In a series of talks this was Stephanie Wright speaking at a recent Business Blocks Networking Meeting for small businesses and start ups in Chigwell, Essex. This talks describes what content marketing actually is and how to plan it to be effective with your audience and objectives.
Being creative and being memorable are vital to you standing out from your competitors, so your marketing campaigns need to be a little different. So what’s your ‘big idea’? – tough question? Feeling a little anxious? Well don’t be, here are a few little tips to help guide your creativity to come up with your big marketing campaign.
1. Look at groundbreaking marketing ads.
Keep abreast of the latest advertising news to see what new and unusual ways other brands are developing to get your own creative juices flowing.
2. Check out your competition.
Keep tabs on your competition, they may not have the most creative ads but they are aiming at your target audience with a similar product, so join their social media pages and keep an eye on what they are doing.
3. What’s your brand’s story?
Every brand has a unique story within them – some are more obvious than others, but try to find something interesting and unique about your company, it could be that you are a family business that started selling sofas from your sofa! Or perhaps you found you were born to be an electrician after failing at being a plumber. Whatever it is, these stories ‘humanise’ your brand and are all important in building its personality.
4. What interests and excites you?
When you are shopping online, reading a magazine, watching TV or on your Facebook feed actually pay attention to the ads. Think about the message they are trying to deliver and the way they have done it. Which ones interest you, which are memorable and why? Make a list so that you can start to see any patterns or correlations that you could use in your own campaigns.
5. Get to know your customers.
If you can’t afford to do extensive field studies, just do them yourself. Look at where your customers are – places they go and things they do and get out there and talk to them. People have a fear of doing this but it is vital to hear ideas direct from the people you are trying to appeal to – what are they looking for and why? Contact your actual customers and see if they could spare some time to answer some questions and feedback to you. All of this research will help you get a very good idea of your customers, their needs and behaviours.
6. Get all your ideas out but don’t throw them out.
Let your mind step away from the problem, as your mind wanders and ideas flow, get them all out onto paper. Don’t throw the ‘bad ideas’ out, don’t be so hard on yourself, let your imagination run free and be positive about all the ideas that come out – at the early stages its quantity that’s important. If you don’t have the winning idea straight away you might find you can mould and shape a ‘bad idea’ into something that is perfect.
7. Structure your brainstorm.
Look at it as an advertising agency would, an external entity to your company, and treat it as a creative brief – write up what the brief is, the objectives you want to achieve out of the campaign and what success looks like, the audience and their behaviours, the key message or ‘brand proposition’ and the ‘reason-to-believe’ – the key product features that substantiate the claim you are trying to make and what you are trying to sell.
8. Get ideas from around your business/friends and family.
Ask people from different areas of your business for insights and ideas, even friends and family. Sometimes it’s important to be a little removed from the business to see it from a new perspective.
9. Random association.
Try this creative tool, look around you and choose an object at random, or pull out a dictionary and choose 5 words at complete random. Think of other things that each word reminds you of e.g. ‘horse’ and ’saddle’. Then try to link the words to your problem and come up with new ideas by association. They will seem vague and disconnected at first but once you start the process you will start to see links, and it can be a great way of thinking about the problem differently.
10. Take a break.
Finally take a break from it! Go for a walk, do some cooking, go for a shower or go to the gym - take your mind away from it and you might find an idea just springs from nowhere.
The word ‘brand’ conjures up in our mind huge goliath companies that have invested millions in creating an identity that we all see as household, but just because you are a small business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create or become a brand.
Becoming a ‘good brand’ is about resonating within the hearts and minds of your audience, brands that have achieved this have created a powerful connection that can almost become subconscious behaviours – such as singing a tune from an advert or the catchphrase from a brand’s slogan.
Defining your brand involves (and I always say this in my blog!) good planning. Branding is about building an identity both within your company and to everyone it comes across externally. It leads to loyalty, advocacy and differentiation against your competition, plus its really good for SEO and improving your position in search results pages (SERPS), so why rush it?
First look within, who are you – what’s your personality as a company. Look at the company as if it were a person. When that person walks into a room what does it do? How does it talk? Who does it talk to? What will it be remembered for?
What are the core values of your company – what does it stand for? Define a mission statement and a set of beliefs that embody your organisation. Don’t try to be like everyone else, stand out from the crowd and be unique as a brand, be bold and create memories that resonate with your audience. Be consistent but not repetitive, no one appreciates a person that always talks about themselves, the same is true of a brand.
Whilst you are defining the values and looking inwardly at the company don’t forget to look outside of it too. Delve deep into your target audience, what are their likes and dislikes? What are their common behaviours and their purchase journey – how does your brand help them? What are your competitors offering to them and why should they choose you. Building this knowledge is so important in helping you define your place in the market and therefore your identity, so make sure to think big and look to the future, not just now.
