Microsoft Partner Evolves Brand To Compete in Enterprise Space

First impressions are important. The Internet levels the playing field in terms of your ability to reach new markets, but if your Web site doesn't meet the expectations of your visitors, they won't stay long. If you want to compete with bigger players, you better look the part.

Evolution of a Company and Brand
Like many partners, Orckestra, an e-commerce and collaboration services company, has evolved its business model to meet changing market forces. The multi-gold and silver competency Microsoft partner recently launched the e-commerce platform Overture, transitioning from a pure services provider to a product and services company. Since the target market for Overture includes enterprise firms, competitors will include global companies with established brand presence.

As the company worked toward the business model change, it also made the investment in a brand makeover.

"We didn't want to radically change the look and feel of the brand -- we wanted it to evolve," said Damon Sloane, Orckestra's director of product marketing. "While there is a separate brand for the product, it builds on the heritage of the corporate brand."

Sloane's rebranding efforts began with research, looking at enterprise software competitors, as well as consumer-facing businesses, to gauge current trends.

"The goal is to give us more credibility to compete with companies that already have brand recognition in the enterprise space. We've put a lot of effort into color choices and visual cues to convey information quickly," he said.

Launching the Brand
Orckestra's corporate Web site was updated last November, and the Overture product was introduced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July. Collateral was created to showcase the new brands and a media plan, including search and social marketing tactics, is rolling out. Approaching the branding and subsequent marketing as a process, not an event, Sloane will expand his tactics in response to results.

The challenge for any company with an evolving business model -- in Orckestra's case, launching a product -- is to not confuse current or prospective customers. Maintaining the identity of the current business and building a new image is a balancing act.

"We have decided to concentrate on the Orckestra domain," Sloane noted. "In time and with success, we will move to a dedicated site."

Targeting the Audience
An additional challenge for evolving businesses is defining the target audience so that you can fine-tune messaging. No amount of research can really predict which industries your early adopters and champions will come from. Like most partners, Orckestra's service business clients came from every industry.  

While Sloane defined target personas to build appropriate messaging for the new brand, it remains a work in progress.

"Our current client base is quite varied. There is no common theme of industry or company size," he said. "It would be easier if we knew there was a vertical or company size that will be our sweet spot."  

Sloane's long-term goal is to develop targeted messaging and content for vertical industries. "While we have defined the audience, it's not set in stone and we will be updating," Sloan continued. "For now, we are taking a broader approach, targeting enterprise-level organizations that have an affinity for the Microsoft ecosystem."

Lessons Learned
After working through the rebranding process at both the corporate and product level, Sloane offers some advice to other partners: "Don't try to bite off too much at one time. You don't have to change every element, like Web site and collateral, at once. Think of a rebranding as an evolution."

For partners making changes to business models, rebranding should be a key component in the transition. When your prospects visit your Web site or stop by your trade show booth, they expect to see a level of professionalism equal to your competitors. Put a plan in place to continuously improve your Web and marketing presence to ensure that you keep pace.

How are you rebranding your business? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.   

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 25, 20130 comments

Four Steps To Get Your Marketing Back on Track

September is a month of new beginnings. Summer is over, students are starting a new year and Microsoft employees are figuring out how they are going to hit their 2014 number.

Whether your spring campaign plans got sidetracked helping those same Microsoft employees close last quarter's business or, for some reason, marketing is always the last item on your task list, this is a great time to get back on track.

Build on Your Strengths
Most partners get the bulk of their business from unsolicited referrals. Your clients tell their business associates how you helped solve a problem or improved a process. Those referrals reflect your strengths and should provide the foundation of each of these four steps that will get your marketing back on track.  

  1. Decide whom to target. Define the common qualities of your best customers and use those to narrow your focus on the customers you can help the most. Build your contact list with a variety of sources including your in-house e-mail list and purchased lists.

  2. Define the problem that you are going to solve. What is the challenge that most of the customers in Step 1 are dealing with that you can solve? Describe what the problem is and how you can solve it (use simple, non-technical terms). You now have your messaging.

