistake the Soviet Union made, years before the Chernobyl disaster, was not admitting that a crisis could happen at Chernobyl…or anywhere in the Soviet Union, for that matter. Such an occurrence simply did not align with the Soviet Union’s doctrine or dogma. So, while they did conduct safety tests on the reactor, they never prepared fully for an actual crisis. And they certainly never crafted a communications plan for such an event, because crises didn’t happen in the Soviet Union. So, why would they need a communications plan? Thus, when the reactor did explode, they weren’t sure how to respond to it, they downplayed its severity, and they tried to cover it up, which ultimately put the entire European continent in peril and over the years cost nearly 200,000 lives, according to Greenpeace estimates.

Here’s the thing… It’s not a matter of if your organization will experience a crisis. It’s a matter of when. Accepting that reality allows your organization to prepare for that reality. I could talk for hours about all the possible crises that could occur and the many steps you could take in managing and communicating any one of those crises. But we don’t have time for that here. So, here are the basics you need to keep in mind in preparing for and managing a crisis.

Is It Really a Crisis? Will You Need PR Crisis Management?

Chernobyl obviously was a crisis. It was never a question. Those in charge simply would not admit it to themselves, and they and thousands of others suffered for it. So, lesson 1: If you clearly are in crisis, admit it to yourself so you can take action.

However, not every misstep, mistake or accident results in a true crisis. More times than I can count, I have received calls from clients panicking about a comment left on one of their social media channels that is critical of their business. They worry that the comment will impact their business negatively, either by spawning similar comments or by finding its way onto the evening news, and they’ll want to immediately issue a statement to the media or via their online channels. In most of those situations, though, the comment simply died on the vine. Either no one noticed it, no one was moved by it, or no one believed it. Every case is unique, but typically I’ll caution to not panic and simply monitor the comment to determine if a response is merited. By responding prematurely, you can actually create the real crisis.

Regardless of the situation at hand, the seemingly most minor of incidents can erupt into full-blown crises. Your ability to deaden or lessen the impact of a crisis may or may not be limited; you will not know the answer to that question until you’re in the midst of the event. So, act now…before the incident occurs. What’s the old saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”


Don’t wait for a crisis to hit. Create a plan “now” for when a crisis does occur. And don’t panic about the plan itself. PR Crisis Management & Communications plans can be several pages long or one page long. It all depends on the size of your organization, the type of organization, your familiarity and experience with the media, the proprietary nature of your organization’s data, etc. and so on. The silver lining here is that there are numerous crisis plans that you can find online or through specialists who focus on helping organizations like yours plan for and manage crises. Some simple and quick online research can help you find the resources to meet your needs. Lesson 2: Plan now, not later.

Breathe (assuming the air isn’t radioactive)

When a “potential” crisis does occur, before you do anything else, breathe. Then, assess the situation and determine if you and your organization are truly in crisis. Don’t panic prematurely. Lesson 3: Take a breath, and assess.

Work Your Plan

But when that initial incident does devolve into a legitimate crisis…and the panic sets in, there are steps you can and should take to mitigate both the crisis’s impact on your business and your personal life. First and foremost… Lesson 4: Consult your plan, and work your plan.

Know Your Story

It might seem contrary to the task at hand, but some crisis communications situations can present opportunities for you to tell your story…if you’re prepared. Prior to any crises occurring, everyone in the organization should know the company’s basic story and should be able to retell it in an instant. Write down the key talking points you would want anyone (customer, employee, media, etc.) to know about your organization. Share them throughout your organization. Make them a part of your organization’s mission, vision and values. Then, when communicating a crisis to your various audiences, including the media, you’ll be able to incorporate the appropriate elements of your story into your message to help gain empathy. Lesson 5: Stay on message.

Just the Facts, Please

The deeper you dig your hole, the more difficult it will be to climb out of it. The same logic applies to your crisis situation. Many organizations will be tempted to talk around the facts, make promises they can’t keep, make statements neither they nor the media can verify, or simply duck behind closed doors until the crisis passes. In all of these cases, resist the urge. Beginning immediately, collect all the facts. Quickly, calmly and collectedly, talk with all members of your organization who might have pertinent information to shed light on the situation. Obtain as much perspective as you can without raising alarm. Then assess and determine the actual facts about the situation. From these facts, you can create your narrative that you might need to share with your respective stakeholders. And do not embellish beyond the facts. You do not want to have to walk back your statements later. Lesson 6: Stick to the facts, and only the facts.

