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Content Marketing Study for B2B

When you are using your vast amounts of free time (snark alert) to try to keep up on trends and updates in the PR world or the world of content marketing, a common obstacle is the way a majority of the reports are skewed towards consumer goods. Stories that deal with Pepsi’s new nutrition awareness campaign or Nike’s community outreach—and political scandals—predominate. That’s not to say we can’t learn things from the consumer goods world, but B2B marketing is fundamentally different.

That is why I was so interested to read the B2B Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America study. This report, from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs contained a fair number of interesting nuggets, with a lot of the expected cheerleading one would expect from such organizations, touting successes and upticks overall (“63% of B2B marketers say their organizations are extremely or very committed to content marketing,” was one example from the study.) But even those points are of greater than average interest because they only deal with B2B firms. That is, they speak to the kind of business done by my clients and all the companies I want as clients. It probably speaks to your business, too!

You will want to look at the report for yourself—it’s a SlideDeck—to see what catches your eye, but one item in particular is, I know, a true thorn in the side of many marketing managers I speak to regularly in the construction, mining and pipeline industries. The study reported that only half of respondents agree that their leadership gives them enough time to deliver results from their content marketing efforts. This is particularly true when you’ve been weak in one area—let’s say application stories—and after you finally crack loose the funds to pay for a good story, management wants to know how much new business the lone article has generated. And they’re asking before the story has had time to appear in even one magazine!Finding ways to convince your upper management to invest more in content is a topic I plan to explore in a few months. Meanwhile, did some other finding of the report stand out to you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts—please send them to me at matt@ellcom.us.

Matt5

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

tagged in PR

SEO Basics: Write for Humans

SEO is a scary subject for some, and a lot of the “advice” and “conventional wisdom” we hear is based on misinformation from about 5 or 6 years ago. Or more.

I’d like to share a few tips which are really no more than generally accepted standard operating procedures for online writing provided by experts and Google’s own guides to SEO writing. (By the way, if you want to really dig into the nitty-gritty of SEO, I would recommend making Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide your first stop. Once you follow this link, just click on the link at the top of the new page to download the guide.) But all of these tips connect with the basic advice to write for humans, not bots.

Focus your writing on themes that interest your customers. Ask yourself what they would like to read about. This is a hard one sometimes—they don’t want to read an ad or a marketing “puff” piece or a vanity profile. That might be what we want to write, but put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What questions do they have? What expertise can you share that would make their life easier or their business more profitable?

Don’t trade a cheap by-the-word rate for quality content. Quality counts. There are content mills out there that will churn out 1,000 words that just regurgitate copy from your website or brochures, and will do it for almost nothing. Unfortunately, that’s about what it is worth. You want quality writing that is engaging and expert.

Don’t base your writing on keywords for robots and algorithms, but on what is interesting to, and easily read by, actual human readers. Google is getting better and better at rewarding that kind of writing.

You can learn a lot more about optimizing for search engines, and it can be helpful. But if you skip the above basic tips, it will be a waste of time—what good will it do to get to the top of search results, if the content, when clicked on, is sub-par and represents your company badly?

 

Matt5

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


New Tier 4 update presents marketing opportunities

Tier 3, Interim Tier 4, Tier 4 Flex… the process of bringing off-road engines up to Tier 4 standards is a story that seems to go on and on like Scheherazade’s 1,001 nights. Except it’s been going on for a lot longer. So it’s normal when “Tier 4 fatigue” sets in. When you upgrade your engines you write a press release, you add a bullet point to a brochure, but maybe you just don’t feel like it matters anymore. It’s a thing that is happening; what more can you say?

There is a new report out now from EquipmentWatch, a world leader in data for the equipment industry, in partnership with the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP,) that digs into the cost of Tier 4 to the industry at large. The 2016 Tier 4 Benchmark Report cites key trends that you may be able to use to your advantage in marketing and PR efforts.

The entire report is basically a 10-page infographic, but a nice summary of key issues from the report was written up in Compact Equipment magazine. Both sources say that the number of Tier 4 compliant equipment in fleets is still actually very low, pointing to a sales opportunity. It also supports the notion that Tier 4 products are much more ubiquitous in ads, brochures and news releases than in the field. Which means that continued educational and promotional efforts are still required. The key will be to keep finding fresh and interesting ways to present this content to avoid getting your message tuned out.

However, the report also notes that rental companies are no longer charging a premium to rent Tier 4 equipment, which is good news for manufacturers and end users alike. This should lead to a greater familiarity with the equipment, and perhaps a need to educate those individual end users who may tend to look at Tier 4 as just another expense their businesses have to support. Fuel cost savings will likely be the most touted advantage to the nation’s growing Tier 4 fleet.

In fact, for manufacturers who are eager to overcome the negative perceptions of future “increases in purchase prices, maintenance costs and training costs,” job stories, application stories or case studies that focus on significant fuel savings would be a safe bet. If you have customers who are willing to go on the record regarding fuel savings, it would help you win over the roughly 3 in 5 polled who simply don’t believe that the supposedly more fuel-efficient Tier 4 equipment will actually drop their fuel costs. That is a significant number of potential customers that the right story would win over.

Did some other finding of the report stand out to you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts—please send them to me at matt@ellcom.us.

Matt5

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

 


R in PR is ‘relationship’


Part 2: Practical application

SPE_5916The drilling job I was scheduled to cover in Ohio was suddenly replaced by an emergency job order: an Amish family’s well was bringing up sand.

The only source of water for the family and all of its livestock, the windmill-style well probably had a casing failure at the bottom. Manual labor is a fundamental tenet of Amish culture, but the community’s presiding cleric permitted modern technology in this instance.

My client and were allowed to follow along. He let me out at the homestead’s drive so I could run ahead of the rig. I saw an opportunity to show its maneuverability in confined spaces as the driver positioned it next to the windmill.

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Got it!—but then I immediately recapped my cameras. They were hanging low at my sides as I watched as the Amish father stride off his porch across the frozen, rutted ground to discuss terms with the driller. He was repeatedly looking over to me. I made it as obvious as I could, I was not going to take more pictures without permission as I approached them. I waited patiently for a break in their conversation.

At a convenient moment, I introduced myself, explaining my purpose and asking what concerns he might have about photography on his property, assuring him I would abide by his wishes.

I could tell he appreciated the consideration. He bridled a bit at my humble recognition: he was in control of this property, his home.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw gratitude in the driller’s regard of me. Distracted by the sudden change in plans, he wouldn’t have anticipated the potential conflict of bringing a photographer to a camera-wary culture. My intervention, though, wasn’t simply to diffuse it. I am myself a homeowner, a father, a family man. I have genuine respect for this man, as the driller himself does. And I have years of experience working for an agency where the R in PR is for relationship. This is what I do, every job, every story.

SPE_5928 remove faces from windowThe Amish father surprised us: “I guess we aren’t supposed to allow any pictures of people, but otherwise a few of the drilling will be all right.” He looked me straight in the eye, repeating, “But no pictures with people.”

I worked fast, balancing respect for the farmer against doing the best job for my client. Within the hour the Amish father was alongside me again. Had I gotten enough?

I understood. I capped the lenses, telling him, “Yes, and thank you again. I am done now.” I stowed my gear away.

The father’s body language changed from nervousness to eager hospitality. He invited me in for coffee.

I found myself next in a warm kitchen of bonneted women in billowy blue dresses and white aprons. The coffee was a richly aromatic brew, strong and flavorful, brewed in a pot on the kitchen’s wood stove. Given more baked goods than I could cradle against my chest, a chair was pulled out for me as I was guided by numerous hands to the table. After only a few nibbles, he showed me around his home.

A little bit of respect won lavish Amish hospitality, gratitude from their driller and smiles from my customer.

Ellcom doesn’t get in your way while we’re getting the job done. Just like you, we put people first.

Joe4

 

 

 

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications.


R in PR is ‘relationship’

Part 1: Lesson in humility, learned on a photo shoot

My Peruvian driver had pulled over to indulge my irresistible urge to photograph the near-vertical gardens of Andean farmers in the shadow of El Huascarán. Lost behind my viewfinder, the sound of hooves bearing down on me gave me just enough time to step precariously near the road’s cliff-side edge making way for a family of mountain people on donkeys.

