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As Big Money Pours into Big Data Start-ups, Differentiation Makes All the Difference

Friday October 18, 2013

 

Standing out of crowd

Big Data is becoming an even bigger deal. And when things get big, it gets more important to stand out from the crowd.

Just this week, a group of Silicon Valley investment superstars, including Ron Conway and Andreessen Horowitz, announced another fund, Big Data Elite, targeted at Big Data start-ups.

 At Write Angle, we’ve done a number of projects for companies in the Big Data realm, including Sumo Logic, Glassbeam and Sensage (now Hexis Cyber Solutions). What’s clear to us is that the term “big data” means different things to different people – which is another way of saying it may mean nothing at all without the proper context. Big Data applications and analysis services run the gamut from information security to customer support to consumer marketing to social media.

As the volume of hype becomes deafening in the Big Data arena, it’s easy for a young company to be grouped together with other perceived players despite having little, if anything, in common with them. Market analysts, journalists and potential customers may not have clue about who does what in which space – or even if the space exists.

Would-be Big Data players must ensure that they differentiate themselves in terms of what market they’re targeting and how they serve that market better than anyone else. If you’re not continuously informing your market about who you are and what makes you worth paying attention to – with constantly refreshed content across your media platforms – competitors who articulate a more compelling story will surely pass you by.

Simple steps to thought-leadership using your B2B blog

Friday August 16, 2013

 

 

How would you like to boost the perception of your B2B brand as one of your industry’s thought leaders, grow your blog readership over 2000% and develop relationships with the who’s-who of your business — all in less than a year?

This is exactly what Drillinginfo (DI) did. Today, DI, a SaaS vendor serving a sector not exactly synonymous with trendy social media, is positioned as a premier source of information in the oil and gas industry. And its forays into social media began only last September.

It’s been a given that a B2B brand’s social efforts are a long-term slog, so DI’s results merit a closer look. In fact, this report suggests that the company’s approach amounts to a study in best-practices that might be replicated in any industry, especially when it comes to blogging. To our way of thinking, these practical steps are actionable for any B2B blog:

  1. Get your employees to contribute ideas and content.
  2. Set an editorial calendar — don’t assign topics, assign people and let them write about industry-relevant subjects that they’re interested in.
  3. Involve them in brainstorming topics and angles relevant to your products and customers.
  4. Involve your contributors so they feel ownership. Teach them “blog-consciousess” by explaining what blog-friendly writing and content are all about.
  5. Push content out to your email lists and social accounts (Linked In, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
  6. In your email to blog subscribers, include the full blog post, but include a custom call-to-action for readers to go to your website and make comments.
  7. Compile interest-groups on Linked In (and elsewhere) of relevance to your industry and post your content there. Caveat: be absolutely certain that what you’re sharing is of genuinely useful value. If it isn’t, it’s spam.
  8. Find out who the influencers are in your industry and publish your own Top 20, 50 or 100 list(s).
  9. Set a big goal for your blog: Aspire to thought leadership.

What are you doing to promote your blog?

Why Fresh Content is Critical to Achieving High Search Rank Results

Friday July 19, 2013

Food Temperature Stock Photo - Image: 20130790


“Content” is a perishable.  Blame those pesky algorithms.

We live in content-marketing world. And at Write Angle we counsel clients to be wary. Why? Because marketers live in a part of this world characterized by the cat-and-mouse of search practitioners vs.search algorithms — and the creative tension it causes between SEO gurus and content writers. Just throwing “content” out there isn’t enough. It has to be be right stuff at the right time.  And it must stay fresh.

The surefire way to prosper in this world is to create and publish material that earns you a consistent place in search rankings. Today, this means the top three-to-five.  Easy to say, tough to do.  And this is where we come in because organic search is the baseline tactic for the written content of marketing campaigns.

New research from Chitika
, according to Danny Flamberg of Booster Rocket, based on 300 million search impressions last May, “indicates that winning and losing at natural search is clear; you either win big or die quickly. If you don’t place among the top 3–5 positions on the search engine results page you get none of the benefits of your investment. It’s win big or go home”. (Download the complete report here.)

Boiling down the findings: you get 33% of the traffic if Google ranks you number one. Come in second and you get about half of that. Third place earns you about half again (11%). This, BTW, is the response rate of old-time direct mail!

