How to write a value proposition: a guide for Microsoft Partners

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? That’s the challenge of B2B technology marketing.

To communicate your value consistently in your marketing, you need 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?

Simply put, a value proposition is a description of 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?

 

Now put it all in a box

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?
Who is your audience?
What are their problems?
What?
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?
How can you solve the customer’s problems?
Why?
Why should the customer choose you?
What is your product differentiation?

 

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.

 


Man looking at Microsoft Top 50 partner stats

Microsoft Partner Top 50 – the highlights at halftime

We’re more than halfway through 2021, so, we thought it was the perfect time to take a breather, do some mid-season analysis, and look at the current state of play in our ongoing digital 2020/2021 Microsoft Partner Top 50 table. The Top 50 is where we and our proprietary algorithm rank partners based on their digital marketing.

Today, we’ll be casting a keen pundit’s eye over the movers and shakers, the surprises and the solid bets, and deliver some commentary on some of the partners that have done particularly well – and how they’ve done it.

Big risers in the league table

To kick off, let’s take a gander at some Microsoft partners who’ve made the biggest jump in the rankings this year. These partners have performed stunningly since October/November 2020, and that’s been reflected in how well their positions have improved since then.

 

Bizagi 

This partner, specialising in intelligent process automation, began outside the Top 130 back in Autumn 2020. But since then, they’ve been in and out of Top 10 at the turn of the year and have been Top 5 now since February. At the time of writing, Bizagi is the highest scorer for content, with an excellent, regularly updated blog, wide array of valuable downloadable resources, and more.

 

Catapult Systems 

IT services firm Catapult started well outside the Top 130 and have made steady improvement throughout. They’re now a regular Top 30 performer, ranking highly for SEO thanks to their highly optimised digital presence. They draw valuable traffic thanks to a broad scope of focus that targets many different customer industries and service areas, with all the right search touchpoints covered.

 

“This a great example of speaking to an increasingly business-focused audience.” – Catapult Systems’ Top 50 profile

 

TechQuarters 

TechQuarters, an IT support and Office 365 migrations company, had stayed mostly outside the Top 100 until recently, although they occasionally dipped into it. However, April saw a monumental leap, as they landed in the Top 10 and haven’t left it since. TechQuarters are also scoring very highly for SEO right now and are clearly winning big with both the search engines and visitors to their website.

 

Top 5 ever-presents

Nintex, NTT Ltd. and LiveTiles have been in the Top 5 since November 8th, with high all-round performance across our categories throughout the entire period. Each of these partners has long been well-known for their diligently curated digital presence, and we’re pleased to see them going from strength to strength.

 

Elsewhere among the top-ranking Microsoft partners, SkyKick has been in the Top 10 every week since the Top 50 was launched. A very strong showing from the cloud management software provider, and we’d attribute some of that to their spot-on tone-of-voice as well as brilliant work in content and search.

 

“Clear, consistent and full of value, they are doing inbound marketing the way it was meant to be done.” – SkyKick’s Top 50 profile

 

Always in the Top 20

The following partners have consistently remained in the Top 20. Many are familiar faces who have performed well in previous years’ Top 50s. They’ve outdone themselves this time, too:

 

harmon.ie – great social media presence and content

Pyramid Analytics – one of the very highest SEO scores

Veeam – engaging, detailed and valuable content

Sherweb – clear, compelling brand identity and value proposition

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – excellent content and social channels

Automated Intelligence – expertise displayed compellingly and credibly

 

“Storytelling is crucial to generating a following on social media, and HPE are better at it than most.” – Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Top 50 profile

 

Special mentions

As our roundup draws to a close, we’d like to give a shoutout to a range of partners who have solidly stayed within the Microsoft Partner Top 50 all this time. There are too many to put a spotlight on individually, but each and every one has done great work cementing their positions so far:

 

ENow Nuix
Modality Systems BitTitan
Trend Micro Hitachi Solutions
Talk Think Do Cyber Ark
Cognizant Infragistics
Air IT Rackspace
Qorus Beezy
Okta ThirdSpace
KnowledgeWave Nutanix

 

There’s still everything to play for in the Microsoft Partner Top 50

We hope you’ve enjoyed our roundup. If you’re a Microsoft Partner and you weren’t featured, don’t worry – the game is still underway. Who knows what the next few months will bring? You could well be one of the top-ranking Microsoft partners in the Top 10 or even Top 5 next time we give our commentary.

 

Meanwhile, keep checking our continuously updated Top 50 Microsoft Partners to see how you and other partners are doing. Good luck!


I hate ‘things’

I hate 'things'. Or more accurately, I hate being asked for 'things'. It's a pet peeve of mine.

We frequently get asked if we can create a whitepaper, a video, an infographic, a podcast, a blog post, etc. And I always wonder "why?"

I'm not questioning whether we're the right agency to create these kinds of impactful, effective marketing materials. We do this sort of work all the time for clients like Dell, Arrow, Microsoft, Google, etc.

And it's not the formats per se. All these might have a place in your strategy but if you ask for a 'thing', I am going to ask 'why?'.

 

Raison d'être

Our whole business is built on the belief that we can't solve a problem we don't understand. It’s the reason we're called Fifty Five and Five. It might be that the things you want are exactly what are needed but we need to take a step back first and consider what you are trying to achieve.

Whether you’re a new client (especially if you are a new client) or we’re working with a new brief or department of someone we've worked with for years – we always start with the why:

 

Why are we doing this? How does it help you achieve your business objectives?

 

Digital marketing has become insanely commoditised over the last 10 years. Everyone, regardless of their marketing experience, is only a few clicks away from all the tools they need: email and CRM services, DIY website builders, podcast broadcasting, blogging platforms, even automated brand identity tools.

And machine learning and automation might make 'things' even easier to create and launch. But as these tools get smarter, they will only truly add value to your plans if applied in the right way.

 

Disclaimer

This is not an agency land grab - "give it all to us and we'll be your marketing arm and (slightly cliched) 'extension' to your team".

We're not afraid to tell you if we're not right for a particular assignment. Whether that's because you have the tools and skills in-house or an existing partner that already does what you need. But we won't know if we don't ask.

So, if you come to us with a request for an animation, yes, of course. We'd love to help. But I'll want to know why, specifically, do you want an animation? How does this fit into the broader strategy? Who is the audience? And what are we ultimately trying to achieve?

We'll ask these questions before we start quoting, storyboarding and scripting. You might have all the answers. An animation might be perfect. And you may already have all the right tools in place to help create, test, broadcast, measure, the work.

But it should always start with the question, 'why?'.

 

We can't add value if we don't understand the context

 

P.S.

As well as 'things', I also hate:

  • The term 'eBook' (what is that? an electronic book? a PDF?)
  • Replacing the printer paper only to see someone else's job queued up (argh!)
  • Peas (I know I'm in the minority here)

For balance, there are some things I love:

  • Clients who are passionate about their businesses
  • Anybody with an open mind who is willing to challenge the status quo
  • People with the patience to listen to my questions (sorry, but sometimes I don't know what I don't know!)

 

If this sounds like you, then drop me a line. I'd love to hear about you and your business. I'll come with the questions.


eFail! Top email marketing mistakes (and how to fix them)

Any business with an online presence has received their fair share of bad marketing emails. And we’re no exception. You would not believe some of the shockers that have found their way into our inboxes. Sometimes we’re tempted to hit ‘reply’ and start typing “I think you may need a little help with your digital marketing...”

 

Well, in this blog, we’ll be doing just that. We’ll take some examples we’ve received, cast a critical eye over the email marketing mistakes that have been made and provide some constructive advice on how to fix them.

 

So, without further ado, and with their names and businesses disguised to protect the (not so) innocent – let’s take a look at some email fails:

 

1. Don’t just ‘phone it in’

 

 

It’s often said that being brief and getting straight to the point are big virtues in marketing – or in any kind of communications. Here, the spirit of Ernest Hemingway is alive and well. But this is taking that mantra a little too far. Not only aren’t they demonstrating any interest or insight into our business, but they’re also giving us no real information about theirs. Call me cynical, but this does not strike me as an email that was written with a great deal of effort and consideration.

 

What can we tell from this email?

 

  • They’re a company of some kind (well, that narrows it down).
  • They provide ‘business contacts’ for ‘marketing purposes’ – so far, so vague.
  • They’d like to send over a ‘sample’ for free. A sample of what? One list? One contact?

 

Okay, you don’t want to drown your recipients in an ocean of unnecessary text. That’s often a good way to end up in the ‘Deleted items’ folder. But you have to be clear about who you are, your product or service and the value you offer prospective customers.

 

Moral of the story: put some thought and craft into it. Think about your value proposition and your audience’s needs and goals. If you express those, you’ll be off to a good start.

