… and it means “Keep It Short, Stupid” as much as it does “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Regardless of the era, most successful copywriters and ad specialists have always known that short copy is generally better-read than long.
And now, as smaller screens essentially take over the digital world, the days of copious copy flowing across a generous preview pane area are gone.
More fundamentally, people don’t have the screen size – let along the patience – to wade through long copy. These days, the “sweet spot” in copy runs between 50 and 150 words.
Speaking of which … when it comes to e-mail subject lines, the ideal length keeps getting shorter and shorter. Research performed by SendGrid suggests that it’s now down to an average length of about seven words for the subject line.
And the subject lines that get the best engagement levels are a mere three or four words.
So it’s KISS on steroids: keeping it short as well as simple.
Note: The article copy above comes in at under 150 words …!
In the world of business-to-business marketing, all that really matters is producing a constant flow of quality sales leads. According to Clickback CEO Kyle Tkachuk, three-fourths of B-to-B marketers cite their most significant objective as lead generation. Pretty much everything else pales in significance.
This is why content marketing is such an important aspect of commercial marketing campaigns. Customers in the commercial world are always on the lookout for information and insights to help them solve the variety of challenges they face on the manufacturing line, in their product development, quality assurance, customer service and any number of other critical functions.
Suppliers and brands that offer a steady diet of valuable and actionable information are often the ones that end up on a customer’s “short-list” of suppliers when the need to make a purchase finally rolls around.
Thus, the role of content marketers continues to grow – along with the pressures on them to deliver high-quality, targeted leads to their sales forces.
The problem is … a large number of content marketers aren’t all that confident about the effectiveness of their campaigns.
It’s a key takeaway finding from a survey conducted for content marketing software provider SnapApp by research firm Demand Gen. The survey was conducted during the summer and fall of 2016 and published recently in SnapApp’s Campaign Confidence Gap report.
The survey revealed that more than 80% of the content marketers queried reported being just “somewhat” or “not very” confident regarding the effectiveness of their campaigns.
Among the concerns voiced by these content marketers is that the B-to-B audience is becoming less enamored of white papers and other static, lead-gated PDF documents to generate leads.
And yet, those are precisely the vehicles that continue to be used most often used to deliver informational content.
According to the survey respondents, B-to-B customers not only expect to be given content that is relevant, they’re also less tolerant of resources that fail to speak to their specific areas of interest.
For this reason, one-third of the content managers surveyed reported that they are struggling to come up with effective calls-to-action that capture attention, interest and action instead of being just “noise.”
The inevitable conclusion is that traditional B-to-B marketing strategies and similar “seller-centric” tactics have become stale for buyers.
Some content marketers are attempting to move beyond these conventional approaches and embrace more “content-enabled” campaigns that can address interest points based on a customer’s specific need and facilitate engagement accordingly.
Where such tactics have been attempted, content marketers report somewhat improved results, including more open-rate activity and an in increase in clickthrough rates.
However, the degree of improvement doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. Only about half of the survey respondents reported experiencing improved open rates. Also, two-thirds reported experiencing an increase in clickthrough rates – but only by 5% or less.
Those aren’t exactly eye-popping improvements.
But here’s the thing: Engagement levels with traditional “static” content marketing vehicles are likely to actually decline … so if content-enabled campaigns can arrest the drop-off and even notch improvements in audience engagement, that’s at least something.
Among the tactics content marketers consider for their creating more robust content-enabled campaigns are:
The hope is that these and other tools will increase customer engagement, allow customers to “self-quality,” and generate better-quality leads that are a few steps closer to an actual sale.
If all goes well, these content-enabled campaigns will also collect data that helps sales personnel accelerate the entire process.
In my work with manufacturing companies and other B-to-B firms, I’m often asked what type of informational content is the most worthwhile and valuable from a marketing standpoint and for attracting and converting customers.
The question is relevant for most companies because there are limits on marketing resources (both time and dollars), while the methods companies can use to communicate with their target audiences are far more extensive and varied than they were in the not-too-distant past.
The answer to the question about the best information content is always one of “degree” … because the most valuable piece of content for any single prospect or customer is the one that sparks him or her to buy.
And that one piece of critical content could be one of many things.
Helpfully, we now have a new survey that can help with a bit more quantification. The research, which was conducted by content marketing firm Eccolo Media, surveyed technical buyers (engineers, managers and directors).
It’s a relatively small sample (fewer than 200 respondents), but the directional results are worth consideration. I also think that the results can be applied to other B-to-B buyer types as well.
One finding that came as a bit of a surprise to me was that most buyers read just two to five pieces of content before making their decisions.
