Differentiate This!

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.

Blockchain Blues, Case Study Heartache.

best practices blockchain marketing case studies For those of you who follow this blog, sorry for having been out of touch. It’s been an extremely busy summer and fall,  what with time off off touring Iceland and Scotland and then with increasingly strong demand for marketing content.

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:

  • 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 craze to use “digital transformation” to describe just about every part of the IT industry is worse than ever. While some clients agree “DT” is so vague as to be meaningless, many marketers can’t resist 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.

Five Ways Storytelling Goes Bad

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.

Want some serverless BS with your FUD?

selling serverless architecturesI hadn’t heard of serverless computing until I saw this post by storage maven Greg Schulz. Put simply, “serverless” reduces the need for conventional servers by off-loading functions such as authentication onto other systems, such as those in the cloud.

Even though he’s deeply technical, Greg cuts through the hype and provides a great road map for differentiating a technical solution by describing it clearly and focusing on the value your solution provides.  This is reprinted by kind permission of Greg’s Server and Storage IO Blog where you can find the full version with illustrations.

By Greg Schulz

A few years ago a popular industry buzzword term theme included server less and hardware less.

It turns out, serverless BS (SLBS) and hardware less are still trendy, and while some might view the cloud or software-defined data center (SDDC) virtualization, or IoT folks as the culprits, it is more widespread with plenty of bandwagon riders. SLBS can span from IoT to mobile, VDI and workspace clients (zero or similar), workstations, server, storage, networks. To me what’s ironic is that many purveyors of of SLBS also like to talk about hardware.

What’s the issue with SLBS?

Simple, on the one hand, there is no such thing as software that does not need hardware somewhere in the stack. Second, many purveyors of SLBS are solutions that in the past would have been called shrink-wrap. Thirdly IMHO SLBS tends to take away from the real benefit or story of some solutions that can also prompt questions or thoughts of if there are other FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) or MUD (marketing uncertainty doubt). Dare to be different, give some context about what your server less means as opposed to being lumped in with other SLBS followers.

Data Infrastructures (hardware, software, services, servers, storage, I/O and networks)

Moving beyond SLBS

Can we move beyond the SLBS and focus on what the software or solution does, enables, its value proposition vs. how it is dressed, packaged or wrapped?

IMHO it does not matter who or why SLBS appeared or even that it exists, rather clarifying what it means and what it does not mean, adding some context. For example, you can acquire (buy, rent, subscribe) software without a server (or hardware). Likewise, you can get the software that comes bundled prepackaged with hardware (e.g. tin-wrapped), or via a cloud or other service.

The software can be shrink wrapped, virtual wrapped or download to run on a bare metal physical machine, cloud, container or VMs. Key is the context of does the software come with, or without hardware. This is an important point in that the software can be serverless (e.g. does not come with, or depend on specific hardware), or, it can be bundled, converged (CI), hyper-converged (HCI) among other package options.

Software needs hardware, hardware need software, both get defined and wrapped

All software requires some hardware somewhere in the stack. Even virtual, container, cloud and yes, software-defined anything requires hardware. What’s different is how much hardware is needed, where it is located, how is it is used, consumed, paid for as well as what the software that it enables.

What’s the point?

There are applications, solutions and various software that use fewer servers, less hardware, or runs somewhere else where the hardware including servers are in the stack. Until the next truly industry revolutionary technology occurs, which IMHO will be software that no longer requires any hardware (or marketing-ware) in the stack, and hardware that no longer needs any software in the stack, hardware will continue to need software and vice versa.

This is where the marketing-ware (not to be confused with valueware) comes into play with a response along the lines of clouds and virtual servers or containers eliminate the need for hardware. That would be correct with some context in that clouds, virtual machines, containers and other software-defined entities still need some hardware somewhere in the stack. Sure there can be less hardware including servers at a given place. Hardware still news software, the software still needs hardware somewhere in the stack.

Show me some software that does not need any hardware anywhere in the stack, and I will either show you something truly industry unique, or, something that may be an addition to the SLBS list.

Add some context to what you are saying; some examples include that your software:

  • works with your existing hardware (or software)
  • does not need you to buy new or extra hardware
  • can run on the cloud, virtual, container or physical
  • requires fewer servers, less hardware, less cloud, container or virtual resources
  • is the focus being compatible with various data infrastructure resources
  • can be deployed and packaged as shrink-wrap, tin-wrapped or download
  • is packaged and marketed with less fud, or, fudless if you prefer

In other words, dare to be different, stand out, articulate your value proposition, and add some context instead of following behind the SLBS crowd.