 

2. Target and personalise

 

 

We just warned against the dangers of being too brief. Well, this is the opposite. The sender clearly hasn’t segmented their list of contacts or their offerings in any way – they’re just telling us about every single thing they provide. Which, by the looks of things, includes everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.

 

The only thing here that’s in any way personalised or targeted is the recipient’s name – ‘Hi, Martina’. That’s it. There’s no attempt to engage the reader in terms of their individual role/organisation or initiate a ‘conversation’ with them – just straight in with ‘Access to 250M contacts...’ This email feels like a lot like spam – one of the biggest email marketing mistakes you can make – and is likely to be treated accordingly.

 

If you don’t want to end up in the spam folder, don’t act like a spammer. On the other hand, if you give the impression that it’s a credible inquiry, speaking to the recipient’s particular company’s needs, they’ll be much more likely to give you the time of day.

 

3. Always, always, always do your homework

 

 

 

At first glance, this looks good, right? Personalised, targeting a specific business decision-maker, appealing to a business goal – growth. Except Barnaby isn’t the founder – he’s the Head of Creative. Which they can find out pretty easily via that LinkedIn profile they linked in the very same sentence. Or our website.

 

This was a good attempt at targeting and personalisation. But when those personalised details are completely (or even a little bit) wrong, it has the exact opposite effect to what was intended. So, here’s the lesson from this one: always do your homework. Or if you’re using details from a list of leads, make sure those details are correct – and if you aren’t sure, don’t take a gamble.

 

Our tips for winning email marketing

 

So, as we’ve covered, it’s easy to write an email. But it can be a lot trickier to write a good marketing email. To conclude, let’s look at some of the key points from the examples here well as some email marketing tips and tricks from our team.

 

  • Get your value across clearly. And show the recipient how it’s relevant to their specific role/organisation. Why is your offering a good thing for them? Why should they choose you instead of a competitor?
  • Personalise as much as you can so they don’t just feel like one of many people on a very long list. This will also help you with the first tip – targeting your messages/offering to the specific person you’re talking to.
  • Don’t be overly familiar if you don’t know the recipient. As our CEO Chris says, “You don’t get past my inbox just by pretending to know me.” Genuine and friendly is good. Trying to trick your audience definitely isn’t.
  • Think twice before starting with “I know you’re busy...” – it’s such a cliché. OK, you value the recipient’s time – that’s good. Demonstrate that – you don’t necessarily have to say it. Or maybe not in those exact words, anyway.
  • Proof-read everything before you click ‘send’. I’m sure you noticed a few typos in some of the examples we showed. Everyone makes mistakes, but they give the impression of a lack of diligence and professionalism. If you spot them first, your recipients won’t.

 

Well, that wraps it up. I hope you’ve found this article useful. And to all the senders featured in these email fails – no hard feelings. We just needed some real-life examples of email marketing mistakes for illustrative purposes. And if you’d like a little help with making sure you nail yours in future – drop us an email?

 

Want to start winning new customers and growing your existing business with better email marketing? Let’s talk. Get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.


How’s your B2B marketing? Introducing our Top Movers and Shakers blog series

Welcome to our new monthly series of blogs celebrating the very best B2B marketing in the Microsoft Partner Network. Fifty Five and Five’s Top 50 Report, first launched in 2014, ranks the digital marketing efforts of Microsoft partners, analysing and assessing four key criteria: content, website, technology, and SEO.

Now existing in digital form, the Top 50 runs in real time, updated on a weekly basis, to give you a better, more accurate picture of how effective your B2B marketing is. This provides a great way to measure your success and to benchmark against other Microsoft partners, including competitors.

Use our site as a stepping stone to success
Social: Looking for ideas on how to improve your social content? Why not see who has got the best social score this week and check out what’s lighting up LinkedIn right now.

Shout about success: Have you run a recent rebranding campaign that you’re really proud of? See if it has bumped up your score.

Measure your outcomes: Looking for another way to measure success for the next board meeting? You can point to your standing in our Top 50. We won’t mind. It’s what it’s there for.

Are you a mover? A shaker? ...a candlestick-maker?

Obviously, B2B marketing success is ultimately determined by leads and conversion rates. But rising to the top of our league table is an extra accolade. Just ask Bizagi, who currently sit in the number one spot. But it’s not only about who’s at the top. As we rank up to 250,000 Microsoft partners in our weekly updates, everyone who gets into the Top 50 is doing something special to get there. And these partners deserve to be recognised and celebrated.

