On August 19th, Cisco hosted our first Accelerate! webinar, “Content is Marketing Currency” with Ardath Albee. Accelerate! is our new marketing enablement program for our partners in the US and Canada and Ardath Albee is a B2B content strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. We had so many great questions from partners during the webinar, we could not address them all. To make sure our partners receive maximum value from the webinar, Ardath graciously agreed to answer the questions in written format. In fact, her answers are so detailed that we have to split this information into two sections. Read on for Part 1 of our follow up Q & A with Ardath Albee. Part 2 will be posted later this week.
Q. How do you overcome the challenge of encouraging people to share information, because often they feel like they are giving away valuable information for free?
AA: Today’s digital, self-education world is driven by information. If you don’t share information your prospects find valuable, they’ll find it elsewhere—leaving you out of the conversation. In the IT marketplace, you have an advantage. It’s not likely that your prospects can implement technology in the best way to help them achieve business objectives without the help of a partner/vendor. That’s you.
Instead of thinking about the sharing of information as giving something away for free, think about it in these ways:
- By exposing the complexity of the problem and its solution, you prove you’re an expert that will bring value beyond the product or solution you’re selling.
- By exposing the complexity of the problem and sharing best practices and information that helps them understand that complexity, they realize that they cannot solve the problem by themselves in the most efficient of effective way.
- You’re not publishing how-to guides that teach your prospects how to do what you do, you’re showing them how to think about solving the problem and what they need (your company) to get the outcomes they want.
- Selling is a confidence game. Use the information you share to help your prospects build the confidence they need to make a buying decision because you’ve helped them to mitigate the perceived risk of taking on change.
- The content you share is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There’s much more where that came from. So what you’re trying to do is get them interested enough to choose you to get beneath the surface issues.
Q. Do you have any good tips on how to drudge up good content? Any thoughts on how to come-up with those great content ideas?
AA: I monitor what’s going on in specific markets like crazy to find out what’s appealing and what’s not catching on. Tools you can use include Google Alerts, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter hash tags, industry portals (IT Business Edge, InfoWorld, etc.), industry blogs, and more.
What I’m looking for are core ideas that I can build content around based on the expertise of the client I’m working for. There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page with a cursor blinking.
But, you also have great resources within your own company. Consider the following:
- Salespeople. They are having conversations with prospects every day. What kinds of questions are prospects asking them? Do you have content that addresses them?
- Customers. What problems were they solving when they bought from you? Why did they choose your company over others? Make sure to keep this focused on their perspective, not your interpretation.
- Support Staff. What are they hearing? What types of issues are they helping customers deal with? Yes, you need content for your customers as well as your prospects.
Q. My company has several product lines and customers tend to stay within their “silo”. We’ve been debating recently if we should focus on corporate social marketing that may be irrelevant to some, or separate all our efforts (FB, twitter, etc) to each product. What do you advise?
AA: First of all, consider resources. Social media is touted as being free, but it’s not. It’s time intensive and requires content—lots of it. Secondly, where are your customers spending time online? If they aren’t using Facebook, you’ll be wasting your resources by applying them there.
Now I’d like to suggest that the focus of social media efforts is not on products. The focus is on solving your prospects’ problems. If you consider it from that perspective, do you have overlap between product lines? I’d suggest that you want to overlap a bit unless there’s no potential for cross-sell and up-sell.
I’m also curious as to why your customers “tend to stay within their ‘silo’?” Is it because you’ve put them there through the content you’ve chosen to share with them, or that they truly are only interested in one specific silo? It may be useful to do some exploration and find out where their interests may cross lines.
If you determine you can create cross-over, then figure out how it makes sense to lead a customer using one product toward using another. What’s the connection that will make it a logical next step for them?
Social media can be a great tool, but you need a foundation and a purpose for choosing to use it. Then you need a strategy that ties it together with your other marketing programs. For example, using blog posts in your newsletters or promoting events on your blog with links to the sign-up page on your website.
Q. How do you advise our partners to talk the first step? They all create content today but not within each stage of the buying process – is there a guide they can follow to ensure they are headed in the right direction?
AA: At the risk of being self-promotional, my book eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was written as a guide for content marketing. Download 2 Chapters here for free.
Here are 6 steps to get started:
- Get to Know Your Buyers. Every content asset developed should meet the needs of a targeted group of buyers. You need to know much more than name, title, company size and industry. See this post I wrote last week for some additional insights.
- Make a List of Problem Questions. Solving a problem requires that your prospects find the answers to a multitude of questions that occur across their buying process. Questions differ from early to late stage of the buying journey. The answers to their questions will serve as a guide to relevant content development. For example:
- Why should I care? – this is an early stage, status quo question.
- What are best practices in solving the problem? – this is a mid-stage research question after the problem has become a priority for your prospects.
- How do I know you’ll deliver what you promise? – this is an end stage question best answered with customer stories that offer proof and validate your promise.
- Inventory the content you have and determine which questions you’ve answered. Is it all later stage? What gaps do you have that you can fill in?
- Create an editorial calendar to schedule your content development. Having a plan makes it much easier and eliminates the one-off trend of just sending something out without a plan for how it will impact your prospects’ momentum through the pipeline.
- Consider how you can link pieces of the story together. Think of this like a “see also.” This way your prospects know what to do next.
- Monitor for response. Measure which content is getting more views and try to determine why. Then create more content like that, or refresh your other content to deliver that same type of experience.