Developing Content for Today’s “Content Marketing” World

Today we have marketing channels not even imagined a decade ago.  It has brought us a whole new vernacular; we “Tweet” messages and count “Likes.”  We talk relentlessly about it being a content-driven world.  The styles and forms our content can take today really call for an organized way of creating the message and properly disseminating it to your audience, at the proper time.

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Where to begin on content?  From the beginning is usually the best choice.  Here is a step by step guide to creating content that works:

Start by defining your audience.  Describe who they are.  Find out what they are reacting to now.  What content seems to matter to them?  What’s the answer to the age-old question “what keeps them awake at night?”  This way you can come up with topics that you know will resonate with your audience.

Determine how you will reach your audience.  Where does your audience go for information?  Will Twitter be an effective way to reach them, or might LinkedIn be better?  Does your audience embrace Facebook or might a blog be a better vehicle.  What is your off-line promotional strategy? Don’t assume you’ll just blast your message all over the place, be targeted and use each communication vehicles’ strengths.

Match content length to the tasks.  Each of the marketing channels you have available to you have different norms as to the length of message that can be effectively delivers.  Twitter has their 140 character limit, but you can also send along a link to longer content.  Blogs have an established norm of around 500 words.  White papers run thousand of words.  These vehicles deliver different things sought at different times during the sales cycle.

Be aware of the sales cycle.  Different content is needed by potential buyers at different times in the buying cycle.  There is the early stage when the prospects are educating themselves, the middle stages where they are evaluating options and the later stage when they are looking to justify a potential decision.   Content therefore, should speak to one of these stages and be offered when the prospect is in that stage of the process.

Commit to the long term.  Content marketing is not a one-time promotion; it’s a long term way of doing business.  It takes time to develop an audience, hone your content and learn to distribute it.  It’s also good to ask the audience now and then, to make sure you are hitting the mark.  It does not happen overnight.

“Content marketing” has become the marketing buzzword of 2013; we’re all trying to figure it out and apply it to our worlds.  Recognize that we evolved to where we are today; there we no overnight revolutions on the way.  Content is still content, it’s just operating in a more complex world. There are also different expectations from the audience.  If you recognize all of this and can apply it in an organized way, you’ll soon be a content marketing expert.

What has been your biggest challenge moving to “content marketing?”  Where are you in that process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Start Treating Your Content Like Gold Now!

Content has been a big topic the last few years.  It seems every time you see a survey of the things that CMOs are concerned about, producing enough quality content is usually their number one concern. We even have a style of marketing now called “content marketing,” which of course doesn’t actually market content, it uses content to market other products.  Are you following this?

Content is Gold

Content is the fuel that makes today’s marketing work.  Simple as that may sound, not everyone has swallowed the Kool-Aid yet.  Can you do quality marketing without quality content?  Perhaps.  There are some businesses that are not in the stage of the market that content earns it’s keep.  Some products don’t really lend themselves to the written word; others fail in diagrams.  All is not created equal.

So to help you understand the landscape, here are 5 important points to contemplate:

You can calculate and communicate the exact value of your content.  You can learn in pretty good detail exactly what kinds of content resonate with your audience.  Especially if you hold some other variables constant (audience, medium) while you vary the content.

You can pass content as value to your channel partners.  Everyone wants and can use quality content.  Especially your channel partners.  It used to be that channel partners would look to their vendors for MDF or “leads” and while money still talks, compelling content that supports the marketing effort benefits everyone.

Use different content for the top and bottom of the funnel.  It’s best to use broad subjects and provocative subjects to entice people to enter your funnel where you can educate and nurture them.  Bottom of funnel content will be more product based; reviews, case studies, technical white papers.

Content can be reused.  I know it’s crazy to overstate the obvious, but quality content can be used in much more than one was.  Snippets of a white paper make blog posts; a reworking of a brief can make a contributed article.  Some folks are absolute artists at doing this.  Find one for yourself and stretch your content!

