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

The Top 4 Reasons CEOs Don’t Get Social Media

Social media is no longer something new.  It’s not the cool thing we all should look into any more.  It’s a live, breathing world where fortunes have been made and marketing professionals have been focused. Small companies have become large companies based on the strength of their social media reach.  Even Mom and Pop restaurants know the importance and power of social media.

Why is it then, that CEOs and other smart industry leaders often totally miss the facts?  Completely oblivious to the trends going on around them.  Yes, they know it’s happening, they just think it has no relation to their business or they recognize the importance, have “put their best people on it,” but don’t understand any of it from a personal level.  Social media is in fact “for somebody else.”

5 Reasons CEOs Don't Use Social Media

CEO.com and Domo conduct research annually on Fortune 500 CEOs and where they sit on social media.  This year’s report shows an interesting state of affairs.   Here are some findings from the report, as well as descriptions of some other forces involved.

  1. Most Fortune 500 CEOs do not have a single social media presence.  Yup, you read that right.  In this example “most” is 68% as in two-thirds.  It’s real hard to understand social media if you do not participate in any way. If  a company used television advertising, the execs would watch television, wouldn’t they?  Kind of shows how important social is to them.  After all is it quite easy and simple to, for example, sign up for twitter, get an app for your phone, follow a few folks you know and like.
  2. Of the CEOs that are engaged, most are only on LinkedIn.  The CEO.com/Domo report found that 2/3 of them are on one network only and 74% are on LinkedIn.  Now that’s good in the sense that it is an excellent social network that a CEO could find useful, etc.  It’s not a full view of social media, however.
  3. These trends trickle down.  In smaller companies, my impression is that age is a better determinant of social engagement company size.  In the CEO.com study, there is obviously a lack of younger folks in the sample.  (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the only F500 CEO on all five major social networks.)  While there are certainly companies headed up by 20-somethings; it’s just not the norm.
  4. Social networks are a challenge for anyone trained traditionally.  The way you extract value form a market via traditional “interruption marketing” tools is much different in today’s “in-bound marketing” world where companies seek to educate the target market and bring valuable tools and content.   I’ve also noticed that the more traditional among us (a group over-represented at the top of all size companies) are not comfortable with the lack of in-your-face “Buy Now!” signals in social media.

I guess it isn’t that this is this particular state of affairs that is the bad news.  No, the bad news is that it’s not changing very fast and is not likely to anytime soon.

What is your CEO’s level of knowledge on social media?  Is it an active part of their personal brand?

 

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

The 5 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Companies Make

Social media.  Much had been written, everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to know what you are doing in it.  Still many folks do not understand the process.  But that doesn’t stop some companies from jumping in anyway.  However, that might not be the best strategy.

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Executing a social media strategy that makes a difference takes thought, planning and consistent execution.  In social media many companies feel the pressure to be involved and jump in before they have really thought it through.  They end up making one or more of these easy-to-avoid mistakes:

  1. Starting without a plan.  A fairly common way for some companies to get started in social media is to sign up for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts and then “let’s see what happens.”  It’s also likely that almost nothing will happen and certainly the world won’t beat a path to your door to see what your next pearl of wisdom will be.  Social media is a crowded place and you need to carefully stake out your audience, your voice and your expertise.  It will not “just take off” on its own.
  2. Not knowing the audience.   Social media platforms are excellent places to find and grow an audience for what you have to say.  However, your content must be relevant to the audience to get noticed.  You’ll attract different audiences based on how your position your social media accounts and by the content that you post.
  3. Broadcasting the same exact thing over all networks.One seemingly popular strategy is to join all the relevant social media platforms and then, send out the same exact news releases, at the same time, on all of the networks.  Since many in your audience will sign up for multiple social media networks, based on their favorites, you’ll be sending out redundant messages.  A more forward thinking strategy would be to give each network a different voice.  Concentrate on different things in different streams.  Grow different types of audiences.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure.  This tends to happen with small entrepreneurial companies where the owner uses the company’s Twitter account to tweet out personal opinions, comments on service at restaurants and the like.  Telling us you have a hangover is not a way to enhance your brand.  Keep this type of chatter on a personal account and not on anything associated with your brand.
  5. Losing interest over time.  Many companies start sending out all sorts of content through social media and after a few months have run out of ideas or the person who was doing all the activity left the company, etc.   Social media is no longer something you “try and see if it works.”  It works and your competitors are making it work.  If you begin a social media outreach the goal is to make it an asset to your business and a major boost in your branding.  “There is no try; there is only do.”

Social media is with us to stay.  It’s become a complex and interesting world where marketers have a chance to differentiate our brands and showcase innovative content.  Embrace it, understand it and make it happen.  You hopefully won’t make these mistakes!

Has your social media implementation had issues?  Did you make any of these mistakes?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Content is King in Today’s Marketing: 3 Easy Steps to Hail The King!

