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How Events Fuel the Content Marketing Fire

December 14, 2015

how events fuel the content marketing fire

Quick, guess what B2B content marketers named as the most effective content marketing tactic?

OK, the headline probably gave it away, but a whopping seventy-five percent of B2B content marketers rated in-person events as most effective, over white papers, newsletters and blogs.

That’s according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research report, “B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America.”

2015-14-October-Shaio-Image1

From: B2B Content Marketing – 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America slideshare

After in-person events, the marketers named webinars (66 percent) and case studies (65 percent) as most effective.

Why are events so effective for content marketing? Because they’re structured as a time-bound, content-producing machine: keynotes, panel discussions, training sessions and presentations. All involving people with a shared purpose and shared interests. How could you NOT create interesting content from events?

According to Monina Wagner (@MoninaW), community manager at Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “The key to leveraging in-person events for content marketing is knowing where to unearth ideas.”

Let’s consider five ways you can leverage events to unearth content ideas.

1. Event as a Listening Device

As content marketers, our existence is tied to our target audience. Picking the right events means finding those where we’re surrounded by that audience.

You can learn about your audience via Google Analytics, keyword research and social media listening, but there’s nothing quite like looking them in the eye and speaking to them. You’ll gain an appreciation for their perspectives and challenges in a way that metrics like bounce rate and time on page can’t deliver.

According to CMI’s Wagner, “Events provide an opportunity for an organization to see in real-time what topics resonate with its target audience.”

I want to adjust my own mindset to place a higher importance on listening at events. If I don’t produce a single piece of content from an event, but spent hours talking to my target audience, then I’ll have gained valuable insights.

“Live events give you an opportunity to really hear from your audience. Listening to their questions and challenges and then asking some good follow-up questions will often expose areas where you can fill an important content gap,” said Scott Ingram (@ScottIngram), strategic account executive at Certain.

2. Inspiration for Writing

I love to write. Give me a topic and I’ll dive right in. My challenge is finding things to write about. I prefer to cover a unique topic or delve into a distinct angle. That limits my choices. Sometimes, a comment that I hear at an event will inspire an entire post or article.

My prior CMSWire piece on infographics was inspired by a fellow content marketer. She made a comment about infographics at a Silicon Valley Content Marketing Meetup. On another occasion, I attended a meeting of customer experience professionals. A comment made during a panel discussion inspired me to write about spending more time with customers.

3. Write About the Event Itself

Your target audience is at the event. Others couldn’t make it. If you produce content about the event, both sets of people will be interested.

Last year, I attended Marketo’s annual customer Summit. Because my target audience attends that event, I published a blog post about it, which included six takeaways. Note: Hillary Clinton spoke at the event. One of my takeaways was that she’d run in 2016 (I was right).

For people who could not attend in person, sourcing footage from the event can be an attention grabber. According to Ingram, “Your people are there. What a great time and place to grab some great audio and video content that can be repurposed across multiple channels.”

4. Inform Future Content with Audience Questions

Good content marketing serves to answer questions faced by your target audience. Events are a great place to hear those questions get asked: during technical sessions, breakout sessions, presentations, panel discussions and more.

Write down all of the questions you hear. Next, jot down the answers to the questions. When you return to the office, catalog the questions into topic categories. Determine whether your in-house experts can provide answers that go above and beyond those provided at the event. If they can, you have a nice set of topics for blog posts, webinars, videos, e-books and more.

5. Report on Expert Insights

This is where content marketing meets influencer marketing. All events bring together subject matter experts who are influential in their industry. Put on your reporter hat to write articles about what the experts spoke about.

Recently, I attended a Social Media Club event. An expert panel spoke about social media marketing. The panel shared a number of interesting examples and case studies. The next day, I published a blog post with my takeaways from the panel.

Some of the panel participants saw my post and shared it to their social networks. When you write about someone’s presentation or talk, they’re inclined to share. So reporting on expert insights kills two birds with one stone: you develop content for your target audience, while having the experts share the content on your behalf.

