BMA – Content Strategy For B-to-B Web Site Transformation

Excellent event!  Though web content and content marketing seem to be a cozy and familiar topic, the presentation was packed with new perspectives and explanation of familiar concepts.

pic.pngInteresting: Sirius Decisions observe a tendency to re-silo within marketing organizations (due to technical complexity) after some time of integration efforts.  

Marketing content lives in different “places.”  Some organizations try to do “too much” – have content for each persona for each stage of the sales cycle.

Sometimes web sites is a place of “asset chaos – no cohesive understanding of what content assets are on the site, how they are performing, and how they are supporting audiences and objectives.”

content-strategy-2.png

Web content strategy is part of your content in general and it is completely dependent on other aspects of the business – embrace the dependency!

content-strategy-1.png

Audience prioritization: one company had literally 5,000 independent web sites to address virtually the same audience (IT), because business stakeholders could not agree.

Messaging framework: sometimes, getting the web site right is the forcing function to create messaging framework, as it does not exist.

Content: “Smaller amount better”  – how much content do you need?  Probably less than you have today.

content-strategy-4.png

Note – the impactful content asset types are considered in different stages of the sales cycle – sales presentation is the most impactful, but is is used at a very specific time.

content-strategy-5.png

Two best slides separating formats and channels, what is often confused in the industry.

content-strategy-3.png

Targeting: tricky to do, and even trickier to do with too many personas. “Where is the most important place to start?”

Interesting: when companies do technology audit, they are more likely not to add, but to remove technologies.

Excellent presentation!

Advertisements

Book – Challenger Customer

bookExcellent book for marketers!  I would recommend to buy a physical book, which can be easily reviewed later and shared with a colleague.  Audible version, which I purchased, is fantastic to listen while walking in a park (I listened twice), but not as convenient to take notes and share.

The book describes changing of the buying process (buying now includes more diverse groups of people) and sales/marketing strategies that can increase number of “high quality sales” – premium solutions rather than minimum options.

Surprising discovery: finding correct stakeholders boosts the probability of a successful sale by 4%, but positioning the solution for each individual stakeholder reduces the probability of a successful sale by 4% also.

4-percent

Tailoring to the needs of individual stakeholders more hurt the quality of the deal.

big-groups

What are the main points of disagreement in customer buying groups?

  1. problem definition
  2. solution identification
  3. supplier selection

cours-of-actions

Companies needs to concentrate on buyer group agreement on the solution regardless of a supplier.  Decision on the supplier is an easier one for a buyer group.

consensus

Example: 

Medical supply company used to sell their instruments to surgeons.  Now the company is selling to a group of surgeons, CFOs, hospital administrators, etc.  The question is not which supplier is chosen for the surgical instruments, but what needs to be done for the benefit of the business in general, including buying new surgical instruments or building a parking garage.

The disagreement in the buying group is most intense at 37% into the purchase (well before the company will start reaching to any suppliers at 57% into the purchase).

57-percent

Diverse buying groups would not easily agree on anything disruptive and ambitious.

Customer buying group profiles:

  • go-getter (interested in organizational improvement and known for getting results; will be interested in “how” and not “why”)
  • skeptic (focuses on “why” – weary of complicated projects, concerned that the costs will be higher and the benefit lower than expected – needs a lot of convincing)
  • friend (accessible, can connect with others, happy to talk, though may not get much done)
  • teacher (wants to understand the big picture “Blue Ocean Strategy” person)
  • guide (information dealer – will share internal processes of the organization, though may not get much done)
  • climber (focused on personal gain)
  • blocker (wants to avoid change for a variety of reasons – might designed existing solution or had been burned by suppliers in the past)

stakeholders-test

Top reps target customers who can build consensus and drive change, disregarding their title or budget authority.  They target “mobilizers” or “challenger customers” – go-getters, teachers, skeptics.  Average reps target guides, friends, and climbers.

stakeholders-value

What needs to happen for a successful sale?  The supplier needs to teach, tailor (for consensus buying decision), and take control.

