Knowpreneur Tue, 15 Nov 2011 01:23:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Organize Complex Content With Mind Maps Tue, 15 Nov 2011 01:23:09 +0000 twanless

Do you cringe at the thought of creating complex content for posting in  e-books, white papers, case studies, articles, or analytical reports ?

It’s no wonder: These tasks are very large organizational projects made even more difficult when the content involves scientific, technical, or business writing.

Not only do you have to create a cogent thought line in your copy, you also have to ensure that it’s understandable. And then, just for a triple threat, you have to make it readable and perhaps even entertaining.

And, oh yeah, and can we get that ASAP? Like tomorrow?

Try to keep your hand away from the panic button. It can be done. The art of complex content creation is in the start.

How to start a complex content piece

Writers tend to form a half-thought out premise in their minds before starting. They think they know what they want to say, and believe that the “how are you going to say it” will work itself out as they go along.  That’s how writing supposedly happens.

Truth is, that isn’t how it happens. A piece of complex content is like an engineering project. It has to be planned, examined, and, sometimes, rethought to more properly hold together.  It has to be organized logically.

Okay, you’re a wearing your writing hat, not your engineering hat. If you wanted to be a gearhead, you wouldn’t have enrolled in arts courses in college. So how do you organize and plan a complex content piece so that every piece fits together perfectly and pleases your more scientifically-minded client or boss ?

Use a mind map.

Mind maps allow you to plan your structure and your organize your arguments and demonstrate proof.

In a typical mind map, you start with the big ideas, such as your three or five main points. Then to each of these you successively add detail points. If you carry this through far enough, you’ll almost have most of your piece written before you ever sit down to “write” it.

This then lets you concentrate on the words, not the thoughts. You can turn even the most boring piece of content into a gem that will entertain as well as inform.

Mind maps can also be a bonus

Better yet, you’ll have a great visual representation of what you’re saying. This can sometimes take the place of a large piece, or supplement it and enliven it. Think of it as a bonus you’re providing to the end users (oops, readers) of your content.

To see how a mind map can change your copywriting for the better look at our How We Do It page elsewhere on this site.

So don’t run and hide when that big job lands on your desk. Get mapping.

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Cheat Sheets Charge Up Your B2B Content Tue, 25 Oct 2011 19:30:13 +0000 twanless Cheat sheets can help B2B marketers break through the content clutter that’s increasingly being sent to prospects. They’re informative, yet still different in that they’re easy to digest and use over and over again.


It’s hardly a secret that content marketing has become THE  new marketing — a way for B2B marketers to avoid the “push” marketing that was the only real method available to them before the age of Internet search and social networks.

But the downside of content marketing is that it has unleashed a flood of content on to the Web, most of it aimed at consumers. Using advanced SEO techniques provided by professional SEO services, as well as strategic social media marketing, B2C marketers pump out an endless stream of easily digestible and keyword-stuffed content.

Problem is this kind of simple content is also often superficial, shallow, inconsequential and drowns the substantive content that is so important in B2B marketing.


B2B Content Should Be Deeper

B2B clients want to go deeper into content. They have an expertise and they want to know how a B2B product can help them sell it, whether in the form of a product or a service. Therefore, any web marketing strategy that doesn’t contribute to brand recognition, lead generation and conversion, or direct sales is ineffective.

Traditionally, this has been addressed by more complex content such as blogs, white papers, and case studies. But a new kind of content — cheat sheets — is now available to meeting the demand for complex, yet easily digestible, content in the B2B marketing area.

Cheat sheets are similar to infographics in that they compile a lot of information into relatively short, easily read, and more visual information assimilation.

Cheat Sheets Can Be Elaborate — Or Simple.

They can be elaborate, looking very much like the plastic- covered training guides you used to see in many book stores a decade ago. Or they can be relatively simple and convey basic information.

Cheat sheets are very popular among technologists who use them as guides. For example, here is a cheat sheet to help people navigate the new Google + social networking platform.

