Five Ways to Have Fun with Boring Content

If you’re dreading writing about a particular subject and don’t know where to start, one coping strategy is to inject something fun into it. Do yourself and your readers a favour and find a fun way to present your topic.

Here are some ideas:

Capitalize on mistakes: Rather than sitting down to write ANOTHER blog post advising how people should do something, turn it around and tell people what NOT to do. You can even share some of your own stumbles – who doesn’t love an embarrassing story? This style can apply to so many subjects, like What Not to Do When Starting Out as a Freelancer. Variations: The 10 most common mistakes on X, or the seven deadly sins of X.

Dear sir: When you’re in the mood to take a stand or vent about something, write an open letter. This format allows you to personally address a particular person or party about something you’d like to change. Here’s An Open Letter to Steve Jobs: Fix Apple TV and an Open Letter to Recent College Graduates.

A bluffer’s guide to X. This format is intended to read like an FAQ on a particular subject, giving people enough information so that they can hold an intelligent conversation on the topic. Variation: A beginner’s guide to X, or X topic made easy.

Go Hollywood: Tie your content to a current movie or character that people can relate to, like a Wild Thing’s guide to parenting, or Mad Men’s top 10 strategies for advertising. Copyblogger’s Brian Clark has a very popular post called The Inigo Montoya Guide to Commonly Misused Words. Inigo Montoya is a character from The Princess Bride, one of Clark’s favourite movies.

Go Reality Show: Another twist on the same idea is to use the concept of a popular show like American Idol or, if you want to create buzz, get a group of people together for a contest called So You Think You Can Blog?

Make it delicious: Everyone likes to eat, right? So put a food spin on your content, even if it has nothing to do with food. Take the subject of writing a press release, for example. The title could be: How to bake the perfect press release or The secret ingredient to a mouthwatering press release, or How to bake a press release that will have everyone asking for seconds.

How do you make writing more fun?

Connect Direct’s High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook

The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook is packed with 65 tips and techniques on demand generation strategy. We have invited Howard J. Sewell, the author of  The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook to  get an insider look into the making of this Handbook.

Howard J. Sewell is president and founder of Connect Direct Inc. (CDI), a full-service agency with offices in Seattle and Silicon Valley specializing in demand generation and lead management for high-technology companies.  Prior to founding CDI in 1990, Howard was a marketing manager for software giant Oracle Corporation.  When not running his company and working with clients, he is a frequent contributor to online publications on demand generation, lead nurturing, social media, and other topics, and also writes his agency’s blog, Direct Connections.

Howard J. Sewell

Blog Direct Connections Twitter HJSewell

Ambal Balakrishnan: Howard, it is a great pleasure to discuss your ‘High-Tech Direct Marketing HandBook’. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. Tell us about what Connect Direct does?
Howard J. Sewell: Connect Direct Inc. (CDI) is a full-service marketing agency specializing in demand generation and lead management.  In layman’s terms, we help technology companies generate and manage sales leads.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Give us the background of how you gained an interest in B2B Marketing and more specifically in High-Tech Direct Marketing?
Howard J. Sewell: I worked in high-tech sales for a few years after college but always knew I wanted to move into marketing.  I was fortunate enough to land the perfect transitional role – marketing manager for a sales organization – at Oracle, and found my way into their in-house direct marketing agency.  I’ve been a direct marketer ever since, and eventually left Oracle to start my own firm.  That was 19 years ago and we’re still going strong.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on creating an ebook for High-Tech Direct Marketing?
Howard J. Sewell: The ebook’s origins lie in an monthly email newsletter I wrote for 10 years on high-tech direct marketing, a newsletter that eventually became our blog, Direct Connections.  10 years in I was sitting on more than 100 tips on high-tech direct marketing, and our creative director at the time had the idea of turning them into a handbook.  We shipped hundreds of copies in hard copy form before converting it to an ebook this year.

In all candor, the handbook has always been intended to be an offer.  It’s a way to introduce people to our company and our way of thinking in the hope that somewhere along the line the reader will have a need for our services.  In the process, hopefully we help educate people a little by sharing some of what we’ve learned in 19 years.  I think people appreciate the fact that the handbook isn’t a brochure – I often hear from people who have a dog-eared copy by their desk at all times!
Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is ‘The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook’ addressed towards?
Howard J. Sewell: For the most part, the tips contained in the book are practical techniques rather than high-level strategy.  Because of that, the person who will gain the most from the book is the person “in the trenches,” someone chartered with developing, designing, and executing lead generation programs for their company.

