Don’t do innovative marketing just for the sake of it

Do you worry that you’re not being innovative enough with your B2B marketing? You’re not alone if you do; research by Accenture indicates that many marketers worry that they aren’t being innovative enough to deliver.

We’re worried too, but mainly because the value of ‘innovation’ seems unquestioned. Unless we define ‘innovation’ as ‘whatever works best’, we think it’s odd to simply assume that ‘traditional’ can’t drive growth and only ‘innovation’ will do.

Give ‘em what they want
Going back to first principles, as marketers we exist to help sell stuff to customers. That means we need to be doing things that customers are interested in. We need to be in the places they’re in, saying the things that will resonate with them.

Now, that might mean you need to turn your marketing on its head and start “actively driving the disruptive growth agenda”, to quote Accenture. But it equally might mean that you just need to really hone your value proposition and messaging so that you’re saying things that your audience simply can’t ignore.

Assess the value of innovation
Don’t get us wrong — we love innovative B2B marketing ideas as much as anybody. We get that most audiences respond to creativity, to ideas that are clever and different. And the strategies suggested by Accenture make perfect sense, because they focus on meeting customer needs and delivering outcomes that matter to customers.

That said, we’d caution that innovation needs to be backed up by solid customer insight and business reasoning.

Innovative B2B marketing concepts are often expensive — if not financially, then certainly in terms of your time as you climb a learning curve, win over internal audiences and overcome objections from more conservative colleagues. That kind of effort shouldn’t be entered into unless you’ve got good reason to believe it’ll work.

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget when your boss is staring you down in a planning meeting and you feel like you need to impress.

Back to basics
So the next time you’re sat at your desk, wondering what you’re going to do to shake up your marketing efforts and deliver the results the business demands, ask yourself: do you need to come up with a bleeding-edge, ahead-of-the-curve marketing agenda? Or do you first need to make sure the basics are covered really well?
• If your assets are uploaded as PDFs, are they optimised for search engines?
• Is your content engaging?
• Are your email campaigns up to scratch?
• And so on.

A foundation for innovation
Of course, looking after the basics isn’t nearly as exciting as blue-skying the next paradigm shift in your content marketing.

But given how stretched marketers are, activities that can deliver relatively large improvements compared to the effort required — such as covering the basics — seem to make sense.
And of course, once those basics are covered, when you do find an opportunity and a need to be innovative, your efforts will likely be that much more effective.

B2B video marketing: who do you send on shoots abroad?

As video continues to grow in popularity in B2B land, it’s likely that many businesses will start to get more ambitious with their B2B video marketing. That event in Los Angeles, that case study in Paris, or the new site you’re building in Abu Dhabi could all be great opportunities for video – but who do you send to capture the footage when filming abroad? A company local to you? Or one local to the filming site? To help you decide, here are some pros and cons of each:

Scenario 1: Send a crew local to you to shoot abroad
• The chances are it’s a company you’ve worked with before, and that’s worth a lot: in confidence about the preparation they’ll do, the quality of work they’ll produce and in ease of working with a team that knows you.
• Theoretically, it’s as easy to work with an overseas as a local team during pre- and post-production phases. In reality, many B2B marketers find they have better creative input and control when the video company is local to them, often because they can meet face to face or because time differences and cultural barriers aren’t an issue.

• It can be costly – especially if flights are involved.
• If you’re asking the crew to film in a country where they don’t speak the language (and the locals don’t speak the crew’s language well), logistics will be harder to manage.

Scenario 2: Use a crew based near your shooting location
• This is likely the least costly option, assuming you’re comparing two video agencies from different geographies that are otherwise similar in cost.
• There won’t be any language or cultural barriers on location, making it easier to coax the best performance from participants.
• If you’re shooting in a country where your language isn’t spoken well, you may still have communication problems – but this time between you and the video company.
• As mentioned before, many marketers find that a greater distance between them and their video team makes it harder to stay involved in the creative process and ensure the quality of the end result.

Which do you choose?
Only you can judge the relative importance of cost against factors such as known quality, ease of working with a company and language issues — which of course will differ for different projects.

In considering and balancing these factors, never forget that wherever the crew comes from, you’ve got to feel confident that the company you work with can get great footage that tells a killer story. A crew you trust to do that for you will make the whole process so much smoother – which may be more cost-effective for you in the long run than focusing (for example) on minimising travel costs. The last thing you need is to waste budget getting a result that doesn’t do the job you want it to.

So you may end up making decisions that on the face of it seem surprising. One new client chose us for a predominantly American shoot over a video partner they knew well, and over potential American options, because they were looking for a fresh, creative perspective they just didn’t feel the others could provide. In this case, familiarity with a partner and avoidance of large travel expenses weren’t big enough pros to override a greater certainty of achieving the core objective with somebody new.

