How to write a winning Microsoft Partner of the Year award entry

Do you want your company to be awarded Microsoft Partner of the Year? Of course you do, what Microsoft Partner wouldn't? But how do you write an award winning entry for that sort of coveted prize? I'll keep this post short and to the point. You don't. Don't even try.

But of course you do want to win a Microsoft Partner of the Year award. You might not get to walk about Microsoft Inspire with a sash and maybe a flag, the pandemic has again seen to that for another year, but winning is an incredible achievement recognising amazing work on behalf of your clients. So what should you do to succeed? That bit is easy, pay an expert. At this point I could wax lyrical about the benefits of getting an expert in, about the craft of writing, the insight to know what to include and what not to include. But I won't.

Instead let me outline what we offer in our 'Award writing package':

  • Step 1 - We'll help you select the right awards to enter
    We've been writing Microsoft Partner of the Year awards for a long time now. So we'll work with you to select your best work for the most appropriate award categories. There is an art to this, and as we live and breathe Microsoft, we know what to look for.
  • Step 2 - Next we will interview you and your clients
    We've been interviewing clients and writing case study style material for years. So asking the right questions and seeking out the right answers is what we do. It is harder than it looks.
  • Step 3 - We craft the award entry
    This is when our writers craft the actual entry. It's part case study, part adhering to a wide set of rules, and part crafting a story people can buy into. It takes a bit of experience to get right.
  • Step 4 - We take care of all the back and forth
    Edits, client approval, tweaks. Whatever it takes, we take the pain out of the admin for you.
  • Step 5 - We'll advise on what else you need
    Microsoft will encourage you to upload supporting material. What should you provide? What do you have? What should you create? We can advise.

If you have the time to execute something like the above (and have the people to do it) then good luck to you. But if like most companies you are better at doing the award winning work, then writing award winning copy - why not get in touch? We have a history of writing awesome Microsoft Partner of the Year award entries, and for a very reasonable cost. Follow the call to action below or email me direct.

How to write a value proposition: a guide for B2B technology companies

For B2B technology companies, standing out from the crowd can be tricky. In an industry where every business is a “trusted partner”, where every team is overflowing with “seasoned professionals”, and positively dripping in “specialist expertise” – what can you say to differentiate your business? To communicate your value consistently in your marketing, you need to know how to write a value proposition.

Knowing how to write a value proposition for b2b business is critical: it details what you can offer customers that other businesses in your space can’t. Every business understands the value they offer customers, but potential customers often won’t take time to find out. The real challenge is being able to express your value proposition in a way that engages your audience.

What is a value proposition?

The definition of a value proposition describes the value you deliver to customers – how you understand it and how it should be communicated. It isn’t a slogan, a positioning statement or a list of product features. It’s a comprehensive document that clearly defines how you help customers and what they can expect from investing in you, your product or your services.

Our approach at Fifty Five and Five

Fifty Five and Five is a full service digital marketing agency. We help technology companies grow their business, drive brand awareness and achieve their marketing goals. The importance of value propositions to our work cannot be understated – it forms the crux of everything we do and ensures our efforts are perfectly aligned with our clients’ ambitions.

Sometimes creating a value proposition is the primary reason we are brought on board by a customer. Other times it just forms the beginning of a long-term relationship and marketing strategy. Either way, we treat it with a great deal of respect – as getting it right will make all the difference for the work we do.

Our approach is unique and puts great emphasis on the initial planning and strategy stages. Albert Einstein was asked: “If you have one hour to solve a problem, how would you spend that hour?” He replied, “I would spend fifty five minutes defining the problem, and then I would need just five minutes to solve it.” What a guy!

We put the fifty five first in everything we do. We think, we plan, we strategise. We do our research and use data to complement our creativity. The fifty five is not about an amount of time, it’s about quality of thought. With the fifty five in place, the five, the execution, is set up to succeed. This is especially important when creating value propositions.

How to write a value proposition for B2B businesses

We’ve taken inspiration from the classic Five Ws and the H, and created our own set of questions that’ll help you home in on your target audience. Answering them will build the foundations of your value proposition.

1. Who?

> Who is your audience?

Who are the people your product or service is trying to help? What is their industry and their business?

> What are their problems?

What issues do they have, both generally and in relation to their industry? For example:

  • Do they experience problems with current technology set up?

2. What?

> What do you do?

Try to condense your company blurb into one or two sentences. Only include the essentials.

> What is your unique selling point?

What does your company do differently to others? It might be your technology, service, people, practice, cost… find your niche and explore it.

> What value do you bring to the customer?

This obviously refers to your offering, but it’s also about the customer experience you provide. How are you exceeding the normal expectations of customers?

> What are you running your business for?

You need to know the ultimate goal of your company. For instance, at Fifty Five and Five our goal is to help technology companies realise their ambitions.

3. How?

>How can you solve the customer’s problems?

Solve the customer problems that you identified in question one. Again, this isn’t necessarily just about your product. It’s about the value you can provide another business. For example:

  • Minimise the cost and risk implications of a cloud migration.
  • Take a cybersecurity assessment to gain control over your company data and minimise the threat of cyberattacks.
  • Offer a friendly and professional service from start to finish.

4. Why?

> Why should the customer choose you?

Show (don’t tell) the customer why they should choose you over your competition. Make sure to avoid product features – focus on the real-life benefits they can expect. Do you:

  • Make users’ day-to-day tasks easier, helping them relieve stress?
  • Improve employee productivity with collaboration tools?
  • Provide customers considerable return on investment?
  • Offer constant support and advice throughout the customer journey?

> What is your product differentiation?

What does your software or service offer that others don’t? Does it have more processing power or a user-friendly interface?

Value Prop Template

Literally. We’ve created a handy template for you to jot down your answers.

