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:

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?

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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.

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.

Content Marketing: Seven Ways

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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!

We are doing a live event with Microsoft’s Michael Scherotter tonight. Check the invite here for more infomration.

During the course of marketing the event, we received several of the “Flash vs. Silverlight” type emails/responses, and so we wanted to mention a couple of things. First of all Viewstream is a long standing Flash Developer — we go back to the Macromedia Director days, the first version of QuickTime, and Flash 1.0.

We make decisions about what development tool to use based on our client’s requirements and our client’s clear-target customer. Beyond that, we are completely neutral.

Our resident .NET guru emailed me with some notes for tonight, and I wanted to share them with everyone:

Silverlight is a contained development environment. It integrates into the Data access layer natively, as it is part of the .NET development. This is a very powerful feature to work with when development web 2.0 or database driven sites.

Because Silverlight is integrated in the .NET environment, there is no extra investment of time or specialized debugging methods when developing a Silverlight app in the case of a development house focused on the .NET framework. It uses Visual Studio professional and express editions. Because the Express editions are free, and provide 75% of the tools used in the Professional editions, this mean that Silverlight development, with a fantastic API can be totally free.

A myth about ASP.net over PHP is that it’s “expensive”. The only expensive portion about it is when a company hosts their own web servers, or when the host their own SQL Server licenses. However, in a shared hosting environment, it’s the exact same cost as a Linux environment, as ASP.net is always a standard feature along side PHP in said shared hosting. What this means is, you can have a “RIA” web application for a fraction of the price. Once again, take a free edition of Visual Studio, with Silverlight tools and then look at the price of shared hosting. Now take the same price of shared hosting, look at the price of either Flash or Flex development tools. Look at the process it would take having two separate development environments interact (such as PHP), and I think it starts making sense.

Anyone who is comfortable in C#, or even Java, can quickly learn to develop highly advanced Silverlight applications quickly.

Webinar on Content Marketing

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I will be doing a webinar on Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 10:00AM Pacific, on Content Marketing. The webinar will focus on companies that need a persistent content marketing strategy – and how to create engaging content to bring that strategy to life.

I will present the seven ways to use content marketing in your marketing & sales strategy, including:

Way #1: Make Your Content Informative, Consultative and Engaging

Way #2: Make Your Content Portable with Social Media

Way #3: Leverage Your Content Throughout Your Channel/Partner Ecosystem

Way #4: Create Thought Leadership in Your Industry

Way #5: Develop Tracking/Metrics That Listen

Way #6: Create a Long Term Strategy (not just a campaign)

Way #7: Crowdsource: Using customer content

Please attend – I will present for thirty minutes and have some time for Q/A.

See you online!

When Microsoft wanted to host a summit for its global enterprise marketing team while keeping costs down, they called us! We created a virtual solution, the Enterprise Marketing Virtual Summit 2009. Over three days, hundreds of Microsoft marketers from around the world attended the event without leaving their desktops!

We build this custom site from the ground up, exclusively using Microsoft technology, including .NET programming, SQL Server and Silverlight (Viewstream is an official Microsoft Silverlight Partner). This virtual summit did away with the cookie-cutter 3-D world of many virtual events to take a content-driven approach. Live webinars and on-demand video integrated into an environment designed for interactivity and conversation. All live sessions were available on-demand shortly after they were held. There was event a Race Game, where users gained points for attending virtual sessions and engaging with other attendees via message boards.

Microsoft’s Enterprise Marketing Virtual Summit 2009 officially wrapped yesterday, but the event lives on through this site. Attendees can still log in and watch session videos on their own time.

We want to thank the Microsoft team for such an exciting project. We had a lot of fun with this one!

Sorry – this is an invite only event – but you can see the home page here.

Today I attended the Tour de Force — a Salesforce promotional event that introduces the “platform” as a service solution. The Cloud Computing space is loaded with vendors — and I am willing to bet my house that this is the real deal — what people will call Web 3.0 — and make web 2.0 look very small. I told you that I drank the kool-aid!

Essentially, this solution allows you to quickly develop enterprise level software using the shared “cloud” resources of salesforce’s infrastructure. Cloud computing is when the datacenter becomes virtualized, and servers are no longer thought of as unique entities, but an array of systems that function together and offer all the foundation services (infrastructure, billing, security, content, database functions, etc.) you need to build an online software service. Now, developers will have an integrated platform to build, test, and deploy applications — with shared code and resources the benefits are immense. This really lowers the barrier to entry for software — and from a business perspective enables what I call the “short tail” — where your business solution can be offered to any size business in any market. When you have an Amazon or Google or Salesforce infrastructure behind you, you can scale ad infinitum. Or sell to one. Revolutionary.

Here’s an image from Peter Laird’s blog that provides a great landscape of what is going on.

The Visual Map of Cloud Computing

For the past two years, Viewstream has provided proprietary networking and display systems for HP and The Kenwood Group events. Our system, developed in-house, allows audience members to send questions via text message or e-mail, which were processed and displayed on the main screen in real time.

Most recently, we were in Las Vegas for the 2008 HP Software Universe Conference. Check out the photos to see our technology in action!

Images courtesy of The Kenwood Group.

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