Category Archives: Email automation

CEO Alert the courts want your Social Media Policy 2

Social media policy: Stern or lenient?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s relentless. You find stories every day on Google that announce how someone got fired for posting senseless comments on social media. We call that getting “dooced”.

Sometimes, the comments are intended; other times, not. Who can forget the Royal Bank of Scotland Chairman Rory Cullinan who did not mean to go public when he sent Snapchat messages to his daughter saying he was bored at work. Cullinan lost his job after his daughter posted them on Instagram. It’s almost unbelievable that people will broadcast their most risky thoughts in a public forum.

And yet, they do.

This blog is not for those idiots. It’s for the vast majority of human beings who are sensible, generally respectful, and who appreciate guidelines to avoid the “lack of common sense” that occasionally befalls all of us.

You’ve probably already been alerted to potential disputes such as these:

  • Are you legally exposed when it comes to the rights of employees who want to freely post on social networks?
  • Who is liable when a disgruntled employee tweets about getting passed over for a promotion?
  • What about a customer who complained on Facebook about their restaurant meal to a reporter. Do you respond?
  • Should you just ban all employees from accessing their social media sites at work completely?
  • What exactly is the proper way to go about sensitive issues?

Your company—big or small—needs a social media policy advises social media pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media. He’s the guy who originated group rules for LinkedIn managers. The degree of leniency is up to you and your management team to decide based on the structure of your company. By the way, if you don’t have a policy, your lawyer’s hands are tied when it comes to an employee suing for wrongful dismissal because they dissed your company online. You will have a difficult time winning in court because you never told employees they couldn’t do what they did.

Examples of social media policies

Social media policies that are too broad may lose the chance to help employees develop good habits. You might even miss finding great “brand ambassadors” for your brand message.

Zappos is an example of a company that’s created a brilliant social media culture. Their policy is seven words long: “Be Real and Use Your Best Judgment.” It’s too brief for my taste and the Zappos policy is not for everyone.

Policy wonks generally refer to three approaches when making rules of engagement. The first is evolutionary to see which slip-ups—and opportunities—present themselves more frequently before scripting instructions. A second way is to establish a clear policy from the outset which leads to a third hybrid option. This method starts with composing a strategy based on your culture before determining what needs to be adopted over time.

For example, you may prefer this stern approach to social media:

  • Employees who develop and update social media postings will only do so with the approval of the president or his/her designate;
  • Only employees that have been chosen as “official” social media representatives are allowed to contribute to the brand’s social media;
  • Social media is not allowed in the workplace at all.

Oracle’s social media policy has evolved over the years. This global enterprise with 130,000 employees that designs and manufactures IT networks previously regarded social  media as a “hindrance to productivity because it could lead to too much personal use.” The company now encourages “…all employees to share official company social posts and content on their own social channels.”

There’s evidence this change-of-heart recognizes that employees with a greater voice are a happier workforce, says Eric Siu in The Globe & Mail.  He’s referring to research from the University of Warwick on how happiness makes people 12 per cent more productive.

Personally, I don’t think harsh policies are relevant today. It’s a switch-up from “Old Style PR” designed to focus on things that employees cannot do rather than what they can do.

Olivier adds that stern policies will not work in the context of social media since employees do have a life outside their workplace.These narrow-minded policies will not prevent some of the most damageable posts: Those made in the privacy of their home on personal social media accounts where they’re speaking with their friends and followers.

Don’t forget sites like Glassdoor, either, cautions Olivier. They encourage anonymous and identified authors to post reviews of current and former employers and company executives.

I like the IBM method which allows employees to comment on behalf of the company while retaining some of their personality. Here’s an example: “Lead Development Representative for #cloud at @IBM#Bluemix #Softlayer – I like fashion and news. Tweets are my own opinion.” 

IBM’s last item in their policy cheekily reminds employees: “Don’t forget your day job. You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with performing your job responsibilities or commitments to customers.”

I also love this one from GAP when it comes to confidentiality: “Don’t even think about it. Talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, future promotional activities.”

6 More Ideas for Your Social Media Policy 

When crafting guidelines, make are the 7 essential Must-Dos:

  1. Start Day One. Include briefing notes for new employees on policies in their employee handbook or however you hire a new person. Make sure that employees understand the policy is contractual and there are consequences for violating it. This early start sends the message that you’re serious about social media management.
  2. Update your Social Policy Regularly. Social Media is a fluid environment that reflects the laws governing the Internet. Expect your policies to change accordingly.You will need strategies in place as you learn this new marketing tool.
  3. Please use common sense. Yes, it seems everyone should know to resist sending a racial slur, demeaning or inflammatory comment. Yet, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and tell employees to be polite. Advise them to agree to disagree with others, especially on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where things can go viral wrong very quickly.
  4. Create safe places. Have a genuine open-door policy. Organizational trainer David Meade says it’s the leader’s job to figure out how to help your workforce feel safe. Why? Because employees want to feel respected…listened to…and trained. So, if an employee has a grievance, encourage them to visit their supervisor before taking to social.
  5. Ask employees to amplify key messages. Social media more likely will pay dividends if employees are behind it. Give them access to content that framesss company positions and directions on key subjects. Ask them to share those messages. Also think about using social as a way to build buzz for upcoming products or services.
  6. Encourage Self-Monitoring. More and more HR departments are checking employee profiles and activities. Controversial? Yes, for good reasons. Informing employees they do not have reasonable expectation of privacy in their social media communication is often a good enough deterrent. But there is even a better one: Encourage employees to follow each other and invite managers to connect with them. The purpose is to create a team spirit, not a police state.
  7. Most important of all: Don’t stop training your employees after day one. Use the training sessions to update your workforce on policies and as strategies change.

Everyone wns.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

How to sell your businss

How to sell your $million business & retire: A case study

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more Modern marketing strategies for business here. http://bit.ly/1cKPcjn

“Did you have a plan in place when you decided to sell?” I asked newly retired business owner Sharon Romank.  We were musing over the recent sale of her multi-million dollar self-storage company.

The veteran entrepreneur winked at me across the dinner table and smiled. “Yes, I did.”

Full disclosure here: Sharon and I have been lifelong friends. We attended high school together and I watched the budding entrepreneur open her first start-up during university. It was a roller skating rental business during the days when the sport was hot. After picking up a degree in home economics, she travelled the world with a knap sack, articled at a management consulting firm, and worked as a show researcher for a local Martha-Stewart-type radio personality. Her MBA came later.

The idea for a new company sprang in 1988 when a property manager noticed the lack of storage in downtown Edmonton.  It wasn’t long before an old warehouse was spruced up and the Affordable Storage sign displayed prominently on the four-storey brick building. They provided space for files, equipment, commercial inventories, and household goods. The enterprise grew to include five facilities with a reputation for excellent service, trained staff, cleanliness, and top-notch security. Sharon wanted to change the way self-storage was offered to home owners and business clients by “delighting” them with a new type of experience that was spotless and felt safe.

She raised a family of three children through those years and nurtured a long history of giving back to her community, primarily through Rotary. But her marriage also ended. Sharon kept ownership of two sites after the divorce including the state-of-the art Sherwood Park property. https://www.affordable-storage.ca Fifteen years after the facility was built on vacant land, Sherwood Park found itself in a premium location and ready for sale. Sharon wanted to retire from the demanding life of business ownership.

Successful women in business

Sharon belongs to that too rare assemblage of women in business who made the jump from small home-based initiative to a corporation with distinction.  I believe we need to celebrate and encourage this type of achievement. So, I celebrate Sharon and take delight in knowing that she realized her exit strategy. This new stage allows her to assist Rotary with their annual medical missions, and to spend more time with family and new husband.

How did she plan for the sale?

1. Budget. The entrepreneur first prepared with a major renovation of the 2.8 acre facility with 480 units and retail store. She developed a financial plan to refurbish the reception area, new office space, security system, mechanical systems, landscaping, and site elements such as driveways, parking, and walkways. Sharon got the place in shape.

2. Solid management: Sometimes a decision to sell must look beyond spreadsheets and databases to people. All the ideas in the world won’t make it off the ground with indifferent employees. The owner treated her general manager and staff with understanding and a sense of fair play, offered employee training and coaching, and she always said, “Thank you.” Leadership pays dividends.

3. Good management begets well-organized books. Sharon excelled where financials, policies and operations were tracked on many levels. Buyers will do their own due diligence to understand the potential for the purchase and this type of knowledge helps to facilitate negotiations with buyers.

4. A marketing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). This is where I came into the picture.

Sharon had defined her Vision and Mission statements 15 years earlier. Her vision had never really changed–yet, her current employees were not privy to her original thoughts. So, we peeled back her purpose to reveal short- and long-term sales and marketing objectives for the company. This process helped everyone to gain clarity of expectations, understand their personas (updated target markets for digital marketing) and drill down to the consistent messages for posting to the various mediums relevant to the company.

Here’s how it evolved:

Vivid Vision with owner and staff. Digging a bit deeper into surface-level questions went a long way towards creation of an effective and authentic communications marketing strategy. Since Affordable did not need to bolster its sales, the focus settled on deepening relationships with businesses in the ‘hood and the wider community.

Company values. As a contributor to the world, the values of Sharon and staff needed to be embedded into the foundation of the sales and marketing plan. Staff researched potential relationships with local nonprofits while Sharon maintained her efforts on behalf of global charities. Giving back contributes to overall wellness on the part of employees as well as to staff retention.

Defined personas.This was an early first step to define the characteristics of their clients. We wanted to know about customer attitudes towards the company; tangible and intangible rewards that customers believed they received from Affordable; knowledge of websites that customers preferred to visit before making a decision to join Affordable Storage.

Enhanced internal communications with existing customers/increased external communications with the community. A newsletter delivered by an automated email system kept customers conversant on seasonal improvements to the site; offered a chance to recognize customers and partners through story telling; promoted company events such as a new Community Garage Sale initiated by staff.

Editorial plan for postings across channels. In addition to the newsletter, content was repurposed for the company’s social media platforms which included Twitter and Facebook. Sharon understood that all of these efforts meant nothing if they were not made known to customers as well as to the wider community—and to potential buyers.

Close eye on measurements. There wasn’t any sales or marketing component that escaped scrutiny. A red alarm system was esablished for everyone to take immediate action if sales dropped below a pre-determined level…open rates for the newsletter were monitored and celebrated, especially when they hit 49%…and staff were rewarded when conditions exceeded expectations.

Here’s to a successful retirement, Sharon!

                                                                         

                                                                       xxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com.

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Kim Garst

12 Hard-earned lessons for 2015 from social media stars–and Me!

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

By now, you’ve laboured over new business goals for 2015 and crunched budgets to exceed last year’s results.

Maybe you’re opening a grocery store in SE Calgary like my friend, Teresa Spinelli , CEO of the Italian Centre Shop. Maybe you’ve decided it’s time that your 17-person sales team get serious about social selling on LinkedIn. Perhaps, you’re an executive director catching up on modern marketing methods for your association.

You’ve also opened some predictions for 2015 that started flooding your in-boxes this month. Below are a few more from people I’ve come to know and trust over the years–plus three hard-earned lessons of my own.

 1. The sky won’t fall if you don’t sign up for every shiny new object

Yet, the longer you take to establish a social foundation for your business, the longer it will take for you to catch up. It’s been 13 years since LinkedIn appeared on the scene, 11 years for Facebook. Meanwhile, those clients who’ve been living online all these years are checking out your competitors.

2. The website still is the heartbeat of your business

It is possible to create a website for $500 if you’ve taught yourself something like WordPress. However, good websites designed with marketing in mind range between $7500 and $20,000 and go up from there. You still must work out your branded message based on a thorough analysis of who you want to attract to your business.

Better copy is written if you can articulate your vision, mission, and strategic objectives. You don’t have those? Please just drop that $500+ in the next trash you walk by.

3. Social media is top-of-funnel. Email is your ticket to sales.

Yes, I love social media, too. Currently, we have 750 platforms from which to choose but they’re not all for you. More will come and go. It all circles back to understanding your prospective customers and creating content that best connects with them.

The purpose for getting active on social media is to fill the top of your funnel, so you can build your data base.

4. From Ann Handley, MarketingProfs: Brands are publishers 

Focus on enormous empathy and customer experience (and not just more blog posts). That doesn’t mean blog posts aren’t important, for the right company and the right customer. But it means we consider if that’s the best approach, rather than making a post the default.

 5. And another from Handley: Marketers become ridiculously proud of their writing!

In our online social world, we recognize that all marketers are writers.  Our words are our currency. They can make us look smart or they can make us look stupid – and so being able to communicate well in writing isn’t just nice; it’s necessity.

6. Jesse Noyes from Kapost calls it “Fat” content

He expects to see more white papers, videos, eBooks, and infographics. It’s content that can be broken up and used as the fuel for multi-channel campaigns.

7. From Kim Garst -Best selling author of Will the Real You Please Stand Up-Show Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media  (Pictured above)

Successful marketers are going to have to embrace a system to give their prospects information and content that educates and gives value around their products and services. Today’s consumer is savvy and time is extremely valuable to them. Those that can effectively give value in a way that is quick and easy to connect with and buy from are going to win.

8. Kim’s prediction supports Frank Strong, Lexis: Content marketing slides down from heightened expectations to disillusionment as brands begin to realize “content marketing” isn’t the same thing as merely producing content.

This means that strategy moves to the top of the pile again this year. It is painful to see how many people spend hours of time without doing  these things:

  • Determining your business scope: Local, regional, national, international
  • Knowing your Strategic Who
  • Researching your competitors
  • Summarizing your historical and current marketing efforts
  • Establishing a process. Think automated marketing

Here’s a handy checklist to help you summarize these activities:  World Gate Quick Audit

9. An extra moment on marketing automation because it’s big: 2015 will see most B2B organizations—large and small—shifting to marketing automation software for email marketing, newsletters, lead capturing, social media updates, and keyword analysis. A single window helps us in analytics and trend analysis.

I use Mike Koenig’s Instant Customer/Traffic Geyser but others to consider are MailChimp for entry level and AWeber for more bells and whistles.

10. Mike Koenigs and many others also point to mobile marketing

Mobile campaigns include smart phone apps, pod-casts of product videos, responsive websites, and chat integration inside websites. Not only will the search engines continue to favour mobile, the carry-me-everywhere experience will be critical and expected.

11. From Mike Stelzner, CEO, Social Media Examine

Those that pitch are becoming ignored. A little bit of selling here and there is great, but those marketers who do nothing but sell, sell, sell, are gonna get ignored, dismissed and overlooked by consumers and prospects. That means dedicating more resources to things that are harder to track, like answering customer questions and providing more value online.

12. DJ Waldow– Digital Marketing Evangelist, Marketo

2015 will be the year of HUMAN for digital marketers. Gone are the days of corporate-speak messaging and dull, boring campaigns. Instead, we’ll begin to see more marketers incorporate human-speak into their messaging – videos, pictures, humor, and human!

Here’s to a WonderFilled Year for all of us!

 xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Don’t get left behind: Modernize your marketing in 2015

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.

“Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in, says the research authority.

Too bad. CEOs might take social enterprise more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth. McKinsey and Company-named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders says leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Can you afford to be beaten to the bottom line by your competitors? 

HubSpot hands out these stats: 72% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it. That includes your competitors.

Here’s more evidence from these experts.

Melonie Dodaro: Over 55% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete. Translation: lost business. Optimize your online presence for both the company and for sales reps, says Dodaro.

I agree. Only a third of the contacts in my own list on LinkedIn have been completed properly. Very difficult to enjoy the fruits of social selling if the seeds have blown away.

Jesse Noyse, Kapost (pictured above): Marketers need to practice accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who creates content and what role will they play?
  • How will we prioritize topics?
  • What resources do we have to create content?
  • What resources will we need to add?
  • How do we get content out of the door?
  • What can we do to ensure our content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How do we measure return on investment?

Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communications:Incite recently polled their network of big brand marketers on The Future of Content. Only 21% of respondents felt they were even close to approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs: Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page.

Here’s one from my client files: In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Sharon Romank and staff thought self storage was too boring for a newsletter topic.

That theory was disproved soon enough with open rates reaching 55%. The industry average for products and services: 16.4%.

How did we do it? Affordable agreed to revisit their vision and mission statements…get clear on customer personas for a tighter writing style…deliver relevant copy for their customers.

It’s time business leaders get onside with social selling. Yet, marketers also must be prepared to demonstrate results.

xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Sharon Romank

How to get a 49% email open rate

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

I’ve been thinking a lot about newsletters and automated email marketing that evolved from direct mail in the 80s.  Both methods have been used diligently in my career.

Newsletters certainly offer a solid tool for staying in touch with clients. My blog titled, “We still revere newsletters with a twist” remains the highest read among missives this year. I still love the medium.

A really good example of a newsletter program developed for Affordable Storage Sherwood Park  that included a personalized email letter averaged the highest open rate: 49.6%. Yes, you read that correctly. Company President Sharon Romank is pictured above and I’ll tell you how we achieved results that exceeded the industry average of 16% a bit later.

It makes sense.

We like to feel as if a company from which we receive email is speaking directly to us. Email expert Karen Talavera backs this up: “Those one-to-one email messages are the key to revenue and response optimization, because they convert at 10 to 20 times higher than generalized broadcast campaigns.” And, according to Epsilon, triggered email messages average 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than traditional bulk messages.

Everyone craves personal attention, especially in a world so reliant on technology for relationships. It might sound ironic that it’s possible to automate your email messages for a more personal connection with each each customer. That is company gold.

What’s the first step? Forget using Outlook or Gmail; they’re too cumbersome. Standard email services just don’t give you enough flexibility or information to study results. It’s more useful to discover how many emails were opened and how many links were clicked for more detailed analysis and follow up. Certain Email Service Providers (ESP) can also add photos, short videos or landing pages which are like flyers that lead to a certain action.

Companies that use marketing automation have 53% higher conversion rates than non-users, and an annualized revenue growth rate 3.1% higher than non-users, according to the Aberdeen Group. And B2C marketers who take advantage of automation for everything from cart abandonment programs to birthday emails have conversion rates as high as 50%, eMarketer reports. As mentioned earlier, Affordable Storage Sherwood Park averaged 49%.

It’s true that installing email automation needs some time to get off the ground. But automation doesn’t need to be complicated—and it shouldn’t be daunting. The decision is to select software to carry out the task of automating your email campaigns such as Instant Customer, which I use, Infusionsoft on the high end or Mail Chimp on the low end. These services automate marketing communications with customers on a regular basis.

ESPs help with monitoring your email deliverability and bounce-backs and ensuring your compliance with anti-spam regulations. When you send your email campaign through an ESP, it will include a standard opt-out and global opt-out link as well. If you have no design experience, ESPs can help provide templates to make email campaigns look professional.

We now know that email tops marketing preferences. This is because not everyone is always logged into Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. But most people constantly check their email, even when they are not at their computers.

Here’s an example of how email marketing automation can work in a campaign:

  1. A potential customer registers to download a free white paper;
  2. The customer’s email is captured via the download form;
  3. After the download, a follow-up thank-you note is sent introducing the company and sales contact;
  4. A series of emails (a 3-part how-to for example) is triggered to this potential customer over time);
  5. If the prospect engages with the other mails, as well, the prospective customer will be considered to be more sales ready;
  6. You can now assign the leads by quality and buying stage. For instance, points are allocated to leads that requested download reports. Higher points are allocated when a price sheet is downloaded. The demographic of the lead is captured and weighted;
  7. Someone whose title is Vice President is given higher weight than someone with a designation like Office Manager if the VP is responsible for those decisions.

Now, leads are weighed and scored, with only the effective leads sent to business development. It doesn’t have to be a follow up; many companies just want to know better timing to present an offer.

Companies also need to set realistic expectations—based on past performance—of what a successful email campaign looks like.These are some of the reasons why a company will adopt marketing automation:

  • Save time. Multiple campaigns can be scheduled way ahead of time and released when you’re ready. This gives you time to work on something else—like your golf swing;
  • Efficiency. Time and resources can be reduced, therefore costs can be reduced too;
  • CRM integration.  Automation helps you keep track of those leads, so they don’t drop off the radar after a couple of unsuccessful contacts;
  • Data collection. Modern marketing isn’t always sales driven. Additional information can be used to collect specific details to improve future campaigns or communication;
  • Multi-channel management. So many channels, not enough time.  Marketing automation can help you keep tabs on any channel;
  • Personalization. The goal is to be warm, welcoming, and relevant in this mechanized world. They will be more open to you.

It’s also helpful to understand the various personas or target audiences that make up your customer base. Put yourself in their shoes and identify where the customer experience falls short as they interact with your brand.

I promised to tell you how Affordable achieved a 49% open rate. Here’s what we did:

  1. Clarified the company’s vision, mission, and values statements that informed all methods of communication for existing clients and prospective customers;
  2. Identified personas. These personas represented 3 different buying personalities that helped us write specifically to their lifestyle;
  3. Combined a warm and inviting covering letter from the general manager with a quarterly newsletter or landing page in the intervening months for product promotions;
  4. Introduced staff members and their responsibilities and invited clients to say hello or stop by the store for a draw to win monthly door prizes;
  5. Ensured that customers could easily reply through text messages, email, social  media or telephone while staff were geared up to respond immediately.

Newsletters combined with automated email marketing is a beautiful combination.  You save time while keeping your customers up-to-date on important developments with your company.

 xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Jay Abraham

Email is your endgame in business– every time

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Last week’s blog confirmed that email isn’t going away anytime soon and blogs top the list of social selling tactics.

The findings arose from Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner when they surveyed 2800 marketers on how social media grows and promotes business. It’s vital to know when asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

This blog looks at your endgame: the email list.

Yes, social media is sexy today. Everywhere you turn, there are offers to sell you the latest shiny, new tool. Except, it’s easy to get caught up in the million-dollar promises without knowing the foundation of an effective marketing strategy. It’s like the small business owner I met last week who wanted to host a client appreciation night without knowing her clients other than their names, their vague buying habits, and that they had been her customers for over 15 years. She wanted a social media campaign–yet, to what end?

It’s important to know the facts on email:  By 2018, there will be 2.8 billion email users, up from 2.5 billion this year. This number compares to:

  • LinkedIn: 300 million
  • Facebook: 1.23 billion
  • Twitter: 271 million
  • YouTube: 1 billion
  • People send an average of 121 emails each day
  • Business sends 108 billion emails annually

Remember Jay Abraham? He’s the guy that best-selling authors Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, and Brian Tracy quote for his marketing genius. The business visionary is known for his strategies in direct response marketing from the 1970s that apply today to email marketing. I started using his counsel during my fundraising days in the 1980s which meant learning about the power of lifetime clients in three ways:

  • increasing the number of donors
  • growing the size of the donation
  • leveraging the frequency of contribution

The strategy applied to my businesses, too. We started with a well-designed list every time. The challenge we had growing the house list in those days was that we didn’t have great funnels from which to keep filling the pipeline. Our only sources were lists we bought, rented or traded from other like-minded organizations.

