1. Conversations and content need better answers not just good stories

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    Your conversations and content need more than good stories. They need better answers! Most of us were taught early and often about the importance of using stories in our conversations and content. Marketers seem to obsess about story. Sales people are told to address customer problems and solution approaches by telling stories. And rightly so. It seems humans are hard wired with an affinity for stories. But, it turns out stories are just one of six answer types. That means you’re missing the other five! As a result, your answers aren’t as coherent as they could be. They aren’t as influential. They are aren’t as sticky.   Audiences Desire Answers with Useful Information Here are some questions to consider: How well do you address questions asked of you? (In which situations?) Or, a question asked of a sales rep, a company executive, customer service person, channel partner, or customer person,...
  2. Content Planning — from concept to specifics

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      Most people’s thinking about content is vague and incomplete. Ask for content definitions before your next planning conversation. Listen for answers as “categories” and “formats.” (Even research analysts are guilty of this.) Good definitions evoke an image that is consistent in the minds of everyone involved. But even the elements within categories and formats don’t meet this test. This video introduces a more specific and detailed explanation of the concept “content.” It provides a framework for content planning / strategy that is simple, straight-forward, and extremely effective.   Related Information For a written explanation of how to apply this framework, please see Small moves, smartly made, improve (unified) content strategy Avitage Content Operations Assessment Avitage Enterprise Information and Content Strategy Services    
  3. Creating microcontent first might resolve your content problems

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      Looking back, I’ve been involved with microcontent for 25 years in the content business with Avitage. Although we never called it that. The name Avitage was created from “audio-video montage”. A montage is a picture created from many little source images. Microcontent is each slide in your PowerPoint decks. If you think about where “knowledge” is stored in your organization, you might respond, “in our people’s heads, in our PowerPoint, and in document, video and perhaps audio files.” Probably in that order. Our first software application managed PowerPoint at the slide level. The application allowed individual slides to be assembled into “Collections,” without duplicating source slides. It operated in a manner similar to the thumbnail view in PowerPoint. But it managed an entire organization’s sanctioned and personal PowerPoint. We subsequently associated audio with each slide. Audio as microcontent. One audio element could provide coaching on the intent and use of the slide. A...
  4. The evolution of content quality criteria

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      For too many organizations I meet, content quality is assumed. Or, it’s delegated to those creating the content. Defined and documented content quality criteria typically don’t exist. They aren’t part of a service agreement with content creation teams. When content quality criteria are discussed, it’s typically using the lowest level of quality maturity. Of course, this makes no sense. It’s part of the legacy of where and how content has traditionally been sourced. Agencies and production teams were hired to not only deliver quality content, but to figure out what that actually meant. With greater content production and accountability moving internally, this gap in thinking and practice is an important reason for low content performance. It also impacts content operations productivity. Content time-to-market is delayed, and costs rise, due to re-work of content products following initial and often multiple reviews.   Incremental Content Quality Stages Here’s how I describe...
  5. Microcontent — the most important content type you don’t manage

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        Microcontent isn’t widely understood or consciously used. When it is, it’s usually by marketing for social media content. But micro-content may be the most important content type you have, and you probably don’t manage it. Microcontent is simply what the words imply. The term is credited to user experience expert Jakob Nielsen: “microcontent is a small group of words which can be skimmed by the reader to understand the wider message of the article.” Examples include a sentence, a paragraph, an image, a 20 second video, a checklist, a quotation, an answer to a question, research results or facts. It can be stand alone, as Nielsen and most others consider it. It can also be source for any new content. Either way, microcontent is an under-used content type. And it’s not limited to marketing. Significant impact on job performance and business outcomes across your entire organization can be realized by applying...
  6. What is a Content Supply Chain?

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      The genesis for this is an article by Jake Sorofman at Gartner, “The Content Supply Chain is the Rate Limiter to Digital Marketing Maturity.” “Targeting and personalizing experiences requires content—lots of it, in many different forms, for many different audiences, engaging across many different channels. Managing this madness becomes an exercise in combinatorial complexity that requires a more rigorous approach to your content strategy.” Content supply chain requires an architectural way of thinking, which begins with a clear understanding of the demand side—in this case, all of the consuming applications and experiences enabled by your segmentation, targeting and personalization strategy.” “If your goal is to deliver an experience something better than one size fits all—or worse, all sizes fit none—you need to treat your content strategy as more than a hand wave. You need an architectural approach to your content supply chain.” McKinsey have written about the importance of a content supply...
  7. Situation-specific information, on-purpose, by design

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      I’m done talking about “content.” The word is too conceptual to have any useful meaning. In my world, words matter. To work, words must convey common meaning. I believe the word “content” and how it’s used actually causes problems. This is undoubtedly a contributor to quality problems experienced with marketing and especially selling content. Sales tells marketing, “we need better content.” Marketing replies, “what kind of content do you need?” Sales: ” we need customer stories, presentation support, videos, etc.” Sound familiar? And I could go on about content for certain stages, personas and industry verticals, among other important relevance categories. Having managed a business that created content for B2B sales, marketing and training organizations for 20 years, we regularly dealt with requests expressed this way. Knowing desired content formats, audience types and selling stages is simply insufficient input to inform quality content. We would ask, “What exactly do...
  8. Use Knowledge Delivered Strategy to Define and Show Content Value

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    A Different Approach to Content Strategy and Justification   B2B content marketers must continually defend budgets and tactics, especially content investments, by proving performance. This is part of a persistent struggle to raise marketing credibility and awareness of its impact in the business. Too many executives, and especially the sales organization, still don’t see it. You create and deploy content to many constituent groups and users. They deliver those assets in many ways through a variety of channels and mechanisms. You work hard to figure out how to track and measure asset performance and business impact. This is not a simple challenge. But content ROI must be proved. Or does it? What if you change your approach to “proving the value of content”? What if you flip the process?   Knowledge Delivered Strategy Applied The Knowledge Delivered strategy is explained here in greater detail. This approach to content strategy and...
  9. 30 60 10 B2B Information and Content Strategy

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      Companies struggle to keep up with the information and content demands of a digital business environment. As B2B selling organizations adopt social selling practices, current content volume requirements will seem puny by comparison. You better have a strategy to scale without compromising quality, timeliness and, of course, cost. In the content business, create vs. curate is similar to the traditional business decision of make vs. buy. To the degree companies develop a formal B2B information and content strategy, deciding this mix is one decision output. What if there’s a third way? This won’t be a breakthrough insight. It recommends elevating an important technique for higher execution. This technique many companies seldom use and may not have considered in content strategy decisions.   B2B Information and Content Strategy A simple way of thinking about information and content strategy is to answer two main questions: On-purpose — What content do we need...
  10. Create relevant content based on personality profiles

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      We know relevance resonates. Content that addresses each audience interest, persona and situation performs better than generic content. So why not create content based on personality profiles? My first “real job” (working since age 9) was for ADP. One year later I moved into sales. I had a good intuitive sense for my buyers. I could read their personality and peculiarities. But I had no idea how to use that information to help me sell. My manager introduced me to DISC. DISC is one of many personality assessment models. The initial DISC model comes from Dr. William Marston, a physiological psychologist, in a book entitled Emotions of Normal People, published in 1928. DISC Personality Model This model uses four dimensions to characterize people: I use DISC to quickly assess the person I’m meeting based on behaviors, speech patterns, and even their setting if I’m meeting in their office. It works, even...
  11. 7 reasons you’re not getting the most out of customer facing content

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      Missing or under-performing customer facing content has a significant impact on strategic business objectives: new customer acquisition and organic revenue growth, sales and marketing productivity and efficiency for lower selling costs, data acquisition and customer experience. B2B lead generation and conversion rates are universally below expectations. Late stage content in sales cycles hasn’t evolved to support buyer-centered selling practices. A realistic assessment of the underlying cause of the problem helps you apply the right solution, because it allows you to see the real cause of the problem. In our view, there are seven primary reasons you are not getting the most out of your customer facing content. 1. Customer facing content is not created on purpose. Content has a specific “job” to do for both marketing and sales tactics. How you define the purpose of your content depends on the specific information required for each “touch,” the user experience...
  12. Is “Last Idea In, First Content Out” Killing Your Content Strategy?

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      We had just completed ten intense weeks creating a business level content strategy for a client. This kind of work produces many work products. Two relate to this story. We carefully defined the client’s marketing and sales use case requirements. And for actionable next steps, a carefully considered and prioritized list of content that was required to support those use cases was also developed. Within days I got “the call.” I call it LII FCO, “last idea in, first content out.” It seems a prospect had asked one of their sales reps a question in a meeting. The rep came back and asked the Vice President of marketing “what do we have I can send to this prospect?” It was an attractive topic. The VP was excited to share with me the opportunity to leverage the work we had just completed. The company had lots of ideas to fuel this creation. After...
  13. Content Operations Can Create Marketing and Selling Breakthroughs

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      Marketing and selling content operations isn’t sexy. But it could be one of the most important focus areas for marketing leaders. See Is Content Operations Your Next Focus Area? Almost every week I see fresh survey results that continue to reflect the long-standing challenges that B2B marketers face (Content Marketing Institute). More importantly, I speak with people in companies and hear the same issues. The question is, “given all the internal and external expertise and creative resources available to organizations, why do these persistent and near universal content problems still exist?”   McKinsey On Digital Marketing Operations This post was inspired by the McKinsey Insights article: How digital marketing operations can transform business. Here’s McKinsey’s assessment of current state: “Marketing operations are certainly not the sexiest part of marketing, but they are becoming the most important one. With businesses unable to keep pace with evolving consumer behavior and the marketing landscape,...
  14. How Do Audiences Assess Your Marketing Content?