Time to fill up my calendar with meetups, events and conferences. Not only will I hear interesting presentations and meet interesting people, but I’ll have a fresh set of ideas and topics. Given that 75 percent of B2B content marketers find this tactic effective, I’ll see you there. Can we do a short video together?

Notes About this Post

Image adapted from CommScope’s photo on flickr.

This post was originally published at CMSWire.

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Content Marketing Lesson from an Evening in Venice

November 12, 2015

content marketing lesson

Dusk turned to dark and I walked from my hotel onto Piazza San Marco in Venice. As I reach the square, musical performers entertain a large crowd:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

The Performers

A portly man belts out lyrics from the song made famous by Dean Martin. He’s joined by performers on the accordion and clarinet. I gather alongside a crowd of nearly 100 people. I squeeze my way forward, so I can see the stage.

Here’s a photo of the performers:

performers in venice italy

The singer played to the crowd. He’d start in, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…” then pause. He’d raise his arms to urge us to finish the lyric. When we fell short, he’d raise his arms again, as if to say, “What happened?”

The next time he came around to those lyrics, we did a better job chiming in. Here’s a photo of the assembled crowd:

audience in venice italy

After a few more songs, the singer had a message for the crowd. Knowing we were mostly tourists, he chose English:

“We’re going to take a short break. We’ll return in 15 minutes.”

The Other Performers

None of us stuck around for the 15 minutes. We saw another group performing across the square. The crowd of 20 people soon turned to 120 when we all walked over.

This group featured a violinist playing classical music. I stayed for a few of their songs, then left to explore other parts of town.

Spectators vs. Customers

Both performances took place at cafes with outdoor seating. They hired the musicians and the performances drew crowds. But guess what? The tables were 10% occupied. The “free” crowd outnumbered the paying customers 20:1.

While I enjoyed both performance groups, I left each cafe without spending a dime. In fact, I don’t even know the name of either cafe. On a return visit to Venice, I may seek out the evening entertainment in Piazza San Marco, but have no affinity or loyalty to a particular cafe.

That’s a lost opportunity to the cafe!

The Content Marketing Lesson

Here’s the lesson for content marketers:

  1. Your content is the musical performance
  2. Make good music
  3. Create an association between the music and your cafe

 

Create great content, but don’t stop there. Your content should make your brand more memorable.

Make your readers come back to sit at a table. Soon enough, they’ll be ordering food and drink.

 


5 Things You’re Probably NOT Doing with Your Blog Posts

March 27, 2015

a quote on great blog posts

You think of an idea for a great blog post. What’s your first reaction? To start typing. That’s wrong. Here are five things to do first.

1) Leave Your Usual Setting

Whether it’s your office or home office, your desk is the place where you check email, have people visit, take phone calls, make phone calls and check Twitter. When sitting at your desk, your frame of mind is all about your day-to-day job. Disconnecting from that frame of mind frees your mind.

When I’m working from home, I’ll move to the kitchen table. Sometimes, I’ll get in the car and drive to the park, where I sit on a park bench. When I’m in the office, I’ll head to a table in our outdoor patio.

2) Completely Disconnect

Leave your computer or tablet at your desk. It’s hard to plan a great blog post when people are contacting you via email, Skype and Twitter. The computer is a temptation. Stay focused on planning your blog post. Emails can always wait.

3) Write an Outline with Pen and Paper

Ditch the computer and use pen and paper. Whether or not I’m writing a list-based post, I sketch out a list of the major points I’d like to make. I’ll then break up each point into “sub-points,” writing sentences or phrases to help me illustrate the main point.

4) Take Occasional Breaks

The one device I allow myself to bring is my phone. While I’m sketching out my outline, I find occasional breaks useful. I’ll open the phone and check Twitter. I try not to check email.

Sometimes, scanning the Twitter stream is simply a diversion. Other times, it triggers further ideas about the blog post. On a few occasions, I’ve engaged with users on Twitter (about the blog post I was writing) and included their thoughts into the post.

