Content Quantity Versus Quality

December 28, 2012

How much content is too much content? Take a look at the picture. This is from a local bookstore here where I live in Mountain View. How many Hobbit books can there be? I was reminded of this again as I read Michael Brenner’s post about the “content echo chamber” hitting spot on something that is happening in the ‘content marketing world’. Good content vs boring content.

 

Hobbit books by Daniel Kuperman

The tower of Hobbit books

Keeping Your Content Fresh

When talking with other companies about content marketing, the discussion is often steered to how much content to create. All the ideas start flowing and the great topics that will make prospects notice the new product being launched. Only to dawn on everybody that with a staff this small there is no way we can pull it off. Then I like to raise my hand and ask them to rethink their content approach. Is more content the same as good content? How about instead of trying to write blog posts every day, host webinars every week, and create new whitepapers every month we just stop to think about the following elements:

  • What is the message?
  • Who do we want to reach with our message?
  • Why is this message important for this group of people?
  • What is the most effective way to reach them?

I also like to ask something like “if you only had resources (budget, staff) to do one content piece, what would it be?”. The idea is not to do less content, but to do better content.


Your Marketing Focus

December 5, 2012

Out of Focus by Tim Cummins @ FlickrWhether you have 5 or 50 people in your marketing team odds are that the demands for more whitepapers, a new website redesign, additional email campaigns, and overall more content creation are increasing. If recent reports like this one are any indication, marketers across the board are being pressured to produce more and more content.

How do you do it? The answer is focus.

The marketing focus I am talking about is not the concentration of all your efforts into producing content while forgetting everything else, but rather the focus of knowing exactly what type of content to produce.

I’ve seen big and small companies alike fall into this content creation trap. It starts with a brainstorming session to talk about all content that should be produced, followed by assigning priorities to each content piece and getting it in a schedule with respective owners assigned.

What’s wrong with this approach? It misses the point entirely. FOCUS means understanding what message you need to tell, then focusing on the story and making sure each content piece created tells and reinforces the same story.

It is less about creating a lot of content for creation sake but creating content that helps your audience (i.e. prospects) understand why your company is different and what story it is telling. To do that I like to ask marketing teams to get out of the brainstorming of content types (videos, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.) and think first of the topics, themes, or high-level stories that have to be told. Then we figure out which types of content will help tell that story. We focus on how to tell the story and disseminate the story so that we reach the higher number of prospects instead of just trying to create content like crazy.

Focus is the name of the game if you want to get more done with the same resources.


What Do Buyers Want?

November 6, 2012

You have created all that content, invested in a marketing automation system, and still the leads are not converting. Who is to blame? First, take a closer look at your content and answer the following questions:

1. Does it have your product name sprinkled throughout?

2. Does it focus on what your product does and describe features?

3. Does it use technical terms and acronyms?

If you answered “yes” to at least one question, your content might be the one to blame. So it’s time to clean up the house.

Cleaning Up Your Content

The best way to start cleaning up your content is to review it with a buyer’s eyes. What do buyers want? Try this:

A. The CFO doesn’t want another financial management system, she wants month-end closings to happen faster and without errors.

B. The VP Sales doesn’t need a new CRM system, he needs a better way to keep in touch with current opportunities and gain better visibility into the pipeline.

C. The Marketing Manager is not looking to replace the email software, she wants a better way to generate qualified leads.

Sometimes marketers and especially product marketers suffer of what I am going to call industry-induced content myopia. Just because every other vendor in the industry uses certain terms and creates certain types of content, it doesn’t mean you should follow their lead. Instead, take a breather, spend some time in another department, and ask for your 8 year old to review the latest customer case study you just published.

Yes, is tough to create content that will rise above the noise, that will get picked up and shared, but creating content that talks about what the buyer really wants is a good first step. What are you waiting for?


The Importance of Content Continuity

October 8, 2012

If good content marketing equates to telling a good story, then content continuity is getting that story to become memorable. Let me explain.

When you create a piece of content, why stop at the first distribution channel? Sure you can re-purpose the content so that it will be used at another channel but content continuity means more than simply taking the content and fitting it in another medium. It involves using that content and expanding it, working different angles, but keeping the core message intact. It’s not that difficult, but it requires some planning.

