Your Brand’s Strategic Narrative

A friend recently shared an article by Andy Raskin called “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen”. It breaks down the narrative structure used in Zuora‘s sales decks. This narrative is consistent from Zuora’s CEO on down to the marketing and sales teams, and illustrates how important a strategic narrative is in aligning a company’s teams around its brand.

As Andy rightly points out, “successful sales decks follow the same narrative structure as epic films and fairy tales.” Indeed, neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, taught us that character-driven stories consistently cause the synthesis of cortisol (a hormone that focuses our attention) and oxytocin (a hormone that creates a sense of empathy and connection). In other words, the better crafted and more relevant the stories we tell about the brand, the more our brand will stand out to and connect with audiences. See the video below for more details on Zak’s research.

Andy pinpoints 5 key elements to a successful sales deck and narrative:

  1. Name a big, relevant change in the world
  2. Show there’ll be winners and losers
  3. Tease the promised land
  4. Introduce features as “magic gifts” for overcoming obstacles to the promised land
  5. Present evidence that you can make the story come true

The article is worth the read, as it highlights slides that accompany these five elements and breaks down the elements in more depth. You can find the article here.

Calculating the ROI of Content and Engagement Strategy

Satisfaction Guaranteed Sticker (Vector)

I often get asked, particularly by clients, what the ROI of content and engagement is. What is it going to cost, and what are they going to get out of it? This is always a tricky question to answer, but I’ll attempt to do so at the end of this post. First, some context.

Nothing in life is guaranteed…unless you’ve been working in advertising.

Content in old advertising was pretty simple: shoot a nice, glossy ad, pushing your product/service and then pay CPMs to distribute that content. Advertisers knew exactly how much that ad was going to cost to produce, how much it would cost to distribute and how many people the ad would (potentially) reach (“potentially” because impressions are not synonymous with engagements).

The Wild Web


Today’s content is a different beast. A good content strategy incorporates paid media, owned media, relationship media and SEO to generate earned media. None are mutually exclusive. And, the emphasis is on the engagement, not the impression.

Social Media

Notice I didn’t even mention social media in there? That’s because social media is ubiquitous across the aforementioned forms of media. Social media is a channel for paid media (e.g. Facebook Ads and Stories, Twitter’s Promoted Trends and Tweets, to name a few of the biggies). It’s a channel for owned media (e.g. Facebook Pages, Google+ Brand Pages, YouTube Channels, Tumblr accounts, Twitter accounts – these are all places to build an owned community). Social media is a channel for relationship media – my term for modern day PR (you can now identify who the top influencers for your brand are; many, if not all, will have a social media presence). Leverage these three media well, coordinated with a strong content strategy, and social media helps facilitate scaled earned media. But, please do not mistake social media as a siloed form of media.

The Brand’s Predicament


Now coordinating these media and solidifying one unified content and engagement strategy is difficult – particularly for Fortune 500 brands with large marketing budgets. That’s because each medium is often handled by a different agency or group. Paid media is handled by media agencies. The content for paid media is produced by the creative agencies. Relationship media is handled by PR agencies. You have a new breed of social media agencies doing some pieces of each (paid, owned and relationship media), while the PR, creative and media agencies are all fighting each other and the social media agencies for a piece of the social media pie. No wonder brands are confused.

Building A Newsroom

Newsroom von RIA Novosti in Moskau

To help solve this issue, I’d like to see brands build something akin to a newsroom. This would be a cross-divisional/agency team focused on content and engagement strategy. They would work together to

  • Identify the key existing and target audiences (i.e. consumers) for the brand;
  • Identify what content is valuable to each of those audiences at different stages of the purchase funnel;
  • Identify where (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, TV, news outlets, etc.) and how (video, pictures, text, slides, etc.) audiences like to consume that content;
  • Identify who the brands’ top influencers are; and,
  • Then, assign team members and agencies to produce the appropriate content and distribute it through the appropriate channels (i.e. execute on the plan)

For more detail on the above bullets, see my posts “Content As A Platform” and “Building A Content Platform”.

