Is Lead Scoring Like SO Last Year?

Wait what? Are you just now getting lead scoring up and running and actually making it work? If you’re using a marketing automation system like Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot, you probably got this nifty feature built in.

It can take a while to make lead scoring successful. But now that you’re really using it, is it doing what you want?

Here’s the methodology of lead scoring and why it might be flawed or at least inadequate. The theory we’ve been working with for a few years is that it takes prospects multiple marketing touches to get warmed up to a company. Further, said prospect might never explicitly ask to speak to your company about your products and services. Lead scoring allows you to assign a number value to each activity the prospect does (i.e: download a white paper-get 10 pts, attend a webinar – 15 pts, visit your website – 1 pt per page etc. you get the idea). Then when their score piles up to your pre-determined threshold, your sales team does a proactive reach-out.

What’s great about lead scoring:

  • Lead nurturing and continued prospect activities are built into the program, supporting the very effective practice of content marketing – yay, big marketing win!
  • Your internal peeps and maybe nay-sayers see the data behind what it takes to convert a looky-loo into a genuine prospect – hint, it takes more than one awesome email.
  • There are some prospects who will never fill out that form on your website, like ever. Lead scoring allows you to keep track of their activities and push them with more direct methods once they reach your threshold.
  • Your sales team’s time is maximized. They need only concern themselves with the prospects that are truly showing digital interest and buying signals.

So this all sounds pretty great and it really is miles ahead of where we were without it. However there are some major shortcomings that make it fall short of its promise of tomorrow land.

Where the lead scoring fun stops.

First, sales reps still spend at least 50 percent of their time researching the marketing-qualified leads that get passed over from marketing. Because, while your lead scoring program tallies up the prospect’s activities, it doesn’t know whether or not that prospect is actually a valid potential buyer of your product or services. The person could just be a super fan of your blog, a student or a looky-loo with no means to buy.

Secondly, that pre-determined score you designated as the threshold for passing the lead to sales is pretty arbitrary. There’s no perfect formula that works for all prospects.

But now there is a solution that makes your old lead scoring model shinier and prettier.

Enter predictive lead scoring.

Predictive lead scoring is technology that allows you to digitally comb your marketplace to suss out the best potential buyers for your product.  It does this by first analyzing the data of your existing client base, and closed-won leads and creating patterns of what your ideal clients look like. Then it finds new prospects that match that model. You can tweak how you like if you’re going after a new market or have a new product to sell.

So now there are two ways to measure a lead’s potential. The first, that you’re familiar with from regular lead scoring is how much are they interested in you, as measured by their engagement with your content and marketing materials. The second and newer component measures how interested should you be in them. To make the most of these two together, create a threshold that must be met on both fronts. The result will create a far higher lead conversion rate and even a higher average deal size. When you’re working the right prospects, your odds of success go way up.

The leading companies offering predictive lead scoring are Infer, Lattice Engines and Fliptop. They are building relationships with the top marketing automation systems as we speak so you can expect this to become mainstream technology. And, thank goodness.

Your sales reps will actually trust marketing and  find they have to spend far less time ensuring they are calling an actual qualified lead. And you and your marketing team can spend far less time listening to complaints about crappy leads. Hurrah for that.

Photo by John McCloy via Flickr

What Will Change in BTB Marketing in 2016? Everything. (again)

Just when you thought the dust was settling, we’re in for more wild changes. You didn’t really think the dust was settling did you? Of course not, you’re a smart marketer. It’s the age of disruption and baby, it just keeps on disrupting.

So what specifically can BTB marketers expect for 2016? Here are my predictions:

1. The Rise of the Marketing Technologist – It’s not longer enough to have a marketing automation person or team. Marketing automation systems like Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and Hubspot are just the tip of the spear. Tools abound and marketing teams need a technologist who can evaluate if they will help the team perform better and also ensure they get used and add value once purchased. Sounds simple but according to marketing technologist, Scott Brinker, the average marketer might be regularly using more than 100 pieces of software to get his/her job done. All those bits and pieces of software cost money but are supposed to save time, so the marketing technologist ensures they do.

2. Live Video  Captures More than the Moment – Move over polished marketing video, you are too time consuming and not genuine enough. This year saw the launch of Periscope and Blab to huge adoption rates. These video formats make it easy for marketers to shoot on-the-fly live videos that keeps a real, authentic vibe that seems to be resonating big time. Experts agree that this is a trend that’s only getting trendier. By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled.

