Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers-Part 1

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[As some of you know, we like to promote good ideas for other bloggers out there that are in the Agile space. We haven’t heard from Ed Hill, our resident SEO expert in a while. Good to see some stuff that is useful for Agile Bloggers!]

Content marketing is the development and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage consumers.

Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers
Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers

If you’re marketing your small to medium business, you’ve seen the frenzy over content marketing. Why is content marketing getting so much attention? Why is content so effective at building traffic and sales leads?

We’re going to quickly cover:

  • What content marketing can do for your business
  • Why it works to attract customers to your online business
  • What to write about
  • How to get started

Just in the last week I’ve seen several articles on major media sites like Search Engine World, Forbes and the Huffington Post. You can skip the Huffington opinion piece, which claims, “There is no formula”, while checking out Drew Hendricks coverage of useful content building tools in Tips For Building A Strong Content Marketing Plan For 2014 . While there is no formula for quality content marketing, there is a process that you can use for your content marketing. 

Because you’re focused on marketing a small or medium business, you may not have a large enough team or the time for the formal content strategy process. But you don’t want to start without planning. You can’t build traffic by randomly posting social media snippets and blog articles on topics that don’t matter to your customers. There is a happy balance between the two extremes. We’re going to walk through a quick and effective process that mixes some practices from content strategy and methods from search engine optimization. The goal here is to quickly deliver content that matters to your customer and helps fulfill your goals as a business.

Content creation is a powerful and effective marketing strategy to build web traffic and sales leads, but it’s also expensive in terms of time and effort. 

What Content Marketing Delivers for Your Business

  • Relevant content is ideal for building customer rapport and trust
  • Consistent content creation helps to form a relationship where customers learn how to solve their problems and come to rely on your business for trustworthy information
  • Reassuring content such as testimonials and reviews helps customers lose their fear of loss, which is a natural part of the buying cycle
  • Because content marketing seeks to answer customer questions and doubts it’s appropriate at almost every stage of the buying cycle
  • Content marketing is also a rich source of relevant content that search engines will favor with higher search engine visibility and increased natural search traffic
  • Building carefully crafted headlines for your content will also deliver social media content that is easy for readers to share

How Much Content Should We Build to See Improvement in Web Traffic and Sales

  • My experience with content building shows that 100 to 300 pages of new blog or website content is needed to see a substantial increase in web traffic and sales leads
  • Building 51 to 100 pages of content can generate 48% more traffic than web sites with less than 50 pages, according to the Hubspot Marketing Benchmarks from 7000 Businesses

When practiced consistently, I’ve seen content marketing deliver substantial increase in web traffic and sales. With an efficient team posting content on a daily basis and building and responding to your community of customers through social media, you could see traffic almost double as I did with my work for ApartmentGuide.com.

Why Does Content Marketing Work so Well?

When customers are seeking a solution to a problem or a product to fulfill a need they will typically gather information before buying anything that costs more than $100. The customer wants to strike a balance between the need to solve their problem and the fear of loss. The fear of loss occurs because the customer often does not know enough about what type of products can solve their problem or even how to find the best product to solve their problem. Especially when buying something they’ve never purchased before or when spending a large amount of money, the customer begins to fear that they will buy the wrong product, pay too much for the product or even buy a product that fails to solve their problem.

Content marketing eliminates the customers fear of loss by giving them enough information to understand:

  • what types of products are available to solve their problem
  • how to judge if a product is suitable for what they need
  • how to compare competing products
  • how to judge if the price is fair for the value offered
  • how to use the product to solve their problem
  • social proof content like reviews or testimonials can be especially reassuring to customers

In part 2 we’ll talk about how to research the types of content that matter to your customers and then how to start the content marketing process.

Agile Coach Leadership Traits

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What is Leadership? 