In other words, if you don’t make page one (92% of all traffic) the maximum access you can hope to achieve is about 8% of  total search-driven traffic.

“For most marketers, rankings drive traffic; that’s the payoff,” Flamberg says. “There’s not much value in bragging rights to a position that doesn’t pay off in site trafficit doesn’t pay to be number two.”

As content-driven rankings are key to brand awareness and lead generation, you need to put your brand’s best foot forward with refreshed content — the kind that’s regularly adjusted to changing algorithms.

Is your content driving the traffic you want? Do you keep it fresh?  Is it the right stuff at the right time?

Big data just got bigger: New VC infusion adds $100MM

Wednesday June 19, 2013

 

No matter how you define “big data”, the market category is scorching hot.  How hot?  Accel Partners has just launched a new $100 million fund dedicated to funding so-called big data companies.

With its “Big Data Fund 2”, Accel is betting a hefty sum on organizations developing big data solutions.  Their rationale for another infusion of capital in this space?   Quoting Shlomo Kramer, CEO of Imperva and a new advisor to Accel’s big data group, “The enterprise world has already embraced the concept of Big Data and is starting to leverage insights derived from data to solve security and other business problems in ways previously unthinkable.”

Having written extensively about Big Data on behalf of clients including Sumo Logic and Glassbeam,  it’s clear to us at Write Angle that companies vying for market leadership will have a harder and harder time differentiating themselves.  Consider the findings of CB Insights who is tracking this space closely.  According to their big data report, funding for these companies rocketed from 55 deals in 2008 to 164 in 2012.  Over a five-year span, the total sits at 523 deals.

Does this signal market saturation?  Too early to tell, probably. But the takeaway is unmistakable. The dogfight in the big data space will create a deafening amount of noise. And the companies with the best chance of survival will be those that can articulate a compelling, well-differentiated and highly defensible value proposition that will stand the test of time.  And that means content creation efforts needed to tell a compelling story, one with rock-solid business use cases, are nothing less than essential.

 

 

Is ‘Silicon Valley Speak’ annihilating everyday language?

Friday April 26, 2013


No-Jargon

 

Now in our third decade of technology marketing in Silicon Valley, we’ve been exposed to our unfair share of linguistically challenging content and mind-numbing jargon.

You’d think we would have been de-sensitized at this point.  But a recent email containing a slew of cringe-worthy zingers inspired this blog posting.  It was as if we were previewing a script for a sitcom on “Valley Technobabble”.  Like us, even the laugh track was groaning.

No matter how many times we call it out, tortured business language continues to pollute even the simplest communications.  Like cockroaches, taxes and acronyms, it just won’t go away.

The peculiar dialect now permeating every avenue of communications is something that might be best described as “Silicon Valley Speak”, a bewildering vocabulary that redefines (or it is “defies”) grammar, tramples well-established definitions and creates an entirely new glossary of befuddling terminology that would leave even Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, slack-jawed.

What punched our buttons in the aforementioned email was the word “onboarding”.  No, this is not a variation on the CIA’s torture tactics, but it might as well be linguistically.  The term may not exactly be new, but with all due respect to HR folks, do we really need yet another ham-handed concept to convey “a systematic and comprehensive approach to orienting a new employee to help them ‘get on board’”?  What happened to “hiring” or “orientation”?

Alas, we’re not alone in our incredulity at the insidious invasion of the “jargon-slingers”.  Credit goes to Christopher Steiner for creating that gem.  He penned one of the funniest and most astute articles titled The Most Annoying Business Jargon that takes the business world to task for “cutting its anchors to the English language.”

Let’s face it.  We’ve all heard the usual suspect lingo clanging around web sites, press releases, conference presentations and the like.  But do we have to stand for it?  At Write Angle, we certainly hope not.

To quote Mr. Steiner, “Let the jargon slinger know that you know who they are:  a vapid, message-clouding, English-avoiding, communications nightmare.”

Amen to that.

What SV-speak do you hear around the cubes or watering holes these days that cause you to cringe? What do you do to stamp it out?

