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.
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.
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?
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?
Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~Sam Keen, author & philosopher I don't want to say I'm lazy, but I do want to take my foot off the gas a bit as we cruise through the summer. Instead of one of my normal "nose-to-the-grindstone" posts, I thought I'd be a bit more playful this month. And what would be more appropriate for a writer to play with than…words.
So today I'll take a look at a few words that we use on a daily basis and discuss their origin - which might be different than you think.
This is an easy one, right? We all know this grew out of the invitations we send each other on Facebook. When you accept, you've been "friended."
Not so fast.
The word "friended" was actually created a few years before Mr. Zuckerberg came on the scene - like 400 years before. The source: none other than the Bard himself, William Shakespeare.
He actually used it in several plays including this passage from Cymbeline:
"Frame yourself to orderly solicits, and be friended with aptness of the season."
Some incorrectly claim this is an acronym for "portable open database." But according to multiple sources, as related in this article in Wired News, iPod is not an acronym. It's a name coined by a copywriter (yea!) named Vinnie Chieco.
The story goes that in discussing the new player, Apple founder Steve Jobs continually referenced Apple's digital hub strategy. The Mac was the hub for the other devices that could connect to it. Chieco then began thinking of the Mac as a spaceship and visualized a smaller connecting vessel as a "pod." When Chieco first saw a white, plastic prototype iPod, he immediately thought of the famous line from the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey: "Open the pod bay doors, Hal!"
Supposedly the "i" prefix has a double meaning - both "internet," as in "iMac," or the first person: "I," as in me.
As in having no money. This appears to have originated in the 1700's in the banking industry. Customers who had good credit would be issued porcelain tiles - much like today's credit cards - which would list the borrower's name and available credit. The borrower would have to present the tile every time upon every withdrawal. If the credit limit was exceeded, the bank teller would "break" the tile immediately.
This one comes from the Middle Ages when most huts had stone or dirt floors. People would scatter threshing - pieces of grain or hay - to warm the floor and make it less slippery. As people walked about the room they would shift the threshing around and ultimately push it out the door. A piece of wood or stone was then placed at the entrance to the house to "hold the thresh" in the room.
The French gave us this one. Literally from the french couvrir feu meaning to "cover the fire." Ironically, that's exactly the opposite of what we baby boomers understood when our edict was to come in when the streetlight CAME ON.
We have the Celts to thank for this one. It's a combination of two Celtic words: "slough" which means "battle" and "gheun" which means "cry."
Finally, what would a post on words from a copywriter be without examining the word "write."
The base origin is from the Old English writan "to score, outline, draw the figure of" and from the Proto-Germanic writanan meaning to tear, scratch." Other sources include the Old Saxon writan "to tear, scratch, write," the Old Norse rita "write, scratch, outline" and the Old High German rizan "to write, scratch, tear."
Scratching and tearing? That sounds about right to anyone who's sat in front of a blank piece of paper or computer screen and begged for the words to come. Usually the process involves scratching your head and tearing out your hair.
That's it for now. You'll excuse me so I can go back to "scratching" out a living.
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?
Over the past few weeks, I've had a similar discussion with two separate clients over what type of content I was going to generate for them. The question: Blog, eBook, or white paper? The more we talked, the more I felt like we were revisiting Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You know the story. The little blonde breaks into the Bears' house looking to eat, rest her feet, and ultimately get some shut eye. As she wanders around, she finds bowls of porridge that are too hot and too cold before enjoying the "just right" temperature of Baby Bear's. She follows a similar process with the chairs - too hard, too soft, then just right. Up to the bedrooms for the same analysis - too high, too low, and finally, just right.
What does this have to do with copywriting?
Working on content development with clients, I'm finding more of them are focused mainly on the message they want to get out and not so much on the type of content vehicle they will use.
Some feel they need a white paper. After talking about their target audience and goals, we often come to the conclusion that a white paper isn't the right choice. It may be too formal or technical for what they hope to accomplish. Now don't get me wrong. White papers, as I've written before, are still a popular and effective content marketing tool. They're more appropriate further down the sales funnel - when prospects have already made up their minds to buy and they need more detailed information.
Often the request is for a blog post. Again after finding out the amount of content they hope to squeeze into what what should be 500-1000 word post, it becomes clear that a blog post isn't quite right either.
So what's the answer? In many cases the "just right" choice is an eBook. This is especially true when you're focusing on top of funnel activity trying to build brand awareness, establish thought leadership, and generate leads.
That could be why ebooks are exploding in popularity.
In 2010, less than one in ten marketers were using eBooks, according to the annual B2B Content Marketing survey from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute. In the 2014 survey, that number had jumped to more than one in three. In the past four years, eBooks have leaped over print newsletters, digital magazines, podcasts, and virtual conferences as a content vehicle of choice for marketers.
Here are three reasons more businesses seems to be jumping on the eBook bandwagon every day.
1. Length. Most of us skim blog posts trying to cull out the relevant data we need. But sometimes we want a little more depth and the eBook provides that. I actually describe eBooks to my clients as expanded blog posts.
Lengths can vary - I've done some as small as 1200 words and others as long as 8000 words - but the most popular eBooks tend to be in the 2000-4000 word range. That translates to about 10-15 pages depending on the graphics. (We'll get to that in a minute). As a rule of thumb, if your goal is brand awareness or lead generation, you should shoot for an eBook a reader can finish in one 30 minute session.
Again that's just a guideline. If you're exploring a topic in depth, it can be much longer. The point is that you have the flexibility to make it the "just right" size for your needs.
2. Tone. You also have flexibility when it comes to the tone you use in an eBook. car rental Appropriately, white papers usually focus on technical issues and tend to use a more serious voice. They're usually written in the third person: "The growing omni-channel world of the empowered consumer is forcing retailers to examine their entire IT infrastructure."
You can be more informal in an ebook and address the audience directly. The same point in an eBook could be written like this: "Hey retailer, are you looking for your customer? Well they're everywhere - in your store, on line, or talking to their friends about you on Facebook. Is your IT system ready to help your business respond to them?"
Again, the key is developing the right tone for the right audience. Here are two separate eBooks with the same basic goal of presenting "How To" information. This one on Mobile Marketing and PPC is fairly straightforward and gives the reader a step by step guide on what they should be doing to adapt their paid search to users with mobile devices. This one, The Wizards Behind Google Apps, provides tips and advice on managing Google Apps installations, but the tone is much more whimsical. Both get the job done but knowing your target audience is key.
3. Visuals. Probably the biggest advantage of an eBook over a white paper or blog post is the flexibility - there's that word again - it gives designers. Most engaging eBooks have interesting graphics throughout to draw the reader in and break up blocks of imposing text. According to Content+, articles with images get 94% more views that those without. A well designed eBook enhances the information presented and encourages downloading and sharing. Take another look at the Wizards Behind Google Apps. The graphics are captivating and inviting.
eBooks are not about to replace white papers, blog posts, case studies, infographics or the many other useful content pieces that make up your content marketing portfolio. In many cases however, it may be "just right" for you.
What is your experience with eBooks? How effective have you found them to be?