Creating quality content from lead gen to close

This is a very cool infographic linking technology to the sales process. Not only does it provide the who’s who of software companies that deliver apps for prospecting, qualifying, nurturing, and closing, underneath the covers it reveals what every marketing person have some level of focus on…content.

All to often, we think the role of content is at the top of the funnel: lead generation, and that is where we place a majority of the emphasis, and rightfully so, because without leads, the rest of the enablement process falls apart.  But, in addition to lead gen, content plays a critical role from nurturing & prospecting to qualifying and closing . At each stage, the difference between success and failure lies in creating quality content to one, meet the needs of the customer, and two, meet the needs of sales as they navigate through the sales process.

When I look at this process, I see opportunities to learn what makes quality content.  I ask myself the following questions:

  • What content is driving the most web traffic & creating the most leads?
  • How can that content be leveraged into a sales script for prospecting?
  • What questions are potential customers asking and how do we use content to best address those concerns ahead of time?
  • How do potential customers engage for more information?  Is it via webinars, online forms, social media?
  • What does the art of negotiation look like? Are there consistent “asks” that could point to something marketing could address through programs?
  • How happy is the customer? How has our solution benefited them?  Is there a case study opportunity here?

Of course, there are more questions that arise than simply the ones listed above, but these are the most common. By working with sales through the process, marketers can get a better grasp of the needs of the customer. The more intelligence collected, the greater the opportunity to create the right content.

And the right content just might speed this entire process along.

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Since your waiting…check out the tabloid rack

grocery-store-magazine-at-checkout-aisle-lo-res82% of Facebook’s photo traffic is driven by only 8% of the photos it stores.

Seems like a royal waste of technology, energy, and money to store that 82% on the same  technology that stores and delivers the 8%. That is the challenge in front of Facebook.

Facebook cannot delete any photos, so how do they cost effectively store billions of them?  It’s not that simple, because cost-effectively usually means slower in the digital storage world, and slower storage means longer wait times for those old photos to load. Are we okay with that? We wait in line at the grocery store. Sometimes for several minutes – unheard of on the internet – talk about abandonment rates.  In Facebook’s case, we are not talking minutes…more like seconds, so the question is, what to do with those seconds?

Stealing a page out of the grocery store playbook, why not sell the space / time? We flip through tabloid, home improvement, and health magazines.  We may even through a pack of gum, or bag of chips in the cart, just because we’re “captively” waiting.  What if Facebook used those precious seconds to share trending topics, news headlines, or, dare I say it, advertising?

Who would have thought slower data storage could create a marketing opportunity?

Disclaimer:  I’m also a corporate blogger for Seagate’s The Storage Effect, so my affection for storage technology is apparent.

Data driven marketing…think like a startup

Some may say we already are. Others say being overwhelmed only applies to businesses that are trying to become data driven.  Which raises the question, is it more difficult for old-school institutions / organizations to become data driven than those companies that are born out of a data driven model?

I would argue yes – of course.  Think of startups today. So many of them are leveraging public data sets in the cloud to develop their business plans, identify market needs, focus in on target markets, develop their solution, and execute their strategy.  That is one thing that cloud has enabled…the ability for the entrepreneur to leverage low cost compute and storage resources, open source software, and big data analytics to jump start businesses with innovation that would take their larger more established, dare I say slow-moving, competitors exponentially longer to launch.

Not only is the ability to leverage the cloud and big data evident to incubate ideas, it’s quickly becoming the mechanism to market and sell said solution.  I did a post for Seagate Storage Effect blog on this very subject titled: 10 best practices for a cloud based business model.

Number 9 Assemble, Don’t Build uses loyalty programs as an example. “Imagine coordinating CRM customer contacts with social media analytics and sentiment with big data Hadoop data analytics software.  Now, take that data and import it into visual analytics software to create charts and graphs on real-time trends. Combine that with a predictive analysis app to look for patterns by geographic area, and take that and integrate it with automated marketing to launch a highly targeted end user email, social media, online, or mobile campaign.”

Startups are doing this everyday. Being born in the era of cloud and big data has enabled them to do what 94% of executives at large companies are unsatisfied with – their innovation process.  The great thing about this is that it doesn’t stop at innovation.  Effectively, and efficiently creating, executing, and measuring a marketing strategy born in data, well, that’s what we all strive for as marketers, don’t we?

image by: http://www.trackresults.com/

Is technology complimenting or complicating your life?

Technology is the proverbial two edged sword…we love it, yet we hate it…so would say a recent study by AdAge magazine published this past January.

The study surveyed households making greater than $100,000 per year and the when asked how their lives have changed over the past 10 years, 79% of “Affluents” said, that they’d become “technology-infused.”

The article by AdAge broke down the “affluents” technology ownership:

