Category : Content Marketing

Blogging Business Strategy Content Marketing

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy to Attract Leads and Boost Sales

Having a content marketing strategy is the most important part of doing marketing on the web. This is especially true in the B2B world where the sales cycle is long or if you’re selling services or high ticket items.

Having interesting content is what helps you start that initial relationship with your prospects and keeps them engaged. In most cases, prospects are not ready to do business with you upon their first visit to your site.

But if you have relevant and compelling content that teaches them something new, show them how to solve their pains or problems,  entertains them, intrigues them, or provokes them, then they would be more likely to consider you when they are ready to make their buying decisions.

So, to attract web visitors, create engagement and establish your authority, you must offer content that is educational, useful, relevant, and original. In other words, your content must be remarkable!

Examples of organizations that have done a great job of content marketing are Hubspot, Marketo, and Breakpoint Systems. Just visit the websites and blogs of these companies and pay attention to how they write their blog articles as well as how they create and give away useful and educational E-books. Every content they produce are packed with useful information!

The benefits of Creating Awesome Content

Creating awesome content benefits your business in so many ways. Here are a few:

  • Awesome content helps to establish yourself as the expert and authority in your field.
  • Awesome content is more likely to attract links and mentions from external websites and blogs. Why are links important? In SEO, links are significant ranking variable.
  • Awesome content gets shared in the social media universe, generating publicity and traffic for your site.
  • Awesome content engages your audience and builds trust, driving your visitors and prospects further down the conversion funnel.

Creating Awesome Content Requires a Great Deal of Efforts!

I’ve preached the merits of content marketing with every organizations that I have worked with and I’ve always run into a wall each time. Indeed, creating high quality and interesting content requires a great deal of time and efforts. Most organizations struggle with creating content because they just don’t put enough resources into this very important marketing initative!

In addition, the people who have the knowledge and the insights already have full time jobs to deal with. Furthermore, most of them are not good writers and trying to get them to write is like pulling teeth.

So with all of these challenges, how do you proceed? Read on to find out…

The Content Creation Process

So how do you go about coming up with content ideas and creating the content? Below, I outline the steps that you should follow to create awesome content.

1) Know Everything about your Target Audience

The first step you should take is to truly understand your target audience. Asides from gathering basic demographic information, you should also find out what keep them up at night, what are their pain points, what problems are they trying to solve, what are their aspirations, what do they want to learn, etc.

In addition, you should find out about their online behaviors. What keywords do they search on? Which blogs do they frequently visit? Which social networking sites (linkedin, facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc) and forums are they most active on? Do they prefer video content or blog articles?

Keep in mind that in the B2B world, you should have different types of content for different people that are involved in the decision process (i.e an engineer cares more about unique features and tips, a purchasing manager cares more about cost and supply chain, and C-level exectives would care more about your company’s history, reputation, track record, etc).

The best ways to gain insights into your prospects and customers are to survey them, talk to folks in sales and customer service, and review your Google analytic data. In fact, by reviewing your Google analytic data, you could mine valuable data such as which keywords are bringing in the traffic, which pages have the most views, and what are they keywords people search for when they are on your site.

The above exercise is very important so you should spend the right amount of time to research your target audience and truly understands their needs, desires, problems, pains. Armed with these information and insights, you will be able to create content that really resonates with them.

2) Understand the Content Need for Each Stage of the Buying Cycle

How fast a prospect becomes a customers depends on the length of the buying cycle and how fast you can accelerate a prospect through the buying cycle. Having relevant content at each stage of the buying cycle would certainly help propel the prospects through the buying cycle.

A prospect that is still at the early stage of researching for a solution would need different information than a prospect that already has a short list of potential vendors and is evaluating the qualifications of each vendor.

At the early stages, prospects are more interested in educational and insightful information about industry trends, new developments, new approaches to solving the same problem, etc. Blog articles, videos, infographics are the best types of medium to deliver these types of content.

At the later stages, prospects want to compare features, benefits, lead time, pricing, quality, reliability, delivery, etc. At the later stages, content in the forms of case studies, comparison reports, webinars, and product demos help build your case  and move the prospects closer to doing business with you.

3) Perform keyword research

Perform keyword research using the free Google keyword tool or other tools (wordtracker, keyword discovery) to identify the topics and issues that are popular with your target audience. The keyword tools can give you valuable data such as the popularity of the topics (based on monthly number of searches). You should target the long tail keyword phrases (keywords with more than 3 words) since they are more targeted and have less competition.

