, , , ,

New Strategies for Reaching Decision Makers with Your B2B Blog

By now, everyone knows you need a blog for your B2B brand. However, keeping up with a blog takes a lot of time and marketers don’t always see the results they want from their content. Desired results typically include generating new leads and converting leads into a client, as well as giving your website better visibility.

Chances are though, if you’re reading this post, you’re not seeing the results from your blog that you’re hoping for. This is a common content marketing pain point, especially in the B2B world. And if the market is so saturated with good content, how do you make your content stand out? And, more importantly, how do you make sure your content gets in front of the right people?

Due to the pressure of delivering a blog that actually converts readers into leads and leads into sales, you may be considering getting rid of your blog together. But, before you decide to give up on your hard-earned content, consider these ways you can reach the real decision makers through your blog.

Take Buyer Personas Seriously

The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already, is create definitive buyer personas for the decision makers at the types of companies you want to get your content in front of. We like this template from HubSpot. You should be sure to include the following persona components and more:

  • Job titles
  • Company size
  • Skillsets
  • Professional background
  • Industry knowledge as it pertains to your brand
  • Years of experience in your industry
  • Age range
  • Budget
  • Career goals
  • Challenges they face in your industry
  • Pain points they encounter when trying to perform their goals
  • How your brand solves pain points
  • An elevator pitch about your brand that would appeal to decision makers
  • Where they can find your brand (search, case studies, blog, etc.)

It’s likely there are different types of decision makers that you’re trying to reach, so be sure to create a buyer persona for each job title, industry segment, etc. We find it’s helpful to name each persona, and, keep in mind the different personas you are creating content for and to make sure to spread the content out evenly that caters to those specific people.

Cater Your Content Topics

Once you create your buyer personas, it’s time to plan content accordingly.

Next time you fill in your content calendar, consider the topics that actually appeal to decision makers. It’s possible that “101” type basic content might get a lot of views, but it won’t get the right views. If you’re a decision maker at a top brand, you almost certainly have a solid understanding of the niche your brand falls into. How can you take your content to the appropriate level to meet these buyers where they’re at?

One way to plan the most relevant content is to meet with your client-facing coworkers. Ask them to come up with common questions that clients have or pain points that they notice. Turn these questions into post ideas, or even use the question for the post title. It’s a great way to grab attention and resonate with the decision makers.

Move Your Readers Through the Buyer’s Journey

Just like you need to create content for different personas, you also need to create content for different stages of the buyer’s journey. The established (but useful) stages in order of how a buyer moves through them are awareness, consideration and decision making.

Be sure to move your buyer personas through the sales funnel from awareness to making a purchase decision by linking up your content with the right resources. For example, if you are creating a blog post to generate brand awareness, you want to link your post with content that takes the reader to the next step, consideration. In the consideration phase, it’s likely the reader wants to learn more about how your brand can solve pain points so links to a landing page and/or case studies would move them to the next step. Another example, if you’re creating a post that caters to buyers in the consideration phase, you want to link to resources that guides them through the purchase decision page like how to get in touch with your brand or examples of work you’ve done in the past.

Say you’ve created 3 buyer personas and you want to move each one through the buyer’s journey. That means you have 9 different posts to create to cover the full spectrum of your buyer personas and your buyer’s journey. Say you’ve named your personas Alice, Peter and Bob. Your upcoming post targets should look like this, with 3 posts per persona:

Alice: Awareness, Consideration, Decision Making

Peter: Awareness, Consideration, Decision Making

Bob: Awareness, Consideration, Decision Making

Feel free to mix them up, but be sure to create an equal amount of blog posts that speak to each of these personas in each of their phases. It’s helpful to create a content calendar where you can keep track of the posts geared toward your target personas and stages.

Optimize Your Email Program

If someone within a brand has reached the decision-making phase of their career, they are almost certainly a high-ranking employee in the company, knowledgeable about the industry, and don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Therefore, they aren’t doing a lot of research about or keeping up with a scattered variety of blogs. This means you need to get your blog in front of them and accessible when they have time. You can do this through emailing a weekly digest of your blog content. Use your most valuable post titles in the subject line, and consider segmenting your emails either by industry or buyer personas.

Because we believe in content digests so passionately here at FeedOtter, our product is an easy-to-use content marketing tool that automates content digest emails and integrates with tools like Marketo, Pardot and more so that you can drip content to all of your leads and clients. It only takes 5 minutes!

Use LinkedIn

There are a few ways you can use LinkedIn to get in front of your target audience. Let’s explore a few:

  • Message your contacts: You can message up to 50 of your contacts at a time. We recommend using this feature wisely and limiting the messages you send out to once a quarter, so be sure to lead with your strongest content. Research shows that people open LinkedIn Mail 85% more often than regular email. So, while you could export your LinkedIn contacts and email them directly, we don’t recommend doing it that way.
  • Updates: You should share your content on both your personal LinkedIn profile and on your company page. Be sure to leverage hashtags and catchy taglines. We recommend you update your profile and company page once per post. When decision makers are considering your brand, they might vet your LinkedIn profile so you need to establish thought leadership.
  • Ads: LinkedIn Ads allow you to get really specific when it comes to the types of companies and job titles that you are trying to get in front of. We recommend not just putting an ad up about your company; you need to lead with thought leadership resources, like your best blog posts. This works with any budget and you can pay per click to be sure the right people are reading your posts.

Align with Sales

Be sure that your sales team knows everything about the awesome blog content that you produce. If your sales rep is talking to a lead, that lead is in the consideration or decision stage of their buyer’s journey. Equip your sales team with content that appeals to the different stages and industries, and sales can leverage your thought leadership content to establish brand credibility and close deals.

While brand awareness content is part of the buyer’s journey (and thus part of your blog), know that if sales is talking to a lead, they have obviously moved passed the awareness phase, so you shouldn’t need to share that type of content with your sales team.

You might want to consider an internal library that you update with your new content. This way you can slice and dice it up to sales by categorizing your content by buyer persona and buyer’s journey.

