scheierassociates.com http://scheierassociates.com Translating IT Jargon Into Business Benefits Wed, 12 Dec 2018 21:57:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0 How to Play It Snarky But Safe http://scheierassociates.com/2018/12/how-to-play-it-snarky-but-safe http://scheierassociates.com/2018/12/how-to-play-it-snarky-but-safe#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 17:41:06 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3130

There’s a lot of talk about the need to make marketing content funny and edgy enough to rise above a sea of “me-too” blather.

Yet too many of my clients continue to play it safe – too safe, to my mind, to accurately describe the real business problems they help their customers solve. If, for example, one of their customers took six weeks to process a simple product change on their Web site, my client will balk at using that example because it makes the customer (even if they’re not named) look bad.

But it’s just that sort of real-world story that tells a prospect you understand their problems and you can help. How can you inject that drama and realism, along with some humor, into your content without burning your customers?

By using your knowledge of the quirks in your industry or market to create a snarky “Devil’s Dictionary” describing what commonly used clichés really mean. Here, for example, are samples from a Facebook post comparing common job descriptions for software developers with their “real” meaning. (Excerpts have been edited for brevity.)

What the Job Description Says What It Means
 
“…fast-paced environment.” …constant firefighting.
 
“…be a team player.” Must not question authority.
 
“Dynamic environment.” …leadership keeps changing our priorities.
 
“Self-starter” We have no process.
 
“Must be able to work with minimal supervision.” You’ll be blamed when something goes wrong.
 
“…work with cutting edge technology.” Do what everyone else is doing.
 
“…rockstar developer.” You’ll work very long hours with impossible deadlines.

Why is this content like this so valuable?

It’s real. Even if all these jabs aren’t true all the time, any developer will recognize the painful reality behind each of them. Content like this instantly shows your target audience you have hard-won experience in your field and aren’t just repeating the latest marketing jargon.

It’s funny and shareable. People need relief from tough situations by sharing a laugh with others who get the joke. Imagine if you created a list like this for your industry and it showed up on cube walls around the world, with your company name and contact info at the bottom?

You can show how you solve the problems you’re highlighting. Let’s say you’re a software recruiter and post this list and describe how you help developers avoid or cope with employers with chaotic, exploitative or otherwise miserable work environments. You’ve not only proven you know your industry, but how you can help your customers.

It protects the guilty. The creators of this list didn’t have to name any of their employers, or even mask them as “a global retailer based in the U.S.” That’s because the problems described by this list describes are so common they could apply to anyone in the industry. You get to tell real horror stories without implicating any of your customers or competitors.

Next Steps 

Don’t know how to get started? Imagine you’re at a bar trading war stories with friends or colleagues.  What common avoidable problems, organizational screw ups, failed promises and hyped technologies would you all complain about? While a “Devil’s Dictionary” is an easy way start, don’t be limited by that format. You could use a similar list of common headaches in your industry to create:

  • A series of blogs describing each of the problems and how you help your customers cope with them.
  • A “top ten” list of common problems or marketing half-truths.
  • Actual stories showing how these problems tripped up real people, with details of how they coped.

The beauty of this “snarky but safe approach” is you already have the raw material at hand. It’s just a matter of gathering it, packaging and promoting it.

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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Which Transformation Soup Are You Selling?   http://scheierassociates.com/2018/11/which-transformation-soup-are-you-selling http://scheierassociates.com/2018/11/which-transformation-soup-are-you-selling#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 22:08:07 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3113

selling transformationWith winter coming, it’s time to think about soups. Not as in savory stews, but in the unsavory slop we dish out when we carelessly talk about “transformation.” Blending the various definitions without thinking dilutes the message and leaves prospects confused, rather than wanting to learn more.

More than seven years ago (yikes!) I first trashed the term as meaningless jargon and since then tried to puzzle out its various meanings. Since folks can’t stop using the “T” word, I thought I’d offer what (based on my most recent work) clients mean these days by the various flavors of transformation and some messaging that works best for each:

Application transformation. This usually means deciding which applications to keep, which to get rid of and which to improve. This often involves existing tools and techniques such as “application portfolio rationalization” or “application portfolio management” and includes the use of enterprise architecture tools to understand the apps you have, how they relate to the business and how to streamline your portfolio. Today it usually involves moving apps wherever possible to less expensive, more scalable cloud platforms.

Your messaging:  Get specific about how reduce the speed and cost of application assessment and prioritization. Quantify the savings you enabled by ditching unneeded applications and moving others to the cloud.  Be sure to also describe how “app transformation” drove the top (sales) line through better information access for customers, employees and business partners, and how the streamlined apps boosted customer retention and margins through more differentiated services.

Customer experience transformation. This means making life easier for customers than your competitors (or how you did it in the bad old days.) This often means on-line (think user interfaces and easy to use chatbots) but can extend to in-person (roaming service agents with tablets at airports or self-service kiosks at stores.) Services range from rapid application development and redesign through, on the high end, on-site “ethnographic” research to better understand customer needs.

Your messaging: Stress how your agile development helps developers quickly roll out “minimum viable products,” get feedback, fine-tune and redeploy them with continuous integration and continuous delivery. Prove it not with internal metrics like how many MVPs you rolled out or how much customer research you did, but with business benefits such as higher revenue per visitor shopping cart, increased margins or (best of all) dominating new markets through sheer ease of use, such as Amazon does with one-click shopping.

Infrastructure transformation: This is all about the IT plumbing of hardware, storage and networks. While it can include streamlining such processes on site, it usually means moving them from internal data centers to the cloud, shifting applications from proprietary platforms like mainframes to commodity hardware and open source software, and moving from manual, reactive management to lower cost, faster, automated monitoring and management.

Your messaging: Depending on where you play, you can stress anything from your automated cloud migration tools to your skills in cross-cloud or hybrid (public and private) cloud management or at deploying and managing containers that run multiple applications on a single server. The overarching trend here the use of software, automation and artificial intelligence to cut the cost and expense of managing IT through a “software defined data center” or “software defined Wide Area Network.” With giants like Cisco scrambling to define and dominate the market, it takes careful thought to position yourself right. Don’t forget to cover security, which is becoming trickier the more complex such environments become.

The tactical benefits are, of course, lower costs. But the more strategic play is increased agility, the ability to scale infrastructure up and down as needs change, and quickly delivering new products and services to meet changing customer needs.

Digital transformation. The great grand-daddy of them all, which is often used to mean any or all of the above subsets of transformation. I hear my clients use it most often to mean changing the corporate culture and strategy to focus around the effective use of new technologies such as mobile, social, analytics and the cloud.

Your messaging: Changing corporate culture and strategy is a huge challenge. If you’re playing here, you’ll need a good, defensible story that includes business consulting and strategy and organizational change management as well as delivering the underlying technology. Even more than with other transformation flavors, the benefits to stress are long-term corporate survival and the creation and domination of new markets.

What other flavors of transformation are you seeing and what messaging works best in marketing them?

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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Differentiate This! http://scheierassociates.com/2018/10/nailing-differentiation-lessons-from-a-concrete-screw http://scheierassociates.com/2018/10/nailing-differentiation-lessons-from-a-concrete-screw#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 19:37:00 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3098

product positioning Many of my small to medium size clients, such as regional IT service providers, struggle when I ask them what differentiates them from their competitors.  The best they can come up with is often:

  • “We really listen to our customers’ needs.”
  • “Our staff really cares about our customer’s success.”
  • “We take a consultative approach, rather than just trying to sell them stuff.”

Sound familiar? It should. These aren’t differentiators – they’re the minimum requirements to keep the doors open. To effectively explain what makes you better, you need to define and describe it from the customer’s perspective.

If you think your products or services are too much like commodities to stand out, check out this in-store display for a lowly cement screw, used to attach walls to concrete floors or hardware to blocks or bricks.

How My Screw Is Better Why The Customer Should Care
Stikfit T25 Bit For one-handed installation. (Speeds work, reduces effort.)
Serrated head Flush seating . (Improves appearance, makes painting easier.)
Serrated threads For quick install (speeds work).
Sharp point For immediate pickup. (Speeds work, reduces effort.)

In a few dozen words and an easy-to-understand picture, this screw manufacturer has given a harried contractor or do-it-yourselfer four reasons why their “commodity” product will make their life easier.  How can a regional IT services provider do the same for a busy prospect?

We’re Good, Just Like Everyone Else

The first step is the hardest: Identifying those subtle differences that set you apart from all your  “me-too” competitors. These differentiators do exist – the challenge is identifying them and explaining what they mean to the customer.  I’ll use some of the most common strengths I’ve seen in service providers and provide the customer benefits as an illustration.

How My IT Services Are Better Why The Customer Should Care
Platinum certification with leading hardware vendors. Faster and less expensive fixes for problems.
We care. Really. We work nights and weekends to keep you up and running in a jam.
We’re small and locally owned. You don’t have to chase multiple vendors in case of a problem. You can call our CEO’s cell 24/7 if you have an issue with our service.
We understand your industry. We stay on top of the latest technology and best practices in your industry so you don’t have to.

 Next: Do Your Homework

All these are obviously generic benefits for a generic regional IT services firm. But the same process can work for any hardware, software or services vendor. It even works in a new market like the Internet of Things or containers where multiple vendors make “me too” claims.

Whatever your offering, the lesson from this concrete screw holds true: Every product and service has some market differentiators. The hard work is identifying them and explaining in very clear terms how they help the customer.

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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Blockchain Blues, Case Study Heartache http://scheierassociates.com/2018/09/blockchain-blues-case-study-heartache http://scheierassociates.com/2018/09/blockchain-blues-case-study-heartache#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 13:25:30 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3084

best practices blockchain marketing case studies Demand for IT marketing content remains as strong as I’ve ever seen it. But not all tech categories are as healthy as others, and in some ways, creating quality content is becoming harder and harder.

Among the changes I’m seeing and some tips for coping:

  • Email struggles: Clients are getting more sophisticated in their use of marketing automation tools to target customized emails to the right prospects. But the logistical details (like honing the messaging and integrating it into different email templates) are still challenges. The more nurture campaigns I do, the more my stock advice holds true: Get your messaging and workflows down before jumping into your first campaign. That will save uncounted hours of rework and chaos as you ramp your email volume.)
  • Blockchain blues: After a colossal wave of hype, concerns over security, cost, and speed are spreading doubts over blockchain (the distributed database technology designed to eliminate middlemen for everything from financial trading to customs paperwork.) Every week seems to bring news of another intriguing pilot, such as the AP (my former employer) using blockchain to be sure it gets paid when its content is republished. But next there’s yet another hack of a blockchain-protected cryptocurrency or concerns that blockchain uses more power and is slower than conventional transaction systems. Suggestion: In your blockchain messaging proactively address concerns such as cost, speed and security, and back up any claims with real-life successes, not just pilots. 
  • The “T” word: The use of “digital transformation” to describe just about every part of the IT industry is worse than ever, with marketers sprinkling it like fairy dust into every piece of copy. One client had a good definition that ran something like this: “Long lasting, quantum improvements in efficiency, sales or costs.” That level of precision eliminates a lot of the “transformation” stories that turn out to describe only conventional cost-cutting or moving workloads to the cloud (not exactly radical in 2018.) Why not hash out a one-sentence description of “transformation” everyone on your marketing staff understands, and make sure each piece of marketing material explains how you help achieve it?
  • Case study heartache: By definition, a case study must describe how your product or service helped the customer, and how your product or service is better, cheaper, faster than its competitors. But extracting that essential information from vendors’ sales and delivery staffs is getting harder, not easier. I have no easy answer for this, except to train, train, train the staff working with the client to think about the business benefits of their work. That means metrics like lower costs, increased sales, quicker time to market or increased customer retention, not internal benchmarks like meeting project milestones or the number of employees who use a new application.
  • Operationalize this. From cloud migration to Big Data, many of my clients are promoting their ability to “operationalize” IT functions with automated, consistent, repeatable processes. The aim is to cut costs, speed delivery, and reduce security and other risks with standard ways of working across the business. Describing all this can get pretty dry, though, with long descriptions of frameworks, best practices, and the capabilities you’re streamlining. I try to keep it relevant by describing a business benefit for every process the client is improving, and pushing them (again!) for how they achieve that improvement better than their competitors.    

Bottom line: There’s plenty of marketing work out there, but it’s getting harder to deliver the caliber of content that gets results. What are you doing to keep quality up amid the rush to push content out the door, the need to learn new marketing platforms and clients that struggle to describe the business benefits of the solutions they sell?

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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Four Email Marketing Sinkholes to Avoid http://scheierassociates.com/2018/04/improve-management-of-email-campaigns http://scheierassociates.com/2018/04/improve-management-of-email-campaigns#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 17:48:13 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3075

Tips creating email nurture campaignsI recently finished an email nurture campaign for a major software vendor. It included multiple emails across multiple streams for each step in the buyer’s journey (awareness, education, consideration and qualification.)

The writing was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The 90 percent I didn’t see at first included defining the personas (hypothetical reader groups with various needs), deciding which personas should get which follow-on messages based on their reading behavior, defining the messaging for each stream, choosing everything from fonts to configuring the marketing automation system and entering the content into it.

If all this sounds a little overwhelming, it can be. It can also take attention from fine-tuning your emails so they generate interest, leads and sales. Here are the four sinkholes I found us falling into, with tips for avoiding them. Let me know which I missed and how you avoid such problems.

  1.  Oh, yeah. The content. Many of my colleagues were working overtime refining customer lists, designing email flows, building triggers for follow-up emails and fine-tuning personas. By the time I asked what they wanted in a specific email, their only direction might be “Oh, some thought leadership” or “A high-level overview focusing on our differentiators.” But they often hadn’t had time to think through what their thought leadership about a given topic might be, or which differentiators they wanted to highlight. Tips: Before diving into the detailed flow of a campaign, sit back and define what success would look like, and the three to five major points you want to stress across the email streams. Define, in two to three sentences, what your “thought leadership” is. Get sign-off on all this from the decision makers and communicate it to everyone who will edit or input the emails into your MA tool.
  2. Didn’t we change that font in the last version? If you’re running multiple email campaigns with multiple streams for multiple products, you’ve quickly got an awful lot of discrete emails to track. And they can all look pretty much the same as each subject line is, invariably, a variation of the same theme. Add in multiple feedback from multiple commenters and things can quickly get ugly. Tip: Institute a strong change control system – maybe with advice from your developers on how they manage multiple version of code – before you start handling the copy itself. We assigned a unique identifier to each email (such as “A3” for the third email in the first, or “education,” stream) and assigned a single person to keep everyone else on schedule.
  3. That’s not the headline, it’s the subject line! Nurture emails are made up of five or six elements, each with very specific functions and length requirements. The headline might be limited to 50 characters and meant to “Explain the main value prop” while the subhead might go up to 75 characters with the goal of “Expanding on the main value prop or describing a secondary value prop.” You want your writers, and editors, to focus on hitting these very specific targets, not trying to remember which component of the email they’re working on. Tip: Create very specific and clear templates with the required length and the purpose of each text blog, and make sure everyone from writers to editors to the admins who enter the text in your MA tool use the same template. Including any stock photos, illustrations or other graphical content will help the writer match their text to the tone of the illustrations.
  4. Wait. You want me to enter all this in the MA system, too? Every MA platform has its own user interface. None of them are rocket science but each takes time to learn. It might seem straightforward to have your writer not only draft the content but enter it in the system. But do you want to pay them to learn the system and do data entry rather than crafting great email copy? Tip: Consider hiring a dedicated staff to do the uploading so your content and strategy folks can concentrate on what they do best.

Those are my tips for staying out of the muck and mire of email marketing. What  hidden problems – or clever fixes — have 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.
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Pulling Case Studies Out of Customers http://scheierassociates.com/2017/11/how-create-b2b-case-studies http://scheierassociates.com/2017/11/how-create-b2b-case-studies#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:43:43 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3049

how to create customer case studies One of the more predictable, and sadder, moments in my work with clients comes when I ask for a customer case study to help illustrate all the good things their hardware, software or services can do.

Their answer is often an awkward silence, followed by something like “Uh, we’ll have to talk to sales to see if they have anything. But they probably don’t so why don’t you start writing anyway…”

That hurts their marketing efforts, because a recommendation from a trusted peer – which is what a case study is – is one of the most credible forms of content you can publish. One recent survey showed that case studies are the top form of content busy B2B buyers want to read.

There are many reasons customers don’t want to help you create a case study. The interviews and review cycles take time out of their busy schedules, and force them to jump through hoops with their internal legal and PR departments for what they may see as “only” a favor for a vendor they’re already paying for a product or service.

Try These Tacks

The Content Marketing Institute recently published some helpful hints for getting customers to participate in a case study. They include (with my comments in italics.)

Create a formal submission and request process, and explaining to your own customer success, sales and marketing teams why case studies are so vital.  A good start, but it requires a lot of internal education and still may not break down resistance among your customers.) 

Create a formal document that outlines how to submit marketing case study opportunities. This can easily degrade, in my experience, into a dreary bureaucratic exercise producing “fill in the form” summaries with vague jargon like “transformation” or wooly benefits like “optimized systems” instead of the quantifiable specifics a good case study needs.

Create a case study request email template to make requests of your customers. A good idea as long as it gives the customer a good reason to cooperate. (See below.) I’d also suggest giving the customer engagement teams lots of rooms to customize them to build on what are (hopefully) their great relationships with clients.

Offer employees a bonus for recruiting customers for case studies. CMI admits this is a “bandage” approach that could get expensive and encourage subpar submissions, but can also jump start longer-term efforts. I actually like this idea, as long as you’re clear with your people about what makes a good case study. You could even make the production of case study “candidates” part of employees’ compensation, giving them an incentive to make case studies part of their “partnership” with their best customers. 

Provide value to the customers doing the case studies (and explain it to them). This is of course the Holy Grail. Possible hot buttons to push in today’s climate include:

  • Using the case study as a recruitment tool by showing the innovative work the client is doing.
  • Using the case study to help your client attract good business partners by, again, showing the innovative work the client is doing.
  • Telling the rest of the client’s organization about the good work IT is doing to grow revenue and market share.
  • Discounted pricing or extra support.

 Anonymous or “masked” case studies, such as referring to the customer as “a major European telecom provider.” A good, tried and true alternative. Not as powerful as a name-brand reference, but if specific enough it can still provide value.

A group case study describing average results seen by your customers. An interesting approach I’m currently trying with one client. Possible obstacles include making “apples to oranges” comparisons of benefits or challenges across customers, and widely differing quality of information or results across multiple customers.

What Else?

In these days of fewer, and larger, customers and increased regulation, getting customers to help out with case studies will probably get harder, not easier. What is working – or not working – for you?

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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Five Ways Storytelling Goes Bad http://scheierassociates.com/2017/10/five-ways-storytelling-goes-bad http://scheierassociates.com/2017/10/five-ways-storytelling-goes-bad#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 15:50:49 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3040

Wherever you go in the content marketing industry, people are talking about brand storytelling.   You have to tell stories to get customers emotionally involved in your brand. The human mind is intrinsically geared to hearing and understanding stories.

Hey, I’m all for storytelling. When my clients go on about how they digitally “transform” this or that, I harass them for real-world examples – stories, if you will — to explain what they’re doing.  When they give me a cookie-cutter, jargon-filled case study to word-smith, I push back for more details on the business challenges and the internal implementation headaches that will bring their work to life.

But in each of those examples, I use stories to illustrate a wider theme or broader truth. When we use stories to trivialize, to distract, to pander or to cover up, we’re cheapening our profession and pulling the wool over our reader’s eyes. Is that we went into this profession for?

How might story-telling hoodwink a reader, either intentionally or not? Stick with me for a sec for an example from the pharmaceutical rather than the IT industry.

Yes, We Price Gouge, But Our People Are Nice

Consider these two audio spots I heard within ten minutes the other day on NPR:

The first described allegations that drug companies vastly overstate the cost of drug development to justify higher drug prices and greater profits.

The second was a promotional notice from an NPR donor – a drug company — inviting listeners to hear stories about how their employees volunteer their time to help their communities.

Which story is more emotionally engaging? The feel-good piece about the volunteers. Which is easier to tell? The feel-good piece about the volunteers. Which drive more positive views of the drug company? The feel-good piece about the volunteers.

But that volunteer story describes dozens or maybe hundreds of volunteers doing individual good works. Unless the drug company is giving them paid time off to volunteer, it’s not really about the drug company at all. The second story involves billions of dollars and whether hundreds of millions of people get the health care they need.

So you tell me. Which story is more important?

Where Storytelling Goes Bad

Story telling is essential because it grabs viewers and listeners emotionally. But it gets in the way when it:

  1. Describes only anecdotes while ignoring systematic root causes. You can always, for example, find a student from a failed family and lousy school who made it into Harvard. But that doesn’t mean poor schools and chaotic home lives don’t holding many more students back. A corrupt mortgage broker could tell lots of good stories about the nice people who work for them. But that doesn’t compare with the human loss caused by systemic abuses such as weak underwriting, corrupt lenders, and too-loose credit.
  2. Conflates a one-time event with real change. At the recent Content Marketing World Kate Santore, who heads up integrated marketing content for Coca-Cola, played a 2013 ad showing Coke kiosks encouraging person to person contacts  between citizens of nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. The spot is beautiful and even inspirational. But did it make a lasting difference in how those people felt, thought or acted?
  3. Appeals to the emotion at the expense of clear thinking. Check out this light-hearted ad from Cisco claiming the ideal Valentine’s Day gift is an ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Router. I can see this working for top of the funnel “awareness” of a product, but will it convince either a system administrator to recommend it, or a CIO or CFO to approve the purchase?
  4. Doesn’t reflect the company’s true value or role. You have to praise Coke’s diversity-boosting Super Bowl ad this year as at least taking a stand on a controversial subject. But at the end of the day, is Coke’s mission showing “what unites us is stronger than what divides us” or selling beverages for a profit?
  5.  Doesn’t tell the customer what they need to make a purchase decision. At Content Marketing World, I overheard one speaker enthusing over how a post on a bank Web site about watching an eclipse out-performed traditional content such as, he sneered, “stories about the interest rate on credit cards.” Maybe it’s just me, but I want to hear about my bank’s interest rates.

