Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Best B2B Content Marketers have These Traits

Is content marketing a secret marketing weapon today? Not really. It is the backbone of most of the marketing communication. It is the gasoline for your social media efforts. It’s an opportunity for businesses to create an image of a knowledge partner. It is a way to earn respect and trust of the potential buyers.

Demand Metric states that 90% of organizations now market with content. According to Marketo, organizations with over 1,000 employees have a budget of $1,057,300 and those with fewer than 1,000 employee set aside $335,200 for content marketing!

Considering the seriousness towards content marketing, it is obvious that businesses are cautious and particular when they select the content marketers they work with. Here is an effort to make your search simple. Look for these traits in your B2B content marketers -

#1: They are Process Oriented
Perfection has to do with the end product, but excellence has to do with the process.” – Jerry Moran

I am yet to see a successful content marketer who is not process oriented. A non-documented content strategy is a non-existent strategy. Good content marketers will start with strategy definition and ensure that it is well documented and has the buy-in of the stakeholders.

Secondly, content writing is not something which you can decide in the morning and start executing it. Content marketing is an integral part of the overall marketing plan and therefore needs to be well thought of and well-planned. For example: If the marketing focus for the month for an organization is going to be on the outreach to a particular audience, the content marketing needs to adapt to that and that’s where planning plays a big role. The content marketers have a well-defined plan in place – well in advance. It is part of their editorial calendar.  

#2: They are skillful writers
You don’t write because you want to say something….you write because you have something to say” -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Good content writers live by this mantra. They don’t write for the sake of writing it. They write insightful, entertaining and useful content. Their words and style are their most cherished assets. Their writing serves the reader. They put their content in context with the use of solid data, research and facts. Their content has logic and structure which serves to clear the confusion from the minds of the readers. Even if the business is complex, good writers make it simple and easy to understand. 

#3: They are great at managing internal subject matter experts
With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others-or, in a word, partnership.” -- Paul Farmer

Many a times, B2B marketers need to work in industries like technology, manufacturing or engineering. These industries have complex products and difficult concepts. Writing a compelling piece of content which appeals to the desired target audience in such cases is a difficult task – it involves extensive research, discussions with SMEs and getting their buy-in. Good content marketers not only need the knack of working with such multiple stakeholders aka SMEs, but also need the understanding of optimally using their time.

Here is what has worked best for me personally – Based on the social listening, I identify the theme or topic for the content. Then I do my research to finalize a list of few keywords which need to be used. Based on the keywords, I prepare a set of questions for the SMEs and once this homework is done, I meet the SMEs for 20-30 minutes to get answers to my questions. The SMEs have abundant knowledge and the real trick is in capturing the knowledge and presenting it in a publishable and promotable format.

#4: They are awesome storytellers
Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” – Hannah Arendt

Marketing is noisy and the Internet is full of content. How do you make your content stand out from the clutter? Storytelling is the answer. Today, nobody wants to see your company brochure presented in the form of a blog article. Your product or service CANNOT be the hero of your story. The buyer/ reader needs to be the hero. The best content captures the attention of the readers, resonates with them, answers their questions to get them ultimately engaged with the content and share it.

#5: They provide answers to questions
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss

Nobody is interested in your product or services. People want answers to their questions. They want solutions to their problems. This has got reflected now in the search patterns as well – earlier people used to search for keywords, now they search for answers. If your content provides answers to their questions, chances are that the search engines will rank your content higher and more importantly, people will appreciate and read your content. It will create your image as a knowledge partner and expert in the field whom they can go to get solutions to their problems.

#6: They understand Social Media
Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” ― Anton Chekhov

There are 700+ social networks and each social platform is different. While all the social platforms follow an underlying philosophy of two-way communication and interaction, there is a lot of difference in the way each platform works – Facebook is more visual, Twitter is 140 characters and has got immediacy associated with it, LinkedIn is more professional, Pinterest is highly creative and so on. The awesome content marketers understand the nuances of each platform and instead of using the same content all over on all the platforms, they tailor-made the content based on the network they are going to promote it. They repurpose the content based on their understanding of the platforms. For example: They might convert a blog post into an infographic for publishing it on Pinterest or they might include some tweetable stats in the blog post to make it easy to share on Twitter.