But cheat sheets don’t have to be confined to geeks. Here on the Knowpreneur site is a simple visual cheat sheet (in mindmap form) that illustrates how we approach a content marketing project. It may not be pretty, but it is effective in that it gives a site visitor a flavor of how we work.

If you’re struggling with how to provide cogent information that generates leads and queries from visitors in a short format, engage them with a cheat sheet. They’ll keep it around, and better yet, share it with colleagues.



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Pain Relief: Will An Aspirin Do? Thu, 08 Sep 2011 00:14:32 +0000 twanless
Here’s a writing tip for all B2B content producers: Pick your words and labels carefully and ensure they’re appropriate for the target user. 

All writers have a standard set of words they employ on a regular basis, often without thought: Writers of content are no different.

Especially in the Business to Business content marketing sphere, there are a standard set of terms that everyone salts into their copy.

“Problem” is the most common one.

As in “what’s your problem”, a “solution for your problem”, “How to solve this problem or that problem”.

Copywriters are often trained in terms of sales, so, of course, they continually refer to “pain” that must be relieved, preferably by their “solution”. Pain relief is the most common method of selling, which is why white papers, blogs, marketing copy, and just about every other piece of content produced by a company, is aimed at this target.

But really, is your solution solving a “problem”? Or is it addressing an “affliction”?

One of the most common methods sales-oriented marketers use is to define their copy in terms of how their software/consulting/product will solve the prospect’s “problem”.

Too often, all the prospect thinks is “I have a problem? I don’t think so, I might have some troubles, but right now they’re not problems.”

A problem is more dire, as in if we don’t fix this problem right now, this business is going down the tubes! Most marketers, while they may talk in those terms, aren’t really offering a way for a business to save itself.

More likely, what the prospect has is an affliction. An affliction is generally seen as something that distresses, causes discomfort or pain, is a misfortune.

A “problem” must be fixed immediately — or else. An affliction is that nagging pain that isn’t going to bring the business down, but is troubling all the same.

So, when your copy addresses how your product or service is going to help a prospect, think carefully. Are you saving them from disaster, or are you merely helping them relieve a nagging pain?

Is your product or service aspirin or a narcotic?

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6 Content Marketing Tricks For Frazzled SMBs Thu, 04 Aug 2011 00:53:29 +0000 twanless
Small businesses often feel like the wallflower at the dance when it comes to content marketing. Financial pressures, lack of staff, and a shortage of knowledge mean that content usually takes a back seat to other, more traditional, marketing methods.



Even though content is taking over the marketing world — because it works when other forms of “advertising” don’t –many small businesses have barely dipped their toes into it.

Reluctance to change, an eagle eye on every expense dollar, and a misunderstanding of purpose cripple most business’  nascent thoughts of using this new new and effective marketing method.

At most, many of these businesses may have a blog, a newsletter, and possibly a Twitter account. These, unfortunately, often blatantly push products or services or, worse, talk more about internal company concerns than those of their prospects.

This entry-level content is near to useless for marketing purposes because they provide readers with little information they need to answer one overriding question — how can this business help me?

But there are ways small businesses can use content marketing effectively without breaking the bank with extra costs — or their backs with extra work.

1. Know Your Readers or Users
Don’t try to make your blog a mass vehicle by gathering large numbers of users. You only want to talk to a few — your prospective customers. Determine who they are, what problems they struggle with, and why they may buy your products or services, and speak only with them.

2. Distribute Gold Nuggets
People don’t have a lot of time to read blogs that only make one point and fill in around it. And, probably, you don’t have much time to write them. if you don’t have much to say, or much time or resources to say it, just distribute pithy thoughts, quotes that are relevant to your business, or useful bits of information that your prospective customers might value

3. Provide A Forum
If you have a specialty service or product, perhaps very technological or scientific, then make your blog a gathering place for others who are interested in the same subject. Likely, they’ll also be your prospects and will appreciate a forum where they can discuss something they’re passionate about.