In just a few short months, Periscope alone has accumulated over 15 million registered users. Consider how quickly a much newer network has grown: Launched in October 2010, Instagram reached the 1 million user mark in just 2.5 months. It reached 10 million users in one year.  Periscope took just 5 months to reach 10 million users.” –How Live Streaming is Changing the Face of Social Media, Kim Garst

3. Demand for Quality Content Will Rise– Content marketing isn’t going away, it’s been here for eons and while the name may be new (er), the practice is old. That said, the easy distribution offered by social media and the overall popularity of the practice of content marketing, means that the airwaves are packed with dubiously useful content. Consumers are overwhelmed and looking for ways to filter. To get noticed and get results your content must be surgically tailored to your target audience and offer true value. This means you can’t leave your blog and social media postings to your intern anymore. Your customers are wise and wary and they can sniff out that inexperienced content in an Internet minute. Less is more–make less, but make it good any you’ll be more successful.

4. Account Based Marketing Will Get Bigger  (and maybe creepier) – Continuing the trend of more personalization and less blanket marketing efforts, account based marketing will only grow in 2016. If you’re new to the concept, it is technology-aided uber targeting. It works best for those companies going after a short list of customer “whales.” Imagine customizing your internet display ads, landing pages and even your entire website for a specific target–so anyone from that company who engages with you gets an uber tailored experience. Check out this example at, note the company customization, the map and the message that speaks directly to the company’s business:

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 12.21.12 PM









So as a consumer, if you work for a big company… you can expect to get Internet creeped on the regular (slow clap).

5. Social Media Marketing Will Get More Difficult and Expensive – Facebook was just the first to slow the roll of marketers trying to reach their followers with free posts, forcing marketers to pay to get their posts pushed out to their entire follower base. Twitter is expected to follow suit this year and others will be right behind. Not only that, but people are clicking through from your Twitter links less and  social sites are actively trying to keep you on their site, rather than encouraging viewers to pay a visit to your real estate.

As every major social platform becomes more pay-to-play, marketers are frantically leveling up their advocate strategy and influencer game, and trying to maintain relevance organically.” Five Social Trends Marketers Won’t Be Able to Ignore in 2016, Victor Pineiro, Ad Age (note: This article contains a healthy dose of pessimism, or er, realism as you prefer)

6. You’ll Want to Re-think your Digital Display Ad Budget – Ad blocking software usage is up 48% in the US in 2015. That means about half the people who used to see your clever banner ad, are no longer seeing it. And you’re still paying for those impressions. Make sure you’re paying per click this year! For all the latest trends and even by-geography stats, check out the 2015 Ad Blocking Report by the Pagefair Team.

So team, if we’re going to be successful, this year, we have our work cut out for us. Key takeaways are to get more customized and qualitative with your marketing. This goes for where you’re distributing it as well as what you’re distributing. There are plenty of tools out there to help you do it and plenty of marketers who are gearing up as experts to help you sort through and manage those tools. Things are evolving fast so keep an eye out for rule changes that could crush your ROI when you’re not even looking. Cheers to 2016!

Photo by David Pacey

What is Content Marketing?

Since I started my own content marketing agency, I find myself needing to define content marketing pretty often. Mostly it’s when I’m describing what my new business does to friends, neighbors and family. This is how it goes:

Them: “What type of business did you start?”

Me: “I started a marketing agency that specializes in content marketing.

Them: Long pause… “that um… sounds nice…?”

So I have started to head off the awkward silences with an included definition of content marketing. This is what I call the Momsplanation:

Me: “Imagine you own a company that sells exercise equipment and you need more customers. Rather than sending out a bunch of product brochures that talk about how great your products are, you publish material or content about health and fitness. By discussing health and fitness in an intelligent and engaging way, you provide value to the kind of people who might be interested in getting some exercise equipment. You show your expertise rather than telling about it. This leads to potential customers who trust you and want to buy your stuff.”

Them: (lightbulb!)

This is often followed up with a conversation about someone they know who could use this sort of approach.

