Remember to Include Your Sales Channel in Your Social Media Communications

Life and information moves faster than ever in today’s always-on world.  To take advantage of this speed, many B2B companies have launched content marketing programs designed to engage their prospects and customers.  These companies are regularly pushing out high value content through blogs, emails and social media.  Those doing the job right, are sharing information about how to apply their product, supplying educational information, or helping customers evaluate alternatives.  They leave the traditional product spec and feature information on their corporate website where it belongs.  Having a direct connect with the customers gives marketers an opportunity to speed their understanding and adoption of technology because they can address traditional obstacles in the customer’s buy cycle.  This is all great news, but what often gets overlooked is developing the same type of relationship with your channel partners and sales who are most likely to get the first set of questions from your new and more advanced prospects and customers.  To address this issue, it is essential to develop an education program targeting your channel.  This work is not hard.  You just have to let them know what you will be talking to the market about BEFORE that information is released.  That way, they can stay one step ahead and help amplify your marketing initiative by playing a crucial role in filling-in the missing details.

Many B2B companies already have a channel focused email or intranet site.  Providing that team with a preview of what you will be rolling out into the market is a sure way to build confidence in both the channel and the customer base.  Customers view you as a more connected organization and this re-enforces their impression of you as an educator.  Going beyond simple communication of information to the channel would be to involve them directly in the creation of information.  Indirect channel members often have the benefit of implementing solutions over and over again – and may come to the table with unique application or vertical market experience.  They make terrific Subject Matter Experts with perspective of delivering a total solution and enough close contact with the end user to know precisely what they are worried about and what might slow down the buying process.

Sales and channel members need to be considered when rolling out information to the field.  They are often the first group to be contacted by a customer who is engaged with material that you have published.  Go further to actually interview and create content alongside your partners with specific industry expertise.  This type of genuine information is what customers and prospects value most.  Lastly, consider sharing the content that you produce directly with channel members so that they can reuse the material to share with their own customers and prospects.  The wonderful thing about high value content is that it can be used and re-used in a variety of ways that help achieve stronger campaign results and ROI.  So make sure your content marketing and Social Media plans takes into consideration your sales channel – the group that interacts with your customers and prospects the most.

Author:  Dan Hirsh, Partner, MediaSolve Group

Voice of the Customer – More Important Than Ever for B2B Marketers to Attract New Customers

Many marketing folks diligently work alongside their product development teams, and when a product is ready to release, they share information about what’s new and different.  They spend time detailing out new features on their websites, in brochures, and in wonderfully illustrated PowerPoint presentations.  While existing customers will want access to this information eventually, the challenge with attracting new customers is they don’t know about your product, its old or new features and most importantly, they don’t know what you call any of those things.  They know their business and they know the problems that they are facing.

Social media and the web have given vendors a unique opportunity to speak directly with their target audience.  The key to developing this conversation is to speak the language that your customer uses.  That means talking about solving business challenges, providing insightful market information, and sharing ideas to avoid costly mistakes – things that your customer is thinking about right now.  The reason this is so critically important is because when prospects are facing an issue, they are going to be thinking of ways to solve that challenge.  To do that, they are going to be searching the web and when they enter a search term – it will be in their words and not yours.

If you are investing in content development with the hopes of connecting with new customers, you must remember that the best way to be found is to use the words they are most likely to be entering in their searches.  Over and over again, my experience has shown me that product marketing managers tend to have limited knowledge of how their products are applied by their customers and marketing communication people have even less information on that topic. This is a dangerous mix, because it leads to the development of promotional material that does not connect with prospects.

So next time you are creating content to attract new customers, make sure you think about what would cause them to seek information in an area where your product could be used.  If you are unsure of the words that they use to describe this problem, then go ask them yourself.  Discussing how your product is used with existing customers is a great strategy to determine how to attract new prospects.  An easier and faster way to start this conversation is to also speak with your sales channel to better understand the sales objections and questions they get on regular basis. This will give you some direction on where to start the discussion with your customers.  Armed with these challenges and a better understanding of how your products are applied, you will be ready to create material that will attract prospects and by addressing those issues in the content, you will engage them in a discussion.  Connecting with prospects on a regular basis and teaching them how to solve their challenges is the best way to sell your products in today’s market place, and those type of results are important regardless of what language you speak.

