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Would Your Content Marketing Program Survive in the Shark Tank?


Great white shark off Guedelupe Island, Mexico
Pardon the pun, but I’m absolutely hooked on CNBC’s Shark Tank. It’s must-see TV in my house. What could be better than watching some guy from the middle-of-nowhere become an instant millionaire with a gadget he dreamed up in his garage?

If you haven’t caught it yet, the premise of the show is simple: Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of five super-rich moguls who must decide whether they want to invest in them. The entrepreneurs ask for capital for an equity stake in their company, and the sharks pick them apart before (oftentimes) making a counter-offer. When they aren’t interested, sharks simply say, “I’m out.” If an entrepreneur accepts a shark’s offer, they go into business together and the money starts flowing in. At least, that’s the idea.

Swimming With Sharks

Strangely enough, Shark Tank got me thinking about content marketing. I wondered what would happen if every business had to present its content marketing program to a panel of experts. The program would have to be sound and the content would have to be of the highest quality before it could be published online. If it didn’t make the cut, an article would be tossed in the recycle bin and the experts would say, “It’s out.”

Although it’s admittedly an absurd idea, we’d all welcome a feeding frenzy on bad content, wouldn’t we? Your email inbox would be uncluttered. Search results would only include useful content. Research would take a fraction of the time. It would be a lot easier to connect with your prospects and customers on social media. We’d be living in a content utopia.

Making the Pitch

If you had to pitch your content marketing program to the sharks, what would it include? You might keep it focused on a strategy for producing long-form articles for your blog, as they’re the most effective way to increase awareness and build credibility for your business. For starters:

  • Perform thorough research on your industry, competitors, and trending topics
  • Develop an editorial calendar to plan out your content creation and distribution strategy
  • Perform keyword research to make sure you’re focusing on popular (but competitive) keyphrases that are aligned with your target audience
  • Write killer headlines and compelling copy for your articles
  • Optimize your articles for your focus keywords
  • Source images that complement your content
  • Develop a distribution strategy that takes full advantage of social media (and stick to it)

Putting on a Performance

Other than having an investment-worthy product or service, an entrepreneur’s performance is the most important part of his pitch on Shark Tank. The sharks rarely invest in someone they don’t perceive to be genuine, let alone an entrepreneur who can’t hit his mark and deliver when it matters most.

Your content better be performing, too. If no one’s seeing it—if it isn’t getting ratings—even the best content doesn’t have a chance of reaching its audience. Don’t let your articles go unseen or be on the wrong channel. Share it smartly on the networks that have the best chance of connecting with your viewers.

Above all, you have to make a good impression. You have to wow your sharks. If you do, there’s a good chance they’ll decide to invest in you. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Now it’s your turn. How would you pitch your content marketing program in this Bizarro World version of Shark Tank?

Related Blog Posts:

Is Your Content Like a Twinkie or Grandma’s Apple Pie?


content marketing program
I’ll admit it. I like Twinkies. They’re one of those comfort foods we love to hate.

Like the mass production of the famous golden snack cake, much of the content being churned out these days is just empty calories. No substance. No nourishment. Just filler.

We’d all be better off we treated content like grandma’s apple pie. You know, the kind of content you can sink your teeth into. The kind that’s made with care. The kind that you remember.

In my experience, this type of tasty content is usually found in the form of articles. I like lengthy articles that actually provide information I can use. Articles that teach me something and show me how to tackle a challenge I’m having. In other words, content that serves a purpose and is memorable.

A few of the ingredients that go into writing a great article for B2B marketing:

  • An enticing headline that catches my eye and instantly makes me want to know more
  • The ability to turn an ordinary topic into an interesting one or make a complex topic easier to understand
  • Statistics or other evidence that backs up your assertions
  • New information or at least a thought-provoking perspective on an established idea
  • Copy that is optimized for search but also targeted at me
  • A call-to-action that leads me to more valuable content

It’s time to take our content off of the assembly line and cook it up right. Let’s all commit to only writing high-quality articles with information people can actually use. No more empty calories. No more fluff. Just unforgettable content that we’ll want to pass around like pie.

Grandma will be proud.

Want help writing and sharing better content? Head on over to www.ContentMarketingProgram.com for more information about starting or improving your content marketing program.