A good example might be that presentation one of your executives delivered at the trade show. The PowerPoint slides can be uploaded to SlideShare where people who didn’t attend the session can now access it (this is re-purposing the content). But if you take the presentation, and add a few more slides to it in order to emphasize a key message, or if you take that message and link it to a video or an eBook that reinforces the story, then you are creating continuity.

Why is this distinction important? First, because if you simply take the exact same message and just change the publishing format (from PowerPoint to video, for example) it may attract different readers but it doesn’t help promote or further expand the message, it’s just a rehash of what has already been said in another format. Second, if you simply repurpose content you already created then you may lose the opportunity to create important links between the multiple stories your products or services support.

So instead of creating pieces of content that stand alone, create a “content network” (for lack of a better term) in which each node reinforces another, where a story you started telling is continued and extended with the next piece of content.

Next time you create some content (eBook, whitepaper, blog article, video, etc.), don’t just publish and forget; think of it as part of a broader theme or story. Good stories don’t have to end and neither does your content (think of it as “Your Content – Part II”, like in Hollywood).


10 Do’s and Don’ts of Partner Marketing Programs

September 25, 2012

I’ve been on both sides of the table, both as the vendor putting together partner marketing initiatives and as the reseller making use of the marketing resources a partner company has made available. It is interesting that once you’ve been on the consuming side of things you get a different perspective. I have worked with partner marketing programs from some big companies like IBM, SAP, Sage, and smaller ones like Adaptive Planning and Avalara and based on this experience I would like to share with you what I think are the 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Partner Marketing Programs.

What To Do

1. Provide an explanation, or introduction to your partner marketing program as soon as you have a new partner signed up including what resources are available

2. Understand what your partners do, how they sell and how they will re-sell your solution

3. Be proactive and reach out to your partners to get feedback and to provide help in planning campaigns

4. Help your partners with tips on best practices for list segmentation (who’s a good target based on your experience) for your solution

5. Have a plan for reaching out on a quarterly basis to your partners and ask how you can help them promote your products

6. Keep your partners updated on changes to the program especially as new materials become available

7. Give your partners access to collateral materials, training videos, webinar recordings, and other marketing assets as early as possible in the program and reach out to them to make sure they were able to access the materials or if they have questions

8. Follow up with your partners after campaigns and ask how they did and what you can do to help next time

9. Provide your partners with content snippets about your company and solutions that they can use on their websites and social channels

10. Ensure your partners are using your content correctly and following your brand guidelines

 

What Not To Do

1. Don’t assume your partners will be as fluent as you are in what your solution does, training may be required especially for the marketing folks (so that they understand how to better market and sell or re-sell the solution)

2. Don’t assume you are the partner’s priority, it is very likely that you are only one vendor among several that the partner deals with

3. Don’t keep the partner in the dark, make them one of the first to hear about new product releases and other important information

4. Don’t assume the marketing folks at the partner company are as savvy as you or your team is

5. Don’t forget that partner marketing materials are important to help sell your product, therefore they need to be updated as frequently as your direct channel materials

6. Don’t make your partner co-op programs too confusing or restrictive, after all, you want your partners to keep doing programs to promote your solutions

7. Don’t expect your partners to be social-media savvy or to understand how to use social channels, you may have to give them training or provide materials they can easily use on social media

8. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out to you with questions or to plan a campaign, make sure to routinely talk to your partners

9. Don’t let your partner marketing collateral and resources go stale, keep them fresh and your partners are more likely to pay attention to them

10. Don’t take your partner for granted

 

There is more to it than these simple ‘rules’, but it seems that these are the core of what makes or breaks a decent partner marketing initiative. What are YOUR ideas for putting together a good partner marketing program?


Marketing Technology Focus in New Startup Competition

August 31, 2012

I’m excited about a new startup competition coming up soon. Instead of looking for the next mobile-social-facebookish-type startup, the winner will be a marketing technology startup. The best thing about the event, though, is that it will attempt to pair big brands with promising marketing technologies.

