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

“Will It Blend” is the Ultimate Demo

More ideas to borrow for BtoB marketing:

No one can deny the success of Blendtec’sWill it Blend?” viral-video marketing strategy.  It’s both a BtoC (home blenders) and BtoB (commercial blenders) equation. It’s proof of the power of the demo, especially when you take it to an extreme…and have some fun with it.  The no-to-low cost nature of this campaign is the biggest news.

CEO Tom Dickson hosts the hugely viral video series

There’s dozens of these goofy demonstrations on YouTube; their smiley CEO Tom Dickson blends iPhones, Transformer toys, even Bic lighters (their “don’t try this at home” disclaimer is serious).  I don’t play golf, so this one (below) certainly doesn’t disturb me one bit.

How do you apply the demo video to less-visually-dramatic BtoB products and services?   Take a close look at what time-lapse could do for you – whether it be actual video footage or graphics.

August 21, 2010 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Marketing Vocabulary, B-to-B Social Media Technology, B-toB Advertising, Brand and Reputation, BtoB Marcomm Creative, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guess What, We Make Products.

The overuse of the word “solutions” in BtoB marketing and publicity, and the reliance upon it in headlines and text, has had its fair share of attention. I did some surveying on this several years ago and blogged about it. But here’s a new way to look at it. You never see a company begin their opening descriptor (on their home page, or in an ad) with:  “We make products.”

Rather, the company simply tells you what they make.  In a similar way, why begin with a focus on the word “solutions?”  Just say what you do, and your prospects will know it’s a solution if they have a problem that you have shown you can solve.

We Make Solutions

"Hey Everybody - We Make Solutions!!"

As I’ve often said,  hanging your hat on the word “solutions” (in a tag line, ad headline, etc) is about as ingenious as a food product manufacturer deciding that they will win over hearts and heads by proclaiming their product “tastes good.”  It’s expected…it’s a given.

And if it’s reaction and on-line conversation you’re looking for, proclaiming only what the marketplace expects won’t get it rolling.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Marketing Vocabulary, Content-Inspired Conversations, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting Customers Explain Your Technology to the Marketplace: Red Hat Does it Well

Letting your customers do the talking, endorsing you by describing their application of your product or service, is the best way to help prospects in your market to “visualize” themselves as a user of your technology, then start asking questions or participating in discussions on-line.  The more complex the technology, and the more varied the applications, the more important this becomes.

Enterprise Linux innovator Red Hat (Raleigh, NC) is a prime example. When your business is built around Open Source, the openness mode tends to pervade everything you do.  Thus, according to Leigh Day, Red Hat’s senior director, Global Corporate Communications, cultivating Customer References (a.k.a. mini case studies) is a major thrust of Red Hat’s marketing effort.  The company solicits this participation via their newsletters, home page promos and by other means.

I talked with her about the benefits of this program to all involved…the user (customer), Red Hat, and the industry at large including proponents of Open Source platforms.

The Customer Reference is a highly well-oiled machine, with dozens of case studies on-line.  A PDF brochure available on their site outlines the benefits of doing a case study. First of all, it’s all part of a mission that is broader than just a showcase for Red Hat and the user; the philosophy and practice of Open Source is continually reinforced via successful implementations.


Red Hat marketing focuses heavily on Customer References

Red Hat lines up the writers (using both internal and external sources) to craft the story based on information from the customer, and Red Hat’s PR department will help set up media interviews and other channels to promote it.  Some stories get a video treatment.  Collaboration is the fundamental element.

I’ve noticed that the quick-read “fill in the blanks” format, including the headings “Challenge,”  “Solution,” and “Benefits” is becoming the preferred template for most BtoB case studies, and it works well for Red Hat. Their case study summaries are available under“Customer Success” (within the “Company” main nav tab), each with a link to the full story with more details.

The latest tools are brought into play.  “We also tweet news headlines and notices about our user events, such as JBoss World and the Red Hat Summit” Leigh added.   “And our news blog is a source for new trends and Open Source developments.”  Cloud computing is a hot topic.

Red Hat has been riding high.  The have been named the #1 software vendor for value and reliability in the CIO Insight Vendor Value Study for the fifth time.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Case Studies, B-to-B Social Media Technology, Content-Inspired Conversations, Tech Sector Thought Leadership | , , , , , , , , , , | 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

The Road from Immersion to Conversion

Chatter Welcome. This blog is a forum for ideas that will accelerate social media conversations within your B-to-B marketplace.

Your current customers are most likely talking about your products or services, and some may be sharing their views on-line.  But what about your prospects, or others that you don’t know?  One of the better ways to get your marketplace talking about your company via social media is to address industry concerns and articulate opportunities related to your product/service benefits.  Educate the audience and give them something provocative to talk about, by disseminating valuable content through on-line channels.

“Provocative” does not mean ad copy or “adspeak” pretending to be a news release.  It means candid dialogue about industry issues and opportunities, including previews of new or upcoming technology. It’s done through blogs, YouTube videos (with visualized ideas, and key influencers speaking on-camera), wiki sponsorship, perspective papers, and E-books that are offered on-line.

Greater awareness through a thought leadership role is the objective.  Once you start the ball rolling, user conversations provide additional content that gives prospects more places on-line to see your company’s name and the ideas that you interact with.

Take the IT industry, for instance.  A recent TechTarget 2009 Media Consumption Report  (titled “Mind of the IT Professional During the Recession”) was based on over 1400 responses, and it substantiated the value of in-depth content. When IT professionals were asked to name the on-line content types that they have utilized to evaluate new technology information in the past three months, the most frequent answer was White Papers (66%).  Second was trial software.

Brian Carroll, author of the B2B Lead Generation Blog, says: The best kind of demand generation content is anything that sets you up as a thought leader or industry expert.  At its core, thought leadership is about sharing content that’s relevant and valuable to potential customers even if they never buy from you. Give them what they need to make decisions about you and their future, and you’ll reap the benefits in the future.”

This blog will explore full case studies, anecdotal information (with and without metrics),  as well as trends within various industries, all related to the role of objective content in building a brand.

I welcome your contributions, input and feedback.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | B-to-B Social Media Technology, Content-Inspired Conversations | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments