Category Archives: B2B

You want proof? Stick a fork in a toaster.

Recently I was invited to provide a post for the Content Marketing Institute’s blog.  CMI is the brainchild of Joe Pulizzi, a colleague and friend and self-proclaimed ‘poster child’ for Content Marketing.  Joe and I collaborated on “Engagement:  Understanding It, Achieving It, Measuring It,” a whitepaper/e-book published earlier this year.  His vision with CMI is to help marketers (particularly B-to-B marketers) with the how-to’s of content marketing.

Charged with providing additional insight on the measurement of content marketing, I pondered my post, and kept coming back to what, deep down, we all ask ourselves about any marketing communication:

Does it really work?

Now, back in my days as an undergraduate, my question was about advertising specifically:  Does advertising really work?  Can we prove it?

And I recalled the adages of some historical figures who reportedly said:

‘I know half my advertising budget is wasted; I just wish I knew which half;” and

“There are three kinds of lies:   lies, damned lies and statistics;” and even the

“X% of companies that continued to advertise through the Great Depression are still vibrant corporations today.  The X% that cut back, you’ve likely never, nor will you, hear of.”

(Okay, so I have recall of a few pithy statements meant to back up the idea that advertising is important but tricky to measure, to prove that it works.)

But isn’t that the same methodology that supposedly supports advertising’s effectiveness – that is, recall?  That you’ve “been reached” or you have “awareness?”  That you then just know?

I feel many of us marketing-types out there believe advertising works because, well, we believe it does.  We just know.

Now, see how that flies in the CFO’s office!

My post, here, talks about proving the efficacy of your content marketing efforts by facilitating an Experimental Design, to actually test that it works.  To show the corner office (or your own conscience) that “when you plug X in, Y happens.”

Experimental Design using a plugged-in toaster and a fork
Pre-test                                              Post-test

Photo credit:  hallopino.com

But I think as much as demonstrating the how-to’s of measuring Content Marketing using Experimental Design, it is key to remember that any marcomm effort is a strategy to help accomplish a (marketing) goal.  So, the independent variable here is the marcomm effort, and the dependent variable is the marketing effort.  It helps me, at least, to de-mystify the “science” behind it all.

Viewed this way, it also helps avoid ‘over-reaching’ with your hypothesis.  Rather than saying “we need to prove the ROI of Content Marketing” or “we need to measure the return on equity of Engagement,” your experiment should strive for a more direct correlation or cause:  “prove that increasing the frequency of marketing content will lead to a greater proportion of qualified leads amongst all leads.”

DO measure your marcomm efforts.

DO set aside monies and time to do so.

DO so consistently and regularly.

Think of it as Experimental Design itself, with a hypothesis:

If I take the time and effort to measure my Engagement efforts, I will produce insights, and ultimately, results.”

And that works.


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Old MacDonald’s Method for Creating Engaging Content

Okay, previously, the discussion was around the differences between “Big C” (Content Marketing) Content and little c content – how focusing on customers’ higher-order needs helps to ensure that communication is relevant, engaging, and will be acted upon by customers.

Like many mysteries in life, there’s both an art and a science to creating engaging Content.

First, the science:  all Content must serve objectives.

Great, you say; I need to create reach or consideration, or increase sales or referrals – just show me how Content can help me reach my objectives.

But here’s the  twist in the science:  content (small c) may help in achieving your objectives, but Content (Big C) is created when you focus on serving your customers’ objectives.

Customers’ Objectives?

Yes.  Your Customers’ objectives – while they map back to your overall brand marketing or business objectives, it’s important to place these objectives in terms of customers and their points of view.  No customer goes out to ‘increase reach’ or ‘increase sales’ – but they do need to become aware or gain a sense of reassurance.  C.A.R.E. ™ — Customer Acquisition and Retention through Engagement, a proprietary strategic framework from Nutlug, maps the stages a customer goes through in her journey with a brand, and as a basis of viewpoint, pairs marketing objectives with corresponding customer goals.

