Never Underestimate the Power of A-Ha!

by janetrobbins on March 2, 2010

There’s something special about “a-ha!” moments. You know, those times when you encounter something fresh or surprising that sparks immediate interest or delightful understanding and causes you to murmur, “Cool!” Those types of moments stay with you and easily spread virally as you share your experience with your friends.

So it makes sense that some of your best marketing ideas will be those that inspire a-ha! moments for your customers. Let’s take a look at a couple of companies that “get” the power of a-ha! and explore how you can put it to work for your business.

A Lesson from PG Tips

PG Tips is a brand of tea popular in the UK, and its makers (Brooke Bond) began producing pyramid-shaped (tetrahedron) tea bags in 1996. According to the company, the idea behind the pyramid-shaped bag is that it provides more room inside than a flat bag does and enables the tea to move around freely—as though in a miniature tea pot—providing better results.

PG Tips pyramid tea bagI happen to be a PG Tips fan, and one afternoon while fixing tea, I looked at the pyramid bag and wondered how it’s made. So as the water boiled, I “reverse-engineered” the bag (i.e., cut off the back base-edge of the pyramid in the photo and flattened out the bag) and—a-ha!—discovered that the pyramid is really just a regular flat tea bag that’s been “pinched” to make it 3D. Who knew it could be so simple? Very cool indeed—I couldn’t wait to tell my friends.

The marketing lesson we can take away from PG Tips is this: Sometimes all it takes is a compelling new twist on a conventional idea, product or service to ignite customer interest. PG Tips capitalized on taking the mundane and unremarkable—an ordinary flat tea bag—and turning it into something fresh, remarkable and memorable for its customers.

Visual Merchandizing à la Anthropologie

Another company that “gets” a-ha! is retailer Anthropologie. The company (launched in 1992 by Urban Outfitters, Inc.) sells women’s apparel, accessories, furniture and home furnishings to affluent professional women in the 30–45 age range throughout the U.S., Canada and abroad.

Walking past an Anthropologie window display provides a glimpse of what sets the company apart from a lot of other retailers—a dedication to visual merchandizing that invites discovery and an uncanny ability to capture attention and draw people into the store to see more. Anthro-display2 A closer look at most displays reveals what’s really there—a-ha!—and explains why people keep coming back to see what the company will create next.

For example, the company’s Spring 2010 theme is flowers, as you can see in these Flickr photos of a window display at one of the NYC stores. Spring 2010 window display detail at NYC Anthropologie storeLook more closely and you’ll discover that the flowers are actually plastic bottles that Anthropologie has repurposed with scissors, a little paint, some string and a big dose of wow to produce a stunning effect. (Other everyday items Anthropologie has put to similar use over the years include rulers, coffee filters, light bulbs, straws, balloons, phone books, honey bears—and yes, even tea bags!)

Furthermore, Anthropologie understands the power of community and in January encouraged their fan base to support local store efforts to create truly unique, relevant and memorable displays: “Want to help us create our spring windows?” read the company’s Facebook page. “Simply drop off used plastic water bottles of all shapes and sizes at any Anthropologie location. And don’t forget to return to your store to see your castoffs repurposed into larger-than-life sprays of flowers!” Nicely done, Anthropologie.

The lesson for marketers this time? Never stop surprising and delighting your customers. Provide engaging experiences to get them talking and keep them coming back to see what you’ll do next.

Tips for Creating A-Ha! Moments for Your Customers

How do you create a-ha! moments for your customers? It’s not as hard as you might think, but it requires effort to rethink your marketing ideas from an unconventional angle or perspective:

  • What stories, ingredients or procedures can you reveal to pique your customers’ natural curiosity about your products, services or company?
  • What can you offer that’s unexpected to spark interest and cause your customers to stop and take notice?
  • What nagging problems can you help them solve—with absolutely no strings attached?
  • What experiment can you conduct to provide insights your customers won’t find anywhere else?What new and interesting event or activity can you undertake that demonstrates your passion and innovation and sets you apart from your competitors?
  • How can you use humor or empathy to better connect with your customers in meaningful ways that entertain or enrich their life—professionally or personally?

The true power of a-ha! moments is their ability to cause someone to pause and consider your company or brand in a new and favorable light. It’s all part of building your reputation as an innovator with something interesting to share with the rest of the world. And don’t forget the long-term value of your efforts: A-ha! moments come with natural staying power, so your customers will recall and share those moments with others long after the moment has passed.

I’m sure you’ve experienced a-ha! moments throughout your life, and I invite you to share your experiences as well as those you’ve created for your customers.

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Busy Fort Collins Internet Collaborators at Work in The Hive

by janetrobbins on September 30, 2009

What started as a hunt for a larger office space to house Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek.net has evolved into a unique co-working arrangement for eight Fort Collins Internet-related businesses: The Hive. Located downstairs in the historic National Guard Armory building at 314 E. Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins, The Hive provides an efficient way for small businesses that otherwise might operate out of a home or temporary office to come together collectively to share office space in a collaborative setting.

EThe Hivearlier this month, I had the opportunity to talk with Blue Skies Marketing’s Laurie Macomber and CodeGeek.net’s Ron Zasadzinski—the minds behind The Hive—to find out more about it.

Please share the story of how The Hive came about.

LM: The Hive is a housing venture for Ron and me, rather than a business venture. We had shared an office at The Executive Center [123 N. College Avenue, Suite 200], and we just outgrew it. We started to look for a larger space that would accommodate us, and after touring numerous possibilities, our agent showed us the Armory building. We instantly loved the layout and the funkiness of the space—and the price was right—but it was way bigger than what we needed for just our two companies.

RZ: Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek work with a lot of the same customers on different aspects of their Web projects, and we collaborate with a lot of other Web-focused service providers as well. We thought it would be more efficient—and more fun—if we were all located in the same place. This way, we can provide resources and support to each other and pass along referrals. But that wasn’t our objective when we started out—it’s really just happenstance how it all came about.

You say that The Hive isn’t a business venture for you. Will you expand on that a bit?

RZ: At this point, The Hive is an experiment for us. We have a lease on the Armory space through December 31, 2009, but we’re not exactly sure what will happen in 2010. We hope we’ll be able to stay here or find a similar space elsewhere, but we’ll have to see what happens.

LM: Also, we aren’t competing at all with organizations that offer office space and support services as a business, such as The Executive Center or Front Range Business Centers. We’re not out to make a business from The Hive—we just loved the space and wanted to find a way that we could use it. We more or less hand-picked the companies we approached to share this space with us. They’re like-minded companies in the Internet field that share our belief in the value of collaboration—the TEAM concept—you know, “together each accomplishes more.” So it’s nice to see it play out.

What eight businesses make up The Hive?

LM: In addition to Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek.net, Midnight Oil Graphics, Acorn Creative Studio, Final Draft Communications, Floating Point Media, Joe’s Media and InfoProductSpecialist share the space.

What do businesses “get” from being part of The Hive?

LM: Because the rent is very affordable, The Hive provides the opportunity for small-business owners who might be isolated in a home office to have an office outside their home in a collaborative setting. The Hive members rent a small workspace with a desk and Internet service from us, and they have access to a terrific conference room for meetings with their clients or other collaborators. We provide a microwave and refrigerator (which we got through Craigslist, by the way!), but we don’t offer phone service or a receptionist—everyone just uses their cell phone and takes care of their own administrative needs.

RZ: There are a lot of benefits for The Hive members. For one, the office is right downtown, so we’re within walking distance to a lot of restaurants and other businesses, which is convenient. And the collaborators are people we would work with anyway—now we just don’t have to drive somewhere else when we need to meet. Another benefit is having experts right at hand for answering questions. The community is extremely positive, supportive and energetic. It’s fun to be together.

What makes The Hive unique from other office-space arrangements in Northern Colorado?

RZ: One factor is that all the companies here provide some type of Web-related service, so even though we’re independent businesses, there’s a strong sense of unity. And a second factor is the belief we share in the importance of collaboration over competition. We’ve found there’s plenty of work out there for everyone, and collaborating vs. competing is much more productive and fun for all of us.

It’s been more than a month since The Hive’s open house and almost two months since you moved in. How are things going? Have there been any surprises?

LM: We’re extremely pleased with the support we’ve had so far for this venture. We’ve filled the space at this point, and we’ve also started a waiting list for interested businesses. One very pleasant surprise has been to find out how quiet the building is! The way the building is constructed, we find that even though it’s an open floor plan, each workspace is remarkably quiet—we don’t hear each other on the phone, for example.

RZ: The Hive is also a great space for social gatherings. Besides the open house we held in August, which was very well attended, we’re planning another community get-together on October 15, 2009, from 5–7 p.m. We invite everyone to stop by and see what we’re all about.