This new blog series will focus on the movers and shakers within the Top 50, a dynamic look at what is going on in the world of Microsoft partner marketing.

Each blog will have a slightly different focus, and we won’t stick to a formula. Sometimes we might highlight the top 10 biggest movers or the top 10 overall scores for the month, but other times we might simply want to highlight amazing campaigns that have caught our eye.

Why benchmarking is so important for B2B marketing

It’s never been more important to strategically plan your marketing – and benchmarking has a vital role to play in this. You need a clear overview of your strengths and weaknesses, alongside those of your competitors. With data-driven insights, sourced from our digital Top 50, you’ll be able to track your marketing progress and keep an eye on the latest marketing trends as they develop. We can help you to stay ahead of the curve and realise your ambitions.

May’s Top Movers and Shakers

We’re going to kick this series off by highlighting the great work of the three partners who have enjoyed the greatest rise in this month’s Top 50. They are:

  • TechQuarters
    TechQuarters had hovered just outside the Top 100 for a while, but finally earned their place in the Top 50 at the end of March. Now they’re in the Top 10 – what a great achievement.

TechQuarters are a Microsoft Cloud Partner who work with forward-thinking organisations who are looking for reliable IT Support and want to modernise their systems.

  • CMIT Solutions
    It’s a similar story for CMIT Solutions who had been hovering around the Top 50 and now sit in 38th place, after a few months of solid, consistent marketing. Nice one.

CMIT Solutions provide essential IT services such as remote work support, cybersecurity and IT support.

  • Enhansoft
    Not quite as much of a meteoric rise as the other two, but still an impressive jump. Enhansoft have moved up from near 90th place and have become a regular in the Top 50 this month. As of writing, they are currently standing strong in 39th place.

Enhansoft give organisations the tools to take control your IT asset inventory, helping customers in the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager community.

TechQuarters on “fresh content constantly”: an interview

In this blog series, we hope to provide value-adding insight and analysis directly from the Movers and Shakers themselves. This month, Fifty Five and Five’s James Woods sat down with Elly Smith, Marketing Manager at TechQuarters, to discuss how TechQuarters approach B2B marketing.

Hi Elly, congratulations on your current Top 10 position. What is the key to your marketing success?

“At TechQuarters, our key channels and focus areas for marketing are organic SEO and paid ads. We approach both with the mantra, ‘‘fresh content constantly’. For us, this means weekly blogs, videos across social media almost every day and updating content and advertising on a continual basis. The way we got to this place is by sticking to a plan in terms of quantity, analysing the results and learning from our mistakes.”

What have you found works best for you?

“We’ve found that short, sharp snippets of relevant information are what works; especially in an industry with new developments and information being released all the time. One of our goals is to be a source of continual education for both the partner and customer networks on our social channels. This was affirmed by our win of ‘Cloud Visionary of the Year’ at the last UK Cloud Awards. Spending a week crafting an article or video may mean you miss the opportunity to be one of the first to report on the latest trends, so speed is of the essence.”

How important are benchmarking and data-driven insights in developing your marketing strategy?

“Our process is definitely based on good groundwork and analysis over the years – knowing our audience, knowing what converts and also knowing our in-house capabilities. Now that we have these mastered, we‘re not afraid to try new things, as we know we have a good basis to jump off from.”

Until next time…

That’s all for the first of our Top 10 Movers and Shakers blogs. We hope to see you here next month for another celebration of Microsoft Partner marketing. Or perhaps you’ll feature as one of our Movers and Shakers next time around. We’ll have to wait and see.

At Fifty Five and Five, we help technology companies grow their business, drive brand awareness and achieve their marketing goals. To learn more about B2B marketing best practices for Microsoft partners, get in touch with the team today.


Why should you optimise for voice search in B2B marketing?

“Hey Google, why should you optimise for voice search in B2B marketing?” If speaking those words led you here, or maybe you asked Alexa or Cortana, then you’ve actually answered your own question, in a senseVoice search optimisation of business-to-business content is why you’re reading this right now.

What do I mean by that? Why does voice search matter for your business’s marketing? And what steps can you take to make B2B content rank high in voice search results? I’ll tell you in this article.

 

But first, let’s focus on why voice search is a thing in the first place.

