3 Keys to Increasing Your Content Conversions

By Rachel Foster

Scott Armstrong

Do you know how well your content is working for you? Although a growing number of marketers are turning to content marketing to increase their conversions, many have a hard time determining how well their efforts are paying off.

I recently interviewed Scott Armstrong, general manager of Brainrider, a Toronto B2B content marketing agency. Scott provided valuable advice about how to measure the results of your web content and optimize it to improve your conversion rates. According to Scott, there are three areas to look at when it comes to optimizing your content:

Findability

Findability is the ease with which your target audience can find your content. To learn how your website is performing in this area, check your Google Analytics data. Your page views and inbound page views will let you know if people are finding your content. You can also review which keywords people are using to find your site, which are bringing you the most visitors, and whether these keywords align with your marketing goals.

If you want to improve your findability, start by optimizing your meta title and meta description tags. Each of these tags should contain at least one strong keyword or phrase that your target audience uses to describe pain points.

When people optimize their meta descriptions, many focus on including keywords that will get picked up by the search engines. While keywords are important, you should also think about your meta description as the first 160 characters that will draw people into your content and motivate them to click your link. Use the meta description to explain why your content is relevant and why someone should read it.

Relevance

Relevance is how well your content relates to your target audience’s key pains, needs, and interests. One way to check your website’s performance in this area is to look at your average time-on-site and average page-per-visit statistics. High bounce rates could mean that your content isn’t relevant to your visitors’ needs or that your keywords aren’t reflecting your marketing goals.

To make your content more relevant, you must think like your customers. Take a customer’s point of view when you read your content and ask whether it is answering his or her most important questions in an engaging manner. For example, if your customers need to buy a piece of software, don’t write a blog post or white paper about how great your software product is. Instead, write about the pitfalls of choosing the wrong type of software, or a piece that compares the different options that your customers might be considering.

Also consider the stage of your customers’ buying cycle, as this can influence the type of content they will find the most relevant.

• Early-stage leads are just beginning their research and will need practical, how-to advice that tells them how to solve their problems without trying to sell them a specific product.
• Mid-stage leads need content that will help them understand the landscape — such as what’s available, some product pros and cons, and time-frame considerations.
• When you develop content for late-stage leads who are ready to buy, then you can help them justify why they should purchase your solution.

Value

In addition to creating relevant content, you also want to ensure that your target audience finds it valuable. One way to determine the value of your content is to learn how many people are opting in for it. If a lot of people are willing to trade their contact information for your content, it means that they find it (or at least its promise on your landing pages) valuable. Other positive signs include someone opting in for a piece of content and referring back to it multiple times or sharing it through social media.

If you want to make a piece of content more valuable, ask if your target audience members will find it useful — will they think or act differently once they read it? Remember, interesting is not necessarily useful; opinion is not necessarily useful; and abstract is not necessarily useful. A useful piece of content is usually more practical, such as:

• How-to guides
• Matrixes
• Statistics
• Comparisons
• Templates
• Frameworks

The most important thing to ask when you are creating any type of content — for your website or otherwise — is: “What do my customers want to know, and am I creating content that answers their questions?” A tool that can help you in this area is a content framework, or a template that outlines your customers’ needs, pains, and desired information. This will help you stay focused when you create content.

What about you? How do you measure and improve your content’s findability, relevance, and value? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

What You Can Learn from the World’s Worst Sales Email

Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute recently published the worst sales email ever. Here it is in all its glory:

Hi folks,

Name here from website.com. Our network of sites reaches a business savvy audience of over 5 million people every month. We also have a million opt-in subscribers and 125,000 financial advisors ready to receive dedicated email blasts.

We’ve been in this business for over 10 years so we know what works. I’m trying to find out who handles media buys for your clients, and I’d really appreciate it if we could get an updated copy of your client roster. I think we can really make something work here.

Sincerely,

Ms. Name
Title
email address

You might be cringing and thinking, “My business would never send out something this bad.” However, many businesses are guilty of at least some of the same crimes in this email. Here are three things that are wrong with this message, along with tips that will help ensure that you never make these mistakes in your sales or marketing emails: 

It’s not personalized

Put yourself in the place of your reader and imagine getting a message that is addressed “Hi folks”. Wouldn’t you hit ‘delete’ as fast as you could? Personalizing your emails is a proven way to increase your open and click-through rates, so be sure to at least include the name of your reader in the greeting.

You can also take personalization further to target messages towards specific subscribers. For example, change parts of your content based on a reader’s role, location or how that person has interacted with your website. Personalizing your messages gives subscribers information that is relevant to their needs or interests, which increases the chances that they will read your message.

It doesn’t talk about the reader

This email focuses solely on the sender, not on the reader. “Our network” … “We’ve been in business” … “Blah. Blah. Blah.” For your sales and marketing copy to be effective, you should address your reader’s problems, needs or interests 90% of the time and talk about yourself only 10% of the time. It’s a good exercise to go through your recent marketing copy to see how many times you use the word ‘we’ as opposed to the word ‘you’. You can even analyse your web pages with the Customer Focus Calculator. Simply enter your URL, and the calculator will tell you what percentage of your copy focuses on your customer.

