Evaluating Social Media Claims for 2010

Is social media right for your customer?

In implementing social media marketing in the coming year, businesses must understand the truth behind all the talk. In this free guide, Viewstream CEO John Assalian takes on the top five claims made about social media and puts them into perspective. From the cost of doing social media to strategies for deployment, it is important to be realistic about the role social media plays in marketing.

These seven short pages illuminate why social media itself is not a marketing strategy, but another medium to consider in executing a comprehensive marketing strategy that engages audiences and gets results.

“Social media can help you engage and understand your customer, spread your message and information to targeted audiences, and even help customers market for you. But, far too often, social media is promoted with highly unreasonable claims… In the end, Social Media is another communication channel, a set of tools in your marketing arsenal.”
-From ‘Evaluating Social Media Claims for 2010’

About the Author:
John J. Assalian brings a strategic focus to marketing, honed over fifteen years of customer acquisition and brand building experiences with a range of entrepreneurial and market-changing businesses. As CEO of Viewstream since 1999, Mr. Assalian has built a marketing firm that conceives, develops and engineers content marketing strategies for leading brands, including Autodesk, Microsoft, Sony, HP, as well as a range of startups and SMEs in the high tech industry.

To learn more, call (888)404-8686

Your Prospect Is Your Champion: Seven Ways To Increase Sales Ready Leads with Content Marketing

Discover the Power of Content Marketing

The current economy is forcing every business to explore new and more cost-effective methods to reach and retain customers. While traditional marketing and advertising sees declining ROI, the Web has become the top channel for acquiring and retaining customers. Whether the Web is a vehicle for information or a direct source of sales, all businesses must now focus on the development, execution, and distribution of online content to remain competitive.

In this slide presentation, Viewstream CEO John Assalian shares successful content marketing strategies. He offers insider tips to help your tech marketing department achieve better sales-ready leads, execute more effective lead-nurturing strategies, and sustain competitive advantage. You will learn best practice content marketing techniques for high-tech marketing, specifically targeted to larger deal sizes ($15K to $2M).

View the presentation now:

Content Mapping for Fun and Profit

I recently had a chance to talk about the challenges of content at a roundtable hosted by the Northern California Business Marketing Association. At the event, I met a number of marketers who were looking to solve the content conundrum: How do I create and deliver the right content in the right way to drive my prospects to action?

In my presentation, I pointed out that, in a marketing world where technology vendors may be losing 40% of their potential sales due to poor content*, not all content is king. If what you are putting out into the world does not speak to your buyer, or their position in the buying cycle, it is detrimental to marketing success.

In approaching projects for clients, I often think about the cognitive effects of bad content. If the information, presentation, or delivery of content does not resonate with prospects, it can have adverse effects on efforts to gain customers. Remember, buyers are risk adverse–if they see anything bad about your content, it will reflect on their perception of your overall brand and drive them to competitors. Indeed, not all content is king.

I also point out in my presentation that content done right can result in competitive differentiation, awareness, and ultimately, sales. But to achieve this, businesses have to provide the right content for the right prospect at the right time. That’s why all good content starts with the customer in mind. By thinking like a customer, you can produce good content that will take your prospects to the next stage of the buyers’ cycle and improve you brand perception and equity.

Creating and positioning your marketing content to resonate with your prospects begins with the process of content mapping. By defining your buyers, identifying the buyers’ attributes, and creating content to match those attributes, you can hone your marketing efforts to include only highly-effective content. Critical to this is identifying the right type of content for the buyer’s position in the sales cycle. For example, at an early stage of a sales cycle to sell a problem that customer’s don’t know very much about, white papers or video white papers can be effective. Content mapping, in the end, can reduce content creation costs by fighting off the urge to publish content to every audience and encourages content targeted to the right customers, at the right stage of the sales cycle.

At the end of my presentation, I was approached by a marketer from a technology company who asked a very good question—How can marketers navigate all the marketing channels available: websites, social networking, social video, blogs, micro-blogs, mobile devices, and so on. It was a great question, and if I had the definitive answer I would only tell my clients. But I do know that there are a lot of opportunities to deliver countless types of content—videos, interactive presentations, tips & tricks, whitepapers, case studies, personality marketing—and it is our task as marketers to identify what content our prospects are looking for, understand where they are in the sales cycle, and create valuable content in a format they will respond to.

As I told the audience at the event, content can be a problem, but good content truly is king in today’s complex marketing world.

Take a look at the highlights from my presentation:

*IDG Connect, Oct. 2008

Why get up at 6:00AM?

It is 6:00AM in Berkeley, and still pitch dark out! My challenge this morning is to get to Palo Alto by 8:00AM to speak at the Marketing Roundtable for the Business Marketing Association of Northern California. I need to make my daughter lunch, feed the cat, find some decent threads to wear, and get out the door by 6:30AM to allow ninety minutes to drive a mere forty three miles in Bay Area traffic (some of the worst in the country)!

The line at the café is excessively long even at 6:35AM and I finally hit the road by 6:45, arriving at 8:03AM, just in time! The room at the back of the venue is nice, but very rectangular and I present in the front. Not really feeling the space as the audience is hard to see because it is like one big last supper table. On the other hand, the room is small enough to make the twenty five or so people there seem like a really big crowd, so that is a good thing. Feels comfortable. I forgot to bring my “lectern” to hold my slide notes, so I bend my head way too much to refer to my notes. This makes me lose contact with the audience, and the presentation definitely lost a bit there. Overall, the concepts seem relevant and the presentation went fairly well. The audience was a mix of small business, enterprise, and consultants in the marketing world and they had some great questions (how to apply content marketing to an enterprise versus SMB model, the best buyer phase for a white paper, how to optimize for search, how do you define conversion, etc.). There was one person in the back that must have been a public speaker as she was smiling and nodding her head for encouragement, which is always good!

I made a survey to give after the presentation so I can get a true quantitative gauge of how well I did. Each question is scored a weight one to five, and I calculated the results. I got a 3.97 out of five. Not so bad, considering this was the first time that I presented the material. I also provide a general comments area on the survey and I received a few critical comments like you looked down too much and one person said the information was too basic. In general, I prefer the critical comments more because there is always some truth in them, and it is a valuable opportunity to learn more.

After the presentation, I realized the overall structure of the story needed a lot of work, and more stories (as always) were needed. I am in the process of redoing the presentation and will present again in the next month or so. Based on the comments, it seems like people were really interested in Content Mapping – and wanted me to communicate the concept (mapping persona attributes to stage in buyer’s cycle) in a more detailed fashion. Ok, so how do you make content mapping into an entertaining story – now that’s a content challenge.

Thanks to @popky who did a great job of organizing the event, and the entire BMA of Northern California.

Thanks to @NewCommGlobal for tweeting the event. You can see the tweets here.

Also, thanks to Bob Johnson from IDG whose data I used to build the business case for content.

I’m not going to publish the slide deck yet as I would prefer to improve before making public.

King Content in the Post-Digital World

I believe we are marketing in a post-digital world. By post-digital, I mean a time when the communication landscape is no longer defined by the potential of any particular medium (digital, social, interactive, etc.), but instead by its overall ability to connect with particular human needs. Today, the medium has become secondary to the message. Finding one’s way through this new phase of communication and creating a lasting connection with the audience begins with the understanding that content truly is king.

What Content Means for Business

Content covers the sum of your brand’s publishing activities. When your company offers white papers, YouTube videos, webinars, XML feeds, and social streams, you are already acting like a publisher. In a post-digital world, the successful company publishes through a complete content strategy created with the customer in mind. Successful content strategy begins with the creation of content that tells a compelling brand story through an engaging user experience. This content is incorporated into the overall customer experience. Great website content, free training demos, how-to PDFs, story driven website copy, micro-documentaries, solution overviews, etc. are just part of the mix to engage audiences. Below this surface, the content must contain an intelligent structure in terms of meta data, search, metrics, and code.  Further, content is not just for demand generation, but also for improving customer service and delivering value to current customers.

Effective content must be useful to the customer, and be wrapped in the social and made available in communities. Creating such content requires brands to reflect and express what customer’s value, not what marketing departments believe customers should care about. Forget about what you think makes you different and find out what your customers think.

Like other business strategies, companies need a content strategy based on customer research and customer service improvement. In 2010, most brands don’t fully employ a content strategy in developing their customer experience, customer service and business process. True, everyone is producing content on some level, but the relationship between actual business process and content strategy is not fully engendered. While companies have social media czars, how many companies have a content king? Organizations may have a UX manager, a development team and a marketing dept, but lack a content strategist or content manager to help bridge the gap between these groups and to forge a concise, cohesive strategy. If content is this important, let’s think about adding this person to our teams or partnering with content agencies.

Hail to the King

The post-digital world is ruled by King Content. Content is not just what you create, but the overall approach to your brand and what you publish. As we move forward, forget about the latest medium, and focus on your customer: who they are, why they buy from you, and what they care about.

Choosing the Right Content for your B2B Marketing Campaigns

There are a ton of content options available to marketers today, and choosing the right mix is critical to success.

But how do you know what content is best? How do you know what content works where?

To answer those critical questions, conduct a basic marketing audit that builds a matrix around the type of content mapped to the stage your buyer is at in their purchase decision.  There are five general stages of the buyer’s cycle: general education, business case development, implementation scenarios, shortlist creation, and final decision. Once you determine where your prospect is at, validate the assumption by using Google Adwords, phone interviews, and/or online surveys.

Example: a small IT software company (revenue 230M) is launching a new product targeting system admins. The company has a strong vertical market focus in healthcare SMBs. After basic audit, we determine the product solves a very big problem, but the nature of the problem isn’t 100% clear to the prospects. We need to build clarity around the issues and trends with the solution. We need to foster discussion, and be visible. This is, therefore, a general education campaign – and so we need to map content that works well at early stages of the sales cycle.  So what content works best here? Essentially any content that is high level, including white papers, general blog topics and publication editorials. We want to stay away from social networks, wikis, discussion forums, case studies/success stories, product demos, and in-depth videos.  We do a teaser Adwords campaign to see what type of content would be clicked on the most, and we validate further with an online survey from a list purchased form a leading health care content publication. Turns out – this audience loves white papers more than general videos, blogs, or third party editorials.  We end up delivering a white paper that clarifies the situation, and exposes the audience to our solution.

B2B Marketing Summit 2009 Roundup

The Viewstream team just got back from Marketing Sherpa’s B2B Marketing Summit ’09. It was a great two-day event for B2B marketers across verticals interested in ramping up sales funnels online through content, social media, SEO and digital strategy.

Highlights today included a great presentation with Bob Johnson, Vice President and Principal Analyst at IDG Connect, who had some spot-on things to say about content marketing and social media. He laid out the digital marketing landscape shaped by the content and format explosion (everyone is a publisher, everyone is using social media), and the increasing importance of relevant, content that speaks to prospects and their place in the sales cycle.

Bob also addressed the challenges marketers face in creating social content that is coupled with effective CTAs that tie back in to your promotional assets or brand. He and a few other presenters nailed it in terms of understanding that social content has varying roles in throughout the sales cycle, and must be adjusted accordingly. As I mentioned in my eGuide, Evaluating Social Media Claims for 2010, social media is a means to be adopted whenever and however appropriate. Careful use of social tools to deliver and share content that resonates with the right prospects is very powerful when used correctly within a promotional framework.

Check out participant Tweets from the event here.
See Viewstream’s Tweets from the event here.

NEW! Viewstream eGuide – Evaluating Social Media Claims for 2010

As we roll through the last half of 2009, social media has carved out a permanent place in marketing. There’s been a social media frenzy as marketers rush to be a part of the latest trends. With the acceptance that it is here to stay, it is important to take another look at what social media means for marketing.

We’ve done a lot of work with social media for our clients, and we’ve had a chance to test what it can do. We’ve also seen a lot of companies adopt social media in the past year. Despite a lot of talk from the gurus and experts, social media can often surprise marketers with disappointing ROI.

If you are currently using social media in your marketing, or plan to do so in the next year, you will want to read my new eGuide, Evaluating Social Media Claims for 2010. This brief book reviews some of the biggest claims made about social media, include the  costs, best practices, and perceptions of what it can do for your business. It lays the groundwork for a new understanding of marketing in 2010, one that uses social media as a tool, not a strategy, to market based on message, content, and the importance of speaking directly to prospects. Instead of social media for the sake of social media, this guide can help you perform social media marketing that is targeted, effective, and that leaves you in control.

Social Media Claims eGuideView the eGuide now and begin to rethink what social media means for your business. In doing so, you can leverage the power it has to help grow your business!

Desi411: Our Latest Product Demo

I just wanted to share Viewstream’s latest product demo for Desi411.com, a startup business and service directory for businesses within the South Asian diaspora. We worked closely with the Desi11 team to create an exciting demo with clear messaging and story, engaging creative, video, and vector animation to build excitement about the launch of this service.

View the demo.

Content Marketing: Seven Ways

Today we presented our webinar, Your Prospect Is Your Champion: Seven Ways To Increase Sales Ready Leads with Content Marketing. In the presentation, I shared some insights into how tech marketing departments can achieve better sales-ready leads, execute more effective lead-nurturing strategies, and sustain competitive advantage using uninterruptive, informative content.

If you missed the webinar, download the pdf, or view the slideshow below.

We had a great group this morning. Thanks to everyone who attended!