Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” It means the place where things happen. So, in police work, gemba is the crime scene. In the case of manufacturing, it’s the factory floor. And, in the case of your customers, it’s where they interact with you and use your product or service.


Companies have lots of data about their customers. They have purchase data, research, segmentation, customer feedback, multiple listening posts, etc. Most business leaders I speak with believe they know a lot about their customers. However, in my experience, that’s rarely the case. Most companies have a cloudy picture at best of their customer’s wants and needs, their experiences, and their similarities and differences.

Going to gemba means getting out of your office and sometimes getting out of your comfort zone. It means talking directly with your customers. Observing them as they use your product or service. Asking questions. Watching and listening so that you create empathy with your customers.

Last year, I heard the designer Deborah Adler speak at a TEDx conference. Deborah described her work partnering with Target to create the ClearRx prescription packaging system. She spent lots of time watching and observing people as they interacted with their prescriptions. She noticed that some elderly couples were prescribed the same medicine but in different doses. As you might imagine, mixups were common. Deborah used her insights gleaned from going to gemba to design something much better. Deborah created a new prescription package that is much easier to read and color coded for each person in the family. The results were remarkable, and illustrate how small changes can have a big impact.

The best approach to modern marketing may look something like a sine wave. Going deep into gemba to observe the customer and coming back up into the data to explore the hypotheses generated by observation. The wave repeats with the continuing dance between empathy and logic. This is the best way to get the most out of the volumes of data and analytical horsepower now available.


If you aren’t thinking about all the interactions customers have with your company, all their touch points, and all of their experiences using your products and services, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. By thinking of these interactions and experiences and by going to gemba, to observe and listen to customers, your company may also be able to identify some small changes that can have a big impact. Modern marketing doesn’t just require data and analysis. It requires empathy and understanding as well in order to create results that truly matter.

As content marketing continues to grow in popularity, companies everywhere are creating content to fuel their marketing efforts. But while content marketing is an integral component of an effective online marketing program, common pitfalls exist.

Many companies are jumping onboard the content marketing express, but not everyone is mindful of common mistakes that are easy to make and challenging to overcome. Here are 10 pitfalls to consider:

Pitfall #1: Jumping in without a strategy

Research from Content Marketing Institute has found that having a documented content marketing strategy is one of the key distinguishing characteristics of an effective content marketing program. But many companies make the mistake of skipping past the strategy and starting with the tactical. The fact is, buildings need blueprints, meals need recipes and your content marketing efforts should be tied to a strategy—first.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Defining content marketing’s role in your overall marketing strategy
• Identifying internal staff and/or outside resources to run the program
• Determining specific goals for the program
• Defining what metrics will be used to measure success

Pitfall #2: Not focusing on your audience

The old rules of marketing put an emphasis on your company, your products, your services and your message. Content marketing is about publishing content that focuses on the prospect and customer and what they are actually interested in, as opposed to talking about your company and what you sell. So to be successful in content marketing, you must understand your target audience’s wants, needs and interests and view content creation through their lens, not yours.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Developing buyer personas or customer profiles
• Identifying problems or knowledge gaps your prospects might have
• Gathering ideas from frequent questions your sales and BD team are asked
• Aiming to be helpful to your audience above all else

Pitfall #3: Selling, not sharing

Many companies make the mistake of putting out content that is nothing more than thinly veiled sales propaganda. There is a time and a place for selling, but if you’re promoting a webinar or eBook as educational, make sure that’s all that it is. Remember, content marketing is not about pitching your products and services.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Removing typical “salesy” content from your content marketing
• Answering your audience’s questions and problems through content
• Making sure you create enough top and middle of the funnel content
• Ditching the token “30-second elevator speech” in educational content

Pitfall #4: Failing to address the entire customer lifecycle

Many companies make the mistake of thinking of content only in relation to the sales funnel. But content should be created to continuously engage your audience throughout the entire customer lifecycle, past the point of sale—from awareness to advocacy. Because ultimately, the end goal of content marketing and the reason for addressing each stage of the customer lifecycle is really quite simple: to continuously deliver valuable content that solidifies profitable, long-term customer relationships and brand advocates.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Not focusing your content efforts solely on the sales funnel
• Addressing your audience’s needs at each stage of the customer lifecycle­
• Creating content that is helpful to existing customers
• Becoming the go-to resource of both prospects and customers

