7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

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So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

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How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

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The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

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  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

A Guide to Content Marketing for Start-ups

How can content marketing help satisfy a start-ups customer acquisition and quest for growth. Old sales tactics are declining and the push sales cycle can mean a new business is out of runway long before their business gets off the ground with revenue. The rapid change in buyer behaviour for both B2B and B2C means an unforgiving economic climate in which a start-up has to function. Thankfully, the meteoric rise of inbound marketing together with social selling has added a suite of new tools to the business sales and marketing toolkit.

While the sales and marketing field have been levelled they are also becoming more complex as buyers seek out useful and valuable vendors via quality content as they self educate like never before. So how can a start-up business win with content marketing and what does it stand to gain from it?

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It begins with a plan

To develop a content marketing strategy, we must first understand the role of content in attracting the buyer in the digital economy. As buyers self educate online in both B2C and B2B markets they consume content as part of the buying journey. When we refer to “Content” we are referring to whitepapers, video, infographics, images, press releases, newsletters, help guides right through to thought leadership articles. Also, focus content themes and topics that match the interest of your “Ideal Customer Profiles” or “Buyer Personas”. When it comes to content curation do not consider content to be anything you find funny or amusing as you dive into the sea of digital content being published about your industry. Instead, think of content that adds value to customer or buyers journey, information that is useful and benefits the reader in some way. Start-ups who remember that content is bait and the better the content, the better the fish will have taken a big step towards getting their business moving forward. So ask yourself, “Who is your customer?” “What is their need?” and “How will you deliver on their need”. Now you can start to assemble a content marketing plan.

The first step as mentioned above is to define your target audience (ideal customer profile/buyer persona) in terms of Firmographics, demographics, age, occupation, habits, etc. Then, the start-up needs to plan who and from where will they create and source a steady stream of content for publishing. Next it is time to research what is their favourite social media platforms. This information allows us to define clear goals and social KPI’s. These may cover items such as content views, content downloads, traffic, blog visitors, total traffic, social reach and social engagement. Now the start-up can proceed with moving their plans from the drawing board into social media reality.

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Put the start-up on the social media stage

We know from research that over 75% of B2B buyers seek business information online. Over 90% of consumers now consume content prior to making an online purchase. So it is no surprise to know that one of the greatest benefits of content marketing is increasing the exposure to potential customers whether it is locally, nationally or globally. That is why building a social brand and social reach through content is closely tied to the process of developing closer relations with the target audience, and getting to know each other. The ultimate goal of any content plan is to inform, educate, engage, inspire, and spark attention. This is no easy task as the work of attracting buyer’s attention has fierce competition. The best shot for a new business is to become a valuable information source with real insights and fresh, challenging points of view. Content blindness or overload can be avoided if the start-up can separate itself from the competition and rise above the noise generated by vanilla flavoured content.

Also it is important to avoid the pitfalls that go with content marketing. Don’t be tempted to write about product superiority and service excellence without social proof which may include influencer opinions or valid customer reviews. Do not overlook the value of visual content and videos. A whooping eight seven percent of the top posts on Facebook have pictures included, while it is thirty five percent on Twitter.

Another critical point is to convey the businesses personality and social purpose. Content should reflect the business culture and be used to plant seeds with targeted buyers on your beliefs and philosophy around serving customers. Finally, create a content sharing schedule so that the selected content must is posted regularly. Creating a calendar is paramount, as this enables start-ups to plan themes and topics to match buyer interests while scheduling posts ahead of time.

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A content publishing engine room

Content creation falls into two main categories, “First click content” and “Second click content”. First click content is designed around the search engine optimisation (SEO) and driving traffic. It is heavily keyword focused with “Tips” “Guides” and “How to” type content the best themes to ensure sharing and thus getting the content at the forefront of search engine results page (SERP). Using content to build inbound links is one of the best marketing strategies there is, so ensure your content publishing engine knows what keywords to target.

Remember Google carefully monitors the content surrounding the anchor link (title, topic, theme, keywords) so it is vital that the quality of the content has to be top-drawer when doing link building. Other aspects of a content publishing plan are to monitor industry trends and new relevant keywords as to develop content or visuals. Identifying these elements can boost a business’s search ranking and drive more traffic.

