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3 ways to automate WordPress and improve content creation

This is a test post to some degree as well as an explainer. I’ve been trying to work out the best way to get a post out without needing to tend to some of the tedious chores of publishing a post every time. I want to get those out the way fast so I can focus on the writing. Read on to see what I am trying out.

I make use of featured images – a lot. I try have them in every post except when I create a DanelDoodle because then the doodle becomes the only image I want the reader to focus on.

Most of the time I create custom featured images for each post because when you share on social media, the central part of the featured image stands out. Sometimes it matters less so I looked at several ways of to automate the creation of a featured image.

One was super simple which I loved but there was no way to distinguish between posts and pages (Default Featured Image). Another broke my site since the plugin hadn’t been tested to work with my version of WordPress (Auto Post Thumbnail). The third worked a charm: Quick Featured Images.

The featured image (and thumbnail) for this post was automatically generated by using the plugin so its a step I can skip when creating posts with a specific tag. I’ve started with this and will see how I go but so far so good.

Social Sharing

click to enlarge

I had a challenge with the social sharing function in the past but I am now trying to see if it has been fixed. I’m referring to the Jetpack function that you see in the screenshot.

In the past, the message I would write for the audience would overwrite the heading and excerpt I normally capture at the start of the post or in the SEO description.

I don’t want that to happen.

I would prefer it if the message was displayed in addition to the title and the excerpt I normally see.

That is because each plays its own role in making content stand out. I have been doing it manually for the last year or so but am hoping this will now work and save me more time.

Once this post is published, I’ll come back and confirm how it worked.

Block Templates

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Reusable blocks. This entire page and its layout can be saved as a reusable block. I would first have to group the elements I would want to reuse and then save the group. There’s more on that from WordPress. This does not included the featured image however and nor the headline.
  2. Copy post. I could just go to my list of posts that have been published and copy the entire post. This would copy everything and then I just need to change the things I want to change but everything else in terms of structure, would remain. More on that here.
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Less sales people more info – B2B buyers have spoken

The featured image in this post is based on an ironic state of affairs. Salesforce, arguably the best known CRM platform on the market, first started out life positioning itself as the “no software” company (if you’re in the SaaS business you’ll know what it means). The irony is that a recent piece of Gartner research is now indicating sellers are no longer required, the very people Salesforce’s platform is used to support.

Well not so much that sellers are not required but that buyers are relying on them less and less. Also marketing’s traditional role in building pipeline to tee up sellers for direct engagement in a “serial” or linear manner is being disrupted.

This came to me yesterday via an article published in the Harvard Business Review: Traditional B2B Sales and Marketing Are Becoming Obsolete. That article is based on original Gartner research.

The article was heavy on statistics but not visually so. I decided to pull some out and focus on the things I found interesting.

One of the mind boggling statistics which is actually a status of pre pandemic views is encircled. You can imagine that now, post pandemic, it is even lower as personal interactions comes under pressure and more activities are conducted online.

The other mind boggling stat is the one at the bottom and how that is even higher for younger buyers who are going to increasingly bring this view to the fore.

All this points to sellers having an increasingly hard time getting in front of buyers and companies having to focus on amplifying the ways buyers now increasingly inform their decisions as the article points out.

Something else to focus on – customer success

In place of the question mark in the featured image and in addition to the excellent recommendations in the HBR article focused on getting buyers the right info, this is what I suggest B2B vendors also focus on:

  1. Customer Successes that can be captured and shared with other prospective customers. So in other words, customer advocacy. Whatever form that takes (online stories, case studies or webinars with customers) it needs to be super authentic and succinct. Having the mechanism behind this requires a customer success and marketing operation driving these things – something similar to what I describe in this trend I am watching: Customer Success Marketing and Scale.
  2. Customer Success itself as an organisation, profession and operation is very much geared to ensuring renewals and drive upsells and cross sells from existing customers. So my suggestion would be to focus on getting this right and a huge customer base that already exists would be properly leveraged and protected against churn. The art of doing that is for another post, or read some of my other posts in this category.
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Marketing sales and customer success for 360 degree effectiveness

Click to enlarge

In line with the trend I’m watching and some recent work I’ve been doing working with colleagues in sales and marketing, I had some brief additional thoughts around this topic. More on the trend here: Customer Success Marketing and Scale.