4. Be A Little Funny
If you operate a “boring” or prosaic business that doesn’t inspire much passion in people, but is extremely useful for those who need it, then why not poke some fun at your subject and yourself? Sanitation and plumbing systems may not be a bundle of laughs, but everybody needs them. When they have a problem, they may appreciate a bit of humor to light things up.

5. Help The Desperate
Your blog or twitter feeds can address a specific problem for customers who need a fix RIGHT NOW. If we use the above as an example, someone with a plumbing problem needs help as soon as possible, or needs some kind of workaround. Get one up on your competitors by offering temporary help for these desperate prospects.

6. Hire a pro.
Okay, here’s the pitch for my business: Sometimes it’s better to hire an outsider to do your content marketing for you. Small businesses often have a dozen different task on their plates at any one time, and content marketing may just be one more that never gets done. If you think content marketing may work for your business, but don’t want to go through the learning curve that’s involve, you may find more value by bringing in an outside consultant or freelancer.

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Bookstrapping Thought Leadership Thu, 28 Jul 2011 21:56:02 +0000 twanless  


There is no better thought leadership content than a book. While the traditional book as we think about is the ultimate thought leadership vehicle, it doesn’t particularly have to be as traditional as paper. Today it’s often much better to produce an e-book, which is less expensive, more immediate and has almost the same effect.


Anyone in business probably knows the concept of bootstrapping, the growing of a business through your own savings and cash flow. It’s a tried and true entrepreneurial technique used by millions of businesses when they begin their business journey.

Bookstrapping is a similar way of producing high-end thought leadership content.

Thanks to Seth Godin, of  The Domino Project, for the term.

Godin describes bookstrapping as “write a book, codify a manifesto, put it into the world and use it to attract, organize and build a platform.”

This is opposed to the traditional publishing model of “Be famous, build a platform, organize a tribe, then we’ll publish your non-fiction book”

With this description, Godin is talking about the newer method of publishing an e-book instead of the traditional publisher-controlled paper book method.

While he focuses on the manifesto aspect, the same principle applies — with a twist –to any business that is trying to create customer interest and loyalty through thought leadership content.

Why shouldn’t B2B companies, any service business, or product supplier, publish an e-book that delves deep into a subject about which it knows a considerable amount?

Such a book would not only educate readers, it will create trust and authority around the author. Even if your business involves something far more mundane than a manifesto, there are still many people who would probably be interested in your subject area, and would welcome a well-planned and written book that elucidates the subject.

The magic of the internet can make it happen. Via the net, people who are interested in subjects as rare as shoes for three-toed people can find you. And they might welcome a lot of advice about living with three toes. (I know I would if I only had three toes — if anything I’d welcome the knowledge that there are others out there like me.)

Also, an ebook, if promoted correctly, is far more targeted than a simple blog. This is because blogs act at the beginning of the engagement cycle, while ebooks are generally aimed at prospects who are farther along the sales funnel.

Of course, there are some caveats here. For example, don’t just take a white paper and turn it into an ebook. In our hurry-up world, white papers are losing traction because they take too long to read.

An ebook that’s really an extended white paper would gain even fewer readers, even if it is tricked out with some graphics and put in a different format. Instead, the information flow and logic chain will have to be stronger and deeper to continue to hold a reader’s attention.

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Tame The Informational Content Monster: Hire A Journalist. Thu, 30 Jun 2011 19:57:56 +0000 twanless Most businesses today constantly receive and send content. And most of them think it’s all about the presentation,as if it’s just another sales process. But content is the marshalling of information to persuade and/or train. The best people at that are journalists.

Over at the Poynter Institute, blogger Jill Geisner, in her post, Ten Reasons Why You Should Hire A Journalist, makes the case that anyone involved in content should employ trained journalists.

She listed several points. Journalists, she said, are loyal, work hard, and are quick studies. They think critically, know how to tell a story, and have become adept at the Web and other digital media.

