Author: Rachel Foster

How to Hit a Home Run With Your Content

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It’s every content marketer’s worst nightmare…

You pour all your resources into creating a major piece of content, such as a white paper or webinar. You think the topic will resonate with your audience. The production quality is excellent. Your message is clear and concise.

B2B content marketing

But then you press, “publish” and nothing happens. No downloads…no registrations…no rush of customers calling your sales reps.

So, what happened?

You might have picked a topic that doesn’t interest your target audience. Many B2B marketers have a disconnect between the content they publish and what their customers want. If your content doesn’t hit the mark, buyers won’t respond.

Here are five steps you can take to pick the right topics and hit a home run with your content:

1.  Look for trends.

One way to bring more people to your content is by writing about trending topics. And no, you don’t need to blog about what the Kardashians are up to this week. Here are three tools – other than Google Analytics – that will help you find trending topics and keywords:

  • Hashtagify.me helps you find trending hashtags. Simply enter a hashtag, and the service will tell you how popular it is. It will also recommend related hashtags that can help you reach a wider audience.
  • BuzzSumo gives you insight into top-performing content. When you enter your key phrase, BuzzSumo will display the most-shared content containing those words. This helps you see if your key phrase will attract readers.
  • Google Trends shows you how searches for a key phrase have increased or decreased over time. You can narrow your results by country or time period. For example, you can see how searches for “cloud computing” have changed over the past year or 90 days.

2. Get to know your target audience.

If you haven’t updated your buyer personas since the first season of Breaking Bad, it’s time for a refresh. Updating your personas will give you insights into your audience’s top challenges and goals, so you can create content that speaks directly to their needs. Here are some questions to ask about your buyers:

  • What are their roles?
  • What industries do they work in?
  • What is their typical day like?
  • What are their top challenges?
  • What are their biggest goals?
  • How have their goals, needs and challenges changed from the last time you updated your buyer personas?
  • What stage(s) of the sales cycle do they influence?
  • Where do they get information about your products or services?

3. Speak to each stage of the sales cycle.

In Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 61% of respondents said they selected vendors who delivered a mix of content that was appropriate for each stage of their buying process. Reviewing your buyer personas will help you see what topics will engage them during each stage of the sales cycle. Provide them with the information that they need when they move through the following stages:

  • Awareness
  • Investigation
  • Evaluation
  • Decision
  • Loyalty/advocacy

4. Learn some new tricks.

Many B2B marketers create the same type of content all the time. For example, they might publish only sales materials or educational content. However, varying your topics will keep your audience more engaged. Mix it up by creating the following types of content:

  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Persuasive

5. Answer customer questions.

Your customer’s questions are a treasure trove of potential content. When you find a question, save it in a spreadsheet. Then, you can decide if you want to answer it in a new piece of content. What questions are customers asking in your forums? What are they emailing your sales and customer success reps about? What are they asking you on social media?

content strategy

When you go through these steps, you’ll find a lot of great topic ideas. Which of these topics will your audience find the most compelling? Which topics will help you get the biggest bang from your content investment? Add these topics to your editorial calendar.

Want to learn more about how to fill your content calendar with topics that engage your target audience? Register for my session, “How to Plan Your B2B Content Calendar,” part of the Digital All Stars Virtual Summit on May 13th.

 


How-To Create B2B Case Studies That Deliver Results

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Today’s B2B buyers are social.

They no longer immediately call a sales rep when they want to learn about a product. Instead, they search Google or tap their social networks for proof that a product delivers results.

Case studies are a great way to demonstrate this social proof.

A hawkeye study revealed that 71 percent of B2B buyers in the awareness stage and 77 percent in the evaluation stage of the sales cycle cited testimonials and case studies as the most influential types of content.

Since B2B buyers rely on case studies in multiple stages of the sales cycle, developing customer success stories should be at the top of your “to do” list.

A classic case study is a two-page customer success story that describes:

  • The challenge your customer faced before she started working with you
  • How your customer found you and why she selected you over other vendors
  • The process of implementing your product
  • Any results your customer achieved after she implemented your product

When I write a case study, I start with this format, as it allows me to get the complete story.

However, not everyone is going to read a classic case study. Some of your ideal customers may not have the time to read one or may prefer other types of content – such as audio or video. You’ll reach a wider audience if you repurpose your case studies for different channels.

Here are some alternatives to the classic case study that can help you get more ROI from your content:

The “How-To” Case Study

This type of case study is a cross between a “how-to” article and a customer success story. It works well on blogs, as many readers find blog posts when they look for information on how to solve a problem.

