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The Biggest Stereotype About Marketing Automation

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Alexandra Skey – Enjoy! 

It’s not our fault that most of us associate marketing automation with complex campaigns run by advanced marketers in bigger companies.

That’s how it took off in the last decade.

But that stereotype is threatening the future of small businesses…

How It All Began

We know content marketing works.

We also know that more information is being created every 48 hours than the entire amount we made before 2003.

So, every 2 days it becomes harder to create content to engage people, especially those who are interested in what you do and are likely to become your customers.

This is a serious problem.

Roughly 5-7 years ago, a group of companies saw what was happening and did something about it.

They were HubSpot, Pardot, and Marketo, among others.

These companies knew it would be almost impossible to succeed at content marketing without streamlining the process. So they started automating tasks their corporate clients needed, and combining them in one place.

That was the birth of marketing automation platforms.

Why They’re “Too Complex”

Since the key with any great campaign is delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, one of the things the industry became focused on was automating emails. Specially, creating complex trigger scenarios so that you could deliver those messages on an individual basis, ideally converting more customers.

Now we send over 294 billion emails a day.

Unfortunately, that complexity plagues the stereotype of marketing automation. It’s what most people think of when you mention the concept.

Besides the price.

And while it’s certainly useful for businesses with significant traffic, the cost and time involved is prohibitive for many smaller companies.

The Irony

The irony of marketing automation is that it’s viewed as complex and time consuming – yet the goal is to simplify tasks and save you time reaching your most profitable customers.

It’s simply a way of automating mundane tasks, so you can be more effective and reserve those spurts of energy for creative projects.

Due to the rapid adoption of content marketing, and the associated challenges of creating successful inbound campaigns, it will become more crucial than ever for all businesses to start adapting these time saving techniques.

In fact, some may be doing it without even realizing it:

  • When you use an SEO tool like Yoast to optimize your blog, that’s marketing automation – because instead of learning the rules, Yoast shows you what to do.
  • When you use a plugin to automatically share posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social channels, that’s marketing automation.
  • When you schedule your tweets using a service like Hootsuite, Buffer or TweetDeck…
  • When you monitor mentions of your business on the social web using Meshfire or Google…
  • Even when you use canned email responses to answer common questions…

It’s not about saving 1 hour by doing something different.

It’s about streamlining the process, so you save 3 minutes here and 8 minutes there at every step along the way.

With marketing automation, everything counts.

What’s next?

The demand from businesses with smaller budgets and time requirements is growing.

While the first wave of automation platforms was built for enterprise teams and budgets, we’re now seeing companies like ScribeContent, Orbtr, Spokal, Nurture and others designing platforms specifically for smaller teams, making it easier for anyone to create successful content campaigns.

Raab Associates recently showed that over 75% of companies adopting automation platforms in the USA are now small and micro businesses. And B2B Online shows that over 50% have fully integrated automation into their marketing.

 

photo credit: B2B Online

photo credit: B2B Online

 

Here’s the catch.

As it becomes easier for small businesses to leverage tools to make their content better, it will become easier to create better content. This means the quality of content that businesses need to produce to attract potential customers (and nurture them over time) will increase.

This is fantastic news for customers.

And it’s good for small businesses too, because those who can implement time saving techniques into their marketing practices now will have an even better chance of getting ahead of their competition and succeed at doing what they love.

Henry Ford was right.

Automation leads to great things.

AlexandraSkeyAlexandra Skey is the co-founder of Spokal, an award winning marketing automation platform for small businesses, and author of Zero Friction, which explores the future of online retail and will be released in fall 2014.

She lives on the west coast of Canada and is obsessed with customer experiences, horses and kiteboarding. You can connect with her on Twitter.

 

Marketing Automation: What is it and Why Should I Care?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Scott Thomas– Enjoy! 

 

Marketing AutomationMarketers, meet your secret weapon: marketing automation. Only recently, has this underutilized method of demand generation been brought to the forefront of public attention. Marketing automation has slowly become a go-to buzzword in the marketing world but what does it really mean and more importantly, how can it help your business?

