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Blog posts tagged content marketing

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What can a Katy Perry lyric teach you about customer communication?

December 15, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Katy Perry{{}}My daughter was listening to the song Firework by Katy Perry the other day.

The first line says: "Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?"

And I thought: "No, I don't actually". So I stopped listening.

Then, I received a marketing email with the title: "Are you a new author living near Croydon?"

I said to myself: "No. But I'm a best-selling author living near Liverpool." (Sorry if that sounds a bit big-headed but it's true; my books have sold pretty well.)

And perhaps my favourite of all…

I once received an email called "Looking for a hair makeover for the weekend?". One quick glance at my photo will show why I didn't think this email was meant for me.

The fact is, many communications start like this - with something irrelevant, or dull or both. But, if you want people to engage with you immediately, you have to start well.

When you do, you both feel better. Your recipient knows why they should listen. So they do. And this improves your confidence as you deliver it.

Everyone knows the importance of first impressions. I guess that's why, when I share this idea with people, they normally say "but my first impressions are always good."

But are they? Or do you sometimes use:

  • Boring intros: "Let me update you with everything I have been doing since we last met".
  • Boring titles: "About us" or "Our experience"
  • Boring words: "agenda" or "summary"

Hardly riveting, are they?

Fortunately, it is pretty easy to do it better; and engage people better as a result.

In fact there are only two steps:

  • Identify the #1 thing they're most interested in (the easiest way to find out is to ask them); and
  • Include this #1 thing in your title/introduction.

For example, let's re-write the above three, assuming you're talking to someone whose #1 thing is to improve their competitive advantage:

  • Interesting introduction: "Our key focus is to improve your competitive advantage. So, I'm going to update you with everything I've been doing to help you do this. And also what I'll be doing next."
  • Interesting title: "How our experience will help improve your competitive advantage".
  • Interesting words: "Agenda" becomes "The purpose of our meeting: finding new ways to improve our competitive advantage".
  • "Summary" becomes "So let's look again at the main factors impacting our competitive advantage; and then decide what actions we'll take to improve ours".

A great start doesn't guarantee a great outcome, of course. The rest of your communication must be good too. But start badly, and you might well never recover.

My tennis coach's says I should improve my serve because, when I get it right, it enables me to dictate the point more than any other shot. In his words: "your serve is the only shot where you aren't reacting to your opponent. So it's the only shot you have 100% control over. Do it well, and they have to react to you. So it sets the tone for everything that follows."

When you communicate, is your first serve - your title and intro - impressive enough? Or do you sometimes feel like you're a plastic bag?

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

Image: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

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Content marketing: ten steps to success

October 29, 2015 by Sonja Jefferson

Content marketing: ten steps to success{{}}When it comes to content marketing, do you have a plan? One that you stick to? Or is your approach to content creation somewhat haphazard? If it is, you could be missing out. You might be getting by, but your content habits could be a lot healthier - and more effective - as a result.

The latest research by the Content Marketing Institute here in the UK suggests that whilst 85% of respondents use content marketing only 42% say they are using it effectively. But 71% of those who do have a content strategy report that they are effective.

A content strategy is your recipe for content marketing success but many people have no idea how to create one. Here's our ten-step guide to help you cook up a sizzling content strategy.

  1. Be clear about your goals. What is the difference that you want content marketing to make to your business? The clearer your focus, the more targeted your efforts will be.
  2. Understand your own business. Before you drill down into your customers' needs, do a bit of naval gazing and look inside your company. This will help you to position your content firmly in your area of expertise. Otherwise, you could end up creating content that meets your customers' needs (and they will have many) but that will never win you any business.
  3. Know your customers. What you write about should be driven by who you are talking to and what they care about and value. You'll know some stuff about your customers of course, but to create content that really hits the spot you'll need to go deeper. Ask your customers directly; call them; spend some time interviewing them. What they say could well surprise you.
  4. Find the story behind the content. The most valuable content of all communicates a strong story - not just a story of what a business does, or how it does it, but why the business exists, its purpose in the world – beyond financial targets.
  5. Set out your content vision. Now we get to the heart of your valuable content strategy process. What is the conversation you want to own with your content? Think big here. As a business, what are you better equipped than anyone else to help people with? Find that sweet spot then set out an inspiring vision for your content marketing around it.
  6. Make a commitment and plan. Aim to build up a bank of high quality content that you can distribute effectively throughout the year. But remember, consistency and quality are always more important than volume. Create an achievable schedule - something you can stick to.
  7. Prepare your platform and pick your tools. Make sure your website platform can support you in making your strategy work. Think about the content creation and distribution tools you need to support your strategy.
  8. Organise. To make your content strategy work you'll need a team, a budget and an efficient process. But who will be involved? What roles do you need in place to make the process work? Think about how you will manage and control what you do.
  9. Measure what matters. Work out how you will assess whether your new strategy is working. You've already done the thinking about your objectives and goals so refer back to them. Create a set of meaningful measures that are aligned to your ambitions as a business.
  10. Make it so. The power of any good strategy is in its implementation. Understand what content, tools and resources you already have at your disposal. Conduct a content audit and gap analysis. The place to begin is a detailed look at your current content. Does it meet the needs of your new content strategy?

There's no doubt about it, marketers who take time to plan their content strategy are more effective than those who don't. If you want to drive real competitive advantage do the hard thinking and write your content strategy down.

Copyright © 2015 Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and content marketing consultant at Valuable Content. Sonja is co-author, with Sharon Tanton, of Valuable Content Marketing.

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How do you protect your online content from sticky fingers?

October 01, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How do you protect your online content from sticky fingers?{{}}Recently I decided to run some of the articles I had previously sent to prospective employers through a plagiarism checker. As a professional writer, I take copyright law extremely seriously.

Unfortunately, I found that one of the companies had published one of the pieces that I had sent to them with my application. Although I was pleased they enjoyed the article, I was annoyed that they had flouted copyright law by not seeking my permission. I contacted them and it was quickly taken down.

In theory, everything online is covered by copyright law. This blog on Law Donut has more detail. However, the fact is that millions of people are flouting this legislation.

So how can you protect your intellectual property online?

According to 2012 research by Ofcom, almost 50% of internet users cannot accurately say whether they have downloaded, shared or streamed copyrighted content. And many of the respondents admitted to knowingly copying material because it was convenient or free to do so.

If you regularly publish articles, images or videos online, you will probably have these stolen at some stage. Often, these incidents are misunderstandings, as many people don’t understand that material in the public domain is not always for public use.

Protecting articles online

  • Copyscape makes it simple for writers to keep track of their work. Just copy and paste the URL of your article into the box and Copyscape does the rest. Although it only lists the top ten results in the free version, I have used this to catch people in the past.
  • Talkwalker allows you to set up alerts for companies or phrases and will notify you when someone has mentioned your work online.
  • You can also use Google to find examples of plagiarism. Simply copy and paste a chunk of text from one of your articles and search for it online.
  • You can also use analytics tools to check out referral data. For example, if an unusual amount of traffic is coming from an unexpected source, they might have used your article. Although this might not be the case, it’s always worth a look.

Protecting your images and videos

Social media has made it incredibly easy for videos and images to be reproduced quickly. Take Pinterest. Much as I love this network, most of the images on it are arguably copyright violations. As Pinterest says itself, its pins are “for good stuff you find anywhere around the web.”

If you are concerned about people grabbing your images or using screen grabbing tools to access them, you can protect yourself in the following ways:

  • Uploading an image with a watermark can dissuade individuals from using it. This clearly shows who the owner is as well as their contact details.
  • Another option is to only upload low-quality versions. People can use a cropping tool to cut out a watermark, so using low quality images can be an extra deterrent.
  • Use Google to do a reverse image search and uncover your pictures being used elsewhere. Simply drag the item into the search box and Google will find copies located on other pages.

Copyright © 2014 Tom Chapman, a content specialist working on behalf of Foyles bookstore.

How to add value to your content marketing

September 24, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to add value to your content marketing{{}}If you want to get serious about content marketing for brand awareness, it’s time to take off your sales hat. Unlike traditional, revenue-driven advertising, content marketing focuses on creating value-added material; the goal is to establish a voice of authority in the industry, to increase brand awareness, and, eventually, build your customer base.

In short, when you’re thinking about content marketing for brand awareness, make sure you’re focusing on what matters: adding value, not selling your stuff.

Content marketing shouldn’t wax lyrical about a new feature or must-have purchase. It must celebrate the individuality of your company and engage consumers by revealing your personality.

Here are some of the most effective ways to get your branded content marketing off the ground:

1. Create a content strategy

The ultimate goal of branded content marketing is to help you attract your target audience and build a brand by clarifying what’s special about your business. For this reason, it’s important to have a clearly articulated content strategy, which tells the cohesive story of your brand.

Before embarking on a campaign, take the time to consider what story you want to tell, and make sure that all your content has a clear focus, in line with your business objectives.

2. Send newsletters

Regular email newsletters remain one of the most important ways to keep your customers updated and engaged. Again, focus on the content aspect of your newsletter. It should not just be a place to tout your latest product or promote a discount. Carefully-curated content, with little or no mention of the brand, re-affirms the perception of your brand as a credible voice of authority.

3. Build a branded blog

Research shows that 79% of marketers who blog reported a positive return on their investment. Content-driven blogs are one of the best ways to establish your voice as an authority in your field, and they are a vital piece of the content marketing puzzle. They are also one of the easiest strategies to get off the ground. Ideally, your blog should be the go-to place online for your target audience to find out more about your area of expertise and to learn more about your brand.

4. Engage your professional community

It’s important to remember that you are a small fish in a very, very big pond. Rather than swimming alone, think about ways to engage others in your community. Consider participating in online industry forums where you can establish yourself as a problem-solver and thought leader. Create tutorials, “how-to” articles, or Q&A whitepapers, and offer these resources for free.

5. Think viral

While it’s essential to ensure the content is in keeping with your brand’s message, the most frequently shared content is fun, dynamic, and playful; so even if your brand is quite serious, play with the human element and show you can have fun with your community.

Copyright © 2014 Miko Levy, VP, Customer Acquisition, Outbrain.

The changing face of content marketing

September 11, 2014 by Charlie Phair

The changing face of content marketing{{}}Over the past year, tactical guest posting of duplicate content has become synonymous with bad spammy SEO practice. Google has publicly expressed disdain for the practice and the recent Panda and Penguin algorithm updates have taken further measures to penalise those engaged in bad practices.

Once upon a time, guest posting was an effective system to build links to your website, but as it became more popular we inevitably witnessed a growth in black hat techniques gaining unnatural links at high velocities and unfairly ranking over competitors and effectively demeaning the quality of search queries. The Panda 4.0 website has taken a harsher stance on content aggregator websites, penalising automated and duplicate content with non-existent signs of community engagement.

Where does content marketing stand now?

Pick your subject and delivery carefully

By all means, produce content that expresses the benefits of your products and services but be wary of producing advertorials and promotional content. Online audiences are becoming more resistant to blatant advertising, they know when they are being sold to and they don’t like it — this is why Adblock has become so popular. Always look to engage your audience by targeting their interests and getting creative with your content.

Where 300-400 word articles were the norm, now more comprehensive pieces of 2,000 words or more are in favour. Interactive elements and a focus on visual design are also becoming increasingly prevalent. So don’t be afraid of building the resources for longer-term gains with your content.

Choose your resources carefully

Increasingly, small businesses have to consider the validity of the websites they post to. If a website looks out of date, is unresponsive and unsupported by social media, it is probably not worth your time. If, however, a website does have a modern responsive design and an active community, go for it!

Moz’s Domain Authority has long been the standard metric for deciding whether a website is worth your attention, however traffic and community engagement are become more important and DA largely overlooks these elements.

Follow through

Individual page metrics are becoming more important for Google when it measures what is and what isn’t a good link. Once posted, you need to support your content through social media sharing and outreach to authorities in your field.

The objective of good quality content marketing hasn’t really changed. Never write for the sake of a link and always think about the bigger picture. Create engaging content that is unique to your brand and of real interest to an audience. Then take active steps to support your content on social media in order to create organic discussion.

Copyright © 2014 Charlie Phair, digital marketing executive, The Workplace Depot.

 

Clever ways with content marketing for start-ups

September 04, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

164492432{{}}Content marketing is a great way for start-ups to promote their business but the opportunities extend beyond the main social media sites. Here are some key tools — and inspirational examples — that can help you build your brand presence using online content.

Infographics

Infographics are ideal for visualising big data and complicated concepts in a simple, fun way. Despite their increasing popularity, the best examples still have the power to command attention and — importantly — get those much-valued social shares.

Many infographics now provide an interactive element, such as Animagraffs’ How a Car Engine Works. With shares across various social sites already well into the “viral” zone, this is an example of how far and wide an infographic can reach. All with an important added SEO benefit: they can be picked up by publications that are relevant to your industry.

Online resources

PDFs, ebooks and guides — when executed with panache — are all fantastic online resources and a great way to get your business in front of new customers’ eyes.  A good example of this in practice is software company Hubspot’s online marketing library. Offering templates, guides, webinars and ebooks on everything from ecommerce to social media, the library’s resources are available at no cost. All you need is your email address. Hubspot is one of the most respected marketing websites around, so what you’re getting here is a lot of great expertise and insight, at zero cost.

Google+ Hangouts

The Google+ Hangout can be perfect for providing an immersive and engaging user experience. Both of these were factors in the massive success of Cadbury UK’s Google+ Hangouts, which involved fun stuff like live tasting sessions and boosted their follower count by 150,000 people. Google has also started pushing Hangouts into the enterprise space. It has recently announced that customers will no longer need a Google+ profile to use Hangouts, making it a more viable option for business users. Business customers can now use their existing login details and invite up to 14 others to join their HD video chats.

YouTube

YouTube provides some really interesting opportunities for content marketing and with the right strategy in place, it can be a wonderful place to encourage creative customer interaction with your brand. For a striking example of YouTube content marketing in action, check out high-definition photography brand GoPro’s YouTube channel, which encourages anyone with a GoPro device to record their experiences. The videos show a wide range of spectacular stuff — from feeding cougars to bungee jumping. And with the GoPro logo and slogan bookending each clip, the brand name is prominent but unobtrusive.

Blogging

Blogging continues to be a huge deal in content marketing and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. An engaging and very modern approach to blogging forms the basis for the Guardian Angel content hub from financial services provider AXA Business. The hub is home to an array of accessible and highly relevant content, including blogs, video clips, downloads and guides designed to support and inspire new business owners. Supplying clear, useful and relevant content on everything your customers might be looking for, presented in a user-friendly and engaging way, is a great way to encourage customer loyalty.

SlideShare

In terms of popularity, SlideShare is the YouTube of presentations. It’s a great place to impart concise, easily digestible information about what your company does — and it’s especially good for B2B presentations. Your presentations can be accessed easily — all you need to supply is a link and your presentations are instantly viewable.

Content amplification

Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to share it. The more awesome your content is, the greater the number of potential links, views, shares and engagement it will receive.

Putting your content out there goes way beyond just Facebook and Twitter. In fact, these days it seems that Facebook is becoming (whisper it) obsolete when it comes to content marketing. Paid-for content recommendation platforms such as Outbrain, Nrelate and Taboola are also a great way to promote your content to a number of very high quality media sites etc and operate on a Cost Per Click basis.

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Marley, a digital marketing blogger.

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