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      What if you could assess your marketing content the same way your audiences do? How would that improve content quality, audience relevance, performance? Of course. Makes sense. But what exactly does this mean — in practice? I invite you to collaborate in this real-time case example. I have a video for you to view, assess, and provide feedback for recommended improvements. We’ll source reader inputs over a couple of weeks and post the best suggestions. Principle being applied: it’s easier to criticize someone else’s content than our own. But maybe there are lessons we can all learn from this experience. The Scenario AlignMeeting is a new, interactive, online sales meeting platform from AlignRevenue. Their target users are B2B inside sales reps and managers. AlignRevenue created a short introductory video to outline the problems that inside sales reps and managers are experiencing—and a new solution to those problems. The primary goal...
  15. Content Marketing Gap: What to do, How to do it, How to operationalize

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    When it comes to content marketing, there’s near universal agreement on “what to do,” what actions organizations must take. “How to do it” advice tends to focus on tactic-specific techniques. We see a significant execution gap between these two information categories. The gap is in how poorly organizations operationalize their content strategy. We believe this is the reason content under-performs, organizations experience the perennial “challenges that B2B marketers face” (Content Marketing Institute), and demonstrating suitable return on content investments is elusive.   How to Operationalize Your Content Strategy The nature of the information delivered in this post is such that it requires explanation with visual support. This indicated that video is the best medium. It’s also an example of a practical use of video to deliver educational information, not just to entertain. This article provides a deeper understanding of a business or enterprise class content strategy. Executive Summary – 6 Competencies for...
  16. Getting B2B Content ROI Right

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    In this digital era, the nature and role of customer content has new meaning and significance. Content is a strategic business imperative because it is a key driver of top business and functional objectives. Poor performing content lowers outcomes. Misunderstanding content ROI elevates risk of poor decisions about content strategy and investment. The risk to senior executives in B2B selling enterprises, of not taking a strategic perspective on customer facing content, impacts their decisions about top business objectives: New customer acquisition and revenue growth Sales and marketing productivity, and lower selling costs Data acquired about buyers, customers Consistent delivery of an exceptional customer experience. But most executives have never given serious consideration to customer content as a business asset. It has always been the tactical responsibility of knowledge and creative people. One executive expressed what I most often hear: “What is content anyway? Collateral, right?”  (See What is Content?) Most senior executives are still...
  17. Need Better Content? Define Your Use Case Requirements

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    Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers. Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns. You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities. Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require. You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor, missing or impossible to find content for key situations.  Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do...
  18. Continuum and Process vs. Event, Project or Campaign Thinking

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      The consensus is clear. It’s past time to shift your thinking about your approach to marketing activities as an event, project or campaign, to continuum and process thinking. In my mail yesterday I received my hot-off-the-press copy of Ardath Albee’s new book, Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results. While I haven’t yet read it, this morning LinkedIn delivered an interview-based article that introduces a key theme of the book. LinkedIn: Why is it important for marketers to view marketing as a continuum?  Ardath Albee: Marketers typically think of their B2B marketing efforts as a series of campaigns focused on specific parts of the buying decision. The problem is, if a B2B buyer is at a different stage in their buying process than the content you distribute suggests, you could miss engaging them entirely. This theme is especially important for your thinking about your content strategy and operations....
  19. Don’t Just Curate Content – Harvest It

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    This blog originally published on the Sandhill.com blog. Curate content to address many content challenges marketers face. Current curation practices focus on automatically generating newsletters, primarily based on third party articles. This approach severely under-utilizes this important tactic. The harvest step is perhaps the most significant part of our curation practice. When we curate content, both internally developed and third-party content, we harvest specific elements from within the source content itself. This reduces or eliminates creation by downstream users, and reduces the time effort for new content creation.   Don’t Just Curate Content – Harvest It! Enterprise marketing leaders and chief content officers use many tactics to serve numerous content constituents and their use case requirements. The emergence of the digital enterprise elevates requirements as groups beyond marketing, including sales and channel sales partners, but also customer service and HR (talent acquisition), must be supported in their use of content and content marketing tactics. One...
  20. Why Content Creation Isn’t Everyone’s Job

