Many sales leaders want their reps to be focused on one thing: closing business. And they fear that change – no matter how small or beneficial – will be a distraction for their sellers.
But there’s a downside to that line of thinking. Sometimes, the longer you wait to implement a new sales technology or strategy, the more energy, time, and resources you waste on the wrong activities.
Social selling is no exception. In today’s customer-driven sales landscape, there is an opportunity cost when you wait to implement social selling. Here are four of the biggest opportunity costs.
Cost #1: Missed Sales Opportunities and Revenue
At one point, sellers were in control. Buyers had limited information about vendors. To find out more, they had to interact with the company through sales and service staff.
With the advent of search engines and social media, things changed. Nowadays, buyers are in control, and they are using social media to make purchasing decisions. 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors (IDC).
What’s more, buyers who use social media have larger budgets – typically 84% larger than the budgets of people who do not use social media (IDC).
If your sales reps aren’t using social media, your competitors will. And your competitors will be the ones who are winning those large deals – sourced from social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Cost #2: Strained Relationship with Marketing
How heavily does your sales team rely on marketing for lead generation? Tension builds when your sales team’s default attitude is, “Yo, marketing, where are my leads?”
While marketing is invaluable to your business, the fact remains: sales teams need to generate their own leads. SiriusDecisions has found that marketing departments typically source between 10% and 45% of your deals, depending on the deal size.
In other words, sales reps need to generate between 55% and 90% of their own deals. That number sounds daunting, especially if your team is dependent on marketing. But sales teams that embrace social selling can generate their own leads. That’s how social sellers outperform those who use traditional methods like cold outreach.
In fact, social sellers realize 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting techniques like cold calling.
Cost #3: Upset Buyers
To generate leads, many sales teams buy lists, make cold calls, and write cold emails.
Without a doubt, this is an inefficient and ineffective way to spend your time and money. HubSpot estimates that it would take 6,264 cold calls to close four deals. Ugh.
But that’s not all. Cold outreach leaves a bad taste in buyers’ mouths. LinkedIn’s research has shown that cold selling leaves buyers with a bad impression of both the seller and the seller’s company.
Bad impressions are never good for business. To avoid that misstep, sellers can leverage their social networks, which allow them to build business relationships that are personalized, welcoming, and relevant.
Cost #4: Losing on Price
Because of the new, well-informed buyer, sales teams face an interesting set of choices.
Sales teams can keep the status quo and wait for buyers to come to them. These educated buyers bring their research to the negotiating table. They know how much your competitors are charging. And as a result, most deals are won or lost based on price – and price alone. Sales teams are not able to get into the deals early enough to influence the customer’s evaluation criteria.
Instead of being complacent, sellers can proactively seek out buyers before their buyers raise their hands. Sales Benchmark Index’s research shows that proactive sales teams rarely compete on price and often win deals with zero competition because “they got in early.” Plus, sales leaders who encourage proactive selling are 56% more likely to make their number.
Most companies, as you can imagine, wait. Less than half (43%) of all companies proactively seek out buyers. If you can find and help your buyers earlier on, chances are good that you will have less competition and win more deals – without making drastic pricing concessions. Social networks are a great way to do that.
Stop Putting Social Selling Off
By delaying social selling, you’re costing your company time, energy, and revenue. You’re missing sales opportunities. You’re competing on price. You’re losing.
It’s time to update your sales playbook and meet your modern buyers where they are. And chances are good they’re on social.
Want to Learn More about Social Selling?
Check out the Executive Guide to Social Selling. It discusses how leaders can shape the social transformation within your organization.
Visual storytelling is hot right now.
But for some, creating visuals for the web can be intimidating. Do I need an expensive camera? Do I need Photoshop? Do I need to outsource the creation of all my graphics?
Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio answer those questions (and more) in their book, The Power of Visual Storytelling. It’s the definitive primer on all things visual, and it’s a must-read for those who are trying to stand out on social media.
Here’s what you need to know about the book…
In their book, Ekaterina and Jessica address the following quesitons:
- What are the different types of visual assets (e.g. photographs, user-generated images, photo collages, infographics, memes, etc.)?
- How do I design eye-catching digital assets?
- How do I tell a different story on each of the social media platforms? Specifically, the duo gives tips for producing content on:
- How does visual storytelling relate to key business objectives?
- How do I conduct an audit of my visual content?
- What is real-time marketing? And what is the role of visual in real-time marketing?
To give you the flavor of the book, here are a few quotes:
1. “Being human means feeling more like a friend than a corporate entity. A friend has a personality, values the relationship, shares experiences, and understands when to listen, when to be serious, and when to have fun.”
2. “Research indicates that consumer interest in visual content isn’t necessarily just a preference; it’s actually easier and faster for humans to process.”
3. “Different cultures, and even different demographics, will process symbols differently.”
4. “Gone are the days when it’s okay to spray the same piece of content across multiple platforms.”
5. “Each social network has its own character and audience.”
6. Pinterest: “It’s all about translation: finding ways to appeal to Pinterest users, even if you don’t think your brand is a natural fit for the site.“
7. YouTube: “Add value and entertain. People come to YouTube to be entertained. They don’t want sales pitches.”
8. Facebook: “Don’t worry too much about using professional photographs–a photo taken on a smartphone by a fan can sometimes tell a better story than a professional marketing shoot.”
For more tips, you’ll have to buy the book. Sorry, we can’t give away all of Ekaterina and Jessica’s secrets. 🙂
Choosing material for books is hard. Authors of how-to books cannot include everything in one tome, lest they want to write something as long as War and Peace.
I get that. But if I had my druthers, I would have wanted more information on the following subjects:
1. Visual storytelling beyond social media channels
The book focuses primarily on telling stories on social media channels. While social media is all the rage right now, it is important to recognize that marketers tell stories on other platforms.
For instance, I would have welcomed some tips on using visual assets in blogging.
Or what about some tips for website design?
As Ekaterina and Jessica point out in their book, “46.1% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company.”
Given that stat, it would have been nice to hear more about the ways in which visual storytelling can enhance a website’s credibility.
2. Cultural differences
Ekaterina and Jessica acknowledge that different cultures process visual symbols differently. However, the authors do not delve into these cultural differences in their book. If readers are interested in this topic, they will have to do some research on their own.
To supplement the book, I did some research on color theory. As you can imagine, the meaning of colors vary from culture to culture and from demographic to demographic. To give you an example, let’s look at the color orange.
According to the Wagner Color Research Institute, orange denotes cheapness.
As the story goes, Wagner told Wienerschnitzel, a hot dog chain, to add orange to their logo. The color would convey the message that the chain sold inexpensive hot dogs. After the change in color, Wienerschnitzel reported a 7% increase in sales.
But here’s the thing: The Wagner Color Research Institute was focused on American audiences. Try telling a practitioner of Hinduism in India that orange is associated with cheapness. Their sacred color is orange. Or what about the Dutch? The color of the Dutch royal family is orange. For them, orange is not a sign of cheapness.
So, as we design visual assets, we have to know our audience. The way I perceive a color may not be the same way that you perceive a color, for what is one person’s shoddiness is another person’s sacred.
The Power of Visual Storytelling is not a book for professional photographers or for experienced social media marketers. But I would recommend the book for:
- Those who are beginning to incorporate visual assets into their marketing mix.
- Those who are trying to create visual content cheaply.
- Those who are looking for image applications to play with–Several chapters include suggested apps.
- Those who are trying to determine which social media platforms are best for their companies.
- Those who love marketing stats–Each chapter is replete with numbers.
Buy It Here
You can buy the paperback version of The Power of Visual Storytelling on Amazon, as well as the Kindle version.
If you’ve read The Power of Visual Storytelling, leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you thought of the book.
In 2015, many sales teams realized that they needed to adjust to the modern buyer. As a result, interest in sales enablement exploded, and all signs indicate that sales enablement programs will continue to boom in 2016.
As more sales enablement teams pop up and as initiatives mature, sales teams face a new set of challenges. One of those involves content. How should sales teams use content? How should sales and marketing teams store content? What types of content will resonate with buyers?
The Aberdeen Group tackled those questions in a recent report. Here’s what they found.
How Best-in-Class Companies Align Sales and Marketing around Content
Salespeople are competitive. They’re always looking for ways to get an edge on their competitors, and traditionally, that competitive edge has involved refinement. Refine the company’s messaging. Then refine it again. Then refine yet again.
