Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: February 2013

My Favorite Types of Content

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, someone asked me what my favorite types of content are.

I have two:

Blogs top the list for a number of reasons:
  • They are relatively easy to write. A good post can be as short as 100 words.
  • Marketing doesn’t have to do all the writing. Many companies leverage product experts, customer support, and even sales to create blogs.  (I highly recommend that marketing manage the review and posting process.)
  • With more pages using more of your keywords, blogs drive up visibility – fast.
  • Blogs can be used as content for marketing campaigns. I have one client who relies almost exclusively on blogging to support their monthly nurturing campaigns.
  • Blogs are great at establishing credibility because blogs, by their nature, are intended to be informative.

One drawback of blogs is that they aren’t always great lead generators. They can be, if you have a compelling call to action such as an invitation to a webinar, but you need to be sure you’re blog isn’t crossing the line from information to sales pitch.

White papers are my second favorite type of content. (Keep in mind that most of my writing is for a highly technical audience.)

White papers are great for:
  • Establishing credibility. You can go deeper into a subject in a white paper than you can in a blog.
  • Driving leads. If you have a compelling white paper, prospects expect to give up contact info in order to download it.
  • Selling without selling. During the early stages of a sales cycle, buyers don’t always trust salespeople. White papers help prospects explore their problem with no sales person involved. The paper preps the prospect for a more effective sales call. 

The challenge with white papers is that they are harder for most people to write.  (Your white paper should not look and sound like a brochure.) That’s probably why I write more white papers for my customers than any other type of content.

What’s your favorite type of content and why? 
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Can You Outsource all of Marketing?

I wrote a post of the same title a couple of years ago. It's been almost three years since I started my freelance business, and I thought I'd update it with what I have learned.

There are marketing agencies that provide general services and can provide soup to nuts marketing services. Many of them augment their in-house capabilities by leveraging specialists like me.

For many companies, especially those where most of the executives are engineers (or doctors, lawyers, or whatever speciality required no marketing/business classes), it's tempting to go down this route. For the most part, it can be a success, but there are a few caveats.

Choose a vendor that understands your business. Two years ago, I suggested that it helps to have someone who does not need to be trained on your industry. It's hard to argue with that, but it can be tough to find.

If you can't find a specific vendor that has ever marketed your particular type of widget, at least look for someone with experience in the level of product or service you offer. For example, I leave business to consumer marketing to others. (I may be one of the few marketers I know who would rather watch the game than the superbowl commercials.) My focus is on B2B, and the more technical, the better. I have friends who are great consumer marketers, but they'd freeze if you put them in a room full of engineers.

Experience matters. We hear about this happening all the time in business consulting. The firm convinces the client that they have vast amounts of experience in the business but once the contract is signed, all the client sees is junior level people.

Of course, this helps the agency keep their costs down and, presumably, keep their fees low. However, it can raise the handholding you need to do. Ask to meet or at least talk to the people who will be assigned to your account.

Keep someone on staff and accountable. Even if you outsource all of your marketing, the agency will need someone to be their main contact in-house. This individual can be instrumental in helping the agency understand the priorities of the company and develop the right contacts with subject matter experts, executives, and salespeople.

Having someone on staff with a marketing title, preferably someone with some credibility within the organization, can be important to project success. They can also help you keep tabs on how well your marketing budget is being invested.

I'd love to hear from you. How much of your marketing have you outsourced? What components? Are there pieces that you feel absolutely need to remain in-house?

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

What is Content?

What is your content marketing strategy?

It’s a question that gets blank looks from many a marketing executive. Often it’s followed by a response such as, “Well, we don’t have a strategy, per se…”

I suppose that’s better than the strategy that involves creating monthly emails that bombard disinterested suspects (not prospects) with links back to brochures and web pages.

The occasional marketer, the one who really wants to take their game to the next level, will ask the more relevant question:

What is content?

I’ve always explained content to be that which is intended primarily to inform instead of sell.

Those marketers who delight in pointing out the flaw in any explanation (usually those with a sales background) might reply, “But my brochures inform, then I do the selling.”

Then there’s the occasional “marketer” who firmly believes in the “sell early, sell often” approach and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with starting with “the pitch.” These folks need some sort of solution selling course more than they need me.

But as Socrates said, true knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.

In that vein, I went to the Content Marketing Institute to dig up their definition of content marketing.

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. What is Content Marketing?

It’s a good definition to help us understand both content marketing and the goals behind a comprehensive content marketing strategy.

Let’s break the key words and phrases down:

Relevant – Your content, whatever form it may take, has to be relevant to your audience. If you’re trying to attract an audience to drive sales of ice fishing houses then your content should be about topics related to ice fishing houses.

Valuable – I would substitute informative here because I think it’s easier to relate to. In the above example, informative might be  an article or blog post focused on how the right ice fishing house can protect you from the elements even when it’s 40 below. (BTW, so can a real house.)

So far, I don’t think anything we’ve said necessarily precludes brochures. A brochure can be relevant and it can be informative, e.g., one that educates the prospect on the features to look for in an ice house. That’s why the rest of the definition is so important.

Attract, acquire, and engage – Not every piece of content will necessarily do all three things.

Attracting prospects might involve content that alerts potential buyers to a problem they didn’t realize they had.

Acquiring prospects requires content that educates them on the topic and helps them see your organization as the go-to resource.

Engaging prospects means offering content that compels them to reach out to you.

Clearly defined and understood target audience – Without knowing who your audience is, it’s almost impossible to achieve relevance. During project kick off meetings, I spend a significant amount of time asking questions about who we’re trying to reach – and what they might be thinking.

Who tells me the level at which I need to write, e.g., business, technical, etc. What they’re thinking tells me how to create content that will resonate.

Driving profitable customer action – Just because it’s informative doesn’t mean you can skip the call to action. However, the call to action may be different at every stage of attract, acquire, and engage. For example, a blog post call to action might be as simple as inviting prospects to connect via one of your social sites. Later in the engagement portion of the cycle, the call to action from a webinar might be to set up a meeting.

I’d love to hear what you think. Does this definition work for you, or are there aspects you think are missing? You can add your comments below or reach out to me directly at or on any of my social sites.

All the best!

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6 Reasons to Outsource Your Marketing

Many business executives seem to have a love/hate relationship with marketing. You know you need to do it, but maybe you aren’t sure what to do, how to do it, or how to manage your employees in the marketing function.

Can’t somebody just handle it, so you can get back to real work?

Maybe that’s not such a bad idea…

Here are 6 good reasons to outsource some (or maybe all) of your marketing.

Cut backs. Unfortunately, this is all too common. If you need to cut back on expenses, you may want to consider outsourcing some of your marketing in order to avoid the overhead costs of a full-time employee. However, before making the decision, do a thorough comparison between the costs of staff vs. the cost of marketing services.

Can’t find the right person for an open position? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies hire marketers in desperation, even before they really understood what they needed. If you can’t find the right fit for an open position, at least talk to a few outsource providers. Maybe you don’t have to hire right away.

Auditioning candidates.  Not sure whether you have the right candidate? Offer an audition. Just remember to be up-front and make it a win/win for both the candidate and you—even if you decide not to hire.

Don’t have the skills on staff. This is the main reason most of my clients outsource. More than 90 percent of what I do is messaging and writing.  It is a specialized skill and a job most people hate to do. (Luckily, I love it.)

Don’t have enough business to keep a full-time employee? Maybe you need to create materials for a new product launch.  You could try to spread the work among your current staff – and delay your launch while you wait for them to find the time. Or, you could hire a freelance marketer to create the materials and jump-start your campaign.

Your marketing needs a jump-start. Been doing the same thing the same way for a number of years – and getting the same ho-hum results? A marketing service providers may have what you need to take your marketing to the next level.

Have you outsourced some of your marketing? How did it work out for you?

Have a question about outsourcing? Reach out to me
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What's New?

When I give blogging advice to clients, I always recommend that they not start with an apology for not posting more regularly. Why?

Because no one’s following your blog that closely.

OK, I suppose if you’re Seth Godin or an equivalent thought leader in your industry, people might notice when you take a hiatus. For the rest of us, not so much.

Imagine how flattered I was when a reader (not even a family member) sent me an email asking me why I hadn’t posted in a while—like in well more than a year. (OK, more than two years.)

His question still doesn’t make me a Seth Godin, but in the miniscule almost microscopic chance that anyone else has noticed, here’s my excuse—I’ve been busy.

As an old manager of mine would have said, I have a “happiness problem.”

You see, I started my freelancing content creation business roughly three years ago. Luckily, most people ether:

A/ can’t write
B/ hate to write
C/ don’t have time to write
D/ some combination of all of the above

Since nearly 90% of my time is spent creating content for clients, I haven’t had to worry much about my own content. This is unfortunate since I love blogging, and I miss it. (OK, it’s not that unfortunate since my clients pay me and blogging doesn’t.)

Rest assured, I am still out here. You can still reach me at or by posting comments on my blog. I'll try harder to stay in touch too!

All the best!

Melissa Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

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