While content marketing can be an inexpensive, yet highly effective lead generation method to reach ideal customer profiles, it does require investment in the production of the assets to be published. Create a content publishing engine that will help your start-up to attain a position of industry leader over a period of months. Sometimes if not often start-ups have little room for manoeuvre and must operate on a shoestring budget. So to make every Euro count, content marketing can have both short tailed and long tailed benefits by aligning all social media marketing to target buyers supported by quality, relevant content.

The runway is shorter than you think

A sense of paranoid can be healthy when launching a new business; one can live or die by their ability to quickly identify real wants and needs of buyers. The runway to getting the start-up of the ground maybe shorter than you think with more effort than you planned. This requires social selling with content, social media marketing, social reach and social engagement. To pull this off, the business must make the best use of content marketing strategies. Relevant, regular, appropriately themed quality content that engages the target audience to find you useful and valuable is the only way to make a name for the business quickly. If content is king, then badly written, irrelevant or copied articles, have little chance of becoming royalty. Always refer to the plan and only produce content that is tailored to the needs of the customers. It is about using content to be seen, be found, be useful and be valuable in the eyes and minds of buyers so the start-up can generate revenue sooner rather than later.

Connecting Content Marketing to Sales

How to use content marketing for improved sales enablement is a big discussion point among sales and marketing leaders. Most B2B companies rely on selling by direct sales teams to generate a large percentage of their revenues. For these companies, improving sales performance is a critical business objective, and sales enablement alongside the use of social media is seen as the best method for delivering company revenue goals.

When executed correctly, sales enablement has the involvement of both marketing and sales. Content marketing resources such as research articles, whitepapers, e-books, testimonials, video content and case studies plays a vital role in sales enablement. The marketing department are the ones usually tasked with creating the content assets.

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Does your sales team understand your content strategy?

Research shows there can be a mismatch between the content that marketing produces and the content the sales people need to progress their sales opportunities. The findings included that:

  • Only fifty four percent of sales people and sixty five percent of sales managers understand their company’s content marketing strategy.
  • While 65 percent of sales people and seventy four percent of sales managers say the content their company publishes is valuable to their customers.
  • However, a full fifty two percent of sales people and forty three percent of managers say the content their company publishes helps improve sales effectiveness.

The results show that nearly 50% of sales people do not understand the content strategy. So what is the issue?

b2b-buyers-decision

Lack of Smarketing!! As sales and marketing are not aligned on how a buyer buys. They probably have not mapped out the buyer’s journey together leading to disconnects between the two teams. In fact Forrester reported that one-third of B2B marketing leaders acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to serve up appropriate content to specific buyers when the time is right.

In your business do sales and marketing define the buyer’s journey differently? Marketing may have segmented the buyer’s journey into 5 or 6 stages.

.Apart from some buying signals on social media (some social selling tools are starting to monitor early stage indicators of buyers journey), most companies see the buyer when they are about to exit the awareness stage and enter the consideration stage. At this point the buyer starts to identify the right people with the answers on how to solve their challenges. They are actively looking for solutions and are self educating by accessing content to help make informed decisions. They are socially active on the social media networks, reading articles, downloading reports, looking for research and interacting with different forms of content to shape their next movement in the buying process.

Social selling engagement and marketing technology can assist a business with this stage to understand and track buyers who are downloading and interacting with your content.

Now buyers move to engage with vendor partners, they will subtly seek out relationships with a select few, ones that can help solve the problems the buyer has identified as being critical.

According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. The majority of buyers are researching online where they should find you (as a sales individual who they value) and most likely your competitors. The research shows they are looking at product features, reviews, testimonials, pricing and company information. – Source: IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience

The buyer has most likely now consumed enough content and the content produced from the companies which have proved they can provide the solutions to the challenges they face.

At the final stage, the buyer will choose a vendor as their preference with maybe one other as backup. If any business is waiting until the vendor engagement stage (which marketing may own up to now) then opportunities are being missed. Forrester has shown that 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a salesperson. If the content marketing strategy and sales enablement (social selling as an example) do not create value early enough and help guide the buyers journey then potential new customers are being missed.

