Archive for March, 2013

File:ShockleyBldg.jpgWikipedia

Three ninety-one San Antonio Road in Mountain View is about as nondescript an edifice as you’ll find in an urban environment not renowned for distinct architecture.  But it was here, more than half-a-century ago that the world changed. Yes, changed — commercially, educationally, scientifically — every which way. It was right here where transistors evolved into semiconductors, innocuous electronic components that would be the progenitor of the personal computer, the smartphone, the Internet and social media. If you can say there was a Big Bang for the digital universe we live in and take for granted today, it was this invention.

The building has had many tenants since the demise of Shockley Laboratory and exodus of engineers and entrepreneurs whose diaspora seeded what would soon evolve into Silicon Valley.  Now its fate is in the bulldozing hands of big property developers looking to exploit the latest building boom in Santa Clara County.  Can’t fault them for that. It’s still “the Valley”, after all. But it’s just not right for Ground Zero of high tech to merit only a generic tombstone of a memorial on the site. It’s described here, several paragraphs into a related story.  In fact, it’s a damn shame. You’d think somebody in the neighborhood could “innovate” a solution, wouldn’t you?

When Stan DeVaughn is not ranting on this site, you can read him and his comrade-in-communications, Peter Davé, on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle–Silicon Valley’s premiere technology writing and content creation agency for the I.T. industry.

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This post first appeared in The Write Stuff — the blog of Write Angle, Silicon Valley’s premiere content creation and writing agency for the I.T. industry.

Whenever we’re assigned to write clients’ web pages we follow best practices, same as we do for all content.  What “best practices” call for on websites 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.

Customers are not interested in your product (or service), they’re interested in their problem.  They don’t care about 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.

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.

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communications Peter Davé on The Write Stuff.

This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write AngleSilicon Valley’s premiere marketing-content creator and writers for the IT industry.

1.  Shove a datasheet into a prospect’s face right after you introduce yourself.

When a qualified prospect on a fact-finding mission enters your tradeshow booth, you introduce yourself and inquire about their business and their familiarity with you (read: you qualify them). What you do not do is dive right into a spec-sheet monologue. It’s the same with content. Just as your marketing material should be calibrated (and designated) according to the prospect’s stage-of-purchase, it must be sequenced accordingly.  In the same way, the best “family” of content begins at the primary level and gradually moves up to more advanced material.  Caveat: don’t always assume that a relatively well informed prospect won’t find use for introductory materials. Stuff you think they already know. Savvy shoppers will contrast and compare competitors every step of the way and cross-check competing claims. Hint: vendors showing the most proof-points with the most relevance to the reader usually win.

2.  Emphasize your features and benefits rather than their problems and issues.

A variant of #1 above, it’s no secret that content with user themes earn the most favor with users. But you must go further. Don’t talk about your offering per se so much as the solution it represents to problems vexing the customer. There are nuances to being perceived by a customer as “one of us”, rather than being seen as just another vendor.  You want them to receive you as a partner rather than a supplier. Your content will either validate one perception, or the other.

3.  Assume they believe you have no competition

If you think this is a no-brainer, then why is so much vapid marketing content floating around? The first step in breaking away from the pack is to acknowledge that it’s there. Customers understand you only in terms that they’ve already come to understand–by virtue of what they’ve learned and continue to find out about alternative offerings.  Besides, if you’re the only solution, how can a viable market exist? The worst impression you can create is that you don’t know your competitors as well as your prospects do.

4.  Presume everything you slap a logo on makes it inherently “must-see TV”

Happens all the time to product managers who look at a user through the lens of their product when they should be looking at their product through the eyes of the user. It’s no coincidence that so many marketers of this persuasion tend to be hyper-competitive, obsessing on how the competition is marketing, what it’s saying, doing and achieving. Make your customers’ issues your issues and your content will naturally reflect a customer-centered POV.

