Take Command of Your Online Brand

“Reputation, reputation, reputation. Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” (Cassio)  Othello Act II, Scene 3

According to WebpageFX, a digital marketing and SEO company headquartered in Harrisburg, PA, about 25% of a company’s market value is directly based on its reputation.  Along with word-of-mouth reviews, which are indisputably powerful but nevertheless comparatively limited, a company’s reputation is significantly impacted through online sources.  Management of your organization’s online reputation, which is part of your brand, is a must-do.

The online reputation starts with the look and content of the company website and also encompasses reviewing sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Trip Advisor and the array of social media platforms from Snapchat to Facebook.  If you throw in content marketing campaigns that are distributed through email marketing, I wonder if the 25% impact figure is generous enough?

WebpageFX also reports that organization leaders now take online reputation management very seriously and 15% of organizations have followed through on an online reputation management strategy and 87% agree that managing online reputation risks is even more important than managing strategic risks.  Think about it—strategic risks are potentially costly, but when paid and unpaid haters flood the comments section of an influential site, the hapless company that perhaps has done no real harm can be shoved into the abyss.

Online attackers spew a shocking amount of vitriol and their diatribes seem to have a million-year half-life.  Blackmail can be involved as well.  I’ve personally witnessed the strong-arming of the General Manager of a lovely B & B by –are you ready for this?– a retired police officer who faked a problem in his guest room, refused to be placated by what most would accept as fair settlement for the “inconvenience” and threatened to ruin the business with bad Trip Advisor and Yelp reviews if his request for a free two- night stay (worth $450) was not granted.  Rumor has it that he’s played the game to the detriment of several small guest houses across the country.  A shoot-out at the OK Corral might be easier to win.

WebpageFX data showed that 91% of consumers search businesses online.  When I’ve gone to meet new clients, in particular someone who has been referred to me and whom I’ve not met,  they frequently mention that they’ve read this blog and viewed my website.  80% of consumers (presumably B2B and B2C) changed their mind about doing business with a company and 67% will not buy from a company that has received from one to three negative reviews.

Regarding social media sites, participation on the various social media platforms is a given for most Freelance consultants, business owners and corporate and not-for-profit leaders. The extent of your B2B client’s social media engagement as regards their external labor force along with your time and inclination, will determine which social media platforms that you’ll use. Maybe you’ll use one or two platforms, plus publish long-form content sent out as an ongoing email marketing campaign.

Just because you don’t use every available social media platform doesn’t mean that you should ignore those that you don’t use. To the contrary, claim all business listings and social media platform addresses, so that a competitor or imposter cannot assume your identity.  Start with your website. Your business name should belong to you alone. Protect your business and buy when possible your business domain name in the .biz and .net formats.  if there is a name that is similar to your company name and it becomes available, buy it and save yourself the potential for headaches down the road. Ensure that an imposter cannot claim your name and make sport of you, bear false witness, or commit other devious acts.

On your preferred social media platforms, maintain a reasonably active and consistent presence as you bring value to your readers.  Post content that will benefit your organization’s reputation and sales revenues.  WordPress allows posting to LinkedIn and my 100 or so connections expect to hear from me every Tuesday.

Finally, if you should receive any negative feedback online, respond quickly and diplomatically. Demonstrate that you regret the mishap and you intend to make amends.  As you publicly clean up the mess, you may win a few customers who like the fact that you’re human and you care.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

IMG_0015    Tall Ships Parade in Boston Harbor June 16, 2017

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21st Century Email Marketing Tactics

Email marketing is dead.  Long live email marketing.  The pervasiveness of spamming has forever damaged the reputation of email marketing and yet the practice refuses to quietly fade away.  I’ll say that’s because email marketing remains a useful B2B communication platform.  It’s just that marketers need to be smart about how to utilize this valuable resource.  Email marketing in the 21st century means content marketing that addresses topics that interests your clients and delivers value to them and to you.  When planning an email marketing campaign, content is king.

Content does not mean sending out a stream of tweets that describe banal banter such as what’s going on in your office today, accompanied by an image of your morning coffee and pastry sitting next to your laptop.  Your clients are not interested in “fake news” that results in a slew of annoying emails that feature revelations about your perspectives only and are filled with links to Instagram photos of what you found to be amusing as you walked to the post office.