But sometimes, the answer isn’t refinement. Sometimes, there are other ways that sales and marketing teams need to adapt. Here are three ways that the best companies are beating out their competitors:
1. They create a central content library
Salespeople spend a lot of time looking for pre-approved content. Sirius Decisions has found that 11% of content is hard to find, and 17% of content is unknown to users. By creating a central content library, you can avoid that problem. According to the Aberdeen Group’s research, 73% of best-in-class organizations have a central library.
2. They choose a sales enablement platform that gives marketing visibility into how salespeople are using content.
At top-performing companies, marketers have more visibility into how sales uses content. Why does this make a difference? When marketers know how sales uses content, marketers can improve. They can identify topics that interest sales teams, and they can create and curate more of it. They can decide if they need to organize their content better or consider new ways to inform salespeople about new content.
3. They don’t forget about their customers.
Marketers and sales enablement teams have two audiences for their content. Internally, they need to cater to their salespeople. Externally, they need to cater to their customers. And they need to understand how each of those audiences is engaging with the content.
A mature sales enablement program will connect the dots like this:
In other words, marketing, sales, and the customer are closely aligned.
Want to Learn More Secrets about Sales Enablement Content?
67% of best-in-class organizations report that they support their sales enablement efforts with content. Find out how by downloading this report.
Employee advocacy is the topic du jour among social media experts. It’s a great way to increase brand reach, build brand awareness, and have conversations with target buyers. That said, encouraging employees to participate in an advocacy program comes with challenges.
Altimeter’s report on the state of employee advocacy sheds light on some of those challenges. Take a look at this chart.
Content has proven itself to be one of the hardest challenges for advocacy programs. In this post, we’ll take a look at why content is so important for empowering employees on social, why it’s so hard to get right, and how companies can overcome this challenge.
Why Is Content Essential for Employee Advocacy?
Social media runs on content. Sharing articles, posting images, and curating videos are the basis for the majority of our interactions online – be they personal or professional. If your employee advocates don’t have a consistent stream of content to share, they won’t be effective advocates for your company because they will have nothing to post.
Plain and simple, advocates need content, and they need lots of it to stay interested. Take another look at the chart from the Altimeter Group. After content, motivating employees and program adoption are the second and third biggest challenges. At first, they may seem like separate issues, but when you think about it, content, motivation, and adoption go hand-in-hand.
Without compelling content, employees will not join your advocacy program. And if they do join, they won’t continue to be a part of the program – unless they have enough content.
Starting an employee advocacy program without content is like starting a basketball team without basketballs or hoops. Sure, you might find some people who are interested because basketball sounds fun. But unless you start playing the game, they won’t stick around for long.
Seems pretty logical, right? But for many company’s, it’s harder than you’d think.
Why Is Content So Hard for Employee Advocacy Programs?
Part of the problem stems from the way social media experts define and think about employee advocacy. The logic goes something like this:
Question: What is the employee advocating for?
Answer: The company.
Question: What kind of content do they need to promote the company?
Answer: Marketing and recruiting materials!
When this kind of thinking is in play, problems arise. At first, newly minted advocates are eager to share marketing and recruiting materials. After all, they like your company and want to see it succeed.
But over time, the advocates’ interest wanes. They grow tired of being conduits for brand materials. They want more agency in the process. They want their needs to be met. They want to share content that reflects their career interests. They want to use social media to achieve their professional goals. And let’s face it. Depending on their department, advocates’ goals may not be exactly the same as the goals of the marketing and HR teams.
So, how can companies resolve this problem? They have to alter how they think about employee advocacy. They have to stop treating employees like a channel for the dissemination of marketing and recruiting materials.
Instead, companies must remember why advocates have joined the program. Sure, they are part of the advocacy program because they believe in your company and its mission, but they also believe in the power of social media to do their jobs.
So, to run an advocacy program means getting to know the employees, their roles in your company, and their goals. Then, it means showing them how social media can help them achieve those goals.
Curating the Right Content
So, how do you do it? How do you find the right content mix? To get a better grasp on this subject, we surveyed 400 U.S. employees in August 2015. These employees were either managers or senior managers, and they earned at least $75,000 per year.