As an ex-journo (that’s a polite insider term for someone who’s been there, done that in the trade) myself, and at the risk of sounding too self-serving, I had to nod my head sagely and applaud each one of them.

But I think there is one point that Geisner may have missed that is important for anyone contemplating a content campaign, whether internal or external.

Journalists are particularly adept at gathering and harnessing information.

Now that might seem obvious to anyone who has worked in journalism or near it. But for those unfamiliar with the territory, it might come as a surprise. Most people think information gathering and transfer is the purview of software developers and others who develop such products as business intelligence or management software.

They believe journalists just report.

But think about it. Journalists swim in information constantly. Yes, their public face may be the dissemination of information, but their real job is to find it, track it down, rapidly filter what’s relevant and irrelevant, analyse its importance, and shape it to fit particular purposes and objectives.

For example, when I write a case study, the writing isn’t top of my mind. The structure, logical flow, and persuasion of a point of view is. So I gather facts and examples, and organize them in a structure that makes a point and illustrates it. The writing is the “coding” that makes it all happen.

Journalists were the original information analysts and specialists — back when newspapers and televisions still fought it out for the title of “First with the news”. They — obviously, some better than others — grew an almost sixth sense about what was important and what was inconsequential.

Most developed a knack for quickly drilling down through masses of information in reports, experts’ heads, and other information repositories to find the informational nugget, the life-giving heart of what could sometimes seem like an opinion or sales-based monster.

Then, they carefully constructed a process to deliver and expand on that information so that it informed, engaged, educated and often persuaded — which today is often called the “User Experience”.

Journalists are masters of information processes and logistics.

Software may be able to speed up the process, but it takes a masterful information analyst to make sense of the torrent of information that all businesses receive (and disseminate) today.

Tthat mastery can be useed in many different ways — from developing content for marketing and user experience purposes, to mapping processes and forming procedures for internal business operation.

But of course, I would believe that.  I did it every day. I was a journalist.

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Nurture The Complex Sale With Deep Content Wed, 27 Apr 2011 00:35:09 +0000 twanless

If a world-class physics research center can get its complex content in the media, most B2B marketers can get noticed as well. Here are three ways to do it.

A recent article about the European CERN physics research center that actually made it into a newspaper tells you all you need to know about how B2B marketing and sales is changing in today’s wired world.

Simply, the Web has allowed even the most complex organizations with the most complex products or services to engage in B2B marketing and complex selling today.

The article is a supreme example of how content — in this case probably a press release — can go viral is it’s considered compelling enough.

Get your complex content noticed.

CERN is about as complex an operation as you can get. It does leading-edge physics research of atomic particles to revealing the secrets of the universe.

Heady stuff, yet it manages to market itself through intricate content. Presumably, this is to raise its profile and thus keep the research funding flowing.

Of course, most Business to Business product or service organizations involved in complex sales may not be quite at CERN’s level of complexity.

But their content may be sufficiently complicated as to stifle any kind of presence on a Web that’s inundated with celebrity coverage, consumer gadget marketing, and general simplistic and low-level content aimed at generating hits for advertising purposes and little else.

What the CERN story tell us is that your deeper content will work if you:

Target your content to the right people.

CERN wasn’t trying to speak to everybody. It was only trying to create some buzz around itself that might be picked up by the media and transferred to funders or viewed by those who are interested in such things as physics, or scientific breakthroughs. So what if only one in ten — or one in a hundred — read the story? They’re the only ones that matter.

Put it in language that’s emotional and understandable.

CERN used terms like “smashed particles” and “unveil mysteries of the universe” amid more factual and scientific descriptions to gain some attention. Sellers of complex products or services might find this a bit over the top, but there’s no denying it makes even the most hardened scientist, engineer enthusiast, or prospect take notice. Everyone is attracted to colorful, descriptive language.

Answer the “why should I care?” question.

