Time to invest in a CRM system? Here’s how to make it happen!

By Knight Stivender, Guest Blogger | 12.6.16

Are you a marketer struggling to keep up with your customers and would-be customers Are you finding it a challenge to send them the right emails in a timely fashion? Or make sure they see your digital campaigns?


Do you know when they’ve visited your website, and do you communicate with them accordingly? Do you know which of your customers are no longer buying from you, and why not? Have you thought about creating a loyalty program to reward your brand cheerleaders?

These are the sorts of dilemmas that can get you thinking about whether it’s finally time to invest a real CRM – customer relationship management – tool. Or – if your organization already has a CRM – to make sure you have access to it and are using it to the fullest extent.

How can you convince your higher-ups to pony-up for CRM?

This blog post breaks it down in six easy(ish) steps.
Knight Stivender
Knight Stivender is Director of Marketing & Development for Alcott Marketing Science and serves as NAMA’s Tech SIG Chair. Follow her on Twitter

How Starbucks nails (Holiday) marketing – and how to implement it in your brand

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 12.4.16

Picture this: it’s Halloween weekend, and I’m kind of craving a sweet treat. I’m just having a relaxing evening, scrolling on Instagram, when up pops an advertised post from Starbucks talking up their Frappula Frappuccino.

It’s a white chocolate mocha Frappuccino with strawberry sauce added to make it look like Dracula himself has bitten into the whipped cream.

Now, to preface, this isn’t my typical drink, and Starbucks isn’t even my go-to coffee shop. I indulge in a frappe maybe four times a year. But, darn it, if this drink doesn’t look down right spooktacular.


The next day of my Halloween weekend, I suddenly find myself driving 15 minutes out of my way just for a “treat yo’self.” 

How did I go from not really caring about a drink (or its associated brand) to being called to action and spending my time and money in a place I don’t typically visit?

Two words: Incredible marketing.

Although a global corporation, Starbucks has a lot of marketing tips that even the smallest shop on Main Street America can employ.

Starbucks makes you feel like you’re a part of the story.

Hubspot wrote a blog about some great holiday marketing campaigns. No surprise, Starbucks is included.

The post talks about how the brand evokes emotions and promotes sharing by making everything personal. Starbucks gets at the core of what its company is all about: you, the consumer. Its marketing always goes beyond the product and speaks to the lifestyle associated with the brand.


Starbucks for Life is one campaign that does exactly this. It’s a sweepstakes that you enter to try and win one beverage and one food item every day for the next 30 years of your life. That is a pretty incredible giveaway — equating to roughly $75,000 per winner.

Of course, everyone wants to win, so everyone signs up. All of a sudden Starbucks has multitudes of customers’ (and soon-to-be customers’) email addresses and information to further find out how they can market to their target demographic better.

Oh, and everyone loves Starbucks more than before because how kind and generous of a company are they?!

Starbucks markets its brand as a verb.

Yet another call-to-action Starbucks marketing tactic is the #redcupcontest. During this contest, coffee-aholics have a certain number of days to post the best red cup photo using the hashtag with one lucky person taking home a prize. Last year’s winner received a $500 Starbucks card. 


The giveaway was so popular that for the first two days a #redcupcontest photo was shared to Instagram every 14 seconds. It engaged customers and got them participating in the brand. Starbucks made its customers feel special, while giving us (read: marketers) a perfect example of user-generated content.


Pumpkin Spice Lattes have become a staple of any fall weekend. Pumpkin-flavored everything is so popular now, but what Starbucks has done is use nostalgia and that “warm and cozy lifestyle” to make this drink the cultural phenomenon that it is.

Not only does pumpkin spice latte have its own widely-accepted abbreviation, it also has its own hashtag AND its own social media presence AND PSL actually interacts with its fans. Since launching PSL in 2003, Starbucks has sold more than 200 million (and counting) of just that drink alone.

