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How To Win Content Friends (and Keep Their Ideas Pouring In)

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How To Win Content Friends (and Keep Their Ideas Pouring In)

We’ve all been there.

You attend a retreat designed to prompt innovative ideas. You participate in a focus group. Or perhaps you met with a consultant or internal strategist. Maybe you joined a brainstorming session in your department.

The gathering concludes with hope. People are inspired. Action plans or next steps may be discussed.

And then …

 

Nothing.

Or, if something did result from your participation, you never found out.

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Doesn’t that experience feel frustrating? It probably also makes you less enthusiastic about participating the next time you’re asked. At the very least, it makes you wary about investing your time or energy into subsequent requests.

Yet, when content marketers ask for input from others, we often make the same mistakes. We fail to let them know what has happened – and what hasn’t.

You can easily change that. But don’t just promise to do it – even those with the best intentions end up forgetting or let “more important” tasks push that promise further down their to-do list ­– until it falls off.

Make a plan to communicate progress (or lack thereof) with those who gave input but aren’t involved in the day-to-day efforts. This move brings a couple of benefits. First, those asked to share their insight will know their participation mattered. Second, you and your team will be more accountable for the action plans.

Before you ask for input on your #ContentMarketing initiatives, make a plan to update everyone who responds, so they’ll know their input matters, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Here’s an outline of a plan you can implement right away.

Take notes on who participated

If you ask for input from a lot of people, it can be hard to remember who needs to see the follow-up communication. Create a spreadsheet with their contact information, tag them in your database, or create a group email as you work on the initial meeting, retreat, or interview request.

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Now, you can quickly contact your early input contributors whenever you need or want to reach out to them.

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Make an appointment

Map your next steps or action plan milestones on your calendar. But don’t just list it as an activity to do that day. Schedule each as an appointment with yourself (or your team). In the description, list what you’ll report on that day and who will share the update.

Send thanks

Now that you have an action plan tied to your calendar, go back to your early input group. Send them a thank-you note for their participation. In the message, let them know the next time you’ll be reaching out with an update on the outcome of their work.

An email can work for this thanks-and-next-steps note. But if you or your team have time, think about sending a handwritten note. The extra personal touch can go a long way in making the participants feel you appreciated their time and input.

TIP: If you don’t have the action plan on the calendar quickly, send two notes – a thanks-for-participating message followed by the next-steps-with-dates communication.

Send a handwritten note to thank people who gave input to your #Content program. The personal touch lets them know you value their time, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Create a template for updates

Your update outreach doesn’t have to go into great detail. After all, people don’t want to wade through a lot of information to learn what’s up. Remember, the participants aren’t consumed by the project –they just want to be kept in the loop. So, making it easy for them to see what’s up also makes it easier for you to create the communication consistently.

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Develop a template for updates. It will save you from having to update fields and headers that don’t change every time. You’ll also see what you shared last time.

Your template can be a simple document with standard headers:

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  • Project Name
  • Goal
  • Progress This Month (pick an appropriate period but do it at least every six months)
  • What’s Next
  • Noteworthy or Surprising News (optional)
  • Shoutout (optional – and I’ll explain this later in the article)

Or, if your follow-up report involves sharing a lot of metrics, you might want to consider a spreadsheet with standard columns:

  • Project
  • Goal (measurable)
  • Metric to Date (or Progress to Date if the project is not yet at the measurement stage)
  • Next Step
  • Noteworthy
  • Shoutout

Send the update as an attachment or link in an email. Always invite questions and be sure to respond to everyone who asks one (even if the answer is “I don’t know.”)

TIP: If the update is text-based, paste it into the body of the email, too. That spares them from taking a second step to open an attachment or click on the link.

Give a shoutout

People like to be recognized for their contributions. If you use an idea from an early participant in the project, give them credit in the update report. I suggest listing this as a shoutout, so you can give them the proper recognition among all who have been or are involved in the project.

If it’s appropriate to share publicly when the idea sees the light of day, you could acknowledge it by tagging their social handle or noting it as something like “h/t to Jamar Smith” (h/t stands for hat tip).

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Acknowledge good #Content ideas and input with a public shoutout (h/t @AnnGynn) via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Bring the gang back together

When the project or milestone is complete, ask the early participants to gather again. Invite them to celebrate the accomplishment. Share how their input made a difference in the project.

TIP: If it’s not realistic to gather in person, invite everybody to a virtual gathering.

Of course, if nothing happened or the project didn’t work out, you likely have nothing to celebrate. But you can still get people together to help discern why it didn’t work. But, if you don’t need that kind of input, simply send a final update explaining how their input still mattered even if the goal wasn’t achieved.

No news isn’t good news

Be ready to report and explain a lack of progress. It’s easy to update people when things are moving along or succeeding. It’s harder to share when things aren’t going well. But that honesty and transparency will go a long way to indicate you appreciated and respected their participation.

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Your early participants will feel seen and heard when you update them throughout the process. It also keeps you and your team accountable ­because you know others are interested in the outcome.

And the next time you ask people for their input, they’ll give you a “yes” right away.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

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B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

The B2B customer journey can be a long one, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is under consideration.

“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from anonymous first touch to won,” according to Dreamdata in their 2022 B2B Go-to-Market Benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”

But the report also indicates that this journey can be significantly sped up — by as much as 63% — if accounts begin their research at software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that originate at a review site often lead to deals of higher value too.

Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, explained Hedebrandt, there are typically 10 or even 20 data silos that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, white paper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos, and of course intent data from review site visits — this data doesn’t typically sit in one place within an organization.

“We built an account-based data model because we believe that there’s such a thing as an account journey and not an individual journey,” said Hedebrandt. “So if there are two, three or five people representing an account, which is typically what you see in B2B, all of these touches get mapped into the same timeline.”

Among those many touches is the intent data sourced from software review site G2. Dreamdata has an integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of G2-generated intent data. This includes filtering prospects who are early in their journey, who have not yet discovered the customer’s product, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions and revenue to the activity.

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“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” said Hedenbrandt. “B2B SaaS companies are particularly ripe for understanding this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a salesforce that use software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally as well.” What’s more, it takes twice as long to close SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B commercial and professional services companies.

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Read next: A look at the tech review space

The Benchmarks findings. The conclusions of the 2022 Benchmarks report is based on aggregated, anonymized data from more than 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first-touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than the average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); it’s the same when paid media is the first touch (155%).

As the Benchmarks report suggests, this may well mean that social is targeting prospects that are just not in-market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.

Hedenbrandt underlines the importance of treating the specific figures with caution. “It’s not complete science what we’ve done,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it’s not going to be completely off. You can only spend your time once, and at least from what we can see here it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.”

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While Dreamdata highlights use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily concedes that competitor software review sites might reasonably be expected to show similar effects. “Definitely I would expect it to be similar.”

Why we care. It’s not news that B2B buyers researching software purchases use review sites and that those sites gather and trade in the intent data generated. Software vendors encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that a large number of hopefully positive reviews is a good thing to have.


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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer journey — especially as the first-touch channel — can be quantified and a value placed on it. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2, then flowed into sales meetings, website visits, ads, etc. Then we can also join the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”

Likely, this is also another example of B2B learning from B2C. People looking at high consideration B2C purchases are now accustomed to seeking advice both from friends and from online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, Hedenbrandt suggests: “More people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether this is a trustworthy vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.”


About The Author

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Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

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He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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