One of the best parts of my job is meeting passionate, driven, business owners who are dedicated to making a difference in the world. They do this by creating and running successful small to medium-sized businesses that provide jobs, great products and great services. And despite what you might sometimes hear, there are lots of people like this out there, making a difference every day.
I meet many of these folks when leading workshops or speaking. As you can probably guess, I teach them about the "why to" and "how to" of blogging, content marketing, social media marketing and email marketing.
I'm very, very passionate about this topic.
Why? I wholeheartedly believe if you, as an individual or business owner, leverage digital marketing , you will reach more people AND you will grow your website traffic, website leads and ultimately your business sales.
I have many, many case studies that prove this point. So it's fun for me to share what I've learned while meeting people face-to-face and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they realize the power of content and blogging.
Last week I had the pleasure of leading a small workshop in my local community. While I love traveling and speaking all over the country (another great part of the job), it's always fun to speak in my backyard and meet the people who are making a difference in my local community.
During the presentation, we had excellent dialogue about getting started with content marketing and blogging. Unfortunately, there's always more to know and not enough time to share all I want to share and answer every question the attendees have (hint: that's why we should be blogging).
So, I promised the attendees I'd share my slide deck from the presentation. Also, I promised I would do a series of blog posts answering questions we covered in the workshop with more detailed answers right here.
To kick-off this series, I'm sharing my slide deck below.
Regarding upcoming posts, I'll be addressing questions such as:
- What blog platform should I use?
- Should I do my own content marketing or hire someone to help?
- How do I set up a website and a blog?
- How do I find quality website hosting for my blog?
- What's the difference between a blog and a website?
- How do I make time for blogging and content marketing?
- Should I hire a consultant or coach to help me and my business get started? If so, what does a consulting contract look like? How much does coaching typically cost?
- Is all content marketing done online or do traditional marketing techniques still work?
Do you have any questions you want me to address? If so, please leave a comment below. I'd love to help you and your business make a bigger impact online ;-)
This week we will be focusing on NARROWCASTING VS. BROADCASTING. It's so important to remember that you can't be all things to all people. The smaller the audience, the stronger and deeper you can connect with them. The more you connect with them, the more benefit you will receive.
It's important to remember that the world is a big place, and for your business to be successful you only need to focus on the small portion of the population.
The articles we have chosen for this week focus on ways that you can narrow your audience to ensure better connections and success.
1. Why narrowcasting is better than broadcasting
I decided to write this blog post after repeatedly getting ask the question "Can my blog be too niche or too focused on a narrow audience?" The simple answer is no, it cannot be. If you try to broadcast to your audience, you will not be able to truly connect with any of them. You may find our follow-up post "Quick Tips: How to narrowcast (aka) focus your marketing blog" helpful as well.
2. The Narrowcast Approach to Newsjacking: Creating Content for Niches
Content Marketing Institute offers a case study involving "New EPA Regulations." They do a great job demonstrating how capitalizing on topics of niche interest give your organization a chance to show its ability to offer real-life solutions that directly pertain to your target’s business challenges.
3. How to Narrow Your Target Market
This article helps sum up why broadcasting doesn't work with the perfect quote by Tammy Lenski. "The big danger is that without a target market, it's like standing in a park shouting in the wind," she says. "When you have a target market, its like standing in a park and talking to a specific group of people."
In my last blog post, I spoke about the importance of narrowcasting. Though I've talked about this topic many times in the past, it's still something most people need to hear. Why?
When I speak around the country or when I first meet with clients, one of the questions I like to ask people is, "Who is your main audience?" Can you guess the most common answer to this question, the answer given by businesses and individuals who are struggling mightily with their marketing?
If you said, "the general public" you're right.
There is NO GENERAL PUBLIC. People don't see themselves as the general public. Instead, they see themselves as unique, with special wants and special needs. The more we can determine those special wants and needs, the more we can help that audience solve their problems and become a thought leader for them.
HOW TO DEFINE YOUR FOCUS: USE THE FRACTAL TREE
So how to you narrow your focus? How do you speak to a small, passionate audience? Let me give you an example from Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping.
THE TRUNK: Let's say you are in the travel industry. You might initially say you want to help everyone who travels. But if you stop and think about it, there are many, many different reasons people travel.
THE FIRST BRANCH: Now let's narrow down the topic of travel. Does our audience want to travel for business or for leisure?
When someone is traveling for business, what are they concerned about? Are they concerned about having the best hotel with great views and being on the beach? Of course not. Instead, they are more concerned about convenience, cost and comfort.
But what about those traveling for leisure? Do they care about being close to the beach or the mountains, etc.? You bet they do. When traveling for leisure or pleasure, the customer wants to see, do, and experience different things than the customer traveling for business.
THE SECOND BRANCH: So let's say we are going to focus on leisure travelers. What's our next step?
Now, let's get more narrow on the leisure travelers. Do all leisure travelers define "leisure" the same? Again, the answer is no. For some, the idea of a leisurely vacation might be zip lining through a jungle canopy, mountain biking in Utah or taking on whitewater rapids in West Virginia. For others, these types of activities are anything but relaxing. They define leisure as sitting on a tropical beach or lounging around at an all-inclusive resort.
THE THIRD BRANCH: If we decide to focus on relaxation leisure travel, we could go even a step further. We could focus on people who travel to relax who also like to vacation with their pets vs people without pets. See how narrow and focused we've gotten.
We are now concentrating on creating content for people who like to take leisurely, relaxing travel vacations with their pets. With this type of focus, we can now create very targeted and helpful content.
Some argue that this focus is too narrow. I disagree. One highly successful organization that focused on just this audience is Fido Friendly. They provide high quality content to pet lovers who want to travel with their pets. Because they provide content for such a focused audience, they have become a "go to" source and industry expert on this topic.
The result is a highly successful, profitable business.
KEY TAKEAWAY AND HOMEWORK
Don't be afraid to be focused on a small audience. if your audience is passionate about their topic and finds it of value, you can position yourself as a trusted, reliable source of helpful, credible information while building a profitable following.
So ask yourself, do you have a narrow focus for your key audience? Are you helping the key audience that is responsible for the majority of your income? If not, you now know how to refocus your efforts.
One question I often get asked is this, "Can my blog be too niche or too focused on a narrow audience?" The simple answer is no, it cannot be.
THINK NARROWCASTING VS. BROADCASTING
In the not-too-distant past, American television consistented of 4 or 5 primary stations: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and a local station. This was the hayday of broadcast marketing. Because consumers had limited TV viewing options, marketers could create TV commercials and be guaranteed a large audience. Not only that, but there were no digital video recorders to allow viewers to skip commercials, so marketers had captive audiences.
Today? It's a very different story.
Check out the number of TV channels available on cable today and the sheer number of stations available is overwhelming. Channels have become hyper-focused on small audiences. At one time the sports media giant ESPN had one station. Today they have 8. Same goes for popular channels like the Discovery Channel.
With so many options available, audience numbers have become dramatically smaller because consumers can find content that speaks directly to their interests.
For example, in the 1950s the popular TV show I Love Lucy had a Nielsen rating of 67.3. This means almost 7 out of every 10 TV viewers were tuned in to watch the show when it was on.
Fast forward 20 years and the top rated show for that decade had a rating of 34.0.
Today the top rated show earns a 12.3 rating!
My point is this. Too often we focus on pleasing everyone and trying to create content for "everyone." The problem with creating content for everyone is you end up creating content for "no one."
Consumers want content that speaks directly to them, their interests, their desires. Cicero famously said, "If you wish to persuade me you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words." If you try to broadcast, your audiences will be so different, you will not be able to create content that will really connect with any of them.
The smaller the audience, the stronger and deeper you can connect with them. The more you connect with them, the more benefit you will receive. As Jon Loomer, Facebook marketing expert said, "Instead of swimming in an ocean of sharks, sit in a kiddy pool by yourself. It’s how you will be discovered."
Hello Everyone and Happy Valentine's Day!
We're starting a new feature that we're calling "Friday Findings."
Every Friday, we'll share 3 tips in an email newsletter format on a revelant topic. This week, we feature a topic in the spirit of Valentine's Day. How do you create content people love and are willing to share? Believe it or not, there’s a science behind why people share some things rather than others.
So let's dig into our 3 recommended reads for this week...
1. Viral 2.0
Professor Jonah Berger from the Wharton School studies social epidemics, or how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular. This post offers a wealth of knowledge and also be sure to take a look at Jonah's book "Contagious: The secret science behind word of mouth and how you can use it to get more people talking about your product or idea."
2. How to Make Viral Content: 9 Tips from the Greatest Viral Content Genius on the Planet
Neetzan Zimmerman is a genius at creating viral content. This post gives us an idea about how this man who had no formal training thinks. He simply started by creating his own blog where he could post funny videos about cute cats and other crazy stuff.
3. Questions to Ask on How to Create the Perfect Viral Post
ExploreB2B does an incredible job of breaking down what type of content has the best chances of going viral on some of the most popular platforms. They do this while reaffirming to us that posts that trigger emotions have a higher chance of going viral.
SPECIAL VALENTINE'S DAY BONUS
This week we are including an extra selection to help you create your own viral content.
How to Make Content Go Viral from Entrepreneur.com
We felt this was an important resource to include because it covers article marketing. This is a type of content marketing in which businesses write short articles related to their respective industries and make them available for distribution and publication in the marketplace.
And if you have any tips you'd like to share, please do so in the comments below.
It's almost inevitable. You're excited about your business blog. You've followed our advice and done the most important work for blogging success. You’ve defined your audience, your blog’s focus, and important topics to blog about.
You’ve also made a big commitment, the most important commitment of all: you've committed to creating content on a regular basis. It might be creating blog content once a week, twice a week, or daily, but you're going to do it and you aren’t going to let anything get in your way.
Then you start your blogging. You're creating your blog posts consistently and keeping your eye on the marketing prize of using your website to generate more traffic, more leads and ultimately more sales.
Things are going well with your content marketing and blogging efforts.
And then you have a “fire” - a business emergency or some other distraction that pops into your field of vision. Or worse yet, someone criticizes your blog. And despite your best intentions, you miss working on your blog to take care of other “priorities” or to keep the critics at bay.
At one time, that's exactly where I was. The problem beginning bloggers run into is this: they end up feeling bad about losing focus for a short time. Or they feel bad about not pleasing everyone. What happens when they do stumble?
Unfortunately, many people focus on what they haven't done rather than what they have done. They focus on the fact they missed a day of blogging rather than focus on the fact they put out 12 blog posts before they stumbled. They feel disappointed because they haven’t done things perfectly, exactly to plan. They don't focus on the people who love their blog and find it helpful; they focus on the people who give negative feedback because their blog isn't perfect or awesome enough.
So they lose confidence and momentum. Then, they start blogging less and less because they aren't doing things perfectly. Finally, they give up.
While this may sound silly, I see it happen all the time. Businesses start out with the best intentions and put in the initial work, but then they stumble and allow that stumble to result in a loss of focus.
I have to admit I used to be in this camp. I’m what my business coach calls “a recovering perfectionist.” It used to happen when I would plan like crazy, start following my plan and then I’d miss a target. And I’d let this missed target define my success and I’d focus on what I hadn’t done rather than what I HAD done.
So my coach had me do some in-depth digging on the experiences and belief systems of some of the most successful people in history.
And do you know what I discovered when I did this?
While they virtually all planned and laid out targets and goals, when they would miss their target they DIDN’T focus on being perfect (or imperfect). In fact, not one of them was a perfectionist. Instead, these successful people focused on the progress they made up to the point they stumbled.
This small difference in focus kept them moving forward, when those other perfectionists quit because they let their stumbles define them. They couldn’t be perfect, so why bother trying?
Did the successes do their do their work to the best of their ability? Absolutely! But they knew that perfection is a myth, an impossible target to hit. Think of people like the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Colonel Sanders and Bill Gates. They all “failed” and “failed” more than once. But they learned from their “mistakes” and refined what they were doing based on what they learned to keep moving toward their goals. They were willing to embrace imperfection to be great at what they ddid.
What does this have to do with business blogging?
Nothing and everything. In the beginning, your blog posts aren’t going to be perfect. You might not have perfect grammar or write the greatest post. If you do video, you might not have perfect lighting and framing (though I’ll be teaching you about this soon). And you might not follow your blog's content plan perfectly.
If any or all of these things happen to you, you know what you’ll be? Normal. But to be abnormal, you must continue forging ahead and be willing to embrace imperfection. In almost every case, the more you keep moving forward, the more you will learn and the more you will improve.
And in the end, the more you keep at it, the more people you will help and your business will grow.
But don’t let those challenges stop you and define your efforts. Focus on your progress, not perfection. Demand your best effort, but don’t let your stumbles define you.
If you haven’t stumbled on your business blogging efforts, a huge congrats to you! That’s outstanding. But if you’re like the majority of us who have, focus on what you’ve accomplished and get back to doing the work.
In our 15+ years in business, we've worked with a variety of organizations ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Some of our clients operate in the B2C space (business to consumer) and others are in the B2B arena (business to business).
When I give keynote presenations or when I first speak with clients, I often get asked, "If you work with B2C companies, how can you understand the B2B space?" or vice-versa. There is a (false) assumption that the difference between B2B business and B2C business marketing is so radically different that you cannot operate in both spaces. Sure, there are differences between the two, but not as many as most people think.
My answer to the question is pretty simple. We focus on what we call principle-based marketing.
My friend Mark Schaefer likes to say business isn't B2B or B2C, it's P2P. This means person to person. Principle-based marketing means you do the following:
- Focus on being a great teacher
- Listen to your customers and prospects
- Communicate clearly and regularly
Let's dig into each of these a little bit more.
1. FOCUS ON BEING A GREAT TEACHER: You focus on being the best teacher you can be. The best teachers don't sell, they help. We need to keep this in mind, as well. Your blog and digital marketing shouldn't be focused first on selling. Instead, it's about helping.
No one ever said, "Gee, I could really use some advertisements in my life right now." What they say instead is, "Gee, I could really use an answer to my question now."
Do you see the difference? People want help; they don't want someone to sell them something.
So create content that helps your customers and prospects get educated. The more they see you as a teacher, the higher the likelihood that they will want to do business with you.
2. LISTEN: As the saying goes, "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you talk."
Are you really listening to and hearing the questions and needs your customers have? Do you truly understand their problems, their pain points, their wants, and their needs?
Truth be told, most companies stink at listening. They want to talk about themselves, about how awesome they are or how unawesome their competitors are. Do NOT do this! This will turn people off and away.
Think about going on a date with someone who only talks about themselves and never asks you a question, or worse, asks you a question but doesn't listen to your answer. How do you like hanging around that person? The honest answer is you don't like hanging around them.
Who do you prefer to hang around? People who listen and have a dialogue with you.
So what do you do if you don't feel like you are good at listening? How can you get better at understanding your customers' wants and needs more?
You can do many things. First, simply talk to customers and prospects. Ask them questions and then LISTEN to their answers. Or, listen to the questions they ask you about your industry.
You can also ask any staff that interacts with your customers to share every question they get asked about your industry, your products, and your services. And with social media so readily available, there is no excuse to NOT know your customer. You can do simple searches to discover and profile your customers and their needs.
3. COMMUNICATE: Now all you have to do is share your knowledge. Again, this is where content comes in. I'm a big fan of digital tools because people, regardless of industry, spend so much time online. You can produce written content, video content, audio content, and ebooks that you and your sales staff can share with customers and prospects. The options are literally endless.
Create a list of your top customers and ask yourself "Can we listen to them more effectively and be better teachers?" If the answer is "yes" then list out the steps you are doing to be a better listener and teacher.
I love learning from experts who are doers. Theory is one thing; practice is another.
One of my business mentors is amazingly successful. He has an incredible staff of 300 people, his business is annually voted "the best place to work" in his city, his work is literally changing people's lives and his business is EXTREMELY profitable.
Always the student, I asked the mentor this question, "If you could offer one key to success that I can share with my students and kids, what would it be?" This mentor went to his bookshelf and pulled off a book that he said held all the answers to how to be successful.
When he said this, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat anticipating what the title would be. I almost couldn't wait!
Then I saw the cover of the book and almost laughed out loud.
The title of the book? The Tortoise and the Hare.
The mentor made it abundantly clear he was not joking. He said the problem with most people is this: when they get an idea, they get really, really excited. They put a bunch of energy into their idea initially. But after a short period of time, their initial burst of enthusiasm cannot keep them going. The work to keep their idea going gets tedious or boring and so they simple stop doing the required work.
He told me it's a lot like New Year's resolutions. Everyone starts out the new year excited and ready to go. They list out their resolutions and proclaim, "THIS IS THE YEAR I'm going to stick to my resolutions. Really, I am!"
But what happens? Statistically speaking, most people give up on their resolutions after a few short weeks when the work is tedious and progress is slow.
This, he said, is when successful folks keep going. They know that little investments, CONSISTENTLY made over time, are what makes the difference between a dreamer and a doer.
Finally, he offered this example, which I now offer to you.
He said this: "Suppose I give you two options. With the first option, I'll give you $500,000 today. OR, I'll give you a penny a day that will double every day for 31 days. What do you choose?"
Most people assume there must be some trick so they go with the penny, but I guessed that in reality, most people would take the immediate payment (and spend it right away).
So let's look at the numbers
- DAY 1 You can either have $500,000 or $.01. The choice is pretty obvious, right?
- DAY 11: Either $500,000 or $10.24 if you chose the penny doubling every day. Still a no-brainer, right?
- DAY 21: Either $500,000 or $10,485.76 (that $500k is still looking really good!)
- DAY 31: Either $500,000 or $10,737,418.24 (WOW!)
If you choose the penny doubling every day, you will end up with a lot more money IN THE LONG run. Almost $10,200,000 more. But it takes patience and it takes time. The vast majority of people will give up by day 11, declaring, "This just isn't working."
But oftentimes it is working, just not as quickly as you'd like.
Just because you aren't seeing huge spikes in your blog traffic numbers right away or you don't have huge numbers subscribing to your email newsletter after 6 months doesn't mean you won't eventually.
Keep focused on helping your core audiences on a consistent basis and I promise you, if you are truly being helpful on a consistent basis over time, you will see the rewards to your bottom line.
If you haven't already, set up your blog. If you don't know how to set one up, connect with me for a free 30 minute consultation and I'll walk you through how to do this.
If you do have a blog set up, start creating blog posts by answering your customer questions. Refer back to my tips on writing strong blog posts and titles and GET TO IT! If you need help with putting your posts together or you need someone to review them, we're happy to help. But what ever you do, just get going. The rewards will be worth it!
When we start our business blogs, many times we'll hear, "Only post when you have something awesome or epic to share." True, we all want to create epic or awesome content. It's a worthwhile goal. But there is a major inherent problem with this line of thinking.
THE PROBLEM WITH AWESOME, EPIC CONTENT
Too many people, who are beginning content producers, get intimidated when they hear this. Why? They don't feel like they are great content producers, writers, or bloggers, or they don't think they have anything epic or awesome to say. So, they don't say anything at all.
As I've mentioned before, whether or not we like it, people go online to get answers to their questions. If we aren't in the online space, guess what? They don't know about us.
More importantly, we cannot help them.
So the tip today is simple. Don't worry about being "epic" or "awesome." Focus instead on being helpful. All you need to do is help one person with your content and you are making a difference.
Many times before I've talked about how Marcus Sheridan wrote one blog post that led to $2,000,000+ in sales. Yes, that's correct. One blog post produced more than $2,000,000 in trackable sales. If you read the post it's neither epic nor awesome to most.
But do you know who it's epic and awesome to? His prospective customers because it's HELPFUL!
Don't focus on critiques, experts or your competition. Focus on your customer and focus on beung the best teacher in your industry. If you do this, I guarantee you'll find this epic for your bottom line.
We know Google is the dominant search tool for people using the web. In fact, there are 5.1 BILLION Google searches daily. And with most searches, Google finds millions of results for you. So what links get clicked on when someone does search online? Great question.
START AT THE BEGINNING
Think about how you use Google for a second. If you're like most users, you go to Google.com on your device and talk or type in what you want to search. Let's say you want to discover a list of best business blogs to follow. So, you type in your search and then Google presents you with what is called the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) like the page below.
Google provides 1.24 billion total search results for this, but most of the time, you only look at the first ten.
You quickly scan the top 10 options and, if you're like most people, you click on the link with the best title and description for what you want. We've already discussed titles, but now let's dig into Meta Descriptions.
What the heck is a Meta Description?
A meta description is simply the text that appears beneath a page title in Google search results. So, if we look at this listing below, the meta description is the text that describes the post.
This meta description is an often overlooked opportunity to attract visitors from search.
Meta descriptions don't directly impact your search engine rankings. And they are not visible on your website. So why do they matter? A clear, helpful meta description can attract a searcher's attention and let them know if a particular search result might be useful to them.
Here a 2 quick tips to writing meta descriptions that increase the likelihood your posts get read.
1. Keep them short (155 characters or less)
According to SEOmoz, the guideline for meta description character length is 150-160 characters. This means you have to quickly and concisely explain what your potential vistior gets by clicking on your link. Think of this like an elevator pitch in business.
2. Make it about the user
As I always preach, your business marketing shouldn't be about you, it must be about your customer. So think about what would be of value to them. In your meta description, include a related question your customer would ask (this helps personalize your post and demonstrates empathy). Then, explain how your post answers their question.
For example, let's imagine you are a home builder who constructs custom homes. You know your primary customers will be constructing a home for the first time and it's their dream home. So a helpful, powerful meta description might looks like this
"Are you excited about building your home, but are unsure how to hire the right contractor? In this post we'll share 10 tips for selecting the best contractor for your dream home."
Pretty simple, right? Keep it short and think of your audience. It's what we preach because it works.
What do you think? What gets you to click on a link in a Google search? A description that helps or a description that sells? Keep this in mind as you think about your blog posts!