Super Bowl Ads: An Emerging Social Conscience

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Another Super Bowl, and naturally, my team lost. After a miserable first half, the mighty Tom Brady, perhaps the best quarterback of all time, finally emerged from Sleepy Hollow and led his team into an overtime win. Atlanta had a fairytale year, a terrific MVP quarterback and a Hall of Fame receiver, but they collapsed.

top of mind marketing_terry bradshaw

We all know that the Super Bowl is only partly about football

It’s also about eating and drinking, a day for partying with your friends. And for brands and anyone who’s interested in marketing, it’s about the advertisers who drop millions of dollars for a chance to get in front of one of the biggest TV audience of the year.

Super Bowl ads are an effort to reach Americans on a fundamental, emotional level

They remind us that football is an American sport and this is our big tradition. We may love our craft beer, but we look forward to those Budweiser ads that break our hearts year after year—those magnificent Clydesdales, the puppies, the young servicemen and women coming home to cheering crowds.

While we can count on the usual awful to mediocre ads, there are generally a few that are really clever and leave us laughing out loud. Melissa McCarthy’s saving the whales/trees/rhinos ad for KIA may have been the best ad of the day. Procter & Gamble’s ad for Fabreze, depicting the halftime stampede to the bathroom, was terrific. But I’m holding out for Terry Bradshaw and the Tide ad. Score another big, big hit for those clever folks at Procter & Gamble. I’ve watched this one a few times now, and I laugh out loud each time. But it’s not just about Bradshaw–there’s a message here: It’s not about what’s on your shirt, but what’s in your heart. Peter Fonda fans loved seeing him back, though this time in a Mercedes rather than riding a chopper, “Still lookin’ good.”

It’s difficult to escape our troubled political climate

Many advertisers took a stand for diversity and inclusiveness. Coke reprised a previous ad, “It’s Beautiful”. When it was first broadcast in 2014, it prompted a backlash because it featured “America the Beautiful” sung first in English and then in Hebrew, Spanish, Keres, Tagalog, Hindi and French—these languages are, after all, spoken by Americans all over the country. Budweiser left the puppies behind this year and chose a serious political message in defense of the immigrants who have braved danger and adversity in pursuit of the American dream.

Standing for something besides the product

Super Bowl ad slots cost an estimated $5 million for 30 seconds, yet many brands are dropping the hardcore pitch in favor of a more socially conscious narrative—and may be taking sides for or against Trump. There’s a push for companies to show their social awareness. KIA’s message, for instance, is about environmental awareness. Aligning with a message shows that companies have a point of view, that they’re aware of the world around them.

Good marketing tells a story

The best ads aren’t just pitching their attributes. They’re telling a story because a story has the power to reach its audience on an emotional level, truly connecting with them. These are the ads—and the products—that we’re likely to remember when we get ready to make a purchase.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

9 Months Later: Microsoft Gives Birth to a New Linkedin

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In June 2016, mighty Microsoft purchased LInkedin, and it spawned a lot of speculation about how the deep pockets and resources of the sotftware giant would affect this social media platform that’s set itself apart by becoming the preferred social media application for professionals.

top of mind marketing_new linkedin

Nine months later, we’re seeing the first big change: a new interface

This wasn’t just a little fluff and powder or a reorganization, it was a major overhaul for Linkedin. And guess what? It looks just like Facebook! The formerly awkward design is now much more intuitive, cleaner, faster and easier to navigate. The biggest change is on the homepage. Just like Facebook, the newsfeed cascades down the middle, just below an entry field for sharing articles, photos, and status updates.

  • There are now 7 core areas on the navigation bar. Home (Your Feed), Messaging, Jobs, Notifications, Me, My Network, and Search. With one simple click on the “more” icon on the navigation bar you can also launch into other experiences that matter to you, like LinkedIn Learning.
  • Richer Feed to keep you informed: Linkedin has fine-tuned your Feed to surface the most relevant content from people and publishers you care most about. We’ll see about this one.
  • Powerful search capability. Click on the Search icon and a field opens up that will give you the option to search people, jobs, companies, groups and schools. Coming soon: ability to search posts.
  • Who’s viewing your content: You can now see who’s reading and engaging with the content you share—by company, job title and location.
  • Suggestions to make your profile stand out: You can more easily see what you need to do to look your best professionally

Stealing from Facebook: blatant and smart

With more than 1.8 billion Facebook users worldwide, Facebook’s interface is the one that people know how to use. Linkedin and Facebook user demographics may vary, but their goals are the same: to get people to connect and share information.

