Storytelling in B2B marketing

Once upon a time, on commercial premises far away, there was a business. It had lots of products, services and even products that were a service. The business needed to market those to other businesses. But it had a problem. In a crowded marketplace, it was hard for the business to differentiate itself. There were many similar businesses, all with their own products and services, targeting the same businesses and people within them. But one day, the business found a way to connect with sales leads much more engagingly and effectively and stand out from the competition. This is the story of storytelling in B2B marketing.

Not just tall tales

It’s easy to associate the term ‘story’ with fiction: a narrative far-removed from reality. But true stories are everywhere, from biographies and history to news stories. Think about the stories that resonated the most with you or evoked the biggest reaction. Was that because they brought the situation they described to life? Could you relate to it?

That’s good storytelling. Telling a story – whether it’s pure fiction or an argument for a product or service – in the most effective way possible. There’s been a lot of hype around ‘storytelling’ in marketing over the last few years, but rather than being a trend or a methodology or a buzzword, it’s more a principle to be considered in your B2B content strategy. And it’s definitely not a principle that should only be applied to the consumer sphere. In fact, good storytelling in B2B marketing might be even more important – and I’ll explain why.

Bringing business stories to life

B2B companies – especially tech ones – have a problem with abstraction. In their haste to address all the high-level needs or concerns a buyer may have, such as overall cost or efficiency savings, marketers and businesses neglect to ground business benefits in the minds of the audience. There’s a tendency to make bold, intangible claims like ‘Our solution will raise efficiency and productivity in your company’. How? And what does that specifically mean, in the working lives of Joe and Jane Employee?

If your leads can’t grasp how your product or service can help their business, in an end-to-end sense that starts with the end user and ends with the bottom line, then they’ll be less likely to choose it. That’s a very important story and it needs to be told well, particularly in order to effectively communicate your unique selling point (USP).

The truth well told

There’s long been a sense that business audiences are dispassionate, coldly calculating creatures, due to the responsibility of holding the company purse strings. And there is some truth to that. Heavy is the hand that wields the budget. Decisions aren’t made as lightly as choosing which crisps you feel like eating today. But to suggest B2B audiences don’t respond to evocative, well-crafted stories is a fairy-tale.

People are people, whether they’re wearing their business hats or not. And, whether it’s business or consumer marketing, they can see through attempts to hoodwink them. But they are also drawn to honest, relatable stories that show a clear understanding of their needs and concerns. This is what advertising legend Harrison McCann called ‘the truth well told’ when he founded his agency in 1911. So, you see, storytelling in B2B marketing is nothing new. It’s just that sometimes we need a reminder of the ‘well’ part.

Well-crafted, human stories

How do you tell your brand or product’s story most effectively? Humanising it and helping the audience to relate are a good start. Quotes, case studies and testimonials – especially video ones – can play an important part in your B2B content strategy. Introduce your existing customers, well-known influencers or your own employees and let them tell their stories. They say the proof is in the pudding. Extending that metaphor, there are few things more compelling than happy customers explaining how you made that pudding and how much they enjoyed eating it.

Storytelling is also important when it comes to hypotheticals – probably more so. If you’re giving an example of how your solution would work for a hypothetical company, don’t be afraid to embellish the account with a few more details. Give the business a name and history. Create some personas. Good storytelling in B2B marketing goes beyond business problems – try to understand the frames of mind. What are their concerns? What will make their lives harder or easier? The more you can empathise with them, the more the audience will, too.

Getting started with storytelling in B2B marketing

Discovering the stories that you want to tell is a task in itself. Gaining the deepest insights for the most compelling storytelling often requires speaking to customers or your own employees at length. Don’t skimp on this – you may find it beneficial to enlist a marketing agency which conducts this research, creates personas and tells these stories all the time. Their storytelling expertise, combined with your in-house knowledge of your business and your customers, will result in marketing that will really speaks to your leads.

Want to improve the storytelling in your marketing?

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effective content marketing

Effective Content Marketing: How to amplify your content

What is Content Amplification?

There’s only one problem with creating fantastic content, and that’s getting the right people to see it. Content amplification is a marketing term used to define the ways content can be amplified using online channels.

Marketers can often use template strategies and wait for results to appear to them instead of engineering their marketing to produce results for them. Truly effective content marketing (the key word here being ‘effective’) will generate leads and drive your business forward. But great content on its own isn’t always enough.

The harsh reality is: where a million voices shout for attention, making your own voice heard above the noise will either make or break your digital marketing strategy. This is where content amplification comes into play.

Key tips for amplifying content

1. Make it interactive

Bring content to life by making it fun and memorable.  Successful content amplification encourages the user to actively engage with your content.

2. Visualise the content

Make your content easier to consume by guiding your audience and encouraging them to share.

3. Capture the attention of your audience

Make users want to stick around for longer, in turn increasing dwell time and improving conversion rates.

4. Maximise your investment

Make the most of your existing resources – creating great content takes time.

Content amplification uses specific channels online to ‘amplify’ your content, beyond the organic posting on your blog. Examples of amplification channels include:

  • Facebook ads
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Today, we’ll share some of our top tips on how to amplify your content to get the best results from those cleverly crafted pieces of content.

Let’s begin with asking:

Why is content amplification so important?

Content amplification does three major things:

  1. Expands your audience reach
  2. Establishes you as a trusted brand in your industry
  3. Creates new leads, opportunities and sales

Amplification helps to get your content seen by your intended audience at the right time, which could help you receive a higher return on investment. But without the extra leg work to really catapult your content, your marketing efforts could be wasted.

Tip 1: Shift the attention from you to your customers

Effective content marketing is like an invigorating conversation at a dinner party. It’s not the annoying guy in a tuxedo boasting about the heated seats in his two-seater coupé. It’s not fun when all someone ever does is talk about themselves, so don’t produce content that only talks about how great you are, this method might get you impressions, but it certainly won’t attract a loyal audience. What you really want to do is intrigue, discuss and debate with your audience – you want to engage them.

Ask not what your customers can do for you; ask what you can do for them

A customer-focused strategy will add value to your campaigns because you’re getting to know your audience and building trust with your customers which in turn encourages loyalty. You’re treating them like the wonderful individual that they are – and not just an email address in your database.

Where are your customers? How are they consuming content? And what platforms are they using?

Since the birth of Google, SEO marketers have scrambled to get high quality content to be discoverable in search engines and social media. Sure, you can pepper your blogs with keywords, but we want true engagement! We want effective content that adds value. The best place to start is in finding out what devices your customers are using and when your traffic is peaking, so you can tailor your content and calls-to-action to either mobile, app, web, etc. to make for a flawless user experience.

What motivates your customers to engage with your content?

Is it free incentives? Are they busy finance directors that love snackable content on the commute home? Do people look to you for expert knowledge of your industry? Find what people love about you and amplify it. You can measure trends in your content by click-rate or you can take a more qualitative approach and measure audience participation with posts, separating your influential content from the stagnant.

What topics drive the most engagement with your brand?

Before you can answer this question, you’ll need to perform some basic analysis of your content engagement levels. For instance, you can conduct a split test by posting a variety of content and measuring your website traffic before and after you post. Change the titles, change the structure and alter the tone to get an idea of what garners the most attention from your audience. ‘The future of’ titles tend to do especially well on LinkedIn, for example, as it’s a platform geared toward industry expertise and business trends. Once you know what peaks your audience’s interest, you can do more of it.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

Tip 2: Create a variety of content and split test

Variety is the spice of life and if you’re serving a buffet of content, a balanced diet is key. You don’t want to serve the same thing every day—that would be boring and predictable. Instead, save your big pieces of meaty content for when you know you’re going to receive peak interest. Likewise, serve regular dishes of content throughout the week. This will increase trust in your brand because you’re showing consistency, with a reliable stream of content.

On Friday’s, you could serve your audience a slice of chocolate cake because we all enjoy something fun to read and personality helps set you apart. This could be an informal creative piece or a chance to promote a new product. By constantly revolving your content, you’re keeping your audience alert and interested, which in turn generates loyal followers.

