Credit: Dave Parker
I had the pleasure of attending the MarketingProfs
B2B Forum last month in Boston, and one of the sessions I attended was led by Jeannine Rossignol
and Katrina Busch
, both experienced marketers in their own right. They said one thing that definitely resonated: “All memorable content comes from great stories.” Further, they noted, it’s even more important to tell stories in B2B marketing.
This gets me back to what I’ve been saying all along: that stories are critical to B2B marketing. Software marketers in particular may not feel like there’s much of a story in a cloud-based CRM system, but I’m telling you there is. There is a customer out there who wasn't on a CRM system, or was using an outdated one, and their customers in turn weren't receiving the kind of service the company wanted to provide. There was a unique yet all too relatable challenge: missed cross-selling opportunities, chances to view the customer’s entire history with the company at all touch points. And there was a solution, and now the company has increased sales, Facebook likes, and more.
And there’s a story behind the company as well. Maybe the B2B software company started in a garage with a couple of college kids working on a school project; maybe it was a disgruntled IT manager who was sick and tired of trying to keep track of inventory with the same slow ERP system. The point is, storytelling can run deep in B2B marketing, particularly content marketing, where companies have a chance to do a lot more than just sell.
Rossignol and Busch also offered some interesting statistics:
- 50-90 percent of marketing materials go unused by sales, because generic marketing materials don’t work for every situation
- 40 percent of the sales force’s time is spent creating marketing materials or customizing existing materials, which results in off-brand and sometimes nightmarishly misspelled content
- 60 percent of leads make no decision after reviewing materials and meeting with vendors, because no one has met their needs
- 57 percent of customers already have made a purchasing decision prior to contacting the B2B company
- 88 percent of buyers say that thought leadership is critical to buying.
What that means for B2B marketers is that they need to create content that targets people, not businesses, according to Rossignol and Busch. At the end of the day, it’s a person making the business decision, and they have their own needs: adding a workflow to approve orders more efficiently, meaning he can leave early to catch his child’s soccer game, or ensuring data is secure, meaning she can upload sensitive information and work on approvals while she’s traveling.
. That’s what B2B marketing is coming down to, and that’s where content marketing is heading. As the holder of a journalism degree and contributor to tech publications, I approve – and can help. Contact me
to learn how I can infuse storytelling into your marketing and help your customers decide on your solution.
The 2014 annual content marketing study from MarketingProfs
and the Content Marketing Institute
is out, and it shows that B2B marketers are struggling with content marketing. While 93 percent of them are using it, only 42 percent say they're doing it effectively. This means that the 30 percent of their marketing budget that these B2B companies allocate to content marketing is going down the tubes, thanks to three challenges.
- Not enough time. A whopping 69 percent of B2B marketers don't have enough time to produce content for their content marketing efforts. In today's economic climate, where they're forced to do more with less staff, that's understandable - but also deadly. Alleviating this may seem simple: outsource the content to a professional writer, videographer, and/or designer.
- Can't produce enough content. Again, it's the "do more with less" economy, and that means 55 percent of B2B companies aren't producing enough of the content required for an effective content marketing strategy: white papers, e-books, case studies, infographics, social media posts, blog posts, articles, company newsletters... yes, that's all part of it, and it can seem overwhelming to the in-house marketing staff.
- Content isn't engaging. Just a smidge under half - 47 percent - of B2B marketers struggle with producing engaging content. It goes back to harried marketing staff, or perhaps not enough writers on staff. Outsourcing can help overcome this challenge, but only if the contractor has the qualifications and skills to produce engaging content.
Are you struggling to make your content marketing programs effective? Do you need a case study writer or white paper writer who can make your product sizzle off the page and into your prospects' organizations? Contact me
, and I'll help you overcome these challenges.