It offers nothing but asks for a lot

The sender of this email is asking for the reader’s client roster – whoa! This is a big, crazy request that raises a ton of red flags. Why would anyone give their confidential and valuable client list to some random person who sends them an email?

Although you’re probably not asking people for their client rosters, this email shows that you need to have a solid relationship with someone before you ask for anything big. Start small with new subscribers – ask them to download a white paper, register for a webinar or check out a page on your website. Once your subscribers trust you more, you can make bigger requests (i.e. try a demo, speak with a sales representative, etc.).

This email also screams ‘unsolicited message’. Even if your organization takes great care to send messages only to confirmed subscribers, it’s a good idea to remind your teams to check their databases to ensure that they have permission to email everyone on their lists.

What about you? What do you think is wrong with this email? What are your dos and don’ts of email marketing? Feel free to share your comments below.

Can You Use Content Marketing to Sell Stuff?

Content marketing is one of the hottest B2B marketing trends. According to The 2012 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends Report, 60% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending this year. The report also revealed that 9 out of 10 B2B marketers are using content to grow their businesses.

What is content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute defines it as “the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.”

This usually leads to the question, “How can I increase my bottom line if I can’t use my marketing to sell my products or services?”

The definition goes on to explain, “The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

Great, but how do you sell your stuff? 

While content marketing is gaining traction for all of the reasons above, you still need to encourage leads to take the next step in working with you. That’s why you can apply a 90/10 rule to your content marketing. 90% of your content should be educational, while 10% can focus on the call to action.

Here are some examples:

While it’s not appropriate to write a blog post about how great you are and why people should buy from you, you should encourage readers to subscribe to your blog. For example, place ads on the sidebar to get readers to visit other pages on your website. Use 90% of your blog page to provide valuable content and 10% for banner ads, opt-in boxes or subscription buttons.

And while no one wants to read a white paper that’s a 10-page sales pitch, best practices state that you should discuss your solutions at the end of the white paper. If the first 90% of your white paper was entertaining and informative, readers will want to learn about how you can help.

What about you? Do you feel that content marketing should be used to drive sales, or is it all about educating your audience or something else? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

7 Keys to a Successful Retweet

Retweets are Twitter’s version of shout outs. They allow you to show appreciation for others by broadcasting their tweets to your followers. In return, others in your industry may want to share your tweets with their followers – provided your tweets are relevant and interesting.

The purpose of this article is to explain the basics of how to retweet and show you how a few simple tweaks can increase the chances of your tweets going viral.

Retweet 101: A Typical Retweet

Here’s an example of a standard retweet:

RT@CopywriterTO  How to Make Your Content Marketing More Social bit.ly/JVxpFu

The components of this typical retweet are as follows:

  • The “RT.” This stands for “retweet” and tells your followers the content of the tweet came from someone else.
  • Credit to the person who posted the original tweet. To credit someone, simply insert the @ symbol before their username.
  • A compelling headline.
  • The URL you want your followers to visit.

This is the type of retweet you will most likely see when you click someone’s “tweet this” button or use the retweet button directly from Twitter’s website.

Retweet 201: How to Retweet for Maximum Impact

Although the retweet above is completely acceptable, you can make a few small changes to increase the odds that others will share it with their followers. The more others retweet one of your posts, the greater the chances it will go viral.

Take a look at the revised retweet below:

How to Make Your Content Marketing More Social with research from @smexaminer bit.ly/JVxpFu  RT @CopywriterTO – great article! #b2b

Here are 7 simple changes you can make to create a more powerful retweet:

  1. Move the headline to the front of the tweet. The headline should always be the first part of the tweet, because a strong headline compels people to read more.
  2. Include the names of others mentioned in the tweet. If the content that you are sharing mentions a fellow tweeter, include their username in your retweet. For example, the article in this tweet cites research from Social Media Examiner, so the retweet calls attention to their research. When you do this, not only will the person that you are retweeting see your tweet, but so will anyone mentioned in the article. They will be more likely retweet it to their followers and greatly expand the reach of your tweet.
  3. Keep the URL after the headline and interview credits. Remember to use a URL shortener that allows you to track your clicks.
  4. Move the RT and original username after the link. This credits the original tweeter without taking focus off the headline.
  5. Comment on the original tweet. People who use social media sites want to collaborate and share ideas. Don’t be afraid to add your opinion, show appreciation or share additional insights.
  6. Add a hashtag to define your tweet. Hashtags are used to categorize tweets for discussion. People follow hashtags related to their interests and industries. Include a hashtag at the end of your tweet, and more people in your industry will read it.
  7. Keep it concise. Twitter only gives you 140 characters for each tweet, so you must write concisely. If you want others to retweet your posts, leave enough room for someone to type RT and your username.

What about you? How do you encourage retweets? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

How to Make Your Content Marketing More Social

The 2011 Social Media Marketing Report stated that 93% of marketers are now using social media for marketing purposes. Although almost everyone is using social media, many marketers are still uncertain of how to get the greatest ROI from their efforts. The 2011 Social Media Marketing Report also revealed that marketers’ #2 concern is how to integrate and manage all of their social media activities.