Outside of @TheRealPSL, all of Starbuck’s social media focuses on doing something. It’s not just a picture of their drinks. It’s people hiking with their drink, cheersing, or going swimming. Starbucks makes it clear that it want the brand to be about doing something.


Mottis talks about how spot-on Starbucks is with knowing its target audience (which, if you were wondering, is men and women age 25-40).

Starbucks launches campaigns that demonstrate how its company embraces life — by living in “the now.” These folks are witty with their marketing. They have fun. Their content is personalized. It is active.

What about you? How can you make your brand about more than just a product?

[PODCAST] Finding your personal value with Jennifer Way

By Chuck Bryant, Relationary Marketing | 10.27.16

Jennifer Way wants to help make marketers their own biggest advocates by revealing their personal value.

“Your resume should be the Cliff Notes of your values, not a job description,” Way said.

Way is a consultant and president of Way Solutions. Her company has worked with Disney, Amazon, and Honda to help get the most out of their employees. She’ll be helping guests unlock the power of their personal value at NAMA’s Power Lunch on Thursday, Nov. 3.

“Unleashing the power of your personal value is about learning how to identify the key factors that will get you the recognition and rewards you need,” Way said. “What employer doesn’t want more value from an employee?”

Way said that finding personal value is not about expanding any more effort, but instead is about understanding dynamics in your work system.

People in the workplace don’t learn how to be personal advocates on their own. Instead they learn slowly from other’s mistakes, when really they need to look at themselves objectively and put themselves in the opposite role, according to Way. This is where marketers have a unique advantage.  

“They understand exactly how to look at themselves objectively in a business-to-business situation, but feel awkward turning that marketing eye on themselves.”

Connect with Way on LinkedIn.

On Nov. 3, Jennifer Way presents Unlock the Power of Your Value at the NAMA Power Lunch at City Winery. Register now.  

Editor’s Note: The NAMA Power Lunch podcast is a production of Relationary Marketing in partnership with the Nashville American Marketing Association. This episode was produced by Chuck Bryant and host Clark Buckner, edited and mixed by Jess Grommet, with music by Zachary D. Noblitt.

Chuck Bryant is co-founder and CEO of Relationary Marketing, a podcast production agency that creates broadcast-quality interviews for rich content marketing, event promotion, relationship nurturing and thought leadership.

The Cheers Effect

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 10.25. 16

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.

If the Cheers television show theme song starts playing in your head then we’re on the right track. Not only is this an incredible TV show, but it’s also a great example of why knowing your customers is the best solution for growing your business.

Whether you company lends itself to a daily customer or even a yearly interaction, you can glean wisdom from the beloved TV show.

Customers who feel known and appreciated are going to come back time and time again.

I know sales representatives at clothing stores are paid to tell me I look great in a dress, but when they say it in a way that I believe it, you better believe I’m coming back again – not just for another great outfit, but for the affirmation and experience of feeling like a superstar.

Take a second and think about the opposite.

When you go into a coffee shop and you’re not greeted – you’re immediately put off. You feel like you’re not cool enough for the space or that you don’t know enough to order from their menu. How likely are you to go back? Zero percent.

Business Grow has an article about turning online influence into offline results, and in it Mark Schaefer makes the point that “relationships with companies are formed through interactions over time.”

Your business will grow when people you know are talking about it and when your regular customers feel known, appreciated, and like they’re a part of something.

In short, The Cheers Effect.

To be effective in this means you have to actually care.

One of the phrases Schaefer uses is being “authentically kind.” You have to be willing to start the conversation and emotionally invest with whomever you’re trying to influence. This looks like being helpful even when you don’t think you’ll get something in return. It means being trustworthy. He says small interactions like these lead to larger engagements.


Ask yourself this: Why do you go to the same bar over and over again? Maybe you like the food. Maybe the prices are great. But maybe at the end of the day it’s because you’re know,n and you can go in and be taken care of by someone who remembers your name, your favorite drink, and maybe even that you like two sides of blue cheese dressing with your french fries.