Watch out for getting hung up on, or pulled into myths about serverless or hardware less, at least until hardware no longer needs software, and software no longer needs hardware somewhere in the stack. The other point is to look for solutions that enable more effective (not just efficient or utilization) use of hardware (as well as software license) resources. Effective meaning more productive, getting more value and benefit without introducing bottlenecks, errors or rework.

The focus does not have to be eliminating hardware (or software), rather, how to get more value out of hardware costs (up front and recurring Maintenance) as well as software licenses (and their Maintenance among other fees). This also applies to cloud and service providers, how to get more value and benefit, removing complexity (and costs will follow) as opposed to simply cutting and compromising.

Next time somebody says serverless or hardware less, ask them if they mean fewer servers, less hardware, making more effective (and efficient) use of those resources, or if they mean no hardware or servers. If the latter, then ask them where their software will run. If they say cloud, virtual or container, no worries, at least then you know where the servers and hardware are located. Oh, and by the way, just for fun, watch for vendors who like to talk serverless or hardware less yet like to talk about hardware.

Ok, nuff said for now…

Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, vSAN and VMware vExpert. Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Watch for the spring 2017 release of his new book “Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials” (CRC Press).

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.

transformationMany marketers talk “transformation” but fewer can deliver it – or even define it. Look beneath the covers, and what sounds so impressive turns out to be only incremental cost-cutting.

But one recent case study I wrote for a global professional services company got me thinking of the “T” word. The reason: The “transformation” we described delivered substantial, ongoing improvements as well as permanent changes in how their customer operated.

Angle One: Beyond Cost-Cutting

That customer was a major telecommunications provider with hundreds of applications and tens of thousands of servers and databases. It was looking for a new outsourcer to take over and improve its operations, cut its operating costs by at least 30% and reduce the number of service outages and the delays in fixing them.

What makes this “transformation: The goals went beyond just reducing the costs of normal IT operations. The customer wanted fundamental change and improvement in the quality of service the business providers its customers.  

Angle Two: Working Differently

The customer’s goals included overhauling many of its internal processes. This included improving communications among its internal and external support staff, increased consistency among their support processes and establishing and enforcing service level agreements (SLAs). The customer also wanted its support group to be able to scale up the amount and type of services it provides. On the measurement side, the customer needed to assess the outsourcer’s work by its impact on the business, not just IT. One example: The ability to easily ramp up infrastructure to meet the traffic needs of big revenue-generating events such as major league games or concerts.

What makes it “transformation?” Making permanent, significant changes in internal work processes, not just doing the same old things a bit more quickly or inexpensively.

Angle Three: Ongoing Benefits

The customer wanted the service provider to do 15 percent more work while reducing costs by 15 percent each year. The service provider is achieving this through, among other things, increased automation of IT processes and shifting from a traditional time and material model to managed services linked to business needs.  The service provider also has a road map for taking on the support of additional systems, is broadening its SLAs to cover additional metrics, and training first-level service teams to handle more problems.

What makes it “transformation?” Improvements that keep giving over time, not just a one-time cost or performance boost.

Uncovering the “Transformative” Angles

In working with clients or your internal subject matter experts, try these questions to better uncover how you’re doing “transformation” for your white papers, case studies and other collateral.

  • How are we permanently changing our customer’s systems or processes for the better?
  • How will our product and services deliver ongoing (not just one-time) benefits for the customer?
  •  What is fundamentally new and different for the customer after the implementation of our product or service?
  •  Draw “before” and “after” pictures of the customer’s systems, processes or business structure to show what you’ve changed. If you don’t see much difference between the two, make sure you’ve captured all the real changes by re-asking the questions above.

And finally, if it ain’t transformation, don’t pretend it is. As Gartner noted several years ago, transformation can sour outsourcing deals by leading customers to expect more than they’re really getting.

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.

No Messaging, No Payoff In Marketing Automation?

how boost ROI marketing automation When I work with clients on white papers, Web sites and other collateral, the hardest part is often getting them to explain what the heck they want to say.

Veteran marketer Tom Grubb has found the same thing while implementing marketing automation at companies such as CA Technologies. In this guest post Grubb, chief strategy officer at digital marketing agency Digital-Pi, explains how a lack of proper positioning can hobble entire marketing automation efforts.

What do you hear from the Monday morning quarterbacks after your marketing program results are in and they failed to deliver great results?

“Your subject line sucked.”

“The landing pages were confusing.”

“I told you not to put that graphic there.”

That white paper?  Really?”

Yeah, you could have tested your subject line, landing page, graphics and the offer.  But there may be something much bigger lurking beneath your lackluster program performance than a tweak here or a swap there that you overlooked:  your company/product messaging – or lack thereof.   If you don’t get your messaging right and tight, the revenue you take will rarely equal the marketing investment you make.

This ah-ha moment struck me during a two-day engagement in San Antonio with an established SaaS business going to market as a newly independent company.  Ken Rutsky, an expert on messaging and positioning asked me to collaborate with him to advise on technology, demand gen, and go-to-market.  We had a game plan for the two days centered on funnels, forecasting models, user experience and a marketing technology stack. After we defined the structure and segmentation for their market, my partner Ken the messaging master drove a mini brainstorming session that resulted in a rough messaging and positioning architecture for their business.  That evening, Ken worked his magic on the day’s rough messaging turning ideas into words and structure in a way that was clear, concise, logical, and effective.

When we reviewed his work with the team the next morning, it was clear to me that this was the cornerstone to the success for the rest of our work – and the marketing programs that would soon follow.  The big idea is this: marketing automation and program execution divorced from great messaging and positioning can significantly reduce ROI on marketing investments.  ­By the same measure, great messaging and positioning can enable – and therefore greatly improve your returns on marketing investments.

When I was at Intuit, getting messaging and positioning right and tight was table stakes for every Intuit business unit.  I learned Intuit’s “message mapping process,” but more important I learned the power of using a messaging methodology to get everyone in every role at the business on the same page.  All were able to clearly articulate what was unique, compelling and great about our products.  It made marketing so much faster and easier because we always stuck to the blueprint, no matter what tactic or program we brought to bear.

If messaging and positioning are so important – so fundamental to great marketing – why then don’t more companies build and maintain a great messaging foundation?  Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

  • Company somehow believes they have it – but they don’t
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the company is today
  • Messaging is not aligned to where the market/competition is today
  • Various factions in the company make up their own versions of messaging
  • Messaging was built by someone who doesn’t really understand how to build great messaging
  • Stakeholders were left out of the message building process and don’t understand or have any interest in following it
  • The messaging is not documented in a usable way

And what happens?  Everyone at your company can interpret your company’s value to mean something different on any given day, for any marketing initiative.  All marketing disciplines are diminished: public relations, demand-gen, investor relations—all of it.

So what can you do?  For starters, give serious thought to getting someone outside of your company to help you get your messaging defined; if you have messaging in place, ask yourself if it could use a refresh, a re-think, or another set of eyes outside your business to give it a look.  Our visit to San Antonio was the catalyst that made creating a great messaging architecture possible for our client.  We looked at their business from the outside, bringing new ideas and reinforced some of their thinking around how they could segment their market, surface their value and differentiation, and go-to-market in a strong, cohesive way.

The message is clear: get your messaging and positioning defined and documented and put it to work in your marketing.  With your messaging right and tight, you are more likely to find that the revenue you take will be more than the marketing investments you make.

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 Is Lousy Content Good Enough?

quality content marketing SEO experts keep telling us that customers (and the all-important search engines) pay more attention to quality content than “me-too” jargon stuffed with key words.

But I also keep seeing cheap “content mills” On the other hand, I keep hearing about content mills that, as one ex-IT journalist complained the other day, “pay freelancers peanuts and expect instant turnaround.”

Is content marketing a brave new world of quality journalism funded by vendors, or a flood of low-cost and low quality spam? Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski, reporting on a recent Innovation Summit panel of former journalists who now doing (committing?) content marketing, was pretty scathing.

Evil Empire?

Foremski argued that “most Content Marketing fails because it is trying to produce Editorial Content but the leadership (for the efforts) is in PR or in Marketing.” This results, he argues, in content that reads more like marketing or PR than editorial content, with its implied fairness, completeness and relevance. Content marketing, he says, “needs to be editorially led to be successful.” But how far will, or should, a vendor go in reporting “just the facts” if those facts reflect badly on their product or service, or don’t reinforce their messaging?

He went even further to say “Content Marketing is failing us and causing a lot of damage to society and to the Brands that bankroll this practice” when it “pretends to be legitimate third-party editorial content.”

This may very well be true when it comes to “mainstream” topics such as government, the economy and the environment. Here, readers should demand fully independent, unbiased and in-depth reporting and be willing to pay for it.

I’d argue it’s a somewhat different story in highly technical areas such as cloud computing or storage, where mainstream media lacks the skills or the audience to go deep on “how to,” “trend” or “product comparison” stories. With the trade pubs that used to provide such content hollowed out by the Internet, I think IT decision makers know they must rely on vendors to do a “fair enough” job of educating them. If vendors do a good job, there are a lot of ways to do everything from thought leadership to “best practices” without being blatantly promotional.

And Too Expensive?

Foremski’s also complains that “Creating lots of high quality content is terrifically hard and tremendously expensive — especially the way PR and Brands do it, with dozens of stakeholders involved at every stage…” As it takes time to build a brand, he says, the costs mount to unacceptable levels.

Amen on the need to streamline the production process. But even so, quality content will still cost you, even just in the time it takes your subject matter experts to conceive, write and polish quality content.

Here’s where I can report hope, courtesy of a recent conversation with an editor at a lead generation site sponsored by a major global tech firm. About a year ago, this firm began hiring  former journalists and tasked them with using traditional journalistic techniques (and talent) to create detailed, actionable content about how to effectively buy and use IT products and services.

I recently spoke with one recent (2006) media startup that is thriving through sponsorships, advertising and events driven by quality content from ex-IT journalists that are paid living wages. Another vendor-sponsored site is, after a slow start, delivering quality leads at a lower cost than previous lead-gen efforts. What is interesting is that, as the site gained credibility and the vendor invested in more content, even older stories (if they gave readers useable information) began drawing more and more hits.

It seems too good to be true – content that appreciates in value over time. Good for the reader, good for the vendor, and, yes, good for us ex-journalists who create the content.

Would Junk Work Just As Well?

But is this quality content worth it only for big-ticket, complex products and services like those in IT? Is low-cost, keyword-stuffed content good enough for commodity products or for business to consumer sales? Is content marketing just another step on the slippery slope to a society where we can’t trust who tells us anything, anywhere, anytime?

The answer(s) are “yes,” “no” and “it depends.” Trying to drive hits to a celebrity Twitter feed to sell products? Superficial retweets full of trending terms may do the trick. Selling system architects on a new approach to managing cloud services without violating patient privacy regulations? You probably need to spend enough to make sure you’re saying something new, useful and insightful, and saying it clearly.

And while I doubt any vendor will sponsor a Pulitzer Prize winning expose of, say, telecom security practices, you never know. Who thought 15 years ago that a one-time Web-based bookstore (Amazon) would be funding Emmy–winning TV shows?

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.

Stop the Video Madness!

when to use video If I have to sit through another vendor video full of bouncy music, cute special effects and a happy-talk narrator when I’m trying to learn something I’m going to scream.

And I’m not (just) speaking selfishly as someone that still gets most of their assignments producing old-fashioned word documents rather than video. I’m speaking as an information consumer that, just like one of your prospects, needs to quickly learn about new technology, rather than be “entertained.”

Almost everyone uses video in B2B sales these days. But here are six ways it gets in the way of educating these busy customers and steers them to your competitors.

  1. They have to wait for the video to load and buffer.
  2. They have to sit through the afore-mentioned theme song, graphics, cute jokes or happy talk before they hear anything worthwhile.
  3. Once the voice-over starts they need to toggle between the video and their word processor to take notes. (No way to easily cut and paste information as they can with text.)
  4. If the customer misses an important point, or the speaker mumbles or speaks too quickly, they have to rewind the video to listen again. This usually takes two or three tries to get to the right place in the video, forcing them to sit through the same video again and again.
  5. There’s no way to quickly scroll through the content to find what they need. With video, you force the customer to sit through the whole conversation before finding if their question was answered.
  6. The content is often presented out of sequence or full of vague jargon such as “solution,” “optimize,” “transform” and “digital.” The reason: The vendor didn’t properly script the interview and prepare the presenter, meaning they had to choose from whatever good video they got. With text, there’s more opportunity to push for more detail and reorder the content to focus on the most important points.

When Video Works

Having gotten that off my chest, here is where video is as good as, or even better than plain old text.

  1. When you have emotionally or visually engaging images to help tell your story. Think of showing patients helped by your Big Data diagnostic software, the factory equipment that stays running thanks to your Internet of Things sensors, or customers responding to real-time offers from your marketing software on their smartphones.
  2. When a moving image helps explain the process improvements you delivered or the unique benefits of your technology. Think of before and after flow charts showing agile application development, how Big Data analysis finds security breaches and how your advanced algorithms improve route planning.
  3. And when you have that rare articulate, passionate speaker whose presentation and presence adds to, rather than harms, your ability to tell a good story.

Being an old fuddy-duddy, I’m probably missed other areas where video trumps the written word. But for someone (like a customer) that needs to find very specific information very quickly, I beg you to at least offer them a transcript of the video so they can scan it quickly rather than sit through your entire spiel.

Anyone else out there agree that video can be incredibly annoying, or do I need to lighten up and enjoy the show?

 

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 1 of 3  1  2  3 »