Huascaran in morning light

They drove their little herd of goats to pasture past our high-tech, low-emissions automobile on the freshly paved asphalt road. I was caught for a moment in a time warp, past superimposed on present. Instinctively snapping off a few shots, I lowered the camera, seized with guilt for presenting myself as some tourist. These were people, not landscapes, not objects. I hastily recapped my lens and lowered the camera behind me to my side, nodding at men in ponchos and limp, wide-brimmed hats.

I haven’t deleted the files, though. One of them in particular is my private reminder of the lesson. In spite of striking cultural differences, we are the same: doing our jobs, sustaining private lives. Against the backdrop of the majestic Andes Mountains and wearing the traditional knit-cap chullo of the mountain people with tasseled ear coverings, a young boy on a donkey is leading his father and uncles toward me, smiling for the camera, looking straight into my viewfinder. Behind him his father on his donkey is also looking straight into my eyes—not smiling. It shames me to see his scowl even today, rekindling my sensitivity.

vegetable gardensI had at first thought the juxtaposition I encountered that day was something I had to go to a different country to see. Not so, as shortly thereafter, while driving across Minnesota to cover a story in Wisconsin, I saw a Mennonite buggy driven by a bonneted woman clop across the overpass of Interstate 90 I was about to pass under. It brought a wide smile to my face: We have our own overlapping cultures living side by side. I did not take her picture.

My awareness of our shared humanity doesn’t extend just to strikingly different cultures. None of us is ever merely an object to be captured and framed, posted around the Web to amuse someone’s friends. These are real people, doing real jobs, supporting real families, many of them carrying on a family line, a legacy, created and built upon by multiple generations.

I learned early in my tenure with Ellcom that the R in PR stands for “relationships”: our relationship with you, the relationships you have with your customers, and the relationships they have with the people they serve.

Every time I go into the field, is a practical application. I will get the job done, but respectfully, mindful of the carefully cultivated, continuously nurtured relationships that make it possible for me to be there in the first place.

Joe4

 

 

 

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications.


Tradeshow logistics & warehousing—another Ellcom service

SPE_6228_edit webOur clients see tradeshows as a way to see potential customers face to face. Meeting them and sharing information at a show doesn’t have to go through the media or some new app. It’s just you and your customers, making connections.

Through our years of putting together tradeshows for clients, we’ve tried to be smart about resources – reusing materials, keeping themes continuous from show to show. We also had staff with experience in logistics and realized that using our skills and ample space to warehouse tradeshow material made sense. We know the companies we work for, their products, what goes where, so why not organize tradeshow goods and ship them where they’re needed?

We like to help make sure those well laid and expensive plans for tradeshows turn into success stories. Whether it’s planning a show from start to finish, creating a 3D sketch of booth space, arranging for booth setup, carpet laying, rigging, whatever is needed, plus creating your communication material, we can do that.

We inventory, house, maintain, ship and receive items used for marketing at tradeshows – from keychains to equipment weighing tons. The companies we work for pay storage fees like they would anywhere. They get the benefit of not paying or training full-time staff to run this warehouse, but yet they have us on call for their warehousing needs.

Storing tradeshow gear with our warehouse has advantages for our clients. For one, there’s no better way to make sure the right equipment is sent with the right marketing and branding material than to have the ones who planned it, pallet it. Our clients can file orders through a handy online system that shows them their inventory, or just call us to say, “Remember that really pretty wall we used six months ago in New York? I want that next week in Las Vegas.”

SPE_6099_edit webWe not only provide economical storage but can clean and touch up displays and products so that they arrive looking showroom ready, with minimal prep on the show site. We strive to have goods arrive only needing to unwrap and maybe put a final shine on them.

We keep detailed records for every piece of your inventory, and we can provide tracking so that everyone in your company knows where something is at, and when it’ll be available for the next show.

Realizing that tradeshows are a way for you to put your best face forward, we’re happy to help in all aspects of that process.  From the fun show concepts all the way to the booth space … and the trucks that get everything there.

sara3

 

 

Sara Schmuck is an Account Manager, and the Managing Editor of Client Publications, for Ellenbecker Communications.