Teaching (or, more likely un-teaching)

The organization needs to have “commercial insight” – generating commercial insight is an organizational capability rather than a skill of an individual sales rep.

commercial-insight

As teaching the most effective before the prospective buyer is contacting the sales rep of any supplier, a supplier can do it through marketing content.  The effective content that changes customer’s perspective does not have to be easily accessible or easy to find,  it does not have to have interesting facts or anecdotes, it does not have to be easy to understand.  The content does not have to have a smart perspective.

Effective content must:

  • teach customers something new and compelling about their business
  • provide a customer a compelling reason to change their course of actions

In general, the content needs to illustrate that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of change.  Thought leadership is not an insight.  The insight provides an implicit message: “you are doing it wrong” – and a reaction – “I need to change my approach.”

32:52 – 39:20 – Explanation of the Commercial Insight (though the entire video is very entertaining and helpful for anybody working with content marketing).

A-B

Commercial insight content should take the customer from point A to point B.

  • A – current state
  • B – future state

Suppliers typically explain how good B is.  However, suppliers need to explain the “pain of staying with A” first.  The customer seeing adoption of B as “pain of change,” the supplier needs to show that “pain of same” is greater.

4 questions to build commercial insight:

  1. What are our sustainable unique strengths?
  2. Of those unique strengths, which ones are currently under-appreciated by our customers?
  3. What are the customers fail to understand about their business that leads them to under-appreciate our unique sustainable capability now?
  4. What would we need to teach the customer about their business, that leads them to value that capability more then they do now?  OR – how we can credibly break down their A and build their B?

Example:  Dentsply

The company produced light weight, cordless, ergonomically designed instruments.  Though the dentists agreed that the instruments were superior to what they used currently, they did not want to make an investment into “nice to have” instruments.  Dentsply (with the help of hiring a knowledgeable dentist and a consultancy) found a different positioning for the instruments.  They look at what was important for the dental practice in general – and found that absenteeism and turnover of dental hygienists is a significant problem.  Better instruments to keep hygienists from work-related strain could reduce their absenteeism and cost of operating a dental practice.

“Don’t lead with what makes you unique – lead to what makes you unique.”

Un-teaching – the supplier explains that hygienist absenteeism cost more to dental practice than dentists realized.

Example: Xerox

School districts were printing a lot, but in black and white.  How to position color printers (better margins) at the time of shrinking school budgets?

Understanding customers broadly – not only IT who buys tech, but superintendents, lead teachers, etc.  Xerox focused on student performance rather than printer performance, and discovered that vibrant color improved focus and retention in students.  As Xerox printers of that category were low cost on the market (unique competitive advantage), the supplier was able to focus the customer’s attention on the improving students performance with color materials, rather than “buying printers.”

Commercial Insight sparks a new kind of conversation with customers—one that doesn’t start with you or your latest “solution.” It lets you start by teaching the customer something new about themselves. Below, one Xerox business unit that provides solutions to the K-12 education marketplace flipped the script from feature-centric customer interactions to Commercial Insight-led customer interactions.

xerox

Content

All content should lead to the commercial insight.  Spark > Introduce > Confront

Spark – a counter-intuitive fact (possible in a sales tweet)

content-leads-to-insight

Customer testimonials can be centered on A too.  For example a customer can talk about discovering that the company’s approach cost more than they realized, galvanizing the other stakeholders, and eventually solving the problem.

drivers-changing-behaviour

Example: Smart Technologies 

Who is the most important person for the collaboration software decision?  Facilities?  CIO?  The answer was  – a person who sees the benefit of it in the organization and can champion the case by connecting other stakeholders.  The company targets this persona.

Lead scoring can be adjusted from sale readiness to mental model disruption.

When a commercial insight is ready, who should be approached with this information?  Bad contact in the organization might be worse than no contact at all, as new ideas can be associated with the reputation (unfavorable) of that person.  It is important to connect with a mobilizer, who can play different role in the buying decision.

Possible concern – climber.  If a person talks about personal benefit the solution can bring rather than group or organizational benefit, the person might be a “climber.”  The colleagues of this person already recognized it, and the new idea coming from this individual might not be perceived positively.

Taking control of customer buying process – helping the customer to create a functional buying group.  Important role of group learning.

Getting customer buying group to learn before buying results in 2/3  increase in probability of buying a premium solution.  It also boosts probability of buying additional future offering by 23%.

Collective learning is not getting stakeholders into one room, but getting them interact with each other in a certain way.  Facilitation of customer buying group  debate became more important than presentation.