You can bet that if the sales force feels disconnected from the marketing team, it also goes the other way. The marketing department can be frustrated that the sales teams are not sharing enough content. Maybe the reason is that marketing and sales have not had the conversations to figure out what type of content the buyers respond to at certain points of engagement. Marketing can only produce content to support the revenue goals if they understand the buyer’s journey.

Sales and Marketing Alignment is the solution

Create a revenue team, where sales and marketing come together and developed a unified version of the buyer’s’ journey. Segment the content tactics to mirror your sales pipeline and buyer’s journey. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness content: This is mapped to the buyers why (Why do I have a problem?). This type of content is aimed at top of the funnel where the prospect acknowledges that there is a potential problem that needs a solution.

Consideration content: This reflects the buyers how (How should I solve this?)  Where by consuming more information they have identified what that problem is and who could maybe solve it.

Decision content: Getting the buyer to identify the “who.”(Who has proven they could solve this) They have defined their ideal solution strategy and who they will engage with based on relevancy of data they have accessed.

By mapping the ACD content strategy on the buyers “why” and the “how” will give the sales team earlier opportunities to engage with prospects.

By aligning sales and marketing as a revenue team they can work together to create content that is relevant to buyers to match what stage they are at. The power in connecting content marketing and marketing to sales will create powerful assets that the buyer truly values.

How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way.

Many companies struggle in how to use content marketing to drive their sales or business upwards. No big surprise as today’s buyer is more educated and savvy than ever. Smart marketing leaders know that traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the day, so turning to social media and content marketing as a means to drive traffic and leads makes sense . In fact social media/online advertising will overtake traditional advertising this year, posing opportunities and challenges for many companies.

But social media and content marketing is not the same thing. Yes they do operate hand in glove with each other however one is focused on “consumption” while the other is based on “participation”.  The goal of content is audience consumption, while social media is all about audience participation.

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According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements.

So think of content as a beautifully prepared meal that people want to consume, social media as the room where they sit talking about the lovely meal they just have eaten and social networking is how you make people aware of your food in the first place.  They key to using content marketing is to create different meals aka content themes (chicken dinners become boring after a while) to keep people coming back for more. The same way we create different meals for different times of the day or weather, we also need to vary our content according to the different stages our prospective buyers are at.

I call this

ACD Content Marketing   

I believe your content tactics should mirror both your company stage of development and your sales pipeline. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is heavily SEO focused, a new business or one targeting a set of keywords for Google traffic will create allot of this type of content. It is aimed at potential buyers whom have no previous awareness or interaction with your business. The goal here is using keyworded content to get searched and seen by as many people as possible. Themes for awareness content include such titles as – how to, tips on, a guide to etc.

Awareness Content is served up on:

  • Social Media Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Posted on Blogs – Medium, WordPress, LinkedIn Pulse and Blogger.
  • Published to your own Website and Landing Pages
  • As presentations on Slideshare or Learnist.
  • Visuals (including Infographics) on Visual.ly or Imgur.
  • SEO link building to places like Scoop.it, Quora, Pearltrees.

This type of content is usually on-going as a business targets new keywords or sets of customers. It is important to capture their interest via newsletter or update sign-ups. Then you can now move to creating “consideration content” or content that is focused on getting customers to select you as a vendor.

Consideration Content

As you build traffic, repeat visitors, newsletter subscriptions and social network connections a business should start to blend in consideration type content into their content strategy. This is where you use content to nurture (lead nurturing) prospective customers.

The goal is to create content that will “nurturing the customer” meaning informing them on why/how your product or solutions will solve their problems. At the beginning consideration and awareness content can often be have similar traits as in keyword focused, but try to leave the SEO to aside as you progress, switching the focus on going deeper with informative and insightful content. The content is still served up on all the channels lists in the previous section plus emailed to your subscriber base.

Consideration Content should include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Research articles
  • Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Valid and Verifiable Customer Testimonials
  • Interviews (text and video)
  • Webinars
  • Sharing other forms of proof (reviews/awards/wins)

Decision Content

Decision content is offered to your qualified leads (sales and marketing working together) from lead nurturing them during the consideration phase. This content should be personalised, specific and introduced at the right time in the sales process. I suggest business splits decision content into “pre-close” and “post-close”. Pre-close content can be vital to closing a sale so should be planned out carefully.

