Ezines, or e-newsletters, are ranked number 3 in popularity for content channels as published in the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. In the realm of email content, the ezine is still the main player.
Ideally, you should associate your ezine with the face of your brand. This could be the CEO, other C-level executive, or, for smaller organizations, the company owner. Whomever you choose, he or she should be the consistent voice of your ezine.
Why Does It Matter?
Socialmedia Today published results of a survey that revealed…
“68.7% of respondents believe that C-suite social media engagement enhances the perception that a brand is honest and trustworthy, and 83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.”
While ezines don’t fall under the social media umbrella, the research shows that content with a face likely delivers improved customer engagement and response. The ezine is a more personal marketing channel than social media, so it provides a great opportunity to apply this persona branding technique.
Real World Examples
I helped a client develop a successful monthly ezine that followed this approach — combining useful content, a low key sales approach, and a personal point of view. His product was aimed at health-conscious consumers, but you could adopt this format for a variety of products in the B2B or B2C sector.
The first item to appear in my client’s ezine was an article about a specific health topic, usually a vitamin, mineral or herb. There was no direct selling of a product in the article, just interesting and valuable information, such as this excerpt on the importance of probiotics:
EXAMPLE – 1A
After the article my client would comment about its content and often included another piece of interesting information or little-known benefit. He would then casually introduce his health product…
EXAMPLE – 1B
Here’s another article from a different edition of the ezine:
EXAMPLE – 2A
And here’s his follow-up text:
Why did he have success with this style of ezine? His readers appreciated the fact that he was providing useful information up front rather than an immediate sales pitch. The tone is personal, from one health-conscious person to another, and the product benefits are delivered in a matter-of-fact way.
November 21, 2013
October 26, 2013
I used to think brainstorming was an annoyance. I felt like it was a way to seem busy but without really making any headway on a task. But when it comes to creativity, inspiration is an unreliable visitor. So I have to suck it up and try other ways to coax ideas into the spotlight.
It would be a folly to try and list all the possible ways to brainstorm ideas. But I can share at least some of the methods of developing content both for my own company and clients.
1) Write a Letter to a Customer (But Not a Sales Letter). You’re not trying to sell with this technique. You simply write as if you are responding to a problem a customer has shared with you. By focusing on articulating the benefits in a more relaxed format of a letter, you open the possible solutions that can be a source for content.
2) Review Your Social Media Channels. See if the headlines in your news feed spark ideas. I prefer Twitter for this, perhaps because it’s concise, and I can view a lot of content topics in a single glance.
3) Read Your Competitor’s Content Marketing. Your goal is not to plagiarize, but to see if you can find related ideas or approach the same topic from a different angle.
4) Write Non Stop for 25 Minutes. No pausing to reread or edit any of the text. At the end of the time period, print it out and review. (I came up with today’s blog post by using this technique.)
5) Ask Your Brain for Content Ideas. This may seem too simple and obvious, but you’re not asking your conscious mind. You want assistance from the deep well of your unconscious. I usually post the question before I go to sleep. I never get an immediate reply when I put this method into action. But almost always within 48 hours, some good ideas jump to the front of my brain.
6) Create a Mind Map. Although I haven’t found it as effective as other techniques, mind mapping is extremely popular for storming ideas. You start with a keyword or phrase in the center of a page and then jot down ideas around the topic. My mind prefers a more linear approach, such as typing out ideas on a blank page. But everybody’s mind is different. No harm in testing it out.
If you’d rather skip the pen and paper, there are plenty of online tools. Here are some of the most recommended brainstorming software programs:
Storm Board (for team collaboration)
Need some brainstorming help for video marketing? Get my free Video Content Planning guide.
October 18, 2013
I recently came across an article on the site Social Media B2B about making content marketing more manageable. In the research report B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, 64% of marketers stated that their biggest challenge is creating enough content. It got me to thinking what techniques and resources I use for managing both my content production and client projects over the last several years.
