Should you be a content marketer?

Content marketing.  It seems like everyone’s talking about it. But what exactly is it and what can it do for your business? Odds are, if you’re doing any marketing at all — you’re at least accidentally dabbling in content marketing.

But, should you be a content marketer?  Let’s look.

First — it goes by many names.  Some people call it custom publishing or branded content.  Other people slap the label of social or digital marketing on.  And all of those names are accurate.

Content marketing is a broad term for any marketing technique that creates and distributes valuable, helpful and relevant information that demonstrates that you know your stuff.  These tactics draw the attention of people who are already your customers or could be your customers and they consume, share, and value the content.

The ultimate goal of content marketing is to create a sense of trust and comfort that will lead to someone making an initial purchase, making an additional purchase or referring you to someone who’s ready to make a purchase.

The way you build that trust can differ, however. Let’s look at four of the main goals of content marketing and the types of content marketing tactics you can employ to accomplish each.

If you want to entertain your audience, you might:

Make a branded video

  • Create a game
  • Give them a quiz
  • Start a competitions/contests
  • Invent a playful widget or app

If you’d like to inspire your audience, you might:

If you would like to educate your audience, you could:

  • Write an ebook
  • Publish some articles
  • Create an infographic
  • Generate media releases
  • Create guides or how to documents
  • Produce trend reports
  • Record a podcast
  • Send out an enewsletter

In you need to convince your audience, you could:

  • Host an event
  • Create some interactive demos
  • Put on a webinar
  • Create useful calculators or checklists
  • Share some case studies

This list is neither exhaustive nor is it exclusive. A speech can do more than inspire, it can also educate or entertain. A webinar can do more than convince – it can educate or inspire. The subject matter, the delivery style and the intent will dictate the outcome of your efforts. And hopefully, if you produce quality content – it will accomplish more than one of the goals.

But this isn’t something you should just jump into. Like any marketing strategy – content marketing requires forethought and planning, especially because producing a blog or podcast or even putting on a contest requires a significant amount of time and effort. You don’t want to exert that level of effort and not maximize your gain.

The effort and planning are well worth it. Content marketing allows a business to connect with a prospect long before they’re ready to buy. It gives them a sense of your product, service and expertise. It also lets them “sample” you and see if you’re a good fit. Good content marketing tools communicate not only your expertise but it also gives them a very good sense of your brand’s personality. It will attract the best customers for you and, as odd as it sounds, repel those customers who wouldn’t be a good fit long term.

There are a lot of benefits packed into this marketing strategy. Every business can find a content marketing tactic that is the perfect fit for your industry. It takes some time and effort – but the up sides are hard to ignore.

 

 

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Top 5 books every marketer should read

I don’t believe you can be successful if you don’t keep ingesting new ideas, information and stories.  As you know, I’m a big reader and try to get through a book a week to keep my brain’s juices cooking.

For a recent presentation, I was asked to provide my all time top 5 books every marketer should read.  I thought you might find it valuable as well.

In no particular order — here are the books that you need to own, read and re-read.

The top 5 books every marketer should read

Baer - Top 5 books every marketer should readJay Baer’s Youtility (Click here to buy on Amazon*) offers a new approach that cuts through the clut­ter: marketing that is truly, inherently useful. If you sell something, you make a customer today, but if you genuinely help someone, you create a customer for life.

Drawing from real examples of companies who are practicing Youtility as well as his experience helping more than seven hundred brands improve their marketing strategy, Baer provides a groundbreaking plan for using information and helpfulness to transform the relationship between companies and customers.

Handley & Chapman - Top 5 books every marketer should readContent Rules (click to buy it on Amazon*) by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other platforms are giving everyone a “voice,” including organizations and their customers.

So how do you create the stories, videos, and blog posts that cultivate fans, arouse passion for your products or services, and ignite your business? Content Rules equips you for online success as a one-stop source on the art and science of developing content that people care about.

Davenport - Top 5 books every marketer should readKeeping up with the Quants (Click to buy on Amazon*) by Thomas Davenport.  Not normally my type of book but when in Rome…. welcome to the age of data. No matter your interests, your industry, or the type of organization you work for —your world is awash with data.