There are better ways of presenting value propositions. The final document should be dressed up a little and ideally presented in line with your branding. We use PowerPoint presentations to present value propositions for our clients. But for now… it’s important to get stuff neatly tied up on paper so that it is more palatable.

Who is your audience?  Copy and paste this table into a Word doc and answer the question in this box.
What are their problems?
What do you do?
What is your unique selling point?
What value do you bring to the customer?
What are you running your business for?
How can you solve the customer’s problems?
Why should the customer choose you?
What is your product differentiation?


Value Proposition Examples

We will outline some of the specific value proposition examples below from the top companies.


As a brand, Microsoft is so powerful, that it delivers value to its expansive network of customers with ease. The first on the list is their partner that resells Microsoft's software and services. Resellers gain immense value through associating with Microsoft (brand recognition).

Meanwhile, larger businesses can compete and scale while using Microsoft's offerings. It is also practical to people that use Microsoft Office 365 regularly.


Algolia is a self-described 'builder-first' search platform that allows companies to create cutting-edge search functionality for their websites, from e-commerce to media companies, and SaaS, without worrying about servers or hosting.

The main benefit of Algolia is the speed of implementation and adaptation. It has all the typical elements of search - Analytics, automatic query suggestions, and instant search.

Think of Google, but better and more agile, as it also has functionalities related to A/B testing, visual editing, along with secure and compliant data.


Grammarly's value proposition is concise and simple. It takes you through the basic checks for free in a visual editor, that is AI-powered. Additionally, it answers the value prop questions outlined above in a way that is very clear. Take a look at the 'have-a-word's' example about how it does exactly that.

Value proposition formula

There is a simple value proposition formula, that is defined as follows:

I help [audience/niche] to [achieve result/solve problem] by [service/product].

This formula was created by a Google employee Steve Bank. The basis of the formula is based on value and benefits that the product or service offers, rather than a list of features.

Involve the whole organization

Value propositions can benefit from being tackled collaboratively – an interdepartmental workshop is a great way to brainstorm and identify what sets your company apart.

Your value proposition should not be a manifestation of the c-suite’s collective will. You should not eschew the viewpoints from employees who are much closer to your customers, products and services than the proverbial “suits” in the boardroom.

Of course, you don’t need the contribution of every single employee – that would be madness. But encouraging representatives from every department can be hugely beneficial. Working with account management, sales, customer success, IT and other areas of your business gives you the insights you need to do this.

Creating your value proposition

Now you know how to write a value proposition, or at least how we do it. And you have a template to guide you. You can also look at our case studies to see how we have worked with organizations to deliver a wide range of marketing projects including value proposition work. However, as mentioned above, all of our work begins with value propositions to some extent. Without a good value proposition, marketing efforts can only ever go so far. That’s why creating a value proposition for B2B business is so important.


Fifty Five and Five can help you find the best way to communicate your value proposition to current and future customers. For more information about the importance of value propositions, get in touch with us today.

Illustration marketing person with laptop trying to overcome four marketing hurdles

How to overcome the 4 hurdles to great content marketing  

Building a brand, gaining an audience and generating leads is important for organisations of all sizes. Content marketing is a valuable tool to help you achieve these outcomes. But to really stand out, your content needs to have something special about it. It all starts with overcoming the four hurdles to great content marketing.

1. Build your brand 

All good marketing begins with a story. What’s yours? 

B2B marketers often make the mistake of thinking their marketing material should be dry and functional rather than emotive and story-drivenThe argument goes that B2B buyers are driven by cool, logic-based decision making, rather than the airy-fairy emotional whims of consumers. Apart from being just a little patronising to B2C customers, this also misses a fundamental point: people are people, whether they’re wearing their business hats or they’re shopping for budget holidays.  

Emotive stories can be found in even the driest of B2B technology marketing. The story lies in what technology allows real people to achieve. Just look at this example:

“Dan the HR manager used to spend two hours a day replying to emails and combing through Excel spreadsheets. Now automation takes care of that – and Dan’s much happier for it.”

It has all the important aspects of a story and is a lot more compelling than a list of features and product specifications. Storytelling sits at the root of any successful brand.

2. Generate leads 

Gaining leads is the goal of any marketing campaign. Fundamentally, we all want to sell something, whether that’s an intraneta security solution or our expertiseYour marketing strategy should prioritise getting your readers into the marketing funnel. Whether they make contact for a demonstration of your product, download another piece of content to continue their research, or are at the point of making a purchase. Luckily, if you’ve built your brand well enough, you’ll be well on your way to encouraging your users to fill in that lead generation form and take the next step in the process 

Getting the rest right is all about understanding your user journey and allowing your content to guide your readers through that. Every marketing strategy, whether paid or organic, short or long term, should make use of a marketing funnel. This means that different types of content are tailored to readers at different stages of their journey, usually as they learn more about the product you’re offering and the value it delivers. That, combined with a well-optimised website and robust SEO approach, means your readers have a clear route to conversion.

3. Measure your campaigns 

It goes without saying that if you want your marketing campaign to be successful, you need to measure, observe and improve. This is as true for the marketing content you’re creating as it is for anything else in life.  

The first step is to set targets, or KPIs. When embarking on an organic or paid strategy, you need to understand what success looks like. That could be “gain 20 leads”, “post a blog every week”, or “gain 20% more views on our content than last year.” There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s important to draw a line in the sand that you can measure against later.  

Then, as your campaign progresses, you can use your KPIs as a metric of how successful your tactics are. Are you gaining a healthy number of leads, or are you still too far away from your target? What can you change in order to help you boost engagement? Then, once the campaign is over, you can review your targets, your tactics and how successful you have been. After that, simply rinse and repeat until your marketing strategy gets you the results you need.