4 Signs You Should Outsource B2B Content Marketing


B2B content marketing
Any business that has tried to create and execute a B2B content marketing strategy knows how challenging it can be to actually carry it out. Someone has to spearhead the plan, money needs to be allocated, time needs to be spent, and resources need to be used. Basically, a lot needs to happen for the content marketing program to be successful.

Unfortunately, most B2B companies—large and small—are ill-equipped to handle content marketing in-house. They feel like they’re constantly playing catch-up to competitors who seem to have a well-oiled content marketing machine. Sound familiar?

Here are four signs it may be time to outsource your B2B content marketing program:

1. You’re too busy to dedicate time

From developing a strategy to writing articles to distributing content, many businesses simply run out of hours in the day to manage content marketing in-house. Time is an often overlooked soft cost of content marketing. When businesses begin to add up the man-hours it takes to see results, they quickly see that their time is better spent doing what they do best. Whether that’s going to networking events or running the sales department, internal staff members should focus on their own mission-critical tasks.

2. You don’t have enough staff

Small businesses suffer from this one the most. They’re simply spread too thin to be able to afford a dedicated marketing person, let alone someone to handle the content creation and distribution. Bob in accounting—who has his own blog and likes to write—probably isn’t the right person to manage the company’s B2B content marketing program. He may be a decent writer, but does he have the skills and expertise needed to write the type of articles that will get noticed by both the search engines and their target audience?

3. You don’t have the right staff

Many medium-sized companies find themselves in a tough position. They have a small marketing department, but these employees may be focused on other marketing activities or don’t have the right SEO copywriting expertise. Outsourcing the writing for their B2B content marketing frees up internal resources to oversee the strategy without having to deal with the more technical aspects.

4. You haven’t seen results yet

If all of the time, money, and staff spent on their content marketing efforts have yet to pay off, frustration has probably set in. It may be time to bite the bullet and make a change. Although results don’t happen overnight, evidence of moving in the right direction should be seen within a few months of implementing a B2B content marketing strategy.

One More Thing to Consider

Many companies drag their feet because they’re afraid someone on the outside won’t be able to capture the voice of the business. This is certainly a valid concern. They need to find the right person or company to manage the program and/or write the articles. Talented article writers and experienced content marketers can easily adopt a company’s persona to connect with its target audience.

What about your business? How did you decide whether to outsource content marketing or manage it in-house? What’s the most sustainable strategy?

If your business is struggling to find the time, people, and resources for your B2B content marketing program, head on over to www.ContentMarketingProgram.com for tips on creating the right strategy.

Now Read This! Does Email Marketing Still Work?


email marketing
If your inbox looks anything like mine, you spend the first half-hour of your day deleting unwanted emails. Sometimes they’re spam. Sometimes they’re from well-meaning businesses. But they’re all unwanted.

I have to admit that some of this is my fault. I often don’t take the time to unsubscribe from spam emails the first time I get them. I just hit delete and move on.

Of course, I’m eager to open emails from many businesses. When I’ve subscribed to their newsletter and I get useful information once a week (and no more than once a week), I often read through their entire email and may even click on a link. I may even go to their website. It happens. Good email marketing works on me.

This gets at the heart of the email marketing problem. How do you get someone to not only open your email, but also read (or at least skim) your message? Better yet, how do you convince them to take action and visit your website?

Step 1: Grab Their Attention

First of all, you need to clearly understand your goals and the purpose of the email. Is it an educational piece? A notification for an event? A promotion for a product? (I don’t mind the occasional promotional email from a company as long as the vast majority of them aren’t blatantly selling.)

Next up, write a great subject line. “Great” is subjective, of course, but . . . See what I did there? I tried to be clever. And it didn’t work. The tone of your subject line should reflect your brand. If the rest of your company’s messaging is playful, by all means, be witty with your subject lines. If not, stick to your own brand strategy.

Deliver on your promise

Regardless of your tone, be creative while using tried and true attention-grabbing language. For examples, see this MailChimp article for some of the best and worst subject lines. It includes open rates and comments about why each subject line is effective/ineffective.

A good rule of thumb is to be specific and clear about what your reader can expect when he or she opens the email. If your subject line promises “3 tips to get more leads through LinkedIn,” your email better not be a promotion for your lead generation software. The old bait and switch is a good way to increase your unsubscriber rate.

