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The 3 Essential Elements of Successful Content Marketing

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sonia Simone.

Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Copyblogger Media. Come find her on the Copyblogger blog, where she writes extensively about content marketing for small business.

I don’t care how big or how small your business is.

If you’ve been thinking about content marketing, one issue probably keeps cropping up.

Let’s face it … this would all be a whole lot easier if it wasn’t for that pesky content.

What makes content “good”? What’s the difference between content marketing and just writing an entertaining blog? And can content really be the backbone of a serious marketing plan?

Let’s get very clear … not all content serves a marketing purpose. If you want to build a strong business around content, you need three key elements.

Here are my choices for the three key components of effective content marketing:

#1: Make it entertaining

The biggest mistake businesses make with content is the assumption that the audience actually finds their business interesting.

No one owes you their attention. You have to earn it.

That means your content (and all the rest of your marketing) needs to become relentlessly focused on the desires and needs of your customers.

That means you write content that’s entertaining and interesting. Content that benefits the reader — often by solving a problem she might have, or possibly by giving her a good laugh.

You make sure your formatting is audience-friendly. No one wants to read long, unbroken paragraphs, even if the writing is top-notch. Use plenty of subheads, white space, and a clear, legible font that’s large enough to be read by someone over the age of 12.

And if headlines aren’t your strong suit … fix that. You don’t have to be clever — clarity is much more effective. Be sure the headline communicates how the reader will benefit from reading that piece of content.

#2: Make it strategic

Not all entertaining, readable content will move a prospect closer to becoming a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “Likes” you have, if you’re not communicating the benefits of doing business with you.

This is where your copywriting skills will pay off. You don’t actually have to be able to put the words together yourself — but you need to understand the underlying strategic elements of copywriting.

That means you know the difference between benefits and features — and your content focuses on the benefits of your product or service.

It means you know how to overcome your most common objections.

It means you understand social proof, calls to action, your unique selling proposition … and you use these elements in your content.

You don’t need to cram every copywriting element into a single piece of content, and you probably shouldn’t. Content should look like content, not advertising.

But it still serves a strategic purpose.

To borrow a phrase from classic sales training, your content exists to get prospects to know, like, and trust you. (Duct Tape readers know this is the top half of the marketing hourglass.)

That high-quality experience is what paves the path to a sale.

#3: Make it shareable

Did you get sucked into the “social media marketing” buzzfest over the last few years?

Well, social media marketing (when it’s effective) is content marketing. Banner ads and promoted tweets can’t hold a candle to strong content. And social media is typically the most cost-effective way to carry content right to the prospects you’re looking for.

Take a look at what Oreo did last weekend by posting a single piece of visual content to Facebook. It’s generated publicity (overwhelmingly positive, despite some rumblings for a boycott) that even Kraft/Nabisco couldn’t buy.

Social media is a terrific venue for getting your entertaining, strategic content shared. The specifics change somewhat year to year — this year’s hot spots are Facebook and Twitter, next year we may be looking at different platforms.

But the essential strategy remains the same. Look at how your prospects and customers share the type of content you’re creating … then make it easy and enjoyable for them to actually share it.

How about you?

Is content marketing an important part of your business? What elements do you consider essential to a successful program?

Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: npmeijer

Thursday Guest Stars

Here are your guest contributors for Thursday’s edition of the Duct Tape Marketing Small Business Week iPad Giveaway.

Read each of the five posts that follow and click our entry form link to match the guest star with their post.

Keith Ferrazzi
Keith Ferrazzi is the author of Never Eat Alone and the founder of the Relationship Masters Academy, an online training program for networking that offers the structure and support to put Keith’s bestselling books into action in your life for unparalleled career success and satisfaction. Go here to learn more!

Joseph Jaffe

Joseph Jaffe is President of jaffe, LLC.  His popular blog and audio podcast, “Jaffe Juice”, provides daily and weekly commentary respectively on all things new marketing. His latest book, “Flip the Funnel: How to use existing customers to gain new ones,” presents a powerful hypothesis that retention can become the new acquisition through the strategic incorporation and elevation of customer service, customer experience and customer initiated word-of-mouth, content creation and incentive-based referrals.

David Meerman Scott

David is the author of 7 books, Real-Time Marketing & PR , is his newest addition to the collection.  His blog – Web Ink Now – is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.  David has presented at hundreds of industry conferences and events and the marketing programs he has developed are responsible for selling over one billion in products and services worldwide.

Bob Burg

Bob Burg’s national bestseller, The Go-Giver, has been heralded as a new business classic.  Bob is an advocate, supporter and defender of the Free Enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportional to how many people they serve and how well they serve them. Find out more information about Bob Burg here.

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit is a founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, the world’s largest global network of social media strategists. His personal marketing blog called Influential Marketing has been recognized as one of the top 25 marketing blogs in the world and was featured in the Wall Street Journal. He also teaches global marketing at Georgetown University.

Sonia Simone

Sonia Simone is the senior editor of Copyblogger and a co-founder of Copyblogger Media, a company with a suite of valued marketing and training products and more than 55,000 customers. Copyblogger Media empowers online writers and content producers to command attention, create engagement, and influence people as powerful players in the new media revolution.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 1

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

David Meerman Scott

David is the author of 7 books, Real-Time Marketing & PR , is his newest addition to the collection. His blog – Web Ink Now – is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog. David has presented at hundreds of industry conferences and events and the marketing programs he has developed are responsible for selling over one billion in products and services worldwide.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 1

Say NO to squeezing your buyers. You have a choice.

When you want to get more “leads” into the top of your sales funnel, you have the option of not requiring people to register to get the valuable content that your company creates (an ebook or white paper perhaps).

Here are the three options for offering valuable information:

1. Requiring an email address (and other personal information) prior to your buyers being permitted to download content. With a gate, each person downloading becomes a valuable sales lead. This is a very typical yet flawed approach.

2. Making the content totally free with no registration required. Value comes from many more people consuming and spreading your content.

3. Implementing a hybrid scheme. This takes a leap of faith but typically pays off for those who try this controversial approach.

The vast majority of marketers choose option 1 and require a form up front to get leads. You must resist this because:

- Registration is a holdover from direct mail days (when a business reply card was the way to fulfill a white paper request). Is a direct mail technique right for today’s hyper-connected web?

- Requiring registration greatly reduces the number of people who download something. One of my ebooks has been downloaded close to one million times. With a registration requirement, I’m convinced it would be only a few thousand.

- Because bloggers do not like to send their readers to something that could cause them to get onto unwanted lists, when there is a registration requirement, very few (if any) bloggers will talk it up and you get little or no inbound links.

- When lots of people link to your stuff, you rise in the search results. For example, The MailerMailer Email Marketing Metrics Report is number one for their important phrase email marketing metrics as a result of free content. With a squeeze page, you’re lucky to get into the first 20 pages on Google for a phrase like “email marketing metrics”.

But you want leads, right? So for you option 2 (just making the content free) may not work.

That’s why when asked about this religious discussion in my live presentations, I also offer a third option, which is a hybrid.

I suggest the first offer be totally free (such as an ebook). Then within the ebook, have a secondary offer that requires registration that you can use to capture leads. A secondary offer might be a Webinar or free trial or something else of value.

This hybrid approach will both spread your ideas and generate leads!

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 2

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit is a founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, the world’s largest global network of social media strategists. His personal marketing blog called Influential Marketing has been recognized as one of the top 25 marketing blogs in the world and was featured in the Wall Street Journal. He also teaches global marketing at Georgetown University.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 2

There was a moment in the movie Forrest Gump where he was caught with his friend Lieutenant Dan in a huge storm on board their shrimp boat. As a storm rolls in and destroys all the boats docked at the port, Gump’s boat survives thanks to being out at sea. He comes back, ends up with a relatively monopoly over shrimp boating and gets rich.

So the obvious lesson here for getting more leads is to watch for storms and hope to be the last boat standing. Of course, that will probably be hard advice to follow if you happen to not be in the business of shrimp boating, or not really excited about the idea of having a business strategy focused on hoping for a big storm.

The irony is, that is exactly what many small businesses are doing with their marketing by placing ads in locations that are unlikely to be acted on, following ill-advised trends or advice to create social media graveyards (which never see the light of any attention or conversation), and assuming that just offering a good product or service will spread.

Hope is not a marketing strategy.

Instead, consider that leads come from many different methods. Here are a few that could be worth focusing on:

1. Show up in real life. There are dozens of events taking place in just about every region. Are you making an effort to show up and meet the right people in person?

2. Share expertise for free. Often you will be in a position where you are selling some type of expertise – but how much of it are you offering for free? Free advice, particularly online, has a way of paying off in terms of building your reputation as an expert. And reputation leads to, well, leads.

3. Make powerful friends. As the new social media adage goes – it’s not who you know, but who knows you. The more influencers who you can build relationships with, the more likely those will come back to your business directly with new leads and referrals based on what you do.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 3

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Sonia Simone

Sonia Simone is the senior editor of Copyblogger and a co-founder of Copyblogger Media, a company with a suite of valued marketing and training products and more than 55,000 customers. Copyblogger Media empowers online writers and content producers to command attention, create engagement, and influence people as powerful players in the new media revolution.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 3

It’s funny how many of our moms’ and grandmas’ most-treasured recipes came from the backs of cans, jars, and boxes.

Recipes are irresistible — and not just the cream-of-mushroom casserole kind.

The fact is, all of us have recipes in our business — sequences of steps that can help our customers get what they want.

It might be “8 ways to take out stains,” “7 ways to save money and headaches on your kitchen remodel,” or “12 simple secrets to reducing neck and back pain.”

One of my very favorite spots for this kind of recipe is the email newsletter. More specifically, it’s the email autoresponder — a sequence of messages that gets sent to each and every new subscriber to your email list.

When you create an email sequence that forms a killer recipe, the reader develops the habit of opening each message.

Sure, he can still unsubscribe when he’s finally captured the final step. But by that time, if your recipe is good enough, you’ve created trust. Your reader has started to know and like you.

You’ve just emailed him 9 times in a row and you haven’t sent him any junk. Just valuable, good information that gets him a result he wants.

Think he’s likely to open that 10th email?

Think he’s likely to refer your autoresponder to a friend?

Think he’s likely to talk you up on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter?

You bet he is … I’ve seen in it my own business.

The recipe for a great email autoresponder

Make sure your “recipe” delivers a solution that your prospect really wants.

1. Break your recipe into a 7-10 part sequence. Whenever you can, make each one a quick standalone tip that brings immediate results.

2. Deliver your recipe using the autoresponder function of your email marketing program. If your email service doesn’t let you put together an autoresponder with as many messages as you need, consider using a new service.

3. Write the best content you can. The time you put in now can continue to work hard for your business for years to come. If writing isn’t your strong suit, this is a great time to bring in a professional copywriter — you’ll get great ROI on a relatively modest investment.

4. Rather than selling your products or services, start to “sell” your great free recipe. It will build trust and rapport, so that down the line you can fully explain all the benefits of what you do.

You’ll find it’s much easier to promote this kind of high-quality free content, particularly with social media, than it is to try to jump right to the sale of your product or service.

Deliver a great recipe for your topic, and just like that killer marinara sauce on the back of the tomato can, it will get passed along.

You’re not just bringing in leads, you’re nurturing them and building your reputation … and that’s the kind of lead generation that will keep paying off for months and years to come.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 4

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Keith Ferrazzi

Keith Ferrazzi is the author of Never Eat Alone and the founder of the Relationship Masters Academy, an online training program for networking that offers the structure and support to put Keith’s bestselling books into action in your life for unparalleled career success and satisfaction. Go here to learn more!

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 4

“The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling.” – Lucretius

Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Then follow up.

The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95 percent of your peers. The follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking tool kit. In fact, FOLLOW-UP IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN ANY FIELD.

Making sure a new acquaintance retains your name (and the favorable impression you’ve created) is a process you should set in motion right after you’ve met someone.

Why go to all the trouble of meeting new people if you’re not going to work on making them a part of your life? Give yourself between twelve and twenty-four hours after you meet someone to follow up. If you meet somebody on a plane, send them an e-mail later that day. If you meet somebody over cocktails, send them an e-mail the next morning.

Some tips for flawless follow-up:

Put the name and e-mail address of a new acquaintance in your database and program your calendar to remind you in a month’s time to drop the person another e-mail, just to keep in touch.

Remember—and this is critical—your follow up shouldn’t remind them of what they can do for you. It’s about what you might be able to do for them. It’s about giving them a reason to want to follow up.

Always express your gratitude.

Be sure to include an item of interest from your meeting or conversation—a joke or a shared moment of humor.

Reaffirm whatever commitments you both made—going both ways.

Be brief and to the point.

Always address the thank-you note to the person by name.

Use e-mail and snail mail. The combination adds a personalized touch.

Timeliness is key. Send them as soon as possible after the meeting or interview.