Weekends aren't off limits, either. Mobile content can be digested on the go and you can take advantage of weekends being a time where post rates slightly decrease as most businesses don’t tend to post as much. If you do post on the weekend it may get fewer impressions, but it’ll likely get a higher engagement rate, making it a great time to test bigger, heavier pieces of content.

Test, test, test!

Conducting A/B tests or split tests each week will greatly improve your engagement rates, as you’ll start to see what your audience actually respond to. And no detail is too trivial: for health insurers Humana, changing the micro-copy on a website button from “Get started now” to “Shop Medicare Plans”, achieved a 192% increase in clicks!

The most important thing to remember here is that, although we can estimate consumer behaviour trends, the ‘optimum time’ to post content is entirely unique to each business, as you will each have your own set of global customers with their own time-zones which will have an impact on what, where, and when you post.

Being strategic with your content plan will give you the upper hand over your competitors, as you’re essentially creating a heat map of when people engage with your brand.

Tip 3: Develop an employee advocacy programme

Word of mouth is perhaps the most effective form of advertising, probably because it’s the most truthful form of advertising and the hardest to manufacture. Which tells us two things: we trust things more when the people we like trust them, and we’re more likely to take recommendations from those we trust. Which is why when peers and colleagues share content it tends to go viral!

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to effective content marketing.

A social media advocacy program (which is a fancy way of asking staff to share/like work-related content), will ignite your content from within! That’s exactly why there’s been a massive rise in employers encouraging employees to share content on social media.

For assistance, tools like Audiense and BuzzSumo will analyse, filter and present Twitter data to help you track your most influential advocates. The trick though is in deciphering how your employees use social media. They could be enthusiasts or inactives, thought- leaders or networkers. But once you establish their unique strengths, you’ll be equipped to nurture your ambassadors with a blend of training, tools and content to really make the magic happen.


Gated vs un-gated content: which is better?

Unsure whether to gate your content? This is a common issue for many marketers today, who struggle to decide if the perks of gating premium content will outweigh the cons of asking for personal information from users.

In this blog, we’ll assess each side of the coin and offer advice on implementing your own gated content – capable of driving more traffic, leads and revenue to your business.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

What is gated content?

Gated content, in short, is any content or media that is hidden behind a lead capture form. To access the content, a user must provide personal information, usually in the form of an email address, phone number, job title, industry information or an answer to a survey question.

Gates are highly valuable to marketers because they are powerful tools for lead generation. Typically, users will arrive on your site through a blog or social post. Hopefully, if they are impressed by what they’ve seen, they will be interested in accessing more of your content. And by creating an enticing gated content offering – you then open up the possibility of generating numerous, new and valuable leads.

Importantly – gated content is not content that your audience needs to pay for. Rather, gated content trades access to the content in exchange for an action or information from users.

Ungated content, on the other hand, allows visitors to access content without filling in forms or providing personal information. It often comes in the form of infographics, blogs or videos. Ungated content is a valuable asset for building trust with prospects – as it removes any roadblocks to interesting, useful information.

Of course, while ungated content can increase views – it can also have a negative effect on lead generation, as you are not capturing contacts along the way.

What kind of content should I gate?

eBooks and whitepapers

There are several ways that you can use gated content. Digital assets like eBooks and whitepapers are a great example – as they are ideal for delivering further value (by going in-depth on a topic your audience is interested in), whilst also establishing your business as a thought leader. Thanks to their high-value, users are often happy to part with contact information as an exchange.

Content upgrades

Content upgrades are another popular gated content strategy. This simply involves offering readers bonus content – or an upgrade to the content they are currently viewing – in exchange for their data. This technique is effective as your audience’s interest is pre-determined – you already know that visitors on a specific page or blog have at least some interest in the content that your upgrade provides.

Webinars

Webinars provide you with a unique opportunity to provide content in a live online setting. They typically have high conversion rates because they are seen as having higher value than other gated content types.

Usually webinars will have their own landing page where lead information is captured. It makes sense to put them behind a subscription wall, rather than giving them away for free, as they generally focus on high-value topics. As such, webinars are a quick and effective way to grow your email list and reach new leads.

When should I use ungated content?

The answer to this question isn’t always straight-forward. Generally speaking, though, it comes down to whether you are trying to increase brand awareness or generate leads.

For instance, during the awareness stage, most prospects will know very little about your brand. They have no reason to trust you and may be unwilling to part with personal information. At this point, removing the gate from content can boost the visibility of your brand and improve your credibility.

Then, as prospects travel along the marketing funnel, their interest in your business should peak. As they become more familiar with your content, they will likely be more willing to fill out a form to access further assets. This is the point where you can begin generating leads.

The great content gate debate

As we’ve seen throughout this article, there are many compelling reasons to gate your content. Equally, there are also several benefits to keeping it ungated. As such, marketers just can’t seem to agree on what strategy is best.

On the one hand, marketers believe that the pros of gaining qualified leads outweigh the cons of turning away potential visitors. On the other hand, it is believed that asking for personal information can cause your business to lose the potential reach of your content and link opportunity.

All we can really say for sure, at this stage, is that there is no steadfast rule. Gating the wrong content at the wrong time during your customer’s journey can discourage potential clients from continued engagement with your brand. Likewise, gating the right content at the right time can do wonders for nurturing leads and building a strong relationship with future clients.

To help you decide on the best content delivery strategy for your business, we’ll leave you with some questions:

1. What are your competitors up to? Are they offering similar content ungated?

If your competitors are providing content without a gate, then it could be worth doing the same. You risk putting your brand at a disadvantage if you add a form at this stage.

2. Is your objective brand awareness or lead generation?

If you’re aiming to improve brand awareness, then it makes sense to keep your content open. If you’re looking to generate leads, then gated content is the right option – as you’ll be able to capture valuable information about your prospects.

3. Is your content of high enough value to warrant a gate?

We touched on the kind of content that should and shouldn’t be gated. Improve your chances of capturing leads by ensuring the content you wish to gate provides enough value to your prospects before you ask them to part with contact information.

Do you need help with your content strategy? As a full-service digital marketing agency, the team here at Fifty Five and Five have the tools to help. Get in contact with us today to learn more about the pros and cons of gated content.


Creating personas for marketing that have impact

  • What are marketing personas and why do we use them?
  • Steps and tips for creating marketing personas

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Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

Meet Robin. She’s the new head of marketing at Work Squirrel, a small but fast-growing managed-services provider based in Edinburgh. The company has been around for just under 10 years, selling intranet solutions to clients in Scotland and the north of England.

When Robin started at the company three months ago, she didn’t know huge amounts about building intranets, but she does have a post-graduate degree in marketing from the University of Leeds’ business school and a couple of years’ experience as a marketing exec at a sports company in Manchester. She moved to Edinburgh to live with her boyfriend.

During her first couple of months at Work Squirrel, Robin has been settling in, gaining an understanding of the company and reviewing their existing marketing material while trying to build up a strategy to make the business grow. Besides an outdated website and a blog with two posts published in 2014, Work Squirrel really doesn’t have a lot of marketing material to help her.

Getting started

Put yourself in Robin’s shoes for a minute: she’s in a new city at her first major job and is the only marketing person at the firm. That’s quite a lot of pressure. She doesn’t know the company inside out and she’s keen to make a good impression on the CEO. He’s not convinced that the company even needs to do any marketing, since they seem to be growing quite well without it.

What should Robin’s task list look like? What do you think she needs to be doing at this stage to start making an impact on the company and streamlining its marketing?

I believe creating personas for marketing should be the first thing that Robin does. Personas are a useful way of targeting your marketing material to a specific target audience who you think will be interested in buying your company’s wares. Work Squirrel doesn’t currently have any personas, but when Robin creates her own, she’ll be able to produce content which much more effectively reaches her target audience.

In this blog post, I’ll describe how to create personas for marketing – from Robin’s point of view She’s been given a pretty tight deadline to create a new marketing strategy, and wants to create and present her personas to the board in just a few days.

Want to start creating personas for marketing right away? Click here for your free customer persona template download.

How to create personas

What’s an audience persona again?

You might have guessed it already, but Robin is one of the personas we’ve developed for our own marketing at Fifty Five and Five. She works as a marketer at a Microsoft Partner and needs services like ours. If the concept of a created persona attempting to create a persona for her fictional company seems a bit meta, I understand. But, there is a point to this! When we develop our audience personas, we focus on creating characters with realistic back stories, personal lives, pressures, pain points and goals. Without these, our marketing would become too vague, unrelatable and, really, of no use to anyone.

