Well actually it's not the New Year yet if you go strictly by the calendar. But Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer and a kick off to new beginnings. Back to school for some and a resumption of regular work schedules for others. It's a time for getting back up to speed, refocusing your energy, and taking on new projects.
The used printing press we purchased had just been delivered and sat forlornly in the middle of our shop floor. Fred Hudson, our plant engineer, just stared at it, one hand on his hip, the other rubbing his bald head. The riggers who shipped the press deployed a unique method when disassembling the machine. Instead of properly disconnecting the wiring, they simply hacked all the wires off at the power source. So as Fred examined the carnage of tangled wiring, he was trying to figure out how to make all the proper connections. And of course no wiring diagrams or user manuals came with the old, used machine.
Luckily for us, Fred was a genius. He walked around the press for a few days and then pounced. Within a day, he connected all the wires and power was surging through our now running printing press.
Electronics wasn't the only thing in which Fred was expert. He knew everything about mechanical equipment, building construction, auto mechanics, HVAC, and safety. He was our resident subject matter expert (SME).
Regardless of your type of business - technology, software, analytics, marketing, healthcare, manufacturing - chances are you have a Fred or two on staff. They are often quiet, unassuming women and men who harbor a vast source of knowledge of your industry and company. That makes them an invaluable resource when it comes to creating content to help market your business. Whether you need a white paper, eBook, case study, blog post, or sell sheet, your SME's can provide the knowledge and insight to make your content pieces relevant and compelling.
Here are four ways to get the most out of your SME's when it comes to content creation.
Tap into their passion
Regardless of how quiet and reserved your SME's may be, they will open up if you can get them talking about something in the business they are passionate about. They carry around a ton of knowledge they rarely get a chance to share. Showing genuine interest and tapping into that passion often results in a treasure trove of valuable and compelling information that will interest your customers and prospects.
Be thorough in your interview
To get really good information from your SME's, be fully prepared for your discussion. Ask open ended questions and listen closely. Follow up and probe to get them to dig deeper. If the subject is particularly complicated, try to strip away the jargon and get them to explain in plan English. Oftentimes, SME's are so well versed in a topic, they forget that we mere mortals may not have any idea what they are talking about. Fred used to start most discussions with "As you know..." before going on to talk about something about which I was totally clueless. Don't be embarrassed to say "I don't understand. Can you please explain?" Have your SME use analogies to further clarify the subject to make it easier to convert your conversation into meaningful content.
Record the discussion
Before you begin, ask for permission to record the conversation. Even if you are master at shorthand - something very few people are these days - you'll never capture all the content gold your SME will share. They may be intimidated at first, but once you get them talking they will usually forget they are being recorded. Having a digital record of the conversation will be invaluable later when you parse the discussion into various pieces of content.
Keep them in the loop
As you convert their words of wisdom into blog posts, ebooks, or white papers, make sure you keep them involved. Let them review anything you write before publishing. This will not only reinforce that you appreciate what they had to say, it will also ensure that you haven't misinterpreted something or simply made some errors of fact. Keeping them involved will demonstrate that you truly care about what they had to say and will also make it easier if you decide to go back to them for more interesting content later.
As you put your content schedule together and scramble to do research, don't look past your internal resources. Engage your SME's and enjoy a bountiful content reward.
How do you use the knowledge of your SME's? What forms of content have you been able to put together with their help?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Only a few weeks ago I sat looking out my window at a yard covered with several feet of snow. The white blanket has finally melted away but it's revealed a lawn beaten by a long, hard winter. It's not very appealing right now, but after a few weekends of cleaning, raking, and feeding, it'll be back to its familiar, green self. Unfortunately, you won't get a similar stark wake-up call when it comes to your content. But if you take a close enough look, you'll likely find things aren't quite as lush there either. Time to get to work on that too.
Spring is a time for growth - an appropriate time to re-evaluate your business and make some positive changes. While you're getting ready to landscape your yard, plan to do some content-scaping as well. Both tasks can seem overwhelming, but they don't have to be. Take small steps now to make a big impact later.
Here are three things you can do to get started.
1. Evaluate your tools - Start with your basic tools. Thankfully I found my rake buried behind the snow blower. Good start.
How about your content marketing tools? Determine what you have for eBooks, white papers, case studies, and other engaging content that can attract leads and new clients. Begin with a simple inventory of what you have and what you think still works.
2. Do a cleanup - The next step is a good cleanup. I need to pick up the leaves I missed last November and rake the dead grass that's stifling new growth. No worries. I'll just get the leaves this first weekend.
Same thing for your content. When was the last time you did a thorough clean up on your web site? Are you still showing that case study from four years ago for a product you don't carry anymore? Is your most recent blog post dated last August? None of that will help promote growth or be of interest to visitors to your site. Start small. Get rid of anything that's out of date, irrelevant, or would lead a visitor to think you haven't been paying attention.