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      I read with interest John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing blog Why Content Creation Is Everyone’s Job. The post raises good ideas with, in my opinion, the wrong conclusion.  It’s a short post, I suggest you read it. I’d like to offer a different perspective and approach. This is a teachable moment. The lesson involves the difference between thinking like a marketer, and thinking like a publisher. It illustrates a new reality all organizations face, but is especially important for enterprise marketers. The new reality is: the traditional, project oriented, creative craftsman approach to content, cannot meet new, digital content and marketing requirements. The problem and premise is pretty well stated in the blog: “The need for content has moved beyond a traditional marketing department’s ability to create because the content an organization must produce today represents the voice of an organizations strategic point of view.” But the conclusion in...
  21. Customer Facing Content as a Conversation

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    The Four Cs of Content Marketing I’ve written about content as more, and different than, format. While working with clients recently, I’ve heard them wrestle with questions about what content to create, and how to make priority decisions. I think some deeper distinctions about content can help here. When I consider content work, I think about the Four Cs of Content: Conversation Context ContentS Container  Notice that container — format — is my last consideration. This is a big change from the traditional approach to content creation. Typically, format, as in “what do you want to create?” is an early consideration. For example, your approach as well as resource and vendor selection might depend greatly on whether you want to create a blog or whitepaper, PowerPoint or video. This thinking and approach is too limiting for today’s content requirements and challenges. Start with the Conversation Thinking about customer facing content as...
  22. Information and Content Are Strategic Imperatives for B2B Organizations

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      Most business enterprises engaged in B2B selling have adopted content marketing as “the only marketing there is.” (Seth Godin) B2B selling typically starts online, through email or a phone call/voice mail — through content. They are doing so because the right information, packaged and delivered through the right content is the key enabler for tactics that execute a customer-centric go-to-market strategy, especially: Inbound marketing Automated demand management with lead nurturing Social marketing and selling Sales enablement These tactics are primary drivers for 4 top strategic enterprise goals: Revenue growth — especially organic growth through new customer acquisition and channel success Cost reduction — especially high enterprise selling costs Acquire data on buyers and customers — feed predictive analytics Compelling customer experience — from initial engagement in the buying process, through the ongoing relationship to optimize value of purchased products or services, to a desire for more products/services — through renewals, cross or up-buying and referrals....
  23. Information and Content Strategy Beyond Marketing and Websites

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      What is Content Strategy? The problem with common words, and word combinations, is we all assume our definitions and interpretations are universal. This is certainly the case with content strategy. Since the concept “strategy” is challenging in itself, it’s no wonder content strategy seems to mean so many different things to different people. We’re back to the blind men holding the elephant metaphor. At the Intelligent Content conference (ICC) this reality was in full display.  Until I questioned the elephant on the table, everyone seemed to nod knowingly as the term “content strategy” was bandied about. I appreciated Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) when she acknowledged she has been giving this topic deep consideration lately. With respect to the rest of us, if Kristina is doing this, we better pay attention. We do have good foundational guidance in both Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy for the Web, and Ann Rockley and...
  24. What is Content?

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      What is content? Before you dismiss this question out of hand, please consider my main points. Most people think of content in two primary ways: type (or category, such as documents, presentations, case studies, product sheets), or format. Ask about this in your next planing meeting.  You see this regularly in graphics that suggest how to align content to buying stages. Consider the universally recommended prescription to define requirements for each stage of the buying process. The graphic below from SiriusDecisions is a common framework. The problem is, definitions based on formats doesn’t in any way inform creators about how to produce the assets. Users are often unclear why and when they would use it. This weak model leaves everyone thinking, “we’ve defined our requirement” (as type, category or format) but in fact, haven’t defined anything truly useful. We’ve found it more useful to think about three elements that...
  25. Content Marketing Lessons from Netflix House of Cards

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      At 12:01AM pacific time on February 14, 2014, Netflix released season two of House of Cards. All of it! Others have written about House of Cards, especially the points about viewer “control” over content, and the importance of stories. But I think a critical content marketing lesson has been overlooked. The implications are significant and uncomfortable. Kevin Spacey has been quoted, and you can hear it in context in the video below: “Through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: give people what they want, when they want it, in the form that they want it in, at a reasonable price and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.” (Italics are mine)  What is “this new form of distribution”?  What are the implications of giving people content “when they want it?” A Personal Experience One of...
  26. Beware Out-of-context Content Marketing Prescriptions