The capability to host social gatherings was something Laurie and I were excited about when we first saw the space. So much business today is about building community through networking, and face-to-face social gatherings play an important role in that effort. In addition to hosting events at The Hive, Laurie and I curate Ignite Fort Collins, and we’re very active in the Fort Collins Internet Pros [FCIP] Meetup group that Debbie Campbell [Red Kite Creative] started.

LM: We definitely encourage everyone who’s interested in any of these activities to get involved and check them out.

In your opinion, what long-term role will The Hive play in promoting and enabling new marketing tactics throughout Northern Colorado?

LM: Well, that’s hard to say at this point. When you get a group of creative people together, it’s hard to predict what synergies will come out. One idea leads to another and another, and who knows in the future what kind of sandbox we’ll be playing in? But this is the age of cooperation and collaboration, and there’s so much excitement and energy—it’s all around us. Fort Collins is such a great city for business—#2 in the Forbes list this year.

Before we conclude, please tell me a little bit about each of your companies.

LM: Blue Skies Marketing is an SEO [search engine optimization] company that specializes in keyword research, site planning and content creation. We collaborate with CodeGeek on Ignite, FCIP and our new Social Media Jockey venture.

RZ: CodeGeek.net is a full-service Web design and development company. We specialize in elegant design and standards-based coding, and what sets us apart is our team. For years, we’ve networked with professionals across the country, so when clients come in with special requirements, we can bring in exactly the right expert. As Laurie mentioned, CodeGeek and Blue Skies Marketing collaborate on numerous projects, and we share a number of clients.

Social Media Jockey sounds interesting. What’s that about?

LM: Social Media Jockey is a joint venture that Ron and I recently started. In essence, we “ride the social media horse” for our clients on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We help clients construct their profiles, build their tribes and write posts. We’re excited to see where this type of service leads.

Do you have any final thoughts for readers?

LM: I’d just like to encourage people who have a wild idea to pursue it—say yes to your instincts! The reward is certainly worth the risk—there’s just so much to gain.

Contact The Hive

The Hive
314 E. Mountain Avenue (downstairs)
Fort Collins, CO 80521

Mark your calendars for the next social gathering:
Thursday, October 15, 2009
5–7 p.m.

Ron Zasadzinski
Web Developer
CodeGeek.net
970.227.0489
ronz@codegeek.net
Twitter: @ron_z

Laurie Macomber
President
Blue Skies Marketing
970.631.6496
laurie@blueskiesmktg.com
Twitter: @lauriemacomber

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So, you’ve committed to participating in social media. How’s that working out so far for your business? Are you measuring what you do? Do you know whether you’re succeeding? And just how do you stack up against your competition? If you need help answering these questions, ENGAGEMENTdb might be just the tool for you.

ENGAGEMENTdb

In late July 2009, Altimeter Group (headed by Charlene Li, formerly of Forrester Research) and Wetpaint released the results of a study ranking the social media engagement of the world’s top 100 brands (as identified by BusinessWeek/Interbrand in 2008). The study measured the number of social media channels the top brands participated in, as well as their degree of engagement within each channel, then ranked the companies based on their cumulative score (1–127).

Brands scoring 100 or more include

  1. Starbucks (127)
  2. Dell (123)
  3. eBay (115)
  4. Google (105)
  5. Microsoft (103)
  6. Thomson Reuters (101)
  7. Nike (100)

By quartile, the scores break out like this: top quartile—50 or higher, second-highest quartile—27 to 49, third-highest quartile—14 to 24 and lowest quartile—1 to 12.

In addition to publishing a report of the findings, Altimeter Group and Wetpaint also launched the ENGAGEMENTdb website. There you can download a pdf of the report, use the search tool to find detailed information about the social media channels each company uses and read expert commentary about the findings. But most intriguing is the tool that lets you evaluate your (or your competitors’) social media efforts and compare them with the most valuable brands. Are you game to give this tool a try?

How the Tool Works

ENGAGEMENTdb asks you to complete a quick, five-question survey to determine your company’s level of engagement and how your score compares with the top 100 companies. After taking the survey, you receive a customized report via email (a great idea for collecting leads, BTW).

