3 Things a DJ Can Teach You About Content Marketing

One of my hobbies is Lindy Hop – the original form of swing dancing that came out of Harlem in the 1930s. I’ve recently been learning how to DJ for dance events. DJing for dancers is challenging, because you have to read the crowd during every song to determine what they want to hear next. For example, do they want to pick up the tempo with a fast Charleston or slow it down with the blues? If you ignore the crowd and play only what you like, you may face an empty dance floor – never a good sign at a dance.

Since I spend a great deal of time thinking about both marketing and Lindy Hop, it’s not surprising that learning how to DJ reminds me of marketing. Some marketers are like inexperienced DJs. They blast out a message when their audience may want something completely different. However, if you don’t pay attention to your audience and give them what they want, they will ignore you and go to your competitors.

Here are 3 ways to play to your crowd:

  • Do your homework. Before a DJ attends an event, they learn about the venue and who will be there. Before you put out any kind of message, you should also learn as much as possible about your crowd. Who are they? What are their key concerns? What types of content do they prefer (e.g. video, white papers, blogs)? How do they prefer to receive their messages (e.g. social media, email, direct mail, etc.)? Doing your research in advance will ensure that your messages are relevant to your audience and are more likely to get read, viewed or shared.
  • Be flexible. When I DJ, I usually bring a short list of songs I’d like to play. However, if people aren’t dancing, I may need to switch to a completely different playlist. You’ll need to allow for the same flexibility in your marketing. Using analytics or marketing automation software can give you instant insight into what pages people are accessing on your website, how long they spend on each page and which campaigns are performing the best. Use your analytics as a guide and do what it takes to keep your conversion rates high – whether this means changing the header on a landing page or updating your social media strategy.

Try some of these tips to make your marketing more relevant and keep your audience coming back for more. Plus, feel free to share your thoughts below.

3 Ways to Break Out of a Content Marketing Rut

This article was originally published by the Content Marketing Institute.

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If your content marketing is on autopilot and you’re not getting the results you want, I wouldn’t say you’re insane, but you could certainly use some fresh ideas.

Unremarkable content can also be a big problem if you’re in an industry, such as technology, that relies on innovation.  If your marketing does not reflect the innovation that goes into your products or services, it can put you at a disadvantage by making you look either boring or too complex.

Here are three tips to help you break out of your content marketing rut.

Look Outside Your Industry

One of my friends, Krister Shalm, works in quantum physics — a topic most people would say they don’t understand. However, Krister has a gift for making physics accessible and entertaining. He recently held a talk called, “Quantum Physics and the Magic of Harry Potter.” By showing how quantum physics was used in the popular series, he sold out his two-night show and educated people of all ages about his field. Krister even timed the talks to coincide with the release of the final Harry Potter movie,  which also helped increase his audience.

If you can relate your content to something that is popular or newsworthy, you may attract more publicity and a larger audience.

Try a Different Medium

Does your organization always publish data sheets when your audience really prefers white papers? If your content isn’t reaching your ideal audience, you may need to change your delivery method. Determine what kind of content works best for communicating with your audience. For example, if they are auditory learners, you may want to record podcasts; if they typically spend a lot of their time on YouTube, you can consider using your content as the basis of a video series.

You can also repurpose your content in ways that might attract an expanded audience. For example, you can turn one of your webinars into a white paper, video series, blog posts, or social media updates. This means that if people missed a live webinar you offered, they could still find the content through their favorite social media networks or other channels.

Try Something New Within an Existing Medium

I recently wrote an article for Chief Content Officer Magazine called “Reimaging the Tried-and-True White Paper.” The article explores how new technology, such as interactive white papers and video white papers, is helping marketers improve the ROI from their lead-generation campaigns.

Experimenting with newer content features and options is a great way to put a fresh spin on the content you offer through a reliable medium like print. For example, try adding interactive components to your next white paper such as video or custom content that is relevant to each reader’s industry or role. You can also make your existing content more social by encouraging comments and adding social sharing features. This can make your message more exciting or accessible while giving you an opportunity to share more information about your organization.

Remember: Although there are endless ways to make your message stand out, you must always keep your focus on creating content that is relevant to your buyers’ needs. If your content is not relevant, all the extras will be a waste of your marketing effort and budget.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, subscribe to the Fresh Marketing e-newsletter for monthly B2B marketing tips that will help you attract more leads and convert them into sales. Click here to get your FREE subscription.

5 Keys to an Editorial Calendar that Keeps Your Content on Track

If you had the opportunity to attend Content Marketing World, or if you’ve been checking out all of the Content Marketing Institute’s amazing videos from the event, you may have lots of ideas on how to improve your content marketing.

However, many organizations fail to see ROI from their content marketing because they don’t create a plan for getting everything done.

This blog post will show you how to get your content marketing efforts moving forward with the help of an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar provides you with a quick overview of your content marketing strategy and outlines exactly what tasks need to be completed.

Here are five things you must do when you create an editorial calendar for content marketing:

1. Know your audience

One thing I mention in almost all of my blog posts is the importance of making your content relevant to your buyers’ needs. If your audience doesn’t think your content is geared specifically toward them, they won’t be interested in it.

Before you develop an editorial calendar, you’ll need to understand who your target audience is, what their biggest concerns are and what types of content they want. You can do this by creating buyer personas, surveying your target audience to understand their needs, or asking your customer service team about the conversations they have with buyers. Once you understand your target audience, you can come up with content that helps to meet their needs and solve their challenges.

2. Identify the gaps in your content

When you make an editorial calendar, you should anticipate any content gaps you’ll have in the upcoming year. For example, if you are planning a major product launch or event, you’ll need content to support these items. It’s better to plan for these gaps early on so that you don’t panic when deadlines are approaching and you don’t have the right content on hand.