In the stone ages of marketing, savvy and educated consumer marketing professionals cranked out slogans, taglines and clever plays on words, then made them come to life on paper, radio and television and distributed them ad nauseam.  Their B2B counterparts crafted copy that detailed benefits and advantages galore, as if the potential buyer had no choice and would suffer great disappointment if their product was not purchased.  Very little of this content educated or excited the purchaser, but marketing departments produced it by the truckload.

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That world is gone.  Forever.  It didn’t even say goodbye. Today’s potential purchaser has mass quantities of information available and is not so easily fooled by clever but meaningless dribble.  Moreover, given today’s social media focused, smartphone engaged, constantly connected world, the consumer holds the power to accept or reject the content. They can unsubscribe your email list, unlike you on Facebook and stop following your Tweets.  With no consequence, no guilt and no warning.  The buyer had no such choice in the stone age of marketing.  But today’s buyers have these abilities and aren’t afraid to use them.

How then does the marketer avoid being “unliked?” The answer is quite simple. You have to say something that the buyer wanted to hear.  Something that they find interesting, that makes them think. Content that educates them, that is straightforward, honest and fair.  Content that is not blatant chest puffing or insulting to your competitors.

Now, just avoiding being “unfollowed” is not nearly enough.  Necessary, but not sufficient.  You must be noticed in an increasingly crowded space, where content is mixed between personal interests and the business-related.  Content falls victim to that constantly.  Most of us do not have time to read every tweet or Facebook posting.  Often only those that “jump out at us” get read.

How then to avoid these pitfalls?  I’ll suggest these three rules for pitfall avoidance:

  1. Know your audience.  Be up to date on the issues your customer is focused on.  Ask your audience for feedback on a regular basis.  Find out what their concerns are and help them solve those problems through your content, even if it’s not directly related to your product.
  2. Start with a content plan. Create educational content, not “in your face” marketing.  Respect the customer’s intelligence.  Deal with them in a straightforward manner.
  3. Be consistent.  Let the audience get to know you.  You’re in it for the long term.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

You can easily find examples of both good and bad content every day.  Look in your email and your Twitter feed.  Some get it; some don’t. Observe, learn and make your content the best it can be!

Do you have a content plan?  How would you rate your own content?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Permission Marketing is Still the Rule of the Day

There has been a steady stream of changes in the way we market our products and services to our customers.  However, no change was bigger than the change the Internet has given us.  Seth Godin described the sea change best in his seminal  book “Permission Marketing” which came out in 1999.

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Godin’s thesis is that prior the advent of the Internet and email (and later with social media) we had what he called “interruption marketing.”  An example is that you are watching television and a commercial come along.  You didn’t ask for the commercial and it’s interrupting  your show, but you are forced to watch it.

The same thing applies to magazines, radio, bill boards and even to banner advertising on websites.  I’m not here to see your ad, but it comes along anyway.  We understand that the sale of these messages to sponsors pays the bills.  Even if that message means nothing to you, the advertiser still must pay.  Hard to believe but many marketers hold on to that world.

Enter email and later, social media.  The central difference between these two-way communications worlds is that the receiver of the message must give his or her permission to be marketed to by signing up for an email list, liking something on Facebook or following a company on Twitter.  By doing any of these, they’re saying to the advertiser “Hey, I’m interested in your message.  Talk to me.”

Now for the most important nuance.  At any time, without notice or explanation, the receiver can revoke that permission.  They can unsubscribe, unlike or unfollow something as easily as they liked it in the first place.  With no consequence.  They can always come back.

This is new responsibility for marketers.  The message must be accepted by the receiver.  If it’s not, you may lose them as quickly as you got them.  But wait, there’s more. Ultimately, the goal is not just to get your content read, the goal is that your readers engaged enough to comment or share what you have to say with their network.

What’s the “secret?”  Content that resonates with the receiver.  Make sense to them.  Adds something to their knowledge of a subject, not detracts from it by confusing them.  Helps them reach their goals.  Teaches them something.  Today’s content producers must be aware.  Know their audience and go deeper in their exploration of a topic.  Be willing to take on the point of view of the end users.

If that sounds intimidating it is.  Self-serving content about how great your product is was easier to write.  Since it was force-fed to the masses, little effort was required to improve the style of marketing content.  Failure to improve today could lead to catastrophic consequences.

How do you avoid this pitfall altogether?  Make content King.  Define the audience, decide what the message will be and develop the content.  Test and review with a critical eye toward the usefulness to your audience.  If it’s not useful, it’s not likely to be read.  If you doubt the usefulness for the audience, ask them!  Rewrite it until you’re confident it meets the need.  Then, decide how you’ll disseminate the content, through what channels and in what depth.

What’s the status of your content?  Is it thought provoking or self serving?

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

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm