Chapter Four: They always say don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. But if the water is rising around you and a stronger-looking horse (or a better-looking email editor) comes around…well you get the idea.

After burning more than a week and about 10 hours of my Web developer’s time trying to create emails in LoopFuse, I was about ready to launch my first email when the photos stubbornly refused to display correctly. Just then, an alert person at their rival Genoo (having read my blog whining about this issue) suggested I check them out. Turns out Genoo is unveiling e kind of easy to use, template-rich email designer LoopFuse lacked so I’m in the process of making the shift.

Stuck in a steady flow of tech issues.

(Before jumping ship, yet another shout-out to the superb sales and support folks at LoopFuse, who did all they could to help, as well as to Josh at their services partner Clever Zebo, who also jumped into the fray. For those of you with strong HTML skills in house, I’d still recommend LoopFuse as a good low-end platform and, besides the email, I like their interface. But I need to get the email portion of my marketing done ASAP, and messing around with email design was just getting in the way.

So far, the Genoo email interface looks useful, but as with anything there’s a learning curve. I managed, for example, to trash my image library by deleting the default “micro site” Genoo creates for each new user. Leave it to me to find a way to break something straightforward. (Genoo is currently tweaking their code, I understand, so anyone else who deletes all their micro-sites won’t run into the same issue.)

Suffice it to say, once more, whichever tool you use leave some time for learning and troubleshooting.

Now, for some good news. Even before launching formal content marketing, I’m getting results from the more frequent, consistent and focused blogging, Tweeting and LinkedIn commenting I’ve been doing. I was invited to do a guest post on the value of personas at the Savvy B2B blog, am in partnership talks with a Los Angeles-based demand creation agency, and got a query from a potential client about help with a lead generation program. While I can’t write “content marketing” on a check yet, after only six weeks I’m moving in different circles and getting interest from new and different potential clients.

Meanwhile, the tide of regular, paying work is picking up after the holiday lull, putting more time pressure on. The challenge new becomes to stay disciplined and to keep building out my Web site, content plan, and email blasts to not let my momentum slide. If anyone finds more hours in the day, send them my way!

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.

Hell, no, I say, and not just because I make my living writing white papers, newsletters, and the like for the IT market.

Here’s why. Yes, StatSheet of Durham, N.C. has developed software that writes (or, rather, assembles) stories based on statistics from college football and basketball, NASCAR and other sports. Algorithms pick out key facts (the top scorer, in which quarter did the winning team pull ahead, etc.) and stitches them together using a choice of pre-defined phrases.

If this sounds formulaic and bloodless, it is. Consider this story about a lopsided Ohio State win over North Carolina A&T: Ohio State has already started living up to monumental expectations with a good first game. On November 12th on their home court, the Buckeyes waxed the Aggies, 102-61. The game lacked a lot of drama, with Ohio State up 52-25 at halftime and never letting up.

There’s no mention of individual players (“Joe Jones powered Ohio State to a 102-61 drumming of North Carolina A&T.”) There are few adjectives (“Ohio State’s trademark physical style of play overwhelmed North Carolina’s more complex playbook.”) And there’s no mention of how a player’s off-the-court life affects their performance, as in “Shrugging off his DUI conviction last week, center Larry Lamar drove down court to…”

According to the New York Times, StatSheet Founder Robbie Allen “believes that what some readers regard as `stilted’ will be appreciated by others who say ‘I don’t like personality — I just want the straight facts.’”  He also says that his original goal was that 80 percent of readers wouldn’t know the stories weren’t written by a human. “Now that we’ve launched,” he says, “I think the percentage is higher.”

And top it all off, he thinks the software could write stories in other fields, such as financial news, that rely on large amounts of data. That’s getting pretty close to my home turf of business/tech writing.  

But am I worried? No. This software goes less than half-way-up the “value chain” of content creation I describe in my ebook “Content Marketing: Where to Place Your Quality Bets.” It captures facts, decides which to present, and polishes their presentation to a very limited extent. But it cannot check those facts for accuracy, put them in context, present them in an insightful or delightful way, or learn from them over time to deliver thought leadership.

I suspect that accuracy, context, delight and insight are qualifies you want and need in your marketing material. Or am I whistling past the graveyard and about to be automated by a really clever product positioning algorithm?  You can also check out my  ebook for details about when you should, and shouldn’t, take the “good enough” route (human or automated) to creating marketing content.  

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.

Some of the more forward-looking PR firms I work with are looking to supplement traditional PR offerings with demand generation services, using marketing automation software such as Marketo and HubSpot to track prospect’s actions to “nurture” them with additional content towards a sale.

I’ve long had a gut feeling that this is a good way to go, and my belief has been confirmed my recent survey results cited by the DemandGen Report. They show that the use of marketing automation software is indeed taking off, but not as quickly as some had hoped.

Why? Turns out that, just as with so many other IT initiatives, that having the right people and processes is as important as having the right software. These include not having the right or sufficient number of people (52% of those polled) and not having the right processes (43% of those polled.) Lack of good content was cited by 32%, but that’s such blatant self-promotion I shouldn’t mention it. Except I just did.

The types of services customers need are well suited to what PR can provide. PR firms already have deep relationships with clients, and understand – and in some cases helped create – their branding messages. They’re also skilled at creating content for different audiences, either using their own employees or outside help. As for having the right processes to put marketing automation to work, that’s something we’re all learning in real time – and those who get it right first will have a competitive edge.

With fewer and fewer pubs to pitch to – and less bang for the buck in pitching bloggers who may or may not have influence – it seems like showing they can generate valuable leads for a client is a good move for PR firms. Or is it too far outside their core compentency?

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 the Mythical C-Level Exec

Like the unicorn, whose horn was said to cure illnesses and neutralize poison, the C-level executive is a mythical creature, though long hunted by IT sales rep looking for a cure to their late-quarter sales slump. But, as Forrester Research points out in a recent report, “…no such role as a C-level executive exists."  There are chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers, etc., but no generic “C-level executive.”

Yet I shudder to think how many times I’ve blindly nodded and said “yes” when a client asked for a white paper for the “C-level” executive, meaning it was supposed to focus more on business than on technology. In today’s attention-short world, we as consumers – and C-level execs as busy people – don’t have the time to listen to generic pitches that don’t speak to their specific needs. That’s one reason only 15% of executives find sales calls useful and up to their expectations.

Tailoring the sales pitch, and your marketing content, to the different flavors of C-level prospects takes time and effort. You need to understand the problems they face, the buzzwords and acronyms they use, their measures for success, and then translate your marketing jargon into terms they can understand. This customization is worth it if, having gone to the trouble and expense of getting their attention, you want to keep it and make your pitch.

But how about if you’re selling to a smaller organization where everyone wears many hats, or in which titles are meaningless, like “chief satisfaction officer?) Turn the process around and write your collateral in one or several versions that will attract the eyes you want. Hoping to find the CFO? Talk about capital and operational expenses and return on investment. Looking for the CSO? Talk more about compliance, audits, separation of duties and whatever alphabet soup of regulations they must meet.

Then – and this is the important step – track which folks on your email list or which visitors to your site read which versions of your material. Following up with other messaging focused on their needs will confirm their identity to you, and even give you insights into their specific wants, needs and purchase timetables.

Does this take time and money? Yes. But not as much as you’re wasting sending the same tired message – or the same tired salesperson – into the lair of the mythical C-level exec.

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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