Content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand. They both focus on sharing ideas, building relationships and growing communities. Here are three ways you can integrate social media with your content marketing to increase your ROI:

Be present all of the time.

Some companies will launch a content marketing campaign, promote it like crazy across social media and then go silent when the campaign ends. You may think this is strictly a B2C problem, but plenty of B2B companies are also guilty – especially ones that

promote conferences or new products. If you disappear after your campaign, you’ll wonder where your audience went the next time you have a campaign.

Gain insights into your target audience.

Social media provides you with endless ways to get to know your customers. For example, you can conduct formal or informal surveys to learn about their greatest concerns and what they think about your company. You can also just chat with them and answer their questions. The information you gain through social media will allow you to create more relevant content.

Your social community will also let you know if you’re staying true to your brand. A few months ago, someone had suggested I write about a particular topic on my blog. However, I felt the topic was off-brand and wanted to get the opinion of my Twitter followers first.So, I took an article about the same topic from someone else’s blog and tweeted it. Within minutes, one of my followers responded by saying how “out of date” the advice was. I appreciated this comment, because it let me know the topic would have been bad for my blog. It saved me the time of writing and promoting a post my readers wouldn’t have liked.

Make all of your content social.

All marketing today is social marketing – whether you use social media or not. That’s because your customers are probably using social media to spread interesting content across the web.

If you want your message – whether it’s a white paper, blog post, video or other marketing piece – to reach a larger audience, you’ll need to make it social. Here are five ways to make all of your marketing more social:

  • Add social sharing to your website. Make sure these buttons are included
    on all of your landing pages and resources pages.
  • Create hashtags for your events and trending topics so people can discuss them on Twitter.
  • Publish a blog and encourage visitors to leave comments.
  • Include your latest Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube content on your website. This makes it easier for your website visitors to find you on social networks.
  • Put “follow me” and “share this” buttons in your e-newsletters.

What about you? What are you doing to make your marketing more social? Feel free to share your comments below.

The Biggest B2B Content Marketing Mistakes [Video]

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Toronto B2B Marketing Meetup. This regular networking event is sponsored by BrainRider and includes short presentations on all aspects of B2B marketing. If you’re in Toronto, I encourage you to attend the next meetup.

Here is a video of my presentation – The Biggest B2B Content Marketing Mistakes.

Some of the things I cover in this video include:

  • The top excuses that are preventing B2B companies from getting the most from their content marketing.
  • Why your content must “play to your crowd”.
  • 4 ways to make your marketing more relevant.
  • How and when it’s appropriate to “sell” in content marketing.
  • 5 words you must stop using in your marketing.

Take a few moments to check out the video and then feel free to add your thoughts on B2B content marketing below. 

3 Keys to More Compelling Case Studies

3 keys to more compelling case studiesThis post was originally published by the Content Marketing Institute.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, 70 percent of B2B marketers find case studies to be an effective content marketing tool. That’s because they can increase customer confidence in your organization, educate prospects on how to solve their challenges, and provide social proof that your solutions are valuable.

However, many marketers often put case studies on the back burner while they pursue sexier marketing strategies. Putting off your case study development isn’t a good idea, because you may find yourself with new products or services and not enough proof that they provide ROI.

Here are three ways that you can get your marketing back on track and create compelling case studies that excite and influence your potential customers:

1. Use photos and videos

Multimedia can make your case studies more engaging and give you a way to connect with auditory and visual learners. Here are some ways that you can incorporate multimedia into your case studies:

  • Add photos and charts to punch up your written case studies.
  • Film video case studies and use them throughout your marketing.
  • Create a video and text version of the same case study. Developing content in multiple formats will get your message across to a wider audience.

2. Don’t write case studies from your own perspective

One of the biggest challenges in developing case studies is getting detailed interviews from your customers. You may get frustrated trying to coordinate interviews, or your customers may tell you to “just write something” and they’ll approve it. However, if your case studies don’t contain quotes from your customers, they won’t be as effective or credible. Plus, your readers will be able to tell when you’ve written a case study from your own perspective.

When you take the time to get a detailed interview from your customer, you may be pleasantly surprised by the great things they say. If you have a hard time scheduling interviews, try using scheduling software that allows your customers to pick the best time. If you have trouble getting compelling quotes, be sure to ask your customers a range of questions that take them through their entire story — from the problems they faced before they started working with you to how they implemented your solution to the ROI that they achieved.

3. Create dual case studies/“how-to” articles

A great way to turn case studies into content marketing tools that will educate and inform your audience is to sprinkle in “how-to” tips. “How-to” tips can work nicely in the implementation part of a case study. Instead of just explaining how your customer implemented your solution, offer advice on how others can do the same. Here are some questions to ask during your interviews if you want your case studies to also function as “how to” articles:

  • What steps should someone take to implement this solution?
  • What should someone know before starting this process?
  • What top five things should someone consider before purchasing a similar solution?
  • What can someone learn from this process?

Also, remember to create case studies for all of your solutions and verticals. When a prospect reads a case study, they often like to envision themselves in the role of your happy customer. To make their visualization process easier, you should develop case studies for as many of your customers and solutions as possible. Go through all of your products, services and verticals and see where you are missing proof points. Then, make a list of customers in each area who may provide you with case studies.