Some others have created much more official explanations, and just so you get your requisite dose of business speak, I’ll put the most universally accepted one here:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” -Content Marketing Institute

This description is technically good. I don’t think it helps describe it to Mom, but it hits on some of the finer points of content marketing, which are:

  • Give your prospects something they value for free
  • Talk directly to those whom you want to buy your product/service
  • Why? So we get customers who buy stuff

The Wikipedia version, which is the first definition that pops up when you Google “What is Content Marketing” is:

“Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.” -Wikipedia

This description is pretty inadequate. By this definition any flyer you get on your car at a ballgame would qualify as “content marketing.” What’s missing is the intent of content marketing, which should always to educate and provide value–the “valuable content” part of the CMI definition above.

When you’re developing your content marketing strategy, here’s the trick I use. Forget you’re selling something. Focus tightly on your target audience–be really specific about who this person is and what he/she struggles with on a daily basis. Is it getting to the gym, losing weight, eating more healthfully? What information can you provide that will help them with that struggle? It’s ok if it has nothing to do with the exercise equipment you have to offer. You’re building trust and offering value, which will make them want to buy from you.

“A customer that feels valued beyond his or her wallet is a customer more likely to respond to your next message or offer.”
-Customer Experience Must Be at the Heart of Your Agile Marketing,by Paul Mandeville, MarketingProfs

Sometimes people feel they are “giving away” too much for free with this approach. But don’t forget, information is cheap these days–anything you can offer that is truly customized to your target market is valuable them and to your relationship in the long run.

Photo by Joe the Goat Farmer via Flickr Commons


Content Marketing Customization: How to Get Past Information Overload

In 1969 you could walk into a car dealership and get swindled. The dealer had all the information about the car and all you had was a glossy brochure and your sister-in-law’s personal endorsement. When the salesman said the car was safe, powerful and reliable, you didn’t have any counter-information. Hence, the salesman had all the information power and a whole generation of car-salesman-hating shoppers was born.

But now the balance of information power has shifted and consumers walk in often knowing more than the salespeople. Information is rampant. In fact, 27,000,000 pieces of content are shared every day. It’s so readily available, it’s not really valuable anymore. This presents a conundrum for marketers.

It’s not enough to just do content marketing. If you sell vitamin supplements, you might have content about health and fitness to attract the audience most likely to be interested in your product. The problem is that that internet is FULL, and I mean FULL, of content about health and fitness. So while your company is taking a viable, time-tested content marketing approach, it’s probably not working all that well.

The value is no longer in the information itself. It’s in the customization of the information to the people you are trying to reach. Here’s how you can make it happen with your content:

  • Find the nichey-ist of niches – Focus your content on a subset of your possible buying market. Write your blog for CrossFit moms who want to lose weight. If no one else is customizing for this audience you’ll stand out to them. Great example: TinyCartridge – this blog focuses on mobile gaming as a way to stand out in the overcrowded gaming space.
  • Write your content in a new way – While your topic might be common, your voice isn’t. Consider this blog from Trust Tree, a trademark law firm. Their blog, The Root, focuses on the wacky, weird and fun happenings in trademark law–the result is anything but boring.
  • Be ultra personal – Even if you’re creating content for a super-large Fortune 50 corporation (or maybe especially so), making your content vulnerable, personal and individual will win you friends in the cyber world. By creating content that reveals a personal story, you’re offering something no one else can. For example I love the Twitter stream of @herdyshepherd1 – it’s the photo-driven personal story of what it’s like to be an actual shepherd in rural England. It’s beautiful and feels like you’re getting a personalized tour of someone’s pretty interesting life. Oh and they sell lots of products related to their sheep because of it.
  • Be the gorilla – If you have the resources (and I mean a lot of resources), produce loads of great content and out-produce everyone else in the space. HubSpot has done this admirably in the crowded area of marketing blogging. And, to take another trick from their book, if you want a new audience, purchasing an existing blog could be the way to go–HubSpot wanted to reach the agency audience so they bought the Agency Post an existing well-trafficked blog and voila, insta-audience.

It used to be that information was power. Now, information is cheap and pervasive. So the job of providing real value is more difficult than ever. You cannot phone this one in though, even generic content marketing takes a lot of time and effort. Before you spend a dime or an hour of your valuable time, make sure you’re really going to bring something of true value to your prospects. Otherwise, you’ll be lost in the noise… No ever said this would be easy.

