Is your content focused on growing your business?

There are a number of ways to measure success and growth in business. It may be tracking how well known your brand is, or how many followers you have on various social media accounts. However, for many businesses these statistics are not indicative of success. Earning money is.

One of the most important resources an online business can use to promote growth is content. Blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, videos, podcasts and more can all be used to increase your reputation and your traffic, but you should really be using content to grow the turnover of your business.

Content – The Resource To Leverage

Online, everything revolves around content. Whether you sell products or services your business will need a lot of content to engage, educate, and encourage your prospects to buy from you. If you create information products you need even more content. So, the more you can leverage the content you create and the better you organise it, the more efficiently your business will grow.

Content Formats

There are many different formats of content you can use. It can be text, audio or visual in nature. You can place this content on your own blog, as guest posts and articles on other websites, on social media and in emails and newsletters. Discover which formats your audience prefers and where they are most likely to find it. Then create a combination of different types of content to ensure you reach more of your potential audience.

Create With a Plan in Mind

To leverage your content properly you must have a plan. Don’t create content without deciding on a point of view, voice, and the goals for the content. Ideally each piece should act as part of a path your audience can follow until they reach a destination you can use to increase your income: an opt-in page.

The Email List Is Where Your Business Grows

It’s a cliche, but ‘the money is in the list’, is as true today as it was ten years ago. Okay, some will get pedantic and say it must be a targeted list, or a responsive list, but they’re just trying to appear that bit more clever. The bottom line is you will create more customers from the prospects on your list than from anywhere else. Advertising and social media marketing can produce customers directly, but probably the best way to leverage them is to lead people to your email lists.

Incentives To Join Your List

In the most successful solopreneur businesses the blog posts, social media updates, and sometimes even webinars are designed to recruit people to an email list. Get the right target audience on a list and you can market to them regularly. The key is to have something free or low cost that will persuade your audience to hand over their email addresses while anticipating a valuable and useful reward for doing so.

Joined Up Content

Ideally your content should work together. Start with the product, service or event that you want to promote. Decide what email content your prospects will need to consume to become educated and enthusiastic so they are more likely to purchase from you. Then work backwards again to decide the content you will need to get more email subscribers. The blog posts, articles, etc. that will catch their interest, and the incentive that will persuade them to join your list.

Create a Content Calendar

When you know what content you need to create, it’s important to work out in a calendar when you will create the required content. If you are planning to launch a new product in three months, you have to make sure you can create the promotional and educational material in that time frame. It will be a missed opportunity if you don’t give yourself time to grow and educate your list before launch day.

Create Content For A Purpose

Earlier I said you should really be using content to grow the turnover of your business. With this clear goal you’ll be able to look at how your content works together to recruit prospects and encourage purchases. You’ll be able to identify and fill gaps in your content and thereby create a more efficient way of growing your business.

4 Ways To Focus For More Effective Content

Dictionary definition of focusWhen you are planning any business there are some basics you should know. Not just your area of expertise, or how to run a business, but you should have researched and discovered several things about the market you are targeting.

You should know the broad audience you want to serve, that the audience is easy to reach and large enough to build your business on, and how you can serve them.

This focusing makes your business more effective.

Focusing for effectiveness is also important when you are creating content. If you are going to create content that is going to attract, engage and delight your audience you will need to focus in the following areas.

Your Audience

If you don’t know who your audience is enough to create in-depth audience profiles or personas, then you need to do more research. Your business may have one major audience such as “Women who want to eat healthily.” But that is a very broad audience. You need to narrow that audience down to specific women within a certain income bracket, married or single, mothers or without children, how much free time they have, etc.

It may be counterintuitive, but by marketing to a very specific persona you can make more sales. The people you target will feel as if your content speaks directly to them, and they will be more likely to respond.

The Purpose Of Your Content

If you understand the purpose of your content it will be easier to make it effective. Do you want the content to raise awareness of your brand? Are you trying to teach your audience something so they can understand how your products are better than those of your competitors? Or are you trying to promote what you offer and encourage more sales?

Knowing the purpose of your content will help you decide the type of content to create to get the results you want.

Your Keywords

You also need to focus the keywords you use in your content. Don’t overdo keywords. Select just a few at most that are relevant to your content and what your audience is most likely to be using in search engines. You should also select keywords based on your niche and the products or services you wish to promote.

Once you have selected your keywords you should be looking to put them in specific places as well as your main text: titles, headers, sub headers, and anchor text. Don’t try to force them into the text. Often the best way to include keywords is to write the post or article while focusing on creating good content, then go through what you have written looking for opportunities to include some of your keywords. Be careful not to overdo this as you do not want to be penalised for “keyword stuffing”, which can lower your Google page rank.

Where You Promote Your Content

It’s no use having targeted content if you don’t put it in front of the right audience. Today social media and paid advertising can target your audience extremely accurately. However they can also tempt you to publish your content everywhere.

To make the most of your content you need to place it where your most responsive audience will see it. This may be on a blog, mentioned on a forum, or posted on platforms that appeal to your audience. If you have done your audience research you should know the best places to present your work.

To create effective, targeted content you have to make sure it is focused. That means understanding your audience, deciding the purpose of the content, including the right keywords, and finally promoting your content in the most effective places.

Could Facebook Instant Articles neuter your content marketing?

Using a mobile phoneFacebook Instant Articles (FBIA) is a new mobile format developed by Facebook and made available to everyone last week. It allows your readers on Facebook to access your content instantly without leaving Facebook, using the Facebook mobile app.

It’s quicker and more mobile friendly than linking to a website and Facebook believe if readers can access your content faster they’ll be more likely to consume it rather than leave because of slow load times.

Together with the latest Google algorithm update in May, it could be seen as another indication of how important mobile access to the internet has become, but as I’ll address later, it could also lead to a change in how and where content marketing works.

Is Facebook Instant Articles for You?

Some large publishers are already publishing Facebook Instant Articles, including Buzzfeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, and NBC News. Use the Facebook app for iPhone or Android to take a look at what they are publishing. Get an idea of the type of material they are using with FBIA and whether your content will work in the same format. If your content is best accessed via a desktop monitor then FBIA may not be for you.

What You Need for Facebook Instant Articles

If you decide you could use Facebook Instant Articles there are some things you should have in place first.

  1. A Facebook Page
  2. The Facebook Pages app to preview your instant articles on your smartphone.
  3. If you want to automate the publishing of your content to FBIA you’ll need an RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles.
  4. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site you can use an official plugin or the PageFrog plugin to publish your content directly from WordPress to Facebook Instant Articles.
  5. You’ll need 10 articles to submit to Facebook for approval before publication can begin.

If you don’t have 10 articles resist the temptation to quickly put some together. If you’re going to use Facebook to spread your content you’ll want it to be good quality material.

You can sign up here and there is a step by step guide by Social Media Examiner.

How FBIA could neuter your content marketing

The basic idea of inbound content marketing is that it gets the attention of your prospects, and draws readers to your website or squeeze page. As a massive source of traffic Facebook has played an important role in this process for many online.

However Instant Articles cuts this flow of traffic and keeps it on Facebook. There are no links to websites, sales pages or squeeze pages.

This is a coming trend. Google and Twitter have recently launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and LinkedIn is also working on a version of mobile friendly content that will keep readers on their site.

It seems that the big platforms are going to become dead ends. Our ability to convert readers to customers using content is going to be reduced.

At the moment I think it’s too soon to see what we can do about this. There may be an opportunity within the process that hasn’t yet revealed itself, or perhaps someone will come up with or further develop a platform that will be more content marketing friendly.

As always the internet keeps us on our toes.

How to Hire Content Creators

Creating content can be a challenge when you’re single-handedly trying to run your own business. If you’re not organised you can end up neglecting your main money making activity, falling behind with producing content, or even having to sacrifice your personal life. However there are some solutions. Instead of creating content yourself you can hire someone else to do it for you.