3. Plan for special themes

Many magazines highlight different themes each month. You can apply a similar approach to your content marketing. For example, you can pick the top 12 biggest concerns your target audience has and address a different concern each month. You can also make predictions for the upcoming year or tie some of your content into holidays or seasonal concerns.

Themes not only make it easier for your in-house team to develop content, but they are also useful for advertisers and guest contributors. Anyone who advertises on your blog or in your other materials will need to know your editorial themes in advance so they can see if their ads will be a match for your audience at a given time. Guest contributors can also connect the topics of their blog posts and articles to your themes.

4. Decide on your publishing schedule

As you plan an editorial calendar, you’ll need to answer the following questions:

  • What are you going to publish and how content do you plan to publish for each effort?
  • How often are you going to publish?
  • Who will be responsible for researching, writing, designing, approving, publishing, and sharing the content?

 5.     Keep multiple editorial calendars

Last year, Michele Linn wrote a great post in which she suggested creating multiple editorial calendars. The first one should be a master calendar that provides a quick overview of all the content you have planned, broken down by day and week. The other calendars should focus on tasks for specific projects such as your blog or newsletter. Multiple calendars allow you to see the big picture as well as ensure each project is on track.

Your editorial calendar doesn’t need to be complicated. You can keep it in an Excel file and use different tabs for each project. You can also try Google Calendar or another team collaboration tool to automatically send out reminders when deadlines are approaching.

What about you? Do you use an editorial calendar to keep track of your content marketing? If not, are you thinking about using one? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

This post was originally published by the Content Marketing Institute.

5 Ways to Improve Your Landing Pages for Better Conversions

As a B2B marketer, you put a lot of effort into getting your target audience to visit your website and opt in for your white papers, videos and reports. However, if your landing pages don’t entice people to request your content, a lot of your hard work will be lost.

That’s why I wanted to provide advice on how to improve your landing pages. For this article, I’m focusing on tips that will get people to download your free content, as the techniques for selling premium content can be different.

Here are 5 ways to increase your landing pages’ conversion rates:

      1. Keep your most important content above the fold. You want to make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to say “yes” to your offer. Place your opt-in box above the fold — the point on your web page where visitors would have to scroll to see more information. Your conversion rates will increase if visitors don’t have to scroll to complete your form.
      2. Limit your visitors’ options. Your landing page will perform better if your visitors’ only option is to complete your form. That means that you should remove any outside links or navigation from your landing page.
      3. Show the benefits. You need to entice visitors to opt in for your content. Just stating the title of your video or white paper is not enough to do this. Add some copy that explains the benefits of requesting your material. For example, I like to include short bullet points that highlight what visitors will learn when they check out the content.
      4. Create a sense of urgency. Try to give your readers a compelling reason why they must request your content now. For example, you can offer a report or video series for a limited time. You can also stress that limited spots are available for an upcoming free webinar.
      5. Appeal to skimmers. Most people won’t read your web content word-for-word, so you want to ensure your landing page is structured for skimmers. Make use of headers, sub-headers, bold text, bullets, and white space. You should also consider red graphics, such as arrows or buttons, to draw a reader’s eye towards your call to action.

Also, be sure to test your landing pages to determine which copy and graphics give you the best results. For instance: Try running an A/B split test where you create two versions of your landing page and split your traffic between both pages. Experiment with different headlines, calls to action and other elements until you learn which page brings you the highest conversion rate.

What about you? What techniques do you use to make your landing pages more effective? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

*This article was originally published by the Content Marketing Institute.

The #1 Way to Improve Your B2B Marketing

The B2B market is changing. A few years ago, buyers were more likely to contact a sales representative to learn about a product. Now they prefer to conduct their own research – either through online search or their social networks – and wait to speak with a sales representative.

If you want to generate more leads in today’s social environment, you must position yourself as a trusted resource that helps your buyers solve their challenges.

To do this, you must ensure your marketing is relevant toward your buyers’ needs. If your content isn’t relevant, your audience will tune out your messages. Here are 4 ways you can create content that appeals to your buyers:

  1. Create buyer personas. Before you can create content that speaks to your buyers’ needs, you must know exactly who your buyers are. Craft personas for your key buyers and refer to them when you create new content. The personas can include demographic information, a description of their typical work day, their professional challenges, personal concerns, etc.
  2. Ask your customers what they want. Sometimes it’s hard to get to know your customers if you spend all your time in the office. Luckily, all the new digital channels allow you to learn about your customers without leaving your desk! Let customers leave comments on your blog, encourage them to contact you through social media and survey them about their needs. Ask how you can do better and offer more value.

    You should also talk to your customer service team, as they interact with your customers on a day-to-day basis and know exactly what they like and don’t like.

  3. Ensure your content corresponds to all stages in the buying cycle. Since customers conduct their own research, you should give them information that will help them in the early, mid and late buying stages. If you don’t do this, you’ll lose potential customers.

    Click here to read a blog post that explains what content appeals to early-, mid- and late-stage leads.

  4. Create different material for different audiences. A software company recently contacted me to write copy for their website. They had a few target audiences, including doctors, personal trainers and sales professionals – basically anyone whose business was appointment-driven. They wanted to create landing pages for each audience and have me simply “change a few words” on each page. I advised them that this probably wouldn’t work, as the needs of a doctor are different from the needs of a sales professional. Either the copy would be so generic that it wouldn’t appeal to any of their markets or it would only speak to one of them.

    If your audiences have different needs, you’ll want to create targeted content for them. Your buyers can tell when you write something just for them versus something generic.

I feel that making your marketing more relevant is the single most important step you can take to improve the quality of your leads. Once you do this, everything else will follow.