These thoughts in the form of a DanelDoodle are a little heavier on the sales side. I do work very closely with sales people because I end up landing with what they have sold so it’s in my interest. I also want them to do a better job because ultimately, especially in SaaS businesses, its all interconnected. After I have done my job and they come back to renew or upsell the customer, they will expect that I have done the right thing to make that easier for them. So its a two way street.

I think the doodle is fairly self explanatory and I am using it to share my thoughts with colleagues on how we can work better together. Maybe its of use to you.

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State of advertising and company customer interactions 2021

My background in advertising makes this an interesting topic and you will hopefully soon see where the company customer interactions come in. I started out in the ad industry in the 90’s but left it before the turn of the century. My reasoning: the writing on the wall which indicated a gradual decline and irrelevance for the practice, especially at the onset of the technological revolution that was the world wide web. Twenty years later it’s worth pondering where things stand and if I was right in any way.

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What hope, the individual, drowning in a deluge of content?

I’ve been blogging on and off since at least 2005 in various forms or another, on many different platforms. This one is now 5 years old 🥳 (cue celebratory badge). The death knell for blogging has been tolled many times since. Social media and always on access through mobile phones have led to massive proliferation and consumption of content. Most is crap.

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Trending

Customer Success and Marketing functions are increasingly interrelated and working together. With scale motions and operations it’s driving customer experiences to new heights. I’m not sure its a new trend but I’ve started watching it here: Customer Success Marketing and Scale

A trend watcher is an innovator that spots trends and determines if they are here to stay and whether they should be incorporated into existing strategy. I enjoy it, it keeps me on my innovation toes and I dabble. I’ve captured this view with a few trends I’m tracking and published reports on already: Trend Watching

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Content Marketing 2020 – six things that work

Six of the things that I think work in terms of content marketing in 2020, captured in a DanelDoodle. This list is not exhaustive and the brief points for each are also not set in stone. Below is a brief additional paragraph on each.

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The new customer success partnerships

Customer Success teams in SaaS companies (mostly what I am focusing on here) probably like to think they are the spearhead for making customers successful (as the name suggests). In truth, its not that simple (is it ever).

First a little context on the two DanelDoodle’s I shared in this post. I use the Paper App (iOS) for my Doodles. They have a Paper Store where you can buy Workbooks. I purchased one on Data Doodling. Check out a video of the workbook. Basically it’s a set of instructions and practice steps for creating data doodles.

As part of the practice you create a mind map to break down a topic and then you start to define sources from that breakdown for your data doodle. So that is what you see in the two doodles. What a fun exercise it was and I plan to do more.

Now a few extra words about the subject. I chose it since I am a practicing professional in the space and wanted to explore some recent changes. As mentioned, Customer Success Managers will often take a lead in making customers successful. But since this is a relatively new role in many companies, it will often fall to other roles until CSM’s get up to speed. Even when they do, its a team game.

Mind map

In the mind map I tried to plot all of the functions that typically interface with the customer and even some that don’t normally, other than in some minor way. I also tried to add some new aspects to the typical roles and how they have evolved to work with customers. I’m not saying this mind map is in any way complete or even correct – it was done as part of the exercise and was a spontaneous process, no science.

Once you create the base mind map, you look to identify relationships that can be explored in the data doodle. These are the larger circles which I believe represent the old and new relationships working to serve customers.

Chart

I used one of the template charts from the work book and plotted a change in value the relationships were creating over time. These are then further categorised into new and old. The new and old reference does not imply that some partnerships are disappearing or will be replaced by other newer ones. And the trends are also a non scientific view I have, based on my experience in the customer success role since roughly 2012.

Things are definitely on the move and this view may not stand the test of time very long. Take Microsoft where I work (disclosure), we have just announced a major change in our Customer Success function. I cannot go into it but this public post by a long time and trusted Microsoft journalist at ZDNet gives some detail: Microsoft makes changes in its field sales, support groups as FY’21 begins.