The 3 Keys to Launching Lead Programs Faster and Less Expensively

In marketing there is a big focus on connecting with the right audience and moving prospects closer to purchasing products.  In fact, many organizations evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign (or even a complete marketing team) based on the leads that that it generates.   We are not going to discuss in this blog if this is the right metric, or not, because in most cases, marketing has no choice but to live up to these expectations.  So when leads are what counts and you are planning to use the web as a targeting tool, remember that the value of your offer is what will impact the success of your program the most.

I think we could all guess that high-value, unique materials created exclusively for a particular online marketing program will perform well, but what is a marketer to do that has a limited budget or limited amount of time until program launch?  Most of the time, creating a valuable offer takes research, access to product managers, an experienced writer, and lots and lots of time for review.  For those who are missing the luxury of time and budget, there is a faster, simpler, and equally effective route.   Rather than creating a fresh piece of collateral, for many, the answer is in aggregation content.  Pulling together a variety of existing pieces around a common theme can create a high value offer that is unique to your target audience and can provide you with an asset that is sure to perform.  Even if all of these materials were previously published, the new value that you’ve added is in collecting and then connecting these pieces so that people can now view them as a whole.  It might be easier to think about this idea as if you’ve pulled a series of chapters together into a single book to tell a focused story – rather than leaving it to the reader to go discover these individual pieces on their own.  The value is derived from the connections and research that you’ve done to connect these materials.

There are three specific rules to remember when building an aggregated piece.

1)     Consider the Buying Cycle: When you are collecting materials, you should consider the steps in the buying process that your prospects are likely to follow.   In general the buy cycle has 4 core steps  of:

  • General Education – readers seek credible information that will provide a technical or market overview
  • Business Case Development – when prospects seek information on a specific product or group of products’ functionality and capability
  • Vendor Shortlist and Evaluations – focused on cost. ROI, and service performance
  • Final Selection – where pricing and term and conditions are most important

2)       Provide a variety of content ranging from general market information and trends, to case studies, core feature sets, to specific product, service and company information to help form their ultimate buying criteria. A package that brings all of this together in a simple and easy to print guide and effectively promoted to the right audience will surely drive response.

3)       Remember, content can be a in a variety of forms and formats.  It is not important that all of this information be in a text form.  Audio and video clips can easily be added into the mix to help provide readers with a more complete understanding of a core issue.  If you are providing a downloadable document, then consider offering links to materials on the web.  This strategy will keep your material light enough to be easily shared.

So if you are under the gun to provide marketing leads, consider aggregating high value material that was previously dispersed over your website or over the web.  The value will invite readers to learn more and you will be rewarded with a high performing program that is faster and less expensive to bring to market.

-Dan Hirsh, Partner, MediaSolve

When Blogging – Don’t Forget “About Us”

Ever leave the house with the sinking suspicion that you’ve forgot to do something really important?  That is the exact feeling many corporate bloggers (and those responsible for setting up their blog sites) should have right after they launch a new interactive blog website.  Because the truth is that they have forgotten something very important …the About Us section of their website.

We deal with loads of clients that are trying to make a big educational impact on the marketplace and most of them are worried about how to create strong content on an ongoing basis.  While it is true that this will be their single, biggest, ongoing challenge, before they even begin worrying about delivery schedule or editorial calendar, they need to think about appropriate positioning of their blog in the minds of their target readers.  That is the precise role of the About Us section.  It helps companies think about what a blog will stand for and sets the expectations of the visitors on what type of content they should expect to find at that location.

When you think about it, the need for an About Us section is absolutely critical for a well established company – whose corporate website has probably evolved into an effective mouthpiece focused on the needs of a variety of different potential users.  These visitors could include existing customers, prospects, investors, the press, and more.  Each of these groups has different needs, and most will expect to find the type of information that they have generally received from your site in the past.  If you plan on introducing a new site or section of your site that offers a different type of material, then you need to explain that to visitors.  When done well, this will set their expectation on the type of content that they should look forward to seeing at that location, potential get them to register for this information and certainly give them a reason to return over and over again.

In addition to providing visitors a description of the type of content that they should expect to receive from your site, an About Us section helps you define the types of bloggers and access they should expect to see.  It also provides you an opportunity to provide a legal disclaimer, privacy policy, and rules (if any) on posting comments.  For some great examples of About Us pages from others, check out the examples at SocialMediaToday at .

