Tips & Tricks to Make Your Content Less Crappy

Photo credit: www.guidantstrategiesinc.com

Photo credit: www.guidantstrategiesinc.com

Written by Katie Daggett

Tip#1 – Content Marketing Is NOT Selling

The biggest failure I see is crappy content marketing that is focused on selling rather than sharing information.

Why is this a mistake?

Because B2B buyers come to your website (or contact you to request a brochure or case study) looking for solutions to their problems – not to be sold. They have specific questions that they need answered before they will be ready to make a buying decision. And, they may also need information to help them justify their buying decision to others within their company.

So, how can you, as a B2B marketer create content that shares, rather than sells?

1) Know Your Audience

Talk to your past and present customers. Interview your sales people. Follow your prospects on social media. These channels will all give you valuable insights into the questions your prospects are asking and allow you to create content that provides the right answers.

2) Consider the buyer’s personal needs, as well as business needs

Certainly, your buyer will be looking for a solution that addresses the needs of their business. But, in order to make the sale, you will have to address the buyer’s personal needs as well.

What are the personal needs of the B2B buyer?

Personal needs will vary. For example, your buyer may be looking for an accounting solution that reduces their workload, so that they can leave work earlier and spend more time with their families. Or, they may be looking for a solution that will elevate them in the eyes of their boss, and perhaps earn them a raise or promotion. And of course, your buyer needs assurance your product or service is a wise investment that is not going to get them fired.

3) Find out who else will be weighing in on the buying decision and answer their questions as well.

Who else will be weighing in on the decision to buy your product or service? Perhaps your buyer’s supervisor, the company’s CEO or CFO, the IT department, or even the employees who will be using the product or service purchased?  Follow the same process you used to get to know your buyer to uncover the questions these influencers may have. Be sure to develop content that answers the questions not only of your buyer, but of these key influencers as well.

4) Create content that follows your buyer through the sales cycle.

Depending on where your buyer is in the sales process, they will be looking for different types of information. In the early stages, they may simply be looking for a general overview of the problems they face and what types of solutions are available – this is where white papers or articles can be useful. Once your buyer has traveled further down the sales funnel, they will be open to more targeted information about the solutions you offer – in which case, a webinar or case study demonstrating the benefits of your company’s product or service may be appropriate.

Great Content Builds Trust

In the end, content marketing is becoming a critical part of any company’s marketing and sales process because your prospects do not want to be sold to. They are looking to your company as a source of information for solving a business problem they are facing. The more you can provide your prospects with answers to their questions, the more they will come to view your company as a trusted resource. In a sense, your are pre-selling your prospects by helping them to know, like and trust your company. That way, when your sales team finally makes the call, your prospect is ready and willing to hear what they have to say.

The “No-Brainer” Guide to Choosing Your White Paper Style

Written by Katie Daggett
Planning your white paper is a no-brainer

Writing a white paper can be daunting. Depending on your subject matter and industry, it can require a great deal of planning and research and an in-depth knowledge of the topic (or access to experts who possess this knowledge). Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, especially when the format and topic of your next white paper is unclear. Fortunately, this part of the process doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just follow the steps below to help narrow things down.

  1. First of all, decide what you want your white paper to accomplish. Do you want to:
    • Generate leads?
    • Get noticed or stand out from competitors?
    • Explain the benefits of a product or service?
  2. Once you’ve determined the goal of your white paper, your next step is to consider the preferences of your target audience. Are they conservative members of the C-Suite? Or, are you trying to reach twenty-something entrepreneurs? Will your audience expect a list of points they can easily skim, or more in-depth data and research? All of these questions will help you determine the appropriate content, length and tone for your white paper
  3. And finally, conduct a thorough investigation of your target sector, industry, or vertical market. Research your competitors and industry trade journals to see what is common in the industry. Then, decide whether you want to fit in, by choosing a style your audience is used to seeing, or stand out by taking a new approach.

After you’ve completed these three steps, it will be much easier to determine the type of white paper that will work best. The following is a brief description of the three most common white paper styles and the most appropriate uses for each.

1)  The Backgrounder

What it is: A factual description of the technical or business benefits of a product or service.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Supporting the launch of a new product by explaining it to the vendor’s sales force and channel partners, plus any journalists, analysts, or bloggers who cover that space.
    • Near the bottom of the sales funnel, to help a technical evaluator size up your company’s offering against the competition.
2)  The List

What it is: Quick and easy to scan, this white paper is a gathered list of points about an issue important to your target audience (and one your product or service addresses). It is often written with a fun, witty tone.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Getting attention with a provocative approach to some issue
    • To cast fear, uncertainty and doubt on competitors
    • To nurture prospects through the middle of the sales funnel by keeping them engaged and entertained
3)  The Problem/Solution

What it is: Useful information that educates your target audience about a problem facing the industry and positions your company as a trusted adviser. It usually begins by introducing the problem, pointing out the draw backs of existing solutions, and then offering a new, improved solution to the problem.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Generating leads at the top of the sales funnel
    • Educating your target audience
    • Increasing your company’s visibility

If your topic doesn’t fit…

Once you’ve picked a white paper style, you’re ready to pick a topic. The first step is to test potential topics to see if it is too broad or too narrow to be a good white paper subject.

White papers are typically five to twelve pages in length, with backgrounders falling on the shorter side of the spectrum, and problem/solutions going longer.

