Back to Basics for Great B2B Content Marketing

August 23, 2013
Content marketing “euphoria” is when your content is relevant, engaging and shared widely across the social sphere. Today, B2B modern marketing is progressing at a gallop – and it is easy to overcomplicate content marketing practices. Often it’s important to get back to basics – and take a moment to reflect on the essence of stellar content marketing (then, let the dream state appear).

Image credit: Content Marketing Institute

Here are six core tips for ensuring that your content marketing is great:
1.) Know your target
Having a grasp on a prospective audience enables messages to be tailored for greater relevancy. Analytics are a keystone of all marketing; giving special effort toward finding what is most impactful can be an important place to start in content marketing. Personas are an absolute staple! Check out my previous post on a persona developed for CIOs. By using trending topics, content optimization, and other tools, content marketers can make an educated guess on which topics will have the most relevance to a base of customers. Ultimately, if you want to know what to share with prospects, quit playing games and ask them directly! This can be done through comments, feedback, or surveys.
2.)  Tell a Story
Without a story, content marketing would be fragments without cohesion. When crafting great content, take a cue from English class and create a momentous beginning, middle, and end. A compelling story is one of the most effective tools marketers could use since it excites an audience while simultaneously making important points for a brand. Corning Glass did a great job of using this principal in a recent B2B campaign. In their video a day is shown in entirety- from wake to rest — and showcases a variety of products in high tech and innovative ways. This video has pulled in over 22 million views on YouTube by crafting a beginning, middle, and end which all demonstrate the product’s functionality.
3.) Make it a conversation starter
While social media is the dominant force of sharing, good old-fashioned word of mouth can also play a large role in the dispersal of content. Compelling content marketing should be engrossing enough to end up in conversation. Remember that your business buyer is human. Connect with him or her in an emotionally relevant way. A Serena Software Ad from a few years ago was provocative, interesting, and made people talk– I received it in an office email. As a general rule, the more engaging and conversational a topic is, the more it will be shared.
4.) Make it look good
Simply adding images to a long write up can boost appeal in a tedious article. Infographics are visual, straightforward, and easy to consume. As a result, infographics have great potential in going viral. A great example of a nice-looking piece of content marketing is Marketo’s B2B coloring book. This download took the notion that B2B marketing is boring and created an entertaining coloring book experience to demonstrate expertise.
5.) Make it consumable
A 40-page download in size 12 Times New Roman can cause a set of sore eyes and a dulled mind. If you can’t read it, you won’t share it. To make material readable create bullet points, numbered lists, and bold/color important take-aways. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman group, the average web user consumes only 20% of content on a web page. This means that it is crucial to make 100% of content downright fascinating so that whichever nugget of information is consumed leaves a great and lasting impression on the viewer. Vertical Response made a rap video spoof to promote their services, making their material consumable AND entertaining.
6.) Urge a Call to Action
Without this step the whole point of content marketing is lost. Once you’ve established an audience’s attention (and have them engaged) make sure to leave a viewer with a step for future engagement. To prevent a prospective relationship from losing steam, it is essential to encourage a call to action while an idea is still fresh in the viewer’s mind. Examples could include linking video to a website, inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter, or encouraging sharing. For Jive software Babcock & Jenkins created an email campaign featuring a firefly with words that read “The Spark Starts Here.” This invitation lead to a personalized Jive Intranet site, a fresh twist on a standard campaign email. Once on the site, a viewer could follow several invitations to engage.

Bottom Line:   There needs to be a reason to click a link or make a call. Content can do that. If prospects are going to want to share content, it needs spice, entertainment, and genuine human interest. With all forms of content marketing, brevity is key! If you are sharing something, you are putting your name and reputation on the line. If a friend clicks on a shared link it needs to be worthwhile and prompt a laugh, smile, or emotional response. If the content isn’t to the point, appealing, or enriched with images, it is not going to be shared.

I’d love to hear your feedback! Am I missing any basics?

Why The Best Modern Marketers Use Right and Left Brain

July 16, 2013

A good modern marketer is able to merge data with art, logic with imagination, and fact with hyperbole. Modern marketing should be a combination of both right- and left-brain marketing tactics.

Left-brain marketing includes marketing automation, analytics, and consumer insight gained through data and numbers.  It’s often thought to be a “black and white” approach lacking in passion. Meanwhile, without the “color” that right brain marketing provides, pitches would be without zest and personality, failing to capture or excite a prospective client. If a campaign doesn’t tingle your senses and thrill your mind, then it is lacking in the “color” or creativity component.

Why chose just one side?

Why choose just one side?

In today’s marketing environment there is no room for marketers who perform by isolating one side of the brain; the best modern marketers aptly blend both.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Sheryl Pattek, Forrester analyst and CMO blogger, recently echoed this sentiment in her article “2013 B2B CMO Imperatives,” which pinpoints 3 key trends:

  1. Use data to define the customers to obsess over and how to deliver value to them.
  2. Optimize marketing automation investments beyond email management.
  3. Activate a content marketing strategy across traditional and digital channels of communication.

While marketing automation requires left-brain analysis, content marketing employs right-brain creativity. Interestingly, the final criteria Sheryl discusses engages both sides of the brain. Focusing on data spurs customer insight, which helps drive persona development. In the end it takes right-brain analysis to put a face on the numbers and to understand the human aspects of your target audience.

As Sheryl states, “The ability to look beyond data to discover underlying patterns and trends creating actionable data-driven insights must be a part of the 2013 team’s core skills.”  This perspective impressed me and affirmed my thoughts, since I also feel that the days of using a one-sided approach must be left behind.

Using both right and left brain allows for a harmonious blend of art and data, just as good marketing should be. Emphasis on data spurs clear strategy and insight, while artistry captures attention and drives change.

I recently came across an interesting Marketo infographic that illustrates ways to identify right-brain vs. left-brain marketing. I definitely recommend checking it out, but keep in mind that the best marketing uses both lobes of our brains, rather than relying on one or the other.

What do you think? Is one side of the brain put to use more when it comes to marketing?

Top 5 Insights About the Rise of Content

December 12, 2012

It’s refreshing to see that content is becoming a core competency and a priority for organizations, according to BtoB Magazine.* As an agency focused on B2B, content has been a core piece of our client GTM planning for at least five years.

It seems to me that maybe there’s been a gap between recognizing the right approach and having the strategic-meets-journalistic expertise to actually develop great content. The good news for businesses looking to bridge this gap is that there’s some great information out there about how to do so. This post offers a quick roundup of trends and best practices.

Excerpted from Sirius Decisions Core Strategy Report, Building a Content Strategy

Excerpted from Sirius Decisions Core Strategy Report, Building a Content Strategy


1. Best of breed marketers’ No. 1 challenge is producing enough content.

A recent BtoB study “Content Marketing: Ready for Prime Time,” credits marketers that invest 30% or more of their budgets in content marketing as “best of breed” practitioners. The study reports that this group’s No.1 challenge is producing enough content to feed the various channels.

2. By next year, the percentage of marketers engaged in content will nearly double.

34% of BtoB study respondents say they were “very” or “fully” engaged with content marketing—18% more than last year. And the study suggests that by next year, this group will nearly double to 66%.

3. Everyone in an organization needs to be content-centric.

Last week, I attended the Sirius Decisions conference, The New Content Paradigm: Strategy, Process and Best Practices, where Jay Gaines and Marisa Kopec discussed how companies are using content development to fuel inbound marketing and sales content optimization strategies. Marisa explained that successful organizations are defined by ownership of content across the entire marketing ecosystem.

4. The new content strategist should be second in command.

In a content-centric organization, someone needs to be behind the wheel. The new paradigm defined by Sirius Decisions puts the content strategist second-in-command, reporting to the CMO. The strategist not only understands that content is the lifeblood of marketing, but is also senior enough to have influence across the organization—ensuring that sales and product marketing are on board.

5. The future of content is in our hands, and measurement can harness its power.

Now that we all agree on the importance of relevant content and why we need to invest resources in developing it, my prediction is that 2013 will bring exciting experimentation with nuancing channels and formats—from mobile to outdoor experiences to highly engaging online experiences. Through measurement, we’ll understand what’s doing the best job of engaging different types of people and converting them directly and indirectly.

Want more insights about content? Check out these posts!

Do You Speak Content? Top 8 Terms for Savvy B2B Demand Generation Content Experts

Three Things NOT to Do When Curating Content for B2B Demand Generation

Effective Content Measurement in 6 Steps

* Obrecht, John, ”Content ascends to marketing throne,” BtoB, October 8, 2012 4.

Content Marketing Orange Awards Results Are In!

October 25, 2012


“The Driving Force of Tech Marketing In This Decade: Education” — Tim Harmon, Forrester Research

I could not agree more. As marketers, our roles have evolved—in an exciting way. Marketers have always been tasked with creating communications and delivering information. But to accomplish “education”, we must truly know our audience, our buyers and our customers—and ensure we speak to their needs.