They may be a ghostwriter for written content, an editor for your videos, or someone with graphics skills to produce your bespoke images, logos or infographics. They take your ideas and guidelines, and create the content to your specifications and deadlines. Once you’ve paid for the content, you own the rights to it and can do whatever you want with it, including putting your name on it as if you had created it yourself.

However, before assigning work to someone, it’s important to understand how to ensure you’re hiring the right person.

Ask for recommendations

Consider the forums, Facebook groups and mastermind groups you are in. You could post a general request for recommendations which includes details of the type of work you are looking to be done. If you have a business relationship with others who also produce content, ask if they produce the content themselves or if they use outsourcing to get the work done. If they use someone else, ask if they would recommend them.

If you cannot get any recommendations look on outsourcing sites like Fiverr and Upwork. They will have a system which grades the content creator based on statistics and/or the feedback of people who have already used them.

Ask for references

When you first contact a new writer or other content creator, ask if they have any references or testimonials they can share. If they provide testimonials ask if you can contact the person who wrote it. If you can communicate with that person directly you can ask about issues that are specific to the work you want done as well as any general questions not addressed in the testimonial, for example whether the writer met all the deadlines or if the work needed an excessive number of revisions.

Ask for samples

Ghostwriters sometimes post examples of the work they have done and graphics providers may display images and logos they’ve produced in the past. If there are no examples or the ones given are not relevant to the work you want done ask if they can provide some. If your hiring a ghostwriter ask how well they understand the subject matter, whether they have produced similar work in the past, and whether they know how to conduct research as well as writing in the form you require. The skill set needed to produce a good sales page or press release is not the same as that required to produce an ebook.

Clarity and agreement

Whether the content creator has set up their own business or works within a service provision site like Fiverr or Upwork, it’s important to be clear about the work you want done, how you expect it to be delivered, and how much you will pay when it is completed to your satisfaction. There should be a formal statement of both your responsibilities and theirs. It sghould be clear who owns the work once it is completed and whether or not the content creator can reuse or keep any of the work produced, including derivatives. If you want a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) applied to the work you should check that this is possible and that it specifically states that your content creator cannot disclose the nature of the work they do for you without your permission.

Start small

If you’ve worked through the above steps and have a content creator who has passed all of them the next step is to give them a small project. This will help you discover if there are any issues when working with them while keeping your risk small. You could start with just a couple of articles or a few images for posting on Facebook. If you have a larger project you should break it up and distribute it amongst several content creators that you want to try out.

As the work progresses check the quality, how well they meet deadlines, and how closely the work produced matches the brief you provided. It’s important to understand it can take a while to establish a working relationship. Give your content creator feedback, both positive and negative, and give them the opportunity to deliver the type of content you want. The clearer you are about your needs, the more chance you have of gaining a content creator who is an asset to your business.

Content Ideas For Better Emails

Magnifying glassover lightbulb of idea related wordsIf you’re stuck for ideas when it comes to writing emails here are some content suggestions you may find useful.

Offer solutions

Before entering your niche you should have performed some initial research. You should have identified the problems and challenges faced by people in your niche. If you can provide solutions to problems you know your target audience has they will be more likely to appreciate hearing from you and continue opening your emails.

Tell a story

People love reading stories they can identify with. There’s a whole section of the magazine rack devoted to it. A story might focus on someone in a situation similar to theirs, it could be about how the products or services you offer have helped your customers, or it could be about someone who has already achieved what they aspire to. If you offer an opportunity for some interaction when you have told a compelling story you are likely to get a lot more responses from your audience. If you don’t have any relevant stories of your own, set up a contest for your readers. Let them tell their stories, select the best, award prizes, then share the winning stories with the rest of your audience.

Stimulate engagement

Every email you write should have a clear point and ideally include a call to action. If you don’t ask your audience to do something, whether it is click a link, respond, comment, or buy now, they are unlikely to do it. If you want your readers to do something after consuming your email put it in writing. Even if you don’t have a link for them to click you can ask for their feedback, opinions, or any experiences similar to those mentioned in your email.

Build relationships

People buy from those they know, like and trust. Engaging your audience in social media and on your blog can help build a relationship, and you can also do this via your emails. Don’t write as if you are a faceless, impersonal department in a huge corporation. Be human. Occasionally reveal something about yourself or your business that your readers can identify with. If you also cover some of the above suggestions in a series of emails your audience will feel more connected to you.

Each of your emails should inform, educate, and entertain. Often the best emails are ones that keep to the point. Give your reader too many things to think about or too many different links to click and you’re likely to lose them. Try to incorporate each of the above suggestions into your email sequence and your list is more likely to be an engaged and responsive one.

Content marketing – Questions you should ask before creating anything

Some advice I was given just before one of my first exhibition meetings was to pretend I was wearing a T-shirt that did not say ‘what can I sell to you?’ but ‘how can I help you?’

Content marketing is a means of communicating with your customers and prospects without attempting to sell to them. It is based on the belief that if you continually help your customers and potential prospects with useful, valuable information, they will begin to trust you and see you as an expert in your niche and ultimately reward you with their attention, loyalty and business.

Advertising and other sales materials are often examples of what is known as interruption marketing. It interrupts what your prospect is already doing. This may be reading a paper, scanning a website page, or watching TV. Content marketing is different. Get the quality right and your consumers will look forward to receiving your content and once they receive it they should enjoy reading it or at least gain benefit from it.

Don’t be creating content just because someone told you your blog needed a new post every couple of days, or to release a new video every week. Before you start creating content ask yourself the following questions.

1) Will the content help support your reason for being in business? For example, if your business is based on a specific way of building websites does your content help promote the use of websites built this way? If you want to help people build a profitable online presence, will your content help them on their journey to that target?

2) Will it be useful to your target audience? What will your audience be able to do once they have consumed your content? There are many different ways content can be useful. It can help educate your customers and prospects on how to address their greatest challenges, or deliver thought-provoking insights, or even help them keep the sort of positive mindset that will enable them to persist and overcome their challenges. Whatever your content is addressing check that your target audience will find it useful.

3) Does your content have a goal? It may be to help establish your authority, raise brand awareness, build an email list, convert browsers to buyers, or retain customers you already have. You know you should check the spelling and grammar used in your content, but how often do you check that it is supporting your goals?

Take the time to get clear answers to these questions and you can produce good quality, helpful, planned content that can gain the attention of your audience and help you achieve specific business goals.

7 Email Elements for Success

Figure pushing large email at signLike everything else online email has changed as technology has improved. Here I list some elements that contribute to an effective email. Some are basics that are simply best practice, others are an opportunity to make the most of advances online.

1. The subject line

This is the very first part of the email your readers will see. It’s sole job is to get a prospective reader to open your email. Therefore they should find it relevant and intriguing. It must also reflect the content they are about to read. People soon learn not to act on promises that are not delivered.

2. Writing Style

Write your email as if it was a letter to a friend. Let your personality show through in your writing. You’re trying to make a connection with your reader, not present an impersonal article in a magazine. Get this right and your readers will look forward to your next email and be eager to see what’s inside.

3. Responsive Design

Your readers are using all types of devices these days. They could be sitting at a desktop, relaxing with a tablet, or on the move with a smartphone. Present your email in a way that means they have to pinch and zoom or that has poor layout and they’ll be less inclined to read what you have to say. Use responsive design that displays your messages correctly no matter which device they are using.

4. Visual Elements

Faster technology and greater capacity means you can include images and video, making your email that much more interactive and interesting. You may already have received an email with a countdown timer that is acually counting down within the email. Think about how that engages the reader more than a piece of text telling them there’s just a couple of hours to go before an offer ends.

5. Personalise and brand

Most emails you receive are based on a template provided by an autoresponder company. Think about how you can personalise and brand your messages to stand out from the crowd. It could be a unique signature, a tag line you use in every email, a logo, or something else that makes your emails instantly recognisable.

