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Twelfth Day is one

Well, it seems like only yesterday (or at least just last month), but Twelfth Day Ltd is one year old. So it's as good a time as any to pause for a bit of reflection about what I've learnt over the last year.

It hasn't gone how I'd expected.

When I set up last year I thought it would be a long, hard, slow slog to get business in and then to gradually build it over time. In fact, it was all pretty full on from day one. This hasn't stopped since (if anything it's got even more so).

I can't put this down to any fantastic skill in networking or new business on my part. It seems that when it comes to specialist B2B copywriters, especially technology savvy ones, there is a real demand in the market.

Over the past 12 months I've worked on projects for Adobe, Avaya, Bain, Basware, Baynote, Colt, Crucial, Dell, Econsultancy, EPIServer, Fujitsu, IBM, Ingres, Lebara, Magus, Microsoft, Nominet, Software AG, SWIFT, Symantec, Tata Consulting, ValueClick, Virtualworks, VeriSign, Vodafone and XO Communications among others. I've written ebooks, websites, video scripts, lead nurture campaigns, ads and blogs (though I struggle to find time for my own). I have also developed the tone of voice strategies for a number of companies (and am due to start another in the next month or so). So I can honestly say it's never been boring.

These projects have been primarily through a bunch of really good agencies doing some pretty cool stuff. Anyone who thinks that B2B lags behind B2C in innovation needs to get out more. And, despite the reputation agencies often get, the people have been delightfully human and unaffected (thank you all).

So what have I learnt?

  • That getting good at B2B and technology copywriting was a really good idea 
  • That I know more about this stuff than I realised when I was employed
  • That I'm still passionate about all things tech – this stuff is changing the world
  • That content marketing is the most important thing for companies to get right today
  • That not many have yet
  • That you should trust your gut instincts about who you work with (or don't work with)
  • That if you work every hour of the day you can get a lot done
  • That you can't work like that forever
  • That it's really difficult to say no to interesting projects
  • That there are a lot of interesting projects around
  • And that the combination of luck and skill is a powerful thing

While I have no mission statement, I decided when I started up that once clients worked with me I wanted them to never want to work with anyone else again. So far I've only parted company with one company (where I didn't trust my gut instincts). So all in all not too shabby.

It would be dangerous to make any predictions about year two. Anyone involved in this industry knows all about its ups and downs. But thank you to everyone I've worked with over the last year, it's been quite a ride.


Are you growing your brand or Facebook's?

There's one thing I want to make clear right from the outset of this post: Facebook does not need your help growing their brand. Nor does Google. Nor does Twitter. Nor does LinkedIn.

Over the past year or so, there appears to have been a shift in B2B marketing departments where they've begun using Facebook et al as their go to destination for driving traffic. So, you'll see an increasing number of brands pushing people through to rather than Or they'll ask you to follow them on Twitter as their only call to action. And, as soon as the company pages on Google+ are available, expect to see that being trumpeted too.

Now, of course, there is some good rational thinking lurking behind all this. As the phrase goes: shoot where the ducks are thickest. And there are millions of 'ducks' on these networks. What's more these are caring, sharing ducks who can help spread your message to vast networks of others. So what's not to like?

Well, here are some things to consider before jumping in:

  • If Facebook changes the rules, there's nothing you can do about it – you are on a walled network with its own rules which can be changed (and have been). Eggs, basket, that kind of thing.
  • You will have limited flexibility in what you can do – for all the add-ons, the functionality of these networks is still relatively limited (ironically, this can actually be a good thing but you need to have thought it through).
  • The user mindset may not be in the right place – yes, there may be plenty of people there, but what are they there for? Facebook is still primarily about keeping up with friends. Increasingly, like Twitter, it's also being used for time-limited offers. But the question remains: what role should it play in a complex B2B sale? In the tech space, Cisco uses Facebook well – but while there are lots of comments, typically the engagement is shallow at best. LinkedIn Groups are better in this regard but the volume is significantly lower.
  • Facebook (and the other networks) are just a part of the picture – the danger is to view Facebook as a panacea, but it is really just a part of the picture which can be useful early on in a sale (at an awareness stage). Too many marketers are making the same mistake they used to with traditional advertising – driving for awareness (fans/follows/likes) and thinking that the job's finished. This is simply and obviously not the case.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn may have less influence than you think – there are many and varied conflicting stats to choose from here but if we look at research from Forrester (who know a thing or two and are generally pro-social media) – social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn rank as #12 out of 14 on a scale measuring influence on IT decision making.