A “how-to” case study starts by describing your customer’s key challenges and how she found you. However, the implementation section is replaced by a list of tips. These tips can be advice from your customer that will help others who are dealing with the same situation. For example, your customer can address:

  • The steps someone must take when implementing a similar solution
  • What to know before starting the process
  • The top five things to consider before purchasing a similar solution
  • What someone can learn during the process

One of the reasons I like this format is because it’s presented as one customer giving advice to another. Here’s an example of a “how-to” case study.

The SlideShare Case Study

If your target audience is visual, you can connect with them by turning your case studies into presentations. Check out this example from Influitive to see what you can do with a SlideShare case study:

 

Here are some reasons why I like this example:

  • Influitive uses a lot of images and minimal text. You don’t want to overload your slides with text, as it can make your story boring and difficult to read. Using bold images and a few great quotes from your customer works well for this format.
  • The presentation is fun and engaging.
  • Leads can opt in directly from the case study. One of the benefits of using SlideShare is that you can embed lead generation forms directly into your presentations. This feature is only available with SlideShare’s PRO plans, but it’s well worth it.

Related Class: Engagement Strategies: The Digital Customer Experience Case Study

The Mini Case Study

A mini case study can be a condensed version of a full case study or a customer testimonial. You can use them in the following places:

  • Your website
  • Emails
  • Your social networks
  • Brochures and sell sheets
  • White papers and ebooks
  • Direct mail pieces
  • Your phone system’s “on hold” music

The “Customer’s Voice” Case Study

In this type of case study, your customer tells her story in her own words. Here are some examples:

  • Your customer presents her case study at a conference
  • You interview a customer during a podcast
  • You create a video of a customer telling her story

Here’s an example of a great video case study from GoToMeeting:

 

Ready to create your own case study example? In this Online Marketing Institute class, B2B Video Best Practices, you'll learn how Cisco uses video online to reach their target audiences throughout the customer journey, and get best practices for corporate websites and YouTube. You'll also see the lessons Cisco learned from creating over 1,000 marketing videos every year. Enroll today!

 


Is Shorter B2B Content Better?

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A client recently asked if I could write a white paper for them. However, when I inquired about the project, I learned that they didn’t want a traditional 10-page white paper. They wanted a two-page article that would fit on a single sheet of paper, so that their sales reps could easily hand it to leads at meetings.

This client isn’t the first to ask me for a two-page “white paper.” It seems as though many B2B marketers want to create short pieces of content that will whet their audience’s appetites instead of overwhelming them with too much information.

But, is shorter better?

I’ve conducted research into three popular types of B2B content – white papers, blog posts, and videos – to try to determine an answer.

Just Say “No” to Long, Boring White Papers!

In my opinion, a two-pager is not a white paper. It is not long enough to achieve all of the objectives of a white paper – such as fully analyzing your customers’ problems, discussing market drivers, providing best practices, and positioning your product or service as the ideal solution. However, a two-pager can help you engage early-stage leads and get them to opt in for longer resources, such as white papers and webinars.

On the other hand, many marketers go overboard with their white papers and turn them into long, boring sales pitches. B2B buyers don’t have the time to read lengthy white papers. An IDG study revealed that technology and service buyers think white papers should be seven pages or less. This is plenty of room to make the case for your product or service.

Google Gives Love to Both Long and Short Blog Posts

There is a lot of controversy over whether short or long blog posts perform better. Studies have shown that long blog posts get higher Google rankings, more inbound links, and more social shares. Neil Patel also found that web pages with 2,000 to 2,400 words attracted more high-quality leads than pages with less copy.

However, you may not need to write lengthy blog posts to get Google love. John Mueller, a Google representative, stated, “Rest assured, Googlebot doesn't just count words on a page or in an article, even short articles can be very useful and compelling to users. For example, we also crawl and index tweets, which are at most 140 characters long.” Mueller also stressed the importance of publishing high-quality blog posts and suggested that reader comments could help short articles get better rankings.

Short Videos Are Best for Mobile and Busy Executives

Have you ever glanced at a video’s length and decided not to watch it if it was too long? Our short attention spans are one reason why B2B videos should be concise. A Wistea study revealed that the longer the video, the less viewers are engaged. In addition, Forbes Insights found that 47 percent of executives prefer videos that are three to five minutes in length, while 36 percent want videos to be one to three minutes long.

Related Class: How to Engage Top Experts With Video

Another factor driving the trend toward shorter videos is mobile. Untether.tv reported that video will make up 66 percent of global mobile traffic by 2017. It’s usually easier for people to watch short videos when they are on the go, looking at a small screen, or dealing with a spotty Internet connection.