Content marketing means sharing relevant information that will make your clients  become better informed and help them do their jobs better.  You accomplish that by producing original material that addresses topics that your clients feel are useful and distributing it on a consistent basis through your weekly blog or monthly newsletter,

The logistics of that distribution are up to you, whether you develop an opt-in email list and distribute content through a marketing service like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, or if you post your blog or newsletter on a site like WordPress, that is visited by numerous readers, some of whom may be your clients.  In the latter scenario, there is usually an opportunity to subscribe to your content through alerts, individual emails or an RSS feed.

Regardless of your distribution platform, readers and clients appreciate an email /content marketing strategy that is customized and therefore more personal.  Developing an editorial calendar adds seasonal relevance to the topics that you present, for example, as does occasionally letting your content be influenced by the news or changes in government or tax policy.  It’s time-consuming, but the content that your organization provides weekly or monthly demonstrates your authority as evidenced by your expertise and judgment, as well as your opinions (don’t hesitate to have them!).  Freelance consulting specialists must always enhance the perception of our bona rides and content marketing plays a significant role.

As you write, learn to occasionally weave one or two of your products or services into the narrative because after all, the real purpose of producing and distributing content in B2B emails is to create billable hours (sales).  This could take the form of a client success story or news that you’ll appear on a panel, with a link to register embedded in your post.

If your email/ content marketing is sent through a marketing service as an individual email addressed to each subscriber, you are advised to pay particular attention to the subject line.  According to Silverpop’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study, the mean open rate of emails sent is merely 20 %, meaning that four out of five email marketing communications are deleted.  A 2015 analysis of over 40 million emails  conducted by Mail Chimp revealed that some of the most effective subject lines are (60 – 87% open rate) :

1. (Insert business name) Sales and Marketing Newsletter

2. Eye on the (insert business name) Update (insert the week or month time frame)

3. (Insert business name and date) News Bulletin

4. (Insert business name) Newsletter, with date

5. (Insert business name) Invites You!

6. Happy Holidays From (insert business name)

In 2014, Digital Marketer analyzed 125 million emails that the company sent that year and found that your business name, along with the words urgent, upgrade, alert, new, available, free delivery and newsletter are among the most persuasive. Oh, and what’s the secret to writing a good email subject line, along with using the key words that charm readers? Make the subject line describe the email topic!

So the moral of the story is, don’t dismiss email marketing as being hopelessly retro and inferior to social media posts.  Instead, think about how to update and adapt its use to fit your needs and the interests of your clients.  If your clients are among your Facebook friends on your Fan Page or they follow your tweets, then by all means continue.  You might consider how some of that content and images might be repurposed to become part of long-form content in a blog or newsletter.  Several recent studies have found that clients respond well to long-form content.  You’ll figure it out and reap the benefits,

Thanks for reading,

kim

On Conducting an Interview

Because you are an ambitious Freelance consultant, you regularly provide content marketing that showcases your expertise and reinforces your brand with current and potential clients and, when good fortune intervenes, motivates them to give you some much-needed billable hours.  As you plan your activities, you may at some point reach out to a fellow Freelancer, a good client, or another expert and ask to include that individual in your content marketing by way of an interview.  Featuring another perspective every once in a while keeps your marketing content fresh and more interesting to the audience.  I’m thinking of doing exactly that sometime soon, if my target interview guest is willing to speak with me on the record.  Stay tuned.

At some point in your professional life it is likely that you may decide, or be asked, to interview someone, so you would be wise to learn the process.  Successfully conducted interviews hinge on good preparation.  While some of us may feel that interviewing is an intuitive skill and that we should be able to manage the process spontaneously, that will not be the case.  You could probably muddle through, but why not take a couple of hours and learn how to get it right?

Think first of an interview guest to invite.  Who do you know who might tell a good story, or share some useful information that will be appreciated by your audience and does it seem possible that you’ll be able to convince that person to speak with you? 

Second, consider the basic interview format. Will your guest agree to a face-to-face Q & A that will be required for a video, or will it be a phone interview that is suitable for your podcast, blog, or newsletter? Email interviews often do not produce the best results according to many journalists. 

Third, brainstorm questions or topics that might be interesting to your audience and play to your guests’ strengths. You may want to write up a list of potential questions, or make note of possible topics. Visit the Twitter feed, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and conduct an internet search to find out what may have been written by or about your proposed guest.