Types of Pre-close Content may include:

  • Onsite or Virtual Product Demonstrations
  • Existing customer reference with detailed implementation
  • Personalised Proposal
  • Pricing Documents
  • ROI Presentations using existing customer cases

Lastly, there is the “post-close content”, this can include surveys, up-selling and cross selling content and referral requests.

Ensure you create content to welcome new customers and solicit feedback as part of your content arsenal. Also make sure to produce content templates that thank them for their purchase. Also post-close content should include sharing information on your newest products and upgrades.

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Wrapping it All

The ACD marketing method has other benefits, used correctly it can be a superb way to gather valuable insights. Content marketing is the marketing of the here and now plus the future. It will only develop in its sophistication and personalisation as the social media networks become central to sales and customer interactions. Content is the always on, 24/7 plug-in to the internet world, always there guiding your potential customers even when you are asleep. The key to to create attractive and appealing content that will be consumed by the reader that matches where they are in your sales pipeline.

The Bitter Business can help create or work with your social media marketing or content marketing strategy, helping you to understand what type of content works and which aspect of your content creation needs to be improved to deliver more traffic, more leads and more customers.

Content Marketing Done Right

Content marketing when done right can deliver exceptional results yet as many as 75% of marketing departments are doing content marketing the wrong way. One big and critical difference between content marketing and promotional marketing can be summed up in these two words: sharing versus telling.

Today’s digital savvy buyers and educated consumers are ignoring traditional advertising and sales tactics like never before. They have become immune to brands telling them what to buy. Banner ads and online advertising are also feeling the heat with ad blocking technologies like AdBlock and AdDetctor helping consumers avoid advertising altogether. As one marketing agency stated “Internet savvy people are more likely to sign up for a trip to Mars than click on some banner ads.”

So, the logic would follow as buyers and consumers turn away from interruption ads online and are even using tools to nullify them, then marketing have responded to this challenge to ad weariness, right?

Ah no, this is unfortunately not always the case.

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Marketing is contributing to “Content Blindness”

When developing content marketing strategies, over 75% of marketing leaders report that product mentions are a regular tactic in their content strategies. (The Economist Group). Marketing departments have responded to the move away from online advertising or “ad blindness”by viewers and implemented content marketing tactics to counteract this decline in raising product awareness. However by flooding the social media networks with promotional lead content, they are in fact now encouraging “content blindness”.

The sharing of content has become a breeding ground for brand plugging and promotional stuffing. The result is audiences are now starting to see some content shared by brands as being deceiving, missing out on the fact that when you strip away the advertising pitch many of these brands have powerful stories to share.

Content marketing is primarily about sharing great stories and as you earn the audiences trust you can begin selling your products. The hard sales pitch tends to turn off potential customers, so rather going straight into selling mode, start with building trust and credibility through informative content that adds value.

Prior to publishing an article or blog post, ask the following questions:

  • Does the content offer real insights on a market or interest OTHER than plugging how great a product or service is?
  • Do the articles and blogs showcase the company’s expertise by providing actionable tips or research based analysis?

If the answer is, “Yes,” to these questions, your content is ready to publish.

Hold on I hear you say, so if we work diligently to create content NOT to sell to our readers, then how do we use content marketing sell?”

Well research shows that less is more, the least sales pitch orientated articles drive more sales when executed correctly. This is because the content will drive awareness (inform, educate, amuse, engage) and ultimately help prospects become qualified leads as they consider you as a viable purchasing option.

Any business can create a content marketing journey for their prospects and over time gently guide them to the solution to solve their problems: considering your product or service. But the patience and skill is you have to let them arrive at that conclusion at their own pace.

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Educate Through Content – Highlight Your Expertise

Real content marketing is about sharing thought leadership or research, addressing problems or market trends your customers or potential customers face. This stream of valuable content acts like a seed, planting the ideas which overtime grows into the realisation to prospects that they need your product or service.

The stark reality is that the press release route and publishing in-depth product descriptions serves only to create a wall between you and your audience. Audiences just tune out if they have not been primed with educational content before you go for the sale with “sales content”.

Also B2B buyers now use social media to research trends, reviews and ways to improve their business. This presents a great opportunity for marketers. But are B2B marketers missing the mark?

