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The Non-Marketers Guide to Reviewing and Approving Content Efficiently

The Non-Marketers Guide to Reviewing and Approving Content Efficiently

One of the biggest bottlenecks in launching a marketing campaign is the review and approval process. Late approvals mean that content doesn’t go out on time, affecting the entire timeline of a campaign. This issue is something many marketers face, with one in five Content Marketing World attendees revealing that tangled review and approval processes regularly delayed their projects by over a week.

To help solve this, we put together a guide to help you review and approve content more efficiently. With these strategies, you’ll be prepared to submit constructive feedback and feel confident in your ability to determine whether a piece of content will perform well.

1. Set expectations

To ensure you’re satisfied with an article, it’s important to set expectations with the writer or marketing team you’re working with at the start. Always be sure to clarify who you want to target, what message you want to communicate, and what you’re hoping to achieve through the article. It’s also important to communicate specifics, such as the word count you want to reach and the number of images you want in the article.

2. Focus on the big picture

Rather than getting hung up on spelling and grammar mistakes, you should focus on the overall message of the article. Spelling and grammar are easy to fix, but changing the main message or theme of an article will require an entire rewrite. It’s unlikely that your audience is analyzing the article and reading it from start to finish, so keep that in mind when you’re editing and providing feedback. An article doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to provide value.

3. Ask yourself questions

When reviewing an article, it helps to ask yourself questions. Here’s a list of some important ones to guide your reviewal process: 

Does this article address my audience’s pain point? Or, more importantly, does it address the pain point that your product/service provides a solution to? The best way to grab your audience’s attention is by addressing a common struggle they face. 

Does it offer a solution or actionable advice? This question is to make sure that you’re providing your reader with value. If you begin with a problem, you should follow up with a solution that helps your audience whether it’s expert advice or a product/service.

Does it connect back to my company’s value and mission? Every piece of content posted on your site should support the promotion of your product/service. Because of this, each article should always reiterate your company’s value offer and mission.

Does the information provide match my audience’s depth of knowledge on this topic? If your audience is well-versed in a topic, your article should demonstrate a similar knowledge. You want to be sure the article isn’t too high-level or low-level that it doesn’t feel relevant to your audience. 

Does it contain a keyword I want to rank for? Keywords are important because they help attract views to your site. Each piece of content created for your site should be focused around a specific keyword. If the keyword isn’t obvious, you likely aren’t following the best practices for SEO.

4. Look for flow & coherence

Every article should flow, or move smoothly from one topic to the next. This is accomplished by including transition words and using connecting ideas. It also helps to include subheadings that organize the sections of your article and signal a change in topic. In addition, taking complex ideas and making them easy-to-understand is the mark of a good article. You’ll want to determine whether an article possesses this type of coherence by reading it aloud and listening for whether everything makes sense and sounds consistent.

5. Check sources

Every article needs sources in order to be factual and credible. Any claim made in an article should be backed by data or statistics. This is what separates you as a trusted source. The article should include information from leading publications in your industry. In addition, it’s a good idea to conduct regular interviews with subject matter experts so you can ensure you’re up-to-date on the latest trends and innovations in your industry. In addition to outside sources, your article should include relevant internal links to your site.

6. Pay attention to CTAs

At the end of the article, you want to inspire your reader to take action. For this reason, it’s important to include CTAs. However, this doesn’t mean you should just drop in a random CTA that doesn’t make sense. For example, if your article is titled “10 Ways to Make the Most of Your HubSpot Investment,” your CTA could be something like “contact us today for a free HubSpot audit.” Another important thing to note is that you can include multiple CTAs throughout your article to drive traffic to other resources or articles on your site. 

To learn more about reviewing and approving content, reach out to us! We’re here to help!

Content Creation Strategies for Small B2B Companies

Content Creation Strategies for Small B2B Companies

If you’re part of a small team, you know how difficult it can be to stay on top of content demands. From posting on social media to blogging, producing a steady stream of high-quality content every week requires valuable time and resources. However, it’s proven to be effective in attracting new visitors and converting them into leads. In fact, new benchmark data from HubSpot shows that “the small companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month drive much higher traffic than companies of the same size that publish fewer than 11 blog posts.”

If you’re having trouble producing enough content and time isn’t in your favor, read these ideas for some quick, easy ways to generate and repurpose engaging content.