You can find the breaks that work best for you. Focus on keeping them short.

5) Write Your Blog Post in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is what I use, but use your editor of choice. The main point is, don’t write your post within your blog publishing system. You’ll find less pressure and more focus when you write “offline.” When you’re done with the first draft, step away for a few hours (or, overnight), then return later to review and create a final draft.

When done with the final draft, transfer the post to your blog publishing system. Think of this like creating a painting. You get a practice canvas (using erasable paint) to create your masterpiece. When done, the work of art is transferred to the “real” canvas.

Try It, You’ll Like It

Try these few steps before you start writing your next blog post. You’ll like it. And more importantly, your readers will like it, too. Leave a comment below to let me know how it worked out.

Where to Find More of My Blog Posts

At DNN, I’m responsible for our corporate blog: I manage content sourcing, scheduling and editing and even write some posts myself.

Have a look at some of our recent posts and let me know what you think. Also, if you’re interested in contributing to our blog, feel free to reach out to me.

Note: I originally published this post to my LinkedIn profile.


Why Launching a Blog is Like Getting a Puppy

March 15, 2015

launching a blog is like getting a puppy

It was love at first sight from the moment you met.

You called your mom to tell her about it.

You emailed everyone you know, inviting them to visit. You’ve launched your organization’s blog. Exciting, isn’t it?

Yes, it is. But launching a new blog is like bringing home a puppy. Let’s consider the similarities.

1) Housebreaking

Puppies are adorable, except when they’re having accidents on your newly purchased Persian rug. As puppy owners know too well, the first few weeks (or months) are all about teaching your dog to do its number one and number two in the backyard or on the sidewalk.

With blogging, your first ten posts help you learn the features available in your blogging platform (e.g. image upload and placement, tagging, taxonomy, etc.) and master assorted blogging tactics (e.g. keyword usage, title selection, hyperlinking, etc.).

2) Frequent Walks

It’s 6AM and you’ve barely slept, but you need to walk the dog. Later that morning when you’re ready for a nap, the puppy wants to play. Your blog is not as persistent as your puppy, but a consistent posting frequency is important.

A consistent posting schedule builds a relationship with your readers. Whether you post once a week or once a day, readers will return at a frequency you’ve established. Your puppy, on the other hand, will return at random intervals.

3) Socializing Your Pet

It’s important for your puppy to be comfortable around people – and, for it to be well socialized among other dogs and pets. That’s why you bring it to family gatherings (once it’s house broken) and set up “doggie play dates” with friends and neighbors.

You’ll want to socialize your blog posts (I’d start with Twitter and LinkedIn, then Google+) and connect with influencers to make them aware of relevant posts. If you can get influencers to read and share your posts, then you’re doing something right with your blog content.

4) Regular Visits to the Vet

A puppy needs to make frequent visits to the veterinarian. The vet will examine your pup to give it a clean bill of health (along with some immunizations). With blogs, I like to ask friends and colleagues to review recent posts and give me feedback.

I ask folks inside and outside the industry, as I like to hear both perspectives. You can also hire consultants or content strategists to perform an audit and provide recommended changes. It’s great to get independent perspectives about your blog.

A Man’s (and Woman’s) Best Friend

Blogging really can be your organization’s best friend. You’ll achieve awareness and thought leadership. Over time, you’ll be able to connect your blog content to revenue. In other words: the puppy you used to walk each morning will now bring you the newspaper instead.

Visit the DNN website to have a look at the blog that I manage. After you visit, use the Comments area below to let me know what you think. Thanks!

Note: I originally published this post at LinkedIn, but thought I’d share it here as well.


10 Steps to Building a Culture of Content in Your Organization

April 10, 2014


Photo source: Graham Lavender on flickr.

Introduction

Note: This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

While Marketing is the voice of many organizations, a lot of subject matter experts reside elsewhere. They reside in Engineering, Product Management, Customer Support and Sales. Look at the last ten posts published on your blog. If more than half came from Marketing, then ask yourself why there aren’t more posts from the folks building, selling and servicing your products or services.

