Content Marketing, Semantic search, and other easy things to do online

hand-pressing-icon-10077915Another week and another ‘new’ online marketing task to learn: I know that things can get very confusing very quickly when you are new to online marketing. Sometimes, it’s enough to say simply: “I don’t have enough time to learn this.”, and give up. Without trying to add more details to your busy day, I believe that these two terms will be spoken about a lot in the near future, so they are worth explaining. It will help your business marketing, they work together, and they are easier to grasp than you may think. So give me five minutes, and we will see if you have an ‘Eureka’ moment.
Semantic Search, is the future of the Internet. At the moment, to attach two websites to each other, you link the two sites through information and content on your two sites. The more links you have that are trustworthy sites, and don’t peddle simply spam, then the better (more expert) your site becomes. In the very near future, all of the data that you as a person, you as a business owner, all of your business information holds can soon be looked at by ‘the ‘net’ as bits of information about you. This will also include all of those people that you are connected to. The current example is Pizza.

Perform a search on this in the morning, and you will get informational links. Perform the same search during the evening, and you will get different results: Those that show actual purchasing decisions, like delivery, special offers, and closest to you. Why? Because Google knows that if you are searching at this time of day, you are probably looking for something to eat.
Semantics can mean, simply, ‘like’, or ‘alike’. Google makes decisions based on all of the information that it knows about you to make that search as immediate as possible. The information you put online had better bear this in mind to ensure that you have the right information going to the right people at the right time.
Content Management simply means how you lay out the information you want to put out to your communities. What do they have in common with the sites you have linked, with the time of year, with the e-mail marketing you are doing. It is ensuring all of the marketing you are doing for your business is not only correct, it is aimed at your communities, based on what they will be searching for, not just what you want to promote about your company.
These two guidelines should be the basis of what you are trying to market, and make it easier for you to aim your correct message to the people you want to receive that message. So, how can you plan with this in mind? Simply approach it the same way you do with any other business decisions:
• Plan: Create a strategic structure for your content marketing: Look at the communities you are aiming your message at. What has worked before, what do they want to hear, and what do you need them to know?
• Team: This may be just you, but do others have some input into your businesses daily operations that have information that you need to add. Can they be added to the marketing loop, and how. What information are they supplying, and is anyone else in the corporation doing?
• Ideas: Generate a steady flow of ideas for your all of your blog posts, e-mails, social media posts and comments. A weekly meeting, or solo brainstorming session may be all that is required, if everyone comes prepared to expand on those ideas that are already doing well online.
• Production and Distribution: Put a marketing diary together that shows what message is going to whom, and when. Stick to it for a few cycles to note what changes take place to your audience figures, and to put natural spikes and valleys in their correct perspective.
• Audience Development: Who is reading, or accepting your message. Which community do they fit into, and do these communities change over a period of time. Do they grow? Do they splinter? Are you, actually, marketing to the communities that you thought you were. Are you aiming at the right communities?
• Convert & Nurture: How do your ‘touches’ with people grow? Do you have definite steps from introduction to purchase, and – if so – are they all following the plan? Where do you lose their interest, and why? Tweak the plan to take this into account.
• Measure & Optimize: Once tweaked, can the message be repeated? Are there more things to do with a more current marketplace? Ensure that your delivery vehicle (Signpost, website, written collateral) reflect these changes.
Most new additions to marketing – especially on the ‘net – are buzzwords based on age-old marketing foundations: Do you know your customers, how to grow that number and turn prospects into customers, and then keep them with you forever, always spending more. All the tools you need to do this are given to you, just plan to ensure you know what is about to happen.

Extending the Blog Conversation

Posted on September 29, 2011 by mahanjkIn the real estate industry, blogs have become more and more important. Any back-link check on realtors in geographic areas show a list og blog posts from different realtors that have been doing it for a long time. How do you come up with something new weekly?

Most importantly, you will go through a learning curve early in your copy writing ‘career’, when you will find it difficult to stick to one theme. You will always try to open a different paragraph with a different idea. If you start filling these ideas away (I.e. cut and paste them out of your current document ,and put them on the next available page.), you will find that all of these different ideas will become blog posts in their own right.

Secondly, you will learn to listen around the office and to your prospects in more detail, and will receive all kinds of ‘conversational gems’ that show how many people don’t know a fact, or how an upcoming ‘left turn’ in your industry, or your communities might change things in the future. These become blog posts, also.

