Zerys for Agencies Blog

The Art of Finding the Right Voice for Content

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_60934993The delivery of your content is just as important as the information it contains — and this is where voice comes in to play! When you work with a number of clients, mastering the art of creating the perfect voice is more critical than ever because each of your clients is targeting a different audience. Every company needs a unique voice that represents their brand, allows them to stand out from competitors, and enables them to build trust with their audience. These tips will help you find the right voice for every one of your clients, increase the number of readers to your posts, and lead to greater engagement and more conversions.

1. Create Personas

Whatever persona you choose will depend on what is relevant to your clients’ products or services. Work with your clients to create as detailed personalities as possible using any relevant demographics and statistics. This may include age, gender, occupation, salary, location, values, and goals, to name just a few suggested by Buffer.  You can gather the information for your persona by website analysis, asking your clients about their customers, researching through social media, and talking to the customers directly through surveys and other means.

2. Think about Style

Once you have a clearer idea of your target market it is time to figure out what type of voice your audience will respond to best. Several factors come in to play to take into account when developing the style of your voice:

  • Formality: Addressing your audience with the correct formality will determine how well you connect. Bear in mind that formality comes in an array of shades, and you need to use your personas to determine what will resonate best with your target audience.
  • Vocabulary: Use your personas expertise and understanding of subjects to decide the degree of technicality of your vocabulary. If in doubt, explain terms, spell out acronyms, and keep your language simple. However, if you are reasonably confident that your audience will understand how the industry speaks, avoid going into unnecessary depths to explain as this may bore your readers and might possibly appear patronizing.
  • Person: The last style consideration is whether to use first, second, or third person voice. In most cases second-person voice is best because it enables you to involve your audience. And when you involve your audience they feel like they are a part of what it is you are trying to accomplish. However, if a client prefers you to take a particularly professional tone, you may like to opt for third-person voice. Reserve the first-person voice for talking about experiences from the client’s point of view, of course, but to ensure that you still relate to the customer, use at least a few second-person pronouns such as you and your. Generally your client will tell you how he wants the information displayed and what voice he prefers.

3. Identify the Qualities of the Brand

Finally, you need to infuse an element of the brand into your voice. Interview your clients to ask them about their motivation for starting their company’s, what message, concept, and values they are selling to their customers, and how they feel that they are different from the competition.

Distilled recommends that you condense your information so that it is specific to what the client is asking for. This can be achieved by using words and phrases that express the company’s goals, ideals, and expectations within the marketplace. Your last challenge is to apply these findings into your content. For example, if your client’s goal is creativity, consider using an upbeat voice to inspire your audience. If the brand is proud of being trustworthy, take a more authoritative tone and focus on being informative.

When you start working with a new client, developing a new voice from scratch may seem like a lengthy process but it will be well worth your effort. The right voice enables you to connect with readers and gives your content a greater impact. Plus, provided you take all of the above into consideration, you will only need to complete the process once and thereafter you will be able to make slight adjustments now and again as you monitor the effectiveness of your content.

7 Ways to Make Email Content That Converts

Posted by Jennifer Gemmell-Adams

shutterstock_118101760In the trending landscape of personalized pop-ups, microinteractions, and other marketing strategies that have migrated toward a dominant focus on mobile-friendly content and design, some marketers feel that email marketing is losing ground as a viable and effective tool in their marketing arsenal.  Can email content still generate viable leads and increase your conversion rates?  Of course it can, and here are seven ways you can revitalize your email marketing strategy with content that converts:

Less is More

You've likely heard (too often) the phrases "keep it simple, stupid" and "less is more."  Are you putting these phrases into practice with your email content?  If you are sending emails that divulge an excessive amount of information, people won't be motivated by a desire to know more -- because you've already told them too much.  Your email content should be a teaser to introduce recipients to something and give them a glimpse of what awaits if they take action.

"More" is More, Too

While many so-called marketing experts advocate the use of a prominent call to action in a highly visible location in your email content, others will tell you to practically stuff your email with CTAs.  This doesn't mean it should be little more than a page filled with "click me" links, but you should include a variety of opt-in options at different points in your content, from start to finish.  People have different points at which they reach a decision to enter a marketer's sales funnel, so make sure you have an open door waiting for them when they choose to take that step.

