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June 13, 2008

Content Delivery Methods Matter

mobile_rewvised.jpgAs the digital world changes to incorporate social communities, mobile devices, rich media, and user-generated content into the mainstream, marketers must evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of their users. While many B2B marketers have already heard this call and responded - consider how many podcasts, webinars, eSeminars and even Virtual Tradeshows exist that were unthinkable several years ago - there are advances that still need to be made, especially in how content is created and delivered.

1. Think Niche. Instead of reaching out to mammoth groups of users who may be interested in the topics you're presenting, give your users the change to sort themselves into small, category-specific groups that can be targeted with highly relevant content. Instead of letting users select from a few general categories related to your offerings, give them sub-choices within those categories. Once you know that a user is interested in learning about highly specific solutions within a larger category, they become highly qualified prospects when it's time to really promote your solutions. Users want to personalize their online experience, and offering them the option to define their interests in-depth allows them do this while giving you insight into their needs.

2. Mobile devices will as important as computers for content delivery. As it already stands, 64% of IT decision makers use their mobile devices to access electronic content. This number is only expected to go up as mobile networks become faster and are able to deliver content quickly and to a range of devices. If you're not already developing mobile versions of your website, landing page and marketing materials (enewsletters, email marketing messages), you need to start doing so now. When users try to access your website or open your enewsletter on their mobile devices, do you really want to lose them as a lead because their platform doesn't support your message?

3. Content needs to be convertible. Buzz Marketing (also known as word-of-mouth marketing or viral marketing) is how people are increasingly finding out about your content. People gather data from trusted sources, and their friends and co-workers fall into that category. Because of this, content needs to be packaged so it can be easily passed from person-to-person, regardless of the device they're using. While forwarding a white paper or emailing a URL that points to a video is easy, users will eventually need to be able to pass webinars, podcasts and product demos from device to device without considering that the file won't transfer. If you want your podcasts, webinars and other rich media to play, regardless of the device it's being accessed from, you need to develop these kinds of content with that goal in mind.

As a B2B marketer, one of your goals should be to make content as accessible to as many people, and with as little ease on their part as is humanly possible. This may mean re-tooling your product offerings to include mobile content delivery options, offering instant updates via micro-blog messages, or developing content that is accessible regardless of the device on which it's played. You may need to refine your focus when it comes to building eNewsletters, and consider sending more newsletters to fewer people so you get a smaller pool of more highly-qualified leads at the end of the day.

Developing new strategies for delivering content is challenging, but is essential to staying current in this evolving digital marketplace. When you do develop new products, you'll be better suited to meet your users needs and you may even attract new users when they see the cutting-edge content-delivery options that your company offers.

May 01, 2008

Taking a Page from Online Newspapers

If you want to shake up IT marketing, consider taking a page from online news sites such as the Washington Post or the New York Times and expanding your use of graphics, interactive tools and customizable options when presenting your marketing materials. Instead of designing landing pages and research libraries simply as repositories for digital assets, consider how you can use these spaces to grab users and engage them in a meaningful online experience.

Take for example this Washington Post multimedia module called Forced Out. This investigative piece examines the DC real estate boom, and how it's given landlords the perfect opportunity to force poor tenants out of their homes in order to make way for expensive condos. The Washington Post effectively employs rich media, including a narrated slide show, videos, an interactive map and tabs that take the reader through the Post's 3-day investigation. Social media is also used in telling this story, and the Post provides a forum for readers to discuss the articles and share their feelings with one another. This cross-pollination of audio, video, photography, the written word and interactive tools allows the Post to engage several of the reader's senses when telling their story, and encourages them to get further involved with what they've learned.

When you are able to tell the story of your product or service, you are more likely to convince people to pay attention to your message, regardless of what you're trying to sell. Marketing technology may not be as sexy or glamorous as marketing couture or alcohol, but it doesn't have to be boring either. With the increased access to rich media tools, such as videos, interactive graphics, and audio, you can develop a variety of resources that appeal to all kinds of users. At the same time, you can position those resources in a way that while their messages overlap, they also each tell your story in different ways.

While many IT marketers are already developing content using a variety of media types, their assets are often segmented by type when you visit the company websites. Even when you have the ability to search for solutions or products, the supporting assets are generally presented as a list, and not as a cohesive unit. Landing pages and Microsites are more likely to group assets by product or topic, but even they lack the storytelling effect that you find when reading online news sites.

