Content Marketing

White Paper or eBook: What's the Difference?

This is a question I get asked often. Clients who know they want a content piece longer than a blog post are familiar with both white papers and eBooks, but have trouble understanding the difference between the two. Here's an analogy that might help. Think of an eBook as a friendly conversation with a family member or friend at an informal gathering. Consider a white paper, on the other hand, as a seminar given by a noted expert in the field. That doesn't mean an eBook isn't informative or a white paper has to be stern and stuffy.

Let's say the topic is the stock market. If you're chatting with a cousin who's a financial guru, chances are you're going to get some solid insight. And if you're seminar leader is good, she's likely going to work hard to make her presentation entertaining and enjoyable.

The topic can be the same and you'll likely gain knowledge from both an eBook or a white paper, but there are significant differences between the two.

Timing

You probably didn't plan on hearing about the stock market until you started talking to your cousin. But he caught your interest immediately so you quickly became engaged. Something similar happens with an eBook. You may have gotten a link in an email, the subject sounded interesting, so you checked it out. EBooks act as an effective introduction piece and tend to be used early in the customer journey. You're trying to spark a prospect's interest by discussing the general topic area involving your product or service.

The seminar is different. You probably sought it out, signed up for it for a specific day because you wanted to learn more about the topic from an expert. Like a seminar, you usually seek out the white paper and normally "pay" for it with your email address. It's this proactive nature that makes white papers more appropriate for buyers when they are further along in the customer journey - normally in the decision phase.

Tone

Like the party discussion, an eBook is more of a one on one conversation. Your cousin will most likely be talking directly about what "you" should be considering when it comes to the stock market, and how recent fluctuations or events in Washington will affect "you" and "your" investments. EBooks are similar in that they are written directly to "you." It's you and the author, face to face discussing the topic.

At a seminar, however, leaders may speak in more third person terms. They'll try to engage everyone in the room, but they're more likely to discuss how the latest drop in the Dow Jones affects "investors." Or they'll point out strategies "people" should be following. White papers take on this formal tone and are normally written in the third person.

Appearance

Your cousin won't likely be wearing a suit and tie at the party. He'll be comfortably attired in a sweater or golf shirt. EBooks present that informal look as well. They're usually filled with colorful illustrations and graphics meant to attract attention. As I said, you didn't necessarily expect to be reading this piece so something needs to grab and hold your attention.

Seminar leaders will likely be wearing semi-formal attire like a suit. They understand people are coming to them for in-depth knowledge, so they want to begin earning your respect with the way they dress. White papers also take on a formal look. They are primarily text with some charts but very few illustration or graphics. This may not sound exciting, but remember, buyers are already in the decision stage. They don't need whistles and bells - they want hard information and data so they can make a choice that could have a major impact on their company.

EBooks and white papers both have a place in your inbound marketing plan. Just understand the difference so you can employ them appropriately.

 

 

 

Read All About It: Brand Journalism Is Taking Hold

There's a growing phenomenon in the content world called Brand Journalism. Some say it's the same as content marketing, but that's not exactly true. I would contend that Brand Journalism is a subset of content marketing. Where content marketing can consist of anything from blog posts, infographics, white papers, and ebooks, Brand Journalism strictly follows the traditional news/feature article format. One definition of Brand Journalism is "using the credibility and influence of news to tell a corporate story." It's based on the fundamentals of traditional journalism and good storytelling. It's content marketing because it informs rather than sells, it isn't focused on specific brands, and it's meant to highlight thought leadership.

Brand Journalism can be used in many ways. Some larger companies have set up their own microsites and treat them as separate news outlets focusing on industry and company news. Others place news articles in industry or business magazines. Even some longer form blogs from company executives are considered Brand Journalism.

Many businesses find they don't have the expertise on staff to handle this type of content so they're either hiring former journalists or outsourcing to writers with a journalism background. As a former newspaper reporter, I have a number of clients contracting with me to produce this type of content. The disciplines I learned in journalism school and honed as a working reporter come in handy when researching, interviewing, and composing these articles. The goal is the same as when you're on deadline at a newspaper: develop a compelling story and craft it so it's interesting to the reader.

Here are three reasons you should consider including Brand Journalism in your overall marketing plan.