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Balance customer success at scale with high touch when new demand spikes

I’m extremely lucky to work in a space that supports remote working, where demand is booming. COVID-19 has driven demand in the opposite direction for many, effecting their very existing. For the lucky few, it can also be something of a double edged sword. Supporting your customers the right way regardless, is crucial.

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Beyond Technology Adoption – Business Scenarios with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is such an incredible work productivity tool. It doesn’t just bring work from other applications into the conversation but the whole tool itself. That plus the ability it offers to structure activities into logical workflows provides perfect context for bringing business scenarios to life.

Business scenarios are an important mechanism in beyond adoption to drive business value.

Check out a brief intro and demo I’m using with customers into the use of Teams in the context of an example business scenario (marketing), focusing on getting things done and driving value.

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Role of marketing in customer success

I attended a customer success meetup last Friday which produced some excellent conversation.

I’ve been thinking about the topic of this post for a while so added it to the list of discussion topics in the meetup. From the link above you’ll see it amongst a bunch of Post It notes.

It was bundled alongside sales topics naturally enough and then we expanded on this and the other sales topics.

I’m really interested in this topic because at the moment I’m working on a customer marketing platform that will help me scale my activities with my customers and those of many of my colleagues in the EMEA region. I’ve just launched it so it’s early days. I’ll be sharing more on that as I learn what works and doesn’t.

But back to the meetup. I cannot remember all of the detail we discussed as I didn’t take notes. From memory and with my own thoughts on the subject I captured a doodle which I think distils both the conversation and my thoughts sufficiently. I’m hoping some attendees will chime in with their thoughts/memories here or on LinkedIn where I’ll share this 😁

The doodle should be fairly self explanatory and readable I hope. Here are a few extra notes that struck me as I put that together.

Ownership

On a quick search you’ll find a lot on this topic so it’s worth doing the exercise and I don’t want to broaden this post out too much for now. The one that popped up at the top of the list for me makes some good points: How Customer Success and Marketing Work Together to Build Brand Advocates.

I haven’t distinguished roles in my doodle for who should be responsible for any of the activities, marketing or customer success departments.

I did feel that some of the items listed in the article above where strictly customer success activities that should not fall into marketing, i.e. its pure customer success work, not even customer marketing.

This and more is probably something worth expanding on and there is evidence of it being an issue: Why Customer Success Should Own Customer Marketing.

Interconnection, especially with Sales

This was a big topic of discussion of course as sales was the overarching topic bucket. In particular we discussed what is often a disconnect between what is promised by marketing and/or sales and then has to be delivered by customer success.

I’ve tried to capture the interconnections in my doodle with the lines between activities.

This is also something I’ve experienced being a problem and I’m sure there is a lot about this out there which I’m not even going to look for at this stage.

Suffice it to say that the hand-off between the different activities and roles needs to be seamless for the customer experience to be optimal. This was clearly expressed in the conversation.

Anything to add?

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What business are you in?

The question in the title derives from the classic marketing thought piece by Theodore Levitt entitled Marketing Myopia. At the time it rocked not just the marketing world but the business world in general and has shaped business thinking ever since.

Published in the Harvard Business Review in July/August 1960, it is no less relevant today. I remember being excited about the concept on encountering it for the first time when doing my Masters in Marketing and I still am. It’s a foundational positioning model that I consider in some of my mentoring work. There are limitations to its applicability but it is still a sound concept.

By way of explanation, the famous piece starts with an illustration:

“The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because the need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves.”

“They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry wrong was because they were railroad-oriented instead of transportation-oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.”

The myopia referred to is a failing of definition by being too narrow in how you view the business you are in. Levitt urged marketers and business owners to stop defining themselves by what they produced and instead reorient themselves toward customer needs. This would ultimately define the business they were in on the basis of the most important stakeholder group that mattered – the customer.

An example of mistaken definition

Again by way of explanation, I made these points to one of the founders of Percolate about two years ago, mid way through my employment there.

I had questions around the business Percolate was in and how it was being defined. I framed my thoughts and feedback in the context of Levitt’s.

