Content Marketing For IT Vendors Archives

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A client told me the other day that if a blog post on his site doesn’t mention his product, or convince people to at least learn more about it, it doesn’t do him any good.

To be fair, the post in question was about the slow, but real, progress a customer was making implementing his product despite technical, political and logistical  hurdles. It wasn’t surprising my client didn’t jump for joy about how it would look. And, as it turns out, the customer had made more progress than they mentioned in the interview that led to my post. I reviewed a presentation the client had given, revised the post with a more rounded view of their progress, and all was well.

But this little incident got me thinking about the rules of the road for “corporate journalism” in which paid reporters cover an industry for a vendor. Sometimes the news isn’t all rosy, through no fault of the vendor, but because driving change with new technology can be difficult. A frank, no-holds-barred story about the struggles customers are facing is more compelling and would (in my opinion) draw more readers to the vendor’s site than one tilted, however subtly, towards the inevitable happy ending with the vendor’s name prominently mentioned.

If I were still writing for a trade publication, the “warts-first” story would have run and hit a chord with readers. That’s because conflict and trouble is part of people’s real lives and they want to know how others cope with it. But when does the attention-grabbing draw of bad news on a vendor’s Web site overcome the risk of casting a pall, however slight, over the product or service you’re trying to promote?

Thoughts?

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.

How To Tick Off a Customer in 30 Seconds

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                                                                 First, when the customer calls on the phone, start the automated message by telling me I can also get support over the Web. Translation: You’re not worth wasting a service rep on. Go to our Web site so we can save money by having you figure out your problem yourself.”

Second, don’t offer an option to connect to a human being. Translation: Not only are you not worth the cost of a live service rep, you’re so stupid you won’t think of pressing “zero” to reach one.

Next, have the phone robot force the customer to enter their user ID and date of birth (What, no caller ID?) and then mispronounce their name. Translation: We don’t know you from Adam and aren’t ashamed to show it.”Finally, when the customer gets a service rep on the phone, question why the customer wants to do what they’re trying to do — in this case, change from automatic withdrawal to manual payment. Translation: We don’t care what you want. You should use the payment method that’s cheapest for us to process.”

What an accomplishment: I’ve gone from reasonably satisfied to suspicious and grouchy customer, all in 30 seconds. The end result was the same: I got a live rep on the phone and changed by payment method. But in the process my insurer has just made me more likely to delete their emails, balk at their rate increases and consider a competitor if one presents themselves.

This is what happens when you think more about (to paraphrase John F. Kennedy) what the customer can do for you than what you can do for the customer. This is also what happens when nobody in the organization steps back and wonders, “What will this sound like to the customer?”

That’s an exercise you should go through whether you’re recording voice prompts for a customer service line, writing a white paper or creating a Web video. Take yourself out of your “maximizing revenue/cutting costs/boosting profit” shoes and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about how your voice-response prompts, the jargon on your home page, the quotes in your case studies or the intro to your white paper will strike the folks who pay the bills by buying your products and services.

As Apple has shown with the iPad and Nordstrom’s with retailing, people will pay more for a superior experience. But you can’t provide that superior experience if you’re just looking out for yourself.

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.

Why Marketing Automation is Floundering (Amen!)

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Trying to Get the Big Mo

A recent post by Jeff Pedowitz on Marketing Automation Software Guide argues that marketing automation vendors – selling tools that automatically send and track responses to marketing material to target prospects – are floundering, or at least not growing as quickly as they should. Pedowitz says they are 1) wrongly targeting marketing executives who lack the clout to make purchase decisions, 2) focusing too much on the software and technology industries, 3) not doing enough to educate customers, 4) requiring customers adopt processes that are too complicated and 5) making their tools too expensive for early adopters.
As someone trying to grow his own use of these tools, all of these shortcomings sound correct. But the two that strike closest to home are lack of customer education and making the whole process too complicated.
First, the lack of education. We can’t even agree on what to call this new market. Is it inbound marketing? Email marketing? Demand generation? Social media marketing? Content marketing? Inbound inline marketing? Closed-loop marketing? The people we’re trying to sell to are too busy trying to close deals and keep their jobs to stay on top of all this jargon. Software and services vendors – myself included! — need to look beyond our own pitches and provide a simple description of the benefits we offer.
Next, even if you’re sold on the idea of marketing automation, it’s WAY too complicated to implement. I’ve chronicled my hellish experience moving my blog to WordPress, which provides only the content management and presentation side of the puzzle. Developing, delivering and monitoring response to your content is a whole other can of worms. HubSpot, among other tools, requires a course and certification which I’d love to take advantage of, except for this small diversion of making a living. Kudos to Jeff for calling for best practice templates, pre-built programs, one-click activation and other easy-to-use aids for us mere mortals.
Marketing automation does have a future, as those early adopters with the right blend of skills in-house are showing every day. But the rest of us need some help crawling before we can walk, much less run. Anyone vendors out there with truly easy-to-use (and reasonably priced) platforms? And anybody got a good, catch-all description for what we’re trying to do?

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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