2013 B2B Content Marketing Awards

November 19, 2013

In the October edition of the BtoB Online Magazine, a series of companies were showcased in what they call the 2013 Content Marketing Awards. Yes, for you to be considered you have to submit (or your agency submit for you) a nomination form which means not all companies that have great content are actually considered but it is nevertheless an interesting lineup of companies and content assets they produced. It is worth going down the list to get some inspiration for your own content marketing efforts. I’ve summarized below the list for you:

2013 Content Marketing Awards

Category: Integrated
Xerox HealthBiz DecodedWinner: Xerox Corp., for Healthcare thought leadership
HealthBiz Decoded  (http://healthbizdecoded.com/)
The website features articles by freelance journalists and Xerox’s healthcare expert, as well as aggregated healthcare news from the Web. Includes infographics, videos and resource links in an engaging design. The Xerox logo is a small image at the top and bottom ofthe page. They also sponsored TedMed 2013, a conference focusing on innovation in healthcare and sent a journalist to cover it and blog about the event as well as host a Google+ post-conference chat.

Runner-Up: Makino Inc., for captivating audiences with customer stories (www.makino.com)

Category: Blog
Cisco Life Connected BlogWinner: Cisco Systems, with Connected Life Exchange blog. (http://blogs.cisco.com/cle/)
The focus of the blog is in how networks and technology are changing the world. Some posts also include videos from their documentary-style video series on “Network Effect”.

Runner-Up: General Electric Co. – GE Intelligent Platforms blog

Category: Microsite
NYSE MicroSiteWinner: New York Stock Exchange, for NYSEBigStage.com
It was built to showcase companies in its electronic stock exchange and to attract new ones to list. Part of an integrated marketing campaign called “Welcome to the Biggest Stage in Business”, the microsite is at the core of the campaign.

 

Runner-Up: FedEx Corp (fedex.com/access)

Category: Online Video
FedEx Darn Good Yarn VideoWinner: FedEx Corp – Darn Good Yarn (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWw6ghPbfAg)
The video profiles a fiber-importer and retailer that hires local women in Nepal and India to recycle fabrics into yarn. Was selected for its good storytelling showing how Darn Good Yarn came to be a success and how FedEx helped the company save money and grow.

 

Runner-Up: Cartus Corp – Cartus on the Ground video series

Category: Email Newsletter
Informatica NewsletterWinner: Informatica Corp, for “Potential at Work” e-newsletter. (http://www.informatica.com/potential-at-work/)
The newsletter combines a ton of content with precise targeting, using six separate newsletter content for different types of IT decision-makers: architects and developers, leaders in applications, information, IT, sales, and marketing. The email newsletter is created and sent every six weeks, and each newsletter has original feature articles translated into nine languages.

Runner-Up: Verizon Wireless, Verizon B2B SMB Digital Lifecycle Series

Category: Digital Publication
STIR Tablet EditionWinner: Sherwin-Williams Co, STIR tablet edition (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stir-magazine/id470966707?mt=8)
STIR is a custom magazine that is published three times a year, aimed at residential and commercial interior designers and architects. The tablet edition takes the print magazine into the digital realm of iPads and other tablets allowing users to browse all the articles and interact with with videos and the many color palettes.

Runner-Up: ARM Holdings, for ARM Signum

Category: Branded Content
NetApp BrandVoiceWinner: NetApp, for NetApp BrandVoice (http://www.forbes.com/sites/netapp/)
NetApp has a presence at Forbes.com BrandVoice site where it places content coming from contributors on a variety of topics including security challenges of BYOD to a personal column from NetApp Vice Chariman Tom Mendoza. Informative, well written content is strong and because it is features on Forbes.com is gains even more credibility and authority.

 

For the list of all winners and original article from BtoB Online, go to http://www.btobonline.com/section/contentmarketing01.


A Content Framework for Sales Enablement

September 11, 2013

With all the hype around content marketing, all the attention is typically on the front-end, customer-facing content materials. That involves emails, eBooks, whitepapers, videos, and the myriad of other content deliverables that are focused on lead nurturing and demand generation.

This is all well and good, but how about the “other” side of content marketing, the internal-facing content that marketers and especially product marketers have to create? Although not as glamorous, internal content like sales enablement materials are an important component of making sure all that nurturing given to your leads actually convert into deals.

