Share

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Let’s say that, as part of a drip camaign, you want to follow up on one of these stories: That endpoint antivirus is obsolete.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.
Share

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?

Share

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?

Share

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.
Share

Man with black mask in studioBuilding personas (profiles of the customers you most want to sell to) is like flossing. You know you should do it, but it always seems to be too much time and trouble. Besides, you’re not sure it’s that it’s worthwhile.

If that sounds like you, take a lunch break to watch this 30-minute video from the MarketingSherpa Internet Marketing Webinar Archive. It describes how IHS, a global provider of B2B market data, got measurable boosts to sales from its use of personas. Just as importantly, it’s full of specific tips for how to perform good persona “hygiene” without staying up half the night.

And it’s one of those well-done presentations that’s actually fun to watch.

First, the challenge. IHS was getting hundreds of thousands of site visitors per month, said Senior Director of Demand Management Byron O’Dell, but relatively few were doing anything but looking at the top-level pages. Like many, if not all, B2B companies IHS needed to convert those visitors into more qualified leads.

Now, the results: From the first half to the second half of 2013, IHS estimates marketing’s contribution to its aerospace and defense business revenue rose 83%. (Note that’s not increases to Web hits, downloads or even sales calls, but revenue.) O’Dell gives credit to a content marketing and lead gen program built around the unique needs of six primary personas, supplemented by about 20 secondary personas.

Getting Granular 

IHS’s marketing and product management teams created six personas, based on their experience with customers as well as data from the company’s CRM system. Only then did it take it to the busy sales teams.

The sales folks, who understand best how deals actually get done, suggested adding more detail to the mix by adding about another 20 “secondary personas.”  For example, under the single primary “Military/government planning and strategy” persona, sales recommended creating one sub-persona of “strategy and planning” professionals and another sub-persona of “research and development” prospects.

PersonasThis is important because each persona is supposed to represent a group with unique content needs. I’d guess, for example, that someone in planning and strategy has a need for shorter-term market predictions than does someone in research and development. Under the “Media/Advertising/PR” persona IHS was smart to create “Reporter/media” and “advertising” sub-personas. For reporters, IHS might want to highlight the free statistics they can provide in return for media exposure. For advertising agencies, it might want to push case studies about the value of their custom, paid research.

Step by Step

Rather than wait until they had the perfect, global persona-based strategy, O’Dell didn’t stop doing “batch and blast” content marketing while he developed his personas. He simply added the more granular, persona-based offers where they made sense and as his team developed them.

IHS also had the patience to map out a sequential approach to what content they would offer each “persona” based on their past behavior. For example, they sent everyone in one persona an email offering a white paper with an overview of its forecasts for the simulation and training market over the next ten years. Only those who downloaded the white paper, though, received a follow-up asking if they’d like to book a demo of their online data analysis service.

“We saw great conversion between those two steps,” said O’Dell, with those scheduling a demo turning out to be “high quality leads.” If someone clicks on a button asking for a demo, he says, there’s “noting ambiguous” about their interest.

IHS also didn’t turn prospects off by asking them to identify their persona and sub-persona through a lengthy qualification “gate” in their first interaction. It was only after the third week of the campaign that IHS asked for detailed answers that identified their sub-persona. By that time, after seeing some of HIS’s more valuable content, about half volunteered the extra information. It also used outside databases to pre-fill some of the prospect’s content info to reduce their workload.

The Angels Are in the Details

The IHS approach makes sense to me because it mirrors how I want to research products. I need the provider to prove their value before I give up too much information or agree to a sales call. And I’ll most likely to respond to a pitch that reflects my specific needs and interests.

Secondary personas help prevent you from spamming prospects with vague or irrelevant content. But for those of you out there using personas, are secondary personas just too much work?

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.

Selling DevOps? Don’t Forget Security

Share

using security to sell DevOpsWhen we think about DevOps (you are thinking about DevOps, aren’t you?) we usually think about speed. By combining what used to be separate application development and operations into one continuous cycle, companies like Facebook and Netflix can instantly  tweak their Web-based offerings based on the latest usage feedback.

But in a “DevOps State of the Union” dinner hosted by a several cloud hosting and software companies the other night in Boston, security was a bigger topic than speed. One prong of the conversation was how DevOps could make it even harder to secure corporate data and applications. The second was how DevOps could instead be, in the words of Jerry Skurla, vice president of marketing of security management software vendor Firemon, the “last, best hope for security.”

Needed: Security Smarts

Either way, security makes for a relatively little-known area where you can prove your smarts as a provider of DevOps tools and services.

Let’s tackle the end-of-the-world scenario first.

Change, or so the conventional wisdom goes, is inherently bad for security. That’s because any time you tweak application code, update a driver or reconfigure a server or firewall you could create a security gap.  A recent HP report, for example, claims that nearly 80 percent of application vulnerabilities are caused not by poorly written code, but improper file settings, outdated software versions and misconfiguration.

Many DevOps devotees boast of rolling out not one new code package per week or month, but hundreds every day.  Consider that many of these updates might require links to new databases or legacy (read: outdated) corporate systems, or through the corporate network out to third-party data sources? It only makes sense that so much rapid, continuous change could create a security nightmare. And if you put every change through rigorous security checks, aren’t you slowing the rapid code releases that DevOps is all about?

