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All around the USA, startups, inventors, and entrepreneurs need access to capital, but just as often and perhaps more so, they need access to cloud technology. I know this to be true because I’ve been on the road for almost eight months touring incubators, accelerators, and little communities via makerspaces and hackerspaces where I witness what these bright and energetic minds are creating.

While my roadtrip has been focused on 3D tech (you can read more at 3DRV.com), as a long time technology researcher and writer I cannot help but notice the other innovations all around me as I am shown around a facility or startup space. Some of these spaces are sponsored by large technology companies, but most are not, which is what makes today’s announcement from IBM so compelling.

IBM is launching the “IBM Global Entrepreneur Program for Cloud Startups,” which will help startups and entrepreneurs harness the power of IBM Cloud, as well as deeply connect and embed them into IBM’s vast global network of enterprise clients, consultants, Innovation Centers and more to rapidly build innovations, scale quickly and accelerate growth.

In layman’s terms: If you’re starting a company, you want access to cloud infrastructure and services (built around open APIs) that will help you get moving and scale up, as needed. The infrastructure comes via SoftLayer (an IBM co) and Bluemix, which is for app development (more than 75 runtimes and services). Some Bluemix examples:

  • Integration with Twitter to capture global social data insights with analytics;
  • Aspera’s high-speed data transfer tools;
  • App health and performance monitoring services; and,
  • Cloudant’s flexible, high-performing Database-as-a-Service.

Through the global program, qualifying startups will receive up to $120,000 worth of credits to put towards IBM Cloud usage, giving them the instant infrastructure needed to quickly launch their businesses and focus resources on coding, building, scaling and bringing innovations to market. The program will also offer startups invaluable and in-depth connections into IBM’s enterprise client base, many of whom consistently look to the startup community for new approaches to industry challenges.

According to more than 300 global venture capitalists, private equity and growth equity investors this year, they’ve largely been investing in tech companies, especially cloud and mobile (source: 2014 Global Venture Capital Confidence Survey). As these areas continue to heat up, IBM is committing to providing startups with the tools they need to build and capitalize on the next generation of apps for the cloud.

One of the things I really liked learning about in this new offering is that they are providing tech support and consulting through IBM’s physical and global network of 43 Innovation Centers, a new incubator space in NYC’s Silicon Alley, and Bluemix Garage in San Francisco’s Galvanize startup hub, all of which also host local tech community events and meet-ups. I like seeing this focus on community.

IBM is the leading enterprise platform for Cloud, with an unmatched portfolio of open cloud solutions to enable clients for the hybrid cloud era with integration, control over data and expertise. IBM Cloud has helped more than 30,000 clients around the world. Today, IBM has 100+ cloud SaaS solutions, thousands of experts with deep industry knowledge helping clients transform, and a growing global network of cloud centers. Since 2007, IBM has invested more than $7 billion in 17 acquisitions to accelerate its cloud initiatives. IBM holds 1,560 cloud patents focused on driving innovation. For more information about cloud offerings from IBM, visit http://www.ibm.com/cloud. Follow us on Twitter @IBMCloud and on our blog at www.thoughtsoncloud.com. Join the conversation #ibmcloud.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Laptops get heavy if you have to carry them everywhere. I work on two different laptops, sometimes three, on our 3DRV.com journey exploring 3D technologies around the USA. More and more, though, I’m living and working from this HP ElitePad 1000 G2 tablet. Let me just cut to the chase: It rocks.

It’s light and powerful, and what makes it rock is that the review unit I received came with a protective case and keyboard into which you insert the tablet. It then pops open and rests upright as you can see in the photo – looking an awful like a tiny netbook, but with way more power. With some tablets, you have a lag with external keyboards, but since HP built the case for the tablet, it is instantly available just as it is on a regular laptop. It is like a tiny, touch-enabled laptop.

The case is what makes the difference in making it into a pseudo-laptop for me. It has the ports I need – SD Card slot, 2 USB ports, and the power supply connection (which is proprietary and not my favorite aspect, but I can live with it). Oh, and you have an audio jack, too.  For a mobile device, it handles everything I can think of.

