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It runs counter to what many business professionals instinctively want to do, but one of the best ways to build credibility about your products and services is to not write about them. Before you call in the brand police, let me explain. What I'm talking about here are longer pieces of marketing content typically used to build awareness early in the sales funnel. In other words, white papers, reports, surveys and other forms of thought leadership content. For this kind of high quality content marketing, touting your own offerings before first demonstrating a thorough understanding of the business problem is a readership turnoff.

A far better course for reports is to follow what my company calls the "5-1-1" approach that has worked well for such clients as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Cognizant and others. (The first number is arbitrary, but you'll get the idea.) That is:

  • Four pages of editorial text based on analysis and reporting of a business issue facing many companies
  • A one-page custom cover, co-branded with an authoritative editorial source if possible; and
  • A one-page sponsor statement.

A good example is a report we produced last month called "Doing Business In-the-Moment": How SMBs Run Live in the Digital Economy." While the real-time subject matter of the report is aligned with the client's "run live, run simple" advertising campaign, no mention of the client or its products appears in the first four pages. Rather to keep the writing as objective as possible, the content is based on interviews with industry experts, discussions with midsize companies, and our analysis of the latest marketing data information. It's only in the sponsor statement, typically the final page of the report, where the sponsor ties the theme to their own offering.

Although not every company can afford to do so, a great way to add even more credibility is to co-brand your report with a well-known editorial authority. Among the business and technology nameplates we partner with are Forbes Insights, HBR Analytic Services, eWEEK and CIO Insight.

Want to sell more product? Easy. Don't write about it! Until next time. . .

quotes

"People are very impressed with how slick and professional our new site looks, and that it gives us a 'big company' look even though we're small."

Aaron Sherman,
Marketing Director
NextComputing

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