These statistics can be useful in helping you determine how long to make your B2B content. However, the most valuable statistics are the ones you will get from testing your content and discovering what your audience prefers. If your audience wants two-page “white papers,” publish more of them. If they will watch a 45-minute video, then don’t rule it out as a marketing option.

However, no matter what type of content you are producing, be as concise as possible. Don’t stuff your blog posts with extra words just because you think Google prefers long posts.

What are your thoughts on the ideal length for B2B content? Please share your opinions below.

For more information on how to  create customer-focused content to keep your audience engaged, listed to Rachel Foster's Online Marketing Institute Class, B2B Technology Blueprint for Great Content Marketing today. 

 


How to Use Content to Influence B2B Technology Buyers

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The B2B technology buying process involves more decision-makers than ever before. If you want to create content that helps you attract high-quality leads and turn them into customers, you must tailor your content for all of your audiences. This means you need to develop content not only for early-, mid- and late-stage leads, but also for all of the stakeholders within your customers’ organizations.

Related Class: How to Generate More Leads by Targeting Personas through Search and Social

According to a TechTarget Media Consumption Report, “corporate IT buying is a team decision-making process with 95% of IT buying teams having more than 2 members. The majority work in teams of 2–7 with a significant number of teams having 10 or more members.”

Here are examples of people who may be involved in the B2B technology buying process, along with what they are looking for in your content:

Researchers                                                                      

Researchers are typically junior employees whose boss has asked them to research a specific product or service. Although these people usually do not have buying power, they have a lot of influence.

Researchers are often the first people who will visit your website to gather information. You want to make it easy for them to find what they need and pass it along to their boss. They may download your white papers or check out your blog to see if they like what you’re talking about. It’s also a good idea to provide them with a PDF overview of your products or services – such as a data sheet – so they can easily forward the information to their boss.

End users

Your end users want to know that your solution works and will make their lives easier. Provide them with case studies and unbiased reviews from customers who have used your products and services. End users may also be interested in attending webcasts, watching demos, participating in forums and joining user groups.

IT influencers

If you sell technology products or services, your customer’s IT team will want to know how your solution will impact their network. Will it simplify things or make things more complex? How easy is it to implement your solution? How will it affect their network security? Be sure that your marketing materials address these concerns. You may need to create separate content geared specifically toward IT to answer these questions.

Finance decision-makers

Financial influencers will want to know if your product or service is worth the investment. After all, they are the ones who will sign your checks. Be sure to demonstrate your value in all of the marketing materials that you provide them – such as case studies, ROI calculators, data sheets, brochures and webinars.

Executives

Executives want proof that your products or services will help them reach their business goals and achieve ROI. Make sure that all of your content discusses the key business challenges that your customers are facing and how your solution helps to solve these challenges. White papers, case studies and ROI calculators can be valuable when you want to influence an executive.

Figure out who your key stakeholders are and create buyer personas for all of them. Learn how to identify these potential customers, build content that will educate them about your business, and compel them to move towards purchase in the Online Marketing Institute's Demand Generation Certification Program.

Enroll today to gain  an understanding of their needs and the types of content that will most appeal to them.  

 


5 Types of B2B Buyers Your Content Needs to Influence

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different buyersThe B2B technology buying process involves more decision-makers than ever. If you want to create content that helps you attract high-quality leads and turn them into customers, you must tailor your content for all of your audiences. This means you need to develop content not only for early-, mid- and late-stage leads, but also for all of the stakeholders within your customers’ organizations.

According to a TechTarget Media Consumption Report, “corporate IT buying is a team decision-making process with 95% of IT buying teams having more than 2 members. The majority work in teams of 2–7 with a significant number of teams having 10 or more members.”  RELATED CLASS: Best Practices for Building a High-Impact Demand Generation Strategy

Here are examples of people who may be involved in the B2B technology buying process, along with what they are looking for in your content:

1. Researchers                                                                        

Researchers are typically junior employees whose boss has asked them to research a specific product or service. Although these people usually do not have buying power, they have a lot of influence.

Researchers are often the first people who will visit your website to gather information. You want to make it easy for them to find what they need and pass it along to their boss. They may download your white papers or check out your blog to see if they like what you’re talking about. It’s also a good idea to provide them with a PDF overview of your products or services – such as a data sheet – so they can easily forward the information to their boss.

2. End users

Your end users want to know that your solution works and will make their lives easier. Provide them with case studies and unbiased reviews from customers who have used your products and services. End users may also be interested in attending webcasts, watching demos, participating in forums and joining user groups.