 

The rise of voice search

Today, more and more people are using spoken queries to find products and services. This has been fuelled largely by two factors:  

 

  • High levels of mobile device usage (smartphones) 
  • New ‘smart speaker’ devices and voice assistants 

 

According to a study from PwC65% of consumers aged 25 to 49 years old talk to their voice-enabled devices daily. And another survey from Hubspot found that 74% of respondents had used voiced search within the last month. So, it’s clear that adoption of these individual technologies – smartphones, smart assistants and voice search – have contributed to the rise of them all.  

 

But there are also some other reasons for the increase in voice search uses, which relate to material realities of life today. 

 

More reasons people are going hands-free

The COVID-19 pandemic may also have spurred voice search’s uptake. Gartner’s report ‘Optimizing Voice Search and Features for Mobile Commerce’ found that 32% of consumers are interested in hands-free technology that would limit touching or contamination. No typing and swiping, no viral transmission – although we have to wonder if today’s speech recognition technologies have been tweaked to compensate for mask muffling. That’s certainly a catalyst for algorithmic improvement that nobody would have expected pre-2020. 

 

Also Social Media Today revealed that 52% of people use voice search while driving – which could perhaps be a result of smartphones replacing dedicated sat-nav devices on vehicle dashboards. Enabling people to find what they need while still keeping their eyes safely on the road could be one of the most positive benefits of voice search’s rise. 

 

Okay, but voice search in B2B marketing?

You may be thinking: “So people are using voice search to find the next motorway service station, or a pizza place open past midnight – that’s great. But it all sounds very business-to-consumer. My customers aren’t all saying Alexa, what’s my nearest Microsoft CSP?, are they?  

 

Maybe they aren’t – right nowBut this is a trend that can only grow – and it’s likely to keep growing rapidly. Statista predicts that by 2024, 8.4 billion voice assistants will be in use worldwideAs voice search makes up more and more of the total number of all searches performed, more of those searches will be business-related.  

 

To prepare for greater volumes of voice searches and capture as much of the current voice search traffic as possible, now’s the time to start making your B2B content rank high in voice search results. Let’s look at how.  

 

Our voice search optimisation tips

I asked Fifty Five and Five Marketing Executive Charlotte Chan for her top three tips on voice search optimization. Here they are:

Charlotte’s top three

 

  1. Optimise for ‘rich answers’. Voice search results are likely to draw from Google’s Knowledge Graph, Knowledge Panel, Knowledge Box and Featured Snippets. Rich answers use these sources – Featured Snippets in particular – so make sure these elements are optimised.  

 

  1. Answer questions concisely. Current best practice is that Google prefers the answers to voice search queries to be short and to the point. In fact the typical voice search result is only 29 words in length. That’s even shorter than this paragraph.  

 

  1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Much of your potential voice traffic will be from mobile devices. Therefore, as well as succeeding with voice search, it also needs to meet Google’s criteria for mobile friendliness for it to rank as well as it possibly can.  

 

I’ve also got some of my own advice for optimising voice search in B2B marketing, which I’ll share now.  

 

My advice

Focus on conversational keywords. People query search engines in different ways with their voices than with text. That means conversational phrases (e.g., “How do I...”) and long-tail keywords.

Create pages that answer FAQs. People use voice search to ask questions, so creating content with frequently asked questions – and their answers – is the perfect way to capture their search traffic. I used a question keyword in the title of this blog!

Optimise for more search engines than Google. While Google results are used for voice searches via Google (obviously) and Apple’s Siri, other voice assistants may use different sources. Alexa and Cortana use Microsoft’s Bing – so optimise for that, too.  

 

Time to make yourself heard

hope this article has helped to illustrate the value of voice search for B2B marketing. It’s still a relatively new field, and it’s sure to evolve considerably as time goes by – so I look forward to exploring new developments in the future.  

 

Meanwhile, if you’d like some assistance in making sure your organisation is being heard by potential customers using voice search, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Fifty Five and FiveWe’ll be more than happy to help.


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.

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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:

Logos

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.

Ethos

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

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.


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300 million will see this sentence differently: accessibility in design

In many ways, the web is becoming increasingly accessibleAt last count, it was estimated that almost 60 percent of the global population were active internet usersMuch of that’s been driven by the smartphone, social media and other advances in technology that have opened up a world of digital content, communication and experiences to people everywhere. Today, the way we view and absorb content are continuously evolving and diversifying, faster than ever before. That brings new and exciting possibilities but also fresh challengesHow can we ensure everyone, including people with disabilities, can access, enjoy and benefit from all the content we create?  

