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Case Studies really do work but only when created this way

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In my experience of creating dozens of case studies, I can tell you that case studies have a way of drawing in readers and creating action like few other pieces of content. They consistently rank as the most-read elements in content marketing programs I work on. And I know why. Because a case study can act as a mirror. It can reflect what a customer can see happening to themselves when they use your product or service. That’s right, a case study helps reveal the possibilities a specific customer can see in themselves with your business. 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. When a case study is done well, it 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 really be effective, they need to be authentic. After all a case study is really about real life storytelling, And that level of authenticity may be the most valuable tool you have for your content marketing. No hyped up advertising, no over-the-top promotion or discount can deliver readership and results like a well-tuned case study.
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 a 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, and it actually works. I find by following this simple storytelling arc, case studies get presented in a meaningful and highly effective way. It’s all about touching on the key elements that bring a case study to life.
The four critcal elements you must use
For true case study storytelling success, I stick to what works. And I advice you use these same elements…
  1. Situation – the background or back story. This sets the tone and also qualifies the reader by getting into some of the specifics of the industry or niche.
  2. Conflict – the challenge faced. Here’s where the pain is revealed. Someone once mentioned that people are more often seeking pain-killers, not vitamins. The conflict explores that business conflict.
  3. Resolve – how to overcome the challenge. Here’s the heroic moment where the problems get fixed. It’s that vital turning point in the plot.
  4. Results – got to have tangable results that prove a pay off. While this can be a hurdle when researching your case study, it’s so valuable. People are drawn to 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 an essemblence of elements like this, you simply don’t have a case study. You can’t take people through the journey without each of these vital mile markers. In short, you can’t tell a meaningful story without them. So follow along the clear route to always create winning case studies.
Case Study writer Minneapolis

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

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 off your website or shared by your sales staff. But don’t stop there. Case Studies can be easily transferred into other productive content formats. In a previous post on re-purposing content, I refer to a content matrix, where you can see and manage your content marketing. By working with the content matrix you can determine the best places to re-purpose you case studies. And here are some suggested ways to do just that …
  • Massage it into an article or blog post to share socially or distribute as an article via article sharing platforms.
  • Create a press release from it. Publications love simple to understand stories with a strong success element.
  • Make a short video – either with simple screen grabs and voice-over, Animoto ( a really cool and easy to use video production tool) or a fully produced video. A good case study makes an ideal script outline.
  • Turn it into a SlideShare, Slide Rocket or presentation. Again, the story is clearly defined and mapped out. So just add some images and you have another format for sharing your success.

 

Start now 
So as you can see, case studies have been shown to be successful elements for your content marketing efforts. And that’s something to think about, Because content marketing has been show 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 can be hard to create. But so worthwhile to do. So stretch out your efforts by repurposing your content. With a little creativity, a good blog post, video or case study can easily be transferred into all sorts of other options. And 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 you chances are to connect with prospects or answer whatever marketing strategy you are facing. To put 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 help move prospects along the awareness arc, 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 pave the way with you content and messaging.
2) Don’t start over
You don’t need to have a completely 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 good words and images, just reshape the messaging a bit. A Slideshare presentation deck should be simple. A white paper or POV 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 should be able to get started on retuning some of your content into new materials and options. 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
It’s a simple box with the audience segments or personas running across the top and the stages of of 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 specific technique there are also dates of content marketing publication. 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 sequence. You can certainly build terminology around what best matches your content marketing needs and brand language.  With lead scoring you can really help your sales force understand who are the most attractive and highest potential prospects. It becomes a powerful sales tool!
 As you fill in the elements you get a very 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 strategy tool for you, your client or your boss. It can really 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 can have 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. Or if you have a heavier subject, a white paper can be an intellectual way to win over prospects.
Now if you’ve been warming up a prospect by exposing them to your content, you need to go deeper with more specific tactic such as guide or video product training approach.
A list of content variations
Now that you’re ready to repurpose your content, take a look at just some of the 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 to waht every subject you can
  5. Infographic – always a classic, simpler the better, images & graphs that inform.
  6. Case Study or Customer Success Story – powerful story telling format that uses four vital elements, situation, solu
  7. White Paper – detailed exploration of a topic or issue
  8. POV (point of view) an more opinionated but shorter version of a white paper
  9. How-To or Explainer video – these are short and simple presentations
  10. Decision Tree – here’s a way to show a complex set of  actions ot choices
  11. Plan on a Page – a simple overview of a campaign
  12. Creative Brief – a startegic overview of a marketing direction
  13. Interview – a Q & A with notable pro or insider can bring amazing insight to an issue
  14. Course – go out and teach what you know about a topic – it can be great content
  15. Seminar – show off your knowledge in a presenation, simple as that
  16. Tutorials – here’s over the shoulder guidance you apply in any way
  17. Master Class – indepth 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 here’s your invitation to have at it. The better you plan and organize your content marketing, the better you will be able to find success.

Handling Controversial Content with Levity

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No matter how innocuous you believe your business or organization to be, there is likely an issue that will be unpleasant to tackle. I’m not talking crisis communications, just certain realities you’re better off being honest about.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 2.38.23 PM

When I was asked to create a  blog post for Xcel Energy with regard to nuclear power, I had to carefully choose the words. Thankfully a very capable subject matter expert helped with great source content.

I just tried to gain attention with a comical hook and then fill in the facts. After all it’s an  issue where emotions often overtake the facts.

See what you think

 

http://connect.xcelenergy.com/minnesota/4-things-homer-simpson-never-told-nuclear-power-really-know/


High Impact Subject Lines for your email campaigns

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An  email marketing best practice I love is creating high impact subject lines. They are the most important headline you’ll write for your email campaigns. The main thing to remember about a subject line is it’s sole purpose, which is…
 Converting attention into interest.

That’s a big ask, but worth getting right.

From there some of my foundational tips on subject lines include: 

  • Be Clear and Demand Attention
  • Be compelling , not salesy
  • Use curiosity or even controversy

Remember you need to cut through and that may require unconventional means.

So how will you write your next subject line?

If you’d like more detail on creating high impact subject lines for your email campaigns, 
pick up my Kindle book entitled How to Improve Your Email Open Rates: A Short Primer on the Psychological Triggers of Highly Effective Subject Lines. 

How to Write Effective email


Content Marketing King for a Day

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I was honored to be chosen by Gary Johnson, famed president of MSP Communications, publisher of Mpls St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business and other amazing digital and print content for Delta Airlines, 3M and IBM.

His blog Content Kings features some of the brightest minds in content, digital and online marketing. So I was humbled (and a bit nervous) to contribute:

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

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

Why are so many content marketing pros 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. It goes something like this:

1.      Define your persona(s) 
2.      Create & publish high quality content you are certain 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 ofmore 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 powerful content.

Can’t afford the gloss? Consider a grassroots approach

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 amazing source of authentic content.

Want a recent example?

Software mega-giant Oracle just bought 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 most 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 true, real-time content sourced from the long tail of social media, and beyond!

Start Today 

One of the most effective 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?” User-generated video provides an intimate feel that people trust. You can use responses as content or to 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. 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


How Content Marketing Helps Overcome 3 Common Sales Resistance Points

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Sales training professionals will lecture you and experienced sales people will validate this point: there are often three common excuses used in the final stage of a sales process.

To get ahead of the excuses, break down these sales resistance points in advance by using content marketing 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”

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. Which gives your solution real credibility and 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. An effective content marketing tactic to shut down The Delay.

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.

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. This kind of authentic engagement content marketing helps you become a trusted source. And that can help push The Price issue out of the sales conversation.

Start using Content Marketing to breakdown 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, especially now with the emergence of social media & content marketing as viable forces.

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

A smart, well-written and consistently released newsletter (ironically these 3 factors are also the biggest hurdles) is a solid way to reconnect with customers and nurture 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 in to 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 reveals true 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. This may be 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 marker. 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 hash tag.  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 that was 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 effective materials for your social media and content marketing efforts.

Two more quick suggestions

  1. Optimize your content for the web with keywords. I like a tool called Inbound Writer which helps you enhance your keyword usage in content.
  2. Archive your newsletters. When you archive all of your newsletters you can bolster your site’s SEO potency.

The take-away: Leverage your newsletter to fuel your content and social media marketing.

Take a good look at a list of items to help your efforts.


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!