So what am I saying? Never go near Facebook for B2B? No. Both Facebook and LinkedIn (and I expect Google+ in a couple of months) have a place in your B2B marketing plans. However, you must be clear about exactly what that place is, what you can expect in terms of results and what the cost is (mainly in time and attention).

Importantly, you must balance your public social networking presence within an integrated approach to your marketing as a whole. You need to root this in the evidence rather than the hype. And ultimately, you need an approach that grows your brand, your customer engagement and your sales.


Could Kindle be key to your next content marketing strategy?

Content marketing, for me, is the defining trend in B2B right now. The move from interruption-based communications to customer engagement via interesting, useful content is where today's B2B marketers should be investing.

Of course, there is always the issue of distribution. You've got a great piece of content, how and where do you get it out into the wider world? There are many options from blogs to ebooks to social networks to whatever else you can think of. But one that I'm pretty excited about (and which doesn't get enough of a mention) is Kindle.

It was recently reported that in the US, Kindle book sales now exceed paperbacks (and exceed hardbacks in the UK). And the Kindle application is already available for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone (as well as in the Kindle unit itself). As such it offers a viable platform for distributing text-based content.

Publishing to Kindle is also easier that you probably think. There's a full guide on Amazon's site (or you can download a Kindle-based guide). You can make the content free and Amazon's Whispernet is a pretty great piece of technology for getting it onto users' screens.

Something to think about for your next B2B content marketing strategy.


Friction-free marketing

Many of us involved in marketing communications spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about concepts. By concepts I mean the overarching ideas we use to gain attention and hang a series of communications together. The big idea as some still call it.

In some ways this is a hangover from old school advertising campaigns. But for all that, some form of unifying idea still has value in our age of fragmentation. It offers a foundation that we can use to stay on track and gives what we do a focus that it often sorely needs.

The problem comes when the concept gets away from the core marketing objective. When it becomes the end rather than the means. This tends to happen when everyone involved falls in love with the idea. (The starting point usually comes just after someone says "Wouldn't it be cool if...?")

The result is that the concept begins to get in the way of effectiveness. It slows customers down as they spend more time figuring out the concept and less time doing what we want them to do.

It creates friction.

These days, expecting people to spend a luxurious amount of time exploring our sites, chasing down links, dwelling over every piece of content is something akin to delusional. Anything that prevents customers getting to value as quickly and easily as possible is an opportunity wasted.

So the next time you're assessing a potential concept, ask yourself: Will it help speed customers through the sales cycle or is it just friction?


Do you believe in marketing?

I'm reading Guy Kawasaki's new book, Enchantment at the moment. In it, he has a quote from another book I read a while back – Annette Simmons' Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins. It goes like this:

People don't want information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith – faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.

Of course, in the B2B world, this could be seen as heresy. After all, we deal with rational people making complex decisions over extended periods of time. Surely they need facts, not faith.

This rational view is supported by the wealth of content we are all creating these days (and one of the reasons my blogging has been so pitiful lately). From ebooks to white papers to videos to podcasts, we're doing more than ever before to explain our products and services and how they fit into the customer's world. We're eschewing spin and giving it straight lest our marketing shows. Just the facts Ma'am.

But let's just pause for a second. Let's stop and think about why we're really creating all this content marketing. It's not really about facts and logical argument. After all, facts are a dime a dozen. It's not as if we're in possession of killer facts that our competitors are not (at least not for long).

Then what are we doing?

Well, we're actually creating emotion. This may be excitement and anticipation, reassurance and confidence or any of the wider panoply of emotional responses. After all, study after study has shown that emotion drives behaviour – and it's changes in behaviour we ultimately want to see. Beyond this we're offering a glimpse of the relationship customers can expect from us, a small indication of what our brand is like on a personal level. Even in B2B people buy people.

Fundamentally, as Annette points out, we are encouraging faith. Faith that we'll deliver. Faith that customers won't regret their decision to purchase. Faith that our role in their futures will be a benign and beneficial one.

And by focusing on faith first and facts second, we can create the kind of content that both deepens relationships and delivers results.