Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Blog Has Moved

In case you arrived here by way of an old link or bookmark, this blog has moved from Blogger to our own platform.

Please go to
for the Content Factor Weblog.

Thanks and Regards,
Your friends at The Content Factor

Friday, March 12, 2010

Manhattan Associates Takes Home An AMY

Congratulations to client Manhattan Associates for winning an AMY at last night's American Marketing Association awards dinner. The win was for "Zero Dissapointment Retail," Manhattan's unique offering and clever campaign that helps retailers offer a seamless cross-channel (Web, mail, store, call center) shopping experience to their customers.

CMO Terrie O'Hanlon (pictured with her BOA and her AMY) was gracious in acknowledging the cross functional team (including The Content Factor) that contributed to the campaign's success. And in case you think marketing is all fluff, Manhattan has already identified a multi-million dollar incremental sale that was due to this campaign.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Call to Action Has Become a Call to Knowledge

As many have said, the B2B "sales cycle" is becoming a "buying cycle" where the prospect has control over the relationship. Although the graphic of the sales funnel will be with us forever, the days are numbered when Marketing and Sales can claim to be the ones moving prospects through the funnel. In the social media world, prospects move when they want to move.

  • If a prospect doesn't want to register for your white paper, he has options online; he will search the blogs and online trade pubs for product reviews.
  • Rather than schedule an hour on her calendar to attend your live webinar, she will fast-forward through the on-demand version at her own convenience; or even better, read the attendees' comments in five minutes.
  • And before the first sales meeting, the prospect has Googled all your executives, industry blogs, PR pieces, financial data, and the same for your competitors; that meeting is never your company's "first impression."
The traditional call to action is going out. "Call us today" is sounding hucksterish. And registration forms are hitting the wall in terms of effectiveness as prospects enter just enough information to get what they need.

It's time to shift our thinking from "call to action" with a "call to knowledge." (B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee calls this the "takeaway.") As stated by our friends at Response Mine:

Put the right content in the right places so that prospects can self-select. By responding to relevant, compelling content, prospects qualify themselves.
By answering the call to knowledge, prospects move themselves through the funnel.

Specifically, the call to knowledge helps the prospect think--and is therefore essential to a content strategy in which thought leadership is a goal. It's a tip or technique with a built-in "it depends on your situation" clause. The reader is then in control to take it or leave it, or adapt the information for her own use, and move on to the next bit of content. The next step might be a more technical white paper, a case study suited to their vertical, or a detailed online demo.

Do your white papers need a registration page? Do they need to say "Call us today" after the company's boilerplate? It depends on your situation. But marketers are building trust by allowing their prospects to move--and think--at their own pace, guided by calls to knowledge.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Getting out of the B2B Marketing Manager's Muddle

A year ago, I was a B2B marketing manager in a muddle. I had, at my fingertips, some powerful tools to share my company's message with the world. But I had nothing new to say.

My title as "Manager" gave me authority to drive content down a number of channels: an attractive web site, automated email campaigns, and webinars with full in-house tech support. It was my job to maintain quarterly plans using these channels within my budget.

What I lacked was the authority to devise a content marketing strategy. So I had the tools (hammer, saw), but no new raw materials (wood, nails). To borrow another metaphor, I was shooting blanks.

My job became a case study in marketing repurposing. I pushed out the same old client case studies in articles, white papers, web copy, and sales presentations. The edict "Do More With Less" applied to content, as well as to marketing spend.

The root of the problem? Content is gravely undervalued. (Validation: Kristina Halvorson's presentation, Content Strategy: The Future of Marketing, slides #37-40, "Lies We Tell Ourselves.") Content is expected to spring forth from the ether--or the marketing manager's weekends. But the company's best ideas are trapped in the minds of a few executive subject-matter experts. The effort required to move those ideas out to the market is not reflected in the marketing budget.

I suspect that many marketing managers, especially in B2B, are in the same muddle. What is the way out? After pondering this muddle from both inside and outside the corporation, I have these suggestions:
  • Give your subject matter expert the opportunity to blog regularly, preferably with a regular guest post on a trade magazine's blog. B2B executives love the exposure. As bloggers, they learn quickly that blogs are hungry for compelling content. So they feel the pain and often get on board for the need for content. Even if you, as marketing manager, end up ghost-writing and editing the posts, the blog will be a vehicle to pull the latest thoughts and ideas out of the mind of your executive expert.

