Content Marketing Archives

How to Be Your Own Trade Pub

Insert your insights here...

Insert your insights here…

The brutal mugging of the trade press at the hands of the Internet has meant fewer opportunities to place news story or opinion pieces. A recent post by Katherine Griwert at the Content Marketing Institute shows how to attract prospects to your site by publishing industry news on your own.

She cites security-as-a-service provider ProofPoint Inc., which faced challenges I often see with my clients. ProofPoint needed more content to boost their search ranking, their customers “weren’t always responsive when we ask what they want to learn and there’s only so much one can add to a site’s core products section,” said Director of Market Development Keith Crosley.

In response, ProofPoint added industry news to an existing white paper and weekly blog strategy, and assigned internal writers to generate ideas for articles based on news about around issues such as “data loss prevention” and “email security.” Results included a page rank that matches that of companies with several times its revenue, with organic search traffic rising 18 percent quarter over quarter, and news-related posts generating thousands of unique page views among organic search visitors.

Not Just News, Commentary

As Griwert points out, just re-posting industry news won’t draw as many readers (or impress your prospects) as much as explaining to them why it is important or telling them what they should do in response to it.  (For more on when and how to add value to content, read my ebook.)

For proof, look to cloud-based phone provider ShoreTel Sky, which found a 42 percent higher conversion rate among site visitors who read news content than those who read product promotional content. One of their tactics was to report on a story about what doesn’t belong in the cloud, and then explain why phone systems like theirs do belong in the cloud. This is a favorite tactic of mine: Gain instant credibility by admitting the weaknesses of your approach and explaining, by contrast, where it works best.

Other good ways to turn raw headlines from the Web into good content:

Explain why the reader should care: What trend does it illustrate, what opportunity does it uncover, and which dangers does it warn about? For example: “This wave of ‘software-defined storage’ announcements shows how much confusion there is around the term. This is an early-stage industry that promises great benefits, but needs to shake out before it is real.”

 Explain what the reader should do: “When reading about `software-defined storage’ be sure to look past the buzzword and ask how each offering meets your specific needs, such as scalability, availability and avoiding a single point of failure.”

 Explain what the original story missed and how that affects the reader: “Each of these announcements talk about software-defined storage without integrating it to the broader  software-defined data center. What good is software-defined storage if it’s a silo I need to manage apart from my servers and storage?”

 Expand on the story/explain the trend with an anecdote:  “I was talking with a client the other day who said `software defined storage’ is B.S. He says it’s nothing but a fancy term for storage virtualization, which has never proved its worth. This got me thinking about where we fell short with storage virtualization and where the industry needs to go from here…”

 And how do you tie the stories you write to the products or services you sell? The answer: Only when it’s justified. If in doubt, deliver smarts and insight to your readers, not a drumbeat about your most recent product release. When your product or service is a natural fit for a post, story, mention its advantages briefly with a link to an offer page, but don’t overdo it.

For example, here’s how I would do it for this post: If you’d like an editor’s help developing news content or an editorial calendar for your site, feel free to be in touch.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Demystify DevOps — Or Else

DevOps? I thought you meant SPECIAL ops. Watch me collapse those deployment cycles...

DevOps? I thought you meant SPECIAL ops. Watch me collapse those deployment cycles…

Doing one thing at a time is so…nineties. We now have to do everything, all the time, like the guy texting as he walked past me into a ladies’ room in O’Hare Airport.

But that’s a different story.

The big emerging trend in IT multitasking is DevOps. It means combining what used to be the sequential tasks of creating an application (development) and keeping it running (operations.) Doing both in parallel should allow businesses to roll out new applications and services more quickly. That’s essential when a photo sharing site like Instagram needs to add 1 million users in 12 hours, users expect constantly updated mobile applications, and popular Web sites do continuous “A/B” testing to see if users like the scroll bar looking like this or like that.

 Beyond Process Change

 You might think DevOps is largely a “soft skills” story – how to get often warring development and operations teams to play nice. Development, after all, is paid to get cool new apps out the door quickly. Operations is paid to slow down and make sure they work right and are secure. And there are, indeed, plenty of good stories for marketers to tell about consultants who can do the necessary training and process change.

But it turns out there’s also a big technology story. Operations, after all, collects reams of log files and other data that track the operation of everything from Web servers to load balancers. By feeding that data back to the developers, in real time, they can tweak their applications and system architectures to avoid slowdowns, and adapt user interfaces based on what’s hot from the Web analytics that week.

This has raised the profiles of vendors such as Splunk, whose software monitors and analyses “everything from customer clickstreams and transactions to network activity to call records.” This can be used, among other purposes, “to debug and troubleshoot applications during development and test cycles.” Likewise, the CA LISA software suite from CA Technologies (one of my clients) simulates production environments to help multiple development teams work in parallel and manage test environments, another important part of the DevOps process,

Eschew Obfuscation 

So we know there’s a tech story to tell here. But in my conversation with vendors I’m finding some common challenges:

  •  Many customers either don’t know what DevOps is, or think it is hype. Define DevOps carefully and put it in context of related buzzwords like agile and open source. How you position all these trends isn’t as important as being clear in how they relate. Case studies of how DevOps has scaled securely in the real world will also help win over skeptics.
  •  Especially if you provide products or services on the data analysis side, make sure you explain exactly how you fit into DevOps process. This is a classic opportunity to define the conversation around an emerging market space by being first to explain it. (One sign of confusion: One of my clients described Splunk as a leader in the DevOps space, but Splunk itself doesn’t seem to agree, as a search for “DevOps” on their site yielded no hits.)
  •  Again, if you play in the data warehouse/data analysis/query tools space of DevOps, make sure you explain you’re analyzing machine data from the IT infrastructure, and not business data like when to put the beer next to the diapers to sell more of each. (A classic “Big Data” insight which, by the way, may have been ignored.)

So is DevOps real? Everyone from rocket scientist billionaires at social Web sites to somewhat staider outfits like the German Post Office say yes. Others will take more convincing. Ladies and gents, start your explanation engines.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Bah, Humbug! Oops, Just Broke My Own Rule

Don’t let this guy steal your content marketing message.

A recent excellent post by CEO Patrick Murphy of inbound marketing agency Silicon Cloud asked whether too many organizations are doing content marketing. Or, rather, whether they’re doing the wrong kind of content marketing, overusing topical themes (like the election, Christmas, the Super Bowl, etc.).

As Murphy points out, it’s a fine idea to go with a topical hook as an attention-getter – as long as you don’t overdo it. He asks, very properly, whether “the 12 days of IT support (will) still feel like a relevant post to a market that read last year’s post, 12 days of Email Archiving? Or a rival brand’s post that makes similar points under the title Is Your IT Support Naughty or Nice?”

Murphy recommends, and I agree, that the best cure for this overkill is to be original and make sure the content is structured to capture the readers’ interest in what you’re selling and not, say, the Grinch. I’ll build on his recommendations with specific questions to ask yourself when you’re tempted to overdo the topical route:

  • Are you, yourself, sick and tired of seeing far-fetched connections between the event and marketing copy? If so, your readers are probably are also. Don’t add to the overkill.
  • Is there a genuine connection between the event and what you’re writing about or are you just jumping on the bandwagon?  Limit overkill by only using a topical slant when there’s a genuine connection that helps prove your point.
  • When in doubt, don’t. If you have a choice between adding to the mass chorus or providing insight that only you have, about a very specific topic, go with the insight. After all, isn’t that what you’re selling?

Let me know if sticking with your specialized expertise works for you, even during the holidays, or if I’m just being a Grinch. Oops, did it again!

Don’t let this guy steal your content marketing message.

Call me for anything from a quick copy tune-up or check out my all-inclusive marketing automation packages.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Back in the ‘80s, rockabilly giant Sleepy LaBeef recorded a song called “It Ain’t What You Eat (It’s the Way How You Chew It). Sadly, even Google can’t find it now, but I recall one of the lines was “It ain’t what you do, it’ the way how you do it.”