Accessibility in design is a topic that’s never been more important to marketers and businesses. Let’s look at exactly why that is.

 

More colours, more challenges

For many peopledigital experiences are now more vivid than ever. With new screen technologieswider colour gamut and the introduction of web styling upgradesthe creative options available to designers and developers is as great as it has ever been. 

This means we can push the boundaries of what we thought was possible even further. As exciting as this can be  especially for brands who are looking to gain an edge in the digital space  it can come at a price for customers with a disability. For example, colour blindness affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide – almost as many people as there are in the USAOur design choices don’t just impact on aesthetics and the average user experience – they can be the difference between some users being able to read and interact with our content at all.

 

Standard accessibility guidelines  

In design, executions rest on visual strategies and rules to help guide people through content. So, if we're looking to encourage inclusive design, these executions should comply to certain standards to help people with colour blindness to navigate content. 

The best source for these standards is the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3). They produce a comprehensive overview of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which cover a whole range of standards for people with different disabilities. They include guidelines to ensure that content covers their 4 areas of accessibility; perceivable, operableunderstandable and robust.  

 

Understanding the guidelines 

The WCAG is always being updated as accessibility regulations are redefined over time. In a digital world, there are three levels of compliance to be met: 

Level A (minimum compliance)  Necessary for all websites that require accessibility. The criteria are:

  • Navigable with a keyboard 
  • No keyboard traps
  • Non-text content alternatives
  • Video captions
  • Meaning is not conveyed through shape, size, colour etc. alone

 

Level AA (acceptable compliance)  The aim for most websitesStandards include: 

  • Colour contrast is at least 4.5:1
  • Alt text or a similar solution used for images that convey meaning
  • Navigation elements are consistent throughout the site
  • Form fields have accurate labels
  • Status updates can be conveyed through a screen reader
  • Headings are used in logical order

 

Level AAA (optimal compliance)  Ensures that websites are accessible to everyone. Some of the guidelines: 

  • Sign language interpretation for audio or video content is available
  • Colour contrast is at least 7:1 in most instances
  • Timing is not an essential part of any activity
  • Context-sensitive help is available

 

Accessibility in action 

Achieving Level AAA compliance can be tricky and is often a requirement for sites that have commitments for everyday services and important engagements, such as banking or government areas which provide essential access for everyone. A good example of a site that's been designed with accessibility in mind is the UK government’s GOV.UKIn their own words: 

The GOV.UK Design System team wants as many people as possible to be able to use this website. For example, that means you should be able to: 

  • Change colours, contrast levels and fonts
  • Zoom in up to 300% without the text spilling off the screen
  • Navigate most of the website using just a keyboard
  • Navigate most of the website using speech recognition software
  • Listen to most of the website using a screen reader (including the most recent versions of JAWS, NVDA and VoiceOver)’

Furthermore, they state that ‘the team has also made the website text as simple as possible to understand. As any copywriter will tell you, that’s not only important for accessibility but a general principle for any content you create.  

 

Our own experiences

At Fifty Five and Five, we've encountered the challenges of accessibility first-handFor instance, during work on a recent project, we discovered that client suffers from a type of colour blindness. This made the accessibility of our designs a significant talking point While exploring initial concepts, some key discussions revolved around colour and contrast of the content, and these were crucial in making sure our solution was accessible. When we discuss colour in particular, we have to accept that colour will appear different from person to person, and the thing that helps people distinguish content is the contrast between the colours chosen.  

What do I mean by that? Let’s look at some examples of how colour can be used in different ways.

 

The difference colour choices can make 

We’ll look at some calls-to-action (CTAs) – which manifest in web pages as ‘buttons’ to be clicked by the user, taking them into different areas of the site, launching contact forms, and so on.  

Accessibility CTA colours

Although this CTA example may look fine if you aren’t affected by colour blindness, the colours here do not meet accessibility guidelines. That’s because the blue used within the button does not pass AA-level compliance for graphical objects against white backgrounds. Th same also applies for the white text on the blue button.

Accessibility CTA colours

This example is an improvement on the first, as the dark blue text now has enough contrast to meet readability guidelines. But, as a whole, the CTA is still not visible on white, so would still be hard to distinguish as a CTA and would still fail AA and AAA compliance for graphical objects

Accessibility CTA colours

This execution is a good example of accessibility compliance. Each colour now has enough contrast against the background it sits on and passes AA and AAA compliance. Although there are other rules around CTAs such as hover stateswe must make sure that our static version is visually available as these are the primary drivers for navigation. This is a great example of perceivability versus readability. The first CTA option would be perceived as easier to read and packs more of a punch using a brighter colour. Whereas the last CTA option is a good example of great readability as it passes accessibility compliance fully.  