Ambal Balakrishnan: How is the High-Tech Marketing landscape different than what it was a decade back?
Howard J. Sewell: By far the biggest shift has been the shift from outbound to inbound marketing.  Ten years ago most of CDI’s business was comprised of email and direct mail campaigns based on list rentals.  We defined an audience, found a list that met that profile, and blasted our message to that list.  Now it’s all about leveraging vehicles like social media to drive inbound leads, and then nurturing those leads over time until they have a need for what you do.  Lead management will probably be half our business this year.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What is one change you recommend for businesses to do better in their High-Tech Direct Marketing initiatives?
Howard J. Sewell: It still amazes me how many high-tech marketing plans, even in Silicon Valley, revolve around campaigns and programs.  I call it “Program-Centric Planning.”  It’s as if pushing campaigns out the door is more important than the results those campaigns generate.  It makes far more sense to quantify the results you need and then plan programs accordingly, rather than plan campaigns and hope they get you where you need to be.
Ambal Balakrishnan: What are the 3 key lessons you want readers to take away from ‘The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook’?
Howard J. Sewell:

  1. Sell the offer, not the product.
  2. Don’t focus all your energy on generating hot leads.  Cast a wide net, build a lead nurturing strategy, and the hot leads will happen.
  3. Plan.  Don’t just execute.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Please recommend 3-5 resources (books, blogs).
Howard J. Sewell:

  • I read Mashable’s daily newsletter every morning. It’s a great way to keep abreast of the changing social media landscape.
  • Steve Farnsworth is a former client, a good friend, and an expert in high-tech marketing and social media.  One of the best Twitter feeds out there: @Steveology.  (26,000 followers can’t be wrong.)
  • Check out Michael Damphousse’s blog, B2B Demand Generation.  Mike is someone whose opinion I really respect. (It helps that I agree with him 90% of the time.)

Ambal Balakrishnan: Howard, thanks for taking the time to discuss your eBook and sharing your B2B Marketing insights with us.
Howard J. Sewell: Thanks Ambal.

You can download Connect Direct Inc. (CDI)‘s ‘High-Tech Direct Marketing HandBook’ here.

Weekly Round-Up: 16-Oct-2009

TGIF and welcome to ClickDigest weekly roundup!

It’s a big world out there in the content-marketing/social media/B2B blogosphere, so we would like to save your time by rounding up the best posts and articles of the week. We highlight a take-home point of each post, giving you a snapshot of what thought leaders and influencers are saying.

Content Marketing Secrets

Author : Russell Sparkman

Russel Sparkman is creating an interesting series of articles on Content Marketing Secrets.  This week he posted about 1-7-30-4-2-1 line up. “Altogether, a 1-7-30-4-2-1 publishing schedule amounts to what is increasingly being referred to as multiplatform, or 360 platform, or transmedia storytelling experience.” highlights Russel Sparkman.

What Human Business And the Social Web Are About

Author : Chris Brogan

In this post, Chris Brogan shares with us his perspective of how human networks & relationships can inter-operate with social media.

Home Pages: Treat Them As The Ultimate Landing Page

Author : Mike Damphousse

“Whenever I get a new lead from a prospective company, I always check its web site to see if it looks like a good fit.  A good deal of the time I’m unimpressed with what I see.  The home pages are cluttered, not structured for a quick read, and no actions are suggested.” writes Mike Damphousse in the above article.  He has highlighted how important it is to captivate customers with eye catching home pages that have examples.

What Barbie and Pong can teach us about Consumer Experience marketing

Author : Heather Rubesch

Heather Rubesch is covering and writing about Integrated Marketing Summit.  In this post, Heather takes us through an excellent analysis of how Barbie captivated young kids generation after generation.  “Barbie Girl is the result of experiential marketing program Mattel has orchestrated.  Wikipedia defines Experiential Marketing as the art of creating an experience where the result is an emotional connection to a person, brand, product or idea.”  she highlights.  Also, Heather shares with us that Social Pong as the event was called, is a great example of something a B2B company could do at a tradeshow to drive crowds to their booth in this post.

Print is Dead . . . Or Is It?

