Content in Action: Growing Your Business

Content generation can show the world that your company is an authority in your niche. While this is an important step in establishing your online brand, sooner or later you are going to want to see a return on investment. Growth from new business is what it’s all about.

Person charting business growth

Strategy will drive the process of putting your content in action to grow your business. Your business is unique, as are your customers, so some degree of customization is needed. That being said there are resources that can be used to put it all together.


Inbound Methodology

Inbound marketing is the buzz phrase everyone has heard of but may not fully understand. Simplified, it is a method to attract online visitors and help turn them into happy customers.

HubSpot breaks the method down into 4 basic phases; Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight.

Your compelling content fits into the Attract phase. Blog posts, ebooks, and videos provide useful information and answer questions that your prospects are asking. Tools such as SEO and social media help to amplify your message.

Developing a relationship by engaging with your prospects, along with more targeted content, make up the Convertphase. This phase will help your prospects to a consideration point where they become qualified leads.

The Close phase goes without saying and arguably it’s the most important part. The most fun part, for sure.

Delight ensures your customer buys again, and recommends your business to others.


Consistency is King

The key is to consider the above as a method. As a method, every phase, and the tactics to deliver every phase, should be followed religiously. For every online visitor. If you miss anything your valuable prospects, leads, and customers will likely disappear. There is no second chance with most online visitors. They came to you, after-all.

With the number of visitors that arrive at your website and with the need to run the rest of your business, you can appreciate what a challenge it is to follow a necessary structured method of running an online business. Fortunately there is an app for that!


Marketing Automation

The implementation of marketing automation software, such as SharpSpring, will ensure that all visitors to your website have the same consistent experience. Every phase of the inbound method is managed automatically. The software provides you tools for attracting visitors and turning them into customers.

For example, marketing automation helps to identify visitors to your website. It tells you what pages they visited and how long they spent there. The software manages the content they consume and collects contact details.

Following up, based on a visitor’s actions at your site, result in a likelihood of converting the contact to a lead. Timing is everything.

Personal emails are automatically dispatched at key times, allowing the crucial engagement necessary to form a relationship with prospects. Emails can contain access to more of your great content; providing your prospects with relevant information about your product or service at the right time in their buyer’s journey. Are they at a decision stage? How about a well-timed testimonial or purchasing incentive?

Marketing automation notifies you of key events such as when a lead reaches a certain status in their online activities. Your sales staff can then facilitate a sale with a truly qualified lead.



Inbound is the methodology you use to put your content into action to grow your business. Marketing automation tools are what we use to deliver the necessary tactics to gain new customers.

Together they provide an efficient and effective combination to achieve the most from your online marketing.

3 First Steps to Successful Content Marketing Execution

Content marketing is a technique for obtaining new business. Online is fertile ground for growing your business and online content marketing is a means for you to acquire new leads.

Are you at a plateau in your growth and looking to top up your sales pipeline? Content marketing can widen your market. It is an effective, but not aggressive, way to extend the reach of your business.

The content marketing concept for small to medium sized enterprises is based on your niche and the unique value you offer.

one red chair among many white chairs


Disclaimer: Strategy First.

These steps are tactics and useless without a strategy in place. For more on this prerequisite see 5 Components to a Successful Strategic Marketing Plan.


1) Identify Your Ideal Customer(s).

In the online world, niche is king. Your online identity must be concise and clear. If you make it difficult for a visitor to figure out what you’re really great at you will lose their attention. Focus in on your “ideal” customer(s). Not real people or businesses, but a composite images of your primary customers. Be as specific as you can.

Content marketing is an effective way to extend and further grow an already successful business. Success may have lead to diversification. Best practice is to limit (or segment) your online efforts to specific goals based on your ideal customers.

Defining your ideal customers will allow you to re-focus on your strengths and uniqueness. Focus on your core business and the unique value that brought you success.


2) What Will Catch Their Attention?

It’s a noisy world online. Many niche businesses are able to thrive online, despite the noise. They are able to stand out and catch their ideal customer’s attention. They had to get found online first, which led to a website visit.

There must be something of interest online to catch and honestly hold your visitor’s attention. Not pounding the visitor with a sales pitch, but convincing the visitor to stay and explore your website.

You do this by generating something of value for them to consume. This is your chance to shine by offering something perceived by your ideal customers as valuable. Something they perceive as unique. Something they won’t find from your competitors. Solving a business problem is a great approach.

The more business value in your content, the stronger the leads are that will result. If your content is broader in value, such as educational, you may get more visits. The qualified leads will be fewer. This is why strategy (the why) is so important in the direction you take. What is your goal?


3) Determine the Formats.

The choice of formats depends on your ideal customers’ preferred formats. Put yourself in your ideal customer’s mind. Ask your existing customers. What is the most effective and engaging online way they would want to consume the value you offer?

Remember, new visitors are still strangers at this point. If videos are their thing, don’t offer (initially) an hour-long webinar. If articles are their thing, don’t (initially) offer a 30-page whitepaper. These longer forms of content come after some form of relationship has been established.

Blog posts are an easy and inexpensive way to begin. The effectiveness of blogs is quite broad, mostly in establishing thought leadership on a given subject. They are an excellent choice for building authority and establishing content generation consistency. If your immediate goal is to generate leads you will have to offer something extra with more business value.

As simple as these steps appear they are not so simple to do. As with anything unfamiliar or new, just getting started can be tough. Translating the theory to the reality of your niche can be a challenge. Outside parties can help facilitate the process. Ultimately, your business is unique and the backbone of content marketing must come from you and your team.

What makes your business unique?

Online Communities: How Do You Decide with Who You Want to Be Friends?


Do you remember your first day of school, standing on your own in the playground? Or the first time you walked in to the high school cafeteria and had to decide where to sit? In life, there are many groups of people offering us different kinds of communities. Social media is the same.

In the social world, you have many groups of people that share interactions, interests and information. They will each use different platforms that offer its members different advantages.

When creating your online community, it is important to think about your customers: What do they want? Knowledge? Advice? A quick sale? A quick laugh? A connection?

Here are five online community types that you can keep in mind when building or improving your community:

1. Its all about business!

Promoting your business it probably one of most popular reasons for starting an online community. Nowadays, every marketing strategy includes a social platform. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, an online presence for your business is a crucial key to your success.

If this fits your intentions then use your SEO opportunities wisely. Know your keywords and maximize their usage in your content. Put forth your products and promotions and interact with your audience about product and services. Get their feedback and be available to answer their questions.

2. I want to be entertained!

Pinterest and YouTube are top online social communities for entertainment. If your goal is to help your audience relax and tune-out, use this fact to your advantage and create a community around people’s down time. Add video to your blog posts, or comment on a popular TV series, movie franchise or book to launch your community. If entertainment and/or leisure describe your online community type, post consistently and several times a day. Any excuse is a good excuse to be distracted!


3. I want to improve!

Who doesn’t want to improve! Online coaching, self-help videos and ebooks are all over the web. Everyone wants to be happy and feel good about themselves. If you can help your customers, community members or colleagues reach that goal, then why not? Whether you are sharing leadership advice, life coaching tips or entrepreneurship opportunities, make your page friendly, welcoming and warm…just like a good hug! Think about offering ebooks and online video sessions to interact with your online community. Post quotes of the day or advice that is accessible and useful.

4. Let’s make a connection!

You have customers online and in real life. The main reason for your customers to seek you online is to share their feedback, ask questions, give a review or show you appreciation. This type of community could be useful if you are a scholar, a researcher, or a company wanting to regroup a number of people from your industry into one forum. Use hashtags on Twitter to host chats and host a forum, if that fits best.

5. I have a problem and need a solution!


How many times have you went on Google to look for a solution to your problem? The Internet has become our easy-fix, our reliable solution finder, our mom with her crazy tips, or the replacement for that manual that we lost or threw out when we got our dishwasher. If you want to establish yourself as a reference in your field or a page to look-up when your client has a problem, then create an accessible online community that provides knowledge. Position yourself as an expert or create a question and answer forum for similar issues – washing and cleaning tips, travel and vacation ideas, health or nutrition related issues, real estate, dry cleaning or home brewing tips…the possibilities are endless!