Almost any new piece of information that come across your desk can be used as a starting point for your imagination to start a post with. You will soon be showcasing your knowledge (and becoming an expert to those that don’t know.), and your passion (which leads people to think that you like to help people. Everyone loves those people.)

The more you get used to promoting yourself, you will find ‘likes’, “+1’s”, and ‘follows’ from people that like what you write. Who are these people? What similarities and differences do you and those people have? How do they all connect together, who else can I attract. It is the sharing by other people that really matter to you, because they are doing what you want then to – sharing your news. So…return the favour, and grow your online community. Watch as it inevitably leads everyone back to your offline communities, and then watch howm many people you did’t knowl but wanted to, join the pack.

It’s not inevitable, but – if you are an expert – it will happen. You can then use them as a sounding board. I recently asked a group of realtors that I don’t personally know, what they are writing about right noew. Guess what – they told me!

  • Agents write about their pets
  • The answer to questions posed to them through e-mail
  • Recent conversations with other agents
  • Cover local events, and what they did in them.
  • Real-life sales pitfalls

There is an inexhaustible supply of subjects. I bet tat you have had some ideas from just using this. Give yourself a year, and start with one blog post a week. See how far you get and, in a year, count how many new ‘friends’ you have both online and in real-life.

The Real World

IMG_0244So let’s put all of these ideas into action! I have been writing for a little over a year on growing your business utilizing Internet Marketing, but it has all been somewhat theoretical until now. An opportunity came my way this past week that allows me to put all of these plans into action, so for Year Two, I shall concentrate on one project, and share with this blog all that goes on, on an ongoing basis. If you think that your business is tough to market for, then please check out ‘Walter’, and let me know if your problems can be helped.

I visited a local tailor last week. I have lost a fair bit of weight over the last couple of years, and decided to change my current wardrobe, rather than buy more. My wife was shocked, but I was serious: “By resizing all of the suits that I have, and donating what I don’t wear, I can gain wardrobe space, help someone out, and look good. Plus, I will never have to buy any more clothes ever again.” I have used Walter before, but it hasn’t been for a while, and while I don’t have the kind if money that he wants to do this job, I can pay him on an ongoing basis for two months, and build him a website, and try to get him more customers by getting him online as payment in kind.

Why? Because he is a talented artisan that will save me money. His work has been great for me before this. He needs more business, but doesn’t know how to get it. I can help someone, while he helps me. Perhaps this rings a bell with you, but he knows nothing about online business, doesn’t have a computer, still has a phone with a rotary dial, and depends on a sandwich board outside if his store – that is hidden away inside an inside mall. He’s like a great secret that I can help by spreading the word.

He also is in a sunset industry – one that has been taken over by quick fix stalls in the mall, and anonymous back room workers. No-one appears to appreciate his talents as a renewer, alterer, and tailor. My first suit is 20 years old, but hasn’t been worn very much over the last ten – you could say that it’s new. It was also expensive at the time, and wasn’t ‘off the rack’. In my first fitting, he has dropped it by 2 sizes, and I know have a waist, and pants that hang naturally on top of my shoes, not from my hips. I can find my waist, and I have a shape to me, now!

Today is my first sit down with him, where I explain about internet marketing, and how his business can grow. I’ll see how he reacts. Look out for the Walter the tailor website

Ring in the new, but not at the expense of the Old

Had enough of the never-ending ‘Hottest new ways to manage your Business’ advice that floods your inbox? While it’s true that the Internet, and the reach that it offers everyone, has been like a bomb under the desk of every business owner (no matter it’s size.), don’t fall into the trap of believing that everything that all businesses ever did to make their day-to-day work prior to 1985 no longer apply. If you have moved away from certain ‘old school’ management techniques, in favour of letting the ‘net do it, you may well be missing opportunities that your business rely on. After all, centuries of business practice won’t be completely swept away in less than a generation.

If the future of work depends on speed and nimbleness, there are certain paradigms that are required to help these systems work correctly. Keeping these paradigms in mind will oil the wheels of your business, keep it on the tracks, keep it steaming along, guided by its proactive marketing, taking the fuel it needs from its sales funnel, and everyone enjoying the trip of Customer Service.

  • If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it? Let’s not reinvent the wheel

Take all you can from new media, better processes in warehousing and industrial practices, and the untimed working period, but don’t throw out everything you used to do in order to maximize your businesses’ future. After all, everything old becomes new again, and you may well be better served to use systems you already have in place, rather than blowing everything up in an attempt to be modern. Sometimes, things need to be overhauled, occasionally, they need to be helped along, but if your systems are working, then why change it?

  • You will get performance reviews once or twice a year

Reporting has gone the way of the Dodo in many companies. This is due to telecommuting, ever changing corporate roles, and other symptoms of the wired world. Just because many employees and contractors are working remotely, it is important for them, and you, to ascertain their goals, and how close they are to getting them. Even if – in the case of a remote sales force – you can access software that shows where they are, and what they are doing at any time you choose, the opportunity to talk to them on an ongoing basis – even if it’s only seasonally – to sit with them face-to-face and ask how business is will always impress on them that you are listening. If you have hired the right person to work for you, and you have given them goals, a fast, regular and ongoing conversation about how close everyone is will help you keep a tab on your businesses’ everyday operation, and teach you some new tricks that these talented people have found. It will also cut down on your workload.

  • Must create status reports

With everyone’s reliance on AI to complete tasks, how hard is it to e-mail you and let you know what is close to completion, only half-way there, or behind schedule. It doesn’t have to be every Friday afternoon, but if your business runs on a tight schedule, you have to have some way of knowing how that schedule is going. Talented employees can be entrepreneurial and excited by taking control over their area. This is a great way to expand the business, but it could also slow up projects that have a Critical Path-type of operating history. Keeping them on their own schedules, as well as encouraging them to do what they have to in order to move the project forward, allows for the best of both worlds.

By moulding your existing practices that work, and changing those that can be managed better, you can have the best of both worlds in your business, but don’t throw out the rules that have managed businesses for centuries, just because it’s not ‘modern’.

Use all of your company for Marketing

Many small business entrepreneurs don’t realise the tools they already have to hand to make their company full of salespeople. If the ‘boss’ is the main sales point in any small company, there are online tools available to add everyone’s voice in the company to the overall sales strategy. Although there will always be fads in online marketing, some perhaps a little grey hat, but a little research shows that there are some well-trusted platforms that anyone can use, and help to spread the word about your business that will be a great help.

You don’t need to worry about growing your brand. Today, your company is your brand. Perhaps you worry that your voice won’t be heard among the giants of your industries, but the difference in today’s business environment is only numbers.

Brands such as Dell, Coca-Cola, LEGO and Nokia have trained thousands of their employees to act as brand advocates, listening and engaging in social conversations and exchanging insights with customers to shape and drive their business forward. Your job, as a small business owner is the same, but scaled down to a manageable size. Your first question should be: How do I keep everyone aligned and on the same page?

In the past five or six years, we have gotten used to social platforms being used as a solid base for your marketing. As with other business plans and models, these platforms value has moved from a crude social lead digging to a much more elegant phase in which prospective clients can be discovered, scored and nurtured using social networks and everyday relationship building tools. Let’s call it Social Selling, or at least Social Lead Targeting.

As services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter grow in importance so too have the tools that mine the rich set of sales data left in every interaction. Nowadays there are ways to assist these sites to talk to each other, and your five or six employees have completely separate online contacts that you can now meld into an ever growing circle of leads, and salespeople.

You don’t even need a full time IT or saes department. Just know what you want to promote, and put a plan in place when you will market that plan. Let’s look at Twitter as a channel an what to do to maximize the interest on it:

  • What are these people interesting in on other social networks?
  • Who are their connections and where is their contact information?
  • Can you compile a marketing document that shows who has shown what interest in what marketing?
  • Can you track their visits to your website, and what they found interest in?

First off, you can easily do all of this and more with little or no tech support for less than $100 a month.

Thus is only Twitter so far, you can do the same kind of discovery and targeting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well with the right tool set up and integration.

By using all of your employees to access and grow their own network, targeted lists and a connected network of your customers and prospects, you can very quickly find what people like about you, and what to change to ensure your marketing is focussed and sharp.

This is called integration, and ‘Hootsuite’ and ‘Nimble’ can be used to do all of these tasks in  a streamlined and timed way.

I can easily build a list in Twitter based on search criteria and then with one click add selected list members to the Nimble CRM tool for a complete picture of the prospect along with unified messaging. So, now if I reach out to that prospect by way of a subtle connection tweet, Nimble captures our entire conversation, shows me the prospect’s social stream and their key connections in one screen.

Social is not so much a marketing channel as it is a behavior that allows for much richer listening, targeting, nurturing, learning and converting. The key is to bake social data and signals into your entire prospecting and sales process as a mindset using tools that put this vital set of data at your fingertips. Don’t forget to track , and continue contact with your prospects

The real skill then becomes using this information to add value!

How to tell your Company’s Story: Part 1

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Everyone loves a good story.  But how can you use this to your advantage when talking to your prospects and customers? While you should use every opportunity to tell your story, what do you say? Here are some points to keep in mind when you are offered the opportunity to talk about who you are:

1. What is unique about your business?

What do you offer that is different from anyone else? Is the product, the business’s history, its staff make-up? Look at the advertising and online posting you have been doing, and find out what you have been discussing. The sum of your articles comes to represent your industry expertise, the way you wish to portray it.

2. What is interesting about how your company was founded?

What did you find out before founding the company, and what false starts did you endure, before finding its current form and methods. This is your chance to show you are the same as others, but also offers you the opportunity to show how you found a ‘twist’ in the marketplace that no-one else did.

3. What problem are you trying to solve?

As a Marketer, I ask the same questions of my prospects every time we start a conversation. This gives me a real path to their pain, and how I can solve it. However, you can tell just as much through questions as you can through answers. Showing how you operate will interest others and show your uniqueness:

How can they gain visibility in the marketplace? 

How can they grow their relevant audience relevant to their business? 

Where can I establish my professional expertise by writing about my company online? 

Where can I tap into an international audience? 

Where can I have a discussion with people who relate to my profession to show my capabilities?

Where can I make meaningful professional connections, and help establish my brand? 

How do you do what you do differently than others to get to the result they want?

4. What inspired your business?

Was it a problem that you saw in other companies, over and over again? Was it something that you were interested in that you wanted to expand? Was there an obvious (or un-obvious.) reason for this that no-one else was seeing?

These points will get you started on a list of subjects. From it, a whole raft of memories will prompt further stories of your company’s growth, challenges faced, and problems solved. Each of these help to gradually complete the picture of ‘The Story of your Company’, and then you will be able to help others. Who wouldn’t want a business guru in their field of expertise, giving them advice? This is the point from which you should start in your efforts – to help others. It is only from there that you will be trusted, followed, and – as a by-product – you will expand your customer and prospect base.

“Why isn’t my Business working like that one?”

This is the question that we hear most of the time. Our previous posts show the avenues you need to pursue before you even start – like have a unique business proposal, rather than do it to make money. If you are ‘in the middle of it’, however, how do you turn the ship around? A recent set of studies in a huge marketplace for small and medium sized enterprise businesses (OK, it’s the USA), show why businesses fail. The answers are remarkably simple, along with why others have done well. Can you change what you are doing for the better? The answers may as well be simple, too.

Invest for the future: Why did you start doing this? What is your ling term plan? Are you ready for it? It’s not a cost, it’s an investment. If you don’t need it for this plan, and this plan alone, don’t do it.

Risk: You can’t avoid it. If you do, you will fail. Ensure that you are ready for it, and combat risk with information. There is always risk, but any negative effects can be reduced by planning.

Hiring: Get a trustworthy accountant, they can save you money. Your website needs to be better than anyone else’s out there, and only a professional can do it – not someone cheap, someone good. Include some copywriting skills to that, too. These words are going to be seen by everyone, prospects, customers, professional contacts, everyone. It is worth paying a lot for being seen as the best out there. Get a professional logo, too. Are they the same people? You are lucky. If not – pay someone to do it. Lawyer: Only the best can stop you doing the wrong thing, warn you of what is about to happen, and let you know how to fire-wall yourself from the future.

Purchasing: Get insurance from a trustworthy source. You need it.

Hardware and Software: get the best, pay more for it, and include all of the security features and future upgrades you possibly can. If your business is going to rely on the net, or on an interface between your communities and your business, this is a must.

This is not ‘spending money’, it is ‘investment’. Get this right, and you are already better placed than 80% of all start-ups, anywhere. If you are “saving Money and staying away from Risk” you are killing your business. The ones that are doing well are sure of their businesses’ basics, and know they have to pay for that base. In other words, if you spend well and wisely, and take the leap to new products, markets, and business decisions on an ongoing basis, your business will be better placed to weather all kinds of storms. Of course, your natural excitement and confident knowledge also goes a long way to making your business a success.

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