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Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?

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Marketing in 2016 and What We Can Learn From It

What a year! 2016 has been an amazing year to showcase the power of marketing. From the unanticipated election of America’s first president-elect who has never held political office before, to the explosion of Snapchat marketing; it’s been a busy year. We have covered a range of marketing stories from 2016 in our blogs this year, like this one on the blurred lines between social media and advertising.

In my final blog of the year, I’d like to take the time to reflect on some of the marketing lessons we have learned throughout 2016.

Social Media is more powerful than you think. Donald Trump was elected largely due to his participation in social media, mostly on his notorious Twitter account. Years ago, it was unheard of for high-ranking political figures to speak directly to their voters in such a medium. Now, anyone and everyone has a platform to reach out to their target.

Even if you think your small business doesn’t need a social media presence, you could be missing out on audiences just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

Fake news is dangerous. In marketing, we always make a point to create authentic content. However, 2016 proved that not all Internet content abides by these same rules. The “pizzagate” scandal has left a lot of people confused about what’s real news and what’s not. Facebook’s algorithm issue has also contributed to this fake news epidemic.

For businesses that run their own social media accounts, this could be a problem. If you’re sharing engaging social media posts from a fake news source, you’re hurting your brand’s reputation. As someone who has been in the marketing world for a number of years, I may see through these fake stories, while many others may not and that is concerning. In 2017, audiences need to learn how to be more media literate and dismiss fake news stories instead of sharing them with a larger audience.

You get what you pay for. As a marketer, I am constantly writing. It takes time and effort to communicate a message on behalf of my clients, and I often speak to them about what their opinions are on topics I would like to write about. That’s why I was surprised to hear that this year, there has been an increase in public interest for websites that promote pre-written, paid content. On these sites, you can plug in some information you would like to write about, and then it will be outsourced to a writer from anywhere in the world to write about this topic.

From a marketing perspective, I need to know my client before I can write for them. I find out who their target audience is, and how this message should be communicated. While these paid-for content websites may be a cheap alternative to authentic content creation, it’s no substitute for quality written work.

After this hectic year, I am interested to see what’s coming next in 2017. Will VR make its mark in the marketing world? Will Twitter still be as popular a platform after the buzz of the election dies down? I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises the New Year brings into the marketing world, and I hope you are too.

Does My Business Really Need A Blog?

Blogging-for-Business-The-Ultimate-Guide The marketing industry kicked off 2016 by announcing it is the year of content marketing. One of the most valuable content marketing tools that businesses have to engage and connect with customers and share relevant information is a blog.

A blog is a key aspect of your content marketing efforts, offering fodder for your business’ social media and online content in the form of Facebook and LinkedIn posts, tweets and email newsletters. Not only do blogs fuel SEO, as search engines love valuable content and will reward you for it. According to a HubSpot survey, 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly.

In addition to marketing reasons, there are compelling ROI reasons for having a business blog, yet so many business owners are still reluctant to start a blog because the time commitment and level of writing expertise required. There is no doubt that blogs require an investment of time for planning and of course writing, but the benefits of blogging (creating content and sharing it online) far outweigh these downsides which is why you need a blog.

Here are the top 5 reasons why every business needs a blog:

  1. A blog creates a two-way conversation with customers, prospects and industry peers, positioning yourself as a subject area expert and thought leader, and encourages interaction, comments and feedback
  2. A blog builds confidence, relationships and sales. Customers will look to you as a reliable resource for information on your industry, then come to you to buy.
  3. Helps you stay ahead of the curve. You have to stay on top of news, trends and competitors to be a successful blogger. It helps you be a leader, not a follower.
  4. You can tell your brand’s story. It gives your company a voice. A blog is a great place to offer more insight into your company, philosophy, employees, and ideas. Tell your customers why you’re in business and how you can help them.
  1. Blog analytics allow you to track readers, click-throughs, popular topics, shares and comments. You can even tell what day of the week your visitors prefer to stop by.