Invite your potential interview guests in a phone call. Some requests require a more personal approach than email.  Immediately upon reaching an agreement with your guest, send a confirmation email.  Two or three days in advance of the interview, send a second email to confirm the interview time and place and specify whether a phone call or in-person meeting will take place.

In all formats, introduce the guest to your audience and give a brief bio. If your interview will be video or podcast (audio), welcome your guest warmly and thank him/her for agreeing to appear. Your audience needs to hear, and see, this greeting. If the interview will appear in text you will still give a warm welcome and thanks and that exchange will appear in print.  

As you ask questions be friendly and upbeat, to help your guest to feel comfortable and safe.  Avoid “gotcha” questions designed to make the guest feel judged. Keep your mouth shut and practice active listening as you take notes as the guest speaks  (you can record as well and if you plan to do that, ask permission).  If you hear a particular word, phrase, or aspect of the topic that piques your curiosity or seems to give unexpected insight into the question, enter it into your notes and then ask a follow-up question. In this way, your interview will become a conversation, rather than a stilted Q & A session.  The best interviews are what seem to be a relaxed and intelligent conversation between the host and guest.

FYI, it is sometimes necessary to ask the same question two or even three times, in different ways, to persuade your guest to give a complete answer. It’s important to build rapport throughout the interview to make the subject feel comfortable sharing information.

You may need to nudge the interview back on track if your subject goes off on a tangent, in particular if this is a video or podcast conversation.  A useful phrase could be, “How does that relate to the big picture”? Conversely, you might draw out more information from a reticent guest when you ask, “Do you have a story that will illustrate your point”? At the end of the interview, thank your guest for participating and enlightening the audience.

If the interview will appear as a podcast or video, your guest may appear for 15 – 20 minutes, unless his/her topic is especially compelling.  If you are interviewing for your blog or newsletter, 15-20 minutes is probably still a good time limit for the conversation. Overwhelming your guest or audience is to be avoided.

Interviewing a guest for your chosen content marketing platform will build your audience and enhance the brand of your guest as well.  Create a win-win situation for you and the guest by carefully considering the benefits that will accrue to each of you through the proposed interview and be sensitive also to the interests of the audience.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Outsourcing Your Content Marketing: Legal Safeguards

Regarding the process of content marketing, I work both sides of the street.  In addition to generating original content for this blog, for the past 6 or 7 years I’ve worked as an outsourcer, both generating and editing content for two monthly newsletters and serving as editor only for a third.

The practice of content marketing has taken root in many organizations, from Freelance consultancies to multi-national corporations.  The responsibility for generating a good deal of that content has been outsourced.  President Trump is apparently the author of his own tweets but many corporate execs, government leaders, celebrities and other public figures are not.  Text, images, audio and video content destined for blogs, newsletters, webinars and an array of social media platforms might be created by an in-house social media specialist or, increasingly, the function is performed by an external marketing firm or a talented and plucky Freelance consultant.

Ideally, your content marketing will become an effective inbound marketing strategy and “pull” self-selected potential prospects who will be primed to become your customers.  Along the way, good content will also enable customer engagement and enhance and promote your organization’s brand.

Producing top quality marketing content is time-consuming and you may at some point decide to outsource all, or segments, of it.  Before you finalize that decision, take the time to consider what you would like your content to do for your organization; how much content it makes sense to produce; and how you can protect your intellectual property (because the content represents you and your business, whether or not you write it).

Determine the best content marketing platforms for your business

As always, it’s necessary to know your customers and target markets to determine the type of content that will resonate.  B2B clients will have different expectations than B2C or B2G customers and you must reflect that in your platform choices.  Be advised that you cannot and should not attempt to be all things to all people.  Consider picking one or two options, depending on the size of your organization and budget.  Develop an editorial calendar so that you will feature relevant seasonal topics throughout the year.

  • Weekly blog
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Semi-annual webinar
  • Email marketing
  • Social media updates
  • Semi-annual case studies
  • Annual video (with audio) featuring you or other key team members

Specify the outsourcing requirements

Clearly describe what you would like your outsourced content specialist to do.  Do you want content creation and editing, or do you want editing services only for content that you create? Will your content be original, or will you mostly feature short preludes that introduce links to other articles that tell your story? Would you like images included in your newsletter or blog? Might you like short videos to be embedded in your blog or newsletter and will that function be the focus of the outsourced duties?

