The Choice Generation

Recently, around the time my second daughter, Marisa, was born, I was thinking about the world she would be entering, how much it differed from the one my first daughter entered (8 years ago) and how dramatically it differed from the one I came into in 1969. What struck me the most was the sheer number of choices we have today, and the bombardment of messaging and noise we encounter as we make those choices.

Choices, Choices, Choices!

From tens of thousands of restaurants serving just about any kind of food you can imagine, to grocery store aisles filled with the ingredients that make the world’s home-cooked meals. From small town squares filled with brick and mortar businesses that have been around for 100 years, to thousands of online businesses that pop up every week representing a new age of entrepreneurs. From basic cable with its 50-70 channels (10 times what we had using an antenna in 1969) to satellite television boasting thousands of channels, on-demand movies and vast libraries of recorded media (can any one family watch that much tv?). From hardback books to the Kindle, iPad, Galaxy and other tablet devices (will Dad’s den with old wooden bookshelves become a thing of the past?). From the iPhone to the Android to the Blackberry (maybe not for long) – phones that are truly smart devices, helping us navigate, communicate to thousands of people at once, organize, plan, the list is endless. Our world presents us with a constant stream of choices, and for Marisa’s generation (The Choice Generation) they will have exponentially more than we can imagine – choices that haven’t even been invented yet.

For people like me, the marketers of the world, the amount of choice in the marketplace requires us to know more about our prospects and customers than we ever have before. And, our job, jockeying for the preferred choice position, has become far more challenging. Marketing has always been a science, but today’s science is much different from the science of the past. Today we can collect more data, helping us understand behavior and because of technology, we can test more theories. But as we test these theories and adjust our formulas, I wonder if the marketers of the world are realizing that marketing today is still about trust and value. What are companies doing to earn the trust of their prospects and customers? And if that trust leads to business, what is the value of that relationship to the customer – in other words, why should they continue doing business with them and, more importantly, why should they tell others? It’s the age-old WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question?

Business has always been built on reputation (trust) and the delivery of a reliable product or service. But today, business professionals and consumers are in control and have the ability to gather a plethora of information about your company, product or service and that of your competitor, before you even know they are a prospect. So, chances are that, before they are even on your radar, they are into their decision-making process. So, while reputation (trust) is still key, it is the value of the information you publicly share that earns you “a place at the table” and determines your opportunity. And I am not just referring to information about your company, your product or your service, but information about the industry you are in, the applications of the types of products you sell – the useful information that could help someone make a better decision, even if it doesn’t directly lead to an immediate sale for you. Is this such a radical view? I don’t think it is. I think when it comes time for the Choice Generation to make their choice, they will gravitate toward the brands or resources that most delivered on their promise (whatever it may be). And they will gravitate to those who delivered it consistently, while thinking more about their customer’s needs and less about their own. Think about it from your customer’s point-of-view. If you give them the information they use to make a better decisions, wouldn’t they begin to rely on you more (i.e trust you) for the decisions they need to make in the future? If your marketing team focused their efforts on delivering a consistent stream of information that is aligned with the buying cycle of your prospects or customers, wouldn’t that produce more sales-ready leads and higher rates of conversion? Content facilitates nurturing, creating demand along a buying cycle which can eventually lead to conversion (if the audience member is profiled properly). Good content can act as the catalyst to educate and inform prospective buyers about the options they have, the decisions they need to weigh, and the potential risks and/or benefits of choosing an option. Whether it’s through independent expert analysis, peer-to-peer sharing, or content biased to a particular product or service, all content has some intrinsic value and the more value you can offer, the more trust you can build. Ultimately though, trust is solidified after the transaction, when the business professional or consumer can reflect on the buying process and determine that a) they made the right decision and b) it was you who helped them make it. For the Choice Generation, the companies who focus their energy on earning and retaining trust and delivering value beyond their product or service will be the ones who are chosen. Moreover, it will be the companies who respect the choices that business professionals or consumers have made, who will retain their preferred status and experience growth.