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    Post Header Summary: Content marketing advice outside the context of understanding your business, goals, strategies and plans can be misleading, even dangerous. Audience: B2B content, inbound and social marketers; demand managers Topic: Content marketing practices and techniques Purpose: Educate, advice   I regularly receive calls and emails from clients and colleagues who ask my opinion concerning advice they read about content marketing tactics. Two points:  1) What to do is widely understood and generally accepted. How to operationalize it is the challenge, and where breakdowns typically occur. 2) Appropriate prescriptions for tactics and techniques require an understanding of the context in which they will be applied. You wouldn’t take a doctor’s surgical recommendation without a physical diagnosis supported by a battery of tests would you? I’ve stopped reading all content marketing articles that purport to tell me what to do. And my eyes glaze over descriptions of tactics. I’m much more interested...
  27. How to execute content marketing

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        What would improving the way you execute your content marketing initiative look like? What would it mean to create more and better content faster, on a continuous basis, despite the constraints of your current resources, expertise and budget? What functional and business outcomes would improve? Want some help? No problem. We (and others) can help. But first, we’ll need a copy of your marketing plan, including: Business Strategy, Goals & Plans:  Make sure it contains your primary business goals and associated metrics. Include your go-to-customer (sales) strategy, plans and metrics. If you sell through the channel, make sure you include them in your marketing and content plans. Marketing Strategy, Goals and Specific Plans: It will be important to align your content marketing investments and priorities to your sales, channel and marketing plan. In addition to your core strategy we will need your demand generation and management plan. If...
  28. Define Your Customer Engagement Content Use Case Requirements

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      When it comes to creating customer facing content, how are decisions made at your organization? Without well defined and documented content use case requirements, at each functional level, but ideally at the business or enterprise level, organizations experience reduced efficiency, effectiveness, and a lower return on content investments. How can you prioritize investments and creation efforts without this input? How can you map and assess your customer facing content? How can you be clear about the specific purpose of each content work product? Unfortunately, this work is seldom done, even at functional levels. The objective of a content publishing operation is to get the best performance from customer facing content, output from resources, time and effort, and return on content. In the vernacular, we’re all trying to do more with less. As demand for content scales, this is becoming more critical. Pre-Produce Content A key principle of a content publishing process is to...
  29. Avitage Master Content Publishing Briefing

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    Through our consulting projects and content workshops, many people have asked us for copies of our content publishing briefing to share with colleagues and executives. Taking a page from Tom Peters, we’ve published our Master Content Publishing Briefing on our SlideShare channel, and it is available to download. You can share this page link, or links to the Slideshare PowerPoint version or the video version below. Segments in this show address: Why Content Publishing Content Requirements and Challenges marketer face Publishing Process versus the traditional Production process A Specific Content Project Example A Model for Applying the Process to All Content Projects   Avitage Master Content Publishing Briefing — Video Versions (18 minutes) Avitage Master Content Publishing Briefing — SlideShare Version (Slide version of the video) Avitage is a content operations services firm. We help B2B enterprise marketing and selling organizations execute content strategy through operations design and management. We are not an agency, or creative...
  30. Real-time Visualization of Online Conversations

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    This is a dynamic visual representation of the online conversations being conducted in conjunction with today’s Marketing Profs B2B Forum in Boston #mpb2b. Keyhole, a provider of real-time tracking of social conversations, makes this possible. When you toggle between hashtage and keyword assessments of the conversation you will see the map update reflecting the current state of conversations. Click for source reference. The implications and uses of this are flooding my mind. Use the comments section below to share your ideas.    
  31. Engagement and Eloqua Experience

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    For the Eloqua Experience preparation webinar sponsored by Televerde, I was asked to speak to the topic of Engagement. This is one of six topics that comprise the agenda for Eloqua Experience. As a concept, engagement means something a little different to everyone. I often hear clients talk about engagement as: touches, email opens, click-thrus, event visits, content views or even downloads. As B2B marketers, we have to be careful not to get too caught up in mechanics and focused just on “hard” outcomes we can measure and report. I suggest we think of engagement as: Sustained and helpful interaction with a target audience to create and mature relationships across the entire buyer life-cycle, in order to realize mutual personal and business outcomes. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Webinar Engagement Poll This webinar format consisted of a question for participants on each Eloqua Experience...
  32. 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...
  33. 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...
  34. 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....
  35. 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...
  36. 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...
  37. 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....
  38. 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...
  39. 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...
  40. 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...
  41. Asking the Right Questions of Your Marketing Scoreboard

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    Your marketing metrics, or your scoreboard, should measure both activity and results.  Unfortunately it is the hidden insights into the relationship between the two that creates actionable intelligence.  Cause and effect relationships in a complex B2B environment characterized by multiple buyer touch points across a buyer driven buying cycle are as clear as mud.  It is fair to say that the easiest things to measure are the least meaningful.  Knowing what questions to ask of your metrics differentiates successful marketing programs from the money pits.  In a recent CRMSoftware.TV video, Jon Miller, Vice President of Marketing for Marketo, speaks to the importance of marketing quantifying its value to the rest of the organization.  Jon provides his point of view about going beyond activity metrics to linking them with results by asking the right questions. Jon’s insights touch upon lead generation, sales productivity, and marketing portfolio productivity. The credibility provided also establishes a...
  42. New Thinking About Video Opens New Video Usecases

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    Demand by your audiences for video formats is escalating precipitously. Social and mobile marketing favor video content. The high desire for video by selling organizations has never been well fulfilled. Video is a critical content format for marketers to leverage. But video has been inherently difficult to produce. It requires expertise, time and costs that have limited when and where it could be used, as well as the volume of productions. If these factors are keeping you from pursuing an aggressive video strategy, this post will challenge your current thinking and provide an alternative perspective. New Technology Lifecycle When new technology arrives it has typically been applied to common use cases and methods. The technology provided value through marginal improvements. In his classic book Brain of the Firm, Stafford Beer made the observation (paraphrasing): “the question that asks, given my business, how can I use this new technology?” is fundamentally...
  43. Rethinking Video

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    When you think about video, do you consider it predominately a visual or audio medium? I suspect most people would say visual. When we think video, we think camera. We think motion (video). But I have come to think of it as predominately an audio medium, albeit with important visual support. Indeed it is the effective combination of pictures and words together that create interesting and persuasive messages. Many years ago Al Ries and Jack Trout, acknowledged experts at the art of persuasion, wrote an article in Ad Age titled A Picture is NOT Worth a Thousand Words (sorry, no link, way before digital and web content.) In it, they debunked the myth. Historically, the written word developed because pictures could not tell the full story. A richer way of communicating was needed. Audio is the verbal delivery of words. Ries suggested a simple test. When you view television advertisements,...
  44. Yogi Berra on Content Marketing

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    Yogi Berra had the brilliance to bring wisdom and insight to the obvious.  I recently heard his famous phrase, “It’s like Déjà vu all over again.” It reminded me that there are lessons available in history that we can all benefit from.  Having participated in the making of business innovation history with category management the emergence of content marketing is a Déjà vu experience for me. Lessons On Transformation I had the opportunity in the nineties to lead the program office of one of America’s leading chain drug retailers.  At the time we were transforming from a traditional and simplistic, “Buy low – sell high,” merchandising model to category management.  Category management focuses on the profit potential of a section of store real estate, usually an eight to twelve foot section of shelves.  It addresses the role of each product in the assortment for driving traffic, profit, or impulse purchases. ...
  45. Theory of Postponement and Content Marketing

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    The theory of postponement is well understood in the supply chain and manufacturing world.  With solutions that have several variants, or that require customization, the process is designed to postpone adding variant features or customizations until the last possible moment.  Common sub-assemblies may be built to stock, but variants are built to order, and are assembled just before they ship.  Think of the genius in the Dell custom PC supply chain. Content creation in this era, where buyer relevance is a core principle, should leverage that same postponement philosophy.  The “new producers” on the front line of business – marketing campaign developers, bloggers, inside sales, presales, direct sales and channel partners should be able to custom assemble content just as it is needed.  They should be able to do this every day without consuming their day. To do this requires content that is pre-produced in a modular fashion that anticipates...
  46. Talking head video

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    Talking head video is the lowest form of video. It should be minimized as much as possible. It is certainly boring, and generally not very effective. It’s also a poor use of the video medium. Let’s look at why. Talking head is completely dependent on the attractiveness and delivery expertise of the talking head. Television news professionals, arguably some of the best on camera talent that exists, long ago learned the importance of “b-roll” because of the difficulty of on camera delivery. They know talking head loses attention somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds. Most business people barely communicate effectively in live conversations. On camera, amateurs really struggle to combine an effective on camera presence, a non-irritating narrative delivery, and interesting content. We have learned talking head video adds very little substantive, or even credibility value. The interest in, and credential of the speaker can be accomplished in simple ways...
  47. My customers don’t use social media

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    This post is for my current and future clients who think they won’t deal with social media because their customers don’t “use” it.  This thinking is the first cousin to the “we’re different” thinking that every vendor encounters when they try to bring proven solutions to new prospects. Both limit easily achievable possibilities. What does that mean, “use social media”? Is Twitter or Facebook the image you carry? OK, but ask yourself these questions: do your customers conduct online research, do they use Google? Then, you need to deal with social media. Social media, in part because of the buzz word nature and related hype, is intimidating. I suggest you replace the words social media, with online channels. There are two primary ways to think of using social media: to listen and to promote. Start By Listening Social media is a terrific, low cost (time and effort only) way to...
  48. 7 reasons an internal slide library is an imperative