Three Styles

  1. Autocratic – Has to do with a totalitarian approach to leadership. This is more of an attitude than a leadership style.  This leader demands instant obedience, no discussions from underlings are desired. This is NOT a desirable leadership approach.
  2. Free-rein – The opposite of autocratic. This is more of a “hands off” approach. This is a good approach when dealing with highly skilled and expert individuals (professionals). Some of the more “blue collar” type individuals actually do not desire a free rein approach. They are told what to do and when to do it at work, they almost expect similar treatment at church.
  3. Participatory – Typically the best approach. Group decision-making, multiple leadership. There is, however, a leader at the head.

 Three Components

  1. PersonThe particular personality traits and leadership attributes the leader brings to the table. There are different personality types and individuals will respond differently and accordingly to this personality depending upon his or her personality.
  2. Group – The question is: “What kind of leader does this group actually need?” AM I WHERE I NEED TO BE?
  3. Situation – Leadership is situational. We can take the same leader who was successful in one scenario and place him or her in another scenario and NOT have the same exact results. Happenings may be slower, faster, not at all. Rather than success, failure could be more commonplace.  This could be related to any number of factors: geographical, cultural, social issues, political differences, phraseology, management approaches, leadership styles, etc.

Three Terms

  1. Leader – Really comes down to what a person is. He or she IS a leader. Generally a leader is one who has the ability to influence individuals to follow a particular direction or pursue a particular goal. John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leaders are goal-oriented.
  2. Administrator – These are more result-oriented. They strive for order, to correct failures, and operate systems.
  3. Manager – same as administrator.

Leaders inspire people, but managers depend on systems. Managers attempt to adjust to change, while leaders attempt to produce it.

Leadership Check Up Continue reading “Agile Coach Leadership Traits”

Atlanta ScrumMaster Training – Action & Influence Growing the Atlanta Market

In Atlanta, GA news:

Action & influence, Inc. announced today that they are hosting more Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Product Owner (CSPO) courses in Atlanta due to increasing demand. As the only company in Georgia to have a local Certified Scrum Trainer, Peter Saddington, they want to bring even more value to the Agile community and local Atlanta companies who want to leverage Agile or Scrum to bring quicker development value to their software and services. Having a local CST gives Georgia companies a great advantage, as their employees can attend local courses without incurring the costs associated with travel. Peter Saddington is one of the 140 Certified Scrum Trainers in the world and about half of them reside in the United States. Peter Saddington is the first CST to reside in the state of Georgia. Saddington says, “Our local clients who are looking towards Agile and Scrum have greatly enjoyed having a local trainer who can service their needs without flying in another trainer from out of state. Most of our clients in Atlanta have private courses for their entire development teams and organization.”

You can quickly find local Atlanta Certified ScrumMaster classes, http://atlantascrummaster2013.eventbrite.com/and sign up as an individual, team, or company.

According to one of Action & Influence’s students, Mike Rucker, who recently took a Certified ScrumMaster course in Atlanta said, “I was very pleased to find a local group that offered such a wide choice in class days and times. It was very easy to find a class that fit within an already busy schedule.”

Other testimonials of Action & Influence, Inc. classes:

“Peter’s mastery of the subject matter coupled with his excellent presentation and communication skills made for an outstanding learning experience.” – Jim Olwine from Atlanta

“Peter REALLY did change my life. He provided such great instruction on Scrum and the duties of a ScrumMaster. He gave lots of clarity on my career direction. Great job!” – Aletha Hill from Atlanta

“VERY INSPIRING. [Peter Saddington] is one of the best instructors I have ever seen in my life.” – Parveen Yadav from Atlanta

“I can honestly say that the ScrumMaster class has changed my view on software development, and breathed welcome fresh air into some tired sails. I am genuinely looking forward to the second half of my career now, with hopes to embody in my work all that Peter laid out in the class and the skill set of a true servant leader in the technical world.” – Mike Rucker from Atlanta

[HT: PRWeb]

Why Your Sales Team Doesn’t Use Marketing Automation Leads from the Marketing Team

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Marketing automation software, such as Marketo and Pardot, have simplified tracking repeat web visitors, lead scoring and lead nurturing with email drip campaigns. While tracking and nurturing web visitors until they have enough information to become viable sales leads is easier, one problem remains. Without sales team and marketing team coordination, the type of leads delivered may not meet the sales team’s needs.

