Sales

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?

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For CEOs of SMBs Facing Marketing and Sales Challenges: Seeing is Believing

https://i0.wp.com/medcitynews.com/wp-content/uploads/bigstock-Jumping-Over-A-Challenge-To-Ac-8850217.jpgThe day after one of the most heightened elections in Canada’s history, where the “underdog” came through to win the election and become our second-youngest Prime Minister, I felt it apropos to draw an analogy to CEOs and sales and marketing.

Canada had a need for change. We were calling out for change as many did in the U.S. before Obama was elected, and when it came time for our elections, the need was answered with a new direction and a different party.

When I recently read a study conducted by the BDC that said that one of the most challenging business functions for business leaders in Canada is Sales and Marketing Strategy, it validated my experience working with CEOs of SMBs: they have a need.

The study breaks down this sales and marketing challenge further into the following areas:

  1. Increasing the number of customer prospects (58%)
  2. Developing and executing a sales and marketing plan (54%)
  3. Converting prospects into customers (52%)

There were other sales and marketing challenges including conducting market research, integrating or improving the use of social media and other digital channels, understanding the competitive market, and developing an online presence.

As a CEO myself, I know that most of us wear multiple hats and are responsible for many of our businesses’ key functions in addition to sales and marketing, including HR, operations and finance. When we know we need help in these areas, we hire accountants, Human Resources consultants, and business advisors. Why would sales and marketing be any different?

It spells out in this study that business leaders prefer to hire an external expert to help them to resolve their sales and marketing challenges, so why is it so difficult for a CEO to have faith and to trust a marketing expert promising them that they can help them with their marketing and sales challenges?

Ultimately, hiring an external provider will come down to a few key factors: their reputation, references, price – but the essential factor is whether as a CEO you feel you can trust this candidate – whether you believe they can deliver on their promises. Once you have that, you have a winner.

As a CEO, have you been approached by an external marketing agency? If you decided not to work with them, why not?

Your Social Media – When is it a Waste of Time?

social_media_ROIWhether you’re a small or big business, being on social media is a good idea. The visibility and connectivity accessible through social media has convinced most business owners that it’s worth their while. But what isn’t so clear is how to measure what’s working and what’s not, and when to drop a platform that’s just waste of time and energy.

While its possible to track ROI and conversions, it can be tough to accurately measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. You might find that some social media efforts that drive visitors to your content can be measured in other ways. For example, if your social strategy isn’t so content-heavy, and if you are promoting products or events, then your business would fit a more traditional measure for ROI and conversions. The only way to know if what you’re doing is enough is to have a gauge on your ROI.

In order to get there, you have to align your objectives to your measurement. For each network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) you’ll need to have an objective before you can decide on how successful the network is. You’ll need to decide what measurement would be the most valuable to you. Maybe you’re a blogger and your goals are e-mail sign-ups and blog followers, or, maybe you are a retailer looking to increase sales and traffic to your website – either way you must consider your key metric. I can guarantee that if you have had no objectives for your social media, then you will be extremely disappointed with the results.

Capturing the data is the easy part – measuring interactions (likes, clicks, shares, followers) and analyzing traffic, reach, and leads, can help gauge what your business is getting out of its social media investment, but you’ll need to measure these outcomes against your objectives.

Like all marketing tools, each social media network provides some general trends and demographic information to help guide your decision as to which platform your unique business should focus on, but ultimately, you need to understand your brand and your audience before you can choose the right platform, set objectives and measure if it is successful.

If you leverage the right tools and tactics necessary to better understand your audience, then you are more likely to put out messaging and content that is most likely to increase loyalty, drive sales, and help you reach company goals.

Measuring social media ROI can be extremely frustrating and difficult. I’d love to know how you measure your social media ROI, and what metrics you measure. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comment section!

What’s Your Biggest Pain Point?

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As marketers, we try to assess client’s needs and results to understand what strategy should be followed to help them achieve their goals.  As success can be measured on various levels including ROI, awareness, reach, leads, and conversions, it is critical to clearly define your needs, so a targeted strategy can be developed.  Needs are usually rooted in what I like to call “pain points”. In this weeks blog, I thought I would take the pulse of the industry and ask you what you feel are biggest pain points facing your business.

As a result of this quick survey, I hope to share with you “pain point” trends and some analysis of what these trends might mean for our industry and your business. The results will only be as strong as your participation, so I hope you’ll participate. What is the top “pain point” facing your business?

  • Financial concerns
  • Employee/personnel issues
  • Marketing ROI
  • Marketing strategy
  • Online marketing (emails, web, ads)
  • Mobile application of business
  • No brand awareness
  • Lack of sales
  • Lack of innovation
  • Other – define:

I look forward to reading the results and sharing the trends in next week’s blog.

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!

