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.

Are You Marketing to Gain or Pain?

Marketing Gain vs PainAs a marketing or sales professional, you have a choice in how you message your company and its offerings, with the goal of driving favorable responses (e.g. opt-ins) and purchases. And while many permutations are possible, there are two primary motivators of human behavior: gain and pain.

Gain.  People take action because they want a gain of some sort. In the B2B world, such gains can include:

  • Generate more revenue
  • Increase profits
  • Achieve department or company goals
  • Get promoted
  • Gain salary increase
  • Obtain Job security
  • Find fulfillment/job satisfaction
  • Happiness
  • Personal knowledge
  • Gain recognition/status

Note that some of these “gain” terms are business-oriented and others appeal to the personal motivations of your prospects. While good employees want to do the right thing for their organization, they are also always asking the question: “What’s in it for me?” While you may think they are buying to improve productivity metrics, the unspoken motivator may be that the buyer wants to learn your software system to become proficient and enhance his or her resume.

Pain. On the other side of the same coin, pain is a huge motivator. It is the “what they are running away from” stimulus. Pain avoidance drives people to purchase products and services as varied as aspirin and enterprise software. Here are some examples:

  • Lower costs
  • Improve efficiencies
  • Reduce waste
  • Work fewer hours
  • Decrease turnover
  • Get your boss off your back
  • Avoid termination
  • Achieve fewer cancellations
  • Avoid harm

Both the pain and gain motivators can lead to the same place (e.g. your CX solution) but where is the traffic coming from and which type of search converts in greater numbers? When you combine this data with relevant gain and pain messaging, you can really target your message effectively.

I read a fascinating paper about this subject recently called The Psychology of Action produced by Ceros and MarketingProfs. One of the paper’s most startling and interesting points is this:

“The psychological fear of losing something or experiencing pain is twice

as strong as the potential to gain or improve something.”

One example of this can be found if you search on the term “messaging pain avoidance.” When I did this, the fourth search result was an ad for “amputation avoidance.” I would submit that for most of us, the urge to avoid having a leg amputated (if you are in that unfortunate situation) is a stronger motivation than to have your legs work better.

As to what drives your particular prospects, there are two great ways to find out. The first is to ask them what motivated them to talk to you in the first place and/or to make a purchase (or not purchase!). The second way is to conduct online research to determine what search terms people are using to find you and your competitors. For example, these two vastly different search terms can lead to the same type of product in the customer experience (CX) industry:

“Stop customer churn” (pain)

“Boost client retention” (gain)

The smart money says to go with what gives your future customer night terrors. But as always, it’s up to you to learn about your prospect’s world – and test, inquire and improve until you find the unique triggers — positive or negative — that produce the desired result.

Asking “Why” Makes Your Marketing Content More Effective

Why Marketing ContentThis post is short and sweet, but it also highly important to your success as a B2B marketer. As someone who writes lots of marketing content for clients as well as our own needs, I (and my more talented teammates) produce lots of copy on subjects like product features, benefits, positioning, FAQs, etc. But all of us have to be careful to make sure that we always keep in mind the fundamental “Why” questions that are being asked by our prospects:

  • Why should I stop what I am doing?
  • Why should I read your message?
  • Why should I go to your landing page?
  • Why should I click on the Submit button?
  • Why should I take the time to evaluate your offer?
  • Why should I spend my precious money with you?
  • Why should I trust you with my credit card details?
  • Why should I take the risk of doing business with you?

In the end, whether or not the prospect acts – either in a lead generation or sales situation – depends on one important equation: Is the value of what I am getting greater than the cost in time, money and risk? If the answer is no, you will not get the response or sale. And the best way of making sure the value equation comes out in your favor is to embed your marketing messages with clear, concise and credible responses to the questions listed above.

Whether you like it or not, these questions are being asked (sometimes subconsciously) and impacting your revenue and/or lead generation efforts.  As a suggestion, how about reviewing the last piece of marketing content you wrote. If it doesn’t satisfy the “why” questions, rewrite the text until it accomplishes this objective. Your bottom line will thank you.

Do Multiple Authors Create Better Marketing Content?

I just read an interesting newsletter article titled “Copywriters: should you guarantee your clients results?” written by noted copywriter Bob Bly. I enjoy reading Bob’s writing because he usually offers opinions that are both practical and frank. This article was no exception because it brought up a delicate and important subject.

Bly’s main point was that he does not guarantee results, and he stated many reasons for not doing so. But what I found most interesting was the fact that his clients usually make changes to the copy. Even minor edits can have an impact on response rates. That got me to thinking about whether multiple authors and editors contribute to or detract from results.

As a firm that creates lots of marketing content for our clients (and ourselves), we deal with this issue quite often. Of course we appreciate the domain expertise of our clients and want to make sure we have the relevant facts correct in our copy. But there is a point where too many editors can deaden the message to the point where it is bland and ineffective – the proverbial “written by committee” syndrome.

In a prior life, I worked for a CEO who fancied himself a great writer, and he liked to demonstrate this by essentially re-writing my email copy. Since I have a good track record at getting responses, this was not a pleasant experience.  Without telling the CEO, I did what Bob Bly suggested in his article and created an A/B split test. Half the list got the rewritten text and half got my original text. My version outgained the rewritten version by over 40 percent. (I probably wouldn’t be telling the story if this was not the case!)

The moral to the story is not that the CEO was a bad writer and I am a good one. He is actually a very good communicator. Rather, the point is that good marketing communication appears as if it is written from one human being to another, not from a company to a bunch of faceless prospects. To paraphrase the oft-used expression, too many writing cooks can spoil the results broth.

Another danger of the multiple-author process is that your content can end up in what I call “content purgatory,” where it can go from reviewer to reviewer (and back again) until it ends up in someone’s inbox waiting for one last look. Sometimes good marketing content is lost forever in content purgatory, never to be seen by the people who matter – your prospects and customers.

Of course you should fact check and proof all marketing content. But my advice is to let the writers have a great deal of leeway. More often than not, they will feel more responsible for the results and you will be rewarded with more leads and revenue.