 

How to Select a White Paper Topic that Drives Leads

White papers can be a key element in your lead generation mix, especially if you sell technology products or services. 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.”

However, many white papers miss the mark when it comes to engaging an audience and driving leads. One reason could be because readers don’t relate to the topic.

Here are 3 ways you can come up with a white paper topic that resonates with your target audience and generates leads:

  • Determine your marketing objectives. Although you want your content to appeal to your target audience, you must first ensure it aligns with your business objectives. Think about your marketing goals and what you hope to achieve with the white paper. For example, are you using the white paper for overall lead generation? Do you lack resources for a specific product or service and need to fill gaps in your content? Are you launching a new product and creating educational resources to support it?
  • Determine your target audience’s key pain. Your white paper will be more successful if it helps your buyers overcome one of their key challenges. If you do a good job addressing your audience’s concerns, they will download your white paper and share it with their networks. One way to determine your audience’s key pains is to make a list of the questions they frequently ask you. If you don’t know their challenges, you can conduct formal or informal surveys to find out.
  • Ask for feedback. Once you have a few possible topics, ask some of your best customers which one they would prefer to learn more about. You can also run topic ideas past your social media communities. Asking for feedback early in the process will ensure you don’t waste your resources on a white paper that doesn’t bring you a strong ROI.

Here’s one more consideration …

Make sure your white paper is educational. If you spend most of the document describing your product’s features or pitching your services, even the best topic won’t engage your readers. Buyers download white papers early in the sales process to learn more about one of their key challenges – not to read a 10-page sales pitch.

What about you? What factors are the most important to you when you choose a white paper topic? Feel free to share your comments below.

The 5 Biggest Questions About Creating Social Media Content that Drives Action

Highlights from the Social CMO’s Live Marketer Monday Chat

Many B2B marketers are turning to social media for lead generation. However, with an overwhelming amount of information shared through social media channels, it is becoming harder for companies to stand out and engage their target audiences. Plus, when companies attempt to use social networks as another direct marketing channel, many find that this approach backfires and results in negative ROI.

There is a way to achieve ROI and generate high-quality leads through social media — learn to build long-term relationships with customers rather than going after a quick sale. In my recent live chat on Twitter with host The Social CMO, I answered the top questions on “How to Create Social Media Content that Drives Action.”

Here are the 5 biggest questions about creating content that turns social media fans and followers into sales leads.

  1. What is “social content”?

    Social content is ANY content people will share. It’s not just what you post to social media, but anything on your website or elsewhere that your community will want to share. These can be reports, videos, case studies or other content. When you think about it, all of your marketing can be social.

  2. How do you make your content sharable?

    Make it relevant. The more relevant your content is to your audience, the more they will share it.  If you don’t know if something will resonate, you can ask. Twitter is a good tool to get instant feedback on your ideas before you commit time to developing and publishing them.

  3. How do you write copy for the social web?

    Focus on providing your audience with educational content. People are looking for solutions to their problems. The more you educate them, the more they will see you as a trusted advisor. Use the word ‘you,’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘our company’. Focus your content on your readers and their needs. Be casual and friendly. People will respond to you if they view you as a likable person, not a faceless corporation.

  4. Can you make sales through social media?

    It’s possible to make sales through social media, but selling shouldn’t be your focus. Instead of trying to sell products or services through social media, try to sell readers on the next step. For example, ask them to click a link to your blog, comment on a post, download something free or provide you with feedback. The point is to ask them to take risk-free baby steps until they begin to trust you. Then, they will be willing to take bigger steps such as opting into your list or eventually … buying something.

  5. Are there any examples of B2B companies that have successfully used social media to drive leads or sales?

    The Social Media Marketing Industry Report said that 48% of respondents have used social media to help close sales. Here are some case studies:

    Cisco launched a product using only social media. They saved $100K on the launch and gained 3 times the media coverage …

    IdeaPaint, a Boston start-up, says social media is their largest source of leads and traffic…

If you missed this informative live Twitter chat, where I answered all these questions plus more in greater detail, you can check out the full transcript here:

Transcript of How to Create Social Media Content that Drives Action

What about you? What are your biggest questions about creating content that drives action? Feel free to share your comments and questions below.

 

3 Keys to Creating Social Media Content that Converts

Originally published by the Content Marketing Institute.
 
According to a recent study by FUSION b2b, the top B2B marketing priority for 2011 is lead generation. This supports what I’ve been hearing from my clients and peers – that their biggest challenge is attracting high-quality leads their sales teams will love.

More marketers are turning to digital channels to connect with great leads. In fact, the FUSION b2b study also revealed that an amazing 96.9% of B2B marketers plan to increase their use of social media this year. For these reasons, I’d like to explore how to generate leads through social media. Here are three keys to creating social media content that converts.

Share valuable content

People join social media communities to engage with like-minded individuals and exchange ideas. If your content isn’t relevant to your audience’s needs, they will drop you from their social networks.

Always look for ways to bring new value to your community.

Rethink your call to action

In direct marketing, your call to action may encourage readers to contact you for a free trial or purchase something right away. While you can get direct sales through social media, the bulk of your social media efforts should focus on building trust with your community. For this reason, you should consider the following calls to action:

  • Posing a question to solicit feedback and start conversations.
  • Encouraging readers to click a link that takes them to your blog or other educational content.
  • Inviting readers to post comments on your blog.
  • Asking your community to share your content with their friends.
  • Inviting your community to attend webinars, educational events or chat sessions.

Know when it’s OK to sell on social media

I like to think of social media as a great starting point for a relationship. It’s hard to sell an expensive product or service with a 140-character tweet. That’s why it’s important to move your relationships onto other platforms. Once you have an established presence on social media and an engaged community, you can start to put out more marketing messages.

