I hear it time and time again from small business owners, “Who am I to create content? I don’t have anything new to say. People are overwhelmed with information mine won’t cut through the noise.”
And here are my replies:
YOU have a unique perspective on your industry and it’s among the reasons people hire you and buy from you.
YOU have a LOT to say about your industry and why your clients get exceptional results when working with you.
YOUR message will cut through the noise when it comes from a place of education, information and service.
When you focus part of your marketing endeavors on quality, useful content you are helping your SEO in big and little ways. Focus on what your customers and clients want to know and tell the story in your own unique way. It’s ok if it doesn’t land with everyone. Your marketing isn’t supposed to, it’s only supposed to land with your ideal clients.
Not sure where to start? Keep a log for the next week on the questions your current and prospective clients ask and note how you respond to them. This is the beginning of a content plan that you can turn into audio, video and written content that can be repurposed over multiple platforms from your website and blog to social media channels.
Not only will this help you from an SEO perspective, it will build a library of resource information you can share with clients, colleagues and prospects adding value and deepening relationships.
What will you do today to begin incorporating content as a key part of your marketing strategy?
Marketing is a frame of mind and it touches all aspects of your business.
Think about it, when you pitch an investor, that’s marketing. When you’re working on your customer acquisition strategy, that’s marketing. When you’re entering a cross-promotional partnership with your neighboring small business – you guessed it – that’s marketing. For some people, marketing puts a bad taste in their mouth, they think of it as a means of coercion or advertising. But when you reframe marketing as storytelling, relationship building and community sustaining, it becomes a posture we can choose to maintain as we navigate the choppy waters of business ownership. The best form of marketing is always word of mouth, but for life in the digital age, that could mean a friend sharing a Facebook post or tagging you on Instagram. If you’ve heard of the Rule of 7, or the magic number of touchpoints you need to have with a customer before they make a purchase or enroll in your services, then you know that you need to maintain your marketing posture in offline and online circles to stay top of mind in a crowded market.
Social media is one tool to engage your audience, and content marketing, a.k.a. storytelling is a strategy that can be used via social media. Centered on creating, publishing and distributing content, content marketing encompasses writing, audio, video and photography, that is shared mainly digitally via social media, blogs, newsletters and websites.
Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for all online marketing efforts that includes your business’s website, social media channels, newsletters, earned online coverage, content marketing, SEO, or search engine optimization and more. It also includes the promotion of programs or products through measured marketing campaigns that can be analyzed for ROI purposes.
A few things social media can be used for include:
Social Media Considerations:
Take the time to analyze each platform and the objective for each platform.
Ask yourself who you are hoping to reach with each platform.
Consider the “why” of your presence on each unique social media channel?
Build distinct brand standards for your voice or messaging (a.k.a brand voice) and visual brand identity.
Determine what type of content will be used on each platform.
Build a calendar of major events where social media will play an intricate role and schedule posts to bring awareness to your events.
Take the time to analyze your insights or analytics to determine who your audience is, the ideal time and day to post, and what posts result in the most (and the least) engagement.
Is your goal brand awareness, creating advocates, selling products, community building/ all of the above?
Define which metrics are most important to you. Is it comments, shares, likes? Incorporate these metrics into your goals.
Go beyond, followers and shares for your goals. Figure out how that’s converting to new supporters/ sales by using Google Analytics.
Track time and budget.
Follow and engage with clients, partners, collaborators and competitors.
Use social media to tell your small business’s unique story!
“Proving” your business model to investors relies on being able to back up your assumptions about your market. Data about how people search or discover products brings you one step closer to making your case. Now imagine if you could get that information easily, quickly and at no cost — and create good looking charts and graphs to use in business plans, presentations and on social media.
Going straight to a search engine for market research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine you’re creating a new line of products for pets, a highly competitive industry. A search for “pet products” yielded 3.5 billion results (yes, that’s a “b”).
Google makes it so much easier with a range of tools designed to mine their own mega-pile of information to understand what people are doing online. What better way for you to learn about your potential customers, than to go right to the place so many people start their buyer journey?
Three Market Research Resources in One
PEWInternet is one of my go-to’s for robust and free market research for learning about online behavior, with a section devoted to “Internet and Technology.” Combined with Google’s Consumer Barometer, you’ll get an even clearer picture about how people use the Internet to discover and purchase products and services.
Consumer Barometer includes Trended Data, Audience Stories, Curated Insights and Graph Builder — saving the best for last.