Robin’s a great example of a persona, but to define one a bit more clearly, here’s a definition from HubSpot:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

HubSpot go on to mention that personas should include demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, goals and more. So, let’s break that definition down a little to work out what exactly a persona really, is and explore how you can create them for marketing with long-term impact.

A “semi-fictional representation”

Robin isn’t a real person. But I’ve designed her based on an amalgamation of similar marketers I’ve met while working with B2B technology providers. Robin’s persona is therefore very detailed; the more detail, the better our content can be targeted to answer her questions, concerns and worries. The fact that her boss isn’t convinced he needs a marketing department at all, for instance, is a common problem with small B2B tech providers that marketers often need to overcome.

“Your ideal customer”

Robin is a figment of our collective imaginations, but we all want to work with people just like her. Of course, it’s best practice to have anywhere between three and five personas to make sure your marketing also answers the needs of different audiences. I currently use four ‘ideal customers’ – some of them are in far more established roles than Robin - while others don’t even work as marketers. You get the idea.

“Market research and real data”

While Robin may be a figment of my imagination, the creation of her personality and traits are taken from real-life people and experiences. Before designing Robin’s persona, I did a lot of research, speaking with existing customers at firms like Robin’s and using examples of similar individuals from LinkedIn.

So, we now know what an audience persona is more generally, how can Robin create one that’s actually useful in her specific company? When she first begins creating personas for marketing, where should she start?

how to create personas

Know your audience – doing the research

Robin needs to write between three and five personas for her upcoming presentation to the board. Less than that, and they won’t be specific enough, more than that and she won’t realistically be able to create enough marketing material to speak to all those people. To begin, let’s imagine the types of people that will be buying Work Squirrel’s intranets.

To get this information, Robin sets up meetings with her sales representatives, and the CEO, to find out more about Work Squirrel’s existing customers. She also reviews a customer list that Work Squirrel has in Excel and does her own research, from sources such as Marketing Land and CMS Wire to get a better idea of the lay of the land. She then creates a list of typical buyers:

Common job titles Common company types Common requests for an intranet Common pain points/issues
CIO: 50%

Head of IT: 40%

Head of communications: 5%

HR manager: 3%

Other: 2%

Media & advertising: 50%

Retail: 25%

Non-profit: 10%

Other: 15%

Better comms

Easier document management

Cloud access

Mobile access

Heard about SharePoint projects going wrong

Adoption

Security

Robin has already got a better idea of who she should now market to. So far, so obvious. Things need to get a lot more specific before she can really present a serious set of personas to the board.

Picturing your ideal customer

Robin’s next step is to create a detailed picture of Work Squirrel’s ideal customers. This is all about working out the buyer’s wants and needs. Let’s look at how she started developing her persona around the CIO – Work Squirrel’s most common customer profile.

Role title: CIO
Company type and size: Medium sized TV company with HQ in Edinburgh and offices in Salford and London, employing 150 people
Current situation with existing IT: Uses an outdated intranet based on SharePoint server 2007. Lots of employees using shadow IT
What this CIO needs from an intranet: Cloud based tools – either private or public for storing large video files. A modern, fresh looking intranet
What obstacles the CIO might raise: They’ve used SharePoint before. It wasn’t a huge success – aren’t all Microsoft products a bit useless?
What might convince them otherwise? Free trials, demos, facts and visualisations. Marketing targeted specifically at showing how on intranet based in SharePoint 2016 will allow them to use the cloud and that it has a better user interface than earlier versions

As Robin starts creating the persona, she’s already got a much clearer idea of what her marketing needs to look like. She’s starting to picture the kinds of messages that need to be on the website; the kinds of landing pages her company needs to build; the kinds of blog posts she needs published and the kinds of third party magazines she needs to place ads and articles in.

But this still isn’t enough. Robin is creating personas for marketing that will need to be a lot more specific if it’s to really have any impact.

how to create personas

What do your customers look like?

The more detailed your buyer persona, the better. They must be much more than a few words on a page; the audience persona needs to come to life. It should almost be as if you know them yourself.

Let’s see what Robin did with the CIO she began outlining earlier.

Name: Dave Andrews
Demographic details Male, 47 years old, he’s Scottish and lives on the outskirts of Edinburgh. He’s originally from Perth and is married with two teenage kids.
Professional background Dave has worked as a business consultant in IT for most of his career. He joined the media company he works at 2 years ago.
Education Dave began studying computer science at the University of Glasgow before transferring to a business degree, but that was in the 1980s. He’s topped up his education with refresher courses throughout his career.
At work, Dave’s pressures include: He’s expected to bring about business change and use IT to align different departments. At present the intranet is a bit useless and people are using a lot of different tools for sharing files, which means there’s no central repository of important company documents. Dave knows CIOs get fired easily if they fail to affect change or deliver projects.
Dave is looking for: He wants an intranet where all files are stored centrally, and it’s easy to use.
Points of resistance: He thinks SharePoint is no good. He’s worried about starting a new project and watching it fail/go way over budget.
Personal goals and ambitions: Dave wants security. He likes his job. He wants to have a real impact on the company and he wants people to notice that it was down to him that this change happened

By creating such a detailed persona, Robin is now able to create marketing material that’s a lot more focused. When she presents the personas she’s designed to the board, they are sure to be impressed.

Giving those audience personas impact

So, you’ve created a set of believable, accurate and realistic personas. So what? All too often, personas get written in a burst of marketing enthusiasm before being left on a shelf somewhere, never to be used again. But this is a real shame – when used well, personas can have a profound impact on your marketing. So, here’s a checklist to ensure your personas actually get used:

  • Print out your personas, tack them to the wall beside your desk.
  • Define campaigns by who they’re targeted at. Any landing pages, articles, blog posts, SEO research or whatever else will be separated by persona.
  • Orientate all campaigns to specifically target the needs and challenges of specific personas

Creating marketing personas is an essential stage in any marketing activity, and should form the basis of all your campaigns and long term strategy. To get started on creating your very own Robin, download our free customer persona template here. And, if you want any help with your personas, talk to us today.


How to seduce your audience: Rhetoric in marketing and the art of persuasion

  • What is rhetoric?
  • The classical art of persuasion
  • Pathos: the appeal to emotion
  • Kairos: the right moment in time
  • Telos: knowing your purpose
  • Ethos: promoting your credibility
  • Logos: logic, research and facts

You won’t be surprised to learn that, as a writer, I’m fascinated by language. In my role at Fifty Five and Five, I enjoy practising my craft for our clients to achieve the results they need. The writer’s toolbox is a rich and varied one, and the writing team here use all of it to present our clients and their products and services accurately and effectively. Of the many theories and devices of language we use, I’m particularly interested in how we apply concepts of rhetoric in marketing.

What is rhetoric?

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

– Oxford English Dictionary

In a nutshell, that’s it. The art of persuasion.

People don’t just use rhetoric in marketing, public speaking and debating. We use it all the time. We speak, we listen, we read, we write – and rhetoric is always there. It’s embedded in all human thought and expression. That’s why much of what I’ll talk about here may not seem new to you – because you’ve already been using rhetoric all your life, without always realising it.

Think of the times in everyday life that you use words to influence and persuade others. In your professional life, in your personal life, in all kinds of situations. Getting out of a parking ticket. Convincing your boss to give you a raise. Talking a friend into meeting at this restaurant, not that one. It all involves rhetoric.

The classical art of persuasion

Rhetoric is the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.

– Aristotle

The classical Greek philosopher Aristotle is known as the ‘father of rhetoric’. He developed a theory of persuasion in the 4th century BCE that’s still every bit as applicable today. Aristotle also wrote Poetics, the world’s earliest known treatise on theories of literature and drama. It’s safe to say he knew a thing or two about the spoken and written word.

According to Aristotle, there are several clearly defined elements of rhetoric. They each work in different ways, appealing to different parts of our thinking and achieving different persuasive effects.