Author : Diana Huff

Diana Huff highlights in this post that the print industry isn’t dying… “Many of us still need and purchase print services; it’s just that we have so many options today than we did before.” She mentions that her own business is continuing to use the print media.


Dear Reader, What are interesting blog posts or Books have you come across this week?


What ROI metric should B2B marketers use in this digital marketing era?

What types of metrics do B2B marketers need to measure a marketing campaign’s success? Read these interesting blog posts on B2B marketing ROI: Kevin Joyce’s Untangling B2B Marketing Campaigns ROI, Jon Miller’s Improving B2B Marketing ROI: Thought Leadership With Merry Elrick, Tom Scearce’s Three metrics that are more useful than Cost per Lead. We have invited B2B Experts to shed light on the following question: “In what ways have metrics evolved with the increase in digital B2B marketing? Suggest one ROI metric that you have found to be very effective”.  Read on to get their insights.

Recommended Resources from B2B Marketing Experts





Ardath Albee

Blog Marketing Interactions Twitter Ardath421

Measure momentum. Tune and refine the buying process. You’ll see shorter buying cycle times.

Ardath Albee’s Bio

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale is now shipping!

Ardath Albee’s Tip

Marketers Gain Visibility
The increase in digital B2B Marketing has provided the opportunity for marketers to expand their visibility beyond the aggregate to the granular level of individuals. But regardless of whether overall or drilling down to one prospect’s activity, we now also have the ability to assign more meaning to online behaviors because we can know just who’s doing what, when, in what combinations and how often.

That puts a lot of power into the marketer’s toolbox—if they build their metrics around strategy. Because a complex sale inherently has a longer buying cycle, marketing must not only focus on generating sales opportunities, but on the progression of prospects across those buying stages. In order to keep your company focused on both the short and long terms, you’ve got to demonstrate effectiveness at both.

Measure Momentum
One of the ROI metrics I find effective across the long-term is measuring not only levels of activity, but the momentum marketing can generate to drive sales qualification. There are a couple of things you need to do to make this metric viable:
•    Map your prospects’ buying process (personas and segmentation will help).
•    Create content that matches your prospects’ needs during each stage.
•    Plan triggers that help nudge your prospects to take next steps.
•    Measure progressions over time through to qualified leads and resulting sales.
•    Tune, refine and keep going.

Measuring momentum will not only help marketers to show momentum across the buying process, but as you tune and refine the process based on patterns of activity, you’ll see shorter cycle times. The other thing you’ll notice is that it takes a continuous, consistent nurturing program to produce the desired results, rather than a string of one-off campaigns that don’t serve anyone well over the long term.

Real-time visibility into prospect behavior driven by compelling content strategy will help your company generate more interactions with your prospects. And, let’s face it, prospects who read your content when you send out an email and then move on aren’t likely engaged to the degree it takes to indicate sales readiness. As you build credibility and provide the right content at the right time, you’ll see higher levels of engagement that involve your prospects beyond your nurturing sends. Digital B2B marketing allows marketers the visibility they need to transform the value of marketing for your organization by directly impacting sales—and to prove it.

Ardath Albee Recommends

Brian Carroll

Blog Start with a Lead Twitter BrianJCarroll

Focus on Cost-per-opportunity for effective measurement.

Brian Carroll’s Bio

Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, is part of MECLABS Group (MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, InTouch) and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and the B2B Lead Generation Blog with expertise related to B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

Brian Carroll’s Tip

The use of the Internet, mobile and other interactive channels has certainly increased the number of leads marketers receive today. Many organizations spend thousands of dollars each month on search marketing to take advantage of this increase.
This increase, however, causes many marketers to focus on the wrong metrics. In order to generate leads marketers have to know how to use the analytics. Many marketers focus on conversion rates of specific phrases or banners and are ignoring other valuable information. While conversion rate is one way to measure the effectiveness of a search phrase, for instance, it can be extremely misleading.

If marketers are spending a lot on search marketing and not capturing visiting organizations (both those that convert and the many more that don’t), they are making decisions based only on half-truths. And they are probably routing dollars toward phrases and ad creative that appear to perform better but in reality are really just clogging the marketing database and sales pipeline.

The metrics of digital marketing is starting to slowly evolve. Marketers are starting to realize that sales people care very little about the cost of the leads we generate. What they really care about is how many of those leads will actually become viable sales opportunities.

