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How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

How to Write Content That Actually Generates Leads

It’s tough to be a businessperson in the digital age. While you might think that the Internet makes it a breeze to find loyal customers, the ease of communication between business and potential customer has made competition with other businesses tougher than ever.

Online lead generation is akin to fishing in the midst of thousands of other people hoping to catch the same fish as you are. To be effective, you must not only use the best bait, but you must also have the best tackle to reel in the catch.

In marketing terms, it’s  important to develop content for your website that draws people in and converts them into customers.

This, of course, is much easier said than done.

We developed this resource to give you some simple tips to instantly improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) and conversions.

Since many start-ups and small businesses are new to the wonderful world of SEO, here is a brief introduction to the term. For more veteran content creators, feel free to skip down to the tips list below.

SEO refers to increasing your website’s visibility in search engine results (primarily Google) and thereby increasing traffic and (hopefully) sales.

Optimizing your website can get quite nuanced, but much of it has to do with useful and clear web copy and the appropriate use of headings and tags, which allow search engines to index the site more easily.

SEO (bait) and conversion rate (tackle) exist in unison. Content on your site should draw traffic to your site, but it should also motivate visitors to action.

The following are the top five must-haves for web content that converts:

1. High-Quality Content

When asked whether writing matters in blog posts, author and digital marketing expert Guy Kawasaki replied, “This is like asking if the quality of food in a restaurant matters. Writing is the primary determinant of the success of the post. Everything else—timing, graphics, frequency—is secondary.”

High quality doesn’t just mean that your posts are grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. A good blog post will be grammatically correct, but it will first and foremost be of use to your audience.

The Internet is already so full of content that if you are posting for the sake of posting, you are just adding to the noise. Listen to your audience and learn what they want to read about.

In addition to great writing, don’t forget to include great-quality graphics that supplement the main points of your post. This is especially important to get viewers of your post to click the preview on social media or the front page of your website.

2. Keywords

High-quality content will help you move up in the ranking of Google’s search results because the most valuable currency in SEO is trust.

However, great content, while necessary, won’t get you very far in terms of driving traffic to your site. To make your content visible in searches, you need to understand the importance of keywords.

Google’s Keyword Planner (available for free online once you create a Google AdWords account) is a great tool to help you understand what words and phrases your clients are searching for and incorporate those terms into your content.

3. Post Length

Another very important factor in SEO is the length of your posts, titles, and meta descriptions.

A good rule of thumb is that title tags should be 55 characters or less, while meta descriptions should be 155 characters or less.

The length of a blog post itself is a bit more variable, as optimal post length has long been debated by content marketers and SEOs. Keep in mind that the length of a blog post is really more about usefulness and trust than actual word count, and longer posts tend to have more detailed and reliable information.

However, as Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content, explains, “Ideally, you want to worry less about blog post length and more about being useful to your audience. If you can be useful in 300 words, go for it!”

4. Design

Generate Leads

While many web content how-to articles focus on writing (which makes sense), they often overlook the very important aspect of visual appeal.

You’ve done all this work to bring visitors to your site by producing trustworthy writing that contains well-researched keywords and is of optimal length, but you still aren’t meeting your lead generation goals.

The problem might be your website’s design. Our first impressions of websites are often subconscious, but there is no doubt that design and aesthetics play a major role in gaining a visitor’s trust.

Evan Bailyn, author of SEO Made Easy, puts it this way: “Websites are like commercial buildings: If you walk into one and feel surrounded by symmetry, calm, and beauty, you feel comfortable transacting with the business.”

5. Call to Action

This is perhaps one of the most important, and often forgotten, aspects of content writing. You are writing a post not only to provide your audience with useful information but also to educate them about your organization, product, or service.

The majority of business owners started their company because they believe their product can make a difference in the lives of others, whether by saving time, providing entertainment, or solving a common problem. Don’t forget that many of the people who clicked the link to your site could benefit from the products or services your company provides.

Within each blog post, and on each page of your website, make sure to reserve a specific section where you can place a button, link, or clear direction for the customer to follow to learn more about your company or to make a purchase. With blog posts, this typically occurs at the very end. Be sure that, wherever you place the call to action, it is related to the content of the page it is on.

By approaching SEO from the perspective of generating leads and customers—not just increasing traffic—you’ll be even more effective at harnessing the power of your website and blog, resulting in a measurable impact on your bottom line.

Image sources: Markus Spiske/Stocksnap.io, Jay Mantri/Stocksnap.io

How to Write a Blog

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The Ultimate Blogger Guide

Blogger Guide

A desk with writing instruments.

Do you want to become a blogger? Blogging presents a unique opportunity to build a network for your existing customers while also acquiring new business. A blog is the ideal platform on which to showcase your expertise in the industry.

This list of resources is designed to walk you through the blogging process and answer any questions you might have along the way.

Why Start a Blog?

What Is Content Marketing?

How to Create a Content Strategy

How to Write Content

Image source: Alejandro Escamilla/Unsplash.com

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Content Writing: Using Words to Benefit Your Business

Content Writing

How Content Writing Can Benefit You

Content WritingRunning a business is hard work. Some days, there is so much to do that it’s difficult to keep track of all the tasks you’re responsible for. Add to this the increasing demand for marketing yourself online, and you have one mighty to-do list. How can you find the time to reach out to your potential customers? That’s where content writing and marketing come into play. Writing content is a process that should be tackled continually over time. Making your content writing a regular part of your day can help this task feel like less of a burden, and it can also help you create more engaging content. Here are a few examples of ways to use your content marketing strategy to benefit your business.

Highlight the strengths of your business

Many businesses find it a struggle to communicate effectively with their target audience. Finding the time to produce a weekly newsletter or blog can help you reach out to both current and potential customers. Writing content can assist you in highlighting what you and your company do best. A content writing strategy can ensure that you stay on track while meeting your communication needs.

Ensure professional results

Establishing an online presence is not just a matter of purchasing a website domain. It requires knowledge of many areas of the online industry. To get the most out of your content writing efforts, you need to educate yourself about the basics of search engine optimization—that is, using tactics to drive traffic to your website. Although acquiring knowledge of website design is not an easy undertaking, it will be worth it to ensure you get the professional results you’re looking for.

Compete with big companies

Most big businesses can afford to outsource their content marketing. They may also spend a great deal of money on paid advertisements. However, not all businesses are large enough to support this kind of spending. The financial benefits of a content writing strategy mean you can focus on developing quality content to establish your brand over time. Your smaller budget doesn’t limit the level of expertise you can offer to your audience, just as it doesn’t take away from the quality of the services you provide. A content marketing strategy, when executed properly, can help you expand your brand to compete with big businesses without the added expense of paid advertisements.

An up-to-date strategy will help you avoid outdated content

One of the cardinal rules of website management is not allowing your content to get stale. Outdated content can be a huge hindrance to attracting readers and clients looking for fresh information. When your site looks old, it implies that your company either has a lack of organization or does not have sufficient resources to support itself. Making your content writing strategy an integral part of your business strategy means that someone is always keeping track of your website maintenance schedules. Keeping your website content current shows that you are relevant and worthy of the consideration of your site visitors.

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Buyer Personas, Blog Posts, and Dogs: An Introduction to Content Marketing

An Introduction to Content Marketing

An Introduction to Content MarketingThe Internet has changed the way we do everything, and marketing and sales are no exception. Having an active website is vital to the visibility and reach of your business, which means that your website can directly influence the success of your sales. So how do you keep your website active and your business booming?

Two words, my friend: content marketing. If you do it right, content marketing will take your business to the next level. But before we get any further, let me introduce you to someone.

Meet Maximus Barker. Mr. Barker recently started his own business, Doggy Dopamine. Doggy Dopamine’s mission is to help people who are experiencing depression or who are just having a rough day by lending them a dog. People can sign up their friends or family members for a doggy date, and after a thorough background check has been conducted, a dog friend is delivered to the client’s door. People can also sign themselves up. Mr. Barker is just getting his business off the ground, and he knows that spreading awareness via the Internet will increase his popularity and improve his business. But how can Mr. Barker use content marketing practices to promote his business and increase his sales? Let’s start by looking at what content marketing is and how it can be applied practically.

What is content marketing?

Doggy Dopamine AdContent marketing involves creating high-quality content and distributing that content across different venues. This content should be informative; it should answer a question or fulfill a need for its intended reader or viewer. Companies that practice content marketing aim to become trusted sources of useful information, thus establishing themselves as authorities on topics relevant to their products or services.

The ultimate goal of providing this information is to attract more visitors who, over time, will convert into leads. Some of these leads can then become customers or clients. Content can include blog posts, infographics, videos, ebooks, and more.

In the case of Doggy Dopamine, Mr. Barker may want to focus on a few areas in his content marketing. He’ll want to provide information about dogs, such as dog care, training, and specific information about different breeds of dogs. For example, blog posts like “How to Train a Puppy” and “Training Your Dog According to Breed” would help attract the kind of audience Mr. Barker is seeking. He may even want to have some humorous content about dogs, as this kind of content would be sure to attract dog lovers.

Mr. Barker will also need to create content regarding depression, trauma, and other mood-related topics. Articles or blog posts about how spending time with dogs can improve mood and alleviate depressive symptoms would also be relevant to Doggy Dopamine; this material would appeal to visitors during a later stage of the buyer’s journey, a topic I’ll discuss in greater detail later.

Why content marketing?

