digital marketing strategyI was recently with a major client and their writing team reviewing content plans for 2016 when the D-word – digital – came up.

Everyone agreed it’s a catch-all buzzword that can mean almost anything to anyone. But one of the participants –former Gartner EVP and Head of Research Bruce J. Rogow — had a new and interesting take which he fleshed out with a presentation of his concept of Digital Enabled Businesses.

His take on “digital” helps clear the air because it focuses not on the technologies that make something “digital” as on what digital means to people and organizations.  Rogow, now Principal at IT Odyssey & Advisory, calls it “old IT” and “new IT”

Brave New Digital World

Think of “old” IT, for example, as directive in that companies dictate which applications their employees can use and how they use them. These applications may be old and ugly, but they’re generally proven, stable and secure.

“New” IT, on the other hand, tends to be more elective and collaborative, with companies having to adapt to employees choosing their own devices and customers sharing buying tips about their products on social media.  The user’s experience with your Web site or applications will often  define your brand for them, making their performance over multiple platforms critical.

In short, “digital” is not so much about technologies (though elements such as software as a service, Big Data and the Internet of Things play major roles) as about ways of thinking and ways of working.

He also had some interesting and sometimes snarky comments on “digital” startups. For example, they tend to run on OPM (other people’s money) without the rigorous need for short-term returns as in a traditional business. They’re also often founded by people who would be run out of traditional organizations for their non-conventional behavior.

His findings ring true with similar comments I’m hearing in recent “digital” messaging work with other clients. When I press them for a definition of “digital” they say things like “The customer is in charge,” “Making transactions easy and even delightful,” “Anticipating the customer’s needs” and “Providing a consistent, smooth experience across channels such as phone, online and in person.”

What does this mean for IT content marketing?

Digital Messaging Tips

  • If you’re putting a big bet on “digital” be ready to invest for the long haul. Rogow says becoming “digital” is so complex it may take many traditional players as long as 15 to 20 years.
  • Going “digital” implies fundamental changes to business models, staffing, financial management, sourcing and corporate culture. Address and even highlight these issues in your marketing collateral. This makes you look smart by alerting prospects to these hidden obstacles.
  • CEOs are, he says, profoundly skeptical about what they see as past bogus promises from IT and want to see real results. Be specific in your digital story and back up your claims with real-world results.

The more your competitors bore the market with airy “digitization” promises the greater an opportunity you have. Sell your digital story not with technology buzzwords, but with compelling stories around how “new” IT enables customized, easy to use products and services that create and dominate entire new markets.

And don’t stint on talking about the messy “people” side of going digital. Based on Bruce’s savvy insights based on conversations with dozens of CIOs, that’s where much of the “digital” battle will be won or lost.

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.

Back when I was a kid, a consumer electronics giant named Zenith had a tag line “The quality goes in before the name goes on.” The message was, of course, that quality was designed in from the ground up, not an after-thought.

I got to thinking about that during, of all things, a conversation a PR veteran with an innovative East Coast agency about how they offer content marketing (the use of tailored content to move prospects towards a sale) to clients who come to them seeking more traditional PR services. Rather than try to sell and educate them on “content marketing,” this PR firm explains the benefits (increased Web traffic, more prospects filling out forms for gated content, higher quality leads) to their clients and uses content marketing to deliver them.

“Content marketing tactics are ingrained in our day-to-day PR work,” he said. This ranges from search-engine optimization of press releases and bylined articles written by their clients for trade publications to make sure they get the most attention. When a client asks for a “thought leadership” white paper or Webinar that’s designed to lead prospects to the vendor’s site, “we make sure we have something on (their) Web site that would nurture that prospect, and potentially turn them into a lead.”

He acknowledges this falls short of a full-fledged content marketing program, which would include the creation of personas for various target customers, content geared to their needs and tracking software to score them based on readership. However, it lets his firm deliver the “immediate gratification” of the boost in Web traffic and leads that comes from story placement in a trade pub (one traditional role of PR) with the longer-term benefits (which he says can take six months or more to appear) of content marketing.