Instead of trying to sell your products or services on social media, try to sell the next step.

Ideally, you should get leads to move from social channels to your list, so you can start sending them marketing content. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Use social media to invite your community to check out landing pages for videos, reports, podcasts or other educational content. These landing pages can include banner ads, opt-in boxes or other calls to action to get leads on your list.
  • Make sure the subscription options for your blog are prominent. When people visit your blog from social media sites, you want to make it easy for them to subscribe.
  • Promote your webinars and live events on social media. Social communities love to share ideas and information, and many people will trade their contact information for the chance to learn something useful at one of your events.

Just remember to keep the bulk of your social media content non-salesy.The more sales-driven your messages, the more you will turn off your community. You should also realize that opening a Twitter, Facebook or other social account isn’t a magic solution that will solve all your lead generation challenges. It takes time to develop relationships that lead to sales – whether you’re connecting with prospects through social media or a traditional marketing channel. Like any other business strategy, you must commit for the long-term to see measurable return on investment.

Want to know more about creating social media content that attracts leads?

Join me on Monday, July 4, from 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Eastern as I team up with The Social CMO to discuss how to create social media content that drives action. To join the conversation, log into Twitter and search for the #MMChat hashtag. This will show you everyone who is part of the conversation. If you have a question or a comment, simply add the #MMChat hashtag to the body of your tweet, and the other participants will be able to see and respond to you. Click here to learn more about this event. I look forward to chatting with you!  

B2B Content Marketing Roundup

B2B Content Marketing RoundupSometimes it seems like I do so much guest posting for great B2B publications that I start to neglect my own blog. That’s why I’d like to invite you to check out some of my recent posts for The Content Marketing Institute.

The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing

Content marketing is hot right now. According to the B2B Content Marketing: 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, 51% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets within the next year. That’s because publishing compelling content can help you attract customers, increase your brand awareness, promote your thought leadership and bring more visitors to your website. And that’s just a short list of benefits!

However, you may have come across a few myths that are preventing you from getting the greatest ROI from your content marketing efforts. If you’re in the early stages of a content marketing strategy, you may believe at least one of the following myths. Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

The Pros and Cons of Tweeting at Live Events

I recently had the pleasure of attending a TEDx event. Many of my clients, friends and tweeps were interested in the content, so I told them I would tweet live from the event. However, ten minutes into the first talk, I realized I was missing too much of the presentation and gave up on tweeting.

More event organizers are using Twitter to build a sense of excitement and help their content spread. Thanks to all the live tweets, the TEDx conference jumped to the #1 trending topic in Canada the day of the event.

Even though I’m a huge fan of Twitter, I’ve noticed a downside of encouraging live event tweets – click here to read the rest of the blog post.

3 Keys to Creating Social Media Content that Converts

According to a recent study by FUSION b2bthe top B2B marketing priority for 2011 is lead generation. This supports what I’ve been hearing from my clients and peers – that their biggest challenge is attracting high-quality leads their sales teams will love.

More marketers are turning to digital channels to connect with great leads. In fact, the FUSION b2b study also revealed that an amazing 96.9% of B2B marketers plan to increase their use of social media this year.

For these reasons, I’d like to explore how to generate leads through social media. Click here to read the three keys to creating social media content that converts.

Feel free to share your thoughts on these posts on the Content Marketing Institute’s blog or below.

3 Easy Ways to Find Your Big Stories

Magnifying Glass - 3 big storiesOne of my clients recently came to me with a problem. Their corporate brochure didn’t reflect how they were different from their competitors. When I spoke with the owner, I discovered that they regularly performed amazing feats of customer service.

For example, a member of their team flew halfway around the world to get a client what they needed on time-with only 48 hours’ notice. What a story!

Even if you’ve never personally flown around the world for a client, you may have similar stories about your unmatched service or amazing products. However, you could be taking these stories for granted or you simply don’t know how to find stories that will “wow” potential customers.

Here are 3 ways to uncover your hidden gems:

1. Get your sales and customer service teams involved

Review your upcoming marketing and communications plans and determine where you need stories. For example, are you short on success stories to send to leads who express interest in a specific product? Make a story wish list and forward it to your sales and customer service reps. Your frontline staff may know of a match.

2. Use social media

Did one of your fans or tweeps say something great about your company? Fantastic! Try asking them if they would be willing to be featured in a case study. You can also integrate social media functions into your website to allow customers to interact with each other, find support and discuss your products or services. Some of their comments may form the basis for a success story.

3. Make it easy

Do you want to know how not to get compelling stories from your best customers? Ask them to “please send me a testimonial.” You’ll either get back a generic comment such as, “Your product works as it should,” or your customers won’t know what to say and will fail to send in a response.

Instead, you need to make it easy for your best customers to share their stories. You can send them a specific list of questions to answer. However, you can make it even easier for them by having someone from your team interview them over the phone. The interviewer can guide them through a series of questions, type their responses into a publishable format and email it to them for their approval. I find this method ensures you will get the most compelling stories and some surprising feedback that will make you smile.

Once you have the systems in place to collect stories, you’ll uncover a wealth of content for all your marketing needs.

3 Ways To Leverage This For Your Business:

1. Read “How Not to Get Your B2B Content Blocked by Your Ideal Customers” to make sure you get your message in front of your target audience.

2. Download Content Marketing Quick Fixes to learn the 10 things you can do improve your story writing content.

3. Click to share this article on Linkedin. Sharing quality content increases your visibility and credibility with your existing contacts, creating conversations and potentially new business.