Important: finding the common languages between different functions of the buying group and use common messaging.

Example: Sisco 

Sisco realized that a new executive is participating in technology purchasing decisions – the CMO.  Sisco used social listening to understand what aspects of technology are important for CMOs and how are they discussed in the industry.  Then, these conversations were compared to conversations generated by (and targeted to) CIOs.  When the common ground was discovered and messaging that addresses concern of both functions was created, the messaging has been tested in social media also – what was picked up and which terminology has been used.

Mobilizers need to be equipped with tools to help build the consensus in the organization – how to talk to other functions about the category of the solutions in general.  

The content can come from existing sales materials, but it needs to be vendor-neutral.

Examples are Marketo and SkillSoft.   

skillsoftMarketo provides a comprehensive guide explaining Marketing Automation solutions in general with instructions for marketers how to discuss this type of solutions with sales and IT, which arms the mobilizers with materials to use at the early stages of the sales cycle.  

SkillSoft created an un-gated guide explaining elearning that can be used by mobilizers and very useful by itself.  The guide has multiple links for additional, gated, content, which helps the company to generate leads.

Social selling

How do top sales reps engage with the potential customers early if the customers contact the organization at 57% of sales cycle, when the type of the solution has already been determined?  These sales reps go where prospects learn… including social media groups and became facilitators of learning, without mentioning their own solution.

Collective learning decreases probability of encountering a blocker by 20%.   There is 35% increase of probability of high quality sale, if collective learning is happening in a stakeholder group that has a blocker. In general, blockers reduce probability of a high quality deal by 47%.

Companies need to shift to supporting the customers’ purchase process. Rather than “How to help our sales people better sell…” the companies need to think “How our sales teams can help our customers better buy.”  Shifting forecasting from sales activities to “customer versifiers” increased accuracy of sales forecast of one organization by 70%.

Explanation major concepts – more from the sales side.

More useful materials on the topic are available on CEB page dedicated to the book.

Excellent book!

Coursera – Content Strategy 2: Expanding Your Content’s Impact

0-contentSecond class of the series was as insightful as the first.  It was also interesting to watch university professors discuss topics that are typically associated with “young people,” such as social media, and discuss these topics from a more analytical perspective.  It was a pleasure to see thoughtful analysis behind the recommendations, some of which I tried to follow intuitively before.

“Many organizations…  do not have a strategy.”  The class started with an explanation of the strategy itself.  (Interesting, the fact that many companies do not have a strategy is noted in a few business books and not that hard to see in the industry.)

1-content

Content-related roles in the organization, and in the mind of content creators might not be based on the right criterium.  Content strategists sometimes define their role in the aspect of the media they are using.  “I am a blogger.”  Better to think about who are you and what knowledge can you bring to the audience.  What role do you want to play?

2-content

This was one of the most interesting points in the class (from my perspective).  In many cases, the type of media is confused with type of content, and this confusion seem to be common in the business setting: “we need more video!”  Ah, it is as useful as a statement: “We need more pieces of paper!”  Though destingtion of content and media in marketing I understood well, the idea that the same confusion can happen in the role definition was a very valuable insight.

3-content

The class also discussed different approaches to “content strategy.”  Though I would consider “Nurture” part of marketing, and the realm of marketing automation, it was interesting to see how this topic is perceived from the content perspective.

4-content

Engagement is least effective

Just throwing in content and measuring it with the metrics available in Facebook and Twitter is the least effective way to go

5-content

6-content

 

The class paid specific attention to B-to-B content, and offered very insightful community classification (which, I think, is applicable to both B-to-B and B-to-C).

7-content

An interesting example of B-to-B community: private communities for CEOs.  Participants are vetted to make sure they are who they indicated they are, and competing companies might be separated into different communities to make them more comfortable.  (Clearly, these efforts require significant expense…  the community must bring business benefit to the organization and be appropriately staffed).

My experience with communities was curious.  Companies might set the communities, though the objective and “how would it benefit the business” may not clear.  In this case, asking the business to explain the objective for the community, typically results in a vague answer: “check with the community manager, they have some goals…”

The classification below is an excellent explanation when experts or peer-to-peer approach should be used.  In one situation I experienced, the company wanted to implement a peer-to-peer community, but the community members would be adamant that all they wanted to do was to connect with experts.  Now I understand the underlying principle of the disconnect.

