In September, I attended Content Marketing World 2013, where one speaker, Shiri Friedman of Brightcove, noted: "Content is your first sales call." I couldn't agree more. Your content — whether it's a white paper, a video, an infographic, a blog or even a tweet— should make a great first and lasting impression. It should give your prospects and customers what they need, not what you think sounds good.
In October, we asked nearly 250 business technology decision makers what they like and don't like when it comes to content. They gave us some great insight into what they like, but, boy, did they tell us what they don't like! Here are some key data points and comments that relate to the five E's.
- More of this, please. Respondents would like to see tech vendors provide more of the following: best practices, technology primers/how-to articles, competitive comparisons, industry trends, research and ROI metrics.
- Keep it real. Just because you're creating marketing content doesn't mean it needs to be a sales pitch. Prospects and customers appreciate well-researched, thought-provoking and entertaining content. Simply put by one survey respondent: "Be real, be focused and accurate. Cut the sales fluff."
- Credibility matters. I know that sounds obvious, but an objective and authoritative tone is important. Fifty-nine percent of those we surveyed use research reports weekly or monthly to help them make decisions. Use research from credible media or analyst firms to support your content, or field your own survey and offer the analysis to your prospects. The Create team fields surveys and analyzes data for many of our clients, and we turn the results into reports, infographics, live event discussions, slide shows and other materials.
- More doesn't equal better. Of the survey respondents who noted that they read sponsored content to explore and evaluate technology solutions, nearly half said the optimal length for written content is between one and four pages. In the words of one survey taker: "Keep it as short as possible. Leave the vendor hype out of it." If you must take 15 pages to tell a story, at least provide a meaty executive summary and easy-to-digest sections.
- I'll caution you about long videos as well. Tolerance for Web video is somewhere in the two- to three-minute range. So, unless you're sharing your child's 10-minute dance recital with close family members, most people will start to tune out if a video goes on too long. (Even family members will tune out.)
- More doesn't equal better, Part 2. You don't need thousands of pieces of content for effective content marketing. In a recent campaign for a high-tech company, we found that the great content (objective, focused on business benefits and best practices, etc.) got significantly more (nearly double) downloads than the less-than-great content. None of this is meant to suggest that technology vendors should ignore technical details. As I mentioned earlier, primers and how-to articles are well received. Just use the proper context to make it more effective. Be sure to emphasize the value to the business. Use customer examples to demonstrate the ROI. In the words of another respondent, "Explain why [your solution] is better, rather than tell me how much better it is. Then prove it."
- Keep it fresh. No one cares what one of your customers did in 1997. Seriously, there's no resting on your laurels in business these days. If your case studies or trend-based content is more than 12-18 months old, it is time to move it to the archives and replace it with more relevant and timely content. Thirty eight percent of our survey respondents said they would only consider information or content that's less than 12 months old.
- Great content is great content. It doesn't have to be original. Consider curating content to help your customers get a handle on a new technology or trend. Eighty-eight percent of those we surveyed agree that tech B2B media companies should aggregate all relevant content, regardless of the source, in an easy-to-use format.
Been Seen, Be Heard!
Once you've created great content, amplify it! Get it into the hands of key brands, bloggers and other influencers. Engagement platforms, such as those offered by PR Newswire, tap into the power of organic search, search engine optimization, social media distribution, strategic Web placement, and online distribution to extend the reach — and the appeal — of your marketing initiatives.
Ultimately, the type, the amount and the format of your content will depend on whether you are trying to build awareness with a target market or whether you want to nurture leads throughout the buying cycle. The UBM Tech Create team has helped many global companies develop engaging and educational content from awareness to consideration to justification. We have some secret ingredients that I won't discuss here, but I hope I've provided enough info to help you get on your way to succeeding with all of our "E" principles.
Stephanie Stahl is an attention seeker – for her clients, that is. As the head ofContent Marketing for Create, UBM Tech's marketing services division, Stephanie provides strategic guidance on content development, content optimization, audience engagement and go-to-market platforms for integrated marketing experiences. Previously, she served as Editor-in-Chief of InformationWeek, where she received numerous editorial awards and was named by Adweek as one of the most influential technology journalists. Stephanie lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband, two children, and many pets.
Create builds the ultimate brand experience for technology marketers – and their customers. As the marketing services arm of UBM Tech, Create leverages the power of decades of marketing experience and expertise to help clients minimize the complexities of modern marketing. Create's capabilities include strategic digital, social and content development and integration, relationship building through live events and nurture programs, as well as comprehensive analytic and design services. Find case studies, client testimonials and Create's portfolio at createmarketingservices.com.