Well actually it's not the New Year yet if you go strictly by the calendar. But Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer and a kick off to new beginnings. Back to school for some and a resumption of regular work schedules for others. It's a time for getting back up to speed, refocusing your energy, and taking on new projects.
The hectic run-up to the holiday season is usually a time of finishing up projects before the end of year lull. Once through the festivities, activity ramps up again and the new year can sometimes present a blank slate - perhaps even a clean desk - and offers a perfect opportunity to start a few new projects. One of the more productive things you might consider is taking a look at your content. Start by reviewing what you have and then determine what you might need in the coming months. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Take advantage of untapped resources
Coming up with content ideas can sometimes be a struggle, especially with a bulging to-do list of other priorities. The solution may not be as difficult as you think. domain owner . You're likely surrounded by several fertile sources that you may not have considered - your resident subject matter experts.
Most companies, especially those in the technology space, have SME's who are carrying around valuable knowledge about your industry, business, and customers. Unfortunately they probably lack the time to get that information down on paper where you can share it with current and prospective clients. Why not arrange to tap that extensive knowledge and put together an eBook or white paper on a topic relevant to your business?
Not only will this provide you with an outstanding content piece for lead generation or thought leadership, but it'll also allow the SME to share his or her valuable insight - something they may be eager to do.
2. Document a customer success story
The end of the year is always a good time to look back to last year to find situations where your product or service helped one of your clients. Crafting several compelling case studies fills two needs: It provides your customer with some always welcome publicity and it also gives you an effective proof of concept piece.
One of the biggest influencers with potential clients is evidence that your product or service does what you say it will. Demonstrating it with a real world example from an existing customer is one of the most powerful sales tools.
3. Refresh your blog
Spend a minute going through your list of blog posts. If the most recent one is three or four months old, you're sending a message that either you have nothing new to say or you've abandoned the blog section entirely. This could be the right time to reach out to customers and prospects with a series of posts to refresh that area of your site.
You don't need to commit to a daily blog blitz, but presenting one post a week for the next few months will show that you're making an effort to communicate with your audience.
4. Update your web site
While you're on the site, take a look at other copy that may need updating. Is your bio page still relevant? Does it include new hires and has it been edited to delete those no longer with the company? How long has it been since you posted a new entry in your press release section? Does the main message on your home page still accurately reflect the company's direction?
I'm not suggesting you invest heavily in an all-new design. Sometimes revisiting and updating some of your key content elements is all you need to breath some life into your site.
5. Get published
One of the best - and most cost effective - ways to get publicity for your company is to publish an article in an industry magazine or newsletter. Those publications are always looking for content so they'll likely welcome your reaching out to offer your expertise. This is an excellent way to share your thoughts on a hot industry topic and get some props for your organization at the same time.
After the article is published, you then have a solid marketing piece you can share with prospects and customers to reinforce your thought leadership profile.
Lots of resolutions are made at this time of year and many of them wither and die before too long. Reviewing and upgrading your content program doesn't have to be one of them. By taking a few simple steps now, you can establish a year long program that can yield significant benefits.
What are your content plans for 2015?
Only a few weeks ago I sat looking out my window at a yard covered with several feet of snow. The white blanket has finally melted away but it's revealed a lawn beaten by a long, hard winter. It's not very appealing right now, but after a few weekends of cleaning, raking, and feeding, it'll be back to its familiar, green self. Unfortunately, you won't get a similar stark wake-up call when it comes to your content. But if you take a close enough look, you'll likely find things aren't quite as lush there either. Time to get to work on that too.
Spring is a time for growth - an appropriate time to re-evaluate your business and make some positive changes. While you're getting ready to landscape your yard, plan to do some content-scaping as well. Both tasks can seem overwhelming, but they don't have to be. Take small steps now to make a big impact later.
Here are three things you can do to get started.
1. Evaluate your tools - Start with your basic tools. Thankfully I found my rake buried behind the snow blower. Good start.
How about your content marketing tools? Determine what you have for eBooks, white papers, case studies, and other engaging content that can attract leads and new clients. Begin with a simple inventory of what you have and what you think still works.
2. Do a cleanup - The next step is a good cleanup. I need to pick up the leaves I missed last November and rake the dead grass that's stifling new growth. No worries. I'll just get the leaves this first weekend.
Same thing for your content. When was the last time you did a thorough clean up on your web site? Are you still showing that case study from four years ago for a product you don't carry anymore? Is your most recent blog post dated last August? None of that will help promote growth or be of interest to visitors to your site. Start small. Get rid of anything that's out of date, irrelevant, or would lead a visitor to think you haven't been paying attention.
3. Start planting - You reap what you sow and this is the season to seed and feed that lawn. That'll be the biggest payoff when it comes back to life in a few weeks.
Time to plant some new content as well. The cleanup was good, but if you don't replenish your site with fresh material, it's going to look pretty barren. Generate new content by posting a recent customer success story, a white paper on a hot topic in your industry, or an eBook that provides valuable information that your prospects can use in their businesses.
Landscaping and content marketing can be hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. I'll be enjoying my lush, green lawn this summer and hopefully you'll be proud of a healthy crop of new prospects and customers.
So what are you doing to promote your growth? Could your content use a good spring cleaning?
Mommy, can you PLEASE tell me a story? Didn't we all wail that out from the time we learned to speak? Story telling, or more importantly, story listening is ingrained in us. As we grew older, that attraction didn't go away. We still love stories. Tap into that deep-rooted experience when reaching out with your marketing program.
