Overcoming Marketing Immunity with Killer Content

How many email marketing messages do you see in a day? How about ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social media streams? If you don’t use ad-blocking software, go ahead and add all the banner and sidebar ads you see during a day. Then consider all the billboards you see on your daily commute and the TV spots you watch while catching up on your favorite shows. What would you guess your number would be? Most people assume they see a few hundred ads a day, but that’s not accurate.

We see thousands.

Of course, not every ad makes an impression; most are incidental glimpses we catch while heading into the office or while fast-forwarding on our DVRs. Even those minimal exposures, though, lead to marketing immunity. Just as we tend to tune out constant background noise, we suppress the mental noise ads create. If you’re like most people, you decide within a second and a half if you’re going to open an email, save it for opening later or delete it unread. You take only a few seconds longer to decide whether to read an article or bounce off the page. That’s a tiny window for content marketers to hit – tiny, but not impossible. If your audience likes you, they’ll keep reading.

Your content matters because it’s the only thing that sets you apart in the long term. Your customers have become immune to most advertising gambits; they’ve seen the hype literally thousands of times before. Even if they give in with a click, they quickly move on if they feel they’ve been suckered in with a click-bait title or subject line. They stay only if they feel they’re getting something of value from what you’re serving them. Here’s how you can give your customers content that keeps them in place and sets your message apart from advertising clutter.

 Make It Easy

The best content goes straight from readers’ screens to their brains without getting snagged on poor grammar, bad spelling or ugly word choices. Your audience has limited patience for your content, and if they expend half of it just wading through awkward English and clumsy typos, they aren’t going to have much left over for listening to the message itself. Give your readers a break and hire content writers whose English skills don’t get in the way of the story you want to tell your audience.

Use Your Voice

Louis Armstrong and Lana del Rey couldn’t sound more different, but they have one thing in common: They’re unmistakably distinctive. Good content informs, but great content also entertains, and that’s what having a distinctive brand voice can do for you. Coming up with a content marketing strategy that reinforces who you are with a strong, memorable voice sets you apart in a large crowd of companies competing for a limited audience that’s increasingly immune to conventional marketing tactics.

Inform Your Readers

Too often, content marketing forgets the content and focuses on the marketing. The point of what you publish isn’t to disguise advertising as content but to give your audience useful information. Content marketing moves away from the old concept of positioning a product as the only solution to a problem described in the ad and toward genuinely helpful information that turns a blog into a destination site.

Respect Your Audience

You know advertising when you see it, and so does your audience. They don’t mind a plug or two when it makes sense and is honest, but they do object to feeling tricked. Some companies falter close to the finish line by developing useful, relevant content and later hiding advertising inside it instead of putting useful information available and clearly branding it. Content marketing is still marketing, and it’s fine to let your readers know who’s bringing them the information they want – but not if all you’re bringing them is a different kind of ad. Your dog might be fooled into swallowing a pill if you smear peanut butter on it, but your audience is smarter than that; be honest with them and don’t use content to conceal ads.

Building Customer Retention with Your Content

 

Content marketing is changing the way you talk with your audience. Through SEO, email marketing and social media, your content works hard to gather new prospects and bring them into your orbit. Where a lot of otherwise sound content marketing strategies fail is with retention, the ability to hang onto the customers you have and continue to keep them interested in what you have to say. It’s a real challenge, especially for companies that were early adopters of content marketing who find themselves reaching for something more to say.

If your recent SEO campaign brought in good traffic that has since leveled off, your content marketing team is straining for new ideas, or your customers feel as though you invest more in finding new business than in nurturing the clients you have, it’s time to focus on content marketing for customer retention.

 Branch out with Topics

Sometimes, marketers are too attached to the “marketing” part of content marketing; they want every blog post to lead customers directly to a landing page or an e-commerce listing. While it’s a good idea to lead readers to a relevant page or product, most of your blog posts should be informative, not ad-heavy. That opens your content creation team’s horizons and lets them write about subjects that interest all your customers, not just your newest visitors who are more sensitive to sales techniques.