Photo by Cobalt123 via Flickr commons

7 BTB Marketing Musts to Do Right Now for a Killer 2016

If you’re like many marketers, you’re knee deep in 2016 budgeting and planning already. Yay, everyone’s favorite time of year (kidding). So I’m here to pile on some more to do’s you should be knocking off your list to hit 2016 running. Your future self will thank me when you’re killing it on January 2.

1. Map your customers’ sales journey – This can take some time but it is SO valuable. I can’t stress enough, how important this is. How does your customer buy? What is their path from awareness to purchase? Where do you lose prospects and sales? What can marketing do to prevent it? How many touches from marketing does it take to get a prospect engaged? What touches are converting most regularly?

Understanding the answers to all these questions will fine-tune your marketing to a new level. You have to take ownership of that entire sales funnel, not just the awareness part. Marketing can and does continually add value through the entire sales process. Mapping that prospect experience and using the information to continuously drive demand will directly add dollars to your bottom line.

2. Test your nurture emails! – If you’re like most of us, you’ve put some automatic programs in place that are running happily in the background, nurturing those slow prospects. It’s time to test those babies. First, benchmark your results for the year. See which ones are performing well and not so well. Start fixing.

If the poor performers are long, shorten them up. If the subject line is ho-hum, make it sharp and actionable–try something that is 2-4 words only. Then run some A/B tests to pit your new version against the old version. If you see an uptick, keep the new version, but maybe test a couple of other elements to try to make it even better. If nothing gets results, then perhaps it’s time to ditch that email and replace with something fresh. Which blog post performed the best in the past couple months? Feature that one.

3. Plan an editorial calendar – Yeah, I know. It’s tedious. But content marketing should be your highest priority tactic, so mapping for the year will keep you on top of it all year long. I like to do 4-6 week sprints with different content topics, coordinate these with product launches and you’ll have a winning content plan. When conference season hits, you’ll be the pro who coordinated his content before, during and after shows. Just be sure to leave some flexibility in your schedule to take advantage of market changes and hot topics that might pop up unannounced.

4. Research your tech purchases – If your budget gets approved for that new automation system, document management program or whatever tech gizmo you’ve been hankering for, start your purchase process now. It can take a while to select the right vendor and negotiate a smokin’ deal. By starting now, you can be ready to sign once your budget is primetime on January 2nd. If you wait until the new year to start your process, you could fall victim to the budget yank that sometimes happens after a lackluster first quarter. Spend your budget while you have it! Or, if you can swing it, signing by December 31st often gets you some sweet deals as sales reps are trying to meet their annual sales goals.

5. Make a great piece of content to launch Jan 2 – There’s no better feeling than starting the year with something awesome. Lots of research reports and surveys come out at year-end, use the data to create a killer white paper and infographic. If you’re budget challenged, there are some new graphics programs and tools that can make DIY look totally pro. Try Piktochart and Canva. HubSpot also offers free Powerpoint templates for creating your own infographics.

6. Don’t have a blog yet? Get one ready to launch in the new year. If you’re not yet blogging on your website, start getting that going now! There’s no time to waste. Blogging is the single best driver of SEO to your website. You can’t afford not to do it. If you start writing posts now, you can launch with a good library, so your blog won’t look like a newbie wasteland. This recent post from HubSpot sums up exactly the reasons you should be blogging, like right now.

7. Develop a platform content strategy – LinkedIn, Medium and now even Twitter are dying for your content. And, there are many great reasons to post content on these platforms. They often get a lot more eyeballs than the posts on your own blog. While, you definitely want to get people over to your own blog to drive the SEO mentioned in #6, you can’t ignore the power of the audience on these other platforms. Before the new year begins, map out a strategy of which of your content will go where. Make it part of your #3 editorial calendar. Hint, you should not put everything everywhere. More about Twitter getting in the long-form game here in Contently’s article, Twitter Dropping its 140-Character Limit Signals a New Era in Content Marketing.

With all the planning and budgeting and just plain finishing the year strong, it can be tempting to focus on the NOW. Don’t let it happen to you. Januaries and first quarters are often the toughest time of the year for marketers. If you get ahead of it now, you can not only make it easier for yourself next year, but also up your game significantly. I’m cheering for you!

Photo by: Sarah Ackerman

How Big is Content Marketing in 2016? BIG. [Infographic]

Where are companies nationwide putting their marketing budget dollars this year? Content. With  more than 50% expecting to increase their budgets for content in the next 12 months, we can expect to see the trend hold well into the future.