  3. Choose your delivery method. This one has two parts. Choose the form of your message -- blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, in-person events or webinars. Then decide how you are going to offer it to your target customers -- e-mail newsletters, e-mail invitations, pay-per-click or social channels. Use the resources on Microsoft's Ready-to-Go site to augment and simplify your efforts.

  4. Execute and repeat. A marketing campaign is not a single transaction...ever. Send out the e-mail or post on LinkedIn and then repeat, again and again. For best results, continue to create new forms for your message and use multiple tactics to distribute. For example:

    • Send out a monthly newsletter summarizing your blog posts, then offer a whitepaper.

    • Hold an in-person event with Microsoft's Community Connections, then send a monthly newsletter to all attendees.

    • Create an e-book to promote on LinkedIn and Twitter, then send out a series of e-mails highlighting each point in the e-book.

Build Your Momentum
One of the toughest issues for technology-driven, results-oriented partners is the "squishy" nature of marketing results. No matter what the marketing technologists say, it's very challenging to clearly track the success of your investments -- both time and money -- in marketing.

Yes, tracking leads and measuring success is important, but that is Step 5. Focus on the first four steps and let Step 5 take care of itself for a little while. You've got to have something to measure in order to measure. Take the simplest route to get momentum on your side and results will follow.

How are you building marketing momentum? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 09, 20130 comments

5 Inspiring Ideas To Fire Up Your Fall Events

Face-to-face events are the most effective lead-generation tactic for business-to-business marketers. That's a bold declaration, but is backed by study after study of B2B marketers. Anecdotally, Microsoft partners who are holding events report good response rates and respectable attendance numbers.

Yes, events take time to organize, but no matter what size your business, you can put together a meaningful event that will attract potential customers. There is no better time to hold events than in the fall, after school starts and before the holidays. 

1. Choose Topics that Solve Customer Challenges
When you pick your topic, remember that the event is not about products -- it should be about solving the challenges your customers face. If you are using Ready-to-Go campaign materials -- which make a great foundation -- just dial back the product pitch a bit. Don't be afraid to make it your own and let your company's personality shine through.

Just to get you thinking, here are a few ideas for event topics:

  • Connect your workers in the field and home office.
  • The IT support challenge: cloud computing changes the game.
  • Grow your business, not your payroll.

2. Co-Sponsor To Extend Your Reach and Share the Burden
Partner with regional organizations that serve your same target audience but provide a complementary product or service. They will have contacts that you don't, and vice versa, to help you both reach a broader audience. Think outside the box to find your partners. Some examples include:

  • Web design or software development company.
  • Car dealer providing fleet sales to home service companies.
  • Print shop.
  • Non-competing technology service firms.

3. Find a Great Location
A different venue can be the tipping point to make a "can't miss" event for business leaders. Some ideas for locations include:

  • Museums, art galleries and ball parks are often looking for opportunities to partner with local businesses. As you negotiate, ask the facility to help you publicize the event.
  • Microsoft Stores are proving to be a great asset to those partners who are lucky enough to have one in their city.
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of a local business. Enlist a customer to show off their facility (and your IT support) to local business leaders.   

4. Get an Outside Speaker
Take your topic to a higher level by inviting thought leaders to speak at the event. With a little research, you may be surprised to find well-known teachers and writers right in your backyard. While some will want to be paid, others may jump at the opportunity for some publicity. A few ideas to consider:

  • University or adjunct professors to address the future of technology.
  • Business writers who can address a topic that links into technology.
  • Organize a panel of local business leaders to discuss how they are handling a common challenge.

5. Use Community Connections
A part of Ready-to-Go, Microsoft's Community Connections is a great program that's been featured in this column before. Microsoft will help you connect with professional organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, in your region. Through the program you are immediately positioned as an expert and an extension of the Microsoft team. If that isn't enough, you get free stuff to give out at the event. 