An Italian restaurant’s blog doesn’t just have to focus on pizza and pasta, for example. Going farther afield to talk about how Parmigiana Reggiano is made or how the ancient Romans opened some of the world’s first fast food stands gives your blog lasting appeal. For B2B businesses, it’s even more important to broaden your subject matter. You see it in this blog too as we discuss everything from quirky grammar to SEO content to reputation management. Build variety into your blog, and it becomes a destination, a place your clients check regularly to learn something new.

 Reward Loyalty

Loyalty programs are a proven customer retention strategy. Companies that give their long-time customers an occasional free gift or discount encourage repeat business. Your content’s valuable too, and it makes an excellent way to reward your brand loyalists. Giving them a free white paper, e-book or magazine subscription that your newer customers have to wait to see is a worthwhile perk. If you have digital content for sale on Amazon.com or books in print, you have an outstanding opportunity to give your best customers a gift without costing yourself much.

The only caveat here is that your content needs to be worth your customers’ time. No one wants to get an ad in book form, and if you’re handing out information that does you more good than your clients, you’re breaking one of the primary rules of content marketing. If your content creators are on the ball, you’ll amass a respectable content library of relevant information you can gift-wrap for your most valuable customers.

Create a Support System

When customers pop out of the narrow end of your sales funnel, receipt in hand, give them a soft landing. FAQs, how-to videos and articles with tips on using your products confirms to buyers that they’ve made the right choice. When they know they’ve picked well, they’re more likely to choose you again, especially if they know you’re still there for them with answers to all their questions. The more complex your product or service is, the more your customers rely on the content you give them. There’s no substitute for live tech support and customer service, but a great content library can head off many customer concerns even before they pick up the phone to call your help desk.

 Establish Perceived Value

Even your best clients get value fatigue. When they first buy from you, they’re ecstatic – you’ve just solved a big problem for them and given them outstanding service. They can’t wait to tell everyone. After you continue to deliver, though, they tend to take that high level of performance for granted. The extraordinary has become everyday, and they no longer perceive the full value of what you give them. Content can change that by reminding them of what else you have to offer – your expertise, industry knowledge, customer support programs, loyalty benefits and access to your extensive library.

Email retargeting programs that maintain contact with your customers during those critical post-sale and between-sale periods are excellent for reminding your clients why you’re valuable to them. Marketing automation can orchestrate your retargeting efforts to ensure your customers get personalized information when they need it. For example, if you know your client places quarterly orders for supplies, your email marketing software can set triggers to send customized messages automatically. Establishing value isn’t something you do once but something you prove again with every contact you have with your clients.

It’s Time to Stop Verbing Nouns in Digital Content

Read most business content, and you’re almost certain to come across some impacting and trending. You might see leveraging, trialing and even dog-fooding if the content creator’s really fond of the corporate habit of verbing nouns. The problem with turning nouns into verbs isn’t that it goes against dictionary definitions; it’s that it weakens strong writing and obscures meaning. Here’s why your content should skip the corporate conventions and use straightforward language.

 

 What’s a Verbed Noun, Anyway?

Essentially, nouns are names, and verbs are actions. When verbs describe a particular activity, they sometimes expand into noun territory, becoming the name for that activity. It happens especially often with new activities because these actions don’t yet have names of their own. That’s how sending email or text messages have become emailing and texting. You’ll also see it often in sports where the name of the equipment becomes the verb, as in snowboarding or rollerblading. These verbs’ evolution into nouns expands the language and makes it easier to communicate. It’s shorter to say ″I’ll email you″ than ″I’ll send you an email,″ and everyone knows what it means.

Some verbs are the wallpaper paste of language, holding sentences together but without adding much interest of their own. Forms of ″to be″ verbs such as ″is″ and ″are″ have become practically invisible because we see them all the time. ″To be″ verbs also find their way into passive-voice constructions that sap the life out of any content if writers overuse them. To spice things up, business content writers reach for more interesting verbs – but sometimes they reach too far. Instead of letting verbs naturally shift into nouns, they force them into that mold, which is how dog-fooding and donutting happen.