Pitfall #5: Concentrating on quantity and not quality

One of the biggest content marketing challenges marketers face is creating enough content. But don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. There is no shortcut for creating quality content, so don’t throw together content with fluffy copy and sloppy graphics. Instead, put in the necessary time to create magnetic and compelling content. In the end, pushing out a lot of content that lacks quality will not produce the desired results and will only hurt your content marketing efforts in the long run.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Doing your homework—make your content informative and compelling
• Proofreading and spellchecking all content before it goes out
• Choosing or creating quality images and graphics
• Delivering tangible knowledge and benefit to readers

Pitfall #6: Lacking originality and differentiation

Content has been all the rage in the marketing world for the last few years. And the growth of content marketing has resulted in a flood of content that starts to look and sound the same. If your content doesn’t stand out from the competition, your company is not likely to stand out either. So aim to bring new ideas and new approaches, don’t just settle for “me too” content.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Looking to cover some new or slightly different territory
• Putting your own stamp on topics that have been covered by others
• Going above and beyond the rest of the pack with quality and substance
• Making your content visually stand out from the competition

Pitfall #7: Inconsistent/infrequent blogging

While many companies like the idea of having a blog and the potential website traffic a blog can bring, some haven’t committed the time and resources necessary to blogging consistently. When visitors see big gaps in your blog frequency or it’s been a while since your last post, it sends the wrong signal to your audience and will certainly not help you achieve your content marketing goals.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Making blogging a priority
• Committing to blogging at least once per week, every week—NO excuses
• Recruiting help—don’t put it on the shoulders of one or two people
• Keeping a running list of blog topics and ideas to keep you inspired

Pitfall #8: Viewing content marketing as SEO

Too many companies (and SEO agencies) view content marketing simply as a new way to increase search rankings. While Google’s latest algorithms do place an enormous emphasis on rewarding publishers of high quality and relevant content, that doesn’t mean that content marketing is purely an SEO exercise. Yes, it’s true that content marketing done right can and will increase search rankings and drive web traffic. But SEO is an ancillary benefit of content marketing—a subset of your program—it’s not the primary goal or purpose, nor should it be your sole motivation for creating content.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Creating content for people, not search engines
• Viewing SEO as a means, but not the end goal or purpose
• Following on-page SEO best practices but not making SEO the focal point
• Remembering content marketing is all about the prospect and customer

Pitfall #9: Becoming paralyzed by your editorial calendar (or lack thereof)

Planning is essential, but some companies are so concerned with creating finely detailed editorial calendars that valuable time and resources are spent planning the content and notcreating the content. In addition to the time loss, it also leaves little room for adjustments along the way. On the flip side, not having a roadmap for your content can be equally dangerous.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Creating a quarterly plan for topics and formats to use as a guide
• Keeping a running list of ideas and revisit regularly
• Being agile—allowing room in your calendar for adjustments and additions
• Developing your own calendar—with as much or as little detail as you need

Pitfall #10: Expecting immediate results

If you’re expecting to “start” content marketing and immediately get results, you’re likely to be disappointed.  Some companies fail to realize that content marketing is not a quick fix to boost sales in the short term, instead it’s a long-term strategy that takes a while to build. So if your company is going to take up content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have to be patient and willing to commit for the long haul.

Avoid this mistake by:
• Committing to patience and a long-term mentality
• Being diligent to push forward even if results don’t immediately pour in
• Continuing to focus on your audience and your strategic objectives
• Adopting a program mentality and ditching the campaign mentality

/ / /

Content marketing is not without its challenges and difficulties. These are several of the more common mistakes that marketers can make when it comes to content marketing. What are some others that you’ve experienced or noticed? Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments below.

The promise of content marketing is that it is a non-spammy way to attract visitors to a website. Done well, demonstrating knowledge and expertise in a way that your prospect will find helpful, you will leave them asking for more.

However, if it stops with your website, you may have drawn more visitors, but you’re unlikely to convert them to sales ready conversations. To take a good content marketing program to a great content marketing program takes a few well-placed email marketing tips.

1. Buyer Focused: “I care because…?”

It’s critical to be clear in your communication how your buyer will benefit. If they can easily answer “What’s in it for me”, then you have a chance. If they can’t see how they will benefit by opening your email or reading your content, then they won’t.