Well, the CMO Council studied how buyers viewed content published by business-to-business marketers. This quote may help focus your content strategy: “Business to business buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

Still lots of B2B marketers think that “content marketing” almost like a Trojan horse, publishing product descriptions in the guise of content. But buyers constantly remind us they are not ready to be sold the moment they see some sales content. Their journey is about accessing content that understands their problems first.

So when publishing content on forums, LinkedIn or on the company blog, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Hold the sell. As most readers are looking to learn more about a topic, do not start bombarding them with promotional jabber. Content sharing focuses on engaging them through quality articles packed with valuable insights to encourage them to learn more. Remember, in the sales process it takes anywhere between three and thirteen interactions for a prospect to turn into a qualified lead, so starting a “social conversation” with a sales pitch baked in will chase away potential customers, so the goal is to get them to stick around to learn something.
  2. Think of your audience, not your product. When creating and sharing content, always prioritise an audience first approach. What would the readers want to learn more about? What obstacles are they encountering and how can you overcome those? When you tap into your prospects’ needs and issues, you can create content that they can align themselves to and encourages them to continue the education process.
  3. Become a valuable information resource. Publish helpful content on a consistent basis will give readers a reason to visit your blog time after time. Becoming a go-to resource is critical to building up followers and readers. I also suggest that carefully offering a white paper, e-book or case study to visitors is a way to gain more in-depth information.

As your journey into content marketing continues, remember that telling is not selling so put your audience’s interests before your own. Content will only grow in quantity on the web, and the way to avoid content blindness and do it right is never use sales pitches disguised as articles. Instead focus on sharing your expertise and insights. Always write to benefit the reader. As time progresses readers will take note of your genuine approach to offering solutions and then will be happy to engage with the sales process.

Marketing Companies in Dublin Guide

Marketing companies in Dublin or anywhere in Ireland offer a menu of services from digital marketing,SEO, social selling, content marketing to social media strategy. This guide is aimed at the business owner to ask what skills do they expect to see before deciding to working with one of the many marketing companies in Dublin or anywhere.

Social networks and the rise of social selling has changed the marketing game completely for business’s. Business has become smarter,faster, cheaper  with slower and expensive business models struggling. The lines dividing sales, marketing, advertising and public relations have disappeared with sales people needing to be able market and marketing people needing to sell.

Before engaging with a marketing company, when it comes to digital marketing there are some amazing do-it-yourself marketing tools that entrepreneurs or small business can use if they so choose. However, to successfully execute a social media marketing strategy or to implement a content marketing lead social selling strategy a business just may need some help. But they most likely will not need help from a bloated marketing agency still using old-school tactics.

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A Guide to engaging with the marketing companies.

Partnership not an Outsourcing Relationship.

There are lots of agencies and marketing consultants offering social media and digital marketing services. But does the potential client know exactly is being offered and what should be offered based on the needs of the business?

Will the agency assist with quality content creation? Can an agency source relevant articles and other content for the business segment to share on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc? (this is at the heart of social selling). Can an agency suggest social influencers or people to follow? Can an agency set up a tweeting plan? Does the agency know when/how to post content on the social networks? Can they recommend blogs and forums the business should be participating in/on?

marketing-strategy

It is important your marketing partner can “be you” and act like you online. They don’t see themselves as some outsourcing operation looking for a day rate. They may be required to form relationships with prospects and engage in communication that looks like it is coming from the CEO. Any business needs to build relationships and trust in the social networks and on the web in order to raise the awareness level for its product or service. By only raising the awareness levels cost-effectively can a business start getting considered (expressed in inbound leads, web traffic etc) so the marketing partner most likely has to participate in achieving the business goals .

Speed to Market

Social networks and the digital channels move at lightning speed, and any marketing agency needs to have the ability to adapt and keep up with the pace. They need to be active in real time. It is vital that agencies rev up the speed factor so that they move as quickly as buyers or consumers do.

Buyer Behaviour Knowledge

The agency needs to understand the science of how people (B2B or B2C) behave online and across the social networks to increase awareness, clicks, engagement, and views. Do you prioritise white papers or product articles, lead with thought leadership or informative content? The marketing partner needs to have proven experience and delivered results in the science of digital marketing.

