Marketing ventriloquism in context: How it ties to 5 key marketing initiatives
In my musings about marketing ventriloquism, the art and science of speaking through voices other than your own, I’ve covered a lot of ground. Why it is so gosh darn effective? How do you control the uncontrollable? How do you introduce it to your organization?
Now, let’s explore how marketing ventriloquism ties to other au courant marketing initiatives that may be underway in your organization: employee advocacy, content marketing, account-based marketing (ABM), industry analyst relations and marketing attribution.
I’ll start with employee advocacy because it is a pure play form marketing ventriloquism. Your company is already doing this every time it sends out a link to an article and asks employees to share it on their social media accounts. This is the easiest, lowest-cost way to be a marketing ventriloquist and is generally a no-brainer.
There are, however, some limitations to employee advocacy as a marketing ventriloquist tactic. Notably, it smells a bit like you (your company) talking about yourself (itself) because many recipients may know that the person posting the content works for your company.
Scale and targeting are other challenges. Employee compliance can be a challenge, too. That said, companies like Dynamic Signal, a pioneer in employee advocacy software, have created ways to maximize the effectiveness of employee advocacy and to sustain it over time.
If employee advocacy is a sibling of marketing ventriloquism, content marketing is a cousin. The Content Marketing Institute defines its namesake concept as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience -- and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
It’s a little wordy, but I’ll work with it since linking to their definition is a convenient example of the value of content marketing. I do think that definition misses a point captured by Oxford that content marketing “does not explicitly promote a brand.” This is the part that really helps content marketing escape with a lower BS Meter score than outright advertising.
What is the key disadvantage of content marketing relative to earned media? You guessed it -- you. It is you talking to your customer again. What is the big advantage that CMO’s love about content marketing? You guessed it again -- control. You get to say exactly what you want to say, the way you want to say it.
When done adroitly, content marketing is also an effective search engine optimization (SEO) tool and can effectively build awareness and authority on a subject. It also ties in nicely to The Challenger Sale ethos of providing information -- potentially provocative -- to your prospective customer.
You can even amplify owned content, the term of art for that which is produced via content marketing. In fact, if you have a consistent measurement system in place, promoting owned media along with earned media is recommended and can be an informative exercise.
Account-based Marketing (ABM) is de rigueur in B2B marketing circles these days. In another example of content marketing, Marketo defines ABM as a “B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.”
ABM is typically employed for heavily considered purchases of high-ticket items that have extended purchase cycles. As such, ABM marketing strategies are possibly the ideal place for the marketing ventriloquist and amplified earned media.
The people making these kinds of considered purchases need a lot of information over a long period of time and are often experts in their fields. They only want to hear from you when they want to hear from you, and they know you will take their call at a moment’s notice. The rest of the time they want to amass information from a variety of sources that they trust.
Industry Analyst Relations
OK, industry analysts may not be a particularly avant-garde form of marketing. I did want to touch on them, though, as another form of relatively pure play marketing ventriloquism.
By industry analysts, I mean the Gartners and Forresters of the world and their kin. Industry analysts pretty much exist to convey information about technical products in voices other than those of the producers of those products. They maintain walls of varying permeability between their editorial content and the consultative services they provide companies.
When companies are mentioned favorably in analyst reports, they almost reflexively invoke some form of earned media amplification and/or ABM. Conveniently, the analyst companies are happy to license you their content precisely for such purposes.
Lastly, marketing attribution is, as defined by Marketing Evolution, “the analytical science of determining which marketing tactics are contributing to sales or conversions.” In many ways, it is the holy grail of marketing measurement.
We all know that marketing investment follows the numbers. This is why less effective, but better measured, marketing activities regularly receive disproportional investment. Lack of credible measurement is also where PR often falls down when teams are granted their annual allowances each year during budgeting season. As Lars Hirsch -- previously the principal product manager, sponsored products, at Amazon -- put it, "Whoever owns your attribution model, owns your budget."
Earned media amplification offers a way out of this self-reinforcing negative spiral for PR departments. With the right measurement systems, earned media amplification can be used to assign what we call PR attribution values to individual articles and PR campaigns as a whole. Earned media amplification can also produce data for attribution models to make them more accurate.
As you can see, marketing ventriloquism is not an island; it is a capability that can be tied to many marketing activities in your organization.