Encourage Engagement & Reward Loyalty

When introducing your subject matter in an email,  the content should address the recipient's level of engagement with your company, brand, products, or services.  Are they already a customer, or are they still at the window-shopping stage?  How long have they been a customer and how often do they make purchases?  Do they or have they provided successful referrals?  Your email content should approach the recipient on their level of engagement and encourage them to take additional steps into your sales funnel.  You should also offer unique "rewards" for loyal or long-term customers.

Personalized and Dynamic Content

If you've already compiled some information about your email recipients such as age, gender, occupation, or basic interests, you can personalize your email content.  Dynamic content generates conversions because it addresses your recipient individually and can speak to their individual needs, wants, problems, or questions.  You can also include offers or information that may be restricted to individual traits like gender or marital status.

Mobile-Friendliness is Essential

Email content should naturally be mobile-friendly because more people than ever before are using smartphones and other devices to access Internet content, including emails.  They are making purchases, doing research, connecting and communicating personally and professionally -- all while they are on the go.  This means your email content needs to be accessible, viewable, and actionable on a mobile device so the recipient can take action immediately.

Test, Measure, Tweak

As always, you should perform A/B testing for your email marketing strategies and use an effective analytics or other metrics measurement tool to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies so you can make adjustments as needed.  Stay on top of current marketing trends and don't be afraid to think outside the box and implement unconventional or innovative strategies; keep in mind that sometimes the simplest changes can make the biggest difference.

Content Essentials

Don't neglect the essential components of your email content while focusing on strategies for improving your email conversion rates.  Attention-getting subject lines, provocative first paragraphs, and the basic format of your content (plain 'vanilla' black and white text versus vibrant colors and appealing images or videos) are critical parts of successful email content and are often the singular motivating factor in getting the recipient to open, read, or click in the first place.

If you do choose to include images or video in your email content, keep in mind that some smartphones automatically disable the display of this type of content.  You should use responsive design strategies for your email content to ensure readability across the broadest spectrum of devices.

As you refine your email marketing techniques and take your content development to the next level, you'll be able to determine what is working most effectively toward helping you reach your marketing goals.

Does a Buyer Persona Really Matter When You Create Content?

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_278847149Buyer personas are more than just a collection of demographic information; they are a detailed characterization of your ideal customers. Your buyer persona should have a name, a face, a career, a family (or not), and a few hobbies. They should drive a specific car or have a dream vacation planned. In other words, your personas should be just like real people. With all the work and thought that goes into creating a buyer persona, it can be tempting to skip the process. You already have a pretty good idea of what your target market is like. Why go through all the fuss, right?

Buyer Personas are an Essential First Step

The process of creating a buyer persona is more than just an administrative task or busy work. The process helps you get to know your customers and prospective buyers better, and helps you to refine your target in a solidified way. As you go through the process, you'll be looking at everything from educational backgrounds to fantasy cars, and through this information you'll get an understanding of what the needs and interests of your buyers are.

If you skip this process and dive right into content creation, you run the risk of creating content that is totally off the mark. Not only are you wasting your time with the creation, but you might also be wasting the time of the salesperson who has to spend time with leads who are not a good fit for the product.

What Buyer Personas Do for You

In a nutshell, buyer personas give you the ability to create content that speaks to the reader instead of at the reader. You'll gain the advantage of understanding the psychological factors that influence buying habits and decision making. That way, you can fine-tune your content in a way that addresses these factors. 

For example, if you are marketing luxury vacation rentals, it is not enough to know that your target market tends to be men who are over the age of 50 with an income well into the six-figures. If your rentals are beachfront properties, you might be looking for men who grind away in the city and need to get some fresh air. You might need to know that they are motivated by ease of lifestyle, or that their primary concern is a good return on their investment. It could also help to know that they have adult children that might want to share the space.

Looking for Leads in All the Wrong Places

Without a well-defined buyer persona, you might be picking up all the wrong details or failing to highlight the most important factors. You might leave out the fact that the market for luxury housing in this area weathered the recession and is stronger than ever while spending too much time talking about the nearby water park. In other words, you might fail to address the motivations of your best targets because you're casting your net too wide. The result, of course, is missing the target.

In fact, almost 75 percent of online consumers get frustrated when content appears to have nothing to do with their interests. When you create buyer personas first, you will be able to segment your strategies so only the most relevant content reaches each individual, and the rest is left out. Any content you create that discusses the water park or daycare facilities will only be directed at your personas with kids in the mix. Content that focuses on money will be directed at those who are serious about their investments. 

