Category Archives: Blog

How to Spread the Word about Your Business Blog

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digital marketingYou can finally define what a blog is, and the benefits of content marketing. You’ve decided to use a blog as a content marketing tool. You’ve got it all set up, and connected to your website. You’re excited to share the blog content on your social media sites. You’re ready to reap the rewards of quality, consistent content and solid content marketing strategy. You’re…..stuck.

What do you do now?

The first step of building a blog is to find out who you are writing for. Who are your customers? Who refers your business? What is your target audience? Believe it or not, this is a key step (and the first rule of marketing) that many businesses ignores. They create content that is relevant to them and about them. While an occasional promotional piece about you is fine, your blog is about your audience and not about you. What questions do they have? How can you help them? How can you entertain them?

Once you’ve written quality content, or produced videos that speak to your audience, and have all the essential elements of a good blog post, it’s time to attract attention to your blog. You’re not going to spread the word about your business blog and get results without a plan to push out your content. The method every business uses differs because every industry, promotional channels and event schedule is different, but there are some key ways to start with:

  1. Targeted emails. Have you asked your customers for their emails? Note the wording here: ask, not steal. Don’t say, “Can I have your email so I can send you a receipt?” and use it for bombarding them with promotions. Be upfront with your customers when you ask for their email, so you are not violating their trust. Once you’ve build a solid email list for customers who want to hear from you, craft a solid email with links to your blog.
  2. Customer service emails. If a customer or potential customer contacts you asking a question that you’ve already answered on your blog, ask them if you can email the answer to them. Do the same on social media when a customer posts questions.
  3. Social media. Don’t know what to put on social media? Post a blog post that is relevant to the time of year (even old posts work, as long as they are relevant). Mix those blog posts with entertaining and interesting information, a few promotions and faces from your business. BOOM! You’ve got a social media page that is attractive to your audience.
  4. Word of mouth. Let your partner businesses, vendors and customers know about your blog at meetings and events. Add your blog URL to promotional pieces that you pass out at events and on mail pieces.
  5. Advertise. If you advertise online or in trade publications, include your blog URL in the advertisement, or link your online advertisement to your blog or to a very strong blog post.

Consistent, quality content is key. If you find that you don’t have the content marketing expertise, time to keep posting content on your blog or that you’re losing steam, outsource your blog to a company experienced in content marketing. Even though you are putting your blog content in an expert’s hands, don’t walk away. Your input is a valuable part of successful content marketing, so use these do’s and don’ts for working with a marketing company. (And be wary of marketing companies that don’t ask for your input).

Remember, content marketing is not an “overnight success” marketing tactic. A quality business blog is a marathon effort, built on regular posts and relatable content for your audience. If you stay in the marathon, you and your customers can reap the rewards of a good, relevant business blog.

Content Marketing 101: “What the heck is a blog?”

content marketing for businessAn integral part of our business is not just digital marketing execution but education. Our clients are experts in their chosen industry, but don’t always know the specifics of search engine optimization, social media and content marketing. We hear a lot of questions like, “What the heck is a blog?” “Why should I be on social media?” and “What does SEO do?” One of the key digital marketing efforts that we’ve seen work for our clients’ business is content marketing through a business blog—even though it’s also one of the most misunderstood. If you don’t know what a business blog is, or why you should care, let’s start at the most basic question and walk you through the process of incorporating a business blog into your digital marketing plan.

“What the heck is a blog?”

Let’s start with one of the most common content marketing questions, usually asked in many different forms (this is our favorite). A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless. The goal of a blog is two-fold:

  • To give your audience what they want. Remember, the #1 rule of marketing is to know your audience. If you are a sports retailer, your audience is going to be different than the audience that follows a spa or wedding venue. The common phrase is to find out what your audience wants to know and give it to them. How do you figure that out? Ask them. Listen to them on your social media sites. In a way, you’re using a business blog to provide customer service.
  • Build trust. If you give your customers and potential customers what they want: entertainment, answers to their questions, knowledge, you can earn their trust. In the old days, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. They’re cruising the web because it’s convenient and easy to find what they need, both in information, services and products. Or they’re clicking on links they receive in their email. A business blog gives them the information they’re looking for on the internet, and gives them links to find more out about products or to contact a business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with a tool that more than 90% of online users turn to for information: search engines. Top search engines gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content of your website pages. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.

“What do I write about in a business blog?”

This is the million dollar question because it seems at some point, all bloggers search for inspiration for blog content. We’ve already made a few suggestions, but here’s a list to get you started:

  1. Answers to readers’ questions
  2. Content related to a trend in your industry
  3. Entertainment/fun post
  4. A list of your favorite somethings (New Year’s resolutions, tips, etc.)
  5. Frequently asked questions
  6. Content that shows you care
  7. Story about your business

The sky’s the limit for topics, but use these two R’s in the content you produce. Don’t forget to include visuals as your content, or part of your content, and a call to action.

“What is a call to action?”

A call to action, or CTA, is an element on a web page that asks the reader to do something: to contact a business, download a document, etc. One of the most important elements of a business blog is a call to action, whether that is a part of the blog post, a button, ad, part of a video…your options are endless. When adding a call to action to your business blog, remember that the average reader doesn’t want to get a concussion from your aggressive selling. Remember, the goal of a business blog is to give your audience what they want and build trust, which can best be achieved with advice, tips, entertainment and a few calls to action. Readers don’t want to land on a page with a great title and just selling—and no quality content.

“Do I just add content to my business blog…and let it sit?”

No, no, no! One the biggest myths surrounding a business blog is that you build a blog, and let it sit, waiting for visitors to come. A business blog is full of content that should be shared via social media sites, emails to your customers, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

“How much time does it take to run a business blog?”

We’re not going to lie to you. A successful business blog is a labor of love and time. Successful business blogs contain relatable and regular content. What does regular mean? Regular means that you post content once, twice, or three times a week, or twice a month—whatever you can manage—without gaps in content posting. Unfortunately, many business blog writers start out with the best of intentions and lose steam. If you don’t have time for a business blog, contact a content marketing company that can keep your blog updated with content specific to your business. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Use this list of do’s and don’ts for outsourcing, and remember that you still need to allocate time to give input. The result of your efforts? A successful business blog with relatable and regular content—the answer to your customers’ and potential customers’ needs.

Social Media Marketing 101: Just the Basics for Businesses

social media_croppedSocial media marketing. Blog. Pinterest. You’ve seen these terms floating around, heard your fellow business owners discuss them…and have no idea what they mean. Fear not. We’re here to give you an education about social media, and you don’t have to tell anyone where you got the information from—just look smart using these terms (correctly):

Social media marketing
The term “social media marketing” sounds intimidating, but the definition isn’t. Social media marketing is using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other social media sites to get your products and services in front of potential online customers. Ironically, though the goal of many businesses utilizing social media marketing is to get leads from social media, or get exposure for products, one of the keys to success is not to heavily sell on social media. Social media sites are all about conversations and connections, and customers are on these sites for those reasons—not to be banged over the head repeatedly with advertising. You can find other bad advice for social media marketing in our recent blog post.

Business Blog
Think of a blog like an online newspaper, with articles for customers. Like a newspaper, users flock to blogs for useful information and news—and not necessarily for the ads. Businesses can have advertisements next to the content, but the goal of a business blog should be to provide relevant, useful and entertaining information for current and potential customers. Blog articles are useful for businesses for three purposes: 1) for businesses who want to give out information on social media sites, 2) for businesses who want to get the attention of major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, and 3) to give your customers information they need to make a purchasing decision. Websites with new web pages (such as new blog posts) show up higher in results on search engines, and blog posts are an excellent way to attract customers with information (information that’s available 24/7) and get higher rankings.

Post
A post is referring to an update on Facebook, the largest social media site with more than a billion active users. Each Facebook user sees a list of posts in their newsfeed from other users and businesses—from friends they allow to see their posts, and businesses they ‘like.’ Though Facebook is the largest social media site, it’s not the right social media site for every business. Find out what the right social media site is for your business by knowing your audience. Where are your current and potential customers so you can connect with them? One last note: even though a business may have thousands or millions of fans on Facebook, the way to measure success of a Facebook page is the level of engagement. How many fans like your posts? How many fans are commenting on your posts?

Tweet
A social media tweet is associated with the logo of a bird, but these tweets come from 232 million active users on Twitter. Tweets are no more than 140 characters (including the url of the website you want to share), so you have to produce an attention-grabbing tweets to attract followers and give them a website to click on for more information. You can respond in three ways to a tweet: reply, favorite or retweet. If you want to ask a question about the tweet or tweet back, you hit reply. If you want to ask another user a question, type the “@” sign with the person’s Twitter name and then type a question in 140 characters or less. If you like a tweet from another user, simply click on the star under the tweet to favorite the tweet. This is one of the ways you can build relationships with other users, and they can “find” you when they are notified you favorited their tweet. If you want to share another user’s tweet, hit retweet to share the post with your followers. If you want more users to see your tweets, use hashtags (i.e. #packers or #marketing)—but know who else is using the hashtag by typing in the hashtag and phrase in the search box at the top of the screen. What’s the value of Twitter? Twitter is a great social media site to establish your business as a subject matter expert, spread the word about your products, “pull” users into your website by writing a catchy tweet and connect with potential customers and fellow businesses.

Pin
No we’re not talking about that sharp implement that pricked Sleeping Beauty. Not in this case. We’re talking about Pins on Pinterest, a social media site with a whopping 70 million users. People and businesses post pictures on Pinterest with a short description.  Eye-catching graphics are key, as well as a catchy description. Users pin photos they appreciate to their boards, which Pinterest defines as, “Boards are where you save your Pins. You can make boards for anything and everything—add pretzel recipes to your Grub board (done!), travel plans to your Going Places board, or watches and Aston Martins to your James Bond board.” So why should your business be on Pinterest? To get your products noticed and shared!  In addition, Pinterest is a great way to “pull” users into your website (which is a convenient button on each pin) because if a user is looking at your pin they already like your type of product—making them a potential customer.

One last (and very important!) key to social media marketing success: regularity. Businesses should not go into social media marketing with a half-hearted attitude. It not only embarrasses your business, but doesn’t yield the results you signed on to achieve. If you don’t have the time to post, tweet or pin for your business, hire a social media marketing firm that can. A good social media marketing firm can provide the regular updates on your social media sites—and expertise necessary for success.

How Hashtags Changed Your Customers’ Online Expectations

company execSocial media has revolutionized the way businesses reach their customers. Consumers swarmed to social media, and businesses saw an opportunity to connect in a more meaningful way. The result: a change in customer expectations that every business should use when delving into the world of online marketing and social media and crafting a social media strategy. It’s one of the oldest adages of marketing, with a new twist thanks to social media: know your audience, and know what they want from you.

  • They want you to feed them relevant topics. They get updates from their friends and twerps in one long list, and expect the same from businesses. Give your customers what they want, and don’t make them search for it. They want relevant information and resources pertinent to their lives and the latest specials on products and services. They want blog and social media posts with videos, photos and text. As a whole, videos are the preferred format, which are 12x more likely to get a response than text-only posts. If you want to reach every type of consumer, “mix and match” formats (i.e. photos, apps, video, etc.), and use photos with every post to capture your customers’ attention.
  • They want updated information, and they don’t have patience for companies that can’t deliver. If you can’t give regular social media updates and blog posts, outsource to marketing experts. It’s better to have updated social media channels than irregular posts and dated information. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing.     
  • They want online customer service, and they want it fast. One survey said that consumers want a response to their inquiry within four hours, with some studies putting that number as low as one. If you have a social media channel (or channels) or contact us form on your website, your customers are going to reach out with questions. If you’re a flooring company, they ask about the type of flooring ideal for their living space. If you’re a construction company, customers can send questions about their project. They expect a response, and they expect it fast. Make sure you’re ready to give a quick response, and provide friendly customer service for those with negative comments.
  • They want you to listen! You’ve given your customers a place to express their ideas and opinions. Take the good and the bad as an opportunity to know your customers, and adapt your business to what they want. Listen to their comments, and respond with the same customer service that you offer in your office or store.
  • Give them what they want, in a mobile format for expanding smartphone usage. If you’re posting a link, make sure it’s to a mobile friendly site (and make sure your website is mobile friendly!). The number of Americans with smartphones is increasing, and they won’t wait until they get to their laptop to be able to browse your site—they’ll take their money to a more mobile-friendly site.

Every social media audience has different preferences for browsing times, so research the statistics and experiment with post and tweets to see when your highest response times are. Know your online audience, know what they want, and deliver it with the same smile and friendly service you give the customers who walk into your store.

Content Marketing Sells

Relevance. How do you show your customers that your product or service is relevant to their lives?

Genuiness. How do you reach out to them personally, even when you have so many?

Consider content marketing. It’s a buzz word that’s all the craze in the marketing world. Content marketing is a philosophy, a strategy that goes beyond the traditional “Sell! Sell! Sell!” advertising. When you use content marketing as part of your online marketing strategy, it puts your business on the digital map—and keeps it there with solid tactics:

  • Updated content. What is the question that everyone asks when they stop in? Give them the answer 24/7 by posting the answer online. How is your product or service relevant to their life? Post content that gives them information and shows them how it works in their life. This is your chance to give your customer service beyond a phone call, beyond your business hours. With our virtual world, this is how you can support them when they need it. Use visuals to catch their attention, and interactive content to appeal to visual learners. In addition, search engines (which judge your content when they rank the top search results) look for the latest and greatest content with on any given topic.
  • Social media marketing. Your customers are online every day, checking in with their friends. Why not give them information (or a smile) as they are browsing? Become a resource for them without them having to work to get it. This is also your opportunity to get your content out into the digital world, and get visitors to your company website.
  • Genuine marketing messages. Does that website content sound like it’s written by a robot? Could be. Write your content for your audience, and personalize that content for email messages to your customer.

We can hear you asking, “why does my business need content marketing?” Well, you have customers don’t you?  Customers who have questions outside of your business hours. Customers who can find your business online if you use content marketing. Customers who find your website through top search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Content marketing is a customer-centric marketing strategy that benefits your company in two main ways:

  • Customer service. Updated content is available as a resource for your customers, even beyond your business hours. Studies have shown that customers expect online customer service, even through social media.
  • Search engine optimization. Search engines tend to like what customers like: updated content with information that everyone reads.

If content marketing sounds out of your league, or you don’t have time for it, outsource to a marketing company that has content marketing experts. Ask your network of fellow business owners for local companies that achieve results. Put your marketing in their hands, be the perfect client (if you need advice on that, check out our Outsourcing do’s and don’ts post) and watch the results as your business shows up on the digital map.

Achieve Results: Outsourcing Marketing Do’s & Don’ts

Don't be afraid to let go of the marketing bicycle, but know the do's and don'ts along the way.

Don’t be afraid to let go of the marketing bicycle, but know the do’s and don’ts along the way.

We’ve said it before, there’s no shame or blame when you outsource your content marketing. To the contrary, outsourcing shows that your company wants to achieve results. It shows you as a business owner are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your business so you can allocate your resources to the projects you excel at.

There are some real benefits of outsourcing (like results and using the experts), but you also have to be realistic and give supportive input to your marketing experts. So follow these do’s and don’ts that get you the best value for your marketing dollar, and achieve optimum results with your marketing partner:

  • Don’t just forget about your online marketing. Contribute. Set up regular calls with the company to give them input on relevant topics, frequently asked questions you hear and information about what your goals are. Send them new specials and coupons so they can create content in line with your marketing materials and strategy.
  • Do tell them what makes your company unique. What makes your company stand out? What does your company excel at?
  • Do give them existing marketing materials. You want all your marketing materials to be seamless—with the same tone and voice. Give them something to work off of so they can create content that doesn’t sound like it’s outsourced. Your company’s online presence is not an online, it should sound and look like it fits with what you’ve already produced.
  • Don’t micromanage. Give them direction, information to work off of, revisions and approval.
  • Do trust their advice. One of the main reasons for outsourcing is that you giving your business marketing to the experts—the people who breathe and live online marketing. The experts who stay up to date on the latest technologies and stay up-to-date on what works and doesn’t work. Remember, the digital world evolves and changes, and what used to work might not work tomorrow. You’ve trusted them to get the best results, now let them do it.
  • Don’t jump on every bandwagon. There’s always a fad or a new craze in the online realm, but that doesn’t mean that fad or new social media site is right for you company or you need to pressure the professionals to follow it. Trust their advice.
  • Don’t think that more is always better. If you’re outsourcing, let the professionals put your money into the social media sites that fit your brand and industry. Your company doesn’t need to have a million different social media sites. Choose social media sites that fit your brand, and you have the resources to update regularly.
  • Do stay in touch with what they do. Don’t just walk away. Watch what they do and find out what they’re hearing from your customers online.
  • Don’t expect unreasonable results. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is online marketing. It takes time and effort to build up an audience. An online presence does not get miracles. Don’t expect them.
  • Do tell your customers to check your blog and social media sites. Even with all the advances in technology, word of mouth is still the best way to draw customers and potential customers to your blog and social media sites. Spread the word casually. “Thanks for coming in. Make sure you stay up-to-date on store specials by liking our Facebook page.”
  • Do promise and follow through. You can’t have one without the other. If you promise to add a blog or update a social media site in addition to their posts, or you want them to use certain information for their next post, send it to them when you promise.
  • Don’t think you’re their only true love. The best marketing companies are in demand. You are not their only client, so don’t be a diva about their time. Remember, they are working on deadline and have other clients they work for. At the same time, do ask for a reasonable amount of time to touch base with them each month.

You may need to find the right balance with your marketing company, but finding the perfect formula yields results—and sales—for both of you.

 

Why Your Business Needs a Blog

company execThey’re the latest trend, and everyone seems to have one, but why?

If you have more questions than answers about blogs as a marketing tool, and you’re hesitant about adding another ‘to do’ to your long list, consider the benefits behind setting up a blog for your business.

  • For your customers. Think of your blog as another service that you offer to your customers. By posting relevant information and tips, you can answer their questions 24/7 when they need it. Posting informational blog posts also shows that your business has the industry expertise to take care of prospective customers’ problems and provide products and services with knowledgeable, customer friendly assistance.
  • Increase web traffic. Top search engines gauge your website’s validity and the strength of your pages based on the content of your website pages. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, valid and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users. It’s search engine optimization (if you don’t know why that’s a good thing, check out the statistics in our previous blog post).

But before you jump in to blogging, make sure you understand what a good blog post that achieves the above results is. A good blog post should be:

  • Relevant to your customers’ lives. It should not be your musings about the universe, or ramblings that pertain only to you. If you need topics that are relevant to your customers, use their feedback from your interactions with them. What are their frequently asked questions? What do they want to know about your products and services? Are there misunderstandings or “I didn’t know that!” bits of facts that you can address?
  • Professional. You can use humor in your posts, but don’t cross the line. Your business blog post is for your business. Even if you push it out to your friends, remember that along the line someone outside your circle is going to read the post and judge your business by it.
  • Regular. You can’t go into your blog with an “I’ll get around to that” attitude. Having an outdated blog is almost worse than no blog. It’s a black eye to your business. If you know you won’t have time for posting, outsource your blog to a knowledgeable marketing company. Ask other business owners for marketing companies they would recommend. Once you’ve selected a company that achieves results through blogging, feed their professional writer topics and update them about changes in your business strategy. Your company image looks professional and relevant, and that’s good for your business.
  • Industry specific. Many a business owner has posted information NOT specific to their business without giving any thought to the people visiting their website. It’s okay to link your product or service to current events or a hot topic that everyone’s talking about.  But make sure it’s relevant to your industry. If someone is visiting your website, they are interested in your industry, product or service. They want information, not ramblings.

One last note of caution: blogging for your business is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t commit to creating GOOD posts for your business, you’re wasting your time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t host a blog, it means you should contact the professionals and let them make your business look good. There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing, just a great deal of satisfaction as they make your business look good—and increase your website traffic.