Thoughtful, subtle changes transcend homepage facelift

From a user-experience perspective, it’s clear that Linkedin has thoughtfully implemented these changes. I noticed a subtle difference was when I posted my weekly blog to Linkedin. It was easier to drag and drop an image into the image field, easier to add keywords and publish. I also noticed that I can click on a link on my homepage to view the stats on who’s viewing and commenting on my blogs. In the righthand column, there’s a block that shows who’s been viewing my profile.

Nine months ago there was a lot of speculation about what Microsoft’s investment meant to the social media landscape. This redesign should put to rest to rest any doubts about Microsoft’s desire to own a comprehensive, competitive social network or to suggest that it’s just emulating Facebook. It’s not. And this isn’t a productivity play. The new Linkedin is clearly Microsoft’s attempt to become a bigger player in the social media and digital marketing space.

A little bit boring becomes a little bit cool

Linkedin has always been a little big boring when compared to the newer, flashier social media applications. The new Linkedin is infinitely more accessible with great new features. It may become cool to be using Linkedin. Never underestimate the power of Microsoft.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Snapchat Spectacles: Fun New Tech Toy for 2017?

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Snapchat has launched a Google Glass/GoPro hybrid pair of sunglasses. They cost a fraction of the failed Google Glass—they’re GoPro for your face–use these specs to capture your adventures while on the go.

top of mind marketing_snapchat

How do they work?

They record video snippets that automatically save to your Snapchat Memories, a new feature in Snapchat that stores all your saved snaps, stories and locked content. The sunglasses feature a camera with a 115-degree lens, with the purpose of mimicking how humans actually see. Okay. You do have to be a Snapchat user, but that’s easy. Create an account and get started.

Just tap a button to record

To record a snap (picture or video), tap a button the top left-hand corner of your Snapchat specs. It will automatically stop recording after 10 seconds; tap again to add another 10-second increment. You’ll see an inward-facing light when you’re snapping, and an outward-facing-light will show other that you’re recording and they’re in your field of view.

The problem: Not everyone wants to be included in your Snapchat video

Snapchat is assuming that everyone is going to know about the Snapchat Specs and be on the alert for flashing lights on sunglasses.

Snapchat Spectacles’ batteries will last about a day, and the outward-facing light on the sunglasses will serve as a battery indicator that you can double tap to see how much life is left. Recharge with the charging case and cable that comes with the Spectacles.

Cost and availability

The one-size-fits-all glasses cost $129.99 in your choice of black, teal or coral. Here’s where it gets interesting. Snapchat said it is only making a limited number of Snapchat Spectacles and the company plans to cautiously roll them out.

They didn’t hit the market until November 10; we can apparently buy Snapchat Spectacles only from yellow vending machines called Snapbots that will travel around the country selling them. They started with Snap’s headquarters in California, and each Snapbot will be in place for about a day. Track Snapbots using a map on the Spectacles website to find out when they’ll be in your area. Snapchat Spectacles can only be purchased from these Snapbots, so these become little pop-up stores. (A caveat: every time I go to the website to find a Bot, the Bot is sleeping, so manage your expectations.) You can go to the Snapchat Spectacles website, scan a QR code, add a Spectacles lens to Snapchat and try them on virtually.

Snapchat Spectacles: the hot new tech toy?

They’re fun, slick and affordable. They hit the market later than promised, and sheer logistics translated to the Spectacles’ not reaching critical mass for the holiday shopping frenzy. They’re showing up on eBay with price tags of up to $900. While we have to admire that entrepreneurial spirit, that’s more than 6x its original $129 pricetag. Is it worth it? Depends on whether you need to be the one who has the latest tech toy. If you do, you know that price is irrelevant, and the supply and demand issues—trying to find a snapbot in your neighborhood can be challenging–make them more desirable.