Sales Enablement Content

Materials such as industry playbooks, competitive battlecards, demo scripts, technical product FAQ’s and more are some of the elements found in any sales enablement program. But how do you know what content to create and how to prioritize? More importantly, how to make sure the sales team is aligned with marketing’s priorities for content creation?

The best way I found to get the conversation started is to follow a simple framework that looks at the buyer’s journey, the sales person’s needs, and matches that up with different types of content that helps sales take the prospect through the sales cycle up to closing the deal.

Content Framework

First, define which are the stages of your buyer’s journey. You can use the traditional simplified version that goes “consideration”, “evaluation”, and “decision”, or the more detailed approach from SiriusDecisions that talks about “loosening the status quo”, “committing to change”, “exploring possible solutions”, etc…

Then, I like to have right below it the buyer’s questions and goals at each stage. This helps solidify our understanding of the buyer’s needs at each stage. Right after that, I put in the sales rep goals. You see, buyers will have certain issues, goals, etc. as they walk through the buying journey and the sales rep will have his or her own goals to achieve. Understanding these different perspectives will help focus on types of content that not only help the buyer but assist the sales person as well. This also makes for interesting discussion when validating the framework with the sales leadership.

Finally, I then have the sales enablement materials aligned with each of the stages and in different categories, like “playbooks”, “messaging and positioning”, “competitive”, etc. I even separate the content into two separate areas, called “internal facing” and “external facing” content. This way we have a full picture of content needs throughout the buying cycle.

Below is a snapshot of what this framework looks like in Excel.

Sales Enablement Framework

 

I found this is an effective way to brainstorm sales enablement content, get sales teams to give feedback, and help prioritize content creation and build a content calendar.

I hope this helps in your own content creation and sales enablement efforts and welcome feedback and suggestions!

 


How The Democratisation Of Data Is Helping Small Business

August 12, 2013

Note: This is a guest post by Luke Ryan. Learn more about Luke at the end of the post.

You may have noticed a lot of attention being directed towards big data recently. Rightfully so, but there is another story quietly gathering momentum in the shadow of big data. That story is the democratisation of data. Of particular interest for small business is how this new found ability to easily access, collect and analyse data is creating new opportunities for everyone to gather information about markets and customers.

An emerging narrative, thanks to an explosion of online data services, is that market research is no longer limited to big business and big budgets. The emergence of affordable web-based data collection and analysis services has leveled the playing field for businesses of all sizes.

New technology is emerging

Marketers from businesses of all sizes are just a few clicks away from building their own online surveys using tools like Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo. They can then upload that data file into a tool like DataCracker to find hidden insights from their data. All of this can be achieved without the pre-requisite of a background in statistics or data analysis. Advanced insights created from segmentation, predictive modeling and text analytics can be produced and shared in PDF or web-based reports with little effort and little cost.

The recent proliferation of smartphone ownership combined with consumer’s growing willingness to share data online has also played its part in democratizing data. Most businesses are now just an opt-in away from being able to start collecting meaningful data from their customers or potential customers.

Not so along ago market research was limited to companies who could afford to employ professional research services to run focus groups and execute surveys. They would then need that data crunched by experts familiar with overly complex statistical programs to create long-winded reports. Today you can collect that data yourself and create your own reports for less than $100 per project.

How useful is it to collect and analyse data as a business owner?

With so much information at our fingertips ignoring this data available to us is letting an opportunity for real insights into your business pass by. Creating a simple survey and using email to facilitate responses can produce valuable insights for small business. Testing new ideas or product variations. Collecting feedback on existing products and services. Segmenting different customers and prospects into lists based on tailored marketing messages. Using predictive modeling to create customer profiles. These are just a few of the examples of how survey data can begin to have an impact on your business.

Like many other industries that the Internet has disrupted market research is also not immune to change. The emergence of democratised data is a fun time for small business. There is now an opportunity to gather data in real-time and implement insights quickly. Not so long ago this type of research took either a lot of money or a lot of time. So whilst big data may continue to get the headlines small business should take notice of the democratisation of data that is taking right under our noses.