I found my Cheers when I started regularly going to a local barbeque restaurant. I would sit at the bar each time, and I quickly realized I kept getting the same bartender. He didn’t talk too much. And really, he didn’t need to. But he would make small talk about music, what was on TV, or just ask me what I was up to that day.

Fast forward several months. Now he is my favorite bartender in Nashville. All the small talk led to more conversation, and now he’s a part of my friend group. He has since gotten a new job, and you know how often I go to that BBQ restaurant now? Maybe once since he has left. Instead I go to the new bar where he works.

Having employees who are willing to make connections with your customers will, in turn, make your business so much more money.

Working in the coffee business, I get regulars who come in every single day.


It’s hard not to get to know someone when you see them five days a week. Many of these regulars have made such personal connections with the staff that they end up getting hired when they’re in need of a job, or they’re invited to staff bonfires at our houses. We get beers with them after work.

This concept doesn’t just apply to the hospitality industry though. I believe The Cheers Effect applies to every type of business. This goes back to our blog post about how being nice is always the best option.

At the end of the day, it’s about making a personal connection.

Read this article about how one car dealership did this extremely well. They were genuine, friendly, and they just acted like themselves. When you’re a car dealer, you’re not going to get repeat customers daily, but the shop gave its customers roadtrip inspiration and even great food suggestions. They were about more than just cars.

When you put time and energy into making your customers feel appreciated, it shows. It’s worth the work because at the end of the day, you’ll have an incredible reputation and a committed customer base. These two attributes lead to word-of-mouth marketing that is invaluable to any business.

Eventually enough people start talking, and it draws a crowd.

Because sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. You wanna go where you can see people are all the same. You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Three Easy Tips for Communicating to Your Employees

By Annalise Bandel, NAMA Blogger | 10.19.16

Communication is key in any organization, but one size does not fit all when it comes to actually communicating to your employees.

Whether through a social application on a mobile phone, routine email messages, or one-on-one interaction,  it’s important to figure out what works best for your leadership to disseminate information and to cater to the audience of your company.

That said, email messages continually rank at the top for best methods of communication.


Here are three easy ways to disseminate information to your employees – no matter the size. You may already do this, but if not, it’s an easy place to start.

Weekly Digest
A weekly touchpoint can disseminate timely and relevant information to all employees. Consistency is key, and it’s good to send these at the same time each week so that employees know when they will receive new information.

Company Newsletter
An internal newsletter is a great opportunity to include fun and lighthearted content. This is a perfect outlet for employee spotlights and recognition, as well as a current state of the union or company updates from your leadership team.

One-off Emails
These direct emails contain the most important information that employees need to know and should be sent sparingly. New appointments in leadership, organizational structure updates, and press mentions are good topics for these emails. This allows you to share information with employees firsthand, before the word “gets out.”

These three methods are easy ways to communicate to your employees – and a great way for them to receive any type of information you want or need to communicate. Keep in mind that it’s important for a company to streamline its communication, so as to not inundate employees with emails.

What’s so important about emails? The data.

Stay tuned for more info on trends on email open rates and read rates and what to look for when looking at the data. In the meantime, check out this great post by Emma on Why Email Will Never Die.

Using Yelp to Your Advantage – How Being Nice Really Does Make a Difference

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 10.10.16

Working in hospitality you can experience a lot of negative Yelping.

The platform has become a place where anyone can be a critic and an expert on food, drink, and experience. Ask anyone who works in the service industry their thoughts on Yelp, and it’s usually described as a toxic environment.

Watch Real Chefs Read Bad Yelp Reviews.

This video makes light of harsh feedback. But it also shines a light on just how toxic these reviews can be.

Even though there are downsides to Yelp there’s still a way you can use it to your advantage.


The Believer, an American literary magazine started in the early 2000s by Dave Eggers, best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and writing the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, doesn’t allow writers to talk about things they don’t like.

The idea behind The Believer is to focus on the inherent good.