  • Outside writers and editors can do wonders--but what if there's no budget for them? Squeeze an experienced content professional into one high-profile project, preferably one that gives them exposure to an executive.

  • Reorganize the "marketing plan" into a "content strategy." Just using the words "content strategy" will help reset priorities. It's a document or spreadsheet listing your new content ideas, how they are being produced, which marketing channels they feed, with # leads ganerated and $ spent. The content strategy can be simple, even if it consists of relatively few line-items from the overall plan. Just having one is a start.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Social Media: It Has To Have Strategy

Chris Koch wrote an excellent blog post, "There is No Social Media Strategy, Only Marketing Strategy," in which he states:
Social media simply makes starkly plain what we’ve known for some time but haven’t had to face yet: We don’t have a lot of content capable of generating trust and relationships.
Chris sees, as I do among clients and prospects, that B2B marketers are eagerly adopting the next-generation tools, but are learning the hard way what it takes to use them properly. That requires feeding them with content--and the right kind of content.

Chris asks, "What do you think? Are we overemphasizing social media strategy at the expense of overall marketing integration?" Yes, many marketers are. As I blogged recently, there are marketers who want to produce content quickly, and social media turns the demand for content into a race. It is easy to rely on what's familiar--the old product pitch--but that isn't effective in social media. What is effective is thought leadership, which requires real strategy and forethought.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Social Media Automation: How to Drown the Seeds of Leads

We enjoy a good debate here at The Content Factor, and we're watching one play out on the Demand Gen Report Blog.
  • Marketo's Jon Miller blogged on "Seed Nurturing," suggesting some new practices for using social media to "turbo charge" lead nurturing.

    Miller writes:
    "For example, after identifying a prospect’s Twitter username, follow his or her Twitter conversations that include relevant keywords, and track this data in your marketing automation system."

  • Malcolm Friedberg of Left Brain Marketing makes an engaging counterpoint in "Seed Nurturing? Not Unless You're Walt Whitman."

    Friedberg writes:
    "Call me cynical, but I’m not comfortable betting my job on whether anonymous leads will 'likely' surface from the social media world and appear on my front door."
For all the conversation about social media in B2B marketing, real best practices for generating leads from it are still bleeding edge. According to the latest Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems, no standard approach has emerged.

Although on a high level I agree with "seed nurturing," (as stated in a previous post, "Are We Torching Our Leads?" which advocated the registration-free white paper download), the detailed practices that Miller describes in his Demand Gen Report post seem far-fetched to me. The B2B marketers I work with don't have the resources to follow prospects on Twitter, trend their topics, and look for signs that they are in the early stages of a buying cycle.

And, if getting a phone call ten minutes after downloading a white paper wasn't bad enough, a demand generation solution that provides Twitter-trending functionality is even more "Big Brother." (Will I get a phone call from Marketo after I tweet this blog post?)

Social media is the realm of public relations and thought leadership marketing, not of metrics-driven lead generation. There are some amazing tools emerging for marketers to analyze information as it travels through the social media, but is it realistic for these tools to help marketers warm-up prospects for sales? I will side with the cynics for now.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Your Marketing Content is Not a Commodity

Recently I spoke with a CMO who wanted to market a commoditized IT product. Naturally, his product has its own competitive advantage. But it was clear to me that his target market would be shopping first on price, and that a feature-benefit message would be challenging to push.

Early in our conversation, he asked, "How much will a white paper cost?"

Like his own prospects, he, too, was shopping on price. He was thinking of his marketing message as a commodity, too.

But that's the last thing he can afford to do. Pedestrian, fill-in-the-blank content simply doesn't have enough appeal to sell a commodity product. On the contrary, the message must be that much more compelling to stand out. That is why hard-to-differentiate products, like cola, beer, and wireless service, have the most creative TV ads.

B2B marketers are increasingly tempted to churn out cheap content. They have hungry channels to feed, such as blogs and email newsletters. Meanwhile, budgets are slashed. So the question, "How much will a white paper cost?" tends to be the first question marketers ask.

Relative to other marketing expenses, good content is a great value. B2B marketers can easily waste the budget they have if they push a weak message that sales won't use, and the market won't read. Our job is to make the prospect care--and the harder the product is to differentiate, the more creative we need to be.

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