Links worth a click #15

A week with some great online content, tips and tricks.

PowerPoint as content: PowerPoint gets a hard press, in and out of meetings. But, used correctly, it can be turned into social media gold. Have a quick read of this blog post and see what ideas it sparks for you and your customers.

Business blogging: Here’s a piece for those amongst you managing or considering blogs, a list of ten great things to include in your thinking.

Some useful advice next on designing paid search (pay per click) campaigns that deliver.

Apparently, it’s no longer six degrees of separation when it comes to human relationships. According to Facebook, its 800m users give you access to anyone in the world (if they are on Facebook) in only 4 hops.

Using video? You should be. And it should be optimised. Here are some tips on how to optimise online video, with a natural focus on YouTube.

More next week. Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping weekend!

In b2b marketing, the only way is content

Amy put her shirt on the only way being Essex and lost

It’s amazing just how few B2B companies really understand the significance of inbound, content marketing. Culturally, it seems absurd to not only give away your best ideas and approaches for free but also potentially to your competition too.

Yet smart B2B marketers appreciate that there is no other way. If you want to be seen as an expert, an authority, someone to be trusted, it goes without saying that spamming everyone with interruption based advertising and direct mail is no longer going to achieve those goals.

The web is awash with advice and best practice on how to stimulate engagement. Engagement is the buzzword, the future of all relationships in the next generation. Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are very different businesses, operating different models but with the same engagement strategy at their core. Engaging audiences at a time when attention span is at an all-time low partly because of technological advancement is a challenge with a lucrative prize.

But isn’t engagement actually the result of a process that looks to disseminate (transmit) useful information to target audiences (touch) which over time encourages them to believe you can help (trust) before then taking the obvious, and critical, step of taking an action which will lead to a single, or preferably multiple, purchase (transaction)?

It is now possible to map how everything you do from a content perspective delivers against tangible outcome-based measures whilst supporting your mission of being the go-to provider.

So, if you’re not going to transmit, touch, build trust and encourage transaction, what are you going to do?

Would you pay for content?

Question:  With so much free content online, would you really pay £1-£2 for a short white paper / ebook if it helped you in your job?

I recently conducted a quick and dirty survey poll through Linkedin exploring the topic of paid for content. Clearly, there is a huge amount of information made available for free online right now with lots of companies realising the benefits of using content to drive interest and position as expert.

The freemium model, which was for so long the mainstay of the software sector – where people accessed free but restricted software needing paid updates at a future point – has now rolled out to the information sector.

I was interested in establishing if business professionals would be prepared to put their hand in their pocket (or draw out their busincss credit card) and pay for content that looked like it might add value to their role or their business.

Thanks if you contributed. Here are the results.

 

I thought this was especially relevant given much of the advice online at the moment centres on publishing material far and wide in as many formats as possible.

Seth Godin’s recent piece for his new digital publishing initiative, The Domino Project, highlights some of the downward trends in traditional publishing and how businesses and individuals will need to adjust their strategies in the future – in order to 1/ cut through and 2/ make a meaningful return.

Do you always get out what you put in?

Is the reward always worth the effort?

There is a saying in business (and in life) that you get out what you put in. But is this really true? As the economy lurches from recession to depression and back again, businesses are working harder and harder not to achieve growth but to stand still. And marketers are having to stretch reduced budgets to achieve the same outcomes.

Techniques like Internet based content marketing assume that the creation and distribution of useful, usable information to specific audiences will over time develop their trust, reliance and eventually spend with you are in vogue.

But there are huge barriers to entry for businesses. How can you work around them?

First off, listen. Understand what is happening online, monitor the discussions, obtain insight and establish who the big voices are before doing anything.

Second, you need a fully functioning website capable of providing information quickly and channelling visitors to the lead capture devices that have built in.

Third, develop optimised material that they will be interested in and will click to obtain – accepting that by offering an email address and a phone number, they are opting in to future dialogue with your business.

Finally, promote this material widely on the Internet in order to capture the attendance of your audience where they graze. This means considering an investment in paid and earned media on media sites, industry portals, discussion forums and social networking sites to stimulate interest.

There is a clear in-cost involved in this. But there is also the ‘time’ cost which is often not calculated by businesses that are not time/service oriented.

