The “Cheese” Has Been Moved!

There was a book published a few years ago entitled, “Who Moved My Cheese?” In this book, the author made observations about the employment market and how many who thought their jobs safe were laid off, unawares. The main reason these former employees were finding it rough to obtain rewarding (or any!) new work was that the recruiting and hiring world had changed since their last go around. Small businesses are having  a similar “wake up and smell the coffee” experience with regards to finding customers.Mouse carrying cheese

With the surge in social media and internet based marketing, many small companies are falling behind in their marketing and sales and don’t know how to catch up. Recently, I spent some time with a businessman who had built a business model around websites, online advertising, working the search engine algorithms, and investing his personal time in keeping it all working smoothly, despite being a millionaire. The irony? He was not in a high growth startup, the darling of the media and purported environment where people spend countless hours on such matters. He owns a number of residential facilities for people recovering from substance abuse challenges. Keeping his vacancy rate as low as possible is his primary metric. Though he is in a non-sexy industry niche, he and his team recognize that customer pipeline development begin s with an internet strategy.

The two of us were discussing his strategy and tactics with some others over a meal and the question arose as to what is the role of relationships and “boots on the street” in his model. Together, we explained that target clients are most likely to perform some internet research on your organization before a personal meeting ever occurs. Furthermore, we argued that relationships are being initiated and nurtured over the internet at a quickening pace. We were not saying that the interpersonal meeting away from all things digital was unimportant; what we were explaining was that, in a time compressed world with information at our fingertips, the small business owner must earn the right to have the personal conversation by having a strong online presence.

Some basics to creating that presence:

  1. Your website needs “rich,” updated content — videos, pictures, etc. that you keep current
  2. Making use of Google Local and other local business listing services like Yelp is key – do it!
  3. You should advertise online or simply use social media to drive traffic to your site
  4. Determining what information to share through business social media accounts begins with having a target
  5. Break your customer base down into segments, each of which you can target with messages that resonate
    • You may need additional, mini-websites (called “micro-sites”) for each segment
    • You definitely need wording that is unique to each segment
    • Your social media and/or advertising needs to be a priority!

If you want more and better customers, be purposeful about how you develop new business in a digital world!

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Your Online Content Needs a Strategy

Many of my clients have made the jump into the digital age with their marketing. They know that they need to be involved in social media, but often have never heard of content management. While I do not pretend to be a content expert, I have picked up on some best practices over time and try to apply those to my own firm and the clientele I serve. My email inbox receives regular updates to keep me abreast of what thought leaders have to say about content. Over the weekend, I read about “8 Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid,” a whitepaper that was very well written. The authors/sources quoted include Heinz Marketing’s Matt Heinz, Marketing Interactions’ Ardath Albee, Babcock & Jenkins’ Carmen Hill, The Funnelholic’s Craig Rosenberg, and The Sales Lion’s Marcus Sheridan. 

Excerpts appear below, followed by my own formatting for emphasis, observation and commentary:

1. Don’t neglect to do the groundwork. Before you start any marketing activity, you have to know why you’re doing it. How does this activity translate to immediate or eventual sales and revenue? (Heinz)

You have to know (to) whom you’re talking, what they need and want to know, and where their interests intersect with yours. (Hill)

2. Don’t focus on yourself—focus on the buyer instead. Think like the end user, not like a business owner. Great content marketing is about education.  To be great at content marketing, the focus has to be about the reader, and not the company/writer. (Sheridan)

Our content needs a lot less “we” and a lot more “you.” (Hill).

3. Don’t pitch your product at every stage. Give the people what they want: interesting content that makes their life better. (Rosenberg)

What are your customer’s issues? What do they need help with, right now? That’s the content that will spread like wildfire for you. (Heinz)

Question words4. Don’t overlook calls to action. Every content asset should have a call to action. Build pathways and tell connected stories that help to build momentum through the pipe. (Albee)

5. Don’t forget that effective content marketing is a two-way street. To really accelerate your audience and impact, you must devote time to responding, commenting, engaging questions and so on. (Heinz)

6. Don’t produce content that lacks substance. Audrey Gray of American Express advised that we put our energy into what we’re making rather than the platform: “Create content that makes you feel smarter, celebrates human artistry, or that has with real-world value.” (Hill)

7. Don’t treat content marketing as an afterthought. Content marketing is a practice that integrates all of your content-driven initiative into a consistent and holistic experience for your target markets. Content marketing is at its best when it’s used to pull everything together so that an experience in one channel makes sense or adds value when the audience switches to another channel. (Albee)

8. Don’t underestimate the power of various formats. Written content may be the core of your content strategy, but don’t forget video. Or podcasts. Or short, embedded slide presentations. Or whatever other formats your audience naturally gravitates toward. (Heinz) 

Marketers will benefit tremendously by embracing the Rule of 5. Take one topic and develop 5 different angles to approach it, creating 5 different formats of content. (Albee)

Sound advice from some stellar content curators and marketers. Incorporate these principles into your own business environment. Become engaging, relevant, and indispensable. Doing so will build a loyal following that can be turned into either revenues or referrals that produce revenues. At the very least, your brand gains equity for your efforts and that is no small feat!

 

How to Start Blogging As a CPA or Lawyer

Professional services firms have been very good clients for me over the years. With many firms, I am charged with improving their marketing results. One of the topics that often comes up is social media. Many billable hour professionals struggle with making the commitment to initially launch a social media presence; others with how to optimize what they have. Kevin O’Keefe, who blogs about the need for lawyers to blog, is someone I follow on Twitter. Kevin wrote a blog post some time back wherein he referenced Steve Robinson, a small business specialist for Constant Contact, whom I also follow.law firm library

O’Keefe summarizes Robinson’s top recommendations to small business bloggers, with an emphasis on how to apply the principles to a professional services firm:

  • Find your target audience. Before you set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook Business Page, research who’s participating there and ask your clients and their influencers (reporters, bloggers, association leaders) which forums hold their attention. You may find they like blogs and email as opposed to Twitter and Facebook. Once you determine where they are, follow them to their preferred destinations.
  • Focus your efforts. Identify the top two places where your audience is most active and fully engage them there as opposed to spreading yourself too thin across a variety of social media platforms. Professional services firms often want to do a little bit of everything resulting in going a mile wide and an inch deep. Following relevant sources and subjects via readers such as Google Reader or Flipboard; truly using LinkedIn; and blogging will enable professionals to build relationships and enhance their reputation. Other social media tools can follow.
  • Identify the most active participants on your target social media platforms. Then initiate conversations, respond and repost their messages, follow their feeds, comment on their blogs, and cite their blog posts on your blog. Third parties have tremendous influence over your clients and prospective clients. If you can get these third parties (bloggers, reporters, business association leaders etc) referencing and sharing what you are saying online, your stature and reputation is only going to go up. When people get your name from a referral source, they’ll Google you and see positive references by the influencers to what you have shared via social media.
  • Balance social media with other marketing efforts. Social media should be part of a balanced marketing effort that includes online and offline activities. Leverage the enhanced reputation you are establishing by going to networking events, speaking to groups, or even asking to have coffee or lunch with someone you’ve met via LinkedIn or other social media. Share your blog posts via email to relevant clients now and again to show them you are thinking of them. Social accelerates relationships and reputation, but talking with and meeting people is needed.
  • Don’t mistake silence for disengaged. A lot of social media is built around listening and responding only when it makes sense. If you aren’t getting a lot of responses to your blog posts or items you share online, don’t assume that your audience has tuned you out. Ask questions, inquire about your followers specific interests, and reach out on a one-on-one basis.
  • Position yourself as an expert resource. This is what it is all about. Individuals, businesses, and trusted advisers to your clients are looking for a reliable authority in their field. Don’t be afraid to focus on a niche area, industry area, or client issue that you truly enjoy working in or on. What may have taken 15 years or more, if ever, to establish a strong word of mouth reputation in a niche has been greatly accelerated via social media.

All of this makes such great sense that I chose to excerpt it almost verbatim from an O’Keefe blog post. Hope it’s helpful for you!

 

Tremendous Entrepreneurial Success From Reading

 

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, who is well-known in the insurance industry as a motivational speaker, believes in helping people improve themselves. His conviction for years has been that one must take responsibility for their own success. The quote below illustrates how he thinks one can best accomplish success in life:

You are the same today you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. In every turning point and crisis of my life, there’s always been a book that helped me think and see more clearly and keep laughing and keep looking up and keep my mouth shut. I would never tell anybody I ever had a problem, so everybody always thought I was on top of the world, and yet I was just like everybody else with problems coming out of my ears. Now, when people come to my office, they come to talk to me. Instead of conversing with me like they think they are going to do, I get them reading. I pick out some great books and have each person read three or four sentences. I just received another email from a person recounting how his life was changed by learning the power of reading together–rather than talking.

As you may have read in a previous blog or Twitter post, I follow Under30CEO.com. Matt Wilson, one of the co-founders, posted on the Under 30 blog today some insights he gained from reading books this year. A few excerpts are provided below, with Wilson’s comments.