What kind of content do they consult most often? Here’s what these respondents reported:
Product brochures and data sheets: ~57% consult this type of content
E-mail communiqués: ~52% consult
White papers: ~52%
Competitive vendor worksheets: ~42%
Case studies/success stories: ~42%
Technical guides: ~35%
Custom magazines/publications: ~35%
Video content: ~35%
Social media content: ~34%
As for which of these types of content are considered the most worthwhile and influential to buyers, the ranking is somewhat different:
Product brochures and data sheets: ~39% rate as highly influential content (top five resources)
White papers: ~33%
Case studies/success stories: ~31%
Technical guides: ~23%
Competitive vendor worksheets: ~22%
E-mail communiqués: ~15%
Social media content: ~14%
Custom magazines/publications: ~14%
The Eccolo Media report draws this conclusion from its research:
“Marketers have been good at producing large volumes of content, but not quality content and not the right type of content … The more content we produce, the more likely it is to fail.”
One thing the research clearlyshows is that companies need to spend more effort in collecting and publishing customer case examples and success stories, because those appear to have a disproportionately higher degree of influence over potential buyers — if only they are available to consult.
More broadly, the types of content that are of greater value to buyers tend to be the ones that require more time and effort to prepare. The adage that “success is 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration” appears to apply to marketing content development as well.
Another industry specialist whose comments are always worth noting is Tom Goodwin, head of Tomorrow Innovation, a digital marketing consultancy. He’s identified five big myths about today’s advertising environment which need “calling out,” as he puts it.
What are Goodwin’s myths? They’re shown below, along with Goodwin’s “quasi-contrarian” views about them.
“TV is dead.”
Nope. More people are watching television than ever before — and that’s looking at just the mature USA and UK markets. Goodwin contends that TV advertising has never been more valuable — and most commercials are viewed rather than skipped over. But they’re viewed on many kinds of devices, of course.
Goodwin’s take: “TV is here to stay … [but] the notion of ‘television’ generates false boundaries to what’s possible with video advertising when [people] consume video in so many new ways.”
“Consumers want conversations with brands.”
No they don’t, Goodwin contends: “The conversations I most often see are those of disgruntled customers, given the microphone to complain that Twitter provides. It strikes me overwhelmingly, with remarkably few exceptions, that for most brands, people want an outcome or resolution or perhaps information — and not a conversation.”
“Brands must create good content.”
Goodwin acknowledges that content delivered by brands needs to be inherently valuable. But it’s more complicated than just that: “Branded content is not meritocratic — you can’t say any one piece of content is ‘better’ than another. Perhaps the best real test of content is when it’s served, how, and who it reaches and the value it provides.”
“Advertising is about storytelling.”
Goodwin contends that advertising people are buying their own hype with this whopper. “Let’s not delude ourselves that advertising is not about selling stuff,” he emphasizes.
“Advertising dollars should correlate with consumers’ time spent with media.”
Goodwin claims that advertising industry players feel a compulsion to “be where the people are,” under the assumption that people will engage with advertising in similar ways whether they’re online or offline, on a mobile device or a desktop, and so on.
Because of this thinking, media spend projections looking into the future “bear no resemblance” to what’s working or not working — or how it’s even possible to spend that much money advertising in the channels like mobile.
How have these myths of Goodwin’s taken hold in the first place? Is it because talking about them seems so much more interesting and important than contending that advertising is continuing on a more familiar trajectory?
Goodwin thinks this may be part of it. Certainly, he acknowledges that times are changing dramatically in advertising — as they have been for some time. But he makes a plea for more wisdom and nuance:
“While nobody gets famous (or a promotion) saying things are complex or largely unchanged … it’s closer to the truth.”
Personally, having spent a quarter century years in the marketing communications field, I feel that Tom Goodwin has raised some very interesting and valid points.
Where do you come down on them? Do you agree or disagree with the five “myths” Goodwin has identified in modern advertising? Leave a comment and share your thoughts for the benefit of other readers.
In recent years, the focus on “content marketing” has become stronger than ever: the notion of attracting traffic via the inherent relevance of the content contained on a website rather than through other means.
It seems eminently logical. But content marketing is also relatively labor-intensive to build and to maintain. So there’s always been an effort to drive web traffic through “quicker and easier” methods as well.
But the newest findings on web traffic really do demonstrate how fundamental good content is to meeting the challenge of generating web traffic.
An analysis by web analytics and measurement firm BrightEdge reveals that organic search (SEO) drives over half of all traffic to websites (both business-to-business and business-to-consumer).
By contrast, paid search (SEM) accounts for only one-fifth of SEO’s result, and social is lower still:
Organic search: Generates ~51% of all web traffic
Paid search: ~10%
Social media: ~5%
All other methods (e.g., display advertising, e-mail and referred): ~34%
Source: BrightEdge, 2014.
In other words, all forms of advertising put together don’t drive as much traffic as organic search.
The BrightEdge statistics also remind us that social media, however popular it may be to millions of people, isn’t a highly effective traffic generator like search. Here are some of the key reasons why:
Social shares are fleeting and can get drowned out easily.
Most users don’t go on a social platform, only then to click on different links that take them away from social.
Not everyone uses social media, whereas everyone uses a search engine of some kind when they’re in “investigative” mode.
That’s the thing: People use SEO when they’re seeking answers and solutions — often in the form of a product or a service. Unlike in social or online display advertising, there’s no need to “disrupt” the user’s intended activity.
