Archive for content marketing

Improve Your Marketing – Create a Better Offer

effective lead magnets for attracting prospects

In the last post I shared some general ideas for scoring quick marketing wins in 2014. In the next series of posts  I’d like to offer some specific things you can do to your marketing more effective so you can win more customers and increase your sales in the coming year.

Create a Compelling Lead Magnet

In order to get more customers, you need to attract more people to your business. Sounds simple, but how do you do that?

One of the more effective ways to attract people to your business and get them to enter your marketing hourglass is to provide the answers to the questions they are trying to answer. In order to do this effectively, you need a thorough understanding of your ideal customers buying process and the types of information they need to see and/or hear before they feel comfortable moving from one stage of their process to the next. While this is true for all businesses, it is particularly true for B2B companies.

As John Caples famously said, you need to enter the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind. When was the last time you think “I hope I can find a newsletter to subscribe to today!” was a conversation going on in the mind of your ideal prospect?

Unfortunately, “subscribe to our newsletter” is the strongest call to action on many small business websites. Offering a subscription to your newsletter probably isn’t going to be enough to entice someone to give you their contact information these days. Most buyers who haven’t come to Know, Like, and Trust you yet aren’t interested in your newsletter – they want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

You can create a compelling lead magnet by providing the information that answers the questions in their mind. Luckily, you already have a good idea of what your prospects want to know because you talk to prospects and strangers about your business almost every day. Think about your recent conversations (or look through the Sent folder in your email) – what are the topics or questions you answer over and over again. Use these questions to jog your memory:

  • What are some common mistakes you help people avoid?
  • When people work with your competitors, what frustrations do they experience?
  • What are your prospects trying to learn?

Packaging Your Offer

Once you decide upon the information you will share with your prospects, you need to decide how you will package that information. One common approach to delivering this information is in the form of a white paper or eBook. A word of caution, I’ve seen more than one business owner get so bogged down in creating the “perfect” eBook that they never get their lead magnet in place. If you find yourself continually pushing back the due date on your white paper or eBook, consider using a different medium to deliver your information. A simple email series or a series of short videos or audio recordings can be just as effective. Get something deployed quickly – you can always improve and repackage the information in the future.

Not just for online marketing

Although lead magnets are typically thought of as an internet play, a compelling lead magnet can be used for offline lead generation as well. This has been the essence of two step or direct response marketing for decades – provide something of value in exchange for the prospects contact information so you can continue to nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy.

Even if you don’t buy traditional advertising for your lead magnet, pretending you will can be a helpful exercise to determine how compelling your offer is to your target audience. Assuming you were thinking about buying your first home, would you be more likely to respond to an ad for a real estate agent’s newsletter or a free report about the “3 Mistakes First Time Homeowners Make and How to Avoid Them.”?

Once you have a compelling lead magnet you can use it in all of your lead generation activities. Here are a few examples:

  • Advertising – change your existing advertising to offer your valuable information
  • Networking – “give before you get” by offering your information to those who indicate interest
  • Referrals – encourage your referral partners to share your lead magnet with their networks

Your First Step to Measuring Success

Having a lead magnet and incorporating it into your lead generation activities provides another, important benefit – it makes your marketing measurable. Now that your lead generation activities ask prospects to take a specific action, you can measure how many of them actually do. Set things up correctly and you can even measure where your prospects come from so you can start to make better decisions about where to spend your marketing budget.

Start Today

Take a look at the lead magnets you have today from your prospects’ point of view. Are they compelling? Could they be better if you tweaked them a little?

If you don’t have any lead magnets yet, take out your calendar and set a deadline for creating one. Don’t get bogged down by making it a bigger project than it needs to be – get something in place so you can start testing and improving upon it on a regular basis.

Need a second pair of eyes to take a look at what you have? Feel free to contact me.

Selecting a Content Marketing Editorial Calendar

marketingai-calendar

A content marketing editorial calendar is and important tool for managing your small business marketing system. Modern marketing requires creating, publishing, and re-purposing content from multiple sources, in multiple formats, through multiple channels. Without proper tools and processes, managing all of these content related variables can quickly become overwhelming.

