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Can This Radical Change Increase Content Marketing Effectiveness?

23 Jan

2014 is looking like another big year for Content Marketing. Do a search and you’ll find a vast source of predictions from the Content Marketing Institute, Mashable, research analyst Forrester, the IAB and others.   All sources forecast business spending will be up for Content Marketing this year.  Depending on whose report you believe the CM budget will increase 58% to 75%.

While more is spent on Content Marketing are the efforts more effective?  At the recent Northern California Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting in Silicon Valley, an experienced panel of Content Marketing experts tackled the question and shared their challenges and struggles to make content marketing a success.

Informative presentations, different perspectives and implementations were shared.  One that I found most insightful came from Jeremiah Glodoveza, Director, Public Relations and Social Media at NetApp.

Much has been written and said about the importance of SEO and content strategy for CM success – but we have not heard much about (if at all) the need for organizational change to support CM effectiveness and success.  Jeremiah shared that his company is in process of changing its marketing organization so it can better integrate content marketing campaigns – restructuring from functional silos to an interconnected organization.

Current Organization

Current Organization

New Organization

New Organization

(These charts are examples only, not NetApp charts).

The change will bring together marketing functions that often times are working independently and with goals that are not aligned .

The new organizational structure is intended to better support collaboration and consistency in messaging and campaigns as well as sharing common goals across marketing functions like PR, technical writing, and communications. Jeremiah believes that more companies will begin making this kind of change to their marketing organizations.

Hats off to NetApp for thinking out of the silo. Making a radical organizational change like this one isn’t easy.  It will be interesting to find out if NetApp’s Content Marketing is more effective as a result.

Resources:  NorCal BMA Meeting, January 22, 2014, panel discussion, Content Marketing:  Why Is A Publisher’s Point of View Essential Today

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Do Your Content Marketing Efforts Compare with the Best?

8 May

Apple and Orange

Find out what the best B2B small business marketers are doing to succeed in content marketing, the major challenges facing them in their content marketing efforts and the tactics and platforms used to deliver content.

The Content Marketing Institute just released an original research report on small business content marketing, “B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America”.  It’s full of relevant data for the SMB marketing organization, providing an opportunity to compare your content marketing efforts vs. your peers as well as the enterprise business.

The report looks at several trends including the percentage of marketing budget spent today on content and the planned growth in spending over the next year.

You can sign up for your free copy of the research report at Content Marketing Institute.

Partner Up! 5 Valuable Reasons to Include Cross Marketing in Your Plans

23 Apr

This article looks at the benefits of having a cross marketing strategy and program.  It is a first in a series titled “Energizing Your Marketing Budget: How to make the most of your marketing resources and budget.” 

Cross marketing (not to be confused with co-marketing) is when two businesses partner to promote their products or services together. Cross marketing allows partners to share the costs of promoting their products – getting more from their marketing dollars.  Webinars, trade shows, advertising, white papers, website links, and sharing customer mailing lists are cross marketing activities that when done together with a partner provide valuable business benefits. 

Here are my top 5 reasons to include cross marketing in your plans.

1. Increase Customer Value: Together you and your partner(s) offer a more complete customer solution.  Partnering with companies that offer complementary products can provide a solution that creates additional value for your customers.  For this reason, choose a partner that targets like customers.

2. Strengthen Credibility and Reputation: The company you keep says a lot about you.  When you choose a partner with a similar reputation in the industry, you further strengthen customer perception of your company and products.

Girls Running Lemonade Stand

3. Showcase Expertise:  Participating in cross marketing promotions provides additional opportunities to showcase your expertise and reinforce the brand experience customers have with your product and company. When you choose to partner in cross marketing activities, these activities should always be consistent with your brand’s identity.

4. Broader Market Reach: With the right choice in partners, you increase your reach by sharing customer lists, customer referrals and by being included in your partner’s outreach activities; emails, newsletters, promotional materials and social media.

5. Build Strategic Relationships:  Cross marketing activities can be a great way to begin or further strengthen a strategic relationship with a partner.  By spending time getting to know each other, you potentially learn new methods to improve marketing results and ultimately help one another grow your businesses.

     A few things to keep in mind when working with a potential partner that will increase your chances for success:  Cross marketing partnerships range from simple to complex but to be successful the organizations should be in agreement on the goals, the budget and the timeline as well as have the necessary committed resources.  Consider your communications styles, do you use the same channels to market? Are your budgets similar in size?  Understanding similarities and differences at the start of a partnership can alleviate potential problems and increase the probability of realizing the benefits from cross marketing.

     The next article in the series, Energizing Your Marketing Budget will look at making the most of your marketing resources and budget by taking advantage of free marketing services, education and materials.  The article will provide examples of some of those offered by leading marketing product and services companies.

Resources:

Entrepreneur, Co-Marketing:  Twice as Nice or Double the Trouble?, Barbara Findlay Schenck, from Business on Main, January 16, 2013.

eHow, Cross Marketing Ideas, Gina Ragusa

biznik, Lead Generation through Cross Marketing, Joel Torres

Solving Real Business Problems and Showing Value – Every Marketers’ Job

19 Jun

For me Marketing has always been about showing customers how a product solves real business problems and creates value.  Recently I became familiar with the term, Solutions Marketing.  Look online and you’ll find Solutions Marketer job titles in Fortune 500 companies and marketing consultants and agencies that provide Solutions Marketing services.

     What is Solutions Marketing?  One of the definitions I found on Google stated, Solutions Marketing addresses a business level problem, aligning products with business value. Good Solutions Marketing speaks directly to business needs. 

     Young Asian BusinessmanAs a career marketer in various roles (communications, product marketing and management), my job has been to show customers how my company’s products solve real business problems.  Whether developing a Marketing Requirements Document for a new product or creating product messaging, each required an understanding of how the product solved a business problem and created value for customers.

     Maybe it’s the sign of the times.  Many marketing functions have become specialized. As marketers, if we cannot show customers how our products solve business problems, we will fail in our efforts. Solutions Marketing is something we all do (or should do) regardless of our marketing job title (or function).

     Wikipedia has this definition of Marketing: B2B marketing is creating value, solutions, and relationships either short-term or long-term with a company or brand. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Consider that most companies aren’t large enough to have a specialized Solutions Marketing position or group. Is it the role of all marketing functions to understand and communicate how a product solves a business problem and creates value for customers?  What do you think?

Is There Value In Giving Your Product or Service Away?

6 Jun

Is there value in giving away your product or service? The topic came up at a recent event when a small business owner questioned whether or not she should continue to give away her company’s products at industry events. When the business first launched she provided free products to grow her customer base but, now isn’t certain the free offer is needed.

Red 3-D Dollar SignFor those starting a new business, one of the biggest challenges is getting those first customers. Attracting customers by offering them a risk-free opportunity to try your product or service can be a successful strategy to build business.  The offer may be free trial, special pricing or a 100% guarantee that can remove concern a customer may have about trying an unknown.

Free trials are a frequently used strategy.  Cloud-based software companies use free trials to grow business and then convert trial users to paying customers. One of the most successful companies to employ this strategy is Salesforce.com.  Another cloud-based software company that offers free products is WordPress.com.  WordPress’ strategy is to provide basic blog features free with the intent to entice customers to pay for additional or enhanced features.

Free may not be a good strategy for some businesses.  Costs, brand image, value perception and conversion to sales need to be considered. Answering these questions can help determine if there is value in providing a product or service free.

Will your business benefit by giving something away?

Is the goal is to entice your targets to use your product and convert to paying customers? Or are customer referrals and success stories what you’re after? Both are a tangible benefit. Decide up front what benefits/results you want to achieve.

Do your potential customers find value in what you are giving free?  

The bottom line is if the product doesn’t solve a business problem for the customer, it won’t matter how great the offer is.  A good example of providing something of value to customers are free assessments.  Let’s look at a company that sells a product that improves CRM database performance.  This company provides free professional assessments that evaluate productivity and performance of customers’ current CRM products.  In addition, the assessment includes data showing how by also using their company’s product customers can improve productivity by X% and save $Y annually.  The free assessment underscores how using the company’s product solves key business issues.

Will providing your product free help or hurt your brand?

Providing free products or services must support the brand. In other words, potential customers should not think less of your product or service because it is offered free.  In the example above the free assessment supports the brand, the company is positioned as knowledge experts in improving CRM database performance and employee productivity.

Can your business afford it?

Giving away free product is another marketing activity so evaluate it as such. Set your goals and make sure to include the costs of giving away free product in your budget. Since the desired result is to attract repeat and long-term customers, offer the free incentive to the targets that will continue to do business with you.

Resources:

5 Rules for Giving Your Products Away, Beyond the New Frontier blog, by David Sorkin, New Frontier Marketing Associates

Should You Give Away Your Product, by Tom Taulli, Forbes.com

The Importance of the Why Strategy in Marketing

29 May

It’s almost the end of the first half of the year.  Are you meeting the goals you set for 2012?   If you’re not, it might be time for the Why Strategy.

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B2C Lessons that Can Improve B2B Brand Experiences

15 May

I recently read The Experience Effect by Jim Joseph.  It’s about creating just that, an ‘experience effect’ that will drive consumers to a brand.  As I read Jim’s book, it seemed to me that many of his lessons on B2C branding translate to the B2B world. A strong brand offers many benefits to business.  It can make it more difficult to be displaced by a competitor, get you invited to the discussions by the customer, justify price premiums, even attract top talent.

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