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finding ideas for marketing contentAre your pitches, blogs, videos, podcasts and white papers rehashes of vague buzzwords like transformation and digital?

To avoid pumping out “me-too” messaging, push yourself (and your in-house subject matter experts) to dig deeper and come up with specific, actionable advice for your potential customers.

One great example comes from a story about data analytics on the TechTarget publishing and marketing site. Don’t let the fact it is old (December 2013) stop you from reading it carefully. The subject (data as a corporate asset) is as fresh as ever. More importantly, this story shows how to take a common, even overhyped, topic and bring fresh, compelling insight to it.

The secret: Asking tough questions based on real-world experience with customers — the kind your sales, support and marketing staff get every day.

Five Meaty Questions

After describing the new (as of 2013) trend of older industries such as manufacturing using Big Data, the piece gets to the good stuff – a five question quiz one vendor asks CIOs to see if they’re serious about treating data as a corporate asset.  The questions include “Are you allocating funding to data, just as you would for other corporate assets?” “Do you measure the cost of poor, missing or inaccurate data?” and “Do you understand the “opportunity cost” of not delivering timely and relevant data to your business?”

While each question has a “marketing spin” (a “yes” answer makes them a better prospect) each is also valuable because they help a prospect understand the real-life challenges of implementing new technology.  Note that each question:

  • Drills beneath good intentions to coldly measure how committed a customer really is. (How much are you willing to spend on this new technology?”)
  • Talks about the non-technical issues that often derail IT projects. (Does this initiative have its own budget?)
  • And describes specific processes (such as measuring the cost of poor quality data and the “opportunity cost” of not delivering high quality data) that can improve how a customer implements the new technology.

Providing detailed insights like this helps establish you as a trustworthy, experienced technology provider and makes it more likely customers will listen when you come to them with a more product-specific pitch.

Finding the Nuggets

Now, how do you wring such insights from your sales, marketing or product support staffs? Whether the subject is Big Data, security, containers or any other buzzword of the week, ask them questions like:

  • How do you know a prospect is serious about our product or service rather than just going through the motions?
  • What are the non-technical factors (such as budget, corporate culture, office politics or management processes) that make implementation of our product succeed or fail?
  • What words, phrases or questions do you hear from a customer or prospect that tell you working with them will be a nightmare, or a pleasure?

The answers to these questions are your “raw material.”  Your next steps are to decide which of the answers are most valuable and relevant, flesh them out with real-world examples and follow up questions from your SMEs, and don’t publish until you can provide detailed, specific and actionable recommendations.

Do all that, and you’re not just another echo chamber in the IT hype factory. You’ll deliver usable, actionable content that will keep your prospects reading — and buying.

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.

Use an Audit To Jump-Start Your Content Marketing

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Content marketers generally approach content audits with all the enthusiasm that attends any audit. The very word conjures up stern-looking authority figures thumbing through your records to see where you’ve fallen short.

I’ve been through several content audits myself, mapping the collateral I have against the types of buyers I want to reach, and the stages they’re at in the buying cycle. The good news is that I found a lot more good, and timeless, content than I thought I would. If  you’ve been doing any blogging, white papers, case studies or email newsletters (and who hasn’t?) with any degree of care you must have stumbled on some insights, presented with some degree of style. It’s likely you’ve forgotten half of what you’ve done in the crunch of daily work, another reason the audit might be cause for relief, not grief.

In a recent Webinar with marketing automation firm Manticore, Mike Vannoy, COO of sales and marketing services firm Sales Engine International said this good news can help move you (or your boss) off square one with content marketing by giving you a concrete starting point. Just doing the content audit helped, he said.. “It made is less daunting. We knew where to focus and we found we were in much better shape than we thought we were.” In some cases, less was more, as with case studies. He found readers wanted “a one page case study, short and sweet, to take into their boss” to prove another customer had been successful with Manticore’s platform. Even quick, one to three minute videos were useful as well, he found.

Yet another piece of good news from Manticore’s audit was how much content could be reused, “with with a little bit of freshening up.” One five-year-old white paper, for example, turned out to be “still pretty current” once some minor language changes were made. It also built a promotable blog post around several paragraphs taken from a case study, and in turn used some blog posts as the basis for lead nurturing emails. (A recent guest column on my site explains how to take this even further, essentially creating a book for free out of a carefully planned series of white papers and other collateral.)

But lest you think the whole process was painless, I have found myself in trouble when I found overlaps in some of the categories, and the content, in my audit spreadsheet. If the same article or Webinar or white paper could apply both to “early evaluators” and “financial decision makers,” it showed I hadn’t defined each group and their needs carefully enough. As in so many marketing activities, defining your prospect’s very, very carefully and knowing their needs really, really well at the outset is critical.

Would love to hear your thoughts on how to make content audits less painful and more useful.

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.