Before you start working on your program, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want my buyer to think?
  • Why should they, what tangible information supports this?
  • What is the ONE thing my buyer should take away?

2. On Demand: Work on their timing, not yours

Let’s say a prospective buyer downloads a guide about new technology trends in your industry.  In the old days you’d add them to your quarterly newsletter list and have the sales team try to connect to schedule a demo.

A better approach is to setup an automatic follow up email series based on their demonstrated interest while it’s still fresh in their minds. Show them how they can learn more about the advantages of technology with an offer to download a more detailed eBook about leveraging new technology to improve profitability.

Since the buyer is still in early stage research, showing them how they do something better will pull them closer, while going for a premature close could just drive them away.

3.  Contextual Messaging: Start on topic and in context

Your buyer has connected with your company because of something that interested them. Whether it was an article on your blog, an eBook, or even something in social. It wasn’t the channel, but the content they found in that channel.

What was the topic that piqued their interest? Use that as the entry for your email to connect and continue the conversation.

An Example of Putting These Email Marketing Tips in Action.

After downloading one of the available whitepapers the follow up connected first about the content the buyer had downloaded, then introduced a case study offer. Even better, the case study was perfectly matched with the questions the buyer had answered about their primary challenges.

4.  Responsive Design: Be prepared for no matter the device

People are talking about the importance of mobile friendly websites. However mobile friendly email may be even more important.

In a study released by Knotice and reported on MarketingProfs, depending on industry, as much as 55% of all marketing email is now being opened on a mobile devise. We now have access to recipients at a wide variety of times. The problem is mobile click through rates are significantly lower than desktop. According to the Knotice report, the drop was as much as 50% lower click through for mobile opens. A big part of the problem is emails being sent that aren’t mobile friendly.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Email for Mobile

  • Simplicity: Smaller screen means you have less space for long messages. Keep your emails short to make them easier to read on the small screen.
  • Clear calls to action: Take out the guess work by making it easy for the reader to know what to do next
  • Go easy on font sizes: Not everyone has telescopic vision. Small screens make it that more difficult.

5.  Smart Personalization: Make it an actual conversation

Virtually every email program allows personalization on more than just a Hello <Name Here> level. However most marketers aren’t using personalization anywhere near it’s potential.

In a test conducted by HubSpot, personalizing an email based on name saw an increase in click through by around 20% (from 5.8% to 7%). Even more impressive, personalizing with the recipient’s company name improved click through by nearly double. (7.5% to 15%)

So where else can you leverage personalization. Think about:

  • Subject line – on name or company when relevant
  • Email from line (make the it appear to be from their account manager)
  • In a headline, or directly within the “ask” because of your support in <year here> we were able to…

Where shouldn’t you use personalization? Anywhere it feels unnatural, or with any data that doesn’t add to the conversation and enhance the connection.

So are you ready to make your content marketing shine? Be sure to build in a few of these email marketing tips into your communication follow-ups.

Agile marketing is a hot topic. But, what exactly is agile marketing? And, why is the concept suddenly en vogue? It turns out that there are some very compelling reasons to consider agile marketing.

What is Agile Marketing?

Agile is a discipline picked up from software developers and it’s being applied to marketing and product development teams. Agile teams follow core principles that shape the way they work. Those principles include:

  • a bias toward action;
  • responding to change;
  • emphasis on collaboration (people and their interactions); and,
  • iterative work cycles that deliver something of value.

Many agile software teams work with the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). A MVP defines the minimum set of features and functionality that allows the product to be deployed and the concept validated, and no more. MVP is a strategy that allows for the rapid and data-driven testing of a new product or product feature. Some marketing teams have adapted this concept and created what they call a Minimum Viable Brief (MVB). The MVB focuses on insights that can be gleaned from “real time” digital tools, focuses on multiple ideas and options, and provides room to evolve as customers provide feedback. The MVB allows marketing teams to iterate and test campaigns.

Agile marketing is also a multi-dispicinary approach. Individuals on agile marketing teams have diverse backgrounds that span marketing, creative and technology skills. Agile breaks down silos between functions that often lead to miscommunication and needless delays.

So now that we’ve described agile marketing, let’s turn to the most compelling reasons for marketers to pilot and adopt this approach.

