In today's digital world, online content is doing the heavy lifting that in the past was accomplished only with sales teams, cold calling, advertising, business networking events, and public speaking gigs. With strategically designed and published content, you can be in many places at once, influencing people and driving sales year after year, without actually being present or doing the work over and over again.
Business owners of the past would be passionately envious of the amount of leverage the internet has given us to cast so much influence, so far and wide, in such little time. The key is to have a strategy. And while engineering an all-encompassing strategy takes time and fortitude, the seven tips below will give you the insight you need to get your plan off on the right foot.
Step #1: Nail Down Your Specific Marketing Niche
This may sound elementary -- but I've found that most clients I work with are really selling themselves short when it comes to identifying their target audience. There are often more groups of people that are target audience candidates than business owners realize. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What other types of businesses could make money or gain clout by offering the solutions I provide to their customers?
2. What kind of tutorial information can I share with fledgling businesses in my own niche? (Publishing content that actually helps your young competition can position you as a leader in your industry).
Identifying your organization's particular targeted demographic is an important step for any sale initiative, but it's uber-critical during any online campaign. Remember, the copy that you deliver has to instantly pique the interest of those that receive it. The best way to ensure this happens is to deliver your message to your most relevant audience.
Step #2: Identify And Sharpen Your Key Talking Points
There are probably hundreds of things that you have experience with that you can write about. However, your goal is to become an authority on specific things rather than a "Jack of All Trades." Spend some time listing out three to five main content talking "containers" that you will focus on and write about. By "container" I mean narrow category. For example, our company does all types of content marketing from newsletters, to articles, to web content, to press releases. Each of these is a niche category. However, a large majority of content marketing is focused on SEO press releases. Within this "container" we address many specific issues from writing headlines, to writing quotes, to analyzing the best time to publish.
Which 3 to 5 areas of your business do you excel at and can you carve out a niche as an authority?
Step #3: Publish Authority Content In Numerous Places, in Numerous Formats
Publishing content only on your website or blog gives you limited exposure. Your goal is to be "everywhere," -- to leverage the exposure and communities of other content portals to reach new audiences. There are so many places to publish your content and a variety of formats in which to publish it. A few of my favorites are:
• Biznik, IdeaMarketers, Evan Carmichael (publishing articles)
• Hubpages: Add video, images, and other multimedia to your articles to turn them into complete "how to" resources
• Online PR Media (press releases)
• Slideshare (slideshows)
• Scribd, Docstoc, PDFcast (PDFs)
• YouTube (videos or screencasts)
• Guest blog posts
• Trade journals and magazines
It may seem daunting to create so much content for so many places. However, a single piece of content can be published in multiple ways. For example, a large 'how to' tutorial published on Hubpages can be trimmed down for a smaller article, then converted into a PDF. You can take the main points from that article and put it into a slideshow format. You can then create a video screencast where you narrate your slideshow and publish it on YouTube.
Step #4: Create Your Business' Email Subscriber List
For years we resisted building an email list... I suspect we're not the only ones. We were afraid to "bother" people with emails -- but we couldn't have been more wrong. In one year, we built our Online PR Media email subscriber list to more than 20,000 and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. When you provide valuable content to an already interested audience, it can do wonders for brand and loyalty building. Plus, when you have a new product or service, you have a direct access to people who have already expressed that they like what you have to offer.
Some ways to boost your subscriber list:
1. Offer a valuable free download in exchange for joining your list. This might be an informational ebook, checklist, how-to, case study -- or anything else that will help your target audience achieve its goals.
2. *VALUABLE TIP* Use an email parser to automatically add emails to your list whenever someone goes through your checkout process or sign up process. The parser automatically "triggers" the double opt-in process when someone enters their info (meaning, they still need to double opt-in by verifying the email). Applying AWeber's email parser has been the single most influential way that we have built our list to it's current size.
Step #5: Coordinate A Social Media And SEO Strategy
Social media has long since proven itself more than a passing fad. If you haven't yet created a social media strategy, it's time to start. Open a Twitter account, gather up your staff and start brainstorming consistent Facebook post ideas to keep your biz firmly on the social media horizon. It's a great way to strengthen your already existing search engine optimization approach and can instantly boost your online visibility.
Think back to step #1 and consider your target audience. Instead of only crafting messages to customers, craft content toward those "peer" companies that you can partner with. Seek out and communicate with journalists that write in your niche or that could leverage your knowledge for their stories and publications.
Look back to step #2 and create tweets and messages in advance around your core topic areas. One of your goals is to be a "content curator" on the areas where you are an expert. This means not only sharing your content on the topic, but from others as well. Social media is a two-way street. Create content that opens dialog. Create content that praises people that deserve praise and recognition. Apply the real world rules of social networking to the online realm and you may just discover more opportunity than you ever imagined.
Step #6: Implement A Calendar For Your Content Marketing
Deciding to put together a plan of action for your new promotional endeavor is great - but it's imperative to ensure that your ideas actually get executed! Put together an editorial calendar/agenda that will outline a step by step plan of who, what, and when to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
This requires discipline… Although we are a content development company, we often get so focused on customers that we lack time to publish our own content regularly. During the times that we have an editorial calendar, our content creation productivity is astronomically higher then we do not. If you have to, assign someone on your team to manage your content development plan. Give them the authority to bug you and to do whatever it takes to get the job done!
Step #7: Stay Visible With Your Targeted Demographic
All too often, business owners have a ton of great, informative content to distribute during the first round of the campaign, only to find themselves struggling for things to blog about, to write newsletters about, or to Tweet and Facebook about. It's critical to stay on top of news and info in your industry and to keep your finger on the pulse of your target audience so that you do have things to write about.
As a busy business owner, this can be very time consuming. You may be thinking… "Yeah right! I don't have the time for that!" There are a few tips you can implement to make this process more manageable:
1. Use an RSS feed reader to pull in a list of industry blogs and journals to browse through on a daily or weekly basis.
2. Search through Twitter using keywords to discover new ideas and conversations on your niche topics.
3. If you don't have time or you're finding that you're not doing this on at least a weekly basis, you may want to hire someone to go through information for you and pass along what they feel are the most important bits of info.
Step #8: Monitor And Analyze Results Yielded For Optimal Success
Finally, as with any advertorial endeavor, it's paramount to always carefully analyze and monitor results yielded from your campaign. Procure an analytics application/tool that will help outline volume and source of visitors as they navigate through your copy from initial click all the way through to conversion. Having a system in place to effectively gauge results is the only way to truly know what's working and what needs tweaking.
Consider implementing a "how did you hear about us" field on your checkout form. When people write or call, make it a practice to ask how specifically they learned about you. This can be an uncomfortable question to ask sometimes, but the answers may fascinate you. They will give you insight as to what is working so that you can place more effort in those areas.
I understand that for the busy business owner this can seem daunting. Don't hesitate to outsource some of the work to your team or to an assistant or to a company that develops content. You can have someone write "core" content and then add your own flair and deep-expert knowledge. You can hire a virtual assistant to actually submit the content once you've created it. The most important thing is to establish a plan and get started!