The ABCD of making more of your content assets

Let’s face it, you don’t create great content cheaply. I don’t say this because I think writers are anything but good value, but because good content takes time: it takes quality thinking and input from more than one brain. And that can add up.

So once you have that lovely content assembled, you want to wring every last drop of value from it. Here’s a quick mnemonic to get you thinking about how to repurpose or extend the reach of your content.

  • Alternative formats. This is about presenting the same story or messaging in a different way, such as moving from video to text or splitting a paper into a series of blogs. Typically this is to exploit different media, content vehicles or channels — print and digital; words and pictures; in person and online — or to provide for different languages. When thinking about formats, consider different devices (iphone, BlackBerry, ipad, etc) and the user experience (eg, how to achieve more interactivity).
  • Building on content. We can expand on a topic to give further explanation and detail for those who need it; for example a primer for a sales team on the subject matter of a thought-leadership piece. Or we might want to cut up or add to a piece to create materials for customers at different stages of the sales cycle.
  • Complementing. We can create material or tools that provide further substantiation or support for our messaging, such as customer testimony or an ROI calculator.
  • Distributing wider. We can extend the reach of the assets we have; for example through tweets, blogs or emails that point to them or with comments on forums that link back to the main piece.

Which approaches do you use? We’d love to hear how you extract more value from your content.

The buyers are taking over

There’s a lot of talk, or maybe it’s just the stuff I’m reading, that says it’s a buyer’s market; that buyers are in control; and that the role of the sales person is no longer tenable. Is that true? It would certainly be good to hear your views via a comment below.

Over here in marketing land, we have seen a shift to buyers being better informed and sceptical of hype. But that isn’t inconsistent with tough economic times and the need to spend frugally. And that certainly doesn’t undermine the need for canny salesmanship. I do think it’s true that technology has made information very accessible and the ease with which you can seek out the opinion of your peers a breeze. So buyers typically do more research online before they engage with sales and that gives us two challenges to address.

Online content needs to work harder

There really is very little point investing in an outbound direct marketing campaign to drive traffic to a landing page, only to lose visitor with trite arguments and overly complex navigation; or to work hard to build a following on Twitter and LinkedIn only to announce Edna’s brought doughnuts into the office. Online content should be aimed at providing a compelling and persuasive point of view that convinces prospects to take the next step as well as a winning experience that builds strong relationships and reinforces all the good reasons to remain a loyal customer. This is as much about engaging with the visitor on an emotional level as it is about providing the facts and figures that appeal to logic. A robust content and publishing strategy will make sure you hit all the right buttons.

Sales people need information too

And not some weighty tome to wade through, but succinct and easily accessible nuggets that get them up to speed swiftly. They need to be one step (or as many as they can manage) ahead of the customer, understanding the vertical context and the business drivers that are shaping decisions and how to map the solution sets to address these needs. They also need presentation materials to support their conversation with the customer, access to demonstration facilities and references to prove the success of this approach. Making sure your intranet has the right news feeds and is refreshingly easy to navigate, is integrated with and can push information to BlackBerry, Android and iphone apps is key. Oh and, a robust content and publishing strategy will make sure you hit all the right buttons.

Mobilising content

While we are crafting the beautiful content that will keep your customers enthralled, we never lose sight of the mechanisms that will carry that content to their eyes and ears.

Of course we have Marshall McLuhan’s theory to illustrate that the medium has a significant impact on how the message is perceived. And, in the age of smartphones, where there is a growing need to mobilise content, this connection should be kept front of mind. To sum up this aim more succinctly: mobilise, don’t miniaturise.

The inherent power of context

The growth in smartphone usage, and let’s not forget the ipad and similar in this category, indicates a sizable audience that deserves a high-quality experience that’s tailored to their needs. This means considering the device and the environment in which it will be used, and presenting content accordingly.

And let’s not forget to consider how the persona of your target audience may have changed. When crafting persuasive communication it is a huge help to hold a picture of these new mobile workers in your mind.