Top 5 Reasons to Consider Agile Marketing

1. Speed is a competitive weapon

In order to move at the pace of the digital and social era, marketing teams must move at blazing speeds. Technology has created a quantum leap in how fast we receive customer feedback, campaign results, and questions from the CEO. Companies that complete rapid cycles of test, learn, and optimize gain competitive advantage. The definition of success is increasingly speed based, and agile marketing provides a way to operate at this pace.

2. Almost all modern marketing is technology-enabled

Agile marketing is largely a consequence of the trend of marketing and technology to intersect and move towards each other. Software is at the heart of all modern marketing—campaign management, content management, listening systems, web applications, text-based analytics, display advertising, etc. Agile marketing borrows ideas and practices from technology and allows marketers and technologists to collaborate—as part of the same team.

3. Digital marketing allows for measurement and empirical decision making

Digital has the ability to be an increasingly measurable and accountable medium. It allows focus on what really, really matters. Agile marketing allows teams to deliver customer experiences that matter, evaluate real time data about how customers respond, and adjust as necessary

4. Agile marketing emphasizes responding to change

Anyone involved in marketing in the past few years can attest to the changes impacting work, marketing opportunities, and customer expectations. Major changes occur weekly or daily rather than monthly or quarterly. Agile marketing techniques, with the emphasis on responding to change, help address these needs.

5. Agile places the customer at front and center

One of the most compelling reasons to move to agile marketing is that the customer is given top priority. Agile teams work on “stories” that are described from the customer’s point of view. This keeps teams focused on what matters most—making incremental improvements that advance customer goals and optimize the customer experience.

Perhaps nothing in marketing has generated more buzz over the last few years than content marketing. It’s been all the rage and the great majority of companies and agencies have jumped on the bandwagon with gusto. But how do they define content marketing?

Content marketing defined

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” So it’s critical to understand that content marketing is, at the end of the day, all about the customer and at the same time, all about driving profit through attracting and retaining customers using helpful content. And that’s where the marketing comes in.

Common misconceptions abound

Content marketing isn’t a tactic; it’s more than a strategy and it’s not an entirely new concept—but it does represent a fundamental shift in how companies market to their audience. Rather than the traditional company-centric approach, content marketing is all about the customer, placing their needs and interests ahead of promoting a product or service.

But along with any “new” buzzword, misconceptions persist and the term takes on different meanings depending on whom you talk to. For SEO firms, it’s all about increasing search rankings and driving web traffic. For public relations companies, it’s simply another form of “storytelling” and brand communications. For content strategists, it’s often viewed as creating content for content’s sake without having a real strategy in place. And for some, it’s just a fancy new word for marketing as usual.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the most common misconceptions:

Content marketing is not an aimless tactic

Endless (and pointless) debates surround the topic of content strategy versus content marketing, and most recently, context marketing versus content marketing. But any company practicing content marketing in the true sense of the term should have strategy and context at the center. Content marketing involves so much more than just crafting the right message and publishing it in the right format. It starts with strategy: defining personas, mapping content to the stages of the customer life cycle and then promoting through the proper channels at the right time using the right formats. Simply put, there is no content marketing without strategy and context — only content.

Content marketing is not the new SEO

Perhaps the most common misconception about content marketing is that it’s synonymous with SEO. Too many companies (and SEO agencies) view content marketing simply as a new way to increase search rankings. While Google’s latest algorithms do place an enormous emphasis on rewarding publishers of high quality and relevant content, that doesn’t mean that content marketing is purely an SEO exercise. Yes, it’s true that content marketing done right can and will increase search rankings and drive web traffic. But SEO is an ancillary benefit of content marketing—a subset of your program—it’s not the primary goal or purpose, nor should it be your sole motivation for creating content. SEO is simply a means, not an end.

Content marketing is not PR

Some practitioners argue that content marketing is the new PR, with brands becoming publishers in today’s digital landscape. But while there is overlap, content marketing and PR are not the same. Both disciplines are concerned with communications between organizations and their audiences, but while PR is often aimed at building awareness and goodwill, the ultimate goal of content marketing is customer acquisition and retention.

Content marketing is a marketing strategy aimed at reaching a target audience throughout the various stages of the customer lifecycle. For content marketing to move the needle, it needs to be closely aligned with a company’s sales and business development efforts and should play a significant role in both demand and lead generation.