In Other Words, Buyer Personas Matter

Take the time to create detailed personas. Flip through some stock photos and give your persona a face and a name. Create enough different people to cover your best targets, but not so many that your messages are diluted. And, most importantly, do all of this before you create any content so you don't waste anyone's time with misguided content.

How to Streamline the Content Creation Process

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_221314189As a content agency, you probably are familiar with the difficulties of producing a consistent fresh stream of content for your marketing campaigns. You have to manage both clients and content creators in an effective manner to generate high-quality content that drives sales and profits for your clients. Here are some tips for streamlining the content creation process.

Stages of the Content Creation Process
The content creation process must pass through four stages. First, the client and the agency must develop the content marketing campaign. Next, the agency must engage with content creators to produce the content of the campaign. Then, the agency must approve all the content produced. Finally, the client must be happy with all the content that is produced and deploy it in a marketing campaign.

Clients have all the content knowledge. They have to share this knowledge with their agency and content creators for an effective campaign. Clients can slow up the process by being too finicky and picky about the content.

Content creators know how to produce effective content. They can educate and inform the audience. They can also produce highly persuasive content that sells or motivate the audience. The best content creators know how to forge an emotional and personal bond between the audience and the client. Content creators need a working knowledge of the client and his brand to do this effectively. If content creators don't get good instructions, they may have make guesses and judgment calls that move in the wrong direction.

Agencies know how to develop an effective strategy to promote the client. They have work with the client to develop a brand and the right strategy to promote it. They also have to work with content creators to make sure that the content is meets the requirements of the marketing campaign.

Agencies must be able to optimize the stages of this process to develop a successful campaign. The goal is to avoid producing content that must go through many revisions or even end up rejected. If the same content must cycle back and forth between clients, agencies and creators, the results is wasted time and money.

Effective Communications Between Clients and Agencies
Content agencies need to effectively manage their relationships with clients. Here are some tips for staying focused:

  • Use targeted questionnaires to get information. Questionnaires allow your clients to think carefully about their responses. A phone interview may not allow the same reflection. Use phone interviews clarify responses to the questionnaires.

  • Don't let clients dump too much information on you. Your clients may have a lot of info about their products and services that are not relevant to the campaign that they want to give you in lieu of reflecting on questions. This is not very productive. You need to get your clients to reflect on what sets them apart. You can help them through this process, but you can't do it for them.

  • Set expectations clearly. Make sure clients understand that the goal is get content that attracts traffic and drives sales for the least investment. Being a perfectionist only adds to expenses without necessarily producing any gains in profit.

Effective Communications Between Agencies and Creators
In general, when working with creators, more is more. The more detailed the instructions for the assignment are, the more likely it is that the creator can hit the target on the first try. You don't want to leave the creator guessing about what is required and have to field a lot questions or ask for revisions.

  • For large projects, set up clear general instructions. Give your creators all the information they need in a clear format. You can create text instructions, but making screen casts where you go over your expectations in a brief presentation also helps writers.

  • Give your creators access to all the information from the clients. Once you define the topics for the content, you could interview experts from your client to give creators the best information on the topic. Creators will be able to organize and articulate this information in the best way.

As an agency, you not only have to design the strategy to promote your clients, but you have to effectively manage the content creation process. By bringing clients and creators together in an efficient manner, you can get consistent high-quality content for your marketing campaigns.

Two Essential Questions to Answer for Successful Online Content Development

Posted by Jennifer Gemmell-Adams

shutterstock_85447960An often overlooked feature of high quality content is that it creates conversations rather than just contributes to them.  You want your material to make an impact, and the most effective way to do so is by crafting innovative content that gets things started and makes things happen.  Doing so, however, is often easier said than done.  Online content development is not a process that should be undertaken with anything less than meticulous dedication.

You have to commit yourself to providing your target audience with what they may not even realize they're seeking.  Regardless of any superficial reasons behind someone's search for specific online content, people seek online information to solve their problems, answer their questions, fulfill their wants, or meet their needs.

The First Step

The first step in online content development, and a step frequently skipped by many content creators, is to gather information.  To be able to develop and deliver original and engaging content that appeals to your audience and gives them what they’re looking for, you have to answer two essential questions:

  • What goal are you trying to accomplish with your content?
  • Who, specifically, are you trying to reach with your content?