4. Solve your resource gap 

For many organisationsit’s very easy for day-to-day work to take precedence over marketing. Effective content creation requires resources and skills. All the goodwill and skills in the world won’t make quality blogs and case studies appear if your best people have too much on their plates 

There are several solutions to this problem. If you have the expertise and resources, then being firm about the time people need to create effective marketing, and not allowing that to get swept aside, can be a good way of achieving your goals. Alternatively, getting some outside help can be an effective way of ensuring your content gets written to a decent quality and published on time.

The right help from the right people 

If you want to make sure quality content appears on your website or social media platforms when you need it, it’s worth considering partnering with a marketing agency that understands your industry and what can help differentiate you in a competitive marketplace.  

As a full-service digital marketing agency in the world of B2B technology our job is to ensure your content can build your brand, generate leads and achieve your strategic marketing goals. If you want to find out more about how we do that, get in touch with the Fifty Five and Five team today. 

Illustration woman planning content strategy

Content planning: the 3 crucial steps to keeping your audience coming back for more

When it comes to content planning, developing a strategy is easy…in theory. In practice, it can be tricky to create a successful plan that not only reaches the right people but keeps your readers coming back for more. That’s why we’re revealing the three crucial steps to attracting an audience and keeping them primed and interested in what you have to say.

Step 1: Know your audience

The first step to great content is understanding who you’re creating it for. It’s been said a million times before, but it’s worth saying it again:

  • Research who your ideal customer is
  • What is stopping them from doing a better job?
  • What do you think they would change about the way they work if they could?

Asking these questions – every time you think about your audience – is absolutely crucial. Never lose sight of who they are, what they need and how you can help them.

icon lightbulb

Quick tip: combine tech and human insights

Get in touch with the person in charge of your sales strategy. Ask them to help you with their insights into who your business is talking to. You likely have an idea who your ideal audience is. Your sales team are the people on the ground talking to them day after day. Mine them for all the insights they can muster.

In combination with speaking to the humans who sell your products and services, don’t forget to lean on technology to give you a hand. Conduct keyword research to understand what your audience is searching for online. The phrases and keywords they use should help you understand exactly what they’re looking for.

Try to adopt the mindset that your audience doesn’t know who you are yet and then think of your content as the answer to their questions. You are the solution to their needs. They may just not know it yet.

Step 2: Connect with your audience

At first, your audience may be looking for the answer to a question, as mentioned above. But what keeps them coming back to you for more? It’s all down to the way you tell a story. We all love stories and are hardwired to respond to them. The key to growing a readership is to create engaging content that tells a compelling story.

What is engaging content?

Really great content goes beyond answering a question or ‘providing value’. The engaging stuff connects with the people consuming it. The dynamic is similar to a joke or a piece of art. It’s surprising, it rises above the humdrum of everything else you may have read or watched on a subject, and above all it contains your unique voice. But how do you do that?

Well, first, forget the idea of ‘converting’ a reader into a lead and a lead into a customer. These things get in the way. Instead focus on connecting with what motivates your audience. This is where the art of rhetoric comes in.

When creating your content, think about the rhetorical devices that will connect with your audience:


Use facts and figures that will resonate with a certain type of audience who need to know what you’re selling will get them results.


Develop content that shows that you are credible in your field. Awards, length of service and experience in a sector, and partnerships with other brands or vendors are all good ways of highlighting your credibility.


Pathos is about emotional appeal. To connect with your audience on an emotional level, appeal to their beliefs. Using anecdotes, a specific tone (e.g., 'straight to the point' or 'irreverent'), along with figurative language are all good ways of doing this.

Step 3: Grow your audience

Getting your content in front of people is the task at hand. But to get them coming back for the next piece is the goal. And it’s the key to growing your audience and developing your authority in a space.

So, to recap: you need to put together your knowledge and connection with an audience into great content. That will ensure that they remember you and come back for more. By knowing what your audience wants and what it needs you can create content that is relevant to them.

Produce on a consistent basis

Looking forward to a piece of content requires knowledge and expectation of when it is going to appear. If your content is sporadic, even the most ardent members of your audience are likely to forget you. You need to schedule your work and stick to it. Creating a content calendar is a good step. Putting in place time and resources to develop ideas and create the content is crucial. And following that with a peer review will help make sure what you produce is fit for purpose.

Put your content where people will see it

There are several places your content can be seen by your audience. Your website and social media platforms like LinkedIn are the obvious two. But also creating a newsletter each week or month to send to your email marketing list is another good way of getting your work out there. Along with these, you can also publish your content on third-party sites as a guest blog or a syndication article.

Capture contact details and convert readers into subscribers

Not all your content should be kept behind gates. But long form pieces like eBooks, whitepapers or webinars can be great for capturing email addresses from interested readers. Giving people a way to put their hand up and acknowledge their interest in your content is a great step to establishing an audience base.

Amplify your brand

Once you've established a loyal following, then you can expand your content, developing longer/deeper/more niche stories. Your audience will follow you into new formats (such as podcasts). And a loyal audience will share, tell their friends, and help amplify your brand.

Blog image - The power of negative thinking

Writing a persona: The power of negative thinking

One of the worst-kept secrets of the B2B writing world is that writing a persona is everybody’s favourite job. Fleshing out this ‘semi-fictionalised’ outline of our target audience is a unique opportunity to bring a little bit of fantasy and creativity to the writing process – and we love it.

Not too long ago, I found myself once again living my best life writing about Brenda, the absurdly overachieving CIO of a multinational corporation. Brenda was the kind of person everybody wanted to know. Her technical knowhow was first rate, her management skills incomparable - she knew exactly what was needed to be ‘ahead of the curve’, and she was wasting no time in getting there. Brenda, in a word was perfect - and that was exactly the problem. In a moment, my marketers’ fantasy was shattered as I realised I’d fallen into the classic writers’ trap: My persona was a Mary Sue.

Mary who?

