Category Archives: Content marketing

Holiday Marketing Opportunities: Does Your Customer Want Sleigh Bells?

How do the holidays affect your content marketing? Maybe the obvious ho-ho-ho themes are not for your business-to-business (B2B) audience.

I was running web marketing for a large B2B company that sold mainly to engineers and technical people. One November, we were in a meeting with the CEO and a couple of business managers. One of the business managers wondered whether we should introduce a new technology campaign until after the holidays, figuring it would miss a lot of audience if we ran it over the holiday break.

Holiday marketing? Santa knows, engineers are never off lineThe CEO was Jack Gifford, an outspoken exec who an uncanny marketing sense. I had learned to never disregard Jack, even if what he was suggesting sounded crazy. He claimed that engineers would be a better target during the holidays.

Jack explained that engineers don’t stop working on holidays and in fact, at family gatherings, you could bet that they were stealing away to poke around the websites to find things to read and learn.

I ran some stats from prior years and while overall traffic was down on holidays, we had plenty of traffic to technical articles. So we ran the campaign, geared it as an opportunity to learn about a new technology, and promoted in our weekly emails and on the home page.

It worked. Jack’s intuition was spot on.

The lesson for B2B companies is that if you are thinking of a holiday-focused theme, forget Santa, sleigh bells, and snowflakes. Think instead of your customer — maybe bored, maybe holidayed out, with a churning, analytic brain thirsting for a good tech story, or eager to learn a new skill.

Your competitors are probably not thinking the way Jack did, so this is your chance to do some targeted customer education and relationship-building.

Ho ho ho!

Illustration by Matti Mattila, CC BY 2.0

Don’t be a bad ad

Don’t be a bad ad.

If you are trying to balance the need to be noticed with the need to make friends, see The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques, from Neilsen-Norman Group, one of the most respected user experience research firms. Their research confirms what most of us already know: that users hate, hate, hate ads that obscure or rearrange content, are hard to dismiss, or play sound or video automatically.

If making your prospects hate you is not sufficient incentive to be a good guy, Google and Bing are increasingly penalizing sites with obstrusive ads, pop-ups, and interstitials, especially on mobile.

This is not to say all ads are a problem. Be aware of the tradeoff between getting the attention you need and irritating your prospects in the first moments of the relationship. Modal ads (as in the illustration here) are bad; those that cover the whole screen and make you search for the close link are cruel; and on mobile, anything bad becomes downright evil.

“Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads were among the most disliked. Ads that are annoying on desktop become intolerable on mobile.”

The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/most-hated-advertising-techniques/

SEO in minutes?

I don’t need to sell you on the value of search engine marketing, do I? It doesn’t get all the “shiny new thing” attention it used to, but search is still where your prospects name their needs, and search engine optimization (SEO) is how you get in front of them at exactly the right moment. My search and content marketing strategy session is one of my most popular offerings.

But the best search marketing requires time, expertise, and constant care and attention. Even sophisticated, Fortune 1000 enterprises I work with sometimes allocate their smart search marketing resources elsewhere.

When resources are tight, you can apply the 80-20 rule and achieve pretty-good SEO with fewer resources, at least for a while. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, the best search marketing information resource I know, addresses what he calls “minimum viable SEO” in Moz’s weekly whiteboard Friday series. Even enterprises with robust search strategies will benefit from this, as will smaller organizations with rudimentary search marketing.

Go visit Rand. In just nine minutes, you’ll have a practical program for pretty-decent SEO when time is tight:

Minimum Viable Search Marketing: Minutes Per Week, Rand Fishkin of Moz.

Say again? Social postings bear repeating

“Say something once, why say it again?” — Talking Heads

Do you repeat your postings on social media? According to Julie Gauthier of Scoop.it (a publisher of content marketing software), only a third of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) do this as a standard practice, and a third never do.

How-often-do-SMB-marketers-re-share-successful-blog-posts

Repost for better reach

According to Gauthier’s recent blog article, “when you share it once on social media, you reach no more than 6% of your followers on Facebook, and your Tweet’s lifetime is about 18 minutes.”