Content is the currency of this education; it brings conversations to life. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) Orange Awards honor the content marketers who are setting the standard for this dialogue, and this year’s results are in. Big congratulations to the winners:

  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (50+ employees): Imagination Publishing
  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (15-49 employees): Babcock & Jenkins (Full disclosure: I work for this organization.)
  • Content Marketing Agency of the Year (<15 employees): King Content

The judges were juiced about BNJ: “They made a strong case as a cutting-edge content agency. Their philosophy and thought leadership stood out among other agencies of their size. Their funnel formula and focus on the buyer’s journey, and content opportunities within, is worth noting in particular.”

For the inside scoop on what makes content marketing powerful, I asked Carmen Hill, our content queen, to share a few tips from her arsenal. She says:

1. The most important thing we content marketers can do is to think more about what our audience wants to learn, what they need to know to solve problems that are important to them at each stage of their buyer’s journey, and less about what we want to tell and sell them. This gives us a direct conduit to their decision-making process and provides the opportunity to influence that decision.

2. We also need to focus first on the substance of the information we’re sharing rather than on the format. People aren’t looking for a webinar or a whitepaper, they’re looking for information that’s relevant to them.

3. Finally, with so many creative options available to us now, we should expand our vision of how we present information. If you have relevant data, don’t bury it in text—bring it to life in an infographic or SlideShare presentation. Interview your company’s subject matter experts in a Google Hangout and post the video on YouTube. Host a Twitter chat and collect the best contributions via Storify.

 Want to learn more about who’s doing great things with content—and how? Check out the press release announcing all Orange Awards winners and finalists, take a quick tour of the BNJ Content Practice and see how BNJ turns up the juice on content marketing.

 Congratulations to all!

6 Tips to Ensure Your B2B Demand Gen Content Connects

September 25, 2012

Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing Eloqua

Strategically mapping content to the Buyer’s Journey is important—and so are the basics that make content connect. I recently checked out a video where Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing at Eloqua, shares some content marketing tips that I thought I’d pass along. Joe offers a few good reminders to help ensure your content gets shared:

  1. Un-friend the form
    In short, compelling content should be set free. Not sure which content should be gated? Check out my post Four Criteria for Gating Content to Aid Demand Generation.
  2. Be visual
    Include visuals to break up the copy—and leave plenty of white space.
  3. Be brief and digestible
  4. Be personal
    Make sure content is authored by a real person at your company.
  5. Be the viewer’s advocate
    Meet real needs and desires to make a real connection.
  6. Take a big idea and break it down into different kinds of content (or “atomize” it)
    Want to learn more about atomizing content to reach more people with greater impact? Get started with Three Essentials For Atomizing Content to Fuel B2B Demand Generation.

When making content choices, Joe favors the slideshare over the infographic and doesn’t think too highly of the whitepaper. He and I don’t entirely see eye-to-eye on this. I think there’s no silver bullet when it comes to content. Diversity is the spice of life, and our job as marketers is to offer diverse formats and experiences—because everyone consumes information in different ways.

What steps do you take to ensure your content connects to drive demand, and what has been most effective in meeting that goal?

iQ by Intel Takes the Food Cart Viral: A B2B Demand Gen Case Study

August 28, 2012

I was checking out one of my favorite foodie blogs, Eater 38, when I came across the iQ by Intel series on Mobile Food. These videos investigate how popular food carts in New York and Portland are using technology to succeed. The first, “Starting the Food Cart,” shows mobile restaurant owners discussing how technology shapes the industry. Next, “Powering the Food Cart” looks at how these businesses use the latest payment technologies. And the third, “Promoting the Food Cart,” will show how they use social media to connect with customers. I think these are great examples of how smart content becomes discoverable—by revealing something people want to know and are excited to share.

A colleague of mine knows Bryan Rhoads, iQ Editor-in-Chief, and he gave her the inside scoop about this project. “iQ is designed to feed a content-hungry 24/7 cycle. It may sound cliché, but content is the currency of the modern web…and social shares are the transactions in this market place for eyeballs and exposure.”

