3 Branded B2B News Services That Get It Right

Most content marketing is currently delivered piecemeal in the form of white papers, e-books, webcasts and the like. While there’s nothing wrong with that, drive-by customers are hard to engage in conversation. What if you could go a step beyond the downloads and become a trusted and even indispensable information source that customers visit every day? Some B2B marketers have gone that. Here are three I think are worth emulating.

CMO.com

This site launched nearly seven years ago as part of a bigger Adobe plan to evangelize digital marketing to a core audience. CMO.com was originally a pure curation model; content consisted of brief summaries of articles and video from other sources on the Web.

The site filled a need, however, and traffic has grown steadily to more than 350,000 monthly page views. Its popularity has enabled Adobe to invest in a growing amount of original content, and even sell some advertising space to cover costs.

tim moranAdobe wisely hired a professional editor at the outset – veteran tech journalist Tim Moran (right) – to oversee content at the outset, and the site has benefited from his steady and experienced hand. Navigation is clean, headlines are well-written and content is timely, with continuous updates throughout the day. Bonus points to Adobe for nabbing the domain. My only quibble is the need to click through twice to get from a homepage headline to a source story.

While Adobe uses CMO.com to build thought leadership, it maintains a strict church-state separation between ownership and the editorial product. Adobe doesn’t even have access to the 30,000-name newsletter mailing list. If the parent company ever misused its popular property it would violate reader trust, and that’s the most important asset CMO.com has.

Cisco Connected Futures

Cisco Connected Futures

Cisco does a lot of things well with social media, from its expansive blog network to its innovative newsroom, The Network. Connected Futures is a little-known gem. This image-rich site features a smorgasbord of content about how technology is changing business and our way of life. It’s presented in a variety of formats, including research reports, articles and podcasts. The podcast library is particularly impressive.

Most of Connected Futures’ articles advocate a point of view, and many are written by influential thought leaders. The theme dovetails well with Cisco’s vision of a future in which all things and people are continuously connected and business moves at the speed of bits. There’s a lot of material here about digital business and corporate reinvention, but a fair amount of nuts-and-bolts management advice as well. The target audience is not Cisco’s traditional CIO customer but board room executives. The writing is lively and accessible.

Why Cisco keeps this light under a basket I don’t know. It gets almost no visibility on The Network, despite having content that is as good as that produced by The Network’s veteran journalists. In companies as large as Cisco, such siloed behavior is unfortunately common. Full disclosure: I am an occasional paid contributor to Connected Futures.

Knowledge at Wharton

Knowledge@Wharton

True, a university has a bit of an unfair advantage in the subject matter expert department, but I would argue that a lot of companies have as many PhD’s and patents as Wharton does. This site is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to know what smart people are thinking about the most important things going on in the world. K@W is like Harvard Business Review, but with a much better web presence.

Wharton has every bit as much a business purpose for supporting this resource as Adobe and Cisco do. It’s trying to recruit the best students and faculty for its MBA program. It does that by showing off the skills of its faculty through a steady stream of articles and interviews in audio, video and written form. But this isn’t just about the faculty. The site always seems to have interviews with authors of the hottest new business books, and it makes them available in every format you can imagine.

Which is one thing I really, really like about K@W – its resourceful use of multiple media. Most Q&As are published both as audio podcasts and written transcripts; in some cases, video is used as well. The idea is to make it convenient for visitors to consume content in whatever format they prefer. The site also hosts a two-hour live radio program on SiriusXM each weekday and repackages that content into snackable podcast segments. I am addicted to K@W podcasts.

Yes, each of these efforts costs money, but each has attracted tens of thousands of regular visitors who have registered their approval with an email address. How valuable is that?

Marketing firm piggybacks on March Madness for fun social media “bracket”

Big sports events are a great opportunity to show off your products and services, particularly if you can apply them to the combatants on the field, companies as SMR Digital recommend using this technique to getting good resutls. Here’s a good example I that came over the transom from Blue Fountain Media, a design an online media firm.

The company decided to show off its social media savvy by analyzing the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of each March Madness team to see how they did with social media engagement, they noticed that many used to buy Instagram followers for their accounts. They researched average engagement rates across each social platform. The result was a formula average engagement rates across each account, focusing only on “owned” accounts (not fan pages)

The results showed that engagement rates for social media accounts owned by brands and teams were very different. Not surprisingly, brands had lower overall engagement in 2015:

  • Facebook: 0.2%
  • Instagram: 2.261%
  • Twitter: 0.02%

These contrasted significantly to those accounts owned by college basketball teams:

  • Facebook: 0.9%
  • Instagram: 6.2%
  • Twitter: 0.3%

Here’s a nice infographic (click on it to enlarge).

March Madness social media anlysis

Here’s What 25 B2B Marketers Think Are the Key Trends in 2016

I was delighted when B2B Marketing Zone – a website and newsletter that I devour – asked me to be one of 25 contributors to its “B2B Marketing Trends for 2016” e-book.

I love this content concept, and it’s an idea more B2B marketers could adopt. Contact influencers in your market – or even your own customers or subject matter experts – and ask them for short paragraphs on a topic, then combine that content into an e-book.

Then do what Tom Pick and Tony Karrer of B2B Marketing Zone did – make it easy for people to compose posts like this one and share the book through their social networks. Your contributors will be flattered to be included and you will get to tap into their often substantial followings.

The authors identified three powerful trends driving B2B marketing right now:

–Changing buyer expectations fueled by the availability of rich information and ease of access and purchase;

–Pressure to demonstrate ROI as marketers learn to do more with less; and

–New tech tools and big data so that we can no longer say half our budget is wasted but we don’t know which half.

I picked a few quotes from the e-book that I really like. Download a free copy and find your own favorites.

Moran“2016 will be the year where B2B marketers finally realize that, while they can always make more content, their customers can’t make any more time.” – Mike Moran (l.)

“Every B2B site should produce cornerstone reference content that is comprehensive and authoritative; something that people link to and return to read again and again.” – Steve Rayson

“A buyer persona is not a zombie—but a profile based on your understanding of a real customer and their real needs.” – Ambal Balakrishnan

Williams“It’s time for B2B marketers to let go of their obsession with perfect production values and get on with just putting good content out there for customers and prospects.” – Elizabeth Williams (l.)

“Channels and tactics will come last, not first anymore, at last.” – J-P De Clerck

“Is 2016 the year of B2B brands finding a personality and sense of humor?” – Michael Brenner

Andrews“With marketing now responsible for helping to nurture and advance the buyer through 70% of the purchase cycle, there are monumental inefficiencies if the sales team is knocking on cold doors rather than closing sales-qualified, warm leads.” – Debra Andrews (l.)

“If you have 30 reps, each sharing just five pieces of content per week, that’s an opportunity to get your message out 7,200 times!” – Shannon Pham

“[Workforce brand ambassador programs are] a win/win. The company benefits from more authentic communication, and employees build personal brands.” – Cheryl Burgess

“The average click through rate is 0.1%, banners don’t work anymore and people are much more likely to trust peer to peer recommendations than traditional advertising.” – Joe Fields

Neufeld“No longer will marketers schedule an email campaign for Wednesday morning at 10 AM. Rather, marketers will configure an email campaign and technology will determine the best time and day to deliver the message.” – Brian Neufeld (l.)

“The 2015 Annuitas B2B Enterprise study found that only 7.5 % of respondents reported the skill set of marketing personnel was highly effective. Clearly, we need to do better.” – Erika Goldwater

“If your marketing is great but your product is bad, that, ultimately, means your marketing is bad, too.” – Carla Johnson

And my own contribution:

I believe B2B marketers have finally realized that merely throwing content into the ether is both expensive and wasteful. They’re adopting buyer personas, content targeting and matching content to stages of the buying cycle. I think content marketing will continue to be a huge growth area for B2B in the coming years but we’re going to get a lot smarter about how we invest our resources. Marketers are beginning to realize the buyers are people, not demographic segments, and they are appealing more to the motivations that influence human behavior.

