Your Email Address Is Not Good Enough for Us.

Low-brow email addressees need not apply? What’s up with that? Some content owners have started getting fussy about the addresses their prospects give.

My colleague, Merle Tenney, announced his upcoming presentation in a webinar some weeks back. It was sponsored by a content quality software company I’ll call Katzenjammer, just because I’ve been itching to use that as a pseudonym lately.

Merle says important things, and I want to hear them. I went to the registration form on the Katzenjammer site.

I sign up for several of these events each month, so it was with considerable surprise that I beheld the response after I clicked the Submit button:

 

 

Requiring an email address from a “non-free provider” struck me as a bit cheeky. I felt like Johnny Halladay singing “Quoi ma gueule ? Qu’est-ce qu’elle a ma gueule ?” So, what’s wrong with my email address? So what if it’s free?

The marketing managers at Katzenjammer have probably worked out that people who use a Gmail, AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail or otherwise unpaid email address are not very serious prospects. If you have a free email address, you probably cannot afford Katzenjammer’s products, and if you can afford them and use a free email address anyway, then you’re probably still not a good prospect.

I suppose it works for them.

Free email users are lousy prospects

I thought it uncool of Katzenjammer to decline my email address so brusquely. Am I a lousy prospect for them? Sure, but if all you want are prospects with a high probability of conversion, why issue a cattle call for attendees? Many are called, but few are desirable, I guess.

Besides, Katzenjammer wasn’t the draw; Merle was. “Merle, we want you to headline our webinar, but we’re not going to allow people to register with a crummy email address, because it doesn’t serve our purposes.” Is that how they pitched it to him?

I guess Katzenjammer knows that most people flick in a throwaway address that they rarely check. On the one hand, I understand Katzenjammer’s thinking; on the other, if they provided only valuable content – like Merle’s webinar – and focused more on what’s in it for attendees than what’s in it for Katzenjammer, they wouldn’t have to worry about what they consider sub-standard email addresses.

Blame it on the email provider

Some weeks later I tried to sign up for a free webinar from MarketingProfs, that venerable fount of marketing wisdom. They too are tired of cheap email addresses, but they’re using a perfectly Teflon pretext and blaming their email provider:

MarketingProfs complains, “Sorry, your email address is being blocked by our email provider.” Of all the nerve.

I could be wrong about this. Maybe there are spam issues at work here. Maybe the script kiddies soak up all the available seats in the webinar and cause admin headaches. But if that were the problem, wouldn’t you use a simple Captcha?

On the other hand, if I want the webinar badly enough, isn’t it worth giving up my non-free address, then just unsubscribing if I don’t like whatever else they send me?

If it’s free, then you’re the product.

…says Chris Dancy, and he’s right.

There’s a tacit understanding that, if the webinar is free, then I’m the product. But if I pollute my value as the product by using a free email address, the deal is off now. What does that bode for deviously clever sites like GuerrillaMail.com, which obligingly give you an address for an hour, and even let you play a game while you wait for your reply?

Are you dissing prospects with free email addresses? Is it working out for you? How many hours have you spent tinkering with that, instead of just generating arrestingly valuable content?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

Nobody Cares About Your Products. Really.

Marketing managers are supposed to keep their heads on straight. Let other people drink the Kool-Aid; your job is to converse with customers, not bomb them with features and benefits.

Deal with it.

Nobody cares about your products or how cool they’ll be if they buy them. They care about their problems and whether they can trust you to help fix them.

Sorry, but that’s the deal.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Sign up for his Content Buffet Newsletter and get the free eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

Marketing Writer + All Your Mailing Lists = Groupie

What do you use to prepare your marketing communications writers for a project? A creative brief? A phone call? Put them on your mailing lists and throw everything at them.

Your content groupiesIf your writers were groupies – your groupies – would you like them less?

If they’re delivering good content on time, then their groupie-hood should be the least of your worries.

“Put me on all your mailing lists.”

Have your marketing writers ever said that to you? If they did, would you know how to do it?

“How many email lists do you have?” one writer asked her client. “I want to subscribe to all of them.”

Now that’s a groupie.

Have you ever had a writer so voraciously interested in your company and its valuable content that she asked to subscribe to everything you put out, whether she wrote it or not?

“I don’t want to send you comments and suggestions on the content,” the writer explained, “I want to learn from it and do a better job of writing for you.”

Huh?

After you’d picked yourself up off the floor and regained your composure, you might start to mentally enumerate all of the channels and places in which somebody who really wanted to follow you, could follow you:

  • email lists
  • newsletters
  • blog and vlog
  • direct mail
  • podcasts
  • RSS feeds
  • Twitter followers
  • LinkedIn group
  • YouTube channel
  • Facebook page
  • Google +
  • Pinterest
  • reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • all the blogs in which your managers routinely guest-post

(Note to future readers: Disregard channels that have long since become extinct. There was  a time when all of these were popular.)

Do you know all of your channels?

Do you yourself track all of this content? Probably not, because the channels change so quickly.

So, while you’re scratching your writer’s itch to know everything possible about your company and its marketing content, you can secretly thank her for making you stop to count all of the ways you get your message out.

And don’t forget to tell your groupie that the list is likely to change tomorrow.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Tawny Rockerazzi

Embedding a “Retweet This” Inside a PDF – More News

Embedding a “Retweet This” inside a PDF is a neat hack. Recent Twitter changes have affected it, though – yet again. If your Old Twitter retweet links aren’t working, here’s a solution.

Have you embedded “Retweet This” in your PDFs? Perhaps you’d better go back and make sure that they’re still working. I’ve had to.

In June 2011, I posted “Embedding a ‘Retweet This’ Inside a PDF,” mostly so that I would remember how to do it.  When I referred to the post last month for a retweet I suggested for a client’s PDF, I found that the link syntax doesn’t work anymore; browsers complain about a reset connection.

Retweet this – The new way

No doubt this will change again, but for now, the way to get this:

 

Retweet this embedded in a PDF

 

 

 

 

is by embedding this:

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Hiring a MarComm writer? Ask these 10
questions - http://eepurl.com/ieIv (via @johnwhitepaper)

Of course you know this means that you’ll have to root through any valuable PDFs you’ve published with “Retweet this” links and modify them for the new syntax. Set a flag for them in your content management system or start placing “retweet” in the document properties of the PDF (also known as metadata) so that you’ll know where to find them when Twitter’s API changes again.

Aren’t we all getting too old for this? How have you used “Retweet this” links in your content?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

Document Properties in PDFs – More Dish

Continuing last week’s post, there’s dish to be found in the PDFs you receive from partners, customers, vendors and prospects. Here are some ideas on what to look for.

In my last post on file properties in Microsoft Word docs, I described ways to interpret some of the metadata that lives in those files. As a marketing manager, you probably read and create PDFs almost as often as you do Microsoft Office docs, so keep your eye on metadata in these files too.

Reading document properties in PDFs

First of all, you realize (don’t you?) that PDF is NOT proprietary to Adobe. It’s a standard format, and there are plenty of non-Adobe products for creating and viewing them. Nevertheless, consider Adobe Acrobat, which is representative of most readers. And free.

When you open a PDF in Acrobat Reader, you can select File > Properties, or hit Ctrl-D to open the Document Properties dialog:

Adobe Reader Document Properties

Title, Author, Subject, Keywords: Fortunately, these fields populate themselves from the application in which you created the document. If you don’t like the values, you can change them here before publishing the document to your website or checking it into your content management system.

In particular, you should introduce keywords. To the extent that the bots pay any attention to keywords, they will find them in this field, in the same way that they will find them in the <meta> tags of HTML pages.

Application: If you’ve used a real layout app like Adobe InDesign or Illustrator or Quark XPress to create your brochure, case study or white paper, then this field helps show that you’re a serious marketing professional. But if you’ve done it on the cheap, using Microsoft Word or – heaven forfend – Publisher, this field will rat you out and inquiring minds will see it. Yes, there are a lot of good-looking Word templates around, but they aren’t the ones that most people use.

Location: You have no control over this field. It updates itself with the location of the PDF on the reader’s computer, not on the computer on which the PDF was generated. The field is a hyperlink, by the way, and if you click on it, it will open the handy Temp folder in which your operating system stores jillions of files you view and read on the Web. Throw away some five-year-old PDFs, if you’re in the mood.