The five worst practices in B2B technology-content marketing

Monday March 25, 2013

 

1.  Shove a datasheet into a prospect’s face right after you introduce yourself.

When a qualified prospect on a fact-finding mission enters your tradeshow booth, you introduce yourself and inquire about their business and their familiarity with you (read: you qualify them). What you do not do is dive right into a spec-sheet monologue. It’s the same with content. Just as your marketing material should be calibrated (and designated) according to the prospect’s stage-of-purchase, it must be sequenced accordingly.  In the same way, the best “family” of content begins at the primary level and gradually moves up to more advanced material.  Caveat: don’t always assume that a relatively well informed prospect won’t find use for introductory materials. Savvy shoppers will contrast and compare competitors every step of the way and cross-check competing claims. Hint: vendors showing the most proof-points with the most relevance to the reader usually win.

2.  Emphasize your features and benefits rather than their problems and issues.

A variant of #1 above, it’s no secret that content with user themes earn the most favor with users. But you must go further. Don’t talk about your offering per se so much as the solution it represents to problems vexing the customer. There are nuances to being perceived by a customer as “one of us”, rather than being seen as just another vendor.  You want them to receive you as a partner rather than a supplier. Your content will either validate one perception, or the other.

3.  Assume they believe you have no competition

If you think this is a no-brainer, then why is so much vapid marketing content floating around? The first step in breaking away from the pack is to acknowledge that it’s there. Customers understand you only in terms that they’ve already come to understand–by virtue of what they’ve learned and continue to find out about alternative offerings.  Besides, if you’re the only solution, how can a viable market exist? The worst impression you can create is that you don’t know your competitors as well as your prospects do.

4.  Presume everything you slap a logo on makes it inherently “must-see TV”

Happens all the time to product managers who look at a user through the lens of their product when they should be looking at their product through the eyes of the user. It’s no coincidence that so many marketers of this persuasion tend to be hyper-competitive, obsessing on how the competition is marketing, what it’s saying, doing and achieving. Make your customers’ issues your issues and your content will naturally reflect a customer-centered POV.

5.  Believe that everything is as good, or as bad, as Sales says it is.

Snarky, maybe, but this old saying has been around too long to dismiss it out of hand. Your sales force is inherently focused on the deals and crises of the moment. This means perceptions can become quickly and easily distorted in the heat of the transaction process. It’s only human to project what we want to see and hear from our prospects and customers, rather than take a breath, stand back and understand a situation for what it really is. Look at large pattern of data points, not just the ones you’re infatuated with, or most alarmed by, at any moment. Which, after all, is fundamental to the marketing mission and the marketing content it depends on.

So what are your content-marketing practices?  How do you ensure a customer-and-market focus?

The first step toward making your B2B marketing content drive revenue

Friday March 15, 2013

Gear Lever Stock Images - Image: 9250854

©

So when an authority like Marketo weighs in on why a steady stream of great content is key to driving B2B revenue today, we’ll pay attention.

Marketo is a leader in marketing automation (MA), the software that more and more companies use today to make their marketing teams more measurable and accountable, more engaged with customers and better enabled to scale time and resources. In other words, it makes the companies that use it better at marketing and selling. And it’s been good for Marketo, and for Eloqua, to name the two biggies in MA.  If the trend continues, according to Gartner, money spent on this type of software is projected to exceed corporate IT budgets by 2015. 

At Write Angle, we were struck by something Marketo had to say via a recent post by Heidi Bullock: “Technology is awesome, but it really is only as good as the people who implement it and manage it on a day-to-day basis. That’s why it is important to think about your team structure when putting software systems in place”.

So what was first on the team list they cited? It was the day-to-day manager of content.

No matter which member of your team is tapped for the job, the skill-set is the same: It must be someone who can conceive and create a steady stream of compelling content, from written web copy, case studies or white papers to engaging video that showcases your value proposition from all angles — and re-purposes this content across all media and platforms. Whether you have the talent on hand for this key task, or choose to outsource to a content writing service, the overarching need for marketing content in today’s content-marketing world is clear.  The question is: How clear is your content today and how do you know for sure?

As Big Data gets bigger, vendors must differentiate

Friday March 1, 2013

iStockphoto, scanrail

 

Communicating what makes you different in the Big Data analytics market has never been more important than right now. The sheer number of exhibitors staking a claim in the Big Data bonanza at the Strata Conference underscores how quickly competition is emerging in this market.

