Content Marketing: Latest News Archives

Got any  product road maps you'd care to share?

Wondering if buyers out there care what you have to say? Worry no more.

A recent ITSMA survey of technology buyers found that vendor Web sites, rather than their peers are their primary source of information at early stages in the buying process. In fact, 70% of buyers wanted to hear from a vendor salesperson before identifying their short list of potential purchases.

Their peers are still an important as a source of referrals, recommendations and references, the survey found, but not information. That’s’ not surprising. Most customers I interview for case studies don’t have product speeds, feeds and spec sheets at their fingertips. They can, though, tell you whether a product or service helped their business. They’re especially useful for issues a vendor might be less candid about. These include hidden compatibility issues, ease of use and the quality of customer support.

Every Vendor a Publisher

These findings mirror other content marketing studies I’ve seen. They show that vendors have done a surprisingly effective job taking over from IT trade publications as trustworthy sources of product information.

But reporting on product specs hasn’t been the main draw of trade pubs for years. Readers instead looked to them for “education” about new technologies and “new and provocative perspectives” on technology trends. That’s exactly what  ITSMA recommends sales staffs give to customers. It’s all part, the organization said, of providing thought leadership selling and acting as the `frontline’ subject matter experts.’”

Therein lies a challenge for many of the content marketing clients with whom I work. They struggle to find a way to educate their prospects and keep them involved without sounding too “salesy.” They also struggle to find appropriate topics to write about, and to find the “news” angles in marketing content that will drive readership and involvement.

ITSMA’s recommendations got me thinking about how we in the trade press tried to provide both education and “new and provocative perspectives” to readers. We always tried to focus on the reader, insist on a “news” angle for every story, and stay entertaining and interesting without descending into buffoonery.

The Basics   

As many experts suggest, lead with valuable information in your content marketing, not shameless self-promotion.

  • Tell the reader specifically what your “solution” is. One of my first questions as a reporter was always “What IS it you’re selling?” Is it a PaaS (platform as a service) optimized for the commercial real estate market? A combination mobile app and social platform for military families looking for financial advice? Software as a service or a physical or virtual appliance?
  • Tell the prospect what your solution does. Don’t get bogged down repeating cliché problems (“provides agility”) or gauzy platitudes (“Optimize your business.”) Good writing is specific.  “We combine the most complete and up-to-date database of commercial real estate listings with an auction site for development loans…”
  • Tell the prospect whether they’re a good fit for what you sell.  “We provide automated server provisioning tools for Windows environments…” “We’re the simplest, easiest to use /marketing automation platform for small to medium businesses…” “We provide Big Data analytics consulting and services for pharmaceutical commercial operations…”

If It Ain’t New Don’t Say It

A “new” perspective is – duh – something the reader hasn’t heard before. Tell them why the “conventional wisdom” about, say, the cloud, open source software or solid state storage is wrong. Make sure what you’re saying isn’t common knowledge on every other Website or blog. Back up your insights or arguments with proof or at least a good argument. And go easy on why your insight means the prospect should call you ASAP.

What is a “provocative’ perspective? It doesn’t have to be outrageous, but it has to make people think differently about what to do. “Everyone’s caching data on solid state drives, but how you can avoid all those reads and writes cutting short the life of the SSD? Or: “Everyone is rushing to automate every process in their data center. But how about all those function that should never be automated for security, compliance or quality control reasons?”

Be interesting at all costs; be entertaining if you can. Use short, direct sentences. Write clearly with everyday words, just like you would speak to a friend over a drink. Use everyday images and speak from the heart.

Don’t Blow It

Survey results like these are great news for vendors. Buyers trust you, at least for basic information about your products and services. They’re willing to stick around for education and insight. Now, don’t blow it. Stay focused on their needs, not yours, and keep it simple, clear and compelling.

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.

Goodbye Marketing Funnel; Hello Marketing Tornado

B2B buying patterns are getting more chaotic and unpredictable – even to the buyers. That makes it more important than ever to track what prospects do, rather than what they tell you, so you can find those who suddenly need your products or services.

Four out of ten B2B buyers had little advance notice of when they would need what they bought, according to a recent survey by the Demand Gen Report and sponsored by marketing automation vendor Act-On Software. It found that 43 percent of the buyers it surveyed who made purchases had no budgets for those purchases at the start of the year.  Thirty percent said they set a budget only after soliciting multiple bids. That makes the question “What is your budget?” one a buyer may not even be able to answer.

