Most small- and mid-sized business owners realize that adding dynamic, interesting content to their website will help them rank higher in internet search results, build a strong reputation for their brand, and set them apart as an expert in their field. When starting a blog, we all have the best intentions to write regularly, feed our blog posts to social media networks continuously, and keep the content fresh. But we all know too well that the daily grind of running a business fills our time, and our blogs lag embarrassingly behind. Eventually, we stop writing all together, leaving a blog page with a last post from 6 months ago (or longer), and that has the exact opposite effect as the one we originally intended.
Having said that, blogging is really important. Generating fresh content drives traffic to your website and creates clout for your brand. It makes you an industry expert and helps you attract qualified leads. So how do we overcome the writer’s block so often associated with keeping an up-to-date blog? Here are 5 proven tips to keep your marketing content current and important:
1. Answer questions that your customers commonly ask, or that your customers should be asking. Position it as a Q & A column. For instance, a financial services company’s blog post might look like this:
Q: What rate of return do I have to earn on my investments to be able to retire at my current standard of living and have my money last through my life expectancy?
A: <Insert a 3 – 4 paragraph answer here, and end the post with information on how to contact a representative at your company to further evaluate a potential client’s individual needs>
2. Tell a story. Social media gurus call this “emotional marketing.” Your clients want to like you. Relate to them by giving an honest account of a client you have helped. For instance, if you operate a medical equipment rental service, share a story about the shut-in you recently helped by working with her insurance company to find a qualified home health care assistant. Or if you own a landscaping business, tell me why you bring treats for your favorite clients’ pets. These narratives give your business a personality, and they’re generally easy to write about.
3. Stalk your competition’s blog. It’s not as evil as it sounds. Gather a list of 5 to 10 company blogs that you can follow, and get ideas based on the topics they’re writing about. Never plagiarize, and do give proper credits and references as appropriate. Reading your competitions’ blog sites will undoubtedly help you generate content to write about, as well.
4. Follow the news and share your opinion. Subscribe to news feeds on topics that are relevant to your business and to your prospective customers. Then share your opinion on recent legislation, news stories, and upcoming events. If you’re a chiropractor, perhaps you’ll write about a new health study just released or new dietary requirements announced by the FDA. Always review your message before hitting the “Publish” button to be sure it doesn’t rub someone the wrong way. But it’s OK to show your human side by displaying an open-minded opinion to current events.
5. Write a How-To. How-To’s and numbered lists are always popular blog posts that score big points with social media. They are the most shared types of content on places like Facebook and Twitter. They also demonstrate your expertise in relevant topics.
Keeping your blog up to date can sometimes feel like a daunting task, but it’s a proven method for driving more traffic to your website, generating exposure for your business on social networks, and setting you apart as an industry expert. To keep your creativity flowing, try a change of scenery from time to time. Coffee shops, libraries, and coworking spaces are always good places to get away from your regular office distractions. You may also consider hiring a freelance writer or creative communications agency to do some of the work for you, as well. After all, you do have a business to manage!
*This article originally appeared in The 422 Business Advisor in April, 2013. The author, Shannon Coghlan Reiss is the Founder of Skylight Coworking and the Owner of Malvern Social Communications in Phoenixville. She is a content marketing and social media expert who helps small and medium businesses strategize their web presence and online lead nurturing techniques. To contact Shannon, visit www.themalvernsocialclub.com or call 484-802-2638.
What’s your “Story?” The social media experts at Malvern Social Communications dig deep into the Internet to connect you with real, live people who will make a difference in your life and in your business.
Blog – We create or assume your company blog or personally branded blog, posting up to 3 articles, photos, videos, or links per week on your blog, covering a variety of topics and areas that are relevant to your business or to your personal brand.
