Creating great content is a sure-fire way for small businesses to attract and keep customers. Research shows that businesses that blog 15 times or more each month get five times more traffic than those who don’t blog at all. So it’s clear that content is key to generating leads and driving traffic to your website.
Yet, according to Hubspot, only 10% of companies have a dedicated content creator. That means, the vast majority of small business owners have to do all the hard work, and the marketing, themselves.
However, Hubspot research also shows that businesses that create new content just once a month are still 49% more likely to have acquired a customer through their blog. So even if you can only create a little content, you’ll soon be reaping the benefits.
But where does a small business that’s new to blogging start? Or if you’re already blogging how do you keep the ideas flowing? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Who are my clients? If you already have your marketing personas carefully scripted out, go back to them. Think again, have their needs changed? What are their business pains? Can you still provide a solution? And importantly, have you really been considering your targets when creating your content?
2. Why will they listen to me? What do you offer that makes people want to listen and how will your content benefit them? The average prospect doesn't want to hear a sales pitch, so what can you provide that will break down those walls and grab their attention? Authentic, intelligent and educational content is a great way to attract new clients, and keep them.
3. What search terms are leading people to your website? Use these to create content that answers their questions, but keeps them coming back for more.
4. What has been popular in the past? Remember that blog that got 2,000 shares six months back? Is it still relevant? Or could you update it and share it again? Think about the lifespan of your content — are they all one hit wonders, or do they have a longer shelf-life? Why not consider writing new posts on topics that have proved popular? If they’re still getting hits then it makes sense to provide your prospects with the great content that they’re looking for.
5. What do I want them to do at the end? Do you want potential clients to leave your page, or do you want them to download an eGuide? A simple call to action, a comment asking people to get in touch with their views, and at the very least, social share buttons are the next step in the lead nurturing funnel of love.
It’s just the beginning. But while these tips won’t turn you into a modern day Shakespeare, what they will help you develop ideas and pull new customers to your website — and fundamentally, that’s what content marketing is all about.
Rhian Morgans is an online PR executive for Tomorrow People.
Lifecycle marketing can:
A brave new concept that is slowly being nurtured by marketers, lifecycle marketing represents the birth of a new era. A drastic shift in marketing, it’s a technique that focuses on more than attracting a customer, but on converting them into your own personal brand advocate.
Lifecycle marketing requires thought, research, a hands-on approach, a finger on the pulse and staff that are as excited about a product or service as you are. It isn’t easy, but the rewards far outweigh the time and thought it takes to implement such an approach.
Lifecycle marketing embraces the entire customer experience process, not just the sale. It relies on rich customer experiences that transform clients into our best advertising tools.
Customer experience is the sum of all the encounters a customer has with a business. From initial awareness, through to discovery, attraction, interaction and purchase, to use and development, and finally ending in advocacy. So whilst they may not be shouting from the rooftops, a tweet and a positive review on your Facebook page will certainly go a long way in generating leads and attracting new customers.
This isn’t all about concepts though, this is about tangible results, and the use of technology to support the business/consumer cycle.
Lifecycle marketing uses lead nurturing pathways and marketing automation technology such as HubSpot to feed tailored content to prospects and engage with them before they buy, when they buy and after they’ve completed the buying process.
These technical resources provide a platform for tracking and analysing customer engagement, including detailed information about what content leads have read, and when. With technology like this, it’s easy to strike up the sort of conversation that your customer wants to be a part of.
Above all, lifecycle marketing is a thoughtful approach — it considers not only the customer experience, but also the employee experience. It relies on a degree of internal marketing that engages employees and motivates them to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Businesses have listened, learned and embraced the idea that the customer is at the heart of the marketing process.
Rhian Morgans is an online PR executive for Tomorrow People.
The golden rules of writing apply whether you are writing a novel or a blog. Your purpose should be to get the reader’s attention and keep it. You want them to go away with a clear understanding of your core message and ideally, be so impressed that they spread the word about what you’ve said.
The recent death of crime writer Elmore Leonard — known as the writer’s writer — has put the spotlight on his significant contribution to the world of fiction and film. His 45 novels — he was writing his 46th when he died — include many titles made familiar on the big screen, such as Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Rum Punch (which was filmed as Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino).
Leonard shared his golden rules in an essay on writing. George Orwell did the same. Stephen King wrote a brilliant book called On Writing. So what can these great fiction writers teach us about writing marketing copy?
Elmore Leonard said “never open a book with weather”. In other words, avoid unnecessary scene-setting. So if you are writing a blog, make a bold statement at the top and then expand on it and back it up. On your website, highlight what you offer before you go into the history of your firm.
It’s good practice to wait before you send or publish something online. Read your writing back a few hours later and delete anything that deviates from your main message.
George Orwell said: “Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” These are wise words.
Leonard, King and Orwell also agree — adverbs are the work of the devil and dialogue should always carry the word “said”. In the world of fiction, that means avoiding phrases such as “he admonished gravely”.
What can this teach us about copywriting? Use simple language to make your points clearly. Short sentences are better than long ones. The simplest words are the most powerful. Verbal trickery is a distraction.
Leonard said: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.” And, for good measure, he added: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip”.
Stephen King put it another way. He said: “Kill your darlings”.
It’s tempting, when you are writing a blog or white paper, to include all your knowledge and expertise. There’s so much you want to say. One way to avoid unnecessary rambling, is to think of your blog or white paper as a story and cut out anything that detracts from the plot.
Leonard said: “Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose." He also said: “Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.”
Orwell said: “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
The message is clear — avoid clichés and jargon. Cliches cause readers to disengage. They skim over these familiar but ultimately meaningless phrases and before you know it, you’ve lost them.
Jargon is another no-no. Sure, every industry has its acronyms and technical terms. But make life easier on your readers. No matter how clued up they are, write in plain English. And don’t forget, your in-house terminology may not be at all familiar to your customers.
Leonard said: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”
You’re not writing an epic novel — so I would avoid exclamation marks altogether. They are a clumsy way to flag up a joke or any strong statement. It’s a bit like saying “ta da” after you’ve spoken. F Scott Fitzgerald said it was like laughing at your own joke. According to the BBC, there's a word for it — bangorrhea.
Above all, exclamation marks distract the reader. The same goes for the practice of adding quote marks to "unusual words" — much better to change the words and drop the quote marks. Similarly, avoid capitals as much as you can. Giving Some Phrases Initial Capitals is another major distraction for readers.
Happily for anyone that writes marketing and sales copy online, there are lots of additional ways to make your messages stand out — ways that novelists may not use.
Headings, sub-headings and bullet points attract readers and allow them to find their way around your writing. Summaries, handy hints, useful links, images and infographics support your messages. And social media, SEO and email give your writing rocket fuel to reach the widest possible audience.
Content marketing has become so powerful today that you can’t afford to miss a trick.
Content marketing is a great way to get traffic to your site from the search engines and other websites. It’s worth doing because:
At its simplest, content marketing is creating content that relates to your brand/products and putting it on your website. That might be a guide to buying the perfect jeans, or how to install a dishwasher, it might be an opinion on an article on the solar technology of the future, or just really great product page copy.
Every piece of content you create should do at least one of these things (and usually all of them):
Most businesses have more content than they realise, so before you do anything else you need to work out what content you already have. To do this you need to do a brainstorm with key people in the business to see what content you could use and make a list of what could or should be created. Speak to the owner, buyers, marketing, customer services, merchandising and website team.
Take the answers and extrapolate them. The chances are that from the brainstorm there won’t be a vast number of stories; that’s because people are simplifying it. Each story that’s on the brainstorm can create several items of content. The mistake everyone makes it to assume one idea is one piece of content.
For most businesses, the starting point and the centre of your content strategy, is your blog. A blog can host pictures, text, audio, and video — which makes it really versatile. Plus you own it entirely, so it’s all working for you.
Now you should have a long list of story ideas, and a list of where you are going to be putting that content. So you’re ready to get creating and putting live. Don’t forget to look back after a couple of months to see what’s working and do more of that!
Content marketing can be a hard-hitting and cost-effective way of building brand awareness and generating sales leads — and there are all sorts of ways marketers can promote their content — but one of the most direct ways of getting it in front of your target audience is through email.
The ultimate aims of content marketing and email marketing are fundamentally the same. ROI is based on sales leads and customer engagement. You produce content to engage the right kind of people, and using email as part of this campaign allows you to target people more specifically and drive further engagement with people who declare an interest in your content.
Email and content: the perfect partnership
In short, email and content marketing complement each other perfectly. Content marketing provides the fodder for an effective email campaign, and your email marketing increases traffic to your website and landing pages.
The success of promoting a piece of content marketing through an email campaign is as dependent on how good your emails are as much as the collateral itself. In fact, no matter how good your content is, if your email marketing doesn’t push the right buttons, prepare to be disappointed when it comes to ROI.
Here are a few ways of ensuring your email marketing achieves the results your content marketing deserves:
Tink Taylor is the managing director of dotMailer.
Do you spend money on ads and not know the return on investment (ROI) they are giving you?
If the answer is yes, then your small business is behind the curve. Advertising is dead and content marketing is stepping into its place as the number one marketing tool.
The whole premise of traditional advertising is that you are trying to interrupt consumers and get their attention. Your ads are based on hijacking techniques. You need to have something weird, funny or astonishing to get them.
That’s fine, provided it works. But it’s a back-handed kind of manipulation. It’s forcing your sales message onto someone and it coaxes them into a purchase rather than actively helping them.
The problem is the public are ignoring ads. According to veteran adman Dave Trott, 89% of people don't remember or even notice adverts.
That's a complete waste of time, money and resources isn't it?
Since the internet has come along, there has been information overload. We no longer passively gawp at the telly during the ad break. We check Facebook on our smartphones. We watch something on YouTube. Or we just put the kettle on.
There’s such complete information overload that we tune out of adverts. There are so many more exciting to do that we just ignore ads. Subliminally.
The whole success of the Mad Men era in the 60s was based on cheap mass-media advertising. Marketing departments were encouraged to pour as much money as they could into advertising spending. It was considered a safe bet. Marketers would almost certainly see a general rise in sales and correlate it to a new ad campaign.
But as time has gone on, costs have risen, and the effectiveness of ads has dropped. So advertising is no longer a safe bet. It is a lot more risky.
Today, you need to track the impact of your marketing budget and measure the ROI of every piece of content.
You need to justify every pound you spend on your marketing. If you don’t measure the results of what you do, you’re not marketing your business, you’re gambling with it.
As the famous merchant John Wanamaker said in the 19th century: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”
I’m not saying you should give up on traditional advertising. It certainly does have some value. If you can tell me your newspaper ad has brought in 20 times its cost in profit, then I’d be foolish to say “stop!”. But in many cases, businesses just place ads and hope for the best.
If you look at how the internet has evolved, people are mainly looking for information and entertainment. And your customers have so much stuff to choose from, they want to devour the best stuff out there.
Google’s job is to sort all that information out. If you create brilliant content, Google will put you at the top.
Content marketing is about giving something valuable to people for free. Whether that’s a guide, a book, a video, an article ... it has become an essential part of modern marketing.
With content marketing, your company is connecting with clients. It’s not about dragging them kicking and screaming into your sales pipeline. It’s about giving them information. Winning trust. Making your leads warm and happy. Letting them climb through your sales process at a pace that suits them. Attracting and nurturing them, rather than screaming at them.
And that’s why you need to be doing content marketing — because the power of your ads is waning all the time.