Trended Data compares Internet usage over time.
Let’s say you were wondering how many in your target audience used their smartphone to access the Internet, filtering by country and demographics. Here’s the result of a search for US aged 25-34 vs. US aged 45-54:
While there are differences as of 2017, it becomes pretty clear that everything is pointing in a mobile direction with smartphone and Internet usage becoming ubiquitous across age groups very soon, if it hasn’t already. This is useful, whether you’re creating a mobile app or wondering how important mobile access is to your marketing strategy.
With Audience Stories, Google segments Internet usage, exploring audience clusters like Brand Advocates, Digital Moms and Millennials.
For example, Google tells us the “how-to” video category is trending strongly. “1 in 10 internet users watch DIY or How-to videos in a typical session.” They go on to explain that, “23% of online videos are viewed in order to learn something new.” This means that educating customers and demonstrating your expertise can help you gain exposure, ultimately being a way to drive more traffic to your website.
When you’re wondering about a good length for your video, Google provides the answer, “How-to Video Viewers are also open to longer videos (5-10 minutes). As many as 75% of How-to Video users watched online videos longer than 5 minutes in the prior week, compared to just 60% among other users.”
Of course Google is in a great position to know what works and what doesn’t, since they own YouTube.
With Curated Insights, Google displays its own research in charts and graphs, going into depth about shopper buying and media behavior. It can be parsed by country, but there’s demographic data presented as well. Here are some particularly interesting insights:
The tools we’ve looked at give you Google’s point of view, but with Graph Builder, you can create your own graphs and charts based on their data. There’s a simple 6-step walk through to show you how to use it, which starts with selecting questions like these:
The Online and Multiscreen World —“How do people watch TV?”
The Smart Shopper —“How did people first hear about the product/offer they bought?”
The Smart Viewer — “What motivated people to watch their most recent online video session?”
Once you figure out which questions are most relevant to your research, you can drill down further by:
Most Recent Video Context
From there, you can investigate by a particular product category. You’d want to, because not every business is the same, and you’ll want data specific to your industry. Granted, the categories are pretty general, but selecting something even close can provide direction.
Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for my “pet products” example, since there’s no category for it — weird, not to offer information about such a huge industry. Oh well, even Google isn’t perfect. Stay tuned — their tools are always changing.
Another drawback is that product filters vary by the question being answered. It would be nice if you could choose your product category first, then apply the questions to it.
Moving on, let’s say you wanted to know if you should spend time using social media to promote hair care products to US consumers. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Online Information Sources, and then use the “product filter” link to select hair care under “most recent product purchased.”
Now, let’s say you’re thinking of offering a discount to encourage people to make a purchase. Here’s a relative comparison of how a discount influences a purchase by category. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Motivation for Purchase. Filter by product, as described previously. Then, you’ll need to hide all the other motivations to create this graph.
Unfortunately, there’s no information about services or B2B “business to business.” However, the tool allows you can compare filtered segments in one chart by selecting more than one at a time.
Now Put Your Information to Good Use
This is just a taste of what you can do with Graph Builder. Once you’ve created the charts you want, you can export as a CSV or png, or share, by selecting the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the graphic. That sharing option may be especially useful for creating a post to a social network.
No matter what product or service you plan to offer, the marketing of that product should be based on a good understanding of the industry and consumer behavior — and the Internet is a good place to start if you know where to look. These free market research tools are a good start, providing valuable insights you may not be able to find elsewhere. Plus, they can help you create and share some compelling graphics, whether that’s for a business plan, presentation or social media marketing.
An effective social media strategy depends on finding the right sites to reach your audience. Beyond the major social networks, which attract a large, generalized audience, there are plenty of niche sites which will help you build exposure and website traffic.
Benefits of Niche Sites
More targeted: Relevance trumps size
Buyers, not browsers: Leads to more qualified, convertible traffic
Big fish, smaller pond: Less clutter and noise, more chance to get noticed
More meaningful sharing and engagement
Be Where They Are
The point of using social media for business is to get in front of potential customers, which means you want to be where they are hanging out. Whether you choose major or niche sites, define your audience using the following and then match it to the sites that meet your criteria:
Geography: Neighborhood, city, regional, national, international.
Interest: Consider the site’s focus: i.e., design, games, business, etc. Drill down as much as possible to match your target audience.
Demographic: Easily identifiable stuff about participants, like age, income, education. For data about social sites, start your research at PEWInternet.org. For small sites, you may have to find out from the site itself. Look for advertising information in the footer (just for info, not to advertise).