 

Solving the Wrong Problem

Business writing isn’t always filled with page-turning excitement. PowerPoint presentations of budget forecasts and analytics of SEO content need something to keep corporate audiences engaged, and one way business writers do that is with exciting language. In a boardroom presentation, that’s fine; anyone who’s sat through a dry, passive presentation would welcome a few newly minted verbs. For digital content you serve your audience, including SEO, blog posts, white papers and other branded copy, these new verbs don’t add to the conversation. In fact, they take away from meaningful content by making the conversation about themselves.

We’ve used it as an example already, so let’s take a closer look at dog-fooding. It’s certainly memorable, but what does it mean? Dog-fooding just means using your own company’s products and services. You see it in action on this website and blog because the same writers who work for you create the content you see on the page. Unless you knew that, though, this verbed noun doesn’t make much sense. How about donutting? That’s just forming up in a circle and discussing a project.

These don’t work well in digital content your audience reads in SEO articles, email and blog posts because they divert your readers’ attention from your subject to the obscure verb they’re now trying to process. In worst-case scenarios, they may even go to another site to look up definitions – and you never want your audience clicking away from your page unless it’s to more of your content.

Your readers don’t need you to do verbal gymnastics to keep them alert during a meeting or condense concepts to fit a large amount of information into a brief PowerPoint presentation. They need your content creation team to speak clearly to them about what they need to know.

 

Start Making Sense

For some corporate content writers, verbing nouns has become so common that it’s now a textual habit they can’t break. When nouns that already have a perfectly good verb form transform into verbs again, they hide meaning instead of clarifying it. An executive signaturing a document instead of signing it, a group conferencing instead of conferring, a test audience trialing products instead of trying them – these uses are awkward and make readers wonder why the content creator didn’t just use the existing verbs.

A little verbing goes a long way in business content, especially if you’re reaching a diverse audience with your SEO articles and blog posts. The occasional leveraging is fine, but leave the dog-fooding and donutting out of your digital content.

Why Your Content Needs Better Writing

When article marketing first started shaping the digital landscape for B2B and B2C content, the language writers used shifted too. Many of them no longer billed themselves as writers; they were now content creators. Those shifting linguistic sands reveal a move away from narrow, isolated communications and toward a more holistic view of everything a company does to create a seamless digital and real-world presence. From that standpoint, content is a great thing. It’s inclusive enough to incorporate video, Pinterest, Instagram, infographics and other tools to get your message across in more than words. Content is writing’s revenue-friendly cousin. Content’s only missing one thing, in fact: passion.

 

Feeling the Passion

The Beatles didn’t sing about wanting to become a paperback content creator. No one calls a gripping novel, a moving opinion piece or lyrical poetry content. Writers write because they care passionately about the story they want to tell or the imagery they want to create with their words. Niche bloggers don’t devote hours every week lovingly discussing game consoles, gardening or golden retrievers because they want to produce content. They do it because they feel impassioned enough to share their thoughts on their favorite topics. That fervent devotion to a subject brings them an audience – an audience that feels just as enthusiastic as their favorite writers do.

You and your content writer can translate that kind of passion into business content, but only if you nurture that drive to create and share information about your subject. Everything from your SEO content to your social media presence to your email newsletter should contain information you and your writing team can’t wait to share with an audience that’s equally enthusiastic. We write about writing here because it’s what we love to do, not to fill space on the page.

 

Exciting Writing

As writers and content creators, we can tell you it’s easier to write compelling prose about some subjects than it is about others. Anyone who tells you that writing about electronic components can be just as emotionally charged as writing a good love story either has a limited understanding of romance or is a lot more interested in capacitors than anyone else in the world. That doesn’t mean B2B content writing has to be dull or dry, though. With a shift in focus and a real enthusiasm for the subject, B2B blogs, trade journal articles and industry newsletters benefit from lively writing too.