What about you?

In your opinion, what makes a case study compelling? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

The 5 Most Cringe-Worthy Technology Marketing Buzzwords

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to a YouTube clip called “Orchestra Fail”. The audio-only clip is so funny that I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

Did you listen to it? If so, take a moment to pull yourself back together.

When I regained normal breathing, I started to think about other things that are cringe-worthy. A lot of technology marketing cliches came to mind. These expressions have become so widely used, that you may not question them. In fact, I’m also guilty of using some of these (except numbers four and five).

Here’s my list of the five most cringe-worthy technology marketing words and phrases:

1. Solution

Everything these days is a “solution”.  From software solutions to marketing solutions to business solutions. The first problem with using the word “solution” is that it’s too generic and can often be replaced with something that describes your product or service in more tangible terms. For example, I was flipping through a furniture catalogue and saw a dining table with “folding solutions”. The copy would have made more sense if it talked about the table’s “folding leaves”.

The other problem that I have with “solution” is that marketers often use the word “solution” without first describing the problem. I’d like to know what the problem is before I learn about the “solution”.

2. Innovative

Technology thrives on innovation, so it’s understandable that tech marketers want to describe their products or services as “innovative”. However, I heard about a study in which companies that think of themselves as innovative asked their employees what they’ve innovated, and the employees couldn’t think of anything. (I’ve been searching for a link to this source and will post it as soon as I find it).

“Innovative” is a hard term to quantify, which is why it often shows up on lists of the most overused marketing phrases. Similar unquantifiable words include “leading”, “best”, “dynamic” and “unique”.

3. User

When technology companies call their customers “users”, it makes me wonder if they’re selling software or if they’re selling heroin.

4. Suspect

I recently heard a technology marketer refer to her potential customers as “suspects”. This made me wonder if she was looking for customers in a police line-up.

5. In Bed With

Some marketing and sales people say things like, “he was in bed with our client,” or “he was in bed with that idea”. I guess this means that two people are in agreement about something. However, whatever way you use this expression, it just sounds creepy.

What did I miss? This post only touches on the most cringe-worthy technology marketing phrases. Feel free to add your picks below.

 

Is Your Content Marketing Too Safe?

As a copywriter, part of my job is asking my clients tough questions. Whenever I conduct an interview to get background information for a piece of copy, at least one of my questions will stump my clients and force them to think about their businesses and customers in new ways. This level of questioning can bring out new ideas and perspectives that shape my clients’ marketing.

Asking tough questions and challenging your customers can also strengthen your content marketing. The B2B sales cycle is long – with customers deeply reviewing multiple service providers before they make a purchasing decision. If your content is too general or “safe,” you won’t stand apart from your competition or show potential customers that you really understand their issues.

By challenging your customers – or providing them with content that forces them to think deeply about their problems and how to solve them – you will make your messages stick. Your content will start to resonate more with your target audience, which can lead to increased sales and improved ROI.

Here are three ways that you can challenge and inspire your customers:

  • Start a Blog (or Take a More Journalistic Approach to Your Current Blog)  

Some corporate blogs are little more than frequently updated sales pitches. Instead of viewing yourself as a marketing professional who has been tasked with driving sales, think of yourself as a hard-hitting journalist who wants to educate and inform your audience. Taking a journalistic approach to your blog allows you to explore issues in depth, which also encourages customers to see you as a valuable resource. You can even write blog posts that take the opposite stance of everyone else in your industry – just to get customers to think differently about their challenges.

  • Hit the Hot Buttons 

You can’t challenge your customers unless you know their biggest concerns, aspirations, needs and pain points. If you are unsure of these, you may need to speak with your sales representatives, since they are the ones who deal with your customers on a daily basis. Once you gain a better understanding of your customers, you should focus all of your content marketing around their needs.

  • Give Your Customers Tools

Interactive tools can be a great way to engage your audience and get them to think more deeply about their challenges. These tools can be assessments, quizzes or anything else that gets your customers to interact with you.

Before you develop a strong voice that resonates with customers, you first may need to challenge your organization’s basic beliefs about marketing. Your organization may be stuck in a rut where you’ve been doing things a certain way just because “that’s the way it is done.” However, times are changing. Your customers no longer want the same old marketing messages delivered through the same old channels. You need to reach customers on a deeper level, and you can do this through content marketing that challenges, awes and inspires them.

What about you?

Do you feel that it is important to challenge your customers? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Headlines

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Headlines
Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is the headline on your home page “Welcome to My Site”?

If so, you are missing a vital opportunity to gain your readers’ attention.

According to David Ogilvy, one of the most successful copywriters of all time, “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”

The purpose of the headline is to motivate people to read the opening paragraph of your content and then continue reading the entire piece. If your headline is not compelling, you might be throwing away all the effort you put into the rest of your marketing piece.

Here are 5 simple tricks that professional copywriters use to write great headlines:

1. Begin with “How to”

One of the most famous “How to” headlines of all time is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

“How to” headlines are still extremely effective. To gain your readers’ attention, your “how to” headline should offer valuable advice for a problem they are facing.

