The Content Marketers – List of “How To” Blog Posts

Why do we love lists? Lists help us remember things and make abstract ideas concrete. In the spirit of list-making, every Monday of this month I will compile and publish lists of the many exceptional blog posts from thought leaders on the topics of content marketing and white papers. For this first week in May, I have compiled a list of how to’s for Content Marketing that are relevant if you are creating, marketing whitepapers and eBooks or for that matter any type of content.

Blog posts on Content Marketing

How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy

What are the questions to consider when creating any type of content? Rohit Bhargava gives a useful checklist of questions you should ask yourself in his blog post How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy

Lesson

  • What is the problem you will try to solve?
  • Who’s going to care to read your content and share it?
  • What’s the best platform and format to use for your content?
  • How will you promote your content?

How to master Better Business Blog Writing

Patsi Krakoff in her blog post Content Marketing on Your Blog: How to master Better Business Blog Writing shares her insights on what it means to do content marketing on your business blog.

Lesson

  • Connect and build relationships with readers
  • Tell personal stories and share experiences
  • Relate to the problems and experiences of readers
  • Provide solutions generously

How to Sell Successfully Online by Understanding and Engaging with Your Buyer Personas

One of the important goals of creating content is to attract customers and prospects. It is important to understand buyers’ concerns and how you can help them. Newt Barrett in his blog post How to Sell Successfully Online by Understanding and Engaging with Your Buyer Personas points out that understanding your buyer’s conerns will lead you to tell stories that are very powerful . You can use this key lesson to engage your ideal target reader by creating compelling content for their most important informational needs.

Lesson

  • If you really understand your buyers’ concerns and how you can help them, you can tell stories that are powerful
  • How can you engage the buyer personas of your ideal target audience with compelling content that addresses their most important needs?
  • Provide strong visual elements that illustrate buyer personas and their individual challenges and concerns

How to Use Content to Find Customers

In her blog post How to Use Content to Find Customers, Sonia Simone recommends that you make your content like a birthday cake – content that’s exciting, that feels special and that tastes good.

Lesson

  • Mention your customer’s pain points and give solutions
  • Tell stories that resolve possible objections

How to Create the All-Important Elevator Speech For Your Presentations and for Your Content Marketing

What should be the goal when creating any content? Yes, focus should always be on the audience. Newt Barrett’s blog post on How To Create the All-Important Elevator Speech For Your Presentations and for Your Content Marketing is on the applicability of the elevator speech to marketing and focusing on the audience.

Lesson

The following key components of an excellent elevator pitch will also make a great white paper or eBook.

  • It must contain a benefit for the potential member of the audience
  • It must contain the word you, meaning the audience
  • It must contain some reference to emotion, because emotion is more engaging and memorable than intellectual information

How to Plan for, Create and Publish Online Content for Maximum ROI

Gretel Going’s post on creating online content is very applicable to creating any other type of content as well. She says that content is all about your customer. It is not what a marketer thinks is important i.e., to talk about their product or services. Content should always be about the reader’s informational need. Gretel Going outlines a brief content strategy and recommends that you map content creation to specific goals in her blog post Live from OMS: How to Plan for, Create and Publish Online Content for Maximum ROI

Lesson

  • Content is always about what the reader needs or wants, not about the company
  • Content strategy isn’t just deciding what you’re going to include; it’s deciding what you’re going to leave out
  • Identify who is responsible for providing, reviewing, and approving the content before writing begins

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

If you are wondering how to promote your whitepaper or eBook checkout Hutch Carpenter’s list on how to use social media tools for promoting any type of content. How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

Lesson

  • Promote your content by leveraging social media

Blog posts on writing creative, great content

How to Write Remarkably Creative Content

One of the important goals of creating content is to attract customers and prospects. How do you create good, compelling content? The next set of blog posts share views on writing creative, great content. Are you creating a white paper that seems too bland and too abstract? Stop – think creatively about how to present the material in such a way that is engaging to the reader. Look at it from the reader’s perspective. Brian Clark says that writing creatively is an adaptive process by looking at things differently. How to Write Remarkably Creative Content

How to Create Better Content With Constraints

Brian Clark recommends you to use constraints when writing rather than start with a “blank page” approach. How to Create Better Content With Constraints. How does this advise apply to writing a white paper? Use a framework. Start with a template. First write the title and then come up with an outline.

How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

James Chartrand recommends using ‘your own voice to write’ in his blog post How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun. Another tip – give lots of examples in your white papers.

How to Be Interesting

Jonathan Morrow has 21 great tips on how to write interestingly in his blog post How to Be Interesting. My favorite is this – Put your readers first.

How to Rewrite Content for Reuse

When creating different types of white papers (user guides, brochures, FAQ) of documents how do you reuse content. Pamela Kostur has a great post on how to do modular writing in her blog postHow to Rewrite Content for Reuse
Key takeaways –

  • Modular writing requires defining what your modules are, describing how they are structured and how to write them.
  • Determining where content will be reused and thinking about how it will be structured for reuse is the beginning of your information architecture.
  • Before writing, plan ahead for reusing content

How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer

Jennifer Blanchard gives 3 reasons that tweeting make you a better writer in her blog post How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer. Use twitter and learn to:

  • Write Concisely
  • Exercise your vocabulary
  • Improve your editing skills

I hope you have found this list useful. No list is by any means exhaustive. Please add to this list.

White Papers: Educational Documents or Advertisement?

A few days ago, I introduced the topic of white papers and how their definition fluctuates. Jim Lodico left an interesting comment on that topic. Here’s an extract:

I think of white papers as highly persuasive documents that persuade by educating. You are showing the reader a proposed solution to a problem. When done well, the paper truly helps the reader. They are persuasive because they allow the reader to visualize a proposed solution and in doing so, usually lead the reader to the company which provides said solution.
Jim brings up an interesting point: Where is the line drawn between educational white papers and advertisement?

White papers are notorious for generating sales leads. For instance, they can propose business solutions, present new ideas and concepts or serve as a condensed sale’s pitch (think Change This’ manifestos). By educating both decision makers and the public, most white papers manage to “soft sale” their pitch. That being said, some documents are clearly more oriented towards a “hard sell”, hence being more akin to traditional advertisement.

According to this article, “prospects today look to white papers for insights and education – not a sales pitch. When companies ignore this expectation, they risk losing credibility and valuable sales opportunities. They’re killing the goose only to find that there are no golden eggs inside.” We have all experienced at some point hard selling from a clothing store or a telemarketing call. Does this sort of marketing work? A lot of experts seem to think otherwise.

We are curious to hear about your experiences with white papers:

  • Do white papers with an educational purpose generate more leads than “hard sell” documents?
  • Is the lead-to-sale ratio better on educational pieces than on advertisement pieces?
  • Do “hard sell” documents presented as white papers end up hurting the white paper industry?

What Is a White Paper?

What exactly are white papers? This is a tricky question that doesn’t seem to create consensus. What form/layout does a white paper have? Does it have a specific structure? Is it written in a specific style and fashion? What about the layout and content?

Mike Stelzner defines white papers as follow:

The term white paper is an offshoot of the term white book, which is an official publication of a national government. A famous white paper example is the Winston Churchill White Paper of 1922, which addressed political conflict in Palestine.

A white paper typically argues a specific position or solution to a problem. Although white papers take their roots in governmental policy, they have become a common tool used to introduce technology innovations and products. A typical search engine query on “white paper” will return millions of results, with many focused on technology-related issues.

White papers are powerful marketing tools used to help key decision-makers and influencers justify implementing solutions.

According to this definition, a document that brings solutions to a specific problem or issue could be deemed a white paper. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Well maybe not.

Defining What Is a White Paper

An interesting discussion happened on the WhitePaperSource forums a few years’ back. The discussion generated from this white paper written by Seth Godin. Is this document a white paper, an article or just a self-promotional piece?