About the Author:

Luke Ryan is the Chief Marketing Officer for DataCracker a new web-based software that allows anyone to find the hidden insights from their survey data. He writes more about market research, surveys and productivity on the DataCracker blog.


The New Rules of Lead Generation: Book Review

April 30, 2013

I was fortunate to receive a copy of “The New Rules of Lead Generation“, by David T. Scott, for review. As I read the book I couldn’t help but notice that the author not only goes straight to the point (which is refreshing), he also shows a good deal of experience illustrating each lead generation tactic with clear examples.

The author, David T. Scott, is the founder and CEO of Marketfish, a data management and lead generation platform. Prior to Marketfish, David served as VP of Marketing for PeopleSoft and Intermec, and also has  Boston Consulting Group and GE in his resume. His solid business background shows that he is not just a “consultant”, “marketing guru” or some “speaker”.

But is this book for you? I hope the following review helps you make up your mind.New Rules of Lead Generation Book

New and Old Rules

First, I’ve got to say that the title left me a bit uncertain. I have read the other David Scott (the one with Meerman in the middle) book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and know that he has started a series of “new rules” books and eBooks. So my first impression was that David T. Scott (or his publisher) was trying to jump on the well known “new rules” title created by another author and take advantage of it.

Leaving the issue of the title aside, the book doesn’t focus only on “new” lead generation tactics like social media and online advertising but instead it gives you a more comprehensive roadmap for implementing a lead generation program at your company using both tried-and-true lead gen tactics like direct mail and cold calling and social media advertising, display advertising, and search engine marketing.

The Basics and More

The book starts off talking about basics of lead generation, how to develop your strategy, and gives an overview of each tactic. The first 5 chapters set up the stage and are great for someone new to marketing or that is interested in getting a better understanding of lead generation. The remaining 11 chapters go deep into each tactic.

Planning Your Strategy

According to David, there are 5 steps to a successful lead generation program:

1. Determine and plan your approach
2. Research and discover your target customer
3. Build your assets
4. Execute your test campaign
5. Measure

And he adds a ‘sixth’ step: Repeat!

Sounds simple and trivial, but unless you and your marketing organization are in sync as to what needs to get done to setup your lead gen program, it will be tough to get good (and measureable) results.

One thing I really liked was that he mentions in several places throughout the book the importance of coordinating your lead generation tactis and testing. He says “You are constantly testing and anlyzing your results to see which lead generation tactic works best for you”. This is important, because you don’t want to go ahead and spend money on certain tactics just because your competitor is doing it or because it is being talked about in the media. Testing is important if you want to improve your lead gen results.

Lead Generation Tactics

The 7 lead generation tactics that the author believes are the most successful ones are:

  • SEM
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Display Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Cold Calling
  • Direct Mail
  • Trade Shows

There’s one chapter for each of the tactics. Although you won’t get a lot of deep information on the many ways to use a certain tactic, it will get you up to speed on what exactly each one is and how it is used.

Lead Gen Basics

As I said earlier, this book focuses on the basics of lead generation. Having said that, I think the book is missing a couple of important topics. First, the author presents the reader with the AIDA framework, a model that every marketer should know. It would have been better, however, if he also had introduced the reader to the SiriusDecisions demand waterfall model that is becoming prevalent in larger B2B organizations and a key component in any discussion about lead generation tactics.

Another point I think was not stressed enough in the book is the importance of defining what exactly constitutes a lead and how this seemingly simple concept can be the cause for a great divide between sales and marketing, especially because the book is aimed not at the experienced marketer but the beginner.

Finally, is not until chapter 5 that the author talks about the marketing and sales funnel, discussing the concepts of Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Accepted Lead, Sales Qualified Lead, and Sales Qualified Opportunity. I think that it would have been better to have brought up the funnel earlier in the book to set the stage for how different lead generation tactics should help drive and move leads from one stage to another.

Regardless of these issues, the book is still a good source of information for those starting off in their marketing careers.

For more information about the book, check it out on Amazon and on the book’s website.


It’s Time for CEO’s to Get Social

April 9, 2013

Some CEO’s just ‘get it’ while others don’t seem to bother. We’re talking about social media, which seems to either be fully embraced by some companies while shunned by others as something that “doesn’t work for us”. If you are trying to get your CEO or company execs to embrace social media the following infographic by MBAOnline.com should help.