Here’s what we found: While employees want to share company content, they don’t want to be corporate parrots. They also want to share third-party content on social media. 55% of respondents indicated that sharing a mix of third-party and company-created content is best for social media.
When we asked respondents to indicate their content preferences more forthrightly, the most common answer was related to third-party content. 33.7% of respondents indicated that they want to share news articles about their industry on social media.
In other words, employees want to look knowledgeable on social. They don’t want to be corporate shills. So, if you want employees to continue to advocate for your company, balance the company-related content with content from around the web, especially industry news. And when you’re looking for an employee advocacy solution, ask them how they can help you solve your content problem.
Want to Learn More about Employee Advocacy?
Check out our ebook Employee Advocacy 101 to start planning your strategy today!
Image credit: © 2014 Matthew Inman, via The Oatmeal.
Quantify it. Forget about hunches, intuition or the “thud” factor. Forget how you feel about a headline, a piece of content, or what’s worked wonders in the past. You can even forget about the latest buzzwords like thought-leadership, brand-awareness and name-recognition. Just like political punditry was shown to be grossly inferior to data analytics in the most recent presidential election, when it comes to marketing strategy, anything short of quantitative metrics backed up by the data of how your tactics are performing is simply unacceptable in today’s economy.
But what, exactly, is it that you need? What should you be measuring, and how should you be measuring it? The simple key — believe it or not — is to track the engagement of everything you post or share, and to track how your audience is engaging with it.
Did you post a piece of content to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Great! But how did it perform? Likes, retweets and recommendations are great, but did that “reach” actually accomplish anything?
Far more valuable is information like:
- Clickthroughs/pageviews: how many people actually clicked through to the content item you wanted them to view?
- Time spent reading: if you linked to a 2000-word piece and your typical reader left after 7 seconds, that isn’t exactly what you’d define as “success,” is it?
- Interactions/engagement: did someone contact you after reading something you posted? Did you get a comment, a question, a lead or a conversion out of it? And if so, how many and how good were they?
The simplest thing you can do to get started is to track all of your URLs that you send out, whether through an automated or a manual process. If you can collect the data on where your traffic is coming from and how that audience is behaving, that can inform where the best ROI on your marketing efforts is going to come from. Once you have this information, you can decide where to concentrate your efforts, how to choose the best type of content and messaging to engage your audience, how to personalize and increase your odds of conversion, and use those tactics to help grow your business. It’s an iterative process, where you’re constantly refining your strategy as the world and market changes, and you’re adapting in real-time to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers.
Take those first steps:
- Define what metrics are important to you and your goals.
- Track all of your posts quantitatively for engagement and user behavior.
- Measure what the return on your investment is (and that return can come in many different forms, not just sales conversions).
- Then, use that information to inform your strategies moving forward.
Without doing those things, you’ll be stabbing in the dark. Sure, every once in a while you might hit something, but in today’s world, we have the technology to turn on the lights. And once everything becomes illuminated, you’ll never accept going back to the dark ages again.
What’s one of the biggest challenges that sales reps face? There’s just too much sales technology. According to Accenture’s research on the impact of digital on sales teams, 59% of respondents believe that their company uses too many sales tools. [Tweet this stat!]
Sales reps are tired of bouncing between applications and windows in order to do their jobs. They want a more streamlined workflow. They need a more consolidated sales technology ecosystem. That’s why we’re adding a proprietary content management system to our social selling platform.
In our conversations with our customers over the past months, one thing has stood out: high quality content drives revenue. Yet, sales enablement and marketing teams have not found a smart way to deliver content to their sales reps.
At many companies, assets get lost in emails and intranets, and when reps finally find the asset they’re looking for, they have to use a separate application to send the blog post, video, or infographic to their buyers. Before they know it, they’ve wasted 30 minutes of their lives, looking for one piece of content.
With Trapit’s CMS, that’s no longer a problem. Our platform streamlines the social selling process from end to end. Whether it’s a company-created asset or a piece of third-party content from our library, sales reps will always have access to what they need, when they need it. And they’ll be able to share it wherever they need to.