The obvious conclusion is that B2B customers are making purchase decisions much more quickly. A customer who tells you they’re not ready to buy – however sincerely – might be a hot prospect months or weeks later. This is especially true for small to medium-sized businesses,” says Act-On Chief Marketing Officer Atri Chatterjee. “Don’t assume that just because they’re not buying now, that decision is fixed.”

To reach and grab prospects caught in this new world:

  • Give them more help than ever making the business case to buy from you. Along with case studies and ROI calculators, spend the time to understand their needs and make a bulletproof purchase case.
  • Prospects themselves often don’t know when they’ll need to buy. Monitor their reading habits to learn when their purchase needs and timetables have changed. (Read how an IT services provider found a latent need in an existing prospect.)
  • If in doubt, share more information with prospects, rather than less – especially when it comes to pricing. Many “may not pick up the phone to call you to find out about your pricing,” says Chatterjee. When they do, they don’t want any surprises.

We all talk about the marketing funnel, an upside down triangle in which buyers enter at the “awareness” stage, with prospects drop out through the education, consideration and evaluation stages before a select few make a purchase at the “bottom” of the funnel.

But in today’s uncertain world the funnel is like a tornado. Prospects spin unpredictably from awareness to evaluation, then back to the awareness if they can’t make the business case or get distracted. The CIO may then fling the organization back into the evaluation or conversion stages overnight if the business suddenly needs (or panics into thinking it needs) a new capability.

Consumer companies know this unpredictable, event-driven process is how we buy everything from junk food to iPads. That’s why they’re always keeping their brand names in front of us. With prospects caught in the marketing tornado, B2B vendors must do the same.

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.

Where’s the Beef In Marketing Automation?

Sales says the leads STILL aren't any good?

Marketers of a certain age will remember an ad from the Wendy’s hamburger chain castigating its rivals for its skimpy burgers. It showed, memorably, a little old lady yelling “Where’s the beef?” at employees of rival chains. (Walter Mondale also recycled the line in attacking his opponent Gary Hart’s economic policies.) )

I wanted to do some tweaking of my own when I read a recent blog post, How do you convince your boss to buy marketing automation, by Kim Roman, Director of Demand Generation at G5 Search Marketing. Among her excellent advice to prove the value of MA software (that automatically distributes and monitors the readership of marketing material) was to “approach the conversation with facts and numbers, not emotion,” to “present a solid business case” and to “touch on how goals and KPIs (key performance indicators” will be affected.

All well and good, but what “facts and numbers,” and “goals and KPIs” do we really have to prove the ROI of marketing automation used in email and other campaigns? Her blog post failed to mention any specific metrics to trot out, such as:

  • Increased sales.
  • Conversion rates (defined as a purchase, not downloading a white paper or signing up for an email newsletter.)
  • Improved lead quality (as measured by sales, close rates or profitability per customer.)
  • Reduced cost of sales.
  • Increased profitability per customer.
  • Increased upsell/cross sell per customer, or
  • Increase in lifetime sales.

This lack of specificity seems to afflict marketing automation vendors in their case studies. All too often, what passes for results is “increased Web traffic” or “200% increase in white paper downloads,” which are steps in the right direction, but are only show increased market awareness. There’s no proof you’re getting more attention from the right people, or that those people are buying as a result of your marketing automation program.

“Increased marketing efficiency” or “reduction in marketing expenses” is another metric I often see which seems like all bun, no beef. If you’re doing an ineffective job marketing, and MA lets you spend less doing it, you’ve only cut your losses. Not a compelling ROI case.

Lauren Carlson, a CRM Analyst at Software Advice  on whose blog Kim’s post ran, argues that MA is evolving into what MA vendors Marketo and Eloqua are calling Revenue Performance Management, “layering on more analytics that will give you the exact numbers…making it easier to prove ROI.” There’s a great comment stream on her blog arguing whether this is just hollow rebranding or something more real.

From my own experience, I have sympathy for those still waiting to deposit a check with the words “Marketing Automation did this” in the bank. I know my own efforts over the last few months are working, in that I’m talking to and forming partnerships with more people  who “get” marketing automation and seen the vision. But developing a marketing automation strategy, not to mention the required content, is plain hard work, and is keeping a lot of us waiting for our burger and fries.

If anyone has a workable methodology that delivers quick, provable wins from marketing automation, this would be a great time to speak up.

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.