Monday, December 31, 2012

Will 2013 be the Year of Branded Content?
Economic optimism  even as we fall over the cliff

According to a new survey by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, brand content (aka brand journalism, sponsored editorial or thought leadership content) is getting a bigger slice of the marketing pie: a 13 percent increase, or $1,640,107 in spending for the last two years. As more organizations jump onto the content marketing bandwagon, let’s hope the standards don’t slip.

Top Four Reasons for Using Branded Content

Respondents’ primary reasons for using branded content are: (1) educating customers, (2) boosting brand loyalty, (3) up-selling and (4) retaining customers. Again, No.3 won’t work in a vacuum—you can’t simply upsell when you need a sales boost; you need to work the up-sell efforts in smartly while you’re educating, engaging and retaining your customers all year long on a consistent and non-intrusive basis.

Need for Outsourcing

Four out of five marketers (79%) say their companies are moving into branded content either at a moderate or aggressive pace, but they can’t do it alone. More than half of respondents (52%) say they outsourced some portion of at least one type of branded content creation in 2012. Researchers say more outsourcing dollars than ever are being spent on external agencies such as custom publishers, PR/social media firms, design firms, ad agencies, and interactive agencies handling aspects of branded content. More than half of brands (56%) now outsource, and of those, the average annual spend is $987,417, an increase of 46.6 percent from a year ago.

Importance of integration

According to researchers, three in four brands build content for print and repurpose that content for social media and the brand’s parent website. The multi-channel nature of content marketing is driving an average brand to investment over $1.7 million annually, up 5.1 percent increase from a year ago.

Our Take:
As more and more B2B marketers search for ways to cut through the clutter and bypass banner blindness, the need for high value content will reach a new level. Fortunately, most journalists, analysts, researchers and academics we know will resist the temptation to sell out to the highest bidder for the services. A few organizations will look to save a few bucks by aggregating, scraping and video clipping whatever they can get their hands on in the public domain—or turn to low-cost vendors who provide those services. That approach will come back to bite them (hard) in the long run.

If you outsource, stick to your guns and hire only proven service providers who have true subject matter experts creating expert content for them.

Final Macro View of 2012

With six hours to go in calendar year 2012, we’re still on a fiscal cliff hanger and not likely to be rescued.
Here’s what are best sources are telling us: The White House and Senate Republicans are closing in on a budget compromise that would raise tax rates on couples making more than $450,000 a year, increase taxes on VERY large inheritances and extend unemployment benefits for a year. But, with the January 1 deadline fast approaching, negotiators are hung up on how to postpone the $110 billion in spending cuts due to take effect January 2.

Most likely it will be a series of stop gap measures. Government will continue to find ways to spend money irresponsibly and legislators won’t be fired or laid off if they fail to come up with a deal by the stroke of midnight tonight. Regardless of income level, we’ll all be feeling a pinch in one way or the other, but for most Americans (individuals and businesses) there will be gradual pinches over months and even years, irritating yes, but not painful bites that could knock us on our butts in one fell swoop.

So let’s tough it out and look at two very important positives that came out late last week

1) U.S. ad spending should rise by at least 5 percent (eMarketer, Veronis Suhler, Media Post and others agree)

2) Home prices increased for the fifth straight month year over year The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shillernational home price indexreleased late last week showed that prices increased 4.3 percent from October 2011, the largest year-over-year increase in two and a half years, when a home buyer tax credit temporarily increased sales. October was the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains, after nearly two years of declines.


We can’t do much about the waste in Washington, but consumers and businesses have been on a three-to-five year waste reduction program and the fruits of those labors will slowly but surely pay off in the months and years ahead. Onward and upward in 2013—the year of thought leadership (aka the Year of “I Told You So.”).


TAGS: fiscal cliff hanger, U.S ad spending, Standard & Poors/Case Shiller, content marketing, Custom Content Council, Content Wise, eMarketer, Veronis Suhler

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Online Video Has Too Much Potential; Don’t Make TV Broadcaster Mistakes
Forget the fiscal cliff--focus on fiscal 2013

Whether you’re in consumer or B2B, it seems like everyone’s jumping on the video bandwagon to connect with customers and clients and to show they’re cool. However, if you’re using video to steer prospects closer to a purchase decision, then you better take the high road and keep the intrusive hard-sell to a minimum.

New research from AOL and QaulVu indicates that consumers would rather be pitched prior to watching short videos rather than being pitched at the beginning and middle while watching longer videos online. "Consumption habits are evolving rapidly, and we're seeing consumers display many of the same ad avoidance tendencies online than they do with TV," said Ran Harnevo, senior vice president of The AOL On Network, in a press release.

Our Take. Duh! But before dismissing this report as just another expensive exercise in restating the obvious, let’s drill down into some useful kernels of insight:

The AOL/QualVu study found that ads in short-form content actually produce significantly higher recall, brand affinity and purchase intent than those in long-form content.

Additional findings include:

  • Ads in short-form videos are more effective than ads in long-form content-- short-form video produced a 25 percent higher brand recall and a 42 percent higher purchase intent for the featured product or service.
  • Viewers are adopting traditional avoidance behaviors during ads within long-form videos. If ads are too frequent and interruptive; they’ll avoid them altogether (by walking away, going to other sites, multitasking with their phone). This is the same “annoyance” behavior that is demonstrated when viewing television without the use of a DVR.
  • Consumers want content that’s more targeted and more humorous. Researchers found that 67 percent of respondents would be willing to answer a question to make their ads more personalized and enjoyable.
  •  ‪Consumers understand the exchange of free content for advertising, but they want to make sure their time tradeoff of watching ads also benefits them. They found coupons, contests and links as the most positive forms of engagement.

Don’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. They’re busier than ever and have a myriad of myriad of ways to bail on you instantly if you bore them, bother them or overbear them with your message.

Fiscal cliff and beyond

Whether or not Congress sends us over the fiscal cliff next week, it can’t stop the calendar from rolling over into 2013. You have budgets to meet, customers to serve and new products to roll out. At the end of the day, most of you are in businesses that won’t live or die by new capital gains rates on the ultra wealthy and a few more bucks taken out of the average worker’s paycheck. They’ll be some residual impact, but the overall macro economy is showing more positive signs than ever and the so-called cliff is more likely to be a gradual slope than a one-step painful trip to the auto body shop.

Are we out of the woods yet? Not by a long-shot, but it’s going to take some real legislative hubris in Washington to put us on a direct flight to Recessionville.

Here are some positive macro-indicators that have us encouraged:
  • The U.S. economy grew faster than expected (3.1%) in Q3 according to the Commerce Department. Consumer spending, which the Department says fuels 70 percent of the economy rose 0.4 percent in November and incomes rose 0.6 percent, the biggest gain in 11 months
  • Homebuilding permits reached their highest level since July 2008 in November the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Further evidence of consumer confidence and demand is that mortgage rates are actually inching higher according to a separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
  • The National Federation of Independent Business reports that the share of small business owners who say their credit needs are not being met is falling.
  • Corporate profits are at a high. They’ve amassed mountains of cash waiting for fiscal cliff and other issues to be resolved. They have tons of cash available to buy cash or hire people when the feel secure enough about the recovery.
  • Consumers have become a lot more responsible about debt. They’ve significantly deleverage themselves since the downturn began and are finally feeling a little better financially, especially with housing market bottoming out according to experts.
  • Household formation is picking up: Young people are finally getting some form of employment and moving out of the parental nest and into their own homes, according to Moody’s Analytics. Demographic data suggest there should be about a million more households headed by younger Americans today than there actually are—that bodes well for continued formation of households and typically injects about $150,000 of output per household into the economy, according to Moody’s.
  • The average vehicle on the road is at a record high of 11.2 years, according to research firm R.L. Polk. Experts expect pent up demand for new cars being unleashed (especially as job market slowly improving and workers need reliable transport to get to their jobs).


Have some eggnog. Unwrap those presents and let’s hit the ground running by the middle of next week. Don’t wait for the day after New Year’s. We’ve got to much work to do. The world didn’t end when the Mayan calendar expired yesterday and it’s not going to end on January 1. You customers, clients and constituents are counting on you.


TAGS: AOL, QaulVu, Ran Harnevo, Commerce Department, fiscall cliff, online video advertising, ad avoidance, R.L. Polk, Moody’s Analytics, National Federation of Independent Business, Mortgage Bankers Association

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Make Every Day Count

Yesterday’s senseless tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT reminded me of how short our time is here on this planet. Newtown is about 25 miles from where I live. It’s a quintessential New England small town which I’ve visited many times. It’s got to be one of the safest and most wholesome places in the U.S. to raise kids. Yet, even in a place like Newtown, the lives of two-dozen young people were snuffed out in a flash yesterday. Just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I have school age kids myself. Pretty scary when your wife calls you from work in a panic ("Did hear there was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut?"). At first we didn't know which town or which school.

My kids  didn’t know any of the victims personally, but they played baseball at the Sandy Hook field complex this summer, just a long relay throw away from where the tragedy took place.  Surely the opposing players and coaches had siblings, relatives or neighbors impacted by yesterday’s shocking events. I can’t imagine what they must be feeling today. A close friend of mine had a sports medicine practice in Newtown until just a few years ago. He has elementary school age children and thinks he once treated the shooter and his family.  He lives 1,000 miles away now, but to say he’s shaken up by yesterday’s events is an understatement.

Last month, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy came to within 10 feet of my home, but did not leave a drop of water in the basement or a single shingle out of place. Many of my neighbors were not so lucky.
Two week before Sandy, my younger sister (one of the healthiest and most upbeat people you’ll ever meet) thought she was suffering from migraine headaches. Her family doctor ordered an MRI just to be safe. Turns out she had a baseball-size malignant tumor in her brain. She had surgery two days later despite a mountain of responsibilities at work, at home and being in the final stages of a campaign for elected office.  No time to re-schedule. They caught it just in time. The chemo and radiation is no picnic, and her life’s been altered forever. But she’s handling the treatment like a champ. She’s able to continue working and hold on to her elected position with only limited side effects and fatigue.

 On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was supposed to be at a 9 am meeting in Jersey City. To make that meeting, I would have been on a PATH train, under the World Trade Center Towers at about 8:45 am—right when the first hijacked plane made impact with the iconic skyscraper. But it was a Tuesday. We had Primary elections that day in my state and I took a slightly later train into Manhattan in order to vote. My cousin, who worked on the 60th floor of the South Tower had a breakfast meeting in midtown that day so he avoided certain disaster and my other sister, who worked at No. 7 World Trade Center, had just bought a home and was moving that day and never came to work. Oh, and my company at the time was scheduled to start leasing space in the South Tower in December of 2001.

Talk about near-misses and good fortune.

No matter how carefully you plan out your life, it’s really just a series of chance encounters, random events and near-misses. Make the most of your encounters and celebrate your good fortune each time you walk away unscathed from a near-miss.

No matter how tired or unmotivated you feel, make sure every day you do at least one of the following things, if not all four:

You’ll never hear any of us here at HB Publishing & Marketing Company say, “What Can You Do?” or “It Is What It Is” or “Same Shit Different Day.” Those are cop outs for not living your life giving your life 100 percent each and every day. We don’t do hire people who use those expressions and we don’t do business with them either.

Life’s too short. Make the most of it.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

[Motown Writers Network] TODAY: You're hosting "#MWN Holiday Literary Gathering

Motown Writers Meetup Group
Saturday, December 8, 2012
10:00 AM
Barnes and Noble
Warren & Cass in Detroit, MI 48202
Detroit, MI 48202
27 Writers attending, including:
"To network with authors & I love Sylvia Hubbard. She "gets it." See"
"My first urban fiction novel "Sinful Traits" was published in 2010. Since then I..."
"Hello everybody. I am a lover of Urban-Fiction. I love to read it as well as write..."
"My Name is Chris Lee and I have just finished writing my first book "From Frustration..."
"I really appreciate all Sylvia does to enhance literacy and support self-published..."
(Please forward this to a friend and bring several friends with you.)
On December 8, 2012 at Barnes & Nobles 82 W Warren in Detroit, Writers, Authors and Poets will join together to network and share year end time together together.
It's opti...
Freelance Marketplace Writers' Group
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:30 PM · 1 attending

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Size Matters When it Comes to Email Subject Lines

According to new research from a British online marketing firm, email subject lines that work best are either less than 30 characters, or longer than 90 characters. You want to avoid the  “dead zone” between 30 and 90 characters.

The study conducted by Adestra, which analyzed over 1 billion B2B emails sent within the last 12 months, found that marketers using 90 characters and up produced the highest response rates because more benefits could be communicated. In contrast, snappier subject lines that used 30 characters or less performed well in the case for transactional or direct-action emails.

Word count is a proxy for character count, and vice versa. But, in B2B, where industry-specific jargon tends to be long words, it’s important to consider this metric.

Researchers found that word count results in the study produced similar results to the character lengths in that each end of the count scale performed the highest. However the comparative results show that much shorter subject lines (14 or fewer words) produced considerably higher engagement than longer subject lines.

While conventional wisdom says using dollar signs in your subject lines is risky, researchers say spam filters use “Baysian” filters to determine spam ratings, and in the B2B world, users engage strongly with currency symbols. Thus spam filters no longer penalize for dollar signs. That being said, the report found that engagement is high only when relevant and valuable financial email content is communicated in the subject line.

No kidding!

Here’s a summary of the report:

  • Discount terms: These generally performed below average. “Sale” was found to above-average, though, in opens (14.4%), clicks (76.5%), and click-to-opens (54.3%). Others such as “% off,” “discount,” “free,” “half price,” “save,” “voucher,” “early bird,” and “2 for 1″ all came in below-average in all 3 metrics.

  • News terms: These had better success than discount terms. “News” (16.2%), “update” (4.9%), “breaking” (33.5%), “alert” (25.9%), and “bulletin” (12.5%) all saw better-than-average click-to-open rates, with “newsletter” being the only term to perform below-average in each metric.

  • Content terms: “Issue” (8.5%) and “top stories” (5.9%) were the only to perform above-average in click-to-opens, although the latter saw slightly below average open and click rates. “Forecast,” “report,” “whitepaper,” and “download” all saw below-average performance in each of the 3 metrics. “Research,” “interview,” and “video” scored above average for opens, but below average for clicks and click-to-opens.

  • Benefit terms: “Latest” was the only to see above average clicks (8.8%) and click-to-opens (9%), while “special,” “exclusive,” and “innovate,” while performing average in opens, fared far more poorly in clicks and click-to-opens.

  • Event terms: Each of these terms performed below average in opens, clicks, and click-to-opens. The terms examined were: “exhibition,” “conference,” “webinar,” “seminar,” “training,” “expo,” “event,” “register,” and “registration.” The worst offender for click-to-opens was “webinar” at -63.5%.

  • Multichannel terms: Facebook (21.6%) and Pinterest (16.4%) were the only terms to score above average in clicks and click-to-opens, though both showed below-average performance in opens. However, “app” and “iPad” were above average in opens, and below average in clicks and click-to-opens. Both “Twitter” and “LinkedIn” were below average in all 3 metrics.
Social Networks
Generally speaking, referencing social networks won’t get you great response. Experts say this could be due to the huge volume of emails pertaining to them, or it could be an indication that in the B2B world people aren’t using social networks as much as pundits had predicted.

Personalized Subject Lines

With personalized subject lines, recipients feel instant engagement, but engagement falls off when people open the email, since in most cases the content of the emails is not personalized! The key here is to construct a congruous user experience, says the report.
As with everything else in B2B marketing, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. You just have to keep testing and tweaking as Adestra researchers agree.

Macro Economic View

Despite yesterday’s disappointing numbers on manufacturing activity, auto industry analysts reported yesterday that new vehicle sales rose 15 percent in November and a measure of planned business spending rose to its highest level in five months in October, the Commerce Department said last week. Meanwhile, single family home prices rose for an eighth straight month in September, according to the
Standard & Poors/Case Shillercomposite index.

Our Take: We think the overall trend is positive as the manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management is based on sentiment while the aforementioned data are from actual results. We’re also encouraged that the financial markets have held their ground despite no clear indication that the fiscal cliff will be avoided before January 1, 2013.


Just as there’s no one-size-fits all solution for email marketing, there’s not going to be a one-size-fits all marketing strategy for 2013. Things will be in constant flux regardless of what the economy and DC policy makers throw at us. You need to keep adjusting, tweaking and constantly measuring your game plan. You also can’t keep your head buried in spreadsheets and computer screens. In this data driven, ROI and KPI era, the need for anecdotal feedback is more important than ever. Go ahead and crunch the numbers. But, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call your clients and customers. Better yet, go spend some time with them, preferably at their offices or facilities. Get a feel for their culture, pain points and morale.

That’ll tell you more about their spending plans than any forecast or new metric.


