How to Get Prospects to Read and Engage with Your Marketing Content

Marketing Thought LeadershipThis is a follow-up to my last article titled, How to Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership. In that article I started with the basic and critical question: Can you be an industry thought leader? I then covered some ideas on how to find quality subjects to talk about and create marketing content that is both relevant and valued by your target audience. We will now  cover three additional questions you and your company need to ask to be a successful content marketing practitioner.

  • How do we get people to read our marketing content?
  • How do we get people to engage with our company?
  • How do we measure results and get better over time?

How do we get people to read our content? The first imperative to gaining readership is to write about stuff people care about. Understand that few, if any, people are going to read what you write just because they like you or feel an obligation. Those of us who have written books know how difficult it is to get even our family and friends to read what we write, whereas someone half -a-world away may peruse every word. Writers like to write about the things they are personally knowledgeable about and interested in, but in some cases, there may be little or no market for such content.

The trick is to align your expertise and interest with the needs and desires of your prospects. Perhaps the best way to do this is to answer questions that relate to pain points/challenges that our prospects face. For example, an article I wrote a couple of years ago titled, Just How Many Sales Leads Do You Need has received a ton of readership because marketers have so many questions about sales lead requirements.

Generally, no matter how terrific, people aren’t going to just stumble upon your content. You need to get it exposed via either paid techniques or social media. You can do this by logging onto and posting from each social media platform, or you can use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to manage distribution on all, or most of your platforms.

How do we get people to engage with our company? Readers are great Marketing Content Influencebut opt-in contacts are much, much better. These are the individuals you have a chance to turn into customers, partners, or whatever. And after you have attracted them and educated them, the next step is to drive engagement. To put this in a different way, you want them to move deeper into your Circle of Marketing Influence. Here are some ideas to make this happen:     

  • Offer convenient ways for readers to subscribe to your blog.
  • Develop unique and compelling offers.
  • Give away some of your good stuff with no commitment but make sure to save the highest caliber content for those who opt-in.
  • Be pleasantly persistent. It usually takes multiple exposures to drive engagement. It really is a numbers game so the more often you share content, the better your chance of generating marketing influence and conversions.

How do we measure content marketing results and get better over time?

There are a number of quality tools for measuring social media/marketing content engagement, including Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, Kissmetrics and Cyfe (apologies to those I left out). I recommend that, if possible, you use the same tool for creating and propagating content as you do for measurement.

So what specifically do you want to measure? Here are six important metrics:

  1. Impressions: The number of people who are exposed to your blog, article or other content because it appears in their news feed or search results.
  2. Reach: The number of people you are reaching on a regular basis – How many followers, contacts, readers, fans, and connections do you have today vs. last month or last year, on your various social media platforms?
  3. Engagement: How many people are liking, favoriting, commenting, retweeting or sharing your posts and updates, or rating your YouTube videos.
  4. Conversion: This is a key marketing content metric because it refers to actions that can potentially impact revenue such as filling out a lead form, registering for marketing assets like webinars or whitepapers, or even making a purchase.
  5. Follower vs. following: One of the best ways to gain new Twitter followers is to first follow other people. However, you need to monitor the ratio between the number of people you follow and those that follow you to make sure this number doesn’t get out of whack. Twittercounter.com does this for free.
  6. Organic vs. paid traffic: Obviously, you can increase exposure to, and engagement with, your content using paid sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However, when it comes to content marketing, you want your pull marketing (organic) programs to do the heavy lifting. And if this is not possible in the short-term, it should be your go-forward strategy.

Note that you can find different definitions for some of these terms (e.g. reach vs. impressions) promulgated by various software tools and social media platforms. The important thing is to implement the metrics that are most important to you, and use them to drive continuous improvement.

Producing marketing content that exhibits thought leadership in your industry is only one part of the equation. What happens when a piece of content falls in the forest and no one hears it? Make sure you’ve got processes to measure and retool your content to ensure your prospects are engaging with what you choose to publish.

Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership

Online Thought LeaderAt our company, my team and I have the pleasure of being involved in a lot of content creation, curation and propagation initiatives. Sometimes, a company is new to content marketing and sees the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but they aren’t sure how to get there. In other cases, the company has taken some initial steps towards thought leadership but has plateaued and wants to get to the next level. Either way, there are are six essential questions about content marketing that need to be answered before you get too far along the path.

  1. Can we be industry thought leaders?see the benefits of being a thought leader/branded authority but aren’t sure how to get there.
  2. If so, what do we talk about?
  3. Can we create enough quality content?
  4. How do we get people to read our content?
  5. How do we get people to engage with our company?
  6. How do we measure results and get better over time?

Great questions, yes? The first three should determine your go vs. no-go content marketing strategy and the second three how to make it happen assuming the decision to proceed is affirmative. I’ll cover the first three questions in this article and the final three in the next.

Can we be industry thought leaders? First of all, is it you who is going to be the thought leader, is it several individuals in your company, or is it the company itself? And do you have enough knowledge and stature to be a credible industry spokesperson? By the way, the fact that you don’t have these attributes going in isn’t a show stopper. There have been many cases of individuals who are relatively unknown who emerge within a year or two as well-followed and well-respected industry opinion leaders.

What do we talk about? This is the key question. As mentioned above, you need to have “perceived” expertise in a specific area (hopefully backed up by genuine expertise). However this must be matched by another factor: There must be a sufficient enough number of people interested in your topic area that are willing to read or listen to what you have to say; and this audience should provide real business value. In the business world, it is not enough that people find you interesting – you want them to engage and either buy something or encourage others to do so.

Assuming you have the critical audience numbers, try to avoid the temptation to be just another voice spouting the same content. While this may seem like a safe path, it is rarely a good idea to be perceived as just like your competitors. You need to create a perception of differentiation. To establish yourself and/or your company as a branded authority, you will first have to decide the breadth of your focus. Marketing yourself with a very broad focus (e.g. general practitioner) is a different proposition than a narrow niche focus (e.g. specialist). There is truth to the statement, “the riches are in niches” and across most industries, those who have a reputation for specialization earn more and face less competitive pressure.

How do we create enough quality content? Let’s talk about your options for quantity and quality of content. People naturally feel angst about creating a steady stream of fresh worthy content. As a book author and eight-year blogger, I agree – this is not easy. You may need to opt either for a more consistent flow of okay (decent) content or go for a model where you produce fewer pieces of content of higher quality. A good example of this is the type of evergreen content I write for CustomerThink – in-depth articles of 1000-1500 words that are meant to be “evergreen.” By this I mean the content will still be valid and useful for years to come.

An alternative to creating your own content is to become a content curator. Content curation is the process of discovering, compiling and propagating (sharing) content in a particular subject area. The key is to present content that is fresh, relevant and high quality. Many content curators present externally discovered content alongside their own. For example, our GreatB2BMarketing blog not only contains my original posts but also a “Guest Experts” section where we reproduce articles from smart people in the B2B marketing industry.

You can either create (or curate) the content yourself or hire consultants to do this for you – but either way, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort required. Fortunately, there are some useful (and sometimes free) tools to help you either find ideas for original content or curate third-party content.

Content Marketing Tools:

Buzzsumo: Very easy to use and free. Just input your search term and Buzzsumo shows you the top content in terms of engagement and shares. This tool will help you find topic areas that have high potential marketplace interest.

Buzzsumo

Quora: This is a question and answer site to learn about what people are talking and writing about. As with Buzzsumo, you simply type your search term and Quora will show you all the content on that particular subject. You can also ask your own questions and get answers from a wide variety of experts (and not-so-much experts).

Hashtagify: While primarily used for Twitter marketing, you can use Hashtagify to find great keyword ideas for keywords to use in your blog posts. For example, the top hastags identified when you start with “B2B Marketing” are: sales, digital marketing, content marketing, marketing, SMM and CMO.

SEMrush: This is a great tool for figuring out what your website (and your competitors’ sites) really looks like to search engines in terms of organic and paid search. This will give you some ideas not only for articles and blogs, but also helps to ensure that your website content portrays your core message.

