1. Objectives-Based Content Strategy Framework

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      With guidance from SiriusDecisions and other analysts firms, many B2B organizations have evolved their go-to-market, messaging and content strategy. They have shifted from a product-based to a persona-based content framework. This is often in support of a solutions selling model. “As b-to-b organizations place greater focus on both inbound marketing, and optimizing content for the sales force, the skills and behaviors required for content ideation, writing and delivery are rapidly changing. To survive and thrive, product and solution marketers must evolve their competencies.”  The premise of the brief is: “The shift toward inbound marketing is forcing marketers to support continuous buyer conversations via the Web and virally through social media channels and influencer marketing. These conversations require topic-driven content focusing on industry and business issues that concern key buyers personas.” SiriusDecisions, Building a Persona-Based Content Framework. (Client portal access required) This guidance has convinced organizations to shift their emphasis from...
  2. Change your content process to leverage accelerate and scale

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      When it comes to customer facing content, much is written about creative techniques, tools and infrastructure. But there is little thinking or discussion about content process change. By changing your content process for strategy and operations you can leverage resources and assets, accelerate production time to real-time, and scale outputs without compromise. My thinking is influenced by the re-engineering experience in the 1990’s. The refrain we hear today about return-on-investment for content marketing is very similar to complaints in the 90’s about lack of evidentiary ROI on investments in personal computing technologies — hardware and software. I was influenced by the writing of British cybernetician Stafford Beer who wrote: “The question that asks, ‘given my my business, how should I use the microprocessor?’ is fundamentally the wrong question. A better question would be, ‘given the microprocessor, how should I design my business?'” Companies re-engineered their accounting, manufacturing and product...
  3. How To Fix Your Sales Content Problem

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      What if your “sales content problem” isn’t the real problem, but a symptom of the problem? Given the role of the sales organization to deliver primary business outcomes — new customer acquisition and profitable revenue growth — if your sales content sucks (technical term in the content business) why would you think your marketing content is any better? I suggest you probably have a “customer content” problem. “So what, isn’t this semantics,” you ask? Well, how you define a problem has a lot to do with how you go about solving it. It affects your orientation, and approach. I watched with interest the webinar How to Unclog Your Sales Pipeline, with Craig Nelson of CallidusCloud and Scott Santucci of The Alexander Group, moderated by Gerhard Gschwandtner from Selling Power. There may not be three people who know more about the B2B sales enablement problem. Each has thought about and worked on the best ways...
  4. B2B Customer Content Operations Manifesto

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      The custom content business is a difficult business. It’s a difficult business due to the economics of the underlying content operations model, as well as poor inputs from inefficient clients. If you’re a B2B CMO pursuing content dependent strategies such as content marketing, automated lead generation and nurturing, sales and channel enablement (among others), you are now in that business. Agencies and production companies that produce good work products, and are profitable, do so by exploiting poor inputs and inefficient clients. And clients pay dearly for this. The primary mechanisms they use to do this are to charge for: Strategy Creative Retainers (agency of record or annual contracts) Change orders These mechanisms are not available to you with your internal content operations. Which means you’re left with all the negatives. This is why you (and most content marketers) struggle to: produce a constant stream of audience (buyer) relevant content … in the many...
  5. 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...
  6. More Than Content Needs Overhaulin’

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    For all the time, attention and investment made in sales enablement tools, it’s a shame a fraction of that hasn’t been invested in solving the core problem: the content itself. One of our colleagues often quips: “it’s easier to buy software.” He means easier than figuring out the culture and process changes, aligning siloed functions, enrolling stakeholders, and resolving all the interdependent causes of problems. He also says, “every major purchase is essentially a change management initiative.” Despite the lip service and pockets of success (sustainable?), sales enablement hasn’t yet met expectations. But then …. CRM? I was reminded of this by Tom Pisello’s summary of the Qvidian users conference. Top Priority: Content Overhaulin’. While “purging, aligning and personalizing” content might be necessary work, what’s really required is a better process for content. How can it possibly be, that in the fifteen years I’ve been involved with B2B content, most...
  7. What is Strategy?

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      What is strategy? is not a question unique to content marketers. (See Robert Rose in Content Marketing Institute.) Lack of clarity about content strategy has firm roots in a universal confusion about strategy. In the business world, Michael Porter of Harvard Business School is a preeminent authority of business strategy. He points out “most businesses don’t have a strategy for their organization.” Well, no wonder we struggle with content strategy. And why don’t they? “Caught up in the race for operational effectiveness many managers simply do not understand the need to have a strategy.” For marketers, might we say, “caught up in the need to build a brand, generate leads, respond to persistent ad hoc requests, figure out tectonic changes in buyer behavior and marketing technologies …”   Michael Porter on Strategy In his seminal Harvard Business Review article in 1996, What is Strategy? Porter lays out basic strategy principles that...
  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. 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...
  10. 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.    
  11. 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...
  12. 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...
  13. 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...
  14. No Marketing Momentum? What Now?

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    Competitive athletes know that momentum can make all the difference in winning games.  You develop momentum by either executing a well thought out strategy or making a spectacular play that shakes up the competition.  When you have momentum you play your game and emphasize your strengths.  When you lose momentum, you have to figure out how to get it back by making adjustments.  Marketing momentum in a competitive environment has many similarities.  You can develop it through a well thought out strategy followed by focused execution. Depending upon spectacular big events to develop marketing momentum is risky and hard to do but not unheard of.    The big difference between sports and B2B marketing is timing.  Games are over in minutes or hours.  Marketing takes months to deliver outcomes. Understanding marketing momentum is important to developing a marketing strategy.  Marketing activities build upon one another to develop and sustain momentum.  Multiple...
  15. Content Publishing vs. Traditional “Point Production” Process

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      People regularly ask me to clarify the differences and reasons for adopting a content publishing process rather than the traditional point production process. The publishing process is at the core of our Leveraged Content Supply Chain ideas. Here is a simple list of reasons. We believe organizations face new content requirements that a publishing oriented creation process best addresses because: Content must be relevant to each buyer and their situation, vs. “one size fits all” Content must educate, create a vision and inspire vs. pitch features and benefits This means a dramatic increase in the volume of content to create which breaks down with traditional approaches We must reduce the burden on subject experts (SMEs) and change their role in creating content Content creation must become a planned asset development and maintenance process vs. an event driven, “one-and-done” approach Content creation is moving from centralized, “professional” creators to “new...

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