TAGS: Institute for Supply Management, Adesrta, email subject lines, size matters, Standard & Poors/Case Shiller, auto sales, housing market

Monday, November 26, 2012

Billionaire Buffet Offers Plain Talk Tax Solution

Online viewers watch more long form videos thanks to tablets

Consumers who stream TV shows, movies and sporting events are increasingly tapping their tablets when they tune in, with tablet video viewers watching 54 percent more long-form videos than they did at the start of the year, according to video technology and streaming provider
Ooyala in a new report analyzing video habits of nearly 200 million unique viewers across devices for Q3.

Researchers said tablet owners spent 71 percent of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos 10 minutes or longer.
What’s more, the report said the overall share of tablet video viewing grew 90 percent in the past two quarters, an increase from 46 percent in the first quarter. That’s a significant rise in a short period of time, and suggests that tablets are becoming akin to second TVs for many who have them.

I’m in B2B, so why do I care? You care because your target customers (and their families) are also savvy, device-equipped consumers. Whenever you direct them to one of your webinars, podcasts, thought leadership videos or whitepapers, they’re more likely than not watching them on a tablet or smart phone. And they expect a professional quality experience from you.

Your customers, clients and prospects are watching “TV” more than they’re reading at work at home and on the go. But, that doesn’t mean you can be cheap or careless about what you put into your videos. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Your customers will thank you and be more likely to refer you.

Buffet Straight Talk on Taxes

In a New York Times editorial today, Warren E. Buffett, billionaire head of Berkshire Hathaway, threw out some pragmatic ideas about taxing the ultra-wealthy and a smarter definition of the minimum threshold for “wealthy” in this country (hint it’s not $250K a year). Regardless of the motive for Buffet’s altruistic intentions, we agree with buffet that $250K annual adjusted gross income does not make one ultra-wealthy in many of the places you readers hail from: the Bay Area, Southern California, the Northeast, South Florida……His suggestion for $500,000 is a start.

What we liked more about Buffet’s op-ed is that he argues for Congress to get started on a few pieces of must-have tax reform, rather than straightening out the whole labyrinth IRC which could take years—and give opponents plenty of time to stall and continue reaping aggregious gains.

For instance, Buffet argues for a minimum tax on truly high incomes ASAP—at say 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.”

Again, we’re advocating the removal of uncertainty—we’re not advocating removal of incentives to get rich and be successful. That’s the American way and it’s in our DNA….just like Black Friday shopping.

Buffet says our government’s goal should be to bring in revenues of 18.5 percent of G.D.P. and spend about 21 percent of G.D.P. — “levels that have been attained over extended periods in the past and can clearly be reached again.” According to Buffet it was about 15 percent in and 22 percent out last year.

“All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.”

Amen to that.

TAGS: Warren Buffet, $250,000, taxes on wealthy, online video habits, tablets, Berkshire Hathaway,


Friday, November 23, 2012

Will men attend a Tech Entrepreneurship Panel in Detroit lead by all women like Leslie Smith, Beth Ardisana, & Marlo Rencher?

 NewMe Communitcy  Meetup - My Girlfriends' Business - Jillian Blackwell   

  Women in Technology - My Girlfreinds' Business International - Jillian Blackwell      


The Changing Face of Tech
(A Conversation Lead by Women)
Wayne State University 
David Adamany Undergraduate Library

5155 Gullen Mall 
DetroitMI 48202

Panel Discussion Description


(Co-Ed Event: All Men and Women are invited to attend)


Successful women entrepreneurs, influencers, and tech founders that are leading great organizations in Detroit will lead this panel. The discussion will focus on how to grow tech businesses (regardless of gender), how to build your network and access resources, to a create sustainable tech business in Detroit. Confirmed



Leslie Smith - CEO of Techtown

Beth Ardisana - Founder/President of ASG Renassiance

Marlo Rencher - CEO of Good Sweat

Elizabeth Garlow - Director of Michigan Corps and Kiva Detroit

Hajj Flemings - Co-Founder of Gokit (Moderator)


7:00pm-7:30pm Network and Mingle
7:30pm-8:15pm Panel Discussion
8:15pm-8:30pm Wrap-up/Mingle


The NewME Detroit Community is featuring a diverse group of 'Detroit Women Entrepreneurs & Thought Leaders' who will share their experiences in an interactive format.


Register Now!  This is a Free Event!
(Seats will fill up fast for this event)




Jillian Blackwell Agency, My Girlfriends' Business and Detroit Faces and Places | P.O. Box 645 | Farmington | MI | 48332