Bonus Idea: After the Event, Reuse the Content that You Create
You've spent the time and energy to put an event together -- now, squeeze out every drop of value. Create content from the event that you can post on your Web site, like:

  • Record video during the event and edit it down to a short recap.
  • Turn PowerPoint presentation decks into e-books.
  • Record video of attendees' comments between sessions.

While content and inbound marketing get all the focus these days, B2B marketers still find that face-to-face events deliver the most valuable leads. This fall, hold an event to educate local business leaders and find your next best customers.

How are you making events more valuable for your prospects? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 22, 20130 comments

Partners: Time To Get Going with Windows 8 Tablets

According to the Forrester Global Business and Consumer Tablet Forecast Update released this week, enterprises will be purchasing 18 percent of all tablets sold by 2017 -- confirmation, if you really needed any, that businesses are going the way of consumers in looking to tablets for their next-gen device.

Do you have your tablet strategy in place? Are you talking to your customers about how their employees in the field can use tablets? Are your salespeople carrying tablets? It's time to get going.

Win the Tablet, Win Windows, Win the Stack
Until recently, iPad was the only game in town. While IT teams have been getting increasing pressure from executives to support tablets for line-of-business functionality, concerns about security, skill set and integration have delayed iPad and Android adoption. Which is where Windows 8 comes in.

The Windows 8 partner opportunity is just starting to heat up, and the cross-device compatibility is a strong value proposition. Businesses large and small are trying to figure out how new devices can help them improve productivity and service. Partners can help by developing the apps that improve their customer or employee experience, or delivering the benefits from security to enterprise-level management.

"When you look at Windows 8 from a tablet perspective, that is where it really shines," says Syd Millett, VP and North America GM of Infusion, this year's Windows 8 Application Partner of the Year. "The tablet market in the enterprise is still untapped and there is a clear advantage in reusing the customer's existing investments, both in technology and staff skill sets."

The Best-Kept Tablet Secret
"Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2 is Microsoft's best-kept secret," Millet noted. "It's thinner and lighter than an iPad, runs Windows and has 10 hours of battery life. Lenovo is a business-friendly brand. When IT managers see it, they see the possibilities of a device that can integrate with the existing technology stack, be supported by current skill sets and handle the business requirements that the line-of-business managers are requesting."

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

Coming back from July's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Millet showed the Lenovo tablet to Infusion sales reps. They were wowed, and Millet suggested, "You need to take this out to customers and do what I just did. Show them a couple of demos on it, let them hold on to it. It changes everything."

Help Your Customers Envision the Future
Whether your customers are small businesses or enterprises, you have the opportunity to build your value by helping them figure out how to use tablets to improve operations and customer service. It's not a stretch to think that every in-person interaction with a customer can be enhanced with a tablet.

Put your strategy in place and tablets in your salespeople's hands.

How are you making headway with tablets? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 08, 20130 comments

The Most Powerful (and Underused) Marketing Program for Microsoft Partners

What if you had access to a program that connected you with business decision makers in your community, positioning you as an expert in Microsoft technologies? And what if you could stand in front of an audience of those business leaders and show them how Microsoft technologies can improve their results?

The Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) program supports exactly this, and more. For free.

Reaping the Rewards
While more partners should take advantage of the MCC program, there are many who already do and are reaping the rewards. Among them is US Licensing Group, whose use of MCC played a key role in the company earning the 2013 ASPIRE Award, Microsoft's annual recognition of partner excellence in strategic marketing.

While the award is based on exemplary execution of a well-planned marketing strategy, US Licensing Group President Bill Hole attributes much of his company's success to Microsoft's Ready-to-Go (RtG) and MCC programs.

"MCC is the best way to get leads from the business decision makers who have an immediate need for your services. You get immediate credibility with the audience," Hole said. "You are there on behalf of Microsoft -- the trusted advisor -- and that translates well to the attendees."

Awards from Microsoft are nice, but the real reward for the 10-person US Licensing Group comes in the form of sustained growth.

"We are up 13 percent year over year...and the year is still young," Hole noted. "We are just coming out of a serious economic downturn and we never experienced less than 8 percent growth. You get out of marketing what you put into it. We made a commitment and it has paid off."

Making the Most of Microsoft Assets
The marketing team at US Licensing Group relies on RtG content as the basis for much of its marketing content. A rebranding of the company, launched in January 2013, required an extensive reworking of the company's marketing assets. Starting with the campaigns and content from RtG, the marketing team adjusts the messaging to speak more directly to its small-business target market.   

Holding approximately 60 MCC events each year, the US Licensing Group marketing team depends heavily on the campaign content from RtG.

"We actively need to refresh our content because we have a lot of repeat attendees," Hole said. "We want to build our credibility, and MCC paired with RtG makes that possible. We don't have to reinvent the wheel and can quickly go to market with new topics."

Hole is looking forward to holding more events in the soon-to-open Microsoft store and new Microsoft offices located in Southern California, US Licensing Group's home turf. Events located in Microsoft venues further add to the credibility of the partner as an extension of the corporation. 

Consistent Execution
Like many partners, Hole is happy to share his marketing "secrets of success" with others. He met with partners seeking marketing guidance at this year's Worldwide Partner Conference and worked with Microsoft to create a video about the MCC program. Watch the three-minute video below for a great idea about partnering on an MCC event.

Hole's advice to partners includes taking a longer view of marketing efforts in coordination with the Microsoft initiatives. He recommends creating a calendar of marketing activities that leverage the RtG campaign materials and making consistent execution of those activities a priority. For the coming year, US Licensing Group is betting big on the Get2Modern and the new Office RtG campaigns.

As I've mentioned before, consistency is your secret weapon in marketing. Microsoft has made a concerted effort over the past several years to create professional-looking content through RtG that partners can make their own. The MCC program makes it easy to position yourself as an expert with business decision makers in your community. Together, RtG and MCC are a winning combination that every partner should make a part of their marketing plan.

How have you used MCC to build your business? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge. 

See Also:

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 25, 20130 comments

You've Got It, Flaunt It: Technology Is Hot and You Can Be, Too

You know who you are. You were tech before tech was cool. There have been a few rough patches over the years, and it hasn't always been easy to be a Microsoft partner. But technology has gone mainstream and there is no one better qualified to help people understand what it means to them than you.

As the cloud changes your business model, your value as an expert becomes more important to your survival. You can make the renewed interest in tech work for your business. Knowledge is the value that you offer, so share that knowledge to become the go-to expert in your community.

Define Your Community
First, you need to define the community that serves your potential customers and will value your expertise. Your target audience can be geographically defined, like your local business community, or vertically defined, such as an industry special-interest group. Your community should be clearly defined and reachable -- meaning that you need to have some way to regularly interact with the members of the group. 

Share Your Knowledge
By sharing your knowledge freely, you will establish yourself as an expert and go-to resource. There are many ways to get in front of your community. A few ideas include:

  • Community Connections. If your target market is the local business community and you are not tapped in the Community Connections program, you are missing out on a tremendous benefit of your MPN membership. You can connect with Chambers of Commerce and other business groups with the branding power of Microsoft behind you.

  • Local newspaper or TV station. Local media outlets are cutting costs, but still need to deliver content to their readers. Offer to write a weekly tech column or deliver a weekly tech report on the morning show.

  • Start up a networking group. Create your own community if it doesn't exist and there is an interest. The SharePoint Community is a great example of filling a niche for a global special interest group.  

  • Professional organizations. Websites that serve professional organizations need a continuous flow of content to keep their members coming back. Offer to write a monthly column focused on your specialty. 

Make It Relevant to Their Business
To build your audience, share your expertise in the context that people can understand and use it. They probably don't care about the technology behind virtual machines, but they do care that they can pay a lot less for backup. When you need inspiration, ask your current customers what tech topics they don't understand or would like to know more about. 

This is such a great time to be in the tech industry. Share your passion and business will follow.  