Client appreciation event at Ellcom

Round Lake Tank Testing 0224

Photo credit Justin Lessman/Jackson County Pilot.

Although Ellenbecker Communications enjoys its renown as an international marketing firm with a clientele that includes a number of global manufacturers, we have a special affection for our local clients. Living in the same rural community, supporting each other, improving life for our children and their futures together—that interdependence creates a bond.

That’s why I was so happy for the opportunity to celebrate that relationship during the Ellcom Client appreciation night Friday, Feb. 19. It was long overdue, an opportunity for us to show our gratitude to clients.

In this case you could say we shared more than “roots.” Part of the night included a somewhat rare event: a private tank-tasting from the Round Lake Vineyards & Winery, whose retail store and tasting room is right beneath our Ellcom offices.

My career as a marketing consultant is grounded in manufacturing—production processes, packaging, sales structures and brand. My life in advertising, my devotion to Ellcom, actually has a lot to do with the winery.

Wine making is a nice metaphor for how the Ellcom team embraces your businesses marketing needs. No matter what the project, no matter which person is in charge, it’s an entire team of enthusiastic collaborators, each passionately contributing their own talents and skills to the final quality blend. From project management to content generation and copywriting down to graphic design and publishing—you need to see this firsthand as I do. Feel free to stop in anytime to experience the energy that keeps me so proud to be associated with them as president of Ellenbecker Communications.

Scott4

 

Scott Ellenbecker is the president and owner of Ellenbecker Communications.

 


What is “content marketing?”

Most of us should have a pretty good idea of what “content marketing” means. On the other hand, if pressed by a member of the C-suite to define it quickly and simply, how many of us could do so?

CMI_Final_20131The Content Marketing Institute defines it this way: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

You can tell that the CMI is trying to use as few words as possible, but they require two more paragraphs to define the definition—which indicates that this is, indeed, a bit more complex than it may appear at first glance. I prefer their explanation a couple of paragraphs down:

“Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

Okay, we nod our heads. Then we stroke our chins and ask for examples. Here’s where it gets interesting. In answer to this need for samples, a year ago the CMI website offered a free download for an e-book listing one-hundred different examples. I looked up my original notes on this version of the book, and I found that only about 20 out of 100 organizations profiled were B2B companies, and of these, only a handful were manufacturers. On the other hand, 20 is a lot more examples than I thought I would find, and many of those profiled were applicable to what we do. Since then, CMI has replaced that book with a new one containing 75 current examples of content marketing, and of those, only six might be considered B2B (more about that later.)

E-books, reference books, white papers, company and association magazines (print and digital), newsletters (print and digital), podcasts, webinars and videos, articles and blogs, all were well represented in both versions. I was impressed with the number of e-books and magazines included in the examples of excellence. I appreciated one of the comments regarding a corporate magazine, which said in part, “Most successful custom publications speak to the interests of … readers without overly promoting its brand.” Ellcom currently publishes three regular “in-house” magazines for various clients, and we have found that adhering to that philosophy builds a dedicated readership. E-books and even printed versions of reference books are also popular with our clients and their customers.

Magazines 2016Without a doubt, content marketing is a successful strategy that can benefit most marketing departments. Of course, the actual creation of quality content is what tends to trip up companies wanting to increase their content marketing efforts. It requires a very specific skill set and time that not all teams have.

But when I see that even fewer B2B companies are represented in the newest edition of CMI’s examples of excellence, it makes me wonder if creating great content isn’t an area of real opportunity for manufacturers in the construction, mining, oil and gas, and bio-sciences vertical markets that we serve. If your marketing efforts are not standing out from the crowd as much as you’d like, beefing up your content marketing—with an emphasis on quality, engaging content, of course—is likely your quickest route to a turnaround.

 

Matt5

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


What the grandmasters of writing can teach us about creating content

One thing that we know for sure about the digital content revolution—grabbing and holding people’s  attention has never been harder. If they’re reading something and it becomes boring, they know that a dancing cat playing a kazoo is only a few clicks away. This makes spare, elegantly simple and concise writing even more important.