We use all of these kinds of rhetoric in practically everything we write, to varying extents, with varying aims, and in various combinations. You don’t have to keep these in your mind every time you write marketing copy. As I mentioned earlier, it’s likely you already apply them automatically, unconsciously, instinctively, because they’re fundamental to human thought, speech and persuasion. But it’s useful to examine exactly how we commonly use these rhetorical concepts, and how we can use them in future.

Pathos: the appeal to emotion

Rhetoric is the art of enchanting the soul.

– Socrates

Emotion plays a part in everything we write. We’re not robots, or Dr Spock, although certain decisions must rely more on considered logic than instinctual feelings (we’ll come back to that later).

Emotion is what pathos works on, in particular, sentimentality. Consumer-facing marketing leans on this heavily sometimes but, whether in B2B or B2C, evoking positive emotions toward your organization, brand or product is always good for business.

When you create a favourable emotional response, you instantly become much more memorable. That person will then associate you with that feeling, consciously or unconsciously.

This doesn’t have to be evoked via a big, bombastic TV commercial that tugs at the heart strings. Most brands work hard to foster a general sense of likeability, which can be as simple as having pleasant branding and communications; communicating with prospective customers in a clear and enjoyable way. People are people, whether they’re wearing their ‘business hat’ or not: bombarding them with cold jargon and stilted sentences will put them off, while talking to them with warmth will do the opposite.

B2B marketing also often creates this sense of goodwill by producing content: useful, free materials that help customers make their decisions. It would be a mistake to see your content as simply a gated asset created to gain contact details and sales leads – it should be valuable to both you and your prospective customer.

As with all other marketing communications, the same rules apply here; your blogs, infographics, eBooks or whitepapers should be informative, well-written and excellently designed, breaking down dense technical subjects simply and bringing them to life with well-chosen analogies. Your customers will thank (and like) you for it.

Download our B2B Content Marketing eBook here.

Kairos: the right moment in time

This is the right time, and this is the right thing.

– Sir Thomas Moore

Kairos is an often neglected or even forgotten principle of rhetoric, but it shouldn’t be. It refers to time – not in a strictly chronological sense but in terms of good timing. A particular situation or moment. The right place and the right time.

Lead nurturing is kairos in practice – an exercise in timing. Guiding buyers along the purchase journey, being aware of what their thoughts and responses are likely to be each stage and tailoring your messaging accordingly.

Marketers also know all about creating a sense of urgency. The limited-time offer is a good example of this, and the ‘call to action’, a marketing staple, is a simple and effective embodiment of this use of kairos in marketing: ‘buy now’.

Businesses’ messaging frequently uses evokes urgency – that ‘now’ is the right time to act. Other interpretations of the term kairos are ‘the times’ and ‘the weather’. In marketing communications, this could mean the current technological or economic climate or the state of the market. The zeitgeist, a paradigm shift that is underway, a radical sea change in business models.

In the technology world, concepts like digital transformation or the advent of big data and the Internet of Things drive businesses to make new investments and changes urgently, to adopt early and be part of the moment or the movement that is occurring.

It’s a powerful motivator, when used correctly. Nobody likes to be rushed, but nobody wants to miss out, either. Kairos evokes opportunity, and that’s extremely compelling.

Telos: knowing your purpose

The two best rules for a system of rhetoric are: first, have something to say; and next, say it.

– George Emmons

Telos is best summed up like this: having a clear idea of what you’re trying to get across and what you’re trying to achieve. It’s knowing your goal or goals.

For the classical Greeks scholars, this might have meant knowing the best argument in a philosophical debate. For marketers, it’s a comprehensive marketing strategy. Who is this campaign or asset aimed at: the chief information officer (CIO) or a software developer? Are you trying to gain awareness or are they in the consideration phase of the path to purchase?

Without clear answers to questions like these – a firm sense of telos – your marketing won’t be as effective as it could be. It’s difficult to achieve your aims when you don’t know exactly what they are.

Ethos: promoting your credibility

The true orator is the good man speaking well.

– Quintillian

Trust makes all the difference. Our choices are strongly influenced by whether we have confidence in a person, an organisation, brand, product or service. And this is at the heart of ‘ethos’. Is the speaker ethical? In B2B marketing, that can be taken to mean ‘are they credible’?

When a business promotes their expertise, they draw on ethos. They can be trusted to do a good job, to provide a high standard of service, to bring a superior set of skills and expertise to the table.

‘We have solutions spanning a range of industries and sectors’. Statements like this tap into a feeling of ethos – of being capable and ready to meet clients’ needs. Similarly, when an organisation namechecks their customers, for instance listing them or including their logos on their website, this is a direct appeal to ethos. It says, ‘we have a proven track record of working for successful companies just like yours’.

And how many companies’ marketing talks about the length of their experience? They might mention ‘50 years of satisfied customers’ or that they were ‘established in 1905’. These too, are appeals to ethos; portraying themselves as a solid, trustworthy organization of long standing.

Building a sense of ethos is crucial to successful marketing. All the types of rhetoric can be used to foster this sense of trust, but especially the one I’ll explain next.

Logos: logic, research and facts

The duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the better moving of the will.

– Francis Bacon

Logos is the appeal to reason. Persuasion through rationality – via facts, statistics and research.

This kind of rhetoric can strongly evoke others. A persuasive argument that demonstrates experience and expertise can create a feeling of credibility (ethos) and emotional reassurance (pathos).

But a logic-driven approach is powerfully compelling in itself. Particularly in the B2B sphere, where people have a responsibility to make the best and most thought-out decisions possible with company money. In these circumstances, they respond especially well to a highly rational argument. They may have to repeat those same arguments to other stakeholders in their company to justify the spend.

When you provide customers with a logical, fact-based argument for an investment, you’re not only persuading them. You’re helping them to persuade anyone they may answer to. Sometimes that’s just as valuable.

This is where we come back to content – perhaps the essence of logos in business-facing marketing. The more useful your content is, the more persuasive it is. That’s why it’s important that everything is factually correct and technically sound. Make sure you avoid bad research and don’t hesitate to reference reputable third-party sources that support your case, such as whitepapers from market research companies and tech consultancies. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: ‘would I find this helpful?’ The answer should always be yes.


content marketing personalisation

The 3 steps to a killer content marketing personalisation strategy

  • Personalised marketing will dominate in 2020
  • Learn how to create the right strategy for your business

Content is key, king, and queen

Do you have a content marketing personalisation strategy? Sending the right message to the right person at the right time would have been impossible only a couple of years ago. The rise of big data and better data analysis, however, has made it possible to deliver personalised ads, product offerings and correspondence to a specific audience at the appropriate time. And this is also true for the content they are shown as they encounter your brand.

Our blog this week will show you why a content marketing personalisation strategy is more important than ever and the steps to implement one.

The new normal

Content marketing has risen dramatically over the last few years. Twenty, thirty years ago traditional marketing consisted of big brands controlling what we received through the traditional avenues of TV and print media. The internet and technology has disrupted this old model and made it possible for consumers to take more agency over what they want to see and hear. With the array of choice at our disposal and technology like adblockers, marketers have had to find new ways of getting their message to their target audience. One of the answers has been the rise of content marketing. In theory, this kind of marketing is perfect: marketers get their message to customers who want to hear it.

In reality, this rise has led to an awful lot of content marketing. Some good, and some not so good. All in all, there is a lot of noise out there. Getting your message to the audience who wants to hear it can be difficult. When it comes to content marketing, anyone and everyone can do it. Today it’s easier than ever to create a video, publish a blog, build a website, create a social media profile, etc.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing?
Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

To rise above the noise, brands must:

  • Offer value with their marketing
  • Target the right audience
  • Deliver their message at the right time

This is where personalised content comes in.

Personalisation is a natural part of content marketing

Content marketing is more successful at reaching your customers than traditional advertising because it’s targeted at them specifically without trying to explicitly sell them anything. Content marketing is cut and sewn to their size, providing them value rather than simply trying to get them to buy something. It’s a way of increasing your audience and, at the same time, increasing their trust in your brand.

The idea then of personalisation in content marketing shouldn’t be much of a jump in concept. It centres around using the data you collect from visitors to your website, blog, and social media platforms to provide customised content for them. For example, you could have it planned so that when a CIO lands on your homepage they get directed to an eBook about implementing a new piece of IT to boost Office 365 adoption. Whereas if a HR professional arrives at the same homepage they are shown a popup for a blog post about the benefits of automation.