The flip side of the coin is that real-time visibility into application performance will let developers find security vulnerabilities more quickly, while rapid code refreshes will let them fix those vulnerabilities more quickly. In this scenario a vulnerability found at 8 a.m. could be patched as part of a routine code refresh that contains other application tweaks before noon. In fact, says TK, DevOps could make it possible for smart companies to make strong security a competitive differentiator.

 

Insights Wanted

So will DevOps wind up being good or bad for security? Probably both, depending on how the industry tackles some pesky implementation details. For DevOps marketers, tackling these real-world questions provides great fodder for “thought leadership” blog posts, white papers, newsletters, and the like.

  • How do you enforce security-related coding and configuration standards without slowing code releases? (Skurla says this can be done by adding “built-in checks/processes” to emerging DevOps tools.)
  • How do you perform regression testing to ensure your latest release doesn’t open a security hole, again without slowing code updates?
  • How do you provide for code rollback so you can quickly withdraw a release that caused a security problem?
  • If you need an audit trail of who made what changes to which code and systems, how do you provide this in a DevOps environment without bogging everyone down in paperwork?
  • What balance do you strike between spreading the authority to quickly make needed code changes, and the need to control administrative access to your most critical systems?
  • How do you create a culture where your people speak up about a security problem in code they deployed, rather than staying quiet (and delaying a fix) in hopes someone else will catch the blame?

Where there are good, a new question like this, there’s opportunity to engage customers and set the terms of the marketing conversation. DevOps devotees, fire away!

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.

Checklist for Content Depth, Originality, Timeliness

Share

how to check content for depth, originality, timelinessIn keeping with the traditional end of year naval-gazing (or if you need a break from last-minute gift online shopping) here’s a “print and post” checklist for making sure you’re giving prospects what they want in marketing content.

How do I know this is what prospects want? Because they told us, in a survey whose results ring very true based on my years as a trade press editor.

Hope you find this helpful.

What Prospects Want How to Tell If You’re Delivering It
Depth
  • Have I answered the reader’s questions at each stage from awareness to consideration to evaluation and selection?
  • Have I described specifically how my offering works and why it’s better than the competition?
  • Have I explained the applications and technical environments for which my offering is best suited?
  • Have I described what it takes to manage and scale my offering after it’s deployed?
Accessible and understandable information
  • Have I used jargon such as “solution” or clearly described what I’m selling as hardware, software and/or services?
  • Have I described how I solve the reader’s business challenges (higher sales, lower costs, improved quality, etc.) as well as meet their technical needs?
  • Have I used the type of language I would with a friend over a drink?
  • Have I spelled out all acronyms?
Originality
  • Have I told the reader anything they didn’t already know?
  • Have I just repeated “evergreen” challenges or explained how to meet those challenges in a new and better way?
  • Have I provided new context or a new way of thinking that will help the prospect even if they don’t buy from me?
Timeliness
  • Have I told the prospect why they need to read this content right now?
  • Am I writing this just because I have something to sell or because of a change in the technology, business or regulatory environment my prospects need to know about?
  • Will reading this content now help the reader make more money, keep their job, get a raise or go home earlier?

Download a postable version of this chart here.  Drop me a note if I overlooked any must-haves or, of course, if you could use a bit of outside help hitting any of these sweet spots.

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

Are You Wasting 25% of What You Pay Me?

Share

matching messages to b2b buyer's needs Or any other writer to produce white papers and other marketing collateral? A new study from the CMO Council and B2B advertising network NetLine, “Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field,” says the answer is yes.

It found that that:

  • A whopping 25 percent of marketing budgets spent by CMOs is largely squandered.
  • B2B marketing organizations need to bring more discipline and strategic thinking to content specification, delivery, and analytics.
  • The big challenge is how to make the content relevant and how to deliver it.

What Works, What Doesn’t

Their survey of more than 400 business buyers across a wide range of global industries, found that 86 percent said online content plays a “major to moderate role in vendor selection.” Which is why vendors are throwing so much business to writers like me these days.

But when asked what are the most trusted and valued sources of online content, only nine percent said “vendor white papers.” That suggests that not just 25%, but as much as 90% of corporate content marketing budgets could be a waste.

While B2B marketers spend $16.6 billion each year on digital content marketing, “Their content [tends to be] over technical, product-centric, and self-serving,” Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, told CMO.com.

So what do B2B buyers want? Their top four picks in the survey were:

  • Breadth and depth of information.
  • Ease of access and understanding.
  • Originality of thinking.
  • Timeliness of content.

And what they hate the most:   

  • Too many requirements for downloading (such as registration forms LINK)
  • Blatant promotion.
  • Nonsubstantive or uninformed.
  • Overly technical or complex.
  • Poorly written.

Are We Really Doing So Poorly?

Most of my clients get the need for quality and try to help. Before writing, I push for their most original, timely, useful insights and ask every dumb question I can think of to make sure I can answer it in the copy. And, of course, I relentlessly polish the wording to make it easy to read.

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.
 Page 5 of 14  « First  ... « 3  4  5  6  7 » ...  Last »