You might be wondering how web designers, marketers, or business owners could begin, much less complete, the online content development process without knowing the answers to those two questions beforehand.  Surprisingly enough, a great deal of content is created for online audiences without the answers being found to either question.  For obvious reasons, content that has no predetermined goal or target audience is content that is designed to fail.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Knowing who your content is intended to reach is the most important question to answer because you can't meet needs, solve problems, or answer questions if you have no idea who has those needs, problems, and questions.  The characteristics of your target audience can also influence what marketing channels you will be using to distribute your content, how or in what format the content should be provided, and when you should make it available online.

For example, if you are working on an online content development plan for social media distribution, you need to further narrow down the demographic of your desired audience.  This will help you choose the social network best suited to receive your marketing content.  Each social network has a distinctly different user base demographic. 

When identifying your audience, a basic profile is your first stage in the process.  You'll want to know various things about your audience like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Education Level
  • Occupational Sector

Some of these qualities may not be as important as others, and some may not apply at all for your marketing campaign.  Once you've narrowed down your target audience to a basic demographic profile, you'll then want to fine tune the details even further and identify more elusive qualities.  Ask yourself what your audience reads or watches, what their web surfing and shopping preferences are, what appeals to them or engages their emotions, what problems or challenges they face on a daily basis, and what they want out of life on a variety of levels.

Defining Your Goals

After you know who your content should be directed toward, you can then define your marketing goals.  Goals can be as simple as establishing a consumer-initiated connection or more complicated like achieving a sale that includes at least two viable referrals that are eventually convert to sales.  Your goals can also consist of statistical accomplishments like a specific number of sales or the collection of a certain number of qualified leads within a predetermined time frame.

When setting marketing goals, it's nice to dream big but you want to set goals that are reachable with your current capabilities.  As you grow and expand both your business and your marketing outreach, you can then raise the bar for your goals and reach higher than before.

The Final Step

The final step in your online content development process is to create content that is hand-crafted for your target audience and tailor-made to assist you in achieving your goals.  When content is designed specifically for a definite type of customer it is instantly more appealing because it appears more personal.  Goal-oriented content is significantly more successful than marketing content that appears to have been developed just for the sake of filling the "white space" on a web page.

Convincing Your Clients to Adopt an Inbound Marketing Strategy

Posted by Laura Holton

shutterstock_253604854If your clients have always used outbound marketing techniques, and if these have worked reasonably well, they may be resistant to a big change, like incorporating inbound into their strategies. Your clients know that creating an inbound marketing strategy will require plenty of effort and hard work, and they may be skeptical that the strategy will even produce results. However, you have statistics on your side that should be powerful enough to convince even the most stubborn of clients that inbound marketing is highly beneficial.

Inbound Marketing Statistics

  • Just having a blog can generate 126 percent more leads. Of all marketers, 43 percent of marketers have gained customers from their blog alone, but this number increases to 82 percent for marketers who post content every day, reports HubSpot.
  • Despite rumors that SEO is dead, SEO leads have a 14.6-percent close rate, says HubSpot. Compare this to outbound leads, including direct mail, traditional advertising, trade shows, and telemarketing, which have a close rate of just 1.7 percent.
  • Inbound leads, from sources such as social media, email marketing, blogs, and SEO, cost 61 percent less than outbound leads, according to Search Engine Journal.
  • Nearly 60 percent of companies have already adopted an inbound marketing strategy and 48 percent have completely integrated their strategies, says HubSpot. The popularity of inbound marketing is growing — and those who lag behind risk losing ever more of their clients to competitors.

Outbound Marketing Statistics

If your clients are still unconvinced, compare the above facts to these statistics about outbound marketing from Vital:

  • People in the 25 to 35 age group leave websites with excessive advertising 84 percent of the time.
  • The Do Not Call register now consists of 200 million people.
  • At 85 percent, most TV viewers are not even watching commercials.
  • The reason why few leads are acting on your direct mail CTAs could be because 45 percent of direct mail is never even opened.

How to Combine Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Clients with well-established outbound strategies may be less resistant to change if you come up with ways to combine outbound tactics with an inbound strategy. Here are a few ideas to try:

Lead Magnets

Impatient clients want to see conversions at the top or middle of the sales funnel, but this requires providing leads with an incentive. You may be able to gain prospects’ contact information by using lead magnets in your content strategy.

