Got No Time For Content Marketing? Good!

Running Out Of TimeIf you have no time, money or staff to do content marketing, you’re lucky. So argues Roger C. Parker in this excellent post, reprinted with permission from the Content Management Institute. Scarcity forces you to focus on your core audience and core message, and to work efficiently. Read on for his great tips on everything from limiting project scope to keeping too many cooks out of the soup.

More is always better, right? It would only make sense. More space permits you to share more information. More time permits you to write better. And more options permit you to share your message with greater impact.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way, especially in today’s fast-moving content marketing world. Effective content marketing requires getting your message out in a timely and consistent manner. Success requires ongoing productivity – not just isolated moments of brilliance.

The key to boosting your content marketing productivity involves leveraging the Paradox of Limits. Although “more” is usually viewed as an advantage, there are times when “less” is better, achieved by reframing or rescheduling a project or reducing your options.

Just like the supermarket shoppers who, when faced with too many choices end up not buying anything, giving your content marketing team too much freedom can torpedo even the best content marketing ideas and intentions. This is why it’s essential to set limitations on your content creation, to keep you focused on your top priorities – and keep you from getting burned out.

Here, are seven ways to strategically place limitations that can boost your content creation efforts and overall content marketing productivity.

  1. Limit the scope of the project

Avoid trying to cover too many ideas or providing too much information about each idea:Trying to write when you haven’t identified the proper balance between the ideas you plan to share and the amount of detail you aim to provide will almost certainly result in indecision and procrastination – if not outright frustration – on the part of a content creator.

Once you identify the right number of ideas and amount of detail you need to get your points across, content creation will appear more manageable and easier to start.

Here are three ways to reduce the scope of a project:

  • Offer readers an overview: Instead of covering a lot of points in great detail, view your project as an introduction, or overview. The more ideas you include, the less your readers will expect you to write about each one. For example, a post like 10-Question Content Curation Scorecard Every Content Curator Needs to Measure Success is easy to start because it focuses on one component of curation: measuring its success. Once you identify the topics your questions should focus on, it becomes relatively easy to write a brief description explaining each one. A topic like How to Get Started in Content Marketing, however, presents more of a challenge because there’s less of a structure – virtually anything having to do with content marketing would be fair game in a post like this.
  • Write from a selective point of view: Another approach for reducing the scope of your content creation project is to focus on only a few carefully-selected points and describe them in greater detail – a technique used in the post, 3 Tips for Enhancing Your Content Productivity. Your criteria for selecting the topics could be best, cheapest, closest, easiest, or most important, etc.
  • Target a narrow niche: Another way to select a perspective is to target your project to different experience levels or focus on a specific goal or task. Take the post, 11 Ways to Use SlideShare for Content Marketing Success. By narrowing the focus to considerations that directly pertain to content marketers (vs. all marketers), it’s easier to identify what information needs to be included, and what can be left out.

Ideal Project Scope Fig. 1View each content creation project as a balancing act, where you let your marketing goals determine how you will ultimately choose between content that briefly discusses a lot of important points, or content that homes in on a few key points but addresses them in greater detail.

  1. Limit the length or size of the project

The bigger the project, the easier it is to put off starting it: This usually results in the exquisite stress of procrastination, which gets worse and worse as deadlines approach. Using less space (i.e., reducing the word count or the length of an audio or video) reduces the intimidation factor caused by worrying about the number of words you have to write to meet expectations.

For example, about 10 years ago, I frequently created one-page print newsletters for my clients, limiting each month’s newsletter to the front and back of a single sheet of paper, (approximately 650 formatted words).

Limiting the word counts in this manner can also pay another important dividend: It helps content creators improve their writing because limited space encourages you to be as concise in communicating ideas as possible.

One of the reasons that blogging a book works so well is that instead of thinking of your project as a 25,000-word document, you view it as a year’s worth of 500-word blog posts or podcasts.

  1. Limit the decision-making process

Reducing the number of decisions needing to be made when starting a new project can play an important role in boosting your content marketing productivity. There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Create an editorial calendar and stick to it: This involves making decisions in advance, so you don’t need to remake them each and every time you create content.
  2. Use a content template as a writing guide: This helps you maintain a single standard of quality and gives your content a reliable format – and no one has to “reinvent the wheel” each time you need to create new content.

A lot has been written about monthly and weekly editorial calendars, but I only recently discovered the importance of sticking to previously-created calendars.

Limit the Decision Making Process #2For example, I write a short (250- to 300-word) weekly content marketing article for a client’s newsletter. Because it’s a short project, I enjoy the challenge, and often use it as a “warm-up” writing exercise.

About 6 months ago, however, I made a simple change that resulted in a huge productivity improvement: Previously, I would select the topic for each week’s article by choosing from a short list of randomly assembled topic ideas for the coming month. Choosing the best of the three or four titles would typically spark an inner debate on which topic would be easiest to complete. Now, I just immediately start writing about the topic at the top of the list. Eliminating the need to make a new decision and avoiding the temptation to second-guess myself removed a time-wasting obstacle and made it easier to start writing.

A content template can boost your productivity by guiding you through the writing process. It doesn’t have to be complex – and it doesn’t even have to be digital: In fact, I’ve created a simple three-step content template that can be filled in by hand. You can download it here and print it if you want to give it a try.

The key is to fill in the template as quickly as possible, in the spaces provided. Start by entering the title of your project in the center, and the current date. Then:

  1. Set the stage by describing the problem you’re addressing, the solution you’re recommending, and how readers will benefit.
  2. Support your recommendation by identifying three main ideas, examples, or steps, as well as a few pertinent details for each idea.
  3. Conclude by re-emphasizing the benefits of your approach and including a call to action where readers can learn more.

Like me, you may find that occasionally writing ideas out by hand offers a refreshing change of pace that makes it easy to generate new ideas and make new connections.

  1. Limit the time you make available for working on each project

Buck Howe, a friend of mine from the University of New Hampshire’s Business School, gives the best explanation of this limitation: “Humans are always deadline-driven!” He continued:

  • It’s inevitable that the more time you have available to do something, the more likely you’ll put it off until the last minute.
  • Limiting the amount of time you have available, however, encourages you to make the most of your time.

You can rethink your approach to content creation by looking for ways to break projects down into small tasks you can complete in short writing sessions, and by trying to get as much done during each session.

Let’s say you have to write a blog post by the end of next week, which typically takes you two hours to do. Instead of trying to schedule a single two-hour writing session, try scheduling three half-hour writing sessions, like this:

  • Day 1: When the time comes, start writing as soon as possible and write as quickly as you can. See how much you can write in 30 minutes. Aim to get the bulk of your idea written by the end of the first session.
  • Day 2: Review your draft, filling in any holes and checking the sequence of your ideas to make sure they have a logical flow. Look for ideas and words you can delete, or long words you can replace with short words. Then, review the title and look for ways you can better target your intended reader and concisely communicate the value of what you’ve written.
  • Day 3: Review the text and title one more time, focusing on clarity, conciseness, and SEO relevance. Each time you return to your project from a fresh perspective, you’ll likely notice new and easily implemented edits.

What you’ve done is replace a big task with three simpler and less-demanding tasks, each with its own action-stimulating “mini-deadline.” More important, at the end of each session, you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment that encourages you to continue creating content. Your times may vary but, over time, the benefits of short deadlines, writing to “beat the clock,” and feelings of accomplishment, will soon add up.

  1. Limit options and resources

Limited options and resources can be a powerful productivity builder. It encourages you to start working with what you have available, rather than wasting time trying to figure out which tool or option makes the best sense.

I was not aware of the power of limited resources until I encountered the following paragraph in Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life:

I used to bask in the notion that all my obstacles to creative efficiency would vanish if I only had exactly the right resources: my own studio, my own dancers, my own theater; and enough money to pay the dancers all year long and to hire the best collaborators. But I’ve learned that the opposite is true: Limits are a secret blessing, and bounty can be a curse.

Her quote resonated with me because I never could understand why the majority of my best photographs were taken with my camera’s normal (i.e., 50mm) lens even though I was carrying a bagful of wide-angle and telephoto lenses. I realized that limiting my choice of lens immediately engaged me with the scene, encouraging me to make the most of what I had available, rather than interrupting my concentration and switching lenses.

Like Twyla Tharp, I got more done, with less stress, by focusing on what I could do, rather than getting distracted by stressful “what if” decisions.

So, look for other ways to limit your options. Focus on what you can do right now – maximizing the effectiveness of every idea and every word – rather than wishing you had Malcolm Gladwell’s team of researchers or an unlimited web design and programming budget.

More important, save something for later! Resist the urge to add unnecessary complexity, which delays the appearance of your project. On-time delivery of your message may require less research, fewer examples, fewer graphics, and fewer quotations. Focusing on what you do have available can pave the way for spending more time developing your ideas and making the most out of every word.

  1. Limit distractions and interruptions

Today, multitasking is an accepted (and often expected) work habit. However, experts like Daniel Goleman, a leading neuroscientist and bestselling author, refer to multitasking as “the bane of efficiency.” In his latest book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Goleman describes how multitasking involves switching the working part of your brain from your primary task to the interruption. His research into how the brain works reminds us that, after an interruption, “It can take 10 to 15 minutes to regain full focus.”

There are several ways you can reduce distractions and interruptions:

  • Establish boundaries: This involves informing your co-workers (or even your family, if you work at home) that you will be unavailable during certain periods of time (except for emergencies, of course). Enlist support by sharing the importance of your project to all involved, and – perhaps – promise to put work aside when they need your full attention.
  • Find a time and a place to write: Identify the times when you’re least likely to be interrupted. If necessary, step into a conference room or break away to a coffee shop for an interruption-free writing session.
  • Clear your desk and working area: You will concentrate better in the absence of competing stimuli. In addition, straightening up your working area can become a habit, or ritual, that helps you prepare for fully engaging with your project.

These days, no one has enough time. However, with a little effort, you should be able to carve out the distraction-free time necessary to boost your content marketing productivity.

  1. Limit your expectations

The more you inflate the importance of a single article, blog post, or white paper, the harder it often becomes to start and complete the content creation process. Performance anxiety based on unreasonably high expectations can torpedo productivity before a project even starts.

The cure for unreasonably high expectations is to view each content marketing project as a step in the right direction, rather than a “silver bullet” to annihilate the competition and lead to a brighter future.

You don’t have to be perfect the first time – there will always be opportunities to expand on your first development of an idea, to readdress and restate your ideas, and to repurpose or reformat them for different audiences and types of learners. For example, Al Ries and Jack Trout didn’t start by writing The Positioning Era. They started with an article, adapted it into a speech, and built their business from there.

View every project as part of a process, rather than an all-or-nothing event. This eliminates the potential to become paralyzed in pursuit of perfection, freeing you to move forward and explore the possibilities.

How do you leverage the power of limits?

Do any of these ideas sound familiar, or resonate with you? How could you use these ideas to enhance your content marketing productivity? Share your experiences, questions, and suggestions below, as comments!

Author: Roger C. Parker has been an “explainer” all of his life, valued by clients for his judgment, ability and clear, concise writing style. He helps clients organize their ideas and become more productive. His 40 books have helped readers in 37 countries. His clients include Apple, Microsoft, Mindjet, and Yamaha. Follow Roger on Twitter @RogerCParker or email him at RCPcontent@gmail.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.

Content Cookbook #2: Selling Security Response

(One in an ongoing series of sample IT drip content marketing campaigns. Feel free to steal this sequence or, if you’d like Content marketing security response sequence help customizing one for your needs, email or call at 781 599-3262.)

Antivirus products are “doomed to failure.” So says, of all people, Symantec, even though it gets 40% of its revenue from AV.

What’s up? For one thing, AV not a huge money maker. Second, hackers have moved on from endpoint attacks using viruses. The most serious threats now come from “zero day” network intrusion and denial of service attacks that target the core of the IT infrastructure and are too new to be caught by AV scans. As a result, Symantec and other vendors are trying to sell software and services that help customers limit the damage from attack.

If you’re selling security response services what sequence of marketing content can help you to identify and rate prospects for those services?

Story One: This captures prospects early in the sales cycle by clearly explaining the limits of AV, the nature of the new threats AV cannot stop and how security response, rather than prevention, can help limit the damage. Be honest about whether antivirus is really “dead” or is just not sufficient, in and of itself, to provide security. Get specific with recommendations without touting your product. Should customers, for example, just get basic free AV for end points and focus the rest of their efforts on hardening the core and on security response? If they shift more security spending to the network, specifically where should they invest? And what is the ROI of security response versus prevention?

Offer this content free and promote the heck out of it via emails and social networks. Repurpose it for videos, ebooks, blog posts, contributed op-ed pieces and Webinars. This is your chance to become the trusted voice of reason on this topic. The call to action (CTA) is a link to the more detailed stories 2 and 3 which are aimed at more specific market segments.

Story 2: Focuses on one subset of your target market with specialized content. To find SMB prospects, for example, produce a checklist they can use to determine whether this shift from prevention to response is true for them as well as for large companies. If basic AV is still necessary, what are the “must-have” features an SMB in particular should focus on? And if SMBs should start thinking “response” rather than just prevention, what are the basic “response” steps an SMB should take themselves, given their limited budgets, and what can best be done by an outside vendor?

Gate this content with two to three basic contact/qualification questions, such as name, business email and top security challenge they are facing. The CTA is a link to story three, pulling prospects further through the sales funnel to the product/vendor evaluation.

Story 3: To capture prospects that are in the “consideration” stage of the purchase process, offer tips for evaluating the security response services that are flooding the marketplace. Which of the services they are selling, such as centralized real-time monitoring or documentation and forensics of past attacks are most valuable? What of the incident response workflows they are offering will help limit the damage from each type of attack most effectively? What security response steps should a customer take themselves, and which should they leave to a service provider? What are some of the “gotchas” that could hurt a customer by choosing the wrong provider, and how can they avoid these mistakes?

Gate this content with two or three further progressive profiling questions, such as whether they have (or plan to) create a security response plan and their time frame for action. If you can combine this with third-party data to further qualify them, all the better. If they plan to act soon, the call to action could be a sales call to further discuss their response needs. If they’re months away from action, offer them a subscription to your email newsletter of security response tips, tracking their readership to determine if and when they might be open to a call.

Note: In place of each “story” in this sequence feel free to replace with “webinar”, “video”, “podcast”, “white paper”, or other format.) And if you have a product or service for which you’d like to see a sample, drop me a line or call at 781 599-3262.

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.

using third party data for progressive profiling of B2B prospects

Ask too few questions on a qualification form that “gates” your content and you can’t identify and track the best prospects. But probe too deeply about their employer, business function, budget or purchase schedule and they’ll abandon your site for a competitor’s.

The answer, of course, is progressive profiling. Don’t ask for their whole identity enchilada at once. Instead, ask for more and more detailed information about them over time in return for more detailed, in-depth or proprietary insights.

Progressive profiling isn’t new. But at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas Byron O’Dell, Senior Director of Demand Management at IHS, described how the B2B information vendor used a unique approach to boost its click through rate by 1,112%.

Slow and Steady

As IHS developed not only primary but secondary personas for their most valuable prospects, they faced the challenge of identifying which persona best fit each prospect. IHS didn’t ask prospects for any personal information until the third week of a drip marketing campaign, said O’Dell. And by reducing the number of questions prospects had to answer from 15 to seven, it got “much higher completion rates.”

To get the most bang from each answer, one question contained a drop down list explicitly asking which persona the prospect fit into. To make answering even easier, IHS used a combination of the prospect’s IP address and a third-party marketing database to make an educated guess about details such as their company name and location.

 

progressive profiling B2B content marketing

IHS used drop-down lists to make it easier for prospects to answer “gating” questions.

Once the reader provided their company name and role, IHS added about 20 fields of additional information to its internal customer database, including phone number, annual sales of the prospect’s company, number of employees, etc. All that not only gave their salespeople much more background about the prospect, but let IHS customize follow-up messaging based on the prospect’s persona. (To hold down costs, this customization is done automatically, and doesn’t involve major changes to the content.)

progressive profiling B2B content marketing

Simple automatic changes customize content for various personas.

What’s In It for the Prospect?

In return for more valuable content – essentially free samples of their research – IHS dove further into asking prospects about secondary personas. About 50 percent of the time, O’Dell says, they provided that information.

Note that this is a far cry from buying a third party database to do a “batch and blast” single email to everyone on a list, whether qualified or not. It instead uses information the prospect has provided (even just implicitly in the form of their IP address) and uses it to make it easier for the prospect to fill out the form to get the information they need.

O’Dell said he hasn’t seen any push-back from prospects over the “creep” factor of a Web site knowing where they’re coming from. Maybe that’s because HIS is using that knowledge not to push a sales pitch, but to provide content tailored to their needs.

Which is what persona-driven content marketing should be all about. Download the slides or watch the presentation here.

You can also check out my simple “progressive profile” content sequence for selling cloud services.  If you have a product or service you’d like to see a sample sequence for, drop me a line or call at 508 725-7258.

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.

Content Cookbook #1: Selling Cloud Services

sales campaign cloud services(One in an ongoing series of sample drip content marketing campaigns for IT vendors. Feel free to steal this sequence or, if you’d like help customizing one for your needs, email or call at 781 599-3262.)

Despite (or because of) all the hype, many customers are still confused about the different types of cloud services, fearful over security and regulatory compliance and uncertain about their ability to manage data, applications and users in the cloud.

This content sequence is designed to capture contact and qualifying information for prospects that are interested in cloud services but concerned about security and management.

Story 1: To capture “top of funnel” prospects in the awareness stage, clearly explain the differences between the major cloud platforms (infrastructure, platform and software as a service) with examples of why actual customers adopted each. Describe pros and cons of the various models, and suggest which are best for various types of customers. Briefly summarize the state of the art in cloud security and management to tease interest in follow-up stories 2 and 3 below.

 Offer this content ungated (no registration required) to establish yourself as a trusted and knowledgeable advisor. Promote via your Web site, email newsletters, content syndication, social media, etc. Call to action is an invitation o read gated stories 2 and 3 on, respectively, security and management.

Story 2: To identify prospects who are most concerned about security, offer a checklist of which security features a cloud provider should offer, and challenge the reader to examine if they have those same required safeguards in-house. Alternatively, create a checklist for assessing how much security a customer needs based on their size, industry, application types, etc.

Gate with a two to three field form (for example, name, email address, company name) that captures basic tracking information without scaring off too many readers.  Call to action is a link to story 4, a “how to buy” piece for those closer to a purchase.

Story 3: To identify prospects most concerns about cloud management, create a 1,500-2,000 word feature on the state of cloud management tools. What are the most critical cloud management requirements, which of those needs can vendors meet now, what’s coming in the future? Keep it honest and impartial, with only a brief “message from our sponsor” about yourself at the end.

As with story 2, gate with a two to three field form (for example, name, email address, company name). Call to action is link to story 4, the “how to buy” piece for those closer to a purchase. 

Story 4: To capture more information about those in the consideration or purchase stages, go deep, long (2,000 words or more) and very specific with a guide for preparing a request for proposal for a cloud provider. This should be a template for assessing a provider, complete with suggested wording for terms and conditions, specific requirements for recovering data in case of failure of the provider and questions to ask about who within the provider is responsible for security and reporting on outages.

This most valuable and expensive content can be further gated with two to three more detailed questions, such as which security standards the reader must meet, the number of servers/storage they have under management or their expected time to purchase. Call to action can be a request for a sales meeting or demo.

Those who make it to story 4 are at least somewhat serious about considering the cloud and have told you, by their story choices and qualification forms, something about their needs and concerns. For those who stopped at stories 2 or 3, continue to marinate them in other useful content until they’re ready for further engagement.

Note: In place of “story” in this sequence feel free to replace with “webinar,” “video”, “podcast,” “white paper,” or other format.) And if you have a product or service you’d like to see a sample sequence for, drop me a line or call at 781 599-3262.

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.

finding ideas for marketing content“What do I write next?”

At each stage of a drip marketing campaign, you need something different, interesting, and compelling to keep the reader engaged as they move from awareness to consideration to comparison to purchase.

Showing readers why they should care about an ongoing story is a challenge newspaper, broadcast and trade press editors have wrestled with years. They meet it by putting themselves in the reader’s shoes and asking “What do I want to know next?”

Let’s say that, as part of a drip camaign, you want to follow up on one of these stories: That endpoint antivirus is obsolete. That Google+  is dead or dying. That cloud security fears are overblown.

1)   Is “X” True?

First, the reader wants to know whether the story rings true, and more importantly whether it rings true for them.

A great follow-up piece (and a great chance to build a rep as a trusted partner) is to do a more detailed explanation of whether, when and why, a given “insight” is true for a specific reader. Some possible follow-ups for these three stories might be:

  •  Endpoint antivirus isn’t really useless, but is becoming a commodity with limited room for innovation.
  • Google+ isn’t dead, but so far businesses to consumer marketers are having more luck with it than business-to-business types.
  • Cloud security can be good enough, especially if your internal security isn’t that great and you don’t have extreme regulatory requirements.

 2) How does “X” affect me?

 Once they know whether and when “X” is true, the reader wants to know whether “X” is good, bad, or indifferent for them. The two hooks are, of course, greed (reading this I might get me a raise) and fear (if I don’t read this I might get fired.)

Possible follows on our three stories:

  •  I can save some money and be a hero by being the first to suggest we let our antivirus subscription expire. Or I look like a chump if we drop antivirus and the next week we’re hit by a vicious attack. Which risk is greater for my specific situation?
  •  Jill in marketing has been wondering about our Google+ strategy and something in this content suggests a new tack we could take. Maybe I should suggest lunch to explain it. Or dinner. (I forgot lust along with fear and greed as news hooks.)
  •  This story tells me he committee the CFO put together to check out possible cloud providers for us really doesn’t know what it’s doing, and I’ll be blamed for a data breach even if the new service provider is to blame.

 3) What should I be doing about “X”?

Once the reader knows the answer to the “good/bad/neutral” issue, the next question is “What do I do about it?” Be careful with advice  because 1) you could be wrong, and b) you’ll lose credibility if the answer to every question is “Call us.”

The way to thread this needle is, as for question 1, to make your answer specific to different types of prospects, and 2) keep it honest. (After all it does you no good to encourage a lot of unqualified prospects to call you.

Possible content angles for our three stories:

  • Since desktop antivirus is becoming a commodity, buy a low-end, but mainstream package and put your main effort into dealing with breaches after the fact.
  • As a B2B marketer, keep an eye on Google+ but don’t spend huge time on it right now.
  • That clueless cloud committee is getting close to choosing a service provider. Better  cover my rear end by sending the CFO some “tough security questions to ask” in case things blow up after we sign a contract.

 4) What is everyone else doing about “X”?