Here’s a summary of the data the survey collects:

  • All the social media tools that your company uses to engage customers (blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Scribd, YouTube, calendar/events, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, forums, ratings, wiki)
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is Not Active at All and 5 is Very Active, the activity level of your customers on the social media channels your company participates in (Active means visiting the site, posting comments and questions, uploading content, etc.)
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is Not Responsive at All and 5 is Very Responsive, the level of your company’s responsiveness to customer activity on your social media channels
  • Your company’s level of involvement in its social media efforts, as indicated by the following four descriptors:

Very—lots of people, lots of investment, broad corporate interest
Involved—several people, reasonable investment, select corporate interest
Somewhat—few people, some investment, debatable corporate interest
Minimally—sole individual responsible, minimal investment, little corporate interest

  • The type of industry that best fits your company

Your ENGAGEMENTdb Analysis

Once you complete the survey, you receive a report via email that reveals your overall ENGAGEMENTdb assessment: your score, a summary of the number of social media channels you engage in and an indication of whether your score falls above or below the best-fit line for the top brands. The overall assessment also identifies the engagement profile that you fit:

  • Maven: Presence in a high number of social media channels; high engagement within those channels (High presence; High engagement)
  • Selective: Low presence; High engagement
  • Butterfly: High presence; Low engagement
  • Wallflower: Low presence; Low engagement

Last, the report also discloses how you compare with others in your industry and offers implications of your social media strategy.

How Significant Info Stacks Up

When I took the survey for my marketing research/content marketing business, Significant Info, I found the process to be very straightforward and the results useful. I’d love to report that Significant Info scored right up there with the leading brands, but the company has some work to do yet to get there. I’ll use this evaluation as a baseline to compare efforts going forward. Here are the key points in the report:

  • ENGAGEMENTdb score: 39.5
  • Compared with the top 100 brands, Significant Info falls above the best-fit line
  • Significant Info is engaged in fewer channels (4—blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) than the overall average (6)
  • Significant Info fits the Selective engagement profile
  • Business Services brands typically engage more in fewer channels; Significant Info falls above the best-fit line for Business Services and engages in fewer channels than the Business Services average (6)

How Does Your Company Stack Up?

Go ahead—give the tool a whirl! Use ENGAGEMENTdb to find out how your company scores in its social media efforts. Even if you’re just starting out, the results can provide a valuable incentive to commit time, energy and investment in social media. What do you have to lose?

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Be Everywhere They Seek Significant Information

by janetrobbins on August 12, 2009

When it comes to making large-purchase decisions, business-technology buyers are increasingly turning away from traditional information resources such as tradeshows and advertising, reports research firm MarketingSherpa. Now more than ever, buyers are turning to online resources to find the significant information they need to make a sound purchasing decision.

What does this mean to marketers? Today, you need to be found wherever your customers and prospects seek information—and you need to adjust your marketing investments accordingly.

Information Sources for Large Purchase Decisions Changing

Where Buyers Go for Information

According to the MarketingSherpa data, virtual events and tradeshows are increasingly important information sources for buyers: 30% of those surveyed in May 2009 reported that they are increasing their use of virtual events/tradeshows to gain information that can influence large-purchase ($25,000 or more) decisions. Search engines are equally strong as a tool for finding information, and business, vendor and technology websites are not far behind.

Research analysts and social media sources also show more increase than decrease in buyer preference. Social media, including blogs and social networks, weighs in at a 24% increase in usage, far exceeding traditional sources such as newsletters, email, face-to-face events and advertising.

Where They Don’t Go

With the current state of the economy and cutbacks in business expenses such as travel, it’s not surprising that buyers are shying away from face-to-face events/tradeshows (a 37% decrease) and turning to virtual events instead. The information they receive is valuable to their purchase decisions, but an online event makes more economical sense at this time.
Newsletters, vendor-delivered email and video programming are essentially flat in terms of usage gains and losses as information sources, and advertising shows a substantial decrease (18%). Are you wasting marketing dollars on these declining information channels? Read on …

Business Takeaways

Where should you invest your marketing dollars to make the most impact to your customers and prospects? The most obvious move might be to transfer some of your in-person tradeshow budget to a virtual event that your customers and prospects are likely to attend. Do some research and find online opportunities to replace a traditional industry tradeshow you’ve always attended in the past. Your dollars might extend further so that you make a bigger splash in a virtual show than in a traditional event.

Perhaps the most important move is to create a plan to consistently add content (optimized for search) to your website. With 30% of buyers increasing their use of search and almost that percentage relying on your website for information, you need to make sure they can find you—and find the information they need to make a decision about your products and services.