Industry Expertise

Many if not most marketing companies have a wide client base and dabble in several industries. Any good marketing partner will invest the time in becoming a “subject matter expert” so they can really impact on a businesses digital marketing plans. So look for a marketing company that will take the time to learn about the industry you are trying to acquire customers in and win sales in.

Flexibility and Adaptability

The whole digital marketing landscape and channels keeps changing and evolving. What worked a few years back or even last year many not necessarily work today, and what worked today to boost SEO or web traffic might not work well in a few months. The best skill a business might look for in a marketing professional is the ability to adapt to change and the ability to speed up the tactics.

Creative Content Marketing

Any marketing company will claim to how to produce “content,” but what a business needs is someone who can create quality, engaging content that gets views plus has been keyword crafted to be indexed highly by the search engines. Content marketing which drives social selling and to a large extent SEO is still a relatively new field and the experience and expertise has not become mainstream. Remember when it comes to social media marketing or content marketing, buyers and consumers on the social networks will tune out fast to the over-abundance of posts, so it is vital a business has engaging content that stand outs.

Buyer Motivation Research

In a fast paced business environment it is not enough to just throw some ads or well-crafted messages at an audience. Digital marketing and social media successful engagement is about understanding as much as possible the things that interest buyers and why. By understanding the buyers journey, influence points and carefully researching the target audience, a marketing company must be able to more effectively craft sales messaging and marketing campaigns.

This is a an exhaustive guide to working with marketing companies but hopefully it might help a business ask some questions to find a marketing partner to deliver their business goals.

The Bitter Business is a sales and marketing strategy partner based in Ireland. We help companies Grow.

Content Marketing Tips

Content Marketing is the key driver upon which most inbound marketing and social media marketing tactics are built. Content marketing not only impacts SEO, web traffic, leads and sales but also acts to influence buyers as they increasingly seek information before purchasing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, the sharing of content (self-penned articles, general news articles, product, research and whitepapers) across social networks is now a must when it comes to promoting a product or service.

The tips below are designed to help drive traffic to a website and generate more leads or sales. Apart from writing your own content, to really maximise social media marketing you also need to source interesting facts, expert insights, statistics, and trends on your industry and then share them on a constant basis to produce dramatic results on SEO and traffic results.

content-marketing-plan

Step1. Tell and share great stories

Telling and sharing compelling stories is at the core of content marketing — tell the stories with images, videos and words. So step 1 is to focus on improving your ability to tell a story. Crafting words is at the heart of all storytelling; make the stories real, relevant, insightful, human and social to get people’s attention.  Writing like most skills will develop with practice, so persevere to improve. You can start with article research by doing some keyword searches while also looking at the most read articles on social networks. Try to make your articles longer than 1000 words to maximise SEO. Then you can post the articles on lots of free social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Plurk, Google+, Scoop.it, and Storify) to get buyers attention as well as gather some quality backlinks to your website.

Step2. Create memorable and optimised titles

A memorable title will get more readers while an optimised title will boost SEO. Just as the cover image can make or break sales on a new book the article title influences how many people will click to continue reading the rest of your article. So start with the end in mind and practice writing memorable titles that hits these 3 buttons – tempt the readers, drive engagement and optimised for searches.

Step3. To be seen, be consistent

In social media there is no such thing as a one hit wonder. Once step 1 and step 2 are in play, the key is to be seen and seen often. Sharing quality content (not just your own), images and video on a consistent basis are a recipe for success. Set up a blog posting schedule or social network sharing calendar that ensures you have a plan to stick to. A good guide is to publish a thousand word blog post per week and then do a few social media updates daily.

Step4. Improve all your social media profiles

It may have been that you created your many social media profiles in a burst of activity but have since forgotten to update. Take the time to freshen up all your social media profiles and while you are at it why not review your social media strategy. Stay ahead of the pack by studying changes in the social media networks and any changes that could affect your social media activity.

Step5. Promote your content

As you improve your article and content creation also make sure to focus on improving your ability to share your content across the social networks. Social media is about creating awareness and consideration for your brand, product or service. So promote (share) your press releases, blog posts, white papers or news on your social networks to your target audience (do not spray and pray).