 

Always striving for accessibility in design

As our professional and personal lives become increasingly reliant on a digital worldaccessibility will only become more important to people and businesses all over the world. That’s why agencies like Fifty Five and Five – and designers like me  are evermore focused on creating holistic solutions by achieving the kinds of standards I’ve detailed here. Not every business should tune everything to AAA compliance overnight, but even small steps like colour contrast changes are a way of showing we’re starting to bring a focus to an often forgotten part of design.  Keeping all this in mindupholding accessibility standards and best practice can help guide us to a more inclusive digital world.


Illustration woman at computer researching B2B DIY marketing

Getting real: B2B marketing goes DIY with citizen content creators

In the tech world, we’re all aware of the idea of the ‘citizen developer’Thanks to low/no-code platforms, software development is rapidly being democratised. And that’s empowering employees everywhere to seize greater roles in creating technology solutions for their businessesEven if they may not be able to build software from scratch themselves, these citizen developers can still play a far more valuable part in the development process, ensuring their new tools and services do exactly what they – and their customers – need.  

 

Content creation democratised 

I’d argue this is part of a wider sea-change. Unprecedented access to technology, more affordable and intuitive than ever, has opened up new possibilities for people and businesses to create all kinds of things that take them closer to their goals. That includes content creation, which is now more accessible for ‘citizens’ of all industries and professions – and the organisations they work for.  

And I think a lot of that is thanks to a certain video-streaming platform you might have heard of.    

 

The YouTube Effect 

Since YouTube launched in 2005it has become the place to host original video content. And today, when smartphones and laptops have cameras capable of recording in HD, creating that content has never been more accessible to more people. Billions are now able to live out their dreams of being a sort of Internet-age TV star, uploading self-made content to a truly gargantuan potential audience across Planet Earth 

Most YouTubers barely manage more than a relatively small number of views – so maybe they’re more like public access TV stars. But some find their own sizeable (and valuable) niche audience, and a lucky few hit the big leagues 

And it’s all possible with a relatively small outlay in terms of equipment expenses. Obviously, the better your camera and mic, the more professional your results. But, largely due to the YouTube Effect, people have now become accustomed to consuming content that’s a little more lo-fi and DIY. So, video content no longer needs to be the stuff of big budgets, studios and production companies. Sorry, Mr Spielberg – we’ll take it from here.  

 

COVID-19 and the at-home ad 

I’d argue that the YouTube Effect – our willingness to consume citizen-created content – has also been given a boost by the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, film studios and production houses were forced to lock their doorsand filming had to take place wherever people were. It’s become common to see e-commerce photography shot in models’ houses and apartments, and even at-home ads  TV commercials filmed in the stars’ real-life living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.  

The new sense of realism, honesty and vulnerability in these at-home TVCs has had the effect of humanising celebrities and the brands they represent. Wcan see they’re dealing with the same strangedifficult new reality we all are facing. And when you can relate to someone or something, you become more receptive.  

Record that ad in a studio and I’m overwhelmingly aware you’ve been paid to push a product. Film it in your kitchen? You’re working from home because that’s what we do nowand I know exactly how that feels, and btw I like your spice rack. This sense of greater reality counterbalances the inherent artificiality and obvious commercial motive of a TV spotand as a result puts me at greater easeAs a marketer, that’s very interesting stuff.  

 

Showing your audience the real you 

In the B2B world, this pandemic-born twist on cinéma vérité translates to webcam-shot footage from your staff-members at home, or socially distanced how-to videos filmed on your COVID-safe premises. Nobody cares if the lighting isn’t just so, or you’ve forgotten to tidy up a few coffee mugs 

And the B2B podcast boom has arguably followed this zeitgeist. Recording your own audio content is now more accessible and affordable than ever. The fact that multiple participants can join over a Teams call means the show can go on even if restrictions mean you can’t all get together in the same room. And just like with video, audiences no longer expect everything they hear to be a big-budget production. Thanks again, YouTube.  

 

Professional B2B marketing with DIY authenticity 

B2B marketing’s new DIY possibilities allow organisations to shape all kinds of new content that vividly showcases their value and USPs. But it would be a mistake for citizen content creators to take on too much and neglect certain considerationsDIY’ doesn’t mean shoddy, and you want to go viral for the right reasons – not because people are forwarding your URL with the subject line: ‘look at this, lol’.  