Recommended Reading – 7/9/15

Ninja Guide to Content Creation: Top 10 Writing Tools – Content Marketing Institute

If you’ve ever experienced writers block, struggled to come up with a creative headline, fussed over keywords or just been out of ideas, then this post is well worth your time. Each of Robert Morris’ 10 tips points to a Web-based tool that will get you out of the starting blocks faster, improve your writing and boost your search engine visibility. We had never heard of most of these tools, and bet you haven’t either.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Comments That Open Doors with Popular Bloggers – Boost Blog Traffic

Commenting on popular blogs is a great way to catch the eye of influential people, but what makes for a great comment? Kevin Duncan must know a little about this topic because his post on Boost Blog Traffic drew 275 comments of its own! He offers commonsense advice, such as clearly identify who you are, reading a post thoroughly before commenting, keeping your comment short and moving the discussion forward. Sounds simple, but if it is, then why do so few people do it?

What 4.8 Million Tweets Say About the Best Time to Tweet – Buffer Social

People have been arguing about the best time to send tweets practically since the dawn of Twitter. The team at Buffer happens to have a lot of data on this, so they analyzed 4.8 million tweets sent by 10,000 profiles and shared the results. They found, on average:

  • Early morning tweets get the most clicks;
  • Evenings and late-night tweets get the most favorites and retweets
  • The most popular time to tweet and the best times to tweet for engagement differ across time zones, so it’s still important to experiment.
  • The best overall time to tweet is between noon and 1 PM.

SlideShare Secrets to Stack the Decks in Your Favor – Content Marketing Institute

SlideShare continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in B2B marketing. It’s a great way to increase the visibility of your thought-leading content by sharing slide decks that would otherwise be put on a virtual shelf. Jodi Harris runs down a set of practical tips that will make your presentations more visually appealing and useful to your audience. Those translate into bonus views and business.

 

15 Habits of Highly Effective Content Marketers – HubSpot Blog

HubSpot called up 15 professional content marketers and asked each one for his or her favorite content marketing habit. You’ll find it hard to disagree with any of them. Monitor conversations with customers, obsess over quality, research constantly, listen to complaints and always be curious are five useful habits they recommended. Read the post for 10 more.

 

Recent Posts: Expanding Social Authority and Enlivening Boring Predictions

This blog hasn’t been very active lately, but that’s because most of my contributions have appeared elsewhere. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve been musing about.

10 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 - Part 110 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 – Midsize Insider, Jan. 1, 2015

I go into detail on strategies to get more out of your existing social presences and where to experiment with new ones. It comes down to basic blocking and tackling, and making sharing part of your daily routine.

Organic Facebook Marketing Is Dead; Think Customer Service Instead – Midsize Insider, Dec. 22, 2014

Numerous studies have shown that organic posts by Facebook pages are reaching only a tiny fraction of the audience they used to. This may finally be a wake-up call to marketers to share Facebook responsibility with customer service and to use Facebook as a listening post and customer-retention vehicle.

Research Shows CISOs Gaining Influence Even as Challenges Mount – Midsize Insider, Dec. 15, 2014

IBM’s annual CISO survey shows that security executives are finally getting a seat at the leadership table.

20 Ways to Enliven Those Boring Year-End Predictions – LinkedIn, Dec. 16, 2014

Annual predictions are now a dime a dozen, and most are predictable, self-serving and monotonous. Instead of following the pack and issuing the same old lame set of predictions, change up your angle and approach to make them stand out. Here are 20 ideas organized into eight categories.

Rick Short, IndiumFIR B2B #20: Indium’s Awesome Engineers

In Episode 20 of the For Immediate Release B2B podcast, we speak to Rick Short, Director of Marketing Communications at Indium Corp. Indium has created a creative and successful inbound marketing campaign that connects engineers to customers to solve problems in exchange for contact information. It’s paying off so well that the company can afford to increase its focus on lead quality because it has more than enough leads in the hopper.

FIR B2B #19: Doubts about Social Media’s Lead Gen Potential

Two new surveys cast doubt on the value of social media as a lead generation vehicle. One found that the top three value propositions of social media relate to ongoing customer engagement rather than lead generation. A second found organic social media marketing and social media advertising, which have some of the lowest costs per lead, also produced the worst quality leads.

In our interview section, we speak to Don Lesem and David Wagman of IHS and Engineering360, which is one of a suite of vertical communities the B2B information provider is launching to increase customer engagement.