Social media plays a role in this new kind of storytelling too, as users want to know not only what a product's story is, but also what their peers think about the story. By adding user forums, reviews and comments to your marketing zones, you express an overall confidence in your product by allowing unsanctioned voices to contribute to its story. While a landing zone, Microsite or product page on your website may not seem like the best place to allow user-generated commentary, plenty of well-known businesses are already effectively employing these techniques.

Check out news sites around the web and think about how they generate interest in their stories. And remember, even though most newspapers are designed primarily to deliver the news, most of them are probably in the lead generation business too. We can learn from each other, and learning how the media employs rich media and social media practices in their business is a good place to start.

December 17, 2007

Go Further With Your Content

As technology buyers are taking more and more control over the IT buying process, IT marketers need to develop new options that let their users have more choice in how they consume marketing materials. By designing campaigns to appeal to users' preferences in the kind of content they want to consume (white papers, case studies, articles, interviews), the type of media they want to use to consume it (PDFs. videos, webinars, podcasts), and the method by which the content is delivered (eNewsletters/Email, RSS Feeds, Text Messages), you can appeal to a broader range of users and build brand loyalty.

In running campaigns, many companies select one asset - such as a webcast - and use that as the only content for their entire campaigns. By limiting a user's choice like this, companies lose out on generating leads that might otherwise be interested in their message. While webcasts (or videos, or podcasts, etc) appeal to some technology buyers, some people will never watch a webcast, even if they might be interested in the message it delivers.

Rather than risk losing potential buyers before they even see your message, why not deliver your message using a variety of media? Using the same content, you can craft marketing materials that appeal to the ardent podcast listener, the PDF-only user, and the video maven. To take your message a step further, you can deliver your content in emails/eNewsletters, to mobile devices, via RSS Feeds, and on blogs set-up to deliver daily marketing content.

As technology evolves, the ways in which we deliver technology marketing messages to our users must change too. Keep the user experience in mind when you're crafting content, and realize that the more choices you give the user as to HOW they receive your messages, the more likely you will be in reaching the greatest number of users possible.

-BH

November 06, 2007

Multimedia Content: The Basics

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With the ability to easily create content delivered via multimedia channels (podcasts, webcasts, videos), it seems obvious that you should go ahead and record a podcast, shoot a video or present your offerings via a webcast. And while technology buyers are becoming more comfortable in turning to multimedia content when researching their technology needs, challenges persist in developing and delivering multimedia content.

In creating multimedia content, make sure that what you produce is compelling. Technology buyers may be more likely to view an online video or download a podcast than they were a year ago, but they won't watch your content if it's boring. For the added expense it takes to produce a video or podcast, your investment is worthless if your message fails to excite your users. And while B2B technology marketing doesn't need to be sexy (and probably shouldn't be), it should be interesting, provide factual information, and present your offerings in such a way that your users will reach out to learn more.

When trying to deliver multimedia content, try to limit file sizes for downloads, or better yet, provide URLs that link your users directly to podcasts, webcasts and videos on your company website. By providing direct links instead of files, you ease your users' download fears and prevent them from having to save (often large) multimedia files on their hard drives.

If you are hosting multimedia files and driving traffic to your company website, make sure you have enough bandwidth to accommodate a multitude of users visiting your site and viewing/listening to your content at the same time. The availability of multimedia content does little good if your site crashes every time users try and access your content.

-BH

May 05, 2007

It takes more than white papers to generate demand

In today’s environment of increasingly complex technologies, buyers need more than a white paper to help them make their internal business case to purchase your products. While no one is denying the importance of the white paper, in a recent Ziff Davis Web Buyer's Guide Member Study, we found that 100% of our members engage with five or more types of content before making their purchasing decisions. In addition to white papers, we found that technology buyers rely heavily on product literature, trial downloads, research reports, product demos, case studies and other digital marketing assets.

Consider a syndication strategy for all your digital markeing assets as part of your demand generation strategy. By putting all these resources into your prospects hands, you’ll be moving them through the buying process much faster and you'll be positioning your company as a go-to resource for the supporting research and information for buyers at all stages of the buying cycle.

-BH

March 20, 2007

Podcasting - It's not just for IPODs

When it comes to employing new Web 2.0 marketing techniques, I counsel my clients to get familiar with every new content type and embrace all new communication methods, because IT buyers are early adopters of new and useful communication methods. Consider how you should integrate these new techniques into your marketing strategy.