Picture this: Mr. Barker knocks on a stranger’s front door. “Hi,” he says, “My name is Maximus Barker, and I run a business called Doggy Dopamine. Would you like to find out how you can lend a dog to a friend in need?” The homeowner, Mrs. Modern, politely declines. Mr. Barker tries one more time, saying, “Did you know that spending time with a dog has a positive effect on mood? Let me tell you all about it—” Mrs. Modern cuts him off. “No, thank you,” she says, “If I want to learn more, I’ll just Google it.”

Mrs. Modern doesn’t know who Mr. Barker is. She doesn’t know where he came from or whether he’s running a legitimate business. And, smart lady that she is, she will never buy anything from someone she knows nothing about. That’s because, unlike the consumers of days past, Mrs. Modern has the resource she needs to find any information she wants about dogs, depression, Doggy Dopamine, or even Mr. Barker himself: the Internet.

If you don’t give prospective clients the information they seek, someone else will. It doesn’t matter how much you boast about your products or services. The fact is, your readers won’t decide that they need or want these products or services based on your advertisement of them; instead, they will acquire all the information they need to decide if buying from you is necessary. You need to be the source of that information: enter content marketing.

Okay, so how do I use content marketing?

There are four basic steps involved in content marketing. I could go into each of them in greater depth, but here are the basics:

Step 1: Identify your target audience(s).

If you think that everyone and their grandmothers will be interested in your business, you’re wrong. There are just too many businesses out there offering too many services––they can’t all be for everyone. Instead, each business needs to establish its target groups, also known as buyer personas. A buyer persona is essentially a fictional example of an ideal customer––that is, someone who both wants and is able to buy your product or service. Relevant information to identify buyer personas includes demographic details, motivations, barriers your personas may face, and problems they need to solve. These buyer personas should be research-based.

There are a few ways to research buyer personas, but the easiest and most direct way is to talk to your existing clients. Surveys are a great way to gather the necessary information, as are interviews. This blog post goes into greater depth about what information is needed to create a buyer persona. Once you have determined whom you’re writing for, it will be much easier to produce content tailored to these groups.

Mr. Barker identified three distinct buyer personas for Doggy Dopamine: university students, aging adults, and people who have recently lost pets. Here are the basic details for each persona:

University students: Males and females in their early twenties. They either live in student housing or with several roommates. They usually don’t have pets of their own, as they don’t have the space, time, or money to care for a pet properly. They’re often under serious stress caused by assignments, and they’re prone to depression or anxiety around exam times. They’re very active on social media sites, which is where Doggy Dopamine should primarily be promoted for this group.

Aging adults: Many are widows or widowers. Their children are grown, and they spend much of their time alone. Many of them are unable to commit to the lifespan of a new pet, or they’re physically unable to care for a pet on a daily basis. This group is less likely to visit social media sites. Traditional marketing may be a better fit for aging adults; however, their children or other family members will often sign them up for doggy dates. The children of the aging adult group can be targeted mostly online. Simple, concise writing is best for the aging adult group as opposed to the more casual and humorous tone that is popular with university students.

People who have recently lost pets: They are grieving from the loss of their own animals. Employing the services of Doggy Dopamine can help them make the transition from having a pet to not having one. They may also use Doggy Dopamine to determine if they want to adopt new pets for themselves. They tend to be middle-aged individuals with families. They often have young children at home, and information about how caring for a pet is good for child development will likely sway them in the direction of trying Doggy Dopamine.

Doggy Dopamine Buyer Personas

Step 2: Create content for each persona based on different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Understanding the buyer’s journey is essential to a successful content marketing strategy. There are three stages to the buyer’s journey: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage. Different types of content need to be created for each stage.

In the awareness stage, the individual knows they have a problem to solve, but they haven’t yet defined that problem. Because they have yet to define their problem, they haven’t come up with possible solutions yet, either. They’re doing general research to figure out exactly what their problem is. A university student in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey may be browsing the Internet for funny videos of animals or other funny content. If Doggy Dopamine has funny dog videos or memes, there’s a good chance the university student will end up seeing this content.

This type of content should be shared on Doggy Dopamine’s social media sites. Hopefully, seeing this content will lead them directly to the Doggy Dopamine site, thereby making the student more aware of the fact that they were seeking that content because seeing dogs made them feel better. Not all material in the awareness stage will lead viewers directly to conclusions; instead, it may just make them aware that a company or brand exists, even if they aren’t sure what that company does.

In the consideration stage, the individual has identified and defined their problem, and they’re now researching solutions. The aging adult is now aware that they are lonely, and they’re investigating different options for interaction. Doggy Dopamine needs to capitalize on these needs by creating content to show how caring for an animal can help reduce loneliness. The adult may have already determined that he or she would like to have a pet or to care for an animal; in this case, Doggy Dopamine needs to provide content about how fostering an animal can have the same positive effects as adopting a pet, but without the same level of obligation.