6. Segmentation

If you segment your list correctly your readers will be receiving messages that appear designed to address their needs and problems. People receive too many emails in a day to be bothered with someone who emails them daily but only sends something relevant to them once a month. Design your early email sequence to help isolate what your reader really wants to read about, and then send them the messages relevant to that interest.

7. Respond to metrics

Change the content and layout of your emails to see how your readers view them. Position clickable links near the top and bottom of your email and see which ones perform best. You may find most of your readers click on the top link, which could imply most of them use a preview pane to read their emails. Over time you will be able to design your messages based on how people view and interact with your emails.

Get the above email elements right and you’ll increase your chances of success with your email campaigns.

There are a couple of other areas that could be improved, though they are not directly related to your email content. One is how well your list building process gets your target audience to subscribe, including the ‘ethical bribe’ and landing page you use, and the other is the resources you link them to via your emails. Both will have an effect on the success of your emails.

7 Fundamentals of Copywriting

As technology improves some aspects of copywriting change with them. The first online information product sales pages were based on what worked in direct mail. Long sales pages were the norm, broken by subheadings and eventually images. As technology speeded up people’s attention spans shortened. The long sales page became a short sales page. As download times and quality improved it became possible to incorporate video. At first there was the recorded presentation and then the talking head video became popular. Now you can see a mixture of video and text being used to sell information products. Yet throughout these changes there have been some elements that remained unchanged.

1. Know your subject

If you cannot convince your readers that you know more about a subject than them you’ll have a hard time persuading them to become customers. Use niche specific terms correctly and let them know you have a good grasp of the steps involved in getting them from where they are to where they want to be.

2. Know your audience

Your copy should include situations and aspirations they can identify with. Show that you understand their pain, frustrations and challenges. This is an important part of creating a product they will find useful and it’s also an important element in creating copy that will connect with them.

3. Tell a story

Telling your readers how you or someone you know was once in the situation they now find themselves in and how the challenges they face can be overcome is a great way of establishing your expertise. Tell your story in a way that they can see it’s their story too and you’ll make a connection. Let them realise that your journey to overcoming a problem can also be their journey and you’ll have a customer.

4. Attention grabbing headline

Long copy, short copy or video, they all need something to grab the prospect’s attention before they start reading or watching. You’ll need a headline that hooks the reader, grabs their attention, and makes them want to know more. Without this all your other copywriting efforts will be wasted. Just don’t be tempted to overpromiise. Your headlines should be click friendly, not click bait.

5. Benefits not features

Your prospects are not really interested in how many chapters are in your ebook or how many modules and videos are in your course. They want to know what benefits you can give them in exchange for their time and money. Show them what they could gain with your product and you’ll be closer to persuading them to buy.

6. Be specific

Your prospects need reassuring that you are the real deal. Vague promises and incomplete details will only sow doubt in their minds. Be specific if you mention results you have achieved with your methods. Ideally give them details they can check. Be accurate when mentioning what your product covers and what it can do. Your audience is more savvy and suspicious than ever. Reassure them with specific, believable, checkable details.

7. Call to Action

Do not make the mistake of assuming your prospects will take the appropriate action after consuming your sales message. Leave no room for doubt as to what they should do next. Whether it’s click a button, follow a link, or reply to an email tell them exactly what they should do if they are interested in your product or service. There are so many distractions, so much rush to move on to something else, and the temptation to leave a decision until later that you have to counteract these by telling your prospect exactly what to do right now.

Technology may change but your prospect’s psychology does not. Include the above in your copywriting and you’ll improve the success rate of your copy, whether it’s being delivered in person, on paper or via a smartphone.

Providing The Content Your Audience Needs

Backlit keyboardYour audience will always want content. As technology and the internet evolves the needs and expectations of your audience will evolve too. If you want to remain relevant and be sucessful you are going to have to evolve with them. Below are some points to check that your content is what your audience needs.