And if you’re in the B-to-B realm, organic search even more prevalent: Organic search drives ~73% of all web traffic there.
Even consumer categories like retail, entertainment and hospitality find that organic search is responsible for attracting 40% or more of all web traffic.
The takeaway for companies is that any marketing strategy that doesn’t adopt “content development” as a core tactic instead of an “ornamentation” is probably destined to fall well-short of its full potential.
For anyone who’s paying attention in business, “content marketing” is all the rage right now. That’s not surprising, considering that “content” is the common link between advertising, promotion, public relations and social media.
Each year, the Content Marketing Institute, working in conjunction with MarketingProfs and Brightcove, conducts research among B-to-B marketers to gauge the type of content marketing that is increasing in popularity. The CMI’s most recent report, B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America has now been issued.
This report provides results from more than 1,400 surveys collected from North American members and subscribers of MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.
I think the survey is representative of business as a whole because the respondents include a mix of company sizes – ranging from fewer than 10 employees (~39% of the survey sample) to the very largest firms having more than 1,000 employees (~5% of the sample).
Respondent titles are varied, too – encompassing advertising/MarComm functions (~37%), corporate management (~31%) plus various other functions that handle marketing and communications as part of their responsibilities.
When we compare the results of the new survey to the one that was completed last year (I blogged about that survey here), we find that in nearly every category of B-to-B content creation, there is greater participation now. (The one exception is the use of print magazines.)
For the record, here is how B-to-B content activity breaks down today, from highest to lowest usage:
Social media: ~87% of respondents are using
Website articles (own site): ~83%
Case studies: ~71%
Website articles (other sites): ~70%
In-person events: ~69%
White papers: ~61%
Webinars and/or webcasts: ~59%
A number of other tactics are used by a minority of B-to-B respondents:
Research reports: ~44%
Web microsites: ~40%
Mobile content: ~33%
Print magazines: ~31%
“Virtual” conferences: ~28%
Mobile apps: ~26%
Digital magazines: ~25%
Print newsletters: ~24%
Annual reports: ~20%
So it’s clear that “a lot of people” are employing “a lot of tactics” in content creation. But which ones do they feel are most effective?
An interesting finding of the survey measures the “confidence gap” between respondents who feel that certain content tactics are “more effective” versus “less effective.” Taking the difference between these two percentages yields a “confidence spread.”
This evaluation shows that B-to-B marketers consider a traditional tactic — in-person events – to be the most effective one:
In-person events: +34 “confidence gap” rating
Case studies: +28
Webinars and webcasts: +22
Research reports: +14
White papers: +14
Website articles (own site): +6
Website articles (other sites): +0
Web microsites: +0
And where are marketers publishing content? The survey finds that B-to-B marketers are using an average of five social media sites to distribute content, with the “usual suspects” coming in at the top of the list:
LinkedIn: ~83% of respondents use for distributing content
A number of these social sites didn’t even show up in last year’s results – Pinterest and Vimeo in particular, but also Tumblr, Instagram and Foursquare.
It really underscores how “fresh” things remain in the social sphere – and how marketers can’t afford to take their eye off of the ball even for an instant when it comes to the tactical considerations of content creation.
There are additional findings available from the CMI research report, which you can download here. And feel free to comment below on any of the results that seem particularly interesting (or surprising) to you.
[For this survey, content marketing (also known as custom publishing or branded content) is defined as “the creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content in multiple formats to attract and/or retain customers.”]
The research found that usage of several content tactics is now quite widespread:
News articles: ~79% of respondents are using
Social media (excluding blogs): ~74%
Case studies: ~58%
In-person events: ~56%
White papers: ~51%
Webinars or webcasts: ~46%
When queried as to how effective marketers believe these tactics to be, a combination of traditional and “new” ones were cited with high effectiveness scores:
In-person events: ~78% view as an “effective” tactic
Case studies: ~70
Webinars or webcasts: ~70%
White papers: ~60%
Web microsites: ~56%
Social media: ~51%
The survey also investigated how content tactics are being measured for success. Tracking web traffic stats is the most popular measurement tool:
Web traffic: ~58% use to measure success
Sales lead quality: ~49% use
Direct sales figures: ~41% use
Sales lead quantity: ~41% use
Qualitative feedback from customers: ~40% use
Search engine rankings: ~40% use
Inbound weblinks: ~30% use
And what is the biggest challenge these marketers see in content creation? It’s the age-old problem of coming up with interesting topics to write about.
More than four in ten respondents cited “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” as their biggest challenge.
Some of the comments heard from survey respondents on this topic sound all-too-familiar:
“Finding people within my organization to contribute their expertise … nobody outside of marketing seems to see the value in sharing our expertise with the market via content.”
“Having the discipline and being able to assign sufficient resources to create and manage the right content for the target audience, in a sustainable manner.”
“The ideas are all there; it’s just a matter of finding time to create and write copy.”
“Management patience: Management needs to understand that in today’s B-to-B environment, it takes time to engage prospects.”
What about your situation? Are your content management issues the same ones as reported in this study … or are you facing different challenges?