Here are some of the ways a capable writer can turn plain content into engaging writing:

  • Narrative – Tell readers a story about how that product or service changes customers’ lives. When you turn the facts into a story with a beginning, middle and end, you tap into something deep in the human psyche. Narrative structures make us want to turn the page and see how the story turns out.
  • Lists – You’re reading one now, and chances are good you’re going to finish reading every list item. There’s something satisfying about the organization of a written list, which is why so much content focuses on numerical lists. Top five and top ten lists naturally lead readers to the next item.
  • Step-by-step instructions – Tell your readers how to do something, and you’ve earned their interest, especially if the writing catches their attention. Simple, well-organized how-to pieces are especially valuable for B2B content writers because they tie in easily with what companies have to say.

 

Care Enough to Share

Writers communicate their enthusiasm for a subject instead of just fitting text around keywords. The SEO content industry is full of content creators who start with keywords and retro-fit articles around them, but that strictly utilitarian, least-common-denominator approach doesn’t win you an audience. Instead, choose an SEO team that brings ideas to the table and incorporates keywords naturally. You want your writer to tell your customers, ″we have something really cool to tell you – listen, and we’ll share.

We came up with this article because we’d read one too many tired SEO pieces this morning, and we wanted to share some thoughts on how to make content better. We’re writers too, and it’s okay to express a little passion for our subject.

 

4 Content Marketing Mistakes You May Be Making

Content marketing has become the keystone to modern marketing strategies, especially for brands with a strong digital presence. It’s not as easy as finding some white space and filling it with SEO content and a few video clips you hope will go viral. If your content isn’t giving you the return you expected on your investment, here’s where you may have taken a wrong turn and how a talented content team can change your course.

 

Making It All About You

The biggest issue novice B2B content creators and do-it-yourselfers have is confusing content for advertising. Ads are wonderful for building brand recognition, but they aren’t something your potential customers seek out to educate themselves or inform their business decisions – and that’s where content marketing excels.

Instead of using your content to blast advertising, think of it as a way to help your customers and prospects make important decisions and stay current with industry news. They’ll look to you as an authoritative information source and seek you out when it’s time to buy. You don’t need the hard sell to get them to listen; you just need engaging, creative, relevant content.

 

Not Enough Content

Audiences are voracious beasts, and they have an almost insatiable appetite for novelty. A weekly or bi-weekly blog, a corporate website, SEO – those are just the beginnings of an overall content strategy, not the destination. Human readers aren’t the only ones who crave newness, either; Google values sites that feature regular content updates and ongoing growth more highly than static pages. Your audience will treat you as a destination site instead of a stop-over when you offer them plenty of content.

By giving more to your audience, you can also ask for more from them. Give them new white papers to download, new case studies to pore over and new blog posts to retweet, and they’ll be more likely to share information and referrals with you.

 

Too Much (Low-Quality) Content

At the other end of the spectrum are companies that pump out endless SEO articles and blog posts that do little more than fill white space. If you can’t get your message across effectively, repeating it more frequently and at higher volumes won’t help. Bad content is worse than no content because it actively diminishes your authority with both search engines and your audience. Typos, egregious grammar mistakes and tissue-thin subject matter are sure signs of a company that’s misspent its content marketing budget.

Great content is less expensive than you think, especially when you work with a company that specializes in B2B content creation. Don’t choose a cut-rate content provider for something that defines your company’s brand; saving a few dollars on your weekly blog post isn’t worth losing even one potential customer.

 

Undifferentiated Content

Modern marketplaces are becoming increasingly fractured, and that means an increasing need for better segmentation of your audience. Instead of addressing your whole audience with one piece of content, you want to deliver customized content to each segment. This boutique approach works especially well with B2B companies that serve a wide range of clients in different industries.

All your audience segments want to believe they’re your highest priority, and content tailored to them makes it happen. One newslettter may not be enough to satisfy your whole audience, so your B2B content creation team might write two or three each week. A manufacturer who specializes in HVAC equipment and serves a national audience, for example, might send AC-related newsletters to clients in the south while focusing on ventilation and air quality in regions where air conditioners are a relative rarity.