FIR B2B #18: John Fox on Why Marketers Need to Get Out of the Office

John Fox has led the launch or re-launch of 44 companies, resulting in double and triple-digit growth for every client served. He thinks all the talk of a radically new B2B buyer journey is overblown. The process hasn’t really changed all that much, he says in this interview, and he has provocative thoughts on what content really motivates buyers.

What You Probably Didn’t Know About Editors

New York Times newsroom, 1942This morning I spent 45 minutes cutting an article by a technology marketer by one-third. When I finished, the piece was better than when I started. And that made me happy.

I love editing, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I also love my occasional roles as speaker, prognosticator and thought leader, but there’s something uniquely satisfying about taking someone else’s work and making it better.

Editors get little credit for what they do, but like film directors and record producers, their function is essential to a quality product. Today they are more needed than ever.

I sat down to write this essay after reading Alexandra Samuel’s eloquent post on the HBR blog network. Content marketing, she writes, “has emphasized producing a high volume of content at the expense of producing content that people actually want to consume.” But repetitive, unremarkable content drives audiences away, which is the opposite of what marketers want to achieve. The solution is better editing.

There are three types of editors: visionaries, copy editors and line or content editors. Marketing departments have no shortage of visionaries. They can also hire hourly workers to sweat the details of grammar and punctuation.

What’s missing are the editors in the middle, the city editors,  the people who shape individual stories and work with writers to turn ideas into content that people want to consume. In a world where everyone is a content producer but few people know how to write, they are in desperately short supply.

There are a lot of misconceptions about line editors. I’ll address a few big ones:

Editors work mostly with copy.

This is true only if the editors are incompetent or their organization is screwed up. Good editors do 90% of their work before a single word is written. They take ill-formed ideas and shape them with interesting angles and approaches. They guide writers on sourcing, structure, voice and format. They know when more research is needed and also when to stop researching and start writing.

Editors take words out.

This is sadly truer than it should be. People are taught from their earliest school days to equate length with gravity, so overwriting in the business world is epidemic. Sometimes the solution is to take words out, but it’s often better to rephrase ideas so that fewer words say the same thing. Editing is also about knowing where gaps exist and directing the content creators to gather more information.

Bill Blundell’s The Art and Craft of Feature Writing should be required reading for all editors. A longtime Wall Street Journal writer and editor, Blundell documents the almost obsessive culture at that newspaper with packing more information into less space. The reason for taking words out, though, is to fit more information in. The Journal’s time-pressed audience wants efficiency, not just brevity.

The editor’s most important constituency is the people who create the content.

Wrong. Good editors advocate tirelessly for the people who consume the content. They need to know better than anybody about the knowledge level, interests and time constraints of the audience, and they need to remind content creators, who tend to fall in love with their own work, that ultimately there is someone on the other end reading or watching. The best editors have spent years in the field with their constituents and continue to speak to them every day.

Editing is a thankless task.

It’s an anonymous task, but hardly a thankless one. Editors take pride in seeing a product they can be proud of. They also love to see the writers, photographers and broadcasters they work with blossom in their own right. One of my most rewarding moments was seeing a writer whose crude skills I had helped shape years ago receive a Nieman Fellowship.

Finally, editors take pride in knowing that their work has benefited their audience. No one will know or care that I cut 350 words from a marketer’s overwritten article this morning, but I’ll know that my time investment saved each person who read it a couple of minutes. And perhaps they understood it better, too. That’s reward enough.

Marketo Tells How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation

Marketo: How to Use Social Media for Lead GenerationI often cite marketing automation vendor Marketo as a shining example of a company that gives away great information as a way to promote its business. Marketo recently contacted several B2B social media marketing pros to get their tips on how to generate leads with social platforms.

They report encouraging results. For example, 58% of marketers who have used social media for more than three years say it has helped boost sales. The marketers quoted here (I’m one of them) offer advice on how to create unique content that stimulates engagement, which is the currency of social media marketing.

Check out “How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation.” It’s a quick read and I think you’ll find some useful takeaways.

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Constant Contact Colocates with Small Business Customers

Great companies go beyond just providing a product or service. They think of themselves as partners in the success of their customers. Three companies that do an outstanding job of advocating for the small business customer are American Express (with its Open Forum small business community and annual Small Business Saturday promotion, among other things), Intuit and Constant Contact, the Massachusetts-based e-mail marketing company.