How are you becoming the expert in your community? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on July 03, 20130 comments

5 Promising Additions to WPC Should Deliver Big Returns to Partners

In just a few weeks, over 10,000 partners will head to Houston and into the whirlwind of the Worldwide Partner Conference. Since the four days seem to fly by in accelerated time, it's important to plan ahead to take full advantage of all that is offered.

As always, the Microsoft team has been working through the year to refine and improve the WPC experience. New session types, private meeting spaces, focus on devices and a complete mobile experience promise to deliver tangible value that partners can take to the bank.

1. The Commons Theaters
The central WPC elements, like the Expo and lounges, are all combined into one location this year, simulating neighborhoods in an urban setting. Built around the primary themes of WPC -- Cloud, Devices & Mobility, Big Data and Enterprise Social -- "The Commons" will also include four theaters featuring 20-minute high-impact sessions.

"Sweet, short and to the point," said Kati Quigley, senior director of worldwide partner community for Microsoft. "These sessions have been designed to wow our partners with best-in-class content from our key business groups, field teams and top partners. The best speakers have been chosen to deliver high-energy and impactful sessions."

These sessions should provide a unique opportunity for you to collect ideas to make your own presentations more effective. Short and concise messaging should be the foundation for all your marketing. As you attend these sessions, take note of the sound bites that you can incorporate into your messaging.   

2. Customer Immersion Experience Training
Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) hands-on sessions, offered throughout WPC, will prepare you for offering interactive sessions to your prospects and customers. The one-hour training sessions are limited to 25 participants to promote interactive discussion.

CIE sessions put customers in the driver's seat to see how the latest technologies and applications will help them in their day-to-day work lives. As the partner, interactive sessions give you insight into the customers' challenges and positions you to help solve them. Immersive sessions, as opposed to static demos, are proving very effective for partners in building service opportunities with customers.

Details on the sessions and how to guarantee your spot can be found in the Session Scheduler on WPC Connect.

3. Executive Briefing Center
In addition to the familiar open meeting space, an Executive Briefing Center with private meeting rooms is included in the floor plan this year. "We've up-leveled meeting space," Quigley noted. "For partners who want a more private meeting setting without having to leave the conference area."

Partners should contact Quigley through WPC Connect to reserve a meeting room in the Executive Briefing Center. 

4. Device Bar
With the growing focus on devices, hands-on experience with a wide range of form factors will prepare you for educated conversations with your customers. The Device Bar, located centrally in The Commons, will feature over 100 devices from phones to tablets. Microsoft employees will be on hand to help you understand how to use and sell the latest in hardware. 

5. Mobile Experience
Based on a preview, the WPC13 app will make your conference experience exponentially more productive. Tiles provide quick access to everything from Schedule Builder to a Houston city guide. Monitor the #WPC13 Twitter feed, schedule meetings and search the expo vendors -- all in one place.

With the WPC13 app, you will be able to find out more about your speaker during the session and fill out the session eval from your phone. When you realize the session that you are attending is not what you expected, the "What's Happening Now" tile will help you find an alternative quickly.

Built by Vancouver, Canada-based partner QuickMobile, the mobile app will work on Windows, iPhone and Android devices. Watch for the announcement of the release of the WPC13 app on Digital WPC in the coming week.

Return on Investment
WPC represents a significant investment of time and money for every partner, regardless of size. Get the full return on your investment by planning not just your time, but how you will apply what you learn when you get back home.

How do you plan to make the most from WPC? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 25, 20130 comments

WPC 2013: Think Beyond the Booth

Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) presents a unique opportunity for any ISV that wants to expand its channel partner network.

A spot on the expo floor is a big investment for most ISVs, and only a part of the overall cost of attending. Focus on the booth presence is important, but there are other low- or no-cost tactics to employ that will increase the value of attending.

