How To Engage In Content Marketing Like the Big Boys Do

Here’s a terrific opportunity to educate your customers in a big way and at the same time show your expertise. Write an eBook on your specialty. This doesn’t have to be the size of a novel, it just has to be rich enough to cover what’s important for them to know. It gives you the opportunity to put any myths to bed as well. If a customer takes your eBook, you then have their undivided attention. They are actively seeking the information you are providing. Ebooks are great because not only are they typically a quick read, you also have the ability to put live links in place to bring in other resources for them to enjoy. Maybe send them to your website for more information.

If you move into eBooks you are actively participating in content marketing. This type of marketing is hugely influential online right now. Content marketing is massively desirable to the search engines. Ebooks are fresh valuable content. You can use it in so many ways. If you’re trying to grow your list, you can use it as an email harvester. Offer it to customers who give up their email to possess it. You can use it to influence the way people view you. It shows your authenticity. I try at every turn to show customers what I know and how it can help them.

Once you write one eBook, I can assure you, you’ll write more. There’s a large payoff, when people care about what you say. We all have an audience, most of us are unaware. Take the benefit of a doubt and try one small eBook. Email it to all your existing customers. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It will show your thought leadership. They will appreciate the education. Many I’m betting assume what you do or at the very least under estimate the full extent of your services. Consider an eBook for each service. Develop it into a series.

If you also do public speaking having an eBook, to draw attention to, gives your listening audience a reason to visit your website. Direct them to a landing page where they can get your latest eBook for FREE. On the front end make it look like the cover of a book. The graphic and message should resonate with whom your speaking. If you get enough ebooks together over time, you could put them all together and do a hardcopy book. I call my book of tips – “101 Branding Tips.” I refer to it as my 114 page brochure. ( it’s unconventional but is always well received. As content marketing suggests, it’s all about valuable information that customers are looking for. It all follows the mantra of give before you get. NEVER use this platform to sell directly. As you write your content, try your best to not write an ad. It’s tempting, but i suggest you resist the urge. Once you first experience the reaction to authoring content, it’s value will be apparent. 

Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable

In the world of promotion, branding has been called anything from a logo, to putting a logo on things, to a general image. If I may be so humble to speak for those those of us who specialize in branding, a brand could replace the word “reputation.” How a customer perceives you, your town , your product, experience, or organization etc. is your brand.

Most marketing people I come into contact with simply don’t get it and arrogantly think that sales promotion is 100% of what branding encompasses. Now, granted the end game in branding is to bring more dollars into the organization, BUT that isn’t soley achieved through sales promotion.

Branding done properly with a skilled facilitator looks at all aspects of your brand to see that all elements are pulling in the same direction. All of this is strategic thinking and much of it exists outside the sales and promotion circles. HR plays a role, business management culture plays a role, even people associated with the organization such as the custodian can affect the brand for good or bad. My opinion here on this blog post affects my brand, depending on my audience’s response to it.

Once you learn to embrace your brand and define it, only then will you appreciate the value it holds in making your entire business a success on multiple levels including but not limited to sales promotion.Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable-061115

You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking

A few years ago I pitched my branding process to a mid-size Canadian City mayor. Suffice to say he loved the presentation and the opportunities it would open up. The one item that buried the project was his short-sightedness. Knowing upfront that there were deficiencies in the brand, he didn’t appreciate my comment that those deficiencies would have to be fixed so that their brand had a better chance of being authentic to it’s target audience. The fastest route to failure is to tout something powerful and then have your buyer discover it was all just advertising spin. The city can’t walk the walk. Today they’re still just doing advertising but labelling it branding.

You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking-043015

Here in my community we have a city market. The bylaws people saw an opportunity. They showed up early on a saturday morning and went booth to booth gathering business cards from the grannies selling biscuits, young people selling items from their hobbies and other micro entrepreneurs. Satisfied that they spoke to everyone, they went back to their offices and proceeded to send out notices to all these people that they’d all have to buy a business license or shut it down. Their phoney smiles hid the reality of their intentions – more fees for the the city. They didn’t care what happened to these individuals and their dreams. What they failed to see was the long-term benefits of city market vendors. Many of these folks are testing their ideas and planning for the future. A local furniture store just turned 90. It all started with one guy peddling furniture door-to-door. Where would the 4 locations and hundreds of employees be today if the city had shut them down because they didn’t have a $XX business license?

Another new grocery business in Ottawa, Canada ( Farm Boy ) started in their city market and now have multiple locations and are spreading across the province. That equates to property taxes, bricks and motor leases, employment, and investment all started in a small city market. What our city should have done was gone in, introduced itself and offered to help them in any way they could to succeed. They should provide mentors, and business incentives to go beyond the cookies in wax paper to opening a small bakery in an area the city would like to re-new. But, this involves long-term thinking and long-term branding.

Place brands like any other thrive on long-term thinking. Bureaucrats have to start understanding that short-term gains CAN and DO suppress long-term growth. Being smug about shutting down the painted flower pot booth today changed the future that might have been – namely a unique gift shop in a wanting downtown area. All this is branding folks. Doing it with vision creates log-term wealth. Short-term advertising spin is just that.

How to Build a Reputation as an Expert with Content Marketing

To understand what content marketing is about, you have to be clear about what you want (and can) achieve with it and how you can get there with the tight content. The reason why Social Media for B2B seems to be so much harder than B2C is due to the totally different processes in the two.

Where in B2C an advertisement might bring you to buy a new pair of shoes – in B2B you are not likely to choose a business partner because you saw an add. The reason is easy: the wrong pair of shoes will be forgotten in a cupboard after a short while, the wrong business partner in B2B business could easily prove fatal or at least result in significant lower ROI (and some shoes you cannot afford to buy).

The impact of a decision in B2B networking and collaboration on your business can be strong, the bigger the possible impact on your business the more careful you choose and the more certain you want to be, that the person or company you are going to work with, is an expert in their field. That needs more reputation and trust than you will ever be able to create with an advertisement.

Reputation and Expertise:

Even though the main goal for all marketing efforts probably is to increase sales or find new business opportunities, in B2B Social Media and content marketing you have to step back and rethink marketing. In B2B Social Media what you really go for, is to build a reputation as a thought leader and expert in your field.

Unfortunately people will most likely not believe you, if you just say you are an expert. You have to prove/show it. The way to do that is quite similar to the ways you already know from offline work: inform, answer questions, explain, analyse, communicate, be helpful. If you give people the information they are seeking or needing, they are likely to turn to you in case they need something (a collaboration partner or a service provider) in your field.

What kind of content and where to publish?

Where offline you speak on conferences, write articles for industry publications or talk to colleagues and acquaintances on events – online the spectre of possibilities is much wider, the reached audience can be larger and the variety of content you can publish and spread is huge. That does not exactly make getting started easier. There is no right or wrong way to do B2B Social Media via content marketing that can be applied to every industry, every situation and every piece of content. What works one day can be fruitless the next. What works for one business or industry can fail for another. You have to try out, listen and communicate – and learn.

There are uncountable possibilities for content. You can use diverse formats like videos, texts, graphics, and pictures. Some ideas for stellar content you might not have thought of before and some examples of people who do a great job in content marketing are given in this White Paper about Content Marketing “The Social Media Way of Life for B2B Experts and Content Marketers” .

Why are Content Marketing and B2B Social Media related?

Once you have created great content, you want as many people (from your target group) as possible to see it. There is no doubt, that social media can reach a lot of people – if you get it right. Even though there are more factors in the equation why something gets spread in social media than just the quality of the content. But the quality of posts and the value they represent for your audience does not only influence the readiness of people to share and recommend, it also helps you build a following, which is crucial in social media to get more attention.

Social Media is only one channel to publish and spread content – but it is the channel with the largest possibilities. But take into account, that there are great differences between all the social networks out there, not only do they work in different ways, but the users also expect something different. Also some of the networks are good for publishing, some of them are better for spreading the word. For a deeper analysis of the main networks again have a look at the Whitepaper “The Social Media Way of Life for B2B Experts and Content Marketers”

How to get started

Once you have decided on the content you can provide and with which to reach your audience, you have to figure out where to publish it. First choice will probably be your own blog or company blog. Downside of this might be, that visibility for your own page (blog or homepage) does not come for free.

If you already have an active and interested audience for you blog – lucky you. If not, consider using a content publishing platform, that comes with an interested audience. As reader of your blog tend to be from the same field of interest as you, a professional content marketing site is also a great addition to your own blog, if you are looking for new connections outside your usual field of interest.

Once you have published you want your content to spread. You can wait for that to happen on itself. Chances are that you need a lot of good content before you see that happen. So it is a good idea to help your content along.

On all social sites the rule applies: the more good content you have already shared, the more attention your new content will get. So a very important fact about content marketing is: continuity. Having the best of content pieces once, will probably not get you the attention you are looking for. But consistently producing great content will in the end pay off.

8 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Chamber Of Commerce Membership

There are many reasons to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Some of the obvious ones are networking opportunities, community involvement, and the trust that Chamber affiliation builds with your customers. Of course, there are many more benefits you receive from becoming a Chamber member, but many people don’t fully enjoy them. They wrongly assume that by simply paying their annual membership dues lots of new business and friends will automatically show up. Without understanding how to make their Chamber experience work for them they give up on the Chamber in frustration.

Get Out Of The Chamber What You Put In

I’ve been a member of many Chambers of Commerce over the years and even served on several of their committees. That experience has given me the advantage of having talking to hundreds of Chamber members about their experience. Some people have felt the Chamber didn’t benefit them at all, while others claim it allowed their business to grow exponentially. How can two members of the same organization have two very different experiences? The answer is that you get out of the Chamber what you put into it.

If all you do is pay your membership fee you will get a welcome letter and a nice sticker to put on your front door. However, if you invest in building trusting, professional relationships with others through the Chamber the rewards in leads, sales, and friendships are potentially game changing for your business. Here are several ways to get more out of the Chamber by investing in other members.

1. Sign up for their newsletters or updates.
A great way to learn more about your peers at the Chamber and how you can support their business is to sign up for their company newsletter, ezine, or weekly email.

2. Support them online.
Support other Chamber members through any of the social media outlets they use and tell your network about them as well. Have you experienced their service or product first hand? Show your support by writing positive product reviews online.

3. Submit their news to other groups you are part of.
Be sure to share your Chamber peers’ news with other groups you may be part of. Think about professional, LinkedIn, or civic groups for example.

4. Invite them to be part of your seminars.
Invite fellow Chamber members to come speak at your company functions or the business seminars you are hosting. They will appreciate the opportunity to showcase their area of expertise and you will enhance your event with guest speakers.

5. Share or trade skills and expertise.
We are all experts at something. What is your “something”? Share that something with someone else at the Chamber. If you are good at writing ad copy and someone else is good at printing sales flyers then offer to share skills. You will probably help each attract more business this way.

6. Introduce them to your friends.
Be the first person to approach new Chamber members when they arrive. Be friendly and introduce them to others in the group. Your gesture will be remembered and appreciated forever.

7. Bring them to other functions.
Perhaps you are member of other organizations in addition to the Chamber. Invite one or two of your Chamber peers to attend other functions with you as your guest. Introduce them to your other associates. This will increase their circle of connections and you will look like a master networker.

8. Use their business first.
Support your fellow Chamber members by giving them preference when you shop. For example, if you need replacement windows for your home and one of the window companies is a Chamber member, give that company your business. Even if they cost a little more, the goodwill your business generates can be invaluable.

5 Ways to Get More Customers from Your Website

Every small business wishes they could drive more traffic to their website and get more customers. The big question is how do you drive more profits from your website? There are several ways to convert more web visitors into paying customers. Here are 5 ideas to try.

1. Improve Your Web Design

Has your website been updated since 1998? If it hasn’t, stop reading and fix your website before you do anything else. Seriously, your website design should be updated every couple of years.

2. Put a Phone Number PROMINENTLY on Your Website

I am routinely stunned by the number of companies that don’t have a phone number prominently displayed on their website. Sometimes they’ll bury the phone number in the ‘Contact Us’ section. Retail chains will sometimes force visitors to click on ‘Locations’ before they see a phone number.

Why would you make it difficult for someone to find your phone number? Phone calls are the most valuable contact a customer can make. If someone calls they are more likely to buy from you. Why would you hide a phone number? Instead of hiding it, you should put your phone number in a prominently location ‘above the fold’ of the website.