I’ve found I employ a combination of cognitive techniques, software and templates to keep the wheels of production turning and the workload under control. Test these yourself:
1) Implement a Time Management System. I never used any specific system until I found Pomodoro. It breaks your activities into 25-minute segments, and it emphasizes focusing on a single chore rather than the more common approach of multitasking. Recommended!
2) Use Boiler Plate Templates. Speed up the structuring of your content with preformatted shortcuts. Although not the only copywriting format I use, the motivating sequence is one of my favourites. Download The Motivating Sequence – Cheat Sheet. Also give these templates from the Content Marketing Institute a look.
3) Determine Your Optimum Times for Productivity. I do most of my challenging creative tasks, such as writing, in the morning when I feel my brain is fresh. I reserve my slow period for less taxing activities, such as answering emails, filing client info and returning phone calls.
4) Write It Down. Developing an outline of major projects keeps things running smoothly. I break down tasks into more manageable chunks. It may sound like extra work, but this technique has really helped me keep on top of projects.
5) Use a Social Media Dashboard. To manage your content posting and distribution, use a program such as HootSuite or Sprout Social. This saves time jumping from one account to another.
I’ve been involved in content creation for two decades, and it does take some time to discover what process works best for your personality and habits. Be open to experimenting.
October 11, 2013
October 4, 2013
According to the recent report 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, marketers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their content marketing on a scale of 1 to 5 (not effective – very effective). Only 9 percent of marketers rated themselves a 5; most (41%) rated themselves a 3.
The middling rating by the majority of marketers could be linked to another revelation in the study: only 44 percent of them actually have a written content strategy. But those organizations that produced a plan were more effective and less challenged by the content marketing process.
I had a related discussion a couple of days ago in a LinkedIn group. We chatted about trying to get executives and other stakeholders to reach consensus on the importance of developing content, and it came back to producing a strategy before discussing which media — articles, blogs, white papers — you’re going to use.
Without a plan, many companies spread themselves too thin. They dabble back and forth on the distribution channels with no consistency. And they soon discover the whole process becomes unwieldy without first laying the foundation.
There’s lots of other interesting finding in the report. Have a look at this Slideshare overview:
September 26, 2013
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.
September 12, 2013
How does your product differ from your competitors? Could you name at least three differences off the top of your head? Many companies struggle to clearly identify their product’s unique selling proposition (USP).
A recent online article published by Marketing Profs indicates how costly this problem can be. The article quoted a survey by Corporate Visions that revealed “68% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ their inability to create clear competitive differentiation was the main reason for unwanted discounting.”
Devoting time to drill down to your product’s USP may pay off in many ways, including maintaining profitable pricing. But with the sales-neutral tone of today’s B2B content marketing, it can be tough to get across your USP without sounding like a sales pitch.
So what is the solution?
One method you can try is having your customer reveal your USP rather than you telling it. Or course, you don’t want to put words into your customer’s mouth. That would be unethical and inauthentic.
Mining Your Customer’s Thoughts for Support of Your USP
Well-crafted customer questionnaires are a great way to extract USP nuggets. (Just make sure your customer agrees to have his comments published in your content marketing projects.)
Here are examples of USP themed questions you might use…
What differences have you noticed in [product name] compared to similar products you’ve used before?
What is the most useful benefit of [product]?
Why didn’t you purchase from the following companies?
Why would you purchase your next product from us?
Avoid multiple choice responses to your questions as these don’t really provide enough insight. (View other possible questions at Survey Monkey)
After compiling them, you can quote your customer’s USP related answers in your content marketing, such as case studies.
One More Tip…
When you create a case study or similar content marketing, you should quote your customer directly rather than explaining it from your point of view. Quotes make writing look active and present tense and they attract the reader’s eyes.
Instead of writing…
Ken Wells, General Manager of Axis Equipment, has reported a 75 percent reduction in downtime since installing (product name) three months ago. He said he’s never had that type of success with any other product.
“Since installing (product) three months ago, we’ve seen equipment downtime reduced by 75 percent,” says Ken Wells, General Manager of Axis Equipment. “We’ve never had that type of success with any other product.”