To keep in mind

Snapchat glasses’ videoclips are low-res and jerky–shooting from your eyes means that you’re not steadying the camera with your hands as you would in a traditional filming effort. Also—for those who love recording themselves at every available opportunity–no selfies.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

How to Go Viral on Linkedin

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top-of-mind-marketing_going-viralSmart bloggers and writers are posting their blogs to Linkedin—the premier social platform for B2B users. Previous research revealed that LinkedIn audiences like content that is practical—that which helps them do their jobs or identifies industry trends. If you want your posts to go viral, you’ll have a much better chance if you learn from the research of Buzzsumo, a content marketing website that recently examined 300,000 of 2016’s most shared posts and found that the most commonly used headline phrases of successful posts were:

  • How to
  • You need to
  • Why you should
  • Can learn from
  • The future of

Career advice remains popular

Linkedin users are also looking for jobs, so topics that provide tips on advancing your career, habits to form or mistakes to avoid, and how to be a successful leader or manager also receive a significant number of shares. These are excellent examples of posts that went viral, receiving more than 10K shares.

  • 7 Extremely Common Mistakes That Can Damage Your Reputation (12,700 shares)
  • Will Working Remote Kill Your Career? (11,500 shares)
  • How To Be A Leader When You’re Not The Boss (10,600 shares)

Posts about improving sales also performed well

  • The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen  (39,000 shares). Who wouldn’t click on this one?
  • Two Words Top Sales Reps Never Say (11,900 shares)

Industry trends about content marketing did well

Especially Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016 (10,000 shares)

Write about success: Linkedin users are looking for advice

  • Share advice and make it personal. Whether personal or business focus, make this about you.
  • Focus on work: Will your insights make someone more successful at work? What are things to avoid or what have you learned that you can share?
  • Talk trends and the future: Will your knowledge provide insights into the future of your industry?
  • Stick with what works: If you find a format that works, reuse it.

This analysis focused on the most popular headlines and topics of highly shared content. These aren’t rules; rather, the result of some fairly intensive research with conclusive results about what resonates with LinkedIn audiences. I’ve been posting my blog to Linkedin for a couple of years. When I first began posting, I received a lot of views and comments, but the number has dwindled. I believe it’s more about the sheer number of posts—the competition for eyeballs is huge—than the quality of my blogs.

The takeaway: craft headlines that teach

If you want your posts to be read—and go viral—craft headlines that teach. Use How to, why you should or the future of. Linkedin users are eager to learn.

Time to work on your marketing plan for 2017? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing strategists. 

Holiday Ads: I’ve Never Known Anyone Who’s Gotten a Car for Christmas!

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As someone who’s spent a long career in marketing, I’m still fascinated by advertising. Most of it is shockingly bad, but some of it is somewhere between engaging and brilliant. The stakes are high for retailers this time of year, so advertisers pull out all the stops.

The biggest promotion is for cars


This one continues to astonish me–luxury car dealers seem to think that everyone has the discretionary dollars to be buying cars for their SOs for Christmas. They’re creating the expectation that we’ll wake up on Christmas morning, and a quick look outside will reveal a luxury car with a big red bow on top. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known anyone who’s ever gotten a car for Christmas.

Follow the advice of the ads and you’ll wake up fat and broke, with a hangover

Other notable ads are for alcohol and food. You’re going to be dressed to the nines, attending an endless round of galas and events as well as hosting glamorous parties for which you’ll need expensive wine and gourmet food. Online sales are way up, and we’ve been receiving catalogs from a variety of high-end retailers, including Petrossian, soliciting our dollars for caviar, smoked salmon and other high-end delicacies. Advertising is all about the power of suggestion, so if you follow the recommendations of these retailers, you’ll wake up around the first part of January fat and broke, with a giant hangover. The reality? Real people aren’t celebrating the holidays like the people in these TV ads.