8-content

9-content

Social Media should be taken very seriously as a market research tool.  People talk on social media before they talk anywhere else about a specific problem or issue.  Example: social media indicated unhappiness related to use of certain type of manufacturing approach by Lego brand.  The indication was small, but it preceded a more significant outcry that had to be addressed by changes in manufacturing.

Excellent class, full of insights, tips, and analysis of the fundamental points that easy to overlook in day-to-day efforts.  Highly recommend!

Content Strategy Meetup – Developer and UX Designer Perspective

developmentLovely discussion – perception of a software developer and UX designer of the content marketing is very positive.  General approach: they do see the value (at least two smart gentlemen from the Nerdery, who were part of the presentation 🙂 ).

Software engineer compared his function to Tupperware: “My job is to build containers. Content is what we are building for.”  Content strategy was fascinating for him as it explained why what was needed to be built was actually needed.

When “containers” do not fit the content, it is the failure of the process. Good web site design happens after content strategy process has been completed (ah, the audience would completely agree, but many businesses are still lack this understanding).

As the Nerdery helps companies to build web sites and apps for their needs, the consultancy is facing usual challenge: many organizations can not answer the question around content ownership.  It is not clear who will decide which content stays on the site and which one can be cut.  Other questions that are usually not addressed related to the web site maintenance.

One of the aspects of content maintenance is training people who will be doing the work to use the tools. WordPress is one of the most evolved content management tools. Curious: 18% of “the web” is on WordPress.  Major media organizations use WordPress for governance.

Though everybody in the audience was very clear on the benefit of user experience and content strategy, both of these services are still hard to sell to customers.  In many cases, the customers want agencies to “just design a web site;” the approach that will cost more in the long run.

One meeting attendee shared that he explained the need for content strategy to small business owners very simply: “Content strategy will help you to sell more staff.”  Small business owners understood instantly. 🙂

Social Media Breakfast – Content Marketing

SMBWow – I did not realize that Social Media Breakfast was so popular!  Packed room and great presentation – all I was missing with early morning meetings at work 😉

Lee Odden gave us an insight into the industry and his company – a nice morning treat beside the usual staples of the event.

Content is the reason search began anyway

Content marketing evolution from Lee’s perspective:

  • We need to create more content…
  • We need to align the content with personas, customer journey, etc.
  • We should not forget how people feel when they read our content
  • How do we measure the result?  How it helps us to make money?

scoopLee mentioned a couple of new (to me) tools:

  • Scoop It  – a tool that helps to discover and curate content for your efforts.
  • Buzz Sumo – tool allowing to see how well content performs – quite interesting.
  • Copy Blogger has some great content marketing-related content 😉

The conversation also touched on fantastic creative pieces of content that need to be promoted to realize their marketing potential.  Content is a “product” that requires promotion.

What is a bad advice in the area of content marketing that might be floating in the industry right now?  The idea that SEO is the purpose of content marketing.  This is incorrect – content is for the reader – it is important to give the reader something useful and help to solve his or her problems.  The best objective is to create value for the target audience.

New book to check: How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination  (I liked the previous book of this author – this one is also available on Audible).

Modular content – Lee suggested thinking through how the content will be used in different channels in advance, rather than try to “modularize” it later.

A lovely expression related to content’s usefulness:

Give your audience something practical and tactical 🙂

MN Search – Understanding and Leveraging the Language of Your Customers

Fantastic event!  The format of three presentations addressing a topic from the perspective of three different disciplines is absolutely excellent!  My biggest discovery was the application of keyword research to the buyer’s journey – it makes sense.

keywords

As we are familiar with defining personas, clarifying the stages of the buyer’s journey for a company, finding the questions that are asked during each stage for each persona, and trying to understand what kind of content will be more appropriate, adding keyword research into the same schema makes so much sense!