And so I ask you, are you thinking about your prospects and customers in the way I’ve outlined above? Are you really thinking about the next click they will make after seeing your email in their inbox – and where they will go afterwards? Or are you more interested in whether they simply “opened” the email? Are you thinking about where they will be when they need the information that will help them make a better, more informed decision – is it at their desk, on their mobile device or at a live event? Will you be there? And will their experience be positive? Are you thinking about how you engage and retain your customers, did you earn their trust by delivering valuable information that builds a relationship – or will it take another discount, contest or giveaway to earn their business each time?

The Choice Generation is upon us, and their choices are becoming infinite. How will your company stand out among them? And when it comes time for them to make their choice, why should they choose you? I’d love to hear you thoughts on the Choice Generation or content marketing, or anything else you’d like to discuss. Just comment below, drop me a tweet (@johnmuehling)  or hit me up on LinkedIn.

Contract Enforcement: Attorneys Can Cost More Than Money

Pen-Is-Mightier-Than-the-SwordSomething came up this week that made me think of contracts and their intrinsic value to business. I won’t share all the details (yet), but the following are a few thoughts that came to mind as I considered the circumstances and pondered what a business contract should mean, in today’s world.

You’ve seen the fine print before, things like:

“The Licensee is obligated under the following contract to do…blah, blah, blah.” or “This contract supersedes all previous contracts…blah, blah, blah.”

A contract between companies, in its simplest form, outlines the details of an agreement based on the following premises:

1. Each party receives mutual benefit from the contract (most often in the form of revenue in exchange for product or service)
2. It contains provisions to deter one party from screwing the other (i.e. doing something that is detrimental to the other business)

I’d like to address both of these items, but in a slightly different manner; a manner which may defy conventional thought, but will most certainly defy the attorneys who make a pretty decent living off writing, analyzing and enforcing these instruments of business.

Premise #1 is pretty simple.  It can encompass the term of an agreement, agreed-upon pricing, payment options and timelines, services or products to be delivered, and a host of other details that are important to each party involved.  These parts of a contract are usually the most clearly defined parts, contain little if any ambiguity and make up the foundation of the agreement (no fine print here my friends).

Premise #2 can get a little stickier.  This is the fine print.  These are the parts of the contract where attorneys are most often needed to analyze and decide whether the provisions are fair and balanced.  No surprise that when companies have a disagreement, it is usually over the fine print of a contract, as these are also the sections of a contract filled with legalese and other “mumbo-jumbo” that can extend its life into a courtroom or arbitration hearing, often resulting in a moneymaker for the attorneys, while the companies involved pay the bills and lick their wounds.

So begs the question:

When the time comes to enforce a contractual obligation, when is it a BAD idea to employ a team of attorneys to find a loophole in the fine print?

My answer:

When the value you will receive from winning is outweighed by the costs of the battle, in terms of both reputation and dollars spent.

Sure, a company can employ a team of attorneys to find the legal loopholes or pick apart the language, of just about any contract, to find a way to “stick it to the other party”, but if the “other party” is a customer, who is clearly ready to move on and not use your company for the service anymore, AND acted in good faith by giving a written, 30-day notice of the decision, isn’t it time to start looking for the reasons why the customer is moving on?  If they acted in good faith, by giving notice and have not tried to harm your company, isn’t that indicative of their intention to uphold their end of the deal?  So, aren’t the resources you expend on trying to enforce a contractual loophole, to capture more money out of a dissatisfied customer, better spent on creating a better product so the same doesn’t happen with your other customers?  What ever happened to sucking up a loss and using what you learned to make your business better?

Look at Apple, for example.  I can remember, not so long ago, when the world thought of Apple as a renegade who would never capture a majority market share for any of its products.  A company who had “lost the battle” (like so many others) to Microsoft.  But instead of fighting a battle, Steve Jobs took a different approach, he hunkered down and built an empire, that now commands control over markets that Microsoft  hadn’t even considered.  So, how many people do you know, who were once with Apple, left to go PC and have now gone back to Apple?  I know many, even those who referred to using an Apple device as “going to the dark side”, who are now fans of Apple and, even more important, sing their praises to friends and colleagues.

Here is a version of the fine print from someone in marketing; the team that is often responsible for cleaning up the mess that the legal department makes.

It is worth considering, especially in today’s business world, that the pen is far mightier than the sword. And with the proliferation of social media, the ushering in of crowd sourcing and a massive increase in information sharing, it is vitally important, even incumbent on companies, to weigh the benefits they gain from battling over something that, in the end, could cost them the reputation that will be crucial to their success in tomorrow’s business world.

See the little “Tweet” button below? Let’s send this out and start a conversation about it…I’d love to hear your opinion, and those of the folks you mingle with.

A View from the Stream: Tools and Techniques for Marketing

Taken from a March 28th post on VIRGO’s Corporate Site.

I’ve often talked about the relationship between marketing and fly fishing, but while trekking through 10 miles of trout stream this weekend, it occurred to me that, like fly fishing, marketing takes both the right tools and, more importantly, the right technique!

Many of today’s marketers link their success to having the best CRM platform, the best analytic tools, top-notch content and an engaged audience. But what of those audiences who are not engaged, what happens if you send information too often, not often enough or worse, you send the wrong information. When you are fly fishing, you could have the best fishing rod and reel, a box full of the right flies and a stream full of 20″ trout, but if you don’t know where the fish are, don’t have the technique to get that fly in the right spot or don’t have the patience to work the stream, you may as well pack it up and go home.

Today’s B2B companies are constantly searching for the best ways to reach their audience. Now, we don’t want to sound pompous with proclamations, but I can comfortably say that VIRGO has a secret sauce that few other information distribution companies can offer. With the recent introduction of Marketing Services, we have dramatically expanded our offering of programs that can position your company, product, service or technology in front of the right audience, at the right time. Our “secret,” if you will, starts with an acknowledgment and respect for our audience. Acknowledgment for how much information they are bombarded with everyday and respect for the time they take to consume what VIRGO is delivering to them. You see, if we didn’t take the time to learn who our audience is and then deliver the content they wanted, on their schedule and in a method they preferred (i.e. on the web, on a mobile platform, through email, etc.), they would either not be an audience very long, or worse yet, they would not be an engaged audience. Much like those fish in the stream; I could’ve thrown out a dozen or more dry flies last weekend (I prefer dry fly fishing), but that wouldn’t have done much good, because the trout just weren’t ready to feed off the surface.

Another part of our secret sauce comes in the way we market our content or your content; we call it “Performance Marketing.” But fancy names aside, the marketing we do is a series of intelligence-based tactics, derived from an analysis of three key pieces of data.

  • Which audience is best suited to receive the particular piece of content?
  • When do they prefer to receive the information?
  • How do they want to receive the information?

Once we identify these key metrics, we not only deliver the “featured” content, but we also include other relevant content that they will find useful and helpful for making a more informed decision.

Now this approach may not be the “norm”, but I would propose to you that it is exactly what today’s B2B audiences desire (tweet this article). Companies will sometimes ask us “so, how many emails are you going to send to generate “X” leads on my whitepaper?” Our answer will sometimes be, “we may not send any emails to generate the leads, the audience for this particular whitepaper prefers communication through our newsletters and professional networking groups.” What a radical idea, huh? Deliver the content the way the audience prefers to consume it. And this brings me to a key component of our lead delivery process. We elect to allow content to serve as a self-fulfilling filter, a way for us to determine if the audience member that is consuming the content is the right person for our client to be talking to about their next purchase. After all, you probably wouldn’t read a tech-heavy article on Tablet Computers for Healthcare if you weren’t someone who decides on or influences the technology decisions for a healthcare facility. By letting the content act as a self-fulfilling filter, then appending that information with other reader data, we know that the leads delivered from this report are of a higher caliber.

