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.

Multiple Niche Marketing: 3 Basic Mistakes

Releasing products in multiple niches is one way your business can spread risk. Instead of relying on one source of cashflow, multiple streams of income can make your business immune to any adverse changes within one niche. However trying to have a presence in multiple niches also has its challenges. Here are three basic mistakes unsuccessful niche marketers make.

Lack of Research

Before you enter any niche it’s important that you perform research in two areas. You need to research your audience so you know what they want to achieve, the problems they face, and how you can reach them. You also need to research the products and services that are already available to them and decide if there are any opportunities you can take advantage of. Lack of research will delay how soon you can make a profit or may even cause you to enter a niche with a plan that will not work.

Continual Learning

Ideally you should have some expertise related to the niche you plan to enter. However being present in multiple niches means it is likely your level of expertise will vary with each niche. To be able to offer something of value you need to study and work on increasing your niche-related knowledge. This is where you can make the mistake of spending too much time studying and too little time monetising what you have learned. If you have researched your audience you will have a better idea of the problems they face and should be able to identify the solutions they need. Concentrate on these and learn how to implement them, test them, and then build an infoproduct around the methods that work.

Diversifying too soon

From a purely business point of view you should start with the niche that offers the quickest profit. Establish a presence, release a product and reach the point where you have a sustainable, consistent cashflow in this niche. Only then should you look to repeat this process in another niche. Unfortunately, if there are delays to becoming established in a niche or your product underperforms it can be tempting to abandon or sideline this part of your business and try again in another niche. Resist this course of action. It’s more likely that you will make better progress working on making your first niche profitable than devoting your efforts to a new venture.

If you make any of the above basic mistakes it’s likely you will find yourself with a number of unprofitable websites. To be a successful multiple niche marketer you need to know how to identify a profitable niche, be able to offer products your audience finds useful,and have a process that enables you to continue making money from a niche once you have moved on to another.

Email Marketing: The law and opting in

Laws regarding email marketing are designed to protect you and your subscriber. If you’re “promoting or advertising a commercial product or service through electronic communication,” then you should be familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act and any other legislation that applies in your country.

UK anti-spam law is mainly aimed at restricting the sending of unsolicited marketing emails (i.e. spam) to individual subscribers. There are rules for sending email to businesses, but I’m going to mainly address communicating with individuals here.

You are allowed to send direct marketing emails to individuals if they have “previously notify the sender” of their consent. That is, they have ‘opted in’ to being a subscriber and receiving emails from you. Opting in means the subscriber must have taken positive action. It doesn’t count if they don’t deselect an opt in box that is pre-ticked. The usually accepted positive actions are to tick an opt in box or provide their email address in a field on a webpage.

In UK law the opt-in is considered temporary, with the subscriber only giving their consent ‘for the time being’. You can however assume their consent is valid until there is good reason for you to believe otherwise.

Every marketing email you send must clearly identify you as the sender and must also give the person receiving the email the ability to opt out of (or ‘unsubscribe from’) further emails.

Once someone has purchased from you, you may add them to your email list. Emailing advertisements to customers is not considered unsolicited email, and in general nor is sending such emails to businesses rather than individuals. However the subject of your advertisements should be related to your business. For example, you should not be sending advertisements about cheap holidays if this type of business is not related to yours in any way.

If you are going to let a third party advertise in your emails you should obtain the consent of your subscribers first. If you don’t, your emails might be regarded as unsolicited direct marketing.

If you buy or rent an emailing list from a third party, ask the list provider if you have the right to use it for email marketing. You are allowed to use lists of individuals collected by a third party on your behalf, providing it was made clear to the subscriber that their details would be passed to businesses offering the type of products and/or services that you offer.

Sending your emails through a reputable autoresponder service should make it less likely that you will break the law. However you need to be aware of their terms of service as they would probably cancel your account if you break any of them, whether on purpose or as a result of ignorance.

You should also be aware of any email marketing rules set down by your ISP. They can quickly withdraw their service if they receive justified complaints regarding your email marketing.

If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules. In the UK the Information Commissioner would start proceedings against you because you would be regarded as the ‘instigator’ of the offending communication.

The best course of action is to give all your subscribers the opportunity to opt in and clearly explain what they can expect after they have signed up. Provide good, useful content, respond to any complaints or unsubscibe requests and you should be fine.

More information about CAN–SPAM compliance can be found here:
https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

More information on UK email marketing can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/marketing-advertising-law/direct-marketing
http://www.lawdonut.co.uk/law/sales-and-marketing/marketing-and-advertising/your-email-marketing-and-anti-spam-law

The new Facebook Emoticons: Thumbs up for Facebook advertising?

Facebook logo thumbs up like transparent SVG
Last wednesday Facebook rolled out it’s new emoticons. A reaction to the complaint that there was no ‘dislike’ button, these new emoticons have been tested in Ireland and Spain since October. Now they’ve been released globally.

In addition to the usual’Like’ response you can now use ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘sad’, ‘wow’, and ‘angry’ tags. To access these new emoticons just hold down the ‘Like’ button on your mobile device or hover above the ‘Like’ button on a desktop computer and the new emoticons will appear. Then you just tap one of the buttons to add the selected icon to the post.

Generally these new options are seen as a good thing. However there is some potential for confusion. During testing there was a ‘yay’ button, but that was dropped as it emerged people didn’t really understand what it represented. Sooner or later some disaster or tragic event will occur and people will want to express how they feel. The ‘sad’ emoticon would seem the obvious response, but it’s expected the ‘love’ emoticon will also see excessive use in this circumstance and will hopefully be an expression of sympathy for the victims and relatives, rather than a ‘I love it’ reaction.