Know Your Audience

Organizations often make assumptions about whom they need to inform of a crisis, which typically results in them neglecting important audiences who often could help their cases. Audiences can include: employees, customers/clients, investors, vendors and strategic partners, regulating bodies, the public and the media. Organizations also often fail to modify their messaging per audience, as different groups will have different concerns. This is especially true in regard to media. Keep in mind that not only must you be mindful of how to share information with the media, but you should remember that media are professionals with personal lives similar to yours and mine; they have a job, they have families, they have personal commitments, and they have beliefs and opinions. Understanding this can help you gain empathy from them. Lesson 7: Identify and target each audience.

Know Your Channels

Prior to your crisis, within your plan, you should have already identified which channels—website, social media, news releases, text, company email, etc.—you will use to disseminate your message, depending on which audiences you’re trying to reach. Each channel offers opportunities and challenges that will be critical to successful pr crisis management and communication of your crisis. If you’re unsure of the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, consult a professional who can guide you in that assessment and usage strategy. Lesson 8: Communicate the right message via the right channel.

“No Comment”

What is the absolute worst comment you can give in response to a crisis? “No comment.” Doing so implies guilt, makes you sound insincere and uncaring, and connotes that you are avoiding the subject in the hopes that it will go away. It will not, so don’t try it. You will only make the situation worse. Lesson 9: “No comment” is NOT an option.

PR Crisis Management in a Nutshell

If you follow these basic tenets for managing and communicating a crisis, you and your organization stand a much greater chance of surviving a crisis. You may not escape unscathed. In fact, most rarely do. But it is much more likely that you will avoid a meltdown.

Don’t be Chernobyl.

The Buying Behavior

Humans are hard-wired to buy, and our decision to buy is driven and exhibited by a necessary behavior.

Are you speaking to your audience?

As marketers, we survive and thrive on what we’re able to help our organizations sell. Thus, for many of us throughout our careers, our sales counterparts…and sometimes we…are schooled in one sales technique after another.

Solution selling, for instance, is one popular methodology, which is driven by the idea that sales’ job is to help solve problems we believe are plaguing our consumers. Another method is Target Account Selling, which is focused primarily on converting smaller customers into larger customers.

These and most of the myriad other sales techniques can be effective, and each has its place. However, none are foolproof and often rely on both Sales and Marketing, making educated assumptions about their prospective customers. Each methodology can benefit from incorporating one science-driven reality that many of us still neglect. “Consumers buy because they find a product or service appealing to them, and they believe the information they receive about that product or service.” This means that organizations trying to sell their wares must find consumers who are naturally inclined to want their products or services or who, due to some external circumstance, are currently looking for the product or service being offered.

The Learning Pathway

The concept is simple. Humans are hard-wired to buy, and our decision to buy is driven and exhibited by a necessary behavior. Psychology Today describes this behavior as the Learning Pathway, and breaks it down as follows:

“A customer must learn about a product or service and relate it to their specific situation. There are three learning domains—Cognitive, Constructivist, and Experiential—that guide our buying behavior. The buying journey begins with the Cognitive domain, which is the intake and assimilation of new information.”

In 21st Century marketing terms, “new information” can be referred to as “content.” This is where marketers figure into the sales mix. We fill the role of researcher, compiler, translator, and distributor (or conveyor) of new information in the form of the content we create. This means we need to arm our salespeople with the most current information translated into the most compelling content delivered using the most innovative and measurable tools.

According to a 2016 Demand Gen Report, 47% of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative. Translation: nearly half of the consumers felt the need to research before buying. Moreover, where did they go for this content? In today’s world, their content channels could include blogs, traditional media, infographics, Twitter, videos, email, whitepapers, presentations… Shall I go on?

That same Demand Gen Report also noted that 96% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers want content with more input from industry leaders. Translation: buyers want to know what those they respect say about the products or services they’re considering purchasing.

Marketing automation leader HubSpot reported in a 2016 survey that 62% of consumers prefer to consult a search engine to learn more about a product rather than talk to a salesperson. Only 29% prefer a sales pitch.

Furthermore, a 2017 study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that content marketing gets three times more sales leads than paid search advertising. Translation: quality content published regularly motivates consumers to buy exponentially more often than traditional paid search campaigns. This statistic flies in the face of what we marketers have been taught for more than a decade of 21st-century marketing.

Focus on the Message

So, what does all of this mean to you? Well, if you’re trying to sell something, you need to focus as much, if not more, attention on how you market your product or service as you do on how you sell. Also, while your core business might be the manufacture and sale of widgets, you also need to consider yourself a publisher of information about the widgets you sell. The more accurate and compelling information you can create (or repurpose from and attribute to other sources) and distribute, the more opportunity consumers will have to find your content and the more motivated they will be to buy from you.

