Communitech Strategic Marketing P2P: Content Marketing with Mabel’s Labels

This morning I attended the monthly Strategic Marketing peer-to-peer group¹ hosted by Communitech. The speaker, Tricia Mumby, is a cofounder of Mabel’s Labels, and spoke about the importance of content marketing.

What made this session particularly interesting was that the lessons and recommendations Tricia passed along were developed through personal experience, rather than reading about best practices.

What made this session particularly interesting, at least for me, was that the lessons and recommendations Tricia passed along were entirely organic: they were developed through personal experience, rather than reading about best practices. At Mabel’s Labels, they had basically no budget, and no time to spend on things that didn’t work, so they learned very quickly to define and measure success because doing so allowed them to focus on the things that were worthwhile.

Tricia is a memorable/vibrant presenter: I’d never heard of the company until this P2P session, but I won’t soon be forgetting it.  Her presentation style is “say what I think when I think it”, and her passion is evident. She told us the story of Mabel’s Labels, from its humble origins (“four moms in a basement”) to the highs and highers over the years, and she really brought it to life. It was through this story that she illustrated the importance of content marketing and communicated some of the lessons she’s learned over the years.

What is content marketing, you ask? Well, put simply, content marketing is an attempt to acquire leads and customers through the creation and distribution of content.The idea is to create great content that will be seen by your target prospects, and that they’ll in turn buy your stuff:

  1. Create content
  2. ??? Acquire leads, and then customers
  3. Profit!

If I think about it, in my own experience I’ve ‘content marketed’ via thought leadership pieces that got picked up by mainstream media, whitepapers, infographics, videos, bylines, and probably other things that I’m forgetting. Anyway, back to the story.

One thing that popped out to me immediately was that Mabel’s Labels was first in the market, and through “word of mom” was first in the mind. Now, we all know how important that is (say it with me!): “Being first in the mind is everything in marketing. Being first in the marketplace is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first.” (p15 of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing) Tricia recognized this and credited it with much of their success.

Initially, thanks to that first-mover advantage, her company enjoyed great growth. Over time, though, competitors popped up, and to continue to grow Mabel’s Labels needed to create more awareness to stand above the competitive clutter. To do this, they relied largely upon content marketing to get in the mind of their target demographics.

Tricia flashed up a slide of all the sites, communities, channels, etc. that Mabel’s Labels has used (“if our customers are there, then we need to be there”) and it was cluttered with, I’m guessing here, 200 logos? Contrast that enormity with the relatively few services that really seem to deliver results for the company: the blogging community (“we aim to earn 1000 positive reviews a year”), Facebook (“historically our best channel for purchase conversion, but tougher now under the new rules“), Twitter (“great for establishing relationships”), and Instagram and Pinterest (“fun, and our customers are there”).

Tricia also pointed out that Mabel’s Labels was able to cite their high engagement on social media when they were talking with major retailers Walmart and Target.

Tricia understood the importance of defining goals and measuring results.

So how did they determine which sites and channels were worthy of attention? Right from the beginning, Tricia understood the importance of defining goals and measuring results. Ask yourself what is it you’re looking for? Clicks? Likes? Shares? Someone trading their money for labels? Here are some of the questions she asks of content and channels:

  • Are we engaging with people that are converting to customers?
  • Are we providing a customer service experience in a place people expect it?
  • Is the content providing valuable SEO?
  • Is the channel leading to positive relationships?
  • Is the channel creating a positive brand impression?

Tricia was also quick to point out that what resonates with your target audience might come as a surprise.

Tricia was also quick to point out that what resonates with your target audience might come as a surprise, and shared some examples including a 40% off sale that was significantly outperformed by pictures of a friends and family day at the warehouse.

She wrapped up by giving some guidance on how to decide where to publish content:

  • First, you have to like it – there’s no point picking a channel that is going to be a chore
  • Is there a passion for it amongst your social team?
  • Are your customers looking for you there?
  • Is it serving some other business purpose?
  • Ease of use: long-term, will you keep it up, or will it whither?
  • Does it convert? (critically, you must know what a conversion is, for your business)

She closed by offering this advice:

“Don’t be afraid, but be careful.” – Tricia Mumby

All in all, I consider it an hour well spent, and I’m appreciative of Tricia taking the time to drive to Waterloo and share her experiences with us!

¹Communitech hosts many of these P2P groups for different job functions

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