If you want to take it a step further, you can pre-write social media posts for your sales team to share on their own social channels every week. Any bit of word-of-mouth recommendations you can get that point to your content is extremely helpful.

Re-Think Your CTA

The usual CTA (call to action) at the end of a blog post functions for readers to ask pertinent questions or share personal insights in the comments below. But, are people really commenting? If you feel like you’re doing everything it takes to reach the decision makers, but you’re still only reaching mid-level or entry level readers, invite them to share your post with their boss or co-workers.

Conclusion

The key things to consider when creating a blog targeted towards decision makers is to make certain you’re utilizing and integrating your individual buyer personas and buyer journeys. Leveraging email and LinkedIn can be really powerful, and don’t forget to have your co-workers share your awesome content. Give these strategies a try before you decide to give up on or put less time in your blog.

Are you ready to get your blog in front of the right people? Try our curated newsletter feature to stay on the top of mind for your target consumers.

 

, , , ,

How to Announce New Product Features Through Content Marketing

Do you have some cool new product features that you’re about to launch but don’t know how to tell your target consumers about them? Or maybe you want to tell your current clients about features they can upgrade to? Or maybe both? This post is here to help, because launching a new feature and marketing it effectively is no easy task.

The trick to a successful feature launch is starting your marketing plan way before the product is actually ready. Outlining your goals, messaging, and strategies that you want to tap into before the feature actually launches is the best way to proceed, and here are some hints on how to pull it all off.

Create Buzz Before the Launch

Before you actually launch your brand-new feature, you’ve got to get consumers excited about it before it’s actually released. You can do this by:

  • Posting “teaser” social media posts with pictures or short video clips highlighting aspects of your new feature
  • Creating an anticipatory “coming soon” video and putting it on your homepage
  • Giving beta access of your new feature to a select few people, and asking them to blog or post about it on social media
  • Sending out an email to your customers and leads telling them that you have some exciting new things coming up with your product

Work with Influencers

Influencers are people who specialize in a niche and have a large and loyal following on blog and/or social media. Influencers are so powerful because they create authentic content and can talk organically about your brand in ways you can’t talk about yourself without seeming self-promotional.

It’s a common misconception that B2B brands can’t utilize influencer marketing effectively, but we’re here to tell you that there are influencers in every vertical. You just need to find them, and you likely need some help. Innovative tools like GroupHigh and BuzzSumo are ideal options for influencer identification.

Once you’ve found your target influencers, think of a creative way to work with them to create maximum buzz around your new product feature. This can include giving them access to your product before it actually launches, or you can have them use your new feature in a project they are working on. Just make sure to ask them to write a blog post about their experience with links to your site, so all their loyal readers can get the scoop.

Email Marketing

Tapping into email marketing for a new product feature is a given so let’s explore some creative ways you can tap into email to announce your new feature.

  • Buying an email blast from a like-minded publication and tapping into their network
  • Considering a newsletter insert from a thought leadership site
  • Emailing your leads and incentivizing them with a gift card for joining a demo of your new feature
  • Reaching out to your current consumers and offering them exclusive early access to your new feature as a “thank you” for being customers…this also creates a sense of urgency for them to upgrade their current plan to the plan that includes your new feature

Strategic Blog Posts

When launching a new feature, it’s key to create a handful of exciting blog posts to accompany your launch. Of course, you want to post blog posts on your own website, highlighting aspects of your new feature through screen shots and video, but you also should place some guest posts on popular sites that highlight your product as well.

When guest posting, sites will generally not take a self-promotional “sales” post. So, instead of trying to get a guest post that only talks about your new feature, think of a thought leadership topic that discusses why this feature would be beneficial, and then subtly insert a link to your brand. This strategy will be far more effective in both engaging readers and getting clicks.

Utilize Video

Many of your target consumers may wish to visually digest information, so you want to create a short video surrounding the launch of your new feature. Highlight the components of your product and address pain points that it solves. Once your video is ready to go, consider these ways of sharing it:

  • Marketing emails
  • Blog posts
  • Social Media
  • The homepage on your site
  • Press release

Social Media Ads

It’s key that you utilize your social media channels in the launch of your new feature. To ensure that news of your new product gets in front of as many people as possible, you may want to consider purchasing some social media ads. You should “a/b” test them to see what messaging and visuals are getting the most clicks.

LinkedIn will be especially helpful, and it lets you target multiple segments, including company size, job titles, location and more.

Tap into Your Customers

By now, you should know who your happiest customers are. Try giving them early or free access to your new feature and ask them to share with their own networks about your brand’s new product. It also would be beneficial to ask them for testimonials about their experience with your new feature that you can incorporate on your site. People are far more receptive to a feature that has already been used and has positive recommendations that accompany it.

Write a Press Release

Writing a press release about your new feature can help you gain traction and buzz about your launch. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your press release:

  • Addressing how this new feature makes consumers’ lives easier and focusing on pain points it may solve
  • Including a video or screen shot
  • Quoting your CEO on why this new feature was brought to the marketplace
  • Including a quote from an influencer or consumer who tested out this new feature
  • Providing an email address for the press to contact

Once your press release is up, you can send it to like-minded websites with a personalized email to see if they want to write about your new feature.

Run a Webinar

When you start marketing your new feature, it is sure to pique a lot of interest, but consumers might not be quite ready to buy or upgrade. Meet these prospects on their buyer’s journey and provide them with a webinar, where they can see your feature in action and learn more.

Your webinar should be about 30 minutes and should weave in how your new feature solves their problems, in addition to showcasing the feature in action. Leave time for questions either in your webinar hosting platform or on Twitter, and make sure to answer all that you can.

You can include a link to sign up for your webinar in the same marketing emails that announce your new feature so that your target consumers can decide if they’re ready to buy (or if they want to learn more).

New Feature Checklist

We know we threw a lot of ideas at you, and we don’t want it to be overwhelming to plan your new feature launch, so here’s a checklist that wraps up everything we just discussed:

  • Create a video that highlights your new feature
  • Run a pre-launch social media campaign
  • Identify influencers to talk about your product
  • Reach out to happy customers
  • Give early access of your feature to influencers and consumers
  • Identify email blasts that you can purchase
  • Write out all your marketing emails
  • Create and schedule out your social media posts
  • Purchase social ads on LinkedIn
  • Identify guest post opportunities
  • Write blog posts for your brand’s blog and your guest posts
  • Schedule a webinar
  • Write a press release
  • Distribute your press release to like-minded sites

Do you have any suggestions for announcing a new feature? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter @Feed_Otter

7 Keys to Creating Emails That Engage and Convert B2B Buyers

Email is the most impactful (and affordable) way to communicate with your customers.

For every $1 that you spend in email marketing, you stand to gain a $44 return on investment. Also, despite the fanfare behind social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, email marketing still reigns supreme. Research shows that email marketing is 40 times more effective than social media at attracting new customers.

However, it’s not always easy to achieve these results. Today’s B2B buyers are bombarded with email and can use tools to filter out anything that isn’t relevant. If you want customers to open your emails, you must stand out from the pack and provide exceptional value.

Here are seven ways to create B2B emails that engage readers and increase your conversions.

1. Use your name in the “from” line.

[Image suggestion: A from line from one of your digests that follows these best practices]

Your customers won’t open an email unless they know who it is from. Make sure that your “from” line contains a recognizable name. For example, if you are sending a blog digest to new subscribers, they may not know the name of your blog. But they likely know the name of your organization and will remember that they signed up for your content.

You can also include your name in “from” lines. Using a human’s name can help you build relationships with readers, as it gives them a face behind the brand. It also allows you to make your emails more friendly, as you can write person to person, as opposed to brand-to-the-masses.

Would you be more likely to open an email from the “Content Marketing Blog” or “Andy from FeedOtter?”

2. Spend extra time on your subject lines.

 According to research, 47 percent of email recipients open messages based on their subject line alone. Putting more effort into your subject lines can go a long way towards improving your open rates. Here are some tips on how to write email subject lines that get clicks:

  • Use power words. Copywriters rely on power words and phrases to get readers to take action. Adding them to your email subject lines, headers, and calls to action will boost your conversion rates. Examples of power words include:
    • Now
    • Introducing
    • Easy
    • Quick
    • Join
    • Proven
    • Improve
    • Secret
  • Don’t tell readers everything. Some B2B marketers try to cram too much information into their subject lines. But your subject line should have just one goal – getting readers to open your email. Tell readers as much as they need to know to be persuaded to open your message. Save the rest of your information for your body copy.

 3. Ensure that your emails are relevant.

 Gone are the days of blasting an email to your entire list and hoping that readers will open it.

The most successful B2B marketers segment their emails to ensure that they send the right content to the right subscribers. According to a recent study, segmented emails have open rates that are 14.32 percent higher than emails that are not segmented. Click-through rates for segmented emails are also double those of general blasts. Research from the Direct Marketing Association also found that 58 percent of all revenue comes from segmented and targeted emails.

4. Experiment with graphics and videos.

[Image suggestion – include a screenshot of a FeedOtter email that contains some nice graphics]

Adding images and videos to your emails can improve your results. Studies have found that images increase email click-through rates by 42 percent while videos can boost them by an astounding 200-300 percent.

Ensure that your email provider supports graphics and that they look the way that you want them to look. Also, check that your images and videos function properly on mobile devices so that you can ensure you give subscribers a great experience.

5. Focus on just one call to action.

Every part of your email should move readers to the next step.

Your subject line encourages subscribers to open your email → Your first sentence entices them to read the next line → Your next sentence compels them to read more → Finally, your call to action motivates subscribers to click your link.

If you include multiple calls to action in a single email, you will redirect your subscribers’ attention – lowering the odds that they will do anything. Stay focused on the one step that you want your audience to take after they read your email.

The exception to this rule may be daily, weekly, or monthly blog digests where you share multiple posts with your subscribers. Experiment with the number of posts that you include in each digest. For example, you may find that your click-through rates drop when you include seven posts, as subscribers get overwhelmed with all of the options and may delete your email before they take action. You also may find that your blog doesn’t get enough readers or shares if you only include two posts in your digests. Tweak the number of posts that you share in each digest until you optimize your click-through rates.

6. Create a sense of urgency.

People rarely read an email more than once. You have one chance to get subscribers who open your emails to take action.

Create a sense of urgency by giving subscribers a reason why they must act now. For example, you can put a deadline on your offer if you don’t want readers to delay. The following words can help to convey urgency in your calls to action:

  • Now
  • Today only
  • First 100 subscribers only
  • Only X days/hours left
  • Ends at midnight
  • Last chance
  • Closing soon
  • Hurry
  • Immediately

 7. Test everything

Testing your emails is essential to improving your results. Review your analytics on a regular basis so that you can gain deeper insights into your subscribers’ behavior and see what’s working – and what’s not working.

You can test any aspect of an email – from your copy to your graphics. Two areas to focus on if you want quick results are your subject lines and calls to action.

Most email and marketing automation platforms allow you to A/B test your subject lines. Write at least two subject lines for every email and set up a test. For example, my email marketing platform will split subject lines A and B between a small portion of my list. Then, it determines which subject line gets the most opens and automatically sends it to everyone else in my broadcast.

There are a number of items that you can test in your calls to action. For example, you can run A/B tests on the following:

  • Call to action header copy
  • Call to action body copy
  • Button size
  • Button color
  • Button/call to action placement

When you run A/B tests, measure just one change at a time. For example, test “Claim your FREE guide” against “I want my FREE guide.” If you modify too many elements, you won’t know which change actually improved your results.

The average office worker receives approximately 90 emails per day. To stand out in a crowded inbox, your emails must be engaging, relevant, and timely. Using the above tips will help you improve your open and click-through rates and ultimately drive more value from your email investment.

About the Author

Rachel Foster is a B2B copywriter and the CEO of Fresh Perspective Copywriting. Since 2009, she has helped B2B marketers improve their response rates, clearly communicate complex messages, and generate high-quality leads. She has presented at Content Marketing World, taught B2B copywriting for MarketingProfs, and was one of the Online Marketing Institute’s Top 40 Digital Strategists of 2014.

You can connect with Rachel on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter (@CopywriterTO), or check out Fresh Marketing, her B2B marketing blog.

, ,

10 Content Marketing Metrics You Should Know

If you’re reading this post, then you probably already know that content marketing is a crucial strategy for your brand. However, having clearly defined targets and awesome content isn’t enough. Having a plan to analyze your content promotion and track it from ideation to fruition is critical, so you’ll be able to build off of what’s working and refine your strategy.

In fact, a recent study found that 89% of marketers want to prioritize finding ways to measure their content marketing efforts. Are you one of them? If you want to be, we’ll show you how to start.

This post will explore the different metrics that are crucial in determining which parts of your content marketing strategy are worth the work you put into it. It will also help you find the easiest ways to identify and track these metrics.

Traffic

What it is: Traffic simply refers to the number of visitors to your site through links and searches. It’s important to note and record which pieces of content are generating the most traffic so that you can refine your strategy accordingly.

How to measure: Utilize your Google analytics to see if your website traffic is increasing or decreasing and measure it on a monthly basis.

Bounce Rate

What it is: While traffic is important, it’s moot if visitors aren’t spending enough time on your site. Bounce rate refers to the number of people who spend less than 15 seconds on your site. It’s not benefitting your brand if you’re bringing in a lot of traffic, yet those visitors don’t spend time on your site.

If your bounce rate is high, you need to examine the quality of the pages they are viewing and quickly leaving, and develop more engaging content and stronger CTA’s (calls to action).

How to measure: Google Analytics will tell you what your bounce rate is, and which pages your site visitors are landing on.

SEO Ranking

What it is: SEO ranking refers to how high your site ranks on Google or other search engines for ideal keywords. Most people don’t go past page 2 when they are searching for a keyword, so it’s critical that your content marketing plan includes an ongoing strategy to continuously rank higher.

How to measure: Open a new “incognito” window and search for keywords. Make note of where your site shows up in search results for your keywords. Do this once a month to see the progression of your site and it’s ranking. Take advantage of tools like Ahrefs to take note of your best key phrases, and don’t forget to check what your competitors are using, also.

Lead Generation

What it is: Lead generation is the process of gathering qualified leads for your brand, so that you can nurture them and hopefully turn them into clients. This is done through a lead capture which gates your best content, an option to sign up for a trial or a demo, or a CTA on your site that lets the lead indicate their desire to know more about your brand.

How to measure: You can look at leads generated in either your Google Analytics dashboard or your marketing automation software. You’ll likely want to both note how many leads you generate per month and how many leads are generated from your different strategies.

Conversion

What it is: A conversion means that a lead took an action beyond just being interested. This action is usually referred to when a lead becomes a consumer. This is the ultimate goal of content marketing and should be tracked closely!

How to measure: As long as you have the proper tools set up, you can track conversions through your marketing automation platform or Salesforce. You will also be able to report on where that lead originated, so that you know which types of content and strategies are bringing in the most sales.

Social Following

What it is: Social following is simply the number of followers you have on any given social channel. When people take it upon themselves to follow you on social, they are self-identifying as having an interest and affinity for your brand. Social is a great way to share your content, so the more followers the better.

How to measure: Every month when you are putting together your content marketing reports, record how many followers you have on each of your social channels and calculate the percentage your followers went up or down. This will help you share and build a successful social strategy.

Content Engagement

What it is: Engagement refers to the number of people interacting with your content. This can be done in the form of comments, likes or shares. This is a key metric to indicate whether or people like your content and find it valuable.

How to measure: Every time you publish a piece of content, even something as small as a tweet, measure the engagement with that piece of content after it’s been live for 30 days. This amount of time gives you enough time to let the content flourish and be shared throughout the internet before you measure it.

Inbound Links

What it is: Inbound likes are pieces of content that link back to your site or a piece of your content. These links improve your SEO and bring new visitors to your site.

How to measure: Monitor your Google Analytics so that you know when there are new sites linking back to you. You can see how many visitors come to your site through these links, so be sure to check in on your analytics frequently.

Subscribers

What it is: Subscribers (as it relates to your content marketing goals) refers to the amount of people who subscribe to get a weekly or monthly digest of your content. If someone takes it upon themselves to subscribe, it shows an affinity and trust for your brand’s content.

How to measure: Every month, check your marketing automation platform and see how many subscribers you gained that month. It’s important to note where these subscribers were derived from, so that you can scale your efforts accordingly.

Email Conversion Rate

What it is: This metric refers to the amount of people who receive your marketing email or newsletter and click to read a piece of your content or visit your site.

How to measure: You can view both the open rate and the click through rate on your marketing automation platform or MailChimp. It’s important to keep note of how your emails are performing so that you can mimic your most successful emails in the future.

Are there content marketing metrics that you track that we’ve not listed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

, , ,

You’ve Created Great Content. Now What?

If you’re like most marketers, you feel like you’ve been creating engaging content all along, but it just doesn’t get as many views as you need it to. You’ve put a lot of work into creating content and you know that readers would love it…if you could just get them to read it. Sound familiar?

Many experts say that content marketing should follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your time should be promoting your content and 20% of your time should be creating content. It’s a better use of your time to make sure your great content gets seen before you continue on towards creating another piece of content.

This post outlines 8 things you can do after you create your awesome content so that your target consumers actually see it.

Utilize your Site

Your site should get a lot of traffic, even if those visitors aren’t initially checking out your content. Creating pop-ups that recommend your newest content when visitors arrive are an effective way to get more content views. You also can put relevant images and content blocks in your sidebar that direct people on your site to your content.

Create a Dynamic Email Strategy

Hopefully by now, you’ve created an email list of leads. Thought leadership content that you produce like blog posts, eBooks and white papers are the perfect items to email out to your leads to keep them engaged and privy to your content. To save time, you may want to consider a tool like FeedOtter to automate and curate a weekly or monthly digest of the content your produce.

For content that is gated by a lead capture form, you may want to go above and beyond with your email strategy and purchase an eblast or a spot in a thought leadership newsletter. The money you might have to spend on this is well worth the new leads that you will generate.

Enlist Your Coworkers

Your coworkers can be an incredible untapped resource for sharing your brand’s content.

One research report found that content shared by a brand’s employees has 561% more engagement than content shared by a brand’s own channels. That number is too big to ignore.

Here are a few ways to encourage your coworkers to share your content:

  • Create a weekly email digest containing your brand’s latest content
  • Write some social messages that they can cut and paste
  • Utilize a communication platform like Slack
  • Gamify the process by offering incentives

Hit Social Hard

Share everything you produce on all of your own social channels and keep experimenting with relevant hashtags. Hashtagify can help you see how popular any particular hashtag is, and can help you be equipped to use hashtags that will actually be seen.

Paid social ads for your best pieces of content are a great idea as well, because you can work with anything from a tiny budget to a big budget while targeting ideal consumers.

When it comes to Twitter, schedule tweets out on a tool like HootSuite and share your post at least 5 times within the first week after publishing. Use different hashtags (2 per post) every time you compose a tweet.

Get on the Radar of Big Brands

If you can get your content on the radar of brands who have a lot of followers, they will often share your content with their own audience, which maximizes the visibility of your content without expensive paid promotions.

One way to do this is to link to their site, or a resource they produced, in the body of your content. Then, when you share your content on social, tag them in your posts so that they notice it.

You can even go as far as to email them and send them the link to your content and ask them to share it.

Along those lines, you can also reach out to big publications and ask if you can write a guest post for them. If you do it right, you can now house your incredible content on their site and benefit from their traffic. What a great way to maximize your visibility!

Utilize Influencers

There are a couple ways to utilize influencers to increase content visibility.

One way is to extract relevant quotes from their posts and use them in your content, and then cite these influencers in your post. They are usually as eager to promote any complementary content that includes their quotes.

Another way to work with influencers for your content is to email them specific questions that you might want them to weigh in on, and then link to their social accounts or blog when you insert their input.

Just like working with brands as we cited above, be sure to generously tag the influencers on social media and email them and ask them to share your content with their own followers.

Make it Sharable

There are a few ways to make your content easily shareable, which can increase your chances of readers sharing your content.

The most obvious way is to have social share buttons on your content. Make these social share buttons easily viewed on the sidebar and/or the bottom of your content. Also, make sure they’re optimized so that when your readers click on them, the posts are accurately representing your content.

Another way is to insert Click to Tweet phrases within the content so that your readers only have to click on the link and instantly share the tweet you’ve composed within your content. Take some time to decide which of your sentences sums up your content concisely and accurately.

Also, it never hurts to include your best content to your email blasts, and ask them to share your content on their own social media channels if they like it.

Tap into Content Sharing Communities

There are plenty of communities out there (that have already built a strong online presence) that you can submit your content to. These communities are a great way to connect with like-minded readers. Some ones to consider are LinkedIn Groups, Triberr and Growth Hackers. These communities also offer optimal networking opportunities with like-minded professionals.

Do you have any strategies that you use to promote your content? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

 

, ,

Creating a Story Map from A to Z

Story mapping is a practice that can be applied to many verticals to organize and visualize a new project, including (but not limited to); customer or product journey, go-forward plans, or basic project management. The process is useful when collaborating with multiple stakeholders to understand key objectives, communicate on workflow, and visualize progress.

Story maps are most prevalent in software development, especially among teams practicing agile methodology. However, they can be a valuable tool for any industry. Of course, the specifics of a map will differ based on the vertical and project. Follow these steps to use a story map for any new initiative.

Define Your Vision and Goals

What is the overall objective of your project? Are you creating a new internal system, working with an outside client to develop a service, building a website, visualizing your customer journey? Whatever it may be, identify the main goal of your project so that you can work backward from there, to start your story map.

Once you identify your end target, the next step is to outline your vision. Think of this step as telling the initial story. Here are a few examples of initial stories:

  • E-commerce site– walkthrough the customer journey. Customer searches for an item, finds your website, views products, selects a specific product, looks at images, puts product in the cart, enters payment information, enters shipping information, confirms the order.
  • Planning an event– walkthrough a guest’s experience. The guest arrives, valets their car, checks their coat, finds their table, has cocktails, participates in the silent auction, enjoys their meal, watches live entertainments, departs with their thank-you bag.
  • Developing a job board– outline the job seeker’s journey. Applicant uploads resume, applicant browses open jobs, applicant finds an appropriate job and applies, the employer is notified of the new applicant and can choose to engage or not, communication is established.

The key with this step is to understand your end game (goal), and the ideal storyline (vision) you would like to happen to get there.

How to Establish Your Strategy

Knowing where to start when creating a strategy can be tricky. Take each step of the initial story and group and define activities from there. Ask yourself; what needs to be ideated or created to make that step occur? You might need to break down each step further if the process is complex.

After you establish what needs to happen, make a list of specific activities or tasks to complete. Intuitively group activities into stages. For example, what are the tasks that need to be done first? In many software related story maps, these individual tasks are referred to as the backlog.

Assign each task to a person or team, ensure they understand the task and set a firm deadline. Communication plays a crucial role in story mapping, no matter if you have a team of five or two-hundred. Each stakeholder in the story map should have a point person they can turn to for issues; this will help you avoid roadblocks.

story-map

Determine the Best Way to Visualize your Roadmap

This is the step of actually putting together a physical story map (often referred to as a roadmap) for your project. Original practices used a white-board or a large open wall space, with colored post-its or index cards to outline the roadmap. The main concept being that everyone could visualize steps and assignments, and physically move cards as they progress.

Traditional roadmaps generally have the following stages; backlog (unassigned tasks), in progress (assigned tasks), testing (testing the first iteration), and completed.

If you don’t have all employees or stakeholders in one physical office space, or you would prefer a digital alternative, there are many story-mapping programs. These platforms allow for interactive, usually cloud-based, story maps, accessible from any location, with real-time updates. A few popular options include:

  • Cardboard– takes the post-it format and makes it digital, very customizable, offers integrations with other software and programs, with free and paid versions available.
  • Realtime Board– also uses the digital post-it format for their visual story maps. Realtime offers multiple story-board templates to choose from, a benefit to new story-mappers. The platform is customizable, with third-party integrations, and free or paid subscriptions.
  • Trello– a digital project management system that you can also use for for story mapping. Trello uses lists and boards to organize information, but is very interactive, and can integrate popular programs like GoogleDocs, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive, as well as the Atlassian suite products.

For more options for digital story mapping, check out this article by Feed Otter.

Pro-Tip: Translate Software-Specific Principles for All Story Maps

While every story map will differ depending on the industry, company, and campaign, there are main software and agile principles that apply to any project.

Deliver important requirements first.

If you’re working on a large project with many moving parts, determine the must-haves. Then move those to the front of your story map, to work on and deliver them first. Items that are non-essential, but would be nice to have, should be given second or third priority. This way, if the project takes longer than expected—which it often does—you can cut those tasks.

Break down complex requirements.

If there’s a large requirement or task, break it up into smaller more manageable pieces. Even though you might not physically be working off of post-its or index cards, break down updates or tasks as if you are. If the task description can’t fit on a post-it, divide it into multiple tasks. This can also help you divide less critical components, to move them to a later time frame.

Focus on communication and progress documentation.

Agile software teams have daily or weekly stand-up meetings, where they quickly go over all of the need-to-know information, give progress reports and discuss roadblocks or issues. From here, if further meetings need to happen, they break off into to one-on-ones. While you might not need to have frequent meetings, communication should be key. Further, make sure to document the progress of each task, whether that be on an actual board or the digital story map. Each stakeholder should be able to see progress and understand the current stage of each assignment.

Ready to Create Your Story Map?

Story maps offer a dynamic process to organize any type of project with multiple stakeholders, stages, and tasks. If you’re facing a challenging new campaign, try creating a story map to set progress in motion.

Image Credit: www.visual-paradigm.com

, , , ,

B2B Content Marketing Strategies That Increase Lead Generation and Conversion

Content marketing is shown to be three times more successful than traditional marketing strategies and can even cost less than doing things the old fashioned way. Knowing this, content marketing can be extremely beneficial for your business when done correctly.

Let’s examine 5 ways you can leverage content marketing to generate more leads and convert those leads into clients.

Gate Your Best Content with a Lead Capture Form

When you create content that is more dynamic and comprehensive than an average blog post (such as an eBook or a white paper), make sure to gate it with a lead capture form. This will help grow your leads exponentially right away. Downloading your content immediately self-identifies these leads as having an affinity for your brand.

When you create a lead capture form, keep it short and sweet. You want to have a balance of getting all the information you need, while only having a few fields to fill in.  If you ask for too much information, the lead may give up in frustration. Key fields include:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Company name
  • Role at company

Send Leads Content Not a Sales Pitch

It’s likely that you have an email marketing campaign all queued up. But, you might want to take a moment to examine your campaigns and make sure that you’re sending your leads thought leadership content as opposed to a sales pitch about your brand.

Of course, you want to present them with a sales pitch eventually, but you want to “warm them up” with resources they will actually find useful. This positions your brand as a trusted source of information and will make the lead more receptive to your sales pitch when it comes time. A good rule of thumb is to drip your leads with 5 emails before sending them an email about your brand and then asking them if they would like a demo or phone call to learn more.

Create a Dynamic Content Strategy

There are many forms of content to leverage that positions your brand as a thought leader. A balance between a stream of blog posts and more thorough pieces of content like eBooks is crucial. This means that multiple channels will be bringing new leads to the table. A sample editorial calendar to use as a springboard may look like:

  • 1 blog post per week
  • 1 eBook per month
  • 1 white paper per quarter
  • 1 infographic per quarter

This balance and steady stream of valuable content will help generate new leads and nurture current leads. You may want to consider a weekly round-up of your brand’s content, and the FeedOtter tool is a great way to streamline this process.

Learn Your Consumer’s Journey

Sit down with a hot cup of tea and draw out on a piece of paper the stages that consumers go through that lead them to your brand, while noting specific pain points they may encounter or different questions they may have. Seeing these stages on paper will help you create the right content that will appeal to those target consumers and help you line up your email drip campaigns.

Case studies are key pieces of content, but need to be strategically dripped. Knowing where your leads are in the buying process is crucial to understanding when and how you should distribute case studies. Theoretically, the lead should be dripped thought leadership resources like blogs and eBooks to establish brand trust. Once that trust has been established, case studies are key to converting that lead into a consumer.

Embrace User Generated Content

Consumers don’t want to hear from a brand itself. Rather, they are more likely to trust the recommendations of their peers. This is where user generated content (UGC) comes in. Content created by consumers and/or influencers is ideal content to promote and share with your current leads and potential leads. Here are some areas where you might want to use UGC:

  • Social media (paid and organic)
  • Weekly or monthly newsletter
  • Blog posts

To earn more UGC, you may want to offer incentives in the form of discounts from your brand or gift cards. Sometimes, clients need a reason to produce content about their experience with your brand, and it’s so worth it!

Additionally, it’s wise to seek out influencers who have an affinity for your brand and explore how you can work together to have them produce UGC in the form of a product review. This earned media adds an extra layer of authenticity surrounding your brand and can generate a lot of new interest. If this type of content is put in front of current leads, it may get them to the finish line and convince them to convert into a client.

Have you tried any content marketing strategies to generate or nurture leads that you want to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

,

Story Mapping 101: How This Organization Strategy Can Set Your Business Apart

User story mapping is relatively simple: you’re talking about a user’s experience with your product in a format that explains their journey like a story. The concept was invented by Jeff Patton because he noticed that oftentimes people would get lost in arguments about a product’s features, and the actual user experience would get put on the back burner. But ultimately the way a user experiences a product is what determines whether or not they purchase and use it, and so in reality the user experience should be one of the TOP priorities when creating a new product. According to Jeff, story mapping “will help you build a better backlog that [in turn] will help you more effectively explain your system, prioritize, and plan your releases.” It helps you focus on the big picture so that you don’t get lost in the individual elements.

So What Exactly is Story Mapping? 

story-mapping

Image 1: Story-mapping in action

It’s exactly what it sounds like- a map. It consists of two independent dimensions; user activities and implementation. Typically you would arrange the user activities along the horizontal axis in order of their priority, and you would use the vertical axis to show increasing sophistication of the implementation of said activities. If you follow this model, the first row of your map will be an extremely simplistic version of your product, ie: everything you need for it to run, but no bells and whistles. As you add more rows, you’re essentially adding more product features (while still focusing on the user experience). It might sound complicated, but in practice it’s really not.

Jeff shared the picture on the left of his friend Gary creating a story map for his product “MIMI”, otherwise known as Music Industry Marketing Interface.

While he was working on the map, Gary realized that his original idea was a bit more complex than he originally thought. He was able to use the map to tone down his project and focus on one specific part; building a piece of commercial software to send out mailers quickly and easily.

Agile Velocity has a somewhat more simplistic version of story mapping on their website:

story-mapping

Image 2: Story mapping design

If you look at the top row in blue, you’ll see that it’s the most basic version of their website. It consists of the most simple version of the user activities. The yellow boxes listed vertically show the user experience broken down into more specific steps. For example, when you make a purchase you don’t just “check out” (but wouldn’t that be nice?) you have to follow specific steps, such as entering your payment information and shipping address. By creating a map, you’re forced to look at each individual element and evaluate its effectiveness. Without the map, you may have been tempted to rush through the checkout stage without realizing that perhaps your template for contact info isn’t formatted correctly. This is something that could easily annoy a user enough to cause them to leave your site without making a purchase.

Not interested in making a physical story map? Check out this article by Feed Otter on 7 story mapping programs you can find online!

So What Else Do You Need to Know in Order to Incorporate Story Mapping?

Story mapping should always be a TEAM effort; it should never be left up to one person to complete. In the above example about Gary and MIMI, it was also mentioned on the website that Jeff Patton was also helping Gary create his map, as well as another contributor called Dave Hoover AND an entire team of people from Obtiva. So who should be in the room when you create your map? First and foremost, users! Who better to describe the user experience than people who are actually using the product? It’s also a good idea to include the product manager, someone who is specifically in charge of user experience and design, SME’s, and someone in charge of engineering. The more people you have working together on your team, the better your map will be.

In addition, it’s always a good idea to color code your map to make it easy to read and understand (and then don’t forget to make a key so others understand your system (again, it’s about working on a team!)). Work one step and one layer at a time, and know that each step does NOT require an action (don’t make it harder than it needs to be). Finally, don’t forget to continually update your map. It’s ok to present an early version of it to your stakeholders, but then don’t just throw it in the corner! Add and revise as you go along, and then share your progress! It’s a great way to make your progress visible (and have proof that you’ve been working!) so that you’re not just telling people what you’ve been up to.

If you’d like more detailed information on how to incorporate story mapping into your business, check out Jeff Patton’s website. He’s written a book, numerous articles and blog posts, put together a slideshow and a presentation, and if that’s not enough he also lists more resources on his site. Good luck and happy mapping!

Image 1: jpattonassociates.com

Image 2: agilevelocity.com

How to Use Story Mapping to Improve Website Navigation and Architecture

First of all, what is story mapping?

Story mapping is just what it sounds like: a map that tells a story.  The story it’s telling is that of a user’s experience with your product.  It was developed by Jeff Patton and gives development teams the ability to visualize a user’s journey through a product from start to finish, and from simple to complex.  The “map” is arranged by horizontal and vertical axis; the first horizontal row shows the most basic steps taken by a user, and each subsequent horizontal row adds different layers of complexity to the user journey.  The vertical columns represent implementation of the product, and are usually arranged by priority.  The map is typically color coded and made available to anyone on a product team.  In fact, the more people that work on it the better to discover glitches or areas that need improvement.  Here is an example of a typical story map:

Image 1: Story mapping example with post-its

Story maps are great because they put the focus on the user experience, which oftentimes gets sent to the back burner in favor of product features and other more pressing details.  They help teams prioritize better to ensure that what the customer ends up with is valuable.  The end product should be a holistic view of the entire customer experience, ideally devoid of any gaps or problems.

Story maps focus on user experience, and website navigation is one of the most important aspects of user experience, so these two things go hand in hand.  A little background on why website navigation is so essential:

Your website is your way to communicate your product to your users; if you were speaking to them in person, you would take care to be clear and concise, straightforward and to the point.  We’ve all had experiences where we’ve been in conversation with someone only to have them go off on some tangent, subsequently causing us to lose interest and become distracted.  You DON’T want this to happen on your website, and it’s much easier for communication to be interrupted online as opposed to in person when both channels are present.

Instead of using speech to tell your brand’s story, your website uses navigation.  You may not have thought twice the last time you clicked on a little hamburger menu, but chances are the website designer(s) spent a good amount of time debating which type of icon to use.  That’s because if your website’s navigation is done poorly, the line of communication between company and user will be severed, and the user won’t get the product or solution they’re looking for.  In addition to this, navigation is also essential to SEO.  Search Engines pay attention to how users behave on websites, and they factor that into their rankings.  If you have a high bounce rate because your users are lost on your site, you’ll see that reflected in your rankings.

How to Use Story Mapping to Ensure Your Website is Optimally Designed?