It could mean a specific call to action for a specific audience or even a customized landing page based on demographics or location. We can target the right audience successfully through the data we collect and analyse all with the help of automation technology. When we talk about content marketing personalisation, we’re going way beyond including first names in a marketing email.

The importance of content marketing personalisation

Personalised marketing is a hot marketing trend for lots of reasons.

  • Improves the customer experience
  • Provides consistency across your CX channels
  • Helps keep regular customers and attract new leads
  • Boosts the bottom line

How to create the right strategy for your business

You can include personalisation across your marketing channels on your:

  • Social media posts
  • Web copy
  • Webinars
  • Automated emails
  • Newsletters
  • Direct mail

Get on the right content marketing personalisation path

1. Create a vision

What is it you want to achieve? More leads, greater brand loyalty? The first step is to think about what you want to achieve, and then what message to put across to achieve it. How will this change the message you send out, and what audience are you targeting? Answering these questions takes time but is worth it.

2. Get busy collecting information

So, you have a vision and the means to achieve it. Now it’s time to fill the coffers with precious data. There are plenty of ways to gather information on your preferred audience. These include:

  • Surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Social media data harvesting
  • Focus groups
  • Remarketing/internet cookies

Audience personas

This is part of understanding your target audience, using personas is a great way of getting into the specifics of what business problems your customers and potential customers have and how you can offer value to them by delivering them content that will help solve their issue.

Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona? Download here.

SEO is still key

A vital part of any marketing strategy, your SEO reach and knowing the right keywords to optimise will attract the users you want to target – having a big impact on lead generation. Look at your past keyword research and analyse the data on what works. This will help you create the right content that provides the right value.

3. Reap what you sow

You’ve gathered a lot of data and information about your audience. Now it’s time to harvest the data and put your personalisation strategy into practice to achieve your vision.

Create the right content

Make your content compelling, easy to read and drenched in value. Once you know your audience this becomes a much easier task. Let the data you have collected and your audience’s needs inspire the content you produce.

Put content in the right format

Some of us prefer to read articles while others prefer to watch a video. Some want their information in an infographic, so they get a big wallop of data all in one go. Some prefer a ‘how to’ blog post rather than a ‘best practices guide’ eBook. There is plenty of data out there already about how different generations consume data. As part of your research and data collection you can understand more specifically how your target audience like to take their content.

By fitting your content into the right format based on what your audience wants you will notice an uptick in readership, traffic, leads and sales. And you can feel good about all this hard work.

Follow these three steps to create the perfect content marketing personalisation strategy. For other great tips on how to market your IT, explore our site or contact us today.


successful content marketing strategy

8 tips to kickstart a successful content marketing strategy

How can your business build a sustainable and effective content marketing strategy that creates real presence and drives leads?

For the fourth year running, the Fifty Five and Five team had the pleasure of going to the Microsoft Inspire Conference, which was held again this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The week was packed full of corenotes, workshops, meetings, and conversations with clients and partners alike. Inspire 2019 was certainly an event to remember.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Marc-Andre Fontaine from SherWeb, Paul Hsu from Nintex, and Jennifer Tomlinson from Microsoft and discuss fantastic content marketing in practice – does it work? What does it look like? And most importantly, how to do it?

In this year’s Digital Marketing Excellence Report, SherWeb and Nintex placed tenth and third, respectively – which meant they had plenty of fascinating contributions to offer. Including doing a pretty great job of answering those questions.

Does content marketing work?

Yes

What does it look like?

Like this and this and this

How do I do it?

Read on…

If you weren’t able to catch the session, don’t worry – because we’ve pulled together some of the most important points together in this blog.

Here’s a look through our eight tips for a successful content marketing strategy.

1. Have a clear goal

Any successful content marketing campaign should start with one clear question: ‘What do we want to achieve with our content?’ This should influence every blog, eBook, or social post you create.

Having a clear overarching goal to your entire digital marketing strategy is vital. It can be easy to assume that this goal would be ‘to generate leads’ – that is, after all, the goal of every business. But it’s also worth taking some time to consider the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’ you’re creating content.

In the case of SherWeb, for example, this meant creating informative content that would engage their readers, so they feel empowered to take the next step in the buyer’s journey.  Defining this goal requires an understanding of what your readers’ expectations are and how you can effectively fulfil these needs.

2. Understand your audience

Before you write a single word or post a single tweet, you need to understand more about the people who’ll be reading it. For that, you’ll need analytics.

Luckily, almost anybody with a website domain can analyse who comes and goes on their website – using Google Analytics. As Nintex have discovered, this data can help you understand who your readers are, what they’re looking for and how they’re doing it. With this information, you can understand the demographics of your readership, including age, job title, seniority, and any related interests they might have. This is all important information; the material you create for an HR manager will naturally be different from that created for an IT expert.

Once you understand this information, the next step is to create marketing personas based on the information; a semi-fictional account of your ideal customer based on this research. From there, it’s much easier to target your future content towards this person.

Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona?

3. Identify your content types

Once you’ve worked out who you’ll target, the next step is to work out what you’ll create. Different organizations will have different needs from their content strategies – so there’s no one size fits all approach. There’s an almost infinite range of different content types, from the more conventional blogs, eBooks and case studies, to more interactive examples like quizzes, polls, infographics and much more.

Having worked with many Microsoft Partners on their marketing strategies, Jennifer is well placed to advise on how buyers can identify the right content for their audience. The trick is to identify what question your buyer is asking, and then tailor the content type back to that specific need. Research is central that, understanding who your customers are, the search terms they’re using, and the specific problems they aim to address.

If you’re a smaller company with limited in-house resources, chances are you won’t be able to produce a large range of different types of content straight off the bat. For that reason, it’s important to effectively identify what types of content will have the maximum impact on your readership. For B2B audiences, we find blogs, eBooks, and whitepapers, as well as social media content on LinkedIn to be the most effective. But this won’t necessarily be the same for you – so make sure to go back to your personas and consider your audience data when planning your content marketing strategy.

4. Plan your time

Creating an editorial calendar is one of the most important pillars of a successful content marketing strategy. It’s easy to think ‘I’ll just write a blog when I’ve got something to write about, or when inspiration hits’. In reality, unless you create clear goals and deadlines, it’ll almost certainly fall to the bottom of the to do list. For that reason, it’s good to start by defining exactly how much content you’ll produce each month, and what types. Then, it’s time to start generating ideas.

When planning their content strategy, Nintex took an ambitious approach, setting a target of 20 blogs a month and five or six webinars a month. They also found success with whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, and guidebooks. For a large company with a wide readership over many industries and verticals, this strategy is effective.

For many companies, however, as little 4-8 blogs a month, 1-2 eBooks and some accompanying social media activity can lay a strong basis for an effective digital marketing campaign. Remember, consistency is always more valuable than quantity.

5. Promotion is everything

You can write the best content in the world, but if nobody knows about it – it’s not worth the html code it's written on. It’s important to find ways to push your content out and find new audiences. SEO and paid media will naturally play an important part in this – and learning how to properly optimize your content for Google is really important.

But if you want to build a successful, sustainable and organic following, the best tools are social media and email marketing. SEO and paid media might help you generate an audience, but it won’t help you sustain it over time. For a B2B audience, Twitter and LinkedIn generally provide the most valuable audiences.

SherWeb have experienced great success in expanding the reach of their social audience by using their employees’ profiles. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this, since your employees will already have a ready-made network of relatively engaged followers with a specific focus on your industry. Many organizations would (and have) paid good money for a following like that – so underestimate it at your peril.

6. Track, measure and refine

Building a long-term content strategy from the ground up is certainly the hard part – but that doesn’t mean it is plain sailing from there. The B2B technology market is a competitive place and organisations looking to stay on top need to make constant improvements to their digital strategies.

To do this, you should constantly aim to discover more about your readership and how they interact with your content. Research is incredibly valuable, and it is vital to understand how successful the content you produce is or could be. That requires an understanding of how many people are viewing the content, as well as how they access it. If you discover that all your readers are finding you through paid media and SEO, it’s a good sign you need to improve your organic social efforts. As well as this however, tracking bounce rates and engagement times will help improve your strategy, since it will allow you to identify which pieces of content readers are really interested in.

