The Twofold Benefit of Optimizing Marketing Content

Online optimization is usually associated with natural or organic search engine optimization (SEO). Optimizing your marketing content around keywords or phrases is the first step in your content marketing strategy. After all, that’s how your prospects and customers will find your blog and/or Web site.

However, there is another strong reason for optimizing your marketing content that has nothing to do with SEO. I am referring to optimizing customer engagement in B2B marketing.

Why is it important? Because B2B and industrial buyers tend to be more sophisticated in the use of online content in making their decision over the entire buying cycle. BtoB marketers need to create and deliver content that is relevant to those searching for their solution while mapping it to the prospect’s buying cycle.

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Industrial and B2B Customer Engagement Simplified

More and more industrial and B2B marketers now view customer engagement as the key to driving incremental sales and revenues. However, accurately defining and measuring customer engagement in complex business or industrial sales is still elusive.

The most simplistic approach to evaluating customer engagement is to measure conversion rates. For an eCommerce site that is easy, it is typically the value of transaction per visit. However, it is not so simple to measure customer engagement in situations with long sales cycles that’s commonplace with manufacturers, sellers of technical products and B2B consultative solution providers. I have written about this problem in my previous post, “The Disconnect Between B2B Content Marketing and Customer Engagement.”

Some B2B marketers are using more sophisticated ROI measurement tools to track activities over the entire life cycle of a lead. For example, at Sopheon, a software provider, measures qualified leads by their source, their region, volume per region, the speed of aging, movement through the sales cycle and other metrics.

These metrics are all linked to 10 stages in Sopheon’s sales process. This way the company can see exactly where the leads are coming from, how old they are, where they are in the process, which account executive is handling them and where leads typically fall out.

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The Disconnect Between B2B Content Marketing and Customer Engagement

While B2B content marketing has many purposes, its primary goal is to engage with prospects and customers in order to build trust so that they will want to contact you in order to do business with your company. The majority of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) consider customer engagement as their top priority according to a recent study done by Forbes Insights and George P. Johnson (GPJ).

The New Rules of Engagement: CMOs Rethink Their Marketing Mix is based on a survey of 314 marketing executives at companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue. Fifty-six percent of the participants were primarily B2B marketers and the remaining 44% were B2C. Nearly 97% of the respondents viewed customer engagement as very (67%) or somewhat (30%) important.

Robert G. Vallee Jr., Chairman and CEO of GPJ said, “This report suggests that engagement is now a key dynamic that should be considered when designing big-idea campaigns; without engagement, the message is quickly lost, its power diminished.”

That was the good news part of the study. The bad news — more than a quarter (27%) have no specific strategy for customer engagement, and more than a third (34%) feel their companies do only a fair or poor job engaging their audiences. “They [CMOs] believe they can do a better job at engagement, but often don’t know how,” said Stuart Feil, editorial director of Forbes Insights.

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5 Rules of Website Redesign for Engaging Engineers and Industrial Buyers

If you are a manufacturer or a provider of technical services, your website needs to be aligned with the buying process of your prospects and customers. Today, technical buyers and engineers expect suppliers to have a substantial online presence with a website packed with relevant content in a variety of formats and easily searchable. Is your site ready for this shift in expectations or do you need a website redesign?

I’m sure you’ve read many times that engineers hate marketing/marketers and they want only the facts. Those punch lines and stereotypes may be amusing but they won’t really help you come up with an effective site redesign. How do you engage engineers and technical buyers on your website and build deeper relationships and achieve higher conversion rates?

Rule #1: Natural or organic search engine optimization (SEO)

In the research phase of the industrial buying cycle, engineers and industrial buyers tend to use broad keywords and phrases that describe their current problem. Unless your website shows up in the initial phases, you are probably not going to be considered in the next step, which is the comparison stage.

It shouldn’t be an afterthought because retrofitting SEO after the redesign is typically not very effective and usually costs more.

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Can Industrial and B2B Marketers Learn Creative Problem Solving from Fifth Graders?

To be successful in industrial and B2B marketing, one has to engage with prospects and customers in a meaningful manner. Consultative selling is one of the recommended ways and that requires us to sharpen our listening and creative problem solving skills.