This approach has value because:

It helps prove how content marketing works before asking a client to make a bigger investment in it.

It avoids the confusion around buzzwords such as content marketing vs. marketing automation, demand generation, account-based marketing, Web-based marketing, digital marketing, etc. to focus on the benefits.

It builds on, rather than try to replace, the agency’s traditional strengths and culture.

Perhaps best of all, it makes what could be “only” a PR agency a more integral part of the client’s overall marketing effort, and thus more valuable and harder to replace.

“We have seen increasing appreciation from our prospective clients, and ultimately our customers, that we understand content marketing, that we know it is important,” and that it trains its staff in everything from SEO optimization to the proper use of Web forms to not only drive visibility, but to “close the loop” with action that will help the client’s bottom line.

Zenith has long since faded, a victim of lower-cost foreign manufacturers. But this PR firm is building new services to offer when (and if) its more traditional revenue sources fall. I wonder how many others in PR are finding that “traditional” story placement is still important, and that content marketing is best sold as “built in” rather than a separate service.

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.

Lone Ranger Content Marketing

Chapter 1: Tools for Mere Mortals

Riding the range in search of leads...

Content marketing – tailoring stories, blogs, case studies, videos, etc. to move prospects toward a purchase – is exploding as business buyers do more research on-line. But how do the marketing automation (MA) tools that automate this process really work, and can a small – even one-person – marketing department use them effectively? Follow my exploits as I add marketing automation to my core skills of creating marketing collateral for leading IT vendors. This week: Finding an affordable and usable MA platform.

With some spare time over the 2011 holidays, I sent out some emails and used my blog to find a genuinely easy-to-use and low-cost marketing automation platforms. Manticore, ActOn and LoopFuse responded. (Thank you Terry Hew of ActOn for the fast and professional follow-up.) ActOn and LoopFuse both seemed to be good fits, with pricing of $500 or under for several thousand contacts, and the ability to score readers based on their readership histories, at least rudimentary Web traffic analysis, links to CRM systems and the ability to create email marketing campaigns.

Of the two, LoopFuse won me over because their customer list included VMware, ET ETC. – just the type of clients that are a good fit for my more than 20 years experience covering IT vendors and customers. Their plug-ins for WordPress (my current CMS) were a big draw, (no need to rehost my Web site with them, as with HubSpot) and their integration with social media platforms. Besides, they offered a free trial for up to 500 prospects, which gives me the time to do a proof of concept without any financial pressure. While 500 names might be too small for some companies, it fits my high-quality list of PR and marketing pros who have opted in to receive my email newsletter (click here to subscribe).

The on-line tutorials seemed exceptionally well thought-through, and my first support experience was impressive indeed: A phone call 30 minutes after I had Tweeted a question about how to port existing contacts and content from Constant Contact (my incumbent email platform) to LoopFuse. LoopFuse tech support seems to be hanging out on Twitter a lot, and the quality of support for a free version bodes well for their commitment to customers.

The first step in Loop Fuse’s Web-based setup wizard (another nice touch) was to install their “tracking beacon” on my Web site so it could begin tracking visitors. Despite their (again) excellent instructions and video I couldn’t find the right location on my pages to install the code. The WordPress plug-in also failed, possibly because it was incompatible the current version of the theme I’m using. But I finally found, after a Google search, the proper place to install the tracking beacon: In the “footer” section of my WordPress dashboard. (Yet another of the non-intuitive wild goose chases that makes me hate WordPress.)

While LoopFuse wants me to move right into importing contacts and setting up an email campaign, with the holiday lull ending I’m instead diving into the heavy lifting of thinking through a content strategy for selling my own B2B, IT content creation services. With the help of some excellent templates from Barbra Gaga I’m creating personas and identifying which questions each type of buyer asks at each stage in the buying cycle. After that, I’ll do a content audit to map what content I have (and what I still need) to answer those questions.

More on all that next week. In the meantime let me knowwhat challenges I haven’t covered, any short-cuts I’ve missed or how you’re doing if you’re on a similar quest.

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.