If last night's penultimate episode of Breaking Bad
did anything, it left viewers on the edge of their seats, wondering just what's next for Walter White and the remaining characters. Will Jesse Pinkman make it out alive? Will there be a final shootout? Will cancer drop Walter before he does... whatever he's planning to do? And will Baby Holly ever live a normal, non-PTSD life?
B2B technology is certainly no high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin, but with the right content marketing, it can be just as exciting. (Well, maybe not "stomach dropping into your toes during the Baby Holly scene" exciting, but still "edge of your seat, can't live without it" exciting.) Here are the content marketing lessons from last night's episode of Breaking Bad
- Have consistent characters. From Todd Welker's unwavering politeness while conversing with Lydia and threatening Skylar to Flynn's outrage at his father's actions, Breaking Bad's characters have never done anything out of character. Not once did I think, "This is not something Saul Goodman would do." Your content marketing should take the same path: a consistent message, whether it's being able to shave 25 percent off testing times or increase profits or be the easiest to use interface around. Think of your product as a character and assign attributes to it. Now, what would your Marie Schraeder do?
- Don't give up too much, too soon. One reason why viewers tune in to Breaking Bad is because the episodes always leave you wanting more, such as a recent episode ending in a gun fight between Walt's merry band of neo-Nazis and DEA agents Hank Schraeder and Steve Gomez. Blazing AKs may not work in B2B technology, but teasing your readers can. While you're creating content, think of the biggest problems they're facing: reduced IT staff, shrinking budgets, demanding internal customers. How can you solve those problems - and get your readers excited enough to call you for help?
- Don't forget your sense of humor. Last night's episode was jam-packed with tension, no doubt about it. But Breaking Bad, even last night, has never forgotten its sense of humor: last night, it was Jesse's characteristic "b*tch" as he struggled with a latch. I don't recommend calling your readers that, but your content can and should have a little bit of subtle humor, whether it's describing the trends in your clients' industry or a quote from a satisfied customer.
Like a good TV show, your content should draw in readers and make them want to take action: read more, sign up for a demo, or start talking to your sales managers. Contact me today to find out
Nancy Haworth founded Holly Springs, N.C.-based On Task Organizing, LLC
in 2012to offer professional organizing services to both homes and businesses in the Raleigh-Durham area. After spending most of her life finding calm in organizing, Nancy decided to bring that peace to clients. The company is a member of both the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Professional Organizers, and Nancy herself is the NAPO-NC technology and communications director. As a startup, On Task Organizing doesn’t have a large advertising budget, and Nancy contacted me to write a press release for her to distribute to local newspapers.
I had worked with Nancy’s husband, Jared Haworth, on the website copy for his company, Alloy Code
, and both Jared and Nancy were pleased with the results. Nancy wanted a press release that would accurately portray her company and announce that she was officially open for business and taking on new clients. I spoke with Nancy on the phone, and she sent me several documents and bullet lists with her ideas. I also learned about the types of articles that her local papers were most likely to publish, and it sounded like they were interested in stories that focused on people, not necessarily companies.
I have four paying clients, and two found me through the newspaper!
From there, I began writing a news article-style press release that played up Nancy’s organizational skills and transition from media production to professional organizing. I started with how professional organizing can boost the value of a home for sale, segueing into Nancy’s background, expertise, and what makes her unique as a professional organizing. The full press release can be found here
As of July, two of the local newspapers that Nancy submitted the press release to had published or summarized it. The Sanford Times
summarized it in a few sentences, which led to an in-home assessment. The Holly Springs Sun
published the entire release as is.
Perhaps the biggest chunk of publicity was from the Southwest Wake News
and the Cary News
, which led to two paying clients for On Task Organizing. A reporter interviewed Nancy after receiving the press release, and the subsequent article
resulted in five prospective client phone calls and a woman interested in receiving advice on becoming a professional organizer. Out of those five calls, Nancy has had several paid organizing sessions with two of her clients.
“I have four paying clients, and two found me through the newspaper!” Nancy said in July 2013, when her business was taking off full-time.
To find out how a press release can increase your client list, contact me today at email@example.com
Content marketing isn't about gaining eyeballs to your website. Ideally, the content is a means to an end: the sale of products or services. While search engine popularity may help, it really shouldn't be the end game in content strategy.
Instead, content strategy should focus on building trust with your prospects and customers. I can't emphasize how important it is to publish white papers, case studies, and thought-provoking blog posts that hit on your customers' and prospects' problems and offer solutions that handily align with your product and service offerings.
But content should not be limited to your website. As I wrote last week, case studies should do more than just sit on a website
, waiting for page views. To fully flesh out a content strategy, marketers need to plan for their content to appear elsewhere: in trade publications, as glossy takeaways for the sales team and at trade shows to give to prospects, and even completely off the website as something for customers only, like a physical book. For example, technology company Laserfiche repurposed the content from its user forums into a book that they've handed out at their yearly Empower conference and sold on Amazon.com.
So what can you do with existing content? Or do you need fresh content to jump start your strategy?
A case study doesn't just sit on your website. It's a powerful tool for gathering leads, nurturing prospects, and garnering publicity. That initial investment can pay off immensely if you leverage your case studies as the robust marketing tools they are. Increase your case study ROI by doing a few simple things beyond posting them to your website.
Hand out case studies at trade shows.
How often does your company set up a booth at a trade show? If the answer is at least once a year, printing copies of your case studies as a handout for attendees allows them to see how you've solved another company's sticking problem. The perfect use case for your commissioned case studies is having several prepared, targeting different industries. That way, if a customer from the financial sector is asking for more information, you can hand over the case study you commissioned on your secure cloud-based offerings for financial institutions.
Publish case studies as contributed articles.
A well-written case study, written by a professional case study writer, reads more like a feature article than a piece of marketing collateral. Hire a former journalist to write your case studies, and you can contribute them to industry publications as contributed articles to be published. This increases the visibility of your company in the industries you're targeting.
Write press releases based on the case studies.
If you're targeting tech publications, they often want to have a journalist of their own choosing write about your company. Have your case study writer prepare a press release to send out to tech publications, highlighting the unique angle of the story itself. For example, did a prominent logistics company purchase your software to speed their workflows? Was your solution responsible for multi-million dollar savings? Journalists appreciate an interesting angle that they can use to write a trends piece.
Above all, don't let the case study languish on your website. At the bare minimum, send it to newsletter subscribers and post links on social media channels. Print it out and let your sales force use it to sway prospects. ("Jeff, I know you've been having problems with materials management in your chair factory. Here's how Acme Solutions streamlined the ordering process for Doe Furniture Factory.") If it's a well-written piece, it will be invaluable for lead generation and nurturing purposes.
If marketing is a tasty trail mix, then branded content marketing represents the raisins - essential to the marketing mix, according to a recent survey of brands and agencies. A survey of over 600 online marketing executives shows that 66 percent of brands and 65 percent of agencies believe that branded content marketing is very important to the marketing mix. Hence, the raisins.
Meanwhile, 70 percent of brands and 77 percent of agencies have used branded content marketing in the past year.
So what is branded content marketing? The most extreme example is from energy drink maker Red Bull. Their Red Bulletin
magazine includes a plethora of articles for their target audience, ranging from information on sports like skateboarding and mountain biking to profiles of up-and-coming musicians. It's useful content for a target audience carrying a company's name, but it's not an advertisement for the company. The keyword is useful: something that helps them do their jobs better or is interesting to them. In the case of the Red Bulletin
, that branded content is interesting to people who might drink Red Bull: generally younger, active people who listen to new bands. It creates an image for the company and implies that by drinking Red Bull, the average consumer can live a fun, active, cool-person lifestyle.
