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B2B conferences: generating content to maximise ROI

B2B conferences are a fantastic way to connect with colleagues and customers, old and new. But they don’t come cheap. A lot of time, money and stress (!) go into them, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to maximise your return on investment from the conferences you organise. Fortunately, with a little thought and preparation, you can turn your conference into a content marketing machine. Here are some of our favourite ways to generate great conference-inspired content.

1. Video vox pops
Vox pops (vox populi, voice of the people) are informal interviews and a great source of soundbites that you can use on your website. Talk to your customers in coffee breaks or at networking receptions and get their take on the day. They’re really easy to do, too – all you need is a cameraman and an interviewer mingling with the crowd. Don’t forget to ask for permission from the interviewee, though.

2. Promo video
If you’re capturing the talks, atmosphere and highlights from the event, you’ve also got other video options. You could create a short teaser video, inspiring people to attend next year, or a longer summary video so those who couldn’t make it don’t miss out.

3. Blog posts
Every one of your speakers will be talking about a topic relevant to your business – and each session should be viewed as a potential blog post. Sometimes, we’re asked to provide a writer to attend sessions and write them up afterwards. Equally, you could invite each speaker to pen their own post at a later date. It’s a great way to quickly generate a bevy of relevant, topical blog posts that simultaneously position your event as a valuable gathering place for your target market.

4. Live tweeting
Though social posts from a conference have a limited shelf life, they can pay dividends on the day. Create an event hashtag for attendees to use when tweeting about the event before, during and after. Those who can’t make it can also use it to get involved.

5. Surveys
We don’t just mean a satisfaction survey. Asking just a few questions of attendees can give you valuable data about the issues facing your customers, their opinions on current trends or whatever you want to ask them. You can use the data as the basis of an infographic or blog. If you ask enough questions, you could even write a short paper.

Have a plan for your conference-inspired content
However you choose to generate content from your next B2B conference, the most important thing you can do is to plan it well. How will you use each piece? What part will it play in your sales cycle? If you can fit conference-content into your wider content strategy, then you stand to generate some truly impressive ROI from your next event.

Have you held a conference recently? Or are you thinking about holding one? We’d love to hear about your content plans for it. Why not leave a comment, find us on Twitter or drop us a line at LinkedIn?

The only B2B marketing advice you need (don’t take our word for it)

I’m a bit of a fantasy nerd in my spare time, and there’s a quote from one of my favourite series that got me thinking about marketing advice.

“We base our assessment of the intelligence of others almost entirely on how closely their thinking matches our own. I’m sure that there are people out there who violently disagree with me on most things, and I’m broad-minded enough to concede that they might possibly not be complete idiots, but I much prefer the company of people who agree with me.”
David Eddings, Belgarath the Sorcerer.

Do you ever find yourself reading an article about how to improve your marketing, simply to confirm your own opinions on the subject? I know I’ve done it plenty of times. Comforting though it may be, it doesn’t actually help me know that I’ve found some advice, or a marketing strategy, that’s actually going to improve my skills as a marketer – it just lets me know that I’ve found a writer who shares my world view. So, if you’re in that boat too, how can you find out what really works in marketing and what doesn’t?

Our best marketing advice in three simple steps

Step 1: Test
Test everything you do on your audience: different content styles, different messages, different fonts – and gather data on how those different options worked.

Step 2: Listen to your data
After all, the data you’ve collected is the only data in existence that’s about your audience specifically. That makes it far more valuable than any surveys, reports or other marketing advice out there.

Step 3: Act on it – then repeat
Once you’ve tested your strategies and have the data to prove that they’re working, trust them. It’s as simple as that. But remember to keep testing what you’re doing. As your market and audience grow, or the environment they’re operating in changes, you may need to refine your strategies or create new ones.

Of course, we aren’t suggesting that you should never read another marketing article again. What we’re saying is that, helpful and inspiring as these articles may be, they’re no substitute for getting out there and gathering your own insight into what works and what doesn’t in marketing.

What’s the best marketing advice you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments below, or join in the dialogue on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Two cautions about the positive shift in B2B tone of voice

There’s a growing trend in B2B marketing that is often expressed in brand guidelines as ‘write the way you speak’ or ‘use a conversational style’. This signals a big shift in B2B tone of voice that I think is great news (for reasons given below). But I also think it’s worth keeping two things in mind as we embrace this change:

1. Context is everything.

2. A friendly tone of voice is no substitute for having nothing to say.

Why ‘write the way you speak’?
The traditional B2B voice — serious, formal, often long-winded — was all about building trust through institutional authority and heritage. But as marketing has moved online and become entangled with blogging, tweeting and other social trends, the old voice no longer does its job.