‘Mary Sue’ is a term used by writers to describe a character who’s unnaturally and infuriatingly perfect. She’s a staple of internet fanfiction and young adult novels; a character with unnatural talents, beauty, ingenuity – and usually far younger than anyone with her skills and experience is likely to be. Once you know what to look for, you’ll start seeing Mary everywhere.

Brenda was textbook Mary Sue. She’s nothing like a real CIO; she’s a personified pastiche of various absurd B2B marketing clichés. I was being too positive about my character – to the extent where it barely resembled the target audience at all. Luckily it didn’t take much tweaking to tone Brenda down a bit – but I’d learned something valuable in the process.

There’s such a thing as too perfect

When writing a persona – and indeed all marketing content, it’s easy to fall into this mindset of overly-idealising your ‘ideal’ audience. When your perfect persona looks nothing like your actual buyer, the marketing material you create will struggle to chime with the real audience’s priorities, pain points and challenges.

As marketers, we like to live in the world of positivity. Our job is to explain to the world why our clients’ products are great. But good marketing needs to have a basis in reality if it has any hope of communicating with the real people that are going to read it. Sometimes, a little negativity can help bring your Mary Sue personas back down to earth.

What does your customer actually want?

A little pessimistic thinking can go a long way in aligning yourself with your customer’s priorities. This is particularly the case when selling technology. Poor B2B writing usually features several clichés, revolving around innovation, digital transformation and the dreaded ‘ahead of the curve’.

These things aren’t strictly wrong, but they’re abstract, and they don’t really chime with the very tangible priorities of your target audiences. A client once put it to me in terms I could never beat: “my people don’t really give a fig about digital transformation, they just want their buggers to do their time sheets”. Applying a little strategic negative thinking can help you better understand the wants, challenges and pain points of the people you’re trying to sell to.

Improve the content you’re creating

But it’s not just about better understanding your audience. Being critical is also a vital part of understanding more about the work you’re creating and whether or not it’s up to scratch.

In any industry and profession, it’s easy to fall into the habit of patting yourself on the back, rather than forcing yourself to engage with the reasons your marketing material might not hit the mark. Is it too jargony? Too dense and overcomplicated? Is it too focused on how great you and your product are rather than engaging with the priorities of the reader? These are easy traps to fall into – we’ve all been there. But by putting yourself in the shoes of your reader and thinking critically, you can force yourself to get out of this habit – and your readers will thank you for it.

Sometimes controversial is ok

Being blithely uncontroversial is another positivity trap that marketers often fall into. It’s easy to justify not being offensive. But there’s a danger that in seeking to offend nobody, you also end up engaging roughly the same number of people. Sometimes, a little tactically-placed controversy can give you something unique to say, letting you speak a different language from your competitors.

To put this into practice, let’s pretend we’re marketing a videoconferencing app, which we’ll call WeTalkr. The inoffensively uncontroversial way of promoting the software could go something like this:

“WeTalkr allows you to seamlessly catch up with your colleagues any time and any place.”

There’s nothing wrong with this. But let’s be honest; it’s a little bland. Realistically, every competitor is going to be saying roughly the same thing. Why not try this instead:

“We know virtual meetings can be a faff. Are you tired of wasting ten minutes at the start of every meeting fiddling with cables and sound settings? Check out WeTalkr – for meetings that you actually want to attend.”

If you look beneath the surface, the second one isn’t all that different to the first. There’s nothing particularly offensive there, either. But by taking just a little extra risk and engaging with the less-than-perfect reality of your customers’ real lives, you can start to create content that’s better targeted to your reader, and better differentiated from your competitors. And, after all – isn’t that every marketer’s ultimate goal?

Creating content that really sings

Of course, there’s a line between a bit of well-placed negativity and being straight-up unpleasant – which isn’t going to impress anyone. It’s not always easy to work out where the sweet spot is for you and the people you’re speaking to, but it is possible. And sometimes, a bit of tactical negative thinking can help get started.

Blog image - How to write an awesome creative brief

How to write an awesome creative brief

Over the years, we’ve responded to a fair few creative brief processes. Like all agencies, we’ve won some and lost some. But the true value of the experience comes down to what we’ve learned from the process. That’s why we’ve put together this article on the value of writing a collaborative creative brief (sometimes referred to as pitch brief, the language often depends on the project and the client).

A creative brief confession  

Now we could say that winning new business is 100% down to the awesome people at Fifty Five and Five, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. Our most successful proposals have been the result of clients that have been entirely open and fully supportive of a collaborative process to get the best outcome.

Whether you’re a client looking for a new agency, or an agency wanting to improve your pitch-win ratio, this article provides advice for both sides of the fence.

We’ve boiled it down to several key aspects that make up the best type of client-agency partnerships when it comes to a creative brief:

  • Research
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration
  • Evaluation and feedback

With that in mind, let’s start exploring how to make the pitch experience a win-win for all.

Do your research

Client: Finding the right talent, chemistry and shared culture and values with an agency is no easy task. Do your research – know who you want to pitch for your business. Find the experts in your field. For example, Fifty Five and Five is a perfect fit for a B2B tech brand. A bit of time spent here will save effort later weeding our agencies that were never going to fit.

Agency: It makes no sense to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Inevitably, you’ll end up overstretching your teams, ignoring your existing clients and creating a culture of pitch complacency. Have a scorecard that you evaluate briefs against, and if the results show that you’re not a good fit, take a pass. This is not a sign of weakness; it’s sensible business decision-making. When you get to the creative brief, a good scorecard process will set you up for success.

Be transparent

Client: What are the motivating reasons behind bringing in an agency? What do you and your stakeholders want (vs. what you actually “need”), and how will you communicate this in the creative brief? When it comes to deliverables, think about how you want to run the process and be realistic with your timings and budget.