Editorial calendars come in all shapes and sizes – from Excel Spreadsheets to WordPress plugins to software systems specifically designed to help plan and manage your marketing content. Choosing a solution that fits your business can feel like an overwhelming task once you start exploring the available options.

Evaluating Your Choices

As with any software system purchase, it’s important to evaluate the needs and goals of your business before you begin shopping. Otherwise, the tendency is to focus on bells and whistles of each tool. This approach often ends up forcing you to change your business process to adapt to the way the software works.

This post outlines the factors I considered when looking for an editorial calendar for both my company and my customers. The editorial calendar from Marketing.AI is the one that best suits our needs. Your needs may be different but hopefully the information below will help you find  an editorial calendar that fits your needs.

I started by outlining the main categories of tasks and goals that I wanted to accomplish:

  • Planning content
  • Producing content – collaborating, workflow, tracking assignments, managing deadlines
  • Measuring and Reporting
  • Integrating with other tools
  • Managing multiple entities

Planning Your Marketing Content

When most people think of using an editorial calendar, they typically think of planning their content. Planning your content marketing generally falls into two broad categories;

  1. High level or strategic planning that focuses on connecting your content marketing efforts to your overall business goals.
  2. Production planning or mapping out what content needs to be created for the next marketing cycle – typically a month or quarter.

Without software specifically designed for managing content, the documents in the strategic planning category tend to be word processing documents. Excel spreadsheets are a popular choice for production planning and tracking.

The type of file used is not nearly as important as making sure that all of your team members have easy access to the information in these documents. You also want everyone working from the same version of that information. This becomes difficult when documents are being emailed around and no one is confident that they have the most current version. Producing quality content takes time and effort; time you don’t have to waste in meetings reconciling different versions of your content spreadsheets.

One of the features of Marketing.AI that I really like is that it enables you to store the information from your strategic content marketing plan in the same tool that you use to plan, create, and manage your content. Having easy access to this information increases the chance it will be actually used (and updated) by the people creating the content. It also makes sharing the information with your content authors easier, whether internal or outsourced. Marketing.AI help you manage strategic reference documents like:

  • List of Content Themes
  • Your Unique Selling Proposition
  • Buyer Personas
  • Customer Journey Matrix (or your customers buying process)
  • Content Ideas
  • Products and Pricing Models
  • Features, Benefits, Customer Pains
  • Keywords, Hashtags, Industry Influencers
  • Target Industries

Marketing.AI also gives you the ability to associate many of these characteristics with each individual piece of content, making your reporting and analysis much more powerful (more on reporting below).

Producing Your Content

Content production deals with the day-to-day, nitty gritty business of getting the work done. This is where we assign responsibilities, set deadlines, produce, edit, publish, repackage and perform all of the other tasks that need to be done to go from plan to delivery.

When we think of content marketing we typically think first about blog posts, web pages, eBooks, and other forms of written content. But content also includes video, audio (podcasts), presentation slides, magazines (traditional and electronic), books, and plenty of other forms I am forgetting to list.

In addition to (or maybe because of) all of the format choices, we often have several people working on and/or collaborating to create content. There are many companies who will help you create your content. Many of them provide an editorial calendar to help manage the process. However, most of them are designed around a workflow process that assumes you will order all of your content from them. While this is perfectly understandable, it just doesn’t match the reality of the small businesses that I work with. My customers get their marketing content from several sources. They may purchase some from content creation companies, create some in-house, and/or hire me to help them develop content. The last thing I or my customers want is to have several calendars (or spreadsheets) to manage and reconcile.

I like Marketing.AI because it is gives me flexibility in defining my workflow and it helps you manage that workflow by providing notifications via email. This makes it easy to bring people on board without having to spend a lot of time training them to use a new system or platform.

Measuring and Reporting

metricsRegular readers here know that I am a big believer in the idea that having a rhythmic planning process is more important than the plan document. A vital part of that planning process is a feedback loop that provides analytics to help you test your assumptions and adjust your plans accordingly (more on analytics below).

I like to have analytics that give provide me with feedback on the both the effectiveness and balance of my content marketing efforts.