#7: They are tech-savvy and leverage various tools
It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” ― Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey has said it very aptly. We live in a hyper-connected technology world and marketers can’t afford to keep themselves away from technology. By being tech-savvy, I mean that they use technology tools, mobile apps to make themselves more effective and productive. There are many apps to help in finding, curating content, getting ideas for content topics, promoting the content and so on. Here is a supremely brilliant image which every content marketer can choose to make the desktop default wallpaper :-)

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

Marketing channels have evolved a lot – from print, TV, radio, websites, emails, online to now, social media. Today, online marketing and social media have become the most preferred channels for most of the businesses. But as anyone would agree, these are still evolving and many businesses are trying to figure out what works and what does not work for them. Having said that, while it is natural to stick to the commonly used marketing activities such as SEO, email campaigns, paid ads and social media, I always suggest that businesses should be open to explore the newer and powerful avenues too.

In this post, I am going to talk about few such online marketing activities which, when used right, can deliver great results – but unfortunately these are not talked about a lot.
# Webinars
I am a big fan of webinars. Webinars offer a great opportunity to learn from experts – without worrying about geographical boundaries and right from your work station. All you need is good Internet connection and a headset. Hundreds of experts are happy (and many a times, for free) share their expertise and experiences through webinars.
Now let’s talk about it from the business perspective. How can businesses leverage webinars? Well, in many ways –
  1. Customer Webinar – You know your customers love you and are raving fans. They really appreciate your work and you have made a significant difference to their business. Why not invite them to speak about their experiences, their business and their expertise through a webinar? Don’t you think others in the industry will value it? If you host one such webinar, you can reach out to many more prospects from the same industry and invite them to attend it. Since it is a purely educational exercise, you won’t appear salesy but at the same time, you will get an opportunity to reach out to a larger set of audience with something really credible.
  2. Industry Leader Webinar – People always love to hear the views and opinions of the industry leaders/ gurus. They offer industry insights and their opinions are unbiased. You can organize a webinar with an industry leader on a latest topic from your industry (which aligns with your offering) and invite people to attend that. Being associated with an industry leader will go a long way in positioning your business. Remember, I am not talking about being a mere sponsor for such webinar. The webinar should be organized and hosted by you and it should show that you have invited the speaker to speak.
  3. Product Webinar – If you are a company selling software products, then chances are that your sales teams give multiple product demos to the prospects. Why not cut it short by organizing product webinars every week? You can have multiple webinars covering different time zones and different industries. If you organize an industry-specific webinar, it gives you an opportunity to customize the webinar content for that specific industry. Such webinars can be pre-scripted and well thought out. You can build a good scalability in this model by training multiple people for the webinar. Having a fixed schedule displayed on your website will create a good impression in the minds of the prospects. You can also choose to make these webinars interactive by allowing the attendees to ask questions so that you get an opportunity to handle objections.
# Podcasts
Podcasts are small audio bytes popular amongst people who prefer audio over text/ images. There has been a trend of people using their commute time in listening to podcasts.  So what can the podcast be about? Like the webinars, podcasts can be with customers, industry leaders or even with your internal expert team. Pick a theme and record podcasts around it. While I have heard podcasts of 30-40 minutes also, I prefer the shorter podcasts– say around 12-15 minutes at most. What are the advantages from business perspective? Well, many advantages –
  • You get an opportunity to connect with influencers from your industry and be in their eyeline and establish connection with them
  • You get valuable content to share with your target audience. This content be then reused in many ways – through your website, blog, newsletters, email campaigns, and so on and that too on a continuous basis.
  • You get to take a position in the industry as someone who is interested in the latest topics and taking efforts to assist the community through knowledge sharing
# Influencer Marketing
With social media, it has become easy to connect with anyone. But there is a difference between connection and conversation. If done rightly, you can meaningfully connect with influencers from your industry, engage with them and then take the conversation to next level. Influencer marketing is often misinterpreted as celebrities endorsing your brand. That’s a very superficial way of looking at it. Influencer marketing really means – identify a list of influencers from your industry, map their social presence and interact with them on the platform of their choice. Interaction does not mean asking them to RT your link 😉 Let’s think – Who can be the influencers for you? These are the people who are decision makers in your industry or the people whom you care to connect with. For example: For an organic food store, chefs could be the influencers and for a solar power energy company, possibly the environmentalists could be influencers. You got to identify these and map their social presence – some might be active on Twitter, others might have strong LinkedIn presence. You need to first study that and then engage with them on those platforms. Once you establish a relationship with them, you can take the conversation ahead by requesting them to write a guest blog, invite them for a webinar or record their podcast.
# LinkedIn Groups
Having a profile on LinkedIn does not mean that you are active on LinkedIn. There are many more ways in which you can leverage this powerful platform. LinkedIn groups are very powerful to connect with like-minded people and establish your thought leadership in front of a targeted group of individuals. As a company, you can start your own LinkedIn group around a theme or a topic – note that starting a group in your company name is not useful. The group needs to connect people with similar interests. They should derive value from being part of your group. As an administrator of the group, it is your responsibility to keep the group activity relevant and ongoing. While it is an effort intensive and long term activity, if done well, it can be a brilliant way of creating a community of people with similar interests. In case you are interested to understand this in more detail, here is a great presentation on dynamics of starting and maintaining your own LinkedIn group.
Don’t get  so swamped in doing regular activities that you forget to take advantage of such secret weapons. Always keep  room for growth in your digital marketing plan.
* This post was originally published on YourStory