Pre-Show Social Media
The Twitter hashtag #wpc13 gives you the opportunity to engage with Microsoft partners before they arrive in Houston. With that opportunity comes the responsibility to make your Tweets interesting. Posting a Tweet that just says, "Come and visit us at Booth 123" is annoying, not engaging. Use the platform to inform, entertain or educate.

Just a few ideas to make your Tweets contribute to the conversation:

  • Dig up and share interesting facts or tips about Houston or WPC.

  • Write a series of blog posts with advice for first-timers.

  • Give clues to the answers of a tech challenge you hold at your booth.

  • Link to a landing page with videos of your employees sharing fun tips for navigating WPC.

Lead with Co-Marketing
Every partner that visits your booth is challenged with keeping fresh marketing content on their Web site. That need for content presents an enormous (yet seldom exploited) opportunity for smart ISVs. Most ISVs answer the question, "How will you help us market your product?" with "We'll be happy to do a webinar for you." Which puts most of the responsibility back on the partner -- the partner has to organize, schedule and market the webinar to its customers.

It's far better to answer the co-marketing question with, "We will give you an article each month that you can use in your newsletter or post on your blog. We also have videos and whitepapers to use as calls to action for an ongoing e-mail campaign."

Listen More, Talk Less
If you are at WPC to convince partners to sell your solution, you should be listening far more than you should be talking. As enthusiastic as you may be about your solution, think through the first questions you should ask visitors to your booth. With a better understanding of your visitors' markets and customer bases, you can give more relevant answers to their questions.

Lose the Herd
Does your booth staff move around the conference as a herd? While you don't have to go it alone, split up the team while eating lunch and hitting the parties. While it's great fun to catch up with your teammates at the conference, that is not why you are there. Seek out one-to-one conversations with attendees at every opportunity. 

Include Non-Attendees
While WPC is a great opportunity to find new partners, it's also an opportunity to build goodwill with your existing channel. For those partners that can't attend WPC, post daily blogs on the highlights of the show. Since you understand your partners' subject interests, you can share and interpret the announcements that are most important to them.

WPC is only five weeks away and promises to be the biggest Microsoft partner gathering ever. As you plan your presence on the expo floor, make the most of your investment with a larger strategy. Supporting activities before, during and after the show will help you stand out in a crowded field of ISVs. 

How are you preparing for WPC? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 06, 20130 comments

4 Great Examples of 'Real' Partner Marketing Messages

Marketing columns these days are filled with advice about making your content "genuine" and "authentic." The idea is that you want to make your Web site and your marketing messages easy to understand and personal -- like you are explaining what you do to your neighbor.

Problem is, when most IT providers talk about technology, they go way too deep and the neighbor's eyes glaze over.

That's the challenge that most Microsoft partners face with their marketing content, from Web pages to solution brochures. How can you, as a tech firm, adequately describe your services and still connect with prospects on a personal level? Some partners have found the right balance, educating prospects without losing the human touch. 

Get Rid of the Gobbledegook
You know you need to rework your marketing content if the first line on your Web site reads something like, "We help companies drive agility through our world-class solutions delivered by our seasoned professionals." No one is impressed by gobbledegook -- stringing together overused words that have become meaningless.

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott offers classic advice for companies that struggle with gobbledegook. (As a side note: If you are attending Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference this year, make sure to catch Scott's session. He is a great presenter with valuable insights on how to get marketing right.)

The opposite of goobledegook, eMazzanti Technologies' Web site is a good example of simple, straightforward technology descriptions. The tone is conversational so the reader is not intimidated by technospeak. Yet the clear, concise descriptions establish that eMazzanti  is an expert on the subject.

Add Real Faces
There are plenty of excuses that partners use to avoid including photographs of real people on their Web site. It's too expensive to hire a photographer, it's a pain to replace photos of employees who leave, headhunters will poach talent -- the list goes on. While stock photography may be the norm, it's a lost opportunity to connect with prospects. 

As a service provider, you are selling the value of the people who deliver services to your customers. Showing off your people demonstrates pride and confidence in your business' most important asset. Slalom Consulting allows prospects to get to know their consultants -- even what they do with time off. Looking through the smiling faces, what prospect wouldn't want to do business with them?

