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:

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Why you could be losing up to 80% of your sales. (And what you can do to keep them.)

Written by Katie DaggettB2B Marketers Losing Sales

Let’s start off with a little math.

First, enter your company’s revenue in the past year.

Now, multiply that number by 5.

Your total is how much revenue your company could be losing if you aren’t nurturing your long term leads. Of course, you probably aren’t losing all of your sales from long-term leads, this figure simply reflects the potential leads that could be lost at some point during the sales cycle.

“Long-term leads can represent as much as 80% of your sales,” says lead generation expert, Brian Carroll, in his book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. And if you aren’t nurturing your leads with meaningful contact throughout the buying cycle, these are sales you could be losing to your competitors.

Now, while that figure may sound alarming. What it really represents is an amazing opportunity.

Why?  Because the majority of your competitors ─59% of companies according to Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report ─ still don’t have lead nurturing programs. So, by reading this report, and acting on the advice within, you’ll be well ahead of the game.

Why is lead nurturing so important?

First of all, it keeps prospects engaged with information they really care about and that can help them make the best purchasing decision. Lead nurturing is a gradual process that guides prospects from where they’re at right now, to where you want them to be in the buying cycle.

A secondary benefit is that the information you provide can serve as the “proof” your prospect needs to persuade other decision makers within their organization that yours is the solution to buy.

And what is the number one tool for nurturing your long-term leads throughout the buying cycle?  Content.

If you want to ensure these future customers remain in your funnel, you must have a relevant, consistent conversation with them. This means engaging them with information — content like articles, newsletters, whitepapers, and videos — that they’re eager to read, share, and act on.

So, what determines useful content?                   

First, let’s discuss what it is not:

  • Talking about your company, how great you are, and describing product features…
  • Hard sales, strong calls to action, “buy me now” statements…
  • New product or service “announcements”

What good content should do is offer information that helps solve a major problem your buyers have. For example, if you sell accounting software, you might offer a white paper that explains what to look for when purchasing accounting software.

Remember, of course, to offer a general solution, focused on the buyer’s problems, and talking about general business issues and market trends, rather than pushing your company, product or service.

It’s also important to keep in mind that leads are people, and that your goal in building a successful lead nurturing program is to build a relationship with them with useful content.

The goal when creating content is never to sell, but rather to support a conversation. The question you should be asking when creating your content are, “Is this helpful” and “Is this relevant?”

By creating valuable content, you’ll also be giving your sales people tools to support their conversations with customers, giving them something helpful and relevant to offer and discuss.

Key Benefit #1: By giving your prospective buyer genuinely helpful information, you are helping to position yourself as a trusted advisor and someone he will likely look to for a solution when he finally is ready to buy.

If you’d like more tips on developing your lead nurturing program (or improving the one you have), check out my FREE white paper: Content Marketing Complete Guide.