Quote 1Of course, the grandmasters of writing have always recognized the importance of getting to the point and being clear. One of the greatest examples of this principle was the amazing genre novelist Elmore Leonard, perhaps the greatest master of dialogue in the second half of the twentieth century, who passed away in 2013. (He wrote the original books from which the movie Get Shorty and the TV series Justified were taken.) He was also one of the most quotable writers of his generation, and he famously said of his writing style, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

Stop a moment and think about what he said—and he wasn’t boasting. He delivered. He just got the story told. No one skipped a boring page of exposition. He didn’t write a boring page of exposition. Ever. When we’re writing or reviewing for publication an article, press release or blog post, we can keep Mr. Leonard’s philosophy in mind. For example, in a case history or job story you may be tempted to include a puffed-up paragraph of corporate superlatives—but will the reader (your potential customer, remember) care? Or will he skip it? And if he skips that paragraph, he may just skip the next few and miss key information that he really needs to know.

Quote 2

 

Another one of my writing idols was Kurt Vonnegut. But his writing, while beautiful, was also spare and straightforward, even when his subject matter was complex, confusing and downright mind-blowing. His advice to aspiring writers? “No matter how wonderful a sentence is, if it doesn’t add new and useful information, it should be removed.” I know that I have followed his advice even when it caused me physical pain, though I’m sure I don’t follow it as often as I should. But especially when we are editing our work or someone else’s, Vonnegut’s words can act as a touchstone for each precious sentence.

All that attention to simplicity and clarity, however, doesn’t mean that writing for our clients is just a matter of slapping down the most basic couple of nouns and a verb that we can. It is hard to write simply, but one of America’s most beloved writers, Mark Twain, explained why it is so important when he said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

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Yes, it’s hard because each word stands out; it isn’t hidden behind a huge shrubbery of unimportant and unnecessary words. Therefore, as Twain reminds us, it has to be the right word. Here in my office, with four other writers either across the room or on chat, it is easy to run a bad descriptor by them for ideas when the online thesaurus is no help. But whatever your system, make sure that you don’t let the wrong word get out the door—while you may know what you mean, that doesn’t help if no one else can figure it out.

(Commercial note: If you don’t have the budget to pay us to write everything for you, keep in mind that editing is just another service we offer. For example, if you write your own press releases, but don’t have an editor in-house, you can send them over to us for editing and/or proofreading. Just give me a call and I can set something up for you!)

 

 

 

Matt5

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


Here’s why print isn’t dead

Marketing and marketing communications managers are constantly being asked to comment on the longevity of printed magazines, brochures and other promotional and educational materials. Is print dead? If it is, why are we advertising in dead-tree magazines? Why are we still sending press releases? Why aren’t we focusing all our attention on other media? Should we be tweeting our new product announcements, 140 characters at a time?

And if print isn’t dead today, when will it die? One year? Two, three, five, ten? How will this change our approach to PR, advertising, content marketing?

A February 22 article by Michael S. Rosenwald in the Washington Post  examines a phenomenon reported on by digital communications expert Naomi Baron in her new book “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.” That phenomenon is summarized in the article’s headline: “Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.”

imageBaron found that “digital natives” like millennials—people who reached young adulthood around the year 2000—actually prefer the printed page for pleasure reading and for learning. Many studies in the past couple of years have shown that physical, printed materials are often superior to digital versions when it comes to comprehension and remembering what is read.

In our “hard hat” manufacturing industries, we have often recognized that those who own the businesses that buy our clients’ products are usually in their 40s, 50s or 60s. We are not surprised to hear that, even though this group is very computer-literate, they still prefer physical, printed material most of the time. But this article in the Post, and books like Baron’s, underscore that the preference for printed matter is not as generationally divided as we had thought.

Of course, some things are better in digital form, and the article in the Washington Post notes this fact. Speaking of the main subject of Noble’s book, college students, the article says, “They prefer them (electronic textbooks) for classes in which locating information quickly is key—there is no Control-F in a printed book to quickly find key words.”

In our industries, the vast majority of trade magazines have a digital version or web portal, for those who do prefer digital reading, or for those types of information where the “Search” function is handy. But the print versions are not going away any time soon, for the simple reason that people still like them, and often, even prefer them.

Matt5

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.