HP ElitePad 1000 G2

Others who are reviewing this unit received a protection jacket that instead of the keyboard had an additional battery. The standard battery (Lithion Ion)is pretty solid, in my opinion, and I’ve run the ElitePad 1000 for an entire 10-hour workday taking it through video editing, photo editing, and lots of web surfing, document creation. I didn’t load typically large applications/software like Microsoft Office, and I’m not sure if there tablet versions are chip-hogs or if they run lean. With the exception of some video work, I was using Chrome which isn’t that resource intensive.

Some of the technical specs:

  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64 (I wondered if I could scrub it and put another OS on it, just to explore what’s possible, but didn’t try. The Windows system works fine for my needs and it was very reliable.)
  • Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n (2×2) and Bluetooth® 4.0 HP lt4111 LTE/EV-DO/HSPA+ Mobile Broadband
  • Intel® Atom® Z3795 (1.6 GHz, up to 2.39 GHz using Intel Burst Technology, 2 MB cache, 4 cores)
  • Screen: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 with anti-smudge coating

The HP ElitePad 1000 G2 starts at around $739 and is a powerful tablet for that price. With 4Gig of SDRAM and 64G SSD, and a 10.1” diagonal screen, it has most of the features business users would want.

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Here are some more reviews on the HP ElitePad that you might want to check out:



As I started to research cloud security for my last post: Improving Midsize Security With Cloud Honeypots, I found that there’s a shortage of knowledge around what to do it if you actually suffer a breach. So I went looking and here’s what I found.

If you are a business that has experienced a security breach, you can find a list of state security breach notification laws on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures.  This is rather important so that you inform your employees and customers as soon as possible.

If you live and operate a business in California, the California Department of Justice’s Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit has developed a series of recommended practices. But even if you are not a California company, their recommended practices is a must read. http://www.oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/pdfs/privacy/recom_breach_prac.pdf

This post is not meant to a downer or to scare you into security mode, but it is a big deal. In one report I read, that the average cost of a data breach was $210 per record, meaning customer record. Breaches can add up to big losses for a small or midsize business.

The Privacy Advisor has published an article entitled How To Prepare for, Respond to and Manage Breaches. This is probably the best guide I’ve found and the key takeaways, for me – have a process and know who you are going to call first!

If you want to read the latest about breaches, head to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. It’ll sober you up quick about protecting your data, onsite and cloud.  The May 2014 guide from an organization known as Intersections is a meaty guide on how to notify consumers; another must-have document.

Of course, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is often considered the 800-pound gorilla in terms of information for what a business must do in the case of a data breach. Their site is up-to-date with reports on mobile apps, identity theft, and even what to do with a copier to keep it more secure. You can get direct to their business-focused page here and I encourage you to check out their blog where they cover all sorts of things your business will want to know if it deals with consumers.

There is no shortage of good resources for business owners and executives. There is no reason to be unprepared in the case of a data breach, but I do hope that you’ll diversify and secure your data in a mix of public and private clouds in addition to some ultra-secure onsite technology.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Improving Midsize Security With Cloud Honeypots

Security is a big concern for many business owners and why some argue they won’t use the cloud for their data or business processes. That’s a reality that the industry needs to continue to monitor. As an IBM executive told me last year, “we have to keep close tabs on security so that our customers always feel assured that their data and workflows are secure. One industry slip affects us all.”

I’ve been seeing a number of whitepapers and reports on the topic, mostly from cloud providers, but this one from Alert Logic gives a good overview of cloud security.

This annual publication documents Alert Logic’s comparative analysis of the state of security across customer cloud and on-premises infrastructures. Interestingly, they have been adding what are known as honeypots to their research:


According to the Alert Logic site: “A honeypot is a decoy system configured to be intentionally vulnerable, deployed to gather information about attackers and their exploitation methods. While honeypots are not typically the target of highly sophisticated attacks, they are subject to many undefined attacks, and provide a window into the types of threats being launched against the cloud.”

As a business owner who is constantly on the road, I cannot live without the cloud. Sure, I have physical backups that I use regularly and ship offsite as an additional security layer, however, the cloud makes it all accessible on a moment’s notice. Plus, it makes all my files, some rather large due to the 3D nature of point clouds and other 3D data sets, very share-able with others. We can collaborate and download with ease. Trust me, sharing data across the internet, via email as most people do it, is just as challenging and far less secure than a cloud provider.

Keep in mind that giving up physical possession doesn’t mean you are giving up security. As the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse states in their various reports – a large number of data breaches occur when a physical item is lost or stolen by an employee. That means the idea of physical security may be a greater myth for data protection. The Clearinghouse has found that close to 50% of breaches occur with physical asset vulnerabilities.

IBM Midsize video case study of Vantage Life Insurance In The Cloud. And here’s a bit more from IBM’s main cloud page for small and midsize businesses on Cloud Security.

In the Alert Logic semi-annual State of Cloud Security report, they found that the enterprise level data servers were four times more likely to suffer an attack than a cloud provider. You read that right – 4X.

The end result: Think less about location and more about how diversified you are in your approach to securing your data. Storing in the cloud doesn’t guarantee security, but it does offer options that you should consider.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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If you have been looking at some practical ways that the cloud can change your business, you only need to look at the growth in practical apps. Well, some apps that are connected to smart hardware.

One of the challenges that small and midsize business owners often face is tracking inventory or assets. Until now, you needed an expensive system with proprietary hardware configuration to do this, but now, with relatively simple devices, and the connected smartphone apps, you can track inventory or assets with ease and at low cost.

If you are a sole proprietor whose heartbeat increases just thinking about losing your smartphone or if you have a few employees who are always forgetting to return the community laptop to its proper place, tracking devices can be practical even beyond what they can do for inventory. I found several companies that provide inexpensive options: hipKey, StickNFind, and the Tile app (which includes a physical device).

The power in the Tile app, in particular, is that you can grant access to different phones, so it would allow you to have a team of people locating a lost item. This distributed network is key for Tile: other people can’t see your tiles without permission, but if they have the app running in the background and your tile is nearby, you’ll be able to see where it is. They have figured out how to attach the account and Tile device to the cloud, where others are connected, too.

For those with no inventory, but a few assets to monitor, hipKey is a good Bluetooth tracking device – keeping your tracked item connected to your iPhone. The device is aimed at consumers, but if you have a small number of devices or people and are also iPhone users, this one is fast and easy. It is a little expensive if you have multiple items to secure, however.

Since I view my phone(s), as almost-completely a business device, I wouldn’t want to lose it. You probably feel the same. The Bluetooth tracking device will keep that “loss” from happening. If you have trouble keeping track of something else, such as your laptop, briefcase, or storage keys, you could attach a tracking device to that object.

These devices work by sounding an alarm when the tracker and your smartphone get separated from each other. This can be helpful if someone tries to walk off with your briefcase. You can set up “safe” zones, such as your home, that ignore this, so if one of your kids run off with your iPad (with the hipKey fob attached) while you are texting, the alarm won’t sound. Then again, maybe that is when you want it to sound.

If your business needs to go beyond tracking a couple of items, you will probably want to invest in the StickNFind sticker. These are quarter-sized stickers that come in several colors, which you can attach to anything you want to track. Turn your iOS or Android devices into radar so that you can find up to 20 StickNFind marked devices in a 30-meter radius. Or, try their more powerful BluTracker with an 800-meter range.

If the object moves out of range, you can set the system to send you an email alert. It also can be picked up on other devices that have the app. These will send you an email notification if it enters their area without sending the information to the owners of those devices.

StickNFind also has inventory managing “Enterprise Beacons” that will help you track larger numbers of items. These keep track of inventory in real-time, increasing security and decreasing inventory time. You can also use this system for keeping track of assets and lowering time spent looking for items. Enterprise Beacons can even be used to track cargo and monitor shipping temperatures.

The cloud is more than just digital asset storage or the moving of corporate data – it can be a tool for protecting and securing your physical assets, too. The Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting people to the cloud in unique and powerful ways. Think about how your business can benefit from that intersection of “smart things” and the cloud.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Heading To The Cloud

As some of our readers know, we have embarked on a national roadtrip to explore what’s happening around the USA with 3D printing, scanning, and design. None of it would be possible without the cloud. Not for us, and increasingly, not for the small and midsize business owners we are meeting across the country.

We met a machine shop owner, Jeff Tiedeken, who operates Monkey Likes Shiny – he does almost all of his design work via the cloud with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 solution.

“The fact that I can download Autodesk Fusion 360… With online tools, I have the power to become a leader in the American manufacturing market! I see great things and hope coming for young entrepreneurs. The tools of success are sometimes a click away.”

In two months on the road, and six months to go, we have met at least a dozen business owners like Jeff Tiedeken who have shared experiences about how cloud tools and services are transforming how they get their work done, how they stay profitable, how they find new customers.

If you are marketing via Facebook or Twitter, you are marketing in the cloud. If you are creating objects or parts via Fusion 360, you are designing in the cloud. If you are helping a client do their taxes via QuickBooks online, you are doing your accounting via the cloud.

Often, the cloud is affordable enough that some employees will simply pay for the right solution on their own to avoid the hassle of getting permission from the IT department. After all, they need only a browser to get to it. To be clear, I’m not advocating that you let your employees pay for their own software – but the power is in their hands to make things happen. This is what John Mason, General Manager, Midmarket for IBM, said in a recent LinkedIn post:

“One way that cloud computing is changing small businesses is the way it’s ‘democratizing’ the IT purchase decision. Its ease of acquisition is moving the purchase decision out of the IT department and on to the office or warehouse floor. The new decision maker might be the VP of marketing or sales, the person running customer service—even the head of the company… They look up information and reviews online and often sign up for a free trial without ever speaking to the solution vendor, or even their company’s own IT expert.”

There is plenty of data to support this idea – it isn’t just marketing-speak from the cloud providers. In his LinkedIn post, John also mentioned a recent Gartner study predicting that by 2017, CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT.

As Jeff likes to say, a new tool is just one click away. I can research the cloud solution for my specific needs and purchase with little or no vendor help, with little or no approval process. I can have the latest “version” whenever I log in, with a cloud-based solution.

And since we’re logging in from all over the nation, I really have a new appreciation for the cloud and getting access to my data and software from wherever I am, on multiple devices. See you in the cloud.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The 3DRV roadtrip is sponsored by Autodesk, Stratasys, and other companies interested in promoting 3D technology.

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We have been using the EliteBook Folio 1040, HP’s next wave of the Folio, for almost two months in some “extreme” conditions.  Extreme in this case is in an RV while traveling around the USA collecting stories about 3D design, scanning, and printing.

The machine is part of a long-term media loan to TechBizTalk.

At first glance, traveling in an RV does not seem very extreme, but while we are camping in comfort there are some conditions that make it an ideal test ground for the road warrior. We are in and out of locations, moving the laptop in and out of bags, boxes, and occasionally airports.

We’re using it outside quite often, at least I do, and my wife uses it while we’re driving. You may know that RVs are built on truck frames, which makes them less smooth no matter how well you drive. They absorb (or not) the road differently than a car, so sitting with it on a lap desk while riding as a passenger gives the EliteBook Folio 1040 a jolting ride.

So, outside of my usual commentary on various tech aspects of the laptop, I’m going to talk about how it performs on the road. This Folio product line is aimed at high-end business users and I believe I qualify. We’re on the road for nine months, after all. We’re in and out of RV parks and hotels. We run off the battery a lot.

The Folio 1040 is a rock star for us in a number of ways – overall great design and quality. It feels solid, although quite light, in your hands. We like the high-resolution 14-inch display and I love the keyboard. Neither my wife nor I like the new touchpad (HP calls it the ForcePad, like Star Wars?). I’m sad that it doesn’t have a standard SD card slot onboard or more than two USB 3.0 ports, but its workable with a handy extension gadget. We use one of those precious USB ports for an external mouse FOB since we’re not fond of the touchpad, thus we need that extension device.

As others have noted, the Folio 1040 makes a terrific design statement for the company. At 0.63 inches thin (that’s just a bit over half an inch, folks. That’s pretty compact) and 3.3 pounds, this notebook is one of the thinnest around with a 14-inch display. It has great resolution and color right out of the box, for those who sometimes calibrate/tweak their machines for higher end graphics work.

I wanted to increase the RAM and had to remove around 10 Torx screws on the bottom plate of the case. Not a big deal, but not designed for quick removal. I was stunned to see the tiny solid state hard drive (250Gig) is so, well, tiny. Wow.

We have been super impressed with the speed of the machine, too. We are creating a fair number of short videos for this 3D roadtrip and I assumed I would have to upgrade the RAM to keep the machine ready for video editing, but it has done a good job minus any upgrades.

When watching video, which can be a power draw – you don’t even hear the internal cooling fan. The machine is quiet and stays cool, which is a great thing as I don’t like it when machines get so warm sitting in your lap. A really nice thing when you’re working from a picnic table in a hot, humid location outdoors.

In my view, this is a lean and mean machine worth adding to your business. Road warriors take note: portable, functional and light. What more could you ask for? The HP EliteBook 1040 Folio is a winner.


Social media conversation is like a topographic map and the Pew Research Center is creating intense, visually-rich maps to show you how. According to a new 57-page report entitled, Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters, Pew teamed up with the Social Media Research Foundation to help us media.

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, social conversations are a bit like a topographic map. You have high points (mountains) and low points (valleys) over a period of time. These high points, in part, represent popular and widely repeated content, reflecting the significant role these people play in social media discussions.

In their report, they reveal that Twitter users represent only 18% of internet users and 14% of the overall adult population. Despite the limited data set, the structure of these Twitter conversations says something meaningful about how an engaged user discusses topics, how people find each other, and share information.

No doubt, some research company is doing similar work with Facebook, or Google+, or Instagram data and we’ll soon receive more insights on how we communicate with one another on social media.

The analysis and the maps of social structures were created using an open-source tool called NodeXL that is a plug-in to Excel spreadsheets. I just posted about another open source visualization tool called Plotly that lets you plug in data and stream it to the cloud for free. It is also a new social platform for people wanting to share their ideas visually and with the crowd. However, there are millions of people comfortable with Microsoft Excel who might find NodeXL perfect for solving a data challenge.

I’m working on a small project with Matt Hixson at Tellagence, a firm that helps you discover how people are talking about particular topics and terms. Conversations often happen in ways we do not expect and just finding a keyword isn’t enough – you have to study to search for intent and context. In his post, Using Social Market Research To Inform All Parts of Your Marketing, Matt uncovers some of the same things that Pew Research is also discovering:

There is not much demographic data on Twitter, but we have something more valuable. People are telling you, in an unbiased way, what they are interested in through the content they share and interact with. These conversations can move quickly and change rapidly. How do you make sense out of 10,000, 250,000 or even 8 million tweets that can happen any week on all sorts of topics that involve your customers? It is not enough to sit in front of a monitoring tool and read as fast as you can for a week to form a mental model that you think is right. None of us have time for that and in the end you have your best guess.”  –Matt Hixson

Social media comes in different forms and structures. Mapping social media networks can enable a better understanding of the ways individuals form groups and organize online.

I like how Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project, summarizes this research project: “It gives us a way to take the digital equivalent of aerial photos of crowds and simultaneously listen to their conversations.”

You can download the Pew Research report here: Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Networking Like The Dutch Admirals

Getting other people to notice you takes a certain chutzpah, a confident personality. But not all of us have that personality, so what can you do to network your business to the next level? Find a buddy.

Many successful systems rely on two – the U.S. Marines, SCUBA diving, Mormon missionaries, and lots of other programs depend on two people. So build your own.

Let me tell you about the Dutch Admiral principle – I read about this little-known story in a leadership course during graduate school.

“Not long ago, there were two junior officers in the Dutch Navy who made a pact. They decided that when they were at the various navy social functions, they would go out of their way to tell people what a great guy the other guy was. They’d appear at cocktail parties or dances and say, “What an unbelievable person Charlie is. He’s the best man in the Navy.” Or, “Did you hear about the brilliant idea Dave had?”