Agency: If you can’t deliver the scope of work within the timescales or budget, be straight with the client. They’ll appreciate your honesty and directness, even if it may not be an easy conversation. Share your reasons and discuss whether there’s an alternative solution. Don’t ignore your instincts or sacrifice learnings from past experiences just to win the business. It never ends well.

Collaboration is key to a good creative brief

Client: It’s really not worth keeping your cards close to your chest; sharing data (from campaign performance to customer insights) will help agencies shape their strategic response to your brief. It also makes a huge difference when you give them ample opportunities to ask questions.

Agency: Why not offer your client the chance to feed back on your ideas and co-create? It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase your culture, ways of working and compatibility. At Fifty Five and Five, we offer a one-hour problem-solving workshop as part of our approach to new business.

Evaluation and feedback

Client: It can be challenging to evaluate proposals if you don’t have clear criteria, especially if there’s more than one person involved in the decision-making process. Sharing how you plan to score proposals can help agencies ensure they deliver a balanced response, focusing on the same areas that matter to you. Try to include this stuff up front in your creative brief.

Agency: Like after a job interview, make sure you push for feedback – whether you win or lose. It’s essential to learn from every new business opportunity and find ways to apply those learnings in the future. It also allows you to continue a relationship with the client because you never know when there might be a second chance.


If you are looking for a new agency, and have an an awesome brief (or want someone to help you write it)get in touch with the team today.  

Illustration woman looking confused

The nine circles of content marketing ideas hell 

Do you ever feel like you are living the same day over and over? If you’re in charge of your organisation’s content marketing ideas, there’s a chance you might feel like you’re stuck in a type of creative purgatory. Content marketing has become ubiquitous. Everyone is ‘doing’ it. Your competitors are doing it, which means you have to do it. And because it’s a ‘must have’, it means if you’re not careful it could become a rote, meaningless, box-ticking exercise. And if we live our lives simply ticking boxes, we could begin to lose meaning…do you ever feel like you are living the same day over… 

This article covers the cycles of repeated content marketing ideas and mistakes you can all-too-easily doom yourself to if you are not careful.  

1. Constant wandering  

In a marketing context, ‘wandering’ means acting without a plan. Creating and deploying content just because you feel you should, instead of having a clear idea of exactly what it should achieve, or who it should be ‘for’ is likely to be a waste of your time and marketing budget. 

Instead of endless, costly wandering, embark on your grand adventure with a map – a well-defined marketing strategyIt will set out where you are, where you need to go, and the best way to get there. If you need a hand with that, the keen cartographers at Fifty Five and Five have created an end-to-end-guide to marketing strategies to help with your mapmaking.  

However, even your best attempt at a marketing strategy will probably fail if you’re... 

2. Lacking vision 

Your marketing budget may not extend to teaching the world to sing or hiring Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott, but that’s no reason to resign yourself to just one format. Think outside the blog. Blog posts are the foundation of many a good content marketing strategy, but they’re just that: a foundation, not the whole house.  

So, you’ve taken the time and effort to create blog content that aligns with your marketing aims. Is your email marketing and social media driving traffic to these posts? OK, that’s the start of a joined-up digital marketing strategy. But what if the blog content wasn’t the end of their journey? What if those articles, in turn, were driving traffic to an eBook, infographic or whitepaper? Or even an animation or video or a podcast?  

All the above could be gated assets’, prompting the user to provide contact details before they’re accessed. That allows you to capture contact information to reach out to leads or continue providing them content. Blog posts are just one tool in your digital marketing arsenal – think bigger and consider all the methods at your disposal.  

3. Ignorance 

Understanding all the digital marketing possibilities is one thing. But you also need to understand your audience – targeting your content toward the right people, in the right wayOtherwise you’ve got ‘all the gear but no idea’Think about who you’re aiming to attract: 

  • What’s their typical job title?  
  • What might their professional (and educational) background be?  
  • What’s their organisation’s likely size and industry?  
  • Which specific business problems are they trying to solve?  
  • What factors are likely to persuade – or dissuade – them?  
  • Do they prefer Oasis or Blur? 

Researching and developing in-depth customer personasand putting yourself in their shoes and their mindsets, is crucial to knowing and really reaching your audience. What type of rhetoric will they respond to? Are they fact-heads’? Do they wear their decisions on their sleeves? Or is your character or ethical behaviours the most important factor?

4. Boredom 

Your content should provide valueIt should be useful and informative to your audience, and it should present your business as a good choice for their custom, a thought-leader in your field, or simply a helpful, friendly standout voice in a crowded marketplace.  

You’ve established your content’s purpose, the forms it should take, and who you want it to speak to. Now, you have to make sure those people want to listen. Otherwise, it’s all for nothing – and you’ve come too far, conquering three circles of content marketing ideas hell, to fail now. At this pointa lot is riding on your storytelling 

This is where your research and strategy will need to pay off. It helps you cut through the noise and reach potential customers with relevant and interesting information that grabs and holds their interest and resonates with them. And it’s also a matter of craft. Just like a well-made website or image, well-written marketing content takes time and skill. Underestimating that, or generally failing to ensure content is engaging, is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

5. Unrealistic expectations 

It’s fair to expect results from your marketing content, but patience is a virtue and impatience can very easily be your ruin. Beware of expecting too much, too soon, and giving up because these expectations aren’t met.  

Some organisations see content marketing merely in terms of one-shot campaigns where certain content assets either deliver easily quantified results within a certain time or they don’tThis ignores the subtleties of the brand/buyer relationship, wherein a reader may not simply be persuaded to get in touch and sign a contract after reading one (albeit really good) eBook or blog post.  

Instead, think in terms of curating content, a digital presence, and a relationship with your audience. That’s why it’s called lead nurturing – it’s not a fishing trip where you’ll hook or net a wealth of leads ione outingIt’s a garden to be cultivated. Don’t become disheartened if it doesn’t bear fruit right away.