Effectiveness helps determine which pieces are best at achieving a particular content goal. For example, knowing which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website and which ones are leading to conversions are valuable pieces of information for improving your content marketing efforts.

Tools like Google Analytics can help you determine which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website. Using the goals feature of Google Analytics to measure conversions (and the value of those conversions) can be a great way to start tying your content marketing efforts to business results.

Related to effectiveness is something I like to refer to as balance. By balance, I mean I want to know about the diversity of the content formats being used (blog posts vs. video, etc.) and the effectiveness of each. I also want to evaluate the effectiveness of content in the different stages of the marketing hourglass (or buyers journey).

For example, I may have content that is effective at generating awareness and attracts traffic to my website. But if don’t have content that is effective at moving people from awareness to the try or consideration phase, then I have some content that is effective, but my overall marketing content is not helping me reach my business goals.

Taking this information one step further, I can determine if content formats (i.e. video) are more effective in different stages of my marketing hourglass.

While it is possible to capture most of this type of information and add it back to a planning spreadsheet in order to perform the type of analysis described above, doing so is at best a tedious process. In my experience, when a process is tedious, it tends to not get done once the newness of starting a new project wears off. Or, it gets put off until it becomes a major project and then more time is spent gathering the data than analyzing it and gaining insights that will help improve future marketing efforts.

Editorial calendar software like Marketing.AI simplifies this process by helping you attach these important attributes to your content during the planning and production phases, so you can quickly determine how your content is performing anytime you want.

Integrating With Other Content Tools

gears-systemAs a systems guy, I hate unnecessary duplication. I hinted at that above when I mentioned not liking to waster time reconciling different versions for spreadsheets. I also don’t like to duplicate data entry across different systems. As it relates to content marketing, this is a little lower on the priority list than some of the other topics discussed in this post, but I always prefer to use tools that play well with others and save me time.

Marketing.AI currently integrates with the following tools:

  • WordPress
  • Hubspot
  • ExactTarget
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Unbounce (for landing pages)
  • Outbrain (for promoting your content)

The folks at Marketing.AI have told me they have other integrations in the works and seem open to suggestions if you have a particular integration need.

Managing Multiple Entities

As a marketing agency, I look for tools that I can use in three main settings:

  1. Marketing my own business
  2. Working with customers who outsource their work to me
  3. My customers can use to manage their marketing in-house

Other businesses that are not marketing agencies may also benefit from features designed for marketing agencies. If you have multiple offices, departments, or other divisions that want to manage their content marketing separately, but also have the ability to see a rolled up, “master” calendar then you will want to take a look at the features in the agency edition of Marketing.AI.

Don’t Forget About People

marketing.ai logoLast, but not least, I want to drop a quick plug for the people behind the software at Marketing.AI.

In the software as a service world (SAAS) we live in today, having conversations and getting help from real people (vs. email, chat, forums, etc.) is becoming something of a rarity.

However, the folks at Marketing.AI have been great work with. They’ve spent a ton of time with me, answering questions, learning about how I want to use the tool in my business, and supporting me in both the pre-sale and post-sale processes.

I will be posting some demonstration videos in the weeks to come. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you would like to a personal demo or if you have any questions about whether Marketing.AI is right for you

5 Questions Your Content Audit Should Answer

content letters on board

Performing a marketing content audit is an important early step in the development of a content marketing system. I believe it is also something that should become part of your regular content planning process.

The content audit should not simply be another item to check off the marketing to-do list; it should provide insight and answer key questions that will improve your content marketing efforts and grow your bottom line.

Generally speaking, during a content audit you perform a full assessment of all of your marketing content assets and categorize them according to type and purpose. This allows you to compare and contrast each of your items and determine which ones are performing – attracting traffic and converting prospects and leads.

Most of your marketing content is probably part of your website, but don’t forget to include your other marketing content as you well. For example, many accounting firms, law offices, and other professional service firms have presentations, articles, and other materials they have not yet shared on their websites. These items could be shared as is or repackaged and/or re-purposed for future marketing campaigns.