We'll talk more about these techniques in future posts, but by way of background...

Podcasting, video and social networking strategies should not evoke thoughts of teenagers on MySpace. In fact, podcasting shouldn't even evoke thoughts of content that is specifically created for iPods.

So how can these things help you?

To set the record straight, while social networks are used by teenagers on MySpace, they’re also used in corporate communications channels where their inclusion in the complex sales cycle just keeps growing. And podcasts are certainly not just for iPods.

According to its Wikipedia entry, podcasts are multimedia audio and video files that can be distributed over the Internet. Podcasts can be downloaded and saved or streamed live over your computer. You can also save podcast files to mobile devices (like iPods) and play the content at your convenience. With podcasts, you have the unique ability to subscribe to and downloaded files automatically using software capable of reading RSS and Atom feeds.

Podcasts are a great example of a content delivery method that’s gained in popularity, albeit slowly, over the past several years, and are now being used as an IT marketing tool. Armed with the knowledge that podcasts aren’t specialized iPod-only programs, you might consider how you can harness the exponential growth of podcasting, and use it to deliver your company’s marketing messages.

Podcast usage is going up, and research suggests that podcasts will really take hold over the next few years. In the 2006 EMarketer report, Podcasting: Who’s Tuning In, the overall podcast audience is expected to expand from the existing 10 million listeners who downloaded podcasts in 2006, to a projected 25 million listeners in 2008.

Part of the popularity of podcasts is that their consumption is user-directed. When listening to podcasts, users determine where they want to listen (at their desk, on the treadmill, while rushing between appointments), how they want to listen (streaming live, on their Blackberry), and when they want to listen. When users tune in to listen to their podcasts, they’re doing so at their convenience, and are specifically there to listen to the podcasts’ content.

For IT marketers, the unique user-directed aspect of podcasts make them a great tool for delivering content to technology buyers who need to research new products and technologies, but also need to do so on their own terms.

Podcasts can be very effective and engaging. But, recognize that we are still heading up the adoption curve. Here are a few tips as you consider how to deploy podcasts within your demand generation programs and on your Web sites.

• Educate users about the technology! Many of your prospects still don’t know much about podcasts and their uses. Tell them why they should 'listen' to your message.

• Help your users embrace this technology making your podcasts easy to find on your site. Include directions for downloading and saving the podcasts, and provide contact information in case your site visitors need help.

• Seamlessly integrate podcasts into your existing marketing efforts by offering users a choice between downloading written content, and downloading the same content via podcasts.

Podcasts are a useful tools for reaching out to users on their terms, and offering people your best information in a format that suites their needs. By showing potential buyers that you respect their desire for expanded content offerings, you move closer to becoming a trusted partner in their IT buying process.

BH

August 06, 2006

Buying technology is a process

The sales cycle for Information Technology is getting longer.

From 2005 to 2006, IT sales executives overwhelmingly indicated that their sales cycles were increasing, according to MarketingSherpa's Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006.

That is a very disturbing trend. Setting aside the macro impact on our national and global economies, the micro affect is even more curious to me. When you consider the inherent company benefits that are promised by the implementation of new technologies (i.e. increased productivity, speed and cost efficiencies) - I wonder why we aren't in more of a hurry to make technology purchases which can offer real gains for our companies.

The truth is, we are in a hurry - both as buyers and sellers

As buyers, we want all the benefits of the purchase - but the decision process 'pre-purchase' is getting more complicated, powered by online tools, flowing information and a more collaborative work environment. Companies (both large and small) report more people than ever are involved in the decision process.

As sellers, we are even more impetuous. Rather than recognizing a new dynamic selling environment - we are using our powerful new online tools to drive dated 'targeting' techniques - a wishful strategy that presumes that there is a single purchase influencer, neatly organized by job title, function and size of firm, who will immediately approve an order (so we can play more golf). We are, in effect, guilty of skipping the necessary steps, people and dialogues in today's buying process. And, by leapfrogging the natural order, we are actually slowing down a sales process that is ripe to accelerate.

Doing this blog is labor of love. For more than 25 years I've been a student of the buying process and a self-professed 'speed freak'. I've always used my analysis of the buying process to guide my marketing and sales strategies. And, with this blog, I'll be using that same approach.

I hope that my simple observations and the analysis of our many contributors will help you unlock the buying process for your products and accelerate your sales process.

Let's get started!

Barry