 

Do White Papers Still Work?

white paper crumpledLauren Carlson from Marketing Automation Software Guide sent me a link to a blog post that questions the value of white papers. She argues that, “Once scholarly in their ambition, white papers have devolved into thinly-veiled, lengthy sales pitches that no longer appeal to the educated buyer’s shortened attention span.”

She recommends companies find new ways to reach their customers – such as through Twitter chats, microsites and dynamic PDFs. Lauren has some good points. It’s true that many companies create boring promos, rather than educational pieces that address their audiences’ key concerns.

She also suggested some innovative ways to use digital technology to engage your audience. You should check out her post. However, I disagree that technology companies should give up on the white paper.

There’s too much proof of their effectiveness as a lead generation tool. According to the Eccolo 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, 76% of technology buyers have used white papers in the past six months to evaluate a new purchase and 83% of technology buyers said “white papers were moderately to extremely influential in helping them make their final purchase decision.”

White papers are also highly likely to be shared. A study by InformationWeek Business Technology Network revealed that “93% of IT buyers pass-along up to half of the white papers they read/download.”

This means when you develop a white paper, you should create something your audience wants to share. The most important thing you can do to improve your white papers and make them more sharable is to focus on your audience’s needs.

The more your readers relate to the problems presented in your white paper, the more likely they’ll be to share your content with their peers. Take the time to research your audience, find out what their biggest concerns are and write a white paper based around those concerns. If you have several audiences, you can’t write one basic white paper and simply change a few words to speak to each audience.

For example, if you sell a software product to both marketing and operations professionals, you can’t simply change “marketing” to “operations” and expect the white paper to be effective. The needs of these groups are very different, and they require separate and highly-focused content.

And please … save your sales pitch for the end of the white paper. Readers expect white papers to be educational and will grow irritated if they’re presented with a giant sales pitch.

What about you? Do you find white papers useful? Feel free to share your comments below.  

5 Ways to Promote Your White Papers and Generate Leads Online

Promote your white papers online White papers are one of the best marketing tools you can use to educate your audience about your products and services. A rapidly increasing number of professionals claim white papers are a major factor in influencing their purchasing decisions.

In fact, TechTarget surveyed more than 1,400 IT professionals about their buying habits. The survey revealed that 66% of IT buyers have used white papers within the past 3 months to evaluate new technology information.

Although many marketers take the time to create white papers, their messages may only reach a fraction of their potential audience. This is because some marketers simply post white papers on their websites, sit back and hope their ideal customers will find them. If you want to increase your readership and the amount of leads you generate, you must make it easy for your target audience to find your information. Below are 5 ways you can promote your white papers online and direct more leads to your website:

1. Run a Teaser in Your Blog or E-newsletter Before you create your next white paper, try writing an e-zine article or blog post that discusses one of its key points. Doing this early allows you to:

  • Gauge your readers’ feedback to determine if the topic interests them.
  • Overcome writer’s block. When you sit down to write the white paper, you’ll already have a solid starting point.

2. Share Your White Papers with Your Social Networks One key component of social networking is providing valuable content for your community. IT professionals and other business buyers tend to perceive white papers as highly valuable. Eccolo Media’s 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report revealed white papers are shared more than any other form of marketing collateral. In fact, 89% of survey respondents reported sharing white papers with others. Use your social networks to spread the word about your white papers. If members of your community enjoy the content, they will pass it along via their own networks.

3. Promote Your White Papers in Your E-mail Signature Your e-mail signature might be one of your most overlooked marketing areas. Add a P.S. to your outgoing messages that invites your contacts to visit your website and download your free white paper.

4. Send Out an Online News Release Your latest research can become exciting news in your industry. Every time you create a white paper, you should develop an online news release to drive journalists, bloggers and potential customers to your website. Online news releases have a few benefits over traditional press releases. Many popular online press release distribution services will submit your news to major search engines and social networks, helping to improve your overall search engine rankings. These services also allow you to target your distribution, so your press release goes to the exact sector you wish to reach.

5. Increase Downloads with Online Advertisements If you have a large website, try placing ads for your white paper on your home page and throughout your site. You can also run a Google AdWords campaign that directs people to your white paper’s registration form. One More Important Point … Once people arrive at your landing page, make it easy for them to request your white paper. If your registration form asks for too much information, people will become frustrated and leave your web page. Keep your registration form as short as possible to ensure the most people request your white paper.

What about you? What strategies do you use to promote your white papers? Please share your thoughts below.

What Count Basie Can Teach You About Writing B2B Marketing Copy

Piano One of my favourite musicians is Count Basie. He was known for his minimalist approach to playing the piano and leaving lots of space between his notes. His music was exciting not just because of what he played, but what he didn’t play.

I was listening to Count Basie the other day and began to think about how his minimalist approach could be applied to writing marketing copy. Here are my thoughts:

1. You don’t need to say everything. Many B2B technology marketers want to tell potential customers about all of their product’s features. If you have a complex product, this can amount to tons of copy that most people won’t read. While late-stage leads may want to know more about your product’s specific features, early-stage leads are more interested in discovering how your product can benefit them. For example, I just wrote brochure copy for two software packages. Instead of filling the brochures with tons of copy about all the products’ features, my client wanted to keep the copy light and focus on what the software could help users achieve. The purpose of the copy was to inspire readers to see what’s possible.

2. Use lots of white space. Research has shown that readers are less apt to read huge blocks of text. Just like Count Basie left space between his notes, you should leave space on your page. Keep your paragraphs short, use bullets and highlight important points in bold. This will make your copy more readable and encourage skimmers to pick up on your key messages.

3. Eliminate adverbs. Powerful verbs can pull readers into your copy and encourage them to take action. Just resist the urge to add descriptive words that end in “ly.”  Adverbs are often unnecessary and can slow down the pace of your copy. Try some of these tips to clear the clutter out of your marketing copy and make it swing! Feel free to share your thoughts and favourite Count Basie tunes below.

Image provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net.

5 Keys to Amazing Case Study Interviews

Case studies are one of the most persuasive items you can include in your sales toolbox. In the B2B marketplace, a compelling case study can do more to sway potential customers than a page full of testimonials. That’s because people enjoy reading stories and often visualize themselves in the role of your happy customer. However, many B2B marketers put off developing case studies. I suspect many don’t have the time to schedule and conduct interviews with their customers. Below are 5 tips on how to get amazing customer interviews:

1. Use scheduling software – Scheduling interviews by email can be complicated, as you may exchange up to 10 messages before you find a time that works for both of you. If you conduct lots of interviews or client calls, you may want to try scheduling software. I use TimeTrade, which allows me to set blocks of time when I’m available. I then email interviewees a link to my calendar, and they select a time that works for them. The software automatically updates both of our calendars.

2. Ask for permission to record the interview – Recording a phone interview will save you lots of typing time and ensure that you don’t miss any key points. You can attach a recording device to your phone – just be sure this is legal in your area. Another option is to use an online transcription service to record the call and provide you with a transcript. Remember to always tell interviewees that you will be recording the call.

3. Guide interviewees through the story – During your interview, you should draw out your customer’s story. Here are some key things to look for:

  • The problem they were having before they tried your product or service. How was this problem affecting their organization in terms of time, productivity, sales or another area?
  • The other solutions they tried before they purchased your product or service – and why those solutions didn’t work.
  • How they heard about you and why they decided to go with your product or service. Did another customer refer them to you? Did they have an amazing experience with one of your sales reps?
  • How they implemented your product or service.
  • The results they achieved after using your product or service. You should try to get some numbers here, like “Using your e-commerce software increased our online sales by 27%.”

4. Ask open-ended questions – Avoid questions that elicit “yes” or “no” answers, as they won’t give you enough information to write a compelling case study. Don’t ask, “Would you recommend our product to others?” Instead, ask, “Why would you recommend our product to others?” or “Who else do you think would benefit from using our product?” The answers to these questions will be much more interesting.

5. Prod for more information – Sometimes, an interviewee may not feel like talking. You may ask open-ended questions but find your interviewee doesn’t have much to say. If this happens, you can restate the question. You can also prod for more information by asking questions like:

  • “How so?”
  • “How exactly did that benefit you?”
  • “Can you please tell me more?”

After you interview customers, you’ll need to get their approval to use their comments in your case study. If your company doesn’t have a policy for this, you can send customers a draft of the case study, along with a brief waiver to sign. If you need the copy approved quickly, put the waiver in the body of an email and ask customers to e-sign it. People tend to sign off on things faster if they don’t need to print out a document and mail or fax it back to you.

Do You Need Assistance Developing Compelling Case Studies?

If you read the above article and thought, “Sounds great, but I still don’t have the time to do all this,” we should talk. My case study development packages can help you get the powerful endorsements you need to turn more prospects into customers. Your package can include detailed customer interviews, full transcripts of the interviews, a 2 – 3 page success story, and a summary that you can use as a teaser. You can click here to view some of my success stories. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you develop case studies or other marketing collateral that can win you business and enhance your reputation, contact me at 647-342-4921 or rachel@freshperspectivewriting.com.

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5 Ways Content Marketing Can Benefit You

3 Big Myths of Content MarketingToday, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) published my first guest blog post – The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing. I’m excited to join the CMI blogging team and to be part of a community that includes so many talented marketers.

Content marketing is one of the hottest B2B marketing developments. According to Compendium, content marketing will be to 2011 what social media was to 2010. That’s because marketers are discovering how important it is to use compelling content to educate and entertain their target audience.

Here are 5 benefits you can achieve when you implement a content marketing strategy:

    1. Generate more leads – Marketers are realizing that blasting their audience with sales messages no longer works. People don’t want to be “sold to” all the time. However, they will view content that helps them solve one of their key problems. That’s why offering white papers, videos, e-books, research and other content is a great way to get someone to subscribe to your list. The better your content can address your target audience’s key concerns, the more they will download and share your materials.
    2. Shorten your sales cycles – Once someone subscribes to your list, you’ll want to keep sending them relevant content to move them along the sales cycle. For example, showing leads case studies can help them envision themselves in the role of your happy customer and eliminate some of their concerns about working with you.
    3. Become recognized as a leader in your industry – When you provide your community with advice on how to solve one of their most pressing problems, they’ll see you as a helpful resource. Over time, they’ll associate you with the answer to their problem. This can help you build credibility, land speaking gigs and attract customers.
    4. Better search engines rankings – Keyword-rich blog posts, articles and reports can bring more visitors to your website. Plus, the more your community shares your content, the more links you will get back to your site. However, be sure to read The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing to learn what not to do to try to improve your search engine rankings.
    5. Give you an advantage over your competitors – Many companies are still stuck on the old way of doing things – pushing out sales messages to people who aren’t ready to buy. You have an opportunity to attract some of these potential customers by helping them, rather than selling to them.

Now that you know the benefits of content marketing, you should also learn about the biggest mistakes you can make when you jump into it. Click here to read my post for the CMI blog – The 3 Big Myths of B2B Content Marketing. The post also offers suggestions on how to avoid these mistakes and develop a content marketing strategy that helps you engage your audience and generate more leads.

What You Must Know When You Use Social Media to Attract Customers or to Position Yourself as a Leader in Your Industry

Thought leadershipDo you want your social media efforts to lead to high-quality leads and recognition from your industry? While both of these goals can be reached, many marketers attempt to accomplish too much at once. They may use only 1 social media profile to try to bring leads to their websites and share the latest industry trends with their peers.