7. Conversations = leads = customers

It’s important to remember that every digital marketing campaign is ultimately designed to generate leads. It’s all well and good providing content that engages your audience – but ultimately you need that audience to convert. Engagements metrics and conversions are therefore important. Luckily, these can also be found In Google Analytics.

Producing a large amount of content will allow you to experiment with different content types, and consider over time which ones are most likely to attract and engage your readers. Every organization will have a slightly different readership, so it’s important to remember that there’s no one size fits all approach.

But it is important to remember that you can’t expect conversions overnight – and achieving true thought leadership is a long game. The most successful content marketing strategies, like those of SherWeb and Nintex, benefit from a long term investment into an honest and informative conversation with their customers.

8. Consistency is key

A content strategy must, above all, have a long term goal. There’s no point posting a few blogs and some social media tweets and expecting the leads to roll in. It simply doesn’t work like that.

If you’re looking for short term wins, paid media will help get some immediate traffic – but it’s important to work on an organic presence at the same time. Over a long period of time, you’ll start to see content and social engagement rise, providing you with far richer and more lucrative audiences then Google Ads ever could.

But as well as consistency in the amount of content, you should also aim for a consistency in style. Every piece of content you produce is essentially a lesson in branding – and should contribute to your company’s wider image. Whether that’s the topics you choose to discuss or the opinions you share, you should work to create a clear and tangible brand voice through everything you do. This is perhaps the key to the success of Nintex’ and SherWeb’s content strategies – any piece of content you read is distinctively there’s – contributing to a clear unity of brand and focus across the whole reach of the strategy.

Creating a long-term content marketing strategy

If you only take away one of these content marketing tips, make sure to remember that there’s no shortcut to digital marketing success. Becoming a true brand leader requires patience, commitment, hard work – and a clear understanding of the people you’re talking to. This is perhaps the most important thing that our conversations with SherWeb and Nintex discovered. All of that takes time – but if you’ve got the resources it’s absolutely worth investing in.

Having worked with a range of established Microsoft Partners, we at Fifty Five and Five know full well how effective a long-term content strategy can be. If you want to find out for yourself how you can achieve more with content, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Grab yourself a copy of our “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” eBook!


Lies, damned lies and content marketing

  • Why is poor research so prominent in the digital sphere? 
  • What is the danger of letting false facts spread? 
  • How can we avoid the dangers of zombie statistics? 

There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. 

Statistics and research are rarely as objective or factual as you think. There’s perhaps a certain irony in the fact that the above quote is generally attributed to Mark Twain, whereas it in fact originates from 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.  

As we all know, the internet has never been renowned for its strict love of the truth. And this extends to the world of content marketing. Many of the facts you read are far less objective than they may seem. Whether that’s because they’ve been poorly researched, taken out of context, or outright fabricated – you’ll often find a more complicated situation lying beneath the black and white statistic.  

As content marketers, thoroughly fact-checking statistics can be difficult and, at times, time consuming. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. To quickly identify poor research, we need to understand where it comes from, how it develops, and ultimately what it looks like.  

This blog explains how to banish poor research from your content marketing strategy for good.  

Where does poor research come from? 

In recent years, the term ‘zombie statistic’ has arisen to describe a particular type of poorly researched statistic that gets so widely circulated around the digital sphere it begins to be viewed as fact. The Independent recently dug into some common examples of these, including some that you’ll almost certainly have encountered: 

  • There are more people alive today than have ever lived  
  • People only use 10% if their brains 
  • You’re never more than six feet from a rat in a city 
  • You should drink eight glasses of water a day

At one point or another, each one of these common statistics has been thoroughly debunked. And if you try to chase back the source of any of them, you’ll likely find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of missing citations, defunct links and hearsay.  

What do all these statistics have in common? They all tend to depict complicated and nuanced situations in objective terms, often using quite eye-catching language. In reality, if you dig into any statistic or fact, you’ll inevitably find the truth to be more complicated than the black and white percentage sign makes it seem. But when internet users are looking for easy facts and digestible content, the authority of a statistic can often go wrongly unquestioned.   

How does poor research spread online? 

Many zombie statistics actually predate the internet, but there’s no doubting that the internet has breathed new life into the phenomenon. It’s ushered in an unprecedented democratization of the written word, meaning everyone with an internet connection can post content online. The benefits of this are obvious. But naturally, it also lends itself to unsubstantiated facts and statistics.   

As well as this, the fast-paced nature of the digital sphere lends itself to brief, fast content; quickly written and quickly consumed. Digital content writers are under pressure to produce content quickly that’s fresh and relevantThis means facts and research, quickly researched, often go unchecked. When neither writer not reader has the time to properly check the validity of statistics, poor research can travel through many stages of the citation chain without being debunked.  

Why content marketers must remain vigilant 

As time-pressed content marketers, falling into the trap of relying on shaky statistics to back up your claims can be all too easy. In the short term, the chances of it coming back to haunt you are slim. But, in reality, it’s a bad precedent to set for a content marketing strategy, whether anybody finds out or not.  

Inbound marketing is based around the principle of being honest with your customer. The logic follows that if your product or service has tangible value, all you need to do is identify and educate your customer for that product to essentially sell itself. If the marketing messages you use to prove that value require a certain ‘creative application’ of the truth, then that contract is fundamentally broken – and you customers will find out about it sooner or later 

It’s also important to remember that marketers don’t just rely on research to prove why their products are valuable. We rely on research to inform the decisions we make, the products we sell and the messages we use to sell them. It can be easy for us to assume truth in research that confirms the way we think of the world – however short-sighted, one-dimensional, or lacking in nuance that conclusion might be. In contrast, research that forces us to challenge our assumptions can often pass by unnoticed.  

If people assume certain facts and beliefs to be true, they’ll likely believe research that backs it up. Researchers who set out to prove their existing assumptions will inadvertently use methodologies that skew results in one direction or another, perhaps by using leading questions or employing a small, unrepresentative sample size. Over time, the research informs the bias, and the bias creates the research, resulting in something of a self-confirming feedback loop. It becomes easy for an echo chamber of ideas to form. Often, the assumption isn’t even necessarily wrong, it just becomes an oversimplification of a more nuanced situation.  

How to avoid bad research 

Time pressed digital marketers will be happy to discover that identifying poor research doesn’t always have to be as long-winded as they think. In fact, following just a few simple tips can help you easily root out a lot of bad statistics. Here’s a look through some simple steps you can take.  

  • Avoid speculative research

How many times have you read that recognisable person or institution has ‘predicted’ that something will happen, or something will increase by Xin 2020” Even worse is when a report that ‘predicts’ something will happen in the future gets quoted as saying it will happen in the future.  

It’s too easy for readers to skim over such speculative statistics and assume that “there will be 6 billion internet users by 2024!” is an objective fact. But take a moment to think through the implications, and you’ll quickly realise how wildly impossible it is to account for all the factors that could possibly influence such a statistic 

Such research can’t be completely discarded, and there are instances where an educated guess about the future is better than nothing. If you must include speculative research in your work, make it clear that it is a prediction that is being madeand who is doing the predicting 

  • Avoid correlational data

This refers to when simultaneous, self-contained trends are assumed to influence each other, when no evidence for this link exists. What would you think, for example, if you read that a group of researchers had gone into a primary school to discover if tall children were cleverer, before discovering overwhelming evidence to suggest they were? You’d probably be quite shockedbefore eventually realising that in a primary school, taller children also tend to be older. Nobody said the test subjects were all from the same age group. In this case, a third and entirely unrelated factor determined the results. 

Statistics that are based on correlational data pervade the digital sphere. With the right sample size, leading questions, and tactical omission of important information, it’s possible to make it seem like almost anything causes something else.  

If you head over to spurious correlations, you can browse through a whole range of ridiculous, eye-catching, but ultimately coincidental correlations, inspired by the same methodologies behind otherwise well-respected research. If you were to believe every bizarre correlation you see, you’d end up thinking that, among other things, eating margarine causes divorce, eating cheese causes people to suffocate in their own bedsheets, and eating mozzarella gives you a doctorate.   

