Cracking content marketing

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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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Move with the times!

I was writing the other day about the business directories not really delivering for many small businesses. One of the reason for that is that our customer and clients tend to look elsewhere for their services. Compared with even five years ago, so many more people search on-line for the stuff they want, whether it is for a chimney sweep (yes, we employ one) or for an EBay offering or for a courier service or an accountant. There is always the possibility that even the on-line searchers will go with a recommendation but we have to be alive to the need to be found on-line when someone looks.

We were talking about this at a breakfast meeting, when our resident SEO expert commented how the search engines change their game all the time and he has to be on top of it as far as possible. This then brought us on to the changes even with Twitter and two of us who subscribe to Jim Connolly’s Marketing Blog remembered Jim’s comment concerning the person who wrote a paperback about Twitter which was bound to be instantly out-of-date. Incidentally I recommend you subscribe to Jim’s blog which is excellent. He is a top marketer.

It is most important to keep up with what is going on now. Traditional sales and marketing in print was indeed traditional for two hundred years or more, but now we all need to think on our feet and indeed listen to the buzz of the internet. Otherwise the business world will leave us trailing behind, and that means all of us including the dress shop and the hardware store.

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Business start-up planning and taking responsibility

Planning to start a new business is not easy. At the outset we need to have a real plan, and not just for the bank. We should be sure there is a need for our type of business, a niche we can fit in, and know who our clients or customers will be. Whether we realize it or not, we have to establish a team. We need our bank manager, we need a marketing person, we need a web designer, we may need an SEO expert and we need an accountant or tax adviser. There may be other people too in our team. If we are in retail then we need a supplier or several. All those we need even before we think about perhaps taking on employees.

We need to establish dialogues with each member of the team, and we sometimes need them talk to each other. Above all, we must tell them what we need from them and tell them what they need to know in order to help us.

All too often with new businesses I have seen them get into trouble or even fail because their enthusiastic owners simply forgot to communicate. They hate their web design, their website is not found because their SEO expert did not understand their business or they miss an important deadline relating to financial issues. If their advisers don’t know what they want, they have not sent them important letters from Government Departments because “they assume they would know”, and if the new business owners don’t understand the basic principles of running a business and do not ask for help, then they will probably fail, and failure is expensive in financial terms and for morale.

In the end it is all about communication. Tell your advisers everything, even if you think they ought to know. Good professionals generally won’t be insulted. If they roll their eyes it will be in private. At least you will know that they are in the loop. Leave nothing to chance, don’t be too part-time, and you will have a sporting chance of success.

Do you agree?

© Jon Stow 2010

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