Gather your prospects around and tell them a story.
The business version of a story is a case study. These popular, effective pieces of content prove we can all still be engaged and influenced by a good story.
Recent benchmark studies show that 7 out of 10 marketers include case studies as part of their marketing program. That makes it a top five content marketing tactic up there with social media, article posting, eNewsletters, and blogs. Better still, marketing executives believe case studies work. Two-thirds say case studies are effective, surpassing even webinars/webcasts on the perceived confidence scale. In Person Events is the only tactic that rates higher.
Interestingly, marketers use Social Media - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn - more than any other tactic, but less than half believe they're effective.
Which brings us back to case studies. Why do they work so well?
It's pretty basic, actually. The first rule in any Writing 101 class is: to create compelling content, show don't tell. That's the secret to the case study. It's the ultimate in showing. Brochures, data sheets, and badly written web sites all tell. Your prospects don't want to be told anything. They want to be shown how your product or service will solve their problem.
A well written case study delivers a compelling story with a beginning (Our hero and his company had this problem), a middle (Our hero and his team tried everything to solve this problem but couldn't) and an end (YOUR PRODUCT came along and made everything all better). And then they all lived happily ever after.
The case study projects your prospects into a situation with which they are unfortunately familiar, and shows them how you will solve their problem.
No hard sell. No shouting from the rooftops. No chest beating.
The moral of the story? It works. The End.
When was the last time you used a case study to promote your business? Was it effective?
I was recently talking to a small business owner about how to drive more prospects to her site. "Are you doing any Inbound Marketing?" I asked.
(Sound of crickets accompanied by deer-in-headlights look.)
"What exactly is that?" she finally responded.
Those of us in the marketing world know by now the difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing, but there are still many business leaders who do not.
Hubspot defines Inbound Marketing as a "set of marketing strategies and techniques focusing on pulling relevant prospects and customers toward a business and its products." Think blogs, white papers, case studies, SEO and social media. These are tools used to "pull" customers to your business.
Outbound Marketing - or Traditional Marketing - focuses on sending company messages and advertising at consumers. Think trade shows, direct mail and telemarketing. These techniques are designed to "push" the business at your customers.
In the battle for marketing budget dollars, Inbound Marketing is clearly "pulling" away. Businesses that know the difference are flocking in droves to the Inbound Marketing side.
There are three main reasons why according to Hubspot's 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report.
1. Inbound Marketing is more cost effective.
According to the report, which surveyed 972 professional marketers, the average cost of an Inbound Marketing lead was $135 - almost a third of the cost of an Outbound Marketing lead which was $346.
2. Inbound Marketing generates better leads
Leads from Inbound Marketing - blogs, whitepapers, SEO - are five times more likely to close than leads garnered through traditional marketing tools. Only about 2% of Outbound Marketing collected leads actually close.
3. Inbound Marketing lands customers
62% of the survey respondents reported they acquired a new customer through LinkedIn. 57% credited their blog. 52% said Facebook and 44% said Twitter.
In the last six months, more than a third of the respondents rated Inbound Marketing as "more important" while a third ranked Outbound Marketing as "less important." That is blatantly reflected in their spending as 89% of respondents say they increased their Inbound Marketing budget last year.
What are you doing with your marketing strategy? Are you "pushing" or "pulling?
We've all heard the phrase, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." How about "You can lead prospects to your web site, but can you make them buy?"
We all know that the goal of any Content Marketing strategy is to drive traffic to your site. That increased traffic needs to generate new leads which should ultimately propel converted sales.
How do you ensure that this happens?
One way is to establish a focused Lead Nurturing program.
In a white paper titled "The Importance of Lead Nurturing and Scoring," produced by The Association of Strategic Marketing, Lead Nurturing is defined as "building a relationship with eligible prospects regardless of their timing with the aim to boost their business when they are prepared."
According to ASM, nurtured leads can increase sales by as much as 20%. Click through rates from Lead Nurturing emails are 8% compared to only 3% from general emails. Despite this increased sales potential, 69% of B2B marketers fail to use a Lead Nurturing system.
A Lead Nurturing program involves several components including Prospect Targeting, Lead Scoring and Ongoing Contact. But not surprisingly at the heart of it all is our familiar friend: content.
1. Content Establishes Credibility
As the ASM report points out, from the buyer's perspective, there is always fear and risk involved with any purchase. "The most important features a B2B vendor must have are trust and credibility," the paper states. "They have to build credibility and reputation by sharing relevant and valuable information."
2. Content Keeps You in Contact
According to ASM, the new generation of buyers tend not to commit to a sale until the last third of the buying process. Therefore, sales and marketing need to be involved throughout the sales process delivering "high quality content and information for prospects that is responsive, timely and relevant."
"The only way that they can maintain ongoing conversation with prospects" is with a comprehensive Content Strategy, the report asserts.
3. Content Helps Drive the Buying Decision
ASM states that 95% of prospects visit a web site for research purposes, but 70% will eventually buy from that company or from a competitor. Not using a content driven Lead Nurturing program is the #1 reason for poor lead conversion. Overall, 79% of marking leads are not converted to sales. However nurtured leads drive 47% more purchases than non-nurtured leads.
The ASM white paper concludes that Lead Nurturing is not about hard selling. Instead, the program involves establishing your credibility in the marketplace, presenting your solution as the most viable and ultimately convincing your prospect that you are the correct choice for them.
As always, the key to accomplishing that is through informative, well crafted and compelling content.
Are you nurturing your leads? Are you drawing traffic but not converting sales?