1. What are your customer’s stories?

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    In an interview with Krista Tippet on the On Being podcast Seth Godin provides typically insightful answers to the question, “what is marketing?” Modern sales and marketing are indeed in transformation. This requires new thinking about these professions, the principles and practices that inform best practices. We dismiss this at our peril. This three minute excerpt can stimulate breakthrough thinking to guide your content strategy discussions. Unlike most marketing discussions of stories, Godin invites you to consider your customer’s stories, what they are telling themselves before they meet you. This is the context into which you must set your story.    
  2. 12 Demand Management Competencies for Success

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    Too many companies struggle to realize their demand management improvement expectations from investments in marketing automation. Marketing automation initiatives are often considered the next step beyond email marketing. As a result, campaign oriented thinking carries forward and limits the approach and results. Have we not learned from CRM and other technology categories that technology is an enabler, not a  producer of significant outcome improvements?  In fact, new technology often requires organizational change, new skills and increased work in the short term. A failure to appreciate the required competencies for demand management success is a root cause of this phenomena. Just the terms “lead gen” and “demand management” often carry no distinction within these organizations. When you hear that, it’s a yellow flag of caution that poor performance is bound to follow. The following is a checklist of demand management success competencies. Each are significant categories in their own right, with...
  3. IDG On Connecting the Dots Between Content and Sales

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    The opening lines, and most of the lines that followed, really grabbed my attention: “Marketers spent more than $40 billion on custom media in 2011. B2B marketers are allocating one-third of their budgets to content marketing, and more than half plan to increase content marketing spending in 2013. However, as many IT marketers are discovering, content marketing is a complex practice that requires insights not just into what type of content to develop and deliver, but when and how to deliver these assets to ensure maximum engagement.”   This IDG Enterprises report is the result of a survey of 1,025 IT decision makers to “to gain a better understanding of the role content consumption plays in the purchase process for major technology products and services.” I believe these insights apply to most content marketers today, and soon to all, even in lagging industries. My first observation is this is the...
  4. Change Selling Behavior — Really?

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      Another terrific Boston SMEI breakfast discussion this morning. Lisa Dennis lead a discussion about changing selling behaviors using ideas from Dan Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human. Here are my takeaway observations and related thoughts. Core conclusion: rather than try to change behaviors, select, enable and incent desired behaviors. The topic of selling and sales behaviors is so broad, it has to be focused for a coherent discussion. Yet so much of what I read and hear never starts that way. Any sales conversation must begin with the nature of the selling process, especially from the buyers perspective — how they see their problems, available solutions, and buying challenges. My colleague Rob Scanlon developed a simple “Three Level Selling Model” that I’ve found useful. This is based upon the customer’s understanding of their problem, vendor products and solutions available to solve their problem, and their ability to make...
  5. One Hour Content Marketing Reality Check

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    Take an hour in the next week to objectively assess whether you have created a competitive edge in the way you engage buyers through online content.  That is the first competitive battle you have to win.  If you are outsold here, you may not get a second chance.  You may not even become aware of the opportunity.  Key points you have to assess when evaluating your competitiveness include: Will buyers relate to our understanding of their problem? Will buyers understand their options for addressing their problem? Will buyers get insights into what is really important to understand about their choices? Has our point of view given buyers enough insights and ideas to allow us to make the short list of vendors for consideration? Assess Your Best Competitor Begin your competitive assessment by going to your best competitor’s website to see what content is positioned to engage buyers. Look at the key...
  6. Continuously Acquire Customer Stories, Insights, and Ideas

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      If content is the fuel for content marketing, sales and customer enablement, then customer stories or insights are the active performance enhancing ingredients. Well-developed messages targeted to address key buyer questions are better understood when the right customer stories create context. This is particularly important with innovative products, where buyers lack prior purchase experience. Capturing customer stories or insights can be a challenge for content marketers. Logistics and weak practices are both a factor. Trying to find stories when you need them is not easy. Setting up time to talk directly to customers can be inconvenient and face internal organizational barriers. Often marketers lack first-hand access to customers. They have to rely on intermediaries for access, or on subject matter experts to provide stories. Sometimes this works well. Just as often the stories are not compelling or inspiring. A better approach is to have a rich inventory of stories available to...
  7. Learnings From A Content Strategy Hangout

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      I “watched” last week’s Google+ Hangout lead by the team at Velocity Partners in the UK:  Content That Stands Out: A Content Strategy Google+ Hangout.  The link will take you to the recorded show, or click the video image below. I have learned we tend to apply new technologies initially, by using old paradigms.  Google hangouts are a new technology most likely requiring a new paradigm. The Velocity sponsors openly acknowledge this. Video and group communication methods raise additional challenges. I have learned that video programs require tight production efforts, guided by strong moderating skills, based upon significant preparation. The ad hoc group conversation felt disjointed and didn’t work well for me. I lost my attention and interest rather quickly, despite being highly interested initially. Content That Stands Out In this morning’s email Ryan Skinner from Velocity responded to a question I had previously submitted. My question sought to...
  8. Business Video — it doesn’t have to be this way

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    Your colleague walks through your office door and announces, “let’s make a video!” Quick, what images come to mind? What feelings hit your gut? “We need: cameras, lights, production people, someone to shoot, where, when is it needed, how long will it take, what will it cost, how will we use it, …? This feels daunting, are we up to this, can we succeed, is it worth it, does this even make sense …? It would be nice, but ….” Now ask yourself: what if it doesn’t have to be this way? Video is one of the fastest growing content formats that interest both audiences and marketers. So a lot is at stake to figuring this out. Change Your Mindset Paul Ritter of Interactive Media Strategies is a seasoned analyst of the video marketplace. I asked him what he thought was holding people back from making greater use of video....
  9. I Need A Plan for 200 Videos for the Channel, Chapter Five