This phone number should be a local or toll free number provided by a call tracking company. This will allow you to track how many people call that phone number and help you figure out if your website is producing profits for you.

3. Make it Clear What you Do

Have you ever been to a website and after 2 or 3 minutes you still can’t tell what the company does? It is a common problem. Make sure your website clearly tells visitors what you offer.

4. Track Visitors and Calls to Your Website

We have a lot of small business clients. The other day I was talking with one and he said ‘I don’t even know why I have a website, it doesn’t work.’ I asked him why he thought it didn’t work. He said that his customers are usually walk-in customers or they find him in the phonebook. They don’t visit his website.

Here’s the problem: he literally has no idea what he’s talking about because he isn’t using a free web analytics tool like Google Analytics.

If you have a website, you should be tracking web traffic as well as tracking leads from phone calls generated by that website. If you aren’t tracking those things, you shouldn’t have a website.

5. Add Valuable Content

If you want Google to like your website and improve your search ranking, and if you want potential customers to buy from you after visiting your website, you need to create valuable content on your website. This doesn’t mean that you need to turn into an expert blogger. It does mean that you should start to improve your site content. Write interesting content or pay someone else to do it.

8 Ways to Differentiate your Small Business

We have all heard the word differentiate before, but…

1. What does it really mean?
2. How does it really work?

The term “differentiate” is defined by as “to form or mark differently from other such things; distinguish”.

As a brand positioning specialist, I define “differentiate” as a means of distinguishing one’s business over its competition. The most important aspect each definition communicates is the need to look at the other guys in your space and find out what makes them special/unique. You then want to do the same with your own business and then compare. This keeps you from hanging your hat on the same hook as the other providers in your space. By comparing your business to your competitors, you can identify key positioning niches that you can claim independently of the other companies. By right, you are then differentiated – as long as the niche(s) you choose is/are distinguishing.

There are an infinite number of differentiation areas a small business can choose, depending upon the particular target buyer, the vertical industry, the solutions being offered, and so on. For the purpose of this piece I am selecting about 15 effective ways to differentiate a business. This is based largely on the many brand positioning programs I have worked on for clients. Also, please note the important characteristic they all share – they can and should be substantiated with proof.

Successful areas of differentiation (in no particular order):

1. Number one or the largest – There are a number of ways to define the distinction as the number one provider in a given industry segment. You can base it on the highest revenue or market cap, the most number of customers, the largest staff, the most offices, etc.

2. Percentage or amount of repeat business – some companies will claim to have the highest customer satisfaction in their industry because 98 percent of their clients, for instance, recommend them to others; or because almost all of their clients use them again.

3. Customer satisfaction – Aside from the explanation in number 4 above, customer satisfaction can also be a claim a business makes as the result of a customer satisfaction survey it conducted. There is obviously a lot of leeway for contrived interpretation since your business is the one conducting the survey. Nonetheless, however, it is a claim based on a survey.

4. Number of clients in one business segment – If you are a business consultant and you have 48 customers and 43 of them are law firms, you can likely claim the distinction as the number one small business consultant focused primarily on law firms. This is of course only possible if your positioning comparison indicates no other consultant has made such a claim.

5. Most cost effective (aka the cheapest) – In some industries this market position makes sense. In others it does not.

6. Most comprehensive – If you are casting yourself as a “one stop shop” in your industry and offer the broadest set of products/services, then this is a very viable positioning stance to take.

7. First or longest standing – While the Internet era has made it cool to be a fresh, new business on the scene, there is still something special about claiming to be the first provider in the industry or the longest standing.

8. Specific features/functionality – so many businesses today try to distinguish their business based on the attributes of their offerings (e.g. we have the most number of stripes on our widget). This is a dangerous position to claim because you really never know where your competitors are in their development efforts. They might be just 2 weeks behind and about ready to come out with a widget that has more stripes.

There are so many bad ways to differentiate a business, and there are so many businesses that choose these poor positioning niches. Here are several examples of distinctions you do not want to claim because they can almost never be substantiated:

A. Best service
B. Most customer focused
C. Easiest to work with
D. Most knowledgeable
F. Nicest (yes I’ve seen such positioning)
G. Best (what does this even mean?)

These are just some of the ineffective positioning niches that I try to avoid at all costs. Trust me, there are so many more.

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