For example, the question: “How to solve the current economic crisis” is obviously too broad of a subject for a white paper, and possibly even a book may not be long enough to do it justice. On the flip side, “5 tips for writing a better email subject line” is probably more suited to a 500 word blog article than a white paper.

Has your topic been “done to death”?

You’ll also want to eliminate any topic that has already been covered extensively by your competitors, trade journals and the like. You want your information to be fresh and relevant to your target audience and not something that has already been thoroughly covered by everyone else. Do a quick Internet search on any topic you are considering to find out what has already been written on the subject. But don’t give up if the subject you had your heart set on has been heavily covered. If you can find a new angle or approach on a subject, or offer a unique solution to the problem, then it may still be valid subject for your white paper.

When in doubt…ask your customer

The best way I’ve found to choose a white paper topic is to go directly to your customers or talk to your sales people to find out what their prospects biggest problems or concerns are.  You can also conduct your own research by listening to what your customers and prospects are saying on social media. What questions do they have? What information are they looking for? What solutions have they already tried and are they happy with the results? Listen to your customers, and you will have your topic.

Keep it simple

Of course, choosing a style and topic for your white paper is only the beginning. There’s a lot of research and planning, not to mention writing, to do from here. If you are new to writing white papers, or could use a hand in expanding your company’s content library, I’d be happy to help. Give me a call to discuss your project at 970.556.1294 or email katie@kdcopyandcontent.com.

 P.S.  A lot of what I know about writing white papers (including the information in this article) I learned from white paper expert, Gordon Graham. If you produce (or plan to produce) a lot of white papers, I highly recommend you check out his book, White Papers for Dummies. Not only does it have a lot of great tips for writing white papers, but also explains how to manage the entire process – from planning to distribution (including working with outside writers and graphic designers).

The Alexander Payne Guide to Content Marketing

Alexander Payne Guide to Content Marketing

(Photo Credit: Kimon Kalamaras, Hollywood Greek Reporter, Dec. 2011)

Written by Katie Daggett

Living in Omaha, Nebraska for many years, I quickly became a fan of Alexander Payne. Besides the novelty of watching movies set in the town where I lived, I loved his darkly comedic portrayal of the everyman. Payne chooses to use his films to tell the stories of average men and women, often working as insurance actuaries or high school teachers…characters whose lives seem uneventful, boring even…until he set them off on a hero’s journey. Of course, the nature of Payne’s films didn’t always leave our hero gleefully triumphant in the end. But, for the most part, they do come away with a modest victory of sorts – one very suited to the lives they have carved out for themselves.

How does this relate to content marketing?

As content marketers, selling software and technology products and services, we often struggle to tell our company’s stories in a way that will excite and engage our audience. How on earth do we take a product as seemingly boring as tax accounting software, for example, and make it the hero of any story?

To be the hero you have to understand the people you are helping.

The first step to writing your hero’s story is to get to know your prospects and the problem they are wrestling with. Get to know them well. Mine your databases for demographic and psychographic information.

  • Find out when they first made contact with you – was it after a trade show, a webinar, a blog post or article?
  • Interview your customers if you can, and find out what is their biggest pain, what motivates them, what resources do they look to for information, what information do they need to make a buying decision, and what medium do they prefer (case studies, white papers, phone calls, emails, webinars, live meetings)?
  • Talk to your sales people and those who have direct contact with customers to find out more about your prospects wants and needs.
  • Use this information to create a detailed biography of your customer – you may have several different personas here – one that includes everything you need to create a living, breathing character you can speak to in your marketing efforts.

You must also understand what they need from you, and when.

Next, study your buyer’s journey. What are the stages your prospects go through and what information do they seek along the way? This often starts with Stage 1 – where your prospect is seeking information about their problem; followed by Stage 2 – where they are focused on finding a solution; and Stage 3 – where they are ready to select a vendor to provide the solution.  White papers and other third-party content is good for Stage 1, whereas a webinar might be well received in the later stages, when prospects are more clearly focused on the particulars of the solutions you offer.

Give your customer what they want – not what you want them to have.

In Stage 1 of the buyer’s journey, you will want your content to be focused on the situation your prospect finds himself in. Focus on their pain, show that you understand the problem, and offer information on how to solve the problem in general terms. This is not the place for you to push your product or solution, or to talk heavily about your company. Make sure the content you provide is information that your customer will find useful, even if they don’t end up buying from you. Right now, what your prospect needs is information, and your role here is to become a trusted adviser…one they may turn to when they are finally ready to buy.

Later in the buying cycle, you will still want your content to be customer focused, but you can begin to offer more details on your solution and its specific benefits, as your prospect becomes more ready to select a vendor.

Over time, you may emerge the hero in your customer’s story.

But, how to make your stodgy, highly technical product offering the hero of your company’s stories? Again, the key is to focus on your customer. Share the exciting story of your product’s benefits, don’t bore them by listing its features. Show your customer how well you understand their pain. Demonstrate how your solution will save the day. Provide real-life examples of your solution in action. Start a conversation. This is how your customer will get to know, like, and trust you. This is how your solution, like a character from a Payne film, becomes a hero in their eyes.

Like this post? Need help creating content that engages your audience? Let’s talk. Call 970.556.1294 or email: katie@kdcopyandcontent.com.

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