The power of content

Planting seeds that grow into future sales

Almost always, as I’m interviewing a customer to learn about them, their operations, and the successes they’re achieving with a manufacturer’s product, they volunteer feedback the manufacturer finds incredibly useful.

I was recently sent to cover a story on the first-ever purchase of a newly redesigned piece of equipment. The article was to be a sort of product review from the new owner’s perspective. What made it particularly interesting was that the new owner had no familiarity with the brand before this purchase. I was curious as to what it was that seduced him into changing brands.

He told me it started with an article. He’d been looking to upgrade his previous equipment with his former manufacturer. He had a model picked out but changed his mind when he saw a piece about this new design in a magazine.

I knew exactly the article he was talking about – it was one that we had written. He’d never considered a rig like it before or thought about that manufacturer’s offerings. Yet the story had gotten his attention right away, at exactly the right time. He’d torn out the article and kept it with him.

During the next few months, he followed up on it. He asked around. He got in touch with the manufacturer. He was impressed by their facilities and their customer service. He learned their history and their reputation. He went from “knowing little to nothing of the company,” he said, to confidently purchasing from them.

We almost never get to put a black and white assessment on marketing ROI like this. The content we generate as press releases, case studies, customer spotlights – these are seeds we can easily forget we sowed. Yet, if we hadn’t planted this one, this chain of events would not even have begun.

It underscores a lesson once again. Never underestimate the power of content marketing.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications

Small details make big impressions

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While stopping to fill up on my way home from doing a job story for a client, I got a tip from a trucker for a “greasy spoon.” The little truck-stop diner was tucked out of site behind a one-strip airport, so it was also a popular cross-country waypoint for private pilots chasing “$100-hamburgers.” He’d just eaten there himself. He promised large portions of the best-tasting diner food I’d ever find.

After the waitress took my order, I realized the buzzing noise I heard wasn’t from the flickering lights. A fly was trapped inside my sugar shaker. I set it free to join some others that were buzzing around another table. I wouldn’t need sugar for a burger and some fries, thank goodness, but it had turned my attention to noticing stains on the broken-tile floor and hazy light of a dust-covered window.

The little distractions didn’t stop my mouth from watering when my order finally arrived: beautifully crisped home-cut fries piled high next to a giant burger overfilled with lettuce, cheese, grilled onion and tomato. A bite of each, and I agreed with the trucker. This diner was a hidden treasure – but then a large gray mat of dust flew off a ceiling fan’s blade slapped me on the head, exploding across my plate and table.

A satisfied trucker still recommended the restaurant. So, do these little details really matter to its brand? That depends entirely upon the promise of the brand.

When your brand represents the smartest, most innovative solutions for your customers’ challenges, you can’t afford any distracting mistakes – flies and dust bombs – in your marketing material. And you shouldn’t have to do it yourself. You can keep your focus on what you do best while letting content specialists like Ellcom (or a marketing communications expert on-staff) handle those tasks for you.

We immerse ourselves in the applications of the industry itself, not just the product line you offer. That’s why we so easily collaborate with sales reps, customers, product end-users, environmental scientists and engineers – we learn and speak their language. This kind of industry fluency tends to make us a fussier about details than those who can rely only on their Ethernet connections, repeating text they merely Googled.

The Web is a very handy source of information, but it’s missing the warning math teachers give their students: You must understand the problem, or your calculator will give you the wrong answer.

Take for example just how wrong basic metric conversions can be. These are tiny, tiny little details that, overlooked, betray ignorance of the concept. Specifications often come in metric values only. They can be copy-pasted straight from the monitor into a document. To get U.S. Customary (“standard”) equivalents that are more convenient for American customers, you could use the same Google browser you found them on to get a quick conversion. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll be putting flies in your sugar shaker.

The following online errors were unfortunately approved by someone else’s clients and published without correction. Our industry-fluent Ellcom editors would have cleaned up details like these in an instant.

– A machine part’s 87 mm diameter was converted to 3 3/7” (What ruler reads in 1/7th inches?)
– A 9 mm fitting was changed to 0.354331” (Why?)
– Nominal class sizes were converted to thousandths of a kilogram (1 kg = 0.035 oz.)
o < 0.6 tons (<544.311 kg)

One hard-copy brochure showed inches converted into metric “fractions” – 16” (41/100 m). That’s just funny! – unless, of course, you paid for that brochure.

Each little mistake above shows the writer had no clue what the figures represented. I bet your customers do. Will you lose a rig sale for a nonsense conversion on a sales sheet? Probably not. But don’t they have to wonder, if you permit your dining room to be this messy, what’s your kitchen like?

We offer you far more than just keeping your brand distraction-free. Our knowledge of your industry provides you with professional, full-spectrum content generation. We’ll take care of your social media management, ad copy, press releases and case studies for magazines, brochures and sales sheets, white papers and technical papers – all prepared and edited by our highly trained, professional staff with boots-on-the-ground industry experience.

The result? Content that is to the point. Professional. Distraction free. On-message.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for 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.