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First, some context: I think all of us - Richard + Gary - are going to try to give it to you from our direct experience in working in marketing - especially content marketing as relates to the process of web design and design thinking.
I don't want to give it to you from the point of view of the Content Marketing Institute playbook. You can get that stuff yourselves ... and much of it is very good indeed. So check them out if you haven't already.
My recent experience has been in technology; both in SW and in HW. The companies I've been involved with are all very small, with between 10 to 20 employees. Budgets have been pretty much minimal, so a lot of what I'm talking about is, apart from salaries, very very cheap.
· All of them are active in producing technology which is market - industry leading, or at least having capabilities and vision unique to their perspective spaces. To give you an idea, I've worked in open source HW design, in GeoID API technology, and in gamified Digital Health technology. The business models involved have been organization to organization. So if you're interested in knowing about marketing and content strategy for say, refrigerators or corn flakes, I'm not your guy. Frigs and cornflakes are cool, but .... The other context that I'd like you be aware of is money. In my experience, there isn't any. Or if there is it's a tiny amount. We're talking in the hundreds of dollars (salaries excluded). So most of the tools I mention are pretty much free, open source, or a few dollars a month if we're talking about an integration tool for the site... I have further to refine this context. The business model has not been about B to B (or G). That would be too easy. The audience or target sweet spot has been one company selling a product or service to another company. I wish it were so easy. Our customer sweetspot has the following key criteria: They have a budget (obviously) (somewhere in range from 30K to millions - this is relatively simple: either they have a budget and are just shopping, or they don't. The rest is negotiation. They are decision makers (natch) (decision making is a process involving in many cases numbers of people - but in the end the person making the decision says to him or herself "I/we can sell this". And this person/people is at the most senior level. I'll talk a bit about personas a little later. There is a reason to have an understanding of decision making in the context I'm speaking about. That is because I'm talking about little companies on the edge of the Pacific, and the customers I'm talking about are Goliaths to our David. In many cases household names: Nuance Communications, Merck, AstraZeneca, Kaiser, the US military and others (More about this later). The third criterion is They are innovators
· So from the point of view of designing content for what we do, means thinking like, and being, innovators. Innovation, as I hope you know isn't some lala stuff where you put a bunch of beardy guys in a room to see what they come up with. It's an iterative, intense and difficult process. And when you have customers involved daily in that process (especially with big companies) the complexities and complications (they're not the same for our purposes) become multiplied. By a lot. The people involved in purchasing and refining the product (which in some cases doesn't fully exist is just the gleam in the eye of one or two influential people) is the audience we are creating content for. So we're in the I to I zone - innovators to innovators. And this is where pain and sorrow, fun and creativity of content marketing comes into play - becomes a necessity.
· Every marketer wants to tell a story. Not every marketer is a story teller, though. Especially since the rise of digital, marketers are increasingly about data, analytics, and alogos. Senior marketers are re-inventing themselves as CDO - chief digital officers. Being a marketing geek has increasingly become about numbers - which is great - I don't disagree. But it has left a void in the marketing process - the "analogue creative" have kind of disappeared. Web designers and copy writers follow the SEO rules. In fact they're kind of bound to analytics and have to create with this in mind. Which kind of ignores the deep niches that I to I operates in. Does Google reward you for a search term like multiple co-morbidities, or sleep hygiene, or patient adherence regimes or peer reviewed evidence?
· So let's have a peek at what content looks like to the three markets I've mentioned: So what is content to an organization or DMU seeking next gen embedded hardware? SPECS Image Clearly the key decision maker is an engineer. They want to talk about electron management, power specs, I/O ... engineering stuff .... You may be aware that engineers sincerely hate marketers (OK I'm exaggerating a bit). Lowest of the low. Followed quite quickly by sales people who are not engineers. As a marketer with this audience, you do not use adjectives, keep the beautifully crafted copy for others.
· Which is when the CEO says to himself: "I can sell this". That's content to this person. IMAGE of finished proto We're not talking about the Microsoft jungle or the Apple walled garden. We're talking about the invisibility or embedded electronics that runs stuff. Engineers, the key decision makers, hate marketing. They hate "sales". They want to talk about engineering stuff. Sales people and marketers are by definition, tellers of untruth.