 This week’s conference showcased a veritable Who’s Who in the industry today, including one of our clients, Glassbeam.  Distinguishing itself among the throng of Big Data players, Glassbeam develops big data applications that help companies improve their business and IT operations by intelligently extracting strategic and tactical insights from huge amounts of multi-structured machine data by way of pre-packaged applications.

 To communicate this market position, we helped Glassbeam by preparing fresh web content, creating a product-management solutions brief, a white paper on multi-structured data and a strategic case study featuring Aruba Networks.

 As the competitive landscape become further cluttered with more vendors, claims and counterclaims, credible content  that sets a vendor apart from the crowd will only grow in importance.

What your momma can teach you about writing great content

Thursday February 21, 2013

 

Chances are your mom was a tough customer with a sophisticated BS-detection system.  Especially when it came to shopping and sifting through manufacturers’ claims. Today’s mothers, if we are to believe the studies, are every bit as shrewd.  Difference today is that mom knows her way around the Web and how to find exactly what she wants. Hint: she goes far beyond the brand’s website to find “the friendly neighbor over the virtual fence” who can share the inside scoop on how different products compare.

In other words, today’s moms’ behavior in their marketplace is identical to that of the hardest-nosed prospects in yours. So what lessons can you as a B2B marketer draw from the most successful consumer brands when it comes to building credibility among their most skeptical customers — those prove-it-to-me moms who guard their family’s budgets with a fist as tight as any corporate controller’s?

1. Redouble your efforts to make everything you present specifically relevant and timely to the target. Successful brands understand that today’s e-customers turn first to experts and respected peers, never the brand spokespersons.  And just as moms go right to the blogosphere for tips and guidance, B2B buyers increasingly go straight to the alpha opinion leaders in their categories.

2. Try harder to instigate only those discussions about your industry and technology that the opinion makers and thought leaders want to have. This is a subtle shift from a time, not so long ago, when marketing departments and their various agencies would look for issues that a company might be able to “own”.  The trick today is to pinpoint specific hot buttons drawing the most buzz and then to weigh in with your perspective based on the experiences of your users. If your brand message is delivered in harmony with the hottest issues, over time, you enjoy the halo effect. This inspires direct conversations with more of the hottest prospects and the trials that convert to sales.  From there the credibility spreads and accelerates.

3. Constantly test your material.  A/B testing among various customer segments can reveal surprising data about user sentiments and product usage. Expose different messages that emphasize a different spin and compare the responses in terms of the activity they draw.  Then craft the next wave of content accordingly. Your mom would be proud.

Ridding the world of marketing crap

Thursday February 14, 2013

And good riddance

It’s not often that you sit through a webinar and come away with some real insights.  Fortunately, today’s webinar conducted by Mintigo on improved lead generation through “Content Intelligence” delivered — and hit on some important truisms facing marketers.

As a company that espouses the “power of relevant marketing”, Mintigo struck a chord.  Zeroing in on the content marketing deluge – i.e. “crap” – that is drowning customers and prospects, the Mintigo folks got to the heart of the matter: effective content cannot just entertain and inform, it must contain material that “authentically matters to the people you’re trying to reach”.

So how do you make this determination? It boils down to segmenting your content based on your prospects’ identifiable traits and self-proclaimed areas of interest.   “Content Intelligence” uses more personalized and relevant communication to clusters of targeted prospects based on big data analysis of multiple sources (think websites visited, news preferences, blogs read, social postings and more).  By extracting the needs and interests of prospects, you can segment them into interest groups, clusters and personas.

Make no mistake, this is hard work.  And Mintigo is the first to say so despite the fact they offer up what they declare to be the world’s first Customer Search Engine that automates a lot of the heavy lifting involved.

One of the key challenges of content marketing boils down to producing enough fresh content – and figuring out what topics to communicate – to continually engage targeted prospects with information that is highly relevant in order to trigger more click-throughs.  And this means that engaging the right content development shop to help fulfill this need is becoming one of the most strategic decisions facing marketing departments today.  The days of “spray and pray” marketing are history.  Welcome to the era of content intelligence.