Is Your Online Content Paying Its Way?...Five Tips for Creating Content That Produces Sales Leads

At we see a lot of editorial content, be it news articles, columns, interviews, how-to guidance, white papers. Moreover, we get to compare the readability, provocativeness, and effectiveness of all that content. One of the most interesting areas of comparison is with white papers that ISVs prepare to attract and connect with prospective customers.

Not surprisingly, not all content is created equal. Some content draws in surprising numbers of Dynamics users who are searching for solutions to pressing problems. Other content attracts very few readers, even though the solutions might be important for many Dynamics users.

The differences are extremely meaningful to companies that create the content. For one thing, such content is costly to produce, in terms of management time and the possible involvement of a professional writer and/or designer. Even more important, such content can be key in attracting readers who may well turn into sales leads, and long-term customers. For many ISVs, editorial content is a key source for attracting new customers, so a lot is riding on how well it works.

What factors distinguish content that is effective at drawing prospective customers? The differences may have little or nothing to do with the quality and innovativeness of the software solution you are trying to sell. As with much of marketing, a lot has to do with the sizzle. Here are five factors we have found to be key in distinguishing white papers that pull prospects:

1. A snappy title. Just as you judge a book by its cover, so prospective readers of your content will often decide whether or not to read it based on whether the title has some snap. What is snap? Ideally, something catchy, suggesting user benefits. For example, instead of “The XYX Approach to Business Intelligence”, you may want to have as a title, “Give Your Sales Force 3 Key BI Items That Competitors Won’t Have”. And include some kind of clearly written summary at the start or at the end of the paper.

2. A user orientation. When techies develop content, it tends to be technically oriented, emphasizing product features. While product features may be interesting to some customers, what most crave are benefits to them—how the solution will save money, make money, improve operating efficiency, or whatever. Remember, the decision maker is often not a techie. You want that person to understand what you are talking about, not be intimidated.

3. Keep the salesy stuff to a minimum…or eliminate it entirely. Having a user orientation doesn’t mean including direct sales pitches within your content. Your content will have more credibility if it imparts value. This means focusing on the problems your application solves in terms of industry challenges or national trends—say, for example, the problem of growing financial regulation.

4. Don’t be afraid to be provocative. It could be that there is some controversy about a problem your software solves. For example, your CRM application may require employees to spend more time on social networks, which is a no-no at some companies. Your white paper may want to make the argument—ideally, with data and examples—that companies today must effectively mine social networks, and employees must be adept for the mining to work. Prospects will, first off, be interested to read an alternative viewpoint, and will usually respect your viewpoint if it is well stated.

5. Use professionals to spruce up your content. The most common professionals to involve in content development are writers and designers. Documents that look professional suggest your company goes about the rest of its work professionally.

Of course, once you create top-quality content, you need to make sure it gets read by decision makers. More on that in another article, but MSDW is a place to start.

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