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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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Sugru's Linda Muck

October 19, 2015 by Chloë Thomas

Sugru is a business I've admired for some time - it's a great product, but it's not that easy to explain without having a go. So I've always found their marketing and the way they position themselves very interesting.

Then I met Linda at an event and discovered that the more techy-side of their marketing was equally interesting. When I started my podcast I knew I wanted to feature Linda early-on.

In the podcast we cover many eCommerce topics, including:

  • Online advertising
  • Black Friday
  • Their Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign
  • International expansion

and much more.

I hope you enjoy listening as much I enjoyed recording it.

What's native video and what has a meerkat got to do with it?

October 12, 2015 by Sarah Orchard

What's native video and what has a meerkat got to do with it?{{}}Just when you think you’ve got your head around social media, along comes something new to add to the marketing mix.

In fact, there have been a number of new social media platforms coming to the fore in the past year. Embraced by the younger generation - who can spot cooler alternatives to Facebook when they see it - new platforms like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram have really taken off.

Now we have Meerkat and Periscope, two live video streaming apps that have been launched in quick succession (and in competition with each other). You may not have heard of these new apps or have any experience of actually using them, but what they have in common is native video.

What is native video?

Let’s focus for a minute on the safe ground that is Facebook. How many video clips do you see in your news feed? I’m guessing quite a lot - either clips of family life uploaded by friends, compilations of cats doing silly things, or live video streams from the brands or business pages that you have Liked and followed. All of these examples are native video.

And they are "native" because the video is uploaded or created directly on that social network and accessed via that network without being redirected to another site such as YouTube.

Video now accounts for almost 80% of all web traffic. And native video seems set to absolutely sky rocket, especially when you take into account the fact that video views on tablets and smartphones more than doubled last year alone.

Social media apps such as Periscope and Meerkat have now made live streaming video content incredibly accessible, and it opens up all kinds of new marketing avenues.

So Twitter is no longer just about choosing your words carefully, you can now publish video content of up to 30 seconds in length using Periscope. And Meerkat enables users to stream video directly on Facebook.

In short, video is big news; there are some three billion video views a day on Facebook alone, according to some estimates.

What's in it for small firms?

Savvy businesses are now adopting native video into their marketing strategies. Big brands and small firms alike have recognised that the potential of live video streaming goes way beyond cute cats and dippy dogs; it's a powerful marketing tool that offers a new way of directly engaging with their target audience - without expecting them to shift their attention from one online environment to another.

Copyright © 2015 Sarah Orchard

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What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you...

October 05, 2015 by Andy Bounds

What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…{{}}The Sales Executive Council (SEC) has found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here's what they found.

(As you read this, ask yourself two questions: "Which am I?" and "Which is best?")

The relationship builder

  • Gets along with everyone;
  • Builds strong advocates in organisations;
  • Is generous in giving time to others.

The reactive problem solver

  • Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensures that all problems are solved;
  • Detail-orientated.

The lone wolf

  • A bit of a maverick - follows their own instincts;
  • Self-assured;
  • Can be difficult to control.

The hard worker

  • Always willing to go the extra mile;
  • Doesn't give up easily;
  • Self-motivated;
  • Interested in feedback and development.

The challenger

  • Has a different view on the world;
  • Understands the customer's business;
  • Loves to debate, often creating "positive tension" with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome.

Those two questions again:

  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customer thinking.

So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.

The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think "Well I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, 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.

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Why now's the time to implement your Christmas strategy

September 28, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why now's the time to implement your Christmas strategy{{}}It's time to start planning for Christmas and there are six key areas that business owners need to focus on: internal communications, audience segmentation, attribution, email targeting, display advertising, and affiliates.

Peak planning board

Set up a cross-departmental "peak planning board" so that everyone in the business understands their role in the build-up to Christmas. It is especially important for marketing and fulfilment teams to be in constant contact as seasonal campaigns and promotions must be supported to allow the supply of high-demand items. Marketing teams can also help drive stock movement by creating promotions for items that are lagging behind in sales.

Segmentation

Businesses need a deep understanding of shopper behaviour in the build-up to Christmas so they can segment and target their marketing effectively. Using insights from previous years, it is possible to identify the frequency and value of a customer's purchases, whether they buy from you throughout the year or only at Christmas, or whether the type of purchase they make changes at Christmas. This information will help you determine the level of personalisation and the type of marketing message to apply to different customers.

Attribution

Advanced attribution takes account of every touchpoint; every device, platform or channel used by the customer during the buying journey. And it can provide valuable insight into customer behaviour. It allows you to measure return on investment for individual channels and campaigns in near to real-time, which in turn opens up opportunities to adjust campaigns and divert resources on-the-fly to support successful channels.

Email

The upturn in online spending in the build-up to Christmas brings an increased risk of basket abandonment as customers save products they see for comparison or purchase later. It is important to have a clear strategy in place for following up on abandoned baskets and incomplete purchases – including when to start offering discounts or other perks to entice shoppers back to their basket on your site. Consider shortening your usual timeline for this follow-up, particularly as Christmas gets closer. Email-based discounting campaigns can also be useful for implementing "contingency plan" campaigns in the event that revenue targets are not being met. 

Display

Competition for advertising space during the build-up to Christmas is intense and the early bird catches the worm. High-impact display advertising formats such as home page takeovers, billboards, pushdowns and skins get snapped up quickly – especially on sites with high prestige or traffic volumes. Seasonal campaigns should be planned and space booked in September, to run from November. This means that advert design and copywriting needs to be finalised by September.

It is important to think not only about special days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also about the January sales period. These slots also get filled up very fast by premium publishers.

Affiliates

Partnering with affiliates can be an effective way to increase the reach and penetration of your marketing campaigns; something that's vital to customer acquisition at Christmas when so many voices are competing to be heard by the same audience. To ensure maximum impact from your Christmas campaigns, you should begin working on partnership agreements with affiliates from September, so that they go live from November.

The popularity of online shopping in the run-up to Christmas increases every year and Black Friday has intensified and extended this period of heightened demand. This trend isn't going anywhere; retailers must act now to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Copyright © 2015 Luke Griffiths, general manager of eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions — EMEA.

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How to grow your business when you've hit a brick wall

September 22, 2015 by Mike Southon

How to grow your business when you've hit a brick wall{{}}Sooner or later, all businesses hit a brick wall. For entrepreneurs, it is a tough but salutary experience when they realise that the main obstacle to growing their business is, in fact, themselves.

It takes significant gumption to start and then bootstrap a business. You live from hand to mouth, go for any scrap of business you can and use your instincts to make tactical, rather than strategic decisions.

Once the business model is proven, then the enterprise takes on a completely different aspect. The focus is then on doing the same thing over and over again, rather than constantly changing direction by trying new ideas.

Each potential client should be judged on profitability and internal systems should be put in place to keep costs down. Any mistakes learned along the way should be studied and not repeated.

The only thing that differentiates outwardly similar businesses is the quality of the delivery people within it. It is a hard lesson to learn that the people who were the best performers in the opportunistic early days may not be the right people to deal with more systematic and bureaucratic clients.

The Richard Branson way

For the entrepreneur themselves, it is important that they learn to delegate. Every successful entrepreneur, from Sir Richard Branson downward, explains that the biggest factor in their success was their ability to hire people better then themselves, and to let them get on with it.

All of these factors involve some serious soul-searching for the entrepreneur. They need to have a mentor who has experience of going through this phase, who knows them well, can spot their weaknesses and provide impartial advice on the right way forward.

The most effective mentoring I have myself provided over the last ten years has been for people going through this difficult development phase, typically from 25 to 35 people. I use psychometric testing, not to try and change the entrepreneur, but to help them to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

These sessions can involve some significant soul-searching; but once they break through this barrier the path to future prosperity and happiness is clear.

Copyright © Mike Southon 2015. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

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