Tripwires

Immediately after a lead magnet, use a tripwire offer (a very inexpensive product or service) for an instant conversion.

Advertising

Paid advertising in places like search engines and social media is a great technique to complement organic search and social media integration.

It is important to stress to your clients that an inbound marketing strategy will not produce miracles overnight, although it can lead to conversions quite quickly at lower costs and higher success rates. Monitor engagement and analytics closely, particularly at the start of launching your strategy, to fine tune your efforts for the best possible results.

Enhance Your Blog's Reach and Authority with Longer Posts

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_33662173As a blogger, you are probably looking for that magic formula that will bring huge waves of traffic to your blog. You probably spend a lot of time tweaking various aspect of the site trying to attract just a little more traffic for your posts. One factor that has recently received a lot of attention is the length of your blog posts. For years, many blogging gurus have recommended short blog posts. The experts are re-thinking this approach. New data is showing that longer posts are better for ranking on search engines. If you have been aiming for shorter blog posts, you might consider trying a few of longer lengths.

The Debate
Check out marketing guru Seth Godin's blog. His posts are short and pithy. He delivers his point clearly with a bit of edge, and his blog is wildly successful. He argues that people don't really have the attention span to read long and in-depth blog posts. They want to get the basic points.

On the other side of the debate are people like Glenn Allsopp. His blog posts often have over 2,000 words. The argument for longer posts is that they offer more value to readers, have more authority, attract search engines and garner more social media shares. Data on search engine rankings seems to bear this out. Posts with over 2,000 words have higher rankings.

Why Long Posts Work

  • People are looking for valuable content. In the past, the conventional wisdom was that no one really reads posts. They just scan them for headlines and take home points. That is true as far as it goes. Most people scan posts until they decide that the post has something valuable to offer. Then, people actually read the post carefully. If your post offers unique and valuable content, then people are going to stop scanning and start reading. While it is possible to deliver valuable content in a brief post, you probably need a long post to really express something unique and valuable.

  • Long posts are better for SEO. The data backs this up, but why is this the case. One reason is that longer posts allow for a diversity of related keywords. Search engines have become very smart. They can recognize variations on a keyword and make sure that searcher have access to those variations even if they are not explicitly mentioned in the query. The search engine knows that the searcher is interested in the related results as well. If you use a wide variety of keywords in your post, then it will show in a wide variety of different searches. This is a good thing.

  • Long posts get more likes and shares on social media. What are you more likely to share? A post that re-hashes the same old material, or a post that offers real insight. People want to share insightful and valuable information with their connections. When you provide this, you are going to get more likes and shares.

  • Longer posts convey authority. Along with valuable content, people are looking for authoritative posts. If you are able to write an extended reflection or analysis on an issue, that conveys that you are an authority. If you do this a few times a week, then you really demonstrate your expertise. You have shown that you have something to say about the important issues of your field.

  • Longer posts win back-links. Bloggers are looking for great information to reference on their blogs. They know that by including a few authoritative links, it enhances their SEO. If you provide authoritative posts with solid arguments and substantive data, then people will start linking back to your post. These back-links are important for your search engine rankings as well.

How Long Should Your Posts Be?
It is clear that the conventional wisdom on blog post length is changing. Long posts are probably better for you if you are looking to enhance SEO and social shares. You should think carefully about your post length and how it fits into your overall blogging strategy.

  • Consider your goals. If you would like to generate comments and discussion on your blog, then shorter is better. Studies show that people respond to shorter focused posts by commenting. If you are looking for social media shares, then the magic number seems to be 1,000 words. Finally, if you are looking for back-links and enhanced SEO, you should aim for 2,000 words.

  • Consider your personal style. If you are Seth Godin, don't change a thing. Whatever you are doing is working. If you are writing short posts because that is what the experts say, but you feel like you want to say more, be free. Go ahead, and write more. That is your style. You can make it work for you. The search engines will reward it as well.

  • Consider your posting frequency. You probably cannot churn out three to five 2,000 word posts every week. If you are going to write longer posts, you may have to post less frequently. You might post short posts a few times a week and medium to long posts once or twice a week.

  • Consider your audience. Ultimately, you have to keep your audience happy. You have to make sure your content meets their needs and corresponds to their passions. If longer posts help you do that, then you should write longer posts.