6. Worshipping false idols 

By that, I mean the great and all-powerful Google. Don’t get me wrong – SEO is a very necessary part of ensuring a good harvest of website traffic. But sacrificing everything to please the Almighty Search Engine is a mistake too many make.  

Letting SEO alone dictate the direction of your content is fraught with peril. It’s painfully obvious if every article on your blog is framed around hot search term. That’s especially true if these articles don’t really resonate with readers at the right level and on the right topics. For example, if you’re a Microsoft reseller creating content around the Office suite, writing an article called ‘What is Excel?’ or ‘How to write an Excel formula” isn’t going to impart a sense of thought-leadership and expertise, or bring in the right kind of site traffic – in this case business decision-makers rather than end-users looking for help with spreadsheets 

And on a line-by-line level, in your eagerness to search-optimise your content, you could find yourself crowbarring in every keyword under the sun. ‘Keyword salad’ isn’t palatable to any reader and visible to even the untrained eye. Subtlety and restraint are your friends here. Tick the boxes for Google without putting off your human readers. After all, it’s their approval you really want in the end.

7. Gluttony 

You know what I said about lacking vision earlier? The opposite can also doom your content marketing ideas to failureTrying to do too much and spreading your efforts too thinly could land you in a mess and mean none of your content achieves the impact you want it to.  

Bombarding your audience with a mass of emails, social posts and blog articles means the things you really need to stand out won’t. ‘If everything’s important, nothing is’. In an already noisy marketplace, you could just be adding to the static instead of offering decisive clarity.  

This is once again where the value of a solid, well-defined content marketing strategy comes to the fore. When all your content and other interactions with your audience have a clear purpose and fit into your overall marketing plan, nothing’s fighting against anything else and everything’s working as it should do. Otherwise your prospective customers will find it all hard to digest.

8. Fraud 

In Dante’s epic, this circle of hell contains hypocrites, flatterers, falsifiers and thieves among others. It also includes fortune tellers – not sure what Signore Alighieri would have thought of predictive analytics and data scientists, but perhaps that’s a topic for another article.  

Unlike its 14th century predecessor, this circle of content marketing ideas hell focuses less on the act of being fraudulent and more on the appearance of it: in other words, selling too hard. You know your product or service is great and you want to shout its benefits from the rooftops – that’s only natural. But you don’t want to appear too insistent or even desperate. 

Your audience is shrewd and if you’re too overt and pushy in your efforts to get their custom, you’ll turn them off quicker than you can say ‘buy now!’ Don’t be the salesman at the cocktail party, as the old expression goes. Once again, have some subtlety and be sure to provide something of value. That way they’ll trust you, your business and your offering.

9. Being too bound to process 

Our final circle might seem to contradict all I’ve said before about strategy and focus but hear me out. Planning and awareness of what you’re doing goes a long way. It’s good to have a sense of purpose, but take the occasional leap, too.  

Go off-piste. Write that off-topic article that doesn’t necessarily promote this or that service but demonstrates passion and insight into your industry. Sticking too rigidly to the schedule might also mean you miss out on making the most of a big topic or breaking news. Surprise your audience and try to keep things fresh (that’s also how you build an audience)Otherwise, they might feel like they’re stuck in purgatory themselves.

Your content marketing could be a delight. Instead, it’s likely a bit underwhelming. We’re not criticising. It’s hard to execute content marketing really well. Because usually it’s a task that’s part of a juggling act with other tasks. It’s a box to be ticked. If only you could devote more time and resource! Well, hopefully this article helped you give it a bit more thought. If  need help improving your content marketing ideas get in touch with us and together we can create something beautiful

Blog image - The art of seduction: your brand tone of voice is your secret weapon

The art of seduction: your brand tone of voice is your secret weapon

You have probably given a lot of thought to how your business looks. From your website to the murals on the walls in the office, when it comes to visual representation of a brand, companies put serious time and effort into their looks. But have you given much thought to how you sound? The way you express yourself as a business is made up of more than just your colour scheme. Beauty is only skin deep. Personality goes right to the bone. If you attract your audience with design, your brand tone of voice is how you seduce them. In this post, you will learn:

  • It is appropriate for your specific audience
  • Helps you stand out
  • It’s a trust builder
  • Helps you go from prospect to customer

Get your personality across

Even when you know exactly what your business’s strengths are, they won’t come through unless your brand voice is engaging. Way back when, Marketing Week reported that in the B2B sphere, emotive marketing messages works better than rational marketing messaging—and that hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. This is interesting when you might assume that B2B is all about rational decision making.

An engaging brand tone of voice is what generates emotive messaging. It’s what engages your audience. So, let’s look at how you go about making sure your organisation is expressing itself consistently and in a way that ‘fits’.

Get everyone on the same page

If you’re going to stay consistent, you need to have everyone within your business on board. From marketers to your CEO, everyone must understand your voice, or at least know that you have one. If not, it won’t come through in everything you put out there.

What to do -

Get the important people together. Host workshops where you can discuss your brand voice and get input from different areas of your business. It’s only when you start discussing ideas that you’ll find out that people can interpret ‘friendly’ as different things – and you need to iron out those creases. Highlighting what you’re trying to achieve will help everyone understand why you are doing this in the first place, and help ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Tune into your values

Your business should have brand values (if not, that’s a bigger conversation). Your values should help guide your business decisions both internally and externally, and logically it should also inform your brand voice.

What to do -

Look at your brand values and see how they translate into a personality. If transparency is one of your brand values, then your business prioritises honesty, clarity and getting right to the point. That translates to a straight-forward, honest brand voice.

If you’ve chosen integrity as a brand value, this signals that your business cares about making responsible decisions and going the extra mile to help customers. Your brand voice should be helpful and trustworthy.