Content marketing is not just a fancy new term for creating content

It’s true; companies have been creating content to market their businesses for centuries. But the difference is that most content has been entirely promotional and focused on the company’s own products, services, accolades, features and benefits—not the customer or the information in which they are most interested.

Consumers are not looking for a sales pitch and content marketing doesn’t give them one. Instead of selling, it shares insight, answers questions, solves challenges, educates and entertains. It provides information that prospects will not only find valuable, but also relevant to what they are searching for online. And this represents a fundamental shift in thinking for many marketers and companies accustomed to selling at every touch point.

Content marketing is not a “get rich quick” scheme

Anyone who jumps on the content marketing bandwagon and expects to see immediate, overnight results is likely to be disappointed. Yes, content marketing is a powerful component of demand and lead generation and does drive results. But content marketing is best viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not a quick fix to boost sales in the short term or something that you can just jump into and out of and expect to get any real return. It takes time, strategy, planning, hard work, patience and commitment.


Content marketing can and should be an invaluable component of your company’s marketing program. But it’s important to understand what it is and what it isn’t, and then identify how it fits into your company’s overall marketing plan.

Turn back the clock a few years; choices were pretty lean for content management systems or CMS that would help the marketing team develop great creative websites they could manage themselves without needing a developer for simple updates.

Today, WordPress with over 60% of the CMS market stands out as the primary choice for many companies. It’s an open source platform giving developers a lot of flexibility to build great sites. There are also hundreds of great plugins to add more functionality into the site.


Source: W3 Techs – Web Technology Surveys

For the past three years we’ve used HubSpot for our marketing automation. However, our agency’s website was on WordPress and we were very happy with the CMS. But times and technology changes and we recently moved off of WordPress and built a new website on HubSpot’s content management system also sometimes called a content optimization system.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a number of great features on WordPress that depending on your business could make it the right choice. For others it might be time to look beyond WordPress.

Comparing WordPress vs. HubSpot for building creative websites


1. Creative Templates

Not everyone can afford the cost to develop a fully custom website. Sometimes what’s needed is a great creative template that can then inexpensively be updated with images, fonts, colors, etc. for the company’s needs.

With sites like Theme Forest, WordPress has the competition beat with hundreds of inexpensive creative templates available to start building a great site. HubSpot does have a template market place that is growing, but currently has nowhere near the choices you’ll find for a WordPress website. WordPress will also typically have a low initial cost but maybe all of the long-term potential value you can get from a HubSpot CMS site.

Advantage: WordPress
More available templates – lower initial costs

2. Apps & Plugins

Adding functionality into a site with plugins and apps can really help build out the features of a site. WordPress has a wide variety of both free and paid plugins that cover a range of functionality. Meanwhile HubSpot being a closed system has many features already build in so purchasing additional apps isn’t as big an issue.

At first you’d assume that WordPress’ larger market would make this an easy choice. However the open nature of the WordPress plugins means that sometimes they’re not compatible and can bring your site down if they don’t play well together.

Advantage: Tied
Broad availability of plugins for WordPress, more built-in stability for HubSpot

3. Dynamic Personalization

Being able to customize a site based on the behavior of a visitor is a huge advance in personalization. The functionally use to come with a huge price tag through applications like Omniture’s Test and Target M Boxes. However, recently HubSpot introduced “Smart Content” as a standard feature in their COS Site Pages. Nothing like it exists in WordPress.

The Smart Content sections let marketers serve up different messages, content, visuals totally based on who the visitors is and what might be interesting to them. We’ve understood the power of personalization in email and direct mail for years. Now you can do the same thing in your site.

Advantage: HubSpot
Greater personalization capabilities based on visitor interactions

4. Post Development Changes / Edits

Sometimes creativity isn’t all about look and feel. Some of the most creative websites are those that are agile and able to change as markets change and customers look for new things. If you are stuck with a static design template, you may not be able to make the adjustments you need to take advantage of the opportunity.

HubSpot’s site pages templates make it easy for non-developers to make changes to layouts, and content sections without needing to know a ton about coding. It can be an easy drag and drop exercise to make the changes you want in HubSpot

Advantage: HubSpot
Easier post live adjustments and changes to page layout and setup

So while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, for me having the ability to dynamically personalize the user experience and easily make other site changes can make for the most creative websites – the ones you can control.