Chrissi Reimer pointed out to a MOZ article that explains the switch to this approach from a standard keyword research concentrating at the top of the funnel.

moz

In place of simply “traffic plus conversion”, the value of search becomes “awareness + branding + list building + traffic + conversion + competitive wins + reducing support costs + upsell, cross-sell, and customer success,” justifying both more investment and a much larger organizational impact…

Interesting, at the awareness, or “recognize the problem” in my example, the objective is to bring the audience to the site and entice them to opt into a some form of “permission marketing” that give the company future marketing opportunity.  The email is considered the best, social media is less effective, and re-targeting even less effective.  (Maybe I was not the only one who did not see enough conversion from re-targeting…  but it does not require the prospect to do anything beyond visiting the web site… 🙂 )

Keyword research for a content strategy will be topical, less specific.  However, content calendar will be more specific.  Editorial calendar should have personas, keywords, and URLs.  In some cases, it would make sense to create dedicated landing pages for certain steps of buyer’s journey – based on the keyword research (topics that have high enough volume and low enough competition).

contentAnd now… content.

Keyword is an idea.   Keywords is not something to “sprinkle” on already existing content; keywords are ideas that can be a base for content creation.

Document you idea for the content and determine your content KPI.  You might find too much traffic and not enough conversion at the awareness phase.

Time required to research what content needs to be created can exceed time dedicated to content creation. 

An interesting PPC tip: there could be regional variation in keywords used – even within the US.  For example, Eastern states and Midwestern states can use different terminology for specific consumer items (fresh water terminology for fishing in Midwest, and marine terminology in the East).  This difference can apply to the products or solutions company offers and should be considered in PPC campaigns.

map

Coursera – Content Strategy 1: Engaging Audiences for Your Organization

0-contentThe class gives an excellent overview of Content Strategy and a few hints in some controversial areas.  Though I think I still believe that the end objective of content strategy is marketing…  or some business benefit for the organization, the debate on the topic was very interesting 🙂

1-content

  • Content Strategy uses credible, trustworthy, transparent media to communicate stories and information to enhance an organization’s strategic goals.
  • Unless organizations can reach people with content that matters to them – where, when, and how they want it – those individuals won’t give their time and attention to engage with the content that is critical to an organization’s success.
  • Organizations must provide engaging, credible, trustworthy and transparent content that enhances their target audiences’ ability to make important decisions in their work and personal lives.
  • Don’t overload people with too many non-strategic messages.
  • Know your organization’s most important, prioritized strategic goals; focus on them.

What the target audience expects from good content?  What should content does from the perspective of the target audience?

  • makes me smarter
  • gives me something to talk about
  • looks out for my interests
  • has an element of surprise/humor
  • inspires me

Stop looking at media as old and new media and start thinking about media that meets people where they are.

(If people are using public transportation, print media will be useful, if they are driving – not so much.)

  • Any content you produce is a product that needs to be marketed.

Experience

  • Experiences are how people feel, think and act when they consume your content or use your product.
  • The collective set of experiences that a person has with content creates their overall engagement with the brand.
  • Start with: what is the best media window in your reader’s day to engage with your content?
  • Is your idea best delivered as one type of media content, or should you think about a portfolio strategy?
  • Your audience uses many information devices during the day.  You need to make sure to leverage this information to truly engage your audience with your important stories and content.
  • The term “media” refers to the type of production used to tell a Content Strategy story.  That could be images, audio or text.
  • When we refer to “platform,” we are talking about the content’s destination: mobile, tablet, or wearable media.
  • Multimedia, then, refers to the use of more than one type of content  Multi-platform means you are producing content for multiple destinations. 

2-format

The biggest mistake you can make is to set out to do a video story, or an audio story, or a photo story – without knowing what the story is.  format follows story.  Not the other way around.

  • The key takeaway from a storytelling perspective is to remember to keep the experience appropriate to the platform.
  • It is important to tell a story that fits the devise both narratively and from a design perspective.

3-social

3 social media tools were mentioned (what makes complete sense):

Interesting: these are not “brand new” tools – they existed for years.  It was rather pleasant to see some stability in the industry 😉

The “Great Dilemma” of ‘in-house” or “outsource” – and a very interesting aspects I have not heard mentioned before… but completely understandable (particularly from the perspective of large, matrix organizations). It might be easier to control external vendors than internal resources in some aspects.

4-outsource

And – a little “content marketing” nugget:

67% more leads are achieved by the companies with active blogs (…and I assume these companies have proper calls to action 🙂  )