They revealed this pact to the public the day they were both made admirals – the two youngest admirals ever appointed in the Dutch Navy.”  –Deal & Kennedy (full reference below)

Their secret efforts influenced the perceptions that others held. Peers saw them as leaders, as doers. According to Deal & Kennedy, this “band of brothers” mentality bolstered what the authors call “hero-making.” They go on to explain that “believing is seeing” not the other way around.

Believing Is Seeing, Or Hearing

Of course, you still have to walk the walk, as the saying goes, and deliver on your promises. But if you have struggled with getting the right amount of attention to propel your business or career to the next level, then find an Admiral partner who will have your back and promote you to others.

Social media has made it so easy to connect with others. So, put word out on Twitter or Facebook to figure out who else is going to the event, before the event. Agree to meet there.  If you do not want to ask someone you only know online, get an IRL friend to agree to attend with you. You could also focus your time in social networks with this approach, too.

As you network, if you plan to serve others, including a close friend or ally, you’ll find new opportunities. Sure, the purpose of networking is to meet new people for yourself and your business, but just as importantly, to serve people. Remember, your Admiral partner is doing the same thing at the same or another event. Find an Admiral buddy: Business is sure to flow.

Reference: Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life By Terrence E. Deal, Allan A. Kennedy 1982. The story as Deal & Kennedy is attributed to Peter Kraljic, a Director Emeritus at McKinsey, where he spent 32 years and held a number of senior positions until his retirement in 2002.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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Nearly 38% of companies do not feel they have an effective content marketing strategy and only 13% feel their content marketing is “very successful.” Clearly there are many challenges businesses need to overcome to improve their effectiveness in this area.

I recently reviewed a Content Marketing report from Ascend2 Research, which conducts research for marketing solution providers, on how online marketers utilize different methods to reach customers. They looked at why companies use content marketing.

• More than half (54%) set lead generation as the main objective of their marketing strategy.
• They also use content to increase the awareness of their product or brand (41%).
• Search engine optimization (SEO) ranked at 30%, in terms of why marketers use content.

Acknowledging that content marketing can help your business is important, but one of the biggest challenges facing companies is the actual creation of it. Good content, the kind that will increase your leads and sales, is resource intensive to create. According to the study only about 52% have in-house resources to create all of their content.

Smaller companies may find content creation more difficult and expensive: They often have to outsource all or most of their jobs. Outsourcing can offer its own challenges in that not all content writers are created equal, and frequently the better ones cost more. Either way, it takes time, money, or a combination of the two to develop the kind of content that increases your bottom line.

The good thing for businesses is that there are many marketing software solutions available that help manage content marketing and automate some of the process, but 40% of businesses don’t use such platforms and 41% only use them in a limited way.

Software can streamline content marketing and make it easier and quicker to do a quality job in-house. In the end, businesses need to look toward harnessing all the tools available to them and using them to their fullest potential.
Since the main focus is to create leads from content, most companies require users to register before they can access it.

For the most part, companies offer premium content via:

• eNewsletters (55%)
• White papers (53%)
• Videos (53%)
• Case studies (47%)

Webinars still rank at 39% as a premium content form and research reports came in at 36 percent. Infographics (31%), product demos (27%), interactive apps (10%), are frequently mentioned, too. Infographics are one of the hotter trends in content marketing with companies of all sizes trying to make their ideas more visual.

Creating videos that are high quality is difficult even for larger companies, but small businesses have a choice of hiring a pro or doing it themselves. At Small Business Trends, I compiled a list of 30+ Ways To Use YouTube Effectively – a list of tips and resources to help you sort out how to create videos for your business.

When looking at the most effective channel for reaching customers, surprisingly, blogs ranked a low fourth for effectiveness at 26% as compared email at 61%, then websites, then social media. You can download a free copy of the report from Ascend2 Research here.

Although blogs are generally considered a great way to market your business online, it may be time to re-evaluate them or how you approach them. I’m a fan of blogs overall, but particularly in combination with email marketing or video, if you cross-pollinate between them.

Since 38% of companies do not feel they have an effective content marketing strategy, it seems like the time is right to do a bit more study on the topic for small and medium sized businesses.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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