June 20, 2013
Of the many ways to structure a marketing piece, my favorite is The Motivating Sequence. Direct marketers have used it for decades, but you can also apply it in many types of B2B marketing content.
This is how the Motivating Sequence is organized:
1) Get attention – with a headline or title emphasizing valuable information or similar benefit
2) Problem – What is the challenge the prospect is facing?
3) Solution – Position your product as relieving the prospect’s problem
4) Benefits – The advantages your product offers
5) Proof – support your benefits with credible third-party information (see below)
6) Call to action – What’s the next step the prospect should take?
Proof is a Must
Number 5 of the Motivating Sequence is what makes it especially appropriate for our age of skepticism. Testimonials from satisfied customers have long been the choice for this section. But you can boost the impact of customer acclaim by including…
- Specifics. Back up each product benefit with a customer testimonial specifically supporting that benefit. For long testimonials you may want to include a headline to encapsulate the strongest benefit described in the text.
- Use the customer’s full name, title and company under the testimonial
- Include a photo of the customer
But you don’t have to stop with testimonials. Here are several other ways to prove the credibility of your product:
- Show the problem before the solution was found. Then show after your product solved the problem. (This is especially effective in video.)
- Are you the leader in your industry? Include this fact, but use customer testimonials that support your leader position rather than engaging in idle boasting.
- Mention years of experience in the industry you serve as well as awards, media coverage and positive reviews.
- Got jargon? If you’re selling products to a business sector that has its own jargon, use it in your content as a way to show your industry knowledge.
- Show similarity to prospect: Provide evidence that you’re part of the prospect’s world. For example, here’s an excerpt from a product brochure I wrote for Thermo Fisher Scientific, whose target market is technical personnel:
Scientific is Part of Our Name for Good Reason
We are also scientists and engineers and have 50 years of experience in producing solutions as well as creating scientific instruments and equipmentThe next time you’re unsure how to structure a content marketing project, try the Motivating Sequence. By including strong proof elements, it’s an excellent format to both inform and persuade your target audience.
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May 21, 2013
When I tell people I work in the marketing business, they’re either dismissive (“Marketing doesn’t work”) or slightly baffled (“What’s a copywriter?”). Even within a company, other staff may not really understand what’s involved in the marketer’s role.
This infographic on the modern marketer sums up the two hats most of us wear. It’s especially true in the corporate environment, where resources are often overstretched and budgets shrunk to the size of a nanometer.
For artist (I would’ve substituted the word “craftsperson” for the word “artist” but that’s a nit picky point.) and scientist, marketing requires constant learning and education, since few of us are evenly split between left and right brain functions.
I’m probably more of the artist type, but the scientist in me knows that creativity in itself does not necessarily equal effective marketing. I recently signed up for a six-month certification program in social media marketing strategy to keep up with the complex science of social media analytics.
In researching this blog post, I came across some quotes on marketing and many of them weren’t too positive about the topic…
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”
“In marketing you must choose between boredom, shouting and seduction. Which do you want?”
“Marketing is the devil.”
Ouch! I’m not feeling the love. But I’m willing to endure the slings and arrows aimed at marketers because the topic still fascinates me after 20 years. How words and graphics can motivate people to take action to achieve their needs and wants.
If you feel self-conscious about working in the marketing and advertising business, take heart from this quote by one of America’s most famous authors, Mark Twain,…
“The spider looks for a merchant who does not advertise so he can spin a web across his door and lead a life of undisturbed peace.”
February 2, 2013
I don’t write a lot on branding, but I had the opportunity to chat with an expert: Ute Preusse, Director of Strategic Planning, with the ad agency Cossette. In the social media age, it can be a challenge for companies to develop a consistent brand, and that’s why advertisers need to give hard thought to their reason for being.
In our discussion, I also asked Ute…
- How social media has impacted branding
- What will happen to traditional mass media advertising like TV, radio and print in the next five to 10 years?
- Despite the rapid changes in technology, what things remain the same in the world of advertising?
To read the full article, visit the Marketline Blog of BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association at http://www.bcama.com/resources/marketline-blog