You can modify the standard “How to” headline by using a “Top 10” list or incorporating a specific number. For example, “The Top 10 Ways to Increase Your Productivity” or “5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Headlines.”

2. Promise Quick Results

This type of headline is used all the time on magazine covers. Just think of all the articles that promise to teach you how to “Drop 10 Pounds This Month.” If you decide to use this type of headline, be sure that you don’t promise something that you can’t deliver.

3. Share a Secret

This popular headline formula offers your readers inside information.Women’s Health Magazine once ran an article called “Michelle Obama’s 7 Secrets of a Sexy Marriage.” Now that will grab your attention!

4. Extend an Invitation

Invitation headlines are common for special events or promotions. For example, “We Invite You to Join Our Insiders Club.”

5. Create a Sense of Urgency

One of the most effective ways to generate a response is by creating a sense of urgency. You can do this by stressing a deadline, such as, “Please Take a Moment Now to Renew …Your Subscription Expires This Month.”

You can also create a sense of urgency by mentioning that only a limited number of spaces are available, stating that your event is expected to sell out or offering a discounted price for a limited amount of time.

If you still can’t think of an interesting headline, simply use a testimonial. Testimonials are one of the most powerful ways to gain your readers’ trust.

What about you?

What headlines do you find the most effective? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

3 Keys to Corporate Blogging Success

3 Keys to Corporate Blogging Success
© Rasà Messina Francesca | Dreamstime.com

Outbrain recently published The State of Content Marketing 2012. The report revealed that 82% of brand and agency marketers plan to increase their content marketing efforts this year, with their main goals being to increase brand awareness and target early-stage leads.

The report also revealed that social media is the most popular way to drive traffic to content, with 96% of respondents currently utilizing social media.

Since a blog can be the center of your social media strategy, I’d like to suggest some ways that you can use a blog to increase your brand awareness and drive more people to your content:

Keep Your Audience Top-of-Mind

One of the challenges of blogging is ensuring that every post is relevant to your audience. Before you blog, you should create a profile of your ideal reader. The profile can include their role, organization and key concerns. Give all of your blog’s contributors a copy of this profile, so they can keep your ideal reader top-of-mind as they write.  

Develop Content Themes

Creating themes for your blog can make it easier for your writers to come up with topics. Themes also allow you to develop related content that you can repackage. For example, you can take a series of blog posts about the same topic and turn them into a webinar or white paper.

Advertise Your Premium Content

Although the purpose of content marketing is to provide your audience with free educational content, you still need to encourage leads to take the next step in your sales cycle. That’s why you can apply a 90/10 rule to your blog. Ninety percent of your blog’s content should be educational, while 10% can focus on the call to action. For example, you can place ads throughout your blog that encourage readers to visit other pages on your website or opt in for your premium content. This technique allows you to be seen as a trusted resource while you fulfill your marketing goals.

You’ll also want to share all of your blog posts with your social communities. The easiest way to do this is to use tools or plug-ins that automatically publish your latest posts to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This will ensure that you never forget to share a post with one of your social networks. However, you can’t just “set it and forget it.” You’ll still need to be present on social media every day to respond to comments and engage in conversations.

What About You?

Do you find blogs to be a valuable content marketing tool? If so, what blog strategies have worked for you? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

 

The Mad Men Guide to Overcoming Creative Block

Mad Men Party
Photo by David Tom Photography

I’m hooked on Mad Men and can’t wait for the season five premiere. The photo is from a Mad Men dinner party that my husband and I hosted last year.

One of the things I love best about the show is watching Don Draper save many client relationships by coming up with brilliant concepts at the last minute … just before his clients are about to walk.

However, you don’t need to wait until you’re almost screwed to come up with a great concept. Simply read on to learn the top 5 ways that Don, Peggy and the crew overcome creative block.

1. Take a Break

In one episode of Mad Men, Don’s boss accuses him of looking like he’s never working. However, Don demonstrates that if you step away from your work, you’ll come back full of creative ideas that will impress even the most difficult client. Although Don’s favourite ways to clear his head involve drinking and womanizing, you may want to keep the debauchery to a minimum. Exercise or caffeine will work.

2. Do Your Most Important Work First Thing in the Morning

At SCDP, the brightest stars arrive at the office early to focus on their most important projects before the rest of the staff is around to interrupt them. Tackling your biggest project first thing in the morning can give you a sense of accomplishment and save you lots of stress later in the day.

3. Brainstorm

At the beginning of a new project, you should ignore your inner critic and let your ideas flow. The creatives at SCDP know that brainstorming can jumpstart the creative process, whether you prefer jotting down notes or dictating ideas to your assistant. Plus, it’s always fun to watch the characters try to one-up each other with the best ideas.

4. Take a Nap

There’s nothing like a good nap to refresh you, and more than one employee at SCDP has been caught sleeping the job. However, if you decide to take a nap remember to …

5. Keep a Notebook Nearby for Ideas

Don’t be like copywriter Paul Kinsey. He had a brilliant idea during an office all-nighter, fell asleep without writing it down and forgot it. Although Peggy covered for him, you might not be so lucky!