I often use Constant Contact’s Twitter and Facebook profiles as models for other B2B companies to follow. About 90% of the content the company posts in social networks is intended to help customers succeed in small business marketing. Less than 10% promotes Constant Contact products. It’s like that in the company’s remarkable Pinterest account as well.

Constant Contact’s Small Business Innovation LoftNow the company is taking customer advocacy to the next level with the launch of the Small Business Innovation Loft. That’s a physical space within the company’s Waltham, Mass. offices were startups can set up shop for four months at no cost and get $10,000 to spend on marketing activities. They also get free meeting space and priority support from Constant Contact’s support team. This press release has more.

Innovation labs aren’t new, but they are usually sponsored by venture capital firms or real estate companies that hope to cash in on them. In contrast, won’t take equity in the startups it nurtures. The value to the company comes from the promotional benefit and the word-of-mouth awareness that will develop as some of these companies invariably succeed and set off on their own. What better way to put your money where your mouth is?

Constant Contact makes it a point to get inside the minds of its customers and understand their ambitions, fears and motivations. That’s the secret of content marketing, however you define it. Check out this clever year-end video the company put together to celebrate its customers.

A Nice Collection of B2B Marketing Stats and Videos

Earnest is a U.K.-based B2B marketing agency that says its mission is, “to chase out the humdrum and bring a lot of love and passion to B2B marketing.” Its work certainly bears out that goal. Earnest’s B2B campaigns have a lot of B2C energy inside them. Its research and how-to presentations on SlideShare are an excellent resource for companies that want to get into content marketing.

Here’s its latest collection of recent trends and statistics: This is the year that was in B2B Marketing crunched. Be sure to check out the links to some of the year’s best B2B videos on slide 37. You can also download the presentation as a PowerPoint if you want to borrow a few of these stats.

I’ve Been Writing A Lot Lately, Just Not Here

I only update this blog occasionally because most of my writing these days appears on other people’s websites. But my blog is still my home base. Here’s a round up of what I’ve been scribbling about elsewhere of later.

Social is the Future of Search (Profitecture Blog)

BuzzFeed HQ

(Photo credit: Scott Beale)

What could possibly unseat Google as the king of the Web? The answer might be incubating in fast-growing media operations like BuzzFeed (right) and Upworthy. These publishers eschew search optimization in favor of creating content that people want to share. From an SEO perspective, they do a lot of things wrong. And they’re killing it online at the moment.

Marketing’s big miss (BtoB magazine)

A new McKinsey & Co. report reveals a startling disconnect between B2B companies and their customers that should give every marketer pause to reflect on his or her priorities. The research shows that the themes that B2B companies emphasize in their marketing messages are wildly inconsistent with the factors that B2B buyers care about most.

Short on content? Repackage (BtoB magazine)

A lot of marketers are frustrated by the perceived need to turn out a lot of content, but the problem is much more manageable if you reuse and repackage creatively. Here are some ideas for how to get more mileage out of the stuff you already have.

Rewarding Bad Behavior (Godfrey Blog)

Marketing and sales organizations at most B2B companies have a relationship that can be politely described as strained. Sales complains that marketing gives them lousy leads while marketers charge that sales wouldn’t know a good lead is it bit them on the nose.

Both sides are correct. That’s because many organizations reward their sales and marketing people for the wrong things. Improve lead quality and a lot of the bad karma disappears.

Altimeter’s Brian Solis: ‘It’s the Customer Experience, Stupid’ (Huffington Post)

Brian Solis at Upload Lisboa, Portugal.

Brian Solis (right) is one of the most consistently provocative and perceptive analysts in the world of new media and social business. I caught up with him shortly before his Pivot conference in October to find out what’s on his mind. He believes few CEOs know how dramatically their businesses will change as a result of customer empowerment. And he thinks any business can enchant its customers. Even one that makes hammers.

Five Important Differences Between Paid and Earned Media (Profitecture Blog)

Many marketers treat social or “earned” media the same way they treat advertising and direct mail, but the two forms of media are very different. Earned media is more valuable because people volunteer to share your information. This benefits small and patient companies disproportionately. If you talk at customers in earned the channels the way you do in paid channels, your results will probably disappoint you.

 

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