The key to all of this content is that the information needs to be true—it needs to be credible, and it needs to actually help the adult make the decision that is right for them. Not all adults in this stage will end up choosing Doggy Dopamine, but there’s no way that any of them will if they aren’t aware that it’s an option. A blog would probably be the best venue for this content, and it should also contain links to other reputable sites on the topic. If Doggy Dopamine doesn’t contribute useful information on this topic, the adult will look elsewhere for it.

In the final stage of the buyer’s journey, the decision stage, the individual has decided on a solution to the problem. All that’s left is to choose which service or product to use. The person is compiling a list of possible vendors and comparing what they offer (and at what price). A person who has recently lost a pet has determined that they’re still feeling sad because of this loss. They have decided against adopting another animal right away, as they’re not ready to make that commitment. Instead, they’re going to foster an animal. They may foster through an organization like the Humane Society, or they may use the services of a company like Doggy Dopamine. Their biggest decision factor is how much responsibility they want to have for the animal.

In this final stage of the buyer’s journey, Doggy Dopamine can be much more explicit about what it’s actually trying to sell. It doesn’t need to emphasize why the individual needs this service; instead, it needs to provide thorough information about what the service entails and how much it costs. For someone who has recently lost a pet, the important thing for Doggy Dopamine to outline is how easy and carefree the process of a doggy date is. Doggy Dopamine also needs to show the individual that the dogs are well cared for, that they all belong to loving homes, etc.

Step 3: Distribute the content.

Content that isn’t seen is as useless as music that isn’t heard. Be sure to distribute your content to make the most of your material. Possible venues for distribution include your blog, other blogs (via guest posting), social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), SlideShare, email, and content syndication sites like Outbrain. Try to repurpose content wherever you can to ensure that you get the most out of it. For example, if Mr. Barker writes a great blog post about how to train a beagle, he may also want to create a SlideShare using this article. If this garners enough attention, Mr. Barker may even consider creating an ebook on training specific breeds of dogs.

Step 4: Track your progress.

Track Your ProgressContent marketing isn’t about guesswork. You need to test what you’re doing to make sure it’s attracting unique visitors and converting some of those visitors into leads. You need to keep track of metrics like page views, social shares, and lead conversions. This article goes into greater depth on metrics. Google Analytics is the program of choice for most basic tracking of content marketing. It can track things like who visited your site (i.e., demographics, interests, behaviors, location), how much time visitors spent on your site, how many visits they made, which visitors read or shared your content, and which purchased your product or service.

If Mr. Barker uses Google Analytics, he can track each of his three buyer personas. For example, he can follow university students who visit his site, from their first share of a funny dog video to their viewing of one of his site’s landing pages. If Mr. Barker finds that most of his university students who make it to this landing page don’t actually end up converting to a lead or sale, he can make changes to the page and then conduct tests to see if those changes increase his conversions or sales for this landing page.

Conclusion

Now Mr. Barker knows how to get started with content marketing, and hopefully, you do, too. There’s still so much to learn, though, so why don’t you check out some of Inklyo’s content marketing blog posts? If you like what you read, don’t hesitate to give us a shout on Twitter or Facebook. We always love to hear from you.

Image sources: Jay Mantri/StockSnap.io, kreeperf/Pixabay.com, cherylholt/Pixabay.com, Almadrava/Pixabay.com, Sevenheads/Pixabay.com, Sumall.com

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Content Marketing Strategy: Some Tips For Developing and Executing

Content Marketing Strategy

Content Marketing StrategyTraditional marketing is a thing of the past in the online world. Customers have adapted to the effects of mainstream marketing and can easily click the “close” button on pop-ups and ads. So how can you market your business when customers are so immune to traditional marketing strategies?

The answer is content marketing strategy, the marketing technique of the future. A content marketing strategy consists of indirectly engaging customers by posting online content instead of directly telling audiences to buy a product or service. This content can be in the form of articles, multimedia, or social networking, but it all achieves the same goal. By providing your users with information, you can promote your business and encourage customers to purchase your product or service by building a relationship with them. A content marketing strategy is a much more subtle form of marketing that appeals to Internet audiences.

To make the most of a content marketing strategy, you should plan so your marketing can yield the best possible results for your business. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your content marketing strategy:

Think about your target audience

To whom you do want to sell your product? Are they young? Are they old? Do they work in offices, classrooms, or construction sites? All of these factors make a difference when you post content because different things appeal to different people. Make sure you know your audience before you start posting content because it will affect the response you get.

Why will your audience read your content?

Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is, you need to decide how to best reach out to them. Try thinking about what problem your business can solve, and show how you do this through your content. By giving your customers a reason to read your content, you can give them a reason to engage with your business as well.

