Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Here is the current marketing reality: Disruptive (yet relevant) content generates leads and sales. Fluff gets punished! It wastes marketing dollars, sinks organizations and even companies.
Interesting! If I can use just a single word to describe a successful content marketing effort, it would be "interesting." If I could add another word, it would be "disruptive".
Interesting content generates sales and has a hugely positive effect on brands. Here is why:
1. People that come across that content and find it interesting and relevant usually take an action (if that is the intended outcome). It may be a buying action (read leads and $$$) or something else.
2. Viewers that find your content intriguing enough to share with others, may do so by using social and community channels. This will bring more qualified visitors, leads and sales.
3. Social media sharing also generates positive signals for search engines. People may link to the pages with interesting content. Positive social response, links and other signals (like Google finding the content relevant for ranking against target high value key phrases), may catapult your content to page 1 of organic search results, generating significant amount of interest, leads and sales -- today, tomorrow and for a long time to come -- without requiring additional investments or efforts.
Boring! Boring content and fluff have the opposite effect on marketing teams and companies.
1. Boring content is created. Social feeds are written. Collateral materials are generated. Everything seems to be working well. Except all these activities generate almost no leads. Marketing budgets get wasted.
2. Boring content doesn't get readers. People don't share, link or discuss such content. Search engines largely ignore the pages with boring content. Industry communities laugh at that content. Brands get tarnished and ridiculed by the very people they are trying to influence and engage.
3. Organic search lead generation channel becomes completely dead, because the product is nowhere to be found in organic search results for valuable keywords.
With no high quality leads coming from social, community, organic search and referral channels, companies with fluff content and ineffective content marketing teams are forced to look for alternative lead generation sources that are much more expensive and ineffective, like cold calling. This can cause both the marketing organization and later the product/company to fail.
Google on "boring". Matt Cutts, Google's spam tzar, recently stated that,
"there’s a little bit of reinforcement that helps force you to either be interesting or say interesting things or think hard about how to make something compelling."
Yet, most of content on web sites, blogs and vendor-posted social media outlets is generic and extremely boring.
Here is an example from Symantec's SMB site: "We understand that you want solutions to work, no matter what. We take pride in providing our industry-leading technology to small and medium businesses in a way that’s powerful enough to protect an enterprise-sized company, yet designed for smaller companies."
Here is another example -- this one is from Cisco's web site: "These solutions can help you get the full value of your investment in network architecture and technologies to support today's businesses, and provide the framework to rapidly evolve over time to meet customers' changing needs."
Both statements say nothing, yet can be applied to thousands of products.
Skill Set. So where is the disconnect? It's in the skill gap between yesterday's content producers (MarComm) that generate boring and fluffy materials and today's content needs -- fresh, unique and to the point.
It is also in lack of understanding of the importance and the potential of lead generation using content marketing by marketing and other executives.
More on the skills necessary for a successful marketing content strategy in my next blog entry.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The challenge is that neither enterprise, nor consumer programs alone are effective in this market. I spent last 1,5 years on finding effective approaches for marketing and selling IT products and services into SMB. Here are my findings:
1. Market Definition. First, how do you define SMB? I break it down into 4 segments:
a. Small Office / Home Office (1 - 5 employees) Consumer-like buying behavior.
b. Very Small Business (6-30 employees). No dedicated IT. Use of consultants.
c. Small Business (31 - 250 employees). 1-3 IT employees.
d. Medium Business (251 - 1,000 employees). 1-5 IT employees. More sophisticated network / apps. Elements of the enterprise IT.
2. Analyzing Strengths. If you already have presence in this space and analyze your historic sales, you probably will discover that sales have been coming from one or two of the sub-segments above. This exercise will point to success in certain types of your activities or channels. And, visa versa, you may see opportunities in sub-segments that are not performing well. You can also define which of these sub-segments are best matched for your product / sales force / channel presence. This is critical, because even if you have the best product, but lack the right sales force type, your efforts may stumble.
3. Different Target Audience. IT folks in SMB find, purchase and consume products differently than their peers in large enterprises. SMB IT employees are typically generalists. Having to compete with much larger companies, IT departments with only a few people have to take care of everything from fixing computers to maintaining the network infrastructure and deploying applications. This often means no time for a deep dive into any area. This also means no time to read fancy white papers, or try every product feature, or attend industry IT mega shows. These characteristics make enterprise-type marketing fairly ineffective.
4. Product Approach. Ease of use is the name of the game here. I have seen many simple and easy-to-use cloud services beat out complex, difficult-to-use and deploy, yet feature-rich products. When building a product or a service for SMB market, it is critical to keep ease of use in mind. It is a somewhat difficult concept for enterprise software vendors, who customize products to the needs of very large customers. For these vendors, it may make sense to have a simpler and cheaper offering with reduced functionality that is easy to use, fast to deploy and doesn't require lots of support. That is one of the reasons behind success of many cloud services in SMB space. It is a worthwhile exercise for product managers, especially the ones with little SMB experience, to hold several focus groups to understand the simplicity requirements.
5. Messaging. Since simplicity is so important, most of the enterprise (complicated and long) messaging approaches won't work. SMB IT folks have absolutely no time to translate complicated technology of fluffy marketing messages into benefits. Product Marketing has to create a message that connects quickly and uses their target market's language. The reward can be huge - quick decision-making process and faster time to revenue. A successful example of such messaging is what we did for Panda Security: www.forgetsecurity.com
More... Not to bore you with too long of a post, I broke it down in two entries. In the second part, I discuss lead generation, lead sorting and nurturing, sales approach and channels, and marketing / sales tools.
Friday, August 5, 2011
It's time to hire a marketing exec and build a team. Founders emphasize leads and conversion rates. Good things like SEO, lead nurturing, online marketing get implemented. But one fundamental is often missing.
Sin #1. Positioning / Main message. Let's look at the main message from two companies web sites:
Are these accurate and good in the eyes of these companies? Probably.
Is this the way their customers think? Probably not.
Do these miss a chance to communicate the true value? Yes!
A strong main messages gives the best opportunity to grab prospect's attention... the right way. It also flows into the rest of messaging, impacting PPC, SEO and the conversion rate. In fact, vague main message results in wasted money and ineffectiveness of marketing campaigns. This is especially painful for startups with little brand recognition.
Here are examples of effective and clear messages from Pandora and AppAssure:
How do you develop a strong main message? Here are some key principles:
1. Grab attention. It has to be unique enough to grab visitors attention and encourage further browsing.
2. Differentiate. Has to communicate at least one unique angle or a customer benefit.
3. Specific. The benefit has to be specific. Statements like having "all-in-one," "complete," "best" are often subjective and indicate vendor's point of view. In the examples above, the word "complete" may have a very different meaning for target customers vs. the vendor. It can discredit the message. What I like about the message from AppAssure is that is specific. "Recover in Minutes" sets a pretty specific expectation.
4. Believable. It is important to keep the balance between reality and outrageous statements that prospects discount as zealous or exaggerated.
5. Language. The message has to be in the language used by target customers, which is often different from the vendor's language. If your target customer is CIO, too technical of a message may be a mistake. If you are targeting sysadmins, you may want to be fairly technical and specific.
6. Easily understandable. The prospect has to be able to quickly grasp the message. Don't make them think too long - often people don't have time or desire to do that. They will just leave the site.
7. Customer tested. It is critical to test the main message with a number of customers and prospects before going live. You can start with a qualitative test via customer conversations. Then, you can finish with an online survey.
8. Not Perfect. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to spend months on this. It OK for some internal folks to struggle with it. It can be work in progress, however you don't want to change it very often. It just has to be effective.
To summarize, a strong main message could drastically increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and ROI of your marketing spending. I will discuss the sin #2 in the next Hack Marketing blog entry.
Here is an example of a message that we developed about 6 months ago: www.forgetsecurity.com