In a more social context, trust doesn’t derive from stiff, cold authority. It comes from openness, honesty and warmth. And this is why businesses increasingly want to be associated with a more plain-spoken, friendly tone of voice – even when speaking to other businesses. Most of our clients have been moving in this direction for some years, and the trend is picking up pace.

This is great news for B2B marketers and writers because, at long last, we have permission to treat our audience as human beings who respond to human qualities in writing. We can leave dull, convoluted language behind and tell stories that use a more varied range of tools to engage, educate and sell.

Be careful of context
My first caveat about ‘write the way you speak’ is perhaps too obvious to state, but for the sake of completeness, here it is. Clearly, people speak in different ways in different contexts. So which ‘way that I speak’ should I be using when I write a piece of B2B content?

What I should be doing, surely, is writing the way my audience speaks; or, more specifically, the way they want me to speak in the context in which I’m addressing them. A CIO may be quite sweary when he’s down the pub and be perfectly happy for his friends to swear at him. That doesn’t mean he’s happy for his bank manager to swear during a business conversation, or for an IT service provider to do so in a blog.

As shorthand for ‘be human, be genuine’, the advice to write the way we speak is just fine. But obviously brands need to provide more complete, specific guidance to avoid forms of communication that are inappropriate to the context and the audience.

Don’t forget the message
The second, more serious, point that I want to make about the shift in B2B tone of voice is this. We need to be careful not to become so caught up in an exciting new style that the marketing focus becomes all about tone rather than the message or content being conveyed.

However well we ‘write the way we speak’, if there’s not a worthwhile, interesting and valid message beneath the words, our audience will see right through us. After all, the whole shift in voice is driven by a more canny audience, looking for an honest and open connection. Content that dresses up marketing hype in language carefully crafted to sound friendly and transparent is the opposite of what they’re looking for.

But as long as we have something of substance and value to say, ‘write as you speak’ should help us to sound like human beings rather than faceless organisations when we say it. Which is a very good thing indeed.

Why is B2B content failing to engage customers?

Are you struggling to create B2B content that provides business value? If so, then you’re not alone — it’s been said that as many as 83% of B2B marketing leaders are failing to produce content that engages their customers. Here are four top reasons content fails to engage and some practical advice to put it right.

 

Nuturing_contentProblem #1: content focuses on early stages of the buyer’s journey
Picking up customers might not be a problem, but keeping them engaged through their decision-making journey is more challenging.

Solution #1: create nurturing content
Map your content creation to different stages of the journey, and focus on moving the customer from one stage to the next. Then you won’t only be creating content – you’ll be creating a relationship with your customers.

 

Document_strategyProblem #2: no documented strategy
You might have a strategy, but it’s different depending on whom you ask – and that means not everyone is pulling in the right direction.

Solution #2: document your strategy
It’s not rocket science. Get that strategy written down, get everyone on the same page and join up your approach to content marketing.

 

Get_human

Problem #3: stuffy content
“We’re a business and our content needs to reflect that. It’s what our customers will expect. But they just aren’t interested in our content.”

Solution #3: get human
Take the suit and tie off your content and turn it into something they’d want to read in the evening, not just at their desk. That’s partially about making it relevant to them, both professionally and personally, but also about the tone and style you adopt.

 

Say_something_newProblem #4: your customer already knows what you’re saying
Your customer does nearly 60% of their decision-making without talking to you. They’re smart and they’ve heard it all before.

Solution #4: say something new
Don’t settle for ‘interesting’ or ‘accessible’ content. Do your research and tell the customer something they didn’t know, which forces them to question their buying criteria. Perhaps they always assumed they couldn’t reduce their energy consumption, for example, when in fact you can help them with that?

 

You can download the full infographic here.

What are your secrets for creating engaging content?

Share your tips for creating content that grabs your audience and doesn’t let go on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in the comments section on our blog.

Continuing the cycle: when the buyer’s journey is over

It’s a familiar scenario: someone has bought your product or service and is satisfied. A customer’s completed their buyer’s journey, you’ve made a sale and everyone’s happy.

But what about the next time? How do you ensure that you’re considered in the future? How do you stay at the forefront of your customer’s mind?

In short, the answer is: genuine interaction.