Security tab: Did you know you can protect the content in your PDFs?

Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF security properties

 

Unscrupulous people might want to take your work and pass it off as their own. Or, if you want the document to be read only on a screen, they might want to defy your wishes and print it out. They may want to fill it with nasty comments about you and slander your name all over the place. Isn’t it nice to know you can prevent all that?

For this, you need the professional version of a PDF generating application, like Adobe Acrobat Pro or Nitro PDF Professional; you can’t do it with the free reader application. After generating the PDF, visit the Security tab and head off all of those miscreants at the pass by setting restrictions on what they may and may not do with your white paper or eBook. You can also configure your PDF add-in to apply the restrictions when you first generate the file.

Marketing managers, note: There is some cachet to applying at least a few restrictions. It demonstrates that your team knows that these options exist, and that you’re savvy enough to want to protect your work. There are probably plenty of ways for a determined thief to hack into your PDF, but at least you can make it clear that you tried, and that you do place enough value on the content to want to protect it.


So, that’s why I like to hang out in the document properties. Do you? What have you found there?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

File Properties in Microsoft Word Docs – All Kinds of Dish

Microsoft Office file properties are juicy bits of metadata. Content marketing managers do well to poke around in these file properties.

The coolest thing about listening to records
The coolest thing about listening to records was the music. The second-coolest thing was the liner notes.

Who wrote this tune? Who played bass? When did they record it? How long is it? Where was it recorded? Who’s on backup vocals? Who designed the cover?

Wrapped around the content was a layer of information that described the music and revealed bits of a story behind it.

Many years later, I came to understand this information for what it was: metadata. Data about data.

File properties

Every file you send and receive today contains metadata, a little story behind the content. In some files, it’s as simple as:

  • filename
  • size
  • date and time last saved

Those metadata don’t tell much you of a story. But most files containing real content – MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and PDF files – can reveal a lot more.

Maybe it’s that I don’t spend enough time perusing record liner notes any more, but I am constitutionally incapable of reviewing an MS Office file or PDF without first poking around in its file properties (or document properties). I just enjoy looking for the story behind the file.

Microsoft Office file properties

Have a look at the dialog box below that contains the metadata in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. I usually go straight to the Summary tab, which contains the most metadata.

First, I should mention that merely locating this dialog box is becoming more difficult. Until Office 2003, a simple Alt-F, I sufficed to pop it open in Windows. Since Office 2007, the key combination is Alt-F, I, Q, S, down-arrow. They’re not making it any easier. (If you know what it is in Office for Mac, please let us know in the comments.)

File properties dialog, Microsoft Office

File properties dialog, Microsoft Office

Title: This field is self-explanatory, but it doesn’t depend on the file name. Usually, the app scoops up the first few words or the document, or any text you’ve formatted with the Title style. You can also make up your own title and place it in this field yourself. There’s probably some way to search on Title in Office, Windows or MacOS.

What’s interesting, though, is the metadata that might be left over from the last time the file was saved. Suppose your company is Macy’s, and Cosmodemonic has sent you a pricing proposal, and the Title field reads “Special Pricing – Gimbels”. So, you’ve just gotten the bit of dish about whom else Cosmodemonic is talking to. Busted!

Author: This field does self-populate, but not very consistently. It’s usually the most interesting bit of metadata to me because it contains the name, as burned into Microsoft Office during installation, of the original author of the file.

Unfortunately, a lot of enterprises burn a boilerplate author name – “Gargoyle Industries Employee” or “Breathlessly Ecstatic Dell Customer” – into Office, so the default entry tells you nothing useful.

However, the Author field can surprise you, too. Like when you get a late revision of a paper you wrote, and somebody else has replaced your name with his/her name in this field. Busted!

Company: Again, this field is populated with data burned in during the installation of Office. Of course, it’s possible to overwrite it, but not everybody knows that. So the next time you receive a legal document like a contract or a non-disclosure agreement from a business partner, have a look at the Company field and find out which law firm they swiped it from. Busted!

Keywords: But enough of the cloak and dagger. The Keywords field contains metadata of some potential business importance, especially when you populate it with the keywords that you want search engines to find.

