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Online content and its effect on business development – by Nick Baggott

November 28, 2012

This is a guest blog by Nick Baggott, MD of Navigate Consulting. A leader in the CRM and Digital Marketing fields, Nick has worked with brands including Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Pfizer and O2. Nick also a Fellow of the IDM and the CIM. For clarity, Navigate Consulting isn’t a client of Sponge NB, but Nick is someone whose opinions we respect.

The pitch process has changed out of all recognition. The days of agencies pitching for each project and clients constantly searching for new agencies are (thankfully) a thing of the past.

Clients are looking for longer term partnerships with fewer agencies. That is a great thing for client retention and agency financial planning. But, it is potentially bad news for the new business development team. With fewer pitches, the game has changed. The role of business development is to build long term relationships with the Marketing Directors and Procurement teams who manage the tenders, so that they are on the next long list to be considered for the pitch. These relationships are ideally built on personal interactions, but inevitably they will start with virtual interactions of some type.

So, if your task is to get onto the consideration list of agencies for the pitch, it means a change of focus. You need to be found when clients are searching and you need to represent an agency brand that is respected and trusted, ideally with a reputation for thought leadership and expertise. Online content plays a vital role in building your reputation. It also covers a huge range of channels and tools.

Your most important asset is your web site. Every client will review it and scrutinise it before they contact you. Consider not only how you are positioning yourself and the case studies and services you choose to promote, but also what the site says about your understanding of the digital world. Is it optimised for search? Is it optimised for mobile? Does it contain thought leading content? Does it enable readers to share your content in social media? Does it capture data in an effective and legally correct way?

Then consider which social channels you can use to host and share content. The options are plentiful. For every channel you utilise, you need a content manager who is updating and publishing new content, as well as responding to questions and comments swiftly.

I am a huge advocate of blogging as a way of sharing your expertise and knowledge. Here are some tips.

  1. Consider who the best person is to write it. Who has the expert knowledge? Who has the time? Who has the enthusiasm to do it and stick to it?
  2. Your blog is there to demonstrate your expertise, not to sell (that is what the web site does). So, talk about wider industry issues, share best practice, share research, share your opinion. Don’t just write up case studies.
  3. Be provocative. That doesn’t mean being deliberately confrontational or controversial. It means, give an opinion and ask for your readers’ opinions too.
  4. Write in plain, conversational English. Don’t get it copy written. It must be authentic. The odd typing mistake or grammatical error is not a disaster.
  5. Write as often as you can, but only say something when you have something interesting to say. It doesn’t have to be every week as long as you don’t leave it too long between posts.
  6. Integrate it with the other social channels – host video content on YouTube, tweet a link when you update your blog, have the latest blog posts feed onto the web site home page, feed blog titles and links onto your Linked In profile.

That leads me neatly onto the sharing element of content. You can write the content into a blog, you can post videos onto YouTube, you can write white papers and host them on your web site or you could commission some research and host that on your web site too. That is all great, but no use, if no-one knows it is there!

Search engine optimisation is key and the good news is that all of the social sharing that you do will help SEO by building links from other sites to yours. Make sure all content is tagged for search too, so that Google can find it. Your social media strategy should be to share and amplify your content programmes. All of your content should be sharable, opinion forming, provocative and original. That is a great start. Then you need to proactively spread the coverage of your content into digital channels.

Media can be owned (that is your web site, blog and social channels), paid (do you have budget to test paid search ads for example to promote this thought leadership content?) or earned (that is the free, PR type coverage). Earned media is the most powerful. Use your PR skills to make sure that all of your content, be it digital, video or printed is made available to thought leaders such as trade journalists, key industry analysts, respected bloggers and social media influencers (such as people with plenty of Twitter followers). Then use your own social media channels to promote the content. Top B2B channels are Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Linked In. Google Plus is probably most useful as a way of improving search performance for your content.

I hope this helps. It is a start to a very complex and ever evolving topic. If you want to find out more, please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@njbaggott) or of course read my blog http://nickbaggott.typepad.com/crm/

Good luck

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