No matter what, remember to have fun! Social media is all about interacting and getting to know your audience better. Remember to be one of your members and not just that mystery person behind the curtain answering their questions!

5 Reasons Why You Need a Content Marketing Strategy

The term Content Marketing is relatively new, but the concept has been around since the dawn of commerce. Content marketing is simply using information strategically to communicate with your market. What has changed since the first messaging merchants is the complexity and scope of that communication and its delivery. Here are five reasons why you should be taking a structured approach to your content marketing.

Notepad with words content marketing concept and glasses
credit: getty images/ designer491

1. Myriad Touchpoints
The ad guys in Mad Men had it comparatively easy; they could focus on a killer ad campaign knowing that a high percentage of their market would absorb their newspaper, TV and radio ads. Since the halcyon days when a campaign brainstorming required a brain-numbing amount of whisky, the Internet has given the information and communication world a whole new environment. This new landscape is vast, cluttered and omnipresent.

A minority of small companies are treating their websites as strategic communication hubs (unfortunately most are still virtual brochures with a link to their dormant Facebook page). And even if you are paying attention to your website, simply keeping it up-to-date isn’t sufficient. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… there are myriad touchpoints where your existing and potential market could connect with you. A strategic content marketing plan will determine which are best for your company and what needs to be done to properly support them.

2. Consumers Want More Info
The Internet has empowered consumers like never before. They now expect to easily find online all required info about any product or service, as well as reviews, user comments, instructions, how-to videos… in essence they want it all and they want it now. A strategic plan helps you to determine how you can most effectively provide that information in a compelling way.

Early advertising guru David Ogilvy understood the importance of content marketing. He maintained that “(t)he more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Ogilvy helped the industry to appreciate the value of understanding your market and providing the right information in an appropriate manner. And even in those simpler times, this Mad Man realized that “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” The fact that the communications and marketing world has become all the more complex underlines the importance of Ogilvy’s insight.

3.Open Lines of Communication
In addition to providing you with countless ways to connect with your market, social media and blogs also enable a two-way communication. This may seem daunting but it can be an incredible opportunity. A dialogue with consumers is a direct means to learn from your market and gather valuable information.

Ensure that the bulk of information about your organization online is under corporate stewardship.

4. Your Brand is Linked to Your Content
While you are putting good content out there, it is important to also listen to what is being said about you. Scanning the web for mentions and responding swiftly and appropriately has become an important aspect of brand stewardship. Whether you are thanking someone for kind words or a helpful suggestion, or addressing a misperception or mistake; dealing with it publicly and honestly helps you earn loyalty.

Essentially, it all reflects on you (or your organization if you really don’t want to take this personally). I believe that a company’s brand is now formed as much by the unofficial and/or unpaid content online as it is by the paid media and carefully crafted PR. Online, everyone hears you scream — the Internet hears everything said about your company and saves it for anyone to read. Your brand is living 24/7 online and you are probably unaware as to how it’s doing.

5. Much of the Content Online is Crap
This proliferation of information on the Internet has bred a lot of poorly researched, badly written and pathetically self-serving crap. (Yes, yes, there is also a ton of really good content, but be honest, when you research a purchase online, what percentage of the information is both helpful and well-written?)  So users need to sift through the garbage to find what they are looking for. If you’re churning out less than stellar material, you could be doing more harm than good and actually tarnish your brand.

Conversely, if you are actually producing relevant and readable material, you can help to define your brand as trustworthy and a valued online resource. This positioning moves you a whole lot closer to a buying relationship.

Writing compelling content is not easy, heck, just writing good informative content is challenging. With professional guidance, a strategic plan determines what content you should be producing, what you should be writing, what your staff can do, and what professional marketers/writers should create for you, as well as a schedule to make sure it actually happens. And this structured process makes it much easier to deliver good content.

What would you add to my list of reasons to approach content marketing in a professional manner?