When it comes to marketing automation that means it’s not only what you do that’s important, but how you manage and measure it. Which is just what The Pedowitz Group and The Lenskold Group learned in a recent survey of more than 370 B2B marketing organizations. It found that marketing automation, combined with tracking ROI metrics such as lead acceptance rate and revenue per sale, made top-performing organizations more efficient and effective.

 

Top Performers

According to the survey, the top segment of companies – 11% of all marketers surveyed – demonstrated distinct advantages in outgrowing competitors by adopting integrated marketing automation and using ROI metrics. After deploying a marketing automation solution, 48 percent of marketing organizations saw an increase in lead acceptance, the survey found, while 28 percent of organizations saw an increase in revenue per sale.

While “all the key outcomes went up,” total marketing revenue contribution rose the most “for the organizations that had marketing automation and were also using ROI metriecs to help manage their effectiveness,” said  Lenskold Group President Jim Lenskold.

Key Success Factors

The importance of management showed up again in findings that the organizations that reported the most success were:

  • More likely to report strengths in their organizations’ structure and processes related to lead generation;
  • Three times more likely to drive repeatable and predictable lead-to-sale conversion rates; and,
  • Better able to manage their marketing funnel, measuring incremental sales and revenue, providing a pipeline forecast and being accountable for revenue goals.

It all shows, as if we needed a reminder, that simply purchasing a marketing automation system isn’t enough to realize these benefits because systems don’t operate in a vacuum. At the end of the day, software is only a tool and using it effectively requires process improvements and adherence to best practices.

You can watch Lenskold and Debbie Qaqish, a principal at the Pedowitz Group, discuss the survey in more detail on CRM Software TV.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Are You Ready to Hire a Copywriter?

What the heck is it we do so well?

The other day, a prospective client realized he wasn’t ready to hire me – or any — content marketing copywriter.

He realized as we spoke that before asking a copywriter to present his message, he and his subject matter experts needed to agree on what their message was. He asked if I had any “documentation” of what questions he and his team needed to answer before hiring a copywriter.

Here are the questions I came up with. Let me know what I missed.

Messaging Questions:

  •  What is our “elevator pitch” – the 30 second description of what we do, why we do it better than our competitors, and why it matters to customers?
  •  What is our specific differentiator vs. our top three competitors? Lower cost? Higher      quality? Better customer service? Proprietary technology? In-depth knowledge of our customers’ industries?
  •  What’s special about how we deliver our specific value? Our bonus system for sales reps tied to long-term customer satisfaction?  Our proprietary testing framework for mobile apps? The fact our CEO is a former customer?
  •  Who are the two or three customer types we need more of? How big are they, what industries are they in, what pain points do they face, what systems are they now running, what competitors are they dissatisfied with?
  •  What tone do we want each piece of content to take? i.e., very technical for lower-level influencers and users, more business-oriented for C-level execs who pay the bills?
  •  What stories can we tell about our success – either customer case studies or internal stories of lessons learned and how we improved processes internally?
  •  What similar products do we not compete with, and what markets do we not want to tackle? (This is great for cutting time, effort and cost out of the process.)

Strategy Questions:

  • What is the goal of this content marketing campaign? How many new customers, how much revenue, how many quality leads?
  • How will we use this content in our sales and marketing activity? Will we direct customers to “landing pages” teased by emails or Tweets? Which of our prospect lists will each piece of content be sent to?
  • What “call to actions” do we want each piece of content to encourage? Signing up for a newsletter, following us on Twitter, downloading a new piece of content or agreeing to a sales call?
  • How will we “score” the leads this program generates? What actions will trigger different scores (i.e., downloading “Introduction to widgets” gives them one point, “How to choose the right widget for you” gives them two points, “Three questions to ask before signing your widget contract” gets them three points.)=
  • Have we asked sales what they need from this campaign, how they would score prospects, and in what form (alerts through our CRM system) they would like to get updates on prospects and their behavior?
  • What marketing automation tools (such as email marketing services or Web site monitoring) do we have, do we need and what new skills would we need to use them more effectively?

