I was talking to a small gathering of marketers the other morning and I got carried away and started ranting about poorly written content (I’m known to do that, probably too often). What I said was that even though there are thousands of great blog posts and articles providing good advice on marketing communications, I still see far too many marketers ignoring that advice. So, I thought that if I kept my advice (which isn’t original) short, maybe someone will listen.
What do you want your audience to do when they’ve read your content?
I can’t say it too often – you have to write about something your audience cares about. You have to give them value, with your words, or they’ll stop reading right away. No “Our company is the greatest because…” or “Our company did this or that…”. Good for you – but why is it good for me as the reader. If I don’t feel that I’m going to get value in the first sentence or two, you’ve lost me as an audience.
What is your content going to be about? Is it going to offer a solution? Is it going to entertain me? Is it going to offer me advice or tips on how to do something? You need to make sure the reader quickly knows what’s coming in the content, and then produce what you’ve promised. That way you match your audience’s immediate need (solution, entertainment, advice, etc.) with your content and your audience is far more likely to get value from the content.
So your audience has read your content. Now what? You need to provide some sort of guide to action, or why did you bother with the content in the first place?. It can be anything – links to more information, phone number to call, a way to respond, events to sign up for … whatever. Get your audience to act.
So, do you agree or not?
Wed, 2nd November, 2011 - Posted by (1) Comment|
I read a nice blog post today about what it is to be a thought leader by Rayanne Thorn that you should read. She says, “We hear about thought leaders, we refer to them, we listen to them, we engage with them, we quote them, we ask them to speak at conferences and we often disagree with them. The purpose of a thought leader may be just that — to inspire thought, to drive discussion, and controversy.” I agree that that is one purpose of a thought leader, a very important purpose. But the post got me to thinking about why a firm would engage in thought leadership marketing, and two points came to mind:
First, there’s a difference between an accidental thought leader and an intentional thought leader. The accidental thought leader is someone who’s goal wasn’t to become a thought leader, but rather to inspire thought, or to teach, or to fulfill a need to be important or any number of purposes other than to be a thought leader. Becoming a thought leader was an accident. They’re a thought leader because others have given them that label. They may not even like being called a thought leader (some folks think that being a thought leader and being someone who actually does work and gets things accomplished are mutually exclusive — not so, of course).
The intentional thought leader is a person (or company) who decides they want to be perceived as a thought leader for a particular purpose. And that purpose is always to get business. It’s why they decide to actively engage in thought leadership marketing. And although they have other, underlying goals like inspiring thought or educating an audience, those goals are really just stepping stones to reaching the secondary goal of being a thought leader, and the ultimate goal of getting business. That’s not to say that the stepping stone goals aren’t necessary and must be met before the ultimate goal is met. But if they were the only goals, the person wouldn’t care whether they were seen as a thought leader or got more business.
Second, I really appreciate the way Rayanne described our behavior with thought leaders. I think it’s one of the best descriptions of what it is about a thought leader that makes them truly a thought leader that I’ve seen — we hear them, we refer to them, we listen to them, we engage with them, we quote them, we ask them to speak. Whatever you do to try to be a thought leader, you’ll know you’ve succeeded when your audience acts like that.
P.S. Rayanne also had an earlier post where she asked what exactly would the job description of a thought leader look like? I like the question (and I’d like to hear what your answers might be), and I love her tongue-in-cheek answer — have a Doctorate in Thinkology (I want one of those).
Wikipedia defines a white paper as an “authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem…often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or educate customers, channel partners, or investors.” White papers need to have enough content to build a credible story, so you’ll usually find them to be roughly 8-20 pages long. They can be written in a variety of styles depending on the goal of the white paper. I find them to be valuable tools at any of the stages of the buying cycle.
The buying cycle consists of several stages that people go through in engaging with you and becoming clients. The buying cycle (my preferred term) is sometimes referred to as the marketing funnel or the sales funnel. The stages, listed below, each serve a function for your audience as they look for solutions to problems they have. And you need content that addresses each of these stages to help your potential clients move through these stages. Here’s how you can use white papers in each stage.
People become aware of your firm or product and service as something they might have an interest in. They may not even be aware that they have a problem that you could help them solve, but something grabs them enough so they engage with you. A white paper that is educational is appropriate for this stage. For example, you could create a white paper on cloud computing, clearly defining the term, adding research results to show how firms in a particular industry are using cloud computing, and then showing what value it might hold for a reader’s business.