“Modest though the magazines are in scale and appearance, there is nonetheless something stirringly immodest – something ‘authentic and delirious,’ as e.e. cummings once wrote – about what they are trying to do, which is to organize a generational struggle against laziness and cynicism, to raise once again the banners of creative enthusiasm and intellectual engagement,” A.O. Scott wrote in a 2005 New York Times article.

Read the entire article here.

This is the heart needed behind Yelp. It needs to be a platform where users talk about what excites them, instead of nitpicking every experience.


Changing this mindset starts with you; you can’t control what others do or think, but you can control how you respond.

But, how?

Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters, a book teaching how to embrace complaints and keep customers, also wrote a blog post for Buffer App on the same topic. He came up with an acrostic called FEARS.

10-9-16-nama-yelp-blog-post-photoPhoto source:  Buffer App

Embracing this philosophy means being active on Yelp. Let’s break down Baer’s approach to social media complaints.


Complainers want a fight. Do not give it to them. Arguing with an angry person never results in them yelling “You make a very reasonable point!”

When customers get angry in person I play the “I’m with you” card. I see it from their perspective. Instead of arguing why I’m right, I decide to be their friend. It diffuses the situation.

Do this on Yelp. This is not your chance to tell your customers why they’re wrong.


Baer says customers don’t always have to be right, but they always need to be heard. Start with apologizing and then come up with a solution to fix the problem.

Don’t get into a back and forth comment battle. Only respond twice.

If they’re still angry and unwilling to accept your solution and won’t move the conversation to a private channel then you need to let it go.


Then that’s great! Some people are trying to help you out and they need to be rewarded.

This is why you should answer all complaints publicly. It looks good when a business is humble, grateful and transparent.

Remember, there’s no room for canned responses. People will see right through it and hate it. This is where you need to be authentic and engaged.

Read our blog about engaging your customers on Instagram.

LuLu Lemon and Zappos are known to have incredible customer service. Nike and Starbucks  also have service to be inspired by. Use these businesses as examples to grow yours.


Get your regulars involved by asking them to add their opinion to sites like Yelp.

Technically yelp discourages you from doing this. They say it looks fake and creates bias. But, experts disagree and say do it anyways.

Read this Forbes article about simple ways to get customer reviews. Or this Convince and Convert post.

Create a rapport with your customers. They’re the people you want talking up your business – someone that knows and loves it for exactly what it is, that has a favorite product and will come back 100 percent of the time.

If you know your customers well then just ask if they’ll take a moment to review you. They’ll more than likely be happy to help.

You can’t require a customer to post a review in exchange for a discount, but Yelp does have check in offers. People love it when they get free or discounted items – it’s an easy way to start the conversation of asking a customer to leave a review.

The facts show it’s important to engage your customer’s review. Don’t let this aspect of customer service slip through the cracks.

For more reading check out The Huffington Post’s take on engaging customer reviews.


[PODCAST] Dan Rogers brings stories to life at the Grand Ole Opry

By Chuck Bryant, Relationary Marketing | 10.6.16

Dan Rogers remembers listening to the original Grand Ole Opry radio show with his parents, trying to guess how large the crowd was or debating whether or not there would be a surprise guest.

“The Opry was a place you could go to in your mind on a Saturday night when you’re 8 years old and stuck in the middle of Nowhere, Illinois.”

Now almost 30 years later, Rogers is the senior marketing director at the Grand Ole Opry, and will be the featured guest at Nashville American Marketing Association Power Lunch on October 13, discussing the impact of the Opry’s storytelling opportunities on marketing.  

Rogers started as a graduate intern right after college, and hasn’t looked back since. He said The Opry presents so many unique opportunities for stories and experiences.

“It’s a place where you have all these personalities coming together,” Rogers said, “You could have Carrie Underwood listening to a bluegrass artist, or Vince Gill watching a new performer who idolized him growing up.”  

The tradition of the Opry starts with the stories artists and fans share about their unique experiences with the radio show, concerts, or personalities.

“It’s about the music, but it’s also this very special relationship between the artists and fans.”