Calculating the ROI of Content and Engagement Strategy


Now, I believe that social media and mobile technologies have empowered brands (large and small) to

  • Access more specific data about their audiences;
  • Produce and distribute a higher volume of content that is more valuable to their audiences, and do so more efficiently; and,
  • Build deeper, longer lasting relationships with their audiences

With this in mind, I’d like to see brands and agencies use the following as a benchmark for calculating ROI

  1. calculate the average Customer Lifetime Value (= revenue x time [per month/per year])
  2. calculate Allowable Cost Per Sale (i.e. the amount your willing to spend to acquire a sale – e.g. 10% x CLV)

(Note: Jamie Turner does a great job describing Customer Lifetime Value and Allowable Cost Per Sale in this post)

With a successful content and engagement strategy, average Customer Lifetime Value should increase over time, while average Cost Per Sale should decrease over time.

I’d like to place emphasis on the words “over time”. While you can certainly run one-off social media campaigns, content and engagement are long-term initiatives that involve constantly listening, learning and iterating. You won’t see ROI tomorrow, or maybe even six months from now. Anyone that has ever started a blog and tried to build an audience/community around it will confirm that. But, I think a year in, you should probably start to see these effects starting to take place.

Are any of you building a newsroom in your organization? How are you calculating ROI for your content and engagement efforts? Would love to know.

Cold Calling on LinkedIn? Offer Up A Strong Handshake


How would you feel if you walked into a meeting, and the person introducing himself for the first time offered you a floppy handshake? Maybe he doesn’t even look you in the eyes…That’s how I feel when someone that I don’t know sends me the default LinkedIn invite. I feel even more irritated when someone I don’t know sends me a default invite on a more personal social network like Facebook or Foursquare – networks where I share pictures of my family and my physical location.Yes, social networks have increased the size and efficiency of our personal and professional networks. But, don’t be mistaken: they haven’t changed the best practices of networking. In the end, you’re still building and managing relationships with real people. Effort and attention still mean a lot; there’s no room for laziness in social media. So, here is a quick guide to introducing yourself on LinkedIn.

Get InMail

First of all, instead of asking someone to join your network without them knowing anything about you or having had any experience with which to judge you (and, they are judging), send them an InMail. InMail is LinkedIn’s in-network email. It allows you to send messages to people you are not connected with. This will give you more characters to write a more complete introduction.

Grab Their Attention

Subject line matters. Identify the 1-3 main points you want to make and write them in the subject line (limit to about 50 characters). If you’re selling a product/service, I suggest including the name of your company as one of the points in the subject line.

Make It Short and Sweet

People are busy. They have a short attention spans. So, get to the point and make it easy for them to understand what you want and whether or not they’re interested. I like to limit my introductory emails/InMails to 3 paragraphs and under 10 sentences.

  • 1st Paragraph – Introduce yourself. Who are you? From what company? (don’t assume people will look at your profile to figure it out)
  • 2nd Paragraph – Why are you contacting them? Would you like to discuss a potential partnership? Have a product/service that they might find useful? Interested in their career and would like a 10 min call for advice?
  • 3rd Paragraph – End with a “yes”/”no” question (i.e. a call to action).

I love emails where all I have to answer is “yes” or “no”. Unfortunately, I rarely get them, but I do try my best to write them.

If You’re Using a A Basic LinkedIn Account and Don’t Want to Pay for InMail

Then, you have 300 characters (or about 3 sentences) to make your introduction. I suggest following an abbreviated version of the outline above.

  • 1st sentence – Introduce yourself
  • 2nd sentence – Why are you contacting them?
  • 3rd Sentence – Ask to add them to your network on LinkedIn

If they accept, then you can follow up directly with an email or call.

Have you received or made cold calls on LinkedIn? Would love to hear your thoughts.