Reading is good training for writing about your business

I like to write, and I have always thought I found it easier because I read a lot. I read other blogs, newspaper articles, I read non-fiction and I read novels. Some may think a lot of that is a waste of time, but I am sure that I benefit from the knowledge and also from the relaxation I get from fiction.

Apparently reading good novel boosts our brain power for days.  That is great news for those of us who may have worried that our reading was too much of a distraction from our work. Now we know that enjoying escapist ideas from other people is beneficial. The better our brains are working, the better we are in business.

I do not claim to be a great writer or even a good writer. After all, however good a football coach I had, I should never have become a good footballer. However, just as I know that having a good gym trainer encourages one to try harder in training, and to enjoy being fit, having the benefit of great writing from others must help us to do what we need and at least ensure our writing keeps fit. That must be good for our marketing.

What do you think?

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Some things for the long weekend

Weekend in the sun (edited with PicMonkey)

Weekend in the sun (edited with PicMonkey)

Have you tried Zemanta when blogging or managing your on-line content? It helps find your own related content and images as well as articles and blog posts from other people which will add value to your writing. It will also connect you to those other writers who may feel complimented by your interest and remember you well. It will help you build your community and gain helpful links back (but don’t ask).

A very handy post on the Zemanta blog highlights a long list of content marketing tools. I have not tried them all and have my reservations about the continuing usefulness of Google Alerts, but as they say, suck it and see.

Then there is a further list of tools used by on-line luminaries. The only one I use currently is Buffer, and probably not enough, but I am working on it. I will try the others, but not over the weekend if it is sunny.

Finally, there is PicMonkey, a free way of editing images for your blog without downloading any software, brought to my attention by Blogworld.com and then by Jim Connolly.  PicMonkey is mainly free, but often it is useful to pay for extras, and after all, that is how they make their money.

Good luck with your research on these useful tools. Maybe we can share experiences. Have you tried any of these, and how did you get on?

 

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Content marketing and specialist articles

 

Content in my niche

Free stuff?

I read in various places that content marketing doesn’t work for specialist businesses. I beg to differ.

I run a specialist business, which advises on tax.  In fact I have a niche within the tax business. I have a particular interest in property; that is real property.

I am told by others in my business and closely allied businesses types such as accountants that if we write articles giving away our knowledge for free then no one will come to us and pay for good advice. Yet, think about it. Don’t we all trawl the web for information on almost anything? The internet is the greatest tool for research that has ever existed. And yes, many people will take our stuff and try to use it. But they won’t use it in quite the right way without experience or with so much confidence as we would have.

Mind the traffic

Like every other business using content marketing I look at my web traffic pretty much daily. I notice how many hits I have on each article. That gives me an idea what is hot news and popular among the visitors.

I try to be very informative. Do you know what? I get business from writing my articles. For the time invested it is very well worth it, even though technical stuff takes a while to write because it has to be accurate. The same article or article theme brings business over and over again. That is because we gain trust by writing since potential clients can see we know what we are talking about.

Plenty for us

Never mind the visitors who come and take a little away from us. There is plenty to go round and no one can be an expert just by reading but without actual hands-on experience. Others will be happy to pay us for solid gold knowledge

If you need to know more about the power of content marketing, Heidi Cohen can tell you, and if you want to see a content marketing specialist in action, see The Sales Lion (not affiliate links).

I will just keep on dishing out the tips on my websites. What about you?

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Content marketing – it really works!

The marketers

I am not a marketing guy. I am always keen on picking up new ideas of course, but I defer to others in advising businesses on marketing, and as you know, I know a lot of people who have different niches in business advice.

I write from my own experience here. There are many people who will tell you that content marketing is a real winner including some I respect greatly . I just know that it is absolutely true. The more you give your readers, the more they will be attracted.

My bit

A large chunk of my business is tax-related, and I have been dealing with tax issues for a long time. Of course experience is not all we need, and certainly I never stop learning either through general reading in my area, or because I am getting my hands dirty with a new problem.

I have been developing a particular niche in tax, which is related to property, or real estate if you prefer. I have written a number of articles which I hope are very informative to the many property investors and small-time developers out there, quite a few of which have despaired having had their pensions ruined and decided to make an effort to take control of their own destiny. That’s just like all of us, running a small business.

The tax articles do not cover every aspect of each subject of course. How could they? However they do give a lot of useful information for the lay person. Of course people may read my material and go away armed with it somewhere else. Very often, though, they will inquire as to whether I can help them, which of course I can.

The niche aspect is important. People may click through from the titles in the sidebar on this blog, and they do. Writing in a particular niche, though, does make my material available more immediately though searches on Google and the other engines. That is because people with a particular issue will be quite specific in their searches, and will be drawn to my quite specific articles.

No tricks needed?

SEO people call the niche searches the “long tail” but my take is that there is no need to think about your key words in the article itself. They will occur naturally as you write. Of course you can put in your tags etc. (I am certainly not an SEO expert), but mostly the traffic seems to be organic from the article.

You don’t have to write articles every day or even every week. You need to keep your site updated regularly and a slow stream of informative material that will interest your potential clients enough to come to you is all you need. They are already aware that you know what you are talking about and they are willing to buy that expertise. That’s great news, isn’t it?

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How we can raise our credibility as a small business in the service sector

Retired?

Seeing the product

Anyone who has started a small business will know that it is not always easy to be taken seriously by potential customers or clients. It is probably a little easier if you are in retail because your customers can browse around your shop. Even with an on-line shop it is easier because your customer already knows what he or she wants and is then probably looking for a particular brand and the best deal. You have been found. A successful sale should lead to another with good customer service as a back-up.

Service expectations

It is more difficult if you provide a service. You have no product to show. One question I once had from a client’s wife stopped me dead in my tracks. She asked “Are you retired?” Maybe I was looking a bit old and haggard after a very busy time, but I was rather puzzled. Why did she think I was there with the client? I guess she thought I must be playing because:

  1. the services I provide are the same as those of big corporates, though in my case with the personal touch.
  2. I am of a more mature vintage though not gone entirely gray (well hardly at all actually).

Being taken seriously

There are actions we can all take to gain the credibility we need.

  • Ask for testimonials from our early customers which we can publish, and keep the habit of asking for them.
  • Build our local reputation by going out and networking, but not selling. Just being a person your business friends will remember and talk about will give local credibility. Don’t forget to help your fellow networkers, though.
  • Publish case studies in our brochure or website. Have prospects think “I could really do with something similar”.
  • Write articles to showcase our knowledge – content marketing.
  • Have a polite response memorized in case we get asked a potentially wrong-footing question like “are you retired?” I responded by saying that I had built my business for a number of years and had many happy clients.

There will always be those who would prefer to buy from a large corporate rather than a small business. That is probably their loss in terms of quality of service, but we need to be philosophical and concentrate on our personal brand, which is what counts more than anything in the small business service sector.

Smile and move on. Don’t you agree?

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Cracking content marketing

Another view of the south side of the Googlepl...

Image via Wikipedia

Why am I writing about this?

I am not an expert in on-line marketing, but some discussions I had with a group of people recently emphasised to me that so many people have absolutely no idea how to market their business. They have a business name and they then wait for their network or their network friends to bring them work.

Why should people trust them to do the work? Do they have a track record to point to? Many people seem to think it is sufficient to put up a sign, real or virtual, and then wait for clients, customers, punters or whatever they call them.

It’s no good being anonymous

Many small traders and especially consultants do not appreciate that they need to have a website. Some of course have great expertise in their field but are not web-aware. We know that these days when thinking of taking on a new supplier, so many businesses type the name into Google or even Yahoo (you can get different and interesting results) to find out a bit more. If the business they are searching for is hard to find, or the website if it exists is lacking on information beyond some past career as an employee, no potential purchaser is going to latch on and think about hiring the business or the consultant as a supplier.

Demonstrate your expertise

One of the distinctly web-aware guys in that group I was talking to said that one site he ran for consultants had 8,000 hits a month, which is of course great. However, my immediate thought was, how many of these hits actually led to an enquiry from a prospect to one of the consultants? My guess was hardly any, because what the website does for the consultants is list past experience and services offered. The current format has no room for demonstrating current experience and the consultant’s knowledge of their industry issues right now. That is not to say that the site is no use, but it needs to offer a click-through to a place which is really informative.

Prospects don’t want to know what you have done. They want to know what you can do for them.

Confession

I have a confession. One of my websites has not nearly enough hits as I would like. I need to work on driving more traffic. However, my articles on the site offer very specific information on current tax topics dear to the hearts of many people today, such as lettings and property investment issues as well as (sadly) redundancy and taxation of leaving payments.

The articles contain relevant key words for popular searches, not deliberately but because they inevitably will. I believe they do demonstrate that I know what I am talking about, and the enquiries I get from prospects as a result their arriving on my website are likely to lead to business because the prospects have already qualified themselves with their interest.

Technically in SEO-speak I believe I am utilising almost incidentally the “long tail” in attracting the clients I want. More traffic always helps, but the traffic I get is really good quality for me.

Am I giving away my knowledge for free?

I don’t think that sharing my knowledge with readers will really encourage them to rely and act on the bare essentials because they must know that I cannot cover all the kinks which they would need to know to avoid trouble. I tell them enough to make them sure that they need me and it would be dangerous to act on their own.

There is a school of thought that my “competitors” might steal some of my expertise. I don’t believe this. Most of them have the knowledge. Some will know that they need my help, so that will mean more business for me, and they will become colleagues. What the “competitors” mostly don’t have is the energy to market in the same way or to borrow my turf.

Go for content

I am not a marketing expert. If you are still worried about someone stealing your stuff find out more about why it doesn’t matter.

What you have to do is write though. If you would like someone to tidy up your article copy before you post it, ask me.  Oh yes, that is another of my businesses, and I enjoy writing and have colleagues who do too. In fact I enjoy all my business activities.

Content marketing is great because it is writing about what you know. Start writing now!

I hope you find this piece useful. Please tell me if you do.

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