Once your audit is complete you should have a better understanding of your existing content and the gaps which exist. Specifically, a content audit should help you answer the following questions:

1. Are all of our buyer personas being addressed?

In order to provide the right types of information in your marketing content, you must understand the needs of the people involved in the buying process. Depending on the nature of your business, you may offer solutions for single buyers, or you may sell to companies that include several individuals in their buying process. Your marketing content needs to address each of the buyer and influencer personas in your ideal customers’ buying process if you want to maximize your chances of winning the deal.

If all of your marketing content is geared to the final decision maker, but ignores the needs of the people who do the initial research, you may never make the short list. Conversely, if all of your content focuses on the problem definition, but fails to raise the issues that are important to management, you will likely generate a lot of leads that never convert.

The content audit process should help small business owners identify these gaps and help ensure that all of the individuals involved in the buying process are addressed.

2. Do we have content for each stage of the marketing hourglass?

In Duct Tape Marketing we use the concept of the marketing hourglass to define the stages of the customer lifecycle (Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, Refer). Others may use a different model to outline their Buyer Cycle Stages (i.e. Awareness, Interest, Trial, Purchase, Support, Loyalty, Referral). The important thing to remember is your customers have a process they use when making purchases. Our job as marketers is to understand their process so we can provide the information they need to see and hear in order to feel comfortable enough to move to the next stage.

It is common for small business to have plenty of content geared towards generating awareness and interest but then to have little or no content that helps build trust, moves customers to a trial phase, or helps close the sale. A content audit should identify these gaps so you can address them in the next marketing planning cycle.

3. Are there opportunities to use other media types?

Keep in mind that different people like to learn differently. Some like to read while other may prefer to watch video. Some media formats may also lend themselves better to certain stages of the marketing hourglass than others. Don’t get bogged down thinking that “marketing content” is just web pages and blog posts – consider how you might be able to use each of the following media formats to communicate with your ideal customers in each stage of their buying process:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Social media updates
  • Infographics
  • Charts
  • eBooks

Savvy marketers often get more bang for their buck by repackaging their content in different media. For example, an eBook may be several blog posts, a video, and a slide presentation.

4. Do some authors’ content perform better than others?

If you have more than one author (employees, guest authors, strategic partners, etc.) contributing marketing content, it can be helpful to identify those who produce high performing content so you can learn more about what makes their content successful.

5. Which Content is Performing ?

Not every piece of marketing content you publish is going to lead to an immediate sale. However, each piece of content should still have a purpose.

As mentioned above, much of your marketing content will be geared to helping your buyers move to the next stage of their buying process. These goals may include calls to action, links for more information, follow-on items in a series of posts, a sign-up page or a purchase page.

Your audit process and tools should help specify conversion goals and track which pieces of content contribute to the completion of those goals.

Building a Content Planning Rhythm

The first time you perform a marketing content audit it may feel (and can be) a huge undertaking.

Depending on the amount of content you have, it may make sense to start with a sample of your most popular content and build from there.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe this process of classifying your marketing content, identifying gaps,  and evaluating which content is performing is important to do on a regular basis.

In order to do this efficiently, you will want to adopt a process and tools that record this information as you go along. If gathering the data you need becomes a huge project every time you want to review and plan, chances are it won’t get done.

Some editorial calendars allow you to classify and label content with the data you need during the planning stages. These tools can save you a lot of time and even help you identify gaps before you start producing content.

If you don’t use editorial calendar software, or if the one you use doesn’t capture the information you need for an audit, I would highly recommend adapting your planning process to capture this information as you go rather than waiting until audit time.

If you would like to see a demo of the editorial calendar software we use with our customers, and how it helps speed up the content auditing process, feel free to contact us.

5 Ways Great Content Makes Cold Calling Easy

phone for cold calling

Cold calling is alive and well, or completely dead, depending upon who you talk to. Marketers will tell you that cold calling is dead, many salespeople still include cold calling in their daily activities. Cold calling can still be effective. One of the ways that marketers can help salespeople be more effective with cold calling is to provide them with great content.

For this post, great content is defined as content that is useful from the user’s point of view. It addresses a problem or challenge they are facing. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem for prospect, but it may show them how to go about solving the problem, i.e., what to look for, things to consider. symptoms vs problems, etc. Great content focuses on the needs of the buyer, not the qualifications of the seller.