As a successful manager today, you must be able to make sense of all this information. You need to be conversant with analytical terminology and methods and able to work with quantitative information. This book promises to become your “quantitative literacy” guide—helping you develop the analytical skills you need right now in order to summarize data, find the meaning in it, and extract its value.

Harry Beckwith‘s Selling the Invisible. (Click here to buy on Amazon*) It may be almost 15 years old, but it’s still right on the money and a brilliant read.

Beckwith - Top 5 books every marketer should readIn Selling the Invisible, Beckwith argues that what consumers are primarily interested in today are not features, but relationships. Even companies who think that they sell only tangible products should rethink their approach to product development and marketing and sales.

Beckwith provides an excellent forum for thinking differently about the nature of services and how they can be effectively marketed. If you’re at all involved in marketing or sales, then Selling the Invisible is definitely worth a look.

Calloway - Top 5 books every marketer should readJoe Calloway’s Becoming a Category of One (Click to buy on Amazon*) reveals how extraordinary companies do what they do so well and gives you the tools and ideas to help your business emulate their success. Packed with real case studies and personal reflections from successful business leaders, it helps you apply the best practices of the best companies to set yourself apart from your competitors and turn your business into a market leader.

Whether you run a multinational corporation or a two-person start-up company, the lessons you’ll find here apply to any business.

And because I believe there’s always another great book to discover…a bonus book or two.

Ariely - Top 5 books every marketer should readDan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational (click here to buy on Amazon*) draws on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money.

According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality. Ariely argues that greater understanding of previously ignored or misunderstood forces (emotions, relativity and social norms) that influence our economic behavior brings a variety of opportunities for reexamining individual motivation and consumer choice, as well as economic and educational policy.

Farber - Top 5 books every marketer should readAnd…not specifically a book for marketers — a book for leaders.  This is one of my all time favorites.  Steve Farber’s Radical Leap Re-energized.  (Click here to buy on Amazon*) The Radical Leap Re-Energized is an expansion and revitalization of The Radical Leap, which was named as one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time by Covert and Sattersten.

It’s a novel told in Steve Farber’s humorous, poignant, and original voice that takes the reader on a deep exploration of the qualities and practices of real, or Extreme Leadership, and how to apply them in daily life. Part One, The Radical Leap, explores the leadership elements of Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof; Part Two, The Radical Edge, takes the discussion deeper into innovation, personal clarity and guidelines for changing the world. It sets a new standard for what it means to really lead in today’s business world and beyond.

Now get reading!

 *All of these are affiliate links.

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Make the most of any conference you attend

Male global business conference delegateIt seem intuitive to us that if we’re heading to a trade show as an exhibitor we should be thoughtful about how to maximize that time and dollar investment. Yet somehow, when we’re attending a show or conference as an attendee, we don’t seem to give it the same consideration.

I suppose many people make the assumption that if you go to a conference and learn something – it’s time and money well spent. That’s certainly a good start, but if you’re smart about it, you can get so much more out of your trip.

Location, location, location: Assuming the conference is not in your home town – take advantage of the change of venue. Is there a prospect you’ve been romancing from a distance that happens to be located within a reasonable distance from the event location? If so, fly in a day early or fly out late and schedule a face to face.

Create a hit list: Usually the conference will publish a list of attendees ahead of time, to entice others to join in. If they don’t publish a list – do a Twitter search to see who is talking about the event. Once you’ve seen the list or at least a partial list – identify three to five people you absolutely want to meet and connect with.

Seek them out (not in a creepy stalker way) and be ready to engage them in a conversation. Your goal – to get to know them well enough that you can reach out to them after the show and stay connected.

Be a connector: Make it your goal to help one new person a day. That help might be introducing them to someone you know, it could be sharing a resource or as simple as inviting them to join you for lunch.

For many people, being at a conference (especially if you’re alone) feels very isolated and even the most gregarious person can get a little shy. But if you’re the one being helpful, that’s takes a lot of the discomfort away.

