Don’t Cut Yourself Short – Go Long Form

December 13, 2017

long formIn a world where 140-character tweets, Facebook posts, and USA Today style graphics are the range, it’s easy to assume that brevity is the key to great content creation. Add to that the reality that more and more of us are accessing our online news, social networks and other content via our smartphones and it would be easy to make the leap that people don’t want to read long form stories anymore.

That’s the danger in marketing. We observe and assume. There’s a place for that in the mix but we need to check those assumptions against something a bit more objective and with a broader lens than our own experience.

That’s why I was so fascinated by a study out of the Pew Research Center that found that long-form news articles are actually more effective than shorter pieces for audiences viewing the content on their smartphones.

According to Pew, the total engaged time (which they defined as time spent scrolling, clicking or tapping) with news stories that were 1,000 words or longer averaged about twice the amount of time spent with stories of under 1,000 words. The longer articles earned 123 seconds versus the shorter articles being consumed in 57 seconds on average.

Another conclusion we might jump to is that well sure, the longer articles were longer, so of course, people spent more time reading them. But other bits of evidence suggest it was more than that.

Some people dismiss writing longer articles because they think if a browser lands on something that long, they’ll abandon the story without reading it. But the study showed that the long-form stories attracted visitors at nearly the same rate as short-form stories.

Not only did people not shy away from these longer pieces but the truth is, they really dug in.

  • 36 percent of interactions with long-form news lasted more than two minutes, compared with 10 percent for short-form news.
  • 66 percent of complete interactions with short-form stories were one minute or shorter, compared with 42 percent for long-form news.

How the reader got to the article mattered as well. If the long form reader was served up the piece via an internal link, they spent an average of 148 seconds with the piece. If they got to the piece directly or via a link in an email, their time investment dropped to 132 seconds. Social media links got the shortest time span – 111 seconds.

While social links might have delivered the shortest attention span, it was responsible for the most traffic overall, with over 40% of both the short and long form stories coming from one of the social networks.

Here are some other noteworthy observations from the study:

  • Facebook drove the largest volume of social network sourced readers (80%) but those readers are not as engaged, on average, as Twitter users. If someone clicked on a link from Facebook, they spent an average of 107 seconds in longer-form stories, but the amount of time rose to 133 seconds when they came from Twitter.
  • Late night and morning are the times of the day with the highest engagement.
  • Only a very small percentage of readers (long form – 4%, short form – 3%) return to those stories via their smartphones, but when they did, they really invested some time. Return visitors to long-form articles spend an average of 277 seconds, compared with 123 seconds for overall visitors, and those figures for short-form stories are 110 seconds and 57 seconds, respectively.

There are several takeaways from this study but I think the biggest one is that we need to be very careful about assuming that short form copy is the only option in this smartphone driven world.



What does your pricing say about you?

November 29, 2017

pricingLast week, we explored some of the key considerations that a business should take into account as they set their prices. But this week, I want to take a look at what your pricing strategy says about your offerings.

I believe that pricing is a part of positioning and branding that is often overlooked. How you think about pricing may depend on whether or not you’re introducing a new product or service or just rethinking how an existing product or service is brought to market.

Here are some of the most common pricing strategies and what they say about your brand:

Penetration pricing is typically an entry strategy. This is usually used when you’re bringing something new to an existing marketplace or you’re trying to lure people from an existing provider. Think of the types of offers that DISH and Direct offer to get you to switch. This kind of pricing can’t be profitably sustained.

What does it say about you? It says that you are willing to buy your customers and that you’re confident that if they give you a try, they’ll stick around long enough to be profitable. Or it says that they know switching is a big pain, so they need to make it worth your while, hoping you won’t decide to go through the pain again and switch back.

Premium pricing is exactly what it suggests — your product or service is at the high end of the range.

What does it say about you? When you have premium prices, it implies a level of quality and service that the lower priced options can’t match. There’s also an exclusivity to your offer if there are plenty of lower priced options available. To maintain this brand position, you’ll need to work hard to meet your customer’s high expectations.

Economy pricing is being the bargain in the bunch. Think Wal-Mart or generic products. If you can buy and sell in volume, this might be a decent option to consider.

What does it say about you? Depending on how you position it, it can either say you are very committed to helping your customers save money or the items you sell are of low quality. To reassure your customers that you’re watching their pennies, you’ll want to make sure you explain how you can offer such bargains.

Bundling pricing is when you combine items you sell at a special price. It might be a 99 cent dessert with dinner or send one person to a workshop and you get the pre-workshop session for free or at a discounted price. You just need to be careful you don’t give away the farm with this strategy. It’s ideal for recurring revenue where the profits rise after the first couple months of sales.

What does it say about you? This is a great strategy for businesses with long-term customers that might be in the market to buy even more from you. You can bundle complimentary items to tie that customer even tighter to your organization. That gives you more time to sell them even more.

Bracket pricing is the idea of always offering three different options, with the middle priced option being the one you want your customer to select. Research shows that if you offer only one choice – people object to the price. If you offer two choices, the buyer will choose the lower priced option most of the time. But if you offer three price points, the vast majority of buyers will choose the middle option.

What does it say about you? This pricing strategy is all about giving your customers control and choices. By letting them decide which bells and whistles they want, they feel like you’re not trying to force them in a particular direction.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to the underlying messages that come from how you set your prices.



How does your business shape your pricing?

November 15, 2017

pricingAs we head towards the end of the year, we’re going to kick off a series of conversations about money. One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing is your pricing strategy. Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to talk about how you price and sell your services and what that says to your audiences.

Let’s first think about how you determine your pricing and what that says about your value proposition. You have lots of options, and while we might assume it’s always smarter to be more expensive, that actually may not be the best decision for your business.

When thinking about your pricing strategy, you need to consider:

Positioning: How are you positioned in the marketplace, relative to your competitors? Does one of them own the discount or premium position so strongly that it would be difficult to unseat them?

Differentiation: This is related to positioning. The more you can demonstrate a unique value proposition to your potential customers, the more valuable you are and the more of a premium price you can charge.

Your costs: Obviously your prices have to take into account what it costs you to deliver what you sell. Depending on the work you do, the kinds of people you employ, and the materials you need – some pricing strategies may not be an option.

Demand: The more people need/want what you sell, the more they’re willing to pay for it. But demand is also finite. Is this something they will always need/want or is it fleeting like Cabbage Patch dolls or a particular style of clothes.

Time/effort to deliver: Some companies make a widget that they can mass produce and sell at a relatively low cost because there is no customization or manual labor involved. On the flip side, a guy who designs and builds custom furniture by hand has a huge time investment and the value is in the individuality of what he delivers. That’s a very different reality.

Harsh reality: Sometimes you have no choice. Economic conditions, market saturation, inventory issues or some other element of your business may force you to modify your prices, either temporarily or in rare cases, permanently. There is no such thing as forever when it comes to business strategy. We must all evolve or die, and pricing is certainly one aspect of your business that may change over time.

Revenue goals: We often assume that there’s only one reason to be in business, which is to make money. But there are many shades of grey within that. Are you trying to make the most money possible in the short term? Or would you rather make less money every day but have the sale live on for longer? Are you trying to maximize profits or are you reinvesting in something else – be it your company or your community or some population of people that you serve?

Static or elastic: For some organizations, it makes sense that once you set your pricing, it remains the same for an extended period, until inflation, demand or some other combination of influences triggers a one-time price shift. On the flip side, you may sell a product or service that has a lot of elasticity in its pricing. You might run sales or promotions on a regular basis to drive traffic to your location or site. You may have a seasonality factor. If you sell Christmas trees, they’re at a premium price the day after Thanksgiving and at a deep discount price on December 24th.

These elements are the business realities that have to be factored in as you think about your pricing model. Next week we’ll dig into how to think about pricing through your marketing lens.



Mini Marketing

October 25, 2017

marketingThe list of marketing tactics that you can use to reach an audience is staggering. The different ways you can slice and dice humankind into different audience segments is never-ending. The stories you can tell and the messages you can deliver are countless.

And that’s exactly what is ruining your marketing.

The truth is there is not a business on the planet that needs to be on everyone’s radar screen. Whether you are a global business or a Mom and Pop local shop – you have a very finite number of people who actually can benefit from what you do. One of the biggest mistakes marketing people make is inflating their number. They fish with a very wide net when a spear gun is a much better choice.

Stay with me on this analogy. When you cast out a wide net, it gets filled up with a wide variety of fish, debris, and seaweed. You spend a lot of time sorting out the good from the bad. You often will talk yourself into trying some odd fish that looks good but turns out to be hideous. And by the time you dig down to the ones you actually wanted – they’re a little worse for wear. If there’s even one in the net at all.

That’s how most businesses approach their marketing. They cast a wide net, trying to have a presence everywhere because they don’t want to risk missing someone. I’m here to tell you, you can miss most of the someones as long as you connect with a relatively small number of the right someones.

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired magazine, has been talking about this idea since 2008. You’ve probably heard of the 1,000 fans theory. His hypothesis is that an artist (performer, author, artist, etc.) can survive on 1,000 true fans. The number 1,000 is not a precise number but more of a ballpark. But the concept holds either way.

The idea is basically that as your fan base gets larger and larger, the ROI per fan gets less and less because you can’t possibly cater to them all. The long tail is past the sweet point of the effort to engage. According to Kelly, if you want to make money, you will make much more from the first 1,000 fans that are diehard because they’ll buy whatever you produce and engage no matter what. They will also tell the world about you and how much they love you. Back in 2008, the world looked very different, but changes in our connectedness and online behavior only make this base idea more relevant.

Odds are your business is a little bigger than a single artist, so recognize that the number 1,000 is symbolic. But the message is dead on. You need to figure out who your fans are and talk to them on a regular basis about the things they care about. That will attract more of them.

Here’s the danger zone in this effort. Once they have their attention, many marketers just check the box and consider it done. And they’re off to chase the next audience.

That’s where you can do it better by being smarter about keeping the target small and focused. The minute you broaden your message or your channel, you make your fans feel like customers. That shift – from being someone you care about to someone you want to convince to buy something, changes everything. They don’t feel special. They don’t feel catered to and they sure don’t feel like telling the world about you.

Marketing shouldn’t be wide. It should be deep. That’s where people evolve from prospects to customers and if you stay focused – become your raving fans.


LinkedIn Strategies

September 20, 2017

LinkedInOne of the most under-utilized social networks, from a business and marketing perspective, is LinkedIn. Despite boasting over 396 million users, the truth is that most of the users have no idea what to do with their LinkedIn account besides collecting connections in a random fashion. It’s actually a very robust business tool that you should be using to grow your brand, your network and your social credibility.

I only have space to dig into a couple of the main ways you should be using the tool but even doing these will put you leaps and bounds ahead of most.

It’s difficult to deny the importance of having a great list these days. Most organizations are using digital communication tools to deliver some of their marketing messages. But one of your largest list sources, your LinkedIn database, is missing out on all of those communications unless you have those connections in whatever email marketing tool you are using.

On the flip side, you have many contacts that you’ve made through the years that are not part of your LinkedIn profile. The reason that’s so vital is that some of those people may well be connected to someone you’re trying to reach. If they’re not a part of your LinkedIn network, you can’t leverage those connections to your advantage.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to easily get both done.

Import your email list into LinkedIn and send connection requests

  • Log into LinkedIn
  • Roll over the “Connections” from the LinkedIn menu and click Add Connections
  • From here, you can enter the password to your email address and LinkedIn will go into your email account and match all of your contacts up with their membership directory. LinkedIn will ask you if you want to send a connection request to all of the people who match up with their directory. The first time you follow this process, you’ll likely add hundreds of new LinkedIn connections to your profile.

Why is this important? As I said earlier, the more connections you have in your database, the better you can truly network and ask for introductions, etc. But beyond that, your ability to see leads in LinkedIn’s advanced lead builder is dependent on the number of people in your network (1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections). If you expand your network, you will increase the number of prospects you are allowed to see.

Once you have imported your email list, remember to communicate with your connections regularly. You should start sharing articles, your company’s Facebook posts, etc. on LinkedIn. Remember, the more people that you have in your network, the more people who will see and potentially share your content.

Export your LinkedIn connection list and import them into your email list

LinkedIn is the only social media platform that allows you to export the email addresses of your connections. By adding them to your database – you can better lead, score and communicate through enewsletters, etc.

  • Click on “Connections”
  • Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen
  • Click on the Export LinkedIn Connections link under the Advanced Settings option
  • Click on the blue Export button and you will be able to download a CSV file with all of your connections’ data
  • You should then upload the CSV file to your marketing automation software or email tool of choice

Neither of these action items are a once and done type of a thing. You are adding people to both databases on a regular basis so you need to repeat both the export and import strategies at least quarterly to keep both sides of the system as updated as possible.


Be helpful or be gone

August 2, 2017

helpfulLast week, we explored the idea that email marketing is about earning the audience’s permission to keep talking. I suggested that there were two equally important elements – intent and content – that had to be in sync if you want to stick around in someone’s in-box. Now it’s time to talk about being helpful.

As I said last week, “Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help. When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention. Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.”

The something of value is all about the content.

The concept of content is not new. Smart businesses have long understood the idea that if they were helpful before they asked for a dollar, they could earn the trust of the prospect.

What is new is the wide array of places and ways we have to distribute content. Back in the day, we might have a printed newsletter, an 800 number for customer service or demos in our stores.

Today we have websites, email newsletters, eblasts, podcasts, infographics, forums, guest posts, blogs, digital magazines, and that’s just scratching the surface. Suffice it to say – we have lots of ways to be helpful.

Odds are you’re being inundated with “helpful” content every day and odds are, you ignore most of it. Guess what? Your prospects are behaving in exactly the same way. So how do you break through that clutter and actually help?

Don’t just tell. Lead as well: Content that not only informs but also tells your audience what to do with their new knowledge is incredibly valuable. Most content producers fall short here. We tend to spew facts but rarely offer direction, insights or warnings. Use your knowledge to guide.

Be available if they need to know more: When you create great content, sometimes it leaves your audience wanting more. Their natural inclination is to turn to the original source – you. Be available. Include your email address or phone number and invite comments and further questions.

Eliminate fluff: Time is everyone’s most scarce resource so do not waste it. Tell them what they need to know. I’m not saying eliminate context. Context adds value. But filler and fluff just gets in the way. Be a tough editor of any content you create.

Discriminate: The worst content is content that is intended for everyone. The more you can hone in on your most important audience and only that audience – the better your content will serve them. Your goal is to be irrelevant to the masses and indispensable to the few that you actually want to attract and build a relationship with.

Connect the dots: Odds are that what you sell is complicated and it’s not as simple as walking up to a shelf and selecting the exact right choice. But for content to be effective, it has to be served up in bite-sized pieces with an occasional full meal tossed into the mix.

That means it’s difficult to tell the whole story with any one piece of content. To truly be helpful, you need to help your audience connect the dots between bits of information. With links, “if you enjoyed this” guides and organizing your content in a way that allows people to follow the bigger picture.

I know you care about your customers and prospects. Show them how much by creating content with both the right intentions and genuinely helpful information. It’s the least you can do and they’ll reward you with their attention for a very long time.


Earning Your Spot in their Email In-Box

July 26, 2017

emailWeird as it sounds, with all of the new technologies, email seems almost old school today. It’s been around for decades and much like other mature mediums, we value and loathe it at the same time.

Part of the loathing comes from the daily experience of being barraged by emails we didn’t ask for, don’t want and that offer no value.  We all suffer from email fatigue.  What the senders forget is that they’re in the receiver’s in-box because they were invited in and have been granted permission to stay.

Until they’re not. Email us too often, or email us nothing of value and you’re quickly asked to leave, either through the unsubscribe link or simply by being ignored.

And yet for most of us, there are some emails we look forward to receiving and when we get them, we actually go out of our way to read them.

What’s the difference?

I believe it’s both intent and content.  When you get those both right, the receiver will not only allow you to stay but actually be open to considering that next action (click on a link, sign up for the webinar, learn more about your product or services, etc.) you want them to take.

Intent is really about respect and a genuine desire to help.  When we prepare an email campaign, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly being respectful of the receiver’s time and attention.  Yes, of course we want them to become a customer or if they’re already a customer, we want them to buy more. But we have to trade them something of value in exchange for that consideration.

Are we offering them something of value in terms of insights, information or even a reminder of something important?  A realtor sends me an email every month and at the top of the email is a “don’t forget tip” reminding me to do something around my house.  It’s usually something simple like “change the furnace filter every 30 days.” Do I already know I need to do that?  Sure but the reminder often triggers me to do whatever he’s reminding me to do.

I’m not in the market to buy a house right now but I give him permission to stay in my in-box because he’s actually helpful.  He’s also smart enough to know that if he keeps earning the right to email me, then when I finally am in the market for a realtor to help me buy or sell a home or when one of my friends asks for a referral – he’ll be top of mind.

Another aspect of intent is how often are you asking me to pay attention to you?  I am happy to get his email once a month.  If he started emailing me a couple times a week, I’d unsubscribe in a hurry because the value proposition wouldn’t be there for me.  The frequency of your emails shouldn’t be about how frantic you are to sell something but instead; it should be based on how or why you’re being valuable.

I get an email every evening from a company that analyzes the day’s market activities and talks about how the day’s changes will impact what’s going to happen tomorrow.  That information would be stale/less helpful if I received it once a month.  So again, their timing is about me, not them.

Intent is about putting the audience first and being valuable before you ask for anything in return. That makes it much more appealing to envision hiring you down the road.

Next time, we’ll explore the content side of this equation so you can get them both correct every time.


Scarcity versus abundance

July 12, 2017

abundanceWhen I started in the agency business 25+ years ago, there was this odd paranoia that ran through agencies big and small.  There was a belief that agency personnel couldn’t be friends with people who worked at other agencies because secrets might leak out. And if you dared to be friends or even associate through a professional network – you’d better not bring the other agency’s employees into your office for fear that they’d walk by something and glean secret details about your accounts. All of this is what I call a total lack of abundance thinking.

I know it sounds crazy – but it was very pervasive through the industry back then. Today, I’m happy to report that with few noted and paranoid exceptions, agencies seem to recognize that it’s actually healthy for agency professionals to mingle together for both the shared learning and camaraderie.

That paranoia was a symptom of scarcity thinking.  I don’t think the ad industry is the only one who did/does suffer from having that point of view. I think it’s easy for any of us to get stuck in that rut.

We’ve all seen scarcity marketing and sales in action.  It’s the overly attentive sales clerk following you around the store, the car dealer who won’t let you take a test drive without being in the car with you, or the salesperson that knocks the competition at every opportunity.

There’s a scent of desperation in scarcity marketing and sales that puts the buyer firmly in the driver’s seat. It converts the transaction from a potential partnership to an uneasy game of tug o’ war that ultimately puts you at a disadvantage because you want the deal more than your potential buyer does.

It creates the sense that there’s some sales quota that’s not going to be met or some other looming deadline that has everyone scrambling to cut a deal.  That rarely works out to the seller’s advantage.

I’m not talking about the idea of creating scarcity around your product or service. Letting someone know there are only four plane tickets left at this price or that you won’t be offering the workshop again until spring can be very effective because it actually is a position of abundance.  You’re basically saying, “Hey, just to let you know, I only have five of these left. Let me know if you want one before I sell out.”

That’s the secret of an abundance mentality. It’s very laid back and it gives the impression that while you’re happy to sell your wares, you’re equally okay if the prospect isn’t interested because someone else will be. That confidence in your product or service is contagious.

What does abundance marketing and sales look like?

You share your knowledge freely:  You teach and give away your expertise through white papers, ebooks, blog posts, free webinars and other tools.

You are quick to tell someone when what you sell isn’t right for them: You know that an unhappy customer costs you more than what you could possibly make off of them, so you encourage them to find a better fit.

You don’t haggle on your pricing:  You know that what you offer is an incredible value at the price you’ve quoted, so there’s no reason to play the game. You set an honest, reasonable price for what you offer and then you stick to it. If the prospect doesn’t want to pay that – it’s okay because someone else will.

You don’t chase potential buyers: You know that you can’t make someone buy before they’re ready so there’s no up side to being a pest. You keep offering value and your expertise and they’ll come around when it’s time.

Review your marketing tools and procedures. Do they suggest you’re desperate to make a sale or do they convey a sense of abundance?


Creating your content machine

June 14, 2017

content machineYou’re ready to get your content machine up and running but let’s revisit the information from last week where we covered some of the preliminary steps in creating a successful content strategy. They were:

  1. Identifying the business outcomes/goals for the strategy
  2. Knowing who you are targeting and what would be genuinely helpful to them
  3. Recognizing that the hub of your strategy needs to be a digital presence that you own and control completely (website versus a Facebook page)
  4. Creating a series of spokes (on and offline activity/channels) that will drive prospects to your hub

Once those tasks are complete, you can begin to think about creating your content machine focusing on the kinds of content and the volume/speed of your content creation. The hub and spokes will dictate how much content needs to be created.

Finally, it’s time to think about structure. You need to build a team that will be responsible for concepting/creating content, curating other people’s content, going out into the social space and telling people about available content, etc.

For this to work long-term, you need a few things:

  • A commitment (not just lip service) from the company owner/leadership
  • An allocation of time/resources that is as sacred as any client deadline
  • An editorial calendar that is persona focused
  • A cross-trained team large enough to meet all of the deadlines
  • Measurable business goals – that are regularly being measured/reported
  • An understanding that this is a long-term play and that expectations should be tempered in terms of quarters and years, not days or weeks
  • A marketing plan for promoting the content and the company

If a company is willing to invest the time and effort into doing it right, the business goals will be achieved if not exceeded over time. Sadly, most organizations are just going through the motions and will never really reap the benefits that content marketing can bring them. Worst – their self-serving efforts are costing them business as prospects check out their efforts and quickly move on to a company who is actually walking their talk.

The personas and editorial calendar should ultimately govern the content. Once you know who you’re talking to, you should build out an editorial calendar with content ideas that you know will be of value to one or more of the personas. Everyone on the team can contribute ideas but once the calendar has been set – it should be honored. Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

Because content and social should be timely – there are going to be exceptions to the rule. It’s much easier to deviate from a plan than it is to plan as you go.

All content should go through the usual creation process – including internal reviews and proofreading. So in that way, it’s governed by whoever owns that part of the process. Naturally, your company should already have its own graphic standards, branding criteria (both visual and voice) and those boundaries are honored as well.

It’s a little like publishing a monthly magazine. You’re always planning a few issues in advance. You have a defined look, feel and audience. You probably have some regular features or offerings. But what drives the entire process is that editorial calendar and the agreement that deadlines will be honored, no matter how busy you are.

Sadly, this generation of business leaders aren’t all going to get it. Some will dismiss it because they don’t personally participate in social networks. Some are afraid to learn about it. Others will believe it’s only worthwhile if your customer is a <fill in the blank> but not for their clients.

That’s great news for the businesses who do get it. It just means the bounty will be even greater.

Content marketing achieved through a well-oiled content machine can be the great equalizer for organizations. It allows small companies, organizations in secondary markets and those with the tenacity to create a library of useful, smart content to not only compete but to win big.


Making content part of your marketing mix

June 6, 2017

ContentPick up any business magazine, read a marketing blog or attend a conference and you’re going to get the message that you must have a content strategy.  Truth be told – this is nothing new. There’s always been a marketing strategy that emphasized the production of helpful tools/information that taught prospects something of value to earn their trust and a thought leadership position.

What is “new” today is that every company has the capacity to be a publisher and information portal via their own website, blog, social networking pages etc. It used to be difficult and expensive to do and today, it’s neither.

In fact, most companies already have the distribution channels (Facebook page, Twitter account, website, e-newsletter, etc.) in place.  They just do a lousy job of using the tools at hand. For most businesses, these channels don’t get very much attention and they either languish from lack of relevant content or even worse, they become a brag book for their own accomplishments, awards, clients won, etc.  They’re either dormant or so narcissistic that no one pays any attention and really, who can blame them?

Before you can determine what kind of team or structure you’d need internally, you need to decide if you should even be creating content (my bias is yes, but it’s still a discussion that needs to be held) and if so – why?  What are the business outcomes that are driving the decision?  When done well, content marketing can drive qualified leads, shorten the sales cycle, generate new and repeat sales, reinforce a current client’s buying decision and create PR opportunities, just to name a few outcomes.

Once you’re clear about what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to identify your audience for this effort.

To get that answer, you need to look to your company’s personas and if you don’t have any – create them. Personas are a powerful tool that helps drive every aspect of a marketing effort, from tone of voice to media to message.

When it comes to creating content with the goal of attracting your best prospects – it only stands to reason that you’d want a very detailed picture of who those prospects are.  One of the reasons most companies blather on about themselves on their blog or social networks is because they have no idea who they’re talking to. Once they get their personas very clear in their minds – planning the content becomes simple. And it’s rarely narcissistic again.

Now that you’ve identified why you’re implementing a content marketing program and who you’re targeting, the next step is to build your hub or the center of all of your efforts. This hub is the mother ship – where all efforts lead back to and it should reside on a platform that the company has 100% control over.  That means it is not Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other 3rd party owned site. It needs to exist on your own website or blog. It should be the container in which all of your original content is stored and offered up to visitors.

After the hub is established, the spokes can be added.  A spoke is any activity or effort that drives people back to the hub for some reason. These will include both on and offline activities ranging from speaking at the Rotary meeting to offering your free ebook from your Facebook or Twitter platform.

Many companies start off strong.  Enthusiasm is high and everyone’s ready to contribute.  But as client work piles on, it’s easy to dismiss your internal efforts as optional.  Deadlines start being overlooked and before you know it, you have cobwebs.

But there’s a cure and we’ll dig into how to effectively create and maintain content flow next week.

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