These things are, obviously, not true. Neither is much of the correlation-based research or facts that get circulated around the internet. If in doubt, check the methodology of a research report, and see if you can work out how they came upon their statistics. If it’s correlational, take it with a hefty pinch of salt.  

  • Consider the sample

Unrepresentative samples are among the most common features of bad research. The amount and type of people a survey asks will greatly affect the quality of results it finds. Consider for example if two researchers wanted to run simultaneous surveys to discover the nations favourite supermarket. One of them decides to stand outside Tesco and one outside Waitrose, asking people what their supermarket preferences are. Both, unsurprisingly, publish wildly contradictory statistics that are presented as objective fact. 

In B2B research, companies are guilty of such tactics all the time. Consider for example, statistics like “90% of our clients are satisfied with our services”It seems fairly objective on a first read, until you stop to consider that, perhaps, if someone wasn’t satisfied, they wouldn’t be a client anymore – and therefore wouldn’t have been asked.  

Size also affects how effective a sample group is. If two people ask the same question of different sample sizes – the first of 20 and the second of 100 – you’d logically expect the second to be more representative. If neither publish the sample size or type in their methodologies, you’d do well to ignore anything either of them say. 

Seek disconfirming evidence 

If there’s one takeaway you should remember from this blog it’s this: seek disconfirming evidence. That means never settle for a piece of research being correct just because it seems right. Search for facts and statistics that challenge, expand or diversify your worldview. In many cases, simply looking for a wider range of research is enough to negate the worst effects of zombie statistics and unsubstantiated ‘facts’.

There’s a whole range of reasons why reality isn’t quite as objective as much of the world’s research makes it seem. In reality, it’s extremely difficult to be entirely vigilant and analyse every piece of unsubstantiated research in the world. But if you follow the simple guidance in this blog, you’ll be well on the way to identifying some of the most common types of false statistical claims.

Alternatively, get in touch with the experts at Fifty Five and Five, where we specialise in creating effective, thought-provoking and well-researched content for our B2B technology clients.  

Looking to improve your marketing?

We can help! Talk to us about your business and the specific barriers you come up against when trying to generate leads. Get in touch.


How to create a content strategy

How to create a content strategy in 3 steps

  • How you can get started creating your content strategy 
  • A 3 step process to help you create content for your audience 
  • Advice about how to improve your existing content strategy 

 

Almost all marketers find themselves searching ‘how to create a content strategy’ at one point or another. Content marketing strategies can be intimidating because of the amount of detail that must go into them. But the actual process of routinely pushing out fresh, relevant content can be made much easier by first creating a plan.

Recently we wrote an introduction to content marketing strategies which you should consider reading before this blog. It offers a look at the key components that you’ll need to understand for creating a content strategy, and this blog will cover building out the strategy itself.

We’re going to look the three key steps that will help you define your content strategy by helping you create your own content strategy blueprint.

Step 1 – Decide what you want to achieve with your content

Content shouldn’t be created for content’s sake. Many companies feel like they have to have a blog or a social media page, but they don’t set out a clear goal for what they want to create and why. Your content needs to offer clear value to your target audience, or they won’t want to read it.

Goals

You’ll need to decide why you’re creating content – are you looking to increase revenue or site traffic? Improve your search rankings? Get better ROI on your marketing spend? Identify your business’s most pressing priorities and align them with your content goals. If you want to increase website traffic, you may want to focus on more attractive ad copy. Whereas if you’re looking to improve your search rankings, your priority will be finding and targeting the right keywords. Once you have concrete goals, you’ll be able to easily identify whether your content is effective or not, rather than by using guesswork.

KPIs

To help you track the performance of your content, create key performance indicators (KPIs) that are measurable. KPIs will give you a true idea of how successful your content is by giving you meaningful metrics to monitor. For instance, a good KPI would be ‘To achieve a 20% click-through rate on our monthly newsletter by the end of the year’. This is something that can be measured and that will indicate how your content is performing. Depending on the KPI you choose, you can monitor its performance in different ways.

Content measuring tools

You’ll then need to pick the tools you’ll use to track your content’s performance across different platforms. Google Analytics and Moz are useful tools that’ll help you identify what types of content perform best, and the peak times you should be posting. Hootsuite allows you to post from multiple social media accounts, see analytics and monitor important topics in your industry. You can find a list of all kinds of content monitoring tools here.

Step 2 – Find out who you’re making content for

Whatever you’re creating should target a specific audience. To do this, you’ll need to know exactly who to write for. It’s impossible to create content that will interest everyone, so focus on providing the information that your key demographics need.

Market research

Depending on who your audience are, they’ll want different things. To help you define your audience, you’ll need to find out more about them. Demographics from your website, blog and social media channels are a good place to start. Use email surveys and the form fields on your website to collect information about your audience. Interview existing customers and leads to find out more about what kind of content speaks to them the most, and what they would like to see more of.

Buyer personas

The demographics and market research you collect about your target audience will allow you to create personas. A buyer persona is a fictionalised version of a segment of your audience who you’ll target your content at. For example, if one of your personas is a millennial, you’ll be able to find the type of content that this demographic interacts with online and use that knowledge to influence what you create. Personas should include details like age, profession, their content preferences, their main problems and what they’re looking for. This way, you’ll be able to create content that solves their problems.

Keywords

Your audience will look for content in different places. Social media has a very different purpose than a blog, and you’ll need to know where your audience is to attract them. Look at what your audience is searching for on Google and try to identify the language they use. Google Trends is a good place to start – you can see the specific terms people use to search in your industry and refine your keywords accordingly. Tools like Moz will analyse your audience and identify the industry they’re in, helping you create content that’s industry-specific with relevant keywords.

Content types

Obviously, you’ll need to decide what kind of content you’ll make. Your audience should help you choose – which platforms do they already use? What kind of content do they already consume? Most businesses opt for a mix of blogging, social media, eBooks and whitepapers. To start off, try generating ideas for ten blogs – if you’re stuck for ideas, use a blog idea generator. Social media works best when you’re posting about trending topics, so find out where you can join the conversation with tools like TrendSpottr.

Tone of voice guidelines

The style and tone of your writing should be adapted to your personas – language is key to grabbing a reader’s attention. An easy way to pick out your tone of voice is to choose three words that describe your brand’s voice, something like: helpful, informative, laid back. You also need to decide on the underlying messaging that speaks to your audience. Whether you’re creating blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts or any other type of content, the story you tell about your organisation and what you offer should be consistent and on-brand.

Grab yourself a copy of our “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” eBook!

Step 3 – Create a content posting and measuring system

Organisation is a key part of your strategy. You’ll need to decide how and when you publish, because consistency is key when it comes to content. You’ll also need to know how to make the most of your posts by re-optimising and re-sharing existing content.

Writing process

Now that you know what you want to create, you need to establish a process for writing and publishing. Tools like Trello and Asana can help you create processes with assigned tasks – accountability is important when it comes to content publishing, because otherwise the creative process can be messy. A structured process with at least one round of editing and proofing will ensure that everyone knows what they need to do and when.

Editorial calendar

You’ll also need to know when to publish to maximise engagement. Your engagement metrics will vary depending on what you’re posting and your audience. Key metrics you can measure include page views, total readers, finish rate or shares. A good practice to follow is to check your website and social media traffic to establish when your audience are most active and schedule posts accordingly. Start off by creating a schedule you know you can stick to, potentially three social media posts a week and one blog.

Content optimisation

You should also continue to measure its performance over time. Posting content just once is a waste. Re-sharing your original content is an excellent way of increasing your SEO – the more people engage with your content, the higher your website will rank in SERPs. This is a great reason to create evergreen content like ‘how to’ guides. People will always need simple introductory content and it’ll perform well consistently over time. Tools like SEMrush can help you identify your best performing content. It’s great for your marketing ROI to improve your ranking content as well as posting new content.

How to create a content strategy: there’s no right way

All of the components you’ve created from steps one to three will form your overall content strategy. That’s not to say you can’t add extra components or change the format if you like – the whole point of this blueprint is for you to use and adapt it however you like.