Hootsuite: Hootsuite is well known as a social media management program but you can also use it to track what industry leaders are saying about a particular topic or series of topics. This can be a great source for tracking and socializing curated content.

For more thoughts about B2B content marketing, read my recent CustomerThink article titled, 6 Keys to Transform Your Marketing Content from Subpar to Superior. And stay tuned for my next post where I will answer the final three questions about content marketing and content curation.

You Need to Become Good at Content Marketing – Here’s How

Content MarketingNext month, I will be speaking at an event called, the Summit on Content Marketing. Beginning May 22, the Summit is an online conference for individuals and businesses who want to develop a successful content strategy, increase buyer engagement, grow their audience and improve the quality and quantity of leads. I am looking forward to the learning experience – I know some of the speakers and the conference organizers have put together a top roster.

So, why should you care about the subject? Amazingly, I’ve had a few B2B company executives tell me that content isn’t all that important to their company’s success. While this may be true in rare circumstances, the rest of us are competing against companies that would love us to go silent on content – it would make us much easier to beat. One tech company CEO even suggested that all he needed on his website was the company phone number because “We pay our sales reps to sell our products. The rest of the website may not be necessary.” I know most people reading this don’t have such a myopic view of content marketing but what exactly can it do for you? Here’s a short list:

  • Differentiates you from the competition
  • Supports your brand’s value proposition
  • Attracts organic search traffic
  • Converts visitors to leads
  • Targets various stages of the buying cycle
  • Shortens the sales cycle

Other than this, content marketing doesn’t do much for you! So with all this good stuff as the payoff, what am I going to talk about during my Summit session? The title is B2B Content Strategies that Move Your Prospects Along the Buyer’s Journey, and I will be covering these topics:

  1. How to Use Digital Content to Shorten the B2B Sales Cycle and Increase Close Rates
  2. How to Engage and Convert Readers with a Compelling Story
  3. Seven Essential Content Marketing Best Practices
  4. How to Time Your Content to Match the Buyer’s Journey
  5. How Asking “Why” Makes Your Marketing Content More Effective
  6. Best Ways to Measure Your Content’s Impact on Revenue

As just one teaser of what I am going to talk about, consider how content can impact the “stuck” prospect. He or she may be stuck because you haven’t sold the value, because there are objections that have not been overcome, or because the prospect is lacking what they consider critical information about your products or services. Content can be used to fill all of these gaps, and many more. In fact, most of the successful companies in any industry have something in common – they have plenty of good content to help speed the buyer’s journey.

Christopher Ryan

The bottom line is that the wrong B2B content aimed at the wrong prospect can slow the buying process or stop it entirely. Fortunately, the right content strategy can be a powerful enabler of lead generation and sales. Well-placed and well-timed content is a key component of the lead-to-revenue (L2R) process and can drive better results at several critical junctures in the buyer’s journey.

Hope to see you (virtually) at the Summit. In the meantime, may all your content efforts be productive and effective.

B2B Content Marketing That Drives Results

Marketing and Sales Alignment

There is a lot of buzz in the air about content marketing. Businesses that need to increase their brand awareness, credibility, and preference with their target audiences are turning to content marketing in greater numbers as a proven pull marketing strategy that aligns well with important business metrics. Whether your goals are to increase market awareness, drive website traffic, build lead generation, or improve sales funnel conversion, understanding how to create copy that delivers results is fundamental to achieving success.

From strategy to execution, you need to accomplish this in a consistent and on-target manner that leverages your brand’s core promise while turning your differentiators into compelling content that systematically engages your critical audiences, and causes them to take action.

The Payoff Earned from Effective B2B Content

Effective B2B content attracts visitors to your website, provides value for your social media outreach, converts website visitors to leads, and much more. High-quality B2B content delivers on a specific purpose:

  • Attracts organic search traffic
  • Converts visitors to leads
  • Supports your brand’s value proposition
  • Provides online and social media value
  • Targets various stages of the buying cycle

In addition, your content marketing efforts can have a large payoff, in five major areas:

  1. Large increases in brand awareness. People buy from companies they know and content can help you get known.
  2. Make it easier for prospects to find you.  Quality content helps web searchers find you quickly.
  3. Credibility boost. Visitors to your website will judge you by the quality and quantity of the content that is relevant to their needs.
  4. Lower cost per lead. Content marketing is a pull marketing strategy and as such, produces leads at a fraction of the cost of push marketing leads.
  5. Shorter sales cycle. Good content helps prospects learn about your products and services and self-qualify themselves. This enables prospects to make a much faster purchase decision.