The secret to making great Slideshare presentations

Here at HN, we’re big on recycling — and we don’t just mean paper and glass. We think that when you’ve spent time (and money) producing great content, it’s important to use it in as many ways as possible to get the best value out of it. We’ve written about this before in the context of presentations, but there’s one medium that we neglected to mention last time: making great SlideShare presentations.

SlideShare is wonderful because it makes it easy to share your presentation and so increase its lifespan, but a quick search reveals that many are tempted to simply upload a set of slides and forget about it. While that may feel like a quick win, it means that a lot of the value your presentation delivered — the value that came from the words you said around the slides — is lost. So what can you do to optimise your SlideShare presentations to make them stand out from the crowd?

1: Tell the story without a speaker Presentation slides are usually there to support what the speaker is saying. There’s no opportunity for that in SlideShare, so you have to be certain that your audience will get the message from the slides alone. If necessary, use more slides – as long as each is engaging, your audience will keep clicking (see point 3).

2: Make it visually appealing Again, presentations created to support a speaker may not place emphasis on visuals since they don’t want to distract the audience from the speaker. But on SlideShare, the slides are the focus. Use high-quality images (so they still look good on full screen) and use them liberally to support the story.

3: Keep them clicking With every slide you create, ask yourself this question: why should they be interested in what the next slide says? If they don’t have a reason to click on, they won’t. With that in mind, try to spread your arguments across multiple slides, creating an engaging story that your readers will want to click through.

There are lots of great SlideShare presentations out there, but we particularly like this one by Seth Godin that achieves all of the above and also gives some helpful, entertaining advice on… achieving all of the above!

Convert or create?
It may seem like it would be easier to simply create a new presentation for SlideShare, rather than repurposing what you have, but at HN we think otherwise. If you bear in mind all the uses to which a presentation might be put when you start to create it, you’ll find that repurposing it for different purposes and media will be simpler.

What do you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, tweeting us or posting on our LinkedIn page. Or, in keeping with our theme, you can follow our adventures on SlideShare.

Does snackable content leave your audience hungry?

Do we all suffer from an attention deficit?
The human race reportedly now has “the attention span of less than a goldfish”, and long content is about as useful to marketers as a bicycle is to a fish. In today’s permanently connected world, snackable content is regarded as the only type of content that will make it through the barrage of information we experience every day.

But is it really, though?

If our attention spans are so poor, how can I have sat and spent at least 10 minutes on this article already, without wandering away from my desk? How do I regularly drive up to Leeds without getting distracted and missing my junction? How do our customers get through RFP documents, which are often long and complex, without giving up?

The answer is simple: there’s nothing wrong with our attention span. It’s our motivation as consumers of content that’s being affected.

Motivation is the key
Think of it this way: you’ll watch a documentary, or read a book for an evening, because you’re interested in the content you’re consuming, and (especially in the case of fiction) because you’re emotionally invested in it. That interest motivates us to pay attention long after we theoretically should have become distracted and disappeared, and it’s this same motivation (or lack of it) that’s responsible for the rise in snackable content.

By keeping content short, marketers can convey their message to the audience before that audience has lost interest and moved on. There’s no denying that this is a powerful weapon in the marketer’s arsenal, but to say that it’s the only tool that works any more makes the assumption that there’s nothing you can do about your audience’s motivation to pay attention to your organisation. That simply isn’t true. After all, in the B2B world the customer is at some point going to have to sit down and pay attention to someone – they’re spending, in some cases, tens of thousands of pounds on a purchase – so the job of the marketer is to motivate the customer to pay attention to their brand over the competition’s. That’s where snackable content comes in.

Hook, line and sinker
In the same way that the advert for that documentary we were talking about earlier motivated you to sit down and watch the whole thing, snackable content needs to motivate the customer to sit down and take a proper look at your proposition. It’s not about giving them a condensed version of your entire proposition or message, but giving them just enough to pique their interest and pointing them towards your longer content that conveys your message and your proposition in full. A tweet that leads to a webinar; a blog post that links to a white paper; these are examples of how snackable and long-form content can form a powerful one-two punch that entices an unmotivated audience to engage with you.

The trick, as you’ve no doubt guessed, is making that snackable content as juicy and inviting as you can. Though the analogy of a goldfish might not be quite accurate (they have memories of up to three months, according to Wikipedia ), it’s true that your audience are busy people who have information coming at them from all angles. Short content that shines like a diamond is required to get them to notice you – but once they do, don’t feel pressured into saying everything you have to say in a rush. Treat snackable content as a gateway to the wonders of your longer content, and you’ll find that your audience do, too.