4) Monitor social media, forum, and blog conversations

Forums and social networking sites such as linkedin, yahoo answers, quora, twitter, facebook, etc are places where people go to to ask questions and share thoughts and ideas. By monitoring these conversations, you can gain lots of insights into the topics or issues that your target audience cares about. You can also use social media monitoring tools like Social Mention, Technorati, TweetBeep, Topsy, Google Alerts, Twilert,  Trackur (paid), Radian6 (paid), Hootsuite, Argyle, Alterian, etc to track and monitor conversations around certain keywords that you want to monitor.

If your competitors already have active blogs and forums, you should go there and check them out to find out what types of topics are  currently hot.

In addition, you should subscribe to related blogs and industry news sites. By keeping up with the hot topics and trends related to your industry, you can find inspiration to write your own articles.

5) Create a Content Creation Plan & Calendar

Once you have completed steps 1-4, it’s now time to put together a content creation plan. Your plan should includes the topics for your content, who should be the writer and editor, the types of content (blog articles, solution guides, videos, webinars, etc) and when to publish the content (content calendar). Ideally, you should be cranking out content on a weekly basis.

For technical oriented types of content, you definitely want to enlist the help of subject matter experts. Subject matter experts possess specific knowledge and insights that are valuable to share with your target audience. Since most technical people are not really good writer themselves nor do they have the time to write, it’s best for you to interview them to get the information and then get a technical writer to compose a coherent and compelling article.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessary have to produce all the content in-house. You could always outsource some aspects of your content. For more general and industry trends types of content, you might want to outsource to free lance journalists (Check out contently.com and brafton.com!)

To help keep your content plan organized, you can use Google Calendar or an Excel spreadsheet.

What are the different Types of Content

Your content could be in many forms. Here are a few common forms of content on the web and their uses:

  • blog articles – blog articles are great for establishing thought leadership. Blog is usually used for sharing industry trends, announcing new product releases, discussing current issues in your industry and business, and discussing about issues that are relevant to your target audience’s concerns. Blog articles are ideal for generating awareness among prospects that are at the early stage of the buying cycle. Blog articles also help drive traffic to your site and help your overall SEO efforts.
  • White papers (PDF) – White papers are ideal for talking about a complicated idea and sharing tips. When a topic is too long to be a blog article, it’s best to create a white paper for it. White papers are great offers to give away to prospects in exchange for their contact information.
  • E-books – An E-book is a comprehensive write up on a particular topic. E-books are perhaps the best offer you can give to your prospects to entice them to give up their contact information.
  • Videos – Videos have the power to engage and captivate people’s attention. Your videos don’t need to be professional and expensive to produce either. The important thing is that the audio is good and that you have good content to share.
  • Infographics – Infographics are graphic representation of a topic. Recently, infographics are becoming very popular on the web as they are nice to look at and they do a better job of conveying an idea in a graphical format.
  • Podcasts – A podcast is a series of audio files that can be subscribed to and downloaded. You could host your podcast files on Apple’s Itune store for people to download.
  • Webinars – A webinar is basically an online seminar. It’s a very cost effective and interactive way of hosting an online event on a particular topic and allowing your audience to engage with you through online Q&A. Popular online webinar services include gotomeeting.com, webex.com, anymeeting.com.
  • Case Studies – Case Studies are a great way to establish social proof and to educate prospects how you help clients from different industry solve a particular problem or improve business efficiency using your products, services, or solutions.
  • Interviews – Interviewing experts and other authority figures in your industry is a great way to associate yourself with prominent figures which adds to your credibility.

Note that you could also take an existing piece of content and repurpose it. For example, a PDF white paper could be repurposed into multiple blog articles and a video could be converted into a podcast file. Repurposing makes a lot of sense!

6) Follow Good Copywriting, Design, & SEO Practices

Good copywriting and story telling and great designs are important to keep your audience engaged. Your content must not only be remarkable, but they must be easy to consume, interesting to follow, and beautifully presented also.

In addition, be sure to follow SEO best practices by doing keyword research and doing proper on-page optimization.  Do not try to stuff keywords at the expense of content quality. It’s important to keep SEO in mind, but your writing should also flow naturally.

7) Promote Your Content

Now that you have invested the time and efforts to create those awesome pieces of content, it’s time to let your target audience knows about it. Leverage your relationships with bloggers, media outlets, and key industry influencers to promote your content. You can also use social book marking (digg, stumbleupon, reddit, etc) and social media channels (twitter, facebook, google +, & linkedin) to share and promote your content.

Great content + SEO + social media promotions will bring massive web visits and boost your sales. If you continue to do these things well, you will see your sales shoot through the roof!

8) Monitor, Measure & Analyze

In order gauge the effectiveness of your content marketing and social media efforts, you need to monitor, measure, and analyze your results and performance.

Start with identifying your goals and metrics. What do you want to achieve? More traffic to your site? Get more links to your site? More engagement with your target audience? More leads/sales/revenue?

For measurement and analysis, analyze the data from your Analytics program (Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Omniture, etc) and find out:

  • Which articles drive the most traffic
  • Which keywords are effective
  • Which social media channels drive the most engagement
  • Which topics resonate the most with your target audience

Just Do It!

As I stated above, embarking on a content marketing journey requires a strategy and commitment from almost everyone in the entire organization. Organizations must realize the importance of having a sound content marketing strategy and must invest in the necessary resources to create relevant and interesting content. The pay-offs will be huge if done well. But if your organization is slow to implement an effective content marketing strategy, then pretty soon your business might become irrelevant!

Read More
Content Marketing

Discover the Website Copywriting Secrets of the Pros to Convert More Visitors into Customers

You could go broke spending tons of money on advertising if you can’t convert the visitors on your website into buying customers.

Great copywriting is the key to turning website visitors into leads or customers. If you are not a writer, then you should hire a professional copywriter to write copy for your web content. But a great copywriter can cost you an arm and a leg. In other words, they’re very expensive!

But if you have moderate writing skills and don’t mind writing, you can certainly produce compelling and persuasive copy. Just follow the proven copywriting tips and tricks of the professionals!

Below, I will share with you some good practices I have learned from various great copywriters.

1. Thoroughly understand and know everything about your target audience

To have success, your writing must resonate with your target audience and stirs their emotions. In order to do so, you must first do your research (surveys, emails, interviews, and feedback from sales) and find out as much information as possible about your target audience.

Here are some important information you would need to find out about your target audience:

  • Demographic information such as age, sex, income, educational level, company size, etc.
  • What are their pain points or problems?
  • What are their fears, concerns, and desires?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What’s their budget?
  • Where do they want to be?
  • How would you characterize their personalities?
  • What are their pet peeves?
  • And on…

With this information, you could build a persona. A persona is essentially a fictitious character that best represents your target audience. Sometimes, you might need to create 2 or 3 different personas if you have different segment of customers.

2. Craft a Compelling and Seductive Headline

The headline is the most important element in copywriting. A headline can make or break your copy.

With a compelling and seductive headline, you can instantly captivate the visitors’ attention and draw them further into your copy.

On the other hand, a bland and boring headline could just easily make the visitors hit the back button and instantly disappear from your website. As a result, no sales and no leads for your business.

Here are some tips to help you write great headlines:

  • Make a promise or convey a compelling benefit for the visitors. What’s in it for them?
  • Ask a question.
  • Make a bold declaration.
  • Start the headline with, “How to…”
  • Make a list, i.e. “10 novel methods to….”

I want to emphasize again the important of a strong headline. If you are stuck for ideas, you could always check out magazines such as Cosmopolitan to get some inspirations. As you know, Cosmopolitan magazine employs some of the finest copywriters to write for them.

3. Use Simple and Concrete Languages and Words

Please save the readers from any headaches by avoiding fancy jargons and complicated words and languages. In order to persuade the audience, they must clearly understand what you are selling and why they should buy from you.

As such, use simple words and languages that your target audience could understand without their head spinning. Also, it must be concrete. Replace qualitative qualifiers with quantitative qualifiers. Don’t say things like, “Our product saves you lots of time.” Instead say something like “Our products cut your wait time by 10 hours.”

4. Use words that stir the audience’s emotions

Try to use words that are vivid and can stir the audience’s emotions. As you know, people buy mostly on emotions. So use lots of strong action verbs and try to vividly paint a picture of how their lives will be transformed by using your products or  services.

5. Use lots of “You” in the copy

Face it. People don’t care about how great your company is or how great your products are. They care about themselves. They want to know what you can do for them.

By using lots of “you” in your copy, you make the audience feel more connected.

6. Ensure your writing is scannable and digestible

Reading on the web could be difficult for most people. As a matter of fact, most people don’t read on the web. Instead, they scan and skim, trying to quickly capture the main points.

As such, your writing should be easy for them to digest and scan through.

Follow these tips to give users a good experience of consuming your content:

  • Use short paragraphs. Each paragraph should be no longer than 5 sentences. It’s best to keep each paragraph 2-3 sentences.
  • Use lots of bullets. Bullets make it easy for people to scan and digest.
  • Use subheadings generously if your copy is long. Make sure the subheadings are bolded too. The presence of subheadings make it easy for people to quickly know the main point of each section.
  • Mix in a few images and photos to make your content more interesting. Long amount of texts can get boring. So, try to mix in a few images here and there. But make sure the images are relevant to the message. Don’t use cheesy looking stock images that have no relevancy.
  • Use font size of at least 14 pixel. I’ve seen so many web content with such tiny texts that it hurts my eyes to read them.
  • Limit the width of your content to 600 pixel or less.

7. Emphasize the benefits

Rather than expound on the features of your products, you should instead emphasize the benefits of your products or services. First, understand the pain points or problems that your target audience is dealing with.

Then address these pain points by clearly describing how your products or services solve their problems and what benefits they will gain if they use your products or services.

8. Follow SEO Best Practices

Writing for the web is more tricky in that you have to account for the search engines as well. By following on page SEO best practices, you can get your web pages ranked higher on the search engines so that more people could discover your content.

The most important aspect of on-page SEO is making sure you do your keyword research. Figure out what keyword phrase you want to optimize for each webpage. You could use the free Google keyword research tool to do your keyword research.

The keyword phrase should meet the following requirements:

  • High number of searches per month
  • Low level of competition
  • Relevant to your target audience and to your products and services

Once you have identified the keyword phrase you want to optimize your webpage for, be sure to place your keywords in appropriate places such as the headline, the beginning of your content and toward the end of your content.

Additionally, you should incorporate your targeted keywords in the “alt” tag for all the relevant images on your web page. By following best SEO practices, you give your web page a much better chance of attracting targeted visitors.

Some Great Copywriting Resources

I have provided you with some powerful copywriting tips above. Copywriting is definitely an important skill that can help you boost your website performance.

I highly recommend you to use the resources below (disclosure: they’re affliate links) to help you write powerful content for your website.

Read More
Content Marketing Website Design

Secrets to Creating A Sticky Web Page that Captivates Your Visitors

sticky website frogHaving a website alone is no guarantee that you will get any business if your site is lousy. If you want visitors to stick around once they land on your website, your website better be sticky and engaging. Nowadays, people have so much distractions – The TV, Facebook, Youtube, Iphone, Ipod, not to mention other competing websites! You only have a few seconds to captivate your visitors’ attention when they land on your site.

If you fail to make a strong impression or fail to engage them instantly, they will quickly hit the back button and look for something else!

So how can you make your site more sticky and engaging? Follow these rules:

Create an Attractive and Professional Looking Design

You only have less than 5 seconds to make an impression on your visitors. As such, the look and feel of your site must instantly convey professionalism and trust when visitors first land on your site. Follow these tips to ensure your site has an attractive and professional look and feel:

  • Have a professionally designed logo – The logo represents your brand and your image. Therefore, make sure you invest some money to hire a professional graphic designer to design a logo for your business.  The logo should be positioned on the upper left corner of the header section.
  • Use maximum of 3-4 colors for your color scheme – Use 2 dominant colors for your site features and 2 colors for background and Call to Action buttons. Keeping the number of colors to a minimum of 3-4 make your site more pleasing to look at. Also, make sure the colors go well together. You can refer to the site colourlovers.com for suggested color schemes.
  • Use high quality, crisp, and professional looking photos or images that are relevant to the content. Images and graphics make your content more interesting and captivating. Just make sure the images or photos are relevant to the content.
  • Have enough white spaces around the important elements – White space provides breathing area for your site and makes your site looks cleaner.
  • Use a clean, simple layout – Find inspiration from Apple. Apple is the expert at using clean and simple, yet elegant designs. Simple isn’t necessarily easy. Creating something that is simple can be a challenge as we naturally want to throw the whole kitchen sink into a design. Resist that urge and only show what’s necessary. Also, stick to a 2 column layout. 3 column layout design can overwhelm the visitors.

Let Visitors Know They Are in the Right Place

When the visitors land on your site, they want to know right away whether you have what they are looking for. If your site is not clear on what you offer, they will bounce right away. Follow these tips to help visitors know they are in the right place:

  • Have a tagline – A tagline is a branding element that succintly summarizes what your site offers to your visitor. A tagline should be short and located beneath the logo.
  • Have a powerful headline near the top of the page that conveys what values you offer to your visitors.
  • Include a short paragraph to explain what your business do and who your target customers are on the top of the page. Also, include a few bullet points on the top to convey the features,  benefits, and value proposition of your products or services.

Establish Trust and Credibility

Visitors are always waried of spams and unscrupulous sites. They would only engage with you and follow you if you are trustworthy and credible. To establish trust and credibility, you must include the following trust elements on your site:

  • Show customer testimonials and/or case studies – Social proof is the best way to establish your credibility. If you’re good at what you do, then prove it by showing your clients’ testimonials or case studies. Video testimonials are the best. If not, try to get their photos. If you are a B2B business, then do show logos of your clients.
  • Show press mentions – Did you appear on the news or some popular magazines/blogs/news sites?
  • Show Industry Association seal – If you are member of your industry association, show off those seals.
  • Site security seals – If you collect personal information or credit card payment on your site, then it is absolutely necessary to show your site security seals (Verisign, Truste, McAffee, etc).

Create Awesome and Epic Content

Once you’ve made a strong impression on your visitors with a professional looking site and have established your credibility, you still need great, jaw dropping content to keep your visitors engaged. How do you create great content?

Content is a combination of texts, graphics, and videos that work well together to deliver the message that resonates with the visitors. To create great content, you first need to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is, what their pain points are, what problems they are trying to solve, and how can you make their life easier or better with your solutions.

Content is the foundation of your website and marketing efforts. To drive traffic and repeat visitors, you must continuously add content to your site. A great way to add content to your site is to add a blog. You can write blog articles about anything that might provide value to your visitors. Topics that are interesting to your visitors include news and trends in your industry, how to do certain things better, faster, or cheaper. You can also do interviews with other experts in your industry and post the interview in your blog article.

Be sure to follow good copywriting principles when writing your content. Also, make sure you format your content for best user experience, which means using lots of bullets, avoiding long sentences and long paragraphs, and use bolded sub headlines to introduce different topics.

Do Everything Possible to Capture Your Visitors’ Email!

When visitors come to your website, if they don’t call you or fill out the contact form, you don’t want them to just leave and forget about you. That would be a waste of your marketing money and efforts.

You have to be able to capture your visitors’ email.  But in order for your visitors to give up their emails, you need to offer them something compelling. Perhaps, you can offer them a free report, a free Ebook, a coupon, free demo, etc. Make the offer as attractive as possible.

Once you have your prospects’ email, you can continue the dialogue and build a relationship with your prospects by providing them with additional offers and content (articles, case studies, videos, webinars, etc). This process is essential for building trust. It may take a few weeks to a few months before prospects decide to do business with you.

You can use an “autoresponder” email marketing service to send email messages to your list of prospects automatically. A good starter autoresponder service for small businesses that you can use is Aweber, probably the most popular one out there. It costs only $20 a month.

Since Aweber is an established email service company and is recognized among Google, Yahoo, AOL, your email messages will have higher delivery rate and not end up in the SPAM box.

Another good email marketing program to use is Vertical Response.

Website Design Resources

For small business websites, I highly recommend building your website on the WordPress Content Management System. There are lots of advantages to using WordPress. First of all, it’s a free content management system, which makes it really easy for you to update or make changes to your site. No programming or geeky stuffs required. Additionally, there are lots of plugins available that add lots of cool and useful features and functionalities to you site.

And with the help of a professional wordpress theme, you could produce an attractive and professional looking site within hours. Here are 2 WordPress themes professional designers use:

  1. Thesis theme – If you enjoy customizing and producing your own unique designs, the Thesis wordpress theme would be perfect for you. Used by many professional designers and businesses, Thesis has awesome built in typography and powerful SEO features as well as design flexibility.
  2. Studiopress theme – Studiopress theme is also another popular wordpress theme that has amazing designs and powerful SEO features. If you just want an attractive and professional looking website without having to do much customization, then the Studiopress would be perfect!

Where to get High Quality Images & Graphics

Here are 2 places to get high quality images and graphics:

Email Autoresponder Service

 

Read More