How has iQ been effective in grabbing eyeballs? “As consumers of information, we still Google or search for information, but content discovery has changed. I’m much more likely to discover interesting items, news and product offerings in my social news feeds like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. An additional and very pleasant surprise for us is how often we’re seeing our content in news aggregation sites, magazines and apps like FlipBoard or Zite. That’s effective modern marketing. That’s how the game is now played: getting one’s content to appear organically in these new tools and apps. Seeing an iQ story, including the Foodcart series in FlipBoard and Zite, is what it’s all about.”

How can businesses increase exposure? “It’s a 24/7 on-demand market place. Brands need to think more like publishers, i.e. cater to what the audience needs, wants or wants to share. iQ’s content strategy is ‘demand-side’ economics, not the ‘supply-side’ where brands have traditionally focused. Brands historically want to supply content and messages that they want to push out. However, in this on-demand world, messages and content will fall helplessly flat if there is no demand.”

The Mobile Food series is a great reminder that we can increase awareness and credibility without being salesy. One of my social gurus, Carmen Hill, agrees that these guys have knocked it out of the park. “I love what Intel is doing with the iQ site. Bryan and his team have truly blazed a trail with their social and content marketing practice. It’s so easy to fall back on the bad habit of always talking about ourselves. What Intel is doing—and what we should all aspire to do—is to create content about things our audience cares about. Talking about our products is boring. Talking about how our products help get your lunch paid for and ready to eat faster is much more interesting.”

The takeaway? When B2B demand gen efforts are aligned just right with what’s hot, content can become not just relevant but magnetic.

How are you delivering the content your audiences are hungry for in ways that reveal your true value—and get you the eyeballs you want?

6 Tips & 10 Touch Points for Social B2B Demand Generation

July 19, 2012

Today, social media is as important as email and whitepapers in driving demand generation success—and this is widely recognized by high-performing businesses. In fact, according to a recent study by the Aberdeen Group, 41% of best-in-class companies have integrated social media with their lead management and lead scoring efforts. And 33% of those companies have integrated social profile data into their customer or prospect records.

If you’re considering using social media to generate leads, you’ll find dozens of guides and thousands of blog posts on this topic. I think Eloqua’s The Grande Guide to Social Demand Generation delivers a succinct and useful introduction that will help you dip your B2B demand gen toes in the social waters. Below is my distillation of the guide’s greatest hits.

Blueprint for Your Integrated Contact Strategy
I’d suggest that companies getting started in the social sphere check out “10 Touch Points for a Socially Savvy Contact Strategy” by Carmen Hill, Social Media Strategist at Babcock & Jenkins, on page 8 of the Grande Guide. (Yes, I’m biased because we work together, but we work together because Carmen is awesome!) I’m going to share my three favorite tips from Carmen here:

1.    Influence the influencers
Participate in influencer blogs and forums by providing relevant, data-rich content and commenting or responding when appropriate.

2.    Be social
Interact with others on social networks by joining or starting relevant conversations, sharing content and providing your insights.

3.    Nurture relationships
Stay in touch with responders via email and social channels until they indicate interest or intent to purchase.
I think Carmen offers a smart place to start, without biting off too much. I encourage you to read the rest of her tips about how to get your message in front of the right people at the right time.

Six Success Tips from Sage Software
Take a look at the case study “How Sage Went Social in Just One Year” on page 4 of the Grande Guide to learn how Sage Software established a social media presence for their human resources products that outpaced the competition in just one year by following these six steps:

1.    Outline clear goals
Reached influencers by developing a content creation process that feeds social engagement and joining prospects’ and customers’ conversation.

2.    Find the audience
Conducted a social media audit for their space, identifying the relevant posts, articles and targets to engage.

3.    Pick the platforms
Focused on creating a branded presence on the four most relevant channels for HR conversations: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

4.    Identify the influencers
Developed a methodology for identifying and reaching out to the key influencers in the HR social space leveraging tools like Klout.

5.    Turn on the tools
Employed a socially savvy content management system and marketing automation platform.

6.    Measure meaningfully
Through a custom dashboard, measured number of leads generated and cost per lead.
What I most appreciated about this case study is how it demonstrates that taking basic (and repeatable) steps can make a significant impact.

Get even smarter about social
Want to dive a little deeper into the social B2B demand gen waters? Check out a few of my previous posts, plus other industry intelligence:
•    A Knockout Social Media Guide for the B2B Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
•    How to Use Social Media Tools for B2B Demand Generation
•    Two Major Building Blocks for Social Media Success in B2B Demand Generation
•    Develop a Winning Combination for Social Media Integration: 9 tips from a recent MarketingSherpa webinar
•    Understand How B2B Social Media Connects to Your Audience


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