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Using Content As Your Voice of Strategy

I’ve said it once (or twice) and I’ll say it again: content is no longer king, it’s air. It not only touches all aspects of your marketing these days but of your business as well.

Your audience expects to find information about any product, service, or challenge they face simply by typing a keyword into Google. If you aren’t showing up, even if someone referred them to you, there’s a good chance they won’t decide to move forward with you because of a lack of trust.

In my opinion (and I’m not alone), the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system is content. But here’s the thing, it’s not enough to simply produce content for content’s sake. You must use content as your voice of strategy, and the best way to do this is to produce content that focuses on education and building trust – all based on your core business objectives and message.

In order to be effective with this, you must come up with a plan. Waking up in the morning and deciding what you are going to write about on your blog that day isn’t sustainable.

The Total Content System

I came up with this approach a while back and it essentially allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and get more out of every piece of content you produce.

Create foundational content themes

Develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months. Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently, have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

Bundle your topics into packages

I find it helpful to think about it like a book, where each month represents a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

But the key is to develop multiple subtopics around each theme and then develop a core “guide” for each theme by linking the various subject together.

I recorded a podcast on this topic that may shed more light on it for you – Content Marketing for Small Business

Develop your content delivery platform

Once you have your themes, you can organize your Content Delivery Platform. Here are a few examples of content that I use and how I use them.

  • Blog posts – I write a weekly blog post that ultimately contributes to a monthly guide with other content of the same theme.
  • Podcast – I publish a podcast episode twice/week and aim to have at least one of them be a solo show that discusses and aspect of my theme for the month.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic-specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • Content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a package that allows people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource.

Integrate content with core business objectives

Once the first two steps are complete, you must map your content plan to your core business objectives. This step allows you to better understand how to get a return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long.

When you know what your monthly themes are, all of a sudden tools, articles, and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

Now, in order for all of this to be truly effective, I want to reiterate that the content must build trust and must educate your audience.

What types of content build trust?

  • Blogs – A blog should be your starting point for your content strategy because it makes content production, syndication and sharing so easy. Plus, search engines love blog content which can help boost your SEO.
  • Social media – Building rich profiles, and optimizing links, images and videos that point back to your main site is an important part of the content as strategy plan.
  • Reviews – You’ll never have total control over this category, but ignore it and it may be one of the most damaging to your brand. Get proactive and monitor this channel aggressively.
  • Testimonials – This content adds important trust-building endorsements and makes for great brand building assets out there on Google and YouTube.

What types of content work best for educating your audience?

  • Podcasts – Podcasts are becomingly increasingly popular and serve as a fantastic way to engage and educate your audience in an easily digestible format.
  • Seminars – People want information packaged in ways that will help them get what they want. Presentations, workshop, and seminars are tremendous ways to provide education with increased engagement.
  • FAQs – There’s no denying the value of information packaged in this format, but go beyond the questions that routinely get asked and include those that should get asked but don’t.
  • Success stories – Building rich examples of actual clients succeeding through the use of your product or service offerings is a tremendous way to help people learn from other individuals and business just like them.

If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.

Don't Grow Too Fast!

Sprouted spring flowers daffodils in early spring garden - selective focus, copy space

Growth is the goal of every business. If you’re an entrepreneur, you aren’t satisfied with a stagnant level of success, you’re always looking to improve. It’s a major part of the entrepreneurial spirit – business owners are always seeking more.

But growth comes with its own set of challenges, and businesses that aren’t prepared can suffer because of growth.

For a large example, take GoPro. The popular “action camera” was the holiday gift of the year. Stores couldn’t keep inventory on the shelves, and GoPro did everything they could to increase production to meet the demand. Stock prices went through the roof, and the business grew at an exponential rate.

Fast forward just two years and GoPro’s stock is falling just as rapidly as it rose. They didn’t have a great plan for growth and spent much of their time and effort keeping up with staggeringly high demand. Now, investors are worried their product line may not be diverse enough, and the market for “Action cameras” has not only diminished, but more competitors are entering the field. If a plan had been in place to diversify their products and prepare for a dip in sales, they would be continuing to grow rather than taking a step back.

Now, this is of course not a problem most small businesses will face. GoPro is a massive company, one that will survive this dip in sales. So let’s look at another example.

In my childhood hometown, there was an incredibly popular Mexican restaurant. Shortly after opening, lines could be seen on a nightly basis outside the door. Reviews were great, customers were happy, and the food was consistently delicious. Everything was going well.

They were so popular they quickly opened 3 other locations and remodeled the original restaurant. It seemed as if this brand would become a regional juggernaut in the industry. But the new stores presented the owners with more problems than they were equipped to handle.

The second and third stores faced food consistency issues. Bad reviews started popping up online, and the owners had not set up a way of managing complaints and feedback. The local health department downgraded one of the four locations for health violations. Another location’s manager got arrested for hiring undocumented workers. The restaurant that used to be known for quality and consistency was now tied to too many negative thoughts.

The owners were forced to close the other locations one by one. They returned to the original location with the same kitchen staff and initially positive experience, but the damage was done. Their business limped along before shuttering their doors just this year.

I use this example because the owners of this restaurant had something special on their hands. With proper planning and preparation, the scale-up operation could have been successful, and they could have continued to grow.

That’s how growth can be dangerous for your business. If you want to grow, you must prepare for it first. You have to have a plan for keeping your brand intact. If your customers love your personal touch and attention, you have to figure out a way to scale that personal touch to more potential customers. That may require hiring more help before scaling up, to make sure no customer is left behind.

The bottom line here is that you must shift the way you think about growth. Growth without a plan can have devastating consequences for your business. Growth may be a good thing, but planned and controlled growth is a great thing.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443.jpgAlex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

3 The Problem with Reactionary Marketing

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Digital marketing is constantly changing, and it often feels like you have to react to every single change. Imagine someone saying this in one of your planning meetings:

“There’s a new social media platform? Oh, we should sign up and use it. It should be our main focus for the next few months of our marketing plan!”

Of course, when I use general terms like this, it sounds silly. Why would someone abandon all of their strategy and planning just to take part in a new trend? But it happens far too often in small businesses, particularly those who don’t have a concrete marketing strategy in place.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’ve done it. You’ve been in a meeting where you’ve discussed something you’ve seen a big brand do that’s caught your eye. Maybe a competitor of yours is doing something particularly well, and you want in. You immediately react and scramble to add that particular tactic to your marketing plan. We’ve all done it before.

Now, if I may ask, how often has this strategy worked out for you?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take inspiration from your competitors or other successful brands. The distinction I’m making is that you must first ask yourself why you want to do it. Simply spotting a trend or idea and doing it “just because” is reactionary and foolish.

But if you take the time to analyze why a tactic is working for others whether or not it would work for you, your brand and your target audience, it is no longer a reaction, and instead becomes an opportunity.

This all comes back to the idea of strategy before tactics, a tent pole of the Duct Tape Marketing philosophy. If you’re reacting to a tactic, you’re putting the tactic before strategy. But if you take the time to analyze why the tactic works, how it can work for you, and where it fits into the grand scheme of your marketing plan, you are once again putting strategy first.

So the next time your competitor begins a new marketing tactic that catches your attention, whether that be marketing on a new channel or using an existing channel in a new way, do yourself a favor and ask yourself three simple questions before getting involved:

1) Why are they doing this marketing tactic?
2) How can it work for me?
3) Does this fit into my overall marketing strategy?

Don’t be afraid to say no if the answer is no. You only want to execute a tactic if you’re sure it’s going to work.

There’s also the added benefit of reducing the feeling of catch up that comes with being reactionary. You’ll feel more in control of your marketing, rather than letting your competitors dictate your tactics.

Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

6 You Hired Your First Marketing Person, Now What

You’ve done it, you’ve worked and pushed and sold your way into the realization that you need help. And thankfully, help means – help marketing the business.

So, you put out some feelers and landed an eager marketing assistant to, you know, “do marketing.” And that’s where the trouble began.

You see, do marketing is kind of fuzzy, but it’s all you’ve got, so you’re hoping your new marketing assistant can take your marketing success to date and run with it, but the reality is marketing is a system and your lack of one is never more evident until such time as you try to do it with the help of others.

The key to getting any business on track is two fold. First you must develop the marketing strategy that is perfect for your business and then you must install and operate a marketing system that takes advantage of that unique strategy

The first thing you must come to understand is that strategy and tactics are two very distinct functions and while, in some cases, the same person may perform them, they require a much different mindset and approach to develop.

Strategy vs. tactics

The first mindset is something I call the “owner’s mindset.” The entire focus of this mindset it to create and hold a marketing strategy and vision for the business based on a narrowly defined ideal client and core value proposition.

The second mindset is the “systems mindset.” In this frame of mind you move to building a marketing system designed to support your unique strategy and leverage and amplify the unique strengths and opportunities that exist in your market.

If you’re ever to create marketing momentum in your business you must embrace a marketing strategy as your core reason for being and you must be able to bring others into your organization and teach them how to operate your marketing system.

You simply can not have one without the other.

Sounds simple right?

If any of this sounds right to you, then I’ll leave you today with a bit of a commercial.

I’ve created a unique, two-session live and in-person workshop that’s aimed fully at this strategy and tactics approach.

Introducing . . .
The Ultimate Marketing Strategy Workshop and System Training

In this unique, live and in-person two session workshop, participants will learn how to create both strategy and tactics, ideas and execution, and get the entire marketing team on the same page – even it that team is just you.

This two-session event is designed to help business owners build a marketing action plan from the two core points of view – Strategy and Tactics.

The first session is set up for the business owner’s mindset so they can discover and refine a marketing strategy for their entire business. The second session is designed for more tactical business owners or key marketing staff members who are charged with building and operating the tactical system. The combination of strategy and tactics positioned in this way makes it the perfect balance of training for the entire organization.

I am offering the first occasion of this training in Kansas City in June to a very small group so that everyone involved can experience a true hands on, intimate working session. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit our workshop description page.

53 5 Questions That Will Change How You View Your Business

thinkingAs we go through the days, weeks and months running a business it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the underlying reasons that make owning a business such a fulfilling experience.

Between the phone ringing, the network going down, and the shipment arriving late there’s the tiniest gap that we must stay connected to in order to build a business that serves our lives while providing a place for customers and staff to experience something remarkable.

I find that the following questions help me reconnect with that gap when it gets a little hard to see, feel, and hear.

1) Why are we doing this?

I wrote about doing work that serves a higher purpose last week and I think this is the question that helps stay connected to the greater reason for doing what you do. This can have a very practical branding application as well because if your business is driven by something very authentic – the manifestation of that can produce some very real branding elements. A business driven to serve, rather than simply sell a service, can wrap many messages and flourishes in that reason to serve.

2) What are we here to give?

I think this is the greatest question anyone who sells a product, service or idea can adopt. By placing your point of view on giving rather than getting, you will be more prepared to produce value for the customer and spot opportunities to produce innovations that could allow you to create even greater value. This ability to adapt to create value is one of the greatest natural advantages small businesses possess.

3) What do we want people to experience?

The rush to social media is really about the evolving trend towards greater customer engagement. Prospects and customers are growing to expect much more in terms of engagement. Organizations that spend as much time on creating a better, more engaging, customer experience as they do on generating new leads will soon find that all of their best leads are coming from existing customers. The key is to look at every aspect of your business from the eyes of a customer and intentionally design the exact experience, perception, or brand you plan for them to encounter.

4) What are we supposed to learn from this?

This one comes courtesy of the parent in me. When we meet challenges, some might call them failures, in business it’s quite natural for some to get caught up in what went wrong. The much more positive approach is to look at every turn in the road as a lesson. If you can start to wonder what you are to learn or determine how to make meaning from set backs you can drop the stress over things going bad and you just might get a glimpse of what you were really put here to do.

5) Who could do this better?

This last question always vexes me. I think I do a lot of things well. In fact, one the greatest skills and consequently weaknesses of many small business owners is the ability to adapt, figure things out on their own, and charge ahead. While we have many skills and talents there are usually only a handful of those skills and talents that can be leveraged to move the organization ahead and produce the greatest profit.

When you come to understand the work you should be focused on and start looking for partners, employees and collaborators who can do the other important, but not in your zone, work your business will change dramatically. Once again, from a practical standpoint you can often buy services far greater than you can actually do them half-baked yourself.

What questions drive you deeper into understanding how to build your business?

Image credit: wadem

14 Teaching Business Behavior

business teachingThere is a well-worn truth that goes something like – if you want to learn something teach it. I think this certainly applies to many aspects of business. If you want to learn something at a much deeper level then write about it, speak about it, and create and conduct workshops and trainings on the subject. You can and should be doing all of these things as a routine part of your business growth.

However, I want to suggest that you take this concept to another level. I believe that there is a powerful layer to this teaching notion that is rarely accessed by small business. If you want your customers and partners to behave in certain ways then teach them how to do it. Now, I’m not simply talking about teaching them how or what to buy – I mean teach them a behavior that clearly has a benefit to them, but ultimately may benefit your cause.

Here’s what I mean.

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