Jonathan Kantor assumes that Seth Godin’s document misses the white paper mark. To qualify as a white paper, it would need the following elements:

  1. Summaries – both Executive and Concluding
  2. Introduction – bringing the reader up to speed on high level issues that form a foundation for issue presentation.
  3. Challenge Presentation – addressing specific business problems that the solution is designed to address.
  4. Solution Presentation – the manner in which a solution solves the afore mentioned business challenges.
  5. Case Study (optional) – a ‘real-life’ example of how a business had challenges and addressed them using the prescribed solution.

Bascially, a white paper doesn’t just bring solutions; it also needs to present those within a specific structure.

Another forum member argued that a white paper is “a workhorse, and its primary job is to entrance, inform, challenge, inspire, and capture the reader. If it doesn’t do that, what’s the point of its existence?

We would like to know what your take on this matter is. How would you define white papers? What is and is not a white paper? Do you find this as confusing as we do?

How to pick the right content type to reach your target audience?

Let me highlight the car salesman analogy to drive home the point of why creating and marketing the right content type is crucial. If you were a carsales man would you recommend a soccer mom to test drive a 2 door, fast and flashy convertible? How about showing a 7 seater mini van to a cool and hip bachelor? You wouldn’t, right? You would first take notice of the person(aka target market segment) walking into the car dealership show room and then know what car(aka right content) to show them. Why not apply the same rule when choosing content type to reach your target audience?

There are too many content types in this digital era.
Just look at this list of different content types which are used today.

Brochures
Data Sheets
Videos
Podcasts
Product Sheets
white papers
Newsletters
Websites
Blogs
Case Studies
Design Guides
Webinars
Solution Overviews
ROI Calculators
Tutorials
Demos
Webcasts
Web content
Landing pages
Presentations
Flash
Emails
Direct mail

Doesn’t looking at this list alone make your head spin?

Given the information overloaded world we live in, the key is to choose the right content type and the appropriate marketing vehicle to get your message across to your target audience. If you take effort to offer your prospects and customers appropriate, compelling content you can not only demonstrate expertise but also can build trust and grow your business. How do you get started?

Use the traditional marketing strategy STP to pick the right content type. STP stands for Segmenting – Targeting – Positioning

Segmenting: Identify market segments. Be aggressive about defining your target segment.
Targeting: Target your content/product/service for that target segment. Have laser focus when targeting a particular segment. Don’t think big & broad. Think niche.
Positioning: Position your content/product/service specifically to the target segment.

Questions to ask before choosing the right content type

What is your objective in creating and marketing content? [Think SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.] What is your target market segment?
What are the characteristics of your target market segment?
What message do you want to convey to your customers and prospects?
What informational needs do your customers and prospects have?
How do you want to position your product or service?

After you answer these questions, choose a content type and the appropriate marketing vehicle to carry your message across to your target audience.

For example, if your goal is to educate and inform your target segment about your new product and your target segment prefers written material that is a “soft-sell” (as compared to a “hard-sell” product brochure), one type of content to pick would be a solution white paper.

Once you have decided that a white paper is the right content type to reach your target segment, ask yourself the following questions:

Is your whitepaper intended towards an audience outside the company or inside?
Are they technical decision markers or business decision makers?
How do you influence your target segment?
What information are they looking for?
What is the call-for-action at the end of your whitepaper?

If the white paper is intended to appeal to a business decision maker, are you presenting information at a high level? You need to give the business benefits in 3-5 bullet points.

On the other hand, if the white paper is for a technical decision maker, you need to share a whole lot of technical deep-dive information and proof points to influence them.

If you are creating an internal whitepaper intended to educate and train your sales force, be sure to include the following – detailed competitive updates, trigger questions to ask prospects, possible objections that prospects might raise and how to counter them.

In today’s environment, as customers are bombarded with constant ads and messages, it is very critical for you to share messages as stories that engage and inspire action. Step away from your traditional content development and content marketing process. Help your customer process information easily. Capture your customer’s imaginations.

Don’t just throw content out and hope it will stick and produce the results you want.
Pick the right content type to reach your target audience.

Over to you…

What are the different types of target audience you deal with?
Does your target audience prefer one type of content over another?
Which marketing vehicles do you use to reach your target audience?