As we come to understand the buying behavior better, we must be willing to change our practices when it comes to selling and marketing. Fortunately, at no other time in history has it been more accessible, quicker, and more convenient to produce and distribute content. We can take advantage of today’s technology to disseminate information about our brands, products, and services. We can control where, when, and how we find our prospects and target our information. So we can take comfort in knowing one proven truth about behaviors: they can be trained.

More Than a Brand

Have you ever thought of a brand as not just representing a product, but an entire industry?

I grew up in the Midwest, where asking for a “coke” meant more than just a Coca-Cola. In Dayton, Ohio, a coke, at least in the 70s and 80s before the onslaught of alternative sodas, energy drinks and flavored waters, could have been any one of the half dozen soft drinks that existed in my sugared-water world. The Coca-Cola brand had risen far above its productized state. To my family, friends and me, it “was” soft drinks. When asked for a “coke,” the salesperson would ask, “Which do you want? We have Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper.” That reality, for Coca-Cola at least, must have given new meaning to the tagline, “Have a Coke and a smile.”

Driven to Succeed

What brought this bit of nostalgia to mind for me was a recent article I read about The Michelin Man. The article explained how Michelin first came up with The Michelin Man in 1894. One of the Michelin brothers noticed that the pile of bicycle tires displayed on the Michelin stand at the Lyon Universal Exposition in France looked like a man made of tires. (By the way, tires then were a pale white color, prior to the black die being added to make them the color more familiar to us today.) The company adopted the likeness, and in 1898 featured The Michelin Man in his first poster. Over the years, The Michelin Man evolved as tastes changed, and of course became synonymous with automobile tires, rather than bicycles. Believe it or not, initially, The Michelin Man drank and smoked cigars—two traits that would never pass muster today. But that’s the thing about a strong brand…it’s not afraid of change, and it knows when and how to remain relevant. Thanks to that self-awareness, along with the company’s ability to expand into a global supplier of quality tires, Michelin largely defined the tire industry, and later the automotive industry. The proudly plump mascot even transcended automotive to represent travel, fine dining and all things top quality for consumers around the world. Michelin accomplished this by understanding their industry and their customers (“Hey! People like to get in their cars and go out for a nice dinner. So, let’s create a list of the world’s finest dining establishments. And we’ll call it the Michelin Guide!), which drove them to not only innovate, but to build a personality around a character that began as a simple pile of tires thrown together for an industry trade show.

The Search is Over

Of course, we can’t discuss brands that outshine their competitors without acknowledging the brightest bulb in the room—Google. When we need to find a product, need a quick answer to our Tuesday night trivia (while the other teams aren’t looking, of course) or just have to know what people are saying about us, we google it. We’ve become so used to using Google for our searches that we’ve turned the monstrous noun into a verb. My computer’s spell check feature doesn’t even bother to point out that I’m spelling “google” with a lower-case “g.” After all, when’s the last time you heard someone say, “I’m going to search on Yahoo!” or “I’ll Bing it?” Just doesn’t happen anymore. Did it ever, really?

More Than Just a Noun

Perhaps that’s the key…to defy the rules and norms of grammar. Choose a brand name that functions equally well as both noun and verb, and could even get by as an adjective on occasion. Then, within your content marketing strategy, position your brand name to fill in for a commonly used and more generic-sounding word or colloquialism. When’s the last time you sneezed, and someone said, “Here, have a Kleenex,” and handed you a box of tissues that could have been any one of a number of alternatively branded facial tissues?

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

Please excuse the Ricky Bobby quote, but it’s true. Or, at least, it used to be true. Those brands that were first to market in their industries, or at least made a better first impression within their markets, became the default generic brands for their industries. (Kimberly-Clark invented facial tissues in 1924 and brought them to market as Kleenex. But Ginger ale, Root beer, and Dr. Pepper all preceded Coca-Cola as soft drinks. And Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1839 but died 40 years before his name would be attached to the famous tire. It wasn’t until 1888 that John Boyd Dunlap became the “second” inventor of the pneumatic tire.)

Today, as marketers, we continually hear how times are different, and to succeed we must think differently, act more quickly, find new ways to attract and speak to our customers, and leverage technology to help us differentiate ourselves. That all is true, but it’s not so different from how our predecessors did it a century or more ago. They identified opportunities, and they embraced them. As times changed, their brands evolved with it, making sure to make all the relevant changes while retaining those key traits that continue to position them as leaders in their respective industry.

While luck always plays a role to some degree, we must keep our eyes and ears open for opportunity, and grasp that opportunity to define not just ourselves to our customers, but define ourselves as the brand in our market.

Today’s Snowstorms Could Launch Tomorrow’s Best Marketers

My little part of the country recently received our second major snowfall of the winter season. Not so little, actually. Millions of people were impacted by the storm that raced across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England portions of the United States in mid- and late January. Thousands were left without power and stranded on snow-swept roads. And more is undoubtedly on its way.