What do you want your audience to get from your content?

Now you have to figure out what you want your audience to gain from reading your piece. What will appeal most to them? What’s the message you want them to walk away with? This is the point where you can turn passive readers into active customers, and what you post can change this dramatically.

How will you keep your customers reading?

The battle is not won once you get customers to start reading. The struggle for customers’ attention continues throughout their reading experience because you have to make sure they don’t stray. You need to keep them constantly captivated, so try including interesting content such as anecdotes, multimedia, or colloquial language. It’s easy to click away from your page on the Internet, so it is important you prevent this as much as possible.

What kind of call to action will you make?

Every piece of content needs a call to action so you can direct your customers to engage with your business. Create your call to action according to your audience’s strengths. For example, a call to action to teenagers might be to share the article on Twitter or Facebook, while for an adult, it might be to email it to their friends. Cater this call to action to your audience so your content can achieve its desired response.

Promote your content through social media

Web 2.0 web sites are the main hubs for information. Internet users no longer surf the web as they used to, but go to centralized social networking feeds that will give the information they want. It is important that you catch your audience by promoting your articles on these networks because customers can both find and share information on these sites. By engaging with social media, you can spread your content and make it viral.

Request customer engagement

When writing content for your customers, ask them what they would like to see. Surveys, comments, and feedback emails are all valuable tools to which you can turn when creating your content and then marketing it. This way, you can give your customers exactly what they want and remain confident that you appeal to your audience.

Image source: Cartoonresource/Shutterstock.com

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Why Start A Blog? 4 Great Reasons

Why Start a Blog? 4 Great Reasons

Sure, you’ve heard of blogging.Why Start a Blog? 4 Great Reasons

Maybe you’ve even tried it once or twice.

With everything else you have on your plate, however, you’re probably thinking it’s a waste of time.

The truth is, starting a blog is one of the best marketing tactics for your business. Blogging has tons of great benefits, from increasing your conversion rate to connecting with clients on a more personal level.

Why start a blog indeed. Still not convinced? Let’s look at some of these advantages in detail.

Advantage #1: A blog helps you find clients.

Have you ever needed something and didn’t know where to look?

Chances are, there are hundreds of customers looking for a company just like yours. By starting a blog, you’ll be creating a new way for these clients to find you.

The key to making this process work is search engine optimization. If you place keywords strategically throughout your blog posts, search engines will be more likely to send ideal clients to your website.

Sharing your blog posts on social media is another good way to generate leads. According to Neil Patel of KISSmetrics, a blog can increase inbound links to your website by over 90%. With blogging, you can tailor content to your clientele, making it more likely that they’ll purchase a product or service.

Advantage #2: A blog leads to more sales.

Static content, such as a contact page on a company website, tells your readers important information.

More often than not, however, webpages don’t ask the reader to do anything.

That’s why the call-to-action page is so important. Without it, potential customers won’t take that next important step—finding out what your company can do for them.

By starting a blog, you’ll be able to issue calls-to-action on a regular basis. This can be as simple as inviting your readers to leave a comment. You can also take it a step further and ask them to join your email list.

Without a call-to-action, your readers will have little incentive to check out the rest of your products and services. According to Mashable, the average bounce rate for websites hovers around 50%.

With a blog, you have a cost-effective way to increase client retention and ensure your audience is always engaged.

Advantage #3: A blog lets you show your expertise.

When your car breaks down, you visit the mechanic. If you get the flu, you make an appointment with the doctor.

Why do we rely on certain people to solve certain problems?

The answer is simple: we see them as experts.

To launch a successful business, you must be able to prove that you’re an expert in your niche. Blogging is an excellent place to start because it reaches such a wide audience. For example, the total monthly readership for blogs on WordPress.com is over 400 million people.

Even if you’ve never written a blog before, it’s easy to get started. What you write should clearly reflect your strengths as a business. For example, a content writing service could blog on time-saving techniques for writers. A graphic design company could produce infographics to enhance its blog posts.

You should also consider guest blogging on another website in your industry. When readers see that other experts have given you their seal of approval, they’ll be more likely to see you as an authority.

Advantage #4: A blog lets you put your business into your own words.

How often do you get a chance to tell people what your company is really about?

If you’re like most businesses, it’s probably not often. Outbound marketing techniques, such as sales calls, are often brief and impersonal. You don’t always have time to convey your services in the way you want.

What if there was an easy way to put it all out there?

Blogging could be the answer you’re looking for. With a blog, you’ll have the freedom to put your company into your own words. Whether your business is brand new or something you’ve been working on for years, blogging allows you to put a personal touch on your public brand.

Experts agree that highlighting your company’s personality increases customer loyalty. For example, Forbes writes that business storytelling helps create a meaningful connection with clients.