How Much New Content Do You Need?

This is one of those “it depends” questions. If your company is in a well-defined market where the competition isn’t strong, you might require a relatively small amount of new content. By contrast, if your company is in a complex and highly competitive space, you may need quite a bit of new content. Either way, the payoff is large.

The key to success is to get started. You can’t procrastinate hoping that positive results will miraculously happen. Make the effort today and begin creating good-quality B2B content that will help you meet your marketing goals and drive solid business results.

Three Essential Content Marketing Practices

Content Marketing

Content Marketing Essentials

When I served on the AIM board, I occasionally had dealings with Bryant Duhon, the organization’s editor and community manager. I always found Bryant to be sharp, focused, and a person who is good at grasping and presenting the essentials of complex topics in a way that makes them useful to his readership. Bryant’s latest post is a great example. Titled Content Marketing: 3 Essentials, the article boils down the complex subject of content marketing into three essential components.

Essential 1: Create your content with a purpose.
Essential 2: Write well.
Essential 3: Distribute appropriately.

I can’t argue with this simple yet profound way of summarizing the content marketing process, but will expand on each of the points. To meet the requirements of the first essential, you need to make sure the content you are creating always answers this fundamental question: How does this particular piece of content support and/or enhance my brand? If the answer is “it doesn’t,” best to spend your time elsewhere. Thought leadership is a precious commodity and you can’t afford wasted or misguided efforts.

Essential number two sounds obvious, but how does writing well manifest itself in the context of content marketing? Good content writing is interesting, compelling and relevant. And when I say relevant, I mean the content has meaning to the reader – not just to the writer. You should also write in a way that establishes thought leadership by differentiating you from the many others who are vying for your prospects’ attention. And while you endeavor to write well, proofread carefully when you’re done. It will have an impact on your credibility. I also recommend that you write in a voice that sounds like one individual speaking to another, not a corporation talking to a corporation.

Essential three is just as important as the first two. You can create your content with a purpose and do a great job of writing, but all this is for naught if you don’t get your share of marketplace eyeballs. That means that you need to be aggressive in propagating your content as far and wide as possible while making sure to hit the most appropriate social media channels.
You should keep these three essentials in mind to make sure your content marketing supports your lead generation, awareness and web optimization goals.

B2B Marketing: Know the Trends, Pick the Right Strategy

What key tactics best fit our Marketing Strategy?
What B2B marketing tactics are working now for others, and how well?
Where should we emphasize or deemphasize our marketing focus?

In working with leading global B2B companies, our Fusion Marketing team is extremely familiar with the cost/benefits of various lead generation programs. In fact we work closely with the management teams of numerous B2B product and services companies to build and help execute a marketing strategy that fits their industry and their sales model. Knowing the most effective tactics can help you refine or enhance your strategy.

While the right B2B marketing strategy will vary by type of product and industry, we do see distinct trends. The marketer’s challenge is to combine the right mix of programs to build market awareness and fill the sales funnel each month at a low blended cost per lead. With that in mind, we examined the recorded effectiveness of the many online lead generation options. Our experiences are summarized in this B2B marketing strategy infographic.

marketing strategy infographic

Effectiveness of B2B Marketing Tactics – Lead Generation Strategies

The FMP team operates under the doctrine of a consistent and predictable lead generation “engine.” The lead engine is an optimized, scalable set of people and processes that produce massive brand awareness, drive a planned volume of qualified leads, and result in revenue results that meet business goals.

When we work with clients to create their quarterly lead plan, we look at a variety of tactics that when integrated together, produce the volume of required leads at a low cost per lead. While we do occasionally find a highly productive, low cost lead source, the reality is that it’s more often a blended mix of tactics that yield results. And the mix changes as the strength of the brand, messaging and website grows.