Podcasts

As of June 2019, there are over 750,000 podcasts. The popularity of podcasts has steadily risen, with many people using them as a form of education and entertainment. On top of that, they’re super easy to produce. All you have to do is sit someone down and interview them while recording the conversation. The content doesn’t stop there though. You could transcribe the podcast and turn it into a blog, make it into a video by filming the conversation, or pull quotes and create images for social media — the possibilities are endless. 

Webinars

Similar to podcasts, webinars are a great way for B2B companies to reach their audience. In fact, a study from the Content Marketing Institute found that marketers rate webinars in the top five in terms of the most effective tactics they use. The main reason for this lies in the fact that webinars help build trust with your audience and provide them with valuable information. In addition, webinar registrations allow you to collect data on potential customers such as their email, phone number, and company name. There are also many ways to repurpose webinars, similar to the ones listed above for podcasts.

Surveys 

Surveys are a great place to start when developing a content strategy. They allow you to ask your audience questions, uncover their challenges/pain points, and uncover out what kind of content they’d be interested in. Beyond this, survey results can inform your content with unique data. For example, your survey data could be used in a whitepaper, data visualization, slide deck, research article, or quotes on social media. Supporting your content with your own data will differentiate your brand and help you stand out as a trusted expert in your industry.

Recap an event

Most people take notes when they attend conferences to remember important bits of information. However, many people overlook the fact that you can use these notes to create a blog recapping the event. To make the recap as valuable as possible, you’ll want to take detailed notes throughout the entire conference and be sure to highlight the main takeaways from each session. Also, by adding pictures, videos, and details about each speaker, you can help your audience feel like they were part of the event too.

Turn blogs into slide decks

If your audience isn’t responding well to long-form blogs, try turning them into a slide deck where you can simplify the information and focus on key points. The average person’s attention span today is 8 seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. This means you need to make your content as short and as simple as possible. Slide decks are helpful with this because they force you to summarize, turning long sentences into short bullet points. In addition, they’re a great downloadable asset that customers can save to their computers for future reference. 

Create an infographic based on a blog

Infographics are a great tool for engaging your audience because they are easy-to-read and visually pleasing. They typically include data points and statistics, shown in the form of a chart or graph, as well as copy. Because infographics offer a detailed overview of a topic, they can be used to summarize a longer-form blog post. This type of infographic would be called a “visualized article,” but there are many other kinds of infographics you can use for a variety of purposes. To learn more about them, check out this article by Pikotchat. 

Interview SMEs (internally and externally)

An SME, also known as a subject matter expert, is a powerful resource for producing content. By making an effort to conduct interviews with SMEs, you can develop a large pool of content to pull from whenever you’re short on ideas. An interview with an SME typically revolves around asking them about their knowledge or expertise on a particular topic or field. It’s important to note that this can be done with both internal employees and external experts. In addition, the interview can be repurposed into a podcast or blog.

Interview customers for a case study

Do you have a customer who has seen success with your product? If so, you should submit a request to interview them for a case study. This type of content elevates you and your client by highlighting the mutual benefits of your partnership. An effective case study includes an overview of both companies, the problem, the solution, how the solution was implemented, and the results. It’s also important to note that case studies can be shared during the sales process to add credibility and help in turning prospects into customers. 

Run a curated newsletter

Sending your clients a weekly newsletter is a strategic way to share the latest content available on your site. In reality, it’s a piece of content that advertises the content you already have. A newsletter should be divided up into different sections based on content, such as “On the Blog,” “Industry News,” or “Latest Resources.” A weekly newsletter helps you drive more traffic to your website and establishes your company as a trusted, reliable source of information. Lastly, it allows you to build a base of subscribers that can provide you with feedback on your content so you can make adjustments accordingly.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with content and need some extra help, contact us to find out how we can support you in meeting your content goals.

The Top 10 B2B Value Proposition Examples (And How to Create Your Own)

The Top 10 B2B Value Proposition Examples (And How to Create Your Own)

Few companies stand alone in their field. No matter what product or service you sell, there will always be someone else offering the same thing. How can you make your brand stand out in the face of competition?

The answer is a well-crafted value proposition. A value proposition is your pitch for why someone should choose your company over another brand. It’s the first thing someone sees when they visit your website so it’s important it leaves a strong impression. A value proposition allows you to set yourself apart from your competition and explain your worth in easy to understand language. Clients want to know they will get their money’s worth from their investment in you and a value proposition assures them of that.