The next time a customer asks about what you do, point them to your blog. They’ll appreciate having such an approachable, informal window into your company.

Start Small, Dream Big.

You’ve learned about the advantages of blogging. Now, it’s time to get writing.

As in any new business venture, it’s OK to start small. Try setting up a publishing schedule—like one post a week—and sticking to it.

Over time, you’ll reap the benefits of more sales for your business and higher customer satisfaction.

Good luck with your blogging journey, and remember to have fun!

Image source: docstockmedia/Shutterstock

Inklyo's free ebook about business blogging.

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How to Write a Content Marketing Plan in 7 Steps

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing PlanOnce you’ve established your business online with a website, it’s time to start advertising to your audience. The Internet is a huge space with vast amounts of pages and information, so it is unlikely that customers will just happen to stumble upon your website and engage with your business. You have to be the one to put it out there and draw customers to your site. The best way to do this is by using a content marketing plan.

Instead of traditional advertisements that tell audiences what to do, the new and better way to attract customers is to show your audiences what to do. To do this, you need to create informative content that shows readers the benefits of your product or service without directly telling them to buy it. Given the growing number of businesses using content marketing plans, this is clearly a very effective way of making your business known and increasing its sales.

So how do you write a content marketing plan?

1. Set a goal

Figure out what it is you’re trying to achieve with your content. Are you trying to get traffic to your site? From what source? How much? How often? Be specific. Once you have an objective in mind with your content marketing plan, you can create content to fit this goal.

2. Figure out your audience

There is going to be a certain type of audience you want to reach out to. It’s called your demographic. Before you write your content, make sure you have a clear picture of your ideal customer so you can direct your topics and writing style to this potential reader.

3. Find out what’s popular and trending

Check out what other businesses are doing with their content marketing plans so you can get ideas for your own strategy. Try to figure out the types of articles that most customers are reading, and what kinds of content businesses are publishing to become popular. Then write about relevant topics that will interest your audience.

4. Write a good variety of content

When writing your content, make sure to vary the type of article, the topics, and the medium that you use. With the Web full of fast-paced, interesting content, customers will get easily bored if you constantly publish the same articles. Offering different types of content will attract different types of customers in your demographic and increase your following.

5. Write with SEO in mind

A great way to get your content seen online is to use search engine optimization (SEO) to increase your ranking on search engines. To improve your visibility in searches, use specific keywords and phrases in your content that will direct searches to your website. But please, make sure your content is well written and interesting, because articles will be flagged and punished by search engines if they are stuffed with keywords. Writing and publishing SEO content properly will attract readers to your content while maintaining your website’s integrity.

6. Share on social media

Social media are hubs for news and information and have become a popular way of finding content. To spread your content among all of your customers and reach out to other circles, you need to make sure you have a constant presence on social networks. You can achieve this by publishing your content on multiple platforms.

7. Evaluate metrics and use them to improve

Once you’ve published the content from your content marketing plan, you need to ensure that it’s achieving your initial goal. The best way to figure this out is to look at the metrics, such as how many customers have engaged with your content by taking actions like sharing on social media, visiting your website, or purchasing your product or service. You can then use this information to improve your content marketing plan.

Image source: wokandapix/Pixabay.com

Inklyo's free ebook about business blogging.

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Press Releases: The Astonishingly Easy Way to Boost Your Business

Press Releases - The Astonishingly Easy Way to Boost Your Business

Press releases are dead, right?Press Releases - The Astonishingly Easy Way to Boost Your Business

Yes . . . and no.

If you’re a solopreneur or even a small-to-medium sized business, writing a press release is not an effective way to get the attention of major media outlets. There are just too many press releases and not enough journalists, so only the very important releases from really big companies ever get read.

Press release writing can sometimes be effective for communicating with your local, small market media outlets, especially if your release has a local news angle. But there’s an even better way to use press releases, and that’s to talk directly to your potential customers… online.

How can a press release help you talk to your customers?

Let us count the ways:

1. A history of widely-distributed press releases provides something for your customers to find

Let’s face it, you’re going to get “Googled” by your prospects. It’s natural for them to want to know more about you before doing business with you. So why not give them something to find?

Older press releases will demonstrate that your company has been around for a while, and reassure the customer that you’re not a fly-by-night outfit. And being written up on other websites, even when the customer can plainly see that it’s a press release, does still lend you a (tiny) bit of credibility.

2. It helps you to craft your image

Before you go firing off several press releases about how you updated your website from version 2.01 to version 2.02, have a good think about how this kind of thing will look to customers right now and many years into the future.

A press release is an opportunity to tell your story, or at least help frame how customers perceive you. A series of meaningless updates will be seen as just that. But stories that announce things like how you donated to a particular cause, or how you received an award for excellence in the service you provide will help you build your brand over time.