And finally, if you haven’t already done so, you need to gain a foothold in social media. A blog can serve two purposes—regularly add content to your website and create community around your product and brand through comments and links. Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can provide you with the means to interact with interested prospects and buyers in a way that builds trust in your company and provides the next-best-thing to a face-to-face meeting.

So, the biggest takeaway is simply this: Be everywhere your customers and prospects seek significant information—providing what they need when they need it can be the most important differentiator for your company.

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Satisfy User Intent with Your Content Marketing

by janetrobbins on July 29, 2009

Early in July 2009, public relations agency Ruder Finn released the results of a study focusing on users’ intent when they go online. The seven primary reasons that people go online include—from most often to least often—

  1. To learn
  2. To have fun
  3. To socialize
  4. To express themselves
  5. To advocate
  6. To do business
  7. To shop

Ruder Finn Intent Index Opening Screen

Ruder Finn Intent Index Opening Screen

Note: Chart is interactive. Visit http:www.ruderfinn.com/intent to drill down into each section and explore and compare the results for different audience segments.

By far, the top three reasons (To Learn, Have Fun and Socialize) outweigh all others. How can you use this significant information to help drive your content marketing strategy? This time, we’ll look at what you can do to satisfy users’ intent to learn. In future posts, we’ll look at how to satisfy users’ intent to have fun and to socialize.

Satisfy the Intent to Learn

In the learning category, Ruder Finn reports that people go online most often to educate themselves (96%), to do research (89%) and to keep informed (79%). Here are some ways that B2B companies can satisfy users’ intent to learn:

Reason for Going Online What You Can Do to Satisfy
Use a search engine to find information (75%) Make sure that you optimize all of your Web content for search so that users can easily find you.
Learn about a new subject (46%) Through content, become the friendly authority that helps newcomers get up to speed quickly in the industry you serve.
Watch videos (38%) Begin experimenting with video. Perhaps you can turn a background piece or a how-to demonstration into a short video presentation that engages viewers.
Download/upload PDFs/documents (38%) Provide white papers, case studies, presentations, reference guides and similar content for visitors to download and share with their colleagues.
Conduct research on a new topic (37%) Provide your content and links to other useful/practical content to build trust that your company is an authority and evangelist for your industry.
Find background information on products (36%) Provide adequate information about your products, including descriptions and photos, spec sheets, case studies, comparisons with competitors, comments and testimonials (e.g., via Twitter or other social platforms) and similar information.
Read product reviews (33%) Include independent product reviews or links to product reviews about your products. For any negative reviews, include your response and further comments from the reviewer. Being open and honest in addressing reviewer issues is important to your online reputation and builds trust with your audience.
Read other blogs (25%) One in four people read blogs. Do you have one? If not, now is the time to get started to build your library of online content.

Do any of these seem a good fit for your business? In a future post, we’ll look at how you can satisfy users who go online with the specific intent of having fun. “Fun?” you might say, “I’m a B2B company—how does ‘fun’ enter the equation?” Stay tuned.

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Google Analytics—Data Analysis for One and All

by janetrobbins on July 14, 2009

In June 2009, data visualization blogger Nathan Yau of FlowingData ran a poll asking, “Will Data Always Be Just for Geeks?” A whopping two out of three participants said No. Furthermore, of the people commenting on Nathan’s blog post about the poll, many responded with a resounding No, and several insisted that data never has been just for geeks—but a lack of intuitive, easy-to-use tools to help people make sense of data has made people who might be nervous about numbers shy away.

Fortunately, user-friendly tools that help people become comfortable working with data are growing in number—especially for analyzing website data. Google Analytics (and other free Web analytics applications) helps make Web data accessible, understandable, and actionable for novice to experienced data analyzers alike—and at a price everyone can afford. If you haven’t yet taken Google Analytics for a spin, now is a great time to check out what the tool can help you discover about your customers and your company website.

What Google Analytics Is
Google Analytics is a free service that Google provides to help you view, understand, and interact with detailed information about the visitors to your website. In particular, Google Analytics lets you discover

  • Who is visiting your site
  • How they are getting there
  • What they do while they’re on your site

You, in turn, can use this information to

  • Understand what visitors are looking for and what holds their attention when they visit your site
  • Track the performance of your online and offline marketing campaigns
  • Identify content and design features of your site that need improvement
  • Determine the types of customers and customer segments who are most valuable
  • Make your website work more effectively for your business

And What Google Analytics Isn’t
Google Analytics isn’t a magic bullet for your website. You can’t just set up Google Analytics on your site and then forget it, expecting that the tool will fix any problems you might have or even alert you about what you could be doing better. And the tool isn’t “perfect”—for example, it doesn’t collect data on every single visitor to your site. Because it relies on cookies for collecting data, it can’t collect data on visitors who have disabled cookies on their computers.