Repetition, she claims, can double your traffic and increase your reach. Though she doesn’t cite research to quantify (or even qualify) the claim of expanded reach, it makes sense.

So why don’t we repeat ourselves? Gauthier suggests two reasons:

  • We’re afraid to fatigue or offend the audience
  • We lack tools that schedule repeats

I find my clients pretty readily repeat postings on Twitter but we should probably do it on all media. My thought is that social media is ephemeral and no one (possible exception: my Mom) attempts to read it all. It’s like listening to the radio — you hear what you hear and miss the rest. Consequently, a repeated posting is not likely to be seen and if it is, not likely to gather much notice.

How much can you repeat? That’s harder to gauge. We want to test everything we can, but most SMBs lack the traffic or the mechanism to know when prospects are becoming annoyed, so begin reposting according to a rigid procedure (automated if possible) and watch response rates. Look at where returns begin to diminish and call that your benchmark.

Start With Why to Reach Customers

Reach customers with benefits

Do you want to reach customers in a more effective way, to help them understand why they need what you do? To help them see how your products and services fit their needs? To help you talk in customer-centric, benefits-focused terms? Here’s a powerful device to reach customers: Start With Why.

To reach customers, start with why

Why do we need “why?”

It may seem simple to talk about products and services in a way that connects with customers. Most of us naturally start talking about what the product is and what it does, how it works. We love to talk about features! But what we may not realize is that while those are important points to cover, it’s not how humans make buying decisions. We decide using a deeper portion of our brains, one that is powered not by words, but by feelings. This is why sometimes we make decisions that defy logic, or why we spend weeks agonizing over a decision despite the fact that we already have every bit of information we need.

How do we come up with marketing messaging that speaks to the feelings-powered portion of the brain, a portion that doesn’t use language?

Watch the video, Start With Why. Simon Sinek does the best job I have seen of explaining not just what kind of communication works, but why it works.

Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Most of us talk about what we’re offering; how it works; and finally, maybe, why we make it and why you would want it. Powerful marketing flips that around and talks first about why. Solution marketing is the example best known in the business world — it talks first about the customer’s problem.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

In a hurry? There’s an edited, five-minute version. I suggest that my clients watch the full version and then watch the short one to lock the ideas in. Here are links to both versions.

Optimizing Search for Blog Posts

Congratulations: You’re doing a blog. You’re thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). You have the machinery in place to consistently produce a couple of posts per week on topics that will interest customers and prospects. Now: How will they find you?

Blogs are great search engine bait

One of the reasons I favor blog posts and other content is that it is search engine bait. When someone is searching on a problem they have that you can solve, your content is the most likely way they will find you and see you as the solution to their problems.

Here’s a video from Rand Fishkin of MOZ on how to make it a practice (key concept!) to make your blogs (and other content) appeal.

Some key ideas for optimizing search for blogs:

  • Make your content unique and valuable. Are you solving a customer problem?
  • Think about who you want to reach (executives? coders? bakers? managers?); what you want them to gain; what you want them to do as a result.
  • Pick 3-5 search terms as your target for this article. All should have same searcher intent and be juicy terms that people actually search on, are reasonably unique, and have great click potential.
  • Look at who else appears for those terms and readjust of you realize you can’t compete.
  • Now: Make your posting, armed with knowledge about what will work.
  • Do the appropriate technical tasks and keywording.
  • Watch your results so you can learn and adjust.

Content marketing index

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 4.33.13 PM I write a lot about content because, as Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb says, “Content is the atomic particle of all marketing.” It’s what marketing is made of. It’s how you deliver value to all customers, including the ones who aren’t paying you. It serves every step of the buyer’s journey. It’s how you make people aware of your brand and move them toward familiarity, purchase, and loyalty.