Pro tip: never, ever, ever fake this kind of thing, and never do something for the potential PR value you can get out of it.

3. It keeps your website fresh

One of the many factors search engines use in determining where to position your site in search engine results is how “fresh” or how frequently updated it is. By regularly updating the News section of your site (and you do have one of those, don’t you?) with a version of your releases, you’ll improve your search engine rank. This is critical if you want your customers to find you and your products or services.

4. The web works in mysterious ways

There is a crazy amount of value in just putting something “out there” and seeing what happens. For example, a story about how you and your staff adopted a highway might be seen by someone who works for the local roads department, who has a brother who needs exactly what you sell. And this could happen when you first put out the release, or, because it’s the Internet and things like this stay available almost permanently, a year later.

Press release . . . like a boss

Press release writing isn’t something everyone is familiar with, since it is a specialized skillset that isn’t taught universally in school. You can outsource it to professional writers if you don’t want to deal with it yourself. If you want to try your hand at press release writing until then, however, read on for a few tips to guide you along.

Spend time on the headline

Titles and headlines are what bring your reader in, and it’s no different for press release writing. For that reason, these need to be crafted to quickly grab your reader’s attention. Short, snappy headlines are best. Make sure it’s to the point and accurate, too. As soon as your audience sees the headline, they should know what the press release will be about.

On that note, if you do email it to various news sources, make sure the subject line of the email is as snappy and informative as your headline. This could be the most difficult part of press release writing, so don’t let it fall by the wayside.

Keep your reader engaged

In the same way that your reader doesn’t want to be bogged down by lengthy headlines, they don’t want to hunt through paragraphs to get to the point. In the digital age, when information is transmitted and internalized in a split second, you want to make sure your reader has the basic, important information in the first paragraph. Most of the time, readers will only skim the rest of the article, so you don’t want to let them skim over the good stuff. The first couple of sentences should contain the things you most want your audience to know.

Press release writing should be concise

Lose the flowery language! Keep it concise and grounded in facts. Don’t worry about getting creative with your writing because that isn’t the point. A press release conveys information, numbers, and evidence to support your assertions, and that’s all you need.

And since you’re avoiding the fluff, your press release should be one page. Two pages is the absolute longest a press release should ever be. The shorter, the better.

Don’t forget contact and relevant information

You’re sending out a press release to grab attention, so you need to include some contact information. There isn’t much use to a press release if the reader has no idea how to contact you once you’ve piqued their interest. The email, telephone number, and the name of the person who is the main contact for press release queries should be included.

Don’t forget to include the website for your company. This saves the journalist the hassle of searching Google when researching your company. This will immediately improve your connection with them, which is a positive consequence for the future. It shows that you’ve been thoughtful and comprehensive in your press release writing, and the journalist will appreciate that.

Don’t forget the little details

Good press release writing is in the details. This includes both content and style. Double check that your press release doesn’t have any grammatical mistakes. It’s also a good idea to have an outsider or a professional look over the press release before sending it out. This looks more professional.

Finally, a very important detail that is easy to forget is the human aspect. If you can, incorporate a quote from a customer or employee. This provides a bit of personality without subtracting from the concise, fact-based quality of your press release writing.

Image source: iQoncept/Shutterstock.com

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How to Use Newsletters for Awesome Customer Service

How to Use Newsletters for Awesome Customer ServiceNewsletters are an ideal way to connect with your customers. If a customer has opted in to your newsletter, they want to hear from you. You want to make the best use possible of that indication of interest and trust.

Newsletters speak directly to your customers and help build a relationship. A great strategy for achieving this is to send out a customer service-oriented newsletter that shows your business’s dedication to their needs.

Here are some ways to do that in your newsletter:

Provide news and updates that are relevant for the customer

You know it’s great that your company got that award and all, but that should not be the feature story of your mailout. The top story (which is the one that customers are likely to see if they click open your email) should be about something that will help the customer solve her problems.

The more often your customer sees copy that helps him, the more likely he is to click open your next email, and your next, and he might even start scrolling down to see your other stories — like that one about the award that shows how amazing your company is at doing what it does.

Show how your product or service can benefit the customer

Pop quiz! Which works better:

A) We’ve just released a new social media feature. It works with Facebook and Pinterest, and you can find it in your Dashboard under Social.

B) Save time! We have just released a new Facebook and Pinterest posting option that will cut your status updating time investment by a third.

Clearly B wins, but why? Because A was a description of the features, and it didn’t explain why the client should care. The second version works because it describes the benefit to the customer. Your customer service newsletter should always provide information about your product or service in terms of the benefits it offers.

Show how your business affects the community at large

If your business has a presence at local events, fundraisers, and other community activities, this is perfect content to include in your customer service newsletter as a second or third story. Your participation in the community lets the public know you have an interest in matters beyond your business. The contributions your business can make to the community show your dedication to maintaining a healthy relationship with your customers.

