Content Marketing – Beyond the Buzz Words

buzzwordsThere are many buzzwords that marketing professionals are faced with during their day-to-day activities. In the world of digital marketing there is a seemingly endless supply of them. However, amidst all the noise there are important terms that require our attention and deeper understanding. One of those terms is content marketing. Not only is it essential to understand what content marketing is (and not in a general way), but to know how it drives results. To help readers understand how to implement an effective content marketing program, here is a list of the top three areas to focus your content marketing efforts on.

  • Know Your Customer – It’s almost impossible to develop a content marketing plan if you don’t have a deep understanding of the services your company offers and why customers buy them. In product sales it’s much easier to understand the customer than in a professional services firm. For this reason, it’s important to spend time with the people who know your target client and their industry to gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s psychology and needs. Only then can content be developed that speaks to them. Creating a niche brings this expertise over time.
  • Create Customer Based Content – Once you have an understanding of the customer then you can develop content that speaks to them. For example, if your company is an accounting firm that provides international tax services, you need to provide content that deals with issues that prospects are facing. An article topic might be the 10 Things to Consider When Doing Business in the United States, or Key Tax Concerns for International Professionals. In this content, you are not just describing a service rather you are taking the prospects viewpoints and developing content around the issues and challenges they are facing. Our experience says that the more the content focuses on customer needs the better it will perform.
  • Know the Sales Cycle – This is probably the most important part of content marketing. Timing is everything so if you don’t know when what parcels of content should run at what time of year then you are diminishing the opportunity to drive results. As such, it’s important to spend time speaking with understanding your target market’s business cycle and others to assess when is the right time to run and feature specific types of content. Over and over again we have seen that when sales cycle appropriate content is featured it out performs and increases the number of conversions the website receives.

Content marketing is a comprehensive process that requires a deep understanding of the company, industry and services offered. Without these foundational items in place the other work and effort expended will have only a limited value.

Getting Found By Building an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy.

Digital MarketingThere are many issues to consider when building an effective digital marketing strategy for your company. Using an approach that will help your organization “get found” on the internet is often a high priority for many organizations. However, the more one reads up on the topic of how to do this effectively, the more overwhelming it can seem.

To help marketing professionals and management get started in the right direction, we have developed a short list of foundational items that every digital marketing strategy that is focused on “getting found”  should include.

  • Keyword Targeting – Identifying the search terms that your customers and prospects will use to find your company is critical. Actually, this is the first step in targeting your website even before content. The reason why is that you need to understand what search terms will be used before you can craft content that caters to it. The best place to find good keyword terms is in your analytics program. There you will be able to see a list of the top performing keywords that are already attracting traffic. In addition, be careful to consider what services, events or programs offered by the company that you want to draw attention to. Then use a keyword research tool like the one offered in Google AdWords to develop new combinations. The more options the better as it will give you a chance to see what variations are most effective. Remember keyword targeting is about having a variety of terms at your disposal. Over time consider experimenting with terms to see what is most effective at accomplishing your goals
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Good keyword targeting can only take you so far. You need to ensure your website adheres to best practices to ensure that it can be found. Now most think of keywords as SEO, but there is a lot more to it than that. There are other elements to consider including pdf optimization, cross linking of content, meta tag optimization and structural concerns like if a sitemap is used and how your robots.txt file is structured. While most companies make an initial investment in SEO to get the site up to speed, it’s important to remember that as a site grows and new content is added that detailed SEO attention needs to follow. If there are issues with the site optimization then it can diminish the impact of the other elements in your strategy. Confused by this?  Talk to your web developer or SEO specialist and get professional assistance.
  • Social Promotion & Integration – By now most companies have social media accounts whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google Plus. Quite often though companies don’t seem to have a strategy for how they are leveraging specific platforms to promote their company. This is evident by the fact that many share the same type of information across all platforms. Consider how to use each platform to engage your target audience in a meaningful way. For example, the way to use LinkedIn to reach customers is completely different from Facebook or even Twitter. Pick the right platform for the right audience and your social promotion efforts will be a success. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment here.  The results come over time, so remember to be patient.

How your strategy evolves is dependent on a number of factors. You will always be adjusting based on results and the ever-changing rules of search.  However, if you keep focused on these foundational items you are sure to experience positive results and strong ROI from your efforts. If your company has already started on these areas then taking a second look may help to mix things up and produce positive changes.

 

Ask More Questions.

Letter-Q-icon As a meeting facilitator, I often use a technique called Q-Storming to lead a discussion.  This technique, from the Inquiry Institute is designed to get people to ask questions to solve a problem, rather than make statements.  By asking questions, participants are able to open their thoughts wider and consider new ideas and angles.  With traditional brainstorming, people make statements. Often, they are stuck inside of their own heads and have a pre-determined idea of how an issue should be dealt with.  Q-Storming turns those definitive ideas into more creative solutions and makes people consider other factors.

Q-Storming can be used in a variety of situations. It can be used for a company to work through a strategic plan or home in on a specific corporate initiative. Associations might use it to work with committees to develop a new program or to get everyone on the same page.  Internal teams can use it to see other people’s perspectives in a non-threatening way.

I’ve been using this technique for a few years and have developed my own take on it.  In some cases, everyone in the group is given a pad of posts-it notes and writes down all of the questions that they have about a particular issue.  Once they exhaust the questions from their mind, they group them on walls in the appropriate topic category.  Depending on the complexity of the issue, there may or may not be a second round of questions.  If there is only one round, the group or facilitator may choose to address the questions head on or look at the trends and talk to those.  I generally make the decision on how to proceed based on a number of factors including time, desired outcome, organizational politics and complexity.  In any case, it is important to know what type of result is needed before proceeding any type of brainstorming session.

Here are some observations that I have come across after using this technique for the last few years.

  • Everyone has good ideas, they just express them differently.
  • People can look at the exact same issue and see it so differently you wouldn’t recognize it as the same problem.
  • A level-playing field motivates people to speak up. When the emphasis is off of the leader, people’s true opinions and ideas can be revealed.
  • Asking questions can surprise people and help them uncover thoughts in themselves they never knew they had.
  • Having a facilitator allows leaders to participate without overshadowing staff.
  • It’s hard to say “no” when you are asking questions which leads to more “yeses”
  • People enjoy a physical activity that involves movement.  They get excited about the process which leads to creativity.

If you are looking for a new way to work through complex business issues, Q-storming is an approach you may want to consider.

Technology: Gratitude Over Fear

Access to TechnologyYesterday I had the honor of attending the Mashable Social Good Summit.  The conference is described as “a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Held during UN Week from September 21-22, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions for the greatest challenges of our time.”

The lineup of speakers is impressive.  From Pharrell to Michael Dell to Alicia Keys to Melinda Gates the speaker list gets your attention.  But there are a lot more names that you may not have heard of including Jampa from Tibet. She was the first woman in her community to go to college. Or Jensine Larsen, CEO and Founder of World Pulse, the leading network using the power of digital media to connect women worldwide and bring them a global voice. These women are making a difference in the world. During her panel discussion Jensine really opened my eyes to the fact that many women on this planet that we share want, dream, long to be connected.  Even in developing nations, there are women who know that technology exists and that it can empower them to change the world.  They don’t fear technology; they fear their lives if they cannot access technology. They have a deep understanding that technology can help them change the world.  One of the most profound things I heard yesterday was when Jensine said “A woman with a laptop can be more powerful than a man with a gun.” Access truly is power.

This got me thinking to my own experiences and the women (and men) I encounter in the classes that I teach.  All too often I meet professionals who resist learning and embracing technology. They make excuses as to why they can’t learn it. They joke that they just let their kids do it for them.  They view technology as an obstacle and not the valuable tool that it can be.

My teaching style is to never make anyone feel stupid and to encourage them to take advantage of the resources that are available to them. I teach, but more so, I encourage. I want them to do better with technology, to make a difference.

To these people, I share this message in hopes that their perspective might shift.  If you live in a country and have a job where you are fortunate enough to access to laptops, smartphones, tablets and reliable internet access, I ask you to consider the alternative. We are so blessed to have these tools in our lives. Tools that help us connect to clients, prospects, colleagues and friends.  We are blessed to be able to learn about the latest and greatest technologies and to be able to use them. We are blessed to be able to attend events where people like myself and my peers are so very willing to teach you.   To you, I ask that you let go of the fear and begin learning today.

The Internet is a Bunch of Crap.

Fake Vacation PhotoI am totally in love with Dutch student, Zilla van den Born, who faked her South East Asian vacation to prove a point that much of what we read on the internet is completely false.  She spent her time off from friends and family using her Photoshop skills to create a fake experience.  One that probably made her friends and family quite jealous.

I completely understand why she did it.  She was proving what a lot of us think on a regular basis.  That people make their lives seem more exciting than they really are.  She took it to the extreme to make her point.  We see posts from people that make us think they are happy; that they are rich; that they are successful; that life is perfect.

The truth is that some people are able to put on a positive face, even when things are tough.  They are able to show the good things in life, even when things really suck. Yes, there are people who need/want attention and put things out there to get buzz.  However, consider why they do it? Is it for attention or are they in need? Are they hurting in some way?

The internet is a wonderful place full of information that teaches us new things. The internet gives people a chance to connect, to have an opinion, share and debate ideas.  It’s also like a dangerous game of telephone where facts get distorted and the simplest things can get misinterpreted.  In some cases it is intentional.  Either to create a stir or for malicious reasons.  But in so many cases people’s emotions and own insecurities that spark misinformation.

As I have thought more and more about this, I have developed some some rules to live by:

  • Don’t believe everything you read.  Check multiple sources before you share something.
  • Everyone has a hard time.  Check in with people even if everything seems wonderful. You might be surprised by what you learn.
  • Think about what you share and how it might be perceived.
  • Get inspired by what you see. If you feel jealous, figure out what you can do that would be awesome.  Not all happiness comes from fancy vacations and beautiful meals.  Make your own fun.
  • Don’t believe everything that you read on the internet.

 

 

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