3. Start planting - You reap what you sow and this is the season to seed and feed that lawn. That'll be the biggest payoff when it comes back to life in a few weeks.
Time to plant some new content as well. The cleanup was good, but if you don't replenish your site with fresh material, it's going to look pretty barren. Generate new content by posting a recent customer success story, a white paper on a hot topic in your industry, or an eBook that provides valuable information that your prospects can use in their businesses.
Landscaping and content marketing can be hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. I'll be enjoying my lush, green lawn this summer and hopefully you'll be proud of a healthy crop of new prospects and customers.
So what are you doing to promote your growth? Could your content use a good spring cleaning?
As we all know by now, content continues to be a crucial element in all marketing programs. But according to a recent survey, there are some key differences when reaching out to B2C and B2B customers. Technology Marketers need to consider these differences when formulating their content marketing plans. An overriding conclusion of Eccolo Media's 2012 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report is that technology customers "require vast amounts of compelling and useful content in order to engage with a vendor." The report goes on to say that "content marketing is now a recognized and adopted strategy to engage buyers and build trust within one's market segment. Consumers are driving the demand for high quality, relevant, and useful content."
Here are five takeaways from the survey of C-level executives, vice presidents, directors, managers, developers/programmers, and technicians at US-based companies
1. Match the right content to the right market
The report points out that technology marketers need to consider two very different markets when developing their content marketing plan - the large enterprise customers and the small/mid market (SMB) businesses. It's especially important to differentiate between those markets for two specific reasons. First , according to an IDC Customer Engagement Study, the SMB market is a $460 billion business growing at 7% per year. Second, and more importantly, the content that drives decision-making in the two markets is very different.
The survey discovered that SMB customers consume far less of each type of content than large Enterprise customers. For example, 72% of Enterprise customers read a white paper while only 31% of SMB customers consulted one. Thirty-one percent of SMB clients reported that they consumed no collateral material at all compared to only 9% of Enterprise customers.
The report suggests this is caused by marketers not developing content - white papers, case studies, eBooks - specifically for the SMB customer. Instead they are "reskinning" content written for Enterprise customers and the SMB prospect finds that irrelevant to his or her very different requirements. The survey concluded that marketers need to stop such repurposing and ensure that "content and collateral assets deployed to small businesses are written with this unique audience in mind."
2. Use mix of traditional and new content vehicles
While it's important for technology marketers to take advantage of the newer marketing channels, the survey showed that technology buyers still gravitate toward the more traditional content. Product brochures/data sheets (61%) and white papers (55%) topped the list of most consumed content followed by technology guides (47%). Newer vehicles like webinars (41%), blogs/social content (38%), ebooks (36%) and infographics (31%) were used much less.
When it comes to influencing the buying decision, white papers were picked as the clear number one choice with 46% calling them the most influential. Case studies (29%) and podcasts/audio files (25%) came in second and third followed by webinars (20%), and blogs and video( 18%). Ebooks and infographics trailed behind.
3. Maintain a strong website
When asked on what channel they receive their content, 37% of the respondents cited personal contact, the highest of any method. Second most was downloading information from a web site, named by 34%. Those two topped the list again when it came to influencing the buying decision, but the gap was much closer. Thirty percent ranked personal contact as most influential, while 29% said they were most influenced by information from a company's web site.
The report concluded that, "frequently used and perceived as very influential, a corporate Web site that is carefully planned, refreshed regularly, and leveraged as a channel to engage with prospects remains a vital strategy to build customer loyalty and increase revenues."
4. Ramp up social media
Although traditional content vehicles still lead the way, the report shows that social media will continue to be an influencer in technology buyers' decision making process. Facebook was named by 43% of respondents as having assisted them in a technology purchasing process. LinkedIn (29%) and YouTube (28%) also ranked highly. Overall, 77% of respondents said that simply having social media buttons increased the influence of written content.
"While the novelty of social sharing is less pronounced than last year," the report concluded, "it is clear that social media channels are becoming an important way to engage customers."
5. Focus on desktop vs mobile
This startling revelation seems to fly in the face of all current trends, but the survey clearly shows that technology customers gather most of their content on their desktops as opposed to their mobile devices. Sixty-two percent of respondents reported that they frequently consume vendor content on a desktop. Printed materials (10%) and tablet devices (9%) were a distant second and third. Only 6% reported reviewing content on a smart phone.
So while some enterprise customers do use mobile and tablet to gather information, the report concluded that technology marketers should "consider the type of content that you can deliver via this method and who your audience is before allocating valuable budget to custom applications."
What type of content are you using to attract technology buyers? What vehicle is most effective in driving leads and sales?