First off, get a team together.  Gather a group of stakeholders who have different backgrounds and specialties, but who are all invested in the final product.  Then, create a list of all the tasks you think a user will need to go through in order to carry out a specific action, like submitting their contact information on a user form or making a purchase.  These tasks will make up the first row of your story map.  Next, break each action down into smaller details.  This is where navigation comes into play.  If a customer is going to make a purchase, how will they get to the checkout screen?  Will they scroll down, or open a new window?  Will there be drop down menus, or buttons to click?  Should you link text, and if so, where?  You can, and should, bounce ideas off your team members and use their expertise to come up with the best, and most flawless, route.  Ask yourself  questions like, “is this the most logical route to take?” and “will this design aid or distract the user?”  Story maps are great because they’re not set in stone (many are created with post-it notes).  Once you get done, if you look at the final product and decide some of the steps don’t seem optimized, swap them out for other ideas and reevaluate.  This should be a collaborative process that involves rewriting and rearranging details again and again until everything fits.  No one expects it to be perfect the first time around.

Image 2: Story mapping to improve design and navigation

Someone on your team should ideally be versed in web design best practices, so if that person isn’t you consider checking out this article on FeedOtter.com to learn some tips about web design that will hopefully boost your conversion rate.  In addition, Feed Otter offers this guide for the 7 best story mapping programs to use in case post-it notes aren’t your thing!

How do you plan to incorporate story mapping into your business in 2019?  Comment in the section below!

Image 1: netcentric.biz

Image 2 and feature image: cardboardit.com

, ,

7 Creative Ways to Promote B2B Content

Here’s an amazing fact: the most successful B2B marketers spend roughly 40% of their budget on content marketing. That’s a huge number, and it proves what a powerful strategy content marketing can be. Unfortunately, too many marketers simply create great content and then call the job done. Creating content is only part of the job; marketers also need stellar strategy to promote it.

Creating content around your brand is a great way to show thought leadership, generate leads, and usher leads through the sales funnel. Thing is, creating great and engaging content is only the first step. You have to find a way to share it with the world, and this post will help you do just that. Check out these 6 creative ways to promote your content, because you need to develop a stronger content marketing strategy for your brand.

Newsletters

Email is a great way to get your content in front of your target consumers, but, with so much spam being delivered every day, it’s getting harder to stand out in all the clutter. So, consider this: consumers opt-in all the time to newsletters that cover different niches that they’re interested in. Consult your buyer personas and take some time to think about which brands, topics and newsletters your target consumers would trust.

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of newsletters that your target consumer would be likely to opt-in to, find out how you can work with these publications. Usually, you can find a media or advertising contact in the footer of the website. Reach out to these contacts and specify how you want to work with them.

Since we’re specifying how to work with your target newsletters, we recommend leading with a strong piece of informative content, as opposed to a self-promotional ad about your brand. An eBook, white paper or other “downloadable” piece of content is best so that you can generate leads and capture email addresses.

Use Images

A report by BuzzSumo reported that content that features an image every 75-100 words gets double the shares than content without images. This shows that your content should be visually driven if your readers are going to consider it worthy of sharing on their own social media channels.

Sure, stock photos work. But, simple graphics like charts or quotes add a whole other layer to your blog and social media posts. We like Canva and Snappa because they’re really easy to use.

Make it “Sharable”

Images aren’t the only way to make content easily sharable. When people share content on their social channels, they look at it as sharing a post that they personally stand behind. Readers are usually going to look for something unique about your post, and they want to be the first ones to report it to their friends. Sharing a post is personal and people like to take credit for sharing good content. Does your brand’s content make readers feel like they are sharing something new?

We’re all very busy. Readers share content when it’s easy for them to do it quickly. Be sure to have social share buttons on the sidebar and end of your content—there are plenty of plugins for this. Additionally, when you’re loading up your new piece of content, make sure that social share buttons send out a catchy message with the link to your content. Readers often click the social share buttons and don’t personalize the social message.

Another way to make your content sharable is to use Click to Tweet. This allows you to pull out the perfect quote or line in your content that readers can click and share straight from the post. It’s easy for you to insert into your content and even easier for your readers to share your post. Check out how we used it here.

Give a Webinar

70% of internet users want to learn about products through content versus traditional advertisements. You can use this information when planning how to promote your content. Being a thought leader and giving webinars that align with the content you want to promote are both great ways to engage with your target consumers, while also promoting your latest eBook or white paper. Give consumers what they want and spend your budget on promoting content as opposed to self-promotional ads.

Capitalize on Social Media

It’s a given that you should share your content on social media, but with so many brands using multiple social media platforms, you need to get creative. Some ways to do that are:

  • Tap into relevant hashtags
  • Use images
  • Pull out quotes or statistics from your content
  • A/B test different messages

Make sure that you are focusing on the relevant platforms that will reach your desired target audiences. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn all have particular features and certain demographic trends and users, so do your research before you invest in social media promotion.

Utilize Influencers

Connecting with thought leaders in your space not only creates more dynamic content, it also means that those influencers will likely share the content that you quote them in.

Plan a brainstorming session and think of at least 10 influencers in your space that your target consumer trusts. Reach out to these influencers and make it easy for them to weigh in by asking them for just a quote or by having a list of questions they can answer. Use these quotes and answers in a blog post or eBook.

Influencers by nature have a large and loyal following. If you use their words in their content, they’ll share on their own social and email channels. We like to pre-write social media posts for influencers so they can simply copy and paste on their social channels. We also ask them if they have any newsletters that they can contribute content for, and offer to write a paragraph that they can use in their email to promote the content.

Grow an Email List

Having an internal email list is crucial to generating leads and communicating your content with potential consumers.

One effective way to grow this list is by producing downloadable content where the reader has to enter their email address. You also should have a “subscribe” button on your website and blog.

We recommend that your brand taps into this list once a week and send out a weekly email that promotes your latest content. In your weekly email, you should position your brand as a thought leader and also link to the latest research reports and strategies from like minded brands. You want this email to entertain and inform your target consumers and not be overly self-promotional.

Do you have any tips when it comes to promoting B2B content? We would love to hear from you in the comments!