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?
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?
At a recent workshop I attended, J. T. O'Donnell (@jtodonnell) founder of Careerealism.com, noted that most customers are looking for aspirin, not vitamins. In other words, they are in pain and want relief.
The best way of showing rather than telling your prospect how you can eliminate that aching is through a well-crafted Case Study.
Here are the eight P’s to guide you in developing a Case Study that delivers.
Problem – What was the problem your client faced? The situation must be specific enough to be understood but generic enough to be relevant to your target audience.
Plan – How did you approach solving the problem? This should show the depth of thinking in your organization, the effectiveness of your product or service as well as your creative problem solving ability.
Product – What was the outcome of implementing your plan? This should clearly contrast the “before and after” of your involvement.
Profit – What was the tangible result of executing your program? This is the most important point of the Case Study. This needs to show in hard metrics the results of using your solution – increased profit, reduced costs, improved time to market, enhanced customer satisfaction. Pick the appropriate category and attach an empirical data point to it.
Plain – Use clear, concise language. Avoid industry jargon and buzzwords. Your Case Study should highlight your product or service, your process and your strategic thinking ability and should be written in a compelling and understandable style.
Pictures – Add artwork. Regardless of how you plan to use the Case Study, an appropriate photo or illustration will dramatically enhance the look of your piece.
Promote – Get an executive in the company to provide a quote. If your solution was as effective as you claim, someone senior in the organization should be willing to go on the record to corroborate its value. This will help shift the piece from one of self-promotion to one of credible problem-solving example.
Publish – Now that you have your Case Study, you should publish it widely. You will have to rework your copy for length and style depending on the venue, but the core case – problem/plan/profit - remains intact. Plan to broadcast your Case Study in a variety of vehicles including standalone handout, blog post, brochure, power point presentation, press release or news article.
Have you used Case Studies to attract new clients? Have they been successful?