Here are a few of the features that Trapit customers can look forward to:
- Native content upload – manage owned assets and discover new content within the same system
- Support for broad range of file types – upload PDF, video, audio, images, Tweets, and more
- One-step publishing – select the content, schedule it, and hit “send”
- File hosting – upload and store owned content within CMS
- Batch or manual upload – drop owned content into the CMS with the click of a button, either in batches or one-by-one
- Flexible organization – group content by topic, product, team, media type, and customer stage
- Multi-lingual content library – updated content library now includes vetted sources in Spanish and French
- Analytics on engagement – measure engagement with content that sales reps and employees share. Generate reports in aggregate, by team, by individual, or by network
Want to learn more? If you’re interested in trying out the Trapit platform and exploring how we can help transform your employee advocacy and social selling programs, contact us. We’d love to help!
Storytelling has endured as a form of communication since before humans invented the written word. Throughout the centuries telling stories was a way to educate and preserve. It informed vital political, religious, cultural and family matters. Without stories, history, values, events, even a good laugh would have been lost.
Stories have been told not only in the narrative sense but also through art – think about the stories told in caves, pottery, fabrics, coffins, and other artifacts. Imagine just how personalized and relevant these stories must have been.
We learn through stories – we remember facts better when there is a context in which they are presented. Most of us recall vividly stories we heard as children. Fairytales, nursery rhymes, and fables that our families shared with us – these all had purpose. They became something that we believe in – something that we go back to time and time again – something that, in some cases, built our core values and eternal truths.
How do we bridge our love of storytelling to today’s reality? Humans have been telling stories in different ways throughout history. With new inventions we are able to reach more broadly and with new ways to communicate. From a picture on a wall to a digitally created application – the spectrum is broad and the results through time are staggering. The Internet has provided us an ability to know about stories that we otherwise might never see. But therein lies the challenge. How do you discover stories that really matter to you?
Stories are extremely relevant in how we think about marketing our companies, our products, or ourselves. Many brand executives would argue that it is the story not the features/function of the product that captures the audience and keeps them connected. The ability for a brand to present itself in context with something that resonates with the target audience is essential to drive a trusted relationship. This ability to provide a context around the brand and educate your audience is what differentiates a great marketing strategy from a good one. We are all hearing the buzz about “content marketing”. So what kind of content should be marketed?
Let’s step back for a moment and think about this marketer’s dilemma. How does the marketer educate while driving loyalty, capturing the audience with something that really matters to them? Making it personal – something that we say “oh yeah – I understand – I get it – I need it – I will buy it.” And then ensure that they come back time and time again – because they believe and they are loyal.
Are brands now becoming publishers? Do brands need to publish contextual stories so that they educate and delight their customers? Few would argue that this is probably true – so now the question becomes how to deliver the “promise of value” in a compelling story AND make it personal.
Hypothetically let’s take a stab –
Let’s say a given soap is marketed as a great moisturizer for women’s skin – leaving skin soft, subtle and clean. The story line is about a woman who used the soap and received great results. Perhaps this is enough for the consumer to decide to trust the soap based on the personal results of the woman who tells her story…
But what if not only could one hear her story – but also could also start to learn about what else is important regarding women’s skincare, health concerns, cosmetics, new medical procedures and the like. What if the brand could begin to publish this type of relevant, personal and real-time content to the potential customer?
This example can be applied to almost anything.
The answer to making this a reality can be quite simple. How about creating an application that provides the stories, relevant, personalized, customized, real-time and mobile – that seems like a great place to start. And in order to do this well it is important to have access to great content – content that is original and of high quality. And much of the content that might apply could be hidden somewhere inside your organization. Perhaps somewhere in those databases that are very hard to navigate.
Or leverage your website and house cool stories that delight and educate your audience and capture mindshare. Remembering that it is important that the stories be pertinent and available – allowing your customer to read the stories where and when they want to – this too will create value – why – because you are making it simple for them.
At Trapit we provide an easy and comprehensive way to support marketers in becoming a trusted advisor, educator, and storyteller. We are supporting publishers and marketers with an ability to access our 100K plus vetted sources, integrate in their own sources, and provide a real time, highly personalized, and mobile experience. With Trapit you can capture your audience with something that really matters to them.