High five the presenters: No matter how often someone speaks at a conference, it’s still a bit of a nerve-wracking experience. Even if they’re a superstar in their field, they still will appreciate a “way to go” or “I learned a lot from you.” Want it to be even more sticky? Tweet the “atta boy” to them and then follow up with a question. Odds are, you just added someone cool to your network!

Pace yourself: Most conferences over-pack their events with speakers, socials, minglings and exhibit hall time. They want you to know that you’re getting your money’s worth. But no human being can go at that pace for several days in a row. Identify the two events each day that are “must see” and a couple more that are “would like to do’s.” Don’t let the schedule over schedule you.

Schedule an extra day at the end: I know it sounds ridiculous. You’ve already been out of the office for several days. Why add an extra one? If you don’t do your conference follow up (write blog posts, shoot off some emails, enter the business cards into your database with your notes, make some follow up calls and appointments) before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of your regular work life – odds are, it will never get done.

If you aren’t going to set yourself up for success and all you want is to learn something new – save your money and watch a webinar or two. But if you really want to make the most of your investment – grab a couple of these tips and hit the ground running.

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What have you learned lately?

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.04.02 AMOne of the sure signs of a person who is going to be successful is that they wholeheartedly behave in lifelong learning. I didn’t say believe in life long learning because I’ve found just about everyone believes in it. But few actually act upon that belief.

If you are someone who gives lifelong learning more than lip service (waving to all the “believers” but not behaviors out there!) then I have a conference I want to tell you about.

I don’t know about you — but I learn best by doing.  Yes, I can read about something or hear a presentation — but I’m much more likely to retain the information if there’s some hands on aspect to the training.

BlogHOT (HOT = hands on training) is designed to be a very different kind of learning experience. Which you know it would be — since it is Mack Collier’s creation. Rather than two days of people talking at you — this is 2 days of people talking and doing WITH you.

Here’s how much I believe in this conference — I am speaking there on my own dime. I’m not getting paid and I am buying my own plane ticket. (I am getting a hotel room, which I greatly appreciate). You all know how busy I am. As much as I would like to, I just can’t afford to speak anywhere for free, except for college classrooms.

Mack has gathered an amazing group of people for you to learn with.  (scroll through the list here) Best of all — there not going to be there to talk at you and run.  They are there to teach/learn with you.  There will be tons of time to connect with these folks before and after their scheduled presentations and because this is a new event — the crowd will be manageable and you will score plenty of one on one time with everyone.

BlogH.O.T. (H.O.T. stands for Hands-On Training) is a conference for anyone that wants to improve their blogging efforts, especially if you are blogging for a business. The goal of BlogH.O.T. is to not only provide instruction on how to improve your blogging efforts but also show you how to be a better blogger.

Since I am speaking at this event, event management has enabled me to extend to you a special offer to attend BlogH.O.T. at a $100 discount if you register by February 15! To receive your discount, you must use this special registration link and enter the special Promotion Code BHS113. This is the only way to take advantage of this special offer. Your total savings will be $200 off the regular price – $100 savings plus $100 early-bird savings but only if you register by February 15!

I’d love to see you there!

 

P.S.  Nope — I am not making a dime on this conference and other than the fun of meeting you — I don’t get anything if you attend.  But YOU will get a lot.  So please consider it.

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How winning works

I know a lot of tough people but Robyn Benincasa has to be one of the toughest.

She’s a member of the only all-female firefighting crew in the country and when she’s not saving people’s lives, she is a world champion adventure racer, a Guinness world record kayaker.  Oh yeah, and she started a non-profit called Project Athena, which helps women who have survived a medical challenge like cancer by taking them on a dream adventure (like climbing a mountain) as part of their recovery.

Robyn is a remarkable human being.  She’s also an incredible leader and knows how to win – and what is worth fighting for.  So I was thrilled that she captured her expertise in a book that outlines how each of us can climb to new levels of professional and personal success.  In her book, How Winning Works, (click here to buy*) she shares the eight essential elements of teamwork that she believes is responsible for her own successful and fulfilling life.

Here are Robyn’s eight elements of winning and teamwork:

Total commitment:  There are four P’s of commitment – preparation, planning, purpose and perseverance.