Quality of the Content is the Secret to What Makes Content Marketing Work. So Choose Your Content Production Model Carefully

There is little doubt that content marketing is here to stay.  Like a perfect storm, the influences of users seeking out specific content to match their need and search engine algorithms being tuned to reward quality content, have combined to ensure content marketing is a force to be reckoned with in the Business to Business  marketplace.

With high value content being core to the success of any sustained content marketing effort, it is important to look at what makes for high value content and sources organization can rely on to evolve to meet the challenges of on-going content production.

The first answer is easy.  High value content is content that the target readers will find valuable to help them do their job faster or easier.  Generally, this is content that cannot be found in other media sources so that the reader is most likely to end up reading your material over someone else’s.  What does this mean to you?  When you are planning your content strategy, consider developing more material about the implementation of a solution, about comparing different solutions, about ways to avoid or overcome challenges and providing real world case studies.  Think much less about news, announcements, or inward focused pieces where readers can already find this material in a host of industry publications and in your existing press releases.  Great content is about being unique, opinionated, and offering expert opinion – things that are difficult, if not impossible to find in traditional media.

With a sound content strategy in place, it is now important to think about how you plan to develop an ongoing flow of content.  Anyone can create their first post and then go back to their day job.  Content marketing is about creating a new type of connection with a community and it is about developing and delivering content on a consistent basis.  In my experience, there are three places where corporations turn for help with their content development – each with their pro’s and con’s:

1)      Internal Resources – Most companies start here with the hope that every relevant employee can spend a few extra moments a day providing valuable content.  On the positive side of things, these employees are already in place and know their products well.  What organizers of content marketing strategies tend to forget is that these employees have day jobs and the idea of spending time writing is less than appealing.  If you go this route, be prepared to offer employees training (why you are using content marketing, which topics to choose, optimal story length, how materials will be approved, how to share content, etc) before setting them loose.  Critical to working with an internal team is to emphasize that they are writing to attract and educate prospects and customers.  You must make it clear to them that this is not about release dates, specifications, or features.  To help reward participation, it is also a great idea to set up a unique employee incentives program for those that provide the best support.

2)      Publishers and PR Firms – while these two groups have unique pluses and minuses, I think it is important to consider them together because they both represent the old guard.  These are the outside firms that are generally considered first by most content marketing managers because they have been places where a lot of content has been created in the past.  Publishers tend to have a large cache of existing content and PR firms tend to work with companies to develop lots of press releases.  The challenge here is that content marketing hinges on high value content that readers cannot find anywhere else.  Both publishers and PR firms are used to speaking to companies to get their information and the information that is most shared with them tends to be release dates and feature sets.  This does not make for compelling content and even if it did, it would already be published in hundreds of different media outlets.  Now there are some publishers, especially in the consumer space that have recognized that a different business model is required to service the needs of content marketers and know that it is necessary to rebuild their organization from the ground up.  You can read about their approach in the story “Why Sponsored Content is Here to Stay” (  Most Publishers and PR firms are stuck serving an antiquated model of pitching product stories and covering the same information that is available elsewhere, and due to a rapidly changing media consumption model, have been left with a thin editorial staff that are trying their best to maintain their old ways of producing content.

3)      Content Marketing Firm – From the ashes of the old media model has arisen a new breed of marketing support designed specifically to help companies attract, educate, and engage a community of existing and potential users of your products.  These companies are (or need to be) as savvy in content development as they are in social media and Search Engine Optimization.  They know how to capture readers’ attention with stories that are optimized to perform in Google and other search engines, to pull the reader to your material with keywords that invoke the reader and then payoff the experience with the high value content that readers so desire.  Like any outside group, one has to consider the cost associated with creating custom content on an ongoing basis, but companies like MediaSolve Group are not afraid to work with our clients to find a balance between optimizing the amount of content produced and budget that is available.

Content marketing, when properly integrated with your existing marketing initiatives, is a powerful addition to any marketing mix.  The success of your initiative is greatly tied to the type of content you produce and the frequency of the release of this material.  As you consider a Content Marketing program, think first of the content that your organization can unique offer readers and then choose your development resources carefully.  When your content strategy is matched with the proper development strategy, you will have done everything in your power to ensure your program’s success.