Wherever I turn, I see “storytellers” trying to distract me with anecdotal, emotion-filled messages when what I need are facts. If we’re selling big-ticket IT solutions, we need to make sure “stories” support the message but don’t overwhelm it.

Thoughts?how story telling goes bad

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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Do You Want Sales or an Audience – or Both? http://scheierassociates.com/2017/09/content-marketing-driving-leads http://scheierassociates.com/2017/09/content-marketing-driving-leads#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 15:45:00 +0000 http://scheierassociates.com/?p=3033

Give clients “real business metrics,” says, Joe Lazauskas of Contently.

Walking the halls of my first Content Marketing World I wasn’t surprised to hear lots of agreement that high quality content is essential to effective marketing and sales.

But I was surprised at the mixed messages about whether the goal of that content should be to generate short-term benefit in the form of qualified leads and sales, or if it is enough – or even better – if content captures the right audience and makes you the dominant “voice” about whatever you’re selling.

The answer to this question will determine everything from your editorial to your distribution and content marketing measurement strategies. Hence, it’s something we need to figure out before producing a single piece of copy. Check out these arguments from both sides.

Show Me the Money… 

First, as if anyone needed convincing, research from the Content Marketing Institute and business news publisher SmartBrief  reinforced “the value of content marketing in guiding prospects during the purchasing process.” Among the findings: Two thirds tap sources other than manufacturers or vendors in the initial information gathering stage of a purchase, and almost as many said the most important consideration was that the information speak to their specific needs or pain points. That seems to point to the need for content to generate leads and sales, and to be measured on that basis.

One speaker, Joe Lazauskas, director of content strategy and editor in chief at software and services provider Contently, argued in favor of “accountable real business metrics” that generate return on investment, rather than just “impressions” when a reader sees a piece of copy. Another speaker, Jeannine Rossignol, chief executive and marketing officer of Edge Building and Construction, urged content marketers to think more like sales people and design content to drive sales, not just hits on a Web site.

…Or Show Me the Audience

But an Curran, CEO of content publishing software and services vendor PowerPost, argued that the real road to success for content marketers isn’t  in generating leads, but  in capturing share of “voice” – being a or the leading authority on a subject. The market presence and leads will follow, he argues.

But don’t his clients want hard dollar results like quality leads, I asked? Unfortunately, no, he said – because they often lack the internal processes that would let their sales forces put those leads to good use. This is a real and continuing problem, with some research indicating sales forces ignore a full 50 percent of the sales leads they’re given.

Robert Rose, chief content advisor for the Content Marketing Institute, had an even more revolutionary take. Maybe, he said, we’re not really in the business of creating content but of creating audiences. Those audiences can then be tapped for anything from advertising (Google) to sales of goods and services (Amazon) to tracking their needs to fine tune new products and services. Rose’s stance is not that sales and lead gen isn’t an essential goal for content marketing, but that focusing on it exclusively can blind you to even greater benefits.

“Strategic content creation helps build an engaged audience of people who exhibit specific, desirable behaviors – like greater willingness to share personal data, greater interest in upselling opportunities, and greater brand loyalty and evangelism,” he blogged in October 2016. “When your content compels your audience to adopt these behaviors, not only does it become easier for your business to achieve its long-term marketing goals, it can also open up new business opportunities – and even new revenue streams.”

When Things Go Bad

I can’t help think that, if and when the economy slows, our clients are going to revert to (if they’re not there already) demanding quality leads and not just share of voice or audience to justify their content spending.

But even so, should we be giving equal attention to building long-term audience and “share of voice” along with short-term qualified leads?

Author: Bob Scheier
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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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