If your business doesn’t have a blog, and as the CMO or CEO you don’t feel you have the time or skill-set to write one, consider hiring a marketing agency with a solid content development team. In addition to helping you create a content strategy, they can create a blogging schedule for you, write the blogs, categorize them for you, and also post them with appropriate visuals that are all in line with your brand and business direction.

Have you made blogging part of your content strategy? What are you looking to get out of your blog?

Do You Have A Blog Strategy?

shutterstock_86238016When quickly scrolling through my emails, I came across an email from a business offering blog writing services.

The email proceeds to detail how they are a large business with a wide range of expertise in blog writing. The company extolled the value they offer and the savings they can provide, at $10 a blog! WOW! I dig a little deeper to find spelling errors, inconsistencies and learn that the company is based in India.

Although it would be fabulous to have blogs written for $10, you do get what you pay for. My thoughts then turned to my clients – what if they received this email? Would they be tempted to hire this company because they are affordable or would they know that a blogger must know a lot more about a company in order to write a valuable blog?

Being a marketing expert, I believe you can still hire an ‘experienced’ blogger but before you do, you’ll need to give them a blogging strategy. A strategy is important because it sets the stage and provides purpose for the blog. Without this, how could a writer know their objective and their audience? Let me share with you some key questions that must be answered through a well-developed blogging strategy:

  • What is the company known for?
  • What’s the brand of the company?
  • What is the tone of the blog?
  • Who is the target audience that will be reading the blog?
  • How long will the blog be?
  • Will there be several contributors?
  • From what perspective is the blog written?
  • Does the blog endorse other brands?
  • Is this blog a working partnership with other writers?
  • Is this a conversational or formal blog?

The answers to all of these questions set the stage for a valuable blog. By following the criteria, you can ensure that the blog is positively reflecting and enhancing your brand. This is your business’ voice, so ensure that the messages will be properly conveyed by those that really know your company.

Have you used a discounted blog writer in the past? Did you feel that there was value for the price? Do you have a strategy for your blogging practices? I look forward to a lively discussion!

Marketing Resolutions To Keep for 2015!

HNYWith the New Year upon us, most of us are taking the time to reflect on the past year and look towards the next. Everyone will soon be talking about how 2015 will be the best year yet – without it actually having happened yet! But it doesn’t have to be all talk. Here are four resolutions to keep in your marketing plan for the coming year:

  1. Check out the competition: See where your competition is spending their money, you could learn something! Are they focusing on branding themselves? What keywords do they use on their website? Knowing this information will inform your marketing strategy and will help find ways to help you stick out from your competition.
  2. Explore your social platforms: Find what platform works best for you and engages your target audience the most. If your subject matter is image heavy, don’t be disappointed if you’re struggling with success on Twitter – it may not be where your best audience is. Try Instagram instead!
  3. Invest in measurement: Whether you’re looking to launch a national campaign, book an ad in a magazine, or start a blog, make sure that wherever you choose to spend your marketing dollars on has the best ROI.
  4. Increase your curiosity: Never stop trying and testing new campaigns or messaging! You will not only keep your content fresh, but over time you will refine messages to your current target markets, and find new ones. Digital advertising is one of the most flexible mediums for messaging and testing new content. Get out there!

2014 wouldn’t have been the kind of year it was for CreativeWorks without my incredible clients! Thank you. Your businesses inspire me and I look forward to working with you in 2015.

To those of you following this blog or engaging in my discussions on LinkedIn who are not my clients, thank you for your interest and engagement. In 2015, I will continue to bring you hands-on, thought-provoking insights and case studies based on my personal experiences as the owner of a Canadian marketing agency.

On behalf of all of us at CreativeWorks Marketing, I wish you and your family the very best for the holidays and New Year!

Are there any topics you’d like me to write about in 2015? Please share your questions and comments below.

A Strategy for a Blog? Really?

BloggingBusiness owners ask me all the time whether they should have a business blog. My answer is always the same, let’s explore why.

Starting a blog is serious business that requires a huge time commitment, particularly if you are writing it yourself, so unless it is spelled out in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to create a separate blog strategy to determine its purpose and destiny before you start writing. In some industries you are only as good as your last blog entry, so make sure you can “commit” to this long term marketing tool.

