Prospects are swimming in content today — from you and your competitors.
The flood of popularity for content marketing makes it harder each month to stand out from everyone else.
How do you avoid content commoditization? You can use a number of techniques to burn your light brighter than the competition and do it without significant expense. Most of the tips I suggest in this post don’t require much in upfront costs, just some additional time for brainstorming and production.
Let’s dig into the ways to add value to your content.
Make their job easier
In an average workday, prospects and customers have limited time to consume content. They often have a computer folder loaded with marketing material they need to read and evaluate. A vital method to differentiate your company is developing content that’s interactive or quickly absorbed.
While there’s nothing wrong with producing white papers and case studies, also create checklists, cheat sheets, and templates that can reduce and simplify a customer’s workload.
My favorite is templates. You can develop them as content calendars, customer questionnaires, buyer personas, and many other useful tools.
Where to next?
Your content marketing shouldn’t exist in a silo. If you have similar content that may benefit them, tell your prospects and customers where to find it. You often see this in books, with a Further Reading list. Or online articles, with hyperlinks to related topics.
If you create a SlideShare presentation, do you have additional info on the subject? Then include a link to it.
Adjust your company biography to fit the content
When you read B2B marketing documents like white papers, you see at the end of each document a brief biography of the company that produced the content.
These bios contain the same text from one document to the next. They include information about years in business, products and services, and, if a public company, stock market information.
Sure, it’s easier to cut and paste this section into every document, but you’re wasting an opportunity to position your company. Instead, remind your prospects in the bio section how you solve problems discussed in content they’ve just consumed.
Create customized content
Before the Internet, you had few options to personalize marketing, other than writing your prospect’s name in the salutation of a letter.
The evolution of web analytics has gone far beyond names. It can now analyze a customer’s behavior on your website and other marketing channels, which allows you to develop content that is personal and relevant. In fact, Demand Metric reports, “78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing.”
Your company’s reward is better engagement and increased revenue. For example, HubSpot remarks, “personalized calls-to-action result in a 42% higher conversion rate than calls-to-action that are the same for all visitors.”
Here’s another vital reason to personalize content. Google co-authored a study last year that revealed 46 percent of B2B buyers conducting research on future purchases are millennials. This generation expects content tailored to their specific needs and interests. They’re resistant to the mass communication model of marketing.
Even small changes to your content marketing can boost engagement and relevancy. With so much information racing through the Internet pipe every day, it requires nimbleness to adjust content so it distinguishes you from the competition.
Have you discovered other ways to make your content unique in your business sector? Please share them in the comments section.
“… Infographics were the tactic that had the greatest increase in usage –from 51% last year to 62% this year,” says the Content Marketing Institute in their annual study B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends (North America).
The love affair between content marketers and infographics is still hot, and it doesn’t look to cool anytime soon. I understand the appeal of visual graphics, as they have a knack of keeping eyeballs glued to content.
Like any other type of content marketing, the reasons for creating infographics are varied. But can they be used for lead generation? I admit that they’ve never topped my list of lead development methods for clients. However, after seeing my share of this content format over the last few years, I realized there’s no reason you can’t develop infographics for lead generation. After all, B2B marketers could use the help, as 83% of them list customer acquisition as a vital objective.
Rethink your infographic to optimize for lead generation
A typical infographic reveals a lot about a particular topic, but it says little about the infographic creator. Sure, prospects may view, share, and like it, but few readers take any further steps to connect with the company that published it.
By keeping lead generation as your focus and applying some direct-response copywriting techniques to your infographic text, you can boost the chances of moving your prospect to the next step.
Here are five things to consider when optimizing an infographic for lead generation:
1) Topic related to your product or services – As far as customer acquisition is concerned, choose a topic that connects with your company’s product or services. Your reader still expects information of value so don’t try to sneak through a thinly disguised sales pitch.