Why is content marketing so popular? Because, unlike a flashy new social media platform or subject line trick to get people to open your emails (emojis anyone?), content marketing is truly effective. It demonstrates your subject matter expertise in a way that no amount of advertising or promotion can do, which builds trust.

I love this quote from Paul Mandeville in a recent Marketing Profs article, “Customer Experience Must Be At the Heart of Your Agile Marketing“:

“A customer that feels valued beyond his or her wallet is a customer more likely to respond to your next message or offer.”

Paul is absolutely right, we cannot trick consumers into thinking we care about them with some clever copywriting. We have to demonstrate we understand them and give them information that makes their interactions with us worthwhile. Once you’ve given them something worthwhile, they’ll be more likely to buy.

So now let’s see just how big content marketing is going to be in the coming year. Big props to Writing Experts for this excellent infographic that lays it all out so nicely.



Heading photo by Marco Verch via Flickr Commons

32 B2B Marketing Ideas for Maximizing Periscope

Have you been hearing about Periscope but aren’t sure what to do with it? Ack, another social media platform to figure out! Don’t worry, Periscope is easy to get to know and love. It’s the perfect blend of Twitter and Youtube.

For those of you who are new to Periscope, it’s a live streaming app (you can only use from your mobile device), that allows you to film with your phone and broadcast whatever is happening in front of you right now. Your followers will get  notified that you’re broadcasting and can watch live. They can also comment and interact with each other as your broadcast progresses. Your recorded video will stay up in the platform for 24 hours and then it’s gone. You can save it and republish to other places if you’d like to keep it. It’s genius.

Why is it so great? In a nutshell, it’s live! Which means your videos have flaws and they could end in disaster, but that’s what makes it so engaging for the audience. So much of today’s content is mass produced and it often has a nice polished sheen to it. This is great for the perfectionists in us, but it can make your content smell like marketing. And when something smells like marketing… guess what, people stop listening.

What Periscope does is help you keep the immediacy and authenticity that you often lose on the editing room floor when perfecting your content pieces. So you have the opportunity to be open with your audience, have fun and show them who you really are. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to build a relationship with them. Plus, you don’t have to spend hours editing to perfection. Win win.

So how can you use Periscope for B2B marketing? I have some ideas (32 to be exact):

  1. Interview your conference attendees like HubSpot is doing at their Inbound Conference right now (#inbound15)
  2. Announce a new product feature with a live reveal and demonstration
  3. Feature your CEO commenting on an industry change or event
  4. Showcase a client using your product
  5. Film a company party (great for recruiting too!)
  6. Interview employees about what they love about what they do (also great for recruiting)
  7. Show something unique about your office space or location
  8. Ask employees what they think is the best thing about your company’s clients
  9. Feature product managers excitedly talking about what’s coming next for your products
  10. Launch a contest for the best new lyrics for a popular song, featuring your company name
  11. Interview kids of your employees on bring-your-kids-to-work days
  12. Share facts from a recent survey your target market will be interested in (bonus points for a flipchart with graphs)
  13. Interview industry experts from outside your company
  14. Feature a new marketing piece, logo or campaign and ask for feedback
  15. Draw a flowchart of how your product, service or offering works
  16. Show the atmosphere behind the scenes at a major event or product reveal
  17. Interview customers about what they think about a new product or feature
  18. Answer common support questions
  19. Q&A with a celebrity related to your business
  20. Feature a segment of info you’ll cover in an upcoming webinar or event to drive interest
  21. Show off your team’s ping pong (or office golf, or nerf ball throwing) skillz
  22. Interview the office dog
  23. Show how your product is made, how your developers come up with ideas and work together
  24. Give tutorials on how to do a particular procedure with your product
  25. Live stream your in-person events
  26. Broadcast a panel discussion with your execs and feature customer questions
  27. Answer common industry questions–what do your prospects ask you first?
  28. Ask a survey question–with Periscope’s live interaction, you’ll get feedback on the spot
  29. Make a product offer or run a pricing promotion
  30. Develop deeper relationships with industry influencers by interacting with their Periscope broadcasts
  31. Build an email or contact list by asking participants to leave their info in the comments
  32. Run a charity campaign that benefits your company’s favorite cause–be sure to film the recipients of your donations

Did I miss any? How are you using Periscope? This is an exciting new platform so get out there and try some stuff. And, if it doesn’t turn out great, no worries, it’s gone with the wind in 24 hours. Marketing is all about trial and error so give it a whirl!