I understand that many may feel a strategy for a blog is a bit “over the top”, but in fact by writing down your plan, you are more likely to commit to it, but also to see its value in the growth of your brand.

With over five years of experience writing various blog strategies for my clients, I have outlined a few key tips to consider when creating a strategy for your blog:

  1. Create a goal for your blog.

In other words, why do you want to have a blog? Is it to position you or your brand within an industry? Is it to provide guidance to your audience, or insights into industry trends? Or is it simply to provide tips to show your knowledge. Make sure you are very clear about the “why”, as it will help you determine the outcomes and direction of your blog strategy.

  1. Decide who your audience is going to be.

Who do you want to engage with and speak to with your blog? Are you trying to target C-level individuals, front line staff, or middle management? The more narrowly you define your target audience, the easier it will be to identify those people, cater to their needs with your content, and reach them with your messages. This audience should tie in to your key audience for your brand, so look to your marketing or branding strategy to help you determine audience.

  1. Content is still king.

Your primary and ongoing goal should be to continuously develop innovative content and put a truly unique spin on whatever topic you’re blogging about. Make sure your blog highlights your unique knowledge, voice and personality. Having a unique voice is one of the easiest ways to set it apart from your competition. Try to incorporate proprietary information, facts or research. The more unique and innovative your content and the better you target your audience, the easier it will be to build a following.

  1. Create an editorial schedule, and stick to it.

To build and maintain a steady audience, you’ll need to commit to a regular schedule for your blog. It has to be frequent enough that your audience expects it yet is not overwhelmed by it, so knowing your audiences tolerance is key here. Make sure you don’t over promise and under deliver as your audience could simply move on.

  1. Track and measure your success.

Most blog sites have great analytics, so make sure that you are tracking which blogs are giving you the best engagement and maybe consider creating a few blogs on a similar topic, or a series on the same topic. Always try to give your audience what they want and one way of ensuring this is tracking your analytics.

Do you have a business blog? What is your blog doing or NOT doing for you that you wish it would? Have you ever considered writing a blog strategy? I look forward to your comments and discussion.

Teach Your Customers to Fish

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You know that expression “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.

Think about this principle in your own life, when a customer service person is particularly helpful you remember the experience and it creates, what I call, a positive brand experience, which means, you are more likely to shop there based on your previous experience.

Now more than ever, your company is forced to compete for your customers’ attention, but if you’re useful enough and if you commit to inform rather than promote, customers will reward you with trust and loyalty.

There are several marketing tools that can be used to provide some useful information for free to help you build long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers, including chats, webinars and newsletters, but nothing is more powerful than a professionally written blog.

Although a company blog requires a the largest time commitment, the benefits to your business cannot be denied:

  • Businesses that blog have 55% more web visitors.
  • B2C businesses that blog generate 88% more leads per month.
  • B2B businesses that blog generate 67% more leads per month.

Facts and my own experience all lead me to the same conclusion that businesses should consider providing a blog for their customers.  In order to give it the attention it requires, ensure that your blog:

  1. Is professionally written
  2. Provides useful industry insights that your audience wants to know more about
  3. Maintains frequency (I suggest 1 a week or a minimum of 2 a month)
  4. Is published on the same day and time each week
  5. Engages your audience with tips and questions
  6. Provides visuals
  7. Has relevant and topical subject matter
  8. Avoids shameless self promotion (no selling or references to your products or services)
  9. Is open and honest
  10. Written in first person
  11. Written (or ghost written) by an owner or very least senior executive (not the marketing VP – see point 8
  12. Is correctly tagged and posted
  13. Posted on a company-branded and formatted blog with tracking capabilities (e.g. WordPress or Blogger)

The difference between “helping” and “selling” is just two letters in terms of spelling, but those two letters can make all the difference to the way your audience perceives your brand.

What ways have you positioned your marketing to provide free advice to your customers?  Do you have an online chat, webinars or a blog?  If not, why not?  It’s never too late to give your audience a positive brand experience and leave them asking for more!