As I sit here in my office, reminiscing about fishing weekends gone by, I urge you to consider the following: Mobile devices and 24-hour access have helped turn the 5-day work week into the work-everyday week, and thus business decision makers now consume dramatically more information than ever before. They yearn for companies to think about the information they are pushing out there and about the people that have to sift through it to find the “good stuff” (the stuff that is relevant to them). In other words, don’t deliver a series of dry flies, because that’s what you think your prospects and customers should be “eating;” if you are on a cloudy stream, the water temp is still cold and the fish are feeding on the bottom, deliver the woolly bugger with a nymph dropper and be sure your technique is well-honed enough to catch your next big one!

See you on the stream…

The Question of Humanity

As we go through our daily routine, we engage in activities that define us as human beings. A chat with a colleague while grabbing morning coffee, a text to a friend just to say hello, a quick phone call to a loved one to let them know that we’re thinking about them. These acts are typical in most people’s everyday lives. But life has its way of challenging the serene setting that envelops us, and it is our response to that challenge which offers us the greatest opportunity to prove that “being human” takes more than just going through the motions. Last Thursday, I was challenged in a way that I could never have expected, and for the last four days, I have pondered my response to that challenge and whether I reacted the right way, whether I did the “human thing”.

I ride the light rail to work everyday. I enjoy my trips to and from the office. It’s my get “ready time” to start the day, it’s my “wind down” time before I get home. I typically read blogs, scan Twitter for interesting stories or events, catch up on email or simply enjoy the sounds of blues, rock, or whatever else is playing on my iPod. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the folks around me, as most of them are doing the same, or catching a quick nap while someone else does the driving. But, this day would be different. On this day, I would be met with a surprise; though not one I wanted much to do with.

As I sat there typing an email, the doors opened at one of the downtown stops; people filed out, some filed in…then, out of nowhere, a man jumped on the train, grabbed my phone out of my hands and took off running down the platform. I sat there for a split second…stunned. Suddenly, my “serene” world had been sabotaged…I had become a victim.

Of course, I shouted the first expletive that came to mind, while I grabbed my bag and exited the train. Then I watched, helplessly, as the man in the red shirt ran down the platform, crossed the tracks and continued down the road. Adrenaline pumping, I ran after him as I grabbed my personal phone out of my bag (the phone I had in my hands belonged to my company) and dialed 911. I quickly explained what had happened, told the dispatcher that I was going after the guy and asked her to send the police. Fortunately, the police were close, and with their help, the suspect was apprehended a short time later.

As I rolled up to the scene, in the back of another squad car, I quickly identified the suspect as the man who had stolen my phone. Though he had ditched his red shirt, and my phone, I was certain that he was the right man. I then left the scene to head home, empty-handed, still reeling by what had transpired in the previous 20 minutes. On the way back to the train station, the officers who were questioning the man determined the location of the phone and retrieved it. I was then asked to return, collect my property and decide whether I wanted to press charges.

After I checked over my phone to make sure there was no damage, the police officer who was holding the man told me that he wanted to “plead his case”, and that he just wanted a few minutes to talk to me. So, I listened, as the 16-year-old kid explained that what he had done was stupid and that he didn’t want to lose his freedom, his grandmother, his “girl” or the baby he had on the way. “Please sir, I will do anything,” he said, “I will give you my cell phone number so you can call me…I’ll come to your house and clean up your yard…please sir, just please, don’t press charges.” But I was angry, I felt violated, I felt no sorrow for him, I simply said “NO”…and the officer drove me away from the scene.

Later that evening, after recounting my story over chinese dinner, I opened my fortune cookie

“Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant”.

Seriously? What was this? Was this a higher power telling me to reconsider my decision to press charges? Was this a coincidence? Well, let me tell you this…I don’t believe in coincidences. And so, that evening, I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Did I consider humanity in my response? Would this kid be better off suffering the consequences of a criminal record? Should I “plant a seed” of compassion, and hope that it grows?

So now, I ask you. What would you have done? How would you have responded?