 This is where surveys, case studies or even “war stories” from your sales force or service staff come into play. Everyone wants to know what their peers are doing and if they’re ahead of, behind or with the crowd.

Sample follow-up content for these three stories might include:

  •  Despite trash talk about AV from security vendors, our survey shows most companies are indeed being cautious and maintaining some desktop antivirus capabilities, while beefing up their security response efforts.
  •  Over lunch a B2B marketer told me a horror story about wasting time on Google+. Or, she told me about a little-known Google+  feature that’s a killer for business users.
  • We summarize a Wall Street Journal story about a Mom and Pop firm that thought cloud security was sure to be better than their own but found that wasn’t true and suffered a breach. We describe the questions they should have asked the provider but didn’t.

There are more angles where these came from. But whatever route you take, keep yourself in the mind of the reader and be informative, not salesly.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my newsletter for upcoming tips on “next questions to ask” to build drip campaigns in specific technology areas.

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.

I’ve recently been working with a client on a series of “thought leadership” white papers. They have a lot of great, innovative ideas, but when I ask for case studies and proof points to prove their ideas work, they often come up short.

how to produce thought leadership

I think, therefore I think I’m interesting.

My research uncovered an excellent post from Candyce Edelen, the CEO and founder of content marketing firm Propel Growth, who said she’s run into the same issue in the financial services market.

She argues content marketing and thought leadership are two different things. Content marketing, she says, helps prospects understand their existing needs, build awareness of the benefits of what you sell, and driving sales of what exists today. (Emphasis added.)

Thought leadership, on the other hand, is about “being a longer-term change agent, building awareness of unrecognized needs and generating demand for what’s coming in 12-18 months.” She cited the example of a financial services firm that coined the term “naked access” in 2007 to describe the practice of allowing high-speed computerized stock trades without the proper filtering or checks.

The firm “launched an extensive content and PR campaign…They wrote about the topic, educated the press, and spoke at industry events. They even encouraged competitors to jump on the campaign to push for regulatory reform.” But it wasn’t until late 2010 that the SEC recognized the issue and took action.

I deal all the time with technology and services vendors who say they want “thought leadership” but lack the details to back it up. Especially in large organizations, a call for experts to develop “thought leadership” can produce intriguing, academic-sounding approaches they think might work but have never proven.

The Three Musts

The three things it really takes to produce “thought leadership” are:

  • Prove Your Theory: Nobody cares if it doesn’t get results and has been proven to work. Getting it wrong with your high-blown forecasts or “paradigm-changing” insights can be worse than staying quiet.
  • Keep At It: It ain’t thought leadership if you only talk about it when it springs to mind. Be consistent. Note how long the financial services firm had to fight to get its message out, amid initial skepticism from regulatory authorities and others. It takes time, money and effort to keep shouting into the wind. Make sure it’s worthwhile and you have the commitment of those who hold the purse strings and have the loudest voices.
  • Focus: This means two things. First, make the tough choice to put most of your limited time and money into your true insights rather than the “just interesting” musings on industry trends. Second, determine what are the “next steps” you want your audience to take after reading your content. Is it downloading a gated white paper? Subscribing to an email newsletter? Or sitting through a demo?

Random efforts produce random results. You can pay me or another copywriter to whip some so-so naval-gazing into something readable now and then. Or, you can get more bang for your buck by proving what you’re claiming, committing to pushing it for the long haul, and focusing on the revenue-producing next steps you want your readers to take.

 

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.

When Are “Secondary Personas” Worth It?

When should I create secondary personas“Secondary” personas are detailed prospect profiles that marketers use to better understand what content to send to various potential customers.

For example, in one successful persona-based content marketing campaign, global information vendor IHS used “secondary” personas to create custom content sequences for sub-groups with specific content needs.

Unfortunately, these sub-personas aren’t free. They cost time and money to set up in your content marketing system, to create content for, and to track over time. So when does it pay to create one?

When a sub-persona is different enough from other groups of prospects to need different content and respond to it in a way that generates revenue or profits for you.