You don’t need the final answers to all these questions. But do get enough agreement to move forward with a measurable plan and refine it from there. Let me know which questions worked, or didn’t, for you and which questions I missed.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Look, Ma, No Hands! Automated Content Curation

Not bad for a machine: Content as “curated” by Paper.li.

I used to think that curating content – reusing content from other sources to keep your prospects engaged with you – was for wimps. Real men (and women) did the hard work of coming up with ideas, researching and writing them.

An online service called Paper.li has me reconsidering my stance.  It scans the Twitter accounts you’re following (or a list of Twitter accounts you’ve created, or Tweets found through a hashtag search.) It does a very nice job of automatically capturing the headline, image and an excerpt of each Tweet. For the price of two Starbucks’ ($9 per paper) per month you can add your own logo, decide which captured stories get the biggest play and notify your followers when a new edition is ready for publication.

I was impressed with the first such paper I found, Content With Content which covers (not surprisingly) content marketing. It shows how, by carefully choosing which accounts Paper.li scans, you can automatically create a good-looking compilation of quality content for your followers.

Add Thought Leadership and Stir

Where this content curation tool gets really interesting is the Editor’s Note feature, which allows you to add one (and only one, as far as I can tell) own story of your own to the mix. This is your opportunity to, in your given field, add your insightful comments to what would otherwise be a showcase for others in your field.

If you’re a virtualization management vendor, for example, you could use the Editor’s Note to comment on the features a competitor failed to announce in a Tweet picked up by Paper.li If there’s a rash of Tweets from VMworld (happening as I write this) you can use the Editor’s Note to explain why, for example, there’s suddenly a lot of talk about the security risks in virtualization. You can also include hyperlinks to steer your readers to stories you think they should, and shouldn’t read; tell them what they should think about them or even to a landing page on your own site.

Twitter Overload?

Such automated content creation seems like a good fit for areas where there’s a lot of quality content floating around, and a lot of “news” to keep the paper fresh. In the IT space, think for example of virtualization, storage, security, mobile or anything related to “cloud.”

I would recommend it, however, only for organizations that have the time and ability to add value by carefully choosing which Twitter accounts to sweep for content, controlling the “play” various stories get and, above all, adding their own commentary through the “Editor’s Note.” I still maintain, purist that I am, that a newspaper edited only by an algorithm will eventually look random and chaotic.

You also need to watch overloading your prospects. Do they really need a daily recapping of many of the same Tweets they may have already seen from the accounts they’re following? You also need to figure out how this fits with the other social media channels (such as email newsletters) you’re already offering them.

Services like this provide some of the collection and present functions required to provide quality content, but as I describe in my ebook on where to invest in content marketing, adding context, insight and excellent presentation requires more work.

Low-Hanging Fruit?

One client recently asked me about creating a “super-site” about their technology niche — a “must-view” Web site for potential customers. With the right amount of customization, a service like Paper.li could be the cost-effective core for such a site.

Used right, I’m starting to think there’s a place for curation in content marketing. I’m curious about whether, and how, services like this have worked for you in the B2B space.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Just waiting for this video to load…

There’s a lot of noise out there about making video a part of your content marketing strategy. Here are five reasons why it’s a waste of time for you and your customers:

  1. Customers need to wait for the video to load and stream. B2B prospects lack the time for this.
  2. They need to sit through two, five, ten minutes or more of talking before they learn all the key points.
  3.  To capture interesting points that aren’t in the accompanying PowerPoint, the customer must take notes and enter them into a database/tickler file (rather than just cutting or pasting as they can from text.)
  4.  If the customer is interrupted or accidently closes their browser window, they have to go back, wait for the video to reload, find where they left off and resume taking notes.
  5.  Producing quality video is difficult and takes time. Low-quality video is easier but can look amateurish, especially for complex, B2B sales.

I admit video IS great for:

  1. Adding credibility to B2B customer case studies IF the customer is articulate and enthused about what you did for them. (The same goes for showcasing the quality of your workforce or your facilities.)
  2. Explaining complicated concepts with pictures as well as words.
  3. Showing, rather than telling, how a product or process works.

My advice is NOT to throw a video up on your B2B site without adding a brief, but complete, written summary of it for those who lack the time or interest to sit through it. Video is a sequential learning tool, for those with the time and motivation to devote to it. A brief written summary is a random-access alternative for those time-pressed, B2B customers who want to scan quickly and pick out the key points.

Subscribe to my free Editor’s Notes newsletter for more tips, or email me if you have other content marketing strategy or implentation questions.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Quick Tip: How to Ensure Content Is Reader Focused

There’s a customer angle in here somewhere…

In content marketing for lead generation we know we should focus on the customer and their needs, and not about ourselves and what we’re trying to sell. Here are four questions that help ensure every blog post, white paper, bylined article or other marketing content focuses on what the reader needs.

1)     Have I told the reader why they should care? In the B2B market the customer needs to either sell more or save more. All the latest buzzwords (the “agility” of cloud computing, the “insights” of big data, the “innovation” generated by social media) are new, technology-enabled ways of reaching either or both these goals.

When you announce multi-cloud support in your storage virtualization “solution,” describe how it lets customers shop for the lowest-priced cloud provider. When you proudly announce a new reseller or OEM distribution agreement, explain how this makes it possible, for the first time, for businesses in the upper Midwest to get overnight support for your products.

And if you can’t explain why the reader should care, don’t tell them. It only trains them not to listen the next time you come calling with marketing content, and hurts your lead generation.

2)     Have I told the reader what action to take, or not take? Like you, your customers are doing two or three jobs at the same time and need the advice or insight you have to offer – quickly. The best place to describe it is near the beginning of each piece of marketing content, and in clear, simple terms.

Examples:

  • “When starting an enterprise architecture program, talk to the business managers to be sure you’re meeting their critical, short-term needs. Otherwise, you’ll produce a useless ‘science project’ that will hurt your career.”
  • “If your outsourcer is doing a lousy job, it can be less expensive and easier to fix the relationship than to replace them. Make sure you’re doing a good enough job clarifying your expectations, and are treating them fairly on pricing and other terms as your needs unexpectedly change.”
  • “To see how different configurations of solid-state disk would improve your database performance, click through to our on-line estimator.”

3)     Does your marketing content tell the reader something new, or given them a new way of thinking about a subject?

With so many vendors self-publishing on the Web, you can’t afford to repeat what the reader already knows, or that is self-evident, in your marketing content.

  • Instead of: “We listen to your needs and develop a custom solution backed by our factory-trained technicians.”
  • Try: “Unlike mere “resellers” we give you the home and cell phone number of a dedicated account rep who’s paid based on your online ranking of his performance.”
  • Instead of: “Cloud storage can help enterprises cope with the cost and management challenges posted by the exponential growth in application data.”
  • Try: “While some tout the `cloud” as a cure-all for your data storage problems, it’s actually best-suited for non-regulated applications where latency is not an issue.”

4)     Does every piece of marketing content refer to terms, problems, examples the reader will recognize?

Improve your lead generation by showing you understand the unique needs and everyday concerns of your target market. Replacing buzzwords with specific examples is a great way to do this.

  • Instead of: “Automated storage provisioning reduces the cost and delay of meeting enterprise storage needs.”
  • How about: “Tired of getting yelled at by the development staff asking `Where are my test systems?’ Automated provisioning lets you close out those service tickets with a click of the mouse.”
  • Not so good: Proper involvement of the legal staff can assure the proper negotiation of outsourcing contracts.
  • More specific and real world: Your corporate attorney should not just say “no” to every outsourcing contract clause they don’t understand. They should focus instead on the areas that make or break deals, such as carefully defining service levels, assuring change control so the outsourcer isn’t overwhelmed with unexpected work, and creating a partnership instead of an adversarial relationship.”

For more tips on creating customer-focused marketing content for lead generation based on my 20+ years of IT writing, subscribe to my email newsletter or email bob@scheierassociates.com.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.
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