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    Collaborating with the Channel    Max Wilson, Director of Marketing at WE-CAN Technologies,  has been asked by his executive team, (Chapter One), to develop an execution plan for delivering 200 videos for use in the channel.  He has responded with an email validating that 200 videos is approximately what is needed, (Chapter Two), and an email outlining a pragmatic production approach, (Chapter Three).   Max followed up with a recommended approach for evaluating the initiative investment, (Chapter Four).  In the evaluation he identified a potential channel partner adoption risk to be managed. Max sent the following email about a collaborative approach to channel partner adoption to his boss, Jim Everett, VP of Marketing. Jim, Our belief that the use of videos by the channel will be a great help is tempered by the pragmatic reality that it is likely to be received with a mixed level of enthusiasm.  All change efforts are.  We know that...
  10. I Need 200 Videos for the Channel, Chapter Four

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          Investment Decision for Video Initiative The executive team at WE-CAN Technologies is considering investing in the development of videos to drive growth through its channel partners. They asked Max Wilson, Director of Marketing, at WE-CAN Technologies, to develop an execution plan, (Chapter One). Max has already sent an email that validates the number of videos that would have to be developed, (Chapter Two), and an email that outlines a pragmatic approach to developing the videos, (Chapter Three). The executive team knows that not all good ideas are worth doing.  They asked Max to recommend decision criteria for evaluating the investment.  Getting alignment on the decision criteria sets baseline expectations that the execution plan must meet.  These inputs are important to the design of the final execution plan and operating budget. Max sent the following email with his recommendations to his boss, Jim Everett VP of Marketing at WE-CAN...
  11. I Need a Plan for 200 Videos for the Channel, Chapter Three

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    How to Produce 200 Videos For the Channel Chapter Three Max Wilson, Director of Marketing at WE-CAN Technologies, is responding to a request by the executive team to develop a plan to make 200 videos to use with the channel, (Chapter One). They had five questions for Max to answer. What is the right number of videos and why? Knowing that we need volume production, how do we do it? How do we make decisions about the value versus the cost of 200 videos? How will we collaborate with our channel partners to use the videos? What does an operating plan look like, including a budget? Max already sent an email explaining the logical volume drivers, (Chapter Two), and how he estimated that 200 videos is pretty close to the right number. Max sent the following email to Jim Everett, VP of Marketing at WE-CAN to explain how volume production will work....
  12. Who’s going to stock the (content) pond?

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      I love to look for paradox in life. Take content, for example. Content creation is undergoing a major shift from a few, centrally managed professionals, to many people, through out the organization, with varying skills, process understanding and techniques, who aren’t often managed in this process at all. And yet, we wonder why this content “sucks.” (I’ve come to appreciate this is a technical content term when used in this context, not vulgar slang use of the term.) It’s one thing to ask domain experts or writers to write short form blogs, and maybe try to find a relevant supporting image for a post. And a poor blog that takes someone a couple of hours to write, and few people read, has a relatively minimal impact on the business.   Think “Stock the Pond” In New England, if you want a good fishing experience, you look for lakes and...
  13. The Role of Content in the B2B IT Buying Process

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    Forgive the redundancy, but Ardath Albee has another good post talking about the role of content in the b2b IT buying process. She is referencing the recently released IDG 2012 Customer Engagement Study report. One major finding is enterprise IT Decision Makers engage with an average of 10 content assets during their buying process. Of course all assets won’t come from one company. But the implications for both quality and quantity of content required is important to note. Four Active Buying Personas Ardath also points out that this is for a single buyer role. In complex sales, there are often well over 4 “personas” who are active in the buying process. In fact, often, discovery of a key idea or vendor may be made by someone not even on a vendor’s “people map.” Someone is conducting research or crosses an interesting article that is forwarded to the people involved. But...
  14. I Need 200 Videos for the Channel, Chapter Two

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    How Many Videos Do We Really Need? Max Wilson, Director of Marketing at WE-CAN Technologies sent the following email to Jim Everett, VP of Marketing at WE-CAN. Jim, This is my first follow up to your previous email outlining the executive teams request for 200 videos, (Chapter One), to support our channel partners.  Their strategy for using videos to leverage our channel partners had eight objectives but also came with five questions.  The first question I will answer in this email.  It addresses the realistic number of videos required to support the channel program objectives.  I will send answers to the other four questions as soon as they are developed.  They include: How will we produce the videos? How will we make decisions about what to spend to meet our goals? How will our partners engage with us on this? What would a start-up operating plan look like for creating this...
  15. I Need a Plan for 200 Videos for the Channel

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    Chapter One Max Wilson, Director of Marketing for WE-CAN Technologies, received the following email from his boss on Monday morning. October 1, 2012 Max, Our executive team has been visiting customers and partners for the past two weeks to identify sources for our next phase of growth.  The consensus is we need to redouble our efforts to support our channel partners.  Our efforts to enhance their capabilities to sell WE-CAN solutions will be a win/win scenario.  Our executive team believes our partners can outsell the competition with our help.  They also believe, with our partners, we can lower the total cost of sales.  The executive team wants to leverage your experience and knowledge with emerging trends in content marketing, social media, and especially the use of video in revenue generation.  They have asked for a plan on how we can support the channel with an estimated 200 high impact, co-branded...

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