Great content takes time and effort to create. Great content, coupled with an inbound marketing system may eventually replace the needs for methods like cold calling, but it won’t happen overnight. Until it does, here are 5 ways you can use great content to make cold calling easier.

1. Content Helps Overcome Call Reluctance

Do you struggle to get your salespeople (or yourself) to make calls? Sales people experience call reluctance for a variety of reasons. One way to overcome call reluctance is to change your mindset from “I’m interrupting people in order to ask them for something” to “I have some valuable information that people similar to you have found helpful and I thought you might find it helpful too”. In other words, changing from asking to giving; from selling to helping. This shift in mindset takes the pressure off of the salesperson as well as the prospective customer – helping you overcome call reluctance and increasing your chances for starting a conversation.

2. Content Helps You Get Past the Gate Keeper

Another benefit of changing your mindset and having valuable content to is that you can stop dreaming up creative ways to get around your prospects’ gate keepers and inlist them in helping you connect with the right person. I know of a software reseller who cold call script goes something like this – “This is Joe from XYZ company. I have a special report that shows construction companies how to increase the profit on their jobs without buying new software. Is that something you’d be interested in? It is, great – what email address should I send that to?”. More often than not, they end up connecting with the decision maker or a key influencer.

3. Content Gives You a Reason to Follow Up

Do you hate making “just checking in” calls”? So do your prospects.

“Just checking in” is like asking “is there anything we can talk about?”. Sharing great content gives you something to talk about. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions about what your prospect wants to talk about – them and the issues they are facing.

Rather than just checking in, try asking:

  • Did they find the content helpful?
    • If yes, which parts were helpful and why?
    • If not, what would they have liked to have seen? Do you have other content that can help fill that need?
  • What other questions did content raise?
  • Didn’t have time to read it? Would you like me to give you a 30 second summary of what is covered or point you to the section that addresses your particular question(s)?
  • Do you know anyone else who would like to receive this information?

Provide great content and give yourself, and your prospect, something to talk about.

4. Content Helps You Lead with Solutions Rather Than Products

Professional service firms and B2B companies often bundle several products and services to create a comprehensive solution for their customers. One of the challenges they typically face is getting bogged down in a discussion about a particular product or products before they have chance to get the full picture of the challenges facing their prospective customer. This may lead to smaller sales, sub-optimum solutions, and/or wasted time backtracking or reconfiguring solutions.

Sharing great content that educates and builds trust can help alleviate these challenges by setting the stage for the higher level conversations that will help you and your prospect take a solutions based approach to the challenge they are looking to solve.

5. Content Helps You Have a More Productive First Conversation

Sharing great content during the prospecting stages of your sales cycle leads to better, more productive discussions when you do get invited in for a sales conversation. In essence, you’ve already started your sales conversation before the meeting. Now you can quicly get to the heart of the matter – do they have a problem that you can solve and are they willing and able to pay you in order to do so.

These are just a few ways that great marketing content can help you shorten your sales cycle. For more ideas on how to apply these content ideas to your business, request a free consultation or download our free Content Creation Guide.

7 Tips for Finding Content Marketing Ideas

content marketing tips

Consistently creating marketing content that educates and builds trust can be a challenge for small business owners. Creating an editorial calendar for your content marketing sounds like a good idea – until you have to start filling it with ideas.

Most small business owners that I talk to understand the importance of good marketing content, but often get stuck when confronted with a blank piece of paper (or computer screen). Today I’d like to share some of the tips I use when helping customers build their editorial calendars.

I like to try work on my editorial calendar on a quarterly basis, but sometimes it is easier to work on it monthly, particularly when you are getting started. The important thing to be consistent and build a rhythm to your planning process.

I’ll assume we are on a monthly planning rhythm for this post. Here are some questions to ask during your planning sessions to help you fill out your editorial calendar.