 

the social ceo infographic

The Social CEO, via MBAOnline.com


Content Marketing is the New PR

April 4, 2013

That is the title of a recent Aberdeen Group report, Publish or Perish: Content Marketing is the New PR, which you can download for free (registration required) here.

Content Marketing Leaders and Followers

According to Aberdeen’s report, the companies it considers leaders in PR and Brand Management achieve greater performance metrics than followers, such as:

  • 23% of their marketing-generated leads are sourced through inbound or content marketing (vs 10% for followers)
  • 12% growth in year-over-year company revenue (vs 3.5% for followers)
  • 20% year-over-year increase in media mentions (v 2.7% for followers)
  • 15% year-over-year increase in social media mentions (vs 2% for followers)

The Changing Role of PR

One of the key insights from the research has to do with how PR has changed in the past few years. While the key mission for Public Relations in most B2B companies is still related to brand recognition and market credibility, the increasing role of content marketing in assisting PR with such efforts is now being seen as critical at most leading companies. The research points to 63% of respondents indicating that content marketing is being used as part of an overall PR strategy at their companies.

Companies considered “leaders” are the first ones to understand the importance of integrating content marketing into a broader PR effort, as their report points to 94% of leading companies stating that their PR function is now a component of their integrated marketing communications efforts and showing also that leaders are 50% more likely than followers to indicate that PR has evolved into a content marketing role.

Recommended Actions

Aberdeen recommends the following actions as you develop or reconsider the role of PR and your PR strategy:

  1. Align PR and Marketing: this involves a shared editorial calendar and unified web strategy
  2. Content Rules: you have to change how external PR firms and agencies are hired and evaluated, and also pay special consideration for SEO
  3. Search Engine Optimization: having PR work closely with the SEO team to navigate the new waters of content marketing, like correlating inbound website traffic with PR activity
  4. Measure what Matters: new measures for PR (inbound site traffic, web analytics, etc.) should be carefully considered in combination with more traditional ones (media mentions, advertising equivalents, etc.)

If you have been adopting content marketing strategies at your own company, the research results are probably not surprising but rather reinforce the notion that content marketing is here to stay. If your company has a traditional PR department or agency, now is a good time to start re-thinking your public relations strategy and how you approach it with content marketing.

To access the report click the image below.

Aberdeen Group Content Marketing Is the New PR


Product Marketer as a Story Teller

March 12, 2013

Those in product marketing roles are used to being the product experts and the ones who people turn to when they need creation of sales support materials, thought leadership pieces, and other content needs. The demands on product marketers are great, as the content needs of enterprises only grow to encompass not only the traditional whitepapers and product spec sheets but videos, eBooks, infographics, and more.Once Upon a Time, by UNE Photos via Flickr

If you are a product marketer, your challenge is getting everything done while at the same time keeping the big picture in mind. That is, the story you are telling. Product marketers work on product messaging and positioning, which requires a great deal of story telling. What is the product, what problem does it solve, and the typical checklist-style questions you see everywhere are just scratching the surface. A good product marketer gets deep into the customer’s mind, understands the marketplace, and can tell a compelling story not about the product, but about the customer need.

That’s the key difference. When I look at work from different companies and different product marketing teams, I see which ones are simply following the “corporate policy” or “product marketing as we have always done it” and those who try to take a step back to ask the question of “why is this relevant?”.

It is more than saying “we are the leaders in [fill in the blank]”. It is about communicating to the customer that you not only understand their pain, their needs, but that you also care about solving them. In sum, it requires people that are willing to ask the right questions and to challenge everthing without the fear of doing something different.

So, if you are a product marketer, keep in mind that above all, you are the company’s Chief Story Teller.


A Brief History of Marketing

February 25, 2013

I was made aware of the new infographic “The Evolution of Marketing Automation” by Jaclyn from BlueGlass, the company that worked on it for Marketo. It provides you an interesting look back through time showing some key moments in marketing history and, of course, it ends with the advent of marketing automation.

Although interesting, I am not sure the infographic format is the best way to visualize this information. First, there is a lot of text, a lot of data, and you have to scroll through infinity to reach the end. My recommendation would be for them to transform this into a nice SlideShare presentation.

