Category Archives: Content marketing

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How to Write Blog Headlines People (and your Goals) Deserve

You can write the most interesting and best content in the world but if your blog headline doesn’t attract attention, appeal and convince people to read on, why even bother? You wouldn’t be doing yourself, your content and your readers a favor, right? Brian Clark says that “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” Discover how to write blog headlines – with a twist.

Your blog headlines serve different goals and there are various elements to take into account before you start: your ‘targeted readers’, your goals, relevance and how people look for content. Continue reading

Content Marketing: Content and Blog Frequency

Content Marketing Evangelist Joe Pulizzi

Content Marketing Evangelist Joe Pulizzi

Content marketing is marketing. So it should serve your business goals, take into account the needs and the behavior of your different ‘audience’ segments and finally be relevant for the audience and optimized from the perspective of the costs, benefits,  and resources (for instance, by having a good mix of external partners and an in-house content marketing expert team). These elements have an impact on the frequency of putting out content via the different channels you use. Frequency is important, but it doesn’t mean you should create content on all platforms every day. Let’s take blogging as an example.

When you blog you create expectations among your readers, also regarding frequency. If you blog a lot for a while, and then you stop, it’s impossible to create a valuable and lasting dialogue. Setting these expectations at the beginning is important. Find the right mix and certainly do the math on the cost and return on your blog efforts, compared to the needs of your readers and direct and indirect goals. Continue reading

Six Quick Tips to Get Blogging Ideas

You want to share your knowledge and be a regular blogger? You write but run out of inspiration now and then? You want to get some ideas to blog about fast? You want to write about topics that are interesting for readers but don’t know where to start? Check out the following six quick and easy tips to get it done.

1. Use Google Alerts to inform you about latest industry news

With Google Alerts you can easily track news and find interesting new content about topics that inspire you. Don’t create too many alerts; focus on three main search terms. Alerts can be delivered into your mailbox or sent as a feed. Continue reading

Ten Blogging Lessons from Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan

2012 is the year of oversaturation. On social media too. So says Chris Brogan. He has a point. You know the phenomenon. There is too much ‘noise’. And we need filters.

Content curation” is hot. That’s why Twitter acquired Summify. We will scale down.

We live in a consumption society, says Brogan. “People can barely read a tweet.” We must keep everything brief. Ten blogging lessons. Continue reading

B2B Content Marketing: What is it & How are European Marketers Applying it?

B2B Content Marketing: How are European Marketers Applying it?

B2B Content Marketing: What is it & How are European Marketers Applying it?

Content marketing is one of those terms that are tossed around a lot today and not well understood by many marketers. To put it as simply as possible, content marketing is about providing valuable content to your prospects and customers via a variety of channels.

Content marketing is not a sales brochure or a spec sheet or anything of that sort. Content marketing is not just sterile data, but insight coming from expertise. You’re adding value to the product by showing people not what it does, but what people do with it.

You have to think more like an editor and ask yourself what serves the interests of customers and prospects. What’s going to get them talking about your brand or your product?  Take off the sales hat, don the editor’s hat and ask yourself if the content serves the reader. That’s a good baseline to start your content marketing strategy from . Continue reading

Tips on Fighting Blogger’s Block: Re-Blogging is Not the Answer

We’ve all been there before: that time in the life of your blog where you just can’t think of something to write about. The famous blogger’s block. I’ve been a writer and blogger for a number of years. I get it. Sometimes, it’s a serious struggle to find content for your blog.

When you have blogger’s block (a very acute form of writer’s block), you’ll do just about anything to grab some ideas for content. And it’s tempting to give in and take and/or borrow other people’s content. But let me tell you this: re-Blogging is not the answer. Continue reading

Seven Social Marketing Inisghts

7 Social Marketing Insights

Seven Social Marketing Inisghts

I’m known for turning a phrase now and then. You’ll find them (some of which have been inspired by other, smarter people) scattered through my posts around the web. Today, I thought I would gather seven of them to share with you all in one place. How insightful they actually are is for you to judge, but I do hope this post generates some thought and discussion.

1 – The web is driven by communities

Communities laid the foundation for the web and they continue to be its engine. It’s certainly true that once companies developed transaction technology, the web started to develop into a commerce channel and money from that kept building it. However, without communities all you would have is huge strip mall with infinite parking. Understanding how communities grow and interact can help you develop a communication strategy which will work.

2 – The email vs. social debate is a red herring being used by some to drive personal agendas

By definition any interaction between two people is a social interaction. It doesn’t matter if it happens via Twitter, email or on a bloody escalator. Each channel has its own strengths and it’s more likely there will be a convergence at some point rather than a replacement. Start thinking in terms of a multi-channel marketing approach and don’t worry so much about the next big thing.

3 – Social media marketing is not a megaphone

Social media means the traditional marketing monologue won’t cut it. It’s a dialogue and you have to be prepared to have that conversation with people. If you don’t have the time and resources or the will to be interactive, then this channel is not suited for you. The most important skill for social media is listening.

4 – It’s a one-to-one communication

I always try to blog or tweet as if I’m interacting directly with one person. There is an intimacy (just you and your monitor and KB) which exists on the web and keeping the conversation one-to-one is a powerful way to communicate effectively.

5 – It’s not important what technology can do, but what people do with it

You’ve got a lot of powerful tools to show off your product online, but the most powerful thing you can do is show potential customers what others do with your product and how it adds value to their lives. User reviews, blogs, social media and video can all be used to get that message across.

6 – Social media people are born and not made

What I mean by this is that those who thrive in social situations usually have an apparent aptitude for it. It’s not likely you’ll be able to train “Silent Bob” from accounting to be your social media rock star, but Jenny who is the life of the staff parties and a social butterfly is probably a good candidate. Take a good honest look at your corporate culture and ask yourself if you have a positive and social environment. Does yours need some work?

7 – Social marketing is not a panacea

Social media marketing won’t weave straw into gold for you. You need a vision and you need a plan and that means you have to set measurable goals for your marketing via social media. What are your goals and how will you measure success?

Parents are Social and Cross-Channel Consumers

Parents are Social and Cross Channel Consumers

Parents are Social and Cross-Channel Consumers

It’s pretty easy to start thinking that demographics are just about age and gender, but of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. What channels people frequent are affected by where they happen to be in their lives and what they are focused on. Those stages and the inherent priorities are important flags which marketers should be sensitive to.

According to a report from Media Audit (as reported by eMarketer) on social media users, where we happen to be in life means different frequency and usage of different channels.

It won’t come as any surprise that younger respondents with no kids are the most active on Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. However, the study also found that adults with children were much more likely to be on social sites. More than 60% of those adults with kids living at home used Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. Parents with young children under six were the most avid users with 67.1% responding they had been on one social site at least in the past month, while 58% of parents with teens reported the same usage.

When you have a kid (especially if it’s your first) you are always looking to share information and learn from other parents. You also want that sense of perspective – you are not the only one going through stressful times. And of course, proud parents love to share their joy.

Parents sharing isn’t something is new, but something which is just easier to do online and thus social has become a powerful tool for parents to share resources and support. The meetings which once may have occurred in church basements or community centres, now take place online.

These online communities which are loaded with resources are very attractive because how involved you get is up to you. You can jump right in or simply “lurk” and soak up the information and advice. As well, it’s important not to discount the fact that the information can be accessed at the convenience of the user and so, fits into the busy day of a parent.

Young parents represent a demographic with an above average propensity to make big ticket purchases such as cars, PCs and appliances. You have to know video and digital cameras are also big on their shopping lists.

Parents are also extremely mobile. While the study didn’t focus in on smartphone usage, we would all do well to remember that parents are cross-channel and always on the move. They’ll go wherever they have to go in order to get what their kids need and they won’t spend anytime looking for a brand which isn’t convenient to their fast paced lifestyle. As a parent, your time is not your own and what little time you do have to get things done is going to be very highly valued. It’s important that marketers show them how valuable their time is by providing them with useful information across all channels when they want it.

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

Whitepaper: B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

B2B blogging can be tricky, but rewarding all the same. The hardest question may well be whether you even want to start one in the first place. That’s one of the questions the folks from Aggregage posed to a number of B2B blogging thought leaders in a new whitepaper titled: B2B Blogging Trends in 2011.

It’s a 42 page snappy presentation of tips and insight which will help your organization make the right moves when it comes to blogging for business. And when you consider that only 50% of businesses out there have blogs, you can see the need for some thoughtful expert advice in this area. As well, it also means that opportunities to leverage blogging and establish your company as an authority abound in the coming year. Amazingly, with one of the most powerful marketing tools in existence today, you still have time to get in on the ground floor!

After reading this report with the wealth of insight from people such as Jay Baer, Tom Pick, Samir Balwani and Erik Qualman, you shouldn’t be asking if you should be blogging, but when.

The experts agree that blogging needs to be integrated with your marketing planning. It can’t be an afterthought or dropped on someone’s desk as one more thing to get around to when time permits.

Don’t start a blog if you can’t invest the resources to get it right. You don’t want it to get too bogged down in approval cycles and such, but you still need a plan, an editorial calendar (at least as a guide) and a gatekeeper (editor). It’s good to involve as many people as want to contribute, but you always have to have someone overseeing things.

There’s a lot of bad B2B blogs out there today and there will be more of them. In order to rise above that noise level, you must be good and to be good, one thing you have to be is relevant. To do that you need to indentify what your market wants to know. Social media monitoring and engagement is definitely one good way to find out. Another good way is to come right out and ask (often) what your market wants to know more about and then deliver it with some style and authority. As pointed out in the report: Listen first and move from a monologue to a dialog.

Content curation” is another topic which is mentioned in the report and that relates to something a lot of us have been talking up regarding B2B business blogging. There’s no doubt that producing new content for a blog can be resource intensive! However, there is a lot of great relevant content out there which you can “find and filter” for your market. Figuring out how to present content from other sources (including your partners) in an engaging way is a must.

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011 is an excellent place to start as you consider your online marketing strategy. Blogging is a very powerful tool in B2B marketing and not something you should dismiss lightly.

Download the whitepaper here!

What Makes Good Online Marketing Content?

What Makes Good Online Marketing Content?


What Makes Good Online Marketing Content?

I once worked with a broadcaster who hosted the morning drive show in Ottawa, Canada. We were having lunch one day and I asked him how he prepared for his show. He explained his secret show prep method to me and as I listened, my jaw slowly started to descend.

About twice a week he would board a random city bus in rush hour and ride along for an hour or two, listening to what people were talking about. Again randomly, he would choose a stop to get off at near some local breakfast diner and go in for a coffee. Once again, his objective was to be the “fly on the wall” and eavesdrop on what the talk of the day was.

According to him, about one trip a week provided more than enough show prep. Doing this allowed my colleague to discern what issues were relevant and resonating with people in his market. By being aware of what people were talking about, he was able to add his own voice to the discussion and feed the conversation further.

I was reminded of this when I read Mark Brownlow’s recent column at Email Marketing Reports. Mark skillfully tackles the why, what and how of quality content in email. Mark observes that all the technology tools we now have to reach out are wonderful, but are marketers giving people something worth talking about? It seems to me that if we were actually listening to what people want, we wouldn’t need to be reminded of the importance of relevancy so often.

What is quality content?

Here is how Mark defines it: “Consider quality content simply as any element in the message that provides standout value to the recipient (aside from the inherent ‘value’ of any offer).”

As Mark points out, good content is useful and/or entertaining and/or has emotional impact. I agree with him, but I think you could say that emotional impact is really the common factor here.

  • If your content is useful it provokes a positive emotional response.
  • If your content is entertaining it provokes a positive emotional response.

Mark states that the issue of emotional response is often overlooked and I agree. Perhaps it is overlooked because it is that underlying common denominator and not a separate factor. The question I’m asking here is: Can content in email or online marketing provoke any action without some kind of emotional response?

Add some positive emotion to my day. Make me laugh! Tell me a good story! Give me some information that excites me about what I can do with your product or service! Don’t just tell me what a product does. Tell me about what others are doing with it and make me so excited about trying that myself that I can’t wait to give it a go.


Blogs Are the Hubs of the Social Network Ecosystem

Many businesses don’t have a blog yet. Too bad since blogs are really social media hubs and more. But there is hope. Since blogs are almost a must for all businesses that want to do “something” with social media.

A little more than a decade ago many companies had no websites. And if they had one, it was often no more than some online brochure. Now, for most businesses their website is a critical part of their daily basis and a hub where various online and offline activities start and come together. In little over ten years the corporate site has become a crucial component of the marketing and communication strategy. Today companies face a new challenge: social media.

Actually, the challenge is not that new but the success of social media and the fact that people continuously want more control over the communication process and tap into their social networks force companies to use social media as well.

Social media, including blogs, are so frequently used by people – and thus also by prospects, clients, suppliers, potential employees, competitors, journalists etc. – that you HAVE to follow what is happening in the social sphere and participate in it.

The Role And Advantages of Blogs

Blogs play a crucial part in this. A blog, as I have been saying for a long time, is a social media hub. In some cases social networks can also be social media hubs and even the corporate website offers various – underused – possibilities regarding social media marketing. But blogs are definitely the main social media hubs. They are the source of social interactions and facilitate dialogues.

Blogs are the online properties to which companies can link their social media presences and where dialogues with clients and prospects also effectively take place. Furthermore, blogs play a crucial role in search engine optimization and a brand’s reputation, amongst many others.

Businesses can blog in various ways. They can setup a separate blog which is more or less separate from the company (website) itself, they can leave the initiative for blogging to persons within the company who have something to say and create their own blog, etc.

But it is also absolutely advisable to have a blog that is setup within the website or connected to it and where different persons within the company can blog.

The benefits are tremendous: a simple integration with web analytics, a more ‘open’ and transparent image, search engine optimization and a rapid real-time interaction with people whereby relevant content is crucial.

Company blogs also open up new doors to strengthen other channels and client aimed actions, even in more outbound activities such as e-mail marketing. And of course they are essential in inbound marketing: people are in need of relevant information they can interact with; using blogs you can provide this much faster and in a conversational way than on a website.

The Social Content Management System

Just as today the website has become a marketing hub, blogs will for a long time be the hubs of social media marketing.

Content plays a crucial role in this and are often the start of your social media activities that aim to engage people and have touch points and connections that might lead to business relationships of any nature whatsoever.

If you don’t have a blog yet, it’s really time to get started or to come with another social media hub.

The next step is to build, what I call a social content management system. It’s not content management as we know it. It’s social, cross-channel, integrated and two-ways. I will develop the concept in a later post.

Identify The People And Connections Behind Your Email Subscribers And Social Connections

The success of the activities of email marketers depends from the actions of one group of people: subscribers.

For community managers and social media marketers the same applies, although here we don’t call them subscribers but members, friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter), fans (Digg, Facebook,…) and much more.

Whatever they are called: ultimately, they are just real people like you and me. 80% water, some flesh and bones, a brain and plenty of desires, issues, problems, challenges and dreams.

Treating Email Subscribers As People Instead of Email Addresses

It’s the loyalty of people that will determine success in your business. Not email addresses or followers: people.

In email marketing, subscribers are still often seen as email addresses in a list instead of human beings, that need to be thanked, involved, etc. and have needs.

Email marketers should begin interacting with their “subscribers”: ask them what they think about the emails they receive or about the company.

Ask them what communication channels they prefer, what frequencies etc. Invite them to comment on your marketing efforts, occasionally reward them and put them in the spotlight.

Treat your subscribers as friends. And what applies to email marketing, also applies to social media like Twitter or Facebook.

Once you are ‘connected’ with someone, that doesn’t mean there is a relation. There is a connection and nothing more.

Social CRM, Relationships And Communities

Connections become relationships when they become personal. When you get closer. As a business you can only get closer if you offer value and relevance by listening. If you are reliable, trustworthy and open. And then the rules of any human contact apply.

These rules are introduced in marketing: people need to be recognized, valued, praised and heard, they need to be able to share, communicate, participate and belong to social groups.

And I’m not talking social media here, I’m talking social groups in a sociological sense: family, friends, communities, clubs, companies, whatever.

Looking at connections, target groups and segments as real people, is what relationship marketing and social CRM are really about.

There is a strong link between social CRM, people and communities just as there is a strong relationship between social CRM, participation and interaction.

Communities exist of people. And they exist without you even knowing it. Even around your brand and businesses. You cannot build them, you can only make them visible, nurture them and involve them in your business, the way you shape your future, your communication and your brand.

Social CRM based on personal dialogue, community involvement, feedback and ongoing, increasingly personalized, people-centric efforts, while closely following all digital, behavioural, lifecycle-based and social interaction signals.

Improving Customer Loyalty And Increasing Sales Is Relational

Marketers need to be human and treat their subscribers, followers, communities, target groups, etc. as human beings too.

That requires an ongoing dialogue, commitment and a personal relationship: dialogues instead of monologues. And the need to treat people this way is a necessity for companies to succeed.

People are bombarded with tweets, emails, Facebook updates, LinkedIn requests, etc.

An opt-in, regardless of the medium (email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever), is a miracle (nowadays).

The path to greater customer loyalty and increased sales is about stepping from behind the technological curtain and getting to know subscribers, followers, fans, etc. in person. And about nurturing your community, even if you don’t know it exists yet.

Business goals metrics and ROI

Measuring ROI on Content Marketing and Creation

Measuring ROI on content marketing is not straightforward; that is why most firms put measurement on the back burner. But measuring doesn’t have to be difficult and is an essential part of each content marketing strategy.

I asked a panel of B2B marketing experts “How can B2B marketers measure return on investment (leads generated, market awareness etc) for the money/effort spent on creating and marketing content? Share one example of ROI tool/strategy that has worked either for you or your client.”

Ardath Albee: “Depth of Engagement”

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale is now shipping!

Ardath’s ROI on Content Marketing Tip

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee

B2B buying cycles are lengthening. This is due to expanded self-education via the vast amount of information online, more people involved in the buying process and the resulting increase in time it takes to gain consensus to get to complex purchase decisions.

This means that marketers must keep their prospects’ attention for longer periods of time as they traverse the steps of their internal buying process. And that requires a lot of relevant content mapped to each stage of that buying process.

Depth of engagement can be measured by activity levels – how much of your content prospects view and interact with across each buying stage. But the true measure of depth of engagement is in making the transition to conversations.  How willing are prospects to pick up the phone when an inside sales rep contacts them by phone to discuss their interests?

During a re-engagement nurturing program for an IT Services and Solutions firm, the client combined content touches with phone calls to validate prospect interest and qualify their level of sales readiness. The inside sales reps were also armed with follow-on content offers that related to the subject matter of the content the prospect had viewed.

Within a 3-month period of execution for the program, the combination enabled the company to reactivate dormant leads and add $4.5M to their pipeline. That’s a solid return on investment and tied directly to revenue performance related to content investment.

Maria Pergolino: “Simple Content Creates Quality Leads!”

Maria Pergolino is Director of Marketing at Marketo, leading their efforts in adoption of social media channels for brand awareness and demand generation. She has worked in marketing for over ten years, and specifically in online marketing including social media, search marketing, and lead generation and nurturing for the past six. Maria has a Marketing Degree and MBA from the School of Business at Rutgers University, is a Salesforce Certified Administrator, and a speaker at numerous marketing events. She has also written for many marketing blogs, and is a frequent contributor to Marketo’s popular blog, Modern B2B Marketing.

Maria’s ROI on Content Marketing Tip

Maria Pergolino

Maria Pergolino

One of the top challenges for any marketer is measuring marketing ROI. A study from Marketing Outlook states over half of CMOs say their top challenge is quantifying and measuring the value of marketing programs and their investments.  Statements like this show how measuring the impact of marketing on business metrics is vital to justify and earn marketing additional funding and resources for marketing campaigns.

To efficiently measure marketing ROI, it’s important to focus on the whole revenue cycle and how marketing contributes to boosting the bottom line. To truly measure this activity, a revenue performance management solution is essential to take into account every factor including time and how it impacts marketing’s ability to generate predictable revenue.

The first step to measuring marketing’s contribution to the business is by analyzing the common revenue analytics stages:

Common Revenue Analytics Stages

  • Inventory – This stage holds leads and accounts until they are ready to move to another stage in the cycle. This stage is an optimal holding area, as it doesn’t have a time limit.
  • Gate – Serving as a qualification check, the gate stage has no time dimension. If the lead meets a certain criteria such as revenue, the lead moves to the next stage. If the lead doesn’t meet the criteria, it moves to the disqualified stage.
  • SLA – This stage is active when a defined maximum time is reached in which leads become evaluated before moving forward or out of the process. This would work with leads that may become stale after a given amount of days and would require additional nurturing.

After defining the stages of the revenue cycle, marketers are in a position to measure the quality of marketing programs from any point in time. By gathering data on the number of leads that enter each stage in each time period, marketers are also able to determine which sources generate the leads that convert faster and easier down the funnel.

With these areas defined and addressing areas where time impacts marketing ROI, such as no payoffs for longer time frames or how past marketing campaigns affect current period results, marketers can create find and provide accurate marketing investment reports and projections. With total revenue performance management solution, marketing can easily measure and optimize the revenue cycle and accelerate predictable revenue generation.

digital content and publishing concept

Developing A B2B Content Promotional Strategy In 7 Steps

We talk a lot about B2B content creation, but content promotion is equally important. When you want to promote your latest eBook, white paper or any other offer, there are two things to consider:

  • Where do you want to promote your offer
  • What message do you want to communicate?

By answering the seven questions below, you can focus your thoughts and streamline your efforts.

What is your objective?
Be specific about the goal of your offer. For instance, do you want to generate leads, build a list, create buzz or establish yourself as a thought leader? Your decision in this area is one of the determining factors to decide if you should require registration for your white paper, eBook or other B2B content.

Who is your target audience?
I’m a big believer in targeting each promotion to a very specific audience; a one-size-fits-all approach usually results in nebulous offer that resonates with no one. To hone in on important prospect details, I suggest creating a buyer persona.

To have the best chance of success, you need to understand what makes sometime tick, where they look for information and who influences their decisions. Understanding your audience will help you answer most of the questions below.

Where do your prospects search for information?
There are so many places where prospects look for information: search engines, blogs, professional associations, newsletters, publications, Twitter, content syndication sites, forums, LinkedIn, and more This sounds obvious, but if you don’t know exactly who you are trying to reach and what their online habits are, you won’t reach them. You have limited time and budget to promote your offer, so you need to make sure you are promoting in places where your readers are looking.

What is your budget?
As a follow up to the previous question, you also need to consider your budget. Depending on your objective and the places where your prospects search for information, there are different promotional tactics you may want to consider.

What pains are they experiencing?
After you determine where you want to promote your offer, you need to consider the content of your promotion. Identify the prospect’s pain point by uncovering what questions your readers have or what information are they searching for. If they aren’t experiencing an issue, your message will probably not resonate with them.

What benefit does your offer provide?
For some reason, identifying the benefit can be tricky. There is an inclination to tout the benefit of your product and solution, but your promotions need to explain what someone will achieve by viewing your offer. Identify the two or three succinct benefits the reader will receive from your offer, and make sure you highlight these points in your promotions.

What keywords do your prospects use?
Considering the way that people search for information (search engines, news alerts, RSS feeds, etc), it is critical for you to incorporate the right keywords in your promotions. There are five things I think you should consider when choosing your keywords.

Although every situation is different, I have found that answering these questions provides a solid framework for developing your promotional plan.

What other questions do you consider?

Joe Pulizzi

Content Marketing: When Stories, Emotions and People Meet

Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi at our first content marketing roundtable

Content, my passion, has for many years been treated as the ugly duckling of the online marketing universe. Today however, this seems to have changed. Or better, from the European perspective I maybe should say “it starts to change”. Yes, I’m talking about content marketing.

Exchanging ideas and thoughts on content marketing with some European friends, content marketing evangelist Joe Pulizzi, Bob Gilbreath and Wunderman’s David Sable, confirmed a lot of viewpoints and resulted in new ideas and views. This post is the start of a series of posts covering these thought exchanges.

Those who provide pertinent content in a creative way and in function of the customer or prospect, his preferences and the touchpoints across his buying journey have an enormous, competitive advantage. Continue reading

content box concept

Content Marketing: Marketers Finally Start Looking Inside the Box

Interactive marketers know since many years that content is crucial. Content is what conversion and conversation with customers and prospects is based on. As been beautifully put to words by management expert Bob Boiko, a website without content is an empty box. Without content there are no emails, no white papers, no landing pages, no blogs, etc. Welcome to content marketing.

Online content comes in all weights and measures. Since a couple of years, content is (finally) getting the attention it deserves. And lately, also non-written forms of online content gain attention. For example, think of online video or slideshare presentations.

But first and foremost, Internet is still a textual medium, especially when it comes to marketing. It’s the words in SEA that generate clicks. An email’s subject line is one of the most important reasons why the mail will be opened. The same goes for the words used in a call-to-action in an ad or on a website. They determine if the beholder decides to respond in the way, that you, the marketer, hoped for. Continue reading

blog blogging

Markets are Still Conversations: Why Blogging is Necessary

Lately I have been reading quite some posts about the “end (and even death) of blogging”. Often, this is related to the increasing success of other social media (yes, blogs are social media and even very important ones, in fact they are social media hubs) and I guess that, after having declared email marketing dead, it’s time to find something new the media can focus on.

But let’s get real. During lots of conversations with people from the business world, I notice that there still exist a lot of misconceptions about (corporate) blogs and their importance. Sometimes, I even have to explain what blogs actually are and, yes, there are plenty of businesses that are reluctant and even scared to set up a blog.

I can tell them about all different kind of blogs, as Debbie Weil summarized in her book about corporate blogging, and what they can do for them.

Sometimes, I have to keep it even simpler and tell them that a blog is a type of website where people can post texts, updates, photos, links, videos, audios etc. about everything they want, which blog platforms exist, that you can allow comments and can do it being a company as well. Sometimes, I have to explain it in very simple words, before I can even think of explaining the benefits of a blog.

So, I will do it here as well before we go a bit further. I cannot cover all aspects of blogging in one post, nor can I cover all the benefits and tackle all misconceptions. But let me give a try.

Blogs are “personal” online platforms where everyone that so desires can tell whatever he likes. This can be about the unbearable lightness of being, the frivol adventures of a Saturday night, the favourite pet or heavier themes like the social-economic situation in China or the true meaning of the works of Nietzsche. Some blogs have a clearer theme and others don’t.

Corporate blogs are blogs that were set up by companies. Not by the companies themselves, of course, because businesses are nothing more than legal entities and I never saw a company write a text.

Companies and brands are a collection of people, and corporate blogs are thus set up by PEOPLE within the companies such as the CEO, the R&D division, the guy that wrote a book, the in-house guru, the people that work within the company, marketing and PR folks, whatever.

Blogs are about people and, yes, excuse me, conversations

Sometimes, setting up a corporate blog (or several ones like one for the “business as a whole” and one for the in-house guru), happens from a top-down approach. Somebody says ‘we have to blog’. Sometimes, it happens within the frame of a specific action or campaign. And sometimes, it happens bottom-up: people from the company start to blog about the things they do and after a while it is picked up by more people from the company and recuperated by the management because they ‘see it going well’.

Of course, this is a little simplistic and the start of every corporate blog is different, but nonetheless, it gives an idea.

The reasons why companies set up a blog are very diverse (I assume here that a blog is a conscious decision, as I was just telling that is not always the case).

Some do it to tell how wonderful they are. Others see it as a PR-activity. Still others do it because ‘the media’ never write about them. And there are some, who do it because it is in fashion. Here is the bad news for all those companies: that is not what blogging is about.

What is it about then? It is about inbound, brands as publishers, value, relevancy, opinions, community and people. But most of all it’s about giving your business a human and authentic face by letting the people within it converse.

I guess that, by now, some of you are tired of the word ‘conversations’. Well, don’t blame me. I didn’t invent it, it says what it is and it’s been used in marketing literature for years now.

You cannot open a book or read a post on “Marketing 2.0” without encountering the word.

Lots of books about blogs have it even incorporated in the title. Think of ‘Naked Conversations’, the corporate blogging book of Robert Scobble and Shel Israel. Or Joseph Jaffe’s, ‘Join the Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Weary Customers With The Power of Community, Dialogue and Partnership’.

The key takeaway of The Cluetrain Manifesto

To understand the term ‘conversations’, I rather refer to a different and somewhat older book (published for the first time in 2000 to be precise), when the term’ blog’ didn’t even exist (or, at least on a larger scale): ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’.

From that book you actually should remember just one sentence (it doesn’t take away the fact that I advise you to read it entirely, if you haven’t done it already): ‘markets are conversations’.

The authors refer to the original role of ‘the market’: a place where people come together, display their goods, talk about the weather and meanwhile, with a chat and a handshake, buy and sell all sorts of goods. At first sight it is a simple and evident comparison. But, there does hide a very important marketing reality behind it. Understanding this is like immediately understanding what corporate blogging is really about.

Markets are conversations. Unfortunately companies and marketers had forgotten a little about it and they didn’t converse anymore (and they didn’t listen at all). The decline of the conversation in the commercial process has been attributed to the mass production (and communication) model that has made its ascent since the industrial revolution.

It is a model that has alienated the companies and “consumers” from each other by a “we and they’ discourse. ‘We’ are the companies that manufacture products; ‘they’ are the ones who use them.

And between them lies marketing: PR, commercials, communication, market research: everything companies need to have to get known and to reach the estranged “consumer”. Or, in other words: the direct ‘conversation’ had disappeared.

Internet and social media force businesses to listen again

Still conversations about (and with) companies take place every day, as I often write and say.

When I tell a friend about a bad service I received, when I bought my new cell phone with company A. Or when I watch a commercial on the TV with my wife, where a company presents itself as ‘the specialist on the subject of x’ and we look at each other with a reaction of ‘yeah, right’. Or when a consumer sends a reader’s letter to a newspaper telling about the scandalous sales practices of energy supplier B.

The truth is that conversations never really stopped.

However, a lot of companies have gone through a lot of trouble to stop those conversations with the help of marketing inventions such as ‘positioning’, bombardments of mass commercials and tutti quanti. And suddenly the Internet came along; a medium without rules, where everybody can say what they want. At first, in phenomena such as news groups and the forums. And since a couple of years on blogs, the first real platforms of what now is fashionably called social media.

With blogs the conversations went public. And they spread very fast. Word-of-mouth got a potential global dimension. The bad service I was just mentioning doesn’t get only one auditor but possibly thousands, through the WWW. Thus, there are conversations in abundance.

Conversations of consumers tired of being lied to, to be bombed with meaningless ‘corporate speak’, to be regarded and addressed as consumers rather than as human beings, and to be addressed by companies rather than by the people of the company or badly served (“all our operators are busy and in fact we don’t really care, you will be served in 47 minutes but by all means go to our site and solve your bloody problem yourself”).

Blogs as a way to re-establish what we have lost

Exactly all this stuff is what corporate blogging is all about. Besides, blogs are only one of the many ways to re-establish a direct dialogue between people (instead of consumers)… and people (instead of companies).

Markets are conversations, and conversations are equal dialogues between equal partners, who dare to show themselves to each other as they are in all honesty and transparency. Today’s companies daring to have these conversations via corporate blogs, amongst others, are even scarcer as you would think they are. But those who do it bear its fruits.

Corporate blogs are a way of getting the inter-human dialogue going. And those dialogues are precious. You cannot talk and listen to ‘companies’ and ‘consumers’, only to people. Companies hire positioning specialists to make up an identity, often without regarding if the identity matches the perception of their customers or not.

Vice versa, they hire market researchers to get any idea of who those darn customers actually are. Companies cannot speak, people can. As a matter of fact, blogs are still the most important part of any inbound and social media marketing strategy, if you ask me. There is less noise and more value.

Are there more conversations? If you look at comments as conversations, certainly not. But are tweets, retweets, social bookmarks and Facebook pages or groups conversations?

Watch the Twitter stream for a day, without doing anything. Markets are conversations. On many social media they are often less personal and authentic than we like to believe. Blogs are social media hubs and voices and ears if you use them well: be real, offer value and be found in the vast social media space.

It’s the value and authenticity that leads to…leads. From a content perspective, corporate blogs are key and they are overlooked in a world where we all look at often meaningless streams of noise. Does this mean I don’t like social network sites? No. But I know their place, both from a personal and marketing perspective.

Blog and get found, it’s the very first step in establishing a relationship in the online world. And the best relationships move beyond the online space.

Originally posted here.

content marketing story sharing concept

How Content Travels and Works in Social: Stories and People

Content is a key element in all forms of marketing: without good and relevant content there are no emails, there is no sharing and your site or blog doesn’t rank in search engines. Certainly in this era where people actively seek information that is pertinent for their needs, questions or buying journey, personalized and valuable content is crucial.

However, content in a social context is about more than that. With the heritage of traditional views on marketing deeply rooted in our thinking, we still too often tend to look at the media and channels more than at the content. On top of that, we often value the content we create more than what it is ultimately about: what do people want to receive or find when and how.

People, their needs and the networks they use

So the starting points of content in a business or media context are the customer/consumer and the business goals we want to achieve (the “Why”). If our purpose is to generate traffic and buzz, regardless of the medium, we need to focus on the content and also the formats our prospects or customers want, paying attention to aspects such as for instance titles, subject lines and in tweets: they need to “tell” people that this is what they are looking for, no matter where they find or seek it (search engines, social etc.).

There is often a discrepancy between the content we want to create and provide and what the people we hope to reach and interaction with, want to “read”. That’s a choice to make. But if we want content to work, it has to be customer-centric.

With the arrival of social networks and an increasing number of information channels, content goes around in many formats and travels through interpersonal connections, connected platforms, social sites and personal networks that link to each other, strengthen each other and result in almost untraceable and non-lineair connections that look more like wheels and hub and spoke models, that are interconnected themselves in several layers.

People and the networks they use and have, as well as the own networks we build, are crucial for effective content in this social era.

The connected complexity of social content spreading mechanisms

Let me briefly share a short personal story that just occurred last week. For the moment my website is running on the HubSpot CMS and lead management platform. I noticed that someone had filled in my contact form to ask me to give a marketing master class. Using HubSpot I could trace him easily back to a post I did on the blog you are now visiting that same day. Since the only link in that post was towards my Twitter profile and on that profile you find a link to my site, I logically assumed I could perfectly map where and how he found me. And the starting point was content, in this case a blog post.

We ended up mailing and when talking about how he found me, it seemed that the digital journey he travelled to find and contact me was longer than what I could see and logically conclude. In fact it started when he noticed a tweet from a mutual friend on Facebook, referring to the post I wrote a few hours before. That’s a lot of connections and steps and I’m sure this is still a relatively simple example. This is how content is found and travels: in the most amazing and networked ways you can imagine.

So, in order to understand this, it is key to monitor and understand the complexity of the hubs and spokes but most of all, it is key to build networks, join them and provide content in function of the needs and social behaviour of the people you want to reach and interact with.

What really matters has never changed: stories

Last week, at London’s International Content Summit, Antony Mayfield of iCrossing, shared some views on the relationship between content and social in a presentation called “How Content and Social Work Together”. The presentation, that’s rather graphical, rightfully claims that “Where” is the wrong question to start a content strategy with. And of course it is. As Mayfield says: “Who” and “Why” are better.

But the main takeaway and one I have been sharing for ages is that content is all about stories. In the end, it’s not the content that matters. Stories travel, not content. And social networks, just like cross-channel interaction possibilities, regardless of the media, are their carriers.

Content becomes a story if it is shared. Stories are by definition social. And that’s why I agree with Mayfield where his presentation says that you should keep your content and social people close together.

You can watch the slideshare below.

B2B marketing

A Good Reason to Invest in B2B Marketing Content: Sales

Content marketing is about conversations, conversion, value, social media, lead nurturing, acquisition, inbound and outbound. But in the end it’s about Sales 2.0, regardless of the medium.

Content plays such a crucial role in this digital era that a new discipline has evolved around it: ‘content marketing’. Content is important in both B2C and B2B marketing but as a B2B marketer I would like to look with you briefly at how content is used in lead management, customer interactions and how B2B content marketing ultimately is…sales.

Even though the name ‘content marketing’ is relatively new, the use of content in B2B marketing isn’t.

We all have been using white papers to generate leads for decades and we have always known that content is crucial in engaging email recipients, having our websites found and providing our customers with valuable information.

However, content marketing is more than that and the fact that a new ‘school’ as it were, has arisen around it, is no coincidence.

What is the reason for this increased attention for content in B2B marketing?

  1. First, there is the ascertainment that large parts of the client’s purchase cycle (from gathering information about products, services and companies until lots of times the purchase itself) happen online.
    Prospects and customers are better informed than ever and call upon relevant content that they find themselves or receive from people they trust (word-of-mouth).
  2. These days people actively go looking for information themselves. They decide how, where and when they make which steps in the purchase cycle and which information they need therein.People also want to receive custom-made information, personalized in function of their needs, again the customer life cycle phase, etc.
  3. People use different channels to obtain information and thus content: email, papers, webinars, blog posts, video, print, presentations, you name it. Besides, this is one of the reasons why in content marketing a lot of attention goes to ‘repurposing’ and offering content in these different formats.

Summarized, content marketing and the increasing attention for it in B2B marketing, is about the changes in the behavior and the wishes of clients and prospects.

Content and the lead nurturing process

However, it is obvious that companies would not deal with it if it wouldn’t produce anything.

A personalized and planned content marketing strategy guarantees a better conversion, better relationships with clients, a lower cost-per-lead and a better ROI. Period.

Content marketing is a form of ‘inbound marketing’: people find the content (and of course you give them a hand in doing this), and once they start to interact with this content, they enter a cycle of lead nurturing via diverse channels whereby new information (and the correct call-to-actions at the right moment) is being offered during the whole lead nurturing cycle.

Content is also a matter of context: that of the people you interact with and whom you try to provide value in function of real-time digital signals. In function of these signals and of course of predefined scenario’s and triggers the channels to provide the content are selected and combined.

Content is about stories and channels are the mouths and ears for these stories (yes, you can think word-of-mouth here).

Speak the language of your customer and listen to what he says to talk and INTERACT in a more relevant and personalized way. Communication is both speaking and listening. And that’s what many businesses forgot.

And isn’t that what sales is all about? So in the end content marketing is Sales 2.0: a combination of good sales strategies but taking into account the shift from selling to buying, what the – increasingly online customer says (that’s why we need to measure!) and the changing rules of communication.

Now, why do you want to invest in good content? Because you want to sell.

Or should I say: have customers that find you and buy from you?


The Purposes of Content and Conversations

Content has always been key in online marketing. Ask any good email marketer. These days, content is even more important in all forms of interactive marketing. But that does not mean it’s the only thing that matters. Context is important as well. And, though content is crucial it’s how your business and people use it that truly matters. The context within which content is featured, is essential for the impact of the content on conversion, interaction, reach, engagement and in the end sales.

People are increasingly seeking information themselves and use ever more channels to do so. Marketers have to make sure the information and thus content (potential) customers are seeking, is available to them when, where and how they want.

Content also remains key in domains where it has always been crucial such as search engine marketing. And it is of the utmost importance in outbound marketing techniques and of course in email marketing.The context in which content exists is defined by the life cycle of the prospect or customer, his needs, the interaction channels he uses and much more.

Obviously, content is key in social media, social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing, where relevant content has the potential to become a story that gets shared. A social brand is defined by people and stories.

Businesses don’t – only – “produce” and provide valuable and relevant content for the sake of being regarded as a valuable and relevant partner. It’s not just about the brand.

As such, content has no value. Just like we don’t “join conversations” for the sake of these conversations that have no business value as such either (privately they can be fun though but for business they need to be a bit more than that to say the least).

Content only has business value if it is valuable for both your business and the people you create it for. The value of content purely depends on the perception of people so content marketing requires a very good understanding of your customers and prospects. And the content people create can be just as valuable – and sometimes more – for your business. Content is about getting found, sharing but also engaging in what we call conversations nowadays.

The keyword here is relevance or pertinence.

The aim of business, marketing and thus content marketing is simple:

  • Increase profits by generating more revenues (and lowering costs) to be able to better satisfy the customers in the broadest sense (“real” customers, employees, shareholders,…) and to be able to innovate and grow. The road to doing this is tapping into the power of word-of-mouth and thus stories and content, by increasing customer value and loyalty (where content is crucial as well) and by generating leads and nurturing them using, among others, relevant and adapted content.
  • Increase customer satisfaction to keep existing customers, have them buy more and motivate them to share their stories and satisfaction with others, what we call brand advocates sometimes. If the customer satisfaction is really good, we don’t even have to motivate people to do it and get all too obsessed with identifying influencers (although that never hurts…). Ultimately this is the same as increasing profits if you think about it.

Is that all? Yes. All the rest is strategy, planning and obviously looking at the content formats and needs of your prospects and customers, the channels they prefer, the timing and personalization of content in function of pre-defined scenario’s in the case of lead nurturing and the psychological triggers that makes people share content and stories.

Can there be more? Sure: you can go beyond the pure business goals when providing more content and interacting more with user-generated content, for the sake of doing it for others.

The funny thing is that doing this, often results in unexpected business effects. But it requires a mindset that goes beyond the calculated rules of conversion, brand awareness and marketing ROI.

Few businesses have that mindset which is OK: we are in business for a reason.

But you might miss the unexpected if you don’t let go of that reason – and just innovate or provide value for the pure sake of it – now and then.

Originally published here.