A. Teach this kid a lesson (even if it was one he had learned before). Let him take notice that stealing is wrong, no matter what the need. Hope he learns from his mistakes and becomes a better human being. And, maybe, prevent him from victimizing someone else, because the “system” rehabilitated him.


B. Talk to this kid, tell him that he’s getting a second chance. Encourage him to choose a better course. Help him see that the world is full of people who have compassion and are willing to give him another chance; remind him that second chances sometimes happen only once. Do something to demonstrate humanity. And, maybe, prevent him from victimizing someone else, because he chose to do something better with his life.

You see, the challenge is that the outcome is nearly the same. Someone else avoids being victimized. But, it is the path and the impression it leaves on this kid which makes the decision difficult.

Given that I was met with this conundrum by the words of a fortune cookie, I offer the following. Confucius defines humanity, or jen, as a “love of people” stating “if you want to make a stand, help others make a stand.”

Even if this stand is one for himself, would this kid benefit from my act of compassion?

I often ask for your feedback on my posts. But this time, I asking for something of greater importance, your advice. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with me…in this blog’s comment section, via email to johnmuehling at gmail dot com or on Twitter @johnmuehling. Help me answer this question of humanity.

The Unforgettable Black

You may know by now, I love fly fishing. There is nothing better than standing in the middle of a stream, waders on and “geared up”, me and Mother Nature.  Just the night before, we had arrived, set up camp, and prepared ourselves for two days of peace, quiet and (hopefully) some freshly caught trout for dinner. My camping/fishing buddy on this trip was Quinn.  It was his first time fly fishing in 20 years, my first time camping and fishing with him.  We had fun on the ride up, shootin’ the shit about life and how we had made our way to this moment in time. Turns out we had a lot on common, much more than I could have ever imagined.  Now we had something else in common, we would share time in one of my favorite places, the Black River.

I had woken up early that morning, before Quinn, but not before “Mother” had greeted me with a spectacular sunrise. The air was perfectly still, not a sound could be heard. It is so quiet in the mountains, especially in the morning; so quiet you can hear the fluttering wings of the birds flying overhead.  And it was cold, probably 25 degrees; cold enough that the wading boots I had used the night before were frozen solid!  So, I stoked the fire to thaw my boots while I put together my gear for the day.  A fresh cup of camp coffee and an energy bar later, I was off to the stream.  The stream was only about 50 feet from where we were camping, but the night before, I had spied a spot about 300 yards downstream, where I thought the fish would be holding.

Now, I have said many times that fishing is a lot like marketing.  You really have to take time to read the stream and determine the right fly and the right cast. Hungry fish or not, if they don’t like what you’re offering or how you’re serving it, they ain’t gonna buy!  I decided my best shot was using a tried and true “dropper”.  For those of you who are new to fly fishing, this is where you tie a dry fly to the end of your line (dry flies float on the surface) and off the back of the hook, you tie a tiny nymph (nymphs are simply flys in their earliest stages of fly development, they live below the surface).  This method allows a fisherman to fish both the surface and 18-20” below.

So, there I was, up to my knees, in the middle of a 60” wide section of the river, just above a 10-15’ deep pool. The air was still cold, my hands were a little numb, but I was grinning ear to ear!  Although I’ve enjoyed many a morning like this, the feeling of that first morning never changes!  But, this would be a different morning, a different and new experience, one that I won’t soon forget.   As I stood in the stream, the morning stillness was broken by the faint sound of a breaking stick.   Slowly, I raised my head – and there it was – a 400 lb black bear, standing 10’ off the bank!   Holy SHIT!  Instinctively, I reached for my pistol, but no pistol (we were fishing on the Reservation);  all I had was a small can of mace, hanging off my vest, to defend myself.   And there I stood, heart pounding out of my chest, my numb hands shaking, quiet as a church mouse – sharing a very different moment with Mother Nature!   I know, all the experts say to make a lot of noise, so the bear knows you’re there, but you stand 70’ from a bear and tell me you’re gonna do that!  I just watched as this beautiful (and scary) beast sniffed around the bank, and continued to meander downstream, as if completely oblivious that “a tasty little snack” was so close.  After it moved out of sight, I began to blow my whistle and yell out, “get outta here bear!”  Hey, I wasn’t going take any chances that it would return.  Then I watched, as it crossed the river about 250 yards downstream, swimming through the current with powerful grace and, finally, disappearing into the woods.