Activity: What people do at the site, i.e., simply commenting vs. watching videos. Think about the kind of content that fits with what your business is about, i.e., if you have a visual business, Instagram and Pinterest may be a good fit.
Affinity: What participants have in common, i.e., people planning a wedding or those that like to invent things with Legos.
Many people participate in both major and niche sites, so select a balance of each. If you choose a major, join subgroups that match your audience, ie., a food related business in Seattle could join the Seattle Foodies group on Facebook.
Where to Find Niche Sites
The more sites seek to create interactivity and engagement, the more they’re likely to offer social opportunities to participate in. Start with the associations and groups your audience belongs to (ask them), then look for social opportunities in the following places:
Search Google like a customer looking for a product like yours and see what social sites come up.
Social site directories
Check competitors’ sites for their social badges
Look at your own referral traffic data
Vendors sometimes have their own social networks too
Search Google for “niche social sites” + your area of interest
Go local (websites, blogs, publications, etc. in your geographic area)
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of niche sites, finding the best match you can, prioritize them by highest amount of traffic. Then, start using them and track the referral traffic to your site, using something like Google Analytics to see if all that effort is paying off.
Today there are 1.2 billion websites — or one website for every seven people in the world! That’s a lot of competition. If you want to get traffic to your website, you’re going to have to take the right steps.
Take a look at the following 10 things savvy online marketers do to get web traffic.
Improve Website Speed
Sites that load painfully slow will cause visitors to bounce away. Slow loading sites can be penalized by search engines, too. Tip: Use one of the free testing tools to test your site’s speed. Google offers one, but there are others including Webpage Test and Pingdom. Use test data and insights to identify improvements, and then talk with your website developer.
Attach a Blog to Your Website
Having a blog gives you a place to add content to your website — content that attracts traffic. According to Hubspot, businesses with blogs tend to get 3 to 4 times the traffic as those without. Tip: Keep blog content relevant — and informative — but not a sales pitch. Ask yourself, is this topic relevant to why a customer might choose to do business with a company like mine?
Use Proper Keywords
Keywords are search phrases that visitors use to find web pages when hunting in search engines. Include relevant keywords in your pages and blog posts, used in a natural way, and over time you’ll be more likely to attract traffic from search engines. Tip: Choose keywords as specific as possible to your type of business, product, service or industry. That way you’ll attract visitors that are really interested in what you have to offer.
Share all Your Content on Social Media
Share all of your blog content, whitepapers, videos and more on social media. Social media is no time to be overly modest. Tip: Don’t go overboard. For example, don’t share the same blog post ten times a day on Twitter — that’s spamming not sharing. And don’t forget to be a good social media citizen by commenting on and liking others’ updates and sharing their content.
Seek Guest Blogging Opportunities
Write original engaging and informative content. Then approach sites in your industry and request to publish it. This exposes your business to a new audience. Tip: Approach guest blog posts as an opportunity to provide information to readers, not as a free ad. You’ll have more credibility.
Publish an Email Newsletter
Regular newsletters can be a great way to drive traffic. Include blog post snippets in your newsletter along with links back to full content on your site. Tip: Put a “subscribe” box on just about every page of your website. Also, when your newsletter comes out each month, alert your social media followers to encourage them to subscribe.
Participate in Social Groups
Become an active member of groups on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Regularly comment or answer questions. Tip: Know the rules before you post links back to your site or blog. Some groups do not allow links.
Use a Call-To-Action on Posts
A call-to-action can be used at the end of blog posts to encourage people to click on other content in your site. The more relevant content a visitor sees, the more likely he or she will visit again. Tip: A blog post is a great way to promote longer form content such as ebooks and whitepapers.
Make Optimum Use of Headlines
Half the battle today in getting visitors is the headline. You have to grab a reader’s attention to get the click through. Tip: Don’t let the headline of your content be an afterthought. Titles of blog posts, videos and social updates are so important that I actually created my own title generator tool.
Pump up Your Local Listings
If you operate a business with a brick and mortar location, then being listed in local directories is crucial. Bing Places for Business, Google My Business, Apple Maps, yellow pages sites, and Facebook Places / local are just some of the places to make sure your business appears. Tip: Check to see if you’re listed using free checkers at places like AdviceLocal, Synup or Moz Local.
Finally, remember that getting web traffic is a marathon, not a sprint. Be in it for the long haul.