If you are a startup founder developing some cool software or service for marketing or big brands, this is worth checking out.

Read more about the EXPANDMYBRAND startup competition in this blog post at Startup Grind.


What’s Wrong with Marketing Education?

July 30, 2012

If you ever hired a recent college graduate for a marketing position at your company, odds are you were amazed at their lack of knowledge. Not of basic marketing concepts like the 4 P’s, advertising, or branding but their utmost ignorance of modern marketing tactics and tools like webinars, marketing automation, and even CRM software.

The video roundtable below from CRMSoftware.tv, What Colleges Should Be Teaching Marketing Majors, is worth watching and reflecting upon.

What Colleges Should Be Teaching Marketing Majors

What are College Students to Do?

If you’re in college (or know someone who is), there are things you can do now so that you don’t flunk the next marketing job interview. More importantly, you’ll  be ahead of other candidates if you show that you are aware of the following terms, topics, and technologies:

Webinars: you should attend a webinar to understand what the experience is like, and if possible present a webinar as well. That’s easy today with free trials of the major players, like WebEx, Adobe Connect, and GoToWebinar, and with free webinar platforms like AnymeetingMeetingBurner, or FreeWebMeeting. What hiring companies want: someone that understands how to prepare for and conduct a webinar (aka the logistics), how to market a webinar, and how to use webinars effectively as part of  the marketing mix.

Email Marketing: according to MarketingSherpa, email marketing is still a top tactic employed by marketers to reach out to their prospects and customer base. You’ve got to understand how email marketing works, how it is used successfully and what pitfalls to avoid. Part of this is the CAN-SPAM act, which you should familiarize yourself with (interviewers will like if you show that you at least have an idea of what it’s all about). Setup a free account with MailChimp and play around creating an email and landing page, send out your next party invite to your friends using it to see how it works.

Marketing Automation: the typical step-up from email marketing, marketing automation software (such as Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, Pardot, and others) allows you to automate the sending of your emails and, more importantly, of nurturing your leads. If during an interview with a potential employer you can demonstrate that you know the concepts behind the sales and marketing funnels, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and what is the ROI of a marketing automation platform then you will be regarded as someone that is keeping up with the latest trends in marketing.

Social Media: just because you use Twitter and Facebook in school, it doesn’t mean you really know how to use it for marketing. So read up on success and failure stories, play around with tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, check out Klout, and be prepared to articulate what role does social media play in a company’s marketing program and a good understanding that when not used properly, social media can backfire.

Content Marketing: content marketing is not new, but it is all the hype now. A good understanding of the difference between whitepapers and ebooks, along with other forms of content publishing and distribution will give you valuable points during the interview process.

Trade Shows: companies of all sizes at one point or another in their lives end up attending or exhibiting at an event. The closest example you, college student, might have of what a trade show is might be your next career fair. Next time you attend one, pay attention to how different companies exhibit their services, how the people behind the tables or booths interact with the attendees, what handouts or giveaways they offer, and the overall experience. Having an idea of trade show tactics and what goes into trade show planning can be tremendously helpful especially if the company you are interviewing for attends trade shows (check their “about us” page or usually under “news and events” section of the website for a list of their upcoming appearances at local and national events).

The Modern Marketer

We’re just scratching the surface here, but these I think are some of the key marketing tactics employers would like you to know about when they interview students for marketing internships or junior marketing positions. Sure, there is always on-the-job training but if you are a marketing student, make it easier on yourself (and the hiring company) and brush up on your modern marketing skills and terminology.

If your current educational institution is not including the list above in your marketing curriculum, you have to either a) tell them to read this blog or b) learn it on your own. Good luck!


How to Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

June 26, 2012

© frenta - Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Brad Shorr.

Internal struggles between sales and marketing are commonplace in organizations of all sizes. Having worked on both sides, I’ve come to appreciate how difficult it can be to remedy the situation, and also how rewarding it is to get both departments singing the same tune. Sales and marketing can make beautiful music together in the form of more leads and sales! Here are a few thoughts on how to make it happen.