Of all the times I’ve been up to the Black River, I have always heard stories and been warned of bears.  Hell, we hang our trash 30 feet up a tree at night, to keep them away from our campsite; we take all the precautions. But, I had never actually seen a bear, let alone had one standing 60’ away!  Honestly, it was one of the most frightening and beautiful experiences in my life.

I have shared this story with many people, but I thought I would share it with my readers.  When I set out on this blogging adventure, I intended to write about my experiences in life, whether they were business or personal.  So far, much has been about business, with the last post mixing it up a bit.  I hope you will continue reading as I work my way up and down this “stream”. More importantly, I wish for your feedback (good or bad), it’s what helps me learn the things that make me a better person.  Until next time…

It Takes Practice!

I am an amateur.  So there it is – I said it.  Oh, I know a lot of things, sometimes a little about a lot of things, but it takes something much different to be a professional. Look around; think about the football, baseball, soccer players, golfers, and others you watch on television or at sporting events.  Think about what it took for them to become “professionals”.  Think about the talent they possess and the sacrifices they’ve made …now think about all the practicing they have done.  No really, think about ALL the practicing.  Your mom or dad probably used to say “practice makes perfect”!  I don’t know if I buy into that statement.  Can we ever be perfect?  Do you really want to be “perfect”?  Maybe we should change the saying to “practice makes professional”…but I digress.  A couple weeks ago I had a realization.  I admitted to myself that, even though I was good and great at many things, I was still an amateur in so many other ways.

Wading out of the Black River (in eastern Arizona) with empty hands, once again, will make you think about a lot of things.  Could I have used a different fly?  Are the fish just not biting? Is it too cold? Do I really know what I am doing? Wait a minute!  What did I just say?  “Do I really know what I am doing?”  Well, of course I do! :-)  But the one question that stuck in my mind, “am I having fun doing it?”  The answer…YOU BET!  For me, standing in the middle of a flowing stream is heavenly!  It’s the time for me to do more than fish; it’s time to reflect, to think about life, to take in nature.  So what the hell does this have to do with being a professional?  That’s just it; I don’t always want to be a professional.  In this case, I am having more fun being an amateur!  All the technicalities of fly fishing aside, I simply enjoy the feeling of being there (and the occasional 15” brownie on my line)!

After my last fishing trip, I returned to the office and, naturally started to think about business; specifically marketing. It is true that I have knowledge and skills in many areas of marketing.  It is true that I am a professional.  But I am also an amateur, constantly learning and practicing new techniques.  And you know what?  I am enjoying it, I like the learning process, I love the trial and error and I cherish the failure (failure is more often a better teacher than success).  It is truly my passion in life.  It could be something as simple as watching a commercial, wondering how others are affected by it, thinking about the process that it took to develop the message and create the 2 minute spot.  Or it could be as complex as this game show, developed by Marketo that brilliantly engages people.  The medium doesn’t matter, I simply love marketing.  And that’s where I draw the parallel.

You know, marketing is a lot like fishing; specifically, fly fishing.  You have to read the stream (the place where your prospects or clients live, work and play), you have to select the right fly (the message and/or offer), you have to “place” that fly (without scaring the fish away), and you have to know when a strike has occurred (no matter how subtle).  It’s a constant learning process, because the stream is always changing and there are others factors, like weather and time of day (the economy), which can have an effect on your success.  It takes constant practice and it is often ends in failure.  But, for me, it is my passion.  So, I stay in the stream, and continue to throw my line and look for that next opportunity.

What is your passion?  Is it fly fishing, marketing, sales, woodworking, accounting, golf or something else; it should only really matter to you. No matter what it is, I encourage you to stay with it.  Don’t hang up your waders.  Get back in that stream, even when your line is coming up empty and the air is getting colder; find your way. Continue to practice, even after you think you’ve mastered a skill; it’s part of the journey to becoming a professional.  And while you’re on your way, I have a little advice (some insight, if you will) – have fun, and don’t be afraid to just be an amateur!

Creating Valuable Leads for SMBs – You Gotta Have Content

You may notice a slight change in the title to this post, as it relates to my series on “Creating Valuable Leads”. In my most recent post, “Why am I here?”, I mentioned that my target for this series was small business. So I’ve added “for SMBs” to the title which also includes medium-sized businesses, as I believe many of the principles and practices I am speaking about will be valuable for them as well.

A couple of months ago, when I started this blog, a fellow colleague of mine pointed out that content is equally important as data, when planning a lead nurturing/gen program. I couldn’t agree more with Greg. After all, if you don’t have anything to share, the relationship you are developing will lose significant value or may not develop at all. But for a small or medium-sized business, gathering or developing content is often viewed as an ominous task. Let’s push that myth aside, because it’s much easier than you think. Here are some sources you should consider.

Your Website

Do you have a presence on the web (I know, dumb question huh)? Well, guess what? If you do, you have content! Here’s an idea, start with your “About Us” page. Here’s lies a treasure trove of information about why you’re in business and the people behind the scenes. Remember, we are creating relationships with our prospects and clients, and what better way to do that than through stories about people? How about the founders of the company, their past, why did they start the company? Is the product or service you sell a result of a significant event in the founder’s lives? Lot’s of great stuff here. Highlight an employee, perhaps someone who is involved with charities and donates their time to helping others. There is nothing better than a human interest story to illustrate the fact that the people in your company are normal, everyday folks – who knows…perhaps your prospects or clients share similar interests.

Marketing or sales material

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’re bound to have some marketing or sales material. If not, how about getting the sales team together and asking them to bring along a sampling of recent emails sent to prospects. From these emails, you may be able to mine information to create content. One word of caution…be sure that your content is useful, not just a “pitch”. If you expect your prospects to be open to a relationship with you, you have to provide them with something of value or interest to them, a solution that relates to their company will go much further than a constant sales pitch.

Case Studies

Speaking of sales, why not task your team with writing a brief case study about a client they recently helped? Again, these don’t have to be long, just a quick one-pager with the details of a recent solution will do the trick. Give your audience a flavor for how you have helped other companies. Then, take the next step, classify those case studies by industry and post them on your website by those classifications. This will help in your SEO efforts while providing value to people looking for a solution.

Testimonials (User-Generated Content)

Who better to talk about your solution than a company already doing business with you? Huge opportunity here! Gather three or four testimonials and put together a 1-2 page, branded document, kind of a press release. Or better yet, create a new “program” for your company; call it something like “What’s being said about XYZ Company” and update it monthly. Maybe feature a larger client every once in a while. Mix it up with some information about new product releases and how they’ve been received by your clients. Got a Facebook page, been following Twitter mentions about your company? Create a section of the document for social media and include posts by your fans and useful tweets by your followers. Again, it doesn’t have to be a long or tedious process, make it brief, make it fun!

Non-Text Content

Something to keep in mind while you’re gathering content. It’s doesn’t always have to be in text form. Do you have past webinars that you can dust off and post on your website? Have a fun group of people you work with? Go around your office with a video cam on a random Friday at 4:00 and ask people what they are doing for the weekend, or have them give you their best “It’s Friday!!!!” Then post your amateur video on YouTube. Make it fun, make it human – people will relate and who knows?…maybe your YouTube video will go viral.

This should give you some solid ideas for producing content. You don’t always need to hire a copywriter or a professional marketing company to do the work. A lot of the work is already done, you just need someone to put it all together.

Are you a small or medium-sized business owner/employee? Let me know if this information relates to you and your business. Am I on target or missing the bullseye? Tell us about your experiences.