For starters, marketing automation refers to technology that allows marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple online channels (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. In its most ideal state, marketing automation provides you with a platform to efficiently deliver engaging content that turns prospects into customers and then follow up with personalized messaging that keeps those customers coming back.

What Marketing Automation Means to Marketers

Marketing automation means two huge things for marketers: conversion and attribution. First we’ll look at its success converting leads. According to a study by The Aberdeen Group, companies that use marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates than non-users, and an annualized revenue growth rate 3.1% higher than non-users of marketing automation platforms.

Marketing AutomationSounds good, right? It gets better. Marketing automation solves the marketers age-old problem of attributing marketing spend to earned revenue. Because these platforms typically feature CRM integration, lead activity within marketing efforts can be directly tracked from campaign inception to lead conversion. In fact, companies that use marketing automation are 3 times more likely than companies without automation to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touchpoints.*

The ‘Automation’ in Marketing Automation

Despite marketing automation’s capacity to generate increased revenue and attribute that revenue to your marketing team’s efforts, many people seem to overlook one key fact: in order for marketing automation to be successful, you have to have something to automate. Think of marketing automation as the hyper-efficient delivery vehicle between the programs you already have in place and your audience. It won’t create the content for you but with it, you can build the most effective route by which to push your content. The following are examples of programs that can be integrated into your marketing automation strategy:

  • Content Marketing: Today’s consumers don’t respond to conventional “Mad Men” style marketing and advertising tactics; instead, they respond to engaging, informative content that speaks to them and not at them. By distributing content that engages your audience, you’re not only satiating their appetite for information, but you’re also working towards the end result of creating a connection with these potential buyers and ideally, driving them closer to a sale.
  • Email Marketing: Does your organization already employ use of email marketing? Although it might not seem like much, even something as simple as a monthly newsletter can be engineered to drive optimal engagement. With marketing automation you can create any number of follow up actions based on how a lead interacts with an original email. This brings us to…
  • Lead Nurturing: This process of educating and staying fresh on the minds of prospects who aren’t yet ready to buy allows you to turn otherwise cold leads into added revenue. Lead nurturing can take many forms, from personalized, Happy Birthday emails to reengagement campaigns.

The possibilities for customizing your marketing automation pipeline are limited only by your organization’s capacity to do so and while it may take some heavy legwork to initially set up, don’t be intimidated. Marketing automation can save you time and money while converting more leads by simply utilizing the programs you already have in place.

*(The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study, Nov 2013)

Scott ThomasScott Thomas is the founder and president of the Intelechy Group, an Austin-based revenue growth agency. Scott has spent more than two decades driving highly profitable revenue for industry leaders such as AT&T, Dell, AMD and SAP. Intelechy Group specializes in Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy & Development, Brand & Market Positioning, Demand Generation and an array of marketing services that propel organizations to become revenue and profit leaders in their marketplaces.

 

 

Involve Your Prospect In Their Story to Ignite Inbound Selling

Today is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Mike Hanski – Enjoy! 

wiifm

photo credit: flickr

In certain ways, inbound selling is a lot like inbound marketing.  At the very least, they have one very important concept in common – content is king.

The success of any inbound technique – letting potential leads come to you rather than go hunting for them – is quality content.  And the driving force behind quality content is the idea of letting the reader understand “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM).

Understanding WIIFM

Any business professional will tell you the most important concept of business writing is answering the question, “what’s in it for me?”

Prospects don’t care about how many products you sold last year, the size of your company, the awards you’ve received or anything else that is wholly unrelated to them.  All they care about is what they can get from the deal.

Fortunately, this idea plays right into the hands of inbound sales specialists.  Check out the ways you can use WIIFM writing to enhance the success of your inbound selling strategy.

Using WIIFM Writing to Create Problems

Last year, John wrote a post outlining the anatomy of inbound selling.  He mentioned the following:

“Inbound sales professionals build and sell problems that prospects don’t even know exist.”

If done properly, WIIFM writing creates problems and initiates questions.  You want your content to answer some of the questions the reader might have, but not all of them.  This draws attention to specific areas of need.

