Content Strategy

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?


Don't Drop the Ball on Your Content: 3 Simple Questions to Ring in 2014

Happy New Year! Are you already sick and tired of the avalanche of advice on reevaluating the state of your business and things you should be doing to succeed in 2014? The barrage of ideas can be overwhelming and confusing.

I'm offering only one suggestion. Clear out the clutter and keep it simple.

A project I did with one of my technology clients a few months ago illustrates the point. The process we went through was basic but effective. The result is three simple questions that you should ask before starting every content project in 2014.

1. Who are your prospects/customers?

My client was producing a ton of good content as part of the company's marketing program. That put them in the majority since according to the 2014 benchmarking report from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, nine out of 10 B2B marketers use content marketing to help drive their business. But my client wasn't satisfied with the download traffic or lead generation activity generated by her content. So the first question we asked was: "Who is the target for all this content?"

After some discussion, we determined that the hands-on IT staff would be the ones most likely to research the problems my client's product solved. They would be the ones googling for additional material, visiting relevant sites, and downloading content that would address their problems. These operators would be the ones generating traffic and leads for my client.

In reviewing the existing content we realized that it was aimed primarily at the more strategic IT operations people - folks at the higher levels of management. My client's company was not going to show up in searches aimed at detailed problem analysis and solutions with that type of information.

I suggested we shift the content focus to the IT folks in the trenches.

2. What's important to them?

Once we identified our target, the next step was to create appropriate content. What was relevant to them? What challenges did they face and what possible solutions existed to overcome them? What kind of information did they need to help them do their jobs better?

Looking at the current content we discovered that much of it centered on the business benefits of the products. That was obviously important to the more senior level IT managers who were concerned with ROI and strategic edge.

However we realized that while the IT staff running the data centers surely appreciated the financial benefits of the product, they were more focused on the functionality and productivity improvements it could bring.What products would solve their problems? How could they free up resources that could be used to allow staff to tend to other urgent daily tasks? What would help get the business owners the information they needed in a more timely fashion? Those were the issues IT staff faced every day and the ones for which they needed answers.

3. How do you reach them?

Once we nailed down the target audience and what was relevant to them, we needed to determine the best way to get to them - to attract them to our site and our content. My client had been producing blogs and eBooks which provided a higher level, strategic view of their product.  We realized that the folks we were trying to reach would not likely be downloading those pieces of content. We needed something that would appeal more directly to their needs.

We ultimately determined that our tactical audience was more likely looking for in depth information that addressed their issues and discussed possible solutions. I ended up expanding on some of their existing content, developing several detailed white papers and case studies. These pieces effectively framed the challenges IT staff faced and outlined potential solutions available in the marketplace. This new content also outlined how my client's product was a particularly effective solution and one they should consider. I followed that up with a series of blog posts that linked back to the various white papers. The result was a dramatic uptick in traffic, downloads, and overall lead generation activity.

This exercise shows that your content marketing plan doesn't have to be overly complicated. Outline your goal, determine your target audience, find out what's important to them, and use a content vehicle that will best reach them. Use this simple process as you begin work on any piece of content and your chances of success will increase significantly.

How do you determine what content you're going to produce and the best way to reach your prospects?


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The Customer Journey: Does Your Content Match Up?

Content, content, content. If you have any responsibility for the marketing function in your organization, you're well aware of the steady shift to Inbound from Outbound Marketing. You're also no doubt being badgered by every blog, article, and webinar about the need to continually feed the content monster. More content. Relevant content. More frequent content.

All that pestering is valid. For your Inbound Marketing program to be successful, you need to be providing content on a regular basis so your prospects can find you and eventually become customers. But it's more than just pouring content into the top of the funnel and waiting for the revenue to flow out of the spout. To be really effective, you need to be providing the right content at the right time.

You know by now that prospects don't want to be sold. But they do want help to buy. The information they need differs at each stage in the buying cycle. That's the key point. A successful Content Marketing plan matches the appropriate content to the needs of the prospect at each step of the Customer Journey.

From your prospect's perspective, the Customer Journey can be separated into three steps: Discovery, Research, Purchase. From your point of view, the corresponding stages are: Awareness, Credibility, Sale. To get to the final stage and close the deal, you need to be aligned with your prospect by providing compelling content at every step.

Here's how to approach each phase from a content perspective.

1. Discovery/Awareness

Your prospects have a need to be fulfilled. At the beginning of the journey, they're casting a wide net looking for possible solutions. Your goal at this stage is to provide content that makes you part of the catch. Introduce yourself to prospects in order to advance to the next stage.

There are numerous ways to present your organization to potential customers. Blogs promoted on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube), infographics, and video are among the most effective content pieces to help you get noticed. Your website, logo, and ad campaigns all contribute to your visibility. plan a route . You have to be out there with content that people can find and share so when they have that need, they think of you.

2. Research/Credibility

Once you make the cut and become a potential source to fulfill the prospects' requirement, the validation stage begins. Prospects will be conducting more in depth research at this point to determine who is best suited to meet their need. You must prove that you can provide a credible solution. You can best do this by providing content that illustrates your knowledge, expertise, and ability to help them. Content pieces that establish your credibility include ebooks, white papers, articles, and webinars.