However the new icons don’t only represent an opportunity to better express ourselves. There’s also the use of the emoticons to gather data about how we react to posts. Advertisers will be able to use this data to improve targeting and deliver more effective advertising campaigns.

This data is not available now. Facebook have not revealed when they will make it accessible. Currently every emoticon that is used to respond to an advert will be counted as a ‘Like’. This seems a strange decision as it means for now Facebook will be assuming that you want to see more of the same type of content, even if you’ve used the ‘angry’ icon. Facebook have said they will decide later how the new reactions will affect a person’s newsfeed.

Advertisers were hoping they would be able to take advantage of the new emoticons sooner. For example, you can imagine how useful it would be to have a more accurate way of measuring responses to political advertisements in an American Presidential election year. Each campaign could more easily target people who didn’t like seeing posts from or about a political opponent.

The new icons would also help tweak an advertising campaign. Advertisers could check that an intentionally humorous ad was getting mainly ‘haha’ reactions, or that an ad they assumed would be favourably received was not getting too many ‘angry’ responses. It could also influence ad placement, with advertisers monitoring the icons placed on posts near their sponsored post and moving it away from posts getting’angry’ or ‘sad’ reactions and placing them nearer ones with more positive reactions. This would bring a new dimension to split testing.

Facebook receives over 96% of its total revenue from advertising. Presumably the more information an advertiser has about how we use these new reactions buttons, the better targeted we will be. This means an ad campaign can be made more effective, and that means advertisers will spend more money with FaceBook. I really can’t see this information being kept from advertisers for too long.

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.

Affiliate programs – The Elements That Can Help Boost Your Sales

Affiliate Program diagramMarketing your products by yourself can become expensive and overwhelming. one solution is to recruit affiliates who will put in the effort to expand your marketing.

An affiliate is a person who earns money promoting your products and/or services to their audience for a percentage of the sales. To recruit these people you need to offer incentives and support, and that is often best done based around an affiliate program. Some of the most effective programs have the following features:

  • Attractive income

This does not just mean paying out a high percentage of commissions. An affiliate will also be interested in other metrics, especially earnings per click (EPC). If you can reliably present this information to your potential affiliates it is more likely you will recruit them if the figures are favourable.

They will also be interested in how much of the lifetime value of the customer they will receive. An affiliate program usually uses cookies to track sales and commissions. The longer these cookies are in effect the more likely an affiliate would be interested in joining your program. Some cookies only operate for a month whereas others allow lifetime commissions and award the affiliate if a customer buys different tiers of products or services.

Speed of commission payout is another important factor. An affiliate would rather be paid weekly than monthly, and monthly rather than quarterly.

  • Easy to sign up to

The signup process should be straightforward and easy. The program should generate an affiliate code that they can use simply by copying and pasting.

  • Good quality marketing materials

Your affiliates should have access to good quality graphics, banners, infographics, sample blog posts, email sequences, and other marketing materials. These should be easy to use and easy to personalise so that your affiliates are more likely to use them.

  • Good communication

Set up an email list just for your affiliates. Keep them informed of your latest offers, products or services you are planning to introduce, and anything else they would find of interest or help them as an affiliate. If you decide to run an affiliate contest when you launch a product have all the latest details available for them on a dedicated webpage.

  • Provide incentives

Launch contests are a common way to incentivise affiliates. You can award prizes based on their position in a league table of affiliate sales or for reaching a certain level of sales. Often the prizes take the form of money or physical products, but they can take other forms. For example you could work with affiliates who reach a certain number of sales to plan an exclusive webinar or other event where you will speak directly to their audience, promote your product, and help them get more commissions.

  • Offer training

Some of your affiliates may need training to help them learn how to market your products. This is especially true if you don’t have the online presence or offer to attract the interest of bigger, more experienced affiliates. Nurture your affiliates and they are more likely to stay with you longer and generate more sales for you.

Good affiliates will also be influenced by other factors outside your affiliate program. Your reputation, the quality of your products and/or services, and your customer follow-up will help them decide if they are willing to help you promote your business.

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.

Finding It Hard To Take Action? Try The 10 X Rule

Front cover of 10X RuleThe basic premise of the 10 X Rule by Grant Cardone is if you multiply by ten times what you believe is possible in your life and consequently multiply by ten the actions you are willing to take you are more likely to make that vision a reality.

Cardone suggests there are four ways we can approach life and problems: decide to not take action, want to act but retreat and avoid taking action, do what most people do and take normal levels of action, or take massive action.

Another element of your success you can increase ten times is your goals. Check your goals daily and set them beyond what you think you can do.  They need to be inspirational enough for you to want to revisit them daily. If you choose goals that are too unambitious and easy to achieve you will not be sufficiently excited, inspired, and motivated to achieve what is possible. If you set an ordinary level goal and then increase it by a factor of ten, you may not reach that but you will achieve far more than you originally aimed to. Setting a bigger goal means you will be more likely to focus and invest more time and effort in achieving the goal.

Fear stops people taking action. It feeds on time. If you are anxious about taking action the longer you do not address the problem and delay taking action the more anxiety you will feel. The solution is to take action as soon as possible. Starve the fear. Don’t give it the time it needs to grow.  Whenever you feel like avoiding something go straight for it instead and get it done.

Cardone also mentions the tortoise and hare fable. The tortoise wins because it was persistent, but the hare would have completed the race if it had maintained the effort. Cordone asks what if there was a creature that can start strong and sustain that level of effort. Such a creature would have speed and persistence and would have won the race. Becoming such a creature means looking after your nutrition and your sleep routine so that you have enough energy to start strong the next day and the next.

If you’re wondering how you can set goals that make you motivated to achieve more the 10 X Rule may have the approach you’re looking for. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it can get you thinking about how to get yourself to take action.