Try some of these tips the next time you struggle with creative block. You might even finish your project early enough to enjoy a long lunch with your co-workers (just don’t eat the oysters).

How to Double Your B2B Content Without Doubling Your Workload

According to the B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, one of the top concerns of B2B content marketers is producing enough content to engage prospects and customers. Since most organizations don’t have unlimited resources, it can be challenging to constantly feed your blog, website, social networks, newsletters, and other marketing channels with new and valuable information.

However, you can save time on content development and reach a larger audience if you find ways to reuse or reinvent the content you have already created. Here are three ways you can get double (or even triple) duty out of your B2B content:

 

Use an editorial calendar

If you schedule your content marketing in advance by using an editorial calendar, you can plan content themes for different months, promotions, or trending topics. Knowing your themes ahead of time will make it easier for you to gather content.

For example, you may already have a wealth of material about a specific theme that you can easily edit and publish. Or you can use themes to identify subject matter experts within your organization. You can then interview these experts and put together quick blog posts, podcasts or videos based on their interviews. Plus, an editorial calendar lets your team members know who is responsible for what task. This helps to keep everyone on track and your content machine running smoothly.

Start big and break it down

Pieces with a large amount of content, such as webinars, take a lot of time and resources to develop. And if these pieces fail to bring you ROI, it may seem as though you’ve wasted your efforts. However, a poorly attended webinar doesn’t have to lead to a dead end and lost ROI.

Try breaking the content you’ve created for the webinar into smaller chunks that can be used on other content platforms, such as tweets, blog posts, SlideShare presentations, or short videos. As you share these bites across your marketing channels, your audience will grow, and be more engaged in the content you produce.

For example, you can host a live Twitter chat that features key points from your webinar. This open conversation can dramatically increase your mentions, retweets and followers. You can also turn your webinar content into short YouTube videos to reach a different audience. This additional exposure can even help you reach your original goal by bringing more people back to your website to listen to the replay of your webinar.

Or, start small, combine your related content, and go big

Sometimes it’s easier for marketers to develop small pieces of content — such as blog posts or short “how to” videos — than it is to create large-scale content projects. When you take a look at the body of content you’ve created, chances are several pieces will revolve around related topics and themes. Why not combine them to create content components that provide a more comprehensive view of the issues you wrote about, such as white papers, eBooks, or training materials?

Using your smaller bits of content as the building blocks of these more-detailed works can save you a lot of time and stress because you’ll already have most of the work complete. One way you can easily tie small pieces of content together is by turning a series of blog posts about the same topic into an eBook. You can also combine your product demo videos and articles into comprehensive training materials.

Just remember to think about your audience when you repurpose your content for a new medium. For example, if you want to turn a webinar into a series of blog posts, don’t just throw the webinar transcript on your blog. That’s cheating! Plus, transcripts can be difficult to read. Your blog readers may also have different expectations than do your webinar attendees. You’ll need to adjust your content’s style, length and format to match your medium and appeal to the audiences who use these mediums.

What about you?

How do you re-purpose or reinvent your content to get the most mileage out of it? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

This post was originally published by The Content Marketing Institute.

How to Get More Sign-Ups for Your Software Trials and Demos

How to get more people to download your softwareIf your organization sells software, you probably rely on demos and trials to attract leads and fill your sales funnel. However, since most software vendors now offer free trials, giving something away for free is no longer enough to convert leads. You’ll need to make your offers more engaging and relevant to your customers’ needs.

Below are three ways you can increase the opt-ins for your demos and free software trials:

1. Show the Benefits

A “download now” button may not be enough to motivate potential customers to test drive your software. Your landing pages need to explain why someone should opt in. For example, what business benefits will they receive after using your software? How will your product make their lives easier? If you sell the same product to different audiences, you also may need to create separate landing pages that highlight the unique benefits each audience will receive.

2. Don’t Make it Complicated

Many software companies bury their opt-in links deep within their websites. This makes it hard for potential customers to take the next step in the sales cycle. If increasing your demo and free trial opt-ins is a key goal, your opt-in button should be located above the fold on all of your key web pages. You’ll also want to keep your registration form short. The longer your form, the fewer people will opt in.

3. Include a Video

According to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 77% of marketers plan to increase their use of video marketing. A video can give potential customers a good overview of your product and how it will benefit them. You may need different videos for leads in different stages of the buying cycle. For example, the video on your home page or main landing page should give prospects a 1-2 minute “commercial-style” overview of your software. As leads move through your sales cycle, they may be interested in videos that explain your software’s features in greater detail.

Keep in mind that not everyone who visits your website is ready to commit to a trial or demo. However, your website’s content should also serve these early-stage leads, as they may eventually become your customers. You can do this by offering resources that are geared toward their needs, such as helpful blog posts, white papers and videos. These offers can make great secondary calls to action – as they will generate more leads without distracting from your main goal of driving opt-ins for your demos and free trials.

What about you? What challenges do you face when trying to increase the opt-ins for your demos and free trials? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

18 Hot Topics for B2B Blogs

B2B blog topics
© Rasà Messina Francesca | Dreamstime.com

One of the biggest challenges B2B marketers face when they develop a blog is maintaining its momentum. You may write a few posts, run out of ideas and let your blog sit empty as you devote your time to other projects. However, to realize benefits from a corporate blog, you must post engaging content on a regular basis.