For instance, even if you can handle the recording part in-house, you may still need a hand with editing it all together. You may also benefit with some assistance when it comes to scripts and ideas – especially for an extended series of films or podcasts. And then there’s ensuring everything is aligned with your brand and content strategy 

And that’s what we’re here for. Fifty Five and Five are keen to help our clients harness every new and innovative method of connecting with their audiences and nurturing sales leads. We can help you create a firm foundation, with the right strategic underpinning, for your citizen content creators to build onAnd our experienced team have the creativity and craft to ensure your content really shines.  


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Behavioural science; gimmick or a marketer's secret weapon?

Have you ever wondered how Derren Brown can predict how people will behave when put in certain situations? Does he have supernatural powers, or can anyone influence behaviour if they have the right skills? This got us thinking about how we could help our clients lead their customers towards desired goals and, ultimately, improve the effectiveness of their marketing. Hint.. it is all about behavioural science.

If you’re not familiar with Behavioural Science, it’s the study of human behaviour and why people tend to do completely irrational things. We make decisions based on biases that we’re unaware of and make choices that defy logic. It’s why people regularly play the lottery even though the likelihood of winning is minuscule; they over-estimate their odds of success (optimism bias) and under-estimate their chances of failure.

Here are a few of our favourite biases below that we think every marketer should be aware of with some tips and advice you can implement right away.

 

Decision paralysis

Customers want to feel they have control of choosing, but don’t want to spend too much time making decisions. When it comes to how you market your products and services, limit the choices you give them to avoid choice fatigue in increasing conversion rates. This is a 101 behavioural science tip.

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Immediate advice

Count how many choices you are offering visitors to your website, both in places you want them to click and/or products and services you are selling. Perhaps the number of them is interfering with the decisions you are trying to achieve. Can you reduce this number without limiting the user journey?

 

 

Social proof

We tend to copy the behaviours of others, especially in unfamiliar situations. Framing your marketing messages by showing why existing customers selected you, helps encourage new customers to pick you, too. That’s why testimonials, client reviews and brand ambassadors are such powerful behavioural science techniques.

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Immediate advice

Evaluate the customer testimonials on your homepage. Or, if you don’t have any on the homepage, consider how easy is it to navigate to where they are elsewhere on your site?

 

The IKEA Effect

Did you know we’ll pay disproportionately more for something we’ve helped create? Providing low-risk personalised options to your products and services early on (whilst avoiding decision paralysis) builds an emotional connection and often triggers an uplift in sales figures.

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Immediate advice

Consider how customisable your products or services are. Are you offering your potential customers enough options when it comes to what you provide?

 

Framing

People tend to make very different decisions based on how a fact is presented – like a milkshake that’s 90% fat-free vs contains 10% fat. You can significantly influence decision-making by reframing information through imagery and context according to your needs. And if you need an additional boost, set the statistics against a different data set, e.g. don’t focus on a 20% staff turnover rate, instead highlight that it’s 5% better than the industry average.

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Immediate advice

If you want to see the importance of contextual factors in how audiences perceive a product or service – take a look at this brilliant video: would you have paid the $2?

 

Loss Aversion

We feel twice as bad losing something than the positive feeling associated with gaining something. This loss aversion may be impacting our attitude to risk. If you can offer free trials or delayed payments, your buyer is more likely to purchase – since we are predisposed to want to avoid the loss we would feel once we give up the product.

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Immediate advice

Consider offering a demo or a free trial of your product and see if there is a difference in the response rate. If you are a service-based business perhaps free consultation of your services can help your leads see what they are missing out on.

 

Decision-science in marketing

When decision-science is used in the corporate world, especially in marketing, it can have a profound effect. By understanding customers, and their behavioural science biases, marketers can tackle objectives head-on and nudge them towards the desired outcome.

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Immediate advice

Take an audit of your current marketing strategy, with the biases we’ve discussed above in mind. How much thought have you put into your strategy when it comes to customer decision-making?

 

Choose an agency that puts data into decision-making

At Fifty Five and Five, research and data are the foundation of our work for clients. Whether it’s the role of behavioural science or the insight behind a joined-up marketing strategy, we put thought into what we do. If you want to see a greater return on investment from your marketing, contact the team at Fifty Five and Five and see how we can help.