Last week I spoke with a field sales executive for an Atlanta software company, at an anonymous coffee shop. Sales Executive X has sold to major clients and he’s led teams of sales people. He relates that, “There are often times when the marketing team launches marketing initiatives. They send out materials to clients. Sales people then realize they’ve never heard of a marketing announcement, when clients start asking them questions that they’re not prepared to answer. Sometimes there is a disconnect between marketing and sales department within the same company”.

The obvious cure for these miscommunications is for the marketing team leaders and sales team leaders to communicate with each other on a quarterly or even monthly basis. In sales organizations where the salespeople are often under pressure to run as hard to land a $2,500 client as a $250,000 client, salespeople often have no time to research what the marketing department is currently promoting to potential customers. The marketing team can solve this problem by updating the sales team with every new issue of collateral or each new online initiative.

Marketing action is often not helping sales unless they are communicating with each other to set priorities. It is important for salespeople to be in touch with the product managers and research and development team. Occasionally, leaders will bring the sales team and marketing team together for discussion, but the best result comes from meeting on a regular time table.

For example, one company that Sales Executive X worked with decided to reward salespeople who shared customer insights with the marketing department with a $500 incentive. This initiative was mentioned once in 2004 and never mentioned again.

How much better would it be to have these meetings and solicit customer insights on a quarterly basis. But X cautions that, “There is a real danger that these meetings can turn into bitch sessions on past occasions where marketing and sales did not communicate”. It’s better if both teams assume that the other team has positive intentions. The most productive approach will be to use a questioning method to learn about problem points and analyze why they are happening.

There’s is tremendous value in bringing understanding between sales and marketing teams. Sales Executive X insisted that, “If there is a salesperson who consistently provides innovative product suggestions to the marketing and product design team, perhaps that person would serve a greater good in the organization being the liaison between customers and product design and marketing”.

By the same token, marketing teams can regularly update sales teams right before they launch a new marketing campaign. The marketing team can take an active role in approaching the sales team to learn the true criteria for a desirable sales lead. Often, sales calls can be more fruitful if the marketing team can send new leads with detailed information about the customer and their readiness to buy. You can make a huge difference in your organization by bridging this information gap.

When was the last time that your sales team landed a lead from the marketing process? Does your marketing team understand the sort of customers that your field sales people really want and need? Share your stories with us.

Use Social Marketing and Search to Promote Your Business

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Social Marketing and Search for Business.