If content is created to address customer goals (Objectives), then it’s well on the way to becoming “Big C” Content .

But there’s more.  Just because content is geared to address Customer objectives doesn’t mean it’s necessarily engaging.  Customers have to enjoy it, learn something from it, be motivated by it, shown how to do something by it.

Short of market researching absolutely every blog post, every upload, every bit of “small c” content you create to gauge its likelihood to engage your customers, there is a simple checklist passed down from folksong lore to serve as a litmus test of sorts, to make sure your content is on the right track.

It’s called Old MacDonald’s Method for Engaging Content.

And here’s how the little ditty goes:

First and foremost, your Content needs to be ENTERTAINING.  This might seem logical, but in the scope of the world wide web, there’s a glut of customer options containing a flood of content that isn’t.  There’s really no sure fire formula for creating something that’s entertaining (or viral, for that matter), but it’s safe to start with placing oneself in the customer’s shoes and determining what’s entertaining to him or her.  Knowing your audience and creating robust customer personas is a good first step.


Next, check to see if your Content is INFORMATIONAL.  Allow your customers to experience the breadth of your knowledge on the subjects and topics that likely have drawn them to you in the first place.  This is really the key to in-bound marketing – creating Content that informs your customers in the higher order need areas they require.  Thought leadership is built around informational Content.

The other E in the “methodology” is EDUCATIONAL.  Yes, this is indeed different from Informational – it takes information to the next step by explaining and showing your customer how-to with your Content.   Some of the very best B-to-B Content is focused on being educational.  There is always an underlying fear of offering too much education to customers that they won’t need to purchase your products or services; do your best to ignore this irrational ghost.  If a wireless router manufacturer provides a three minute video on how to set up a wireless router, I’ve been educated…but will still need the product (and likely the services to have someone do it right for me!).

The other I stands for INSPIRATIONAL.  Often the overlooked element to Big C Content, persuasive storytelling goes well beyond ‘selling’ – along with offering entertaining content that informs and educates, Content also gives the pep talk, the slap on the back, the kick in the rear that urges the customer to do something.  Case studies play well in this sandbox – showing how another small business owner leveraged social networking to increase referrals, for example, can lead to inspire others to follow.  Inspiration’s muse is often emotional, but founded in rational Content, particularly when it helps achieve the aforementioned higher-order needs.

It doesn’t stand for okay (as in ‘Okay, I can see where you’re going with this E-I-E-I-O thing, Keith) – but it refers back to the Customer OBJECTIVES discussed earlier.  Efforts can be entertaining, informational, educational, and inspirational… and still not be Big C Content.  Adhering to customer objectives (and yes, they do tie in with your brand’s objectives as well) is the key note in our tune.  Otherwise, it’s just E-I-E-I….

So don’t forget the O.  It’s the basis of Big C.

That’s what MacDonald says, anyway.

Putting his money where his content is

Opportunities and Threats for Social Media

The future of social media as viewed by senior UK marketers

I will be following, with great interest, a very brave Brit who is attempting to prove that content marketing really works — in a matter of hours.

On May 19th, next Wednesday, John Bottom of BaseOne in London will be attempting this live at the IDM B2B conference in front of 150 senior marketers.  What’s more, Mr. Bottom will originate the content right then and there, and then look to prove its effectiveness by gaining 1,000 clicks to its posting.

I think he’ll achieve it.

He has laid some groundwork to help set his stage:   leveraging some content marketing of his own and spreading it through a variety of social media channels to like-minded fans of content marketing.  So then, on May 19th, when the content goes “live,” he’ll have enlisted the help of a community that believes in its power and wants John to succeed.

In a way, these before-efforts are already proving the effectiveness of content marketing…and his exercise on Wednesday will simply re-confirm them.

Join me in helping him out by spreading his message on 5/19/10.

Just follow this to read more:  http://bit.ly/9LLk0C

And here is the content to be spread on Wednesday:  http://bit.ly/cUOsuY.

Best of luck, John.  But I’m a believer in making your own luck, and I’m confident you have.