Archive for June, 2011

Group Questions

What do customers want to know when they’re looking for solutions to problems that you purport to solve?

Whenever we’re assigned to write clients’ Web pages we follow best practices as we do for all content.  What ‘best practices’ call for in Web content is not so different from other forms but the Web does force the writer and editor to become a little more brutal.  Actually, it’s the audience that’s the force at work.

We like to say that customers aren’t interested in your product (or service), they’re interested in their problem. Specifically, visitors to your site aren’t interested in you so much as the need they’re trying to fill or the hard facts they’re trying to gather as the basis of filling that need.  And this tells you two things:

1.  To the extent that your product or service is too much in the face of the site visitor, you increase your chances of a quicker “bounce”, or departure of this visitor.

2.  Ditto above if your content is jargon-heavy with with acronyms or industry-speak.

Except for those pages or links that are specifically tailored for existing customers, or prospects who are well down the path to a decision, you want your Web content to widen the top of the funnel.  So, you’re going to score points to the degree you show an interest and expertise in the problems they have, not the fixes you offer.  Not yet, anyway.  With this in mind, product-focused content should be avoided.  Your ‘welcoming lobby’ should be a pressure-free zone to introduce the visitor to your business, same as your social-media strategy should be at all times.  It’s where you start to build trust.

As for the language you use, choose your words carefully.  Use only those words and expressions that you are certain your prospects use.   Search engines use signals throughout social media for ranking search  results.  This means that your Web site is only incidental to the wider territory your prospects cover every day and in which they interact with other prospects online.  Be sure to use the words and phrases they are looking for, not the flavor-of-the-month terminology you think is cool.

(This post appeared today in http://www.write-angle.com/thewritestuff)

Various Groups Of Collaboration

The most powerful marketing content today, the content you strive to create and publish, is the stuff that creates the right discussions in the right context among the right people.

If your content is all about your brand and your products, it’s going to fall short.  It’s not going to get the audience you’re interested in to become interested in you. Why? Because you’re missing the point of what makes content effective and memorable today, or draw attention and interest.  If your outreach is driven solely by cultivating a few opinion leaders and pushing/controlling your message  you’re not leveraging the new tools at your disposal in the new marketing environment.  Worse, you’re losing ground to competitors who are.

To Bob Duffy, senior social media strategist at Intel, it’s not about controlling the message so much as providing the message’s context .

Duffy told Social Media Explorer that brands such as his company are doing a lot of what the traditional media and industry analysts have always done: publishing what they learn from developers, for example, revealing best practices and creating connections between different tech players. Like his counterparts at other technology brands today, Duffy is creating the context for important discussions in the industry that will ultimately pay off down the road for his employer.

The takeaway for today’s marketing pros? Reach out to anyone who could be part of your community and jump-start the discussions you want to be part of.  Discussions to which you can add value and build your reputation as somebody worth engaging on a long-term basis.  Just keep in mind that what you contribute to the conversation has got be about the subject matter, not your brand.  Your community is street-wise.  It is more than capable of connecting the dots. Do as Duffy does: “We don’t try to control the conversation or message, we just want to provide the context.”

What are you doing as a marketer to instigate industry discussions and engage your communities?  What are you learning from, and sharing with, the people who matter to your brand?  What kinds of connections are you creating among them?  How do you measure results?

Buying New Car

Tom Pisello’s thoughts on content marketing and the “buyer’s journey” reminds us, again, that great customer knowledge is the cornerstone of great content for customers. Great content marketing, in other words.

There’s a specific category of content for suspects and prospects that call for careful sorting of the content to present to each at various points along their decision path.  It may not necessarily accelerate the buyer’s journey from kicking the tires to writing the check, but it ensures a better ROI for each individual piece of content. What you make available to each group can effectively nudge them along their way.

In a world where skepticism and frugality reign supreme, knowing which stage your prospect is in will determine whether your carefully crafted content is useful or irrelevant. It can make the difference between material the prospect considers valuable or useless.  As with most things in life, timing is everything.  Note that there is always overlap in groups such as those described below, but Pisello’s rule-of-thumb still applies:

1. Think of the first stage of the journey as the discovery period.  Here, buyers are in fact-gathering mode.  They may have made the decision to purchase something, but not necessarily your thing.  This is the group to which white papers, webcasts, events and diagnostic assessment tools are most useful.

2. In the consideration stage, the buyer is looking to justify the purchase.  This is the decision-making time when specific vendors are put on a short list and their offerings more closely scrutinized and screened.  In this phase the prospect (no longer a “suspect”) may be particularly influenced by your solution case studies, video testimonials and white papers that are less theoretical and more solution-minded.

3. Finally, it’s decision time when the buyer will be most influenced by content that demonstrates the rightness of your value proposition.  They want a compelling answer to the question, “Why is this the right decision for me?”  Any content that reveals ROI will be most appropriate at this stage: interactive business-case tools, feature-function comparisons, value-oriented white papers and total-cost-of-ownership comparison tools.

There are horses for courses.  And there is specific content for specific mindsets.