Finally, when would you like your blog or newsletter to publish (for example, every Tuesday at 6:00 AM or on the 15th of every month?) Share your proposed editorial calendar and publishing schedule with your outsourcer, so that s/he will know what to create and when to have the content ready.

Assign the content copyright

Stay on top of this one, people.  Be advised that unless you specify in the outsourcing contract that all content belongs to you, then ownership will lie with the outsourcer who creates it.  On your own, or after your outsourcer is no longer in your employ, you may want to repackage text, images, or video from your blog or newsletter and use it on your website, in email marketing letters, or in a book (that could be written by you or by the original content outsourcer, a ghost author) and you must ensure that you will have the unrestricted use of what you paid for.

Further, you are advised to include an indemnification clause against possible copyright infringement of text and images that the outsourcer may (unwittingly) commit.  Some images are free, 95-year-old plus images are in the public domain and others are for sale.  Misinterpretation can be costly.  Also, proper credit must be given to images and failure to do so will cause legal problems for you.  Your business entity is the publisher of the content and is the responsible party.

Address the potential legal liabilities of your content

If your content addresses a subject that requires some manner of official licensing—medical, legal, investment, architectural, engineering, or nutritional, for example—it will be wise to include disclaimers or some assurance to readers that the information provided meets accepted regulatory standards and best practices.

Contract with outsourcing termination clause

Include all points detailed above in a contract that is signed by both you and your outsourcer and send a signed copy to the outsourcer.  Hire an intellectual property attorney to review your draft contract to ensure that both you and your outsourcer are protected.   Be certain to specify  who owns the content and how it can be used after the work relationship has ended.  Non-disclosure of potentially sensitive information can also be included.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

The Content of Content Marketing

Content Marketing continues to have a life of its own, riding a wave of non-stop hype. But what are all that text and all those images floating through space really worth to your business? I edit two newsletters,  one short and sweet,  the other several pages long and filled with lots of text and photos. One newsletter I assemble myself by reaching out to obtain snippets of relevant and timely new information and an image or two each month.  The second I solely edit and what a laborious process it is to slog through all that dense text!  Can you guess which entity generates the most revenue and profit?

Why, the owners of the short newsletter that gives splashes of fresh info every month plus one or two new pictures, of course.  Those organization leaders do not bury themselves in the labor and expense of high-maintenance content marketing.  They are instead pursuing clients and making money. They are not merely busy; they are productive. They know their role as business owners.

If you can build and maintain a good stable of clients without a web presence, by golly I say you should do it. Truth be told,  most of the most successful business owners and Freelance consultants that I know have no website and no social media.  Instead, they are known and trusted by clients and referral sources.  They are going to the bank and not to their keyboards or video cameras to crank out “content”.

Enter the experts

The short answer is,  if you’ve done something successfully a number of times,  you can claim the title.  However, there is also the axiom “Those who can do and those who can’t, teach.” My client who has enlisted my services for the production of the monthly weighty tome hasn’t had a client in something like five years (I’m serous). She swans around speaking on panels, moderating panels, writing articles for a couple of journals that don’t pay (I edit those as well) and overall being a very busy girl. But I’m not sure how she pays her mortgage. Trust fund?

Noise makers

Everybody with access to a keyboard or a camera is doing some level of content marketing,  even if it’s only for themselves and their Twitter friends. Everybody’s pulling out a cell phone to snap pictures of something—the first snowfall,  the first crocuses and at the Boston waterfront a couple of weeks ago, when the air temperature was minus 10 and the Atlantic Ocean was about 40 degrees,  the fog that was rising from the water as a result of the 50 degree temperature difference (it was quite a sight). all those photos become content posted to social media.  It’s all noise that competes with what Freelance consultants and other business owners are aiming to do,  that is,  get the attention of potential clients and referral sources.

Branding is not personal

Supermodels and a certain group of raven-haired sisters (and their mother) in southern California seem to have done very well with the personal branding concept,  but that doesn’t hold for the rest of us.  Unless you were lucky enough to have held a job that allowed you to publicly build a reputation amongst prospective clients,  or you descend from a prestigious family,  the differences that you (and I) point out to clients are only differences and not distinctive competitive advantages.  We are the same, only different.

