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Case Studies work but only when created this way

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In my experience as a content marketer, writing dozens of case studies, I can tell you that case studies have a way of drawing in readers and driving conversion unlike few other pieces of content. They consistently rank as the most-read elements in content marketing programs. And I know why because a case study can act as a mirror. It reflects what a customer can experience when they use your product or engage in your service. That’s right: a case study helps reveal the possibilities. And that is a powerful tool.

Even if you have just one, use it to your advantage

A well-written case study can be the most convincing piece in your content marketing arsenal. So plan on having at least one. A savvy case study creates a relevant and meaningful story for your audience — you know — those personas you’ve built around your ideal customers. Don’t use personas? Give it a go: they can help bring focus to your content marketing.

But for case studies to be truly compelling, they need to be authentic. After all, a case study is about real-life storytelling, And that level of authenticity may be the most valuable tool you have in your content marketing. No hyped up advertising, no over-the-top promotion or discount can deliver readership and results like a well-crafted case study.

“Storytelling is about two things; it’s about character and plot.”

— George Lucas

The Star Wars franchise-creator makes it sound amazingly simple. Put a great character into an amazing plot. We all know there’s much more to making epic movies, but working off this basic understanding certainly helps. It’s amazing how many films books and other stories fall short.

And it’s good to know that case studies also have a surprisingly simple framework. I find by following a simple storytelling arc; case studies get presented in a meaningful way. It’s all about touching on the key elements that bring a case study to life.

The four critical elements you must use

For case study storytelling success, stick to what works. And I suggest you use these…

1) Situation – this is the background. Here, we set the tone by establishing what’s happening in an industry or niche.

2) Conflict – now the challenge is faced. Get ready for the pain. Someone once mentioned to me that people are more often seeking pain-killers long before vitamins. The conflict explores that business conflict.

3) Resolve – here’s how we overcome the challenge. Here’s the heroic moment where the problems get fixed. It’s that vital turning point in the plot.

4) Results – be sure got to have tangible results that prove a payoff. While this can be a hurdle when researching your case study, it’s so valuable. People like specific numbers and percentages — especially when they are highly relevant to them. So get those results, they may be the only thing some readers look at!

Without these four elements, you simply don’t have a case study. You can’t take people through the journey without each of these mile markers. In short, you can’t tell a meaningful story without them. So follow along the clear route to create winning case studies.

Watch a 9-minute tutorial on how I create case studies by clicking on this image.

Now do more with case studies– Recycle, Reuse & Repurpose

The power of a well-structured case study carries through into all sorts of formats. Sure you think of a case study as that 1-3 page PDF document that gets downloaded from your website or shared by your sales staff. But don’t stop there. Convert case studies into other productive content formats. Here are some suggested ways to do that …

Transfer a case study into an article or blog post to share socially

Create a press release from a case study. Publications love simple to understand stories that share success.

Make a video – either with simple screen grabs and voice-over. Or try Animoto (an excellent and intuitive video production tool) or create a fully produced video. Case studies make an ideal script outline.
So turn it into a SlideShare, Slide Rocket or presentation. Again, the story is defined and mapped out. So just add some images, and you have another format for sharing your success.

Start now 

As you can see, case studies can be hugely successful elements for your content marketing efforts. And that’s something to think about, Because content marketing has been shown to cost 62% less than traditional advertising, case studies are simply a savvy marketing investment.

What’s more, per dollar spent, content marketing generates three times as many leads.* So what are you waiting for? Get your case studies going now and make it an ongoing part of your content marketing regimen from now on. It pays off. And with a solid, proven format like I just presented, you can be seeing results soon.

DemandMetric.com infographic, A Guide to Marketing Genius: Content Marketing

Get More Out of Your Content Marketing by Re-purposing Content

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These three simple steps and a list of 17 content variations will help.

Good content marketing items can be hard to create. But so worthwhile. So stretch out your efforts by repurposing your content. With a little creativity, you can convert an excellent blog post or case study into a number of other options. To make this a bit easier try taking these three simple steps to help translate your content goods into more goods!

Because the more content you can offer, the better your chances to connect with prospects or answer the marketing strategy you are facing. To get you in the right frame of mind, use the three simple steps below to get started.

1) Start with the end in mind
All your content should be positioned to leverage the awareness arc, which takes your prospects from knowing you, to liking you to trusting you. So think about what you want the result to be. What’s that next step? A call, a trial, a download? By knowing what you want to have happen, you can get there by paving the way with your content and messaging.

2) Don’t start over
You don’t need to have an entirely different version of your message for a new format. Even if people (that’s a big if) see the theme repeated, they most likely won’t notice any duplicity. So, be fruitful and multiply.

3) Creatively Edit
If you have strong words and images, just reshape the messaging a bit. A Slideshare presentation should be simple. A white paper or POV (Pont of View) document needs details. Playing off #2 above, get the content to best balance the format.

But first, a little content management 
So with these pointers, you can get started on translating some of your content into new materials. But first, take a good look at your current library of content items. And get those organized. I like to use a what I call a content matrix. I created it out of pure necessity.
content marketing

As you can see, it’s a simple box with the audience segments or personas running across the top and the stages of the buyer’s journey running down the left. This version was for some work I was doing on behalf of a Thomson Reuters sales team for a campaign that targeted Corporate Counsel lawyers and their support staff.

With this technique, there are also dates of content marketing publications. Plus this version uses a point system for lead scoring, which is an advanced method of profiling your leads as they come through the inbound marketing funnel. This funnel depiction used an approach that included a sequence of Education  – Interest  – Preference. I prefer an approach that uses a Know – Like – Trust series. You can certainly build terminology around what best matches your content marketing needs and brand language.  With lead scoring, you can help your sales force understand the most attractive and highest potential prospects. This becomes a powerful sales tool!

As you fill in the elements, you get a clear picture of what’s going on with your library. It’s also effective as a gap identifier so you can see what holes or weak spots exist. Use it as a strategic tool for you, your client or your boss. It can help to justify budgets and priorities.

So what kind of content should you consider? Well, let’s get back to your personas. Take a moment and look at their profiles or descriptions. Then try to imagine what kinds of content would appeal to them. Start asking and speculating a bit.

Are they too busy to read?  Could an audio approach like a podcast work?
What logical resistance points can you overcome? Do they need to see and feel your product or experience?
What kind of superiors do they need to answer to? What kind of content could help with that?

I like that this content matrix tool because it can provide a big picture of what is currently going on with your content marketing. So build one around your needs and use it to extend and manage your content library.

So what content marketing materials should you plug and play?

Now that you’ve identified content marketing holes to fill and new opportunities to take advantage of, it’s time to get creative. Time to re-imagine your content. Put it into new perspectives. Think about how many new ways you can connect.

If you want to simply for those early in the content marketing process, you may want to introduce them to your business or service with an infographic.

Now if you’ve been warming up a prospect by exposing them to your content, you need to go deeper with more valid tactic such as guide, white paper or video product training approach.

A list of content variations
Now that you’re ready to repurpose your content take a look at 17 opportunities you can create:

1 Steps to Success – a modified customer journey process
2 Top Tips – helpful suggestions that can take on any style
3 Easy Guide – a super simple guide
4 The Ultimate Guide – a comprehensive guide
5 Infographic – always a classic, the simpler, the better, images & graphs that inform.
6 Case Study or Customer Success Story – compelling storytelling format
7 White Paper – detailed exploration of a topic or issue
8 POV (point of view) a more opinionated but shorter version of a white paper
9 How-To or Explainer video – these are brief and straightforward presentations
10 Decision Tree – here’s a way to show a complex set of actions and choices
11 Plan on a Page – a simple overview of a campaign
12 Creative Brief – a strategic picture of a marketing direction
13 Interview – a Q & A with notable pro or insider can bring incredible insight to an issue
14 Course – go out and teach what you know about a topic – it can be convincing content
15 Seminar – show off your knowledge in a presentation, simple as that
16 Tutorials – here’s over-the-shoulder guidance you apply in any way
17 Master Class – in-depth knowledge sharing with an academic flare

There you have it. Some ways to repurpose your content, a nifty tool to help organize and optimize it along with a hearty list of content options. So have at it. The better you plan and organize your content marketing, the faster you will be able to find success.