For example, you might write…

We can help with your search engine optimization, social media marketing, and other marketing techniques.

The reader would wonder…”what ‘other marketing techniques?’  Can you do my offline/print marketing too?

To get the answer to that question, the prospect will seek you out.  In the meantime, he might realize he does, in fact, need online marketing techniques in addition to the offline marketing he intended to implement.  You’ve created a problem he didn’t know he had.

WIIFM is All about Providing Education

In another post about the correlation between marketing and selling, John mentioned the following:

“Today’s salesperson must be ready to teach, publish and demonstrate expertise.  Every sales person should answer questions via blog posts, engage in social media conversations, and conduct online and offline seminars.”

Again, this idea plays right into the hands of WIIFM business writing.  The best education tactics are centered on how the reader will benefit.

Do you need some ideas for educational blog posts with WIIFM principles?  Try writing about…

  • Industry secrets.  Is there some insider information you can provide?  Are there questions people are dying to know the answer to?  Give away the recipe to the secret sauce and prospects will love you forever.
  • Controversial topics.  Is there something taboo about your industry?  Are there things no one wants to talk about?  Expose those issues.  Educate prospects about topics they didn’t even know they needed to know.
  • Other areas of expertise.  Demonstrations and tutorials are golden.  Teach something and prospects will be hooked.  Consider making a video of your efforts.

Social media is another arena that offers prime learning opportunities.  When you think about providing educational information with your social media account, remember…WIIFM.

That means, less self-promotion and more client-centered content.  A general rule of thumb for any social media marketing effort is 80/20 – 80% of your content should be links and shares of other people’s content and only 20% should be about you and your brand.  If you are going for a true WIIFM approach with the goal of inbound selling, you might want to change the ratio to something even more drastic – maybe 90/10.

Just focus on providing genuinely helpful content.  Link to other leaders in your industry.  Share significant news pieces.  Be helpful.

Writing Stories about Them

Another concept of inbound selling is the idea of switching from lead nurturing to storybuilding.

“Salespeople must be able to relate the organization’s core stories to the world of their customer and they must help the customer build a new story that stars them in the leading role.”

This strategy is the one most likely to cause a WIIFM stumbling block.  While creating the organization’s stories, it can be easy to slip from them-oriented tales to us-oriented success stories.  When you write, remember to make sure your stories are problem creating (them) rather than problem solving (us).

Other WIIFM Web Content

The driving concept behind inbound selling is letting the prospect come to you.  Therefore, you need to make that task as easy as possible.  Again, think about them and what they need to reach you.

  • Make your “Contact Us” page easy to find.  Clearly link to it from the homepage – and each internal page.
  • Provide as much information as possible on your “Contact Us” page – physical address, email addresses, phone number, fax number, GPS coordinates…everything.  You can’t possibly go overboard here.
  • When applicable, give specific contact information.  Do you have different departments to handle different issues?  List all those out with the appropriate contact person and information.  Try to avoid the ambiguous “[email protected]” email address.
  • List basic information – like your phone number and email address – on each page of your website.  Don’t make visitors go to your “Contact Us” page if they don’t want to.
  • Share customer testimonials.  Let other people be your sales rep.  They might connect with the reader in a way you can’t.

When it comes to inbound selling, your website is one of your most powerful tools.  Be sure to keep the content focused on the reader.  Tell them exactly what’s in it for them.  Write with your prospect’s interest at heart and you can’t lose.

 

Mike HanskiArticle by Mike Hanski – content strategist and a blog writer at Bid4papers.com. When not writing about education technology and business, he enjoys American literature and traveling in far countries.  Learn more about Mike at Google+.

5 Landing Page Mistakes That Erode Trust

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Kristen Gramigna  – Enjoy!

The 5 Content Mistakes That Make You Seem UntrustworthyWhen someone clicks an online ad or banner, he or she usually comes to a customized landing page — a webpage specially designed to move him or her to action. But the way things are said on that landing page — i.e., the content that is used — can make all the difference between whether a visitor becomes a customer or whether he or she clicks away. Have you thought about some of the most common content mistakes that can harm credibility and, by extension, results?