Strategic, original, relevant, concise

If you have the time and inclination to delve into the content marketing fray,  be strategic about the process, most of all. Have a clear and defendable purpose.  My purpose for producing this blog since June 2009  has been to

1.demonstrate that I have good business judgment

2. demonstrate my writing skills

I’ve referred prospective clients to the link for this blog and the strategy has been successful.  I’ve gotten at least three clients,  including a (modest) book editing assignment,  my first. Editing two newsletters also helped me to snare that gig.

Further,  read about business topics in places like The Financial Times,  The New York Times, Business Week,  Inc. Magazine,  the Harvard Business Review and other credible sources. Those can become your inspiration,  along with your owned lived experience,  to generate original content.  Do not bother to try and pass off groupings of links to articles as your blog or newsletter content.  Do not insult people.

Finally,  whatever your topic, two and a half pages of text, or 1000 words, has got to be your max. When writing this blog,  I start thinking about creating a two-part post if I surpass 800 words. Attention spans are not what they used to be in this noise-filled arena of experts.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing Metrics That Matter

Every business that aims to be sustainable must engage in some level of marketing activity, whether traditional marketing that utilizes retro resources such as press releases and print ads or content marketing, that makes use of social media, blogging and the like. But the benefits and ROI of marketing campaigns are often devilishly difficult to evaluate. How does anyone know what the organization is really getting from the marketing campaigns (and budget) and what is the value of whatever that might be? Furthermore, what are the outcomes that matter in marketing? Let’s ponder the benefits that marketing campaigns have the potential to generate.

Since recent data is available, we’ll focus on content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 85% of B2B and B2C organizations participate in content marketing, yet only 21% of those who devise content marketing strategies are able to measure the ROI. Among the elements that marketing execs usually design their strategies to influence are:

  • Brand awareness and loyalty
  • Customer engagement
  • Lead generation
  • Referrals
  • Sales
  • Up-selling

Before campaign focus decisions are made, it is advisable to select which of the above elements—may we call them objectives?—that your organization would like to impact. To make those calculations, one must understand the value and expected ROI of the chosen objectives. They are not of equal value.

Promoting brand awareness and loyalty is a wonderful objective and if yours is a B2C operation, it is much easier to achieve. Can a typical B2B Freelancer who sells a service ever build a brand that is truly distinctive? Rarely, I will guess. Usually the brand is a cult of personality that a well-connected person has been lucky to attain, typically through family or  industry connections. Or maybe it’s the home town high school football hero who goes into business and benefits from his playing field reputation, subsequently known as his brand.

My experience indicates that the average B2B Freelancer should approach (personal) branding activities and brand awareness with a grain of salt. Keeping one’s name in play is an admirable ideal, but business is mostly garnered through referrals and not through the number of times that potential clients see your name.

About customer engagement — do you have the staffing to seduce those with too much time on their hands into bonding with Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook feeds from your organization? Beware the Pandora’s Box that customer engagement can become. Giving information and getting uncensored feedback is great. Ongoing dialogues with the bored or self-important are a waste of time that you cannot afford.

Lead generation keeps the sales pipeline filled, but what is the most effective marketing strategy for a service-providing Freelancer to influence that objective? As far as I’ve seen, viable leads are created face-to-face. Potential clients may read your blog or newsletter, watch you on YouTube or read your case studies, but they are highly unlikely to hire or refer you unless they meet you in person and even then, they prefer a personal endorsement of your work from a trusted source. Content marketing is not so effective here. Get on the teaching and speaking circuits to allow potential clients or referral sources to hear what you know and develop trust that can lead to some business.

After all is said and done, encouraging referrals, sales and up-selling must be the prime objectives of any marketing campaign and they are the only metrics worth measuring. The number of social media followers, website page views, newsletter sign-ups and blog post comments are vanity metrics and meaningless, because they do not correlate with revenue. Those people are just a bunch of hangers-on.

Successful marketing campaigns pave the way to revenue generation, meaning sales. Savvy marketing makes your operation look desirable and trustworthy and persuades those with money and motive to take a second look. Marketing messages can be used in sales presentations to continue the theme. A well-conceived marketing message will also open the door to up-selling and add-ons.

