How, Skills, & Results: Content Marketing (Part 2b)

A blog post can take from hours to days to complete, depends mostly on customer's ability & needs
A blog post can take from hours to days to complete, depends mostly on customer’s ability & needs

In the article about what is going on at the Israeli content marketing market, I mentioned the work and skills, which are more defined today. The work I split into what the customer will do, and what the provider will do. I say this to help customers, they seem to think of content just appears exactly as they imagine it. But usually that is not exactly the case. If you think that a short meeting (an hour) and a few presentations and papers will get you what you expect, you may want to test your assumptions. Content marketing means writing fresh, original, and completely new text (ideas, messages, opinions, etc.) It may also mean drawing graphics and taping videos. It seems like the work of a writer and graphic artist are not only dependent on their own capability and experience. It is a combination of the consumer (client), the overall ability and background of the company, and the professional level of the writer. This combination is seen in the results. You will see lots of content, especially in blogs, where you think the articles will be interesting and relevant. But, they usually miss the mark. There are many companies which make the initial effort at writing a steady stream of articles, publishing and promotion. Then keeping up with their market status and competitive messages. This should help keep people interested in their products. This usually leads to a blog or a series of articles about their product features and use. But sadly, from what we see, most blogs and sites tend to fizzle out after a few weeks or months. This is a clear sign of a missed opportunity. Next, it’s not always enough to engage people on a professional level. To become more engaging, writing (and graphics) need to go the next level. Not just show features and benefits, but real life capability with details. The advantage of your product over the rest. It could be just ease of use, or quick time to market. In a recent work with a VoIP company, the message they wanted to deliver had to do with their capability and experience. They integrated and maintained some of the biggest and most mission critical call centers and IP-PBX (corporate phone exchanges) in Israel. Their work also spread around the globe to satellite installations. But their message was never deep enough. They did not show how actual working environment of free phone service around the globe change a company’s operations. They did not show how much reliability and simplicity in running a computerized, un-centralized corporate PBX can save in phone system operation cost. They did not show flexibility in increasing the scale of a system, which is one of the biggest issues facing phone and IT managers, in a constantly changing technology landscape. There are more issues to deal with, and they are the ones which get serious interest in this type of product. To do all this, takes real dedication, time, and let’s not forget, MONEY. This is something that the new digital age is going require of small companies (and individuals). In the past, only bigger marketers were serious about getting to this professional communication level. Remember also, since publishing and promotion is essentially free and does not require operations around the globe (you can do it from one central location), small companies do not have the expense of the pre-digital (paper based) age. I worked with a few open source software companies. Essentially companies use “zero cost” software as a base, then add their features to create a more customized product. Here, there is the combination of knowledge specific to the “free” (open source) product, and the added-on product. The ability of a company to quickly take someone through the process of understanding and appreciating the combination product is crucial. Here customers can say: “I will try the free product first, then look at your added features”. It is not what you want the message to evoke (call to mind). The message is complex and subtle, yet it can be simplified.

Skills: Content Provider and Content Consumer

When I first started meeting potential customers I assumed that they will fall into a few categories. I broke down my services into three groups. This I assumed will cover at least 50% of the customers. How naive I was! (and optimistic) It seems like no content marketing project was like anything I expected (in simple categories). In the “opportunity / need to improve” category, I see most product managers, marketing managers, and technical / creative professionals, the need to develop their own message, overall strategy, and a series of topics or short stories. Just telling a writer “my product is better (faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper) than the rest” is not enough. Giving background on what the product or company achieved and the general landscape (business sector / domain) is useful. If the writer or editor has experience in the specific domain, a deeper explanation of the message and desired effect are even more useful. Telling the writer that the product is an upgrade to existing currently competing products is useful, but not enough. Telling them how power users and heavy computing or slow responding applications can benefit from the upgrade in power (or capability) is more useful, ask the writer to develop examples and show the benefits (you get results in 6 minutes instead of 35). Showing them how this actually looks and operate is really useful. Making a video is even more useful. A video with a good text explanation is one of the best ways to demonstrate something. This goes from a musician showing how his performance looks in real life all the way to a computer program running or doing something simple on the screen.

Now for the skills a content provider can bring to the customer. Writing well, clear, and persuasive text is a basic skill most blogger need. Domain knowledge is the next level. If you have experience in the financial world, it will make a blog about FOREX or binary options much easier (and faster to start). Next comes your ability to translate complex or vague concepts into usable (usually short) articles. For the most part, even complex ideas need to be broken down into short messages. Longer pieces (like this one) are useful when you have a complex idea or want to go deep into a subject. People will read a long article when the material fits their interest. If you have something useful to say, that helps as well. Bringing creative ability also helps in telling a story (creating / developing a message). Clients also want a good fit in style. Writing for music fans about rock and roll is different than writing about military hardware for government and corporate audience. The working style between you and your client is also crucial. This is something that seems to slow or bring down a project more than anything. Some clients want immediate response and a quick back-and-forth working style. Some would want you to “go away” and write 3 to 5 articles, or do research on promotion locations and come back with a list of 35 “best” links. Some would want to see you or speak to you daily or weekly. Some live with just e-mail interaction. Try to feel the customer quickly in the first few interactions and see if you can take on his work style. Finally, if you are lucky, and usually work hard, you will get results (analytics). That’s more than clicks. That’s people not only commenting but also contributing stories, photos, and videos. It could also be increase in sales. If you are really lucky, your blog (or site) will get some viral traction and will be linked to other blogs, maybe even big ones that will give your writing real interest and many new viewers. This depends on how interesting, relevant, and “viral” your material becomes. This is not hard, but it does need careful attention. It also helps to understand the specific domain and the people you are interacting with. So get to it… and good luck!

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