Below are 18 topic suggestions for your B2B blog. If you used each of these ideas once a month, you would have enough posts to support an active blog that can bring lots of traffic to your website. You can also pick and choose the topics that would work best for your company.

1. Share your latest research or white papers.

2. Post educational information or “how to” tips.

3. Discuss a problem in your industry.

4. Tell readers about your upcoming events.

5. Comment on the latest news in your sector.

6. Reformat your press releases into blog posts to highlight your company’s latest news.

7. Profile a staff member. Share stories about their work and why they are involved with your company.

8. Interview your CEO or another leader or colleague in your industry about a hot topic.

9. Post case studies that show the value of your services.

10. Accept guest posts from your staff, customers or leaders in your industry.

11. Post photos and write short captions under them.

12. Share “how to” videos. You can also post videos of interviews, keynote speeches, product demos, events and staff shenanigans.

13. Report about an event or conference you have attended. You can even blog live from the event.

14. Review something (e.g. a book, program or event).

15. Develop a resource list. If customers regularly ask you for information on a specific topic, give them a list of online resources.

16. Link to a post on another blog and tell your readers why they should check it out.

17. If you’re active on Twitter, you can share your weekly “top tweets.” That way, readers who don’t use Twitter can keep up with your latest news, and readers who tweet will want to follow you.

18. Mention your other social networks. For example, you can highlight discussions you’re having on Facebook and encourage readers to join the conversation.

If you still need ideas, ask your customers what they want to read on your blog. They can provide you with insight into what topics are the most relevant to them.

What about you? What other topics make good B2B blog content? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

This article was originally published on B2Bbloggers.com

The 3 Biggest Shifts Needed for Successful B2B Content Marketing

“Can you use ONE WORD to describe the biggest challenge facing B2B marketing today?”

This is the question that Holger Schulze, Marketing Director for Safenet, asked LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketers group.

The thread currently contains over 1,000 responses. As you can see from this word cloud (designed by Adele Revella, Founder of the Buyer Persona Institute), one of the biggest B2B technology marketing challenges is content.

This isn’t surprising, as content marketing is a fairly new concept that many marketers are struggling to figure out. To achieve benefits from content marketing – such as increased brand awareness, web traffic, leads and sales – many technology marketers have to rethink most of what they were taught about marketing.

Here are 3 shifts in thinking that will help you compete with your content-marketing savvy competitors and increase your ROI:

1. Overcome the Desire to Sell

Overcoming the desire to sell can seem as unnatural as turning down chocolate on Valentine’s Day. However, it’s a key part of connecting with your super busy customers and succeeding with content marketing.

The Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing states, “The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

This means that you need to create content that isn’t focused on your products or services. Instead, you can develop videos, white papers, blog posts or other materials that help your target audience overcome one of their key challenges or reach one of their goals. Once you’ve gained your audience’s trust and they grow to see you as a helpful advisor, they will take the next step in your sales cycle. That’s when they may be interested in your specific offers.

2. Redefine “Marketing Collateral”

Many technology marketers rely on basics such as white papers, product demos and other documentation. However, these pieces can often come across as dry and boring – not something you’d want to share with your Twitter followers.

Since social media is a huge part of content marketing, you should think of ways to make all your content more social. You can start by writing in a conversational tone. You can also experiment with social-friendly formats such as blogs, videos and webinars. White papers can also deliver a strong ROI if they address one of your customers’ biggest concerns and are not simply a 10-page sales pitch.

You may also want to read 3 Ways to Break Out of a Content Marketing Rut for ideas on how to take your marketing off autopilot and make it fresh and engaging.

3. Remember that Your Audience is More than Just Techies

Technology companies have a tendency to gear their materials towards one audience – the technical user. However, the B2B buying process includes many stages and stakeholders. TechTarget’s 2011 Media Consumption Report stated that “corporate IT buying is a team decision-making process with 95% of IT buying teams having more than two members. The majority work in teams of two to seven with a significant amount of teams having ten or more members.”

The first person who interacts with your content may be a researcher, mid-level manager or assistant who needs information to pass along. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they won’t know how to refer you to the person with the buying power.

You should create content for all your audiences and speak to their business, technical and even personal needs. The more you can align your content with your audience, the greater your chances of success.

Content marketing is about thinking like a publisher who delivers educational and entertaining content. Once you’ve shifted your thinking to that of a publisher – rather than a traditional marketer – you will be ready to take the next steps with your marketing and achieve greater ROI.

What about you? Has the popularity of content marketing caused you to change the way you think about marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

3 Things to Look for in a Freelance Copywriter

Outsourcing your writing to a freelance copywriter can be a challenging task. The wrong writer can cause project delays, increase your workload and even cost you more in the long run. However, the right writer can make your life easier and improve your marketing ROI.