Positioning yourself as an expert in order to drive inbound lead generation isn’t easy, quick or cheap. But by implementing a measured approach over the long term (and avoiding the distracting overtures of certain social media tools and games), you will build trust in your products and services regardless of budget or resource.

Image: Howstuffworks

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Why content marketing starts with your ‘sign up button’

Whilst much of the talk about content marketing strategy focuses on the creation, packaging and presentation of information that might encourage your target customer to interact and transact with you, the reality doesn’t need to be so complicated.

Committing to the setting up and writing of a blog, developing thought provoking white papers, producing video, webinars or hosting slides and documents is a serious undertaking and not for every business.

But what is within the reach of all businesses are a number of little fixes that can be made throughout your website, your email marketing and advertising to give your marketing the best chance of conversion.

A focus on headings, action buttons and supporting copy can make a significant impact on click-through, lead generation and conversion.

Changing an action button from ‘Register’ which may be an obstacle in the mind of prospective customer to ‘Start now’ alters the perception from being a task to becoming a desirable, benefit enabled action. In this example from a natural wellbeing site, Start Now is softer and less prescriptive.

Hubspot is a masterful example in the art of content marketing. Everything they do is aimed at developing deeper relationship, evolving to product trial. Free Demo buttons stand out on every page throughout the site, which uses its multiple daily blog posts and free webinars, white papers and ebooks to drive traffic.

Joe Browns clothing and accessories, below, help the browsing process by colouring their search button and using the words ‘make it easy – search sale by size’ to help customers get straight to what they want. Simple. Effective.

Expedia simplify site browsing, whilst personalising it, with the use of the copy ‘Find your deal’. Great copy which implies you’ll be able to locate a holiday that’s relevant for you at a price you’ll be happy with. Pretty powerful stuff when you analyse it.

Even the banks are getting creative with their action buttons as this example from First Direct illustrates. From  the core ‘Apply Today’ button to the standout buttons to the right offering online security, partner offers and free software, they are making the most of their real estate and trying to drive traffic to key transactional areas of the site.

What can you be doing better to help your visitors and customers along?

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7 reasons you need to blog your business

Blogging is a perennial hot topic when it comes to digital marketing. And for good reason. In this era of social currency, where profiles and content positively effect your search engine visibility and your ability to go viral, blogs continue to tick a number of boxes.

And not just as a cathartic, method of outpouring your inner most thoughts and feelings. No, businesses are realising that there are tangible benefits to blogging in their business.

Millions of businesses are blogging, millions are not. There are lots of strategies which are covered in other blog posts (see below), but if you are still not convinced or need to convince a sceptical manager, use this blog post to inspire you.

1. Relevant content referenced regularly makes your site more attractive to customers. It is becoming cliched but people really are looking for useful and usable information that develops them, challenges them and benefits their role. Becoming a trusted source of information that people can come to rely on puts you in a powerful position to potentially encourage them to transact.

2. It gets better. Relevant content referenced regularly makes your site more attractive to the search engines. At a base level, we know search engine spiders index sites based on how they are structured, the relevance of the content on the site and the frequency of new material. So if you add new posts on your blog regularly, they’ll stop by and re-index you more often, placing you higher up the rankings.

3. It gives your company personality. Whether it is the CEO, the MD, the Marketing Director, Sue in accounts or all of them, a blog offers a critical insight into the people that make the company tick. Sure your products and services are world beaters, but people do business with people. Don’t miss the opportunity to set a tone and deliver insight by drawing on contributions from your key people. Taking a group collaboration approach also means the workload is shared.

4. It creates experts. Over time, certain contributors will build a name for themselves on certain topics. They may even roll out their blogging to industry recognised sites, write their own and access the speaking circuit. Use them and their rising profile for the good of the business.

5. Blog content offers a perfect foundation for an entire marketing plan of activity. I’ve written extensively on the topic of content marketing. Having something to say, content that people can use, and content that can be distributed widely and re-purposed for use in all marketing channels makes it a natural prerequisite  of any modern marketing plan.

6. It stimulates community. The focused and sharing nature of a blog site provides a great opportunity to bring like minded people together and can position your blog as a hub, a place for the important discussions. Community leads to greater engagement.

7. It draws prospects out and makes them more receptive to working with you. As a business, there needs to be some tangible end point to the ideas, counsel and best practice you are providing through your blog. What the blog does over time is paint the picture of a knowledgable, forward thinking, approachable business that your readers may want to do business with in the future.

Follow up blog activity with opt in emails, webinars and white papers to really hammer home your credentials, to deepen relationships and to help ease the move to business transaction.

There are many other reasons for businesses to blog? What drives you to blog your business?

Want more?

Five ways to get more readers to your blog,

Why, what and how to blog,

Image: Labour List

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How to introduce content marketing into your b2b marketing

I try and keep the plugs to a minimum, but I’m genuinely pleased to announce that the team at BDB has just cut a little video with yours truly waxing lyrical about the virtues of content marketing – what it is, why to include it in your marketing plan and crucially how to assess its ROI potential for your business.

The embed is below, but viewing it on the BDB site will mean you can seamlessly click around the site and take in our excellent blog!

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Solving the B2B social media conundrum

Most business-to-business (B2B) companies are already employing some form of social media as part of their marketing mix. But how many B2B marketers really think about their customers, who they are, what they look like, what they like and where they congregate, before selecting and using social media tools? And which are the right tools to use?

Read my inaugural post b2b marketing on Dave Chaffey’s excellent SmartInsights  website.

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B2B content marketing trends

The search for greater clarity and return from our marketing means we have to constantly strive to predict the evolving needs of customers. Knowing what causes customers distress and what makes them happy is criticial.

To aid us in our quest, Holger Schulze has put together some interesting data from surveys of his b2b technology marketers community. With insights into the rationale, the challenges, the formats and the channels, this is worth looking at it if you are looking to generate incoming leads through inbound marketing techniques.


Look out for some surprises in relation to the most used / popular formats and how companies choose to position their content – it might inform and even re-direct some of your activity.

It’s another example of a great Slideshare in action. Quick to browse, usable free information collated by experts, if you haven’t tried it yet, check out my fledgling efforts here. Sign up as there will be more following soon.

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Starting all over again

As much as I try to fight it, I’m only human. Because I work hard and have a family, the wheels occasionally come off and things like this blog unfortunately go quiet for a few days. This time there hasn’t been any new content for nearly a fortnight. Sorry about that.

The greatest challenge with social media and the web is that the premise of today’s news being tomorrow’s chip paper is even more poignant. The traffic to this blog has totally (naturally) fallen off because of the lack of continued new content and promotion.

Building a content asset

I knew this would happen because I recognise the importance of building a content asset and working hard to maintain it. This means if you are going to commit to producing a blog, a series of white papers, webinars, podcasts, email newsletters – whatever it is – set yourself a manageable schedule and stick to it. People over time come to expect it without knowing it – you’ve gained their permission thus it isn’t an interruption any more. Unsubscription or worse, ambivalence is a disaster. And doing all this gives you the content to push your profile on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook meaning you are never short of something worthwhile to say.

Gaining permission again

I get frustrated because I have worked hard to build a profile and a credibility which has created an appetite for my content. This means well over 100 email subscribers, countless RSS subscribers, close on 2,000 Twitter followers, 350 Linkedin connections and 20 groups are primed for my latest musings – not to mention the traffic that comes from Linkedin, Stumble Upon, Digg, increasingly Facebook (soon to be YouTube) or any other aggregation site I use.

WordPress tells me 98,010 pages have been viewed since June 2009. I estimate the same again on syndication, so it know the content is relevant and engaging.

Learnings from ‘taking a break’

Before the automators suggest I could have scheduled content throughout this period, I personally prefer to keep that to a minimum. Keeps things personal. What this unplanned experiment has illustrated to me though is that sometimes you do have to take time out, take stock but then come back harder and more focused. Tell your friends, colleagues, family this blog is starting out all over again. Expect some interesting things over the coming weeks and months.

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So, other than Microsoft paying over the odds for Skype, footballers taking on Twitter in court, Linkedin being valued at $9billion despite only making $15million profit in 2010, the IMF looking for a new head, Manchester dominating English football, and Empire Avenue filling the minds of early adopters (and my Twitter stream) with nonsense, what’s new?

Image: Visualise.us

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