3. IT influencers

If you sell technology products or services, your customer’s IT team will want to know how your solution will impact their network. Will it simplify things or make things more complex? How easy is it to implement your solution? How will it affect their network security? Be sure that your marketing materials address these concerns. You may need to create separate content geared specifically toward IT to answer these questions. RELATED CLASS: Content Marketing Implementation: Executing Winning Content

4. Finance decision makers

Financial influencers will want to know if your product or service is worth the investment. After all, they are the ones who will sign your checks. Be sure to demonstrate your value in all of the marketing materials that you provide them – such as case studies, ROI calculators, data sheets, brochures and webinars.

5. Executives

Executives want proof that your products or services will help them reach their business goals and achieve ROI. Make sure that all of your content discusses the key business challenges that your customers are facing and how your solution helps to solve these challenges. White papers, case studies and ROI calculators can be valuable when you want to influence an executive.

Figure out who your key stakeholders are and create buyer personas for all of them. This will help you gain an understanding of their needs and the types of content that will most appeal to them.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation, and in just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

Content That Converts

 


21 Questions to Ask Before Creating Your Next White Paper

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questions & answersBefore you develop your next white paper (or any other major piece of content), your need to create a brief that outlines your objectives and sets you on the right track.

Here is a list of the questions that I use in my standard white paper creative brief. Although I mention “white papers” throughout, many of these questions also apply to reports and ebooks. RELATED CLASS: Content Marketing Best Practices for SMBs

1. What is the white paper’s topic? Simple but critical.

2. Why are you creating this white paper? It’s important to be clear on why you’re doing it before you jump into the project. How will it help you advance your marketing goals? For example, is it to generate leads for a new product, build your thought leadership, increase your opt-ins, etc.?

3. What is the deadline? Include deadlines for the first drafts, rounds of revisions, final copy and design.

4. In what stage of the selling process will you use this white paper? A white paper for early-stage leads will be very different than one for someone who is considering your product and is almost ready to buy.

5. Who is your ideal reader? What is their job role? What are their key pains that would drive them to read this white paper?

6. Is there anyone else who may read this white paper? Do you have any secondary audiences? For example, if you’re selling to CIOs, someone in the finance department may also read the white paper to decide whether they want to approve the purchase or not.<

7. How will your readers benefit from reading this white paper? What will they learn? List primary and secondary benefits.

8. What is happening to your readers, or in your industry, that makes this white paper relevant? These are the market drivers. It’s important to cite statistics that support these in the white paper.

9. Which of your audience’s key pains will this white paper address? List them here. Your white paper can help your audience overcome them.

10. How is this problem affecting them? Is it impacting their company’s bottom line? Does it affect their ability to perform their job? Is it impacting their customers? Does it affect their personal lives? Be as specific as possible.

11. Why haven’t your readers solved this problem on their own? What is standing in their way? Are they trying to do something about it or maintaining the status quo?

12. What are the risks of not solving the problem? These can be the risks associated with maintaining the status quo, implementing the wrong solution or choosing the wrong vendor. For example, will they lose customers or fall behind their competitors?

13. What solution will help your readers solve their key problem? Please speak of the solution in general terms without describing your product or service. For example, if their problem is poor landing page conversions, and you sell ABC Landing Page Optimization Software, the answer can be “optimizing your landing pages” or “improving your content”.

14. What are the benefits of implementing this solution? List as many benefits as possible.

15. Do you have anything in mind for the white paper’s “key considerations” list? You may want to include these in your content.

16. What specific solution would you like to promote at the end of the white paper? This is where you can describe your product or service. What are its features? You can also provide links to background information about this solution.

17. How does your product or service help solve your readers’ problems? What are the product’s benefits?

18. What would you like your readers to do after they read the white paper? This will be used in the call to action. If you would like them to contact your sales team, provide the correct email address and phone number. If you would like them to visit a web page, please provide a link to the page.

19. What tone would you like to use throughout this white paper? For example, would you like it to sound educational, professional or conversational? Do you have a corporate branding and style guide that you must follow? Do you have examples of other white papers that use the correct tone?

20. Provide the name, phone number and email address for anyone you want to interview for the white paper. These people can be anyone outside of your company who can provide valuable insights that lend credibility to the white paper, such as analysts and industry thought leaders.

21. List any sources you think would be valuable for background research. These can include internal or external websites, reports, surveys, studies, press releases, presentations, articles, data sheets, brochures and other materials.

Learn how to create a killer content marketing program.

Watch How to Implement and Operate a Content Marketing Program, and get proven advice for content marketing that generates more traffic, leads, and revenue. You'll learn how to create a strategic framework for your content, generate a steady flow of content ideas, build a content marketing team, and more. Get instant access now.