Posted tagged ‘content marketing plan’

Does Online Marketing Work?

May 14, 2013

Small Business Content Marketing (for the timid)

Author: Brenna Pearce

Online marketing does work. You just have to have a plan.

As you already know if you’ve been reading my blog, the majority of Canadian small businesses don’t even have a website. Of those that do, most are more likely to use social media only for posts and updates for their customers, instead of actively marketing their brand, values, and vision to future customers. Sadly, most don’t recognize the value of blogging used in conjunction with a great content marketing plan in growing their companies. Most who do have websites are also missing out on a huge opportunity to increase revenues and inbound leads because they treat their websites as billboards instead of a vital part of an active, dynamic, online marketing plan.

Having seen this time and again, I’ve decided to put together a short ebook that outlines the basics of creating a content marketing plan. In the guide, you’ll discover:

  • Why you should be taking advantage of online marketing
  • How to use various online marketing methods together
  • Some fantastic worksheets to get you started thinking about your brand and its relation to your content marketing plan
  • And much more.

If you know someone who owns a small business and who could benefit from this book, please pass on the link below.

To download your free copy, please visit:
http://www.pearceenterprise.ca/online-marketing.php

Majority of Canadian Small Business Owners Are Still Living in the 1980s

March 25, 2013

Author: Brenna Pearce

I’m straying from small business blog writing advice in this post once again, but I thought the subject was important. I was doing some research for a presentation I’m giving about blogging for small businesses and I came across some interesting statistics I’d like to share with you. A recent (February 27, 2013) poll conducted by Ipsos Reid and commissioned by RBC, shows that the majority of small business owners in Canada are still living in the 1980s. Are you one of them? Read on.

Are You Missing a Major Marketing Opportunity?

The poll has some disturbing results; disturbing because so many companies are missing out on, and seemingly oblivious to, a major marketing opportunity. Among its results, the survey of small businesses in Canada showed that more than half of all small businesses in Canada have no dedicated website for their business. The poll doesn’t indicate if they have some other online presence, such as Facebook, which might be considered by some a dedicated website. My view is that a dedicated website would be a website exclusively owned by the company and hosted by some Internet hosting company. In other words, the company would have its own domain name and its website content would be created by, for, and about the company itself. Facebook wouldn’t qualify as a dedicated small business website by that definition.

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Living in the 1980s

So, the poll says, only 46% of Canadian small business owners have their own website. It’s no surprise then that 56% of business owners say that they believe finding and keeping customers is the biggest challenge they face in the coming year. Back in the 1980s the most common link to the outside world was the telephone. The most common way to market your business was through traditional advertising methods. Still, someone thought up the repugnant idea of using the telephone to market certain types of businesses and telemarketing was born. But again, this is still the marketing model for 54% of Canadian small businesses in 2013, 20+ years after the Internet Revolution began.

Is Your Website Just an Online Billboard?

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So, by now you’re thinking proudly to yourself, “I have a website for my small business”. Well, maybe you shouldn’t be so smug just yet. How are you using your small business website? Is it just an online billboard that features your products and services? Are you actively promoting your business online? In fact, only 41% of small business who actually have a website use it actively to promote their business, according to the poll. It isn’t enough just to have a website, you also have to make use of it to market your business.

According to Statistics Canada, 80% of the Canadian population is online. If you’re not trying to drive potential customers to your website, then what good is it? Recently I had a discussion with a new acquaintance about blogging. At one point he responded that he had an archive of articles on his website that he had written about his professional activities. Great, I asked; who’s reading them? How are people finding your articles? And how are people finding your website? By accident? By you directing them to your website when they come into your store or when you meet them at a networking function?

Create an Active Online Presence

Seriously, small business owners, it’s not enough just to hand out business cards with your website URL printed on them. You need to create an active online presence. How do you do that? One of the best ways, of course, is by blogging about your company, your industry, and the products and services that you sell.

My Cyber Social Map

While it is true that a blog eventually becomes a series of archived articles, writing a blog also needs to be an ongoing, dynamic process. Websites on their own are static rather than dynamic and plugged in to the daily digital Internet “news cycle”. A blog serves to keep your small business constantly connected to the worldwide online community. Each new subscriber is also a potential sharer of your information. Add the blog to Facebook and LinkedIn and you suddenly have access to all of the people you are connected to as you share each new blog post. They in turn may share your blog post to all of their friends. This is the organic nature of information-spread across the Internet. You in turn, need to visit bloggers’ sites similar to yours and post comments and share your website address. This gives you a very simple method of creating back-links, which is another way that Google uses your information to make you more visible in the search returns. Also, you create cross-links in each blog post that point to your other sites, such as your primary website and other social media websites, again creating interest from Google. Each blog post also needs to be created with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind. The more relevant searchable terms you can add to your blog posts (without keyword stuffing which Google will ban you for), the more visible you will be in search returns. So you can essentially funnel new readers to your primary website.

Also keep in mind that a site like WordPress has almost 40 million users. You can “Press” each and every blog post and it is featured on the main news aggregator section of the WordPress site. That is a tremendous amount of new exposure for each and every blog article you post although, admittedly, only for a short period of time. Still, your blog posts also go into a classification category that indexes your blog site and makes it available for anyone interested in your information category. If you’re looking for worldwide exposure, this is certainly a fantastic way to get that. I have visitors on my blogs from all over the world.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult!

Are you a small business owner still living in the 1980s? Still relying on telephones, newspaper ads, and other antiquated technology? Confused about how to turn your website from an online billboard hoping that someone might “drive by” on the Information Highway and see it, to a dynamic, vital part of a content marketing strategy that will bring in new business? Leave a message in the comments section below or visit our website; we can help you with all of that!

Finally, remember this sobering fact: of the 46% of Canadian small business owners from the RBC survey who had websites, 38% generate 25% to 50% of all their revenues from online activities. Can you afford to throw away that much business? If not, you should start thinking about creating a content marketing strategy.

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

My Brand is the Conversation?

March 21, 2013

I thought I’d do more of an opinion piece for this post. To kick this off and let you know why, the other day I visited the Facebook page of a friend of mine who is a social media marketing specialist, Sherry Crummy of Crummy Media Solutions. She is way better at the instant engagement aspects of SMM than I am, let’s be clear. Her most recent post when I visited her page was a quote about branding, apparently reposted from Pinterest. I thought this might be a relevant subject, since, as small business bloggers, we’re actually contributing to building our own brands through our blogs’ messages.

So, here is the quote: “Your brand is the summation of conversation about you, without you.” The quote is attributed to Marcel LeBrun.

Now, on the face of it you might agree with this statement. Actually, a number of people on my friend’s Facebook page did agree with this statement. As I thought about it, though, something didn’t seem quite right about the message. The more I thought about it, more and more questions started popping into my head.

My first question was: “Who is Marcel LeBrun?” I wondered how many other people who had liked this post actually knew who Marcel LeBrun was. How many of them knew why he had made this statement or knew fully what he was trying to say? I didn’t. That’s why I started questioning the quote in the first place. I didn’t know the context of the quote and it didn’t seem entirely true in essence.

I have since googled “Marcel LeBrun” to discover that he is the Senior Vice-President and Chief Product Officer of a company called Salesforce Marketing Cloud and maybe General Manager and CEO of Radian6 (depending on whether you read his LinkedIn page or his Twitter profile), and an author. He has “twelve years of experience with various technology start-ups”, according to his Salesforce Marketing Cloud profile. One strange thing is that I couldn’t find the origin of the quote attributed to him. It shows up on various other company Facebook pages, on Twitter, and on Pinterest, not to mention quote mining websites, but I didn’t find anything that originated with Marcel LeBrun himself. (So if any of my readers knows the origin of the quote I’d be happy to hear from you.) This is questionable in itself; not because I doubt that the quote did come from him, but because of the fact that so many people have bounced it around the Internet probably with no idea of the origins or context of the original message. I am discomfited by quotes that I can’t verify and contextualize. I could email Mr. LeBrun about it, I suppose, but it’s not really essential to why I’m writing this post.

So, okay, I accept that this gentleman has some idea of what he is talking about. However, that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with him necessarily. My experience in sales and marketing is probably a little thinner than his, with respect to its online aspects, although I, too, am an author and have written, contributed to, and edited literally dozens of small business start-up and career books, and my experience in sales and small business goes back somewhat further than twelve years.

Anyway, I thought I’d stop pestering Sherry on her Facebook page, trying to engage her in a conversation maybe she didn’t necessarily want to have. And, since the best place to have a conversation with myself is my own blog, I thought I’d write a post dissecting this statement. So that’s the genesis of the idea for this post.

“Your brand is the summation of conversation”; that’s the bit I had the most trouble with. I’m going to be a bit literalistic here and assume that “summation” means just what I think it means: “the sum total of things added together”. You know, like when you add 1+2+3 you’ll always get 6. There can be no other result. So if that’s true, then my brand is always no less and no more than the conversation that results when you add all the elements of my brand together. In other words, according to Mr. LeBrun’s message, my brand is the conversation.

But I don’t think that’s true. While I do agree that a positive conversation about my brand among hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people would be a wonderful thing (that has yet to happen, I admit), I don’t think the conversation about my brand necessarily represents the brand itself. Rather, it’s an outgrowth of my brand. In other words, my brand speaks for itself about itself without reference to anyone else’s conversation about it. The “conversation” is a natural outgrowth of the brand principles, rather than a “summation” of the integral parts that go into the brand itself. I don’t even think it’s true of major well-known brands that the brand is the summation of the conversation. For example, I recently took issue with Purina’s Beneful brand on the brand’s Facebook page, because my dogs started getting sick after eating it. Do I think that the conversation I had with the many others on Facebook doing the same thing represents a new summary interpretation of the Beneful brand? No. It’s probably a supply chain issue and something’s getting into the food that shouldn’t be there. I truly do think that Purina wants people’s pets to live long and healthy lives. That’s their real brand message. Like any brand, the brand principles, for me at least, survive or don’t on their own merits, regardless of the direction the conversation about the brand takes. And yet, I have stopped buying that brand until they can reassure me in a meaningful way that their food is safe for my dogs to eat.

As Sherry Crummy points out, sometimes there are two brand messages, one external and one internal. The internal message is what your brand is all about. The external brand is the perception consumers have about your brand. Those perceptions are what drives the conversation about your brand. And as Sherry rightly says, brand perception can make or break a brand.

After considering the quote carefully, I do agree that conversation is a vital part of any small business’s branding of itself. However, core brand principles are equally vital. If people don’t read, understand,  and like the message of your brand and its underlying principles, there likely won’t be any conversation about it anyway. As Simon Sinek of startwithwhy.com says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. That’s why I think that small business blogging is so essential to your brand and your brand message. People can easily start to have all kinds of conversations, both good and bad, about your company in the fast-paced world of social media engagement. But a well-written blog that constantly reiterates your core branding message and teaches people why you do what you do will always be a point of engagement that helps you influence the conversation in positive ways. That starts with having a clear and likeable message that people can relate to. What are you doing to get that message across? If you’re doing nothing else online, you should at least be blogging. Visit our website to learn more.

Finally, I would flip Mr. LeBrun’s statement to say that “conversation, with or without you, is the result of the sum of all of your brand principles and message”. And you can quote me on that.

10 Reasons Why Blogging Kicks Facebook’s Butt

November 26, 2012

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WordPress

It’s true. Blogging kicks Facebook’s butt. Here are ten reasons why.

  1. Facebook is passive, blogging is active
  2. Facebook is a sound bite
  3. Blogging is more search engine friendly
  4. Blogging is not intrusive
  5. Blogging gets people to visit your website
  6. Fans? Followers? Really? FB is really egocentric
  7. Blog posts are well-considered, FB posts can be knee-jerk and organically grow into disasters
  8. Blogging lets you develop a subject in-depth in a single post, be creative, expand people’s knowledge
  9. Blogging is more original, less cannibalistic
  10. Statistically, blogging generates more sales leads

1. Facebook is passive, blogging is active. Social media is often described as a “pull” marketing tactic, rather than a “push” tactic. Uh huh. Well, social media marketing folks, blogging can be both. With its ability to provide fuller detail and clearer, more informative content, blogging pulls people in and then pushes them to your website to learn more about your company.

2. Facebook is a sound bite. Using the analogy: “If FB and blogging were traditional media”, If FB and blogging were television, FB is a sound bite and blogging is a documentary. If FB and blogging were newspaper items, FB is a Personals ad, blogging is an Op-Ed piece. If FB and blogging were a radio program, FB is the commercial, blogging is the program. Clearly, bloggers (and their readers) have longer attention spans.

3. Blogging is search engine friendly. You can optimize your blog posts so that search engines “see” them and shine the spotlight on them. FB depends on “liking” and “sharing”. Let’s face it: if no one likes you and shares your FB stuff, you’re the invisible wallflower at the prom.

4. Blogging is not intrusive. FB follows you everywhere. FB wants to know what you’re doing every minute of every day. Further, a good blog article writer knows that people get fatigued if they post too often. Information overload is not a concept Facebook understands.

5. Blogging gets people to your website. Your blog just wants people to notice it and then look at your website. And maybe buy something from you. FB wants to sell you advertising so you get more “friends”. The Beatles said it best: Can’t buy me love. Not to mention that FB can just get too crowded. Ever commented on a FB post that had more than 10 comments already? How many people actually click on the “View all 220 comments” link?

6. Fans? Followers? Really? Facebooking is such an egocentric activity. My blog has a readership. FBers have fans and followers. Glass of Kool-Aid anyone?

7. Blogs are well considered, intellectual, and entertaining affairs. Or they should be. Sure, there are tons of really bad blogs out there, but a well-written blog does develop a dedicated, appreciative readership. Facebook users can turn on you and bite your hand in a heart-beat. Wal-Mart once had a difficult time with its Facebook page, due to negative comments from users.

8. Blogging lets you develop and expand any subject you’re writing about, in a single post. You can write in-depth, well written articles on your blog. This allows you to be creative and add to the general knowledge of your little portion of the Web. You can expand people’s understanding of your industry, your products and services, and your business. Facebook lets you “share” what others have written. Okay, to be fair, it lets you share what you have written, too. But does anyone “Like” it?

9. Blog articles are original. And if they’re not, they should be. Although there are many cannibalistic bloggers out there, eating other people’s material and regurgitating it as their own (some of whom get paid $4 per article for this activity), FB is almost purpose-built for cannibalism. Liking and sharing other people’s hard work, cannibalizing it for its own purposes, is a virtual way of life for Facebook.

10. Blogs generate more sales leads. It’s true. There are a number of studies out there that show blogging brings in more business than Facebook and other social media does. Here are a couple of studies from the Content Marketing Institute and Hubspot that you can look at (and there are others).

5 Simple Tips to Make Small Business Blogging Easy

November 20, 2012

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Writing a small business blog can be a challenge. These 5 simple tips will change your blogging life. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re starting to lose interest in writing your blog, here’s how to generate fresh new posts whenever you want.

5 Simple Tips

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Pick 3-5 topics about that theme
  3. Write down 5 or more points that you want to get across to readers for each topic (do them one at a time over several days or even weeks)
  4. Write a paragraph about each point
  5. Choose a title for your post

Polski: LOGO LAPTOP

1. Start With a Theme

One of the simplest ways to get going (or get going again) with your small business blog is to think of something you believe your customers would really like to know about your business, services, or products. For a start-up company that might mean picking a theme about how your business is unique when compared to competitors. For an established business you could choose a theme that you see repeated over and over again in customers’ questions. Your theme could be about a specific product or product line or a supplier you value or how one of your services is of great value to your customers.

Write down as many themes as you can think of. Brainstorm with other people, such as employees, friends, even Facebook fans. Ask them what subject themes they would like to read about.  Then write about them. Chances are if they want to read about certain subjects other people do too.