5.  Believe that everything is as good, or as bad, as Sales says it is.

Snarky, maybe, but this old saying has been around too long to dismiss it out of hand. Your sales force is inherently focused on the deals and crises of the moment. At least, is better be. This means perceptions can become quickly and easily distorted in the heat of the transaction process. It’s only human to project what we want to see and hear from our prospects and customers, rather than take a breath, stand back and understand a situation for what it really is. Look at large pattern of data points, not just the ones you’re infatuated with, or most alarmed by, at any moment. Which, after all, is fundamental to the marketing mission and the marketing content it depends on.

So what are your content-marketing practices?  How do you ensure a customer-and-market focus?

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communications Peter Davé on The Write Stuff.

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I’ve never met Marissa Mayer and I don’t know a single soul at her company (YHOO) or her former one (GOOG).  But if you ask me, she must be doing something right as the new CEO to have caused this much dust to mushroom upwards from the corporate cubes and meeting rooms. Now, evidently, it’s  because of the hoops she’s making hiring managers and others jump through in the recruiting/vetting process. My experience shapes my POV on all the fuss:

I assume that Mayer knows exactly what she’s doing. One of those things is sending the message that the company will only be as good as the people it brings in; so it makes perfect sense that she’s anal about the process and the paper trail right now. Where many a company in The Valley start to decline is the point at which they get complacent about  their entrance requirements and start to settle on more and more ordinary folks. Yes, God must have loved them because he created so many but this is not how you build an extraordinary enterprise. She seems to be re-establishing exactly who a “Yahoo” is and insisting that recruits fit the profile.

Employees can tend to forget that recruiting and hiring are the two most important things you do. “Always be recruiting” might sound cheesy and conjure images of Glengarry Glen Ross, but as far as a corporate mantra you could do a lot worse. You must go the extra mile and make the extra effort — which appears to be precisely what she’s doing. The culture shock it’s creating is due to the forced change she’s putting the culture through. Which is clearly called for given the mediocrity of the brand.

Mayer is the product of Stanford and Google, a couple of highly selective environments. What’s not to like about either as models?  Here’s hoping she succeeds.

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communication Peter Davé on The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology content-creation agency Write Angle, where IT vendors go for written content that drives revenue.

 

Hard to believe it’s been nine years and a few months since Fred Hoar died. 

For newbies in the tech biz, during the formative years of Silicon Valley Fred was the dean of All Things Marketing.  The Toastmaster of High-Tech. And he wore this mantle like a suit of shining armor almost from the time he migrated here during the Vietnam ’60s to be the voice of Fairchild Semiconductor, the seminal force in just about All Things Silicon.  Prior to this he’d worked in mid-town Manhattan during the Mad Men ’50s and early ’60s, applying advertising and PR to RCA (that’s the Radio Corporation of America, for you Millennials — um, look it up) overlooking Rock Center.

I had the honor of delivering remarks at his memorial service, to an SRO crowd in a large church in Palo Alto on a sunny but sad winter’s afternoon.  While the end had not come suddenly, the kick-in-gut news was still a shock, especially for the many of us who’d worked for him at one of his many stops along a glittering career path in Santa Clara County, from Fairchild’s tilt-up in Mountain View to his lectern at Santa Clara University where he regaled eager graduate students right to the end.

Another tribute to his force-of-nature personality and charm: how often so many of us recall his homilies and observations. And what more could a teacher/mentor hope for than to have his apprentices so fondly remember the advice, insights and admonitions of the Master?

Thought of him again recently at this year’s RSA show.  Fred liked these bustling events and made no bones about it, unlike many of us who pretend to dread them even as we sign off on the purchase orders that seem to grow chubbier every year, in any economy. Sometimes I think everything I learned about how to survive and prosper in the Valley I absorbed from my Apple years under Fred — and listening to him for years thereafter.  And what I’m reminded of at an event like RSA, is that that the more things change in this business the more they stay the same. Of course, the techniques of “global communications” may be radically different than Fred’s day — the prominence of social marketing comes quickly to mind — but the basics of value propositions and holding peoples’ interest remain the same. The most obvious differences are superficial: people don’t line up for phones anymore they continually stare into the ones in their hands. Far fewer coats and ties, way more denim. And women’s fashion has, thankfully, lost the shoulder pads. The booths are sleeker and convey more at-a-glance information (necessary for the ADD that’s a universal in business today).  But those marketers who rise above the pack still practice what Fred preached: keep it simple, memorable and worth peoples’ time.  No one was ever bored into buying anything. People never pay real attention to “marketing”, they’ll always pay attention to “interesting”.  Thanks, Freddy.