You buy it once, it pays many times.  This is my favorite. Having quality content is a bit like having money in the bank.  You can use it to make money in a campaign, you can use it to make our channel partners smile, you can use it in your PR on your website and in your emails.  And you only have to buy it once!  The inventory that never depletes.

Today’s marketing not only  requires the ability to find, write or purchase content that gets the most out of your campaigns.  It also requires a knack in actually using that content..

How does your content stack up?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How has B2B Lead Flow Changed?

Recently I have had the opportunity, more than once,  to consider and explain what’s different about today’s B2B marketing.  It seems the standard that exists in the mind of many outside of the marketing discipline is a lead flow where marketing played a much smaller role.  In that mindset, marketing found leads and sent them all off to sales.  Aside from the occasional last-ditch follow up campaign most of those leads fall dormant.

Now, that mode of operation helped grow a number of great companies, some would say.  The time-honored tradition of following up on leads became a B2B pastime.  So did complaining about lead quality and executing poor follow up.

For example, in the “old days” marketing would set up a trade show, do a promotion or devise a game that brought booth traffic, and then sales interacted with prospects in the booth.  Out of a show came a small number of “hot leads” and a larger number of lesser quality “scanned leads”  Of course the “hot leads” got entered in the system and followed up on quite quickly.  The larger number of “scanned leads,” not so much.  Really, marketing’s role was to instantly hand off all leads to sales.

Marketing Funnel

Enter the 21st century marketer, armed with advanced marketing automation and lead nurturing tools, carefully-created content and end-to-end CRM visibility.  These tools have changed the nature of the game for B2B marketing forever.  Now a “lead” stays in marketing for long periods of time, being nurtured by steady and consistently-applied campaign rules dictate each email, call and question.  This is the middle section of the chart.

Marketing then can “watch” the digital body language of leads and, in a lead scoring environment, can automatically move these to the sales process when they are ready.  The systems can also dictate and advise when a potential customer should be called in the process.  In that manner they can also feed the exact right content for the prospect’s stage of the purchase process.

Within a campaign executed by an automated marketing system, you take different paths based on feedback from the prospect; did they open the email?  Did they click on any links?  Have they visited the website?  All of these actions can be input the lead nurturing campaign and each result can dictate different reactions.

Back in the stone ages of marketing “sales” did these tasks.  Often poorly or inconsistently.  Using a process that was basically untrackable.  But we’re over that now.  Take a deep breath.  We can move on now!

Using one of these systems also allows the marketing team to work on new and creative campaigns rather than executing repetitive marketing execution tasks. It’s all good!  Consider bringing it into your world!

What is the state of your marketing lead engine?  Are you nurturing your leads properly?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

How to Keep Your Content Short!

There is a study recently released from Pardot that covers a number of content related issues.  One of the most reported, retweeted and rehashed findings from the study was that 70% of the 400 B2B buyers in the survey thought that content should be less than 5 pages. Frankly, I am kind of surprised that anyone is surprised. If we could get the same information in 1 or 2 pages, why would we want 5?

Pardot-B2B-Buyers-Content-Length-Preferences-Nov2013

Some of the popular social media tools have us looking at ways to spread more gospel with less characters. There is a whole science of distilling your message down to the right number of words or characters for different media. These are all good trends taken from the tactics newspaper writers have used for years.

But it’s not just Tweets and Facebook postings that could use an eye toward brevity; nearly all our communications can benefit from the trend. I went to a business school that had an across-the-board maximum size for all written assignments. The theory was, if you can’t distill it down to a page or page and a half, then no one will ever read or understand it. The training served me well!

Here are then, some tips to keep your writing short, sweet and to the point!

  • Start with an outline.  It seems obvious but if you start by distilling your message down to three points, communicating the three points in a concise fashion now becomes an easier task. This works for blogs like this one all the way to voice mails. Detail the things that must be communicated and start from there.
  • Decide on the tone of the communications.  Determine the level of background to be presented along with the main points. Make it the same for all points. Don’t go in to great depth on the first point and less and less for each one.  How deep you can go will be determined by the overall length of your piece and the number of points you must make.
  • Use visual tools.  You can make a shorter communication more clear with bullets, numbering and the like. These tools make it easier for the brain to absorb the content.  Pictures, chart and graphs also make the data easier to embrace. New content choices like “infographics” have taken the task even further by providing tools that are not limited to just words on a white background.
  • Remove unnecessary words.  The old litmus test was that if the sentence/paragraph meant the same if you removed a given word, then the word should be removed. Many communications can benefit from this type of review and end up shorter with no loss of clarity.

One of the good things is that there is much good content in the world that you can look at and emulate to make your content even better. Note the way others get to the point quickly and completely without a lot of extra words. This style of writing gets read and gets the message across.  Adapt the style as your own!

Have you ever tried to reduce the size of your content? What techniques have you used?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

6 Easy Tips to Create Killer Landing Pages

Doesn’t it seem that landing pages have taken on a life of their own?  There are websites and cloud services that offer only landing pages.  Whole articles (like the one you’re reading!) have been written on the subject.  That’s a lot of attention being paid to a single-purpose page with limited data on it.

Web pages

Is the attention warranted?  The answer is yes!  It’s likely the case that landing pages are the most important link in the entire lead capture chain.  Paying some attention to them will pay off quickly.  Take a look at these ideas to create great landing pages:

  1.  Keep it uni-focused.  Your landing page should be designed for one purpose; capturing the lead from whomever lands on it.  It’s not the time to reinforce the message or education the audience.  Stick to the focus.  Land here, sign up, thanks very much. You will also want to limit the potential navigation off the landing page.  Once you have them on a landing page, you want to complete the deal.
  2.  Clear, easy to read copy and headlines.  This is the time to be pithy and to the point.  All headlines and copy should be oriented toward the call to action on your landing page. Be persuasive, but not verbose. This is the time to close the deal!
  3.  Make the form simple and bold.  There’s always that age-old discussion about asking for information on a registration form.  One view is that you should ask 12-15 questions and make them all mandatory and others think name and email is enough.  In general, ask for the least information you can get by with. Make the form short and bold.
  4.  Strong call to action.  The goal of a landing page is to get the prospect to take action and to provide little other alternatives. The call to action should be prominent and repeated throughout a landing page.  Often a large button with the call to action on it, e.g. “order now,” is the center of the page.
  5.  It’s all about the layout.  Landing pages have a limited number of components but how they are presented on the page can influence the response.  You will want to try different layout and test them.  Keep things above the fold when possible. It’s not just about which page looks best to the team, it’s about which returns the most.  Use all the tools that you have and certainly the visual layout is an important one.
  6.  Testing.  Landing pages just cry out for testing.  The only real way to know if the changes you’ve made are actually an improvement or not is to test it with real prospects.  Running a constant A/B test environment will allow you to always be improving the look and the response from your landing pages.

Landing pages are a bit of an art and a lot of trial and error.  Since it is really the last mile of your marketing process, make sure it’s everything it can be and helps you close the deal with your prospects!

What are your tricks for creating landing pages?  Do you do A/B testing on a regular basis?

 

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

B2B Marketing 2014: We’re All Publishers Now!

Seems everyone has been discussing and writing about content marketing for a while now.  It’s one of those hot topics and buzzwords that catches everyone’s fancy and hangs around for a while.  Sometimes these fads don’t even leave any evidence they were with us.  However, now we have some evidence that content marketing is here to stay.

Recently, a survey on content marketing was published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs that sought to understand the current state of content marketing in businesses of all sizes. They surveyed 1416 North American companies and have been kind enough to share their results.  Once you see the results, I think you’ll agree there’s a clear trend in these data that suggests we really are all becoming publishers.

You’ve heard the assertion before: All B2B companies must become publishers.  They won’t be able to market unless they do.  Personally, I already bought into the trend as I see it happening all over.  This study makes it easy to show that trend.  Here are three findings from the study that illustrate the trend:

Companies of all sizes are doing it.  This chart shows the total percentage of the budget spent on B2B content marketing.  The across the board average is 33% and the percent age is highest in the smallest of the firms, the “Micro” category of firms with less than 10 employees.  That’s right, even firms are small a few employees are implementing content marketing and they are spending an increasing amount on it.  The “Micro” firms spend nearly half (42%) of their total marketing budget on content.

Total Budget B2B Content Marketing

The trend is toward taking content development in-house.  Overall the percentage of companies that outsource content creation fell from 58% to 44%.  While larger companies are more likely to still outsource content creation, the trend toward in-house occurred in every size category.  This is clear evidence that we are all becoming publishers!

Percent Outsourced

Producing enough content has become the biggest issue.  When asked about the challenges B2B content marketers have, the top response was “Producing Enough Content.”  Now that we have social media and lead nurturing systems, it increases the demand for content.  Much of this content is very specific and for a targeted place in the sales cycle.  Our increasing sophistication of content delivery is putting great demands on content creation.

Content challanges

So, I rest my case your honor.  Content marketing is here to stay and has become important for B2B firms of all sizes.  Your task is to develop the capability, both personally and within your organization, to develop this content.  Good luck!

What type of content does your company produce?  Is it done in house or is it oursourced?

All charts taken from “2013 Content Marketing Benchmarks-North America; CMI/MarketingProfs”

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Three B2B Marketing Breakthroughs You Can Expect to See In 2014

If you are like me you begin each year with renewed optimism, a clean slate and limitless possibilities.  Like a new sports season; all teams are tied at 0-0 and every team has the same chance.  As I contemplate 2014, I have a few things I think are very likely to happen in the next year.

Let me first say that I think we are in an exciting time in the evolution of B2B marketing.  For many years the tools and tracking that B2B marketers had to help with leads were poor at best.  Finally, however, this has begun to change.  As we are working with these tools, they are reshaping our work.

2014 is here!

2014 will be a great year for marketers!

But what’s next?  What breakthroughs would really make a material difference?  Here are three that I know are in progress and believe will begin to have a significant impact on B2B marketing starting in 2014.

  1. Big data having a positive effect on B2B marketing lists  We have become more proficient at gathering and mashing up data in search  of better information.  At long last big data technologies are being applied to one of the “holy grail” of business marketing: developing a target list of customers.  Lists that represent individuals within a company have been poor since the dawn of time.  I have great hope that a paradigm sift level of improvement is due us.  For more hope, check out what InsideView is working on; they have the right idea, let’s hope they can make it happen.
  2. Better business demographics allow better targeting of B2B prospects  I have executed dozens of business-targeted marketing projects, many of which suffer from the lack of meaningful business demographics.   Again, if you are at all familiar with the depth of consumer demographics that can be used for targeting, then you look at what is available from the B2B side and just shake your head.  It is hard to separate prospects from non prospects based on company size and SIC code.  Thanks fully people are working on the issue.  Take a look at Lattice Engines; they are doing some exciting work in the area.
  3. Improvement in social media monitoring tools. There are a lot of social media tools for tracking and understanding followers, etc.  To really be helpful, these things need to be integrated right into your dashboards for marketing programs.  In addition, marketers will want to monitor not only who reads and follows you, but also monitoring what is said about your company and/or product.  Salesforce.com just acquired a powerful monitoring tool with Radian6.

I really hope you share the optimism I have that we live in a world of continually-improving tools and results.  For those of us in the marketing profession this has and will continue to be an exciting time to do our jobs.  Take a moment to have a quick look at the tools I have highlighted above and see if you agree!

What other exciting new marketing tools have you seen?  What are your hopes for 2014?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm