‘The fastest growing companies and marketing superstars are digital marketing powerhouses but the majority of businesses are playing catch-up’ according to Ray Clark from www.digitalmarketingshow.co.uk .
By Ben Austin, MD of digital marketing agency SEO Positive
So it seems as though online site owners are waking up to the benefits of content marketing. Whether it’s because they’ve witnessed the aftermath of the Panda update themselves or they’re finally responding to advice from those who have, more people are investing in blogs, press releases and engaging website copy. But how many of these are actually monitoring the effects of their efforts?
According to a new study from Curata’s B2B Marketing Trends 2012 study, only 43%! This is in comparison to the 87% who claimed they will now be focusing on content marketing. Whilst it’s great that more people are taking content into account within their marketing strategies, what isn’t so positive is the fact that 57% are failing to measure the impact on their most important objectives such as driving sales and improving brand awareness.
The B2B study, based on an online survey of 465 marketers conducted in October, showed that the main challenges standing in the way of these companies was limitations within staffing or budgets, however measuring content impact doesn’t have to be any different to other aspects of your campaign.
Just as with anything else, using tools such as Google Analytics provides users with a really valuable insight into how well our content is performing by demonstrating how many people are consuming our content, what they are doing with it and whether they like it or not. Keeping track of data such as your unique visitors and bounce rate will give you an idea over whether you need to change tactics to keep your customers interested.
However, probably the strongest indication of whether your content marketing efforts are working or not, lies within the comments or shares you receive. If people have taken time out to respond to a blog with positive feedback then this speaks volumes.Google+
Sally Tomkotowicz’, Customer Acquisition Marketing Manager at names.co.uk, top tips for keeping your readers interested in the long run
A blog can be one of the most powerful marketing tools at your company’s disposal and can help your business reach out to new customers. However, it can sometimes be difficult to keep your blog up-to-date in the long term because of time constraints and the other day-to-day pressures you face running a small business.
The danger comes when your blog stops becoming a channel to talk to potential customers. Over time, posts can become redundant and serve no purpose. Posts can stop being interesting and lose their focus if they are left with little direction. This means that, if neglected, your blog can potentially alienate a complete user base and disillusion customers – not high on any small business’ agenda.
Wise Words is a good example of a successful blog that attracts and encourages readers to engage with their business and even buy their new book “The Chef and I”. It is updated every couple of days, combining strong and varied content with great social integration. It is written in a friendly manner, has its own Twitter and Facebook feed and gives users the opportunity to leave comments after reading.
Móna Wise, founder of Wise Words, explains: ”For any business, it’s crucial to give something back to those using your products and services. I’m astounded at how many business owners feel that writing and maintaining a blog is too much work. They complain that it is a real chore and something that takes up a lot of their time. As a result, their blogs are a chore to read.”
“Most businesses, you’ll find, have at least one employee who loves to write. It is important to make use of their skills and allow them to write frequent blog posts engaging customers and encouraging them to come back for more.”
Wise Words is a fantastic example of a successful blog and has recently won ‘Best Blog’ in the Blog Awards Ireland as a result. But how can you make your business blog survive in the long-term?
“Content needs to be clean and clear and you need good subject matter, consistent style and effective integration within your blog if you want to keep it going and win more readers. An interesting and fun blog is a pleasure to read,” Móna concludes.
1) Subject matter
Identifying the content you need in your blog posts may sound obvious, but some blogs lose readers and focus over time because they end up talking about irrelevant topics. (No matter how interesting irrelevant subjects seem, stick to the subjects your company deals with!)
Successful blog Wise Words wouldn’t benefit from discussing the latest cars or gadgets, for instance. By concentrating on the topics relevant to your company, you will be feeding relevant information back to your readers.
You might consider creating an annual calendar of subjects your company wants to cover in your blog over a long time. This will help keep you focused on the main topics to write about, preventing you losing sight of the end goal. Think of your plan as a checklist of everything your readers want to hear about. Ticking off posts one by one will keep your motivation high, and your readers happy.
You may also want to work on your contacts and get interesting, varied guest bloggers involved from time to time – you can even get your customers involved! Outsourcing can give posts a fresh take on different subjects and be of great interest to your readers. It can also help you out when business becomes busier.
You also need to look at the style and consistency of your blog posts, if it is to survive over time. The language and words you use will affect the number of readers you attract.
According to recent statistics, there are around 56.6 million WordPress blogs around, many used by small businesses and start-ups, so chances are, readers are pickier than ever before. Would you want to read a blog with spelling mistakes? Would it reflect well on the company?
Treat blogs as a high-quality written form of communication. As well as making sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your posts, the language you use should always stay consistent and friendly. Imagine telling your best friend about something that really interested you. You’d talk to them in a calm, confident yet relaxed manner and wouldn’t try and push your opinion on them. Follow this with your blog, and you’ll draw in more customers.
Do away with corporate jargon and always try and ask your readers direct questions. A comments box at the end of your post not only gives your readers the chance to respond to your blog, it also tells you more about the subjects that are particularly important to your readers. This is useful because you can then tweak your future posts to explore issues of interest to your readers and keep it relevant in the long-term future.
More than ever, the variety of your online content affects how many readers you can draw in. The wider the range of images, clips and text, the better chance you have of pulling in more visitors. YouTube is so popular and attracts 1.6 billion viewers monthly because it manages to integrate so much and feeds this back to the user.
Re-introducing company news and achievements into your posts also keeps readers engaged and up-to-date with the work your business is doing, and reminds them of the service you can offer. Going back to an earlier point, it’s no use talking about issues if they don’t link back to the work you do as a company.
Your blog is, and should be, a powerful marketing tool to talk to readers and win customers for a long time. These tips will help ensure that you are constantly engaging with readers and using your blog as a way to continually win customers through this highly personal channel.
For help and support on setting up your own small business blog, names.co.uk web hosting products all come with WordPress included to help you make the most of your blog and reach new customers.
Eloqua, providers of marketing automation, have recently released a guide to B2B blogging. B2B blogs have a unique set of challenges and attributes: they’re relationship-driven, deal with much longer sales cycles and focus on long-term ROI.
The average B2B sales cycle can range from 117 to 156 days. Businesses need to produce and share compelling content to keep buyers engaged over that time, and blogging is a great way to do this. Did you know that:
• 39% of B2B marketers say blog posts are their most valuable content asset
• 55% of B2B professionals say they turn to blogs for business information
Mark Schaefer, author of the guide says that “more than a decade after its creation, blogging remains a black box for many companies, especially B2B marketers.”
“At Eloqua, we’ve seen firsthand how powerful blogging can be for demonstrating thought leadership and establishing a reputation as a trusted partner among customers and prospects,” said Joe Chernov, Vice President of Content Marketing at Eloqua. “It’s become indispensable in the modern marketing world, and Mark really shows how B2B brands can capitalise on it today.”
The Grande Guide to B2B Blogging is available for download here.Google+
CEOs and small business owners are blogging more now than ever before. But is this really the way to seek out and engage with that core of loyal customers who will spend their hard earned money with you no matter what your baying competitors lay before them? Or is it just another way to fruitlessly flitter away your precious time?
Rough estimates currently put the number of worldwide blogs at around the 100 million mark. We live in an age where everyone can instantly have a potentially global voice. Undoubtedly, of those 100 million blogs, a vast majority might well be regaling readers with the side splitting antics of their domestic house cat and have no relevance (or no interest) to your customers but, rest assured, whatever expertise you and your business possess, there are going to be people already writing about it.
And with vast competition vying for the short attention span of any reader, those considering starting a business blog should carefully decide whether it will help or hinder their business.
Writing and maintaining a top notch blog is a unique and powerful tool to engage with customers on a personal level. But it’s not easy. So what are the dos and don’ts of business blogging, the tricks to utilise and the traps to avoid?
For all the answers, just read my personal blog at …
How to engage your audience and attract followers
Do Not Sell
When you cease being a business person and don that comfortable jumper of a regular citizen (also known as a consumer) you will no doubt be aware that we are all marketed to incessantly. From pop ups to banners, to flyers, to those mid-evening long distance phone calls, we are constantly having the latest and greatest must-haves thrust before us. The last thing we look for, therefore, in our quality ‘consumer decision making, product/service evaluation time’ is for more of the same.
Make sure your blog a resource for readers interested in your business or the wider industry and not a sales pitch.
Become an industry expert
Use your blog to educate and inform. Be the voice of reason, of calm and authority in your chosen field. If you sell cars, give people the insider knowledge of what they should look out for before buying a new car. If you sell insurance, simplify for your readers the complicated Ts & Cs – help them to understand what’s important and what they can ignore.
Always look to gain their trust and their respect.
Commit to your Blog & follow through
Blogs are a slow burn. They take time to build and inevitably there will be a period at the beginning where you will require persistence in your task, even when you feel you are (and you may well be) writing for just the merest smattering of readers.
With the unfathomable power of sharing links to attractive content through social networks, an articulate and morally sound voice of authority and reason within any industry will find its readers. So commit to it, make sure your blog’s content is of value or is, at the very least, enjoyable to read for your target audience. Spread the word of its existence through your website, your own social media pages and your existing company contacts. And then trust the process.
More followers mean more business?
Whilst business owners might enjoy having a blog that’s popular, it’s of little use if it doesn’t grow the business itself.
A general increase in awareness of your business through a popular blog is a wonderful thing. The hidden gem though is that potential customers are able to get to know your organisation and its leaders personally, as though you were sat with them on a comfortable sofa enjoying a glass of single malt.
Whether intentionally written about or not, a blog will, nine times out of ten, provide real insight into your company’s ethics and character and, when it comes to consumer decision making, the importance of these factors should certainly not be underestimated. What you are meticulously cultivating is that illusive animal – consumer trust.
We all buy from companies we trust. Maybe we trust that they will give us the very best value or at least won’t steal our money, maybe we trust that they know more about what looks good to wear than we do, but we buy from them, and return to them, because we have, for one reason or another, formed a positive association with what they stand for.
So if the time is right for you, clear your diary, build your blog, clear your throat and … begin.
By Ken Builder, MD WebEden.co.uk