Content Marketing Predictions for 2015

It’s only a few weeks old, but 2015 is already shaping up as a year in flux for SEO and content marketing. Google’s been relatively quiet since its localization-focused Pigeon update in October, and the search engine giant’s spam guru Matt Cutts remains on leave into 2015. With less information about Google’s goings-on, content marketing experts have relied on their own insights to predict what 2015 will bring for SEO. Here’s our take on what you need to know about content for the coming year.

Mobile Marketing a Must

More visitors than ever now see the mobile version of your site, read your emails on mobile devices and check their smartphones for Facebook updates. If you aren’t catering to these customers with mobile-friendly responsive design, you’re missing a huge chunk of your audience. The good news is that responsive web and email design has become accessible for everyone. With current technology, your content marketing team can put together mobile-first designs that welcome your whole audience to visit your site, read your emails and click on your landing pages.

Sleek and Streamlined Content

Responsive design is just the start of the mobile revolution, which is also affecting how sites look. High-contrast color combinations, bold yet simple images and text with plenty of white space are direct results of mobile-first marketing design. From your logo to your layout, the content you present should look as good on a smartphone screen at 9:00 at night as it does on a desktop unit at 9:00 in the morning. Because viewers want streamlined sites that work well on any platform, content has to be concentrated. You don’t have room for padded writing or fluff-filled copy. Every word counts, and your content creator must keep that editing pencil sharp.

Marketing Automation Makes a Splash

At first blush, automation sounds like the antithesis of what content’s about – specificity, relevance and authority. In reality, marketing automation software just takes the guess-work and extra steps out of moving content from your creative team’s brains to your audience’s eyes. With it, you can customize landing pages, email and even your home page with content directed straight at the audience you want to reach. Triggered email events, audience segmentation and lead scoring are simpler with a fully automated system too, but the heart of the process is content – and lots of it. If you plan to upgrade to full-service marketing automation software in 2015, be prepared to supply your new system with plenty of content.

LSI Matters More

Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, has been a driver for SEO and content marketing for years, and businesses can expect that trend to continue. The term sounds complex, but in practice, it’s just a way for search engines to recognize high-value sites by seeing beyond keywords. For example, if you’re in the business of restoring classic cars, your site’s content might include car makes and models, automotive terms and synonyms for restoration. Search engines that use LSI – or at least something like it – pick up on these signals in your content and index your page more highly. Think of LSI as search engines’ natural defense against keyword-stuffing and thin content.

Google Pulls Away from Analytics

Google has already started playing their big data analytics closer to the vest by dropping their Google Keyword tool-set, and content marketers predict an increasing tendency to withhold similar information. From the search engine’s standpoint, freely providing access to this information helped not only legitimate white-hat content marketers but also black-hat SEO who could use the knowledge to game the system. For marketers, that means greater reliance on in-house software to analyze performance.

SPICE Up Your Email Content

Timing, subject lines, a great call to action – they’re all important to your email marketing strategy, but nothing you do is more important than your content. Marketing depends on its message, not just its medium, yet too many companies send email content that doesn’t live up to the promise of a punchy subject line.

To help you and your content marketing team put together irresistible email content, just remember SPICE: segmentation of your audience, personalization that makes each customer feel special, interesting topics that address their needs, creating curiosity with your content and developing empathy with readers.

Segmentation

Until you know your audience, you can’t grab them with great content. Outstanding email content starts before your content marketing specialist writes the first word with proper list segmentation. How you select your audience is complex enough to merit its own series of articles, but the key here is to group people with similar interests together, then mail targeted content to each segment. For example, your budget-conscious customers might respond well to a sale offer while your longtime clients may want to hear more about your loyalty program benefits.

Personalization

Think of personalization as another layer of segmentation – one that segments each email recipient into a group of one. These days, customizing email content is more than just adding the recipient’s name to the header. You can now deliver images, text and calls to action tailored to the person who opens your email. The demographic, firmographic and behavioral data your marketing team gathers translates directly into better personalization, so working from clean, well-maintained lists is a must.