I’m not sure that the search engines pick up these keywords if you simply hang your Word, Excel or PowerPoint file out on the Web, because these formats are binary. But if you save your Office file as a PDF or – heaven help you – HTML file, and then publish the file where the search engines can find it, you’ll see that the keywords you enter to this field are preserved for the search engines to index.

Comments: This is an excellent place to store comments about the file’s history. Excellent, except that nobody would ever think to look for important information buried all the way down here. Most people pump the file name with version numbers, revision dates and initials of reviewers, all of which should really go here. Again, metadata in this field is probably searchable in Windows or Office.

Statistics tab: Click over to the Statistics tab of this dialog box for one other bit of metadata, which is Last saved by (or Last modified by). This is not always the same as the author, especially if the file has been out for review. So, if Mr. Big sends you back “his” revisions and tells you how carefully he pored over your most recent draft, and you see that the file was Last modified by an intern, you can privately assume that perhaps Mr. Big is exaggerating his involvement in your draft.

Custom tab: Finally, on the Custom tab you can create and set your own variables and properties and use them for document automation and update-fields. When you send the file as an attachment in Outlook, several bits of metadata (e.g., _EmailSubject, _AuthorEmail, _PreviousAdHocReviewCycleID) land here automatically.

 


Had enough sleuthing for one post? Next time, I’ll walk through the document properties in PDFs. There’s plenty of dish there as well, if you know how to place it.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Sign up for his Content Buffet Newsletter and get the free eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Epiclectic

3 Ways to Personalize Your “About Us” Page

Of all the pages on your organization’s site, About Us is probably the windiest. If you really want visitors to know something about you, be smarter than that.

Carrying GrassDo you ever look at the About Us pages of other organizations? Have you ever seen a good one? What if you put some real thought into yours?

Stop and think about the chance you have for intimacy and a personal connection to your visitors on an About Us page. Amid the blizzard of pages grouped around Products, Solutions, Services, Pricing, Support and Contact, it can be a window into your company’s soul.

It can be a lone page crying in the wilderness, “Never mind all of the commerce and hyperventilation. Here’s a look at who we are, how we got this way and what we want to do with the company.”

First, personalize your email campaigns

With one client, I was working on a email campaign to both prospects and existing customers. In the closing, I included the text

As usual, please get in touch with me at hermione@zengen.com or simply reply to this message if you want to discuss this with me some more.

Then I appended a signature block with Hermione’s name and title.

“What’s that for?” Hermione asked when we reviewed the draft over the phone.

“This is email. When you receive email, you expect to see the sender’s name at the bottom, don’t you?”

“Yes, but this is different. I see no reason to personalize an email campaign.”

“Why not? Are you afraid that they don’t really want to hear from you?”

“It just seems a bit odd to use personalization in an email campaign.”

And, of course, personalizing your About Us page is even more odd.

Then, personalize your About Us page

This is a taller order, but consider these three steps:

  1. Remove all of the existing nonsense about who you are and how great your products are. Nobody cares anyway; they care about their business problems and whether they can rely on you to solve them. This means you have to get rid of lots of meaningless words that just fill up space – words like “flexible,” “robust,” “world-class,” “scalable,” “cutting-edge,” “mission-critical,” “market-leading,” “industry-standard,” “groundbreaking” and “innovative” – and the sentences that contain those words.
  2. Have your marketing communications writer come up with a SHORT description of what your organization does, or what you want your website/blog to communicate to visitors. Believe it or not, there are millions of people who don’t know what you do, and your About Us text has to make it clear to them.
  3. Use the words “you” and “I”. Sure, every organization is a team effort, but your visitors and customers deal with only one person at a time. Instead of hiding behind a corporate veil, put somebody – the CEO, the bizdev manager, the customer advocate, the receptionist – out in front of the castle gates by putting his/her name at the bottom of the About Us page.

To some degree, of course, your company should agree on the description of its soul embodied in your About Us page. The shorter it is, the less there will be to quibble about and disagree over in review loops. And you can always change it in two months; it’s only HTML. Have a look at what no less than The Blog Tyrant considers the 12 best About Us pages in the known galaxy.