For an establishment seeped in tradition, Rogers is trying to expand the reach of their stories through organic uses of social media by artists and fans. In the old days the only method of delivering an experience was through radio or TV. Now stars and fans interact on social media, sharing stories in real time.


While the show might not be as prominent as it once was, the Opry is still an important staple to so many people. Rogers thinks back to watching so many up and coming artists who perform at the Opry for the first time, and invite all their family members from all over the world to see them.    

“You’re reminded of what an important part of America is right in our backyard in Nashville.”

Connect with Rogers on LinkedIn.

On October 13, Dan Rogers presents The Grand Ole Opry’s Secrets to Using Storytelling for Impact at the NAMA Power Lunch at City Winery. Register now.  

Editor’s Note: The NAMA Power Lunch podcast is a production of Relationary Marketing in partnership with the Nashville American Marketing Association. This episode was produced by Chuck Bryant and host Clark Buckner, edited and mixed by Jess Grommet, with music by Zachary D. Noblitt.


Chuck Bryant is co-founder and CEO of Relationary Marketing, a podcast production agency that creates broadcast-quality interviews for rich content marketing, event promotion, relationship nurturing and thought leadership.

Being Authentic on Instagram Can Help Grow Your Business

By Chelsea Kallman, NAMA Blogger | 9.7.16

#LiveAuthentic — the potentially overused hashtag encouraging people to live an adventurous life, filled with risk and emotional honesty.

It seems harmless, but because of this hashtag’s common usage it has gotten a bad rap. Photos tagged with #liveauthentic are typically communicating curated moments far from everyday life.

The New Statesman blog post talks about the “cult of authenticity” shaping a supermodel’s worldview, provoking her to rebrand all her sponsored and perfect photos with actual honest captions.

This Gription blog talks about #liveauthentic representing a generations-deeper cry for a unique life with a meaningful story.

If you manage social media for a small business, then you’ve experienced how #liveauthentic makes it that much harder to post actually authentic material. You have to toe the line of being real and relatable, but not so real or authentic that it’s fake.

So, how do we move past the contrived and use Instagram as a powerful social tool?



Social media is meant to be social. Posting pretty pictures won’t give your customers the personal connection a conversation can.

Marketing for a small business is the long game. You need repeat customers and loyalty.

The Nashville Sounds, our minor league baseball team, is actually winning at this concept.

Early in the 2016 season, I brought my bulldog to an event called Bark in the Park. While there I snapped a photo of him, tagging The Sounds.

The Nashville Sounds commented, saying how much they loved it and how the photo was an official selection for The Sounds Choice Awards.


As a fan, this made me feel so special. They offered me a pair of free tickets to the Sounds Choice Awards and a chance at winning a gold bobblehead of Booster, the team’s mascot. I ended up winning and got to go on field to accept my award.

The Sounds paid for the time to find my photo and the cost of my tickets. But, they got a lot more in return.

I came to the game and happily spent money on food, drink, and merch – totaling far more than the worth of my tickets. I boasted on Instagram about winning, tagging The Sounds in all my photos. All my friends saw and were excited for me. They also saw how much The Sounds engage with their fans.

This is an easy and affordable way to make your followers feel special. It can be as simple as commenting on and reposting a photo your business is tagged in.

This has happened to me with several brands and I always feel like a rockstar when it does.


Coffee shops can only post a picture of a beautiful latte so many times before it gets old. It’s the same with any business selling a product and not an idea.

In June 2016, John Frieda hair products launched a campaign making their brand about more than what kind of shampoo you use. It was called Shades of Me.

The program connected to your Instagram account so an algorithm could find out what colors are most present in your photos. It took into account your hair color, then told you what shades you are, and what that says about you. It also suggested different hair care products to use.


The entire campaign communicated that John Frieda cares about who you are on the inside (and that your hair looks good, too). Read this Convince and Convert blog about John Frieda embracing personalized content. The blog post quotes John Frieda’s marketing manager, Alex Bradbury, explaining the power behind content marketing.