Let’s say I own a small DIY brewing company start-up where customers brew and bottle/can their own beer. For my first theme, I’ll choose brewing techniques. This is an important theme for my company because, well, that’s what we do here. I also come up with future themes: types and classifications of beers and ales, information about the brewing industry (history, latest trends), and so on. I have enough themes to write about now for at least three months ahead.

2. Pick a Few Topics

Once you have your theme,  choose 3-5 topics about that theme. Several topics allow you to create an informational series of articles. This helps to keep readers coming back for more information. You should space your topics out over a few weeks. So, if you picked four topics, you could space the series of articles out over a month (one a week).

For my DIY Brewing Company, I’ll pick the following topics:

  • Mixing the right mash
  • The fermentation process
  • Measuring specific gravity
  • Filtration

3. Make Notes for Each Topic

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Now that you have decided on your topics you need to figure out what you want people to know about those topics. This could include “how-tos” for using a product, or interesting ways that people make use of a product, or why your company chose this product over hundreds of others available in the market, or how your industry is changing and you along with it. The point is to take a different approach from what others are writing about the product or are writing at similar companies about similar topics. You need to differentiate yourself from the herd, as with everything else you do when marketing your company.

For my “Mixing the Right Mash” topic, I’ll write about:

  • Types of mash
  • Pre-mixed mashes
  • Making your own mash
  • Choosing the right ingredients for your mash
  • Mashing tuns (about)

4. Write a Paragraph For Each Note

This might be the most difficult part of the entire blog post process. Blogging tips and techniques can only get you so far, after all. In the end, you’ll need to write a coherent paragraph about each note. You don’t need to limit yourself to one paragraph, though you probably should not write more than three, depending on the topic. Otherwise your post will become far too long.

I start my paragraph about “types of mash” like so: “As a beer brewing hobbyist, you have many different types of mash to choose from.” [Note that I didn’t self-promote by writing: “At DIY Brew we have many types of mash to choose from.” That sounds too much like a commercial and less like an informational article. Always try to write directly to the reader. Imagine that you’re speaking to one other person and instructing that person in a “how-to” manner.]

Then I would go on to list the different types of pre-mixed mashes, and introduce the topic of making your own mash for the next paragraph. Every paragraph should flow naturally into the next. The last sentence of your paragraph should be a natural cue for the first sentence of the next paragraph. For example, it would be more natural to go from “types of mash” to “pre-mixed” and “making your own” than it would be to start discussing mashing tuns (which is the equipment used for cooking the mash).

5. Choose a Title for Your Post

Choose a title that’s interesting and grabs a potential reader’s attention. “Mixing the Right Mash” might be a little dull for this title, but would do if you couldn’t think of something better. Something like “Choosing the Best Mash for the Best Results” might work better. People generally respond to “tips” titles, too (as in “5 Simple Tips to Make Small Business Blogging Easy”). Or you could be really inventive and work your topic points around  “M*A*S*H*” in the title; or maybe I’m just showing my age. You can also look  at my previous post, “12,000 Canadian Facebook Users Dead“, which is about how to spin a topic you’re writing about.

That’s it! It’s that simple. It’s a process and you just have to be methodical in your approach to this “chore”. You can probably see how you could use this process to easily plan an editorial calendar months in advance.

Please let me know if these tips have been helpful. Comment below or let us know on our Facebook page.

Use Your Business Plan to Create a Content Marketing Strategy

November 17, 2012

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Have you run out of ideas for blog posts on your small business blog? Did you start your blog with great enthusiasm then encounter writer’s block, wondering what to write about next? This is pretty common. Many entrepreneurs who started out full-steam ahead haven’t written a blog post for months and now wonder why they even have a blog in the first place.

Don’t despair and don’t give up just yet. There are strategies to overcome this situation. Short of hiring a small business blogging service, here are some tips that will help you to create a viable, long-term content marketing strategy for your business.

