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Date posted: September 11, 2014

In an article on Forbes Entrepreneurs section, Jayson DeMers notes, “Content marketing, as a way to reach an increasingly wary audience, shows no signs of slowing down in 2014. Rather than using outdated, traditional methods of outbound marketing, businesses are finding that content marketing attracts customers and builds real trust between brands and consumers.” He goes on to revisit his predictions for content marketing in 2014 (made last year) in light of the current research related to content marketing. We summarize the discussion here:

  1. Businesses will finally be able to define content marketing.
    In his previous post, DeMers stated that 60% of businesses were employing some form of content marketing. Less than a year later, a report by the Content Marketing Institute indicates that a whopping 93% of B2B marketers now use content marketing as part of their overall marketing plan. Marketers are seeing firsthand how social media and content marketing are inextricably linked, and are understanding the importance of having a content plan; in fact, 44% of B2B marketers now report having a documented content strategy in place.
  2. The new top marketing job title recruited and hired will be “Director of Content.”
    While one can’t point to any hard and fast statistics regarding the rise in popularity of the “Content Director” role, it’s clear that an increasing number of companies are centralizing content creation, curation and promotion. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s State of B2B Content Marketing report, the most successful B2B content marketers have 2 things in common: they have someone who oversees their content marketing strategy, and that strategy is documented.
  3. Mobile content marketing will separate the winners from the rest of the pack.
    DeMers has argues that the release of Google’s Hummingbird update has significantly upped the ante when it comes to the importance of a mobile content strategy, but while the majority of marketers now know the importance of having mobile-friendly content, many are still lagging when it comes to actually carrying out their mobile strategy. For instance, according to Exact Target’s 2014 State of Marketing report, 41% of respondents said that up to half of their subscribers opened emails on a mobile device; and yet, 42% of marketers also said they rarely or never used responsive design in their emails.

  4. Calculating content marketing ROI will spawn new SaaS software and companies.
    As the industry is seeing increased ROI when it comes to content marketing, new content creation companies are emerging and/or continuing to gain steam to challenge key players like Text BrokerContent Runner and Content Equals Money are two such emerging companies, which match writers to companies looking for high-quality content.
  5. Businesses will look for ways to automate their content marketing— and these efforts will fail.
    With businesses creating and promoting more content than ever, it’s no surprise they would be looking for ways to streamline and automate the process. With 78% of the most successful marketers creating more content than they did a year ago, it only makes sense that the popularity of marketing automation would rise significantly simply in order to keep pace. According to HubSpot, a leading content marketing automation provider, content marketing isn’t a ‘once and done’ proposition: “Marketing automation needs constant care and awareness for it to work effectively. Too many companies skimp on these details and think they can let their automation do all the work—not exactly the best way of accomplishing your goals. Marketing automation works as a supplement to your sales strategy, allowing you to strategize the path ahead. It’s not meant as something you can set and forget.”
  6. Google+ and SlideShare will become essential for B2B content marketers.
    Observers are seeing a disconnect between the actual usage of Google+ and Slideshare, and their reported effectiveness for business use. On the one hand, their use has jumped quite significantly: use of SlideShare among B2B marketers has increased from 23% to 40%, while the use of Google+ has gone up from 39% to 55%. Yet according to research by the Content Marketing Institute, only 45% of B2B marketers believe SlideShare is effective for their business, and a surprisingly low 21% believe Google+ is effective. And with Google+ making the decision to remove Google Authorship photos, many business owners are wondering whether their heavy investment in Google has been— and will continue to be— worth it.
  7. Location-based content marketing will provide huge ROI for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Location-based couponing and promotions are continuing to drive in-store visits and sales. According to Cisco, location-based mobile advertising accounts for $4.5 billion this year; and this number is expected to rise to over $10 billion by 2017.

How do these trends fit with what you’re seeing in content marketing? As a business writer, I can say that a significantly increasing percentage of customers and prospects are looking to us for content marketing related work— hardly a surprise as the marketing tactic continues its explosive growth.

Date posted: September 9, 2014

B2B marketing meetings are supposed to be productive, but the fact is that too many meetings have precisely the opposite effect. There are 25 million meetings a day in the United States; I wonder how many of these are superfluous. A wonderful infographic on hubspot.com quantifies the horrible effects unproductive meetings have on business:

  • It wastes money.
    More than $37 million per year is spent on unproductive meetings.
  • It wastes an organization’s time.

o   15 percent of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings— a figure that has increased every year since 2008.

o   Middle managers spend 35 percent of their time in meetings.

o   Upper management spends 50 percent of their time in meetings.

o   Personnel spend up to four hours per week preparing for status update meetings.