Problem 1: Political Infighting

Might as well start with the toughest and touchiest problem. Tensions abound when sales and marketing leadership are locked in a battle of wills. Everything each department says or does is seen by the other in the worst possible light, cooperation is virtually nonexistent, and the entire situation becomes a long and depressing tailspin into mediocrity.

One possible fix is to create a VP of Sales and Marketing role. The potential for infighting is high when two departments are battling for favored treatment from a neutral shared boss, such as a CEO or branch manager. Bringing the departments together may not obliterate turf battles, but at least they will be contained within a single department, and resolved there.

Another way to short circuit political issues is for executive leadership to clearly articulate the roles and priorities of sales and marketing. Some firms are sales-driven; others are marketing-driven. If a department doesn’t know where it stands, it will naturally push as hard as it can for as much as it can.

Articulating roles and priorities is not a one-time exercise, either. Priorities can change rapidly, depending on what’s going on internally and industry-wide. For example, consider a sales-driven company ready to introduce a new line of products into a new market segment. Marketing will now take precedence, but marketing will be tentative and sales will be frustrated if the new priorities aren’t understood.

Problem 2: Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt

You often hear sales types complain that marketing doesn’t understand sales. And just as often, you hear marketers complain that sales doesn’t understand marketing. Unfortunately, these statements usually contain more than a grain of truth, and nothing fosters ill will and ineffectiveness so much as ignorance.

Fortunately, the fix for this problem is simple: cross-training.

When marketers understand sales, their work becomes more relevant to customers, and more persuasive. When sales people understand marketing, they become more systematic and efficient. I don’t think it’s an accident that many successful marketers have had freelance experience, where they were forced to be sales people by necessity. And, throughout my career I have seen many sales reps become tremendously successful by incorporating solid marketing techniques into their work.

Cross-training also alleviates political infighting and internal communication issues. Having a better sense of where a person is coming from, and having some idea of the method behind his apparent madness makes for constructive dialog.

Problem 3: Poor Processes and Shaky Structures

 Sometimes, firms just don’t know what they’re missing by allowing sales and marketing teams to plow ahead without having an organized system behind them. When internal systems are ill-defined and chaotic, sales and marketing tend to clash not only on issues that matter, but also on ones that shouldn’t.

For instance, every marketing department should have a clear process for producing a sales brochure, a process that defines responsibilities and timelines. But for many firms, creating a brochure turns into a fire drill, and it’s never done the same way twice. As a result, steps get skipped, input is overlooked, reviews are haphazard, expectations run the gamut, and everyone generally walks away underwhelmed.

Even worse than poor processes is the problem of shaky structures. Many of us have seen the firm that delegates marketing to a customer service rep who took a few creative writing classes and uses Facebook a lot. And perhaps we’ve also run into the sales manager who checks in with his reps once a month and spends the rest of his time playing customer golf.

If a firm doesn’t appreciate the complexity and difficulty of sales and marketing, it is really setting its staff up for failure. Political infighting is at least organized fighting; when staffers are at each other’s throats because there’s no other way to get things done, you’ve now set the stage for a gang war.

These issues arise frequently in entrepreneurial firms that have enjoyed rapid growth; adding a little management talent is often all it takes to completely transform the situation.

Work On It

For executive leadership, I suppose all of these three sales-marketing problems come back to that same issue of working on the business instead of in the business. Sales and marketing are completely different disciplines with completely different mindsets. And just because both groups have the same goal of increasing sales, it’s by no means a given that they will get along. It’s a tough problem to be sure, but that’s why execs get the big bucks.

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an agency that does web marketing in Chicago. They specialize in B2B with clients in industrial niches from credit card mobile processing to machine knit fingerless gloves.



How to Maintain Great Content Curation

June 19, 2012

A guest post by Lior Levin.

Content CurationOn the surface, content curation sounds like a great way to generate content with little to no time or effort. After all, you don’t actually have to write much new content, just find interesting items on the Web and point others to them, becoming a hub for all that’s relevant to your field.

However, doing content curation well means a lot more than just plastering your site with a bunch of synopses and links. Doing content curation right takes a lot of time and requires almost as much investment as creating original content.