Mining for Content Gold: Revisit Your Business Plan

Many small business start-up owners have written a business plan prior to their opening day. Business plans are often compared to a road map of where the business will go over the near- and long-term life of the company. If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about creating your own small business blog, you’ll be pleased to know that some elements of your business plan can help you to work out a clearly-defined content marketing plan, too.

Good market research is one of the building blocks of a well-written business plan. It will help you better understand your industry, your competition, and your target market. That’s why the marketing section of your business plan is the perfect section to re-visit as you start thinking about your content marketing plan. This plan will include your blog, social media usage such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on, and any of the other ways that you share information valuable to potential and existing customers (e.g. newsletters, eBooks, etc.).

Five Short Steps to Blogging Success

Here are five steps you can take to get your content marketing plan working for your business:

  1. SWOT Analysis
  2. Position Yourself
  3. Stake Your Territorial Claim
  4. Create a Content Marketing Plan and Schedule
  5. Execute Your Content Marketing Plan

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a good place to start. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You should have a clear idea in your mind of who your competitors are, whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner. You have your strengths and weaknesses, and so do your competitors, whether in the form of the inventory you/they carry, your/their customer service, your/their marketing efforts, etc. You can exploit their weaknesses to strengthen your business, just as they can yours. Remember, you should look at local direct competition, local indirect competition, online direct competition, and online indirect competition, even if you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer. You especially need to know what competitors are doing online to position themselves in your market.

In addition, you should be aware of a variety of opportunities and threats in your industry. Opportunities are things like new products coming to market that you can jump on, consumer buying trends that you can exploit, a local competitor business owner retiring or selling (e.g. this might mean that you could shift your products and services a bit to accommodate that business’s customer base), and so on. Threats could be anything from new government regulations (at all levels of government), a competing business opening up, a supplier going out of business, and above all, the activities of direct competitors.

The Microsoft Office website has a number of free SWOT analysis templates that you can try out or simply create the SWOT grid in a spreadsheet and fill it in. This is a good place to begin if you are in the start-up phase or you are already in business but you haven’t looked at your business plan for a while.

Once you understand your market and your competitors, you’ll be able to position yourself better in the marketplace and stake your territorial claim. How to do that in your particular industry is outside the scope and intent of this blog (however feel free to direct questions to our comments section or by email). Helping you to understand how your content marketing plan fits in with that positioning is our goal here.

Now that you know your business’s positioning in the market and have staked your claim, you can start to take it online in the form of content marketing. One place to start is simply telling potential customers about you and your business. You could answer the following questions that customers might have in your first blog posts:

  • Who are you?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • What products and services do you sell?
  • What is your customer service policy?
  • Why are you better than the guy down the street?

These are all questions most of us have asked when considering a new business, whether it’s retail shopping, eating at a restaurant, or even hiring a lawyer or realtor. Many customers want answers to these questions.

Of course, you need to make the answers seem like they’re not answers to questions at all. They should just come out “naturally” over the course of several articles. You’re writing blog articles that must be interesting and informative, after all. Simply writing a two paragraph blurb that amounts to, “I’m Jane Doe and I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and decided I want to have my own company”, really isn’t telling customers who you are or what your business ethos is or much of anything else. Be creative. Explain your passion for your industry. Get your customers excited about it, too.

Next, write to your position in the marketplace. Again, what specifically to write is your decision because you know your business and your market. Remember, though, that this generally means writing quality content that will get you recognized as an expert, because people who like it will share it with others. This sharing creates more and more traffic and makes it more likely that search engines will pick up your blog first. Sharing your own blog post links on social media sites like Facebook is also essential for visibility. To use that process most effectively, you may need to hire someone who specializes in that particular type of content marketing.

As to how to put together a sound content marketing plan and an editorial schedule for writing your small business blog posts, that is what this blog is about. In future posts, you’ll find creative ideas for blog posts for your business and details about how to put together an editorial schedule that will keep your blog interesting and constantly fresh. Please follow us to access the latest information.

The Small Business Blogger’s Blog is written with the small business owner in mind. Remember: Small business blogs should be about the business and its customers, not about the owner.

Have a question about small business blogging? Leave a comment or visit our Facebook page!