How you explain your value can make or break a sale. Check out how these brands nailed their value proposition so you can too.

MailChimp

MailChimp Landing Page

MailChimp sets itself up as a smarter marketing solution through their email service. It appeals to your business aspirations, whatever they happen to be, and shows how a partnership could be beneficial. Notice how they speak in the second person. It’s often said that “you” is one of the most powerful words in the English language because it draws your audience in through a personal appeal.

Slack

Slack Landing Page

Slack understands that a simple value proposition is a powerful one. Their proposition clearly establishes itself as an app for the workplace and speaks to anyone who needs a simple way to communicate with their coworkers. Being an app that streamlines and offers productivity, it makes sense that Slack wouldn’t waste time with a lengthy tagline explaining what they do.

HubSpot

HubSpot Landing Page

HubSpot takes on a difficult challenge by putting together a value proposition for three services- marketing, sales, and service software. Yet, they manage to fit them together seamlessly into one overarching message: “a better way to grow.” HubSpot shows the genius of unifying your brand, no matter how many services or products your company may offer.

Evernote

Evernote Landing Page

Evernote has a clear market: the busy professional who needs to stay organized. Their value proposition promises effortless organization, and their service delivery by allowing you to easily arrange all your notes in one place. In addition, they show the app can be used on a desktop or mobile platform.

Square

Square Landing Page

Square’s value proposition targets consumer good companies by introducing a tool that accepts any payment method. Their value lies in helping you be more adaptable to your customer. Square also showcases a video as an extension of their value proposition, allowing viewers to learn more about the product without having to wade through endless text.

Stripe

Stripe Landing Page

Stripe is another tool for online payments but exemplifies the power of a value proposition in a different way. They frame themselves as the ideal tool that others should aspire towards and capitalize on their past successes- “we handle billions of dollars every year.” Many businesses fear they won’t receive ROI after they purchase a service. Stripe addresses this by providing evidence they are established and trusted.

Unbounce

Unbounce Landing Page

Unbounce uses its widespread use as a value proposition. Not only are they big enough to serve over 15,000 brands, but they also list the major companies that use their product. Their value proposition lets companies know there is no company too large or small for them to help with conversions.

Proven

Proven Landing Page

Many businesses struggle to find the right talent and Proven understands this. Their value proposition is about giving businesses peace of mind and ease with their hiring. Proven also does a great job by focusing on the client in their proposition, rather than listing everything they can do. A strong proposition is not about listing talents and credentials, but focusing on the client’s needs.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce Landing Page

BigCommerce does a brilliant job of including a call to action in their value proposition. In one simple sentence, BigCommerce tells you what they do and urges you to try it. They make a big impact without wasting valuable time.

Bitly

Bitly Landing Page

Bitly uses action words such as “click, tap, and swipe” to describe what they do in a creative way. Their value proposition is effective because it offers companies the ability to take advantage of the way people interact with their website. By using phrases such as “the world’s leading link management platform,” they are branding themselves as the best in their industry.

How to Make Your Own Value Proposition

Now that you’ve explored other companies that have crafted the kind of value propositions that sell, how do you create one for your business? It’s time to get to the heart of what you do and how it benefits your customer.

Your value proposition needs to include:

  • What you do
  • Who you serve
  • How you’re different

Once you’ve determined these points, keep in mind the following key factors when it comes to writing a proposition:

Clarity. If it’s not immediately obvious what your business does, potential clients will quickly lose interest in you. They do not want to dig to find out exactly how you can help them. Your value proposition must be easy to understand.

Specificity. Your value proposition needs to tell the client what they will exactly get from you. Efficiency? Revenue growth? How specifically will they benefit from your product or service?

Uniqueness. Your potential clients want to know what sets you apart. Explain to them what makes you different and better.

Efficiency. You have mere seconds to impress. A value proposition needs to get straight to the point. This is not a time to get bogged down in the details of your business. If it takes longer than 5 seconds to be both read and understood, it’s too long.

Give Your Business an Edge

The value proposition, when used correctly, can have a major impact on how other businesses see you. By letting potential clients know how your company stands apart from the competition, you can give yourself an edge.

Once you have a value proposition, you’re on your way to building a successful brand. However, it takes marketing initiatives to really get your brand on its feet. That’s why we’ve created a toolbox that provides you with everything you need to start growing your business. The Smark Toolbox includes everything from blog writing guidelines to growth tactics. Access it here.

The 6 Things All Successful Content Marketers Share

The 6 Things All Successful Content Marketers Share

What makes a successful content marketer? When it comes to B2B content marketing, the Content Marketing Institute and its partners publish an annual review called B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budget, and Trends-North America that sheds light on some of the best content marketing practices.

The 2018 version of that report provides a number of insights as to what the most successful B2B content marketers in North America are doing differently than everyone else. By studying successful content marketers and their strategies, you can focus and improve your efforts.

Here, we list the characteristics shared by organizations that described their content marketing as extremely or very successful.

1. A Documented Content Marketing Strategy

Writing down a clear and specific strategy is important. It should include the goals you want to achieve and contain a profile of your target market, often in the form of buyer personas. Use what you already know about your audience. For example, identify your existing posts that get the most attention. Use analytics to determine which types of content generate the most engagement. Focus on that content and conduct keyword research to gather new content ideas.

2. A Mature Content Marketing Effort

Gartner has developed a Maturity Model for Content Marketing that shows organizations how to advance their marketing efforts over time by highlighting key milestones. The model includes 5 different levels, beginning at level 1 with a nonexistent strategy and progressing to level 5 with content being integral to a frictionless customer journey. Although you can’t suddenly make your content marketing strategy more mature overnight, you can consciously work toward higher levels of maturity.

3. A High Level of Commitment

Research shows that only 20 percent of marketers think their organization is highly committed to making content marketing work. This is a problem because content marketing takes considerable time, effort, and money. Content marketers need the automated tools that will help them achieve success. They need insights from marketing and sales to refine their approach over time. If the leaders of an organization aren’t committed to content marketing efforts, their team will end up doing a poor job. Therefore, it’s best to devote the required resources or save your money altogether.

4. A Realistic View of Content Marketing Results

Content marketing can provide measurable results for your organization. It beats outbound marketing in terms of generating more leads and costing less. However, content marketing isn’t the cure-all some people think it will be. Content marketing works in conjunction with a solid overall marketing strategy. Anyone who is an expert in content marketing knows it isn’t an overnight success. You need time to produce results.

5. A Calendar of Regular (and Often Frequent) Publishing

It’s impossible to build an audience if your content publishing is sporadic. If you publish content daily, weekly or monthly, your audience will expect you to continue to do so. Because of this, successful organizations make publishing consistently and as frequently as possible a priority. According to Hubspot, publishing 16+ blog posts a month brings 3.5x more traffic than publishing 0 to 4 articles.

6. A Focus on Building an Audience

Content marketing allows you to create an audience of subscribers. They’re the people who want to interact with your content and have subscribed to receive it. On the other hand, a lead is someone who you have permission to email but hasn’t taken the next step and subscribed to hear from you. Make it your goal to turn leads into subscribers by creating content that people want to read. It helps to ask your readers questions about the types of content they’d like to receive by conducting surveys.

Overview

Content marketing is a tool you can use to increase your competitive edge and grow your business. If you do it right, it can have a significant impact. However, it isn’t easy and will require a clear strategy, dedicated effort, strong commitment, and focus on one’s audience. In addition, working with knowledgeable experts in the field can make all the difference.

Contact us to learn how we can help you with every stage of your content marketing strategy, from creating buyer personas to developing an impressive content calendar.

5 Essentials for Starting a B2B Podcast

5 Essentials for Starting a B2B Podcast

Podcasts are one of the hottest new marketing tools of 2018 as B2B marketers look to leverage multimedia content and engage audiences. Businesses across the country from startups to the Fortune 500 use podcasting to reach their target audience where they are — on their mobile devices. For B2B marketers, a recent LinkedIn study finds podcasts to be an effective and underutilized tool, pointing to higher engagement among executives. Analysts discovered that 44% of senior-level decision-makers on LinkedIn (department heads, VPs, owners and C-suite executives) who know what a podcast is are listening to them regularly.