On the one hand, Google Analytics is very, very good at what it does—and that’s tracking all kinds of data. On the other hand, it requires your participation—that is, your interaction with the tool and your specific knowledge about your business—to reveal insights that can help you reach your business goals. To get the most out of Google Analytics, you need to invest time—a few hours each week, month or quarter—to use the tool to view and work with your data. The upside is that you learn by doing, and the more familiar you become with the tool, the more value you’ll receive in return.

Ready to Get Started?
Getting started with Google Analytics is simple and straight forward—three steps is all it takes:

  1. Sign up for a general Google Account (you need an account to use any of the Google tools)
  2. Sign up for Google Analytics
  3. Copy a small amount of tracking code to each page of your website that you want to track (if you don’t have access to the HTML code for your site, ask your Web master to complete this step)

That’s it. Within 24 hours, you’ll start to see data about traffic to your website and can begin to explore what Google Analytics has to offer.

You Can Do It
Still not certain about getting started? Check out the following short list of resources to bolster your confidence about giving Google Analytics a try. After all, what do you have to lose?

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I admit it: I’m a content junkie. It started when I was a child, and I’ve chosen to spend most of my adult life creating different types of worthwhile content for a variety of audiences. I wear a button proclaiming, “I still read books.” I tend to be online seeking useful content too many hours per day, too many days per week. I drop off to sleep at night with my latest novel in hand—you get the idea.

So, it’s only natural for me to help spread the word about the benefits of content marketing—that is, providing valuable, compelling content with the goal of educating (and even entertaining) people to help them solve a problem or enable them to make a good decision.

What Content Marketing Is—and Isn’t
If you Google “content marketing” you’ll find roughly 523,000 sources that you can access for information about the topic. But some resources are always more valuable than others, so  to get a quick take on content marketing, here are five resources to help you get up to speed on what content marketing is—and isn’t.

1. According to Wikipedia, “Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases. … Content marketing products frequently take the form of custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts/webinars, podcasts, video portals or series, in-person roadshows, roundtables, interactive online [activities], email, events.”

What content marketing is not: Traditional marketing and promotional materials such as advertising or sales brochures

2. Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 (a vertical search site dedicated to content marketing) provides this perspective: “Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

What content marketing is not: Delivery of information whose only purpose is to pitch or sell products or services, rather than educating buyers over time

3. According to well-known blogger and speaker Chris Brogan, “Content marketing is the ability to produce useful and entertaining information that is worthwhile on its own, but that might also be useful towards a sale or subsequent action. For instance, a really good review of a product from a trusted source is content marketing.”

What content marketing is not: Information that’s perceived as biased or influenced by a particular business with the intent to sell product, rather than objective content that adds to the general knowledge base of an industry

4. Content Marketing Today maintains that to become a great content marketer that can attract and retain a large customer base, think like a publisher:

  • First, define a critical group of buyers
  • Second, determine what information they really need and how they want to receive it
  • Third, deliver that critical info to that core group of buyers in the way they want it
  • Fourth, continually measure how well you’re doing and adjust as you go

What content marketing is not: To-the-masses broadcasts that fail to consider whether individual recipients want to receive information and engage with your business and if so, how they want to receive your information

5. And from Valeria Maltoni at the Conversation Agent blog: “Content marketing is … the opposite of interruption marketing. You create great content that attracts customers and prospects, educates them, and potentially engages them in a conversation with you.”

What content marketing is not: One-way communication that emanates from your company—content marketing sets the stage for meaningful conversations and engagement between your business and your customers and prospects

How Your Company Benefits from Content Marketing
Providing valuable and compelling content that is relevant to your customers and prospects and helps them shine is the epitome of good customer service. It says, “We care about you, and our first priority is to help you get the information you need to be effective—whether or not you choose to do business with us today or in the future.”

Providing useful content on an ongoing basis builds trust with your audience and helps establish your company as an authority in your industry. Significant information gets passed along, providing you with more opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with your customers and prospects—conversations that often open doors to talk about your products and services when it’s appropriate to do so, on an individual basis.

