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14 Content Is No Longer King

content catalyst

No matter how you plan to grow your business content has become the entry point and catalyst for effective growth in most every channel. No, content is no longer king – that’s so last decade, but more on that in a bit.

I’ve been writing a great deal about growth of late because I’ve become fascinated with the struggle it presents.

One of my core beliefs about growth is that it comes from doing less instead of more.

While that may sound a bit counterintuitive it springs from the fact that marketers today have something like sixteen channels to choose from in order to create awareness and ultimately grow their businesses. (I outline all channels in this Lead Generation System post)

Terms like social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing and search engine marketing entered the marketing conversation in the last decade.

While this may seem to present a golden opportunity for some businesses, it has created frustration for others. It is simply impossible to effectively create a meaningful presence everywhere and attempting to do so creates so much fragmentation that the message is often lost completely.

The key to succeeding in the current environment is to master two or three channels at the most and commit to going deeply there. In my experience, most businesses already have one or two channels that produce the bulk of their business, yet they do little to amplify that effort. (I’ve written more on this idea of Channel Leverage here)

For example, many businesses derive a significant percentage of their business through referrals and word of mouth recommendation but have no formal referral program in place.

My contention is that business should focus on building multiple referral programs and explore ways to use advertising, strategic partnering and even content to amplify their referral channel – less is more!

And now to the real point of this post (Sorry I had as one of my editors called it a lot throat clearing to do to get to the point.)

No matter what growth channels you decide to pursue, content is your ticket to entry. Now, before I go much further let me say that by content I mean, long, deep, dramatic, useful, dare I say epic, educational content.

Again, in this regard – less is more.

The days of writing 500-word wispy blog posts three times a week are over. They certainly served a purpose four or five years ago (hello SEO) but no longer.

Today you are better off writing one or two epic posts a month and using them as a tool to power every channel. (That’s good news, right?)

Your approach to content as an asset still needs to be based on an editorial calendar that serves your business, but creating that plan is even easier if you start to think about ways to use your content for multiple channels.

When we work with businesses today content development is the place we must start. There’s little hope in expanding the reach of a business without a substantial content asset to draw from. There are few channels that don’t run on content.

Let me give you an example of how this could play out.

Let’s say you commit to 12 epic blog posts per year – something in the 1500-2000 word range with lots of deep useful advice, some nice design elements, maybe a dash of data and even a bit of drama.

If you’ve done your keyword research and spent a little time using a tool like BuzzSumo to drill down into specific post ideas you have the makings of an annual editorial calendar. (Here’s a post on how I use BuzzSumo)

Now, let’s make this content pay.

In one sense you already have. Your post will most certainly help your SEO efforts the chosen topic and set the table for shares and links. (By far my most shared content is over 1,500 words)

Let’s say one of your posts describes the sixteen most awesome ways to do X. It’s long and it’s meaty and people devour it, but you know what would be cool – if you added a one-page checklist with all sixteen points.

And what the heck, let’s use a tool like Thrive Leads to create a two-step opt-in box for people who want that checklist. (There’s an example of a content upgrade in this post)

Wow, people are actually opting-in at a pretty high rate, why don’t we see what happens if we buy some targeted Facebook ads to drive some cold traffic to the post. All of a sudden content is making our advertising pay off.

If all these new people are going to opt-in we should make sure that our email follow-up directs them to last month’s epic post so they begin to realize how glad they are that they know us.

Now, let’s amp things up a bit.

Our blog post on the sixteen most awesome ways to do X would actually make a nice presentation. We could simply promote it to our audience and hold a webinar, but why not reach out to some potential strategic partners and offer to do it free of charge for their audience instead.

This is a great way to extend the reach of your content, but more than that it’s a great way to get referred by a trusted source and potentially meet some very qualified prospects.
The key to making channels pay is a commitment to producing the most useful content possible.

  • Content makes your advertising more effective
  • Content makes your selling efforts more effective
  • Content makes your referral outreach more effective
  • Content makes your SEO efforts more effective
  • Content makes your influencer outreach more effective
  • Content makes your email marketing efforts more effective
  • Content makes your social media efforts more effective
  • Content makes your PR efforts more effective

Much has been written about the need for great content, but I believe it’s more than king or queen, it’s more than a channel, it’s air – we need it survive. It is the catalyst and enabler for every other channel we use for growth.