Below are a few easy mistakes copywriters can fall into, without even realizing it, when crafting content for landing pages:

  1. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords: Sure, keywords are important for online content, but they are never more important than creating content that makes sense. When your writing is so hyper-stuffed with keywords that your readers get lost, you’re making a classic content mistake. Instead, to make your content powerful, stop stuffing keywords haphazardly and focus on writing content that is legitimately useful and valuable. Keep in mind that a well-written landing page should include keywords in a way that isn’t obvious. Ask yourself: Will it be obvious to my readers what keywords I’m pushing here? If so, you need to rework the page.
  2. Not Delivering: It’s popular nowadays to write headlines to be clickable and easy to notice — but even if your content gets a lot of hits, those hits mean nothing if readers are frustrated once they arrive. Just as important as getting visitors to your landing page is keeping them there. That’s why your content must deliver on what your headline promises. Ask yourself: Is my landing page appropriate for my headline? Are visitors getting what I’m promising when they click over to the site? If not, rework your content.
  3. Writing to the Wrong Level of Consumer: A good tip to keep in mind with all copywriting is that good content is targeted content. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for beginner home cooks, you’re on the right track. If you’re writing a basic cake recipe for master chefs with culinary degrees, you’re not. Likewise, a lot of companies make the mistake of writing to the wrong level of consumer, whether that means beginners (when they should be writing to intermediate) or intermediate (when they should be writing to beginners). Ask yourself: Who is my audience? Who am I targeting? Then, make sure your content lines up with those answers.
  4. Me, Me, Me: Your landing pages is not about you; it’s about your prospective customer. Rather than waxing eloquent about your company and its history and its products, tell the reader what you offer him or her. Ask yourself: Why should my readers care about this? Then find a way to focus on what’s in it for them.
  5. Treating Content Like Ad Space: Advertising might drive readers to your landing page, but it won’t keep them there. Your landing page is not a place to be flashy and salesy; it’s a place to show the reader why they want what you offer. Ask yourself: Does my landing page sound like an advertisement? If so, rewrite it.

Your Thoughts

After going through the above list, what do you think? Are your landing pages helpful and relevant, or are they keyword-stuffed and dull? Do you speak to the reader’s desires, or are you just talking about yourself? Think about your landing pages strategically, and you’ll see better conversion rates over time.

 

Kristen GramignaKristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years of experience in in direct sales, sales management, and marketing.

 

 

5 Content Statistics Every Marketer Must Understand

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Helen Nesterenko – Enjoy!

Content marketing serves many purposes, from getting found by buyers to building relationships with those buyers. Developing a strategy isn’t easy, even for those who have years of experience in the content marketing field. Over the years, various trends have come and gone, leaving surprising statistics in their wake. Because consumer preferences change and Google’s quality guidelines are constantly updated, new statistics emerge on a regular basis. The latest collection comes from various sources, all giants in the content marketing field. You might just be surprised with where content marketing is headed in 2014.

Content Marketing

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.

How We Market

According to Top Rank Blog, there are at least 30 different content marketing tactics in use, but some are much more popular than others. The latest content marketing benchmarks, which were collected from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs with the assistance of BrightCove, suggests that B2B marketers tend to use a combination of 13 of those content marketing tactics.

The most popular choices are probably evident, such as social media, blogging, e-newsletters, articles, case studies, videos, white papers, and infographics. The most popular of these is social media marketing, with 87% of marketers using this tactic. Infographics saw the largest rise in use since last year, jumping from 38% to 51%.

Our Biggest Challenge

Finding time to market seems to be the biggest challenge, with 69% of marketers stating this as their greatest need. The lack of quality time to complete marketing tasks leaves many searching for productivity hacks. The most common is scheduling, which many marketing platforms offer readily. Writing blogs and planning social media can take place at any time and then set for release at regular intervals. If you’re not watching the clock to meet a deadline for your regular posting times, you’re less likely to panic and more likely to remain productive.

Because 52% of marketers outsource writing and 55% say their biggest challenge is producing enough content, we might assume blogs, web content, ebook offers, and articles take up more time than marketers can give. Outsourcing is certainly a great way to save time on the tasks you don’t have time for, or you could apply some specific hacks to your writing. For instance, an outline before starting is a great way to stay focused and direct your content. Researching as you write will help you include only the information you need rather than spending hours collecting data that isn’t included in the blogs or ebooks. Finally, wait until you have a solid first draft to even think about editing. Don’t worry about the small mistakes until you have a cohesive big picture.

Building Relationships with Consumers

One of the biggest factors in building a relationship with customers is to first build trust. Statistics show the best way to do this may be with custom content. In fact, 90% of consumers like custom content, or content created specifically for their pain points according to their buyer personas, and 78% truly believe the companies providing that custom content are interested in building a relationship.

Creating custom content isn’t as hard as it sounds. If you understand the psychographic dimensions of your customer base and have a great grasp of how your products solve those customers’ problems, your content will nearly write itself. A small challenge may arise if you outsource your content, but excellent content marketers will understand the need to know your buyers and their pain points.

Blogging Effectiveness

The need for a business blog is undeniable, with companies reporting 97% more inbound links because of their blog. Even more compelling, those B2B companies with blogs report 67% more leads than those who don’t blog. Reasons for this success varies, but by far, the biggest assist comes from Google. The more pages a blog indexes, the higher they show up in search engine results.

These numbers are hard to ignore, but that doesn’t make starting or maintaining a blog easy. Using the productivity hacks above or outsourcing your blog is a great way to build a blog with several pages quickly, but keep in mind that 10% of marketers say finding trained content marketers is their biggest challenge. Lack of budget plagues another 39%. Whatever you choose to do, you must commit. The only way to experience great results from your blog is to keep building.

Compelling Headlines

Only 20% of readers will ever get beyond your headline. That’s 1 in 5 readers. All those words you wrote (or paid to have written) will be ignored by 80% of your target audience. The only way to grab more readers, to ensure your customers get past the title, is to make sure the titles are compelling.

There is a formula for creating headlines: Urgent, unique, useful, and ultra-specific. Just using the four U’s will not guarantee more reader, however. There is an actual science to creating headlines people will read and share. In addition to urgency, uniqueness, usefulness, and specific topics, you must also add in relevance, originality, value, and maybe a bit of shock. Just be sure you don’t use too much shock and not enough relevance. The click-bait schemes may get some shares, but they don’t satisfy.

Use numerals when titling lists posts instead of spelling them out. Then follow with some words that catch attention and boost the possibility of reading and sharing. Some of these words include “you,” “free,” “how to,” and “check out.” Believe it or not, people love to see negative titles. Using “terrible,” “worst,” “stop,” and “never.”

These statistics show us quite a few things. First, your business blog is extremely important. Second, few marketers have the time necessary to dedicate to a business blog and other content. Third, outsourcing might just be the best way to cover all your bases, as long as you work with a content company who understands the need to know your buyers and their pain points.

Did any of these statistics surprise you? Perhaps you discovered solutions you hadn’t before considered. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And if you’re searching for an answer to your content marketing needs, we’re always here to help.

 

Helen NesterenkoArticle by Helen Nesterenko – founder, CEO at Writtent.com. Helen loves everything about blogging, writing and content marketing. That is why she truly enjoys sharing her insights with the audience. 

 

 

 

The Missing Ingredient From Your Content Marketing Strategy

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Mark Middo – Enjoy!

content-marketing

photo credit: Craig Garner

“I’m writing blog posts almost on a daily basis, but I am getting zero traction from social media and my conversions are terrible,” said Adrian, the director of a large software company in Australia. “Looking at Google Analytics, it seems like people just get the information and go. No one is sharing – and worse yet, no one is converting. This content marketing thing just seems like a huge waste of time.”