 Photo by Suzie Tremmel via Flickr Commons


How to Bounce Back Strong Like Serena Williams

Serena Wiliams

It’s day nine of the US Open Tennis Championship. It’s hot. It’s humid. The matches are long and physically grueling.  But it’s not the heat or fitness that defeats the players. It’s something far more difficult to train for. Resilience.

Tennis is such a personal sport. It’s one person against another mano e mano. These days you can see every emotion play across the competitors faces in full up-close HD TV coverage. When a player is down a set or two, you really see what he or she is made of. Some wear their frustration like a suit and let that suit guide their every movement. Others allow their frustration its moment of release and let it go. They move on without it. It’s easy to see which method leads to more wins.

As I experience, in all its glory, the life of an entrepreneur, I think about the outcomes of each of these types of approaches to any game. Those who carry their disappointments around with them just don’t win in the end. For those who have resilience, it’s not that they don’t feel the impact of loss or disappointment, they just don’t let it own them. And the best of them use their losses to get better.

This past week I was in grave need of a pep talk from my friend and mentor, Kevin McKeown. Wisely, he told me that it’s ok to wallow, but just for a little while. You have to put an expiration date on it. When you’ve given it its due time, put it away and move on.

I saw this in action on Serena Williams’ face. In her 3rd round match against fellow American Bethany Mattek-Sands, she clearly wasn’t happy with her performance. She showed her frustration with herself in short bursts, but shook it off before the next serve. After winning a tough three-round battle, she went straight back out to practice her serve so she would be ready for the next match. My idol.

I love this quote from Entrepreneur by Eric Greitens:

“Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience.”

No one ever said it would be easy and Kevin reminded me of that fact this week. So now I’m going to go work on my serve.

Photo by Mirasha via Flickr Commons

5 Things Content Marketing is NOT

5 things content marketing is NOT

It’s all the rage–all marketers have to be doing “content marketing” or they’re  just not going to be successful, right? I admit, I’m a big fan of content marketing, I’m even building a business around it. But I do believe that there is still a place for more traditional channels and I believe the traditional methods actually complement content marketing quite nicely. But that’s not what this post is about, this post is about getting to the bottom of what content marketing actually IS and what it most certainly is NOT.

As with any buzzy kind of marketing trend, the moniker “content marketing” is getting slapped on all kinds of marketing so people can feel they are doing the latest and greatest, without actually changing their strategy or methods.

I think Marketing Profs says it best:

 “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The key points in this definition are about delivering valuable and relevant content to your audience. The whole idea is to give them information that (in the BTB world) helps them do their jobs better. And if, along the way, that helps them gain a better opinion of you as company, start a relationship with you and perhaps want to learn more about the stuff you actually sell, then you’re getting the right idea of how this all works.

So what is content marketing NOT?

1. It’s not new. Content marketing is the latest name for something savvy marketers have been doing for years. Bi-lined articles, newsletters and magazines are just a few ways this has been done in the past. The advent of the internet, blogging and social media have just made this process easier, cheaper and more far-reaching.

2. It’s not about you. Brochure is kind of a dirty word these days. It sounds dated and like it’s a long, involved paper thing that no one reads or cares about. What sounds new and fresh is an ebook. I’m seeing some companies make brochures and call them ebooks. So let’s set the record straight, an ebook should not be about your company or your product. You can skirt it a little by talking about your category in broad terms, but you shouldn’t be talking features/benefits. Your ebook or content piece should be educational and show your target market how much you know about their industry and the particular pain points they are suffering from.

3. It’s not just a pretty face. We’ve all seen the beautiful infographic or video that while gorgeous, leaves you feeling like what was that all about? Make sure you don’t forget the content part of your content marketing, it has to have substance that makes it “valuable and relevant” for your target market. Don’t forget, this is a strategic approach.

4. It’s not a one-way street. The whole idea behind content marketing, and particularly the kind that takes place on a blog and on social media, is that it’s a conversational media. It’s an ice breaker. It’s a “hey, we totally get you and what you’re going through” media. So keep it relational and encourage the two-way communication so you can create real connections with your audience. This is the fun part!

