1. Why Google Plus is Our Company Content Hub (and should be yours)

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    This article is written for small and mid-size businesses, but also for groups within larger organizations that are constrained by poor enterprise infrastructure. The points here take nothing away from the fact LinkedIn is an important social platform, especially for personal use and content publishing. Businesses should have strong presence and active participation on both platforms. This post will explain how the nature of Google+ participation is different from LinkedIn and other social sites, and why that should make it a primary hub for all your customer facing content.   If you’re like most people you use social media channels to get your messages and content distributed. You’re being a publisher. Or maybe you’re like me, mostly a listener. If it ends there, you might be missing the most powerful potential for your business, especially for social selling. What if the theory, “be on the social channels your customers are on”...
  2. 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...
  3. 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...
  4. A Strategic Approach to Content – Repurpose vs Multipurpose Design

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      How would the way you create content and manage your content operation change if you didn’t know the: Intended audience Purpose or intended use cases for the content User experience to evoke Key points to include and exclude Desired outcomes and associated calls to action Required length or format? If you intend to repurpose content, this is exactly what you are facing. If you want to get more out of content investments – to meet content quality, timing and availability, use case coverage, version and format requirements, in light of normal budget and resource constraints – you must resolve this dilemma.   Repurpose vs. Reformat I see a lot of confusion about the concepts repurposing and reformatting. They are not the same. Most people mean reformat rather than repurpose. Take a whitepaper, webinar, etc and “turn it into” a blog, an infographic, chop it up into little videos or...
  5. What is Content?

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    Before you dismiss this question out of hand, please consider my main points: Most people think of content as type or format. You see that in buying stage content alignment graphics. But content is really comprised of three elements: contentS (information), package (format) and purpose (the job content must perform). Jim Burns, Execute Content Strategy blog. (Copy to reuse) Content under-performs primarily because it doesn’t sufficiently support the purposes for which users and audiences need content. Unfortunately, purpose is seldom explicitly defined before content is created. Jim Burns, Execute Content Strategy blog. (Copy to re-use) Consider the universally recommended prescription to define content requirements at each stage of the buying process. The graphic below from SiriusDecisions is a common framework. The problem is, defining content as formats doesn’t help in any way inform the contentS — the information. ContentS are the “what” and “how” of content: what to say, and how to say it....
  6. It’s (Past) Time to Make Content Marketing Intelligent

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    This isn’t just a cute phrase. Long time, serious content practitioners, the technical pros in this business, use the term “intelligent content” deliberately. So much so it’s the name of their conference. They also call themselves “content strategists”. Given the importance – and confusion – of content strategy for content marketers, I wanted to see for myself what could apply to our content operations practice. So I attended the conference. I learned these are the people who, in some important ways, are technically ahead of many content marketers. They are paving the road for us. They come from the technical publication world. But for over a decade they have been applying their principles and practices to websites. These have serious implications for content marketers. What is Intelligent Content?  “Intelligent content is structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.” From the conference website, along with...
  7. 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...
  8. 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...
  9. Before Your Next Content Project

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      This post addresses related, but different, content outsourcing and in-sourcing project best practices. Outsourcing Content Creation I have seen many companies struggle setting up outsourced content creation projects due to inadequate preparation and documentation. Content vendors often prefer it this way. Your inefficiency, or ignorance, is their “value add” — and higher billing. Often, preparation work, in the guise of “research,” occupies a significant portion of the content project’s time, effort and budget. This may have been acceptable in the traditional, periodic, “point production” content outsourcing model. But organizations today must create a constant stream of buyer relevant content to satisfy a broad use case requirement map. After content vendors come up their learning curve, conduct their research, and deliver their work product, lots of knowledge walks out the door. Undocumented knowledge. Some or most of this knowledge will be needed for somebody’s content project. Probably pretty soon.  ...
  10. 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...
  11. 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...
  12. 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...
  13. 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...
  14. 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...
  15. 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...

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