This isn’t a call to write more, better content – it’s a suggestion that you must change your view of what content has become and what it must mean to your ability to grow.

Put epic content at the center of your marketing efforts – do less, but do better – and you’ll find that you have far greater opportunities to expand in every direction.

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business or our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

5 5 Ways to Make Your Advertising Extraordinarily Effective

Advertising is an important part of the lead generation puzzle. Some marketers suggest that you can do without the cost and low returns they attribute to advertising, but done right, advertising is a tremendous tool.

advertising

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

I advocate an approach that calls for a mix of lead generation tactics that includes advertising, public relations and a systematic approach to referral generation.

The biggest thing that advertising has going for it over most other forms of lead generation is control. You can control who sees your ad to some degree and you can control when your ad is run or sent. (I’m including direct mail in this statement)

So, if you have a new product launch or sales promotion planned, you may have lots of activities planned but your advertising is the one element that ties your launch to a date.

The key to effective use of advertising lies in how you think about it, what your objectives are and how you adjust your approach in real time.

Below are five elements that you should consider to make any form of advertising more effective.

1. Lower your expectations

I don’t mean you simply need to expect less in general, but you should probably be realistic about what an ad can do. If you are running a small online ad it might be unrealistic to believe you can sell a multi-thousand dollar consulting engagement from 15 words and a link.

The objective of your ads should be to move people from awareness to like and trust by having a small call to action that benefits them such as downloading a checklist or audio. The goal of most advertising should be to capture an email and start a relationship, not sell a product or service.

2. Cast narrowly

Most advertising, online and offline can be targeted at a narrowly defined viewer and this is a must. A radio station that tells you that 75% of its listeners are 18-55 isn’t narrow enough.

If you sell dog collars, select dog owners on Facebook. Group your Google AdWords in very tightly crafted keyword groups to target people looking for very specific things. Find geo targeted mailing lists and then cross them with lists of people that buy a similar product.

3. Promote content

The way to drive the greatest advertising response is to give away something people want. Use your ads to promote free eBooks, how to checklists and events that will help them learn what they want to learn.

Make content your call to action, deliver awesome stuff, capture leads and gently move them on to even more awesome stuff as you introduce everything they need to know about why your products and services cost more than the rest of the market.

4. Measure everything

The most successful marketers I know can tell you exactly how every element of their marketing is performing and why. It takes a great deal of work to get serious about things analytics and tracking, but you won’t really succeed until you do. You’ll either waste a great deal of money and fail or you’ll waste a great deal of money and limit your success (possibly a worse fate.)

By taking the time to create a process that allows you to measure every aspect of your advertising you stop losses, make good better and perfect the best all the while staying tuned in to what your market wants more of.

5. Test everything

This last element goes hand in hand with measurement, but takes it a step further. Once you have a baseline you can start to work on improving your results by simply tweaking things like headlines, calls to offer, visual elements, keywords, content, publications and lists.

Once you know what’s working in one place you can expand to test it in other places. I often recommend using inexpensive Google AdWords campaigns to test out headlines and landing pages before broadcasting more widely.

The online advertising space, particularly in social networks, is changing so rapidly that I believe you also should test out every new social network ad unit as they come online to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in this evolving space.

As you can see, advertising is for more complex if done well than renting some space and putting up a pretty face.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

6 The Changing Face of Lead Generation

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few years professing the virtues of what I’ve been calling the lead generation trio made up of some combination or advertising, public relations and referrals.

GoDakshin via Flickr

The idea behind the trio concept is to acknowledge the need to spread your lead generation activities out and diversify them in a manner that allows prospects to experience your brand in different variations and from entirely different points of view.

The components of the lead generation trio are dependent upon one another to work. They support and compliment each other and the sum the effort is definitely greater than the parts.

Lead generation in general has changed dramatically over the last few years as traditional broadcast or outbound methods have grown increasingly ineffective.

This doesn’t mean, however, that marketers are left without proactive methods for generating leads.

The fundamental idea of the blended lead generation approach is still valid, but when choosing members of a lead generation trio, business owners must now take into the account the shifting online and social landscape.

While I still contend that advertising is a primary lead driver when employed correctly, I further believe that SEO, or the ability to be found, and social media, or the ability to create direct engagement, have become primary lead drivers and must be included in any discussion concerned with rounding out the new lead generation trio.

In fact, you could easily make the case that referrals have become a member of the social media family and that public relations is now a subset of SEO. I know this point of view won’t sit well with some PR practitioners, but here’s how I now see the major lead generation activities

Advertising – this includes online ads, offline ads, direct mail, pay per click and the all-important elements of ad testing, conversion and tracking.

I believe every business that focuses on promoting content using advertising tools and incorporates landing pages, including mobile landing pages, into their conversion process can still generate leads in a quasi outbound manner.

The thing that advertising has going for it that no other form of lead generation can match is control. This is the one vehicle that allows you to select who gets your message and when.

SEO – The area of SEO is really much bigger than page and search optimization. I use this term to incorporate the production and use of keyword rich content and the acquisition of links in ways that make it easy for prospects to find your business when they search globally, locally and mobily (I know that’s not a word, but perhaps it should be these days.)

Using this broader description of SEO makes it easy to incorporate a great deal of today’s public relations activity, a great deal of which is designed to create content, links and direct prospect contact under the banner of SEO.

Social media – I’ve been saying this for some time now, but social media behavior and tactics have simply become baked into marketing in general, and of late I’ve seen this behavior mature to the point where it’s become a stable aspect of the lead generation trio.

I know many people still cringe at the idea of social and sales being mentioned in the same sentence, but social platforms have now become such an integral part of content discovery and sharing that it is nearly impossible to effectively generate leads via any form of advertising without the integration of social and most forms of successful SEO now rely on social platforms as well.

In a way social media has become the ultimate referral vehicle. Throw ratings and reviews into the social mix and you’ve pretty much round out the new face of lead generation.

So, if you still view SEO as the art of search engine manipulation or social media as a tactic still struggling to produce ROI, think again. Advertising, SEO and social media are now the foundational elements of a solid lead generation program and like so many things that are meant to go together – you can’t have one without the others.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

11 Is Advertising Worth the Expense?

That’s the question on the mind of many a small business owner these days – particularly since there seem to be so many low cost and no cost ways to get the word out.

Well, for me the simple answer to the question posed in the title of this post is yes and it depends.

Wanna find out more about my thoughts on the effective use of advertising to generate and convert leads?

Join me for a special live tweet chat sponsored and hosted by FedEx Office® as part of their Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat Series.

I’ll be live chatting on Twitter on Thursday October 13th at 7pm CT (worldtimebuddy.com for the time zone challenged)

The best way to participate is to create a TweetChat account if you don’t have one and then log in during the time of the call using the #fedexsmallbiz hashtag. That way you can follow along with the discussion and participate in the full conversation with the other participants.

The discussion will be moderated by @FedEx and you can expect a lively conversation on this important topic, including a range of opinions about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to advertising your small business.

As part of the promotion the folks at FedEx Office have given me four $25 gift cards for my listeners to use on things like printing and binding those super important sales presentations.

Here’s how you can grab one of the gift cards – tell me in the comments of this post about the most effective use of advertising you’ve ever employed. Effective can mean new leads, signups, and, of course, new business. (I’ll choose the four best from the comments so make them good). FedEx Office has no involvement in the selection of the winners. This is sponsored by @ducttape.

Look forward to a lively chat on the 13th!

Disclosure: FedEx Office compensated me to write this post and participate as a small business expert during the FedEx Office Boost your Small Business Tweet Chat program. FedEx Office also provided the $25 gift cards. The ideas in this blog post are mine and not ideas or advice from FedEx Office.

22 5 Things Your Business Should Never Pay For

This post originally appeared on American Express OPENForum.

There is a never-ending list of things businesses must purchase in order to grow. It’s just a fact, and that fact is exploited by plenty of folks that want to sell you things that may or may not actually propel you towards growth.

In the building of your brand, both online and off, there will come a time when a company approaches you with an offer for a service that seems to address a need, but in fact, is so detrimental it may actually do more harm than good.

These offers often address our inherent desire to shortcut the real work required to produce sustainable business and marketing results—but, of course, that’s the appeal.

Below are five things you must do the right way—and that usually means you should never pay for them.

Advertising you can’t account for

I’m not against paying for advertising, in fact, quite the opposite; I think advertising is an essential part of small business lead generation. What I am opposed to is buying any advertising that you can’t or don’t track.

Advertising only works if it’s the right message, presented at the exact right time, to the exact right audience. There are so many variables at play here that the only way to get your bang for the buck is to measure real results, in almost real time. Advertising without accountability is like playing roulette with your money.

Referrals

Lots of companies offer incentives for referrals, and in some instances a little cash for the act of a referral can motivate, but is it the right motivation?

Referral generation is an important aspect of marketing, but when you pay for referrals you change the relationship from social to financial and that changes the dynamic in ways that won’t last long-term.

The proper motivation for a referral is the lending of trust in an effort to help either the company receiving the referral or the individual being referred. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use creative incentives to keep referrals top of mind, it’s just that if you provide something of value, you shouldn’t have to bribe people to share.

Reviews of your business

Online reviews carry increasing weight in the information gathering routine of prospects, as well as in the ranking factors that contribute to high search engine results. Because of that, smart marketers are paying more attention to reviews and even getting more proactive about stimulating written reviews from happy customers.

So, it should come as no surprise that enterprising snake oil types are offering reviews for fee services that can get your business favorably reviewed by professional Yelp and Google Places review accounts located right there in your town.

On top of being dishonest, my guess is that paying for these reviews may actually get some businesses banned from review participation. Put the work in and make reviews an authentic arm of your message.

Links to your site

This one has faded from the mainstream for the most part, mainly because the search engines police it so heavily, but there are still lots of SEO types willing to sell you links from high quality sites leading back to your site.

Back links to your site are extremely important, but its become extremely easy for search engines to recognize abnormal linking behavior, and even easier to penalize sites that participate in it.

Write good content, point to good content and participate in social networks—that’s how you create organic links to your site.

Opt-in e-mail lists

Every list company, including the largest, most respected names, will sell you a list of targeted opt-in e-mails. The thing is, no matter how many hoops they jump through to make sure these e-mails are CAN-SPAM compliant, they aren’t opt-in, because they did not opt-in to get your e-mails.

Some companies get around this by not actually selling you the list, but instead renting you the ability to send an e-mail from their servers to a list. No matter how tempting this may sound, it’s still spam and not something you should even consider.

It can be difficult to navigate the various offers of help that show up at your door, but some things just simply can’t be bought.

21 5 Reasons Why You Must Advertise

advertising

Image: brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Sending email is free, creating a Facebook page is free, Twitter outreach is free, cold-calling is free, publicity is free, referrals are free, and advertising costs money.

So why is it that even with all of these wonderfully low cost and free ways to promote your business I contend that you must make advertising one of your core lead generation tactics? (Actually one could argue if anything is free, but the items listed above don’t come with a direct cost.)

Advertising is in fact one of the marketing tactics that comes with an invoice. You must write a check to run ads or send direct mail, often before seeing any results. In my experience people shy away from advertising, not because of the cost, because they don’t know how to get results and they don’t understand the long-term residual effects. Think about it, if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?

To get results from advertising today you must

  • Be laser focused on a specific ideal client
  • Create awareness for valuable content with a call to action
  • Measure leads and conversion fanatically

But, that’s a topic for another post, today I want to first get the leverage to help you understand why you must add advertising to mix and then we can start to talk about how.

When done effectively advertising is an essential part of mix because:

  1. Advertising is the only medium you can control – if you want your message to hit on the day a product launches or event is about to happen, this is the only vehicle you control completely.
  2. Advertising allows you to target ideal customers only – when you match a very personal message to a very select audience you get far greater connection.
  3. Advertising creates awareness for your content – The force that drives a great deal of conversion and trust building these days is educational content – ebooks, seminars and blog posts – advertising is a great way to help get that content found and consumed once you’ve gone to the effort to produce it.
  4. Advertising adds credibility to your message – Don’t ask me why this is exactly, but every time I run advertising people comment that business must be going well. The perception that you can afford advertising is often enough to sell and resell prospects and customers alike and makes it easier to get attention for your entire message.
  5. Advertising amplifies everything else you’re doing – When you are using advertising to create awareness for your content you automatically create more awareness for everything you are doing. Journalists find companies that advertise, referral sources remember companies that advertise, people fan and follow and friend from ads, and employees can point to well-placed ads as a source of pride in place they work.

7 The Well Lit Path

lit pathThe other day I was conducting an educational workshop for folks interested in becoming Duct Tape Marketing Coaches. At one point I talked about presenting workshops as the primary way that coaches acquired customers and that it was an essential success factor for prospective coaches to consider.

One of the attendees then asked that, “if speaking for leads was the tactic that worked, why bother doing anything else?” And this, I fear, is at the heart of what trips some small business marketers up.

Lead generation, nurturing and conversion is a game of trust and momentum building and no matter the actual environment in which a customer is acquired, the path taken to getting them is usually lit with many other marketing related lights. In my example above, while it’s true customers often make the decision to hire a Duct Tape coach when they attend a marketing workshop, the decision process started perhaps, because the prospect had heard of Duct Tape Marketing, read about the workshop in the local paper, had a friend invite them to the workshop, and read testimonials and success stories on the coach’s web site. So, in effect, the workshop was merely confirmation that this individual might be someone that could help.

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34 Content is the Most Trusted Form of Advertising

zipWith the precipitous fall of advertising in the mainstream media some are starting to wonder publicly if advertising has once and for all run its course as an effective marketing vehicle. To this I say horsehockey. Advertising still works, always has and always will, what’s changed, however is that now good advertising works much better than bad advertising. I know that may sound silly, but back in the day, when you had one paper and three broadcast TV stations, bad advertising still worked pretty well and that’s what got the mainstream media and some advertisers in trouble today.

Now that consumers have unlimited ways to consume content and be entertained, they have an equal number of ways to tune out ads that do nothing more than interrupt them from going where they are headed. That, and the fact that online advertising, an industry that didn’t exist 10 years ago, is now a $25B business, is why mainstream advertising vehicles are shuffling. So, advertising still works very well, it just works in different ways – adapt, innovate and integrate and advertising can still be a killer component in your lead generation plans.

Today’s smart advertiser understands that advertising is less effective at creating sales, but very effective at creating awareness – awareness of what – awareness of education based, trust building content. Your advertising’s call to action should be one of permission, permission to teach. Even online ads, once a novelty, are starting to blend into the digital landscape when old fashion spinning monkeys are utilized. The most effective online ads are those that engage a viewer in an offer of valuable content from a trusted resource. Sending a prospect to get content that addresses a specific problem or want is the most logical way to allow them to sell themselves on your eventual solution, but it’s not a drive by, it’s a waltz.

Without advertising, without the effective use of advertising, to light the way to useful content, a great deal of it would never be created or found – that’s advertising’s true value. Where a sales pitch might not be trusted, an education based content campaign may be. I think that’s why the recent flap over sponsored content is garnering so much emotion. People tend to put higher trust in content that is seen as editorial – this power can either be harnessed or abused. Content producers must tread lightly, respect their readers, offer full disclosure and work their butts off to create content that gets read, spidered and talked about. Do that and the side effect will be organic search results, another highly trusted, free, but earned form of advertising in today’s marketing mix. (Google wouldn’t call that advertising, but I think you can make the case.)

Another form of content advertising (I’m expanding the classic term, but I personally think it applies) is growing daily on sites such as twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Through careful participation, marketers are growing networks, creating awareness and eventually driving traffic to their content and profit making initiatives. When Brian Clark @copyblogger (great blog, I recommend it all day) tweets this – “Check out today’s Landing Page Makeover Clinic at Copyblogger – http://tinyurl.com/d98yqt” is this not an ad? Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfect, it’s brilliant, he’s earned the right with his followers and the public to draw people to his content. That’s why it works, advertising pure and simple, only the mechanism and implementation has changed.

Use your advertising to start conversations, create content that builds trust and community and you’ll harness the ever effective power of advertising for generating leads and sales, you know, until the next new thing comes along.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

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