By tying it to an “event” that had some significance in the wider world, CERN was able to get across what it does, how it does it, and why it does it. These “why should I care?” questions are on the minds of every prospect involved in a complex sale. They have plenty to think about and you can bet that you’re not at the top of their list. Answering those basic questions in an intelligent way will get you near it.

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Layer To Sell Complex Ideas Fri, 01 Apr 2011 19:43:04 +0000 Tony Wanless This post was previously published in a Financial Post column Minding Your Business, Dec. 27, 2010. Author Tony Wanless writes a monthly column for the newspaper.

Entrepreneurs who make the transition from corporate worker to independent business operator invariably face one major hurdle that hobbles their business in the early years. They don’t know how to sell appropriately.

This isn’t because of a lack of information: There’s enough information on selling out there to keep researchers busy for years. Instead, the selling gap exists primarily because of attitude.

Most knowledge entrepreneurs — those who deliver some service or product based on a skill or special knowledge–don’t see themselves as salespeople, but rather as experts in some particular pursuit such as technology development.

Entrepreneurs in more traditional businesses may also suffer from this because it’s unlikely their former jobs or experience involved direct selling.

But selling is the essence of being an entrepreneur, especially in a new economy in which you’re just as likely to be selling ideas as you are hard goods.

Entrepreneurs must sell clients on buying their services or products, investors (or donors) on backing their ideas with hard cash, and employees on executing their plans enthusiastically and vigorously.

At first, most new consultants or other entrepreneurs operating in the knowledge sphere usually buy into the traditional sales advice encompassed in the ABC mantra — “Always Be Closing.” But, because they’re not professional sales people, that very often feels uncomfortable. Also, it rarely works because their services or products are too complicated and/or create sticker shock among prospective clients.

A sales process called layering, and more recently funnelling, will probably feel much more comfortable and produce better results. It’s a longer procedure with several smaller wins instead of the One Big Sale that either works or doesn’t.

In layering, the entrepreneur gives information and services in small chunks that are easily digestible. In that sense it is best suited for selling complicated or expensive items or services, especially knowledge products. Rather than overwhelm–and probably scare off — potential customers with every detail in the big all-encompassing whopper of a sale, the entrepreneur who is using layering offers clients just what they need at a particular moment.

Layering can also be described as giving people increasing tastes of the final product in progressive steps. At first simple items are offered. Then, in a step-up process, more information and continuing sales are added later when the entrepreneur and the client are more involved.

If you think in terms of layering information, you will be building longer-term relationships with customers or clients instead of forcing them to decide whether to go for broke or not right at the beginning. Also, layering allows you to analyze and gain more perspective on people’s reactions.

Of course, you can’t keep adding steps and never reach a destination (or close, to use the old parlance). But by segmenting buyers into various need stages, you will eventually close the largest sale to those who specifically want it.

In that, another term for layering is the sales funnel, which is much used by online marketers. With the funnel, general sales leads are moved along a path that features ever more complicated (and hence expensive) products or services. Perhaps only one in ten leads will make it to the bottom of the funnel, but by then that lead will be convinced of the value of the final product or service. And you will also have sold something of value to the other nine who have dropped out of the process.

If you’re an entrepreneur who is running into resistance from prospects about the complexity of your product or service, or the sticker shock that goes with it, layering may help you establish longer-term relationships with prospects that eventually win them over.


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Are You Persuasive? Mon, 28 Mar 2011 18:33:37 +0000 Tony Wanless When all is said and done, content marketing is about persuasion. 

You’ve written your content, and your words sparkle on the page.

You’ve SEO’d it to the max, and ensured that every one of the keywords that showed up in your analytics has been artfully included.

You’ve trimmed and tightened, and included some hot visuals to draw the eye.

But …. have you persuaded?

Think about it. That was the point of the exercise, wasn’t it?

All content is persuasion. It’s the main purpose when we create and post content. We want to persuade readers that we are expert at something they care about. We want to convince them that they should give us a second look when considering B2B vendors. We want to draw them into our orbit.