Interest

Nothing will save your email from a quick trip to deletion if you don’t hold readers’ interest. That means using lively writing that goes beyond sales cliches. It isn’t enough to tell your readers you’re introducing a new product line; you need to show them why they should care about that with examples that showcase its benefits and create excitement. If you promise your readers a newsletter, don’t give them ads; tell them what they need to know to make decisions. Clear, persuasive writing looks best with plenty of white space around it, so make sure form follows function in your email content.

Curiosity

Headline writers know how to grab attention. They promise to show you five things you can’t believe about Congress or show you one ″weird old tip″ to get healthy, and you click. Email marketing depends on curiosity to get readers to click now instead of waiting. Building curiosity into your subject line is a good start, but your email’s content should sustain that curiosity and make readers eager to click through. While you want to make them curious, though, you don’t want to make false promises; they need to trust that when you tell them you have something amazing to show them, you mean it.

Empathy

The most successful email marketing messages talk to potential buyers as people, not as targets. Think about the email you read and what inspired you to read it. Did it speak to your needs or serve the sender’s? Did it give you a clear message, or did it waste your valuable time? Did the subject fit the content, or did you feel tricked into clicking? Your mail to others should contain the kind of content you’d like to read.

Make Your B2B Content Sing

If you’re selling sporty convertibles, it’s almost impossible not to make your content sexy. How do you make accounting software or medical supplies memorable with your content marketing, though? Transforming B2B content into something exciting takes a little more thought than glossy pictures and marketing hyperbole. Here’s why we believe there’s no such thing as a dull subject – only content marketing teams that don’t know how to handle a challenge.

Show How It Works

People love getting a glimpse of how the magic happens, and your B2B content might be perfect to showcase with a demonstration video. Products that involve many manufacturing steps or undergo dramatic changes during use are especially good candidates for tours and demos. If you have a water jet cutter or electroplating rig, you’re set to go viral if you get creative with your concepts. For products that aren’t as photogenic and for services that don’t lend themselves to demonstrations, animation and infographics can bring your content to life.

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Content Matters for Customer Retention Too

When most businesses think of content marketing, they’re talking about customer acquisition and lead generation. They’re right to love content for its ability to bring in interested new prospects. With a solid content strategy, companies can create plenty of buzz and draw more traffic. Outstanding copy does more than bring in new customers, though; it’s also a key component of your customer retention plans. Just as you don’t stop having a conversation with your audience once they become regulars, you don’t stop offering worthwhile content to your frequent visitors and best customers.

Email Retargeting

Retargeting gives you another chance to make an offer to prospects who might otherwise be on their way out the door. Whether they’re former customers who haven’t connected with you in some time or visitors who once expressed an interest that seems to have waned, prospects whose engagement with you has dropped merit another look with a retargeting campaign. Instead of sending them introductory information or reaching them through SEO, your content team reaches out to this segment of your audience with copy designed to welcome them back.

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Self-Serve Content

When you read a newspaper or magazine, do you read every article and ad, or do you flip to what interests you? Chances are good you’re a selective browser, not an indiscriminate grazer. That’s true of most people, including your customers, yet content marketing strategies don’t always accommodate your visitors’ desire to see what’s relevant to them instead of a big mass of content they have to sort through to find what they want.

Delivering a self-serve content experience that lets everyone who interacts with you define their own experience encourages longer on-site stays and higher satisfaction. Here’s how you can tailor your content to your audience and give your prospects the power to explore for themselves.

Preference Pages

Giving your newsletter subscribers, email recipients and site visitors the authority to control how they communicate with you is key to their enjoyment of your content. Businesses that dictate how their email list members receive their mail have higher opt-out percentages than companies that allow preference choices. As a bonus, preference page selections can also be instrumental to your marketing department’s understanding of your customer base. Preference page use can give your customers more control over their interactions and help you learn more about them for future marketing. With those great reasons to build and use preference pages, it only makes sense to use them.

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