Time to slow down and take care of yourself

Years ago, my family and I decided to donate to our favorite charities in each other’s behalf rather than buying gifts that we didn’t need or like. Besides supporting some very worthy causes, we just eliminated a whole lot of shopping, wrapping and schlepping.

This was our way of getting off the holiday rollercoaster and focusing on the things we loved about the holidays that didn’t cost a dime–holiday music, spending time together, playing a rousing game of Monopoly like we used to do when we were kids.

These days, I try to carry on this spirit of the holidays–contributing to something more important than myself, making time not just for my friends, but for myself.

Time to work on your marketing plan for 2017? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing strategists. 

Four Easy Holiday Content Marketing Tips

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The holidays are here and there’s way too much going on. Shopping, family, parties and trying to squeeze in the things that really matter—getting together with friends and family, taking time for those you love. That’s why we look forward to the holidays every year. But what about the work that keeps piling up on our desks? And you still have a year-end newsletter to publish, along with a blog and social media posts.


Here are a few ideas to expedite your holiday content marketing efforts:

  1. Share your holiday-specific expertise. Depending on your niche, extend your expertise on how to save money during the holiday frenzy. Or suggest ways to stay healthy or provide legal advice that applies during this time of year.
  2. Curate content. Blogging is a great way to update your website with current content, keep your name in front of your audience and provide relevant content, but let’s face it–it takes time to identify a topic, draft and refine your blog, find an image and post everything to your website and social media sites. Instead, think about content curation–the process of gathering, organizing, and sharing great content pieces that you think will resonate with your audience. Add an intro that explains why you like this article and the author and why it’s relevant.
  3. Invite guest bloggers to post to your site. Reach out to colleagues or friends whose writing you admire and ask them for a guest post—provide a few topics that are relevant. They’ll likely love the exposure and you’re going to love taking a week off. Ask them if they’d reciprocate and provide an opportunity for you to share a blog on their websites.
  4. Support a charitable organization. Use your social media or blog to support a charity. This is the time for reaching into your pockets and giving, and there are plenty of worthy organizations that will love a donation and a little extra promotion. Use hashtags to increase exposure and bring awareness to your cause.

A few more tips . . .

  • Hashtags. Do get in the habit of using hashtags with your social media posts—a great way to foster new followers and generate engagement around your campaigns.
  • Holiday images. Include a holiday-themed background image on your website—this appeals to people’s emotions and feeds into the holiday spirit.
  • Remember to have fun. This might be the time to share a funny story, feature a colleague or member of your team.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Connect with Your Audience on Emotional Level

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We’ve just witnessed the most divisive election our country has ever known. We’ve never seen so much discord, such clear-cut lines of demarcation between liberals and conservatives. There is shockingly little tolerance for other people’s views and a general uneasiness about how a new administration and a dramatic change in policy will affect us. In a time of uncertainty, smart brands will work harder to connect, to create deep emotional bonds with their tribes. How can they do this? By telling stories and connecting with their audiences.

Connecting with good storytelling

Good storytelling has always been an effective way to connect with audiences, and the growing number of social media networks has given us more opportunities to reach them on an emotional level than ever before. This is when trust and relationships begin to form.

This is the time of year when we begin to look for the best holiday ads, and several brands have created ads whose messages are simple and compelling, leaving us deeply touched with the spirit of giving and the importance of spending the holidays with people we love.

Amazon is in the running with an ad about a priest and iman

They’re clearly old friends whom we see visiting with each other in the parish house. We see their sharing a hot drink, laughing and rubbing their knees. The Iman gets up to leave and they warmly embrace. After his friend leaves, the thoughtful priest has an inspiration. He pulls out his phone, goes to his Amazon app and orders something. In the next scene we see both the priest and Iman opening their packages—each had sent the other knee pads. The perfect gift for religious men who spent a considerable amount of time on their knees praying.