So whether we have persuaded those readers to follow up and — oh, please, please — contact us and perhaps begin the engagement process is important.

Persuasion doesn’t come easy, which is probably why it doesn’t always happen.

We can’t just craft a scintillating article, or design a fabulous ebook, or create a blog post that is retweeted everywhere and expect that to be enough.

If someone hasn’t looked at it, become enchanted enough with the possibilities of working with us, or at least marked us down as a possible for some day, then we may have attracted them, or even entertained them.

But we haven’t persuaded them of anything.

Persuasion is the creation of an impression in someone’s mind that they should take some action. It involves thinking, of course, but the point of persuasion is to entice someone to do something. It’s influencing, cajoling, inducing, perhaps even seducing.

The first and main point of persuasive content should be to get into the minds of people that we are hoping to persuade.

This involves several tasks:
  1. We have to have a logical argument that makes sense to the reader or viewer
  2. We have to talk to them in a language that’s familiar
  3. We have to show them that we understand them and their problems
  4. We have to convince them that there is more beyond this one post or article … and that they should search for it
  5. We have to, finally, move them to take a larger step, contact us somehow and engage with us

Think about the content you create so rigorously. Is it aimed at the right people? Does it address their concerns and offer the hint of solutions to their problems. Is it seductive enough that viewers will take some action.

Is it persuading anyone to do something?


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How To Get More Views Of Specialty Content Mon, 21 Mar 2011 00:42:31 +0000 Tony Wanless If you’re a company that markets very specific B2B solutions, don’t fall for the usual SEO advice to cast a wide keyword net. Statistics show that you should do the opposite and zero in on very specific keyword chains.

You’re a specialty company that’s trying to use content marketing to market your niche business-to-business or B2B service or product.
But you can’t get more than a sniff out there on the web. Simply, your Google rankings suck.
Is it that nobody loves you? Not really. It’s more likely that you’re not talking to the right people in the language they use.

When you operate in a particular niche, you’re bound to be lost amidst all the noise on the web. The people you want to get to are those who are interested specifically in how to solve a particular problem, not in general information. So they put these particular problems into their searches in very specific terms.

That’s why you’ll probably be interested in post from from Joe Pullizi about how people search for content on the web today. Pullizi reports that at the AMA Content conference some interesting stats turned up regarding search.

These include:

  • The fastest growing type of keyword search is a length of eight words. Obviously, these are quite specific.
  • The type of search that converts at the highest rate is the four-word search.
  • 70% of searches are considered “long-tail searches” in that they involve fewer people. However, long-tail searches are less competitive and convert at a higher rate.
This tells us that many people are looking for deeper content than the general news about Lady Gaga, or whatever subject is hot this week. Rather, they are looking for information that’s RELEVANT to them and their particularly situation.
In other words, situations to which you probably have a solution. If your market is engineers in a particular area, the obvious conclusion to draw from these stats is that you should ensure your keywords fit a problem that these engineers will be researching on the Web.
Other advice that grows out of these statistics includes:
  • Use blogs, for specialized content. When someone is so detailed as to type in up to six to eight words, they’re likely going to land on a blog that covers those words. Get the words right, and that blog will be yours.
  • When composing content, use the “similar situation” principle that’s common in white papers. This means buyers search for information about others who are having the same problems as them.
  • Share that content in social sites like Twitter and Facebook, even if you think they’re not for you. Google’s latest algorithm update places more emphasis on the social sharing of content. Hence, you’ll get higher rankings for those specific words if you put your content on social sites.

Most of these techniques are counter-intuitive to the usual Search Engine Optimization (SEO) blather that’s so often spread around.

You’ve heard it: find the most viewed keywords and sprinkle them throughout your content.

That may be true if you’re selling widgets or some popular consumer item. But if you’re operating in a B2B niche, do the opposite.

Grab the long tail.

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