Marketers Need to Get Their Stories Straight

April 9, 2014

As marketing professionals we all know the importance of storytelling, and with the current hyper-focus on all things content marketing, being able to tell stories is not just a requirement for modern marketers,  but is magnified by the different ways in which your stories can be disseminated.

The interesting thing is that according to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute (B2B Content Marketing – 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America), although 93% of B2B marketers report using content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, only 42% of B2B marketers say they are effective at content marketing.

When you look at the challenges marketers face when creating content, the same survey shows the top three as being:

  • Lack of time
  • Producing enough content
  • Producing the kind of content that engages

Content Ahoy!

The way I see it, most marketers are pressed for creating more content then ever before and they struggle to create content that resonates with their buyers. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Just take a look at the myriad of emails you get from different vendors, all with bland messaging and tons of weak content.

Infographics, to cite an example, got traction around 2010/11 as a great marketing tool and quickly became overused. Everything got dumped into a vertically-oriented PDF or JPG that had tons of data with no clear message. It doesn’t matter, as marketers report increasing the use of infographics (51% over 38% last year) as a key tactic, showing that getting your infographic noticed has become more difficult.

But back to the point. The problem marketers face also has to do with a key missing ingredient: storytelling.

Get the Story Straight

I was glad to see I’m not the only one feeling this lack of storytelling is plaguing many marketers, as Ardath Albee explains in her post, the product is not the hero of the story.

How many times have you read a new ebook or whitepaper and thought, “meh”? The story that focuses on the product is the wrong kind. I know, we are all tempted to showcase our product as the savior, the great dragon-slaying knight that came right on time to save the customer and for a small fee you too can take advantage of this awesome new version that now comes with flaming sword and shield.

Why do we do it? Because it’s easy. We just name the features, benefits, and churn a few whitepapers and webinars, throw an infographic there and it’s all set. Then, when is time to review the results we are pressured for more content, with less budget and not enough time.

My own attempts at storytelling falls into this trap now and then, as the pressures for more content faster mount. But as I read Ardath’s post and have been rethinking how to tell stories in a way that will resonate with our buyers, I am trying to get better. If you are reading this, so should you! Block two hours (at least!) tomorrow to stop everything you are doing and refocus your storytelling efforts. It will be well worth it.


Best Practices for Webinar Landing Pages

January 27, 2014

Webinars are a great way to generate leads in the B2B world because not only of the fact that you will have a captive audience for the duration of most of the presentation, it also yields a ton of content possibilities. But what good is all the work in putting together a nice webinar if your registration rates suck? The problem could be with your webinar registration or landing page.

It might sound trivial, after all webinars are routine for many B2B marketing organizations, but if you take a look at most webinar registration pages, some of them lack good design and basic optimization techniques.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

HubSpot:

Click to enlarge

For all the good content that HubSpot puts out there, the registration page for their webinars is quite bad. The copy is short, which is what you should aim for, but take a look at the registration form itself. It’s like they decided to embed an iframe of some sort and didn’t bother making it work… it just goes on and on forever. And it asks a lot of questions people may not be willing to disclose at the moment of signing up for a webinar.

Then, the webinar details like duration and presenters are all the way to the bottom. And, if you look closely, you can’t even find the date and time of the webinar. My suggestion is for you to not do it this way.

webinar registration from marketo

Click to enlarge

Marketo:
Here’s a nice designed webinar page. Most of Marketo’s webinars follow the same design style with the webinar title at the top, the date and time clearly stated upfront (time is in both PT and ET), a short copy with three bullet points and simple registration form on the right asking just the basics. At the bottom, they show a headshot of presenters with just their title.

SAP:

SAP Webinar

Click to enlarge

This is an interesting example of a “webinar series” done badly. The landing page shows a ton of copy, a plethora of options and unless you take the time to carefully read everything you probabaly give up before signing up. Not to mention the registration form asks for way more than you should.

Splunk:

Splunk

Click to enlarge

Splunk is using Webex’s webinar registration template, so there’s not much they can do here but it is not bad. Although not very well desgined, it does have good points such as using short copy that is direct and to the point with three bullets. Lists the speakers below and asks for just the basic info for registration.

Rackspace:

rackspace webinar

Click to enlarge

This is an example of a bad webinar registration page that has a tremendous amount of copy, each speaker bio is like a book which makes it look like a long list on the right way past the registration form. The good thing here is that the form is pretty simple, so if the email invitation was enticing and you don’t care too much about the landing page, you can just register and get done with it.

GigaOm:

GigaOm Webinar

Click to enlarge

This sample webinar page from GigaOm is nicely designed making good use of space, and not trying to do too much. I like that the title of the webinar is big and the first thing on the top and the time and date are right below it, but it would have been better if they had shown the time in EST as well. The speakers are prominently displayed without using too much space and they did a good job with breaking apart sections like “what will be discussed” and “who should attend” which can help entice people to register.

If I were to fix a few things, I would focus first on the weird spacing on the bullets that is pushing everything down and making it look taller than needed.

Takeaways

There is a ton of other examples out there you can check out and look at your company’s own webinar registration pages. Here are what I consider to be best practices. But don’t take my word for it, I encourage you to make your own tweaks and test. Come up with your own set of rules for your webinar landing pages based on what converts the most.

1. Make sure the title of the webinar is prominently displayed on top. You want people to recognize the landing page whether coming from an email clickthru, a social media link or a Skype IM.

2. The date and time should be clearly displayed and preferably with East Coast / West Coast time zones if a US based webinar or other relevant time zones based on your audience.

3. Short copy with bullets to quickly indicate what the webinar is about and why should potential attendees register. If you are trying to explain too much, you are doing it wrong.

4. Speaker names, titles and short bios. Bonus points for adding a headshot.

5. Short registration form, asking only the very minimum. The more you ask, the less likely you will get quality data and it will also decrease registrations.

6. Simple and clean design to emphasize the key aspects of the webinar will help conversions. Don’t overdue it, though.

7. Registration button clearly placed next to the form (typically at the bottom).

8. Makes sure your company logo doesn’t dominate the registration page. You are not selling the company, you are selling the webinar content.

9. Sharing icons for twitter, facebook and linkedin can help people spread the word and share with their network, increasing registration rates. For bonus points, add a ‘suggested tweet’ with hashtags and all for them to promote with just one click.


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


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