Empathy and awareness:  Do you care about your teammates as much as you care about yourself?  Can you truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes so you know what they need from you?

Adversity management:  Something is going to go wrong.  That’s a given.  How do you deal with things when something goes awry?  Winning at business and in life is really recognizing that the road ahead is filled with problems to solve and is never going to be the easy straightaway you’d hoped for.  How you deal with those setbacks, frustrations, surprises and challenges will determine if you win.

Mutual respect: On any winning team, there’s a high level of mutual trust, respect and loyalty.   You have to be able to recognize what each person contributes and celebrate that at the same time you’re minimizing the elements you aren’t crazy about.

We thinking:  You have to constantly be looking for ways to utilize your collective resources for the best possible outcome.   This is the lesson glory hounds have the toughest time with.   This is about finishing strong as a team – not racing across the finish line first and then waiting for your teammates.

Ownership of the project: For a person or a team to be successful – you need to be able to absolutely immerse yourself in the mission.  You need to see the goals as your goals.  See the outcome as your responsibility and attach a significant amount of emotion to accomplishing that desired outcome.

Relinquishment of ego: Every successful person realizes they come equipped with both strengths and weaknesses.  Every team member will be both the strongest and the weakest link somewhere along the way.  You need to be able to recognize your strengths so you can offer those to the effort but you also need to know your weaknesses, so you can expose them to your team – so they can help overcome them.

Kinetic leadership: Leadership, on the best teams, revolves among the teammates.  That requires that everyone on the team can both step up to the role but even more important – step away from the role, when they’re not the one best suited to lead at that given moment.

What I loved about this book is that it goes beyond listing the eight elements.  Robyn tells amazing, impossible to forget stories, offers pragmatic exercises and what she calls synergy starters – ways to actually put the teaching into practice.

If you’ve already achieved success and want to make sure that you, your family and your co-workers experience even more or if you’re just starting out and are hungry for success – grab this book and enjoy your adventure with Robyn.

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How to keep writing when the well is dry

From my mailbox:

I read your emails and your piece in the Business Record. I think a gal here at my company might have heard you speak at the NAWBO Conference last year (does this sound right?) Anyway… she said one of the things she took away was that you made a comment of how no matter what you had going on and/how you felt, you made sure to be consistent with your blog posts.

Some days I’m just not feeling it… like today, but I know I have to post consistently. Do you have any tricks you do to keep your head in the game or your confidence up when you write? I tell myself I’m my own worst critic and this is just one post of many… and regardless of it being great or crappy… it’s not going to make or break me.

My reply:

Hey there –

Happy to offer whatever advice I can. There are certainly days when I feel like the tank is empty. I’m either over scheduled or over tired or just over stimulated and I have nothing to say. Or, as you say — I’m feeling like what I do have to offer is lame or expected.

On those days, which fortunately are not all that often, I do one of a few things:

I cut myself some slack. I remember that one blog post is not going to make or break my blog and that no one is paying as much as attention as I think they are.

I sit it out. If I’ve just posted something on the blog (I average 3-4 posts a week) I’ll give myself permission to take a day off with the mental promise of being back on it the next day.

I go to my reserves. I always have a few posts written and tucked away for a rainy day. If I use one — I have to replace it AND write new stuff for the blog, so I have to be in bad shape to go to this solution.

I curate. There’s lots of good stuff being written out there and most of it goes pretty unnoticed. So on a day when I am not feeling inspired…I’ll go through my robust feedreader and find a gem that I think got overlooked by many. I’ll write a little intro, add some context as to why I think it is relevant and then post the link.

I seek out guest bloggers. I don’t do a lot of guest blogging on my site. But every once in awhile, sharing a different voice is kind of nice.

I use the answers to questions I’m sent. I get a fair amount of email from the blog and I try to answer it as best as I can. When someone asks something that I think others might care about too… I use it as content. (Like this exchange)

The bottom line is — you’re right, no one is going to die if your blog content is a little light for the week.  But it can quickly become a rut that’s hard to climb out of.  So hopefully some of the suggestions above will help you avoid the rut in the first place!

So — how about it readers — how do you create content when your well is feeling dry?

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