1. What is going on this month?

I am a big of leveraging time and repurposing content, so I like to start by looking for items that need to be worked on in the coming work and see if I can also incorporate them into my editorial calendar. For example:

  • Are you brining on any new employees?
  • Will you be receiving awards?
  • Do you have seasonal promotions?
  • Will your favorite charities have events or awareness drives coming up?
  • Are you or your vendors announcing new products and services?
  • Will you be hosting or attending any conferences or industry events?

Each of these events presents multiple content opportunities (i.e. press releases, website updates, newsletter articles, social media updates, blog posts, etc.)

2. What did we do last month?

Sticking with the theme of repurposing, review the content marketing assets created in the previous month, keeping your eye open for content repackaging opportunities. Did you create an eBook last month? Maybe you can use that content to create a presentation, webinar, or a series of blog posts. Or perhaps you can can create a follow up piece to last month’s PR story.

3. Do we have gaps in our Marketing Hourglass?

The Marketing Hourglass helps define the logical path that prospects follow through your marketing system as they come to Know, Like, and Trust you so they will Try and Buy your products and services and Refer to their friends and colleagues.

For each buyer persona, you need to provide educational and trust building marketing content they need in order to feel comfortable moving to the next stage of the hourglass. By mapping your content assets to the stages of the hourglass you can identify and fill any gaps that may be preventing your prospects or customers from moving forward.

4. Review Your Sales Conversations

Another great way to make sure your marketing content contains helpful information is to review the conversations you and/or your salespeople are having with prospects and customers. Look for patterns in the types of questions they are asking. Are there certain types of content (i.e. case studies) that seem to be most effective in a certain stage of the hourglass? Have your salespeople review their email outboxes – the questions they are answering and the information they are forwarding to prospects can be a content marketing goldmine.

5. Review Your List of Monthly Themes

In Duct Tape Marketing we talk about creating Foundational Content Themes for your business. A foundational theme is a substantial topic related to your business or industry and typically represents an important keyword search term. Focusing on one theme per month is a great way to stay on track with your long term content marketing goals.

6. Share Industry News

Sharing industry news and trends, along with your insight, is a great way to provide helpful marketing content. This post on curating content  contains some specific ideas that you can use in you content marketing.

7. Strategic Referral Partners

Professional service firms and B2B companies spend a lot of time building and nurturing strategic referral relationships. Those efforts can be combined with your content marketing efforts by co-branding content assets (i.e. an eBook), providing guest blog posts, conducting joint presentations, or co-producing a podcast.

I hope you find these tips useful. Do you have a favorite content creation tip not included above? Please share it in the comments below.

For more content creation tips, download The Crazy Busy Marketer’s Guide to  Content Creation in the Real World.

Content Marketing Tip – Using Transcription Services

helpful tips

Creating quality marketing content that educates and builds trust takes time and effort. One way to make sure you are getting the most out of your content marketing investment is to repackage your content into different media formats. This approach allows you to share your content in more places and in it allows your prospects to consume the information according to their preference (reading vs. listening vs. watching video).

One strategy you can use is to start by creating your content in video. Video can be a recording of a webinar, a “live” presentation, a screen recording (i.e. a software demo), a recorded interview, or just you talking to the camera. Once you have your video you can:

  • Create a seperate audio file to share as a podcast.
  • Create one or more blog posts. You can create a blog post that includes an embedded copy of your video. To help the search engines find your content, you will also want to include a summary or a full transcript (see below) of the video. Depending on your video, you may be able to create several blog posts using the one One post with the embedded video and transcript, or one point – one post
  • Share the video on social media. You can either share the video directly, or share a link to your video.
  • If your presentation included slides (i.e. Powerpoint) you can share those on SlideShare or LinkedIn.

If you form the habit of creating this type of content on regular basis, you can also repackage your content as “collections”. For example:

  • You can package audio files together on a CD
  • You can package your blogposts together as an eBook. You can make your eBooks multimedia by linking to your relevant audio and video from within your eBook.
  • You can package videos, presentations, etc., as a DVD that you can share via direct mail or at a tradeshow

One of the more time consuming steps of this strategy is creating transcripts of your audio and video files. Luckily, there are many individuals and companies who specialize providing transcription services.