Step6.  Continue to improve your social media skills

Create a list of social media skills you want to improve whether it is writing, posting, selected images, getting followers or joining in social conversations. If you want to improve your LinkedIn skills such as social selling or making connections then spend the time reading posts and articles on the subject. Pick one item from your list where you would like to see improvement and work on it.

Step7. Enhance your email usage

Email is not old hat. In fact it still plays an important role in inbound marketing and social media. How can you improve your sales pitch efforts, marketing message, the click through rate on email newsletters or even personalised emails to followers and connections?

Step8. Try a podcast

If you have already done some podcasts, cool, if not start thinking about doing your own podcasts. Dip your toe into the podcasting waters by finding out what podcast are popular in your industry or even find a podcast you could join in as a guest.

Step9. Light up your posts with graphics

Images can have a powerful impact when communicating stories, news or ideas. An graphic or infographic can simplify a complex concept or convey a story in a very succinct way. Marketing surveys show that powerful visuals will improve engagement with audiences leading to higher conversion rates.

content-marketing-strategy

Step10. Develop whitepapers and research

To be a thought lead in social media it helps to do more than sharing your insights. People and buyers love experts so try to expand your content marketing into areas like research or white papers.  Expert lead or expert quoted content with data and trends has been proven to increase brand or product retention.

Step11. Review content marketing against goals

There is no point investing hours of time in crafting articles and content then sharing them if they are not measured against your social media marketing goals. To finely tune your marketing you need to know what worked and what did not. Every plan can be strengthened, practices improved and marketing plans revised by doing some in-depth investigation on your digital marketing efforts. This review is vital for improved social media results and an opportunity to see where you got your best bang for your buck. The good news is the time taken to do a review will tell you where and how you can continue improve your content marketing skills.

acd-content-marketing

Finally to be really successful in content marketing, focus on improving your social media skills every day. Continued learning drives your ability to produce content on a consistent basis. If you apply these 11 tips to your social media activities, you will see gradual improvement in your skills and capacity to drive business results using content marketing.

Content Marketing Plan

As social media grows, the use of content marketing both as a social selling tool and as an audience engagement tool to acquire and retain customers has now taken centre stage within the marketing strategy. The great news is apart from time to preparing the content, content marketing is mostly free but there are some lessons to be heeded. Free publishing platforms like WordPress or Medium, and free content and link promotion on Scoop.it, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook amongst others make content marketing a go to tactic for any business.

Also listed below is some helpful resource lists covering “content marketing guide” “content marketing tips” “content marketing promotion” and “content marketing publishing platforms”.

content-marketing

Content Marketing is not Blogging

To ensure content market delivers, a business has to start out with the end in mind, what keywords are you targeting, is your content for industry education or brand promotion.  Content articles need to be one thousand plus words and the content needs to be relevant and well written.

The use of content Marketing requires creating and sharing meaningful content (white papers, market research, industry insights, market articles) to attract and convert traffic into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat purchasers. The content a business needs to share should be closely related to what it sells; or more pointedly, words that will educate an audience, market segment or industry so they get to know, like, and be  influenced enough to do business with your company.

Content marketing is not a one off event, it is an ongoing marketing and sales process that is scheduled, resourced and integrated into the company’s marketing strategy. A company’s content marketing goals should be to own the media space coverage for the topics selected or target keywords chosen.

A critical point to note is that content marketing is the art of reaching out to communicate with your customers and prospects without the heavy sales pitch. This has become known as non-interruption marketing. Instead of pushing out products or services sales messaging, using social selling techniques the business delivers information that makes the buyer more informed. The underpinning fundamentals of a content marketing strategy is that if a business delivers relevant, timely, valuable information to prospects and customers, they will ultimately reward the business with purchases and loyalty.

Content Marketing “Creating a Deep Connection with Prospects and Customers”
Effective content Marketing is not possible without well thought out and well written content. Quality content is important as it links and impacts nearly all aspects of the marketing strategy.

  • Content marketing strategy powers social media exposure.
  • SEO: Quality content with relevant keywords will impact on SEO and SERP.
  • PR: Content marketing drives successful PR as it shows readers the business cares about them not just their business self-interest.
  • SEM: For paid advertising to work, great content will deliver more traffic/leads.
  • Inbound marketing: Content is key to driving inbound traffic, sign-ups and leads.