Content Marketing King for a Day

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I first ran across Paul Patzloff doing columns for Forbes magazine. Like many blogs on Forbes.com, it was smart, relevant and practical. The fortunate part of my discovery was that Paul lived in Minneapolis, meaning lunch was in our future. We got together, talked some s**t, and I knew he was destined to become a contributor to Content Kings. Paul is a marketer, a lead gen specialist and a digital swami. He helps companies leverage compelling content like ours into social venues and has created solutions for corporations ranging from Snapple and AT&T to Rosetta Stone and Thomson Reuters.

-Gary Johnson, MSP-C President

That was a fantastic introduction from Gary. Here’s my contribution to his blog.

Why the Long Tail of Social Media is Wagging Tomorrow’s Content.

Please tell me why so many content marketing pros are in a panic thinking they need to compete with established publishers?

Probably because many of us remain under the influence of the push attitude ingrained in our marketing psyches. And it goes something like this:

1.      Define your persona(s)
2.      Create & publish high-quality content you are confident they will love
3.      Target the best web venues for exposure and subscriptions
4.      Nurture further to prompt engagement and eventually a sale

Why mess with that? After all, the surprisingly colorful history of content marketing is full of high-quality publishing examples:

•  The Furrow is a farming magazine established by John Deere in 1895. It’s still thriving today as a monthly publication with a circulation of more than 1.5 million farmers across 40 countries and 12 different language versions.

•  In 1987, Brick Kicks was started and has since transformed into LEGO Club Magazine. My kids and millions of others devour every issue!

•  Local Hanley Wood has created STIR magazine for Sherwin-Williams aimed at design professionals. It enjoys a larger readership than Architectural Digest. Wow, that’s compelling content.

Well if you can’t afford the gloss? Consider a grassroots approach with user-generated content

High-quality, top production value content is not for everyone, or even within most of our budgets. So think about user-generated content. Here’s where you seek out content opportunities from your customers or prospects. Much like SEO keyword research, the way people talk about your product, services or brand can be an incredible source of authentic content.

Want a recent example?

Software mega-giant Oracle bought the blog and content publishing platform Compendium. Yes, blogging is content marketing. The secret here is that Compendium is more than a technology platform; it’s an innovative tool that can help you harvest content from almost anywhere: Facebook, email, blog posts, YouTube, Twitter and the like. So you can count on all sorts of interesting interpretations of your brand—be it favorable or critical. And that’s accurate, real-time content sourced from the long tail of social media, and beyond!

Start Today with video

One of the most efficient ways to kick-start your user-generated content marketing efforts is to leverage video. Go out and ask your customers a provocative question, like, “what was your biggest concern buying our product?”

A user-generated video provides an intimate feel that people trust. You can use responses as content or develop new content ideas. A tool like Bravo Video can help you simplify the process.

Your Takeaway

Don’t treat content or its codependent sibling social media as shiny objects, hobbies or nice-to-haves. Build them into your communications plan as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to validate their roles. Afterall, metrics matter.

Finally, ad legend David Ogilvy said it best: “You can’t bore people into buying.” I’ll take that a step further by saying, “You can’t bore people into believing.” And user-generated content can add that believability to your brand by tapping into the desires, fears, offhanded remarks and passions your prospects are sharing.


What Was the Last Book You Re-Read?

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Minneapolis Content Marketing

Our bookcases represent the intellectual (and sometimes whimsical) catalog of our interests, pursuits and passions. Maybe it’s our connection with antiquity of those sacred yellowed pages that keeps them stacking up around us.

Oh yes we try to be charitable when we can and make use of used bookstores — which are another amazing adventure in themselves.