Transcription Services

There are no shortage of transcription services available on the web. Most of them will price their services base on the quantity of audio being transcribed. Most of them guarantee a specific turnaround time while others factor turnaround time into their pricing plans. Other things you may want to look for is whether they specialize in your field (i.e. medical or legal), whether or not the service is U.S. based, and how involved real people (vs software) are involved in the transcription process.

Here are a few services that you can use as a starting point for finding one that is meets your needs:

Rev.com – will transcribe your audio or video for $1/minute. They promise a 48hr turnaround and a 98% accuracy rate. They also have a free iPhone app that you can use to create and edit voice recordings and then forward your recording to Rev for transcription.

If you need a quicker turnaround time, check out SameDayTranscriptions.com. Prices are not listed on their website, but you can call or submit a form on their site for a quote.

VerbalLink – offers a full compliment of transcription and writing services and is 100% U.S. based.

Casting Words – offers different price points based upon the turnaround time you request. They also provide an order tracking service, so you always know the status of your order.

Do you prefer to work with a local business? Many virtual assistants (VAs) also provide transcription services, so you may want to look for VAs in your area.

I hope that gives you some ideas on how your can get more out of your content marketing budget. Do you have a favorite content marketing tip? Leave a comment below.

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy Map

Business Charts

One of the primary goals of your small business marketing system is to deliver the right information, to the right person, at the right time.

In order to achieve this goal,  you need to know who your buyers are, where they are in their buying process, and what they need to see or hear in order for them to feel comfortable moving to the next step in their buying process.

Using this basic information (who, what, when), you can map out a content marketing strategy that will help you attract your ideal customers and increase your sales.

The Right Person – the first step is to identify who the players are in your ideal customers buying process. Whether you call them buyer personas, profiles, or some other name, step one is to identify who they are. Depending upon what you sell and the companies you sell to, your list of players may include:

  • Initiators
  • Researchers
  • Influencers
  • Decision Maker
  • End Users

For each of these roles you will want to consider what information they need in each stage of the buying process.

The Right Time – in order to deliver marketing content at the right time, we have to understand our ideal customers’ buying process. Just as we have a process for selling, prospects have a process they go through when making a purchase. It is important that you understand the stages your customers go through in their buying process, but for this post, let’s define our stages as Early, Middle, and Late.

In the Early stage of their buying process, your prospects may have not fully defined the problem they need to solve. They may have a vague idea of the possible solutions available. Buyers in the early stages of buying often express that “they don’t know what they don’t know”. They spend a lot of time gathering information and circling back to ask better questions as their knowledge increases.

Prospects in the Middle stage of their buying process have a general understanding of how you can help them solve their problem. They are also researching other vendors and trying to narrow the field in order to make their final decision easier.

In the Late stage of the buying process, each player is looking to make sure that their specific needs are being met before the sale is closed. Some key players (i.e. decision maker) may just be entering into the discussion during this stage.

The Right Information – once you understand who your audience is and how they go about making purchasing decisions, you can work on creating the informational content they need to see or hear in order to move from one stage to the next.

There are several ways you can package your information content at each stage. While you will want to choose the formats that your customers prefer, here are some typical content formats that marketers have used in each of the buying stages:

  • Early – Problem Domain Blog Posts and Industry Studies
  • Middle – Product and service specific Blog posts, demonstration videos, case studies
  • Late – Testimonials, reviews, ROI calculators, buyers guides

Once you have your content marketing strategy map, you’ll spend less time trying to figure out what content you need to create and spend more time having sales conversations and closing deals.

7 Ways to Leverage Your Point of View Whitepaper

archimedes lever moving the world

One of the core concepts of the Duct Tape Marketing System is that small business owners should create marketing materials that educate. In fact, step 3 of the 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success outlines the importance of publishing content that not only educates, but also builds trust.

The Point of View White Paper – a well-developed, core story about your business that’s documented in the form of a white paper or eBook, is the cornerstone of your educational content marketing efforts. This content dives deeply into what makes your firm different, what your secret sauce is, how your company approaches customer service, and why behind what your business.