Knowing your Competition

This past week, my team completed a large proposal, which required us to conduct some preliminary research about the competitors to our client and how to “fill the gaps” between what is being done and what has not yet been attempted.

I was reminded how valuable it is to understand your competition in order to highlight your unique selling point, and so I decided to pull this week’s blog from the archives on getting to know your competition. As the old expression goes: “Keep your friends close and your enemy even closer”.

As a small or medium business, knowing what your competition is doing will help you to define your competitive edge, determine your marketing strategy and plan for what types of tactics will be successful for you in increasing your sales and long term growth.

Competition research and assessment doesn’t need to be complicated, but it can be tricky and time consuming, so you might want to consult with a marketing expert to help you. If you have the time and resources, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you on what should be included in any good competitive analysis.

Write The Names Of Your Competition

Write out who your direct competitors are that largely mirror the products/services you offer. You cannot strategize and learn about your competitors if you don’t clearly establish who they are. Consider adding companies that may indirectly compete with yours, but offer products/services that address the needs of the same target audience.  Also, include here where your competitor is located, as geography also plays a role in direct competition.

Perform a SWOT Analysis

No competitive analysis would be complete without a SWOT analysis to analyze the Strengths (S), Weaknesses ( W ), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) of your company and competitors. “Strengths” facilitate business growth, whereas “weaknesses” are factors that hinder business growth including low quality products or services, poor customer service, etc. “Opportunities” and “threats” are external factors that can hamper your business’s performance, including (1) economic forces; (2) social, cultural, demographic and environmental forces; (3) political, governmental and legal forces; (4) technological forces and (5) competitive forces.  Take the time to look at if the company is expanding or cutting back.

Examine Their Materials

What are the company’s marketing activities?How do they market and advertise their businesses? Look at materials like their quarterly and annual reports, press releases, interviews, website, and SM sites. The annual reports will give you an idea as to their annual sales, and possibly their pricing structure. Check out their SM networks, and see who they are talking to, and what they are talking about.  You should be able to determine what their target audience is and what their competitive advantages and disadvantages are compared to your business. All this valuable information will help you form a clear picture about your competitors’ objectives and strategies.

Research The Market

You will have covered some of this in the SWOT analysis, but make sure you’ve looked at the growth potential of the market. Consider whether you have the technical, marketing, or engineering expertise to capitalize on the market’s opportunities to grow your business.  Is the market concentrated or fragmented?

As a result of your businesses competitive analysis, you can identify competition, what their planned strategies are, and how to capitalize on your business’s distinctive competencies to achieve business growth.

If you invest in marketing without performing a competitive analysis, you run the risk of creating marketing tools, and product/service offerings that are way off the mark. This can cost you valuable time and money.

Another great saying comes to mind: Knowledge is power. Knowing what your competition aren’t focused on can be very powerful by helping you develop a strong marketing strategy, and dynamic branding with targeted activities that will increase your sales and ROI.

Do you have any questions about how to conduct a competitive analysis? Have you ever conducted a SWOT analysis for your business? If so, was it helpful? What has your experience been in gaining the competitive edge? Please share your questions and comments below.

Why is Marketing one of the Least Respected Business Disciplines?

persuasionMany business owners consider marketing to be a necessary evil, you know you need to do it, but you’re not exactly sure why or what you need to do.  Marketing is an indefinable grey area covering the various activities you might do between producing a product, offering a service and selling it.

Although online marketing has helped to improve this, it’s often hard to directly attribute revenue to marketing, it’s always been one of the least-respected business disciplines — poorly measured activities that are deemed “not necessary” and are the first to be cut when times get tough.

I like to think of marketing as all the steps that lead up to the sales conversation — whether it’s market research, branding, pricing and distribution, packaging and promotion, market segmentation or advertising.  All of these disciplines help to bridge the gap between the product/service and the customers who either buy them or ought to.

Simply stated, marketing is everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers.

You might think of marketing this way: If business is all about people and money and the art of persuading one to part from the other, then marketing is all about finding the right people to persuade.

No matter how terrific or unique you company is, people (consumers) don’t just “buy” a product/service.  It is not happenstance that they want to buy YOUR product or service. They “buy” the concept of what that product/service will do for them, or help them do for themselves.  For example people who are overweight don’t join a franchise diet centre to eat pre-packaged micro-meals.  They “buy” the concept of a new, thin, happy and successful self.

People have their own unique perceptions of the world based on their belief system.  The most innovative ideas, the greatest products, or a superior service succeed only when you market within the context of people’s perceptions. Once you understand and accept this premise, you are ready to start marketing your brand to your audience.

I leave you with the immortal words of Aretha Franklin, “All I’m askin’ (oo)
is for a little respect…”

Do you feel you have a good understanding of what role your marketing plays in your company?  Do you feel your marketing should increase your sales or that your marketing should you’re your audience to the sales conversation? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.