For this reason, I think cost-per-opportunity measurements are the most effective metrics. The most common metric, cost per lead, is irrelevant unless we can answer other fundamental questions first, “What is our rate of lead acceptance (a.k.a. sales pursuit) into the sales pipeline” and then “What is the cost per opportunity?” Cost-per-opportunity is the one metric that can help you understand how well your sales team accepts and pursues leads.  Ultimately, it shows if your leads are actually helping our sales team sell and if marketers are positively contributing to their pipeline.

Cost-per-lead models drive down the cost of each lead by generating more leads, which is good if the quality does not suffer. However, this is rarely the case since there are a finite number of high quality sales ready leads in your target market at any given time.

The real question is, “Are these leads helping our sales team sell more and will these leads become profitable customers?”

These are real-world metrics that every marketer should track in their lead generation program:

  • Number of inquiries? (people who raised their hands)
  • Number of leads? (qualified as “sales-ready”)
  • Number of opportunities? (leads that move to pipeline)
  • Number of closed sales? (generated from marketing leads)

If marketers know those metrics they can start to track the following key performance indicators:

  • Inquiry to lead ratio (cost-per-lead) – this isn’t a enough
  • Lead to opportunity ratio (cost-per-opportunity)
  • Lead to pipeline revenue ratio (cost-per-pipeline revenue)
  • Lead to sale (win) ratio (cost-per-closed sale)
    A value driven mindset requires leaders and marketers to plan and budget for the long term and to take a more holistic view that goes beyond cost-per-lead budgets.

Patsi Krakoff

Blog WritingontheWeb Twitter PatsiBlogSquad

Measure what counts for your site, your business, your objectives.

Patsi Krakoff’s Bio

Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D., is a former psychologist and journalist who has been working in online content marketing for the last 10 years helping professionals use e-newsletters and blogs to grow business. Her award-winning blog can be found at WritingontheWeb. She provides quality content and newsletter services for global executive coaches at ContentforCoachesandConsultants. She is co-founder of The Blog Squad, providing blog services and consulting. She lived and worked in Paris for 20 years and now lives in Ajijic, Mexico, where she is an avid tennis player.

Patsi Krakoff’s Tip

Ah yes, numbers, measurements, ROI, return on objective, percentage improvements, traffic stats, sales reports… Yes, I know, I know, that’s important, but I’m a content marketer, not a statistician! I love writing, not counting!

Sometimes I think the whole world is divided into either wordsmiths or bean counters.

But I have a secret: I get a kick out of traffic stats. My heart nearly went into tachycardia last week when I hit the highest page views ever in my little blogging life!

Website/Blog traffic and customer engagement are two important ROI measurements.

I’m a small business, and my clients are small businesses that might not have sophisticated CRM systems to measure and monitor results. Fortunately, certain tools are free and user-friendly. I use Google Analytics and Sitemeter, and advise my clients to do the same. You don’t need an advanced degree in statistics to know that when the line goes up, you’re doing something right.

When it goes down, you need to find out why. Is it your content itself? Or is the design of your site too difficult to read? Is it not clear who your targeted visitors are? Are your content topics unfocused and too broad? Are you confusing the search engine robots because your keywords aren’t clear and obvious? (And, are you boring your readers?)

It’s not rocket science, but it’s often times difficult to discern what measurements mean.  Apart from knowing whether your stats are going up or down, what does that mean? What good is more traffic if it’s not converting?

The important thing is that you have clearly defined objectives for your site and your content. Ask yourself “so what?” each time you publish new content. Make sure you measure what counts for your site, your business, your objectives.

Patsi Krakoff Recommends

Howard Sewell

Blog Direct Connections Twitter HJSewell

Measure campaigns based on Cost Per Quality Lead (CPQL).

Howard Sewell’s Bio

Howard J. Sewell is president and founder of Connect Direct Inc. (CDI) a full-service marketing agency with offices in Silicon Valley and Seattle that specializes in demand generation and lead management for high-technology companies.

Howard Sewell’s Tip

To the extent marketing metrics have evolved, it’s due less to the evolution of digital marketing, and due more to the rapid adoption of marketing automation technologies that improve the way companies connect marketing activity and sales results.  Even so, it would be idealistic to suggest that all companies should start measuring marketing activity by ROI.  Even with the right tools in place, measuring the true sales return from marketing activity can still be problematic, not the least because of the human element – i.e. the diligence and accuracy with which sales reps record and document sales activity.