Step 2: Get to the Point

Now that you have our full attention, it’s time to craft a compelling message. Although the body of your email will obviously depend on a broad range of factors, generally speaking, you want to keep it short and sweet. Get to the point quickly. At best, your casual readers are going to skim it, so they better see the value right away.

Integrate email into your content marketing strategy

When your goal is to keep prospects and clients engaged with your brand, integrating email into your content strategy can be very effective—if you do it right. This is especially true for attracting more qualified traffic to your blog and increasing the reach of your articles.

You can improve everything from email opens to click-through rates to engagement by using this simple but effective strategy. We use it with clients in our content marketing program to leverage the articles we write, optimize, and post on their sites.

Here’s what to do once a new article is live on your blog:

  • Assuming that you’ve already written an intriguing headline for the article, you should be able to reuse it for the email’s subject line. Easy enough.
  • Write a short introductory paragraph for the email. This “teaser” should concisely describe the article, providing just enough information to pique the interest of your readers. Follow this with a call-to-action that includes a link to the article on your blog.
  • Don’t forget to include the image you used for the blog post as well.

This approach lets your subscribers quickly digest the reason for your email, and then decide whether to click-through to read the entire article. Even better, rather than just giving everything away in the email, you’re encouraging them to interact with your website. If they find your content to be valuable, there’s also a good chance they’ll browse other blog posts. Plus, they’re much more likely to dig deeper into your site to view products and services pages.

Give your prospects what they want

Repeat this process once a week as you continue to grow your subscriber list. It’s a sure-fire way to attract your target audience to your website and encourage prospects to interact with your content. It won’t take long for you to become a trusted resource and even be seen as a thought leader in your niche—all while shortening the buying cycle.

Do you use email marketing as part of your larger content marketing strategy? Share your experience and results in the comments section below.

You can learn more about our content marketing program and setup a consultation over at www.ContentMarketingProgram.com. You can also give us a call at 310.792.8888. We’d love to hear about the email and content marketing goals you want to achieve this year.

B2B Content Marketing Statistics and Trends: How Do You Measure Up?


B2B content marketing
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently published their annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report.

Looking back at 2013 and ahead to 2014, the study revealed many intriguing B2B content marketing statistics. You will definitely want to check it out for yourself, but here are a few key findings to help gauge how your content marketing efforts measure up to your competitors:

  • Not surprisingly, B2B marketers who had a documented content strategy were more likely to consider themselves successful (66 percent compared to 11 percent), and the majority of the most effective marketers (86 percent) said someone oversaw their strategy.
    • Key takeaway: Your business needs a leader to own your B2B content marketing activities. Whether you outsource content marketing or manage it internally, give one person the primary responsibility of executing your plan.
  • Marketers used an average of 13 B2B content marketing tactics last year. Seven tactics surpassed 70 percent in popularity, topped by social media, articles on their own websites, eNewsletters, blogs, in-person events, case studies, and videos. The most successful B2B content marketers rated blogs as the most effective tactic (79 percent), while infographics have seen the largest year-over-year increase in usage.
    • Key takeaway: Your business needs to use a diverse set of tactics to connect with prospects and customers. While blogs and social media will likely continue to be the best B2B content marketing tactics, you should also consider repurposing content as eNewsletters, case studies, white papers, videos, infographics, and online presentations.
  • B2B marketers used an average of six social media platforms. SlideShare, Google+, and Instagram saw the largest increase in usage, but the top three platforms are still LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook (in that order).
    • Key takeaway: While you should continue to engage with prospects and customers on the most popular social media platforms, branch out to other sites on which your target audience hangs out. The most effective social media sites will, as always, depend on your industry and type of business. They can range from video-sharing sites like YouTube to presentation-sharing sites like SlideShare to Google’s favorite social networking site (its own, Google+, of course!).
  • At 82 percent, brand awareness has been the number one goal for marketers for the last four years. After brand awareness, the top B2B content marketing goals were lead generation, customer acquisition, thought leadership, engagement, and customer loyalty.
    • Key takeaway: While you are undoubtedly trying to achieve many goals with your B2B content marketing strategy, they all start with creating and sharing high-quality content your target audience wants. If you don’t provide it, they will find it with a competitor.
  • On average, 43 percent of B2B marketers use a combination of in-house and outsourced resources for content creation. Although large companies outsource content creation more often than small companies, more small companies plan to increase their budgets over the next twelve months.
    • Key takeaway: B2B content marketing spending will inevitably continue to rise as businesses of all sizes—and in virtually every industry—reap the benefits of implementing an effective content marketing program. With so many options available and competition steadily increasing, you need to define a specific strategy that is tailored to your goals. An unfocused approach will likely result in spreading yourself too thin in too many different areas.