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

40 Awesome Things to Share on Twitter Business Handle

Twitter website mentions that Twitter has 302 million monthly active users and 500 million Tweets are sent per day! But even today, I very frequently answer questions like “Does Twitter work for businesses?” or “What can a business tweet about?” or “I don’t have time to be on Twitter – it’s for people who have no work”…arghhh…

Anyway, I have made peace with such questions – because I think these are simply because of the unawareness about the platform or the genuine lack of knowledge as to how powerfully businesses can leverage Twitter to connect and engage with prospects and customers.

In this post I am going to share few ideas which you can use on the Twitter handle for your business –

  1. Link to a YouTube or Vimeo video relevant to your niche
  2. Link to a list of blogs which could be useful for your target audience
  3. A special offer – just for Twitter followers
  4. If there is a glitch in some platform, share it along with the resolution (if you know it)
  5. Connect two people, who you think will value the introductions
  6. Ask a simple question which your followers will like to answer
  7. A link to a new app/ tool you discovered
  8. Review of a new app/ tool – tag the people who you think will especially benefit from it
  9. Inspiring, motivational and relevant quotes –humor works well too!
  10. Link to an interesting presentation on SlideShare
  11. A collation of interesting industry stats
  12. Link to an interesting poll
  13. An infographic (there are tons of ready infographics at Daily Infographic if you don’t have time to create your own infographic)
  14. Behind the scene photos
  15. Access to beta of a new product
  16. Join the ongoing conversations with trending hashtags
  17. Ask feedback on new product
  18. Office photos – don’t forget to tag the employees
  19. A happy customer photo
  20. Recommend a tool which you have found useful for something specific
  21. Share a book if you thought you have benefitted from it
  22. Randomly thank followers for their RTs or Favorites
  23. Exclusive photos of your products  
  24. An event you plan to attend
  25. Be part of a Twitter chat
  26. Opinions about current events
  27. If you're planning to attend an conference, join he conversations through event #hashtag before / during / after event
  28. Logo or website design of the early versions of your product!
  29. Link to a relevant podcast or webinar recording
  30. Random posts like dinner plans or weekend plans – Yes, it’s okay to share it from business handle because it will show that you are a real person
  31. Share popular, trending Reddit topic
  32. Share video testimonial
  33. Post a picture and ask followers to come up with interesting captions for the image
  34. Breaking industry news
  35. Wish your followers on holidays
  36. Offer free eBook
  37. Feature a star employee
  38. Share industry research with your point of view
  39. Humor – cartoons work the best at the start of the day!
  40. Finally, don’t forget to respond to a tag

Got any more to add? Share your ideas through comments.