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    PowerPoint management isn’t sexy, but it is a productivity and effectiveness enhancer. In many organizations PowerPoint is a lingua franca. It is a primary way knowledge is captured and shared. Where are slides created in your company? Marketing (marcom, product marketing, field marketing), multiple vendors or contractors, training, field sales and pre-sales, executives — almost everyone creates slides. How well are they shared? How easily can you find the slide(s) you need. Everyone manages PowerPoint. Most manage it poorly. PowerPoint is typically managed as a document. But we are often looking for specific SLIDES. We want the most up-to-date slide version. We also want shows that closely fit our specific presentation situation. Custom assembly, while necessary, requires time, effort and knowledge. What if we can access and leverage the best versions for each situation? In repeated buyer surveys, purchasers want more visual content. They prefer whitepapers with more visuals. Content...
  49. Got “content” challenges? Apply the problem-cause model

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      Serious practitioners of content marketing inevitably face significant content challenges. But sales professionals do as well — especially to conduct effective change conversations with customers. Surveys, as well as client discussions about top content challenges, reveal the operational nature of the underlying causes of many of content related problems. Operational Issues However, I seldom see content strategy guidelines address operational issues. This is a major shortcoming of current thinking. Content strategy and planning for content marketing is a different and complex task for most newcomers. But if you look at the challenges early practitioners have faced, you will want to figure this out quickly. One of the most useful models we use we call the “problem-cause model”. Like many powerful ideas, this idea is simple. But work with it and you will experience important insights that will help with your content strategy and execution. Problem-Cause Model Explained In this...
  50. To lower video costs while volume grows, change your process

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    Over the past year we have had the privilege of working with two large software companies: SAP and PTC. I’ve heard a common refrain from each that is applicable to organizations that want to lower their cost of video, even as their requirements scale. The refrain is: true value and productivity gains come from redesigning the workflow processes that software enables. Consider the alphabet soup of video assembly and production tools available to us all: Adobe, Brainshark, Camtasia, KnowledgeVision, Visible Gains and many, many others. We’ve realized value and some productivity gains from applying these software tools. Yet, we still haven’t solved the cost/volume dilemma. For this, we’ll need process change. Traditional Video Production Process So let’s look at the underlying process of traditional video production. Say to anyone, “we need to make a video,” and what images come to mind? Cameras (of course), lights, video editing software, maybe a...
  51. Four Lessons You Should Learn from Publishers

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    Content marketing would be easy if it didn’t require a steady stream of fresh, engaging, relevant content.  It’s not that developing great content is new.  It’s creating the volume and continuous development required that is new. A number of companies confront this problem by hiring a staff of writers.  As their salary line goes up they may find that it is still difficult to keep up with content needs.   Skilled story tellers still need a story.  They look to subject matter experts, some of the most knowledgeable and busy people in the company, to provide stories or knowledge.  After resolving availability issues, subject matter experts often feel the need to explain their world to a writer so that the writer can tell a story.  This requires a lot of time for SMEs who have incredibly limited availability to begin with. Unfortunately, this also doesn’t always work well.  What often happens...
  52. Content Marketing Discussion With Marketing Made Simple TV

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    This week I had the privilege of joining Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 and Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners on an online video discussion hosted by Jeff Ogden‘s Marketing Made Simple TV online show. Takeaways and Insights Content Strategy — This is the starting point and essential first step for an effective and efficient content marketing initiative. We must get this right or we will experience weak and misaligned work products, delayed and inefficient execution, and limited results. There are clear and agreed upon models for content strategy. Disciplined work is required. Operations Model — Content strategy must extend to define an operations model that deals with new requirements of content marketing, especially for a constant stream of buyer-relevant and useful content that applies to the entire buying journey. This impacts the scale of content and operational resources. Execution is a major challenge and risk. One (of many) reason is an...
  53. Content Curation in Practice

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    My day started like most days. I opened and read email, a few blogs and checked out Twitter streams. An article about recent research results on content marketing spend caught my eye. As I glanced at it (how seldom we really read things these days) data about the surge in video use and planned growth caught my eye. So, what did I do? I copied the URL and forwarded it to colleagues with a note, “this is interesting, you should read this.” We all do this, don’t we? Then my brain fired off a content marketing principle: acquire.  Always be acquiring ideas and inputs for new content. We call this content curation when content originates from a third party source (this link is an example of one use of curation). I copied the link into our content inventory (you have one of these, right?). I added the requisite information about...
  54. New Thought Leadership Metric for Buyer Driven Markets