Many marketing professionals work with several copywriters before they find the best fit. You can make your search easier by looking for the following 3 qualities in a freelance copywriter:

Experience in Your Industry

Some copywriters are generalists,  which means they write about everything from cosmetics to automotive parts. Generalists can be a good choice for agencies that work in a variety of sectors and need writers who can take on anything. However, a generalist may not be the best option for businesses with complex or highly technical offers.

If your product or service has a steep learning curve, you’ll need a writer who has prior experience in your industry. I’ve had several clients come to me after working with generalists who didn’t understand their industry. This caused delays as the copywriters missed deadlines, dropped out of the project or handed in copy that couldn’t be used.

Working with someone who has experience in your industry can decrease the amount of time you spend briefing the writer and providing feedback on drafts. This can also make your projects run more smoothly and bring you better results.

You can find a freelance copywriter with experience in your industry by asking for referrals or searching online for “copywriter” plus your industry.

Reliability

One of the biggest concerns that marketers have when they hire a freelance copywriter is if they will get their copy on time. After all, the freelancer isn’t located in your office where you can keep an eye on them! Plus, American Writers & Artists once revealed that 75% of copywriters miss their deadlines.

One way to determine if a copywriter will meet your deadlines is by asking for testimonials or references that speak to their reliability. You can even ask the copywriter to put the project deadline in their contract, which should increase your chances of receiving your copy on time.

You can also help your copywriter by sending them all your background info and quickly responding to any questions. If you don’t give them the info they need until the day before the project is due, your copywriter may not be able to meet your deadline.

A Proven Process

Your project will flow much more smoothly if your copywriter has a process for completing projects successfully. This process can include asking you the right questions, providing you with a creative brief if you don’t have one and keeping in touch throughout the project.

Your copywriter should also have a system for handling revisions, as this can greatly affect your project timelines. For example, how many rounds of revisions do you need your copywriter to provide at no extra charge? How long does it typically take them to turn around edits?

If you know in advance that you’ll need to outsource a lot of your marketing copy, you can “test” a new copywriter with a small project. If the project goes well, you can feel confident moving forward.

How to Increase the Conversion Rates on Your B2B Product Pages

According to MarketingSherpaʼs 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, generating high-quality leads is still the #1 challenge faced by B2B marketers. If you work for a B2B organization, much of your marketing probably aims to drive high-quality leads to landing pages for your products or services. However, once leads arrive at these pages, how many of them are turning into customers?

Since the report also stated that 69% of B2B marketers plan to increase their budgets for website design, management and optimization, I wanted to address how you can put your budget to good use and increase the conversion rates of your websiteʼs key pages.

1. Provide leads with multiple options and valuable content

One of the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make on their landing pages is to only give visitors one option – contact a sales representative to learn more. By doing this, you may drive away people who are interested in your offer but aren’t ready to speak with a sales representative at this point. You need to provide these early- or mid-stage leads with other options and a way to get on your list, so you can continue sending them information.

To do this, you should offer your leads valuable content that helps them understand their challenges – such as white papers, videos or other educational materials. You can also offer case studies, online demos, comparison charts and other materials that make it easier for your leads to make an informed purchasing decision.

2. Donʼt overwhelm your leads with too much information

Lots of B2B technology marketers love to discuss all of their productsʼ cool features. However, loading your pages with too much technical content up front can scare off leads who want to get a quick overview of how your product can help them solve a business challenge – as opposed to a technical challenge.

One way you can work around this problem is to break your product pages into sections. The first section can contain the high-level business benefits that would appeal to business owners and non-technical decision makers. Then, leads can click links or download spec sheets to learn more about the productʼs features. This allows you to give both your technical and non-technical leads all the information they need.

3. Understand your different audiences

In addition to creating content for technical and non-technical decision makers, you may also need to speak to different audiences. For example, are you selling a customer relationship management tool that both marketing and sales teams will use? If so, your product pages should contain content that addresses the needs and concerns of both marketing and sales. You may need to add tabs to your page for each separate audience. You can also create custom brochures, white papers, case studies and demo videos that leads can access through your product pages.

Also, always remember to check your analytics and see how your B2B landing pages are performing. This will let you know if you are engaging your visitors and getting them to take the next step or if you need to make changes to your website.

What About You?

How do you improve the conversion rates on your landing pages? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

How to Bring New Life to Your B2B White Papers

Chief Content Officer CoverThere’s a debate happening about the value of white papers. In an effort to produce more content, many businesses are pushing out poorly-written white papers that do little to engage their target audiences. This is flooding people’s inboxes with boring content and causing marketers to question the format’s ROI.

However, recent research has shown that white papers can still be a valuable part of your marketing mix. The B2B Content Marketing 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report revealed that 60% of marketers find white papers effective. If you market technology products or services, white papers are even more important. According to the Eccolo 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report83% of technology buyers said “white papers were moderately to extremely influential in helping them make their final purchase decision.”

So, how can you create white papers that excite and influence your target audience?

One answer is to use technology to reimagine the classic white paper. My feature article in Chief Content Officer Magazine explores how interactive white papers and video white papers are reviving the reputation of the B2B marketing workhorse. You can click here to check out the article and learn how new white paper technology is helping marketers make their content more memorable and relevant – and in turn increase their ROI.

Also, feel free to share your thoughts about white papers below.