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15 Getting an Education Through Content Creation

Many business owners, and certainly most marketers, have succumbed to the need to consistently product high quality, education based content as the foundation of their marketing efforts.

Without looking too hard you can see that many successful organizations lean very heavily on their content to generate and convert leads. In fact, the wildly successful online marketing service Hubspot appears to do little more than produce, aggregate, syndicate and promote useful content as a way to expose potential customers to their way of doing business. (Granted they do a lot of it.)

With content production comes work, however, and that’s the part that even marketers that realize how important good content is struggle with.

I’ve written many posts about tools that make content production easier and even where I find inspiration for things to write about, but there’s one bit of leverage that I’ve not shared that may help kick your content production into high gear.

What if you looked at content production as a way to get yourself educated?

See, I’ve found that one of the surest ways to get something done is to increase the payoff for doing it. (It’s sort of why after months of not being able to get our taxes organized we magically get it all done one day in early April – the payoff, or perhaps threat of fines, makes it a high priority.)

So, what if instead of always writing about the things you know, you chose to include writing about the things you need to or should know.

For example, as a business owner I need to know more about cash flow, balance sheets, profit and labor productivity. Not so much so that I would advise others on these things, but certainly enough that I can understand them, teach them to my staff, use this data to run my business and, in some cases, teach my CPA how to actually be an adviser.

So what do I do? I ask around and find what some are calling the best book on these matters. (Here’s the one I landed on: Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential) I read the book. (That part most people do) Then I find the author, interview him, create a podcast, and write about the very subjects I needed to know more about – an act which deepens my learning.

This is such a powerful way to learn what I need to learn, get advice from leading experts, and produce high quality content all at the same time.

You likely couldn’t make this your only content strategy, but you can certainly create a list of 8-10 topics that you need to know more about and go to work on finding someone that would be happy to teach you while you create content.

29 My Content Amplification System

Today’s post is in answer to a direct request I’ve received a number of times.

Content AmplificationOf course writing good content is only part of the business challenge. You’ve also got to get it read. Some would say, and to a large part this is true, that simply writing something that people want to read is the first step in drawing links and shares, but you’ve also got to put your content out there in places where people do their reading these days.

The following is a sampling of my content amplification routine. I do this with each blog post in an effort to get that particular piece of content the greatest amount of exposure. Is this the perfect, all inclusive list, probably not, but it’s a routine that I can do in about five minutes and still give my content a chance to be seen by lots of potential clients, journalists and strategic partners.

After I hit publish I:

  • Tweet the headline and link with some context to draw the most interest using StumbleUpon link shortener su.pr – this syndicates the content to StumbleUpon and Twitter and starts the traffic exposure in both places.
  • Publish the post to my Facebook Page
  • Publish the post to my Google+ Stream – public, circles and extended circles
  • Publish the post to my LinkedIn profile – also share with several large groups
  • Bookmark the post in appropriate tags to Delicious
  • If a post has drawn a large number of retweets I may post to Twitter a second time during the day – I generally make this decision and schedule the Tweet for a specific time using TweetDeck’s scheduling function

A couple things worth noting:

  • I don’t use a service or tool to cross post this to all avenues as I think they all have their own personality and following and I take a minute to point out something different about the post in each network.
  • I participate in many other ways, unrelated to my own content promotion in each of these networks
  • I check back several times a day, depending on my schedule to participate in any conversations happening around the content, including comments on the original blog post
  • I have +1, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons above every blog post
  • I have links to share the content with popular bookmarking sites on the blog posts (sociable plugin) and in the RSS feed (Feedburner feed flare option)
  • I often highlight a particularly well read blog post or two from the week in my weekly email newsletter

So, what would you add to this list?

21 5 Types of Content That Every Business Must Employ

Marketing podcast with John Jantsch (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Dawn Endico via Flickr

The creation and distribution of content has become such a significant aspect of effective marketing that it requires a high place in the strategy conversation in most every business.

Some might go as far as to suggest content marketing has become the most effective way to build a business.

The word content is confusing enough as it’s bantered around these days, but it’s also difficult for many small business owners to come up with a big picture view of the role content plays in the acquisition of clients.

Strategically, the word content must mean more than a blog post or a blank sheet of paper each day. You must begin to think of your content as a total body of work that is being built to serve your business over time.

You must understand and create content for the most important keyword phrases for your industry, the essential themes of education in your business, and your company’s core points of differentiation.

You must also think in terms of your content as a tool that moves prospects from awareness to conversion and in this effort there are at least five types of content that you must address. Each type must be considered as part of your overall content strategy.

I’ve listed each below and I also discuss them in the audio track that accompanies this post.

Content that builds trust – One of the first jobs of your content is to bridge the gap from awareness to trust building. Your SEO efforts actually marry with this type of content to make sure you are both found and found in abundance.

  • How to content – specific advice or tips and tricks
  • Reviews – customer reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Places
  • Testimonials – endorsements from happy customers
  • Articles – articles you’ve written or that mention your firm in outside publications

Content that educates – Once you create awareness and trust a prospect will be hungry to find out much more about your unique approach, your solution, your story and your organization.

  • White papers – not boring, dry technical stuff, your best writing tying a bigger topic together
  • Newsletter – Weekly or monthly education that nurtures their interest
  • Seminars – in person or online, these allow prospects to learn as well as engage
  • FAQs – some folks just need the answers to their questions and this format serves well
  • Survey data – results from surveys can be very compelling as a way to let prospects know you understand them

Customer generated content – Getting your customers involved in the production of content builds loyalty and community, creates proof of results and gives you another avenue for content creation.

  • Automatic referrals and reviews – create ways to move happy customers to a referral and review process
  • Testimonials – automate this process by providing online audio and video tools
  • Video success stories – create events that bring customers together to tell their story and network

Other people’s content – one of the primary jobs of marketers these days is to provide some insight to the stream of information that our customers face. Filtering and aggregating content produced by others is not only a great service, it’s a great differentiator.

  • Custom RSS feeds – create customer or industry specific feeds to share
  • Republish, Share, RT – point to and share great content that being produced
  • Curate – use tools like Storify to collect and republish customer newsletters

Content that converts – this last category is one that gets overlooked in the write for writing sake view of content. Ultimately, great content has the ability to call and convert prospects to the action of buying.

  • In person events – live events are the absolute best way to use content to close
  • Case studies – deep studies into the success of another client act as tangible proof in the buying decision
  • ROI calculators – use content to help prospects understand the specific value of making a change
  • Results – provide documented proof results in simple and easy to understand forms that address the common needs of most prospects.

I’m in Alaska this week so I’ll be sharing some photos from their in my posts.

26 The SEO Cupcake

When asked to talk about marketing these days I spend increasing amounts of time explaining the notion of being found. Like it or not, generating leads by putting lots of valuable content in the places where people look for just such a thing is central to marketing success these days.

The SEO CupcakeWhen looking for a simple way to illustrate the important relationship between content, social and SEO, I decided to forgo the obvious pyramid or Venn diagram and chose instead the uber trendy cupcake.

I mean, who hasn’t stood in line these days outside an Airstream trailer in Austin or a chic little boutique in Soho, just to purchase one of these little delights? Okay, maybe you haven’t jumped on this trend just yet, but for illustration purposes the cupcake serves well.

Content – You can’t exactly have a cupcake without, well, the cup. The little wrapper is the foundation for the entire thing. Likewise, content is the underpinning of any attempt to score well in SEO – you need lots of it, in many flavors. In fact, there’s really no reason to preheat the oven without a firm commitment to the production of content.

Keywords – Now, if all you did were serve up wrappers of content you wouldn’t have a very tasty treat. We need to add the cake in your cupcake. We need to test out the flavor combinations that keep your customers coming back for more. Keywords, the actual stuff that prospects put into search engines to find a business like yours, are what give your SEO efforts tastiness and set the table for surfers and search engines alike.

Links – Of course, if you really want to attract the search engine spiders you’ve got to pile on the icing in the form of links pointing the way to your content. Creating great, keyword rich content, is the best way to attract lots of links and form a strong base for mounds of traffic fattening icing.

Social – There, you’ve got an awesome cupcake, now it’s time to add that all important finishing touch. Lots of folks get the connection between social and SEO, but they don’t fully appreciate that social without content turns a scrumptious desert into a health snack. It’s nice, but it won’t satisfy the surfer’s sweet tooth. In this case, one of the best reasons to even grow raspberries (participate in social) is to top off the cupcake and add a very attractive package to your overall content play.

Okay, so today’s lesson leans a bit to the goofy side, but I just couldn’t think of a better way to simplify the interdependent relationship and hierarchy of steps involved in winning the being found game.

 

11 When Free Becomes Free For All – 5 Reasons Free Is Hurting Us All

My post on OPENForum this week sparked somewhat heated debate, so I thought I would continue this conversation here. (The entire post in question can be read below)

What I’m suggesting mostly is that it’s not that giving away free content or hosting free online seminars is a bad thing. I do it and expect that I will continue to do it as a path to gain new followers and build trust in my expertise.

It’s the free for all mindset that has developed around content and tools that threatens the viability this permission based marketing that worries me. As I outline below, this practice has already created an environment that may actually be hurting the seeker of quality information more than the spreader of quality information.

I’ve already seen a growing desire in those that want information to be worth paying for. The trend towards tiered levels of paid content will continue to escalate and the ability to foster community around your content will be the most important measure of value.

I don’t know – what do you think?

5 Reasons Free Is Hurting Us All

The following originally appeared on American Express OPENForum.

We’ve swung so far over to the “information wants to be free” thinking that I believe it’s presenting a challenge for businesses and content consumers and the Web in general.

My take is that information wants to be worth paying for, and below are five reasons why free is hurting us all.

1. No accountability

People have become so used to signing up for things with no cost that it’s created an environment of no accountability. Show-up rates for solid free events hover around 25 percent to 30 percent.

This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the content; it’s a symptom of a much greater problem. With no commitment there is no accountability–and that includes a commitment to continued learning.

2. Eroded value

When content is consistently given away it loses its value–not only for the producer, but also in the eyes of the content consumer. How good can something that’s free really be?

This lumps thoroughly researched, well-presented, useful content in with shoddily veiled pitch fests.

3. Lowered expectations

When there is no commitment, there is little to lose. I think this creates an atmosphere where content producers can simply slap something together with little value because, “What are they going to do, ask for a refund?”

Of course, the flip side is true as well–audiences have become pleasantly surprised when they actually get value from time spent reading or viewing.

4. Blocked revenue

One of the best ways to build a business that has marketable value is to develop multiple streams of residual income that a potential business buyer can view as a valuable asset.

When the expectation is that all of your content, speaking and presenting will be made available at no fee, your business’ greatest potential asset is cut off.

5. Community buster

Here’s the ironic thing: When people are invited into a community where everything is free, there’s actually less chance of building a strong community. Community builds when there is value.

When you try to build a community by allowing anyone and everyone to submit free content, you’ll soon discover engagement becomes non-existent.

When community members respect the value of the content enough to pay for it, they are invested in keeping the engagement at the highest level.

As an industry, content producers need to find ways to recapture the value in their content, discover the proper way to package it, build multiple streams of residual income with membership communities and we’ll all be better for it.

11 Content As an Essential Strategy

I’m pretty sure you’re sick of folks like me telling you that content is king and that you must produce reams of it in order to compete these days, so I won’t put you through any more of that kind of silly talk.

What I will say is that people today have come to expect to find information about any product, service, company, individual, cause or challenge they face by simply turning to the search engine of their choice. So, if they’re not finding content that you’ve produced that provides them that information, even if someone referred them directly to you, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be worthy of their trust.

I guess I am going to tell you that you’ve got to commit to content production, but you’ve got to make it a part of your overall strategy and you’ve got to produce content with an eye on doing two things – educating and building trust.

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