My neighborhood even has even has one of those book exchanges.It looks like a over-sized mailbox.You can drop off any book you wish and  grab any book you fancy. It’s a 100% care-free library and a good excuse to go on a bike ride with the kids. Of course I look deeper at the titles and begin to wonder what kind of neighbors do I really have?

Are we a generation away from the idea of books?

Yet with the slow emergence of e-books or digital publications that makes me wonder how younger generations will treat this idea of hanging on to books. The digital or virtual bookcases within our computers or cloud storage arrangements will never live up to an burled oak bookcase or even one of those Swedish designer-named (Ellford, Orbl or Gansk) laminate bookcases at Ikea. Digital books can’t provide paper cuts, crumpled pages or  place for forgotten photographs to live. Not to mention bookmarks from places and events we can’t even begin to forget.

So all this has me asking, what was the last book you re-read? You read that correctly: what was the last book you re-read?

I recently heard an interview with an author who mentioned he re-reads several books every single year. That gave me a warm feeling inside. Because it made perfect sense. Great novels, meaningful philosophical tomes or even business books that provide critical guidance are worth re-reading. What a great way to keep your purpose-driven life on course.

This idea of re-reading also got me over the natural resistance (embedded in all of us from ealy school-age) to never highlight or mark up books with underlining or for goodness sakes, writing notes in the margin. After all highlighting is only for those heavy, thick college and high school textbooks. And personal notes are for your yearbooks!

Stop worshiping books as sacred items to collect and remain unblemished. Go ahead, re-read to your heart’s delight. Mark and highlight all the good stuff you’ll want to use as long-term references. Get’em dirty & worn. Use great books for what they’re intended to be; some of life’s best companions.

The book I’m currently re-reading: Win by Dr. Frank Luntz who also wrote Words That Work

My first digital book on Kindle: How to Improve Your Email Open Rates


Here’s how to overcome sales resistance points

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Sales training professionals will lecture you and experienced salespeople of all sorts will validate this point: there are often three common excuses used in the final stage of a sales process. You know, when you are zeroing in on the almighty close.

To get ahead of the excuses, break down these sales resistance points in advance by using content marketing. Think of it as a preemptive softening strategy.

Let’s visit each point and explore the content marketing workarounds:

Excuse #1
The Delay ” it’s just not a good time to purchase”

 

Here’s what you can do. By addressing a hot or controversial trend in their industry with a White Paper,  Point of View document or Infographic, you can prove you understand their market situation. This gives your solution real credibility by providing a true advantage in the sales process.

You may even push further and stress that your solution is something they’d best not delay on. That Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has an intense psychological effect on people.  shut down The Delay.

Takeaway –  shut down The Delay by saying no way do you have time to miss out on our solution

Excuse #2
The Self-Doubt “this just seems too good to be true”

Here”s where you want to utilize content marketing with Social Proof by way of Testimonials, User Generated Video and Case Studies. When you show a similar customer with a similar problem being solved by your solution, you can tactfully repudiate these Doubters in the sales process.

Takeaway – Let someone else (like the story from an outstanding case study) take the microphone, and close the deal.

Excuse #3
The Price “wow that seems expensive”

A smart, well written and well-planned business blog or digital newsletter can help deliver consistent, persuasive messages to demonstrate your expertise and helpfulness. Bulk up 3-4 of those and share with your prospect. This kind of authentic engagement helps you become a trusted source. And that can help push The Price issue out of the sales conversation.Takeaway –

Takeaway – Tell a high-value story, it helps price become an afterthought.

Start today. I can help you identify and develop meaningful content marketing strategies and tactics using to make your sales process hmm along and break down those sales excuses.

 


Use your newsletter as the foundation for your social media & content marketing

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Use your newsletter as the foundation for your social media & content marketing

e-newsletter example from one of my copywriting clients.

If you’re like many marketing professionals who are concerned about your social media and content marketing tactics, you most likely associate the newsletter with other supposed sales & marketing dinosaurs like trade show booths, cold calling and business cards. But I’d like you to reconsider and see the real potential of the e-newsletter.

First: Reconsider the value of your newsletter or for Pete’s sake start one!

A smart, well-written and consistently released newsletter (ironically these three factors are also the biggest hurdles) is a solid way to reconnect with customers or nurture new prospects. Many organizations drive real revenue with variations of newsletters called e-newsletters, e-news Flashes, magalogs and other publications. See my example  A Newsletter That Actually Sells from my portfolio.

The key for a successful newsletter is to balance your sales messages with useful content for your readers.

Second: Optimize That Gold

If you create a newsletter of most any kind, you could be sitting on social media and content marketing gold. Why? Because as you are researching and writing about relevant topics for your audience, you should be categorizing them into useful features in your newsletter. For instance, every issue could include specific areas/columns like:

* Industry Trends – show you are an industry leader by commenting on relevant happenings
* New Products – here’s how you can keep your product development people happy
* Heard around the water cooler – this can be a neat way to bring up internal ideas which reveal real thought leadership.
* Brush with greatness – interview a famous industry pro or celebrity

I’ve always felt that the more conversational the newsletter, the better. Yes, it’s a publication from your company or organization, but as a communications tool, it needs to be engaging. That’s why it’s best to write your newsletter with a personalized voice that aligns with your brand. It may be the voice of your president or a person that has credibility with the audience. Even if they just have a short intro section to each newsletter, make it real and personal.

Finally: Reuse, Recycle & Reformat for Social Media & Content Marketing

Here’s where the rubber hits the road for you as a smart & thrifty marketer. If you’ve invested time and effort into putting together a fairly decent newsletter, you’ve already got a solid foundation for your social media and content marketing. Simply reuse the articles by recycling them into new content marketing formats.

Look..

Case Study / Success Story – readers like stories, so keep it interesting
Special Offers – yes you can sell but make it noteworthy – close-outs, special purchases, discontinued models, over-stocks, etc…
Meet the Team – here’s a great way to set up effective social and content channels. In each bio or article, simply include a Twitter account that includes “customer service” or “products specs” in the hashtag.  Can you think of a better way for your customers to put a face with a name when they engage via the phone, text or email?
Ask an expert – I’ve used results from customers questions to build an infographic used in a fantastically successful lead generation campaign. See Adventures of an Infographic

Now can you see how easy it is to double down on your e-newsletter to create useful materials for your social media and content marketing efforts?

Two more quick suggestions

1 Optimize your content for the web with SEO keywords.
2 Archive your newsletters. When you add this content to your website, you can bolster your site’s SEO potency.

The takeaway: Leverage your newsletter to fuel your content and social media marketing.

 


Design by Demand: The Email as a Landing Page

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While doing content development & copywriting for a local software company, I wrote this email that was part of an on-going campaign. And it struck me that this was a fantastic design. It was simple, fairly clean and the Call-To-Action was big and bold.

Upon further analysis I had to praise the designer Sarah Swymeler for the edgy design approach, especially in this plain vanilla niche of IBM i Systems software.

I told Sarah I loved this email design and graphic style for 3 reasons…

1) It used positive and negative space in a compelling way

2) It was great to get a glimpse of the actual content offering, teasing you behind the CTA.

3) I could not mistake the intent of the email: INSTANT DOWNLOAD

The premise of this post: Make your email look and act like a landing page to help expedite the conversion process.


3 Fresh Content Ideas to Feed Your Business Blog

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Writing business blogsThe web data continues to prove that blogging helps your SEO and Lead Generation efforts. Here’s my favorite factoid around blogging for business from HubSpot:

Companies that have an effective blog for their business get 55% more organic traffic & 70% more
leads with targeted website traffic than those that don’t use a blog to drive traffic.

Yes, blogs can drive targeted traffic which can convert to paying customers. Please notice the word “can” in the previous sentence.
And you probably know as well as I, running an effective blog demands compelling content to create web traffic. And that is challenging. But let me suggest three great blog content tactics to help you generate ideas for effective, attention-getting blog posts.

First set up a news feed – Yahoo or Google will do. Customize your news feed to topics around your organic traffic needs. This is a nice way to leverage breaking news which may increase bog traffic. Plus these  postings about how your business reacts and responds to these current, well publicized news events.

Second, pick up a trashy gossip publication – like People, National Inquirer or inTouch.  Believe it or not, these can be great sources of punchy and provocative headlines that get noticed. And it’s important to make your blog postings pop, grab attention and drive traffic — and to be honest, these are kinda fun to create.

Finally, look at your sent folder in your email – I promise you, in two minutes you’ll come across a bunch of highly relevant and effective blog topics aimed at targeted traffic. You know, all those requests and questions you have sent or responded to. Many of these are probably based on customer needs or pain points. With a little tweaking you can harness these to attract your most qualified web traffic – the folks with a problem you can solve.

Don’t forget, blogging for business can also help with links because when blogs are set on outside pages they provide links into your site which is becoming more important for traffic generation.

So feed your blog some nice organic traffic with these 3 content ideas, or make up some ideas of your own,
and post away!


Why your company deserves a theme song

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WIth the Stanley Cup starting this week (can it be mid-June?) I was recalling an evening in April when my son and I joined another father and son at a NHL game. Great seats. Big excited crowd. Right before the game the arena went dark. The rock n’ roll lighting show began and speed metal pumped through the speakers to set the tone. Then came the charm of the Canadian National Anthem and the power and glory of The National Anthem.

As a prelude to the first period, a music video played. It was our home team’s theme. Starting as a bit of an Irish folk song then switching into a rollicking sing-along that was all about the local love for hockey and its deep legacy.

My initial take? This is a bit contrived. But as the lyrics and music started to gel after the first verse, I wanted to sing along. It was heartfelt, poignant and actually moving. I was taken in by the music and the role it played. And it got me thinking…

Why don’t more businesses have a theme song? I mean really. There are missions, positioning statements, core values etc. Most with no memorable value whatsoever, except maybe for the consultant who got you to buy it.

Please don’t get a theme some confused with a jingle. A jingle helps customers remember your brand or a unique element of it by blending lyrics and music in a memorable way. Well maybe Pavlovian way is more accurate!. And jingles can be effective. But a theme song needs to be grander and motivating. Think of a hymn or even a rallying cry.

And a theme song doesn’t need to be an original song like the NHL team I heard. You can rally around any kind of song.

So what’s your theme song going to be?


My Response to a Recent Article on Content Marketing Challenges

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Recently on LinkedIn, I saw this post regarding a survey that asked for the top challenges facing B2B content marketers. You can link to the B2B Digital Marketing Blog article by clicking the screen shot.

I had to jump in and provide some simple, affordable and attainable solutions to these top 3 challenges, which are…

  1. Producing Enough Content 64%
  2. Producing the Kind of Content that Engages 52%
  3. Producing a Variety of Content 45%

Here are my simple solutions that directly address these issues…

1) Re-purpose your best content
Convert that popular white paper to a SlideShare™ presentation, Infographic or Animoto™ video. It’s simple and easy. And this provides you more content to share in a variety of formats at more social media venues. Plus you’ll have something to Tweet & Blog about!

2) Start recording interviews with industry pros (or your peers).
I find that an interview conversation can often result in fantastic content because it’s such a natural way to exchange ideas. Start by creating 4-5 compelling questions, send them to the interviewee in advance. Then set up a call time, hit record and ask away. You can use Skype or another desktop recorder that works with your phone. I’ve even recorded on my iPad through a speaker phone. The process is goes fast when you have specific questions. You can transcribe or edit to extract the good stuff from the interview and write a quick document or share in a blog post. Also this is an awesome opportunity to edit the audio and create a podcast. According to Edison Research in 2012,  29% of Americans had listened to a podcast!

As a Creative Director focused on content marketing strategy and execution, I’ve got all sorts of ideas on how to create more, better and intriguing content. Let’s not let these common challenges slow down your content marketing efforts.