3. Purchase/Sale

If you've done a good job establishing your viability, you'll hopefully get a chance to close the deal. The prospect has invested a lot of time and energy getting to the final candidates. Your goal now is to differentiate yourself from the other contenders. Why should the prospect choose you? What makes you the best solution to solve their problem? Content that can nail down the sale includes vendor comparisons, case studies, company presentations, and proposals.

Don't cut corners when it comes to the final proposal. If you've been fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist, your last chance to seal the deal is with your proposal. Take advantage and make sure you use this final opportunity to convince your prospect that you can provide the best solution for their need.

Yes content is crucial. Your content plan is much more effective, however, when you have a strategy that puts the right content in front of your prospect at the time it will do the most good.

Do you have a comprehensive content strategy? If not, why not?



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More on Content Marketing: 7 Points to Ponder

Content Marketing. Content Marketing. Content Marketing. It's everywhere.

Are you using it? If not, you'd better start.

In one of my recent posts, I discussed the concepts of Content Strategy, Content Marketing and Content Management - the Why, What and How of content.

At the heart of it all is your content and what it needs to do for you.

Here are seven things to consider regarding the Content Marketing explosion and how it affects you.

1. More May Be Less - According to Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) of Velocity Partners, nine out of 10 B2B marketers will be producing more content this year than last year. The problem is a lack of talent out there to generate all the required material. That will undoubtedly result in an effluence of poor content muddying the waters for the truly helpful content that drives traffic and sales. Kessler says the key will be to find writers and creators that "get content, understand context and can actually produce things that audiences want to consume."

2. Lead On - A study by B2B Magazine found that inbound marketing - of which Content Marketing is a key component - produces 62% lower cost per sales lead. The study also noted that 51% of marketers found Content Marketing to be the most effective tool for generating leads better than Brand Awareness, Thought Leadership and Sales.

3. Content Still Rules - Ben Hollom (@benhollom), Marketing Director at M2Bespoke says that "content is now the single most important aspect of a business' website."

4. On Your Mark, Get Set, Blog -  Where to begin? "If you're insisting on a practical starting point, a blog should be your content cornerstone," says Barry Feldman (@feldmancreative) President of Feldman Creative. Organizations seem to be heeding that advice. According to Wordpress, 402 million people view more than 3.5 billion blog pages each month.

5. You Can Run, But You Can't Hide - If you're still trying to "hoard" your useful content so as not to "give it away" then just stop. Angie Sanders (@pronouncedALJ), partner at esolutions360, points out that "if your audience doesn't get information from you, then they'll perform a google search and find someone else who'll give them the answer."

6. Been Searching So Long - With the advances in Google and other search engines, emphasis continues to move away from standalone SEO. Content Marketer Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion) predicts that "over half of the SEO companies that are around today will be gone within two years." He goes on to say that "Any SEO firm that cares about their clients and the future success of an organization is now starting to talk about and implement content marketing."

7. Building Your Foundation - Susan Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau), founder of Explore B2B, says that "Content Marketing is about building a reputation by showing expertise, knowledge, moral character and demonstrating superior communicative skills through the content you provide."

Have you started your Content Marketing plan? Where will you begin?

5 Reasons You Should Be Blogging

"Why do I need a blog?" It seems I get some variation of this question from one of my clients nearly every day. They hear that blogging "is the thing to do" but are not sure of the tangible benefit.

Part of the hesitancy is their reluctance to embrace the new reality of marketing in general and content marketing in particular. They have yet to realize that customers today want to be informed and educated and not simply "sold to."

Another reason is that they're overwhelmed with what is already on their plate and aren't thrilled about adding another task to their "to do" list, especially one that requires an ongoing commitment.

My answer is always the same.

Their customers want to hear from them in ways that they haven't in the past and blogging is the key first step. More ominously, I warn them that the new interactive requirement is not going away and although they may resist, their competitors certainly won't.

They need to get in or they will be left behind.

Here are the five major reasons why they - and you -  should be blogging.

1. Blogging increases traffic to your website - The first step in making a sale today is getting people to your site. Regardless of how visually attractive your site may be, people won't be going there unless there's a compelling reason for them to do so. According to the Pew Research Center, one in three internet users read blogs. Providing a well-written blog that informs is a key factor in getting people to visit.

2. Blogging sets you up as an authority - You obviously are competent in your field or you wouldn't be successful. Share your knowledge with your prospects and customers and they will come to look at you as an expert in the field. When it comes to their buying decisions, most people want to be comfortable before parting with their hard-earned cash. They want to buy from people who know what they are doing. Sharing authoritative content will set that tone.

3. Blogging provides a personality - People buy from people. Whether dealing with a one person operation or a multi-site global organization, your prospect's buying decision ultimately comes down to one person buying from another. Producing a well crafted blog provides a voice and personality that will make your customers more comfortable doing business with you.

4. Blogging opens a dialogue - The days of hiding in the back office or behind a monolithic impersonal website are long gone. At least from successful companies they are. Customers want to have input rather than a lecture. Your blog, while informing, can also solicit feedback from your customers - feedback that is crucial to developing and growing your business.

5. Blogging works - There's growing data which shows that posting regular blogs with informative content ultimately generates incremental sales. According to research done by Hubspot covering 2011-2012, companies that blog attracted 55% more visitors to their sites. That same research showed that 46% of those companies generated revenue as a result of their blogs. According to a University of Texas report, the top 50,000 blogs generated $500 million in revenue.

What do you say? Are you blogging? If not, why not?