A Polish ad may be the best Christmas ad ever

It begins with a nice older man as he orders a book online and receives the delivery of “English for Beginners”. We see his practicing his English aloud as he goes about his daily life—on the bus, during breakfast, in the bathtub. He stares at a rubber duck, “I love you. You are perfect”. He labels his dog, his knife and fork and his toothpaste with post-it notes. He peppers his learning with phrases from action movies. When his suitcase arrives, we begin to understand why he’s learning a new language. We follow him to the airport, across the ocean and into the warm embrace of his son at the front door of his London home. When his little granddaughter emerges from her bedroom, he kneels down and says, “I am your grandpa.” This wonderful ad is by Allegro, the most popular online marketplace in Poland.

According to their spokespeople, “For years, we’ve strived to make Allegro the largest e-commerce platform in the CEE (Central and Eastern European) region, and to our customers, bring joy, touch the heart and cause a smile.”

I’ve watched this ad more times than I’ll admit, and I’m not alone. It’s gone totally viral and has now been viewed more than 11.5M times. Allegro is clearly touching a lot of hearts with this delightful ad.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Building Relationships with Great Customer Service

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top-of-mind-marketing_relationshipsThese days we’re all stretched pretty thin. We’re working 12-hour days, commuting another two or three and often taking care of both our kids and parents. We get used to road rage, attitude, anger and rudeness. We lower our expectations when we go into stores or restaurants, so we’re pleasantly surprised when a server or sales associate is helpful and courteous, when really, it’s part of his/her job.

Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile

As a business owner, along with our expertise, great service–really exceeding expectations–is what sets us apart. But sometimes it can feel like people have forgotten what this is all about, but I recently had a couple of customer service experiences that knocked my socks off. The result? Two service providers just made a customer for life, and I’ve already referred a few friends to one of them. Their small good-will gestures will reward them many times over, and we can all learn a lesson in relationship-building. And in case you’ve gotten too busy, relationships are how we build our businesses.

JiffyLube had become Joe’s Auto Service

I figured it was about time to take my car in for a tuneup, so I Googled JiffyLube. I’ve recently relocated to St. Helena, so I found one in Napa and drove to Joe’s Auto Service. Hmmmm. A really nice guy came out and I felt pretty stupid asking him if this was JiffyLube, when it clearly wasn’t. His answer: “No, it hasn’t been for about four years.” I was there and needed to have my tires and oil checked so I asked him if he could do that and he could for $64. Great.

He invited me to sit down and have some coffee or water in his sunny waiting area. He returned in about 20 minutes and told me that I only had about a thousand miles since my last oil change and really didn’t need one. I asked him to check the water and tires, etc., and he came back about ten minutes later and handed me my keys. I got out my credit card and he gently pushed my hand away. “There’s no charge.” I was totally floored. This kind of thing never happens anymore, especially when it comes to car stuff—when we all expect to get robbed. I shook his hand and thanked him and told him I’d be back in a few thousand miles. I have also told some friends about this guy and his incredible relationship-building ethic and will continue to share this story with anyone who needs to have his/her car serviced.

A dead battery means a call to AAA

A few weeks later as I got in my car to go home from a friend’s house, I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you turn the ignition and nothing happens. I’d left my lights on. I called AAA in the morning, and they told me they’d be there within an hour. AAA generally calls or texts 15 minutes or so before they arrive, so I was startled when the AAA guy knocked on my door and I wasn’t quite ready to go. “No problem. I’ll just wait.”

I gathered my bag, laptop and jacket and locked up. He held the door for me and because the seat of his truck was a little dirty, he took off his jacket and spread it on the seat so I could sit down. He even waited until I was in, then closed the truck door. I’m totally loving this guy. We drove to my car, he had it running in about two minutes and checked to make sure the battery was strong. He cautioned me not to turn the car off, but to drive for at least an hour to completely recharge the battery. That was it—no paperwork, no hassle. I thanked him for the great service, and he told me it was a family business—they were serious about taking care of their customers.

These two experiences restored my faith in good old-fashioned customer service—the key to building relationships and your business.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

9 Steps to More Compelling Content

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An effective content marketing program requires commitment and creativity


But you don’t have to be a world class writer or marketing expert to be a good content marketer. Here are 9 steps for generating more compelling content.

