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Archive for December, 2011

Why in the name of Ebenezer Scrooge do technology marketers rate collateral as their top content-marketing priority for 2012?

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this two-part post, please give it a quick read now. You’ll discover that surprising finding from a recent survey by IDG, the technology media and research company. You’ll also find a couple of theories around why high-tech marketers might be focused so intently on what some might consider an old-fashioned, outmoded marketing tactic.

If you’ve read Part 1 and are looking for the 7 collateral planning considerations it promised, here you go.

How can your organization take its collateral to another level of effectiveness and efficiency in 2012? Try building a New Year’s Collateral Resolution around one or more of these ideas. 

“In 2012, I resolve to start making our organization’s
collateral more _____________.”


MEANINGFUL

Start with your core sales presentation. If the first few slides, or first dozen, are all about your company — tenure in business, employee headcount, hyperbole around being “biggest, leading, largest” — either delete or move them way to the back. On second thought, just go ahead and delete them. Then create fresh content that synthesizes what’s going on in your customers’ world. What’s causing businesses in their category to flourish or fail. What’s making people like them get promoted or fired. Carry that mindset over to sell sheets, putting benefits and features in proper order and balance. Instead of making your organization the hero of case studies, make the person who hired you or bought your product heroic.


MESMERIZING
Collateral doesn’t have to sound, look or be dull, dusty and corporate. That’s just the way we’ve chosen to create it over the years, assuming that credible and convincing content is one thing, while entertaining and engaging are something different. If it’s been a while, consider hiring an outsider to take a crack at telling and visualizing the story in a fresh, unconventional way. Not necessarily your story. THE story. The one that will grab and resonate with your target audience, as they look for a solution to whatever nagging need or untapped opportunity your product or service solves.


MOBILE

If you’re betting against mobile devices becoming more prominent within the sales process — on your side and the customers’ — you’re going to lose that bet. In the past week I’ve spoken with marketers and sales reps from three Fortune 500s that have made the move to tablet devices as a primary sales support tool, or plan to do so within six months. Will you be among the first in your category to optimize collateral for mobile in inventive ways — or will you bring up the rear?


MODULAR

If Lincoln had asked a B-to-B sales rep to deliver the Gettysburg Address, she would have done some quick rewriting to make it suit her speaking style. Rumor has it that when God handed Moses 10 commandments, Moses suggested some quick rearranging before they were set in stone. In other words, even the best sales presentation or collateral kit won’t fit every sales user just right. Focus on ways you can provide brand-approved, on-strategy content building blocks and templates, while allowing users some freedom to create and personalize.


MATRIXED

Are you creating the same parts and pieces of content over and over within multiple silos? Your collateral system gets smarter as soon as you find ways to create the same piece of content once, then redeploy it from a central repository into multiple applications — website, collateral, proposals and more. Collateral gets even smarter when you can update all those implementations automatically each time one of those core pieces of content gets changed at the central library level.


MULTIMEDIA

Video is the logical next big collateral step for many organizations, but don’t forget calculators, generators, custom mobile applications, widgets and other tools. Remember, content isn’t only information. It’s also interactions and experiences. Whatever it takes to move a customer or prospect forward in their engagement with your brand.


MEASURABLE

Make 2012 the year you begin marching toward a point where you no longer send a package of print pieces, or even e-mail attachments, as follow-up to customer or prospect inquiries. Instead, you empower sales reps and customer service agents to quickly compile custom website experiences for customers and prospects. As your audience visits those sites, you track content consumption patterns and plan future follow-up accordingly. Turning collateral into a navigable, measurable online experience truly makes it part of an overall, strategic content marketing continuum.

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Thanks for taking the time to read Touch Point City’s first-ever two-part blog post. Did it make a difference in how you’re thinking about collateral going forward? Have you already substantially reinvented what collateral is, and what it does, for your company and its customers? Please share your thoughts and best practices in comments.

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Don’t you love this time of year?

No, I’m not talking about the holidays — although those are nice, too.

I’m referring to the blizzard of marketing research that gets published in the last few months each year. Those studies that tell us where marketers’ brains and budgets are trending in the year to come.

Ebenezer Scrooge

Consider collateral the "humbug" of content marketing? Think again.

The survey I found most interesting this year is from IDG, the technology media and research company. And the finding I found most intriguing in that survey was this one:

Technology marketers said that when it comes to content marketing, their top spending priority in 2012 will be…

Collateral.