This act of translation is how you create a tone of voice that’s tailored to your business, your brand and your audience.

Write brand voice guidelines and stick to them

It’s easy enough to create a brand voice document and think that because you’ve created it, you’re automatically creating marketing materials in your brand voice. Consistency really is key. When multiple people are creating different materials, it can be hard to remember how to ensure that your brand voice comes through. That’s why you need a set of simple guidelines that will make it easy.

What to do -

It doesn’t have to be complicated or long – think of it as defining a character or persona that you’ll be able to inhabit:

Our brand voice is uplifting; we always look on positive side of life. We’re friendly and warm, making sure that everyone who interacts with our business comes away feeling optimistic. To keep things simple, our brand voice uses the simplest and clearest language possible.

Your guidelines should tell this person’s story and explain their voice in a way that makes it easy for anyone to understand. Keep these guidelines up to date and revise them when your business makes any changes to the way you operate. They’ll be the thing that keeps your identity constant even as you grow and change.

Fifty Five and Five is a digital marketing agency with a lot of really talented storytellers. We’ve been creating brand voices that get results for years now – if you’re not confident that you know where to start, we’d be more than happy to give you a hand. Get in touch today.

Illustration man at laptop researching the difference between product and service marketing

The difference between product marketing and service marketing

UPDATE 27th July 2020 - This post has been updated with some additional information and even more advice. Read on to learn more...

  • Want to understand the difference between product marketing and service marketing? Then this post is for you.
  • We will show you the key differences between the two, with a focus on the B2B tech industry.
  • Understand what your audience is looking for.
  • Get top tips and practical advice.

Successful digital marketing is complex, with different strategies needed to help increase leads, boost sales, and promote your brand. And now it’s potentially more important than ever to get right. A starting point for success is understanding the difference between product marketing and service marketing. Let’s look at how they are different.

A report from McKinsey, the business consulting firm, found that B2B companies during this COVID-19 pandemic see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional interactions. What this says is that your business’s digital marketing strategy has an even greater opportunity to meet customers exactly where they are looking and generate and convert leads.

What is the difference between product marketing and marketing services?

Product marketing is concerned with the tangible goods that are physical, while service marketing refers to the services that are intangible and can't be touched or held.

> What is product marketing?

Tangible products are often thought to be easier to market as they can be shown, demonstrated, touched, and displayed. Examples of products include fast-moving consumer goods, such as sugar, tea, and coffee.

They are also easier for your audience to understand in terms of value or whether they are needed. Whether this is true or not is difficult to call, especially when you consider the blurred lines of the B2B technology world, where products and services are becoming more and more entwined, with service as a product (SaaP) offering.

Regardless, the aim of your marketing strategy should include finding the right market for your product and promoting it in a way that gets the best response from your target audience. It’s important to remember that your product stays the same regardless of who you are targeting and can be returned if the customer is dissatisfied.

> What is services marketing?

Services, being intangible, can be harder to show value and market. You can’t see or touch a service. Often, then, the goal of marketing services is to create good relationships with your target audience, developing and building trust. You are essentially selling yourself.

Services marketing examples are widespread in the industries, such as airlines, teaching, banking and finance, transport, technology, and countless others.

> Is a service a product?

Service and product are different, however, there is a hybrid called service as a product (SaaP), which combines products and services offering. This would include retail where the products are clothing, with service being customer support or personal shopper experience.

The traditional differences between products and services

...and how this might affect the marketing decisions around each.

1. Customisation

While products are designed, built and delivered to a range of customers ‘as standard’, services can be tweaked and customised depending on the needs or wants of customers. Your service marketing strategy should reflect this by highlighting the personal touches you provide or how you listen to your customers’ needs.

2. Delivery

When a business sells a product to a customer, the buyer takes it away with them. In the case of a service, the customer must go to the service provider if they want to enjoy or experience it. You cannot separate the service from the provider. For example, if you wanted to buy a DVD from Amazon, you click on the buy button and wait a couple of days for the product to arrive. However, if you want to enjoy the Amazon Prime streaming service, where movies are updated regularly, you need to head to the website and watch the film there.

When selling a service, make the customer experience as smooth and as simple as possible. It means making sure your customer touchpoints are connected and up to date.

3. Ownership

A product can be bought, used and then resold ‘second-hand’, while a service cannot – once it’s been consumed. A product is also a separate entity to the business who creates/sells it. A service, on the other hand, is always connected to the business who provides it. Marketing for services should be all about building the brand and personality of the service provider.

4. Expiration

It’s also important to understand that services are consumed immediately and cannot be returned once carried out. This is where the marketing goal of creating trust comes in.

Remember that if you provide a bad service, your customers cannot return the service, but they may not return as customers. Once a buyer has bought a product, it doesn’t mean they will buy from you again – but if they are happy with it, it’s more likely that they will. Providing a top-quality customer experience whether you’re selling a product or a service, should be priority number one.

5. Time

Usually, services are provided at a specific time for a specific period. After this, the service agreement must be renewed or cancelled. A product can be bought and owned without any time constraints.

Marketing differences here should centre around the value of low-cost monthly subscriptions in the case of services, or a ‘buy once, use forever’ message for a product.

An easy comparison

See the chart (source) below for a comparison of the differences between product and service marketing:

Product marketing Service marketing
Meaning Product marketing refers to the process in which the marketing activities are aligned to promote and sell a specific product for a particular segment. Service marketing implies the marketing of economic activities, offered by the business to its clients for adequate consideration.
Marketing mix 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, Promotion 7 P's: 4 P's + People, Process, Physical evidence
Sells Value Relationship
Who comes to whom? Products come to customers Customers come to service
Transfer It can be owned and resold to another party. It is neither owned nor transferred to another party.
Returnability Products can be returned. Services cannot be returned after they are rendered.
Tangibility They are tangible, so customer can see and touch it, before coming to the buying decision. They are intangible, so it is difficult to promote services.
Separability Product and the company producing it, are separable. Service cannot be separated from its provider.
Customisation Products cannot be customised as per requirements. Services vary from person to person, they can be customised.
Imagery They are imagery and hence, receive quick response from customers. They are non-imagery and do not receive quick response from customers.
Quality comparison Quality of a product can be easily measured. Quality of service is not measurable.

