“Because you can’t eat brand equity, and can’t pay a team with it” – Laura Hanly, Digital Marketing Expert and Author, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy”
When done correctly, content marketing can serve as a powerful arm to your overall marketing strategy – it establishes you as an authority and has the potential to increase your revenue and profit. That’s why CMOs at the largest technology companies report that building out content marketing as an organizational competency is the second most important initiative, only behind measuring ROI.
For those still wrapping their head around the concept, according to Forrester:
“Content marketing is a strategy where brands create interest, relevance, and relationships with customers by producing, curating, and sharing content that addresses specific customer needs and delivers visible value.”
The challenge is figuring out how to do it right. As author Laura Hanly explains in her book, “Content That Converts: How to Create a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy,” content is not a magic bullet.
Content marketing will not:
- Turn you into an internet celebrity (at least not overnight)
- Make you rich beyond your wildest dreams
And when done poorly, can:
- Harm your brand
- Put off potential customers
- Never pay off (resulting in wasted time and resources)
Hanly stresses the importance of having a consistent strategy for the content that you’re producing, so that your audience is engaged, comes to know and respect you as an authority, and will buy from you when the time is right (because the ultimate goal is sales, isn’t it?) Every single piece of content needs to end with a call to action that can lead to a sale.
Some questions to ask yourself and your team before committing to a content marketing strategy include:
- What is the purpose of our content marketing?
- Who are we trying to reach?
- What types of content should we produce?
- Do we have someone who can produce the content?
- Do we have good ideas about what our content would be focused on?
- Is our market segment interested in consuming that kind of content?
- How will we measure our success?
There are two main types of content you can use: recurring content, which builds a customer base gradually over time, and content assets (such as a whitepaper, a book, a webinar series or a learning workshop) that can be used as near-term client acquisition tools. Before choosing the route that’s best for your business, there are four things to ask yourself (what Hanly calls the Conversion Quadrant):
What’s the intersection between what your customers want and/or need?
Figure out what your customers really care about. What do they look to your company for insight about? How can your expertise intersect with what your customer wants and needs?
What do you want to be known as an industry authority for?
The simplest way to become an authority on something is to say the same things about that topic over and over again. Don’t just chase the latest trend – find the one thing you can focus on becoming known for that will make it easier to develop, market and sell products that your audience will buy again and again.
What is the format in which you produce your best content?
While most people think that its best to tailor your content to audience preferences, Hanly recommends choosing the format that you most enjoy working in – because if you like it, you’ll enjoy creating it, and your audience will like it too.
What’s your quarterly plan?
Mapping out your content helps you to be strategic about your production. This should include:
- A clear statement of your “one thing” your company will be an authority on
- Four themes you want to rotate through
- Three topics per theme, including key points on each
- Headlines for each topic
- Scheduled date of publication for each topic
Whichever path you decide to take with your content, if you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to do it right – if it feels like a chore every time you go to write – STOP. This will only result in an inconsistent content cycle with content that feels forced, uninspiring and unlikely to resonate with your audience.
The powerful thing about content marketing is that your assets increase in value over time. Whether it’s a blog, a book, a podcast or a whitepaper – you can always update later to improve it, modify key messages and share it with new audiences to see greater returns on early investments of your time and resources.
Remember – every piece of content you put out under your brand needs to be the best possible representation of who you are. Most prospects will have their first interaction with your brand through your content and just like in dating, you get one chance to make a good first impression.
By: Colleen Martin
Today, websites have to do more than simply “exist.” With high levels of competition in the digital space, a website must be fully integrated to a company’s business objectives and goals. Investing in a website that integrates your sales and marketing messages into a compelling design can improve user experience and directly impact your business’ sales funnel.
Make a Lasting First Impression
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and in marketing, that first impression is your website. The Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that most people search online and make a judgment call about a business based on their company website before ever interacting with them or using their products. Having a website that looks like it’s from the “dot com era” tells site visitors that your business is outdated. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s difficult to overcome this perception if a customer has no other reference to your company or product.
Keep in mind that over 51 percent of users surf the web on their phone or tablet over a computer, making it vital that your site is also mobile friendly. Not convinced? A whopping 40 percent of people will choose another result if their first choice is not mobile friendly. Google’s search algorithms continue to heavily favor mobile-friendly sites, and a non-optimized site can leave you out of your prospects’ mobile search results.
Hone Your Message
As companies grow, expand and evolve, your message and value proposition needs to keep up. Your website is the best place to share the most important benefits of your company and product with customers and prospects. Your website copy needs reflect where your company and products are today, not what they were previously.
While crafting your message, be careful with the claims you put on your website. Overstating your business’ capabilities can lead to disappointed users who expect certain outcomes based on your site but have received a lesser version of the product they imagined. A proper marketing strategy should hone and focus on the best ways to highlight the strengths of your product without making outlandish or disputable claims.
