11 Types of Content to Make Your B2B Marketing Sing

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Be under no illusions – content marketing is hard work. It takes planning, resources and focus. But it is also one of the most rewarding forms of marketing that you can do professionally and individually. Not only does content marketing challenge you to clearly communicate – it often brings you up close and personal with customers as well as your sales teams.

These meetings give you the chance to listen, absorb and understand the challenges that people have in their work. And if you are lucky – and creative enough – you can design content that will help them solve that problem. Or understand a solution better. Or simply just bring a smile to their face.

Content marketing is a performance

When I studied theatre I was fascinated by the way that text on a page could be brought to life by an actor. I loved listening to the way that words could be rolled around the mouth and thrown into an audience. A good text in the hands of a great performer can take your breath away. Brilliant writing when coupled with an electrifying performance can change lives.

Now, I am not saying that your content marketing needs to profoundly change lives. Done right, it can. But you do want your content marketing to stand out from the crowd. You want it to become indispensible to your audience. And for that it needs to perform.

This infographic from Feldman Creative is a great reference on the 11 types of content that can help your marketing perform better. It includes handy information on benefits, costs to outsource and even a couple of power tips.

What are you waiting for? Get planning and then producing. There’s an audience waiting.

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Done Right, Content Marketing is No Swindle

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In my first real marketing role, I felt like a complete fraud. I had stumbled into marketing and strategy while working for IBM and had the good fortune to work with a “startup” (whatever that was) developing a platform for online communities. I was simultaneously a product manager, sales exec, marketing director, tech support and partner manager. I was the only person within IBM who knew anything much about this amazing new technology and it was my job to convince the sales teams that their media, sports and retail clients needed to learn more. The thing was, I had no idea what to do.

I needed a plan.

Each day I would arrive early and trawl the intranet. I’d find templates for presentations and customer pitches, information and technology architecture, marketing plans and branding. It seemed like there was a system to marketing that could be pieced together if I just had the time. But it was IBM. No one had the time.

So I doubled down. I chose to study late and early and put what I learned into practice. I set meetings with sales execs and asked them lots of questions. I listened, followed up and gave them what they needed. Gradually, a strategy came into view. By the time I moved to a new role, I had a mental system for sales enablement. I had a marketing plan. And I knew how the puzzle pieces connected.

Suddenly in a new role for a management consulting firm, I was amazed to learn that there were no fundamentals in place. No messaging. No positioning. No brand consistency. Certainly no aspiration. There wasn’t even a presentation template that could be used. It felt like the brand had stepped out of the 1950s and liked the cut of its own jib.

So I started planning. I needed the sales team on side. I needed the consultants to rethink the way they talked about the brand. And I needed to set an example. Most importantly, I needed to overcome the massive store of legacy collateral that consultants carried around with them. After all, our challenge was growth, and it’s hard to grow when your eye is locked on the past. The solution was staring me in the face – content. Good quality content.

Quality content is a business asset

I realised that if I wanted to get consultants to use my (and by “my” I mean “our”) new branding, case studies, templates and so on, then they needed to be better than what was already available. The presentations needed to be fresher and more direct. The case studies needed to be current and relevant to client needs. And we needed to focus on recognisable talent – CEOs of major clients, CIOs that knew how to bring business and IT together, and CFOs who wanted to prove they had business nous to take the next step.

So again, I started with a plan.

Our research and client interviews yielded vital insights. We needed data. We needed real world business problems. And we needed proof points that reinforced our new, strategic offerings and traditional service lines. So we scheduled interviews and follow-ups. We measured website traffic and downloads. I worked with my team to write dozens of new offering briefs, solution profiles, case studies and one pagers. All of these were on-brand and on-message. Then we briefed the CEO and the Board, sent out internal communications, updated the intranet, shared new templates and tools and launched the new website. We even had new plasma screens installed in the reception area to greet clients, with a customisable message and co-branding.

Pretty soon we realised that we had created a whole new class of business asset. Consultants from across the country started requesting interviews and case studies using our new formula. We produced internal podcasts – or what we now call “podcasts” – as downloadable MP3 files containing the latest news updates, client wins and thought leadership interviews. It was content marketing way before content marketing. And it worked:

  • We improved our revenues
  • We improved our profitability
  • We launched new products and service lines in record time
  • We scored new clients.

Perhaps most importantly, we gained the respect of our colleagues.

Content marketing is old school B2B marketing in a new frock

These days we have better tools and processes. We can create content much faster. We can generate whole infographics not just charts with just a few clicks. Videos can be shot, compiled and edited, uploaded and distributed right on your phone. Checklists, lists and websites can be updated more easily – and marketing automation not only sends emails but tracks, nurtures and sequences a whole customer journey.

Even still, the principles are the same. Content marketing is a lot of work. It takes effort and planning. It’s still B2B marketing, just gussied up in a new frock. But it does the heavy lifting of marketing super effectively. As Sarah Mitchell explains on LinkedIn:

When done well, content marketing turns your marketing expense into a long-term business asset. It’s a highly effective way to attract an audience and build trust with your customers and prospects. It’s less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising methods – a lot less expensive. If decision makers and budget holders think content marketing doesn’t work, they vote for the easy alternative – advertising and traditional marketing. Both are less effective and leave you with no asset from your expenditure.

Sarah also shares some great tips to help you figure out whether your content marketing team (or agency) are delivering the value you need. There’s 25 indicators that help you determine “if a swindle is in play”, but these three are my favourites. Read the full list here.

    1. If you’re buying into content marketing without taking the time to develop a strategy, you’re being swindled
    2. If your content marketing is focused on social media with no plan to convert or move your audience off the social channel, you’re being swindled
    3. If there’s no plan on how to measure your effectiveness, you’re being swindled.

Is It Time for a Chief Brand Storyteller?

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This great presentation on content marketing and storytelling by Jonathan Crossfield got me thinking. What is it about brands, storytelling and technology that we continue to struggle with – and why is this struggle so pervasive?

Now, I see a lot of content marketing every day. There are newsletters, infographics and blog posts. Sometimes there are videos. Podcasts. Quizzes. Surveys. The variety is rich … but the quality? Well, often the quality leaves much to be desired.

Who can we blame?

Content marketing – like all marketing – has many masters. There are the internal subject matter experts to please. The brand and reputation folks to appease. And let’s not even bring up compliance/corporate affairs. Or Legal. Imagine having to include them!? Then there are the representatives from sales, product, engineering and finance – after all, someone has to pay for this.

Eventually, someone will create the brief and the creative process will kick in. It could be internally created or pushed out to an agency. There will be drafts, revisions and feedback. There will be interpretation.

And then one day there will be an approval … and your content marketing baby will be pushed out into the world. Will it work? Will it deliver a bounty?

Too often our marketing efforts end up a pale imitation of the original idea. After review upon review, interpretation upon interpretation, much of the spark and energy is lost.

It makes me think that we need a new custodian. A Chief Brand Storyteller (CBS). Someone who ensures that the story we want, need and should tell, remains intact. The CBS would:

  • Prioritise our audiences over our processes
  • Reclaim our business narratives from the tyrannies of product form and function
  • Remind us that our purpose is to serve customers, guide them, delight and surprise them.

And the CBS would also have an important technology role. So many of our brand and business narratives are generated, delivered and amplified through technology – and this impacts the story and the storytelling. The CBS needs to help brands re-imagine storytelling for our times. And this may, perhaps, be the most important aspect.

Consumer Behaviour Has Changed. Your Content Marketing Needs to Change Too

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It wasn’t really until Joe Pulizzi came along and started talking seriously and meaningfully about content marketing that anyone realised that’s what we were doing. As marketers we had been creating collateral, whitepapers, insights, case studies, quizzes, articles and presentations forever. And I mean forever. But we had been producing all this content from a particular point of view – from the inside. After all, up until social media really hit its straps, we were living in a largely broadcast – one-way communications world.

And as we had our heads down, chugging away on our daily tasks, weekly WIPs and month-end reports, something strange happened. Unexpected. Unprecedented.

The audience shifted.

It wasn’t that we weren’t paying attention. It’s that we didn’t have a response. All of sudden, people were reading reviews on the web. They were taking notice of blogs – and complaining about bad customer service. In public. The closed-loop channels that we had developed no longer held any sway. Our customers – whether they loved or hated us at the time – were taking their opinions, feedback and recommendations out of our hands (and channels) and talking directly to each other. Without us.

Fast forward a decade or so and many brands have caught up. To be honest, there has been huge acceleration over the last year or two – and content marketing leaders are rapidly outstripping and outcompeting the rest of their industries. Take a look at the work that Commonwealth Bank is doing. Or ANZ with their BlueNotes initiative. Then look at other industries.

Those that are leading the way have put in place a strategic approach to content and it is paying dividends.