  • 98% of Affluents are online, averaging over 25 hours of internet use a week.
  • 75% have at least one high-definition TV.
  • 66% have a digital video recorder, of which 58% report always or frequently fast-forwarding through commercials.
  • 23% own e-reader as of April 2011 up from from 12% in September 2010
  • 14% of Affluents now have a tablet, and an additional 15% plan to buy one in the next 12 months indicating that nearly 1/3 of affluents will own a tablet by the end of 2011.
The study went on to find that a majority of affluents surveyed said their lives have become “more complicated,” “more stressful” and “focused on finding ways to do more with less.”
So given the findings of this study, why the continued adoption of new technologies? Has technology become the “toys” for the affluent? I recently visited with family who has 3 laptop PCs, 1 desktop PC, 4 smartphones, 1 e-reader, and recently jumped on the tablet bandwagon. I asked what technology meant more to their everyday life, what added the most value?  The quick answer was the laptop.  “The tablet is just a toy” were the exact words.
Okay, not exactly shocking words, but funny that if you consider the study and the opinion of my family members, is it safe to say that life was easier when it was just the home PC? All of this new technology that was supposed to make the user experience easier has actually made life more complicated.  Sure when comparing the user experience from one technology device to the next, it may have become easier, but when looked at as a whole, the accumulation of technology devices has actually made life more difficult.
The devil is in the details. Why do affluents say  the infusion of technology complicates their lives?  What specifically about it has made life more stressful?  Perhaps it’s managing all of their content, communications, or balancing the use of technology for work vs. home, local vs online, secure vs. shared.
The technology companies that truly understand where these pains lie, and how best to address them will ultimately win.  My bet is on how and where information is stored, accessed and shared. And based on where technology devices are heading, the battle is raging between Apple, Amazon, Google, and we cannot discount Microsoft.  Just look at the mix of devices my family owns:
  • Laptops = Microsoft
  • Desktop = Microsoft
  • Tablet = Apple
  • e-reader = Amazon
  • Smartphones = Google & Blackberry
I fear the battle will be long, and the walls already forming between technology providers are forcing affluents to choose what platform best compliments their lives, because a mix of platforms is apparently, well….complicating.
What’s your take?
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When will we do all our school supply shopping at the Apple Store?

We just completed our kids’ school supply shopping. Notebooks, three ring binders, folders, pens, pencils, markers, calculator, etc. were on the list. $100.00/child and counting considering it’s just the start of the school year.  It seems we always need to replenish or add to the list over the course of the year, and that’s just elementary school and junior high.

Let’s say the total is conservatively $150.00 per year per child. We do this each and every year for 12 years x 2 kids and you rack up at minimum $3600.00 over the course of their primary public education.

At what point are we going to scrap the paper and pencil model and simply go digital?  For $3600.00 over 12 years, I could have purchased an iPad every 4 years for each of them.  With an iPad, you can read, write, draw, add, subtract, multiply, divide, research, compose, and even turn in homework. Hence Apple’s push in this space, and blogs like this that tout “why iPad in schools”.

It’s already happening at some schools in Chicago and New York, but what is it going to take for schools to adopt the digital world in mass? It may come down to money, but based on my calculations above, that could be covered by the parents, public grants, donations, or scholarships from private entities.

I think it comes down more to how we embrace technology to educate. Face it, the new generations are born digital and can quickly navigate a smartphone or tablet at an earlier age and much faster than most adults. Just look at your own kids. The student’s learning curve on using technology is not the hurdle, but it maybe for most teachers that have been educating for years. According to the study Educators, Technology and 21st Century Skills: Dispelling Five Myths by The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University, “continued technological education throughout a teacher’s career is vital to providing students with the skills they will need for future careers,” said Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association.

I’m all for teaching teachers how to teach with technology, and for forking over $500 every 4 years for an iPad or similar technology at the expense of school supplies…because in the long run, my kids will be much better prepared for the digital world in which they were born.

How are you using technology to teach your own kids at home?

Image by: Apple, Inc.

Are we destined for digital nostalgia?

National Geographic offers their entire collection – 121 years of information – on a single 160GB USB hard drive.

That’s pretty cool.  I think the idea of massive collections of rich content pre-loaded on portable drives is a great.  I know I have a storage bin full of old National Geographic and Sports Illustrated issues, baseball cards, newspapers, record albums, etc. that I keep for nostalgic reasons.  I never really dig them out and read or listen to them, maybe that’s why these pre-packaged drives are so appealing to me.

But I’m old school Gen Xer who likes nostalgic stuff. What about the next generation?  I know my kids read books and magaines (National Geographic for Kids being one of them), but as they get older, maybe their interest in print will begin to fade.  Just like the content itself, people hit a certain age where they move from analog to digital, and it seems that age is getting younger and younger. I wonder what my kids will consider nostalgic when they are my age…

…are we really heading towards digital nostalgia?

Images by: National Geographic

What has the information age done to gut instinct?

Poster design by Bemis Balkind

“Worldwide data volumes growing 59% a year” – Gartner

That is according to a post by Paul Barsch on MarketingProfs titled “Data Deluge Means No More Leonardo Da Vinci Types“.  I have to admit, this one really made me think, and ask the question: is there such a thing as too much information, too much data?  At what point does data get in the way of actually accomplishing anything of significance in a short amount of time?  Have we already reached that point? Just when you think technology and the enormous amount of data available is supposed to make things easier, faster, more efficient, is it actually slowing us down?

What is the point of all this data anyway?

Well, it supposed to help businesses, entrepreneurs, investors, politicians, scientists, teachers…make better decisions. Decisions to create a new product, launch a new company, invest in a start-up, cast a certain vote, deliver a new solution, or provide the tools to succeed in life.  Is data accomplishing any of this? Or does it come down simply to human ability and passion for what we believe in?  I still contend it’s the later.

What happens if you lack the ability or the passion for what you believe in? You seek data to make your case for you. In many cases, we seek data that supports our contention over data that refutes it. It’s human nature. For many of us, it’s hard to admit when we are wrong, and we end up making decisions that may not be the best. So data can work both ways. Just when you thought the plan was fool-proof, the data steered you wrong.

Is it about time, we relied a bit more on our gut.  What ever happened to “go with your gut” ? It worked for thousands of years, and we lost a lot of it based on the information age in which we live.  We make decisions based largely on what we learn from data…what our “freinds” say, what “experts” say, sometimes even what “teachers” say, and if what they all say is based on the wrong data, we are screwed.

Go with your gut…do what you believe is right, and you’ll never lose.  If anything, you’ll create your own data source to improve all by yourself.

Live and learn.