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.

What Types of Content Propels B2B Buyers

B2B Content MatrixI recently enjoyed an article titled, “Which Types of Content do B2B Tech Buyers Respond to Most?” The article is worthwhile because it provides a picture of how B2B buyers are now accepting and utilizing content as part of their buying journey. As the article so rightly points out, it’s not how much of it you produce that matters – it’s what you produce.

One of the key things to creating content that works is to marry the appropriate content with the right stage of the sales process. Note that the content and the way you present the content are not the same thing. For example, if you are a CRM vendor, a webinar aimed at people in the early stages (creating awareness) might be something like, The 10 Most Important Benefits of Using a CRM Solution. But if you are aiming a webinar at the needs of prospects who have already engaged with you, the title might be something like, 12 Tips for Fast Implementation of the XYZ CRM Solution. This is the same content tool (webinar) deployed in a completely different way to facilitate sales.

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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.

Top Three Signs Your Marketing VP Might Be in Trouble

At Fusion Marketing Partners, we have the privilege of working with some darn talented marketing VPs and our client list is populated with driven, innovative and capable marketing leaders. But when we scan the ranks of companies in the marketplace, you can’t help but notice companies that are falling short due to a handful of bad marketing practices. I’m not trying to beat up on anyone — these things are admittedly easier to spot when you’re on the outside and aren’t caught up in the day-to-day pressures of sitting in the VP’s chair. After many years of sitting in that chair, I know how hard it can be. After all, CEO’s and sales VP’s can be very tough customers.

That being said, you know you might need to think about making a change when your marketing VP always talks about how hard it is to tie efforts to results, or how the key benefit of any campaign will usually be intangible.  I’ve seen many companies waste time with in-house marketing campaigns that are doomed to fail.  Here are the top three indicators that your VP is missing the mark:

1. They Focus on Campaign Creation, Not Lead Generation

No one debates that marketing requires creativity. But when you let your creatives in marketing take the reins of the campaign, you often sacrifice effective messaging. Take Apple’s recent “Genius” campaign. Certainly, a marketing VP signed off on the idea because he or she thought it was funny or original, but the end result was that consumers felt both condescended to and annoyed by the elitist tone of the campaign. The ads were shelved after airing for only one weekend. This is what happens when you forget to take your potential customer into the equation. Your messaging should draw in leads with the tangible benefits of your brand, not be used as an entertainment exercise by your copywriters. A better leader or outsourced partner can put the focus back on no-nonsense lead generation.


2. They Don’t Create Compelling Content

Content is king in the online marketplace, and all your marketing channels should reflect this. You want to stand out from competitors when it comes to your content. Whether it is through blogging, social media, or branded articles, your content should contain relevant information presented in a conversational way which gives credibility to your brand. Marketing VPs can lose sight of this when they are constructing their integrated communications plans. Traditional push marketing is waning (although still effective in many situations), and developing new online content within a social environment is vital to sustaining your brand. If your team isn’t continually interacting with potential customers by providing useful content online, you need to either replace your team or get them the resources they need to be more effective.


3. They Fail in Active Engagement

Even creativity and content may not be enough if your marketing leadership loses track of the campaign over time. Inconsistency is an important aspect of marketing, providing prospects with a continual drumbeat of information and relevant offers. Your marketing VP will undoubtedly be sidelined at some point by internal politics, restructuring, or simply having too many irons in the fire. Rethinking this position may result in more cost-effective ways to conduct targeted campaigns driven by specific expertise.  Adding external resources can reduce the drag on your organization while give you an affordable, effective way to generate leads and build awareness.  This approach leaves your organization free to innovate and build your core competencies.

If your leadership team is at a loss to understand how your marketing VP’s efforts are building company value and creating a prosperous scenario for all stakeholders, it may be time to make a change. You can always get a new leader; or you can also consider how outsourcing all or part of the marketing function can refocus your efforts and give your team more time to do what they do best.

In my next post we will discuss the opposite scenario – how to recognize and reward marketing VP’s that build company value.

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.

Say What You Mean – Mean What You Say

I just read an interesting article by Dan Pollatta in the Harvard Business Review, with the clever title I Don’t Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore.  The premise of the article is that business people speak with so much gobbledygook and industry jargon – it is hard to understand what they are talking about.

The topic of communication is important to us at Fusion Marketing Partners because we have to either create compelling messages for our clients or coach them on how to do so.  And whether or not a message is “compelling” should always judged by how prospects receive it, not how someone at your company writes it.  We always tell our clients that it is their obligation to present their message in a clear and comprehensible manner, and not the prospect’s obligation to figure out what in the heck you are talking about.

To state this in a different way, clarity is always the responsibility of the communicator, not the one being communicated with.  I once had a copywriter tell me that “if the prospects are too dumb to understand the way I wrote the message, that’s their problem, not mine.”  This is an attitude that caused unemployment for that particular writer but is sadly, all too common in B2B marketing.  Yes it is true that some prospects are not as smart as we are, but amazingly, some of them are even smarter. But it is our mission to communicate in a way that is understandable to all (or most) of them.

The purpose of good marketing is to first attract, then educate, and then persuade the prospect that he or she needs to take advantage of your offer. And while being too cute, too clever, or pretending to be something you are not may appear to be enticing, it is important that you portray yourself accurately.   Buyers, both B2C and B2B, can spot dishonesty a mile away.  They want to be told exactly what you can do for them and how they will benefit. The hyperbole, industry jargon and confusing language are counterproductive.

Like the title of this blog post states – say what you mean and mean what you say.  And for good measure, don’t say it mean.

Happy New Year

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  While this can be true, it is also true that a mere handful of words can have more power and impact than a thousand pictures. Words allow you to form pictures in your mind that are sometimes as real and vivid as the actual images they portray. This is why people often tell you the book was better than the movie.

Words help you develop your imagination.

Doubt the power of mere words?  Consider these examples:

“Never give up.  Never, ever give up.” – Winston Churchill

“Ask not what your country can do for you…” – John F. Kennedy

“I have a dream…” – Martin Luther King

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” – Ronald Reagan

These are just four examples. I bet you can think of many others. Words have caused people to march off to war, fall in love, create empires, change addresses and change their lives. It is said that Cleopatra, while not a raving beauty, had a sliver tongue that captivated the likes of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Right Words, Right Prospects, Right Time

Likewise, words are critical components of the marketing mix. The ability to present the right words (content), to the right prospects, at the right time, can mean the difference between success and failure. Timely, compelling and relevant content beats bland, irrelevant and weak content every time. Take a look at your Website as if you are a person looking for what it is your company offers. Does it say to you: “No need to read any further….nothing special here…this company is just like all the others?” Or does it say: “Stop….this is different…this company has just what I need….I better engage with them right now.”

Content is king in marketing and sales. Words have the power to move countries or to move prospects. Words can bore someone to tears or motivate them to take action. Interesting photos no doubt garner interest. But pictures can only tell part of your story. Make sure you don’t neglect the words. Don’t be like Eliza Doolittle, who sang the following in My Fair Lady:

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?