People realize they have a problem that they want solved, so they start looking for possible solutions. A white paper that offers a case study is appropriate for this stage. For example, you could create a white paper on cloud computing that shows how one of your clients successfully converted desktop computers to thin client computers using software hosted virtually, in the cloud. Make sure you focus on the client and the solution and not on your firm.
People want to narrow their list of likely solutions to prepare to make a decision. A white paper that compares your solution to your competitors’ and shows in what ways yours is a better solution is appropriate for this stage. For example, you could create a white paper that talks about the different services that are needed to implement a cloud computing solution; the white paper could feature a table comparing how different companies deliver those services (billing terms, costs, age of service, infrastructure, supported operating systems, security, support, etc.).
People want to know what they are buying and what the deliverables look like. A white paper that provides a story of a client’s experience with you is appropriate for this stage. For example, you could describe what the experience was like for a client once a contract was signed, how you worked with this company to implement your solution, what unexpected problems they might have faced and how you dealt with them, how they are using your solution, and maybe even some results they’ve achieved.
When people have come to trust you and your firm, they might become your advocates, recommending you to others. All of the above white papers are appropriate for this stage—you just want to make sure that the content of the white papers have enough value that your clients are willing to share them with others. You also want to make it easy for them to share, either not copyrighting the content or, alternatively, licensing the content under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0, which allows them to freely share your content with attribution.
How do you use white papers?
I write a blog called The Thought Leadership Curmudgeon on TechnologyMarketers.com and thought you might be interested in reading those posts. Although the site is for technology marketers, most of my posts apply to any type organization. Here’s what I’ve written so far:
Thu, 9th June, 2011 - Posted by (0) Comment|
What counts as great thought leadership marketing content? Bad content? So-so content? If you don’t know the difference, how will you be able to tell whether or not your organization has great content? I sincerely hope you’re shooting for greatness.
Every month I’m going to critique a website and evaluate the thought leadership marketing content it presents. I’ll generally focus on organizations that offer great content so you’ll see what great content looks like (and, I hope, be able to use some of the ideas discussed in developing your own great content). I’ll look at the following five factors when I evaluate the content:
Great content is part of an overall marketing strategy that communicates a clear, consistent vision and contributes to positioning the firm as a thought leader. Since it’s a marketing strategy, the objectives are usually to create awareness, generate leads, nurture leads, and/or foster customer loyalty. What do I look for?
Great content means there is just the right amount of significant, interesting text, audio, and/or video to meet the needs of your audience throughout the phases of their buying cycle. What do I look for?
Great content comes in multiple formats (see Junta42’s Content Marketing Playbook). First, because some formats are more appropriate to certain phases of the buying cycle. Second, because people have preferences in how they like to receive content. What do I look for? Your content should be available in diverse and appropriate formats:
Great content is well-written, well-spoken, well-designed, well-delivered with audience needs in mind. It’s compelling, engaging, useful. What do I look for?
Great content is found content. Your audience has to be able to easily find the content that will meet their current needs. What do I look for?
So, is your thought leadership marketing content great? I’ll be rating website content on how well it addresses the factors outlined above. If you want me to rate your site, send me a brief request with your website address and I’ll be glad take a look.
We’ve just released a research report, B2B Content Marketing (co-sponsored with the Philadelphia Chapter of the Business Marketing Association), that offers some great advice for thought leadership marketers. Content marketing is one of the most important tactics used to position firms as thought leaders. Yet, according to our research, more than half (54%) of all firms surveyed do not have a documented content marketing strategy.
The survey clearly shows the importance of having a strategy: those firms with a content marketing strategy performed better on every measure of performance surveyed: for example, firms with a content marketing strategy were 27% better in generating leads than those without a strategy. Fortunately, firms do recognize the importance of strategy: developing a content marketing strategy is cited as one of their top marketing challenges.
Bottom line — make sure you have a clear, documented content marketing strategy (aligned to your thought leadership positioning strategy, which will be, of course, aligned with your corporate strategy).
The 18-page B2B Content Marketing Summary Report is available for download. Members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Business Marketing Association receive a copy of the full report. For all others, the full report, B2B Content Marketing, is available for purchase ($145) from BMA Philadelphia.