That’s right. More than webinars and virtual events (61%), videos (59%), research (55%) and articles (54%), tech marketers’ top content focus next year will be good old-fashioned collateral (71%).  Bear in mind, these are marketers inside companies operating at the vanguard of the global economy, producing the highest of high-tech systems, devices, software and the like.

Surprised that their top content priority is collateral? I sure was.


Collateral at the Cutting Edge?

Collateral is not exactly what most of us see when we visualize sophisticated marketers planning compelling content to sell cutting-edge products. Collateral tends to be company focused vs. thought leading and customer centric. It’s “let me tell you about me” content, which runs counter to what many argue is a cardinal rule of content marketing: Nobody really wants to hear about you and your products or services.

Beyond that, the very word collateral screams print. Dead trees. Static features/benefits information vs. dynamic, engaging storytelling. One needn’t strain to imagine Ebenezer Scrooge hectoring Bob Cratchit about the importance of using every last piece of the old collateral before daring to think about ordering new Scrooge and Marley sell sheets or case studies.

So how to account for the fact that the world’s most sophisticated marketers, working in support of the world’s most advanced products, rate collateral as their most important content marketing investment?

Maybe you’ve got some insights on this. If so, please share them with a comment. Meanwhile, I can think of two explanations:


1. Product-centric content still plays a huge role in the marketing and selling of technology.

Technology is a considered purchase. Relatively speaking, the sales cycle is long. And somewhere near cycle’s end, tech marketers need to provide detailed information that will allow a prospect to examine features, benefits and competitive advantages provided by the product they’re considering.

Articles, white papers, blog posts and other asset types can attract prospects into the funnel and help nurture them along. But at some point, somebody (sales) or some thing (collateral?) needs to show and tell exactly they are buying.


2. Collateral as it’s being defined, developed and used by tech marketers in 2012 is not your father’s collateral.

And certainly not Scrooge’s. I don’t know how IDG defined “collateral” in its survey, but it’s possible that what’s behind marketers’ focus on collateral is a new way of thinking about what collateral is, what it does, and why it matters.

As a content strategist who often works with clients on sales-support initiatives, I tend to think both of the above are true. When it comes to a considered purchase (and a lot of B-to-B products and services are considered purchases), product- and service-specific information still has a key role to play in facilitating the sale.

But beyond that, it stands to reason that, with evolving technology creating more possibilities for content management and delivery, progressive marketers are getting more inventive with each budget cycle about how to turn what were once largely print-based, static collateral systems into engaging, relevant information, interactions and experiences.

If your organization falls somewhere in the middle — recognizing collateral’s important role, but unsure how to take it to a next level — 2012 could be the year your collateral system starts evolving in a smart new direction.

Still with me? See Part 2 of this post for seven planning considerations that hold the promise of making your organization’s collateral more effective, more efficient, or both. Consider picking one or more as the basis for making a New Year’s Collateral Resolution.

“In 2012, I resolve to start making our organization’s collateral
more _____________.”

 

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The question was asked in a LinkedIn group recently. Specifically, in the B2B Lead Generation & Content Marketing group:

How does one approach content strategy when your business caters to so many personas and verticals? It would seem hard to manage content creation and distribution in this situation.

Good question. One many marketers — especially marketers in larger, complex B-to-B enterprises — probably face and even struggle with. In my answer I called it “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Syndrome,” then suggested five ways content marketers might manage persona proliferation. You can probably think of several more. Here are the handful that came to mind for me:

Image credit: Nicolas Nova, by Creative Commons from Flickr


Apply the 80:20 rule

Are all the personas and market verticals equally valuable to your business — and your business to them? Most businesses, if they’re honest with themselves, will recognize that while they might be capable of serving all sorts of industries and customers, there’s a smaller number that account for the lion’s share of revenue and opportunity.

If that’s the case, pick three or four key verticals or personas and gear your content strategy to them. You might also create another, catch-all content category suitable for “other” members of your audience. But by applying some formula of proportionality you’ll focus your strategy and content creation where it will create the most leverage.


Adjust volume/cadence

Nowhere is it written that all personas must be given equal treatment. Just ask my mom — a mother of six! Consider sorting personas into two groups: Primary and Secondary. Mount a concerted content marketing effort for each Primary: a blog, a regular flow of call-to-engagement assets (e.g., webinars, ebooks), etc. For Secondaries, maybe you provide one or two significant content experiences each year. An industry benchmark study. Or an education/networking event (virtual or live).

You can only do so much for so many. But ideally you can do something valuable for almost everyone who matters. Right, Mom? ; )


Curate vs. Create

Instead of assuming you need to CREATE content for all your personas/verticals, you might choose instead to CURATE content for at least some of them. Curation might take the form of a weekly or monthly e-mail wrap-up of links to all the great content you’ve been able to find published recently within each particular persona group or industry vertical.

If your organization gets recognized for providing that sort of valuable service to a particular persona, you’re well down the road to establishing thought leadership and deeper engagement with that persona.


Speak to Their Professional Development vs. Their Current Position

Can we assume there are commonalities among all your personas? Whether they work in manufacturing or health care, do they share similar business and professional development issues and cocerns? If so, then focus your content strategy on issues and questions they all struggle with.

For this LinkedIn questioner, who apparently works for a research company, persona commonalities might include finding the right research partner for each unique marketing project they must undertake. Understanding the different, evolving research methodologies available. Communicating and “selling” the value of research up and across within their organizations.

In short, one way to shrink the number of personas is to think about your audience not as working across myriad industries, but as concentrated within a shared profession.


Guests/Other Voices
It could be that involving guest bloggers and other outside subject matter experts is at least part of the answer, especially for those verticals where your company’s value proposition isn’t quite as strong as it is might be in other, core areas of business (see the 80:20 rule above).

Those are five strategies that came to mind for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 5 more — maybe even 50 more — ways to think  efficiently about how to manage content marketing in the face of proliferating personas.

Got any you can recommend? Please share them in a comment.

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I read quite a few business and marketing books. Some I blow through and scarcely find a few paragraphs, even a handful of sentences, that strike me as particularly noteworthy. Others, I find myself madly underlining, making stars and exclamation points in the margins, and using those few empty pages in the back to scribble notes and to-do lists.

Inbound Marketing: HubSpot founders Shah and Halligan serve up plenty of takeaways.

I just finished reading Inbound Marketing, by HubSpot founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. As a long-time content marketing strategist, reading THE book on inbound marketing is probably a little like a political scientist reading Thomas Paine, or a humorist reading Mark Twain. In other words, the reader in each case is predisposed to find strong relevance and resonance with the author. 

Still, I was surprised at how quickly I filled up two pages of notes and quotes in the back pages of Inbound Marketing. If you consider yourself a content or inbound marketer, and maybe especially if you don’t, this book is definitely worth a careful read. In fact, you can almost see the foundations of inbound marketing thinking and how-to taking shape in the quotes jotted in the back of my copy:


Strategy

“What are you the world’s best at? If the answer is nothing, rethink your strategy to get narrower
or innovative around alternatives.”

“Ten years ago your marketing effectiveness was a function of the width of your wallet. Today,
your marketing effectiveness is a function of the width of your brain.”


Content

“Either write something worth reading about or do something worth writing about.” (Ben Franklin)

“A blog is a durable asset that delivers durable value that lasts.”

“The counter-intuitive thing about remarkable content is that the more you give, the more you get.”


Search engine optimization
“The best way to rank well in the Google search results is to create content that is rank-worthy.”

“Working with search engines instead of trying to exploit them is the only approach to SEO that works in the long-term.”

“…stay away from robotic approaches to building relationships online. Social networks are about being social and building genuine relationships for mutual gain.”


Lead generation
“The true power of inbound marketing lies in its ability to not only stretch the top of your sales funnel (and pull more people in), but also stretch the middle (get more to convert).”

“Every page on your site should have a call-to-action, not just your home page and landing pages, and the call-to-action should be context sensitive.”

“A good landing page can convert 50 percent of its visitors into qualified leads while a poor one will convert less than 1 percent. Using landing page best practices can dramatically improve your conversion rates and lower your cost per lead.”

“Many marketers spend 80 percent of their time worrying about conversion rates and 20 percent of the time on getting more visitors in the first place. For most businesses, it is prudent to flip those ratios around..”


Measurement
“The old saying ‘I know I’m wasting half my marketing budget, but I’m just not sure which half,’ is no longer true in the inbound marketing era.”

“Measure your overall visitor to-lead conversion rate on your site religiously and work to increase it through testing.”


Staffing
“In inbound marketing, an ideal hire is a four-tooled player:  a Digital Citizen who is Analytical, has Web Reach, and who can Create remarkable content.”


Getting started
“If you want to run before you walk with inbound marketing, then you’ll need to cross the least productive outbound marketing items off your to-do list and add a few of the new inbound marketing items (e.g., content creation), measure the results for awhile (e.g., three to six months), and then continue to eliminate the unproductive tactics at the bottom and replace them with new more productive channels/campaigns.”

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