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Collateral Damage: Building a Content Plan

I remember when building collateral used to be a large part of a product marketer’s job.  A lousy part.  I remember the last brochure I worked on like it was yesterday.  Getting it done was a nightmare of epic arguments over screen shots, customer quotes and whether or not to include the mailing address for the European office we expected to close within a month.  The project went on for weeks and once it was done we didn’t look at again for a year, mainly because we didn’t have the budget to update it but also because we were traumatized.

Old-style collateral was all centered around the product rather than the customer.  It was designed to be as generic as possible, making it only mildly relevant to the majority of customers and regardless of what was happening in the market, the brochure only got updated when there was a new version of the product.  How backward is that?

Thankfully we’ve moved into a new era where the barriers to creating and distributing content to customers and prospects are coming down and we marketers can focus on the business of creating and delivering content that is relevant, useful and engaging to the customers and prospects that consume it.

I think every product needs a content plan.  The content plan should include delivery of the following:

  1. Web content – I still see a lot of generic web content out there.  Different segments and different buyers are looking for different types of information.  Informational needs also change as customers progress across the buying cycle.  Product marketers need to step into the shoes of each of their customers and create content that is relevant for them.  Your content plan needs to include regular updates to this information.
  2. Blog posts – There is so much great information in your company that doesn’t belong on the web site and isn’t appropriate for a press release. As the product marketer you need to be setting aside some time to plan what themes you want to cover in the blog, and creating content.  I often hear younger marketers complain that they don’t have time to write blog posts.  That’s when I get all old lady on them, “When I was your age we spent 10 weeks a year making something called a BROCHURE!!”  A structured plan for what you want to write about will make it easier to get the job done.
  3. Video – I’m a huge fan of video and I don’t think startups take advantage of it enough.  HD cameras are cheap.  With an external microphone, a bit of decent lighting some practice, you can make a marketing video that looks professional without breaking the bank.  See below for some resources to learn more about how to make a good looking video but my experience is to just get out there a shoot and edit a lot and it gets easy pretty fast.
  4. Presentations – You probably already spend a ton of time building presentations. There are lots of ways to make those available as slides alone or with a narration as a slidecast.
  5. Links – As a good marketer, you are already spending a certain amount of time watching what’s happening in the market.  You’ll find posts and articles that support your view of the market or talk about your products that you can share.  I used to use delicious for this but now I think Twitter is the ultimate tool for link sharing with your community.
  6. Screencasting – A screencast lets you capture what’s happening on your screen and add a voice over to it.  Chances are you’ve got a killer demo that you use in sales calls and at shows.  Screencasting lets you get your demos out to a wider audience. The tools are cheap and easy to use so there’s no excuse not to experiment with these.
  7. Custom collateral – At one company I worked with they had 2 major segments – retail and insurance – with separate collateral for each.  Brochures were assembled with customer quotes, highlighted features and screen shots swapped in and out depending on the audience.  Small print runs for this material are pricier on a per-piece basis but they didn’t print often and the sales force and customers loved it.  Your company probably doesn’t do many trade shows (if you are, seriously, we should talk), so gone are the days of giving out 100’s of brochures to clog up convention hall garbage bins.  Don’t waste money printing where you don’t need to.
  8. eBooks and White papers – White papers are still a good medium for a more detailed technical topic.  More and more I see these published as eBooks which makes them a bit easier to read on an eBook reader.  The format works well for content that’s too long for a blog post and too detailed for a web page or powerpoint.

I’m probably missing a couple of other things. The point is that there’s never been a better time for marketers to get compelling content out to the market in engaging ways.

Some further reading:

Whitepapers/eBooks: Search Engine People has a great post on how to Write White Papers Like an Expert with These 10 Simple Steps. If you want to publish on the Kindle, everything you need is on Amazon’s page here. You can also host your eBook on Scribd (often described as YouTube for eBooks).

Video: Hubspot guest poster Catie Foertsch has 6 tips for making a business marketing video. VideoMaker has a treasure trove of information for shooting better video for YouTube including tips on what to look for when buying cameras, microphones and tripods.

Presentations: I use Slideshare for presentations and screencasts but there are loads of tools out there.

Screencasting: WebResources Depo’s 10 free screencasting tools, Mashable’s list of screencasting tools. I’d Rather Be Writing gives a couple of examples of Perfect Screencasts and discusses what makes them great.

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  1. This is all great but I can’t get my boss to try anything new. If I’m spending all my time building brochures, how will I ever get any time to learn how to shoot video and write blog posts (assuming my boss would even go for having a blog, which he won’t)? Help!

  2. I feel your pain MBIAF – I was just having this discussion with a friend of mine this morning. He works for a great company with a massive opportunity to create some cool content but his CEO is very conservative and they sell into a very conservative market.
    Build your case. Compile a folder on what your competitors are doing and make sure you get some time to brief Wilma on it. She might have no clue that the world has changed but I bet your competitors have. If she still doesn’t want to try anything new, my advice would be to get those feet moving and hit the road Barney. 😉

  3. Hi MBIAF,
    I would like to add that it might be helpful for your boss to look into the topics “Web2.0”, or “Crowdsourcing” from a strategical perspective. In these days we see the entire customer relation change, and to be able to follow it, your company needs to be able to adopt these changes. The blog-technology is just one part in this. Example: In earlier times many companies have invent everything inhouse. Today, it is often not possible to stay ahead of the crowd without using collaborative strategies (blog, communities, etc..). Or, yesterday’s customers bought. Today’s customers want to co-invent, and demand a two-way interaction.
    In my blog you find some input on this in English (other in German). Or, you visit your bookstore, and look for books about “Web2.0”


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