Come learn to tell stories again – visit us at www.trapit.com
Can you imagine the success your company could realize if the marketing team could tap into the minds of their prospects and know exactly what content would be compelling, interesting, and important to them? And not only understanding what is relevant, but having the knowledge to know precisely where to publish it based on this unique and individualized understanding of your prospects preferences. It would be as if you became the great Oracle, who gained omniscience through an ability to speak with the gods. Nothing short of miraculous.
Unfortunately, unlike the Oracle, we do not have the power of insight, so as mere mortals we are left to figure this out on our own. The good news is that we do have resources available to us whereby we can analyze buyer behavior and study the results of our activities associated with executing our content marketing plans.
However, content marketing is still a challenge. It is difficult to know what and how much to share with your constituency because
- Organizations cannot create enough content to meet the demands of their audience
- There is so much information on the internet that it is difficult to find content that is unique, original, and relevant
- There are so many outlets where content can be shared it is hard to know which one(s) to use
- We need to make the content work for us so that we can develop awareness, leads, permission, trust and thought/authority leadership. Or why bother?
There is one rule of thumb that we must follow and that is “one size does not fit all.” Marketers know that each channel they leverage to reach their prospects and customers requires a unique approach. It is essential to understand what will resonate with your audience based on their expectation.
For example, Facebook is a great social media network. It is known for a social experience associated with lifestyle, storytelling, and emotional sharing. As marketers we need to think about the right content to share on Facebook so that our audience “likes” what we publish. Consider sharing information about your company culture, fun events, emotional and human stories–the kind of stuff that makes you human. Everyone loves a great story – so tell them on Facebook.
LinkedIn on the other hand is more of a business network. Here our audience finds people and information that has relevance to their business. The content for LinkedIn needs to address top-of-mind topics that individuals or groups require to gain understanding and deeper appreciation for trends, issues, or news that assist them in being better informed to perform their job. The content needs to be highly relevant and thought-provoking especially if you are going to leverage “groups” of people with like characteristics. It is our job to ensure that our content triggers engagement and creates a loyal following.
The Buying Cycle
Another consideration is to choose the right content based on where our prospects are in their buying cycle. It is really important to match content appropriately along the pipeline journey. At the top of the funnel, the information needs to be educational and more macro in nature thereby eliciting further curiosity so that your audience becomes engaged and desires more. Consider white papers that inform while telling a story, trend analysis that educates thereby helping unleash needs or pains that perhaps are latent/unknown.
In the middle of the funnel your audience is seeking content that is geared toward helping your buyer differentiate your product from the competitors so the right purchasing decision can be made. The content needs to be more focused on your product including webinars, product case studies, data sheets, buyers’ guides, analyst information, and any content that reaffirms that your solution is best of breed.
And finally at the bottom of the funnel the content is all about your customers. Customer success stories, references, those gems that make your new buyer want to be part of your community… the community of creative, successful and clever people who purchased your product and are thriving in their decision.
I think you get the point: One size does not fit all.
The dilemma now is how to build a content strategy that can meet the many demands of your audience. Here at Trapit, we believe in content strategies that blend the appropriate balance of created and curated content. In order to address the challenges articulated above, curated content is a must. Organization cannot create enough compelling and relevant content, period. Curated content is no longer a nice to have – it is a must have.
And with Trapit not only can you easily discover content you never knew existed, but you can teach Trapit what is relevant and be assured that the content you get back will in fact be highly personalized and compelling thereby meeting your prospects expectations. You will have an abundance of riches in the content Trapit discovers. Simply pick and chose, and let Trapit do the rest. With the push of a button you will publish the appropriate content to the appropriate channels – each one receiving that which meets their expectation. You no longer have to worry about how you will deliver the right content to your audience with Trapit will almost become an Oracle in your own time.
Throughout the month of June we are giving our potential customers a 30-day free trial. We would love to help you transcend the challenge of knowing what content to deliver to your customers.
Image Source: KNILT
Over the past few months here on the Trapit Blog, one recurring theme that has really sparked my interest has been the evolving trend of businesses using content to market their brand image and more specifically, how this angle of industry is growing increasingly creative in using content to engage with targeted audiences. Sports franchises in particular have been an active participant in this field of marketing, always trying to establish a deeper connection with its fan base, players, and organization. As I sit down to write on this year’s NBA Media Day, it has me thinking about how much more sports teams can do to get the most out of their content, and how 2013 should be the season for brands to step their game up.