By extending the list of contributors on your blog, you present a broader range of perspectives and knowledge. At the same time, you create a stronger sense of trust from prospects and customers. They’ll respect and admire the collective expertise that your organization exhibits.

To make this happen, you’ll need to establish a culture of content in your organization. Here’s my 10-step plan to do just that.

1) Explain the Big Picture.

I tell my colleagues about the power of content and give examples, such as HubSpot and Marketo. I explain how those companies grew their businesses via content: ebooks, blog posts, SlideShares, white papers, etc. Next, I talk about personal branding and how important it is to be published online. If search engines don’t find you, then you don’t exist.

2) Gain Executive Buy-In.

It’s easy when you have executive buy-in from the start. It’s trickier when you don’t. Tell executives about other organizations in your space and show them how they used content to grow their business or cause. Employees take direction from above, so this step is crucial to gaining employee involvement.

3) Utilize Extrinsic Rewards.

For each blog post published, I reward employees with a $25 Amazon gift card. It’s a small token of appreciation for their effort. As employees publish more and move beyond the blog (to other forms of content), the extrinsic rewards are elevated.

Photo source: Richard Bao on flickr.

4) Reinforce Intrinsic Rewards.

Extrinsic rewards are important for establishing contributions early on, but they’re not sustainable over the long term. Intrinsic rewards come from the enjoyment and achievement sustained from the core activity performed. Once employees buy in to the intrinsic rewards (e.g. visibility and personal branding), they’ll contribute without the need for extrinsic rewards.

5) Convince Everyone They’re a Writer.

Photo source: Mike Licht on flickr.

“I don’t write well” is a comment I often hear. Not true. There’s a writer in everyone. And everyone has knowledge and expertise to share. Your job is to serve as mentor, coach and editor, to bring those words to life. I’ve given an employees an “outline template” to help them plan out their blog post. I then offer to write the first paragraph to get them started.

6) Look for Content Opportunities Everywhere.

My top source for blog post ideas is our company intranet. There, employees use an Activity Feed to post what they’re doing. I’ll chime in, “Sounds neat. How about writing a blog post about it?” As I chat with colleagues by the coffee machine, I also look for interesting stories, especially those involving customers.

7) Share Successes.

One of my colleagues landed a speaking appearance from her very first blog post. A regional user group discovered her blog post, found it interesting and invited her to speak at their next meeting. I was sure to tell that story to the entire company at the next “All Hands Meeting.” If there’s someone on the fence about participating, hearing successes like this may push them over the top.

8) Recognize Contributors.

I use this slide at company meetings. It contains the profile photo of every person who published a blog post. When I receive the first submission from some employees, they’ll comment that they wanted to have their face appear on this slide.

9) Find and Empower Evangelists.

You’ll find a few employees who jump on the “culture of content bandwagon.” Enable them to become evangelists for the cause. Show them your editorial calendar and ask them for suggestions. Let newbies know that they can lean on these evangelists for help, advice or tips.

10) Evangelize, Evangelize, Evangelize.

My colleagues are beginning to think that I’m addicted to content. And they’d be right. I consume a lot of content (OPB = other people’s blogs), which gives me ideas on how to better create our own content. As the facilitator for your organization’s culture of content, you’ll need to serve as principal evangelist. Find your ABE Lincoln = Always Be Evangelizing.

Conclusion

Whether you work for a commercial business or a non-profit, content can create wonders for your cause. It helps you get discovered and builds trust with customers and constituents. It’s hard to scale your content solely within Marketing. Establish and foster a culture of content and you all win.

For a look at our culture of content, have a look through the DNN blog.


How Mark Schaefer Made a Splash with Content Shock (And What You Can Learn From Him)

January 29, 2014

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Insights for Content Marketers

I consider 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued.” Mark Schaefer is Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, where he provides marketing consultation to businesses. He’s the author of the {grow} blog, along with a number of books.