  • Most meetings are unproductive.
    Executives consider more than 67 percent of meetings to be unproductive.

Three principal elements are identified as causing unproductive meetings: multitasking, lack of engagement from remote participants, and lack of planning and structure.

92 percent of survey respondents confessed to multitasking during meetings. 61 percent admitted checking e-mails; 41 percent said they multitasked during meetings “often” or “all the time.” 49 percent acknowledged doing other, unrelated work. Remote participants find it hard to follow along, remain engaged, and contribute effectively. Maybe this isn’t surprising, as 80 percent of messages we receive come from body language.

All may not be lost. Facilitating effective meetings is a skill that can be learned and honed. Considering the sheer amount of time spent in meetings, companies would be wise to invest in improving meeting effectiveness.

Here are five tips for having better meetings:

  1. Schedule shorter meetings.
  2. Set clear expectations.
  3. Send materials in advance.
  4. Start and end on time.
  5. Avoid monologues— engage participants.
  6. Stay focused.
  7. Capture key points and action items.

Finally, ask yourself these questions before scheduling a meeting: Is the meeting necessary?

Who really needs to be there? And what can be done to assure that it is focused and interactive?

Well, enough about this for now. I’ve got to go to a meeting.

 

Date posted: September 4, 2014

When you think about it, your B2B corporate Web site is the most visible face of your company. No other element is at the fingertips of your customers, prospects, stakeholders and anyone else out there who might have an interest, active or nascent, in what you do. That being the case, one wonders why so many firms take a cavalier attitude in how their website looks and works in projecting their image and converting interest to revenue.

Dawn Gadless, business development manager at Emagine, recently posted a list of eight reasons a B2B website might consider redesigning that most public face. They’re worth revisiting here:

  1. Is your website a dinosaur?
    With changing design styles, trends, and technologies, a site that is even two years old can look outdated and boring. Your website establishes immediate credibility no matter what size company you are 24/7— it is worth the time to perfect.
  2. Your website doesn’t work on all devices.
    In today’s commercial environment, your website has to be responsive and mobile friendly. In 2014, mobile Internet is officially taking over desktop Internet usage. Does your website functionality reflect this?
  3. Your website is hard to use and confusing.
    Is there a “contact us” section or phone number immediately visible? Can a prospect tell in 30 seconds what your company does? Do you have clear and concise messaging? You have to make your website as easy as it can be for users to find the information they need and get in contact with you.
  4. Your content management system is outdated or proprietary.
    Consider an open source CMS. A complicated CMS can prohibit you from actively changing your website to reflect SEO best practices and add new and fresh content.
  5. You aren’t coming up in the search engines.
    You should have a search engine/online marketing strategy in place. If you can’t do it yourself or don’t have the time, hire an expert or agency that specializes in SEO and online marketing with a proven track record and good customer testimonials.
  6. Your content is hard to find.
    Is it hard to find your company’s blog? If your website is designed in a way that makes your blog difficult to find or read, then you could be limiting the opportunities your blog can offer you. New designs that offer an RSS feed on your homepage can help make it easier for visitors to view your content, Having relevant content in place and updating a blog regularly keeps you in good standing with the search engines. The more content you post, the more regularly your site will be crawled and indexed. Do your research and take a close look at what your competitors are doing and what they are doing well. Identify your keywords or key phrases and include them in your site. Always be learning. Make sure you subscribe to current SEO blogs and articles to stay informed.
  7. You have no calls to action.
    Make your leads do something.  How many times have you “changed your mind” and clicked off a website because the form was annoying, asked too many questions, and took too much of your time? Have clear calls to action (CTA’s) as well as an intuitive design throughout your website in order to keep visitors engaged and encourages them to take action. Forms should be simple and ask for only the necessary information.
  8. You have no social media presence.
    You need to hop aboard the Social Media networking train if for no other reason than to establish credibility. You can use these outlets to post relevant content, become a thought leader in your industry, and refer traffic back to your website. Americans spend an average of 1/2 an hour a day on Social Media and 83% of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure according to Social Media Today. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube are all important outlets for your B2B marketing efforts and should be easy to find and well integrated on your website.

All of these are really excellent points— and points that point to content as well as design.

Much of my time is spent in helping clients develop relevant and engaging B2B content for their websites: blog posts, case studies, white papers and more. If you’d like an opinion on how your Web site’s blog content might be more effective, or find out more about how to develop rich content to make your Web site more powerful, I’d love to speak with you.