So, a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook following is good because the networking contributes to the email list where your lifelong clients live. The other reason for keeping an email list clean is when/if a network dies out like Myspace. E-mail will always be there and you won’t lose the list. That’s what’s so powerful about email.

By the way, when is it safe to buy lists? “NEVER buy an email list,” says the Email Experience Council in the U.S.  Lists that are available for purchase are full of dead addresses that ISPs use to identify spammers. “Sending to a bought list is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted by ISPs.” However, the Council doesn’t have a problem renting lists from reputable vendor. I say, “Don’t do it,” to be safe here, too.

Yet, according to a new report from Folio sponsored by Lyris, many publishers are still struggling with the basics of email marketing. The survey of 175 publishing professionals revealed the following pain points:

  • List growth (55%)
  • Dynamic content/personalization (42%)
  • List maintenance (41%)
  • Mobile optimization (33%)
  • Analytics (33%)
  • Segmentation (30%)
  • Content automation (29%).

Need good ideas to stay focused on your endgame? Here are 7 for you.

1. Start with clean-list-building practices. New anti-spam legislation reminds us to build lists with people who have expressed an interest in hearing about your product or service. When you have consent or the proper permission to send an email to someone, success rates and deliverability go way up. You want the sender to recognize you when you send them an email.

Build email sign-up opportunities into your website. Consider using a pop-up form to collect new subscribers and leverage loyal subscribers by including “send to a friend” or “refer to a colleague” options in outbound messaging.

2. Keep lists current. Clean your list regularly by sending a campaign at least every three months. Believe me, you don’t want to risk getting blacklisted or blocked. I’ve seen it take as long as nine months before the search engines allow a company back in business online. Not worth the risk.

3. Figure out your data fields. This is worth repeating: It’s always best to start with good habits when you’re building a list; otherwise, there’s much pain involved in cleaning it up. The Email Experience Council says those companies that keep their lists clean generate 7  times the number of inquiries and 4 times  the number of leads.

Try to clean up multiple titles for the same person. To create a solid foundation for effective email marketing, consider standardizing the title data by using the fields of “Function” and “Role” rather than highly variable fields like “Job Title.”

4. Segment your audience and define your personas. Segmenting is all about understanding your different customer groups. Separate the groups based on job function, buying habits, online preferences, and geography. Identifying your personas gives you an edge in crafting a blog, for example, that speaks comfortably to that specific group.

5. Create lots of content… as long as it’s relevant. Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than general e-blasts, according to Jupiter Research. Keep content simple with a good balance of text and images. Spammers don’t usually “waste” time doing so, whereas some marketers want to dazzle with too many images. Emails with JavaScript and attachments also send a red flag.

6. Welcoming email. An Experian study found that welcome emails have 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click rate of traditional newsletters.  A welcome email establishes trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer.

7. Establish your online brand. Your logo, brand images, and positioning statements can be designed for each platform. Social networks differ slightly which means your artwork should be changed and sized to suit each audience.

8. Track performance over time. Gaining a window into your campaign’s open rates and click-through rates will help with tracking growth and success over time. This data helps you to get insights into what content and subject lines are successful and how to improve your approach

Email is your endgame. We’ll look at how you can save time with email automation next time.

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Need help with modern marketing? Co8ntact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Social selling needs CEO Champions

Where’s the evidence for social selling? Look here!

By Sharon A.M. MacLean
Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.
“Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social enterprise. Altimeter was founded by New York Times best-selling author Charlene Li who penned Leadership and Groundswell. Her group says the path to social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in.
Too bad.
CEOs might take social action more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20 percent more revenue and 60 percent higher profit growth. McKinsey & Company—named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders—adds to the fuel by noting that leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.
The bottom line on social selling, asks LinkedIn powerhouse Melonie Dodaro: Can you afford to be beaten by competitors?
Hubspot hands us these stats: 72.6% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it…that includes your competitors.  Dodaro asks business leaders if they can afford to be outperformed by their competitors by 70%. If you want to pick up speed, here’s a few steps to take.
From Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs
1. Establish a social business program with goals that reflect the realistic value of building relationships online. Next, apply the social framework to departmental goals that include a number of new leads.
2. Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page. You are going to need resources for training and tools to get employees on board with your social media strategy, new technology, and new social workflow. 
From Melonie Dodaro, Top Dog Social Media
3.  Optimize your online presence for the company and for sales reps. This means producing profiles with strong copy, including professional head shots, and ensuring that unique aspects of each social network are taken into account. 77% of B2B buyers do not speak with a salesperson until after they have performed independent research notes HubSpot. So, it’s important for prospects to be impressed when they look for you. There’s no point in losing a potential sale even before you get out of the starting gate.
4.  Current statistics show that 1 in 3 business professionals around the world are on LinkedIn. This makes LinkedIn an amazing tool that you can use to gain access to potential prospects in your target market. If you understand how to operate within the LinkedIn environment, social selling can be a powerful tool for your business and will only continue to get stronger with each passing year.
5. Therefore, take the initiative. Social selling combines the age-old skills of relationship selling with the modern practise of online engagement. Create (or find) high-quality content that is valuable to your prospects and relevant to the services you offer before using it as a way to open up dialogue via private messages.
6. Join relevant LinkedIn groups that attract your target market. Share valuable content daily through your LinkedIn status update to stay top-of-mind with your network. A common mistake, I see, is where LinkedIn professionals join their professional groups and spend time commenting in those groups instead of building relationships in their client  groups. I made this mistake during my early days on LinkedIn; the turn-a-round made a big difference in my own business. 
From Jesse Noyes, Kapost 
7. Marketers need to practise accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who are the key content players and what role will they play?
  • How will topics be prioritized?
  • What resources are needed to create content? What resources will need to be added?
  • How will tasks be tracked to get content out the door?
  • What can be done to ensure content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How is success measured?

 

From Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communication

8. I have a lot of time for this global enterprise which  recently polled their network of big brand marketers on “The Future of Content”. They asked how much more total potential audience could content reach. They answered this way.

3% not much more
18% more than half
54% less than half
24% not sure

Only 21% of respondents felt they were even approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

9. The value of negative comments. Recently, a business owner asked for my recommendation on how to deal with a negative comment they’d experienced. The CEO felt it was completely unfair to his family-run business. The comment was bogus, yet, nonetheless it existed.

If  you can help an unhappy customer, you will benefit from the good will generated. Even better, others will see that you took the extra time to care for a slagger who took a swing at you.  Chris Krohn, CMO at Restaurant.com, thinks it’s more valuable for your customer to leave a negative comment on social media than to leave no comment at all. He says to cherish every Tweet that says your brand “sux”, because at least now, you have the chance to prove that your brand does not, in fact, “sux”.

10.  Leave room for creativity. I like this story from Toni Jones, U-Haul International, not least because of experiences with my own client, Sharon Romank of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park. They are completely different businesses but come from a similar genre: moving and self-storage.

Jones came up with an innovative social media-based campaign for the iconic brand. Her social listening found that, while U-Haul was associated with a high amount of negative sentiment online around the stress of moving, lots of people were taking pictures of themselves posing inside or outside the trucks on moving day. In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Romank thought self storage might not be interesting enough to warrant publication of a newsletter.

U-Haul invited their customers to send in pictures of themselves with their trucks. They did –-thousands of them. These pictures were  placed among a collage on the trucks themselves, creating another frenzy on social media as people tried to find themselves, then took pictures of themselves with themselves.

In the case of Affordable, the newsletter with stories from renters and ideas about self storage generated a 50% opening rate; typical opening rates that are considered good hover around 16%  to 18% .  Customers store their precious goods with Affordable and are very keen to stay connected with the company looking after their property long-term. The U-Haul campaign was a roaring success. What was the key, according to Jones?  The project let consumers be creative. Nothing crazy, nothing involved. Just the act of staging and taking a picture was enough to inspire connection.

Business owners will become convinced that social enterprise is good for their bottom line when they start to see similar irresistible evidence.  It won’t be long.

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Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

8 steps +1 more to navigating the media maze  

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Most leaders of commerce and the community want media coverage for their organizations. They understand the power of journalistic exposure for their mission and recognize that space in traditional media is at a premium.  Invariably, these influencers also want reporting only under these conditions:

  • If it’s positive
  • If the message is controlled
  • If they look good

A veteran broadcaster who, as journalists are fond of saying, moved to the “dark side” of public affairs published a new book this summer on his perspective from both sides of the microphone.

The Honest Spin Doctor is a 93-page account by Grant Ainsley for people who want to pitch the media on covering their story. That’s his photo above this blog. It’s also for those who want to avoid deeper scrutiny by journalists and find themselves in a news maelstrom. Either way, he says it’s possible for CEOs, politicians, and spokespeople to be honest in their relationships with reporters.

What’s captivating is Ainsley’s recall of names and details throughout his career. He’s also candid about his fear of the unknown, especially when Ainsley decides to move out of the broadcast booth and into the world of corporate communications.

The award-winning journalist uses breezy story-telling to deliver his lessons. Yet, don’t underestimate the modest approach. Ainsley describes several real-world examples of how miscalculations by poorly prepared spokespeople went terribly wrong. Anyone remember former chairman of BP Tony Hayward and the blown-out well of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico? Or Lululemon Athletica Founder Chip Wilson and the stupid comments he made about women’s thighs?

Edmontonian Grant Ainsley started his radio life in 1977 as a disc jockey at CKSA Lloydminster before moving that same year for a job in the newsroom at CFQC Saskatoon. He returned to Edmonton in ’78 for news posts at CHQT followed by 96 K-Lite as news and public affairs director for 10 years. The guy paid his dues.

The move in 1992 by the CRTC to allow radio stations to cut back on the spoken word prompted Ainsley to change his profession. He joined the City of Edmonton’s public works department in communications before taking on The Alberta Home Builder’s Association as CEO for 12 years.

The Internet was just starting to take hold in business life in those years and much change was afoot in the world of media.

This book comes at a time when employees also want to see their leaders become more vocal in sharing their perspectives about the future. They want their chief to alert them to what’s coming down the pike so they can prepare themselves, as well. Increasingly, employees want to know more about the values espoused by their executives and understand who they are as people and what really drives their thinking.

These precepts make a leader today and applying Ainsley’s ideas for getting along with the media make good sense, too.

Here’s some of his notions that stood out for me. But you can get this book for yourself at www.grantainsley.com to find more.

1. Build a long trap-line

This is the foundation for any solid media plan—heck, any marketing plan. Ainsley encourages readers to build a database with these details:

  • Names of reporters and outlets
  • E-mail addresses for reporters as well as assignment editors in print, radio, and television
  • Contact details for relevant bloggers
  • Contact information for weekly newspapers
  • The B list of names for people who are not members of the media but who are relevant to the story.

2.  The media release is king

  • Develop an announcement in the way a reporter might tackle the story. Find out the W5: who, what, where, when and why. And how.
  • Learn the position of a reporter by following their by-lines or Twitter feed
  • Keep the media release to one page
  • Include a quote from a spokesperson

I would add that media names be organized into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.

There are many social tools to help you find influencers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy, Commun.it, and Group High.

3. Timing is everything

Ainsley likes Monday morning announcements at 11 am because reporters generally are thirsty for news at the start of the week. He also likes to schedule television news conferences at 11.30 am.

He doesn’t talk that much about the print media, so I recommend becoming aware of daily and weekly newspaper deadlines as well as magazine closing dates. Reporters and opinion columnists also have different writing styles and cut-off-dates.

4. Supply a variety of content formats

Develop a complete media kit with these contents:

  • Media release
  • Fact sheet
  • DVD with a memory stick
  • High resolution photo of key players

5. Embrace social media

There’s every opportunity today for organizers to cover their own special events, says Ainsley. If a reporter or assignment editor won’t respond, organizers can try doing it themselves by building up social media contact lists to receive messages and postings. Campaigns centres also can be set up during the event to distribute live content.