Ultimately, only you can decide the ideal length for your blog posts. You have to experiment and look at your analytics to test the results. Try a few different lengths, and see what readers respond to. Finally, you have to be authentic. Your blog reflects your personality and passion for your field. Make sure that comes through whatever the length.

4 Effective Ways to Repurpose Your Content for Optimal Performance

Posted by Rachael Gerkensmeyer

shutterstock_182447729You understand how important engaging content is for your clients' website success, so you probably spend a lot of time and energy making sure that the content you create for them not only attracts readers but also gets noticed by the search engines. Luckily, you don't always have to start from scratch when producing dynamic content for specific brands, products, and services.

You can simply repurpose content that you've already produced by changing its format and focus in order to reach a variety of audiences your original content couldn't. Here are four effective ways to repurpose content for optimal performance and profits:

Whitepapers

Well designed whitepapers will help you to persuade current and prospective customers to do things like make a purchase, request a quote, or enter into a trial period for a specific service. Unlike brochures that typically include a sales pitch, whitepapers are designed to provide factual information and statistics as evidence that your products or services are superior to the competition.

You may have a published blog post that outlines consumer trends within your niche that can be fleshed out to include customer satisfaction statistics, and then turned into a whitepaper geared toward businesses thinking about promoting your products or services.

Podcasts

For those who prefer listening to content as opposed to reading it, why not create podcasts out of your already published pieces? Podcasts can be listened to in the car during a commute when reading isn't possible. They're also easily digestible during a workout or while on a plane so the possibility for exposure is virtually limitless. Having your blog posts read and recorded is one easy and effective method of repurposing content.

eBooks

By taking the time to repurpose content into eBooks, you have a great opportunity to compile a variety of different pieces you've previously published to create an in depth perspective, guide, or review that readers can learn something new from. Not only does this repurposing technique make it easy for your audience to access a variety of content on their favorite topics all in one place, but it provides you with ample space to promote your products and services without interfering with the eBook's overall message.

Videos

Videos are extremely popular among consumers because people tend to be visual creatures. They want to learn how to use a product by watching someone else do it in front of them, and they're interested in seeing a face behind the person reviewing a product instead of just reading about it. Just about any type of content can be turned into a video, even if you don't use live voices or people to create them. For example you can turn articles and blog posts into infographics, or use a nifty program to create a cartoon story about a product review your blog has recently featured.

By implementing these marketing techniques into your overall content repurposing strategy, you'll save yourself plenty of time, money, and manpower that can be used to take on more clients. 

How to Justify the Cost of Content Creation

Posted by Don Musacchio

shutterstock_88400668When times are lean, businesses are looking to cut costs. The danger is that if you cut costs too much, you may actually hurt valuable assets that drive profitability for your business. Website content is one of the areas where this is true. If it is viewed as a cost, then it is tempting to cut it from the marketing budget. This is a mistake because the content on your website attracts new leads, continues to nurture then through the buying process and keeps present customers coming back. Cutting back on web content means damaging the value of this asset. So when the cost cutters come knocking at your door, you need to justify the cost of your content. You need to show them it is an asset.

Book Value and Market Value
Cost cutters look at your marketing budget and see expenses that could be cut. You have to get them to change their perspective. These same cost cutters would not sell off factory equipment. This equipment shows up on the ledger sheet as an asset. The book value of the company is determined in part by the value of these assets.

The problem is that not all assets are tangible assets like machines. There are intangible assets. These things do not show up on the business ledger, but do add value. Web content is one intangible asset. It may not show up in the book value of the business, but it will in the market value.

Imagine two dentists who want to sell their practices. Dentist A and Dentist B both have identical equipment, offices and number of patients. The book value of the two practices will be the same. However, Dentist A has a strong web presence that generates 20 leads a month for teeth whiting. Dentist B has not updated his site since 1999. Whose practice are you going to buy? You are going to pay more for Dentist A's practice because it has an active lead-generating website.

Estimating Value
Continuing with the Dentist A, imagine that on average 2 leads a month become patients and get their whitened at a profit of $2000 each. That is $4,000 per month and $48,000 a year of profit based on the lead generating website. Dentist A would be a fool to cut web content creation from his marketing budget. It is more than paying for itself with the leads that it creates. You could perform a similar analysis for your own business based on the average value of a customer for a year and the number of customers that your website generates. This will remind the cost cutters that downsizing content will also downsize customers and profits.

Measuring Results
John Wanamaker, early 20th Century proponent of advertising, once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” A century later, marketers can say with much more confidence that they know how effective their marketing efforts are. This is especially true of online marketing where every click can be tracked.

As you develop analytics to show how effective your content is at attracting web traffic, creating engagement and converting visitors to the next step in the purchasing process, then your marketing budget can be justified by this data. There are lots of great tools to help you to measure the effectiveness of your website. You want to use a few different tools to make sure you are getting a complete picture of your website activity.

The Importance of Strategy
This is why having a focused content strategy is so important for your business. If you are just creating content because it is fashionable or someone told you it was important, you are not going to get the results that justify the cost. With a clear strategy, your content will attract the right kinds of visitors and guide them through a marketing funnel until they are ready to buy. When this is happening, your web content will become a valuable asset to your business, and you will have the data to prove it to anyone who suggests trimming the content budget.

When your business implements a proven content strategy, your website becomes a valuable asset that generates new leads and customers. It is not just a cost that can be cut, but a digital asset that needs to be protected and enhanced. Don't let those cost cutters near it if you want to maintain its value.

Revolutionize the Way You View Your Content

Posted by Ronald Neef

shutterstock_231340918If you're in marketing, you already know how important content is. While traditional advertising remains an integral part of any comprehensive marketing strategy, it is no longer the only component, nor is it even the primary one. Simply put, in today's marketing environment, content is king.

Good content comes at a price, however. Owners of small and medium businesses (SMBs) in particular, question the value of devoting a great deal of time, effort, and/or money to not only developing content but refreshing it on a regular basis. The initial cost often puts people off and they end up creating content for their websites and/or social networking sites on the cheap. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

What about your website's content?  Do you feel good about how it represents your company? Do you have a business Facebook page? Does it convey the personality your brand? Is blogging a part of how your enterprise communicates with consumers? Perhaps it's time to take a critical look at your current content and assess whether it's performing as well as it should.

Content marketing, whether it be via a website, social media, or blogging, is intended to accomplish one very simple thing: Convert consumers into customers. Effective content marketing does so by connecting with the consumer, communicating information the consumer finds to be valuable (engaging), and then by calling the consumer to action in a meaningful way, all of which can cause the conversion you want.

In order to be effective, your content marketing should address the following items:

  • Who are you? How does management perceive the company and is that perception consistent with how the company is viewed by the consumer? One way to check if there is a disconnect is to survey existing customers to find out how they see the organization. Perception is, of course, reality. The question is: Whose perception and whose reality? Once that's answered, then developing the desired online persona can proceed.
  • Who are you talking to? In other words, who is your target audience? Which consumers do you want to reach? Resolving this particular issue will also impact what message is ultimately conveyed.
  • How does the target market access information online? Are the consumers you are trying to reach more likely to visit your website, Instagram account, Facebook page, or perhaps even stumble upon your blog? Again, your choice of medium most likely to reach the intended audience will influence the type of content required.
  • What resources is the enterprise willing to devote to the development and management of content? A business might opt to have someone in-house handle all social media and website content or it may find that an independent writer is more appropriate given the time and money required.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat. Many SMBs take the steps necessary to create some pretty compelling new content but then make the mistake of considering the job done. New content doesn't stay new. It becomes stale, at which point it essentially becomes content without any content, so to speak. Effective content management requires that it be refreshed on a regular (if not frequent) basis.
    • Consumers are hungry for information and updating your online content gives them a reason to keep coming back to your social network or website. The more traffic your various web-based modalities can generate, the more exposure your brand receives and the more opportunities you have to connect with consumers and convert them into your customers.
    • Put another way, vibrant content generates traffic which generates buzz which generates more traffic
    • Effective content involves good storytelling and good storytelling evokes emotions that cause a reader to become more interested, more engaged, and more invested in the story and the brand it represents. If strong enough, a consumer's emotions can even outweigh logical and practical considerations in buying decisions.  Emotional attachment can create a sense of loyalty that is often communicated to friends and relatives who may, in turn visit your website or social media sites.  More traffic, more possible conversion targets.

One final suggestion: Content inventory should be taken as objectively as possible. The exercise is no time to defend the work that was done or justify why certain decisions were made. Those factors are irrelevant to the task at hand: Creating the most compelling, engaging, informative and useful content possible so that consumers want to become your customers.