A more realistic goal for most B2B companies is to measure campaigns based on Cost Per Quality Lead (CPQL).  What defines “quality” isn’t critical – it could be a minimum lead score, a lead accepted by sales, or an opportunity.  At a bare minimum, however, CPQL gives a company a more effective way to measure the relative performance of different tactics.  Without the qualitative element, a campaign such as paid search (SEM) may appear to be performing well, when in fact a high proportion of the leads may fall completely outside the company’s target profile.

Howard Sewell Recommends

Seamus Walsh

Blog B2BContentMarketing Twitter SeamusWalsh

Bounce rate should be analyzed daily.

Seamus Walsh’s Bio

Seamus Walsh founded VAZT Global Inc. in January 2008. Seamus’ passion for sales, sales process and excellence enabled him to develop a platform that “finds, cares and feeds” prospects until they are ready to buy. Prior to forming VAZT, Seamus worked in sales and strategic account management for The Hackett Group, a strategic advisory and management consulting firm in Atlanta, For Gartner, a research, advisory and consulting company in Stamford, CT and Cambridge Technology Partners, a web development company, prior to its acquisition by Novell. Seamus resides in Essex Junction, VT with his wife and four children.

Seamus Walsh’s Tip

Picking one metric is very difficult, almost impossible. The hype around the web as a sales and marketing tool is driving people online in droves.  Frankly, some are jumping in with no thought to content or a strategy that is going to keep people on and coming back to their sites.   That said, to pick one, my favorite metric would be bounce rate.  Bounce rate should be analyzed daily.  When I am searching on the web, you have about 7 seconds of my time on your site to get my attention.  If you pass my UX (user experience) sniff test you gain another 20 or 30 seconds to prove you are a player, in other words, your content has to show me that you understand my search request and that you can satisfy my requirements quickly and if I choose with details: whitepapers, testimonials, spec sheets, videos, etc.

In our and our client’s efforts, we use 3-8 words, or keywords because using longer keyword strings makes it easier to be micro-topical. If we have a bounce rate over 50% we get very concerned. You can, depending on your product and keyword strategy be very, very successful with a higher bounce rate, but for many, it is a very important metric that measures one’s ability to educate and editorialize on a solution as part of a longer sales cycle.

Seamus Walsh Recommends

Recipes for Remarkable Content

So you already get that great content has the power to communicate expertise, raise your profile and generate leads. You know that it should be useful, credible, easily digestible and, if possible, entertaining.

And you think you’ve got a hot idea for your next blog post, whitepaper or ebook.

Before you click on “publish”, check out this free whitepaper from Tippet called How Vendors Can Use Remarkable Content to Attract Real Buyers. The best part of the whitepaper is the “How to Create Remarkable Content” worksheet, because it helps you step away from your strategy and see it from a user’s perspective.

The 5-question checklist asks that you ask yourself questions like: “Will someone re-Tweet it?”, “Will someone hang it on the wall of his or her cubicle?”, “Will the reader want to meet the author?”

Hmmm. What kind of content would YOU re-tweet or post in your office because it’s so useful, unique or sophisticated? What is your target audience Twittering about and posting on the office wall? Are you ready to hang out with your readers?

Perhaps a little more research is needed, or perhaps a new angle on the original concept. Before you get overwhelmed by the task of producing something remarkable, here are some pointers for getting started:

  • Producing remarkable content doesn’t mean you have to come up with something that’s never been said before. As Miguel Wickert writes on Simply Blog, “There’s only a certain amount of original content to go around. Remarkable content is unique and quickly shared because it rings different with the reader, even if others said it before.”
  • Put limits on it: To get into a more creative mindset, James Chartrand suggests choosing three random words, like egg, mystery and alphabet. “Write a three-paragraph blog post on copywriting, with each of your chosen words the focus of one paragraph.” Constrained by these three words, you’re forced to get creative and come up with a solution, which may help look at your subject differently.
  • Re-frame the subject: Think about how your target audience feels about the subject you’re addressing, and try to tap into those feelings. A post about “Marketing tips for people who really hate marketing,” is likely to win more fans than “Strategic Marketing Tips”. It’s human and it reaches out to other humans.