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Ask-the-Experts: 5 Answers to B2B Content Marketing Questions

NetProspex October 3, 2012 Comments Off

Last week NetProspex hosted a webinar revealing Content Marketing trends for technology marketers. Our panelists discussed the findings and shared their best advice. Here, we’ve answered 5 audience questions from that live event. To watch the on-demand recording, click here.

Our experts:

Writer & Consultant
Stephanie Tilton
Ten Ton Marketing

Strategist & Thought-leader
Samantha Stone
The Marketing Advisory Network

Practioner
John T. Frankot
Solution Publishing

1. Where does SEO fit into the content marketing equation?

Stephanie:
A. SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. It starts by understanding the language your ideal customer uses to describe his or her pain points, goals, along with the terms used to conduct searches during the research and decision-making process. This should come out when developing buyer personas. You then work those phrases/terms into content titles, abstracts, etc. to optimize for search.

Samantha:
A. I agree with Stephanie. SEO and content marketing are linked in important ways. In my experience starting a content creation project with SEO as the primary goal has the unintentional consequence of degrading the quality of insight provided. Rather, it is best to focus the content on the target audience, then optimize for search. If we understand our audience well, the SEO efforts should be a natural output of the writing process.
2. Can you comment on the notion of repurposing content across multiple formats? I’m keen to leverage content, and hit different audiences…BUT am scared about prospects feeling the material is redundant/repetitive if they happen to see it in multiple places. Thoughts?

Stephanie:
A. Samantha said it best during the webinar – prospects aren’t going to remember all the content that they consume so repetition never hurts. In fact, because prospects are likely consuming content from so many different companies, you need to make sure your message gets through and sticks, and that requires repetition. That said, it never hurts to slightly reword/recast the same information.

Samantha:
A. We should all be so lucky as our audience gets bored with our content because they remember it well! The truth is while we are familiar with everything that we produce, our audience reads very little of what has been published; and remembers even less. Some repetition is not only OK, it’s advisable. Of course, balance the repetition of messages by being creative with the format by which information is produced, along with varying the context by which it is provided.

John:
A. Frequency and consistency are important and beneficial. However, it is advisable to have enough content to cover the major perspectives with which a readers’ interest is coming from, or to tailored to particular industry or application. I would venture to say as long as it is good, relevant content a reader is not going to think negatively about seeing it broadly distributed.
3. In enterprise sales, do you really think Marketing knows better than a Sales person who a C-level exec consumes information?

Stephanie:
A. Marketing likely knows best what the audience is consuming in the earlier stages of the buying cycle and sales likely knows best what they’re consuming later on. But the best source is prospects and customers. Ask them what information they’re looking for at each stage of the buying cycle, along with their format preferences.

Samantha:
A. The best source of information consumption is our buyers. Both sales and marketing professionals have many opportunities to learn from them. Never be afraid to ask questions of potential buyers and clients alike.

John:
A. It comes down to who has the better data, which often is a result of asking good questions of your current clients and prospects. This type of intelligence gathering should be a collaborative effort between Marketing and Sales.

4. Given the #1 currency that we are fighting for is time, how does awesome content get you out of the spam folder or “delete any vendor e-mail immediately” problem?

Stephanie:
A. “Awesome” content stands out by being relevant, compelling, and timely. When people see useful information that’s applicable to what they’re trying to achieve, they’re open to receiving it. And when a vendor consistently delivers that type of information – instead of a product pitch time and again – its seen as a trusted source of information.

Samantha:
A. Building a reputation for providing compelling content will lead your target buyers to open more emails, but it is a mistake to think of your content strategy as your email strategy. Building a successful email campaign requires strong content offers, but it also requires careful consideration of subject line treatment, visual formats, timing and frequency. To maximize the value of content investments remember to distribute it across a wide range of vehicles, of which email is one of them.

John:
A. Our philosophy is trusted content sources are valued, sought after and approved so they don’t land in the SPAM folder. As we well know, prospects are bombarded with vendor efforts to connect. You really need to find a trusted entry point and be relevant in your content distribution, enough so it is more content pull verse a push.

5. What characteristics do a white paper must have? Size? A bunch of tips or a more technical perspective?

Stephanie:
A.In its 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, Eccolo Media found that the majority of respondents preferred white papers between 4-8 pages. 86% of respondents to TechWeb’s Tech Marketing Best Practices Research Series on white papers said they want white papers under 10 pages, with 50% wanting papers under 5 pages.

Many folks feel gypped when a white paper just skims the surface of a topic. The paper should be as long as necessary to explore a topic in a meaningful way. If you have so much to say about a topic that you can produce 15 or 20 pages or more, create a series of white papers. Such an approach shows a respect for your readers’ time while also providing a terrific way to keep them engaged over an extended period as part of lead-nurturing efforts.

One common mistake is when companies produce ultra-short white papers that are nothing more than brochures in disguise. Keep in mind what stage of the buying process the paper is meant to serve. Early on, prospects are not looking for product details; they want to understand industry trends, best practices for solving their issues, what to look for in a solution, etc.

Key elements:

  • 4-8 pages
  • Executive Summary or Abstract
  • Headings/subheads
  • Bullets
  • Sidebars/call-outs/quotes
  • Graphics
  • Footnotes
  • Conclusion
  • Call to action

For more best practices, download my free eBook: 5 Steps to a White Paper that Pulls in the Perfect Prospect

John:
A. Agree with much of what Stephanie shared. In general, nobody is in need of another product brochure. You need to identify with a readers problem, help them explore, and guide them to potential solutions. The content we see resonate best are thought leadership style white papers (4-6 pages), case studies, third party solution studies and eBooks.

 

To watch the on-demand recording, click here.

 

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