That’s great, if you are a natural born consultant but for the rest of us, we have to learn and master these skills. That is why the headline “The Creativity Crisis” in a recent article from Newsweek caught my attention.

According to the article, the Creativity Quotient (CQ) among American children has been in a steady decline since the early nineties. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990.

Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

Many other media outlets have reported the same creativity crisis in America. What are consequences of this creativity decline to the business world?

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Is Content Curation an Easy Way for Content Marketers to Do More With Less?

Even though “content curation” is not a common phrase, there’s plenty of discussion to be found on the Internet. Heck, even MS Word kept flagging curation as a misspelled word.

Google News, aggregating content via RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites have been around for a while. Bloggers of all stripes have counted on the popularity of “list” posts whenever they’ve run out of fresh ideas for content. So curated content is not something new.

What is content curation?

I searched Wikipedia for information but couldn’t find an exact definition. Instead, I found something on Media Curation, which I thought was close enough:

Media Curation is the emerging trend toward creating media content using a mix of machine and human resources. The practice includes aggregation (gathering) and curation (sorting, categorizing, art directing, and presenting) such that material from multiple sources creates a unique editorial experience for readers/visitors.

Hmmm…not very satisfying. So I Googled “content curation” and lo and behold, it returned 77,600 results. I hit the mother lode!

Curation: Doing more with less is the topic of a video I found in a post by Steve Rosenbaum who is the CEO of Magnify.net, a video curation and publishing platform.

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Translate Features into Benefits if You Want Your Marketing Content to Engage and Sell

Marketing 101 teaches you “Customers buy benefits and not product features.” I’m not disputing that nor am I making a new revelation. What I do want to talk about here is the how and not the why of you should translate your features into tangible benefits if you want your marketing content to engage with prospects and convert them into customers.

It was Charles Revson (the pioneering cosmetics industry executive who created and managed Revlon Cosmetics through five decades) who clearly understood and practiced this marketing principle when he said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”

Another often-quoted marketing lesson is from Theodore Levitt who once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

Features Tell, Benefits Sell

It would seem that all a B2B or industrial marketer has to do is write benefits laden copy and magically prospects would become customers. However, it is not so easy to translate features into benefits that really engage and speak directly to your target audience.

I have come across two tools for helping you dig deeper and create marketing content that focuses on benefits over features.

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How Relevant Marketing Content Helps B2B Branding

Branding is usually not a popular topic in B2B marketing, especially in the industrial sector. Most CEOs of manufacturing, engineering and technical companies do not believe in the value of brand building and consider it the domain of consumer marketing (B2C). Branding is an expense item like the rest of marketing.

That’s a shame and here’s why — among the top ten in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2009, IBM was listed at #2, Microsoft, GE and Intel at number 3, 4 and 9 respectively. Yes, GE and Microsoft sell directly to end-users but they are primarily B2B companies.

According to a study done by Professor John A. Quelch, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, the common characteristic shared by the top B2B Global Brands is that their “CEO is a willing brand cheerleader, loves the brand heritage, and is a great storyteller.” He suggests that B2B marketers take a cue from their B2C counterparts when it comes to increasing brand awareness.

One of the key findings from the study was that B2B marketers are realizing that developing brand awareness among their customers’ customers can capture a larger share of channel margins and build loyalty that can protect them against lower-priced competitors. Professor Quelch provides the example of Intel and its very successful advertising campaign “Intel Inside.”

He ends his post by asking, “Would Dupont’s shareholder value be the same today if it had not made consumers aware of nylon, Lycra, [Teflon], Stainmaster and linked these innovations to the Dupont name? Definitely not.”

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Creating Relevant B2B Marketing Content: Walk the Talk

There is plenty of advice out there about engaging B2B and industrial buyers with relevant marketing content at every stage of the buying cycle. That is pretty much the mantra of B2B content marketing.

Transforming that concept into an actionable reality is a very different story. Nothing happens until your site visitors and blog readers take some kind of an action after reading your content. In other words, it is time to walk the talk!

Personas do matter in B2B content marketing

You would be wasting your scarce resources if you pumped out marketing content without first having a clear and complete understanding of the personas of your B2B buyers. Even if you have carefully segmented your target audience by demographics, different people within the same company can and do react differently to your content. And they use different sources to get their information. The chart below from a research study done by Forrester illustrates this point very clearly.

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