Photo: Mark Schaefer on Twitter (@markwschaefer)

Shortly after the New Year, Schaefer published a blog post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” The post received 400+ comments, along with thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles. This week, Schaefer followed up with a new blog post to address all of the dissenting opinions.

My Quick Take on Content Shock

Content Shock
Image via Mark Schaefer.

Too many dissenters took a “black and white” view of Schaefer’s piece. Either content shock will doom us all or it won’t. In fact, this was my original interpretation. As Schaefer’s follow-on piece notes, however, we don’t live in a world of absolutes – there’s grey matter in between the black and white.

As a content marketer for a “small” brand, you’re not doomed to hopeless failure. In fact, if you’re a small fish in a big pond, Schaefer prescribes the following:

“If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

Mark Schaefer’s Winning Formula

Mark Schaefer
Image via Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

Schaefer Marketing Solutions operates in a highly crowded space. First, consider their direct competition: individuals and agencies who offer similar consulting services. They’re blogging and publishing books, too. On the agency side, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of agencies with far bigger budgets.

Next, consider the “indirect competition” – the rest of us who are publishing related content. Whether it’s social media marketing or content marketing, Schaefer competes with HubSpot, Marketo and KISSmetrics for attention and readership. It’s not a zero sum game, but it’s competition nonetheless.

So with the two blog posts alone, let’s consider how Schaefer combats content shock for his own business.

Find a Timely Topic

While some trace “content marketing” back to the age of cavemen, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the discipline and the term are getting a lot of buzz in 2014 (and, earlier in 2013). We’re all talking about “content marketing” – but more importantly, brands are putting serious dollars behind it. I’ve worked with journalists in past jobs and many of them (today) are heading up content marketing at B2B brands. So January 2014 was a good time to introduce “content shock.”

Take a Well-Reasoned Stand

Taking a stand garners attention. Taking a well-reasoned stand gets attention, but also drives dialog and conversation. If you wrote a blog post about “Why World Peace is Overrated,” you’re taking a stand, but you’ve lost credibility with most people in the title alone. Schaefer presented a well-reasoned argument that combined with a timely topic and a little controversy, generated a firestorm.

Side note: a search on Google shows that the original Content Shock piece has 12,500 inbound links pointing to it!

Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions

If he had enough time in the day, I bet Mark Schaefer would reply to every single blog comment and every single tweet. If you look at his blog posts, he gets rather close to doing just that. It takes a lot of time for Schaefer to respond to people.

blog comment

But consider his competition: other marketers, agencies and vendors like Marketo and HubSpot. They might have bigger budgets than Schaefer, but some of them do NOT interact as much – or if they do, they don’t do it in the inviting and genuine style of Schaefer.

Advantage: Schaefer.

To combat content shock: having a plan in place to genuinely engage with the readers of the content you produce. Schaefer, “predicted” all of this (in a sense) with an earlier post  that he published, “How to beat Hubspot at its own game.”

Follow Up

Sometimes, it’s not enough to reply to comments and engage with your readers (and dissenters). If you were fortunate enough to have your content spark a conversation, then take the time to carefully review all of the input (both in favor and in opposition of your stance) and follow up. Your follow-up should summarize the dialog, then provide your response. Just like Schaefer did.

Conclusion

So how can smaller fish survive in the larger content pond? Consider what Mark Schaefer did:

  1. Find a Timely Topic
  2. Take a Well-Reasoned Stand
  3. Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions
  4. Follow Up

What are you waiting for? Go do it!


A Portrait of The Marketer as a Young Man

January 11, 2014

young marketer

This post was originally published at Medium: A Portrait of the Marketer as a Young Man.

Introduction

Recently, I read a great post on the Kapost blog by Anne Murphy. Anne’s post was titled “3 Things You Can’t Learn from a Content Marketing How-To Article” and included a paragraph titled “How to Write.” Anne wrote:

“For 18 years, I lived with one of the best writers and editors I know. Her name is Nancy Murphy. I call her Mom.”

Not only did Mom help shape Anne’s writing, but she (Mom) taught her that “good writing takes constant work.”