Twitter – We create or assume your Twitter account and post on your behalf at least 5 times per week, as well as respond to any messages you receive on Twitter. We connect your Twitter account to your blog so that all new blog articles will automatically feed to Twitter. We constantly work to increase your number of Twitter followers and find the Twitter Influencers who have large followings in topics or areas that are relevant to your business.
Facebook – We create or assume your Facebook Fan Page and post on your behalf at least 5 times per week, as well as respond to any messages you receive there. We constantly work to increase your number of “Likes” and post relevant information and links to your Page.
Add-Ons: Inquire about how Malvern Social Communications can help with your social media presence on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, MySpace, Meet-Up, and LinkedIn as well.
To review your specific social media needs and request a proposal, please contact Malvern Social Communications at email@example.com.
One of my business development specialists recently secured a 3-part webinar series project with a mid-sized medical device company. The project won’t break the bank, because our costs for putting together webinars are low. Most of the expense comes from promotion. The client will secure their own speakers (MDs), and our staff will moderate. We purchased the webinar software as a package and have unlimited annual licensing for one cost.
As soon as I say mid-sized medical device company and live event in the same sentence, my smaller, more typical clients tend to tune out. “We don’t have the budget for that,” they say. “We’re not sure if that will really work.” “We’re not some giant company with unlimited resources.” And most disheartening of all: “But nobody knows who we are. Why would they attend?”
Live events perform extremely well. They drive business to your door and give you an uninterrupted opportunity to educate potential clients about your business. Regardless of whether they are held virtually (in the case of webinars) or at an appropriate location, live events overwhelmingly succeed when:
1. They are free for attendees.
2. They are educational.
Time is valuable, and your prospects want to know that if they attend your event, they will get something out of it. They also want to know there won’t be a hard pitch where they’ll feel obligated to buy. To be effective, live events shouldn’t be promotional, but rather, your attendees should feel like they can walk away with important information that directly impacts their lives, even when they haven’t purchased anything.
What do you accomplish through live events? Most importantly, you build trust. You demonstrate to your clients that you are a foremost expert in subjects that matter to them most, and that your company is dedicated to expanding, learning, and helping others. And peripherally, you have an uninterrupted opportunity to give yourself, your staff, and your products the highest accolades, which are especially useful when they are backed up with fact and research.
Do you think live events won’t work for your business? I’ve had to overcome this objection many times in my career, and here’s a classic example of where it worked fabulously:
A medical aesthetic spa needed to increase their business and retain their current clients when a competitor opened down the road during the recession. Fearful, they turned to print advertising, which works to a certain degree. When they still didn’t see a significant increase in business, they contacted me. Together, we developed a complimentary, live event held at their facility and announced it to local women’s organizations. We enticed potential clients with door prizes, gift certificates for services, light snacks and refreshments. In return, we asked them to sit through a 45 minute presentation where the spa staff performed sample procedures and demonstrated the technologies and methods used to accomplish each look. The staff also explained the dangers and rare complications of each procedure, and showed how their facility addresses these concerns. They gave clients a list of questions to ask during consultations, no matter where they would decide to undergo their procedures. The owners and medical staff were on hand for questions throughout the event. In the reception area, we demonstrated beautifully crafted photo albums with before and after pictures, as well as a looped DVD with client testimonials.
Following this event, the spa saw a two-fold increase in business. As word of mouth promotion spread about the spa, they were specifically asked by clients to hold more events like this. The spa now hosts live, educational events once per quarter, with a different focus area or topic for each event to keep it new and interesting for repeat visitors.
The spa benefits from these events by gaining or retaining clients; the clients benefit because they have a more complete understanding of their procedures; and my business benefits because, well, I have a happy customer who now has me on contract. That’s money in my pocket. And as we all know, a satisfied customer evangelizes.
So when your business needs to freshen things up a bit, consider live events. They can be held at your offices, at conventions, in conference centers, even in restaurants. They can also be held virtually in the webinar format. It depends on the nature of your business and the location of your prospects. But in the end, these events bring success for everyone involved.