Review your current marketing material. Could you develop an infographic from content that already exists? One good potential source is a white paper. You no doubt had to conduct considerable research into the white paper topic. With all that information, you may have a subject meaty enough for an infographic.
2) Create a compelling infographic title – Your prospect may see your title before the infographic itself, as the title could appear in a blog post, press release, or social media channel. While there’s no room here for an in-depth lesson on writing headlines, my best quick tip is to aim for specific and descriptive text that capture’s your prospect’s attention.
Recently, I came across an infographic titled: The Corporate Marketing and Sales Spend Landscape. The title gets to the point, but it’s bland. Under the title was this subheadline: What Percent of Revenue Do Publicly Traded Companies Spend on Marketing & Sales? The subhead grabs attention more than the title because it’s specific and framed as a question, which sparks curiosity.
3) Experiment with format – The main drawback of a “just the facts “infographic is it lacks a voice of influence — the text seems anonymous. Innovative marketers find ways to overcome this weakness. For example, marketing consultant and author Bob Bly develops Tipographics. Instead of publishing an assortment of facts, the tipographic includes actionable tips that you often find in articles and blog posts, which have a stronger narrative voice. So go ahead. Shake things up a bit and expand beyond the standard template for visual graphics.
4) Have a call-to-action – A well-constructed CTA is a hallmark of direct response marketing. Many companies that publish infographics drop generic boilerplate text near the bottom of the design with phrases like “brought to you by.” Or worse, they just slap on their corporate logo. You want to deliver a strong incentive for readers to visit your website. Could you tie the infographic topic to a complementary content asset such as a white paper, blog post, or podcast that adds more value to the information contained in the graphic?
5) Direct prospects to a specific URL – After the call-to-action text, include the exact URL where the reader can obtain additional information. For example, suppose your firm offers SEO as one of its services, and you create an infographic related to this topic. Include the URL for your SEO services page. Don’t just post your homepage URL and expect your reader to search your site for the information she wants.
Creating a good infographic for lead generation doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort, just a bit of forethought. By using a few tested methods from direct-response marketing, you can also tweak your current infographics to entice potential customers to engage with your company.
Image courtesy of chatchai_stocker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In a recent survey, 52% of B2B tech buyers consumed a white paper before evaluating a technology purchase. It remains an important B2B marketing content format for both buyers and sellers.
But can you actually sell your product in a white paper? Not overtly. Mentioning your product upfront in a white paper violates the unwritten rule of sales-neutrality. Even though a white paper is a marketing document, the tone of the text is editorial rather than the more subjective tone of sales copy.
That said, using copywriting techniques can assist this content format. Even with its editorial style, a white paper still implements words and concepts that copywriters often apply in sales-oriented B2B communications, such as the benefits of saving money, boosting revenue, and increasing efficiency.
Of course subtly is vital, as B2B prospects are generally more suspect of the often slick, hyperbole heavy B2C copy. A good way to implement low-key copy in a white paper is to create curiosity and credibility among your target audience with questions, statistics, and industry concerns.
How One Business Launched this Approach into Action
Marketing services company Ion Interactive published a white paper called Beyond the Landing Page: An Introduction to Post-Click Marketing. On page one it proposes this challenge:
“The real question is: what happens after the click? Far too often, the answer is nothing. Even with the best of intentions, what happens after the click is seldom a consideration— and even less frequently a priority.”
The topic content addresses some of the issues marketers face in understanding more about the prospects that click, how to boost the quality of leads, and improve ad buys.
As it continues, the white paper reveals linear conversion paths are not always the best choice and suggests marketers: “Put up multiple versions of your path and see which ones convert the best.”
“Easier said than done,” is probably what many readers would be thinking at this point. Again, the paper cues up a likely problem for the prospect: He or she simply doesn’t have the time, resources, or skill set to take advantage of post-click marketing.