When I got back to my computer a few hours later, I started reading through the content they had been posting on their website. I wanted an early night that night, but I didn’t think I would hitting the pillow that early. These blog posts nearly put me into a coma – they were that boring.

Here’s the problem: practical information isn’t typically the sort of content that can easily go viral (especially if you don’t have a large pre-existing social network). For content to even drive conversions, it needs to be interesting, have heaps of value and be truly unique for it to get even a few shares or influence people to connect further with the business. This is especially true if you are creating content with the goal of generating B2B leads.

One of the main reasons that most business content has minimal sharing potential is that it doesn’t create an emotional reaction for most people. You just read the information, then you take off and find another blog post to read. Content really only gets shared when people go ‘wow’ that was a really awesome article – I need to tell my friends about it.

So what was Adrian missing from his content marketing strategy? What was the vital missing ingredient?

Personality

Adrian’s website was delivering plenty of value; the content was high quality and it was getting traffic, but it was obviously boring people to death. There was no personality to engage readers or make them care about who was writing the content; it was just another faceless company blog, so the visitors took the information they needed and bounced. Nobody wanted to share it because it wouldn’t make them look cool if they did.

The posts were attributed to the company blog rather than to individual authors, and the language was just bone dry – even the most seasoned readers found it tough to get through.

I can imagine people reading it and thinking, “That’s nice, pretty dry but I got some good information,” and then skipping away into the abyss of the Internet – probably to go look at cat memes and never to return.

Seth Godin alludes to this fact in his book, The Icarus Deception, when he notes that connection is the key in this connected economy. And I believe a great way to create connection online is through personality.

So, what are some ways that you can add some personality to your content marketing strategy?

1. The author is the key

Make the blog post from a person, not a company. Bring the author to life. Create a profile for the author, write a good bio that gives the author a personality, use a good, friendly photo (not in a suit with a serious face on) and make sure people can connect with them on social media.

What makes them tick? Is there something quirky about them that you could share?

People emotionally connect with people who have a ‘real life,’ so don’t be scared to provide some information that isn’t just “Adrian is a stiff director from XYZ Company with 30 years of experience blah blah.”

“Adrian loves bungy jumping off 50 story buildings in his wife’s favourite bikini.”

(Maybe that’s not so real, but you get what I mean.)

2. Ease of reading is a must

Write the blog post in a conversational manner. Make it easy to read and don’t use technical jargon. You want people to be able to breeze through the post making it easy for the brain to absorb.

If they get through the blog, quick endorphins will be released in their brains and they’ll feel good about themselves because they have accomplished something.

3. Include personality in your writing

Don’t be scared to add some jokes and create some stories. Occasionally, I’ll even put words that people don’t expect to see in my writing.

Why would I do that? Well, did you know that William Shakespeare would use words in his writing that weren’t actually part of the English language at the time? An example is his use of the word “ungodded” in one of his writings. One theory suggests that he did this to get his readers attention – throw them off a bit.

When we read, our brains actually make predictions about which words are coming next. By using unexpected words or writing something the reader doesn’t expect to read it actually causes us to think, it unconsciously makes the content stick out in our minds because it increases brain activity.

If one of the greatest writers in history used this strategy successfully, there must be some merit to it. So why not give it a go? Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll negate efforts to achieve #2 – ease of reading.

4. Promote sharing and discussion

At the end of the blog post, content marketers will often include an offer, call to action or opt-in. And yes, you should use these tactics to enhance your conversions, but before that, you could weave something into your writing along the lines of: “Hey, if you liked this post, I would LOVE it if you let your friends know about it. If you agree or disagree with what I am saying, give me a yell in the comments box below.”

These are just a couple of little strategies that I like to employ to give my content marketing strategy a bit more personality. Hopefully, you can implement them and start seeing more sharing of your content, too.

And hey, if you liked this article and have some buddies who would benefit from it, I would love it if you could share it with them. If you have any other hot tips that make mine look like Willie Nelson at a Justin Bieber concert, let me know in the comments box below.

middo-150-150Mark Middo is the author of 5 Minute Business and founder of Social Empire, a brand dedicated to helping people brings ideas to life online. After fueling the growth of some of the worlds largest brands including Formula 1, Mizuno, Renault and McDonalds, Mark launched his own start up called Reminisce, an online voting system built for nightclubs. Amazed by it’s instant success, Mark formed Social Empire so he could help people do exactly what he did – turn an idea for a passion project into a lifestyle business in quick time, and for minimal cost.

How to Make Content the Voice of Strategy

I talk about marketing strategy a lot. It is for me the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system.

content strategy

photo credit: Giandomenico Ricci via photopin cc

Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people from know to like to trust. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice and, because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.

I know I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again: Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

Below is a refresher of my approach to developing and implementing a content plan with your overall business objectives and strategy in mind. I’ve updated the calendar element with my plan for 2014.

A Total Content SystemTM approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:

  • Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
  • Develop your Content Delivery Platform
  • Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational Content Themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like MOZ or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:

  • January – Planning and organizational development
  • February – Offline marketing
  • March – Content marketing
  • April – Inbound selling
  • May – Outbound marketing
  • June – Marketing automation
  • July – Marketing strategy
  • August – Mobile marketing
  • September – Networking/Referrals
  • October – Community practices
  • November – Social media
  • December – Personal growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March – all content has a purpose!)

Develop your Content Delivery Platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

  • Newsletter – I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.
  • Blog posts – I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.
  • Guest posts – We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)
  • Podcast guests – I produce a weekly audio podcast and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.
  • PR Pitches – We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.
  • Sponsored pitches – We receive invitations to write sponsored content and conduct sponsored webinars and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our list building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.
  • Curate a Scoop.it topic – As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools and the like related to our theme and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.
  • Create a content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time map your content plan to your core business objectives.

This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering and sharing content that attracts email capture, links and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month all of a sudden books, tools, articles and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

3 Tips for Creating a Strong Connection between Audience and Content

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Steve Giangola – Enjoy!

Great content isn’t only well written but also makes a vital connection with current or potential clients. Consider the below three ways to boost the link between your company’s self presentation and your target audience.

1. Don’t be afraid to be informal

Although professionalism is always key, quality content doesn’t have to feel clinical. Make a joke, relate to readers’ experiences, and be casual as well as friendly while remembering you are representing a business that thrives on the respect and trust of a loyal base.

This means explicit references to the debaucherous antics of your past weekend are probably not okay, but comments about people enjoying themselves outside the confines of their respective industries are permissible.

Nobody wants to read content that feels like it was generated by a robot, so don’t be afraid to inject personality while adhering to the goals and image of a specific brand.

2. Create a sense of community

Clients enjoy original content because they find it useful, informative, and entertaining. They should also feel that it is being written by people that understand them. Of course there are many facets to any individual, but, as English poet John Donne succinctly put it, “no man [or woman] is an island.” Look for the common bonds between a business and its clients that go beyond services rendered. Here the type of valuable relationships that benefit both parties are formed.

Ideally, through social media and comment sections, a similar relationship will be forged between your clients, which will, in turn, help build a community. When clients begin to rely on your content and know their experiences are shared, they start vocalizing their ideas and interacting with others. Once this process is initiated, it is not only the content but also a positive and active community that will keep clients engaged.

3. Connect to other businesses

It’s a big world, and each business has a significant internet presence. This can be used to the advantage of content marketing strategies. Forging links with similarly minded associations, while avoiding advertising direct competitors, is integral to growing an audience.

Businesses can establish mutually beneficial relationships by sharing published content that gains exposure on two platforms and thus expands an audience’s awareness of business generated content. Even if it means temporarily sending traffic outward, cross pollination between blogs and social media accounts is highly beneficial. A network of great content will always be valuable to both businesses and clients.

For further tips, check out How to Convey Your Passion in Prose and 8 Tools for Finding the Content People Really Want at the Prose Media blog.

Steve GiangolaSteve Giangola is a staff member at Prose Media, a writing service that creates high quality content for brands. Solutions include blog posts, social media updates, website copy, newsletters, white papers, and emails.