· Then what is content to a civil servant involved in the public consultation process? Or a developer seeking evidence based information about community sentiment regarding a new park, condo development, shopping centre? This is a public process fraught with conflicting opinions, politics, and huge amounts of money. And is a process which is somewhat, many would say completely, broken.
· The audience is seeking a venue by which they can authentically participate in the process of speaking their mind. The audience is also seeking to improve and automate democratic processes, and audience is seeking evidence-based and unbiased opinion about something affecting peoples neighbourhoods.
· And what is content to a high level clinician involved in innovation of the American health care system? The what content is going to get their attention when they're researching the whole realm of digital health, mobile applications and games?
· How can the content marketer get and keep their attention, knowing that irrespective of degree of engagement and education the internet attention space, as you all know is something like seven seconds.
· And if you want to tell the story about the science of games, the psychology of games what content do you use to get people's attention?
· Which leads me to the importance of knowing your customer. And the importance of research. Lack of research equals blindness, myopia, and cognitive bias when thinking about your audience. I can't say enough about research. The message here is know your market. Know how they consume media, know what conferences they go to, what they read, who their connections are . Sometimes it's a bit creepy, but dig deep. Get a Linkedin premium account. Use it. Linkedin is not about job seekers. It's about the marketplace. Your content will be better for it.
· Marketers have come up with the nasty little word "personas" to describe the aggregation of information about your audience. To me, it kind of demeans the process, ignoring that the user is a real person. But .....
· At this level of marketing and content marketing, we have to remind ourselves that we make money from people, not things, or personas ... but that's me venting. But write the persona carefully, get obsessive about it. What does he or she think about, read, what do they need. How do you develop solutions for this person. What gets their attention? Interest?
· The purpose of marketing is to drive leads and that includes content marketing. So let’s assume for a second that your content however distributed was compelling/entertaining/useful enough for the user to actually click on whatever CTA you place in front of them. Which means that this is where the real magic begins to happen. You’re in front of a real live person, not a user. And this person is a seeker after truth ... Or solutions that are viable, effective, useful and in our case fundamentally serious (engineering, governance and healthcare are deeply serious after all). What’s the next step?
· Because you have the users attention, we now have to start the engagement process. And here is where things become more complicated ... you screw this up, you've lost the lead. And everyone is a little pissed off. So if your analytics that site traffic and click throughs and other metrics is that your getting people's attention, then you had better have mechanisms in place to engage the user. The thing about content marketing is offering value, for free (actually it's not free as the user is investing their valuable time .. so don't waste it). But offer your value.
· This graphic shows how there is additional segmentation by buyer group. For example, an insurance company requires a different set of data than a HCP, such as hospital or hospital group.. If they want the deep dive, and many do, then they might get into the deep dive into science do by accessing the white paper (s). The value, remember is not just in the information they glean, but in the fact they become de facto thought leaders in their own organization through having absorbed information their colleagues do not have. Additionally this is where a real lead is captured through you CTA and landing page tool (a bit more about this later).
· This where SM really begins to make sense beyond just being a push vehicle for your content. The person (not user) has become a customer or even an advocate. They are, however, receiving you product for free (video/white papers etc.). This where you ask them if they want deeper involvement. Do they want to join a group of people with like interests, education, mission, and concerns? Do they want to participate in the objectives of the group – eg: fixing the health care crisis or, improving the quality of democracy in our society? Do they want to guest contribute? Do they want to submit contributions for your monthly newsletter. Do they want to meet a whole new set of peers as passionate about the issues as they are? Do they want to deepen their understanding of digital democracy and how it works, or how games and play are measurably effective in treating certain kinds of patient? Do they want to meet you at the conference in Boston or Dublin or Las Angeles? Sound good? Actually that's a crap-load of effort to get one customer (who hasn't sent a dime yet). So the question becomes.
· How do you scale this process. Especially since there is no money, there is a marketing team of 1 or maybe 2 or if you're lucky 3. Fortunately there is a boat-load of tools out there that help automate the process. Some are superb, some are annoying but necessary, some are useless, and some are controversial. There are too many of them out there address individually, so I can only talk about the ones I have personal experience with. These tools basically are bolt ons to your site. A personal note: when I'm at work, I'm busy. And I'm impatient. If a bolt-on is not immediately useful, I throw it out. I know it's a weakness of mine, but I've stopped using applications because what they think is intuitive user experience, I see as annoying. You'll have to make your own assessments.
