Strategic Outreach

Managing Change Via Communications

Research Shows B2B Content is King

Some relevant research completed over the last 12 months reinforces the importance of branded content in B2B marketing.

I recently attended a NorCal BMA conference up in Silicon Valley where Barry Trailer of CSO Insights summarized some of their research findings in their report, 2010 Key Trends in BtoB Lead Generation Optimization.

Of all the marketing tools, website design/content topped the list in terms of percentage of B2B marketers who say they will increase budget dollars in the next 12 months (65% of responses). The next three biggest areas for increases were for email marketing, new media (ex: blogs) and web search optimization.  The loser was direct mail.

A Custom Content Council survey reveals that 32% of overall marketing communications budget dollars go to branded content, although the mailed survey went to both B2C and B2B industries. I’m not alone in believing that Conversational Marketing doesn’t get very far without Content Marketing.

Also of interest: within a custom-content budget, 51% of the dollars go to custom print publications, 27% for internet media and 22% for other categories including video and audio.  No surprise that half is still needed for print, given the cost of printing.

Content as an SEO Utility

One by-product of the battle for first-page search engine rankings is the advent of what I call “shallow content.”  These are quickly-crafted articles with borrowed facts and ideas that have something to do with the marketer’s industry and thus the article can be filled with the relevant and useful keywords.  The keywords legitimize the article so when Google finds the link to the marketer’s website in the text,  a credible in-bound link is noted on the “score card”.  All for SEO purposes.  The idea of potential prospects actually reading the content is secondary.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Authenticity, B-to-B Social Media Technology, Brand and Reputation, Content-Inspired Conversations, Perspective Paper Strategies, Website content | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

B2B Marketer’s Challenge: Cutting Through the Clutter to Persuade Top Management

I am now in the 4th stage of my career.  This post begins a series on these stages, with some insights I have gained along the way.  Stage  I (below) was my “heavy-duty” period.

The struggle of manufacturers during this deep recession to get support from banks for investments in new technology and capital improvements reminds me of the challenges of the first stage in my career.

One of the toughest industrial marketing communication assignments is the job of trying to get top management to consider investing in new manufacturing capital equipment.  In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was my mission, my daily toil. I did it for a dozen and half different companies who engineered and built robotic cells, lasers, controls and all kinds of bizarre-looking automation.  These companies had to succinctly demonstrate the ROI of their systems to their market, which was the manufacturing industry, or else shrivel up  as just another “clever idea.”

The trick on the front end of the sales cycle was to promote these technologies with messages that would actually get noticed and absorbed. The recipe was a mixture of persuasiveness, tersely-stated bottom-line benefits, and creative clarification of how the improved process / technology worked. The audience was extremely skeptical.  We were asking these potential customers to consider risking millions of dollars, or tens of millions, based on our claims.

The Tools

Case studies were big, and this put me in the thick of things – crawling around violently-noisy machine tools, climbing high into towers of automation, getting intimate with lightening-fast assembly systems – all to get accompanying images, and also to get a real feel for the technology in use.  I talked regularly with production supervisors, engineering management and mahogany-row execs.  Being in the trenches was fascinating and at times, extremely strenuous.  I’ve been yelled at by shop union stewards, and spent evenings scouring dense process charts.

What was being made by the industries served? Airplanes, appliances, sporting goods, cars and trucks, computer products and telecommunications widgets, padlocks, Barbie Dolls, even breakfast cakes.  I worked for some software and integration companies also.

We would rifle-shot our ammunition on more than one battlefield. The channels were simpler then – primarily business and trade publications, supplemented by targeted direct mail. Content was the key.

What I Learned

Most promotional information that is spewed from companies with a complex technical offering is in one of two categories: it either consists of large quantities of engineering detail that can’t be deciphered by top management, or it goes in the opposite direction – it’s AdSpeak fluff that bores and/or patronizes the reader.

We designed outreach programs that avoided both mistakes. I learned how to write and produce brief, meaningful content that clarifies a compelling value proposition, and included enough concisely-stated substantiation to be credible to a CEO.

Messaging was on three levels:

1)      Brief, poignant and ROI-oriented messages for the highest-echelon execs

2)      Case studies and perspective papers to convince manufacturing management

3)      Video programs for production supervisors and process engineers…seeing it at work increased their comfort level with the technology.

It’s some of the hardest work I’ve done.  For the target audience, there’s scarce capital and valuable floor space at stake.  Persistence was essential – most of these programs were multi-year, and several were between 5 and 10 years in duration.  Staying on message was a priority, yet we had to constantly find fresh ways to say it and to disseminate it.

I have applied many of these skills to describing and promoting IT systems in recent years. Most importantly, I learned a lot about a number of industries and what makes them tick.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, Business Storytelling, Perspective Paper Strategies, Tech Sector Thought Leadership, Website content | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Survey Shows that Use of Home-Grown Content Continues to Grow

A new survey confirms that B-to-B marketers are increasingly using home-grown content to build relationships with customers and prospects, while use of traditional media declines. Companies are writing their own stories (and their customer’s stories), and most importantly, the survey shows that the marketplace highly values the content and uses it as much as information from industry publications. 88% of the respondents to the Kiing Fish Media survey are involved with B-to-B marketing, 56% of them do B-to-B solely.

Colleague Sally Falkow summarized key findings of the survey nicely on her blog:

* 86% of respondents’ companies are currently creating or plan to create original content for their customers and prospects in the coming year.
* 81% believe that brands and companies can create content that is as engaging and informative as content created by media companies.
* 74% feel that original content and media are most effective for generating marketing ROI.
* 70% are spending more today to reach customers and prospects directly with branded content than they did three years ago.

Download the complete survey at King Fish Media.

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Content-Inspired Conversations, Perspective Paper Strategies, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

B-to-B Outreach via Perspective Papers

Perspective Paper content doesn’t need to be lengthy to be effective (i.e. don’t need long videos, 20-page white papers) just because it’s B-to-B and may involve a complex problem, technology or value proposition.  It just needs to have well-articulated ideas that provoke dialogue.

Here’s some good examples of opportunity-oriented content made readily available on company websites, and via search. Two are from IT/business systems leaders.  The third is from the human resource / training services industry, a sector where you’ll find a large quantity of high-quality content.

Colloboration: The Next Revolution in Productivity and Innovation (6 pages)

  • Cisco, building on their aggressive “momentum brand,” has been acknowledged many times during the last decade for thought leadership based on articulating over-the-horizon concepts.

Quantifying the Value of Your Information Center by Rewarding Your Customers

  • Dialog (part of ProQuest) provides online-based information services to business, science, engineering, finance and the law industries…giving users the ability to precisely retrieve data from more than a billion and a half unique records.  Dialog’s Libby Trudell (VP Market Development) says that the company plans to increase their information flow from contributed articles.

Generations: Harnessing the Potential of the Multigenerational Workforce

  • From training specialist Vision Point, one of many Perspective Papers offered on a variety of topics.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, Content-Inspired Conversations, Issues That Worked, Perspective Paper Strategies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment