What B2B Content Marketers Can Learn from Niche Publications « Goldberg Communications
When the personal computer industry burst onto the scene, so did a raft of new trade publications. And IT buyers scoured their pages for help with their purchase decisions.
Today, many of these publications are struggling, not because IT buyers don’t see incredible value in their pages, but because they’ve failed to find ways to monetize their services in the Internet age. Yet, buyers remain as hungry for content as always. And marketers that provide valuable content —especially when they do so for free—are reaping the benefits.
According to a recent study by ITSMA, “How Customers Choose Solution Providers, 2010: The New Buyer Paradox,” nearly 60% of respondents said that idea-based content plays an important or critical role in determining which providers make it into their short lists. And if providers go farther and use thought leadership to help companies clarify their business needs and suggest solutions, 30% of this group said they would consider sole-sourcing the deal.
Since marketing departments are new to content creation, they can learn valuable lessons from the pros of content creation—those niche publishers. Here are some tips from the pros:
Find out what readers are looking for.
Publications are obsessed with what their readers think. When I was at PC Magazine in the late 80s, our mission was to help companies make purchase decisions—so we could sell ads to the companies trying to reach those decision makers. We did extensive surveys of readers to determine how they made purchase decisions, and we made sure that each page helped with that process. As a result, the editors shifted the focus of the magazine away from general interest articles about the new (at the time) technology and began doing hard-core comparative product reviews that would directly help companies make their decisions. Other publications surveyed readers on their interest level in various topics. At still others, we conducted extensive focus groups on readers’ interest in various types of articles.
Draw the reader in.
Publications understand that if a piece doesn’t immediately pique a reader’s interest, the reader simply won’t read further. Therefore, they always work to make sure each article has an enticing headline, subhead, and lead paragraph that would pull the reader in. For more information on what makes a headline enticing, see our six-part series on headlines.
Make sure your content is easy to read.
At PC Magazine, we had vast armies of writers and editors intent on making sure all the copy was conversational, easy to understand and error-free. Once a writer turned in an article, a so-called “line editor” often completely rewrote the copy to ensure it made sense and flowed logically. An executive editor then reviewed the text. Next, several “copy editors” looked at each individual line of copy for clarity, style consistency, spelling, and so on. Finally, at least two proofreaders would review each article for typos.
Write for scan ability.
Each article in publications always contain attractive elements that help the headline, subhead, and lead paragraph pull the reader in. These include interesting pull quotes, lots of charts and graphs, and captions. At PC Magazine we also created fact files about each product, which were short summaries of our reviews. These elements allowed readers to skim the article as they quickly flipped through it and still come away with the main points. If readers were intrigued by any of these elements, they would read the article to learn more.
By stealing these techniques from trade publications, marketers can better fulfill the information needs of their customers. And as research shows, by giving customers vital information, companies are more likely to land on the short list when it comes time for customers to purchase a product.
Has your company adopted publishing techniques?