Your content is targeted

It’s really basic, but it should never be forgotten. Creating content that is of no interest to your audience is a waste of time and effort. Make it focused on the needs of your audience and you’ll get more views and more engagement.

Your content is useful

Aiming your content at the right areas of interest is not enough. What you produce has to be useful to your audience. It has to be pitched at the right level. If your readers are mostly beginners in your field you’ll be wasting their time showing them how to complete an advanced level task they are not yet ready for.

Your content grabs attention

The changing capability of the internet is affecting content online. Gone are the days when text was enough and you just had to have a good headline to make a written piece attract atention. Today it’s also about images. Ideally every blog post should have at least one image. Several positioned throughout a written piece to break up the text would be better. Embedded video or short audio is another option or your content could be entirely video based.

Your content is multimedia

Ideally you should not just be producing written content. Bog posts, articles, short reports and ebooks are still important, but your content should also be available as video, audio, infographic and other image based content. Repurposing your content into as many forms as your audience pays attention to can help establish yourself as an expert.

Your content is mobile

More people are consuming online content via mobile devices than ever before. If your content is not displayed in a mobile friendly way it will probably fail to reach an appreciable section of your potential audience. Creating a separate mobile website and a regular desktop site, then having to handle separate content and sites for each type of device is a waste of time and money. Having responsive websites will make your content consumable on all types of devices with a minimum of effort.

As a content creator you need to understand what your audience is consuming and expecting from you. Regularly use an analytics program to keep track of the content your audience likes best and the devices they are using to consume it. You should also poll your audience and ask them directly what content they want and which formats they prefer it in. Knowing these factors will help you stay useful, relevant, and available to your audience.

Content Marketing – Have You Found Your Voice?

One of the most successful ways of promoting what you do is creating or curating content and then posting it where your audience will find it. This will probably include at least one of your own online sites and some social sharing platforms. Wherever you are posting your content it’s important to present a consistent and coherent point of view that your customers and prospects can recognise as your own.

What is your message?

The first step to working out what your approach and tone should be is to define what you want to say to your audience. What do you believe is important, and how do you want to express this? One of the ways to stand out from your competition is to decide how you’ll express your values. Do you want your audience to regard you as a knowledgeable teacher, a reliable reporter, a companion to share their journey with, or do you want to use another approach? How do you want your audience to think of you as they consume your content?

Focus on your audience

Every piece of content you create should be focused on your audience and how you can help them. This means getting to know your audience, their situations, challenges, fears, needs and wants. Knowing your audience is another piece of working out how best to communicate with them.

What are you offering?

Being clear about the value you are offering can also help you decide your approach. Take a look at the products and services you offer and try to identify the core value that covers all of them. Perhaps it’s a means of creating or saving money, a healthier lifestyle, or how to free up more time. Looking at how you solve your audiences problems and issues can also point to the best way to present your message.

Be true to yourself

Working through the above factors should suggest how best to approach your audience. However the worst thing you can do is to decide to be something you’re not. If you feel your audience would respond best to an authoritative teacher, but you don’t have the knowledge or experience to fulfil that role it’s better to consider either a slightly different role, or to target a slightly different audience. If you cannot fulfil the role of an experienced teacher perhaps you could identify such people within your niche and act as a reporter, conveying what they teach and do. This could be a useful position, particularly in a niche where accessing such teachers is prohibitively expensive.

How can you tell them?

You should also be able to decide whether your audience responds better to a more casual or formal approach. You should also have an idea of the type of language and niche specific words or phrases that you can use.

Have guidelines

Having reached your decisions it is advisable to write them down. This is particularly useful if you are outsourcing any content creation, but it will also help keep your own output consistent.

Deciding on a consistent and coherent point of view and the tone and voice with which you are going to express it will make content creation easier and keep your message consistent across all your marketing channels. Perhaps more importantly it will mean you would have thought about what you stand for, who you audience is, and how best to speak to them. This can only increase your chances of success.