“Everybody wants something that nobody has; that’s the crux of it,” she said. “They want something that’s tailored to them, something that gets a layer deeper.”

This sentiment gets at the same idea behind #liveauthentic. Everyone wants to be unique and feel like they’re doing something important.

Use your Instagram to show and live the authenticity of your brand instead of just telling them.

[PODCAST] Ike Pigott Presents the Case for Brand Journalism at NAMA September Power Lunch

By Kirk Bado, Guest Blogger | 8.27.16

A website for a power company does not immediately conjure images of outstanding marketing content.  

But Ike Pigott is working to alter that perception.   

Pigott is a communications strategists at Alabama Power, and he is changing the way corporations handle their news. Since 2008, he has pivoted the utility company away from simply using its website as a spot to host press releases, to now becoming a leader in the burgeoning field of brand journalism.

“Content marketing, is one of the more direct and valuable ways to reach people with a message in today’s climate… Brand journalism is a subset in content marketing,” he said.

Pigott uses the Alabama Power platform to build an audience not just focused on updates from the company, but  a mix of news and content curation for the State of Alabama. He runs the website like a traditional news outlet, telling stories that fit the brand of Alabama, instead of focusing exclusively on reiterating internal company news      

“You can’t do enough talking about yourself and develop an audience to it,” Pigott said.

Since May last year, he has focused efforts on generating content that might not directly relate to Alabama Power, but instead building an audience based on the content of their more community driven news stories.

Ike Pigott

“You’re not graded on intent, you’re graded on effectiveness,” he explained.

And the content has been very effective. After the shift, the site is getting more than 100,000 visits a month, which might not rival traditional news sites, but dwarfs other corporate news publications. By taking a more traditional news publication approach to content advertising, Alabama Power is drawing the attention of local newspapers and even Google News aggregates. Traditional media outlets are now lifting stories from his site to run them in their publications.

Pigott says he is ecstatic with the content being pushed by other outlets; to him, it is not about getting the most page views or traffic. Because Alabama Power is a public utility, his ultimate employer is the State of Alabama. The goal is marketing the larger message of Alabama to young people looking for jobs.

“They don’t have to go to Austin or Boston or Silicon Valley to have a great career, you can do it here,” he explained. “If we can tell the type of stories that reinforce that, then that’s a win for us.”

Pigott garnered this new audience by breaking down the internal silos of Alabama Power’s marketing, advertising, and design components. He’s streamlined all departments to generate content for their brand journalism. Now the company can quickly respond to the trends of its growing audience, and meet them where they are.   

“If you’re able to make a shift in a timely fashion, you are in a great position to meet them where they are going to be,” he said. “That’s the process that is going to take you – and your organization – to where you need to be.”  

Connect with Pigott on Twitter.

NAMA Sept Power Lunch

On September 8, Ike Pigott presents The Case for Brand Journalism at the NAMA Power Lunch at City Winery. Register now.  

Editor’s Note: The NAMA Power Lunch podcast is a production of Relationary Marketing in partnership with the Nashville American Marketing Association. This episode was produced by Chuck Bryant and host Clark Buckner, with editing support from Jess Grommet and music by Zachary D. Noblitt.


Kirk Bado is a student and freelance writer at Belmont University and storyteller for Relationary Marketing, a podcast agency that produces broadcast-quality interviews to create engaging strategic content and nurture high-value relationships.

How to Stop Worrying and Learn To Love Content Marketing

By Kerry Oliver, Guest Blogger | 8.22.16

The one truth that everyone in our industry can agree upon is that traditional marketing has changed dramatically. Nothing demonstrates this change more vividly than the growing power of Content Marketing.

First, a definition: Content Marketing is the strategic approach for creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a specific audience, with the ultimate goal of driving a specific customer action.

Although most people associate Content Marketing with the development of the internet and mobile devices, its history actually precedes the internet by about a hundred years. It just wasn’t called “Content Marketing” back then.