Yet, the latest social media industry report from Social Media Examiner tells us that a big concern for organizers in 2014 is figuring out how to find their online target audiences—journalists and reporters, in this case. How to connect also remains high on the list of questions.  More attention is required here.

6. Develop a communications policy

I like this one, a lot, and Ainsley includes a sample policy in his book. He recommends that company spokespeople be identified in advance, reveals how go-to people might conduct themselves, and explains the rules for non-spokespeople. A safe way to get started? Take them all for training.

7. Develop a social media policy

There is no escaping the increasing momentum that social media has on business every year. The same industry report from Social Media Examiner tell us that 92% of business indicates social media is important for their business, up from 86% in 2013.

Here, again, Ainsley addresses salient points that will keep organizations in front of any potential for a media crisis. His chapter 3 title says it well: “Companies need to deal with social media, or a lot of things will start crawling out.”

Ainsley gives his readers a sample policy in the book and suggests that companies explain what employees can and cannot say in social media when talking about the company.

He also recommends that someone be assigned to check to see if employees are following policies from time to time.  Don’t have a policy? Don’t count on the courts to see it your way if the company is slammed.

8. Grant’s 4 steps to a great interview

Readers will gain tremendous insights by scouring The Honest Spin Doctor and adapting ideas for their place of business. Here’s just a few tips in summary from a clear, crisp read:

  • Learn everything possible about the subject and the announcement
  • Develop key messages
  • Practice until every possible question and answer turns easily inside the head
  • Executive with confidence

9. Follow-ups are crucial, but don’t stalk

I’m adding this final point on follow ups with the media using email. Top influencers may not acknowledge every mention or tweet in social media but followers must respond when they do.

When making contact via email, be clear how the email address was obtained (if it’s not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of the social media relationship. If the influencer replies, great. If not, do not keep sending emails. Continue the outreach via social media instead.

I liked this book.  If you want to navigate the media maze, you will, too.

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Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

PR interviews

Event promotions: New vs old ways

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You have a big event planned seven months down the road. The inspiration for hosting the occasion is genius, hundreds of people are expected, and you have confidence the media will cover it like a blanket.

Oh, really?

Working with assignment editors, journalists, and bloggers today is considerably different compared to just a few years ago. These changes have escaped the attention of some traditional organizers and it’s heart-breaking when a good cause loses out on valuable coverage, especially in the social sphere.

Back in the day, a plan may have included a media conference to announce an event, phone calls to pitch stories to favoured reporters or columnists, and public service announcements (PSAs) to catch free time available on radio or TV.

I’ve been fortunate to see how media works from both sides of the fence: first, as a PR hack before joining my late husband–a hard newsman–to start up a magazine that covered the business community for  21 years. I discovered that publishing decisions were difficult to make because so many requests for coverage were valid. It’s even worse, today. Available space has been cut back further at the big dailies unless there’s cash attached while TV stations—often run from major hubs thousands of miles away—don’t appreciate local priorities.

Here’s how a campaign usually rolled out back in the day.

  1. Create a list of reporters to pitch stories in print, radio, and television with street address and phone number. Usually ignored the assignments editors and producers who assigned stories to reporters.
  2. Prepare a one-page advance media release for distribution about one month before the event. The pros attached photos and bios of key people associated with the event with hopes of scoring advance coverage.
  3. Place  -30- at the end of a release to convey they were in the know.
  4. Send out 25-word PSAs about 60 days in advance with hopes the radio stations would run them during air time not purchased by paying advertisers. The pros knew stations were governed by law to dedicate PSA time for non-profits.
  5. Host a media conference six weeks before the event, so media outlets had equal opportunity to hear and write about the announcement at the same time. Considered only fair by organizers; reporters didn’t care.
  6. Schedule a promotional lead-up event to announce the real event. See if any media would come out to write an advance for the story. Reporters usually knew it was a non-story and didn’t show, so the guests got all the free food and beer.
  7. Call the reporters to see if they had any interest in attending the real event because it was considered to be irresistible. Reporters preferred hearing stories about the birth of two-headed calves on farms.
  8. Hand deliver news releases to local media and couriered news releases to national media in hopes that media would cover their event 3,000 miles away. Paid big courier bill at the end of the month.
  9. Deliver cute gifts or food to on-air personalities on the day of the event with hopes that broadcasters might say something nice about their event, even score an interview.  Better food sometimes worked.
  10. Post a PR guard at the door to the event with prepared background materials for reporters, in case they had more than two inches of space to fill in print or air time on late, late news.

Compare the old ways to these new ways of getting out your story—including to the media.