VIVE LA DIFFÉRENCE(s)

Since my focus is the IT market, I’ve come up with some differences among various types of IT buyers that signal you should consider creating a secondary persona for them. What would you add here?

  • What gets them a raise or gets them fired? Consider two prospects with a “network management” persona. One, in the security operations center (SOC), gets fired if the network is hacked. They’ll fight unnecessary changes to the IT infrastructure. Another in the network operations center (NOC) gets fired if they don’t upgrade servers and switches quickly enough to meet demand. They need separate sub-personas because they need different content to help them keep their jobs.
  • Are they a purchase influencer or a decider? The technical staff that actually use IT products or services often play a big role in suggesting what the decision makers (CEOs, CFOs) should buy. The same might even be true within a single functional unit, like application development and testing. Asking for titles within a single unit might identify the technical types who need “speeds and feeds” in their content, versus the decision-makers who need to understand the business benefits to justify their purchase.
  • How informed are they? Consider the overall “industry expert” persona that includes trade press reporters and industry analysts.   The “analyst” sub-persona is usually already knee-deep in your field and require a lot of technical depth to write a lengthy report. Reporters juggling multiple beats need to quickly know “what’s new” in your product or service, how you stack up against the competition and whether you can give them a fresh angle and sources for a quick story. With such different information needs, they deserve separate personas.
  • What link in the value chain do they occupy? Within a given vertical persona such as “manufacturing” lie potential sub-personas along the value chain. These include procurement, design, engineering, manufacturing, logistics and support. Each of these prospects have different questions about your product and service, different time frames for buying, different regulatory or internal approval requirements and different measures of success. Decide which are most important in the buying process and how different are their content needs and decide which deserve sub-personas.

Start Small

I’m not suggesting you go crazy creating dozens of sub-personas. You could start by focusing on your most profitable products and services, or those you hope to grow the most, and create a few of what you think are the most critical sub-personas to achieve that growth. Then, refine them over time as you gain experience.

But do focus, in your persona creation, on the content the prospect needs to succeed in their job, not in the story you’re dying to tell 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.

When Should You Fire a Client Gone Bad?

when to fire inbound marketing client I recently heard from two colleagues (one a HubSpot partner, the other a user of a leading marketing automation platform) about customer engagements that seem doomed to failure.

My question is: When do you decide to cut bait with such clients?

Partnership Pain

One case involves a start-up with promising technology, but limited budget and marketing expertise. They have only a general idea of their target customer groups, much less specific personas or guidelines for scoring individual prospects. What’s worse, they’ve been very slow delivering feedback on content, as well as other promised material such as existing email lists or log-in information for their social media accounts such as Twitter.

The other case involves a large, established client looking to integrate an existing Web site with their in-house marketing automation platform. The consultant has asked the customer, without success, how many leads the customers wants from the marketing program, what they would consider a quality lead, and what parts of the inbound marketing process the customer will perform in-house and which the consultant will handle.

The lack of answers makes the consultant, naturally, very nervous about committing to a scope of work that could explode and sap their margins, and about being called on the carpet for failing to produce results that were never defined for them.

My questions are 1) what would you do with clients like these? and 2) What red flags have worked for you in deciding to ditch – or never start working with – an inbound marketing client?

Storm Warnings

My danger list, gained from much painful experience, when clients can’t or won’t:

  •  Pay a fair rate or commit to several months of effort.
  •   Quantify the number of leads they expect.
  • Describe what constitutes a “great, good or poor” lead.
  • Provide feedback from sales on the quality of leads a
  •  content marketing campaign is providing.
  • Provide promised sales material or access to subject matter experts to guide content development.
  •  Repeatedly miss scheduled meetings or deadlines of marketing content.

Those are my “gut feeling” indicators of when to pull the plug with a client. What are yours?  No names, please, to protect the guilty. And any “tough love” tactics that have helped get a wayward client back on track also very welcome.

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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