As a member of the ADMA Content Marketing Expert Community, I workshopped key (and continuing issues) with content marketing with leading Australian marketers. We examined the challenges and the processes, skills gaps and opportunities. We looked into ROI and analytics, native advertising and changes in audience behaviour. The resulting whitepaper provides marketers with a solid framework for becoming more customer centric.

This seismic shift in the ability to communicate with audiences from the organisation to consumers demands a radical rethink in marketing strategy. It is no longer the case that businesses can produce marketing materials to support their product cycles. For messages to achieve cut through, organisations need to have a social licence to discuss the topic, putting permission to engage squarely in the hands of the audience. Credibility and media both need to be earned.

You can download the full paper on the ADMA website.

Even Your Boring Brand Can Be Sexy on Social Media

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I often wonder if there is such a thing as a “boring brand”. Sure we have exciting, innovative and even “cool” brands – these are easy to spot. Big budgets. Celebrities. Airplanes. But not all of us work for or with these kinds of brands.

And that is the real opportunity. But to understand that opportunity, there are three steps you must take:

1. Think beyond your product

It may be your job to evangelise your product, but the challenge for social media is to step outside of your comfort zone. Rather than thinking of the product you are selling, think of the problem you are solving for your customers.

One of the  best examples that springs to mind for me is an old NRMA ad where the product being sold is roadside assistance. A middle aged couple are dressed up, driving to an evening at the opera. Along the way the car stops in the rain. He has forgotten to renew their roadside assistance insurance. While attempting to fix the problem, somehow the hapless gentleman removes the distributor cap and attempts to hide it in his tuxedo while his wife hits him with her handbag.

What is the ad selling? Not roadside assistance. Not even insurance. It’s selling peace of mind for all the non-mechanics out there.

2. Build customer relationships

Given that customers these days buy in their own time (not just when suits brands and marketing campaigns), we need to find ways to build customer relationships ahead of the buying curve. Learn to speak the language of your customers. Participate in their activities. Show that you “are one of them”.

This is something that startup Canva do exceptionally well. They manage to balance on the one hand, a community of designers; and on the other a growing community of business people who need graphic design for personal or professional reasons. It is clear through their Canva blog and their Design School that “sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN”. And the more you work to bring both together, the more value is created in and around the Canva platform.

3. Advocate for your customers

As shown in this interesting infographic (below), Tampax’s Awesomely Active Girl Challenge was a great way to engage women, encouraging them to remain active during their period.  But it’s not just a matter of encouraging activity – it’s about being “awesomely active”.

As brand ambassador, surfer, Bethany Hamilton explained during the 2013 campaign, “I am happy to be partnering with Tampax Pearl Active because they offer high performance protection for high performance girls just like me who would never think of letting their periods keep them from hanging ten or biking hard. This contest is all about cheering on each other and celebrating those active moments when all eyes are on them”.

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Man sleepingCreative Commons License Timothy Krause via Compfight

Content Marketing in Australia 2015 – Are you creating content worth sharing?

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At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:

Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.

The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.

But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.

The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:

  • Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
  • Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
  • A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:

  • Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
  • Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
  • Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.

As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:

There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.

And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.

Six Principles to Build a Great Content Brand

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All brands should start to act like publishers.
— Every consultant

No doubt you’ll have heard that brands need to start to act like publishers. And I am as guilty as the next person/consultant of using this concept – but I do so advisedly. You see, many moons ago, I worked in publishing. And now I don’t. In fact, many people have started their careers in some form of publishing and have either been forcibly ejected from the industry through some form of disruptive change, or they exited strategically to reinvent themselves.

But the plain fact is that publishing is in decline.

However, knowledge of publishing has never been more necessary.

Good publishers have known forever that their best asset is their audience – and that strong writing, creative and content is what attracts that audience. Many businesses, from startups to enterprises, think that “content marketing” is simply a function of production – that you just need to feed the various channels so that you can cover all your needs. But this is 20th Century thinking. It’s broadcast masquerading as social media.

To be heard in a noisy, always-connected world, you need to be relevant. And that requires some rethinking around your content strategy.

Luckily, the folks from Velocity Partners have done the hard work of distilling this challenge into six key principles:

  1. Be the buyer (ie know your customer)
  2. Be authoritative (ie know what you are talking about)
  3. Be strategic (ie connect the dots for your customers)
  4. Be prolific (ie produce regular, reliable, quality content)
  5. Be passionate (ie have a point of view)
  6. Be tough on yourself (ie make an effort to produce good work)

In addition I would add a final point to this – buddy-up. Most of us are not geared towards producing enough content – let alone producing enough QUALITY content. This means partnering. It’s worth experimenting and collaborating to find a team that is right for you. After all, you’re building a great content brand, right, not just factory farming content?