How does your business measure up to these B2B content marketing statistics and trends? Which tactics have been most effective? How do you plan to outperform your competitors this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Get help with developing your strategy and implementing the right content marketing program for your business by visiting www.ContentMarketingProgram.com.

Anatomy of a Blog Post: 11 Tips For Writing An Article


writing an article
Your blog is probably the epicenter of your company’s content marketing program. You want to turn it into an educational hub and establish yourself as a thought leader. But building that thought leadership takes much more than just having great content. You need a strategy to attract your target audience to your blog and then keep them engaged when they get there.

Writing an Article is Like Producing a Movie

Every movie project goes through pre-production, production, and post-production phases on its way to hitting the big screen. Although your content will end up on a much smaller screen, you should follow the same 11-step process when you write an article for your blog.

Pre-production

1. Research your target audience’s behavior

Performing keyword research is an important first step to writing an article. From a SEO standpoint, it’s very helpful to know what high-value terms prospects are searching for so you have a better chance of actually getting your content in front of them. Use your favorite keyword research tool and choose a focus keyword phrase that is popular but not too competitive.

2. Research your topic

Even if you know your topic inside and out, every article can benefit from a key industry statistic, an expert’s quote, or other information that supports your assertions. For example, HubSpot performed a study that showed businesses with an active blog report 97 percent more leads. That’s a powerful statistic for our target audience.

Production

3. Write your headline

Try to come up with an intriguing headline before you start writing an article. This focuses your thinking and helps you build content around a theme. Give your headline plenty of attention. After all, it’s the first—but hopefully not the last—thing your readers will pay attention to. Remember to include your focus keyword phrase in the headline.

4. Write your article

Try not to edit yourself too much in your first draft. A stream of consciousness approach typically works best to get all of your thoughts on paper as quickly as possible. Then you can organize and revise the content into a more coherent structure. We call this the purge and polish process.

writing an article5. Break up the copy 

If you captured your prospects’ attention with your headline, you don’t want to lose them by writing an article that is difficult to read. Use subheads and bullet points to segment your content into sections that are easy to quickly read and digest.

6. Optimize the content

Without getting into the specifics of optimizing an article for SEO purposes, in addition to the headline you want to include your focus keyword phrase wherever it naturally fits within the article.

7. Link to other pages on your site

Encourage your readers to dive deeper into your site by using links within the copy. This can include linking to a product/service page on your site or to other articles on your blog.

8. Use great images

Every article needs a little eye candy. Choose one or two images that complement your content and give your article personality. Don’t forget to optimize images by including your focus keyword phrase in the alt text.

9. Include a call-to-action

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tell your readers what you want them to do when they finish reading an article. Whether it’s subscribing to your blog, downloading an eBook, viewing a case study, or anything else, always include a specific call-to-action to keep them in your sales funnel.

Post-production

10. Proofread

You’ve spent all of this time writing an article. The last thing you want to do is post it without performing a careful review to catch typos, poorly worded sentences, and other mistakes. These simple mistakes can distract your readers from the great content you’ve created and potentially damage your brand.

11. Share your article

Last, but definitely not least, leverage social media to strategically share your articles. Make sure your blog includes social sharing buttons to make it easy for visitors to share them with their network. Post teaser copy with links to articles in status updates, and use articles to spark conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other sites where your target audience hangs out.

As you can see, writing an article for your blog is more complex than it might seem. It takes a lot more than simply sharing your ideas on a given topic. Also, remember that you’re always better off writing and posting one high-quality article per week rather than several articles that ignore parts of this process. It requires more time and effort, but the results will definitely be worth it.

Now it’s your turn. Share your comments about what else you do to write a great article for your blog.

Need help writing articles or want to implement a content marketing program for your business? Check out www.ContentMarketingProgram.com for more information about getting started.