Your brand logo or brand mark is fluid and flexible, but must be consistent – when you create it, think of other factors such as fonts, colour palettes and slight versions that can be used within different media but can ensure consistency with your brand. Does your brand have a slogan or strapline? Consider the type of images your brand uses on social media or on its website too. You will probably want to outsource this area to get it right, so it’s important to get someone who has experience to create something long term for you. A lot of businesses try to cram too much in and forget the best brand logos are the most simple and clear – look at Coca Cola which has barely changed its brand in over 127 years!
Don’t forget to think about how your brand speaks – what’s its tone of voice? Are there any words that your brand wouldn’t use, start listing these out. Also, don’t be too obvious or vague in your copywriting, use your insights into your target audience and competition to bring out the clear messages and benefits of your brand.
Once you have all of this wealth of information put together some brand guidelines, start with your mission statement, goals and values as a brand. Then layout the logo variations, colours and typeface, image guidelines and tone of voice. Keep this document to hand to consult regularly, particularly as you grow and may outsource areas of your business or hire new employees as this will help shape your business.
Now go ahead and create a world-dominating brand!
Selling shoes or candles, being a therapist or personal trainer does not make you a publisher. Yet it’s so important in this age to produce great content and act as though you are. The reason for developing all this content is that it’s a way of offering more to your potential customers, it makes you a credible and interesting source, helpful and reliable, a facilitator to get them to the answers they need to problems they face, and for that they are grateful and will reward you with visiting your site, purchasing your product/service and recommending you to friends. Yes please! But where do you learn these skills and get good enough to help it to grow your business?
There are a few simple ways you can develop great content:
1. Establish the problems your customers face and find answers
Learn more about your business from the inside and typical questions that customers ask, then feed that into your content plan to answer these. Simple.
2. Measure what you put out
See what likes, shares and clicks you get from certain topics and make a note of the content, try to establish themes in certain areas and start to hone the content output so you are continuously refining and improving.
3. Act like a publisher
If you were planning a magazine you would develop stories and plan you content into a calendar, looking at seasons, trends and events and setting deadlines and schedules to write that content. Just don’t get too fixed on your schedule, make sure you feed into it and edit it according to the performance of content you have already published – don’t be precious!
4. Document a strategy and be cohesive
Don’t use all your social channels if only two are right for you, and don’t take a scatter-gun approach sticking up different content topics on different channels, be cohesive and work from a strategic plan so that everything is joined up, from video on YouTube to your blog to Facebook posts.
5. Build your brand identity
This is a great opportunity to develop your personality and voice as a brand in the big bad world, it will help you define your business in your niche and your target audience will be able to establish a relationship with you. Also if you look to outsource this element, by doing content regularly you will be able to give a clear indication of how you want to be perceived and your brand identity.
All in all content marketing is worth doing and doing right. If you don’t have the time you could outsource to a consultancy like us, because if you are going to spend money to market your business content marketing is a very good place to spend your money- “content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads”
LinkedIn is unlike other social networks, its focused on business networking developing contacts, generating sales leads and recruitment, it’s the largest business networking site in the world with the highest average household income. It’s also stuffed full of decision makers who could be right in your target market depending on your industry. So we have rounded up a top 5 tips for how to make it work hard for your business.
1. Get your profile up-to-scratch.
Your profile is your shop window or business card and when people click onto it they need to see personality and life. Add some video content, design your page to match your website, add infographics and presentations into your portfolio. Make sure you include keywords (just not too ‘over-optimised’) in your heading, description and summary – at least 1 billion searches are made on LinkedIn in a year and you need to make sure you can be found. Plus don’t forget to do all this to your personal page too, people may be searching for you and not your business.
2. Turn the profile from me to you
Don’t just have an online CV on LinkedIn that’s totally focused on you, switch it around so it helps your reader get to the good stuff quickly - Alter your title so people can see what you do rather than just your company name e.g. Small Business Coach, say exactly what you do for others and have lots of recommendations.
3.Start a LinkedIn Discussion Group
Build thought leadership by creating targeted niche discussion groups in your market, as your name (and website) will be associated to the group. If managed properly it gives credibility as a trusted source. Plus as the owner of the group you can create weekly and auto-respond emails direct to your group, perfect to convey messages to your target audience. Research groups you can join too, as these will provide valuable insights and opportunities to connect.
4. Give more to get more
Recommend and endorse others without being asked, and help bring your contacts in touch with each other. The more people see that you are ‘present’ and helping the more you will see them interacting with you. Don’t be worried about adding connections that you may not know, this is a business networking site and much like a real business networking event you can approach the people who you think you can benefit from and they can benefit from you.
5. Make your post count
As I’m sure you are time-poor running your own business, you haven’t got time to keep creating fresh content regularly for your social networks. Instead look into your groups and ones you have joined and pick out common problems and topics, try to develop posts which give advice and solutions to these problems. If you have a particularly compelling post you could sponsor it to create more awareness or use @ to highlight it to a specific contact who will find it relevant. Event-based posts allow you to invite and tell your connections about an event you are organising or going to.