Holidays Ahead: All aboard the content marketing express

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At the beginning of the year, Oracle Eloqua released a State of Content Marketing Survey Report that revealed the trends that were impacting content marketing and approaches that would be taken through 2014. And now, as we are closing in on what is possibly the most explosive time of year for content marketing (yes, I mean the Christmas/Holiday period), I thought it worth running a fine toothed comb across the findings to consider what has changed and what hasn’t. In doing so, we may find a worthwhile insight to drive our holiday content marketing efforts.

Some of the things to consider in your own content marketing include:

  • Grow your own content: With 93% of respondents creating their own content in-house, 2014 was set to be a strong year for client-side marketers. However, just a little over half are regularly creating content for sales enablement. This leads to a disconnect between marketing and sales which can cause internal challenges and misalignment between business and marketing objectives. Lesson: Work with external agencies to expand content creation capabilities
  • Tool-up to measure effectiveness: Almost 50% of respondents expected to successfully align content with the buyer’s journey by mid-2014. However, only 22% have an effective measurement strategy, and 23% don’t have the tools they need for measurement. This further exacerbates the disconnect between marketing and sales. Lesson: There are increasingly powerful measurement tools available. Now is the time to invest, evaluate and refine your measurement approach ahead of the holiday period
  • Feed your marketing automation machine with quality content: Just like data, you get out what you put into content marketing. It’s not just a matter of “pumping out” content – the challenge for marketers is creating a centre of gravity which attracts customers, leads and opportunities to engage. This is done with quality content, and with 24% of marketers indicating they struggle to engage their audiences, it’s clear there is work to be done here. Lesson: The dream of one-to-one conversations at scale is only possible with a deep understanding of your customer’s journey, marketing automation that has been tuned to that path, and quality content that nurtures leads and moves your audiences from anonymity visitors to known customers. 

Most marketers will have clear plans for the next two months, but it’s worth pausing and asking the question “Are we doing the right things and doing things right?”. In this digital age, strategy, execution and measurement are no longer time consuming – and marketers must learn to iterate their marketing at the speed of their customers’ lives. Find people who can help you experiment and climb aboard the content marketing express.

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Breathing New Life into PowerPoint with SlideDocs

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I have always been a fan of storytelling. But not everyone is keen to be a story reader. Or a listener. For in our time crunched lives, our own attention is our most limited resource. Accordingly, communication has been concatenated, shrunk, manipulated. We’ve got our 30 second, 60 second and elevator pitches down pat.

But a picture is worth a thousand words

As someone who loves language I have always bristled at the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sure a picture might be worth a thousand words, but they’d be indifferent words. They’d be rushed, debased, uneven. Or so lean that they lose the humanity, beauty and creativity that inspired them.

Fortunately, like so many things, words are a kind of fashion, and it feels like they may just be coming back in vogue. Witness the popularity of longer form writing like Snow Fall. And the growing popularity of newish text driven platform Medium.

From PowerPoint to SlideDocs

Nancy Duarte’s new Slidedocs book provides a great framework for us to reconnect with our love of text, storytelling and technology. And it does it using that old nemesis, PowerPoint. You can look through and download the book, interrogate its construction and authoring and apply it to your own needs. Sound like a plan? I’m hoping it’s the start of a whole new chapter.

The bookCreative Commons License Dave Heuts via Compfight

Get More from Instagram

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I have been a fan of Instagram for some time. Not just because of the filters … but because it has developed an interesting and engaged community of users. Instagram has become the Flickr that the internet didn’t forget.

But there is a vast difference between using Instagram as an individual and using it as part of your business marketing toolkit. But many of the things that you love about Instagram personally, can be usefully applied professionally – with a couple of caveats:

  • Think with your brand hat on: Consider the content, composition and colour of the photos you are taking. Try to provide some form of visual consistency
  • Let your personal creativity and personality shine: Just because you are working on a professional presence doesn’t mean that it is a personality free zone. You got your job due to your unique talents. Apply these to your Instagram efforts
  • Connect in and connect out: Make sure that your Instagram efforts are connected with your broader marketing and business strategy. Remember, likes are not revenues, so don’t get carried away with a flurry of interest. But do take advantage of the high levels of community engagement available through Instagram – it’s a great way to connect out to your community.

This great presentation on Instagram by Ross Simmonds provides some fantastic guidelines for doing more with Instagram together with samples of brands that are doing the right things.