Finally, content marketing is economical. You can use well-crafted content in multiple ways—in your blog, email newsletter, website content, Twitter posts, podcasts, presentations and more. And content marketing provides the means to keep your online presence fresh (which the search engines like) and with a little help from SEO, enables more customers and prospects find you through organic search. Really, with so many benefits and so little to risk, why not give content marketing a try?

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Significant Web Content: Albatross or Albatross?

by janetrobbins on April 27, 2009

Photo of an albatrossIt’s early days yet for this blog, but you need to know up-front that in my “other life” I’m a bird-nerd. From time to time I likely will digress into “significant info” about our feathered friends to make a point about significant information for businesses. So, please indulge me for a few paragraphs—my point this time pertains to the need for significant content on your website.

A Truly Remarkable Creature
According to the Otago Peninsula Trust of New Zealand, “A soaring albatross seen against sea or sky is a sight to bring delight, perhaps even inspiration. Elegant, incredibly graceful in flight, seldom flapping a wing, yet dipping and swooping, turning and soaring, the albatross presents a spectacle touched with dignity and majesty no other seabird can excel.”

Albatross: The Bird
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the albatross as “any of a family (Diomedeidae) of large web-footed seabirds that have long slender wings, are excellent gliders, and include the largest seabirds.”

The Wandering Albatross and the Southern Royal Albatross are the largest types of albatrosses and among the largest of all flying birds. They have tip-to-tip wingspans from 9 to 11 feet, and large adult males are heavyweights – 13 to 26 pounds in weight.

The sea and sky are their dominion, and both can travel incredible distances over long periods of time. For example, after leaving a colony as a fledgling, a juvenile bird might spend as much as 6 years at sea before returning and reestablishing its contact with land.

In short, albatrosses are beautiful, long-lived seabirds whose (remember this!) form and function are optimized for the environment they live in—most particularly, the Southern Ocean off South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica.

Albatross: The Other Meaning
The word albatross has also come to mean something that causes persistent, deep concern or anxiety; something that greatly hinders accomplishment. This meaning evolved in reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In Coleridge’s poem, an albatross follows a ship (a sign of good luck) and is killed by the mariner (which curses the ship), who is forced to wear the dead albatross around his neck (as a punishment and reminder) until all his shipmates die from the curse. So, albatross has also come to be used as a metaphor for an encumbrance or hindrance or a burden to be carried as penance.

What Does This Have to Do with Your Web Content?
Clearly, any content you create needs to emulate the bird, not the metaphor. Your goal should be to create elegant, efficient, satisfying content that is optimized for its environment—namely the Web and your clients’ or prospects’ needs.

Your content needs to create an environment whose form and function model what your customers care about, need and will spend time exploring, engaging with and sharing with their colleagues. The last thing you want your Web content to become is an albatross—in the second meaning—either for your company or for the customers you hope to attract and serve.

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Welcome to Significant Info!

by janetrobbins on April 27, 2009

sig nif i cant adj. having meaning; important; of consequence; probably caused by something other than mere chance

in for ma tion n.   the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence; knowledge obtained from investigation, study or instruction; news, facts, data, advice

Information – that constant flow of news, facts, data, knowledge, opinions, advice, and more that streams to and from all of us through multiple communications and sensory channels often with the intent to instruct, inspire, enlighten, entertain, or even annoy (Whew!)—too frequently proves to be overwhelming, irrelevant, and simply forgettable.

That’s why creating and communicating significant information—valuable content that resonates with you and me and causes us to pause, contemplate, and act—is more important than ever for businesses to engage in. And connecting directly with clients and prospects to find out precisely what they want from your company—products and services, features and components, content and interactions—also is important and now so much more interesting through social media.

Significant Info (the blog) will explore how to effectively communicate and connect with your target audience through—you guessed it—significant information, especially as it relates to marketing today in the B2B space. We (i.e., most often I) will look at what you need to pull in from your clients and prospects as well as what you need to push out —or better yet—confer and exchange with your target audience to engage with them in the manner they expect and have grown accustomed to. In the process, I hope to provide some thought-provoking and practical information that you can use to persuade the more skeptical that content marketing through engagement is indeed the path that’s worth following.

Your thoughts, ideas, and comments are encouraged and always welcome. And please feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Warm regards—Janet Robbins

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