As I peered out my living room window to admire the beauty of that snowfall and to take inventory of any challenges it might present to my neighbors and me as we prepared to start our days, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing from that picturesque scene…. My buddies and me, maybe 12, 13 or 14, marching valiantly through the freshly fallen snow, shovels in hand, ready to save the days of those stranded in their driveways or on the roads.

Where were those hardy young entrepreneurs, layered in their winter gear with determination in their steps and dollar signs in their eyes?

Yep! I was lost in a moment of nostalgia. The sad truth is that the scene I longed to see is nothing more than a fond memory. I’ll wager a guess that, instead of knocking on doors or racing to their phones to call their friends and organize their crew of winter snow removal warriors, the kids on the particular Sunday morning I have in mind raced to their tablets and game consoles to wage war in pixelated worlds free from the frigid air and wet roads of that day’s reality.

“What a shame,” I thought to myself. Yes, I was mourning the loss of youthful drive and work ethic that seems to have been a 20th-century phenomenon. However, more so, I found myself shaking my head as a marketer. In that same moment, it dawned on me just how much opportunity today’s kids were missing to make some honest bucks. Because in today’s world, they wouldn’t have to patrol their neighborhoods looking for cars to dig out and sidewalks to clear. From their same tablets and smartphones, they and their parents could put the word out via their social media channels, email lists, text groups and instant messengers that they were available for hire. Man, the money my buddies and I could have made during those January blizzards if only we had had Facebook Live, Snapchat or Nextdoor!

Nextdoor bills itself as “the world’s largest and fastest growing social network for neighborhoods.” (I could have said that about the evening-long sessions of Red Light, Green Light my friends and I played up and down our street growing up.) However, times have changed. According to its website, Nextdoor is now active in nine countries, four of which (France, Italy, Spain and Australia) joined its ranks just in 2018.

I’ve been a member of Nextdoor for more than five years. I didn’t use the app very often in my previous neighborhood, primarily because I already knew many of my neighbors and knew where and how to reach the local services I needed. However, when my wife and I moved to our current neighborhood two and a half years ago, I was the new kid on the block and had to start from scratch. Our first full summer, I needed help in ridding our lawn of moles. I went to Nextdoor for help. I posted my need, and within minutes received recommendations. I hired a service based in my general area, and he delivered. By delivered, I mean he caught six moles on my property in three months and advised me on how to keep them away. Moments ago, I went to Nextdoor again to search on snow removal for my neighborhood and found about a half-dozen options, mostly private citizens simply offering up their shovels and snow blowers, either free of charge or to make some walking around money (for when the snow is removed). Of course, my page also filled immediately with roughly a dozen ads for landscaping and snow removal companies.

For safe measure, I visited Facebook and searched on “snow removal services near me.” I received more results than I had time to review, some as recent as just hours earlier and some as old as 2012. Those listings also included videos showing snow removal capabilities.

I even tried Craigslist for my geographic location. I was more amazed by what I found here than on Nextdoor. I saw 10 listings for snow removal of some kind posted within just three days of our impending storm, many of which appeared to be no more sophisticated than individuals offering their services and plows. A few featured photos of a tractor or cleared parking lots.

I’ll take this moment to revisit my childhood. Before I accepted my first “real” job as a teenager, I spent a summer walking my neighborhood asking if I could mow lawns for any of my neighbors. Within a couple of weeks, I had a half dozen or more clients…enough to the point that I had to buy an appointment book to track my customers and my billings. I was in business. I should add that by this time, I was now living in Florida, where the lawn-mowing business lasted nearly all year. I made enough money to keep me in movies, fast food, gas, and car washes.

My point is that if I had had today’s technology, I would have saved time knocking on doors, and instead would have had customers coming to me, especially when they compared my “neighborhood teen with his dad’s lawnmower” rates to those of established landscaping companies.

One last thing: every day, we see or hear stories about young kids who are making millions on YouTube playing with toys or video games because they’re viewed by millions of other kids their age and younger who then know what “stuff” they want their parents to buy them. These child “influencers” are reaping the rewards of the technology the rest of us take for granted. I’m not recommending that each of us launch a YouTube channel or Instagram page for our children so they can start paying for their college and our retirement before they’re out of training wheels. I’m merely suggesting that we leverage the technology they already love to help them learn the value of hard work…also, targeted marketing.

We should do what we can to instill in our kids the notion that using technology can put real dollars in their piggy banks, rather than racking up Fortnite V-Bucks or World of Warcraft tokens. And the bonus for parents might be shoveled driveways…without a visit to the chiropractor.