2013: A Content Odyssey

If 2012 has left you slightly baffled about your marketing strategy and how social media fits in, then you’re not alone. Many small businesses will need to take stock and look at how they move forward in 2013 and where their time and efforts are best spent. However scary the modern marketing world may seem, if you break it down, these new elements are all simply channels through which you can, more easily than ever before, reach your target customers. Email was new once, remember? The difficult bit is creating the right content to put through these channels which will engage your targets and ultimately get them to spend their money with you.

For websites, content is always important and with developments in search engine technologies, such as Google Panda which lowers the rank of both low-quality sites and big user-contributed sites (e.g. eHow.com), quality content is a top priority. Job roles that didn’t exist two years ago will become commonplace, such as Content Developers/Editors, Web Copywriters, Community Managers and Brand Journalists. Small businesses should look to engage these skills from the creative services community to help them ride this next wave of marketing activity. There’s no need to employ an entire agency when one great freelancer will do.

Going mobile is also proving its worth as a business model. Whether this means optimising your current website and applications for mobile devices; enabling your workforce to work from anywhere; or indeed if your business model could work in its entirety as a mobile operation, is worth pondering over a pint. Perhaps a mobile application itself offers a better opportunity to expand your reach, either through app development, sponsorship or purchase. Consumers are app-crazy, downloading everything from apps that let users play games or read the news to those that enable mobile shopping or access to how-to advice. The key is to build apps consumers would be interested in or find enjoyable and market them appropriately. The existing and forecast statistics about mobile application downloads, revenue and developer take home figures make for eye-opening reading. So, where will 2013 and beyond take you and your company’s marketing strategy?

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Anxiety Reducers – Video Marketing

How often do you pick up your phone and shoot video without even thinking about it? Well, if you have young kids, you probably do it several times a weekend. Video is superb for many things (including keeping the grandparents happy), so why aren’t all small businesses taking advantage of this anxiety reducing medium?

Making videos used to mean big bucks, but not anymore. Here’s a few pieces of advice and links to help you make your first marketing video. This list is by no means exhaustive (I haven’t even touched on editing software for example), merely a taster to see that video is affordable, accessible and works.

  1. Making video is relatively easy and cost effective especially with the amazing technology in our smartphones, but sound quality is paramount for the end result to be watchable. Here the guys at Social Saturday Strategy show you a great way to get around the sound issue.
  2. Statistics show that adding video can significantly increase conversion rates and customer loyalty. (In case you need convincing!)
  3. Content can range from customer testimonials, product demonstrations, dialogues or monologues, but make sure the message is right and supportive of your marketing strategy. Have a look at these ‘how to’ guides for help with structure and objectives.
  4. Finally (for now), how do you get your video out to people once it’s made? Well, make sure it works on your website (homepage or landing pages, depending on your strategy) and, again from Social Saturday Strategy, get your video viewed.

I’d love to hear from you about your video dos and don’ts or examples of where it has really worked for your business, so leave your comments below.

Inbound Marketing – You Oughta Know…

I’ve just come across this video from HubSpot and loved it. I felt it summed up outbound and inbound marketing in a fantastically creative way, which should bring a smile to your face and also go some way to illustrate the changing dynamic of marketing today and the different strategies we need to adopt to stay afloat. Enjoy…

Most writing sucks – 5 ways to stop it

I’ve just read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It didn’t take long. It’s certainly more a novelty gift than a book, so don’t get your hopes up for anything revolutionary and read the reviews before parting with your money.

Why am I telling you this? Well, whether it’s a novel, a magazine article, or a company website, a lot of writing I read today sucks. It’s often carelessly written with a lack of understanding of audience engagement. So, I want to share a few basic things I’ve learnt over the years of writing press releases, case studies, websites and tweets, in the hope that it prevents silly mistakes and sloppy writing slipping into small business:

1. Spell check everything (just make sure what country your spell check is set to if you’re not sure when it should be a z or an s).

2. Grammar and punctuation still matter even in tweets, blogs and websites. Don’t fall into the trap of text speak – it’s not becoming of a professional business.

3. As much as possible, use active rather than passive language. For example: ‘I write’ rather than ‘I am writing’. An easy way to look for this is to check words ending in _ing and replace them with the more active form of the word. It may mean adjusting the sentence structure, however this is almost always beneficial to the flow of the copy.

4. Read your copy out loud. Always. See where you stumble and rewrite as necessary.

5. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Read it to your gran or your ten year old. If they don’t get it, it may be poorly written. Complex concepts can be explained in plain English for anyone to understand with the right wording.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think up some more and let you know in due course.

Top Tips for Tentative Tweeters

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. I’m not the greatest Twitterer and, as with all things evolving and social, I’m always learning. But in my time on the tweet scene and rubbing shoulders with those in the know, here are my top tips which should help you engage the blue birdy world effectively:

1. At first, just listen. Follow others in your industry, including competitors and suppliers. Search and follow keywords and trends relevant to your business and locality.

2. When you’re ready, join in the conversation. Be engaging; ask and answer questions; create a dialogue that provides added value to your followers. People buy from people – personality is good.

3. Your followers should eventually become your target customers. Find them by following steps 1 and 2.

4. Twitter is public and searchable. Be nice. Don’t swear, stalk or argue.

5. Keep it up! As with all things social and shampoo, it will only be effective with regular use. (Let’s see how many read that bit!)

One of my favourite websites, Marketing Donut has this helpful guide to Get started on Twitter. Also have a look at the Marketing Professor for more on tweet strategy.

Say it on camera

People buy from people. It’s a well known fact. If you’re selling online, whether it’s a product or service, testimonials can have a significant impact on turning a prospect into a customer. Words are great, but moving pictures are better. Here’s one I made earlier for Status Social following our intensive three day kick-start to the BTEC Level 3 Award in Social Media for Business. Enjoy 😉

Colour me happy!

So, I’m in the throes of designing a new site and also needing to give feedback on another. Following my attendance at Web Fuelled for Business this week, it has certainly boosted my confidence to give the advice that I would normally have given, but now I can say categorically this is what Doug Richard thinks too!

Interestingly, I’ve found over the years the one thing that is surprisingly difficult to get people to change or buy into is colour usage. Regardless of what sites you demonstrate and how you explain what attracts the eyes, decisions on colour still seem to be subjective rather than scientific.

I’m paraphrasing Doug here, but he made it really simple to understand:

Whatever you want people to take action on (register; call you; buy etc), that needs to be in an obvious ‘foreground’ colour to catch the eye. The rest should be in a less obvious ‘background’ colour. Take a quick look at his bootcamp site and decide which are the take action/foreground highlights and what is left more understated in the background. Interesting, isn’t it?

Oh, and one last thing…don’t use a black background. Yuk.