Persona by any other name

This little piece of vocabulary is taking on a whole new significance as many of our clients are exploring the idea of content marketing and building out their strategy. It’s not a new idea of course, especially in publishing where the readership of a magazine or newspaper is well understood. Pick up the Guardian or the Daily Mail, for example, and you instantly recognise the stereotypical reader that they’re talking to. My first encounter with a system that used something similar to personas was Experian’s Mosaic system. How many of you remember that, I wonder?

Short cuts to understanding your audience

There was also a competing system called ACORN. Whichever you used at the time to make sense of buyer behaviour, it was the fact that the people were named: Darren and Joanne with their middle England happy family; pensioners Percy and Ada living in twilight subsistence; and symbols of success Rupert and Felicity (how 80s is that!), that piqued my interest. These weren’t just made up labels but the output of statistical analysis as to what the most popular names were for people in these geodemographic groupings. When crafting persuasive communication, it was a huge help to hold a picture of enterprising Dean, holding the keys to his white van, front of mind.

Personas are stereotypes by any other name. They are a useful short cut to understanding an audience. Wikipedia sums it up nicely.

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a real group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. For each product, more than one persona is usually created, but one persona should always be the primary focus for the design.

Using buyer personas in B2B content marketing

When it comes to content they are an exceedingly useful tool. They go beyond the crude segmentation that’s often all that’s available in the B2B space: company size, vertical, geography, job title and weave in more personal elements so the character takes shape. These 1-2-page descriptions cover aspirations and goals, patterns of behaviour, skills, attitude and the constraints and opportunities of their environment. This way, when we communicate, it’s not a stranger we are talking to; it’s someone whose interest and motivations are more familiar to us. How much easier it is therefore, to tell a story that will capture their interest, using language and analogies that are meaningful to them.

Key audiences for technology marketers

What do live music bands and b2b technology companies have in common? Having creativity or innovation at the heart of their offering, perhaps? The connection I noticed the other day is rather more down-to-earth, but it’s an important one for technology marketers to crack.

Whether you’re selling music or IT, the route to the end customer is complex and it’s essential to get all the key audiences in the buying process on board.

The obvious audience isn’t always the right one

In the live music business it’s a question of influencing promoters, venue managers, loyal fans and potential new listeners. The obvious focal point for raising awareness and interest is the audience who’ll pay to come and see the gig; but there’s no point building excitement, sending tons of tweets, getting lots of ‘likes’ among potential fans — if you haven’t already got the venue managers convinced of your band’s potential so they’re raring to let your act play their venue.

Where should technology marketers focus their attention?

For technology companies the buying process typically involves the CIO and a spread of functional directors, relevant members of the IT function and often a purchasing team. It can be all too easy, as technology marketers, to focus most of your planning and marketing effort on one link in the chain, typically the budget holder. But the real task with complex purchasing chains is to look at the whole chain; to spot any weak links, fix them, and make sure that the chain is secure from end to end.

A little bit different

We had a lot of late nights last week helping a client respond to a multi-million pound tender. Burning the midnight oil to get it done on time is pretty normal when putting together a bid, so that’s not what made this job different.

Tender responses are usually hefty, detailed, written in legalese and, well, a bit bland. There are good reasons for all of this but it does handicap the ‘selling’ purpose of the document; and what is a bid if not the ultimate opportunity to sell your product or service?

With this particular bid, our client had no choice over the format of their formal response; the tender was issued as a series of questions that had to be answered online and delivered as printouts in a certain way. But the rules did allow for respondents to attach supporting material.

So the client turned to us: could we help them create a good-quality standalone brochure that would really sell their proposed solution to an executive audience?

They recognised that, while their online responses would be pored over by those charged with assessing the proposal in detail, this was not the best way to reach or convince many of the relevant decision-makers. They wanted to explain the proposed solution in clear and compelling language to a non-technical, time-poor audience.

The result is an executive overview that illustrates the solution’s benefits over alternatives, answers likely questions and combats likely objections; without making the audience wade through extraneous detail or ‘hygiene’ factors.

We were really impressed with the way our client recognised, and grabbed, the opportunity to do something different. Bid responses are important and there’s a natural tendency to ‘play it safe’, but there’s still room to innovate. We expect that this approach will help them to stand out against their competitors and improve their chances of winning this prestigious and sizeable deal.