  1.  Understand who you are speaking to and figure out the relevance.
  2. Think like a reporter and answer the important questions: who, what, when, where and why. Help the writers by connecting the dots for them; they often don’t have time to research the topic enough to see the angle.
  3. Formal is out. Be relaxed and genuine in your conversations; people call that being authentic today. This style helps differentiate you from distribution houses using a template email to blast hundreds of reporters.
  4.  Remember that most people read emails on mobile devices with smaller screens. Avoid attachments, including news releases. Reporters rarely open them.
  5.  Before you ask for something, ask and answer questions posed by the reporter or blogger on social media; retweet and share their content, and then finally share a unique spin on your own story. If you can distill your message down to an elevator pitch with 140 characters, you might have the heart of a good story.
  6.  Like all of us, journalists’ ears perk up around a well-known-name or if you’ve done something remarkable. If you can’t spark their interest immediately, this is where you spend time building a relationship with the journalists you’re trying to reach through social media.
  7.  Become your own publisher. Build up the special event’s database for an email marketing campaign to reach those who really care about the organization and its issue. Send them content such as your blog, short video series, podcast.
  8.  Build up the event organizations’ own fan bases on Twitter, Facebook and relevant networks. Do this several months in advance to allow for traction.
  9.  Follow the scribes in their respective social networks to determine their preferred medium for communication, the topics they relish writing about, and how they develop their story angles.
  10. Create a list of journalists, reporters and bloggers in all media with addresses for email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Calculate their social footprint meaning how many and what type of followers they have.
  11. In the case of a PR pitch, your audience is the reporter and her or his readers. Craft the message so that it matters to the particular writer and the topics they cover.
  12.  Have you got publishers on your list? This group of people differs from journalists as they are responsible for revenue streams. Think how the publisher might build a special edition with relevant advertisers around your proposed theme. They will become fans.
  13.  Did you secure a story, interview or media mention? Share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. If it makes sense, share it on Pinterest and Instagram, too. The inherent nature of social makes it easy to multiply the effects of great publicity. Make sure to @message the reporter’s handle or username when sharing on social. A recent survey from Vocus, a leading cloud-based PR software, found that sharing their work was the number one reason journalists are using social media.
  14.  Sure, it’s more work, but make each pitch a separate email and customize it to speak specifically to each journalist. Make them feel special.

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Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Kim Garst and Ian Cleary

Build a Profitable Blog

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You’ve written 52 blogs, so far. You sat down every Sunday to faithfully compose your best thoughts that illustrate the advantages of your whatsit.

Does anybody care? How do you even rank among the 101.7 million blogs posted by Tumblr.com this year or the 44.6 million posted by WordPress?  Are any influential people sharing your content?

These are the real-world questions that most scribes ask when it comes to carrying on business in the digital world. Interesting for me because these were the same types of questions that writers asked me about when writing for my print magazine.

The big difference? There’s a lot more people asking the same questions.

The answer is yes—if certain steps are taken. U.S.-based Kim Garst and Ian Cleary of Ireland recently hosted a webinar to tell us how. It’s worth listening to Kim’s been named by Forbes among the top 20 bloggers in the world and top 50 social media influencers in the world. Ian writes for VentureBeat with 6 million unique monthly users, The Huffington Post, and Social Media Examiner. He guest authors on the topic of social media tools.

Why do we labour over our blogs? Well, because traditional advertising is too expensive say the social media purists. They do have a point. My advertising rates were priced to publish a monthly edition for 21 years while regular advertising in the dailies, radio or television could be formidable for all but those with healthy budgets. Small business could barely afford advertising space and knew that face-to-face networking was their best form of marketing.

Ian also emphasized that every new piece of content helps Google to index pages. Bingo. That is a very important message because content enables search engine crawlers to find your business online.  A crawler is a program that visits Web sites to read pages and other information in order to create entries for an index. It’s how your website gets placed at the top of a Google search without paying for advertising.

Finally, Ian says that writing a blog contributes to the overall development of a business. It’s more than writing for the sake of driving traffic. I can vouch for that, too, from the traditional side of publishing. Most business writers filed their column as part of a marketing plan to build their brand. We had ongoing pitches from business people who wanted to get published but we could only bring on the best of the best; space was at a premium.

Bloggers don’t have to deal with space.

Where do these two social superstars make their money? At speaking events, delivering training courses, consulting, and building affiliate partnerships. Their blogs brand them as much-sought after experts. Affiliate marketers, by the way, pay a commission on sales when their partners refer a product or service obtained through their website, email campaign or webinar. I learned about affiliate marketing from Todd Farmer who’s heavily involved with the Affiliate Summit in New York City, August 10-12, 2014 and at Salt Lake City, September 30th. (Note: this blog is not written by an Affiliate Partner.)

Now, on to 4 building blocks that Kim and Ian described for a profitable blog.

Make a list and research your top competitors

  • Research their marketing online but don’t forget to learn about their offline activities, as well;
  • Discover the type of content they write about;
  • Investigate if there’s an area that nobody else has focused on in your business space;
  • Determine if your content can be delivered in a different way. For example, has anybody done a podcast to stand out;

Publish regularly

  • Produce quality content with posts that are better than your competitors;
  • Answer the questions asked by your customers;
  • Think about detailed posts greater than 1,000 words; this post is about 1002;
  • Know your key words;
  • Include imagery and infographics in your posts.

3. Promote your content

  • Automate the sharing of your content. My own preference is for Mike Koenig’s Instant Customer but there’s Buffer, dlvr.it, and Swayy to consider, as well;
  • Share to communities such as Tribrr, Scoop.it, and Twitter.  Kim shares her evergreen (long shelf life) blog on Twitter and her powerful connection with 266 thousand followers;
  • Use a repetitive sharing strategy. This means that you can post the same content on Twitter, for example, at several times during the same day.

Online sharing of content beats traditional publishing any day. Bloggers have so many more opportunities to expand their reach through direct and indirect ways.

My collaborators use Traffic Geyser to distribute videos to over 50 video sites on cients’ behalf.

Direct methods also allow you to connect with influencers, support other people’s blogs, tweet and retweet, and meet your peers face-to-face at conferences. You might even arrange to meet your contacts after engaging online.

“There are way more lurkers on social media than engagers,” notes Kim Garst.  “But just because they are not engaging with you does not mean they are ignoring your content; you still are valuable to them.” Amen, sister. We saw this all the time at the magazine. Readers may not have communicated directly with a writer but, we knew they regularly followed the columnist because of the details they talked about months, sometimes, years later.

In either case, you are able to attract potential customers to a sales funnel ranging from free content to  high-ticket services or products. Free products might include ebooks, white papers, and trial offers. Interest in these free items lead to low-ticket items that include video and audio training while mid-level items are detailed training courses, webinar series, and group trainings. High ticket? Think Done For You Services.

Content is the core of your business model. And a blog is absolutely essential to build a sales funnel that generates traffic, gets visitors to take action, and converts visitors to making a sale.

Bottom line? People buy from those they know like and trust.

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Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.