Referrals are a different animal, though, and for both B2B and B2C ventures are most directly impacted by your organization exceeding expectations and creating a cadre of satisfied customers who sing your praises to other potential clients.

In sum, B2B Freelancers can forget the vanity marketing objectives and focus on creating campaigns that enhance the perception of your expertise, along with the services that you provide. Marketing messages that address the usual client hot-buttons and position your business as the solution are the most effective. Nevertheless, word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to bring in business and that process is independent of marketing.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Better Business Writing

The ability to write well is an asset and poor writing undermines the perception of one’s professional abilities.  Skilled writing is in great demand in the business world,  where content marketing and social media updates require Freelancers,  business owners and corporate marketing teams to write newsletters,  blogs,  white papers,  Twitter updates and press releases.

Some of us hate to write and we are intimidated by the prospect.  From time to time,  even good writers struggle to express their thoughts.  Submitted here are business writing tips that will help you to communicate your expertise to clients,  peers,  prospects,  hiring managers or potential business partners.

Purpose

What is your written communication meant to achieve?  Do you want to write a proposal,  a thank you letter,  a follow-up email that confirms agreed-upon actions that were discussed in a meeting,  or a message in a greeting card?

Inventory

It’s helpful to write down and list what you want to say,  in no particular order.  Don’t worry about vocabulary or grammar,  just grab paper and pencil and capture what information is necessary to convey your intentions.  Save the editing for later.

Concise,  complete and organized

Prioritize your subject matter and lead with what is most important and time-sensitive.  Write a first draft and do your best to express your information clearly and concisely.  If your communication is business,  you may choose to highlight the most noteworthy points in bullets,  so that the reader’s eye is drawn to them quickly.

Active voice

Business writing is all about action and you will convey your command of the subject or events that transpired when you write in the active voice.

Spelling and punctuation

Run the spelling and grammar check that is on your software.

Edit

Review and edit your writing and if time allows,  take another look anywhere from a few hours to a day or two later.  Allowing your writing to “rest” will sharpen your editing prowess.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Get Your Arms Around Content Marketing

Was it two or three years ago that the term  “Content Marketing ” entered the marketing lexicon?  I first addressed the subject in March 2013  https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/content-marketing-is-the-new-ad-copy .  Back in the day,  advertising strategy focused on which publications would reach the most potential customers at a price the business could afford.  Depending on your business,  traditional advertising can still deliver the desired ROI,  but Content Marketing cannot be ignored.  It is the conduit to engaging with customers on a granular level.  Through it,  we are able to reveal our understanding of customer priorities and challenges,  build trust and credibility as a result of that understanding and demonstrate how and when they might benefit from using our products and services  (and in that order,  BTW).

KISSmetrics CEO Neil Patel defines Content Marketing as  “…the way for a business owner to educate your customers and potential customers about your products and services.  The goal is to offer tips,  help and education about anything that can be helpful to a customer.  This kind of information can be shared in the form of a blog, white paper, webinar, video or social post.  The opportunities are endless.”  Michael Brenner,  a Forbes Magazine Top 40 Social Media Marketer and head of strategy at NewsCred,  points out that  “Small businesses don’t have the luxury of massive ad budgets…they need to drive brand awareness and (sales) leads with limited resources.  Content Marketing is a great way for small businesses to do both.

Great.  Now let’s get you started on creating Content that’ll do some good.  First,  define the Content you should create,  i.e. the Content that your customers value,  presented in a way that will make them tune in to your message.  Think carefully and from the customer’s viewpoint about the reasons that they use your product or service: what are they trying to achieve and what information would they appreciate as they strive to examine and resolve that process?  Chatting with customers about their business goals and challenges and getting a better handle on where your products or services fit in will give you some guidance.

Shelly Kramer,  CEO and founder of V3 Integrated Marketing,  insists that you will benefit from applying what you learn from your research to your strategy and,  just as important,  commit it to writing.  “Write down your strategy.  The key is to tie your overall business goals and objectives into your Content Marketing strategy”,  she says.  Kramer is very astute as she reminds Freelancers and business owners to remember the big-picture marketing strategy for the enterprise and incorporate Content Marketing,  including social media,  in that picture.  “Social and Content have to work together in order for you to be successful….you can’t have success with Content without a robust presence in the social media space and….understanding the role that fresh,  relevant Content and social media channels play.  There is great Content being published on corporate blogs on a daily basis that no one ever sees.”