At the time (thankfully this has now changed), they defined their business as being in the supply of enterprise systems of record. They compared themselves to Salesforce for sales, Workday for HR.

In Percolate’s case, they were catering to marketers with a system of record for marketers. All of their marketing messaging and branding was centred on this key definition.

I questioned this fundamentally as a short-sighted and inward looking approach to marketing that focused on the needs of the company instead of defining the company and its products in terms of the customers’ needs and wants. It would result in a failure to see and adjust to the rapid changes in the market. My reasoning was as follows:

  1. The marketing record is the byproduct of a transaction and necessary for monitoring and tracking outcomes over time. But as a concept it’s not very inspirational to a typical user. It’s also the function of technology and by that virtue, product-oriented.
  2. It may appeal to an executive who wants to account for expenditure and effort in his or her organisation and you should appeal to this person’s needs in selling efforts. But to be successful you also need to focus on and inspire end users.
  3. Focus on end user input and how it is facilitated (briefing and planning necessary for creative work). Focus on output (execution of great creative marketing campaigns). Focus on how it makes them better at their job. System of Results might be a more appropriate positioning statement, especially in a SaaS world where usage is a major factor in retention and you need to go beyond the initial positioning focused around customer acquisition.
  4. Increasing pressure is being placed on marketers to be more creative and stand out. Creative work that can, will be operationalised, automated and performed by AI. Most creativity that counts, dealing with imagination and innovation that moves other humans to action, will remain with humans.
  5. Marketers are in the creativity business. Data skills are increasingly coming to the fore but that can be handled by machines. Products that help marketing customers manage their creative work and stand out, will stand out themselves. Doing more to spark creativity and collaborative features to aid collective creativity will stand out but it’s also what’s done on the service side and how you orient to enable organisational actualisation that matters.
  6. The Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs positions creativity and innovation as the pinnacle of organisational actualisation and all other layers as necessary but supporting elements – like a system of record.
  7. Focus the Customer Success service on helping customers achieve this level of actualisation. It takes the focus away from product and features which is always tricky and prone to disappointment (the difference between what is promised by sales and what is delivered post-sales often falls short).
  8. I would argue that all of the above positions the company proposition on uplifting and inspiring activities like enabling creativity, imagination, innovation, etc. This is the right way to position it, on the right activities, that will make humans stand out in a sea of machines. That move away from products and technology and onto human ingenuity. This will make all the difference as good positioning strategy should.

I didn’t share the above to dis Percolate. I wanted to share my original thinking and revisit it because I’ve been thinking a lot about this again recently. It keeps coming back like a bad habit. So many industries are faced with a fundamental re-evaluation of the business they are in because of rapid changes in the market. Much more so than the railroads faced back in the day.

Changes that are disrupting incumbent players and being taken advantage of by opportunistic startups that are positioning themselves in the right way.

What’s working and what isn’t?

It’s about getting creative with how you deliver products and services, leverage technology and position yourself. Getting creative with the very fabric of your business, its business model. That is what creates the Uber’s, WeWork’s and Air BnB’s of tomorrow.

My view on where Microsoft is (re)positioning itself.

And it’s not just startups. Microsoft is reinventing itself very successfully on the back of its new positioning. It’s why I am (back) here. It also goes beyond business models and touches on aspiration and effects culture which is what Microsoft has fixed led by its new CEO Satya Nadella. From an aspiration led vision to be “a PC on every desk” which was applicable then and worked well for them and the time, to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”. This latter is very much focused on the type of creativity we need to engender with employees and is reflected in its (re)positioning – in my view. How we help customers get creative is what I was arguing Percolate should do and what I think Microsoft is helping do more and more.

The auto industry is not doing so well. If you leave Tesla aside you will see an industry struggling to find its place in the new world and with reinventing themselves as they must. I’m not the only one to think so: Why Car Makers Are In A Death Spiral.

Since I’m working with the industry at the moment I am noticing first hand the lack of speed and imagination in doing the work necessary to reinvent themselves

I’ve suggested solutions (see below) – time will tell if they listen and how things pan out.

SaaS beyond Software – Automakers

The connected car vision is missing a few connections