I drafted another client’s About Us page touting four goals of most of the site’s likely visitors and describing (in you-oriented language) how the client’s software tools  helped achieve those goals. I added a personalized signature block. It wasn’t bad, but it was a reach.

The feedback?

I really like what you’ve done here. While I think the personalized idea is a good one, I am just not sure how it will work in practicality since there are so many stakeholders to this site. There are quite a few groups that touch developers, and nothing internally holds these groups together. So I fear our internal dysfunction makes your good idea hard to implement.

So it goes. The result, after client edits, was about 65% of what I’d hoped to achieve, and the rest landed on the cutting room floor.

Marketing managers: Have you managed to nudge your company toward personalization? How is it going?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Wootang01

Free Yourself from Content Marketing? Some Businesses Manage To.

Don’t you get tired of fretting about content marketing? Don’t you envy businesses that can somehow do without it?

Barbers don't need content marketingI’ve spent a decade or more in content marketing, helping clients refine and tell their story with case studies, white papers, newsletter articles and Web content. I’ve been helping them demonstrate that they understand their customers’ problems and can be trusted to help solve them.

For that matter, I’ve put out acres of my own content to build trust with my prospects.

For that matter, you have, too. We’ve published jillions of words to attract prospects and help move them down the sales funnel.

Doesn’t it get tiring sometimes? What if we didn’t have to work that hard at it?

Some businesses don’t need content marketing

I spent 24 years looking for a decent barber and finally found one in Bruce, the husband of one of my wife’s friends.

You want to hear the sum total of Bruce’s content marketing?

“Hi. This is Bruce. At 281-5026. Leave a message after the tone and I’ll get back to you.”

Bruce’s shop has been reviewed twice on Yelp, but he isn’t named in the reviews and I doubt he even knows the reviews are there. He has no website, no blog, doesn’t know what a white paper is, has no use for case studies or a newsletter.

But he’s made a successful living cutting hair for ages, and he has a steady flow of new and returning customers.

Obviously, Bruce’s business depends on referrals and word of mouth, not on his ability to land high on the SERPs. In the world of business-to-consumer (B2C), sometimes you can get away with that.

Referrals and word of mouth are important to your business as well, but it’s only part of the mix. That’s why you, as marketing manager, spend your day pumping out audio, video and text to create conversations with prospects and preserve relationships with customers.

Bruce manages to create those conversations and preserve those relationships one-on-one, and the sum total of his marketing presence is a cell phone greeting.

Must be nice…

Of course, business-to-business (B2B) content marketing is a long way from B2C content marketing. But still, it must be nice to compress it into “leave a message at the tone.”

By the way, what do people hear when they phone your organization? What kind of relationships are you building while your callers are on hold or navigating your directory?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: aroid

“I Can’t See Myself in Your White Paper” – 2 Quick Fixes

Your readers need to see themselves in the marketing content you publish. Otherwise, you’re a marketing manager just writing to hear yourself shout.

reading marketing content eyes glazed overYou know those year-end letters you receive around the holidays from your friends and family members? The ones filled with all the valuable content and important details that pop into your Uncle Willy’s head as he’s leafing through the calendar, looking for things to write about?

“…Felix fell off the stepladder while pruning the snail vines and twisted his ankle, so there went his bowling season…”

“…Kristin’s front tooth was loose for what seemed like ages until it finally fell out, and the Tooth Fairy brought her 5 dollars…”

“…and then Noodles, our Pekingese, got the mumps. I told the vet I’d never heard of a dog getting the mumps, and he said…”

“…our second trip to Branson with Alice and Bernie, but we never did find the other waffle…”

and on and on and on.

You know what? Like it or not, those year-end letters are content. Think about them the next time you publish a white paper, case study, newsletter, blog post or technical article.

“My white paper isn’t that dull.”

What makes you so sure of that?

Think about those year-end letters: what makes them so banal? Why do their recipients complain about them so consistently? Why would you rather drink battery acid than read Aunt Rose’s letter?

Because those people are writing right past you.

Your eyes glaze over as you move from one paragraph to the next. You’re hoping against hope that Cousin Bess will remember that live people of her own flesh and blood receive these things and actually form an audience. You want Grandma Perkins to wake up and realize that she has your attention for a few precious minutes and that she should take advantage of them to tell you something meaningful to you.