This approach can work if your customers are also your peers and would be interested in both your thought leadership and your products. However, if your customers are from other sectors, you may need to consider another strategy. When your social media messages speak to different audiences, you’ll have a hard time engaging anybody. For example, a potential customer from the retail sector may see your blog posts about the future of the software industry and assume that your content is not relevant.

Below are key points to think about when you position your brand across the social web.

5 Considerations When You Use Social Media to Position Yourself as a Leader in Your Industry

1. Your main objective: To be recognized as a leader and innovator in your industry.

2. Your target audience: Others in your industry, including associates, colleagues and competitors. You may want to increase your chances of getting media coverage by connecting with bloggers, journalists and podcasters who cover your field. If you use public speaking as part of your marketing strategy, you can also reach out to associations and conference organizers who plan events for people in your industry.

3. The types of content you can share: Anything that focuses on the future of your field. You can share your thoughts on the latest industry trends and best practices. This content can take the form of videos of your live presentations, excerpts from your books, articles, blog posts and special reports. Some of this content should be yours, but you should also share what other thought leaders are saying about your industry.

4. Desired results: You’ll become recognized as a leader in your niche. You’ll receive invitations to speak at events, participate in panels and give your expert opinion to the media. Others in your industry will come to you for advice.

5. You may be focusing too much on attracting customers if … you’re not getting press coverage, people aren’t sharing your content and no one is inviting you to speak at events. However, if your social media activities seem to be attracting new customers, you may want to build on the momentum and change your strategy to focus more on lead generation.

5 Considerations When You Use Social Media to Attract Customers

1. Your main objective: To use social media as a lead generation tool. You may want more people to visit your website and opt in to your list so you can send them sales messages in the future.

2. Your target audience: Potential and current customers.

3. The types of content you can share: Articles, blog posts, videos, reports, white papers or anything else that your ideal customers would find interesting. This information can be a combination of your own content and content from other sources. You can also invite your social community to free webinars and other events that are designed to educate them while helping you generate leads.

4. Desired results: More potential customers will visit your website and subscribe to your list. You’ll fill your webinars and live events with qualified leads. When you track your sales, you’ll discover that social media has played a large role in the sales process.

5. You may be focusing too much on thought leadership if … your social media activities are not leading to sales and you wonder why all your competitors want to connect with you on Twitter.

If you want to attract both industry recognition and new customers, you can maintain multiple social media accounts or blogs to connect with different audiences. For example, you could keep a customer-focused blog and also ask key employees to share their thought leadership on a separate blog.

However, you may not have the time or resources to devote to multiple blogs and social media accounts. If that is the case, concentrate all your efforts on only one of these strategies. You may find that, over time, you’ll receive the benefits of both new customers and increased recognition within your industry.

This post was originally published by The Social CMO – a collective that helps Chief Marketing Officers harness the power of social media to build their brands. You can check out more of my posts for The Social CMO here.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post below.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Jargon in Your B2B Marketing Copy

Jargon in marketing copyImagine opening your child’s report card and reading the following:

“He demonstrates the principles of movement using locomotion, manipulation and stability skills.”

or

“She explains how the particular characteristics of various text forms help to communicate meaning, with a focus on literary, graphic and informational texts.”

These are actual examples of the gibberish Ontario parents have been trying to decipher for the past decade. Although this language meant something to school administrators, most parents had no idea how it related to their kids.

When I saw this story on the local news, it made me laugh. It proves how professionals in every organization, from huge technology companies to your local public school, can overuse jargon.

Communicating with jargon is understandable. Since you are immersed in your field on a daily basis, it may only seem natural that others should speak your language.

However, using jargon in your communications can confuse your readers and make them feel alienated. If your message gets lost under layers of complex technical talk, your prospects will look elsewhere for answers to their problems.

Here are 5 tips to help you understand when to use jargon and when to avoid it:

1. Think About Who is Buying Your Product or Service
Even if your target audience understands your industry, they may not have the final say when it comes to purchasing your product or service. Many mid-level professionals don’t have buying power and must run their purchases past an executive or someone in another department.

If your copy is jargon-heavy, the executives who make the final buying decisions may not understand how your product or service can benefit their bottom line. Therefore, they won’t approve the purchases. You may want to think about everyone who has a say during your sales process and create marketing pieces geared towards their needs.

2. Avoid the Biggest Business Writing Mistake
Many people think their writing should sound formal to connect with a professional audience. However, too much jargon can make your copy stiff and difficult to read. Readers relate more to conversational messages.

3. Don’t Make Your Complex Products More Complicated
Using jargon to describe a complex product can make it seem even more complicated. People won’t buy a product if they think it’s difficult to use.

4. Get Outside Feedback
Run your copy past someone outside your company – preferably a member of your target audience. If they are confused, you may need to simplify your message.

5. Know Jargon is OK – Sometimes
Use jargon only if you are 100% certain your audience knows your subject and will understand the terms.

Jargon can be beneficial to explain your product’s features to others within your industry. For example, it’s OK to use the term “SEO” if you are writing a piece aimed at web developers.

When in doubt, leave the jargon out.

UPDATE: I wrote this article about a year ago and recently saw another news story about the unreadable report cards. Thanks to jargon, the school district has been dealing with a PR crisis for over a year. They are still working to resolve the problem.

3 Ways to Spice Up Your B2B Marketing Copy

How to spice up your B2B marketing copyIs your corporate brochure a complete bore?

Do you cringe when you send prospects outdated material because you know the message just isn’t right?  Perhaps you, like many marketers, have fallen into a comfort zone with your marketing or you don’t have the time or resources to develop new materials.

Here’s the good news …

You probably don’t need to rethink your entire marketing strategy. Some easy tweaks to your copy can translate into big gains.

Below are 3 tips for putting some spice into your communications:

1. Think of Your Copy as a Conversation

Imagine you just met someone interesting at a party and want to start a conversation. If you talk about all your accomplishments, your new acquaintance will look for a way to escape.

Many marketers make this same mistake in their copy. They “dominate the conversation” by describing everything about their company and failing to connect with their reader. If you want someone to read your content, you must engage them in a conversation. To do this, you can:

  • Discuss an issue that is important to your reader.
  • Ask thought-provoking questions.
  • Use the word “you” often.
  • Show your reader you have something in common.

2. Have Fun with Headlines

According to copywriting legend, David Ogilvy, “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.”

Change your headlines to increase your readership and response rates. You can:

  • Begin your headline with “how to.”
  • Share a secret with your readers.
  • Use the word “discover.”
  • Ask a question.
  • Give a command.
  • Use a testimonial as a headline.

3. Be Ruthless with Your Red Pen

Sometimes it’s not what you add to your copy that piques a reader’s interest, but it’s what you remove. Here are 3 things you should avoid:

  • Long sentences and paragraphs that make your copy difficult to scan. Up to 80% of readers scan copy. Break up sections with headers and use bullets to help readers locate key points.
  • Adverbs. Powerful verbs can pull your reader into your copy and encourage them to take action. Just resist the urge to add descriptive words that end in “ly.”  Adverbs are often unnecessary and can slow down the pace of your copy.
  • Geek speak. Jargon can confuse your readers and make them feel alienated. If your message gets lost under layers of complex technical talk, your prospects will look elsewhere for answers to their problems.

What about you? What are some of your biggest B2B copywriting challenges? Feel free to share your comments below.


5 Ways to Increase the Attendance at Your Events

Event marketingThe quality of your promotional copy can have a huge effect on the success of your live and online events. Over the past few months, I have reviewed numerous email invitations and landing pages and found common problems that could hurt your attendance.

I would like to share some tips, based on my review of these problems, on how to create strong promotional copy for your events. If you want to improve the performance of your landing pages and increase your online registrations, you must:

1. Clearly state the benefits of attending the event. Simply announcing an event is not enough to get people to register. You need to let your invitees know how they will benefit from attending or what results they will achieve. Your copy can include a line like, “By the end of this workshop, you will know how to (what they will learn) so you can (cite benefit).”

2. Give a compelling reason to register now. Scarcity can motivate people to act immediately. Use scarcity in your sales copy by mentioning limited seating or a special bonus for people who register early. If you have sold out similar events in the past, state that your new event is also likely to sell out.

3. Display testimonials. Testimonials can be one of your most powerful marketing tools, as they provide social proof of your event’s value. You can run testimonials down the side of your web page or mix them in with the sales copy. Be sure to include the full name and company of the person who gave you the testimonial, as a testimonial signed “J.D. from Toronto” may not appear credible.

4. Remember the basics. Although this may seem obvious, many event organizers forget to include key information, such as the event location and time. Not posting this information will result in fewer registrations or more people calling you with questions. If you’re holding an online event, be sure to email registrants information on how to access the event.

5. Keep it simple. Most people skim web pages instead of reading every word. If your copy doesn’t appeal to skimmers, you can lose the majority of visitors who check out your landing page. Use short paragraphs, bold text and bullet points to make it easy for skimmers to find key points about your event.

One more point – the copy on your event landing page must be aligned with your readers’ business goals. Otherwise, even the most enticing event won’t sell out.

How to Grow a Targeted Following on Twitter

How to grow a targeted following on TwitterWhen I first started using Twitter, I made a big – yet common – mistake. I followed only people who followed me. This resulted in a stream full of spam and total silence whenever I posed a question or shared a link.

When I reached about 1,000 followers, I decided to take a proactive approach to Twitter. I began to seek and follow people in my industry – people who care about the same topics I care about.

Once this happened, I generated some great opportunities through the social networking platform. Below are five ways you can develop a targeted following on Twitter:

1. Don’t overlook your contacts. You can start building a targeted following by encouraging your contacts to engage with you on Twitter. Include a link to your Twitter account in your email signature, on your website, on your blog and in all your other social media accounts.

2. Conduct a search. As Twitter grows, it’s becoming easier to find people who are tweeting about your hot topics. You can use the Twitter search function, Twitter directories or a third-party application such as TweetAdder to search for people to follow. Before you follow someone, just be sure to check the date of the person’s last tweet. Since 73% of Twitter’s users are inactive, you want to make sure you follow active users.

3. Use hashtags. Many people think hashtags are just for promoting events. However, you should add them to as many of your tweets as possible. People search for hashtags related to their industries and will follow you if you’re using their favourite hashtags.

4. Engage in conversations. The most important thing you should do on Twitter is engage in one-on-one conversations every day. You can reply to someone’s tweet, answer a question or give someone information they might find valuable. Doing this helps you build relationships and establishes you as an expert in your industry.

5. Weed out spammers. As your following grows, you’ll find that spammers will manage to sneak past you. I recently cut over 10% of my followers using TwitSweeper, a service that checks your account for spammers and gives you the option to block them. Weeding out spammers clears junk from your stream and provides you with much more relevant content – you won’t have to read tweets about teeth-whitening products!

If you use these tactics, you’ll discover you don’t need a large following to grow an active and engaged community. I recently helped a nonprofit organization build a presence on Twitter and was careful to follow only people who discussed their cause. Although the organization’s new account had fewer than 200 followers, their following was very active. The organization got responses to almost all their tweets, and they reached their initial goal of engaging people in conversation around their cause on Twitter.