The answer to the problem comes next. In the final paragraph of the white paper, Ion positions its services as an easy way to take advantage of post click strategies:
Exact placement of company information in a white paper plays more importance than any other type of marketing communications. Ion has wisely placed its corporate information in the final paragraph, as it answers questions raised in the topic text.
As well as describing its services, Ion backs the copy with a case study on post-click marketing and conveniently includes it at the end of the white paper rather than as a separate pdf.
White papers and case studies don’t have to be separate documents. Ion supports its white paper by adding a case study at the end of the PDF.
Don’t Paste Your Boilerplate Corporate Bio into Your White Paper
If you’re planning to produce or add more white papers to your content marketing mix, look to current industry concerns and trends to spark topic ideas. But also evaluate how you will specifically address the challenges mentioned in the topic section. Customize the copy in the corporate bio area so you clearly demonstrate how you can solve these problems.
Traditional B2B marketing collateral like brochures and data sheets are viewed by many young marketers as too “old school” for today’s audiences. But not so fast. According to new research published by Eccolo Media, B2B tech buyers ranked these marketing resources as the number one content asset for evaluating a technology purchase.
The 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey was comprised of over 100 respondents who were accountable for influencing or making technology-buying decisions in the six months prior to the survey. Thirty-three percent listed themselves as influencers and 67 percent as decision-makers.
Specifically, when it came to traditional content like brochures and datasheets, the study revealed…
“More than half of respondents (57%) said they had looked at product brochures/data sheets from B2B technology vendors in the past six months, the most engagement with any content type.“
This may be a shock to marketers who deem social conversations, tweet updates, and LinkedIn connections as the undisputed top methods to influence B2B buyers. But having worked with engineers — from mechanical to software — I know many of them find valuable information in brochures and data sheets.
Decision makers and influencers in technical B2B sectors often need hard data and specifications to ensure any products they purchase are compatible or adaptable with their current systems.
You should still include benefits, even on datasheets. But for this kind of audience, I try to avoid using too many adjectives. They can come across as hyperbole, so I stick to low-key verbs. I took this approach for a client brochure selling scientific equipment for pharmaceutical, chemical and petroleum applications:
Surprising Stat for Blogs
The top five content assets among the survey respondents were…
In this age of social media, how did social content come out as a purchase influencer? Facebook and LinkedIn ranked at only 34 percent. Twitter was even less, at 25 percent. This doesn’t mean that social media has no marketing value; just that it’s not as effective as other marketing formats for purchase influence.
One stat that surprised me is blog posts. They ranked at just 30 percent, below most social content. Perhaps it’s because blogs tend to be more observational in nature, commenting on state-of-the-industry and trends rather than on product specifics.
It’s Lonely at the Bottom
I’m sure you’re curious what content channel landed last in the survey.
For least consumed content asset, we have a tie for this dubious honor: ebooks and podcasts (24%)
The least influential content on buying decisions: ebooks (7 %) and tweets (4%).
I bet if you asked any B2B marketing consultants about top five content formats, I doubt brochures and data sheets would make their lists.
In the end, I take away from this study that you shouldn’t be too quick to follow experts’ advice on content marketing recommendations without he or she first talking to your customers and understanding their preferred content choices. What works for one B2B sector may not necessarily work in another.
“Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn Groups is a sure-fire way to generate leads,” advise so many social media marketing experts.
I’m not convinced, especially for B2B. Oh, it may generate some leads. But after being on LinkedIn for five years or so, I can count on one hand the number of leads I’ve produced from sharing content in Groups. It does have marketing value, but I wouldn’t advise sharing content this way as your primary lead generation strategy.
Here’s why I think B2B sellers have trouble with this technique for developing leads:
Vendors outnumber decision makers in most LinkedIn Groups – This is as true in social media networking as it is with in-person networking.
Buyers don’t want to generally hang out with vendors, unless they have an imminent need for a service or product — which is rarely the case. Even within industry-specific networking events, you can find it a challenge to meet your ideal customer.