1. You control the message

Instead of putting out a press release and hoping some news outlet publishes it or spins it into a bigger article, you control the content from the outset. You decide what's interesting to your target audience and then tailor the content for them. If you're publishing on your own site, you're not bound by space or editorial restrictions that may alter what you want to say. The piece still has to be well written and worthy of a reader's time, but now you're in charge.

2. You speak directly to your customers

Instead of an editor interpreting or filtering your message, you're able to reach out and touch your prospects and customers directly. This ensures that your views and opinions get delivered accurately and the way you intended them. It also allows you to provide a vehicle for direct responses so you can get valuable feedback, crucial in today's business climate.

3. You cut through the clutter

With marketing information reaching overload in today's "always-connected" digital world, people tend to tune out many marketing messages. Framing your content as informative, journalistically crafted articles helps you break through the fog of negative thinking that sometimes blocks marketing collateral. People no longer want to be sold; they want to be informed. Brand Journalism done correctly accomplishes that goal while helping you reach your target audience.

Brand Journalism won't replace traditional advertising or other commonly accepted content marketing vehicles. It just becomes another arrow in your marketing quiver and can be an effective way to promote your brand.

Have you  begun to use Brand Journalism? How can this format fit into your marketing program?

Ring in the New Year with a Content Review

The hectic run-up to the holiday season is usually a time of finishing up projects before the end of year lull. Once through the festivities, activity ramps up again and the new year can sometimes present a blank slate - perhaps even a clean desk - and offers a perfect opportunity to start a few new projects. One of the more productive things you might consider is taking a look at your content. Start by reviewing what you have and then determine what you might need in the coming months. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Take advantage of untapped resources

Coming up with content ideas can sometimes be a struggle, especially with a bulging to-do list of other priorities. The solution may not be as difficult as you think. domain owner . You're likely surrounded by several fertile sources that you may not have considered - your resident subject matter experts.

Most companies, especially those in the technology space, have SME's who are carrying around valuable knowledge about your industry, business, and customers. Unfortunately they probably lack the time to get that information down on paper where you can share it with current and prospective clients. Why not arrange to tap that extensive knowledge and put together an eBook or white paper on a topic relevant to your business?

Not only will this provide you with an outstanding content piece for lead generation or thought leadership, but it'll also allow the SME to share his or her valuable insight - something they may be eager to do.

2. Document a customer success story

The end of the year is always a good time to look back to last year to find situations where your product or service helped one of your clients. Crafting several compelling case studies fills two needs: It provides your customer with some always welcome publicity and it also gives you an effective proof of concept piece.

One of the biggest influencers with potential clients is evidence that your product or service does what you say it will. Demonstrating it with a real world example from an existing customer is one of the most powerful sales tools.

3. Refresh your blog

Spend a minute going through your list of blog posts. If the most recent one is three or four months old, you're sending a message that either you have nothing new to say or you've abandoned the blog section entirely. This could be the right time to reach out to customers and prospects with a series of posts to refresh that area of your site.

You don't need to commit to a daily blog blitz, but presenting one post a week for the next few months will show that you're making an effort to communicate with your audience.

4. Update your web site

While you're on the site, take a look at other copy that may need updating. Is your bio page still relevant? Does it include new hires and has it been edited to delete those no longer with the company? How long has it been since you posted a new entry in your press release section? Does the main message on your home page still accurately reflect the company's direction?

I'm not suggesting you invest heavily in an all-new design. Sometimes revisiting and updating some of your key content elements is all you need to breath some life into your site.

5. Get published

One of the best - and most cost effective - ways to get publicity for your company is to publish an article in an industry magazine or newsletter. Those publications are always looking for content so they'll likely welcome your reaching out to offer your expertise. This is an excellent way to share your thoughts on a hot industry topic and get some props for your organization at the same time.

After the article is published, you then have a solid marketing piece you can share with prospects and customers to reinforce your thought leadership profile.

Lots of resolutions are made at this time of year and many of them wither and die before too long. Reviewing and upgrading your content program doesn't have to be one of them. By taking a few simple steps now, you can establish a year long program that can yield significant benefits.

What are your content plans for 2015?

 

Writing A Blog Post? Know Your Goal

According to the latest survey from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, three quarters of B2B marketers use blogs as part of their inbound marketing plan. Two out of three believe blog posts are effective in driving traffic and acquiring leads. There's a good chance blogging is already part of your overall marketing strategy or soon will be. When writing your posts though, you might want to consider the old saying "if you don't know where you're going any road will get you there." That's because the power of your posts comes in knowing what you're trying to accomplish with each one. Here are three kinds of blog posts that you'll likely want to use.

