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Accelerating Your Content Marketing Program: SME Buy-In

I just had an idea for a post when I realized it's been just over two years since my last one.

Yikes! I guess I've been a bit busy.

I've even thought a few times about deleting my blog, but I never found the time to do it. Plus, I still get about 100 hits a day - not much compared to its hey day, but not bad for a blog that I've basically ignored for two years.

Truth is, a lot of would-be bloggers are a lot like me. I know, because I make a living blogging (and writing in general) for people who are brilliant people, but just don't have the time to jot their thoughts down then go through all the polishing necessary to get them ready for posting.

My first contact with my clients is usually the frustrated content marketing manager. They have executives, product managers, support specialists, etc., who would make great subject matter experts (SMEs), but they just can't get them to write anything. It's not that these experts are unwilling. Most of them are pretty excited about seeing their name in the blogosphere. They just can't find the time.

For a time, the marketing manager may try to do the writing in house, but it's not like their plates are any emptier than the SMEs'. Plus, and I don't know why this is, but SMEs always seem to be more cooperative with me than their own internal people. There's just something about not being an insider that makes it easier for them to work with me.

3 Tips for Gaining SME Buy In
If you're looking to accelerate your content marketing program, the first thing you have to do is get your SME's to buy in. Admittedly, this step isn't the toughest, but it must be done. Here are a few tips:

#1 Announce the program. As I mentioned, most experts in anything love to see their name in print. Just telling them that you'd like to help them become noted subject matter experts is often enough to do the trick. Adjust your level of schmooziness to fit your audience.

#2 Assure them you will minimize the time they need to spend. The first question they are likely to ask is: What will you need from me? Here's where you will need to spend a little time vetting would-be writers to see what they require. I an work with anything from a text to a full-blown SME interview conducted over the phone, but other writers may have a standard process they follow for gathering information.

The most important thing the SME needs to understand is that he or she will NOT be required to write anything themselves. Some of the SMEs I work with do, and then I polish their work. But most do not.

The second most important thing to assure the SME is that they will get final approval.

#3 Get them thinking about ideas. To come up with post ideas, I hold brainstorming sessions with SMEs, but I also ask them to email me stories from the road. I especially love observations they make at industry conferences. It helps me highlight their expertise and say something pithy.

For particularly challenging SMEs, (translation: CEOs who are almost impossible to pin down), I will do a little research and then come up with a menu of post ideas. I'll even write posts and run it by them to see how close I've come to their opinions. That final method gets much easier after I've had the time to get to know the SMEs.

Here's an interesting factoid: Even though I feel like I know them well, I have never met any of the people I write for in-person. Such is the miracle of modern technology!

Would love to hear about your content marketing program. Have you had a challenge getting SMEs to commit? If so, how have you overcome it?

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Channel Professionals: Can You Break the 80/20 Rule?

I posted this question recently on the Partner Manager Alliance Program (PMAP) group on LinkedIn:

As I think back over my career and all the channels I've been involved with, the one constant is the 80/20 rule - 20% of the partners contributed 80% of the revenue. (Actually, there might have been one situation where it was 90/10) In these organizations, a lot of time was spent discussing how to get the 80% contributing more. 

Is it possible? I know everyone on this list can share probably share channel enablement strategies designed to achieve the goal - but have you ever seen it happen?

Unfortunately, that group seems to have a lot of lurkers and not much discussion - yet.

Still, I'd love to hear what those of you who are channel managers or channel strategists think about the 80/20 rule. Can it be broken?

Feel free to share your thoughts here, or visit the group on LinkedIn.

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Where Should I Start?

I get a lot of questions like this from prospective clients:

I don’t have a lot of money, but my marketing is pretty ineffective. What should I do to get things moving?

The problem with marketers is that we usually give an answer related to our area of expertise. Web designers will suggest a better web design. The SEO specialist will suggest optimizing your web site. Campaign managers will suggest new campaigns. Content developers like me will suggest…you guessed it…content!

Actually, none of these are bad places to invest. If, for example, your website looks like it was designed by your nephew as a high school project (or, if indeed, it was) that’s as good a place as any to start.

But if you don’t have any glaring issues, such as a klunky website, let me give my plug for starting with content. Not just any type of content. A blog.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know blogging is dead, but the people who tell you usually have something new to sell you.)

The reason I suggest starting a blog as opposed to other types of content like white papers or case studies is because they are easy to do. You can set it up in an afternoon. You don’t have to be a professional writer to create a post. Like the “family project” that brings everybody closer together, almost anyone in the organization can submit a post.

Quick tip: I recommend that one individual be responsible for review and approval! I’m all for keeping it real, but you want to put your best foot forward. A rambling, poorly written post by one of your experts, probably isn’t the best first impression.

But the best thing about a blog is that touches on all those areas of improvement mentioned above and then some:

Website/SEO – A blog is a great way to add SEO optimized pages quickly.

Campaigns – Blog content makes for great nurture campaigns. If you’re really on a shoestring budget, these campaigns can be as simple as emails from your sales team pointing them to the latest opinion piece on your blog.

Social media – It’s easy to repurpose blogs on whatever social media platform you’re using. Post them in facebook and Google+.  Start a discussion around the post on LinkedIn. Tweet them (several times) on Twitter.  A few months past since you wrote the post? Tweet it again.

List building – People don’t subscribe to receive emails, but they will subscribe to receive blog content.

Credibility – Well-written posts by a number of people within the organization do more to establish an organization’s credibility than any number of white papers created by some industry guru.

That said, I do have one word of caution. Blogs are not a quick fix to all your marketing problems. You have to execute – frequent posts, well-written and educational content, etc. In addition, it may take some time to build a following, but it sure beats the half of a percent return rate (if that) most companies are seeing on their non-subscriber email campaigns.

Questions about blogging? Add your comments below or reach out to me at


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I Blog Therefore I Am

Reading the tweet stream of a new follower, I ran across an interesting article from @goforbiz101 entitled Blogging is Dead – But Long Live the Blogosphere.

They make some valid points. Here’s my favorite quote:

Heck, most people blogging today are consultants being told by consultants to blog (and even those consultants learned that from other consultants).

That might be true. Most of the people I follow use Twitter as not much more than a syndication service for their blogs. (BTW, it works really well for that!)

Valid points aside, there are a number of reasons I still blog. One of my motivators is that there is another Melissa Paulik.

Yes, it’s true. In fact, there may be even more than one more out there. One in particular lives in the general vicinity of where I grew up.  We even look similar – blonde hair, blue eyes, that sort of thing.

I’ve never met her. I’m sure she’s a nice person – at least she hasn’t done anything online to tarnish our name. But she’s not me.

Blogging ensures that MY persona is online so that when a potential client Googles me, enough of me will show up to counter balance her persona. Hopefully, they can tell the difference.

At the end of the day, we’re all a dime a dozen whether we share our name with someone else or a hundred someone elses. (I always felt bad for the Jim Smiths of the world.) Blogging is one more way to say. “Hey, I’m here!”

For those of you who blog, what’s your primary motivation*?


*My doppelganger isn’t my primary motivation. Just one of many.
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6 Tips for Creating Compelling White Papers

I hate furniture stores. As soon as you walk through the door, salesperson pounces. Then, even if you say you’re just looking, they follow you around, pretending to polish tables or simply lurking behind the potted plants.

As the state of most of my furniture attests, I often leave without buying because they make me so uncomfortable I can’t really enjoy the shopping experience.

So it is with any almost any complex sale – or at least those where the amount to be spent is perceived as a significant portion of the budget. (When I do buy furniture, I buy furniture intended to last!) In the early stages, when the buyer isn’t really certain what he or she is looking for, they want an experience that allows them to self-educate without being hounded by an over-eager sales rep.

For many complex B2B sales, this situation calls for a white paper.

If you’re thinking of creating one, or having someone else (like me) create it for you, here are 6 tips that can help you produce a compelling piece.

1/ White papers don’t have to be white. Scratch that. Perhaps it’s better to say they shouldn’t be white. Gone are the days when you can have your engineers knock one out in Microsoft Word in an afternoon. To stand out, today’s white papers need to be as aesthetically pleasing as they are educational.

2/ Use your messaging as a guide, but leave your product at the door. Your messaging says a lot (or at least it should) about what matters most to your prospects. Like all collateral, the white paper should be guided by your messaging. However, to break in too early with a product message makes you no better than the furniture salesman peering out from behind the potted plant.

This is probably the biggest mistake I see my high-tech clients make. Left to their own devices, the technical staff takes over and they create something that is more akin to a technical brochure. Some even go so far as to include product specs!

At the end of the day, a white paper should read more like a magazine article. If your audience is highly technical, think American Scientist. If more business-oriented, think Forbes

3/ Title is critical! Journalists know this. That’s why they create titles that draw you in whether you’re perusing search engine results or standing in line at the supermarket. X tips for doing whatever works exceptionally well for pieces that are a bit lighter, like this post, but they also work well for heavier topics. Here’s an example from the solar energy industry written for energy executives.

4/ Your product manager may not be the best author. As a former product manager, I hate to disparage my own kind. However, too many PMs, especially those managing highly technical products, get so lost in the bits and bytes that they forget how to speak to anyone who isn’t an engineer. If your target audience sits in the executive suite, you will want a writer who can bridge the gap between product features and ROI. Notice the ROI message in the title of the last piece I shared.

5/ They don’t have to be long. A lot of my clients come to me with a set number of pages in mind. While that helps with estimating, remember that a white paper can easily be as few as two pages. On the other hand, it may be as many as six or eight if the subject warrants it.

6/ Include plenty of whitespace.  While the paper may not be white, you want to include plenty of whitespace to increase readability. You don’t need as much whitespace as the average product brochure, but nor should you cram every little nook and cranny with content.

If you have any questions about creating white papers that resonate, reach out to me either below or via email at


P.S. As for the email address above, sorry for those who hate gmail, but my own domain isn't again. One of the things that really stinks about being a freelancer is that you don't have an IT department. As for me, I'd rather be writing than tinkering with domains.

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Should I hire a marketer within my industry?

Like all really interesting questions, there is no one right answer to this question. There are lots of opinions, though, and I’m happy to share mine. (As always!)

The first inclination of marketing managers is to hire within their industry. After all, it significantly decreases the learning curve. When the role is one where knowledge of the product or market is critical, e.g., product management, it makes sense to look within the industry.

However, for most other roles, there’s a strong case to be made for looking outside your industry.

The downside of in-industry hires
In my experience, employees hired away from a competitor rarely live up to expectations. It’s not so much the fault of the employee as it is the tendency to assume that the competitor is so much better than we are. One organization I worked with was prone to hiring competitors.  The employees had a standing joke about the superman cape new employees got to wear for all of about three months before it got handed off to the next “awesome hire.”

You should also consider whether marketers forged in your industry have the breadth of skills you need to help you innovate and not just imitate.

For example, a lot of B2B marketing companies are truly horrible at social media marketing. Better to get ahead of that curve while there’s still time. You might consider hiring an employee from the B2C world. Marketers (of any age) with consumer brand experience are often much better with social media.

If you’re not sure this is the right approach, consider hiring a freelancer to put together a social media plan for you. (Sorry, but my experience is strictly B2B.)

A case in point
Before I started freelancing, my entire career was spent working in the software industry. Granted, I held positions that touched on a lot of different industries, but it was all software, all the time.

I got my start in freelancing when an agency working with clients in the energy sector recognized they needed someone comfortable with working with highly technical people. Someone who could quickly pick up on the jargon. Someone not easily intimidated.  Someone not afraid to ask questions.

A marketer from that industry would be too easily led by the subject matter experts (SMEs) because their experiences would be the same. They’d be too busy bonding over things they agreed on to come up with anything new. They’d be too busy using the same buzzwords to notice it wasn’t the same language used by their target audience - utility executives.

My relative inexperience in the industry gave me the leeway I needed to ask the “stupid questions” that got the subject matter experts rethinking their own assumptions. That two-week project turned into almost four years of work, and the relationship is still going strong.

Have you hired someone from outside your industry that turned out to be just what you needed? Or do you firmly believe that industry experience is a must have?
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How Can I Convince My Boss That My Qualified Lead Quota is Too High?

Let me paraphrase an email I got last night from a young marketer:

I recently joined a company as a sales development specialist, and I have a quota for developing qualified leads set by the marketing director and marketing VP. This month I need to generate 45, next month 50, and the month after 60. 

From everything I have researched and every marketing and sales director I've talked to, it’s not possible for one person to generate this many qualified leads. Can you tell me the same thing so I can convince my management that my quota is unattainable?

First of all, I feel for this guy. We’ve all been there. New to a company. Eager to succeed. Facing a daunting quota.

But that’s about where my compassion ends.

For all I know, his quota may be unattainable, but I certainly can’t tell him that.  First of all, I don’t have nearly enough information. But more than that, I’d just be contributing to his problem.

My guess is that those other sales and marketing directors he spoke to thought they were being kind. Unfortunately for him, they are making bad situation worse by agreeing with him. “Yes, your quota is too high, and you’ll never hit it.”

What a way to mentor a junior marketer!

My advice to him was to swallow his complaints. They will come across as whining, and that is never a good way to start out your career or a new role at a company.

Then go to your marketing director and marketing VP (or your own manager if you don’t report directly to either of these two people) and ask for their help in putting together a plan that will help you achieve the goal. You’ll be showing initiative and a desire to succeed.

If they are worth their salt, they’ll have some ideas for how you can get there. You’ll also get a feel for how they arrived at that number. It’s actually a good sign that you have a quota for qualified leads. It means marketing management is paying at least some attention to what works.

It’s a simplistic answer, but given the lack of information, it’s the best I could do. It’s a whole lot better approach than the path he was headed down!

Please add your comments! How would you have advised this young man?
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