One of the earliest examples of Content Marketing dates back to 1895 when the John Deere Plow (now Tractor) Company began to publish and distribute its “Furrow” magazine to farming families. It was packed with useful information, advice and tips designed to support the working needs and lifestyle of American farmers and ranchers. (By the way, “Furrow” is still in print today.)


Another early example introduced Jello to the American public through a series of free recipe books and cookbooks printed and distributed beginning in 1904.

Even in the past, content took advantage of new technologies. In the early 1950s, the TV soap opera was created (although soap operas originated years earlier on radio). Developed as a means of delivering TV commercials for soaps, cleaners and detergents to an audience of female homemakers, soap opera programs offered a much-needed respite from the drudgery of household chores and – in the case of many of the early TV commercials – useful information about how to maintain the home and simplify those daily chores.

Once you understand what effective content is, it’s easy to look back and spot some powerful pre-internet examples. I vividly remember (being a young used car owner at the time) the Shell Oil Answer Book Series that were published from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. Each issue featured useful driving tips and auto maintenance advice, all of which came in handy in an era of finicky carburetors, fouling spark plugs, DIY oil changes and cars that seemed to break down if you looked at them the wrong way.

These days, the challenges of Content Marketing are so complex and the options so diverse, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But as these pre-digital examples demonstrate, the basic rules driving effective Content Marketing haven’t changed over the decades.

Know your audience.

First, know your audience.

Second, know your audience.

And third, know your audience.

What does your audience worry about? What problems do they face? How do they go about solving those nagging issues?

Your audience isn’t sitting up nights waiting to hear about your latest product or service. They’re waiting for a solution to a problem – in their lives or in their businesses.

And no, the solution isn’t a cute puppy video.

The goal of Content Marketing is to give people solutions: solutions that eventually lead to your product or service. But in order to do that, you first have to know and understand who these people are and what their problems are.

Creating a marketing persona is a good place to start, but it’s not enough for your persona to simply describe your audience and give them a clever name like Patty Sue or Billy Bob. To be useful, a persona should capture attitudes, the decision-making process and criteria, and the steps that a person takes in deciding which solution is better for her or him.

A great persona has little to do with demographics and psychographics. Instead, it should be a snapshot of real life that reveals channels of communication, opportunities for timing, and suggestions of topics of information that your audience finds valuable.

Once you have a handle on those factors, you can chart the buyer’s journey.  This can take the form of either a written description or a visual chart showing everything that impacts your customer as she realizes her need, determines her options, evaluates those options, and makes a purchase decision.

Like a great persona, a strong buyer’s journey is grounded in the real world and accounts for a myriad of touchpoints – some of which you as a marketer can impact and some of which you can’t. Your strategy will be determined by recognizing the difference between the two.

Content Marketing – like all great marketing – is blend of both science and art. It clearly has the potential to change the future for brands and companies with the vision to realize its potential.

And just as Red Bull, Lego, BMW and other contemporary leaders in Content Marketing demonstrate every day, the best guide is – and always will be – the customer.



A native Texan, Kerry Oliver has worked for major regional advertising and marketing agencies in Houston, Nashville, and Reno. He currently serves as Director of Content Strategy and Integration for GS&F.

His experience encompasses practically every industry category: casual dining, industrial, real estate, lottery and gaming, financial, insurance, healthcare, retail, travel/tourism, packaged goods, fashion, entertainment, sporting goods, energy and more.

During his career as Copywriter, Creative Director and Creative Strategist, Oliver has received countless major awards as well as industry recognition for creativity in advertising. His work has been awarded and/or recognized by the following: national Clio awards; international London Advertising Federation; OBIE awards; Art Directors Club of New York awards; local, regional and national ADDY awards; Communication Arts magazine’s awards; Print magazine annual; Creativity annual; Art Direction magazine awards; STEP In Design magazine awards; Texas Monthly magazine awards; national Telly awards; Chicago Art Show awards; Dallas Art Show awards; Business Publications of America Association awards; Craftsmen Printing awards;  Printing in America awards; and others.