1. Informational

In this type of post, you're looking to share information about your industry or some aspect of business in general. Focus these posts on enlightening your readers about a new trend or topic. Make it interesting by adding little known facts about a issue that's getting a lot of attention. For example, this post from Dan Singer at Dyntek ties together two highly visible current events: the latest rash of credit card breaches and the release of Apple's new payment system. Both have been widely covered, but Dan discusses how a new technology called tokenization connects the two. Readers will likely come away with broader knowledge of both the Apple Pay system and a possible solution to cyber hacking.

2. Thought Leadership

This takes the informational post a step further by offering an opinion or suggesting an action. They're meant to be thought provoking and offer readers a clear point of view. For example, this post by Ed Marsh of Consilium Global Business Advisors relates a botched inbound marketing effort. He explains about being intrigued enough to sign up for a blog subscription but was totally turned off when he was confronted by an overly legalistic landing page. He goes on to point out the lessons B2B marketers could learn from the debacle. After reading this type of post, readers should know exactly how the author feels (you certainly know how Ed feels!) and should provoke a rethinking of their position on the subject.

3. Promotional

These kinds of posts are important, but they should be used sparingly. They're meant to offer information on a topic but also to have a specific call to action. The goal of these posts is to get  the reader to sign up for a webinar, or receive a white paper or ebook. For example, this post from Shaun Pinney at Backupify provides some tips and hints from experienced Salesforce.com administrators. At the end, he offers the reader the complete free eBook on the subject. This type of a post should provide enough information to be interesting even without the call to action. These are effective in building your prospect list, but if they're the only posts you provide, you're not likely to generate much return traffic.

Each of these posts have their place and should be part of your total inbound marketing plan. Using a combination of all of them should help maintain interest and keep your post feed fresh and compelling.

Are you using all three? Which have you found to be most effective?

9 Steps To Get The Content You Want From Your Copywriter

Summer is over and you’re back from vacation. Remember all those things you told yourself you’d get to after Labor Day? Welcome to “after Labor Day.” Some of those tasks growling on your desk involve creating content – an eBook, white paper, or series of blog posts. If you and your staff are buried with other priorities, you may decide to contract with a freelance copywriter to help break the logjam of work you’re facing.

Probably a smart choice, but only if you get the result you want. Here are nine tips to get maximum value with minimum management time.

1. Clearly define what you need

Be precise on what you want in a final product. Determine the topic, content vehicle, target audience, and focus of the piece. If you need help defining some of these points, reach out to your writer for assistance. An experienced professional can help crystallize your need.

2. Get the right stakeholders involved

If someone else in the organization is going to approve the copy, make sure he or she is involved before you and your copywriter begin working on the project. I once had a case where my client and I were totally in concert on what he wanted. We went from concept to outline to first draft and were both happy with the result. Unfortunately the CEO who had final say didn't share our feeling. It wasn’t what HE wanted. We were striving for an objective thought leadership piece and the CEO wanted a sales brochure. We needed to know that up front. Instead, my contact looked bad to his boss and my credibility took a hit as well - even though I delivered precisely what was requested.

To avoid that costly disconnect, make sure you’ve circulated the concept and outline to everyone who might have a say in the piece. Know your relevant stakeholders and engage them from the start.

3. Get off on the right foot

Once you have consensus from your stakeholders on what you're trying to accomplish, communicate the basics of the project to your copywriter in a kickoff call. Agree on the voice, tone, and style of the piece. Will it be an informal second person approach where you address the reader directly or a more formal style using the third person objective case? Do you prefer footnotes, endnotes, or links? Discuss the scheduling requirements as well. Nailing down these issues early saves a lot of confusion, delays, and time-consuming back-and-forth communication later.

4. Agree on source material

Let your writer know what you'll be providing for source material and what he or she will need to research separately. In most cases, this will need to be discussed before your writer can provide pricing on the project. Identify any SME’s your writer might have to contact and do a virtual email introduction. Communicate any source materials you DO NOT want used.

5.  Approve an outline

Review and approve an outline before your writer begins the first draft.  This will ensure the piece is going in the direction you want. If it’s a short piece – a blog post for instance – you may only need to see a title and a few bullet points. For a longer piece like an eBook or white paper, reviewing a detailed outline before writing begins is a must.

6. Get a Sneak Preview

Especially on longer pieces, request an early look before your writer gets too far along. Reviewing the opening and perhaps a slice of the first section will confirm that your writer is following the agreed upon tone and style. That isn't something you can determine from the outline alone.

7. Be Available to Communicate

Although the point of outsourcing the piece is to free you up for other tasks, there are times when your writer will need you for clarification or direction. If you've hired an experienced professional, it won't happen often, but when you are contacted, make an effort to answer promptly. It may take you only a couple of minutes, but your writer could be at a standstill until you respond.

8. Review and Revise

If you’ve followed the process to this point, you'll likely receive a first draft that will be close to a final version. There may be a quote or fact that needs to be revised, or a paragraph or two you want reworded, but there shouldn't be a need for any major revisions. Usually a brief review call with your writer and one revision cycle should be all that’s needed to get you the final product.

9. Provide Feedback

Once the project is complete, let your writer know how you feel it went. Whether you have some comments about the process or the writing itself, communicate that to your writer so he or she can incorporate the feedback into the next project you do together. Developing an ongoing relationship with a reliable, seasoned copywriter can streamline the process considerably. The more your writer knows about you, your audience, and your product or service, the better he or she is able to deliver the desired final product - the first time - with minimal intervention from you.

How do you manage your outsourced writing projects? What process have you found most effective?

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Vacation Time? Not for Your Content

Summertime and the living is easy, as the old song goes. It's true that between vacations, half day Fridays, and long weekends, things tend to slow down in July and August. That doesn't mean you should stop communicating with your prospects and customers all summer. When I was in the corporate world, I was amazed by the amount of time businesses let slip away. Starting around Thanksgiving people would begin their "we'll pick it up after the holidays" mantra. Things got going again in January for a few months but by June everyone would talk about doing things "in the fall." Add it up and you'd be looking at losing three or four months of productive work a year.

In today's competitive environment, that's a luxury most businesses shouldn't tolerate - especially when it comes to your content marketing program. Several studies estimate that 60% of the buyer's journey is completed before a prospect reaches out to a vendor. If a buying cycle is four months, that means prospects are out there making preliminary decisions for two and a half months before they even contact you. If that time frame falls during the summer and your content is lying in a beach chair somewhere, chances are you've already lost the business.

Taking time off is necessary to recharge your batteries but you need to make an exception when it comes to your content. This is no time to shut that down. Not only is it a bad idea to go dark with your inbound marketing for a few months, it might actually be the perfect time to do the opposite.

Here are a few reasons you should make sure your content is alert and on the job all summer.

Stand out from the crowd. The fact that so many companies let their content go stagnant during the summer months can work to your advantage. It will highlight the fact that you are up and running. Prospects in the early stages of the buying process can get frustrated if they don't find the information they need. Providing the fresh content they're looking for puts you on the fast track to a potential new customer.

Downtime means more time. Things do slow down in the summer but that actually can work in your favor. People that are in the office during vacation season may find additional time in their schedules. Freed from the normal hectic pace and never ending meetings, they may actually dig deep into their "to do" list to get to things they've put on the back burner. Some of those could require spending extra time researching a product or service they're considering. This is the perfect time to get fresh, longer content pieces - an eBook or white paper - into their hands.

Prospects are mobile. You might even reach those prospects that are out of the office at the beach or in the mountains. Unfortunately the days of completely unplugging from the business world are long gone. Smartphones and tablets are too hard to resist and most people will take the opportunity to tune into some work related reading while they're away. Advertising Age states that the average US adult spends almost two and a half hours a day using a mobile device. Chances are the number's even longer during a vacation. You should have some content out there ready for them when they start doing some business related surfing.

Front Load Your Fall. The problem with "holding off until after vacations" is that eventually summer ends. All those "to do's" you've been "holding off" on - including your content schedule - continue to build and then explode on your desk right after Labor Day. Summer is the perfect time to get a head start on those content needs so they won't get lost as the early fall activity ramps up.

Go ahead and enjoy yourself this summer. Just make sure your content is still hard at work while you're gone.

What are your content plans for the summer months? Can you afford to unplug from your customers for 20-25% of the year?

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