Here’s an index of the top articles I’ve written here about content marketing:

Getting started

Best practices, building a content machine

  • The top 50 content marketers: Learn from the best.
  • A culture of content: Content marketing can’t succeed if everyone looks to the “content guy.” Here’s how to build content into the organization and make it everyone’s job.
  • My favorite article: What if you could amplify your effectiveness by turning every piece of content into 20? What if you could build a machine to make this happen? Learn how to make Many Pieces of Content from One.

Getting the word out

And all the rest…

Follow the full index: All articles on content marketing, to see everything, including new articles, as they appear.

Bathroom humor hits the spot for a utilitarian B2B brand

How do you boost a utilitarian brand like SurveyMonkey? Most marketers would be thinking about “what it is and what it does.” Functional, pedestrian, and boring. Eli Schwartz thinks bigger with this clever release about — well, about what cell phone users do in the bathroom.

surveymonkey-bathroom-1

This is genius marketing because it:

  • Highlights a skillful use of a survey, using SurveyMonkey’s Audience tool.
  • Is an attention grabber with high viral potential.
  • It’s relatable and tells a story (one more than a few readers will relate to).
  • Is one of very few quality uses of an infographic.
  • Made me LOL. And made me think about SurveyMonkey. And made me pass the word!

The execution is great, too, with bright, humorous graphics.

surveymonkey-bathroom-2

(Disclaimer: I know Eli and spotted this because I follow him on LinkedIn.)

Tell me a story

I was afraid. Standing at a lectern in downtown Manhattan before a room full of experts, I was easily the youngest person there. I was sure they could see me sweating. I prayed for the end before I said my first word. But then, I closed my eyes, took a breath, and began to talk about the future, a day in the automated office, when computers were connected. And when I was done, people came up to ask questions about our office automation architecture. The 20-something budding marketer from HP with the soaking wet collar had connected.

tell a storyCredit: Wikipedia

Is there anything more viscerally connecting than a story? It’s how humans have expressed themselves, convinced, controlled, enrolled, sold, and created value for millenia.

And yet, in marketing materials, we keep seeing, “The GM-X is an innovative solution for enterprise-ready network service stacks that ensures rapid deployment, cost savings, and the infinite connectivity of a cloud-based architecture.”

In the New York Times, “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-Up” reminds us that stories persuade. They also generate a happy hormone, oxytocin, in the brain. Researchers diagrammed Super Bowl commercials based on storytelling elements and successfully predicted their outcome. The key elements? It’s what we learned in high school:

It probably sounds familiar from middle-school English class: Act 1, scene setting; Act 2, rising action; Act 3, the turning point; Act 4, the falling action; and Act 5, the denouement or release. Variations of this include fewer or more stages, but they all follow the same pattern.

In business writing, especially in email and on the web, we don’t have much time to get the reader’s attention. But then, neither does a Super Bowl commercial. The Times article cites Hemingway’s six-word story: ““For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” So we really have no excuses.

How do we tell a story? We have to remember the basics, then practice the ancient art.

Most important, I think is to tell the story, rather than telling about the story. We tend to judge, categorize, summarize but a judgment ends the narrative and kills the tension.

We also shy away from feelings, when feelings are the best way to connect, establish trust, and build empathy.

It doesn’t come naturally, at least for me. I find I have to remind myself to connect. The way that young, sweaty kid from HP did in New York.

Top 50 content marketers

Kapost's top 50 content marketers

Content marketing solution Kapost has announced their list of the top 50 content marketers. They look like excellent choices, based on the dozen or so whose work I know. These are great ones to study for wise practices.

Many of these are brands I follow, even if I am not a customer, because of the quality and usefulness of their content. You can bet they will be considered when I, or a client, needs what they provide. A good example is HubSpot, which produces a steady and amazingly prolific drumbeat of marketing articles, mostly lightweight enough to absorb in less than 15 minutes. Likewise, MOZ.com is a favorite of mine — highly prolific and highly valuable articles in a range of media. Check out their whiteboard Friday videos.

The list seems to favor marketers, perhaps because the folks at Kapost have a tendency to follow material from marketers. That makes this a good list of companies we marketers should be following!