Posts

content marketing

Busted: I Haven’t Practiced What I Preach

I admit it. I have not been practicing what I preach. For those who follow me, either through blogging or speaking engagements, I often talk about content marketing and how to do it well. One of the things I “preach” about, is frequency. WELL…the last time I posted on this blog was about a month and a half a go. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it is not that I haven’t been writing and blogging. I have. But, just not for my own blog. I feel a bit like the carpenter – you know the one who is always working for others, but not finishing the work he or she has at home. So, while no one has called me out, I am calling me out. I am busted: I haven’t practiced what I preach! The question is: what will I do about it?

content marketing

Image courtesy of www.keepcalmandposters.com

I do have a plan however! Ya, I am one of them. I make plans and lists and even pros and cons lists! Ironically I haven’t made a pros and cons list for awhile, but after a Friday conversation with my 212 degrees buddy, I realized how much I miss the value that they bring to the equation. So, I made one last night for a specific issue. It helped significantly..but I digress….back to content marketing and my plan.

1.  Dust off my editorial calendar

I also admit that writing as much as I have for others, including some really, really fantastic industry blogs I have let my own editorial calendar kinda get dusty. So, I have spent some time thinking about my own calendar and doing some planning. While it took a few hours, it was well worth it.

2.  Setting Realistic expectations

While I do believe I should be blogging at least five times a week for my blog, that might not be realistic right now. In total I am writing for more than seven different sources at the moment. And, while I love it, I have obligations and commitments to develop content for others that I have to put first. I want to give them the best content I can so they can achieve the goals that they have for lead generation and reputation/thought-leadership.  This is important to me. So, I will strive to blog three times a week for my own blog.

3. Finish the Eight Drafts

Again, no excuse for not creating my own content. I actually have eight blog posts in draft format.  Something was holding me back from publishing them. Some little piece of the content was not quite right. After reading them, I know what I need to do to make them “right”. All I really needed to do was pause and reflect. Look at them critically and view them as my audience would. Sometimes absence is a good thing.

4. Make a Commitment to Myself

In the journey to financial independence, advisors tell us to pay ourselves first. I guess the same can be said about writing your own blog. Write for yourself first. While it is extremely important for me to meet my commitments to others for content, I can’t forget how important it is for my own audience. I do have people who read my content and often send me wonderful feedback, comments and questions. So, for them and myself, I need to make a commitment. Will I fall off the wagon again? It’s possible. I am, after all, only human. So, if I do, prod me..poke me and call me out. It’s o.k.

5.  Have Fun

I love writing. Somewhere along the way though I was making it a bit too formulaic though. I am not sure why. Maybe I was trying to emulate some of the serious stuff I see out there. While business is all about return on investment and turning a profit, there is (and should be) a human element. People do like to have fun, and I need to be me and not someone else! So, I will commit to being me.

There. That is my plan. Simple and uncomplicated.

Like what you read here? Be sure to follow me on Twitter and/or follow my blog!

The Sunday Brief (May 25, 2014)

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Brief.  The Sunday Brief is intended to share with you a few of my top picks from the previous week.  As I always say, sit back and relax with your favourite cup of Joe and enjoy! (If you have a fav that is not on the list, be sure to let me know).The Sunday Brief heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

(I am a bit tardy this week…so it is really a Monday Brief, but I won’t tell if you won’t.  Too much gardening this weekend took all of my attention.)

1.  How Like-Gating Facebook Campaigns Can Hurt Your Business, by Jim Belosic

Like Jim, I think that Facebook “Likes” are overrated.  Sure, you need your minimum to get your stats when you are first starting out, but you need to look at the bigger picture.  Likes do NOT translate to converted sales or even leads for that matter.  It is an illusion that people are trying to create.

The real value comes from engagement and actual shares of content that is consumed.  Lack of consumption is also a failure.

2.  7 Crazy Good Examples of Branded Content

This is a great blog post that shows some very concrete examples of seven different types of content that brands can and should be using.  It doesn’t have to be complicated and this post demonstrates that very well.

3.  Two Reasons Why “How Can I Help You?” Is The Wrong Question To Ask, by Amber Naslund 

Amber is certainly no stranger to anyone in social media, and now I dare say, dog rescue!  The post I chose of hers, is actually not from this past week, but earlier this year. However, I came across it again early last week and it just resonated with me.  I was helping a client and something just seemed off. This helped me refocus.  A good read at any time.

If you have suggestions for next week’s The Sunday Brief, feel free to reach out to me and send me your picks!

5 Ways Content Marketing is Essential for Top of the Funnel Sales Process

Content marketing continues to be one of the most important tools in the marketing tool box, and it should be.  After all, when done properly, content marketing helps drive leads.  Known as top of the funnel content, or TOFU as we affectionately call it in the business, why not take advantage of good content marketing?  Here are 5 ways content marketing is essential to your top of the funnel sales process:

3 Reasons Why Content Marketing is Important to Top of Funnel Sales, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of alanblume.wordpress.com

1. Buyers Want Content

Think about what you do when you want to learn about something.  Chances are that you hit the Web to research products, services, locations, etc.  The better the information that you find, the more informed you feel.  This is essential in terms of beginning of the buying/selling process.  When a prospect is in the beginning stages, that person wants/needs information.  Give them what they want and what they need.

And, chances are the prospect will develop a level of trust and/or connection to the source that provided excellent and educational content.

2.  Balance the Selling versus Informing

Again, think back to your own experience.  When you research something new as you begin your buying cycle how do you feel when you start reading an article or blog that appears to answer all your burning questions only to find out that it was a cleverly disguised sales pitch?  Well, if you are like me, you are probably annoyed and click out of the site.  The only time that I don’t feel that way is “if” someone has already won me over with great content AND they did so without being all salesy and pitchy.

The lesson here, is don’t make your content all about you, how wonderful you are and how much you can help someone or some organization.  Top of the Funnel Content that works best is content that is helpful, but generic in nature.  People get turned off by this.  TOFU is intended to move prospects from the top of the funnel down to the middle of the funnel, or again as we like to say to MOFU.

3.  Promote Your Content

So, you have figured out what content to create and you have balanced the salesy tone with useful information that prospects will and can use, but now what?  How do you get people to find and read your content.

You have to share your content of course.  You need to determine the right channels to use for your business.  Most businesses tend to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn Company Groups as the place to promote content.  However, don’t forget about Facebook Google+ and LinkedIn Groups.  Be sure to understand how each channel is used.  For example, if you use all of these channels, be sure that you are posting at the right intervals, using images and the right language.  Also, remember not to spam people.  For LinkedIn Groups for example, don’t just join a group to post your content.  Be sure to join appropriate groups and comment and like posts of others.

The goal of course is to bring your prospects back to your website and to ultimately move them down the funnel.  Finding the right channels and sharing will help you do this, provided you aren’t just pushing your own content only.  Remember to build relationships and contribute to the Group.

4.  Bring in the Experts

In addition to your own team of experts, reach out and create a Thought-Leadership Program.  Build relationships with the Thought-Leaders of your industry and share their content and ultimately determine ways that you can have them participate in your content.  A great way to leverage experts is through interviews.  They are very busy and agreeing to do a quick interview is often the path of least resistance.  The caveat of course, is building the relationship first.

5. Practice Consistency Patience

As mentioned in #3, the goal is to bring your prospects back to your website and to ultimately move them down the funnel.  It would be great if this happened immediately and with every post.  In reality however, this is not quite how it works. It does take time, consistency and patience.  Posting good content on a regular schedule is critical to your success.

When you combine these four practices, content marketing will make a difference in your top of the funnel sales process.  Want to learn more?  Feel free to sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

5 Content Marketing Tips for Start-ups

Entrepreneurs have a lot on their minds when doing a start-up.  Not only are they building a business, but because of being resource-challenged, they are also doing their own marketing a lot of the time.  Those who have marketing mentors will get some great advice on how to actually develop and execute marketing plans, strategies and tactics, but  for those that don’t have mentors just yet, here are 5 content marketing tips specifically for start-ups.

5 Content Marketing Tips for  Start-ups, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of flatironcomm.com

1.  You are a Brand

If you haven’t had much of a personal brand before starting up a company, you will definitely have one now. And, depending on your business, you could be a real hot commodity for people.  This means that everything you do, there will be someone watching. With start-ups being super sexy right now, founders of start-ups are like the modern day rock stars. Everyone wants to say they knew you “when.”

This really is where the challenge/opportunity is. You can and will have influence. So, while you might not have thought about what you Tweeted, posted to Facebook, or shared in some forum previously, you now need to think about it. How does what you are doing/sharing reflect not just on your own brand, but your start-up brand? What will advisors think? What will potential investors think?

2.  Develop a Content Calendar

This is probably one of the big misses that many Content Marketers have.  Never forget to create a content calendar. Creating a calendar and mapping out what is happening will help you develop themes and key areas to focus your content marketing efforts.  Your calendar should also include what channels you will leverage, what paid media you will use and any influencers that you include.

Having a content calendar will really help you be focused and clear.

3.  Know Your Audience

If there is one constant I have for reminding people of how to do content marketing, it is to know your audience.  Exactly who are you targeting with your marketing? Where do they hang out? What language do they use? What information do “they” want. What information will help your audience? When you know this you need to tailor your language as well as where you share your content to meet audience expectations.

This also means writing for your start-up audience and not your personal audience. Going back to point #1, carefully consider what you create for blog posts for example. Remember you are not writing for your college dorm friends. You are now writing for your business audience. So, forget blogging about your past weekend adventures at the bars.

4.  Include a Call to Action

Great content is always helped with a call to action at the end of each post.  Be sure to always include one.

5.  Measure

Once you start publishing content, be sure to measure your results. What is working? What is not working?  Track your numbers and understand them. Measuring your progress will help guide you to make informed decisions about what is working well for you and your business, saving you time while also generating leads.

Want more information?  Feel free to sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

 

 

 

 

3 Tips Smart Content Marketers Can Learn From Downton Abbey

If you haven’t heard of Downton Abbey by now I am not sure what you have been doing.  I dare say that each of us who work in content marketing would love to have the audience that Downton has achieved.  In fact, according to Entertainment Weekly the Season 4 premiere on PBS was up 22 percent over premier of Season 3.  So, what is it that makes this show so riveting?  And, are there lessons to be learned?  There are definite lessons that content marketers can learn from the success of Downton.  Here are 3:

Image courtesy of www.26.org.uk

Image courtesy of www.26.org.uk

 

 1.  Be a Good Storyteller

This is probably the most consistent message you will hear about content marketing.  Some marketers are better at it than others. I continue to work at this.  Sometimes I hit the mark.  Sometimes I do not.

We can all take some tips from Julian Fellowes.  Just watching the show has given me ideas.  It is enough of a break from the same-old-same-old that my mind can think about new and fresh ideas.

2.  Don’t Blend In

In a sea of so-called reality TV of Housewives, singing contests and storage/pawn-a-thons, Downton Abbey is clearly different.  The characters are actors being actors and not people pretending that they aren’t following some contrived storyline.  The characters have depth versus one-dimensional and predictable personalities.

When creating content we all follow the prescribed approach don’t we?  Create a list – just like I have done here.  Ensure that it relates to something timely and topical – just like I have done here.  However, we to stop there.  We don’t  think differently.  Fellowes really demonstrates that being completely different from the norm or the expected, resonates with the audience.

3.  Create Suspense

This might be the biggest challenge for content marketers.  We tend to write independent stand-alone pieces.  We only have your attention for a short time after all.  However, if done well, this might be a great opportunity.  This could be the best way to shake up your audience and you certainly won’t blend in with the rest.  This will be an area that I explore.  How can I create suspense?  And, will I be successful?

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 2.55.53 PM

These are just three areas that content marketers can look to Downton Abbey for inspiration and learnings.  What would you add to the mix?

Marketing Challenges of 2014: The Influencers Weigh-in

If 2013 taught us anything, content marketing is not going anywhere.  Nearly all leading companies finally have content strategies.  With this in mind, tactics have had to change.  What do brands do to stand out in a sea of content that flows freely in every digital space that can possibly exist?  Good question!    Thankfully you have come to the right place!  I asked 5 of the top influencers what brands should be doing in 2014 to stand out. Let’s see what they have to say:

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 12.57.18 PM

1.  The Return of Good Writing (Tweet this)

@marketingprofs’ Ann Handley thoughts focus on the words you use and how you use them.

“Next—in 2014 and beyond—content grows up, and with it comes the notion that good writing is the foundation of all good content, whether that content is a 140-character tweet or the product pages of your website or your content marketing infographic…..Increasingly, organizations will realize that words matter. Your words (what you say) and style (how you say it) are your most cherished (and undervalued) assets. In other words, good writing is the basis of good content that gets noticed, no matter what form that content ultimately takes. What’s more: For businesses, good writing is a mirror of good, clear, customer-centric thinking.”

2.  Being Uniquely Creative While Being Authentic (Tweet this)

Radian6 and IntroHive Co-founder David Alston (@davidalston) knows from experience that in order to stand out, you need to be unique.  After all, Radian6 did this with their Community Strategy and won the hearts and minds of a fantastic community.

“Content marketing and social media are mainstream so the big thing in 2014 will not be if you use them, but how creative your brand will be. Just using each no longer let’s your brand stand out. How you string them together and how you tie them into other platforms and processes creatively will help make your brand shine in a sea of noise.”

3. Focus on the Customer First – Before the Technology (Tweet this)

Influence Marketing Co-Author Danny Brown (@dannybrown) believes there needs to be a return to actually understanding what our customers want.

“…without understanding what your customer wants, and at what stage of the buying cycle they’re at so you can prime your message for that exact moment, it doesn’t matter how cool the technology is, or the channels we use, or the implementation of a tactic. We now have linguistic mapping tools that allow us to segment customers, who they connect with, what they’re looking for, and archival history with our brand’s core business or competitors. 2014 will see us, as marketers in the social space, truly take advantage of that technology and deliver on the ROI approach that 2013 saw us begin to implement.”

4.  Become Superior Short Form Storytellers  (Tweet this)

Digital Veteran and HBR contributor, David Armano (@armano) believes that if you want to be successful in standing out, remember that people have short attention spans.

“Short form storytelling in the form of Vines, Snaps, Instavids etc. and short stories on YouTube [will be key]. Brands need the ability to tell a meaningful “story” quickly, sometimes in seconds or other times through a series of images. Stories that have “sharing power” built into them or where you can become a part of the story (think hashtags on Vine where people do their own Ryan Gosling video etc.). So in other words, small is the new big and short is the new long.”

5.   Become More Effective – Rather than More Intrusive (Tweet this)

The Age of Context Co-Author, Shel Israel (@shelisrael) believes that for the first time in decades, marketing and communications professionals will focus on effectiveness and finally concede that being intrusive is not working.

“This will be accomplished by using the contextual technologies outlined in my recent book with Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer), where we talk about how mobile, location, data, sensors and social media converge to allow sellers to understand where people are and what their intentions are. So marketers will begin to be able to just make offers to people who might actually be interested in what they are being offered. We call it Pinpoint Marketing.”

And what do I think?  I agree with all of these thoughts.  I would add that mobile continues to be a significant challenge and opportunity. With the increase in mobile adoption , as Marketers we need to embrace mobile and make it easy for our customers and prospects to purchase via social.  After all, I believe that 2014 will be the year of mobile.

What do you think?  Will content marketing change?  Will it be replaced by something else?  What is the next “thing”?

5 Brilliant Tips from Content Marketing Experts

Content marketing continues to be one of the most effective ways to market a product, service or brand.  When done well, the results can be astonishing.  While Marketing Practitioners around the globe have embraced content marketing, there are still many who fear it.  To help build your case, here are 5 brilliant tips from Content Marketing Experts.

Image courtesy of www.actsofsilence.com

Image courtesy of www.actsofsilence.com

1.  “…the most critical part of a successful content marketing program is building your audience….Without the audience, we cannot drive revenue of any kind.” @JoePulizzi

2.  “By distributing your content by platform, chances are you’re overlooking opportunities that can significantly enhance the breath and quality of your potential audience. Instead, focus on getting your message to the influencers and people who can amplify your message by sharing it with their networks.”  @HeidiCohen

Remember to help you build your audience, your information should not be overly promotional.  Your are building a relationship.  “Use the 80/20 rule. Share 8 pieces of content for every 2 promo-type pieces.” (Click to Tweet!  Thanks!)

3.  “The role of the marketing department is evolving. To deliver tangible value to your organization the marketing department needs to shift from being creators of marketing campaigns to creators of stories. But, the best story telling usually comes from employees and customers.” @BernieBorges

4.  “PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: Great website content, YouTube videos, blog posts, ebooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence in Foursquare, Instagram, and so much more.” David Meerman Scott (@dmscott)

5.  “Professional services firms often worry that providing content will enable customers to DIY and prevent them from hiring the company. I have been a consultant for most of the past 25 years, and I can tell you first-hand that if a prospective customer is genuinely weighing the option of doing it themselves or hiring you, that is NOT a customer you want.” @jaybaer

These are just five great quotes and sources.  What would you add to this list?

25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business

Small and medium business owners are always on the lookout for great resources to help them grow, but they don’t  always have time to research, read, and sort the wheat from the chaff. So I’ve done the preliminary work for you.

Here are 25 helpful small business resources covering everything from naming your new business to creating content for your marketing strategy, to increasing sales.

Entrepreneur

Image compliments of entrepreneur.com

In no particular order, here a list of SMB resources you’re going to want to bookmark:

1. Entrepreneur Solutions Playbook – 25 Small-Business Challenges [PDF]: A great discussion on the Top 25 Small Business Challenges

2. The Simple Guide to Branding Your Small Business [Infographic]: Looking for great advice on branding?  Check out this visual.

3. 5 Startup Naming Rules from SXSW: This article discusses how to position your business, including Do’s and Don’t’s.

4. Facebook – Small Business Page: Great up-to-date ideas and information for small businesses plus you can contribute your ideas.

5. Six Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy: Whether you’re just getting started with content marketing or you’re at it for awhile, this article to shares best practices.

6. Small Business Mobility Meets Big Business Needs: Learn more about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

7. Reuters Small Business Resource Center: Looking for a well-rounded source for starting a business, employment law and more, check out this resource center.

8. CNN Small Business Community: Join the CNN Small Business Community for interesting posts from CNN Money.

9. Smart Bizz – Small Business and Startups Internet Technology Resources: Another good source for a broad range of subjects from e-commerce, productivity and more in this resource center.

10. NFIB – National Federation of Independent Business, the Voice of Small Business: From healthcare to sales and customer service to finance and accounting, get topical posts to help you advance your business.

11. Smallbusiness.com – a Free Wiki: Get local-based information based on your State.  Check out this community portal to learn the latest happenings in small business.

12. Wall Street Journal – Market Watch: Looking for an aggregate of great news-related posts for your small business? This is another great one-stop shop.

13. CitiBank Small Business Resources: Learn more about risk and financial security.

14. AT&T Strategies and Insights:  Access posts on how to attract customers, increase sales, build relationships and more on this handy site.

15. IT Business Edge – Small Business Computing: Get how-to guides, small business tips and more on this site.

16. Bank of America Small Business Community: Learn about small businesses of the month, ask the community questions and more.

17. Network Solutions – Small Business Center: Get a roundup of small business news all in one spot.

18. Cisco Small Business Resource Center: This center has articles, customer stories news and more all in one spot.

19. Small Business Guides: Get the latest guides on financing, training and events.

20. Go Small Biz: Looking for a go-to on tax/accounting, sales, HR, risk and tech in one spot?  This could be your go-to.

21. All Business – Your Small Business Advantage: Get access to the top stories, All Business experts and more.

22. Information Week SMB Technology for Small and Midsized Business: Get access to weekly email updates, SMB stories right from SMBs and more.

23. Microsoft Business for Small and Midsized Business: Learn new ways to use Microsoft tools get tips and marketing research.

24. DuctTape Marketing Blog: Blog posts, free ebooks and information on courses abound this site.

25. AMEX Open Forum: Recently redesigned, exchange advice, get ideas and learn small business success.

Note:  a version of this post appeared on the Salesforce blog that I wrote for them in August of this year.