 

When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communication Peter Davé on The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology content-creation agency Write Angle, where IT vendors go for written content that drives revenue.

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This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog of Write Angle — Silicon Valley’s premiere, hi-tech writing and content-creation agency.

So when an authority like Marketo weighs in on why a steady stream of great content is key to driving B2B revenue today, we’ll pay attention.

Marketo is a leader in marketing automation (MA), the software that more and more companies use today to make their marketing teams more measurable and accountable, more engaged with customers and better enabled to scale time and resources. In other words, it makes the companies that use it better at marketing and selling. And it’s been good for Marketo, and for Eloqua, to name the two biggies in MA.  Expenditures on marketing technology, according to Gartner, will exceed corporate IT budgets by 2015.

At Write Angle, we were struck by something Marketo had to say via a recent post by Heidi Bullock: “Technology is awesome, but it really is only as good as the people who implement it and manage it on a day-to-day basis. That’s why it is important to think about your team structure when putting software systems in place”.

So which member of this team was first on the team list cited by Marketo? It was the day-to-day manager of content.

No matter which member of your team is tapped for the job, the skill-set is the same: It must be someone who can conceive and create a steady stream of compelling content, from written web copy, case studies or white papers to engaging video that showcases your value proposition from all angles — and re-purposes this content across all media and platforms. Whether you have the talent on hand for this key task, or choose to outsource to a content writing service, the overarching need for marketing content in today’s content-marketing world is clear.  The question is: How clear is your content today and how do you know for sure?

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This post appeared today on The Write Stuff, the blog Write AngleSilicon Valley’s premiere content creation and writing agency for I.T. and other technology categories.

No argument here with PR veteran Len Stein that it pays to be click-smart in a click-driven world. So what does this mean for B2B marketers tasked with creating content that sells?

Plenty. Because every company is now a publisher (as well as a merchant), marketing troops are the tip of the spear in this publish-or-perish era.  They’re charged with creating authentic content that speaks directly to the information needs of your market. As obvious as this might seem at first glance, it’s a deceptively simple prescription that all too often falls prey to what the company wants to say about itself rather than what a customer needs to hear or learn. It also calls for social media savvy that’s a must-have for your content team.

Successful marketing organizations push their content well beyond their target publications and media that now represent only one conduit among many in reaching hot prospects. Today, by proactively posting links on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and elsewhere, you encourage readers to relay these links among their followers and communities via the familiar share buttons prominent on their sites.  This “network effect” increases online visibility, in some cases by orders of magnitude.  And this dramatically improves your “connection rate” with the right readers in your market category. These simple techniques help your marketing team expand the presence of your content well after it goes live.

Put these steps on your check-off list each time you’ve updated your web site, built out a new micro-site, published a strategic white paper, generated a new series of case studies, posted new video, or earned feature-treatment in key media:

  • To drive optimum traffic, include keywords in every piece of content. Caveat: craft carefully to ensure you pass muster with new search algorithms — here’s where an expert outside writing service can contribute.
  • Never fail to use your blog to reference all your new content . Think of yourself as a columnist.
  • Promote links to your content across your communities and social media channels, including customer councils, Linked In groups and all relevant industry associations.
  • Encourage your customers not to hesitate re-tweeting links.  For example, most would be only too glad to give visibility to case studies that feature them.
  • See that your PR agency does all of the above vis-à-vis the communities in their own social-mediaspheres.

And continually ask yourself what more you can be doing to make your content larger than life in a click-driven world of look-alike, me-too content. What can you add to the list above?