One way to create an effective message is through Geoffrey Moore’s positioning framework. Moore’s framework helps to clearly define the target market and their main pain point, your product/business and its key value offering that solves your target market’s pain point, and how to best differentiate your product/business from the competition. With each of these points clearly defined, you can ensure your messaging draws in your target market and leaves them with everything they need to know about your product/business and why your solution is the best solution.
Integrate the Sales Pipeline
The best websites map out the user experience that eventually leads to a call to action (CTA) to either learn more, start a trial or buy the product. Proper placement of these CTAs will drive user engagement with your brand and have the potential to drive sales for your business. There are many tools available to track user behaviors on the site, (one such tool is CrazyEgg) so that your business can best optimize its CTAs and find the most user friendly design for them on your website.
Complete omission of CTAs and other sales-driven actions can result in lost revenue. Your website has the ability to drive sales leads from individuals who engage by requesting more info or a free trial of your product. From there, the sales team has a much greater ability to convert this lead, since search-driven leads have a 14.6 percent close rate compared to the 1.7 percent close rate for cold leads.
Among the long list of responsibilities for a business, its website must remain a top priority. While there’s no set rule regarding when a business should perform website updates, businesses should be updating their websites when they fail to incorporate modern user-interface elements and when they hinder a business’ sales funnel. But by making web maintenance more routine, a website becomes less burdensome to maintain, and with the proper messaging strategy and design execution, a business can create a modern, user-friendly site to reap the benefits a great website has to offer.
By: Jaimie Yakaboski
For reasons too many to name, webinars continue to be one of the most popular strategies for leveraging content to drive qualified leads. There has been significant focus on creating great content over the past few years, for good reason, but the fact remains that no matter how good your content is, if people can’t engage with it, it’s all but useless.
- Have a plan. There is so much that goes into planning a successful webinar, but in order to start you need to ask yourself:
- Who are you targeting?
- What amazing content are you going to be presenting that is going to knock everyone’s socks off?
- What day and time are you going to host it to drive the best attendance?
- How are you going to reach your audiences?
The answers to all of these questions and more should be answered up-front in a comprehensive strategic plan. To be most effective, promotional activities need to occur pre-event, during the event, and post-event – what tactics will you be employing at each phase? The chosen strategies and tactics should be aligned to your audiences and their behavior – have you built personas that help you identify the best ways to reach your intended audience?
Having a thorough plan ensures that when it is “go-time”, promoting the webinar is strictly about world-class execution.
- Engage hearts and minds. People are faced with a constant deluge of information. The hard truth is that no matter how interesting you think your webinar topic is no one is going to show up to your webinar unless you engage their interest – emotionally or intelligently. The key here is coming up with ideas that will get your audience excited. Excited enough to register, mention it to a co-worker, and share it on a social media platform. Excited enough that it is memorable.
If you want to be memorable, boring email blasts are not going to cut it.
Giving away valuable content, offering special discounts, creating games or sweepstakes, hosting contests and even the strategic use of humor are all ways to create a more engaging promotional experience.
- Take an integrated approach. Use every available means to reach your audience: email, social media, direct mail, the homepage of your website, and PPC campaigns can all help drive your audience to register. If you have multiple speakers, leverage them! Have your speakers add a link to the landing page to their email signature. Every speaker, sponsor, and partner should also be communicating within their own professional networks to drive attendance. Write a blog post that teases or supplements the content you will be sharing in the webinar. Invite industry media and analysts so that they promote it to their audiences during and after the webinar. Create a 30 second teaser video.
Sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking that since a webinar is a digital event – only digital strategies can be used to promote it. Nothing is further from the truth!
In reality, people can and should be reached across multiple mediums. Direct mail and PR can be used to effectively promote a webinar, especially one on a trending topic.
- Stay in front of your audience. According to HubSpot, only 30% of people who register for a webinar will actually attend. Once someone has registered, don’t forget to send reminders the week and even the day of the event – people get busy and webinars are easy to forget. If someone registers but doesn’t attend, send a follow-up email that drives them to the webinar recording.
When it comes to promoting an event, once is never enough.
- Keep it simple. Make sure your invitation emails are clean and informative so that it is simple for people to learn what they need to know and take action. Keep it simple to register via obvious CTAs, a clean and well organized landing page, and an easy way to access previously recorded webinars. Use best practices on form fields and placement. Less is more, now is not the time to gather every potential piece of information on a lead you wish you knew!
Webinars are a cost-effective tactic that allow companies to expand their reach, target more people and deliver content in a compelling, fully branded way. Developing a strategy that effectively promotes your webinar will drive attendance and ensure success.
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By: Cole Naldzin, Principal