· · The list is long: Salesforce - awesome; especially since it has a brilliant integration with Linkedin. As a lead management and sales driving tool it is unsurpassed. And it keeps getting better. Additionally it integrates with mailchimp. I know there are a lot of email marketing tools, but mailchimp seems to have covered most of all the functionality bases. The landing page tool I like is Unbounce ... easy to use (at least my blood pressure doesn't do up when I use it). And it integrates with Mailchimp. Which also means that you can work with Salesforce as well. Content Aggregators and Publishers Again there are quite a few out there and more every day. Hootsuite, of course, which I use but hate. Annoying ... very annoying UX. It's like having a full-time job with 20 minutes to do it. Buffer, another local firm, great for pushing stuff out to your channels, with a UX designed for working people. And finally Paper.li. Initially, I thought, this is kind of like vanity publishing. But for 9 bucks a month, you have an automated aggregator than pushes relevant "found" content, plus your own stuff published on you site or your Youtube channel, twitter feed etc. Plus it integrates with your opt-in email list. And is fully brandable. Like it.
· In the end the key engagement tool, still, is going to be you love list. That is all of the lead gen you do, the leads you capture will find a home on your love list. That is the people who have expressed interest in continuing engagement with your mission, and your values. I can go on a lot about the value of email marketing for distributing content, but done properly and creatively, it is a huge monitizable company asset.
· I was asked to speak about the issue of getting "buy in" at the CEO level. Actually not just at the senior
· Being primarily concerned with the marketing and sales of technology. Basically it is an enabler of human behaviour. But in the end, its (in the case of HW) electron management - how exciting is that, and the case of SW, it's management of the binary world - 1's and 0's. At root both are unsexy. It's hard to tell stories about electrons or 1's and 0's. So you want to tell stories about what your company or product enables, such as ... Bomb disposal controls Democratic processes Achieving healthy behaviours But you can't. Just can not. That's a "no". Big one. Because in the world of technology that I'm familiar with, we're the back story. So, you just signed a multi-million dollar deal with a great big hairy assed company - usually American - and you can't yell about it. But but.... through our marketing and sales efforts, our technology is allowing the Good Guy military to safely and consistently run bomb disposal robots, our technology is allowing Acme Health Care to treat the seriously obese ... we can't tell the story. It's not our brand, it's the customer's brand. They get the glory. We get to obfuscate. So when you're in the white label business, the relationship with your clients marketers and legal department is a key determining factor in telling your brand story.
So if your analytics that site traffic and click throughs and other metrics is that your getting people's attention, then you had better have mechanisms in place to engage the user.
The thing about content marketing is offering value, for free (actually it's not free as the user is investing their valuable time .. so don't waste it). But offer your value.
The person (not user) has become a customer or even an advocate. They are, however, receiving you product for free (video/white papers etc.). This where you ask them if they want deeper involvement. Do they want to join a group of people with like interests, education, mission, and concerns? Do they want to participate in the objectives of the group – eg: fixing the health care crisis or, improving the quality of democracy in our society? Do they want to guest contribute? Do they want to submit contributions for your monthly newsletter. Do they want to meet a whole new set of peers as passionate about the issues as they are? Do they want to deepen their understanding of digital democracy and how it works, or how games and play are measurably effective in treating certain kinds of patient? Do they want to meet you at the conference in Boston or Dublin or Las Angeles?
Actually that's a crap-load of effort to get one customer (who hasn't sent a dime yet). So the question becomes.
Fortunately there is a boat-load of tools out there that help automate the process. Some are superb, some are annoying but necessary, some are useless, and some are controversial. There are too many of them out there address individually, so I can only talk about the ones I have personal experience with. These tools basically are bolt ons to your site.
A personal note: when I'm at work, I'm busy. And I'm impatient. If a bolt-on is not immediately useful, I throw it out. I know it's a weakness of mine, but I've stopped using applications because what they think is intuitive user experience, I see as annoying. You'll have to make your own assessments.