Many people wait until the holidays to say thank you or reach out. Why wait? Your follow-ups will be timelier, more appropriate, and certainly better remembered.

Don’t forget to follow up with those who have acted as the go between for you and someone else. Let the original referrer know how the conversation went, and express your appreciation for their help.

Make follow-up a habit. Make it automatic. When you do, the days of struggling to remember people’s names—and of other people struggling to remember yours—will be a thing of the past.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 5

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Bob Burg

Bob Burg’s national bestseller, The Go-Giver, has been heralded as a new business classic. Bob is an advocate, supporter and defender of the Free Enterprise system, believing that the amount of money one makes is directly proportional to how many people they serve and how well they serve them. Find out more information about Bob Burg here.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 5

First, let’s define “Top of the Funnel.” These are people who, while perhaps qualify as prospects they are little more than that. In other words, while they now “know” you, the “like and trust” part of the “know, like and trust” equation is not yet there. Nor, is the need, want or desire for your product or service. Thus, they are at the “top”…the starting point.

The more people at the top of the funnel, the more will likely work their way down into actually becoming prospects and/or referral sources. This, of course, assumes you are correctly building the relationships.

This is why, when people ask, “which is more important, quantity or quality?” I generally answer, “it’s not an either/or, but a both. However, the key is the focus. Since high-*quality* relationships lead to direct business and referrals, focusing on quality over quantity results in an even greater quantity of quality.”

Fortunately, whether in-person or via the various social media, it’s easy to begin the process. In a sense, it’s about identifying the right people (or having them identify you!), meeting (connecting with) them, and building the relationship.

So, in-person? Your local Chamber event, BNI chapter, charity function, etc. Ask questions focused 100% on them; make them feel good about themselves: “How did you get started?” “What do you enjoy most about what you do?”

Online via blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Engage them with value. Comment on something in their bio, post or tweet. Ask questions about them. Connect them with others (only with permission, of course), etc.

The best of all is through a referral. Usually, referrals begin already much closer to the sales point, but not always. Sometimes they come in at the top, as well.

Regardless, the key is, at the very moment you “meet’ them, communicate value; no, not in your products or services, but as a person. It’s as simple as that. And, best not to make it any more difficult.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 6

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Joseph Jaffe

Joseph Jaffe is President of jaffe, LLC. His popular blog and audio podcast, “Jaffe Juice”, provides daily and weekly commentary respectively on all things new marketing. His latest book, “Flip the Funnel: How to use existing customers to gain new ones,” presents a powerful hypothesis that retention can become the new acquisition through the strategic incorporation and elevation of customer service, customer experience and customer initiated word-of-mouth, content creation and incentive-based referrals.

How Do I Get More Leads in the Top of the Funnel 6

Want more leads for the top of your funnel? Then perhaps you want to take a step back and think about WHY you needed those leads in the first place. Did you not have enough customers to begin with? Or perhaps you just didn’t convince them to spend enough….keep coming back for more….and tell others about it. Or perhaps you just lost them – through poor customer experience, service or support, or just plain apathy (being forgotten)

Unless you’re a new business without a very short track record, getting new leads is really not your problem at all. Your real problem is churn. Attrition. You lose customers and try and constantly try and replace them with new blood. You are addicted to acquisition as you cast out that wide net, which just happens to be full of holes.
And you’re not alone.

But what would happen if, instead of ending with the sales conversation; the new customer, you began with the customer purchase? What would happen if you focused on the 20% of your customers responsible for 80% of your revenue? What would happen if you rewarded and recognized your lifeblood instead of wooing imperfect strangers or first time buyers with a slew of deals, discounts , special offers and/or coupons?

Would they pay it forward in return?

If Community 1.0 and 2.0 were the buzzwords of the original digital and more recent social media waves, then advocacy is going to be the next wave that crests and breaks on the shores of marketing engagement and innovation. Using existing customers to gain new ones by proving that retention is the new acquisition is a whole new paradigm that goes back to the future in order to demonstrate that word-of-mouth is most influential and credible when it comes from the hearts and minds of actual customers.

This is ultimately how a small, growing or even larger business can grow its revenue, customer and content base from the inside out by adding new leads to the traditional funnel without necessarily having to sacrifice any on the back end.

It’s good business sense. It’s common sense. And it’s a surefire way to add substantial dollars and cents to your top line growth and bottom line profitability.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here