For several years, I was a member of the American Marketing Association, and I attended their events and volunteered for some of their activities. Yet, in the several years of doing these endeavors, I only ever met one member of my target market. Almost all of the AMA’s committees and members were from the vendor side of the marketing world, such as ad agencies, SEO specialists, graphic designers, and copywriters. Decision makers from the corporate side of the world, such as managers and CMOs, were almost never present.
Decision makers belong to groups that block vendors from joining. You may find a LinkedIn Group where your prospects are members. If you can join, that’s great! But some Groups gate their membership, sometimes even requiring you to complete an online application so they can weed out vendors.
Competition – Your competitors are likely using the same “post and share” technique, so the chances of your target customer seeing your post is relatively slight, especially if the Group has lots of postings on an hourly basis. You’re often at the mercy of being “at the right place and the right time.”
What I do instead…
Since joining as a premium LinkedIn member, I’ve been using my copywriting skills to carefully craft messages that I send directly via LinkedIn Mail to members of my target audience. I get a much better response from this lead generation tactic than I do from sharing content the usual way.
As mentioned earlier, it’s unlikely that the prospect has an immediate need for a vendor’s service. But that’s okay. If I get a response to my first contact message, at least I have introduced myself and started the engagement process rolling. Then I send an occasional touch base note — and this is the time and place where I share with them valuable content and resources.
Spend some time creating personalized LinkedIn messages for your prospects and see how it compares to just posting content in Groups.
Two days ago I received an email that started with ”I’m contacting you today for a rather unusual reason.”
Well, that didn’t sound like a regular business inquiry. But since the email had not been banished to my spam folder, I gave the author the benefit of the doubt.
He introduced himself as a technical writer, who also received a rather unusual request. A potential customer approached him to write copy for nutritional supplements. As he had zero experience in writing for the health market, the writer was surprised by the inquiry.
He turned to me because I write for the health industry and asked if I was open to helping the client in exchange for a finder’s fee.
My Answer: “Yes.”
I’m happy to pay a 15 percent referral fee of the total project cost for the first assignment.
However, there are a few caveats:
(1) The potential client and I must reach agreement on terms, such as price and deadlines. In addition, the client must sign my quote and pay a deposit.
(2) I reserve the right to decline a project for any reason. But here are some examples on why I’ll say “No.”
A few years ago, a prospect asked me to write copy for an energy drink named after an illicit drug. I declined. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. So I may pass on writing for a product that’s makes me uneasy.
I’ll decline a project if the prospect wants to include copy that violates FTC, FDA or similar regulations or laws.
The prospect has a bucket full of unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Sorry, but if he treats customers poorly, he’s not going to treat vendors any better.
“What about writing beyond your specialties?”
Occasionally, I’m asked if I will write for markets outside my niches of B2B and health. It depends on the product or service. I don’t write for the fashion market because it just doesn’t interest me — much to the chagrin of my wife.
But I have written for a number of other sectors, including real estate, hospitality, publishing and non-profit. If in doubt, drop me a line. I may be interested.
To sum up, if you’re a fellow writer or other marketing colleague who has received an inquiry for a project you don’t want to take on, then please contact me. You could make yourself some easy money.
As I mentioned in my previous posting on unique selling propositions, B2B content marketing generally has a low tolerance for hype. Expanding a bit further on this theme, I have a writing technique I use sometimes to flush out text that might be too sales oriented. It may seem a bit unorthodox, but I do find it works…
Write your ideal customer a letter, as if you were writing to a friend.
This doesn’t mean that your completed marketing piece has to be a letter. But writing content in the personal letter form reduces hyperbole in your text that you might find in more sales oriented marketing material.
Assign your imaginary customer a first name, and start with the standard salutation “Dear [FIRST NAME].” (Spending time first developing a buyer persona can focus your picture of your ideal customer even more strongly. Here’s an example from Hubspot.)
Try the letter technique for the early drafts of your marketing content to see if it keeps your tone genuine.