How Do I Drive Traffic To My Website?

Photo courtesy of Simon Forsyth (CC)

Photo courtesy of Simon Forsyth (CC)

There are two things you must do to grow your business. First, you must drive traffic to your website and second, you must design your website so that it closes sales.

Driving traffic to your website and optimizing your website design is a classic case of the chicken and the egg! Your business can have a very appealing, well-designed website but if there is no strategy to drive traffic there, it will go unnoticed.

Equally, you can spend lots of time and money driving traffic to your website and if it’s an awful user experience, your visitors will quickly abandon you. You must have both and they must work together.

Let’s focus on techniques that drive traffic to your website. For more on designing a website that closes sales, read Does My Small Business Need a Website?

Photo courtesy of grendelkhan (CC)

Photo courtesy of grendelkhan (CC)

The very first rule of driving traffic to your website, is to drive the right traffic. You want to engage with customers that have a problem you can solve. If that situation doesn’t exist closing sales is impossible.

As satisfying as it is to watch your website traffic grow, focus on attracting, retaining, and selling to the right people. It’s better to attract a thousand qualified visitors and close 25% of them than it is to have a million visitors bounce unceremoniously off your landing page and back into obscurity.

You can drive traffic to your website using these three techniques:

1. Provide high quality content   Blogs, video, newsletters, webinars, curated content, white papers, case studies, infographics, and the list goes on. The choices are many so choose a couple to start and add more later. You’ll probably be surprised by the results that sharing high quality, relevant content can produce.

As an example, I published this article on LinkedIn and by itself it drove enough traffic to my website to result in almost two dozen leads. That may not sound like a lot but for a one woman band it’s been great! Half of those are now either clients or actively in the proposal stage.

Ironically, that particular article had nothing to do with my usual subject matter; marketing for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. However, it built a connection with some readers who were in the market for a skillset like mine.

My short bio at the end of the article led them to my website and there they were able to gauge if I could help them solve their problem. Providing links within your content to destinations on your website also drives traffic, as long as the destination is relevant to the content and to your audience.

2. Develop your keyword strategy   Whether you are driving your traffic organically or by using ads, you have to be willing to get to know your ideal customer intimately. The more complex your product, the tougher this can be.

The principle is to identify your target market and then break the market into buyer personas.  For example, the buyer personas I use are these:

  • Entrepreneurs and startups – they tend to run very lean and move pretty fast. They are probably engaging investors and often their goal is to be acquired.
  • Small businesses – I break this group into two. The first has no safety net and needs to get their business to market now. The other has a safety net, perhaps a job that pays the bills or a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the immediate success of the business. They tend to move more slowly and may disappear for periods of time.
  • Established companies – they frequently have campaign-style needs. This means they need help with a particular project but not all the time. They like establishing a relationship with a high performing and reliable resource that doesn’t want to be a full-time employee.

This is an overview of my buyer personas. I evaluate my buyer personas in terms of their goals, their characteristics, their pain points, how my services solve their problem, the challenges are of selling to them, and the strategy used to address their specific problem.

Add to this their specific feedback and I develop a robust picture of my clients. This shows me what’s important to them and typically holds the answers to the questions, “How, when, and where should I market to them? What will be useful to them that will give them a gentle push towards my website?”

If you have a good understanding of who your potential customers are, what keeps them awake at night, and how they go about solving problems, you probably have great insight into how they’ll search for the answer to their problem.

Once you understand how they might search, use those key words and phrases naturally in your content and to support messaging and ad development. Results are rarely immediate but with consistency and a willingness to analyze results, you can drive the right traffic to your website and convert it into sales.

3. Promote and Distribute   Take advantage of social media to promote and distribute your high quality content and most importantly, to engage with your target audience. Post engaging social media content and always make it easy for your audience to move between channels. Make it especially easy to get to your website.

These are easy channels to use well and they allow the customer to choose where they want to interact. Even though you want to get customers to your website it has to be on their terms and in their time so distribute your content using social media to drive more traffic to your website.

Driving traffic to your website and designing your website so that it closes sales are not the only two things that will grow your business. However, if you don’t do these two things, you’re making it practically impossible for your customers to buy from you.  Be easy to do business with!

Does My Small Business Need a Website?

There are very few businesses that don’t benefit from having a website. In fact it took me a little while to think of any. Finally I thought of businesses that satisfy an immediate need at a low cost with a simple product.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Bastian (CC)

Photo courtesy of Gregory Bastian (CC)

Think of the cart that sells umbrellas in the tourist areas of London, or any major city prone to rain. Versus getting wet, buying an umbrella is a bargain. If you leave it in your hotel room when you depart you’re not worried. It didn’t cost much and it’s replaceable.

The product is universally understood and requires no selling of features and benefits. There is little to be gained from a website because no education or explanation is required. This is not a complex sale.

So having eliminated a very small percentage of businesses, the statement that there are very few businesses that don’t benefit from having a website stands firm.

Said another way, the vast majority of businesses must have a strong website presence. That includes small businesses. It’s pretty rare that your small business is too small to benefit from a website.

But to truly benefit from having a website you need to do two things that have nothing to do with the size of your business. First, you need to build a website that closes sales and second, you need to drive traffic to your website.

And not just any old traffic. Traffic that has the greatest potential to buy from you.

For more on driving the right traffic to your website read How Do I Drive Traffic To My Website?  For now, let’s focus on building a website that closes sales.

Regardless of size, businesses need a website for the following reasons:

  • Credibility   Consumers are relieved when they can find you online. You’re a “real” business.
  • Identity   Websites let your customers get to know you and your business. They get a feel for who you are and whether they want to do business with you.
  • Choice   The vast majority of your target audience will choose to interact with your website at some point as they get to know your business. Make sure that choice is available.

How does a business build a website that closes sales?

  • Clarity   In the first ten seconds your visitors will decide whether to stay or go. Make it so incredibly easy for your visitors to see what you do, find what they are looking for, and buy from you that they don’t need to continue to hunt.
  • Education   Give your visitors the information they are seeking. If you are able to make someone better informed after a visit to your website they are more likely to subsequently buy from you.
  • Simplicity   Don’t try to be all things to all people. Focus on what matters to your target audience. That is not the same as focusing on all visitors. Make your website simple and appealing for those that have a need for your product or service.
  • Lifecycle   Fine-tune your content to coordinate with the different phases of your customer’s lifecycle. This means making it just as easy for visitors to find entry level information as it is for those that are closing in on a buying decision and need more advanced content.
  • Ease   Make it easy for your visitors to continue dialogue with you. Contact forms should be easy to find on multiple pages. Visitors are easily distracted. Keep it easy.
  • Feel   Last but not least, think about one emotion you want your target audience to feel when they land on your website. Build everything around arousing that feeling.

One last suggestion for businesses of any size is to use an analytics tool. Google Analytics is free and easy to set up. It can show you where your website traffic is coming from, where your visitors lose interest, when they turn back and when they get immersed. Knowing this enables you to make adjustments to your website and to the strategy you use to drive traffic to your website.

What are you missing out on if you don’t spend some serious energy on your website?

You are missing out on potential customers, promotion of your product by loyal users, and revenue. Bring your website to life, drive the right traffic there, and close those sales!

Keeping It Real

Mum and I3Recently I published an article on LinkedIn When to Turn Your Back on Your Career. I didn’t publish it on my website because it’s not about marketing. Forgive me if you’ve read it before. I don’t want to be repetitious but it was quite possibly the closest thing I’ve ever had to an out of body experience.

Let’s clarify. If there’s such a thing as an amazing out of body experience then this was it!

As a result of publishing it I realized that I don’t know as much as I thought I knew about people or marketing! Actually I’m not sure I considered myself an expert on people but I did think I knew a few things about marketing.

Here’s a random snapshot of thoughts inspired by amazing emails and comments from people who read that article:

Marketing IS personal   Against my better judgment, I shared a very personal and private story. It was against my better judgment because it felt so uncomfortable. I was mixing two worlds. I was blurring the lines between my marketing world and my personal world.

I was torn. I made a commitment to my marketing world to publish a blog once a week exploring different marketing strategies but I was behind and didn’t have anything ready. I had the story I ultimately published but I was very aware that the story I had written wasn’t just my story to tell. It belongs to my Mum and Dad and my sons too. What if they don’t want it told?

In the end I listened to a voice that has served me well in the past, the one that tells me not to over-engineer. It said, “No-one’s going to read your blog anyway so hit the darn publish button and get some work done.”

So I did.

Guess what? People don’t want to hear about marketing all the time. Sometimes they just want to hear something real. So even though that wasn’t my intention (to deliver something real), it’s what happened by accident. And I’m really glad it did.

When I checked my email and LinkedIn activity later that day I was astounded by the overwhelming response. Not because of the volume of the response, although that was also amazing, but because of the sincerity of the response.

People relate to people   Who knew? I’m poking fun at myself because I constantly preach that marketing is about understanding what matters to people and providing it. I underestimated the value of what sharing yourself with people means.

Makes me sound like a bit of a robot and there’s probably some truth in that. We don’t connect with robots. We connect with people. So mixing my marketing world and my personal world helped some people better understand me as a person who loves marketing. The full picture, not the bit I carved off and showed on my website so that you’d think of me as this marketing wonder woman!

I was reminded that people actually want to do business with real people. People they can relate to and people they trust. Being transparent was my friend but I had feared it would make me look less professional.

People need people   We want to ask each other questions. We want to be validated in our decisions. We want to know that we’re not alone. We want to be inspired. We want to know that we amount to more than a resume.

I gleaned this from the hundreds of comments and emails I received saying so! Thank you.

So forgive my randomness but this is some of what I learned recently. This and that amazing people take time out of their day to email you and comment on your blog when you’re real. Some of those emails have led to new business.

Many of those emails have led to new bonds, great trusts shared, and for me, the feeling that we’re all in this together. That was the amazing out of body experience bit I was telling you about!

Is the LinkedIn Publishing Platform a Failure?

As a marketer, this is an important question to me but to come right out and say that something is either a success or a failure you have to first compare goals and results. Here’s an example.

When my sons were little, it used to drive me nuts that well-meaning sporting associations would give every child a trophy at the end of each season! It troubled me that nobody kept score throughout the season. Forget that if we had, the record would show that we rarely won.

Photo courtesy of USAG - Humphreys (CC)

Photo courtesy of USAG – Humphreys (CC)

It took me a while to realize that their goal was to encourage participation, to get children to try a new sport, and to expose them to the basic concepts of teamwork. To that end, every trophy was deserved and the goal had been met.

Is the LinkedIn publishing platform a success or a failure? To try to answer this I hunted down their goals. If I am going to critique the concept it only seems fair to understand what results the publishing platform is designed to achieve. Their goals are:

Be a one-stop resource   Primarily, the platform was built to collect resources for business people to help them be successful at what they do. LinkedIn wants to make sure that “the time you spend on LinkedIn will make you better at your job today.

Be a brand builder   The publishing platform was also designed with the goal of helping individuals build their personal brand. Technology has levelled the playing field. We all have access to tools that mimic those of the big brands. LinkedIn’s publishing platform is one of those tools.

Be inclusive   With the advent of the publishing platform, each of us can follow members not in our network and we can make ourselves accessible to those outside our network who want to follow us.

Be a relationship nurturer   Coupled with access to a variety of information comes the ability to comment on posts and ask questions of the writer. This is a pre-cursor to networking where partnerships tend to occur.

Be able to showcase expertise   Showcasing expertise to a large group is typically off limits to all but a few. LinkedIn’s goal is to remove the roadblocks and allow expertise to rise to the surface. This helps the expert because their audience grows and the audience because their knowledge grows.

These are the goals. What are the results? In my opinion, the LinkedIn publishing platform is not a failure but it is failing in some key aspects.

To be clear, this is my opinion and I have been known to be wrong (see third paragraph!) so please feel free to disagree and persuade me away from my present viewpoint.

Here’s where I think LinkedIn’s publishing platform is failing:

Being a one-stop resource   The platform has definitely attracted a ton of content. The drawback is that I just don’t have time to search through this sea of opinions for the relevant, fact-based content. There is no quality control and as a result LinkedIn is not helping me be better at my job.

I’m also finding that curation of really great content is at an all-time low. I have always relied quite heavily on my network to share knowledge to improve my skill set. Now we’re all busy trying to get our content noticed.

And the influx of personal stories loosely tied to a career message makes me dizzy. Pleased don’t misunderstand; I enjoy many of these outside of LinkedIn. They are just not what I come to LinkedIn for and they don’t make me more knowledgeable in my profession.

Being able to showcase expertise   Consider my example from earlier. Expertise has been inadvertently devalued by the publishing platform. Everyone’s participating but at the cost of permeating the belief that as long as we’re all kicking the ball around, we’re all winners.

The winners should be those that “make you better at your job today.” We’ve all become experts and as a result no-one’s an expert.

Here’s where I think LinkedIn’s publishing platform is succeeding:

Being a brand builder   Without the opportunity to publish on LinkedIn I’d be struggling away anonymously. LinkedIn complements my marketing strategy and supplements the traffic I drive to my website and ultimately to my business.

Being inclusive   I like to be careful about measurements. What do they really tell us? Growing my number of followers feels good but is it actually meaningful and does it ultimately generate revenue?

Sadly no or not immediately, but what I have found, and why I consider inclusiveness a success, is that these professionals that I now have access to and who are smarter than me compel me to think.

Being a relationship nurturer As I’ve been writing I’ve had this one alternately under the failures and the successes. My struggle is that I have had the opportunity to interact with some really smart people thanks to LinkedIn. Professionals that I almost certainly would not have met before using the publishing platform.

I’ve also, like many of you I’m sure, had too many people try to fake their way into a relationship with me. It’s perhaps not fair to call this a failure of the platform as much as a tradeoff. Overall, the platform does allow me to nurture relationships.

In the end I arrive at two conclusions. The first is that you have to determine your professional goals and measure them in a meaningful way to know if the publishing platform is a success or a failure for you and your brand/business.

The second is that perhaps nothing has fundamentally changed. Regardless of the tools, you still have to provide excellent, relevant content consistently to attract and retain your target audience…and win an MVP trophy!

Success or failure?  What do you think?  Thanks for your participation 😉

 

Test the Quality of Your Business Blog: RATER It

Photo courtesy of K. Latham (CC)

Photo courtesy of K. Latham (CC)

Blogging can be pretty stressful at times. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to write about and you can visualize the one thing that matters most to your audience and how to explain it. And sometimes you can’t.

So how do you keep readers coming back for more? How do you increase your number of followers? And why does it matter? It matters because your followers are those that are more likely to make a long term commitment to you. They are the ones most likely to become customers.

The key to having a blog that attracts and retains traffic from your target audience is to hold the quality of your blog to the highest standard. This may sound obvious and it may even sound a bit boring but if we’re honest with each other, there’s a lot of mediocre blogging going on.

Don’t publish mediocre content; implement a quality management framework instead. That’s a fancy name for making sure that every blog you publish has these five things:

  • Reliability
  • Assurance
  • Tangibles
  • Empathy
  • Responsiveness

Just in case you think I am astute enough to have developed this model, known as RATER, I’m not! But in my defense, I am smart enough to recognize a great framework (developed in the mid-1980s by Valarie Zeithaml, ‘Parsu’ Parasuraman and Len Berry) when I see it.

If you are at all involved in measuring quality or being measured in the service sector, especially healthcare, you are very familiar with the RATER methodology. Originally designed with 10 quality components in mind, it was later distilled to the five you see above, hence the acronym RATER.

Here’s what to look for when you use this system to evaluate the quality of your blog:

Reliability    The key to repeat traffic and building your subscriber base. It is made up of two elements – relevancy and consistency. The purpose of a blog is to engage your target audience with information that matters to them.

Providing relevant information consistently is the incentive for them to subscribe to your blog, share your blog, travel the life cycle path with you, and ultimately become your customer.

Before publishing each blog, ask yourself if what you have written is relevant to your target audience. Then make sure that your blogs are published with a consistent frequency, at least once a week. If you are relevant and consistent, you have met the reliability standard.

Assurance   The ability to convey trust and instill confidence. Trust comes when you nurture a two-way conversation between your business and your target audience. It is built by sharing everything you know about what matters to your customer.

Your target audience has already decided that they want to learn more. It’s your job to give them a reason to learn from you. You have to deliver a certainty that your business knows what they’re doing and you have to be authentic.

As you re-read your blog ask yourself if you actually answered a question a customer would pose. Ask yourself if you did it in a respectful way, and ask yourself if your blog encouraged two-way communication. If you did these things, you met the assurance standard.

Tangibles   The skills the reader walks away with. This means that every blog you write for your business must somehow make the reader better educated, a better decision maker, or better able to do something they couldn’t do before.

A great example comes from this blog about fiber glass pools. No other business selling fiber glass pools dared answer the price question for fear of scaring potential customers away. What this business did was recognize that if price is the driving factor, the reader was not a current potential customer anyway.

By sharing not just the price but the why behind the price, the blog helped to drive over $2 million in sales. It qualified true leads by answering the question. It also gave potential customers the relevant information they needed to make a buying decision. The blog tangibly delivered knowledge.

Prior to publishing, ask yourself what you helped your target audience achieve? If you know they walked away with more relevant knowledge than when they arrived, you have met the tangibles standard.

Empathy   The ability to convey that you know what your target audience is going through. Making a real connection allows you to capture the attention of your target audience and share what you know.

There is no way to fake empathy. Target audiences see right through it and not only do they move on, they probably won’t return. The truth is that even if your blog isn’t useful to the reader at that exact moment but it’s authentic, they are more likely to return than if your blog is relevant but fake.

So what questions should you ask yourself to measure the empathy of your blog? This one is straightforward. Did you write sincerely about your topic of choice? Did you fake any element of your story? The answer should be yes and no to meet the empathy standard.

Responsiveness   Identifying and responding to the needs of your target audience is essential. If you don’t answer their questions, someone else will and they are more likely to build a relationship with your target audience.

Ask yourself if your topics are timely? Am I addressing what matters to my audience right now? And am I replying to questions and comments promptly? If you are, you are meeting the responsiveness standard.

Implementing a quality framework takes discipline and a little extra time but the benefits are real. Engaged followers, subscribers that can put what you share to work, and ultimately customers that trust you. Now you are ready to publish your high quality, incredibly relevant blog!

 

Marketing for Small Businesses: Advice From a Small Business Owner

Don’t Follow Your Dream, Follow Their Dream!

Photo courtesy of Kurt Wagner (CC)

Photo courtesy of Kurt Wagner (CC)

Like about 80% of my amazing gender I played at being a nurse and a teacher as a little girl. I didn’t know what marketing was, much less how to get into it. I also never really planned to be a small business but when it happened, it made sense.

The beauty of being a small business and marketing for small businesses is that I have a lot in common with my clients. So what have I learned that you can use to be successful working with small businesses?

Dig In Deep   Don’t assume all small businesses are the same. They do not have the same problems. There are pains that are common to all such as finances, wearing all the hats, competition, etc. But to resolve the pain points of each small business you have to get to know them. Intimately.

Understanding why the small business owner has chosen this path is more important than selling the benefits of their product or service. If you don’t know the people behind the business, figuring out the solution that exactly meets their needs just got harder.

One Size Does Not Fit All   Make sure your suggestions are designed to fit the business and not the other way around. Small businesses do not want to be prescribed the a vanilla solution as everyone else, nor do they want to be shoe horned into your favorite idea.

If you have asked the right questions and listened to your client, providing suggestions that support the goals of the small business becomes your core strength. Being a trusted partner becomes less about the solution itself and more about the strategic thinking you provide. This leads to long term relationships with clients.

Seek Out Expertise   Every small business leader has expertise. They often don’t see it as such so it’s your job to identify it. They take it for granted because they’ve lived with their knowledge for a long time. Once you’ve found it, keep reminding them of ways to leverage that expertise for good.

Finding the right way to share that expertise with the world hits business goals out of the park. It is sometimes uncomfortable for small business leaders to appear to promote themselves but the right content and channel puts the focus on the product or solution.

Be a Player as Well as a Coach Don’t just tell small businesses what to do. Show them how to do it. Show them why it matters and what results to expect. Small businesses are understandably wary of other businesses approaching them with perfect solutions quickly followed by a big bill.

Some businesses want to learn your skill, some businesses have to learn your skill because of budget constraints, and others only want to know what your skill will deliver. Whatever the case, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and play.

Respect the Budget   Small businesses are very much at the mercy of their budget and the good ones quickly learn how to bootstrap. This is not a reflection of your services. It is mere survival. Make sure you articulate what one thing you would recommend over all others and build the relationship by respecting the budget.

Photo courtesy of Chris Devers (CC)

Photo courtesy of Chris Devers (CC)

Small Businesses Pride   Last but not least, don’t underestimate the pride and passion small business leaders have for their mission. Don’t follow your dream, follow their dream! They have likely sacrificed a great deal to pursue it.

Working with small businesses is diverse which means you have to be resourceful. Cookie cutter solutions and drive by sales won’t work but immersing yourself in understanding the business and the business leaders will.

What else would you add to these tips?  Thanks for your input!

Can Traditional Marketing, Content Marketing, and Search Engine Marketing be Best Friends?

Or is this a classic love triangle?

Of late traditional marketing has been excluded from the conversation. Some critics are saying that content marketing is nothing more than a fad. Others think that great content will be found by buyers without any search engine marketing. Do they work independently or are they better together?

Photo courtesy of McBeth (CC)

Photo courtesy of McBeth (CC)

When we were kids in school it was always awkward to have a group of three. Someone always felt left out. Inevitably feelings were hurt. When we got a little older and started dating it was even worse. Having a third wheel made things really uncomfortable.

And then we matured. Going to lunch with your two best friends and them getting along wasn’t so threatening. In fact it was fun. Taking a project and dividing it into three rather than two made infinitely more sense. We started to focus on the qualities and the overlap that make a strong team.

 

 

So can traditional marketing, content marketing, and search engine marketing be best friends? Or is three a crowd?  And why does it matter?

It matters because we are inundated by experts telling us to forget traditional marketing and publish tons of content. It matters because we are struggling to get optimized for search engines. It matters because getting it wrong is expensive, inefficient, and downright discouraging.

Let’s take a high level look at each to determine if any of the three should be unfriended.

Traditional marketing is aggressive in that it pushes information out to grab the attention of potential buyers. It builds a one-way relationship to tell the ideal customers what to buy by promising them the features and benefits of the product.

Think of traditional marketing as that friend who’s sometimes embarrassingly direct. She’s also the one that you’re glad you have around when it’s time to get things done. She’s passionate and works tirelessly to deliver.

Photo courtesy of Stevesworldofphotos (CC)

Photo courtesy of Stevesworldofphotos (CC)

There’s no doubt she’s a magnet because she can attract and repel. Her style must be used wisely and fitted to situations that lend themselves to high impact. She’s an extrovert and prefers a crowd to one-on-one situations.

 

 

 

 

Content marketing is passive, seeking to draw the target audience in and influence using education and information. Content marketing builds a two-way relationship by engaging a specific target market and enabling them to easily interact at their own pace.

Photo courtesy of Cobalt123 (CC)

Photo courtesy of Cobalt123 (CC)

Think of content marketing as your friend who’s the matchmaker. She’s good at getting people together and striking up interesting conversations. She likes to see everyone getting along and makes sure no-one gets left out.

Her style works really well in a room full of strangers. She’ll make sure that everyone makes a new friend and learns something useful. She likes to build trust and works the room one-by-one.

 

 

 

 

Search engine marketing promotes business websites by improving their visibility in search results. It quietly collects information and authority created by content marketing and couples it with advertising to power a comprehensive search.

Photo courtesy of Milena Mihaylova (CC)

Photo courtesy of Milena Mihaylova (CC)

Think of search engine marketing as your friend who doesn’t say much but when she does it’s right on target. Some people think she’s unemotional but she goes to great pains to consider all factors rather than rushing to judgment.

Her style is to listen closely, gather the details, and offer a solution. She’s a problem-solver by nature and the glue that holds everyone else together.

Now imagine the three of them together. While traditional marketing is entertaining the crowd, content marketing is introducing people, and search engine marketing is passing out the hors d’oeuvres, managing the room temperature and the music, and making sure everything is considered.

Guests will drift around the room.  Some engaging with traditional marketing and others with content marketing and some with both. Search engine marketing will notice how they respond and what digital actions they take as a result. She’ll also notice when they lean in and when they leave the party.

It’s easy to see why traditional marketing and content marketing are often caught in an “either/or” proposition and how search engine marketing becomes an afterthought.

If you are willing to put these three friends in a room they will work together to create positive brand awareness and drive revenue opportunities and subsequently sales.

To banish one or other from the room is a disservice. Each plays a distinct role and has to be deployed in measures that can be tied back to business and marketing goals, the product, and the audience.

The reality is that traditional marketing, content marketing, and search engine marketing can get along. In fact, to meet your marketing goals they have to get along. They bring out the best in each other. What one lacks, the other brings in different doses for each situation. Just like good friends.

What I learned about Content Marketing from My Son – 8 Keys to Success

My oldest son starts his third year of studying high school Marketing this year and it has become apparent that he has learned more than I realized about content marketing strategy. Join me on a ride along and experience how this young man nailed content marketing and see how you can too!

Photo courtesy of Shena Tschofen (CC)

Photo courtesy of Shena Tschofen (CC)

I believe that businesses of any size benefit from integrating a sound content marketing strategy into their marketing plans. A well-executed content marketing strategy does not have to be expensive and it will result in sales.

To that end I developed a straightforward but robust list of 8 Content Marketing Steps. This list is not an attempt to address content marketing strategy soup to nuts. It is designed to help businesses get started.

Apparently teenagers who have just received their driver’s license can also utilize these steps to market their desire to borrow your car to go to the school dance:

  1. Know your audience and understand what matters to them.

I applaud planning and value going to bed at a reasonable hour. My son took this into account and introduced the idea of the school dance several days in advance while acknowledging that it ended later than I typically go to bed.

At this time he did not market his solution. He recognized that this was the early engagement stage and that he was simply creating awareness for the dance and his desire to attend. Maybe he’s been listening to me after all!

  1. Identify your business goals to determine your content marketing goals.

My son’s goal was to drive my car to the dance and stay until the dance ended at 11pm. To achieve this he identified that his marketing needed to create an awareness of his maturity.

Suddenly the trash miraculously disappeared on cue every time it was full. I didn’t have to ask him to clean his dishes away after dinner. I was starting to like this!

In a coincidental moment of utter despair, the vehicle in question wouldn’t start when I needed to get one of his brothers to hockey practice. Calmly he said “Pop the hood Mom” and proceeded to diagnose and fix the problem while I switched to our second vehicle. Now I was being drawn in!

  1. Jot down topics that matter to your audience and create a variety of content about them.

It also happened to be the first week back to school. We talked about grades and expectations without any eye rolling. He shared every piece of paper I had to sign. That’s a first. He even mapped out the best route for back-to-school night. I was fast becoming a subscriber!

  1. Build a simple content calendar to help you decide where, how, and how frequently you are going to publish your knowledge.

Again understanding the target audience, my son tamed his tendency to keep asking me the same questions (Can I go and can I take your car?) over and over. Also knowing I don’t like to get bombarded with requests the minute he gets home from school, he started to ask me about my day.

He was very purposeful in deciding where, when and how to discuss the dance. In the natural way of things, after talking about my day, we started to talk about his day. Over the course of several afternoon chats and a couple of texts, I learned about the dance.

He continued to resist the temptation to ask for permission to go to the dance or for the car. He provided useful information at appropriate intervals when I asked and he didn’t rush the relationship-building.

  1. Consistently publish relevant content across the customer lifecycle.

About three days before the dance, he correctly gauged that awareness and engagement had been achieved and there was definitely interest. He chose this time to reinforce that if allowed to go he understood the expectations.

No-one else could be in the car with him, no phone activity in the car, and no leaving the dance unless it’s to come home.

This was incredibly relevant at this point in the buyer’s journey. It’s often the time at which companies start to push their product too hard. He chose to continue to focus on what mattered to me.

  1. Be purposeful in your engagement tactics.

A couple of days before the dance he waited for a good time and asked very politely if he could go? It was a call to action that tested the strength of his marketing. Had I been listening? Was the information he provided relevant? Had he naturally engaged me to this point?

Asking for an indication of intent was the next logical step. He closed the sale with a great offer. He had his own money saved and was planning to pay for himself…sold!

I smiled and said “Sounds great! Would you like to borrow the car?”

  1. Measure, monitor, and analyze everything. Your SEO, your channels, your offers, your social media metrics, etc.   Adjust accordingly.

The day of the dance he went back over the plan. Leave the house at this time. Pick up glow sticks for the dance from this store. Drive to the school to arrive at this time. Be home no later than this time.

He gave me everything I needed to measure success. I said I’d keep my phone handy so that we could make any adjustments if needed.

  1. Make it easy for your audience to move between learning from you and buying from you.

Not only did he make it easy for me to buy from him, he also integrated the last two stages of the customer lifecycle; retention and advocacy. He didn’t drop his target audience like a hot potato the minute he had what he wanted.

Instead he arrived home ten minutes early. Now he has built trust and I am his advocate. We both know this will help him the next time he wants to borrow the car. I am far more likely to buy from him again. Of course it would be nice if he keeps taking out the trash too!

Why Blogging is Important for Your Small Business

Are you thinking about launching a blog as part of your content marketing strategy? It seems like everyone’s doing it. Before you get started, before you even consider how to get started, make sure you know why you are getting started.

Photo courtesy of Susan Smith (CC)

Photo courtesy of Susan Smith (CC)

Why blog for your business? There are three reasons you should blog for your business. They are authority, visibility, and relationship-building.

Authority   Useful blogs that provide readers the skills they need to get where they’d like to go give your business credibility. What starts as credibility becomes authority. The information your business shares makes your audience more skilled and better educated.

Don’t be fooled! This applies whether you are marketing satellite communications systems or selling coffee. It applies whether you are big or small. It applies if you have one customer or thousands.

Complexity, price, and size do not determine the need for authority. Every audience wants businesses to provide useful information that matters to them. Ultimately we buy from those we trust and we tend to trust those that share their knowledge meaningfully.

Here’s how to use your blog to improve the authority your business commands:

  • Write 3-4 evergreen blogs. These thoughtful pieces lay the groundwork for everything else you are going to talk about. Refer back to them relevantly in future blogs.
  • Write 3-4 blogs that tackle topics that matter to your target audience. Demonstrate your expertise.
  • Write in short digestible paragraphs. Readers are skimming for usefulness and words that matter to them.
  • Deliver one message and broadcast it early and often in your blog. Everything else supports that one message.

Visibility   Your business has competition. It comes in all shapes and sizes.  By themselves, blogs are not the answer, but as part of a well-thought out content marketing strategy, they are a substantial part of the solution.

Well promoted blogs increase your visibility by helping your business rank high in search results. That’s not all. Consistently delivered, relevant blogs also have the power to keep your business in front of your target audience and attract a loyal following.

This matters because loyal followers have a high probability of becoming customers. In fact, Demand Metric found that 80% of people like to learn about a business by reading their custom content and 60% seek out more product information after reading content about the business.

Here’s how to use your blog to improve the visibility of your business:

  • Commit to publishing once a week to get started. You already have 3-4 weeks of content while you work on building more. You’ll get better and faster and then you can increase your frequency.
  • Let your blog content determine the title and not the other way round. Pose a question, be interesting, and remember your title is the first impression. Wow and deliver!
  • Add categories to your blog identifying key words. This helps search engines rank you. It also helps ensure your content can be easily found by your target audience.
  • Add social media Share buttons to everything you can. Make it easy for others to share and promote your expertise.
  • Promote your blogs using social media and publishing platforms. This drives traffic to your website where your target audience can learn more about your business.