But alas, Maudie plods along from Florida vacation to lower back pain to school play, blissfully ignorant of the fact that readers are dying to see themselves in the letter.

Are you doing that to your readers in your marketing content? Are you writing right past them in your zeal to beat your messaging drum?

Put your readers into your white paper

Stop asking the question, “What do I want to write about?” It’s more important to ask, “What do my readers want to read about?”

When your readers can see themselves in your content, you score with them. They notice that you’re out to do more than just talk about yourself and they begin to trust you to give them valuable content.

James Chartrand posted on Copyblogger recently about “giving yourself a real person to write for.” The people who send you ghastly year-end letters are doing that, except that they themselves are that real person. Your marketing content needs to be for a real person in your audience.

Before you publish that white paper, case study, newsletter, blog post or technical article this week, run these two litmus tests on it:

  1. Can your readers see themselves in the title? What did you call your paper: “An Exploration of Cloud-based Policy Management for the Public Sector” or “Five Things Government IT Managers Need to Know about Policies in the Cloud?” In which title are your target readers more likely to see themselves?
  2. Can your readers immediately see whether the content is relevant to them? Are you going to make them read half the document before they can figure out what’s in it for them? Why don’t you summarize the main messages of the piece in a few bullets and put them in a box near the top? Help readers decide quickly whether it’s worth their time or not.

Even if you still need work on pulling your readers in, these quick fixes will give them a break.

And if you’re in doubt about your marketing content, just keep Cousin Ralph’s year-end letter near your keyboard. Every marketing manager needs an occasional reminder of what not to do.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: legends2k

Your Content is So Good that I Can’t Tell How You Make Money

Make your marketing content so valuable and so good that readers can’t tell how you make money. Here are three examples of a new kind of valuable content.

Valuable Original ContentWhat if you removed every trace of self-serving-ness from your marketing content? What if you filled your blog, white papers, newsletters and technical articles with content that completely benefited your readers, with no apparent benefit to you?

Would your boss let you publish it?

Thanks for the content. What’s in it for you?

I happened onto a blog a couple of months ago run by Joe Hage, an expert in medical device marketing. It includes interviews with industry analysts, reviews of social media tools, announcements about conferences, medical device compliance information, and ideas gleaned from other online marketing experts.

I had read his posts for about five minutes when the question popped into my head:

How does this guy make money?

The content was that good, and it was almost completely devoid of apparent self-promotion.

Of course, after a few more minutes, I fell off of the blog and onto his site. His About, Services and Contact pages made it pretty clear how he makes money, but this follows the natural order of valuable content: Let your readers consistently enjoy the full value of what you publish, and when they one day feel an itch, they know whom to call to scratch it.

Other examples:

  • Copyblogger – The pre-eminent site for content marketing. Daily posts from Copyblogger staff and contributors embody clear thinking about online marketing, and the site itself embodies very strong content marketing. Follow it for a while and see whether you can tell how they make money: Consulting? Software for WordPress? Instructional products?
  • The Grateful Dead – David Meerman Scott has co-authored an entire book called Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. He often cites the way in which the band encouraged fans to tape and photograph their concerts, then trade tapes and photos with other fans. With fans enjoying this much value, plenty of them were surely asking how the band made money; when fans felt the itch, they scratched it by paying for concert tickets.
  • Obsolete TV Support Group video – This Fortune 500 company has an important point to make in this video, but they camouflage it quite artistically behind an entertaining skit. Watch it, and see if you don’t find yourself asking, “Which company made this, and what does it have to do with how they make money?”

A new definition of “valuable content”

This is different from divulging all the secrets of your success. It’s easy to find experts on the Web who are giving away everything you need to know to be as successful as they are. Their content does completely benefit you, but it’s mostly advice. People will keep coming back for good stories and good information, but advice can get tiresome.

It’s a new definition of “valuable content”: Content that benefits your readers, with no apparent benefit to you.

It’s like the content that religions and governments provide, except that you actually want it, and you’re not suspicious of it.

Do you think you could do it? How would your readers react?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Beck Tench