Customer photographs featured on the K2 Web site draw prospects into case studies and solution descriptions. The photographs don't look posed and are used to help tell the story -- much more effective than the usual canned case study shots.

Keep It Short
We all know that attention spans have decreased. You need to connect with your prospects quickly and tell them how you can help with the fewest possible words. Brevity is key, but it is also very challenging.

The DevFacto Web site is a study in minimalism. The company has distilled each of its service offerings and value down to a few sentences. Graphics provide visual cues for lists of services. Engaging employee photographs convey a very personable message that doesn't require words.

Help from a Friend
If you are not sure whether your marketing materials pass the "authentic" test, enlist the help of a friend who is not in technology. Ask them to visit your Web site and give you honest feedback. Did they understand what value you bring to your customers? If you don't connect with them, you are not connecting with prospects.

In an online world, your marketing content needs to speak for you. Keep it honest, make it personal and get to the point. Make a great first impression on your prospects when they meet you.

How are you getting your message across to prospects? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 22, 20130 comments

The Best Kind of Marketing Content

We've all heard that content is the new king of marketing. Amazon lists thousands of "content marketing" books to help you figure out how you can put the magic of blogs, e-books, videos and the rest of the content royalty to work for your business. Since each of those books has a different perspective, it doesn't really simplify your decision of which kind of content will help you fill the pipeline.

As I've suggested in this blog many times before, the best kind of marketing is the kind that you will consistently do. Marketing theory and the best of intentions are meaningless without consistent execution.

Before you commit to any content program, think hard about whether you can really keep it going. Even if you outsource, you have to stay involved in the process -- it's your content.

Align Content with Buying Process
Beyond that advice, how should you decide which types of marketing content will help you attract your target audience? As you plan your content strategy, align it to the buying process of your prospects.

Buyers hold most of the cards these days. They are searching online for information to help them make the right decision. Whatever your vehicle, create content that supports their research every step of the way.

Consider where the content you plan to create fits in supporting the progress of the buying process. For example:

  • Blog posts: One of the strengths of blogging is that you can appeal to all stages of the buying process over time. Blog posts should address your subject from high-level overviews down to the fine details. (Not in one post, please.) Help your writers walk in your prospects' shoes to answer all the questions that they'll ask as they evaluate solutions to their problem.

  • Whitepapers and e-books: Historically written for the technical buyer, whitepapers and e-books can serve any purpose now. Break subjects into small bites, keeping documents at five or six pages. Write about your prospects' challenges and the solution -- not about yourself.

  • Infographics: Infographics do a good job of introducing a subject or providing a high-level overview of a complex subject. Used early in the buying process, they can provide a roadmap for your prospects' journey.

  • Videos: Different types of videos can be useful at every stage of the buying process. Demos are great when the prospect is comparing solutions. Customer testimonials help prospects as they focus in on choosing a vendor.

  • Case studies: Case studies are overrated in the technology industry. Prospects know that they are not objective. They are usually formulaic and intensely boring to read. Better to put together a compendium of example projects as an e-book or whitepaper.    

Don't Ignore the General Overview
Many people will still want an easy-to-compare features and benefits .PDF of your products or services at some point in their decision process. But that doesn't mean is has to be boring. Add some industry statistics that support the value of your services. Use charts or other graphics instead of stock photos. 

Show Some Personality
As buyers control more and more of the purchasing process, you need to find creative ways to insert personality that sets you apart. People still want to do business with vendors they like. It takes time to get comfortable with a more personable approach, but it will help you connect with prospects. Lighten up and have some fun with your content.

Your prospects are looking for information to solve a problem or improve their business by searching online. The best kind of marketing content helps those prospects understand the issues and consider alternative solutions. Choose the content vehicle that you are most likely to follow through with and be there to support your prospects' journey every step of the way.

How are you connecting with prospects? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share the knowledge.  

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 08, 20130 comments