Relationship-building   Blogs have the ability to create a connection with your audience. They can be useful and personal which makes them easy to digest. Readers can dip in and out and the more they read, the greater the bond that is built.

Well-written, informative blogs lead to greater engagement from the target audience. They start to trust their source enough to commit to reading their white papers, watching their videos, participating in their online discussion forums, and so on.

This is relationship-building. Without it, sales are transactions and hard to come by. With it, sales flow naturally and are followed by repeat business and referrals.

Here’s how to use your blog to build relationships with your target audience:

  • Invite comments on your blog and respond to them. These are steps in getting to know your audience better. Don’t panic if someone disagrees with you. That happens in the best relationships!
  • Be original, be authentic, be you. Share your expertise freely, answer questions, and offer to help.

Blogging increases authority, visibility, and relationship-building. That’s why it’s important for your business. But you know what’s even more important? Getting started! Dive in and do it today!


How has blogging helped your business?  Thanks for reading and please share your comments below!

Content Marketing: Tips That Work For Selling Too

One of the reasons I love content marketing is that it shares. It shows, it educates, it informs. By its very nature it’s collaborative. It’s designed to enhance skillsets and build trust. It gives the gift of knowledge with the ideal of making your customer better.

Content marketing is a positive activity that results in sales.

Photo courtesy of Spikenheimer (CC)

Photo courtesy of Spikenheimer (CC)

In the hands of the best salespeople, selling can be a positive experience too, but all too often it breeds mistrust. Being sold to often leaves customers feeling like they’ve been in an arm wrestling match. At the end they’re exhausted. There’s one winner and one loser.

And even when you’re the winner, your arm hurts!

 

 

The techniques that define content marketing also apply to sales. In fact after this weekend I’d go so far as to say, if you’re not incorporating the following into both your sales process and your content marketing process you’re in trouble.

What happened this weekend? What went so horribly wrong for the young lady who showed up at my door? The scene I’m going to lay out may seem like an over-simplification but actually these lessons apply regardless of the complexity, the cost, or the length of the sales cycle.

These lessons also apply regardless of channel. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing on my doorstep or revealing your business to me online.

Lesson #1   Be Relevant

She started the conversation by asking where I bought my doormat. This was in no way relevant to either of us.

In content marketing and in sales, it’s important to accept that your target audience is selfish and only really interested in what matters to them. Respect their time or they’ll close the door in your face. Be relevant at all times and they might listen to you long enough to hear something that matters to them.

Lesson #2   Be Authentic

She faked an intimacy that didn’t exist when she asked “Hi Mom, what are we making for lunch today?”

I really wanted her to be authentic and say something like, “I can see you’re busy so let me cut to the chase. Are you interested in having your carpets cleaned? Everyone wants clean carpets but it’s a pain to do them. Let us do them for you.”

Because she had great energy and wonderful eye contact I wished I could have performed a Jedi mind trick. “This is not the approach you are looking for!” Be authentic instead.

In content marketing and in sales, it’s essential to be real with your audience. We’re all jaded by fast talkers and tired of feeling like we were somehow forced into the transaction. Build the relationship openly and honestly and at the pace set by your audience.

Lesson #3   Educate

At no time did she share any knowledge that increased my awareness. She didn’t try to educate me into being a better homeowner for example.

She might have noticed that we have pretty sturdy carpets and recommended a process to keep them looking good. That would have increased my knowledge and might have led to questions or more conversation. In other words, a strengthening of the relationship.

In content marketing and sales, businesses have to be adept at providing the right information at the right time. Be helpful and share knowledge that your audience doesn’t already have. Make them aware of something that makes them better informed in this field.

Giving your audience the gift of knowledge may mean that the sale won’t go through today, it can still be made because you educated.

Lesson #4   Call To Action

When I politely gave the final no, she turned and left discouraged. For her this was all or nothing. She had one shot and it was over.

A warm handshake and a brochure with helpful information, contact details, and a discount coupon could have saved the day.

In content marketing and sales, businesses have to give their audiences good reasons to stick with them. They have to call them to action and provide easy-to-follow next steps to move audiences from exploring to buying.

The goal in content marketing and in sales is to clear the path for your target audience. Work tirelessly to make it easy for them to engage. Cut away anything that isn’t relevant, encourage them with useful information, and be there when they need you.

Buyers are more likely to purchase from businesses that inform, educate and build a relationship with them. That’s why I love content marketing!

What is about content marketing that you love??


Written by Nicola Roark, a small business owner working to demystify content marketing for other businesses.