When we say genuine, we’re talking about going beyond product-focussed communications. Remember, your customer hasn’t just bought your services; they’ve bought into your company ethos, your approach to business and your brand personality. In fact, it’s likely that those were the factors that led them to choose you over your competitors. Keeping those aspects of you shining through – rather than what you’re selling – will go a long way towards your customer considering you the next time they have need of your services.

But how do you do that? At HN, we’ve been helping businesses continue conversations with existing customers for a while and we’ve seen the following examples have great success.

  • A quarterly update email lets everyone know what your company’s been up to. Perhaps you’ve announced a new partnership, or attended a recent industry event. Even if there’s nothing like that going on, you could always share your company’s latest blog post (if you haven’t got a company blog, then you’re missing out!)
  • Build an online community, be it a LinkedIn or Facebook group or a technical forum, and get discussions going among your customers. In doing so, you’ll create multiple opportunities to engage directly with your customers – showing your knowledge and passion for the issues that affect them. You never know, you might even learn a thing or two from them!
  • Organise a customer event where you can discuss issues and upcoming developments that you know they’ll be interested in. It doesn’t have to be a Gartner Symposium-sized event; even an informal get-together gives you a chance to interact on a personal level with your customers and plenty of opportunities to discuss further business opportunities if the time is right. And, anyway, nothing says thank you like free food.
  • Interact on social media by responding to mentions and posts or even reaching out to influential customers or industry figures. When done right, you can start and maintain conversations on key topics facing your customers, just as in a forum or at an event.

Have you tried any of these for your  sales cycle? If you already do these things regularly, how do they work for you? Let us know your experience by leaving a comment, or getting in touch via Twitter or LinkedIn.

Say it. Say it again. Then repeat.

Cast your mind back to your school days: do you remember, as you slaved away over essays, being told to avoid repetition — as if you were a contestant on BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute? I certainly do. But repetition in B2B marketing is looked at in a whole different light. There’s almost a mantra to follow: tell people what you’re going to tell them; tell it to them; then tell them what you’ve just told them. So why do we repeat ourselves so much?

Busy readers can be distracted readers
Although your teacher was paid to read what you’d written, your busy business audience isn’t. Juggling a whole raft of things in their day, they might not be able to give your text their full attention. Using summary boxouts is a great way of repeating your message in a succinct way if your reader gets distracted, scans the document, or jumps around the text like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout.

Reinforcing your message
You don’t want your reader to forget the key takeaways from your copy: repeating them in a number of places will help get the message to stick. Do you want them to give you a call? Invite them several times to do so. Do you want them to remember the name of the new product or concept you’re introducing? Include it in multiple places in the document.

Watch out for the risks
Knowing how to repeat is as important as knowing what to repeat: don’t just go copying and pasting entire chunks of your document. Repeating things word for word will quickly cause your audience to lose interest. Too much repetition will make your piece longer, reducing the likelihood that it will be read in its entirety. And repeating statistics can give the impression that your argument isn’t based on thorough research.

To avoid the risks, try using different arguments to lead back to the same conclusion, or phrase your key message in slightly different ways to make it sound fresh each time you mention it. There’s an art to getting it right but, once you master it, you’ll find that your messages penetrate further and stick in the minds of your audience for longer.

Writing succinctly – lessons from 1863

So much of the content written today must be succinct. Blogs, eDMs, social media posts — their length is measured in hundreds, not thousands, of words. It can be a challenge to boil something complex down to a few hundred compelling words — but if Abraham Lincoln could summarise his view of the American Civil War in just 270, then writing succinctly should be possible!

That speech, given by Lincoln on 19 November 1863 at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, is considered one of the greatest in history. His remarks were supposed to be secondary to the main oration by former congressman Edward Everett. But it’s Lincoln’s 270 words that are remembered today as the Gettysburg Address, not Everett’s 13,000.

Impressed by Lincoln’s concise speech, Everett wrote to him: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

It’s that ability to capture the central idea in the fewest and clearest words possible that made Lincoln’s words so powerful that day, and so memorable since. He used plain, crisp, familiar vocabulary — around two-thirds of the words have only one syllable. But he also knew when to vary his style: using, for example, repetitive triplets to add weight and memorability to key concepts — one of which, “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, even forms part of the current French Constitution.

Perhaps the only mistake Lincoln made during his speech was when he said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”

What do you think? How do you try and make your writing as succinct as possible? Share your ideas and strategies with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or just by leaving a comment on this blog.