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    The new realities of B2B marketing has made thought leadership, and the development of big ideas, an important differentiator.  The new realities are also driving a change in buyers’ expectations.   Buyers want relevant and actionable content that enables them to turn big ideas into operating realities. The traditional role of thought leadership developers has been to focus on the research and analysis that yields the important big ideas.  Turning those big ideas into relevant actionable content to meet the buyers’ expectations isn’t what they do.  That job actually belongs to the people in marketing and sales that drive revenue.  These, “revenue drivers,” are closest to the customer, online or in person, and have disciplines for communicating with customers.  They understand the need for relevant actionable content, how to develop it, and the best ways to deliver it. The Hand-off The problem is with the hand-off from thought leadership to the...
  55. Video — the second best way to create for content marketing

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    Content marketing has created a content conundrum. Content marketing is fundamentally about creating buyer relevant, education oriented content, that supports the buying team as they progress through a buying journey. With this shift from vendor to buyer orientation comes great pressure on traditional content production methods and costs. Blogs have emerged as the best way to create for content marketing. They are foundational to this endeavor.  We know from blog work this content must be created consistently. One customer commented, “I need a constant stream of fresh content.” This implies not only frequency but scale.  Of course, this has huge implications on resources, development times, content quality and costs. But what do you do next? White papers, webinars, or any other of the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Playbook that lists 42 ways to connect with customers? Where do you focus? Where do you invest your scarce time, effort and...
  56. Are You Communicating Synchronously in an Asynchronous World?

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      We live in a world that prefers to receive information asynchronously. But we tend to focus on using live, synchronous delivery methods. This is a key source of high costs and low results in every area of a business. I cannot overstate the importance of this idea and distinction, as well as the implication for individuals and organizations. First, some simple definitions. Synchronous communications happen at the same time with all participants. Synchronous communications tend to be traditional voice-based conversations to deliver intended messages. They can be conducted in person or over the phone or web. Asynchronous communications do not occur in the same time. Communications experienced asynchronously are consumed “on demand” at a time of choosing by the recipient. Asynchronous communication rely on content to package and deliver core messages — audio content such as voice mail, text content, or video. Implications for Your Communications As I consider the world...
  57. What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?

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      Marketing professionals who are trying to understand the principle behind content marketing can take a lesson from Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School and his “jobs-to-be-done” marketing ideas. This core Christensen idea is presented in the HBS Working Knowledge article, Milkshake Marketing. The article describes a fascinating study his team conducted on behalf of a fast food chain that wanted to improve milkshake sales. The company initially applied a typical market research approach before it engaged “one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the ‘job’ that customers were ‘hiring’ a milkshake to do.”   Parallels Between Product Design and Content Strategy Consider this comparison between product design and content strategy. Both product design and content share similar problems. Product design challenges are revealed in the low success rate of new product introductions. Marketing content issues are revealed in the low usefulness to marketing campaigns, sales...
  58. For a Stronger Content Strategy — Begin With Purpose

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    I remember reading about Norman Cousins. He developed a serious illness in the seventies and received a poor recovery prognosis. Convinced of the power of positive emotions, he used humor and laughing to support his recovery. He rented funny TV shows and movies. This experience was the basis for his popular book, Anatomy of An Illness. TEDTalks are part of my therapy today. Mostly because of their incredible inspirational value. Right at the top of the most popular TEDTalks is Simon Sinek. Sales and marketing must go beyond delivering information to customers. We’re about inspiring action. In this vein, all marketing and sales professionals should be familiar with this landmark talk, Start with Why — How Great Leaders Inspire Action. When organizations develop their content strategy, and begin with purpose – theirs and their audience’s purpose – the work is less daunting and results are more effective. This is not a...
  59. Avitage POV on Marketing and Sales Communication

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    My company, Avitage, has recently updated our point-of-view. Over fifteen years the core vision has not changed: to enable front line business communicators to assemble and deliver buyer relevant and useful content, tailored to each audience — even an audience of one. We even learned how to do this with video! But the delivery methods have certainly evolved, expanding the need for, and value of, our approach. Enabling sales to meet revenue, growth and profitability targets is the responsibility of marketing and sales working in a collaborative effort. How you sell is a primary differentiator and opportunity to create value for customers. These efforts should also be aligned around the common process of the customer’s buying journey, and the objective of facilitating a faster buying process. A Communication Requirement Seeing these objectives through a communications lens is an important distinction. Communication is a function of: Messages — knowing what to...

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