Also, the infographic seems to focus more on the evolution of marketing channels rather than the evolution of marketing automation per se. It completely ignores the rise of Fax machines, for example, which were used for B2B outbound marketing until email came along (and also until the Junk Fax Prevention Act was passed in 2005). Other important marketing channels like direct mail, and the once-popular online banner ads of the 90’s are strangely not mentioned.

So for someone who is publishing content with the title of evolution of marketing automation, they are surely missing out on a LOT of stuff that happened before in marketing history. Sure, I get it that they want to focus on the ‘old’ broadcast systems to contrast with the ‘new’ marketing tools (email, social media, marketing automation), but by leaving them out makes the “Evolution of Marketing Automation” topic a bit of a mismatch with the content.

Maybe a good source of comparison is another infographic titled “The History of Marketing“, published by HubSpot about a year ago. HubSpot’s version is also brief (the point of any infographic, sure) but doesn’t overlook key events in marketing history. Another marketing automation vendor, Eloqua, also published an infographic about the same time as HubSpot titled “A History of Disruptive Innovations in Marketing” which focused mostly on the technology advances. Heck, even the simplistic “History of Marketing Channels” infographic from Visual Loop published back in 2010 had more meat.

Maybe I am being too picky. What do you think?

P.S.: for those interested in more information about the evolution of marketing and marketing through history, check out the following links:


Maximizing Marketing Spend with Attribution Models

February 20, 2013

Note: This is a guest post by Ashley Verrill.

Once upon a time, marketers just played the quantities game. Pay for the biggest audience you can afford – whether that’s a billboard, newspaper advertisement, radio or otherwise – and trust that increased sales after the fact resulted from that investment. Well, times have changed. Today’s marketer can target prospects to an increasingly granular degree and measure return on spend to the cent.

But this ability raises another issue. With so many options available, it’s difficult to know where to prioritize your spend. Which channels move your ideal customer down the sales funnel fastest? Which content produces the highest quality lead, and does it matter where we measure this success in the customer journey?

Marketing automation solutions reviewer, Software Advice, created this video guide recently to help guide businesses along this uncertain terrain. Analytics expert Laura Patterson describes step by step how to create an attribution model. This method maps channels and content along your customer journey, then identifies those with the highest rate of success for moving contacts to conversion.

LauraPatterson_Video

Click to Play

About Ashley Verrill
Ashley Verrill is a market analyst that writes for theSoftware Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.


Your Content Focus: Narrow vs Wide

February 19, 2013

After getting your first content marketing pieces out there, the question usually revolves around “what’s next?”. Startups who are strapped for cash and resources want to know if they should go wide, trying to reach more industries or segments, or if they should narrow their focus and create additional content materials to go deeper into the segment they have already started to work with. In established companies the question is similar, but it often is a question of where to focus their resources to get the best results.

When asked about the narrow vs wide focus in content marketing, my first question is always “what is your goal?”. Do you want to generate leads to the top of the funnel or do you need to close deals that are being worked on right now? Do you need to test whether your message is on target (based on your buyer personas) or do you need to get prospects through the marketing funnel and further qualify them?

These are simple, but important questions. I’ve seen lengthy discussions arise because the marketing team is not in sync. Some want to go after additional industries so that the message can be spread out and the company name (or product) can become known elsewhere. Others don’t want to “abandon” leads they have already generated and argue for more nurturing campaigns with content that will guide those leads down to eventually close a sale.

So how do you solve this? I believe it is a matter of understanding a few important things before making a decision, such as:

  1. How long is your sales cycle?
  2. Who are the decision makers and all the personas involved?
  3. What content has already been created?
  4. Which content pieces were successful in the past and why?
  5. What is the profile of your ideal customer?

Number 5, although the last one, is typically the first thing your company should know. This sounds obvious but for startups it might take them a while until they figure out who exactly is their ideal customer, which can change from the day they set out to actually sell the product until they close their first few deals.

If you have a relatively short sales cycle, then developing content focused on driving leads down the marketing funnel to help close deals might be the best bet. If, on the other hand, you don’t expect deals to close within the next 6 months, then you can afford to verge off track for a bit and create content for other industries/personas/segments and come back later with additional content for existing leads.

Whatever your decision, make sure you understand what and why you are doing it and have some metrics in place to tell you what is working and why.


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