The Modern Fan Experience
I began thinking a lot about sports and brand image this past month as I watched my hometown franchise make a controversial business move that seemed to rub the city the wrong way. After holding strong for 18 years, the Portland Trail Blazers sold the naming rights of their spirited Rose Garden Arena to a health care conglomerate, giving the building a new bland moniker – the Moda Center. Microsoft co-founder, and multi-billionaire owner Paul Allen called the move a chance to “enhance virtually every aspect of the fan experience.” It had me thinking, what could possibly be accomplished that will truly have an impact on this so-called fan experience? It is already known that the organization plans to redesign the arena’s iconic water fountain, make improvements to traffic flow for public transit, and update concessions in the arena’s concourse with hip local food options, but I visualize a greater opportunity to hammer home an authentically improved fan experience. It all starts with content and the right way to deliver it to a fanbase.
Damming the Content Flow
The Trail Blazers need to begin visualizing “fan experience” as both a home and a road game. How do fans sustain that buzz shared between the players and the organization as they push through those post-game arena exits? Rather than focus on what unfolds inside the arena, the Trail Blazers need to realize where their weaknesses are most exposed–the fan experience established through brand-centric content engagement. I’m talking about enhancing the process of absorbing all of the brand’s content on the web and curating the best of the best, distributing it to one solitary landing page for fans to conveniently set up shop. Youtube highlight reels, the top fan blog posts and tweets, Instagram shots, Vine clips, team Pinterest boards, local columnist opinion pieces and beat writer inside analysis, the brand’s team store, press releases on charity events and arena announcements – the list goes on. It’s tiresome to chase all of this content around the web, never really knowing if we’ve found it all or consumed enough of it to feel satisfied.
Curation is King in a Tablet Takeover Era
Sure, it’s a fair assessment that the Trail Blazers already provide enough content on the fast-moving internet through a plethora of social media accounts and a web-based official site. They actually possess a firm grasp on social media strategies and understand what fans want out of their Trail Blazers content. However, there is a disconnect in understanding how fans are choosing to consume their content in today’s evolving digital age. When the night is winding down, the common fan wants to kick their feet up to digest content, and it’s an undeniable trend that fans are choosing to do so on a tablet or on smartphones, but less and less from a desktop computer. In fact, over a third of American adults (age 18+) now own a tablet – a number that nearly doubled from a year ago. This number rises even higher to 56% when surveying households earning at least $75,000 per year, perhaps a demographic with a little more pocket change to contribute fan allegiance with ticket stubs. The point is, fans today desire tablet-friendly content, yet the vast majority of sports brands, including the Trail Blazers, have not chosen to build apps that serve as a convenient one-stop-shop fan experience. Instead, the data remains spread all over the web and frankly it gets exhausting trying to keep up as a multitasking monster to get the most out of your team’s happenings. It is making our attention spans bounce off the walls, and giving high-quality content a shelf life far shorter than it deserves. We need a place to call home away from the arena – an idea of curated stomping grounds where we can drop by to become more knowledgeable and well-rounded as fans.
Expanding Universe of Data, a Good and a Bad Thing
Here at Trapit, we often hear the phrase “90% of the world’s content was created in the past two years.” It is a statistic that is difficult to wrap your brain around, but serves as a daunting truth for the direction the internet is heading. This increasing overflow of data–far too much of it being wasteful clutter–calls for brands to strive for better curation of the quality content that fans desire to sustain a close connection with their teams. With brands using tools like Trapit’s Content Curation Center, this process becomes vastly simplified. Its smart engine implements both RSS connectivity and sophisticated artificial intelligence that puts in the work to discover who or what else on the web–from fans, to bloggers, to columnists–is talking Trail Blazers basketball. It strips down the tediousness of search and SEO hierarchy, and provides more time and ease for the human element to focus on getting creative juices flowing. Perhaps what the CCC does best is give curators the ability to fine-tune this wildly growing internet and weed out the expanding volume of junk data that is making the hunt for quality content more and more infuriating for fans to navigate.