5. It’s not one and done. While you can eat out on a great piece for a while, you gotta keep the engine rolling. One piece doesn’t and shouldn’t speak to every pain your audience is dealing with. Ideally, you’re creating content for the different personas you sell to, you’re creating content that supports different stages of the sales cycle and you’re creating content that keeps your audience coming back for more. Sounds hard and it is. There’s a lot of marketing noise in the world and now more than ever it takes consistency and perseverance to stand out. Good thing content marketing is so much fun!

To get your content marketing program off the ground, start with strategy. Know your audience top to bottom and what they struggle with day-to-day. Evaluate where in the sales cycle you can support your sales team or attract new prospects with that valuable and relevant content and you’ll be off to the races. Just keep it up!

Photo by 10ch via Flckr Commons

Facing the Copywriting Mountain – How to Write with Ease

Snowboarding image

I’ll admit, writing comes easily to me. I know many people struggle when they stare at the blank page. Where to start? What should those first words be? It’s particularly difficult if you don’t write often.

A few years ago, my husband tried to teach me how to snowboard. He is athletically gifted and things like snowboarding come naturally to him. Not so much for me. He had a difficult time breaking the process of snowboarding (without face-planting) down into doable steps for me. He just did it right, without thinking about it. For him it was like explaining a sneeze. The result was a very long day and some sore body parts.

Getting started

Writing can seem like standing at the top of a steep mountain for some people. I get it. Scary. But there are a few very important differences with writing (besides no risk of broken bones):

  • Unlike the mountain, you don’t have to start at the top. The beginning of something is often the trickiest to write. Your kernel of truth is usually more toward the middle, so write that first since you feel most confident about that idea
  • It’s ok to suck at your first draft. Unlike snowboarding, no one needs to see that first run. Just get it out on paper. It’s so much easier to revise than to start from scratch. Plus, once you let go of that dream of perfection, you’ll find the words flow much more easily
  • There’s no right way to do this – if outlining your thoughts first works for you, then do it. Here’s an outlining tutorial if you need one. If it’s painful to outline, don’t. I like to think of all the rules we were taught in school as mere suggestions. If your process brings you to a good result in the end, then it’s a good process for you.

Facing critique

One of the hardest parts of writing is knowing your work is going to be read and critiqued. But getting feedback is important for ensuring you’re getting it right and at the risk of sounding like my parents (both teachers), important for becoming a better writer.

When it comes to getting feedback, there are two camps of thought. The first says you should get feedback as early as possible on your first draft. This ensures you’re on the right track from the start and since it’s only a first draft and you haven’t agonized over it yet, you’ll be less emotionally attached to it and therefore more open to the feedback.

This first method does not work for me. It took me a number of critique classes to realize this. I find that it gives me writer’s block because I want my first draft to be worthy of being read by someone. So the second method is to only give a final draft for review. You risk being totally off course and forced to start over, but if you do your homework ahead of time that risk is minimal. You also have to put on your big girl pants and take criticism on writing you labored over.

That said, not all criticism has to be followed. If you’re just getting started in your career, you might get edited more than someone with more experience. Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes it’s not. If you find you’re arguing with every single edit someone makes to your work, you’re probably wrong. But likewise, if you’re making every change that others’ suggest, you might be losing your own writing flavor. Find the line of how much of the critique you need to follow, but be ready with a good reason if your boss wants to know why you didn’t make the edit she suggested.

 Finishing strong

Many of your readers won’t read every word of your piece (gasp!). I know, hard to believe. Research shows they read the headline, the first sentence, any bullet points and maybe some words you bold throughout the piece.

You might think that the conclusion doesn’t really matter when the vast majority of the non-scrolling public won’t ever see it. But conversely it actually matters more. So maybe only 25 percent of folks are reading all the way to the end. But these people are really engaged with you. They put time into actually reading what you wrote. These are your people (hi, people!). Don’t disappoint them at the end!

Your conclusion is a great place to crystalize the idea you presented in the rest of your piece. Summarize it in a sentence or two. So for those who only skimmed the rest, they’re still getting the gist of your point. You should also tie back to any stories you told throughout your piece. Just like good snowboarding technique, you need to stay consistent with your form and try to enjoy the process (see what I did there?).

Writing doesn’t have to be an avalanche-prone slope of terror. Give yourself a break, get the words on paper, get some help along the way and keep doing it. I might have quit snowboarding after that first try. Don’t be like me.

Photo credit: Markus Spiering