Podcast Audiences on LinkedIn

With the excessive use of content marketing, it is becoming increasingly challenging for B2B marketers to rise above the noise and connect with busy decision makers. Consider these five tips to launch your own successful podcast and offer real business value to your buyers:

 1. Consider Your Niche 

Choosing a podcast niche is difficult. You may feel like all of the good ideas are already taken. You need to be specific and relevant enough to be interesting to your audience while remaining authentic to your own expertise. Ask yourself the following questions — and write down your answers! — to help you hone your niche:

  • Who is my audience? Reference your company’s buyer personas, consider when listeners will tune in (on the commute to work? at the gym?), and what challenges they face for which you can provide insight.
  • What do I have expertise in? Be honest! Your expertise doesn’t have to be limited to your business’ offering or solution – a host(s) collective industry knowledge, career history, and sphere of influence all make for unique, engaging content.
  • What value can I offer? Do your research – Listen to other top industry podcasts to identify what’s already being done. Is there an underserved market you can speak to? An opportunity to provide something new and fresh? Or perhaps you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – consider a popular theme or topic from existing podcasts and run with it. There’s a lot to be said for “brand-better” versus “brand-new”.

TIP: Don’t have detailed buyer personas? Get started with a free template from Hubspot

2. Align the Podcast with Your Brand

Now that you’ve got your niche figured out, the second biggest challenge in charting a course for a successful podcast is crafting the right personality, style, and energy to match that of your company. The best way to align your podcast with your brand is to gather feedback from key stakeholders on the voice and tone of your podcast should have:

  • Informative
  • Clever
  • Experimental
  • Conversational
  • Casual
  • Authoritative
  • Energetic
  • Innovative
  • Funny
  • Educational

The key here is to align with your brand identity – whatever that may be – so that your podcasts are perceived as genuine, authentic, and listeners trust what they hear.

3. Create a Style Guide

You’ve done the research and legwork to queue up a pretty great podcast, and are excited to get recording — but a crucial mistake many new podcasters make is forgetting to document these decisions in a centralized place. Inevitably, both internal and external contributors to the podcast will change over time. To ensure clarity and consistency, create a Podcast Style Guide as a reference manual for your show.

4. Develop a Publishing Schedule

We see it often – enthusiastic new podcasters with hopes of publishing weekly or bi-weekly episodes quickly become overwhelmed by the demands of meeting their goal schedule. Picking topics, episode research, scheduling guests, post-production, and promotion for each episode can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel. But with a bit of planning, the episode pre-production and execution tasks become routine and manageable. Whether you use your company’s project management tool or a simple Google Sheet, create a central publishing schedule that both you and your production team have access to.

Podcast Publishing Schedule

Podcast Publishing Schedule

TIP: Record and produce episodes in “batches” so that you have a library ready to publish, on schedule.

5. Know the Tech Stack

Most B2B podcasters work out of home or office “studios” rather than a professional sound booth, and with the proper setup, you’d never know the difference. The growing popularity of the podcast medium has brought some fantastic new tools on the market that make it easy to create a polished recording. SmarkLabs recommendations include:

Equipment
Blue Snowball Mic: $49 (you can find additional options here depending on your budget)
Pop filter: $7.99
Sound shield: $64.99

Recording Software
Our recommended alternative to free chat apps like GoToMeeting, Uber, or Skype, is Ringr. Even if you have the perfect room and the best equipment to record, your guests may not have made the same investment. With Ringr, you get the same easy-to-use features of other meeting tools with pre-filtered audio that sounds like you and your guest recorded in the same room.

Pick one place to record and test your audio quality to fine-tune your setup. High ceilings or lots of windows? You’ll need additional sound-dampening shields to reduce echoes. Loud A/C unit humming in the background? Turn off prior to recording or pick a new venue. Take some time to become familiar with your recording software so you’re ready to record and help guests if needed.

Editing Software

The absolute best software you could use to edit your podcasts would be Adobe Audition. Its flexibility supports the editor’s needs by giving you the tools to make your recordings sound their best. It does have a slight learning curve, but it’s well worth it.

Guest Outreach
Make inviting guests easy to manage by setting up an automated outreach campaign. With a tool like Mailshake, you can generate contacts, build relationships, and manage promotion for your podcast all within the same platform.

Repurposing Content
You’re spending a lot of time producing valuable audio content for your audience – don’t let it go to waste. Use a transcription software tool like Rev to amp up the SEO value of your podcast by converting recorded audio into written content for blogs, case studies, and white papers that will drive even more traffic to your site.

6. Call In the Experts

Make no mistake, launching and regularly publishing a podcast is no easy feat. The more your audience grows, the more time you’ll need to spend researching episode topics, engaging guest speakers, and connecting with your listeners.

If you’re having trouble getting started or engagement has plateaued, it’s probably time to bring in some help. Whether you need voice talent, graphic designers, a producer, or a marketing coordinator — ask peers for recommendations and reach out for assistance to keep the show running.