But what tactics yield the best results? Referrals and email marketing to the house list are low cost ways to build lead flow. Even better, leads from these sources tend to have higher sales conversion rates. However, these tactics seldom fill the quarterly sales funnel. Content marketing and social media are increasingly important, but these tactics often require a sustained commitment and time to yield significant results. Higher cost push marketing programs such as Pay-Per-Click help supplement the lead flow. And in some markets, vigorous participation in trade shows and conferences remains an important tactic to maintain brand awareness in your market.

Pull (Inbound) B2B Marketing: The Increased Importance of Content Marketing & Social Media

There’s a reason that you see traditional, keyword-driven SEO shops desperately rebranding themselves as content marketing and social media experts: The old search engine-manipulating schemes and keyword games are becoming less effective by the day. While Google changes its search algorithm hundreds of times per year with Panda, Hummingbird, and Penguin rollouts, the overall trends place greater value on better-written, more relevant copy. High-quality content that helps your prospects meet their challenges, find better solutions, and do their jobs better has the benefit of attracting your market. Pull marketing strategies that attract through education rather than the hard sell or keyword packing are producing results and driving down cost per lead for the smart marketers who are riding this wave.

B2B Lead Generation Trends – Changes in Priorities

The balance of power is shifting and B2B buyers are taking more control of their purchasing process. With the explosion of information and social feedback available online, more buyers prefer to find solutions, choose vendors, and self-educate before engaging with sales. B2B Marketers must adapt to these changing dynamics by building online brand awareness and providing resources to support buyers’ needs.

Lead generation strategies that leverage content marketing and social media are increasingly effective in providing prospects the information they want to become viable sales prospects. By providing educational resources, sharing solution details, and offering insights, companies are attracting and engaging potential clients to fill their sales funnels.

The Right B2B Marketing Strategy for Your Business

There’s no question that the right marketing strategy for your business will depend on your brand, your business capabilities, your solutions, and most importantly, your market. But knowing the distinct trends can and should influence your marketing priorities.

Embed This Infographic On Your Site (copy code below):

Content Marketing – Quality vs. Quantity

Let’s face it – there are days when the creative well is dry and you would rather go to the dentist than write some fresh content for social media or your website.  After all, if you can’t create outstanding content, why do it at all?  You may be tempted to chuck the whole thing and back to doing something more fun – like filling out expense reports.

I promise that you will be rewarded by your decision to stay the course and persevere with content marketing, but it will require a switch in mindset.  There are some principles you must adhere to and a few “nice to haves” that you can improve on as you go along.

First, the three NON-negotiable elements:

  1. Everything you write must have a point, and preferably one that is related to the value proposition of your business.  This is particularly important in B2B Marketing and specifically online content marketing.
  2. Although difficult to eliminate, keep the typos and grammatical errors to a minimum.  People tend to get sloppy when they write for social media, but readers do notice. And when you show poor attention to detail, people tend to project that to a general impression about your competence.
  3. Establish a minimum acceptable output for your online content marketing efforts.  The key word in the term fresh content is “fresh.”  Create a steady stream of fresh new content. Remember that a stream doesn’t have to be a torrent — even a trickle will do, if it is new and interesting. But do keep it flowing, no matter what.

And now for the three negotiable elements:

  1. The quality of your copy: This is a big hurdle to overcome.  Many business people agonize over every word in an article, blog post or tweet.   The fact is that an extreme focus on quality can do you more harm than good.
  2. The length of your copy: Although there are some guidelines as to ideal text length (e.g. blog posts of 500 words), these are suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules.  Many great blog posts are 200 words, while others are 1000 words and everything in between.  As Voltaire said, “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”  So resist the urge to tell everything and leave a little to the reader’s imagination.  Write as much as you think is necessary and then give your pen (or keyboard) a rest.
  3. Who writes the copy: Not every bit of copy has to come from the CEO, VP of marketing or product management.  There may be others in the organization who enjoy writing and would be happy to support the corporate cause.  In fact, multiple authors show that a company has energy and expertise outside the executive suite.

Find your workable balance between content quality and quantity.  Then produce and prosper.