  1. Passion. Ya gotta feel it. People feel it and know if you’re writing about topics that you love, feel strongly about and are clearly knowledgeable. These are the reasons you first became interested in your industry, the reasons you started your own business. Sure you get frustrated, annoyed and dog-tired, but you rally and are still passionate about what you do.
  2. Preparation. Time to let go of that scattergun approach and one-off efforts. They don’t work and they’re wasting your time and money. Identify your audience—are they babyboomers, Gen-Xers or millennials. It makes a huge difference in the way you design your marketing program. Define your demographic and start building relationships with this group.
  3. Action. If you’ve created a strategy or a marketing plan, you need to implement it. This is where a lot of small business owners fail. It can be overwhelming. Break it up into manageable blocks of time each week. Calendar these and treat them like a meeting. Use these blocks of time to work on your action items–writing blog posts, recording podcasts, preparing your monthly newsletter, writing new web content.
  4. Commitment. To help you stay committed, create an editorial/content calendar. It should include the publish date, topic, your call to action, the format (blog post, image, video, etc.) and which social media platforms you will be posting to. I like to create a larger editorial calendar that identifies important events and topics, anything that’s seasonal, industry celebrations, etc. Keep this handy, add to it and reference it.
  5. Stay flexible. You may have a calendar, but this is a guide to keep you on track. If something better comes along, by all means take advantage of it. I do keep a calendar, but I’ve been taking advantage of some of the articles about the election—looking at these from a marketing perspective. Do stay on top of industry, national and local news and leverage these stories if they’re relevant for your industry.
  6. Listen. If you want to create great content that will be engaged with and shared by your community, find out what they want and need. To do this, spend time on the social media platforms they use and watch what they are sharing and engaging with. People like, comment and share what they feel emotional about, whether these emotions are positive or negative.
  7. Become a good communicator. Once you know what your community wants, you need to communicate in a way that resonates and is easily consumed and shared by your them. Remember that attention spans are short, so you need to quickly get to the point. This is as much about formatting as it is about actual content. Create blog and social media posts that are crisp and can be easily scanned and consumed. Use subheads to break up paragraphs and seduce your audience. Bullet points are a great way to make content more accessible.
  8. Be generous. Share your knowledge with your community and build trust. Remember that there will always be a group of people who’ll see the value in the information you provide, lack the time, skills or desire to do it for themselves. These are the people we call clients—they will happily pay for your expertise!
  9. Become a continuous learner. Never stop learning. Whether it’s in your industry or about content creation itself, take the time to stay up-to-date on what’s new, what’s important and what’s changing. Stay passionate and genuine and you’ll build your community.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

4 Tips for More Compelling Case Studies

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I’m a longtime fan of case studies. They’ve always been an important way to showcase your expertise. These days, when content marketing is all about telling stories, case studies have never been more important or more relevant.

Top of Mind Marketing_case study

Here are 4 tips for making case studies more compelling.

1. Dig deep and find the meat of the story

Before diving into your case study, ask yourself: where are visceral parts of this story that will reach my audience on an emotional level? Case studies are often written like instruction manuals, when they’re actually very compelling success stories about real people.

2. One word: edit

An estimated 66% of B2B marketers say case studies are the most effective means of attracting their target audiences. When people go to your website, they’re likely to read your About section and Case Studies. Don’t disappoint them by providing endless details that don’t get to the core: Challenge, your Solution and the Results. Make it easy for your reader to understand what you’ve accomplished.

3. Play to the herd

If you’re not paying attention, people no longer buy things without checking out what their peers have to say on the matter. This is the millennial profile, but it’s not just the kids who are doing this. Who doesn’t read reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, consult with friends and knowledgeable colleagues before making major purchases. Case studies help validate you. They provide instant credibility:

  • Case studies humanize your brand. They put your solutions into context.
  • Case studies are your customer success stories. They directly influence your prospects, attract high-quality leads, build trust and boost revenue.
  • Case studies provide third party endorsement—motivate potential clients by showing them how you can help and why you are their best choice.

4. Case studies endure

Good case studies retain their value, year after year. Blogs may become irrelevant, depending on the topic, but a case study that highlights business fundamentals–your ability to solve problems, build relationships, meet deadlines and budgets and help your clients grow their businesses—these endure.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.