Next,  choose your delivery system.   Do customers visit your website often?  Then maybe posting a white paper once a month or writing a weekly blog will work for you.   Are customers part of your LinkedIn group,  Facebook fan page,  or do they follow your business on Twitter?  Add those icons to your email signature block and your website to make social media connections that alert customers to your Content an easy process.   A monthly newsletter is another great Content Marketing strategy.  It’s the savviest form of email marketing  (include an opt-out feature).

Fresh and relevant are your operative words,  as Kramer notes.  Volume,  value and variety are your other guideposts.  Brenner says “(Volume)….starts with this notion that you need to be present in our always-on,  always connected world.  The second thing is value.  Your Content has to be good.   I always recommend that brands identify what they want to talk about and then make every effort to produce as much valuable Content around those topics as often as possible.  The final tip is about variety.   People (and search engines)  reward those brands that deliver value in multiple ways,  so think about text-based articles,  videos,  SlideShare presentations,  research reports  (white papers) and all the different things we consume across the digital,  social and mobile web.”

How do you measure ROI and recognize success?  Patel offers 3 specific steps:

  • Track Content views
  • Use Google Analytics (free) to track which types of Content drives visits to your website
  • Measure your search traffic

Patel advises “You have to give it time.  Don’t expect great results in 3 months or 6 months,  but you will see traction.  Within the first 3 months you should see more traffic to your site.   Within a year you should start to see good results and an opportunity to monetize traffic on your site.”  Patel concludes  “Good Content Marketing builds trust.  If someone trusts you,  they are more likely to buy your products and services and more likely to tell their friends and family.”

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,

Kim

10 Ways To Reboot Your Email Marketing List

E-newsletters,  webinars,  Slide Share info-graphics and other email marketing content can go as flat as an open bottle of champagne after a while.  Business in the 21st century is sort of like show business,  folks.  Gypsy Rose Lee said it best,  “You’ve gotta have a gimmick”.  You need to know how to hold your audience.  For that matter,   you’d better know your audience well enough to recognize when they stop paying attention.

Assuming that the content you provide is relevant to potential readers and not just a 3 page sales pitch about you,  wonderful you,  there may eventually be a drop-off in the email open rate.  Attention spans are short and email in-boxes are filled to the brim with all manner of messages.  But you can’t afford to lose control of your “room”,  your list members.  Presumably,  that list is populated with clients,  prospects and referral sources.  They are the life blood of your business.  How do you win them back? Try these tactics:

1.   Examine your stats and identify who is not opening your emails.  Studies show that 60% of email marketing communications are never opened.

2.   Prune the list.  Facing up to audience members who have fallen out of love with you takes courage but like any love affair that’s over,  it is best to move on.  Resolve to remove the non-readers.  Carol Tice, who founded the Freelance Writer’s Den and maintains a formidable email list,  sends her non-readers an email and asks if they would like to remain on the list.  The overwhelming majority do not respond and their names are removed.  A handful ask to continue.  You will feel better when you do the purge.  You’ll have an open rate that makes you smile.  You will know that the creative energy and hard work invested in your content marketing will be appreciated.

3.   Ask list members to update their email information.  Your open rate could improve just by allowing readers to have communications sent to an alternate email address.  Those who don’t respond after a second or third reminder to update their info are clearly not interested and can be removed from the list.

4.   To maintain the interest of readers who remain,  especially if your open rate is dropping,  take a look at your subject line.  A well-written subject line is a siren song to potential readers.  See  headline hooks that reel in readers

5.   Include a tempting call to action and name it in the subject line.   A Survey,  free webinar (hosted by you or someone whose expertise you trust),  or a white paper on a subject of interest to your readers re-establishes your relevance and will persuade a certain percentage of non-readers and infrequent readers to click and engage.

6.   Think mobile.  In July 2014,  Forrester Research reported that 42% of emails from B2C retailers are opened on smartphones and 17% are opened on tablets.  Customize your email communications for responsive design,  so that reading will be easy on mobile devices.  Make it convenient for all potential readers to open your communications.