As you can imagine, most companies put significant time and effort into creating their P.O.V. whitepaper. In order to get the most out of this investment, you will want to look for ways to leverage your whitepaper to help you create additional marketing materials. To help you get started, here are 7 ways to leverage the educational content in your whitepaper:

  1. Create Videos – use video to communicate the main points of your P.O.V. whitepaper. Most businesses can usually create at least 4 videos from the content of their whitepaper. Upload your videos to YouTube and share them on your social media properties.
  2. Write Blog Posts – Create one blog post for each video you create. Include a transcript in the body of your post to help with search engine optimization.
  3. Create Slide Decks – Create a PowerPoint presentation and share it on Slideshare and on your LinkedIn profile.
  4. Social Media – Use your social media accounts to promote your videos, blog posts, and Slideshare presentation.
  5. Share with Referral Partners – Share your P.O.V. whitepaper with your strategic referral network. Make sure they know about your videos and your Slideshare presentation as these are easy ways to help them explain how you help your customers.
  6. Share with Prospects – Incorporate the assets above into your lead nurturing activities (email messages, etc.) – particularly those leads who are in the early stages (Know, Like, and/or Trust) of the Marketing Hourglass.
  7. Customer Onboarding – Include your P.O.V. whitepaper, or relevant excerpts, in your New Customer Kit to help reinforce your customers purchase decision, set expectations, and get your relationship started off on the right foot.

Use this same approach for all of your major marketing content pieces to get the most out of your content marketing investment.

How to Create a Compelling Lead Magnet

lead magnet

One of the basic principles of modern marketing is to provide information that potential customers who meet our ideal customer profile will 1) be able to find 2) “purchase” our information using the currency of their contact information and 3) give us permission to continue sending them relevant content.

In Duct Tape Marketing we often refer to this information as a Point of View whitepaper (or eBook). Infusionsoft calls is a “lead magnet”. Others refer to it as a bait piece or an opt-in offer. No matter what name you give it, the goal is the same – to get people to “buy” your offer using the currency of their contact information.

As this practice has become more widespread, the value of a prospect’s contact information has risen substantially. As marketers, we need to also raise the value of the content we provide. Offers of “sign up for our newsletter” are no longer valuable enough. We need to provide information that helps prospects solve the problems they are facing.

So how do you create an educational information piece that people will be willing to buy with their contact information? Chances are you and/or your sales people are providing this type of educational information in your everyday conversations. Here are some example topics that you can use for creating your bait piece:

What are the common questions people ask about your products and services at networking events and sales calls?

What questions do you wish they would ask but don’t? Early in the buying process prospects often don’t know what they don’t know – here is your chance to help them out.

What are the frustrations people have when they buy from your competitors? Related to the item above, what information can you share with prospects to help them find relief or avoid these frustrations in the first place?

What are the different approaches to solving the problems you solve? What are the pros and cons of each approach? How should a prospect decide which is the right approach for them?

What are your prospects underlying goals? How will your products and services help them achieve those goals?

What are your prospects curious about or trying to learn?

The idea of creating a whitepaper or eBook may sound like an intimidating task, but, as I mentioned above, you already have valuable information to share. In order to share that information in a more scalable way, you just need a slightly more formal way (write it down, record a video, etc.) of delivering it.

If you don’t have one already, take a stab at creating your information piece today. If you would like a second opinion, feel free to send it to me and I’ll be happy to review it for you.

Photo credit:  National Library NZ on The Commons on Flickr

Storytelling and Content Marketing

A little over a year ago Coca-Cola launched their Content 2020 advertising strategy, announcing their “move from creative excellence to content excellence”.

Below is the part one video explaining the Content 2020 strategy. While this is obviously a “big brand” approach to content marketing and social media, there are several lessons that small business can take away from Coke’s approach – here are a few that I noted:

  • The importance of storytelling – note the emphasis on storytelling throughout the video. Small business have great stories to tell, be sure to share yours.
  • Liquid and Linked – at the 0.32 mark, the idea of content excellence being liquid (contagious ideas) and linked (ideas that are innately relevant to business objectives) is discussed. Pay special attention to this section.
  • Compelling Content – Coca Cola is striving to create the world’s most compelling content – how can you create the most compelling content in your world, whether that is you neighborhood, city, or industry?

You can see the Part Two video here