When the Trail Blazers take the court this fall season, certainly the fan experience will be improved. I’m sure the concourse will be modernized, the food will be tastier and perhaps the team will tally up a few more in the win column, however; the moment I head home I know there will still be a void in my fandom that will continue to be unfulfilled. I hope that one day, I will be able to open my iPad and click a button to enjoy anything and everything Trail Blazers content. It will be there, archived for when I am away, so I can come back and feel like I am still in control of the pace in which the internet moves. Until that happens, a well-rounded fan experience will continue falling short of what the modern fan expects out of its sports brand.
Famed classical music composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990) once stated, “to stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself; incredible and inconceivable.” Though Copland referred at that time to public support of the arts, to censorship and the literal policing of music, he was touching on the nerve of a subject vital to its contemporary presentation and production. The web brought with it a slew of changes to the arts, and to music specifically; namely changes to its “flow.” In a March 2010 Gizmodo editorial, Adam Frucci argues that the spread of new artists and songs has become increasingly consumer-controlled:
This new form of distribution has had a few effects. Some claim that the “democratization” in music acquisition and discovery has actually enabled and emboldened record labels to focus more on concert sales, or on ad revenue from streaming content. Others maintain that the industry is on the verge of extinction, showing their frailty by suing the pants off of certain cloud music sites. These aforementioned effects address the financial and legal questions, certainly, but they do little to illuminate perhaps the most relevant change here: that is, with so much music being put out–after all, “you can just throw it up on Youtube”–how do consumers know where to look? How can they make sense of what’s good and what isn’t?
Let’s take Lil B as an example, primarily because he is a really good one. Here’s a hip-hop artist who is no stranger to the industry. He first achieved mainstream success at 16, rapping in The Pack, a hyphy group hailing from Oakland, California. Following that, he more or less fell off the map, seemingly not to be seen again. At some point in 2010, he began recording music again, this time by himself. To date, he’s recorded more than 1500 songs, all of which he’s promoted exclusively through Myspace and YouTube. These videos and songs developed something of a cult following, leading his recent signing by none other than P. Diddy.
Thus Lil B’s cosmic reinvention has both countered and served the ends of the music industry. On one hand, Lil B’s unique style of branding and endless use of the word “swag” has ignitied a flurry of anomalistic and controversial rappers. He’s managed to spark a rebirth of rap, one that clashes (in classic postmodern form) against subgenre lines that were once strictly drawn. In that spirit, however, some of his early adopters might feel duped or sold out by his albums being eventually sold in Walmart.
At this point, though, can we really say that it’s truly one way or the other? As long as there’s money to be made, the music industry will continue to market it, despite the viral success of all the Lil B’s of the world. Now that discovery has become less limited by the expansion of alternative labels, music streaming, et cetera, the industry likely has to adapt to an audience that will get to know its favorite artists long before a major label has the chance to pounce on them. Ipso facto, if the music industry knows what’s good for it, it will retain the aspects of the artist that made them interesting or appealing in the first place. Seemingly, it’s worked that way. Horrorcore shock-rapper Tyler the Creator just won an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist, and in iconoclastic fashion, Lil B opted to entitle his debut full-length LP as “I’m Gay (I’m Happy).”
So where do consumers look for music? I’d start by saying that part of what has motivated me to investigate subjects on Trapit like Juggaloes, Pop Stars, and (needless to say) Hip-Hop is that I get pretty lost in the blogosphere. Although a lot of news comes through on pop music, the music on the fringes is often left out. We won’t find as many blogs devoted to Juggaloes as for pop stars or rappers, but they’re out there; sometimes right under our nose, in local papers or major news outlets. Even as an avid seeker of new hip-hop, I’m not able to keep up with the sheer number of blogs out there. So you can imagine the issue of attempting to find something like Juggaloes without knowing which sources to look in. We may have blogs that we prefer or trust over others, but in truth, it’s always good to get to know new ones. And it’s only through empowering the consumer to discover more music that the field will be levelled for quality artists whose careers would have never taken flight prior to the birth and expansion of the web.
I’ve said enough at this point. Now check out this “Sick New Song.” Or this rapper from Portland, Maine. Or this awesome piece on Robert Glasper.