  1. Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi  – Relationships should be about quality over quantity.  The goal should not be to “know everyone”.  Build a small group of people that want to go out and conquer the world together.
  2. Boomerang by Michael Lewis – Base your economy, your company, and your income on creating real value for others.
  3. Small Loans Big Dreams by Alex Counts – Entrepreneurship knows no borders or social classes.  Coupled with education and accountability, access to capital can create sustainable micro-businesses.
  4. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – “Disdain things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best revenge.”
  5. Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer –  “Immigrants are not averse to start from scratch. They are by definition risk-takers. A nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs.”
  6. The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg – “The biggest thing you won’t learn in college is how to succeed professionally.”
  7. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie –  It is truly possible to build a business both rich in profit and in social good.
  8. The Greatest Salesman In the World by Og Mandino –  “You were not created for a life of idleness.”
  9. Iceland, India, Interstate by Colin Wright – Go out there and LIVE.  Life is short, take advantage of it, and when you get a crazy idea–go for it.
  10. The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau – “If something is worth doing, you might as well do it all the way–so I’ve added ‘radical goalsetting’ to my own unconventional life planning.”
  11. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh – There will never be another 2013.  When Tony sold his first venture to Microsoft, he said there would never be another 1999, and went to work on his next act, passing up millions of guaranteed dollars if he had simply stayed with the company and let his shares vest… All to chase his passion.
  12. The 4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss – Whatever you want to do in life, think about how to hack the system, so you can compete with only the best.

Matt’s list was 17 items long. Since there are 12 months in the year, I condensed it to 12 books and corresponding lessons to be learned and applied. Hope you find a nugget to help now and a book to read later. May you be better in five years for having applied yourself to reading!

 

Crank Up Content Marketing For 2013

One of the leading developments in marketing has been the increased importance of content management strategies. With the proliferation of communication via the internet, companies of all sizes who are serious about engaging their target audience are looking to content as a significant tool. Clare McDermott, writing for the Content Marketing Institute today, took the opportunity to speak to to Amanda Nelson recently about how her organization creates content that is compelling, fresh, and engaging. Amanda manages content for Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud platform. Her job is to create and curate content for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud community. She manages everything from the blog and eBooks to webinars and infographics — with the help of a content team, of course.Newsjacking

Excerpts from Clare’s interview with Amanda appear below:

CMI: What issue do you think your content solves for your audience?

Amanda: Businesses want to become social, but they don’t always know where to start. What we do is create content to educate these organizations in the hope that when they are ready for social media monitoring, engagement, or publishing software, they will think of us. 

What kinds of content tactics are you using?

What we do is develop a content engine. A content engine starts with a central focus. In our case, it’s an eBook, but it could be a case study or any other piece of content that a company might have. From there, we publish the content by recycling and reusing it on multiple media:

  • We’ll read the eBook aloud and make it an audio book.
  • We’ll interview the customer for a quote in the eBook and then put that up as a video.
  • We’ll take the audio from the video and make a podcast.
  • We’ll create a presentation from the eBook with highlights.

What results have you gotten since you started using the “content engine”?

We’ve  had significant increases — about a 300 percent year-over-year increase in our eBook shares and downloads. I believe social shares of our blog posts increased by about 150 percent. What challenges have you run into?

A lot of people want to plan and curate, but at the end of the day, we need writers.. I sometimes have a need for (outside) writers..I’ll go out to the community and get guest bloggers. 

What’s your favorite tool used to communicate with the team?

We use Google Hangout because we’re actually all spread out across the country and Canada.. it is great because it’s video and it can hold up to 10 people. There are also fun things that you can do. You can do screen share or overlay funny faces. Whoever is talking is displayed predominately so it constantly changes. It’s in real-time, easy to use and free. The hangout is public so anyone else can join. People can see that you’re hanging out. It’s very social.

What are the most exciting examples of content marketing that you’ve see outside of your own business?

“News-jacking:” you see what’s going on in the media and they’re able to create content around it that becomes really shareable because it’s sitting where it’s hot. 

As you read through Amanda’s comments, take note of what she has done (with plenty of resources including a team of people) and think through how to interpret it and implement similar concepts in your business. We suggest the following:

  1. Think through your audience, where they hang out, and what your main message to each segment may be.
  2. Create a content engine that is your prescribed way of being consistent.
  3. Think about ways to use free, crowdsourced help for additional content.
  4. Investigate Google Hangout as a tool for enhanced collaboration.
  5. News-jack something interesting to supplement your original content. (Like we just did with this excerpt!)