Today, I’m a marketer (at DNN) who does a lot of writing. My degree is in computer science, not history, communications or political science. I spent the first 14 years of my career in Information Technology (IT). So how did I come to be a marketer? Anne’s post inspired me to consider my own journey.

Careless Mistakes in Second Grade

If there’s such a thing as a crisis in elementary school, then I was in one. Both of my parents had been called in to a meeting with my second grade teacher, Mrs. Trout. I had been making careless spelling mistakes and the pattern was only getting worse. Spelling errors were understandable, but Mrs. Trout was concerned about my consistent pattern of carelessness.

I took that meeting to heart (well, as much as a second grader could). I addressed the carelessness and improved my spelling each year. In fact, by the time I reached fifth grade, I’d be entered into the grade-wide spelling bee.

This second grade crisis helped shape my marketing. It’s put a certain lens around everything I do: writing an article, reviewing an email promotion, writing a webinar description, reviewing a white paper, etc. I have an ability to catch my own mistakes, as well as spot errors in others’ work. I harken back to my days in second grade and know why.

Editorial Independence

The Call of the Wild

Image source: User cdrummbks on flickr.

I’ve now reached fourth grade. We read Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” in class and I was writing a book report at home. My dad briefly looked over my work and thought that I wrote the report all wrong. As he tells the story, I became very upset, insisting that I had written the book report according to specifications.

Based on my strong insistence, my father allowed me to proceed and I handed in the book report “as is.” It turned out I was correct: I received a good grade on the report. From that moment on, my dad gave me full editorial independence in my grade school writing projects.

This feeling of independence can be empowering. If every sentence I wrote could be inspected for corrections, the experience wouldn’t be as enjoyable. And while editorial oversight is important and necessary in many contexts, the independence is one reason I enjoy blogging so much.

Reading about Sports

Also in fourth grade, I developed a love of sports. Starting in high school and continuing into the present day, I read a lot of sports articles.

Best American Sports Writing

Image via Amazon.

I like to read the beat writers who cover my teams and I love human interest stories (i.e. long form articles) related to sports. I adore “The Best American Sports Writing” series. My dream job? To be the beat writer for one of my favorite teams.

I’ve tried my hand at sports writing. At my current job (and at past jobs), I’d write summaries of company softball games and soccer games and share them. My colleagues would tell me that I missed my calling as a sports writer.

Because of all the reading I’ve done, writing about sports came so naturally to me. As I sat at my keyboard, words would emanate and flow like those of more experienced sports writers. It’s similar for the B2B content I write at work: I consume so much of other people’s content that it helps inform and guide my own.

The High School Poetry Magazine

For a high school English class, I submitted a poem that depicted a cold, wintry night from the view of my bedroom window. My English teacher liked it. She managed the school’s poetry magazine and encouraged me to get involved.

So I wrote more poems, attended a poetry conference or two and helped assemble the school’s magazine. I’ve come to realize that marketers are much like poets: we need to assemble words in a way that makes an impact with our audience.

So when I compose tweets, Facebook posts, subject lines, calls to action and promotional copy, I look back to my high school days and realize that my dabbling in poetry helped a great deal.

But Where’s the Beef?

Where's the Beef?

Image source: User xxxbadfishxxx on flickr.

There’s a difference between eloquence and substance. At an early age, I discovered that I had a knack for putting words together. But I didn’t receive consistently high marks on my papers, whether it was AP English (in high school) or Literature Humanities (in college).

The issue? I was missing the beef (i.e. substance). This realization helps inform my B2B writing. Whether it’s a blog post or a white paper, I try to spend as much time (or more) researching as I do writing. The content must be well planned, well researched and well thought out. Words can always sound good, but they must be backed up with information and insights that provide value to the reader.

Conclusion

It’s been fun to consider how childhood events and developments helped shape the marketer I am today. When I graduated from college, I never considered the possibility that I’d be in marketing. I wonder what I’ll be doing ten years from now. Perhaps you’ll find me online, reporting on last night’s Yankees game.


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