Doing content curation poorly, though easy and quick, is often seen as spam and is likely to raise copyright and plagiarism issues for you. On the other hand, proper content curation can be a powerful tool for both building your site and driving traffic to it. In fact, in the best possible cases, it can make you an indispensable part of your niche’s ecosystem.

So how do you curate content in a way that both attracts visitors and makes you a hero to your peers? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Participate in Your Community

If you want respect from your community, you need to do more than simply share their links. You need to create at least some original content and, equally importantly, connect with and interact with those around you.

Instead of just linking to a post, take the time to comment on it as well. Interact with other webmasters on social media and encourage them to send you interesting links. The more you contribute and interact with the community, the more they will respect and embrace you. That embracing not only makes the environment less hostile, but it also opens up new opportunities for cooperation that can make your offerings truly unique.

2. Be Careful How You Aggregate

Be careful about what you use and how you use it. Remember that the works you’re referencing are copyrighted and other webmasters, if they feel they are being infringed, may come after you.

Use only what you need, short snippets of text (usually under 50 words), headlines and links should be more than enough. If you find yourself writing a 400-word summary of a 500-word article, you likely need to rethink your approach.

Also, always attribute everything you use. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it keeps you from making enemies needlessly.

3. Don’t Automate

When you have a site or service that seems perfectly relevant to your topic, it might be tempting to grab everything that it posts by RSS or another automated tool.

Don’t do it.

The benefit a curator brings to a niche is human involvement. If you’re not selecting the best posts to share, you miss out on adding value to your readers or community. Anyone can subscribe to a site via RSS, and no site is going to be 100% relevant.

In short, automatically shooting out everything that a site or a group of sites puts out is not only very spammy, but it is of no benefit to the reader or the community.

4. Be Where the Audience Is

While this is great advice for any site, it is even more true for curated content as curation is about convenience. You don’t want to make your readers work for your content so it’s important to be where they are.

Have an audience that spends a lot of time on Reddit? Be on Reddit. Are they active on Facebook? Be on Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of multiple platforms as the time needed to add a Tumblr or a Twitter is fairly minor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ditch services that aren’t working out for you.

5. Create Expectations and Meet Them

Very quickly, answer these questions for your readers:

  1. What are you going to post?
  2. How much are you going to post?
  3. And When are you going to post it?

Readers need this information so they know what to expect from your curation and know if they want to subscribe. Create a plan and stick to it.

Whether you want to curate ten links weekly about whales or five articles a day about modern medicine, tell your readers what to expect and deliver reliably.

In the end, great curation is a lot of work, but it’s that work that adds value to the reader and the community. Bad curation is, at best, mere spam and at worst copyright infringing.

As a curator, you can’t afford to be a parasite as you need a healthy, welcoming community for your efforts to thrive.

So don’t look for shortcuts with your curation efforts and, instead, focus on providing the best value you can, especially over the long haul. Your community, your readers and even the people you link to will all thank you and reward you for it.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that offers a variety of custom neon signs for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that specializes in a to do list app.


How to Build a Lead Scoring Program

June 7, 2012

By Ashley Furness, guest blogger and Software Advice market analyst

Every company wants high leads volume – but not prioritizing those opportunities can leave sales wasting time on leads that will never buy, while the best prospects fall through the cracks.

Fortunately, an effective lead scoring program can address this problem. Below is a two-part video series from Software Advice that outlines tips for creating such a program. In it, VisionEdge Marketing President Laura Patterson demonstrates how to use “fit” and “behavior” metrics to rate your leads. Then, what to do with the scores once they are determined.

To measure fit, she recommends using questions that help decide if the potential buyer is a match the company and its products. This can include queries such as: Is it in the right market? Is it the right kind of company? Is this person the decision maker? Do they have the right kind of problem? Does our product solve that problem?

Behaviors, on the other hand, are observable actions that show where the prospect is in the buying process. To create these metrics, first map out your buying process pipeline – from first contact, for example, to fills out online quote form. Next, decide on metric behaviors for each one of the incremental buying process actions.

Once you have these metrics and create a scale for each, your team can decide what scores trigger marketing or sales action.

This content was provided by Software Advice.


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