Content marketing is about telling a different story; breaking through the clutter, winning more customers by marketing more intelligently.

The days when a business bombarded a prospect will sales calls and interrupted potential customers with mediocre content (brochures) that customers do not care about are over. Intelligent marketing uses content marketing to draw prospects and customers towards the business by creating information and content they actually find engaging and useful.

Content Marketing Guide

1. Choosing Content Topics

Start by selecting what industry, keywords, target audience and information you believe they would be interested in. Write about topics the business is knowledgeable on and has expertise in. A company selling interior design could write a fun article about “interior design from the 70’s you want to avoid”.  It is not a sales pitch or net, content topics are fishing lines that attract people towards the brand. Engage the customer, give before you ask.

2. Planning the Articles

This takes time and patience. Writing quality content of 1000 plus words could take 1 or 2 days. Over time, experience will shorten the thinking time but planning and writing takes time. Planning out your content topics a month in advance can make the writing easier and the final content of higher quality. Before writing anything, devote time to keyword selection, topic title, brainstorming the content messaging, finding sources for images and sound bites.  So when the actually writing process starts is should be about crafting words.

3. Write Quality Content

Once the target audience, topic title and keywords have been decided upon, the process of crafting the words into an article can begin. Plan out how many quotes, sound bites you want to include. Always think quality, quality means grammar, sentence structure but more importantly is research based information like the information below on social media.

To put the potential impact of social media into perspective, here is some insightful statistics’ on buyer decisions.

“57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.”

“67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

4. Build SEO into content marketing

When writing articles (title and first paragraph) think SEO. Google and SERP now rewards higher word count articles and article topics that match the content along with visually focused (video, images). Think like Google does, does this content do a good job at connecting search users to quality, relevant information. Do a keyword search for the planned article title; strive to make it unique while still using the target keywords, example “Easy Content Marketing Tips”. The core SEO is content marketing but by including tips and easy it broadens the article appeal and reach.

5. Promoting the Content

Before you hit the publish button, check spelling and depending on your content platform make sure to tag it for search terms within the site. Now start promoting the article (posting on to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.). Use a social bookmarking tool like AddThis to link your article to social bookmarking sites like Tumblr, Digg, Reddit, and Evernote.  This takes time, do not publish and promote the published articles the same time every day or week.  Publish the article, and then maybe give it a day or two before linking and promoting it.

content-marketing-diagram

6. Pause, Rest, Repeat

The old 80/20 rules applies to content marketing, it is 20 percent inspiration and 80 percentage work (research, thinking, planning and doing). There is no magic wand or short cuts, DO NOT outsource your content creation except to a trusted party who understands your business and marketing strategy. Do not copy and paste existing articles, use them for ideas and suggested wording.

Content marketing tips.

1. When posting a link on Twitter and Facebook also include an image

2. Share articles more than once over 2 or 3 weeks but change image/wording (not the article itself)

3. Try different times when posting on social networks

4. Adjust the content (posting title or wording) to suit the audience

5. Post the article links to multiple social bookmarks

Content Marketing – Promoting your articles and links.

This is a list (not exhaustive) of where to post the article links. Using a social bookmarking tool like AddThis is free and will speed up the process. I find doing it from Firefox is quicker.  Also try not to be logged into Google when posting.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.it, Nowvia, Evernote, Storify, Paper.li, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Silk.co, Soup.io, App.net, Pearltrees, We heart it, Buffer, Quora, Klout, Google+, Digg, Bizsugar,Disqus, Tumblr, Pinterest, Plurk, Diigo, List.ly, Shareslide, Visual.ly, Bundlr, Soundcloud,  Crunchbase, Sproutr.co, selfgrowth.com, prunderground (for PR and SEO), bitly, Owler, Imgur, LiveJournal.

Content marketing publishing platforms.

Some companies choose to have more than one content marketing platform. Most will use WordPress built into the site and also use a platform like Medium for other articles.

WordPress – Blogger – Medium – Glipho – LinkedIn Pulse – Lifehack – About.me –  Google Groups – Typepad – Svbtle – Buzzfeed.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.