Malvern Social Communications is a boutique marketing content and social media agency located in Suburban Philadelphia. To discuss your communications needs, feel free to give us a call. We’ll talk to you for as long as you like about anything at all, and we won’t charge a penny until you’re 100% satisfied that we can do your job. Visit our website at www.themalvernsocialclub.com.
If you run a small business and a website, this is for you. If you don’t have a big budget, then this is really for you. Here are a few things you shouldn’t do… today:
-Don’t completely revamp your website
-Don’t spend more money on designers and hosting services
-Don’t hire an expensive SEO consultant
Your current website will generate more traffic and more sales leads if you do these four things:
1. Do begin blogging (with intelligence and with frequency)
2. Do provide special offers on a unique landing page where visitors will fill out a contact form
3. Do respond immediately to anyone who completes your web form or emails you
4. Do track where your traffic comes from so you can concentrate on the best methods to keep traffic coming
So Step 1 is blogging. The problem is (forgive me) you’re not a good writer. Or if you are a good writer, stop wasting your time on my website right now and start blogging. It will do wonders for your traffic, I promise. Now, if you’re still reading this, let’s assume you’re not a good writer. Or maybe you could be a good writer but don’t have time. After all, you’re running a business. Maybe you just don’t know what to write about. You know you need to use certain keywords and you’re stressed about the best SEO methods and how they fit into your blog. In any case, here’s my next best advice to you: Hire a blogger. And if your business is fairly large or growing and depends on Internet traffic for leads, hire a team of bloggers. But most importantly, hire a blogger.
For advice on what to look for in a blogger and how to go about actually hiring a blogger, refer to this article:
Next, Step 2 is lead collection. Create a special landing page on your website that provides an “offer” – a giveaway. Depending on your type of business, this can be a coupon, a free consultation, a webinar, white paper, survey results, calculators, eBook, sweepstakes… you catch my drift. In order to be eligible for the giveaway, your website visitors will need to leave behind some simple contact information.
Now, Step 3 means you actually have to follow up on those leads, and I mean like right away. Last week, I filled out a form for a 10% off coupon at my local landscaper’s website, and oh by the way, I was on his website because I desperately need to get a lawn cutting service on contract for the entire summer. It’s been 5 days and I haven’t heard from him yet. I’m signing a contract with another landscaper tomorrow. But I digress.
The best way to follow up immediately is with an automated email service. Let’s face it, that landscaper is probably swamped this time of year, and he’ll kick himself a month from now when he realizes he never followed up. If I had received an automated email, saying something like, “Thanks for your inquiry. We are happily swamped, and wow, we’re also so happy you contacted us. Please understand it may be a couple of days before we can call you, but we sure do look forward to talking!” If I had received an email like this, knowing their excellent reputation around here, I may have actually waited to hear from them.
Likewise, if you own a financial services business, you might want to continuously nurture those leads with a weekly enewsletter that gives tidbits of market advice to your prospective clients while your sales folks work behind the scene to close them.
And lastly, Step 4 – Track your traffic. Know the keywords people use when they’re searching for you, and know at what point you converted a website visitor from a lurker to a lead to a sale. Then repeat the good stuff, and do away with the useless stuff. This makes you more efficient, more cost-effective, and more likely to close more sales. In other words = Statistics equal improvements.
So you’re not an internet marketing guru or an analytics guy. That’s OK. There are lots of custom communications, internet marketing, and custom content companies out there who run their business doing exactly this for you. Interview lots of them and make sure you trust that they can get you found and bring you leads for a fair price that meets your budget. Ask for experience and testimonials, and most importantly, nail down a timeline that gets this plan working for you right away. After all, time is money.
If you would like to discuss your internet marketing needs and ways you can generate more leads, please contact Malvern Social Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org with some of your challenges. We’ll be happy to talk with you about many ways to impove your sales through methods like those listed here. Good luck, and have fun growing your business!