How does marketing help your product or service?

By marketing a product or service, your company gains brand awareness and helps potential customers find out about your offering, which can lead to a sale. It's a must-have for any modern business.

Bringing product and service marketing together

At Fifty Five and Five we market B2B technology and our clients are IT companies. In this world, companies are dealing much more with a productised offering, rather than simply selling peoples’ time. However, more and more of the products they are selling are sold as services (think Microsoft 365). The cloud has played a big part in this, causing companies to rethink how they offer services to their customers. So if you used to be a purely consultative business it’s important to understand the differences between product and service marketing so you can put in place the right strategy for your company. Our advice when talking about a product such as software which is packaged as a service, is to err on the side of the ‘service marketing’ camp.

Finding success in the SaaS boom

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, companies of all sizes, across industries, looking to stay competitive were realising the benefits of running their business with SaaS capabilities. However, just because the market is there, it doesn’t mean IT companies should be complacent about how they market themselves. This is most often to oversight when it comes to differentiation and brand investment.

> Differentiation

In a marketplace where there is a lot of competition, IT companies must find a way to stand out. If you are just another ISV or reseller you’re going to struggle. Through the right marketing strategy, they can do so.

> Brand investment

Along with the right marketing strategy, you need to turn your company into a brand. Understanding how you are perceived by your audience (and using that knowledge to evolve your brand) is the key to your success.

For businesses in the B2B tech world, differentiating themselves in a competitive marketplace is difficult. Understanding the difference between product and service marketing is a crucial first step to success. Check out another of our blogs for advice on how to create a marketing strategy that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Your 4-step guide to creating great content

It’s 2020. You know the deal; effective marketing requires good content, but the internet is crowded with companies competing for clicks, scrolls and views. Creating content that stands out is harder than ever. And yet an effective digital strategy relies on it. So, what’s the solution? How do we create truly great content?

Many have tried to crack the secret to good content. And there’s no single trick to guarantee a piece of content will be truly great. No formula will replace personality, creativity and a strong brand voice. But there are certainly a few things that can help you along that journey.

1. Know your audience

The first key to creating truly good content is to know your audience. It might sound simple, but it’s true; if you’re not sure who you’re talking to, your content will never be able to truly sing. One of the best ways to achieve this is by creating personas before you start planning or writing your content.

A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal target audience, complete with a name, job title and back story. You can find this information by looking through your CRM or website analytics data. The idea is that by giving your ideal character a personality, it becomes easier to target content towards that person; ensuring the resulting piece of content is clearer, more specific and more relevant when the real audience finally reads your piece.

2. Offer a solution

The internet is awash with content. Everywhere you look there are how-to guides, listicles, roundups, recaps, webinars and anything you could possibly think of. Standing out in the crowd is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Good content achieves value by offering a clear solution to a specific problem.

Whenever you plan a piece of content, it’s important to have the audience in mind, and consider what they’re going to take away from the information you provide. Will it explain a tricky concept, will it provide advice, or perhaps simply give a unique opinion or worldview that they might not have encountered? Whatever the case, make sure the value you’re offering is clear, the points you make are concise, and you don’t leave the reader waiting too long to find the real nugget of insight or vital takeaway that you’re offering.

3. Tell a story

Many assume that B2B tech writing is dry, functional and lacking in creativity. That might be sometimes the case, but good content should be eye-catching, compelling and interesting, regardless of whether it’s travel writing or an explainer about Microsoft’s latest productivity update. And the key to that is in storytelling.

Consider, for instance, a company that installs a new productivity app. Which of the following statements is more compelling:

  • “John no longer has to spend two hours each day trawling through emails.”
  • “Productivity in the business has increased 20%”

That’s right; it’s the first one. Humans love a story. We love to meet characters, understand their wants and needs, experience what they experience. And even in the driest, most technical piece of B2B content, stories can be found. A story can be as simple as a character having a problem and finding the solution. It’s much more fascinating to talk about people and lives than it is to talk about abstract business benefits.

But whether you’re talking about software licenses of digital transformation, make sure your content is grounded in the stories of the people and lives that technology will impact.

4. Add value

Here’s a secret about online content; a lot of it isn’t very good - or more specifically, plenty of content fails to add value. It might be coherent, well written, eye-catching or funny – but if you’re stating the blindingly obvious or just repeating information that can be found elsewhere, you’re not creating good content. And chances are, your audience will pick up on that.

The benefit of the internet being awash with bad content is that it’s very easy to learn what not to do. So, when you’re planning content ideas, make sure to do some research into similar pieces of content. See what they’re saying, where they go wrong and where they add value. And then consider how you can make your content different; how you can say something different, give new information, perhaps even challenge a consensus.

Are you content with your content?

Creating good content isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort when done properly. If you offer something that isn’t available elsewhere, the readers will begin to flock in. And by presenting your content as informed, expert and unique, your readers will naturally assume the service or product you are selling is equally unique.

At Fifty Five and Five, we work with technology providers of all shapes and sizes to make sure their content really sings. That involves all of the things we discussed in this blog; finding an angle and telling a story, all underpinned with a detailed understanding of the audience and the subject matter we discuss. But it’s about more than just that; it’s about understanding the unique personality and culture of the companies we work with and finding how to translate that into truly winning content.

If you want to find out how we do that, simply get in touch today.