Feature an employee

To help build the relationship you need with your customers, make your business real! Small writeups about the people at your company adds that human touch and it will help customers build a strong emotional connection with your company. Customers will see that there are actual people in your business who care about their needs.

Update customers on internal changes that affect them

If your company changes policies, it’s a good idea to inform your audience of these changes via your newsletter. This includes good news and bad news. Indeed, proper handling of bad news (e.g., getting out in front of the story, explaining what you’re doing and why, etc.) will make your company even more trustworthy, because you’re being transparent. It’s always reassuring for customers to know that you care about their interests too, not only about the revenue they provide.

Ask for feedback

Building a relationship requires effort from both sides, which is why it is important that your business try to encourage customers to interact with the newsletter. By making your business open to constructive criticism, you can generate a public response that will indicate if you’re meeting customers’ needs. If you’re not, you can change your business in various ways to try to satisfy the customers and maintain their interest. Encourage them to respond to your newsletters with feedback, and then act on the feedback. This will show that your business is committed to keeping your customers satisfied.

Good customer service is an important part of making your business successful, and a great way to ensure that your business is providing the best possible service is through your newsletter. Newsletters dedicated to customer service will help build solid customer relationships, show that your business is constantly working for the customers, and can help improve your bottom line.

Image source: Gajus/Shutterstock.com

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How to Create a Content Strategy

How to Create a Content Strategy

How to Create a Content StrategyBefore you can begin marketing your business online, you need to create a strategy that outlines exactly how your marketing will work. Just like any goal, establishing an online presence is a process that needs to be planned out, step by step. This way, you can use the content to spread your business’s name and help your business grow. A content strategy is a plan that you can use to determine what content you publish, when to publish it, what platform you use to publish it, and what it will achieve.

Creating content is a great way to promote your business. And methodically planning out what content you will present to your customers will help you shape the message you want to convey. This a huge part of building your brand.

So how can you create an effective content strategy? Here are four steps to consider:

Determine your business’s goals

The best way to plan out a content strategy is to start with very, very specific goals. Why specific and not broad? Beginning with the end in mind will help you to work backward and create clear, actionable steps to get there.

A good goal might be something like: I want to have a ten percent increase in leads for product X by the end of next quarter.

Do you see how that immediately makes everything so much clearer? Instead of floundering around wondering what content to produce and then hoping it somehow goes viral, you’ve already made some decisions. You now know that if you’re going to get an increase in leads for product X, you’ve got to create content related to product X. And you also know that if you want to increase leads by a specific number by a certain date, you’ll have to produce Y amount of content and promote it by Z amount.

To be sure, there are still a few unknowns in the preceding paragraph. For example, it can take time for content to help your organic search traffic, and it might be difficult to estimate just how many pieces of content you’ll need to bump the lead count. You’ll have a better idea of how your content is received as time goes on. But by basing your content strategy on business goals, rather than using the so-called “spray and pray” approach, you’ll get results much, much faster.

Determine your audience

Choosing a specific demographic group for your content is an extremely important part of disseminating your message. Figuring out the exact target group can help you determine what types of content should be shared, what medium you should share it through, and even the specific phrases you need to use.

Specific phrases? Really?

Definitely!

If you want your audience to be your customers, then you have to speak their language. For example, let’s say you sell high-end audio equipment, and you’re trying to grow your sales revenue. You could create several highly technical articles targeted at the sound geeks who get into heated debates over the best speaker cables to use. But are those the people who are coming to your store, or visiting your website? What if the people doing that are saying things like “I want something really good, but I don’t know where to start” or “All of this seems so intimidating!” If you use similar language when creating a piece of content that solves a problem your audience has, your audience will feel that you are speaking directly to them.

Your content needs to cater to the needs of your audience, so you need to keep their interests in mind when you plan the content you intend to share with them. The more you know about your audience, the better the experience they will have when engaging with your content.

What format and why?

One of the most cost-effective pieces of content to produce is an article, especially if you outsource the writing part of it to allow your team to concentrate on their core skills. However, other types of content might be appropriate to your audience. You could produce an infographic, a video, an ebook, or an email course. Again, think of your audience and their needs. What format best serves them?

How will you share it with your audience?

To reach your demographic, you need to share your content in a place that your customers will frequent. If your audience doesn’t know a Tweet from a twit, there isn’t a lot of point spending time promoting your content on Twitter, is there?

Take the time to find out where your customers hang out. You can do that by asking your sales staff, your customer service teams, checking your referral logs in your website analytics, and even just straight up asking your customers via a poll, or in a direct conversation.

Having a good long think about these factors will help you figure out your content strategy. And remember, a long term strategy beats short term tactics any day.

Image source: Ivelin Radkov/BigStockPhoto.com

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