7.   Send on a regular schedule.  Frequent readers of this blog know that Tuesday is publish day,  even if Christmas or the 4th of July fall on that day of the week.  You may prefer to publish on a given date.   Whatever you do,  establish and adhere to a predictable publishing schedule.  Readers appreciate it more than you may realize.  Make readers anticipate receiving and reading your communications.

8.   Build your list.  Organically and with permission,  build your email marketing list.  You should have met each person on your list at least once.   At the email campaign launch,  send to all business contacts along with an introductory message that announces the debut,  explains the benefits to readers,  reveals the frequency (weekly or monthly)  and provides an easy and effective opt-out.  Resist the temptation to add to your list the names of everyone who hands you a business card.  When speaking with people,  do mention your email marketing campaign,  give examples of the subjects covered and how often you send.  Ask if they would like to receive at least one and let them know that if they choose to opt out,  that can be easily and quickly done.

9.   Personalize.  Whatever service sends out your emails should include a greeting to the individual recipient.

10.  Sign me up!  On your website and social media,  allow interested parties to sign up to receive selected email marketing communications,  register for webinars or receive a copy of any white papers.

Content marketing is the new advertising and emailing your content is the best way to reach clients and prospects who no longer answer the phone.  Create a viable list by continually adding and purging members to enable your campaigns to deliver optimal ROI.  Draw in readers with relevant content and intriguing subject lines.  Format in responsive design to include those who prefer to read on mobile device.  Fulfill expectations by publishing on a regular schedule.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Buying Process Is In Effect

In 2012,  the global research and advisory firm Forrester Research reported that clients are as totally in the driver’s seat as we all knew anecdotally and that product and service providers have much less influence over purchasing behaviors than we enjoyed a decade or two ago.  We have left the era of the sales process and entered the realm of the buying process.  It is time to readjust your approach to marketing and sales in response to the new reality,  because what was will never be again.  Our clients are making decisions largely without our input.  Many sales professionals and consulting specialists aim to present ourselves as  “trusted advisers”  who guide the sales process and influence customer choices,  ideally for the good.  Say goodbye to all that.

According to the Forrester report,  clients now discuss product and service needs and options with their own team of trusted advisers,  which may include unknown third-party  “experts”  they find on websites like Yelp and Angie’s List.  How far along in the buying process that clients proceed without us varies by industry,  but the report indicates that 65% -90%  of the research process is often completed without assistance from sales professionals or consulting service providers.  By the time the client is ready to make a purchase,  much up-front research has usually been done and only vendor price quotes are needed.

Clients like the control of being in the driver’s seat.  A mistrust of sales practices perceived as unsavory,  combined with access to technologies that allow clients to rather easily research product and service needs once they’ve been identified,  are the driving forces behind the client independence.  Many are leery of being manipulated into paying for upgrades and add-ons that do nothing for their objectives.

In the flip from sales process to buying process,  your marketing strategy will become more prominent and your approach to sales will change.  Your marketing must first create visibility and awareness,  so that prospective clients will find your firm’s offerings and second,  create and sustain demand through exquisitely targeted messages and narratives dispensed through channels that clients trust and follow.  Content marketing will continue to grow in influence as it is distributed through your website and all social media outlets that clients trust.

Develop your content marketing to explore and discuss motivating factors that compel prospective clients to research your products and services,  solutions that you provide and benefits that clients receive,  frequently asked questions and how to buy from you.  As has long been said in academic circles,  publish or perish.  When not generating content,  do what you can to get in front of an audience and teach a workshop,  moderate a panel,  or give a presentation and further your brand as a source of expertise.  Remember also that traditional media outlets may still be important to your clients,  so the art of the press release should not be forgotten.

Whither the role of sales?  Rather than being reduced to mere order takers,  consulting service providers and sales professionals will apply their well-honed communications expertise to identifying networking opportunities and building relationships.  Content is king and having lots of good things that demonstrate your expertise come up in a search is a wonderful thing,  but in my town,  no one hires anyone that they don’t know.  If a prospect does not already know you,  then an introduction made by someone whom the prospective client trusts is the next best thing.  No amount of artfully written content will convince anyone to hire an unknown.

Networking will be the queen,  as you meet potential clients and referral sources and take the time to build relationships,  taking an interest in others’ concerns and offering to give before you receive.  The B2B buying process is a tall order for a Freelance consultant,  but we are determined to succeed and we will rise to the challenge.

Thanks for reading,

Kim