Your content strategy is something you’ll need to develop over time as your business and your customers change. You’ll see how your content performs, then you’ll tweak, then you’ll create something new. It’s a process you need to be prepared to invest time in and see how it evolves. It’s up to you to decide on a process, content topics, and goals. There’s only one rule you’ll always need to follow.

Your content must always provide value to your audience.

As long as it does, your audience will seek you out. No amount of SEO or social media posts will trick people into engaging with you. Your content strategy, no matter what form it takes, should prioritise your audience and what you can do for them. The only way to create good content with value is to solve your audience’s problems. With that in mind, you’ll be on the right track.

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Content marketing strategy

What to include in your content marketing strategy

  • What a content marketing strategy is and why you need one
  • Tips and tricks to create the perfect content for your business

A content marketing strategy is essential for marketers - it defines who you’re creating content for, and why. 64% of marketers admit that they need to build a scalable content strategy – But what are the elements of a content strategy?

However, the truth is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating your content strategy. It might be that what works for one company doesn’t work for you - the trick is creating a strategy that’s right for your business and your audience.

There is a huge variety of content you can include in your content strategy—all of which benefits your business in different ways. In this post, we explore every document that should go into your content strategy—from the content itself to supporting materials—to give your content the best chance at reaching your audience and turning them into leads.  Today we’re going to look at the content and supporting documents you’ll need to create your own strategy.

1. Defining your audience

‘Content’ has become the collective name for any kind of creative work in marketing. It takes on many different forms when educating and engaging with your audience. The flexibility of content allows businesses to generate content in different ways - but whether you post one blog a week or two eBooks a month, you need to make sure that your content is tailored towards your audience.

But how do you define that audience? How do you decide how and when to post? There are some important marketing decisions you’ll need to make that will help you make those decisions.

  • What are your goals?

Before you create content, you need to define your goals - otherwise, you’re writing with no purpose. When you create content, you need to consider that different types of content have different aims – social content should drive traffic to your site, where an eBook will attract phone or in-person meetings. You need to decide if you’re trying to increase organic traffic to your website, nurturing sales leads, or driving conversions.

This decision will help you create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which set out a concrete aim for each goal. Deciding on metrics to track will help you see the value in different channels – track your downloads, shares, unique page visits - and you’ll find out exactly what your audience wants.

  • Who are your target audience?

Your existing audience are the best people to tell you what kind of content you should create. The goal of anything you make should be to provide value to your customers – anything that’s just promotional content without any consumer value will come across to them as simply white noise. Make sure your content always prioritizes consumer value before direct sales.

With a combination of audience insights, demographics and psychographics, you can identify opportunities to reach both your current audience and new audiences. Find what they’re searching for online, the problems they’re trying to solve, and how they want to improve their lives. If you can offer them a suitable solution, they’ll choose you and become loyal to your brand.

  • How will you target your audience?

Personas help you define your audience and what they’re looking for – a persona is a document that outlines a fictionalised version of your average customer, what they’re looking for and why you’re the best option for them. This creates a character that you can target your content at - details like income, age, education and personality can help you visualise your potential customers.

Once you understand their motivations, you’ll find it far easier to create content that your audience are searching for. You’ll also be able to identify the most effective channels to reach them through.

  • What kind of voice does your brand use?

Your business’s voice is defined by the way you write and your tone of voice. From the stylistic and grammar conventions you use to the terminology and tone of voice everything you publishes needs to be consistent.

A concrete guide to how to write for your brand ensures that anyone internally or externally can write in your company’s voice. This can be a very useful document for maintaining internal understanding of your brand as well as developing your brand’s personality. An easy way to establish a brand voice is by picking three adjectives you’d like your brand to embody. For instance; knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

  • What’s your unique selling point (USP)?

To gain advantage over competitors, you need to define exactly what sets you apart. Your value proposition explains why you’re the best choice in your market and what benefits you can provide. A good value proposition will sit on your homepage and many other subpages, and it will communicate to your customers exactly why they should pick you.

One of the most important things about value propositions is that they must be written in simple language – no jargon. Write a simple statement outlining what your business does, who you’re doing it for, and how it’s the best on the market, in the language that your customers actually use. Your customers want to know how you’re going to make their lives easier - so tell them.

2. Creating content

Depending on your industry, you’ll need to create different types of content to attract your audience. Using your personas and market research will allow you to identify the channels and content that best suit your audience so you can target accordingly.

Here are some of the types of content your brand can use in your content strategy.

  • Short-form content

Short-form content often addresses topical or time-sensitive issues, as it’s easier to quickly generate. Blogs and videos are more likely to be shared through social media, gaining you organic traffic and improving your brand visibility.

Blogs – Blogs are bread and butter content. Most businesses underestimate the value of a regularly updated blog, but it improves your SERP rankings and positions you as a knowledge leader in your industry. You can use online tools to generate ideas for blogs based on your keywords.

Social media – Social media channels are a great way to publish original content, develop your brand and reach new audiences. Once you’ve decided which channels will reach your target audience, social media planning software will help you schedule and post content easily.

Infographics – Infographics typically summarise studies with statistics, and while more labour intensive than blogs, are very shareable. Linking an infographic back to your website is very effective for creating backlinks to your website. Try surveying your customers and creating an infographic with the results.

Videos – If your audience responds well to video, you can create a wealth of informational clips which are engaging and easy to share. Including a video in a post increases organic traffic from search results by 157%, so if you’re creating video content, is definitely worth it. How-to videos and tutorials can perform very well, so consider creating this type of content.

  • Long-form content

Long form content provides long-term value for your business. Therefore, it’s best to pick an ‘evergreen’ topic that isn’t time-sensitive. Long-form content is valuable for SEO, because it offers you a chance to use more long-tail keywords. It’s a good idea to publish a longer form piece once or twice a month.

eBooks – These are examples of long-form content that sit between a blog and a whitepaper – usually between 1200 and 1500 words. They’re more formal than a blog, but less academic than a Whitepaper. eBooks are great for in-depth looks at topics that’ll increase the average page visit length.

Case studies – In order to extoll the benefits of working with your business, a case study acts as a testimonial. You can ask customers to help you tell the story of how they succeeded with you. Look at Google’s case studies for inspiration.

Research studies – Research studies are shareable in the same way as infographics. By commissioning independent research, you’ll be able to generate useful statistics that entice publications and influencers to share your work, widening the reach of your content.

Whitepapers – Written in a more academic style, whitepapers are often used in B2B marketing as they can provide a platform for in-depth, technical and academic findings and discussion. They’re often around 2500 words, so make sure you’re an expert in your industry if you want to publish one.

3. Creating your content marketing strategy

When you’ve decided what kind of content you’ll create and when and where you’ll publish, you have the basis of your content strategy. This is the guide you’ll use to generate ideas, create new content, and manage your existing content.

Once your content is in place, the final step is distribution: getting your valuable work seen by the right people to make it stand out in the crowd.

  • Schedule with a content calendar

A detailed plan of what you’ll publish and when—including team members’ publishing responsibilities and notable events that you can plan content around—will keep your plan on track. Your strategy is important, but without a solid outline of how you’ll execute your strategy, it’s likely your content won’t be prioritized.

A calendar will arrange the frequency and time of day that you’ll post content – you can figure out optimal timings by checking engagement through your content management system and seeing when people engage most with your content. Depending on your preference, you can schedule content with your existing team calendar or use your content management system.

  • Metrics

Your content cycle doesn’t end at publication – measuring its success gives you insights about how your audience are interacting with your content and how you can improve your strategy.

Content marketing might seem difficult to measure but tracking the performance of your content will show you what you’re doing right and what you can improve. Tracking content ensures that you’re optimising your marketing ROI and making the best decisions about what kind of content you’ll produce in the future. Use metrics like downloads, page visits and shares to see how your audience are engaging with your content.

Planning for success

Content marketing is a method that incorporates any number of different creative outputs. Your creativity and your research are what makes your content strategy perfect for your business. To truly reap the benefits that good content brings, your strategy is just as important as the content itself.

By optimising the content you’re writing for your audience, and providing genuine value, you can increase organic traffic and conversions. And don’t forget make the most of the unique offerings your business has – they’re what make your business different. We’ll be posting a follow-up to this blog where we tell you how to create a content strategy.

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