While most companies don't have the resources for a Red Bulletin
, they can create their own e-newsletters, blogs, video series, or e-books that don't sell but inform. Branded content marketing puts companies on the tip of customers' tongues, which helps them when making decisions. Even B2B companies can do this: HP generates e-newsletters that offer business and technology tips. While they're thinking like publishers, they're also promoting their brand, which is the ultimate goal of branded content marketing.
According to IDG Enterprise
, 6 percent of B2B content marketers aren't creating their own content for their content marketing efforts from scratch. They're repurposing content or curating content.Those are the content regurgitators, and they're not known for originality or innovation.
Meanwhile, the other 94 percent are creating their own content: white papers, case studies
, infographics, e-newsletters, articles on their websites, and more. They know that effective content marketing is about creating interesting content and sharing it. They also know that effective content is often written: 83 percent use articles on their websites, 78 percent use e-newsletters, 77 percent use blogs, 71 percent use case studies, 70 percent write articles for other sites (establishing themselves as experts), and 61 percent produce white papers.
Since 91 percent of B2B companies are
using content marketing tactics, if you're not, you're behind the eight ball. Here's the secret many of the successful ones aren't telling you: while they may have a dedicated content marketing director in their organization, they often hire freelance copywriters, white paper writers, or case study writers to create their content.
This is the one time where it's okay to be a part of the herd. Find a former journalist who knows your industry, contract with her to start writing white papers, case studies, and contributed articles, and start watching the leads roll in. Your salespeople will thank you for not only getting them leads but providing them with leave-behinds and collateral they can use to explain your offerings and close the deal.
© Paha_l | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
On Saturday, I ran my PR of 27:44 at the Westfield Fast Flat 5K. True to its name, it was a flat course that surely helped my speed. But for me, hitting my PR wasn't just about running fast. It touches upon everything I do, even for my clients.
You see, writing is a solitary pursuit, as is running. Even when I'm running in a crowd, pushing toward a finish line, I'm by myself, listening to my iPod, doing everything I can to beat my last time. (I know that I am not going to beat the wiry elite runners at the front of the pack. It was a point of pride to be a "seeded" runner this time.)
It's the same with content marketing and copywriting: every white paper, every case study, I'm pushing myself to do better than the last and make my clients even happier, usually as I sit by myself in my office or even work at a cafe - surrounded by people, yet focused on the end goal. I'm competing against myself, striving to exceed expectations and provide even higher quality work than the last assignment.
And just like with running, I surprise myself at times: a wittier phrase than I intended passes through, or I nail a concept neatly. As one client put it, "It's right on the money content-wise and clean as a whistle."
When I ran Saturday, I surprised myself as I passed the first mile marker in a little over eight minutes. I surprised myself because I had no knee pain (I was diagnosed with Runner's Knee in November) throughout and after the race.
But the end result, whether it's a well-crafted piece of content or a 5K, is the same: I feel exhilarated and ready to take on the next challenge.
In the logical world of B2B technology, stories can transform the way you sell your solutions. Most buyers are used to the logical arguments: they'll save money, they'll be more efficient, they'll go home early. In fact, it's practically a requirement when you're selling B2B technology to include references to increased productivity and decreased costs.
What they don't tell you is that a story can be worth much more than a logical argument. In addition to publishing white papers, providing data sheets, and populating your site with well-written copy, you also need to include case studies in your marketing mix. Case studies tell those critical stories of how a company with a similar challenge got from Point A, total confusion, to Point B, harmonious operations. They illustrate - not tell, but illustrate - how your solution actually made it possible for their company to increase their profits and operate more efficiently.
It's one thing to talk about how amazing the solution is. It's worth a lot more to have a customer who is immensely satisfied singing your praises and offering advice to companies in similar situations. In fact, your prospects may discover that you can help them with a problem they didn't even know existed, just from the way a case study tells another customer's story.
The bottom line is that, whether you're selling systems integration, cloud applications, or software for a specific vertical, prospects want to know that you can solve whatever ails them. If you tell them a story of a company with a similar conundrum and show them how you solved it, you're that much farther ahead of the pack.