Using Social Media and Search Marketing for Your Business
Search Marketer Ed Hill Interviews Joe Koufman on Using Social Media and Search Marketing
Transcript:
First, let’s examine how Google has adapted to the rising value of social media.
We know that social media brings three main benefits to your business:
Your business exposure and branding will increase.
Social media platforms will become a new source of added web traffic to your business web site. Your analytics may show up to 10% of your web traffic coming from social sites.
The marketing insights you gain from social listening and answering customer service questions are powerful. Here’s your chance to improve your products and correct problem that are hurting your brand image.
2007
As early as 2007 Google began to include blogs on the first page of search results, this was the first step in bringing social media into search results.
2009
The converging of social and search accelerated. Google started adding Real Time Social Media to Search Results. This means that if you add a blog post, tweet or news story to the web, it can show up in Google search within 15 to 20 minutes.
2010
Social media greatly increased the volume of new information coming into the web. To keep up, the Google Caffeine update increased the speed of indexing. Now new blog posts, social posts and news items would be indexed more quickly to guarantee that your search queries will get fresh results.
2011
The Google Plus one button was launched followed by the Google Plus social network. This helped solve a major problem in search. Before social media, you never knew if a search result would be a cleverly optimized page or a high quality page that was the real answer to your search question. By having people like and PLUS ONE items, the search engines could now decide the best search results based partly on people’s votes.
Google Freshness update increases volume of recent news and trending social results in search results
Social media listening and community building is time consuming. For the 48% of business with sales from social media, social media has proved it’s worth. You may not get direct sales like you do from pay per click or SEO landing pages, but social media does help your branding, customer service and collaboration with customers.
If 57% of businesses in the survey acquired customers through blogging, you must build a business blog with posts 3-5 days a week. Your business blog can also serve as a hub for all of your social media content.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why social media is valuable to you as a marketer.
If 40-48% of businesses are getting sales from social media, the next question is: Do your customers favor certain blogs or web discussion forums? Do they just post on major social media platforms, like Facebook or do they hang out on specialized boards on Pinterest? Find out where your customers post messages, before investing the time and effort to build your social community.
When 40% of viewers purchase after seeing a video, you need two things. It just makes sense to place product demonstration videos on your web site and customer-focused, problem solving videos on social media platforms.
The social web allows users to widely share reviews of bad products. If you’re consistently getting quality complaints, the best fix is to correct your products or service. When 68% of users write product reviews, good quality products will also be rewarded in the search engines. Make it easy for customers to write product reviews on your ecommerce site. The benefits can be long lasting.
When 50% of customers are combining social and search while researching products, your business MUST be visible in both social and search. Combine a good SEO presence on the web, plus social community building so users will share your content and recommend your products to others.
I spoke with Joe Koufman SVP of Sales at Engauge Digital to find out how social builds the value of search
JOE KOUFMAN: If you think about what the search engines are trying try to accomplish, they’re trying to answer the question that you have. You go to the search engines with a question, you ask the question, and Google or Bing is trying to answer that question that you’ve posed. People are also going to social to ask questions and have those questions answered.
If I’m trying to consider what my next digital camera purchase might be or cell phone or car, often I’ll go to my social network and ask them the question. And then, who do you trust more, the company giving you the answer about why their car is the best or your friends who have had experience with that same car manufacturer?
So, to me social is a way that you can use a lot of different tools, but from a customer service standpoint answering one customer’s question through social and then having that answer indexed through search, you may be answering thousands of other people’s questions. From a product development standpoint, listening, social listening and trying to hear about what people are talking about your product or your category and then taking that and developing products that meet their needs.
Again with search, you can get scale, you can get mass. So, posting one tweet, posting one video on Youtube, posting on info graphic that you put on Pintrest or on Flicker or somewhere else. You have the ability now to disseminate that content so that it can be found by a larger, more diverse set of people who are potential consumers, who can give you ideas about the new products, who could potentially purchase your products, who can help come to your defense if you’re having a PR crisis of some kind.
So to me, the mix of social and search is really powerful because it brings scale to a conversation that you’re having in social.
Please share this video with your friends on Twitter.

Combine Content, SEO and Social Media to Grow Your Web Traffic

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In the last 2 years Google has changed the weight of the factors that put your web pages on the first page of search result listings. This is causing a flood of articles on the Death of SEO. The most useful is Ken Krogue’s article in Forbe’s Magazine.  SEO hasn’t died, it’s just gotten more complicated. Building web or blog content must meet five needs:

  • Meet user needs and answer user questions
  • Include search optimization principles to make your content easy to find on the web or in social platforms
  • Use social media methods to share your content and build your relationship with customers
  • Build significant amounts of content over time
  • Publish fresh content 3-5 times per week

Google Changes Everything

It started with Google penalizing Overstock.com for links from edu educational domains and penalizing JC Penney for buying links in 2011. The Wall Street Journal and most online marketing forums took notice.

SEO may look simple to people outside of the corporate marketing department. Leaders who allocate the resources and budget for SEO meed to realize what has happened in the last two years. The Google Penguin update punished link building schemes and several Google Panda updates forced out web sites with thin content, more ads than content, weak user metrics or a poor user experience.

The most interesting part of the Panda update is Google’s use of user metrics like time on page and bounce rate to reward sites where users stay longer to read pages with useful information. There’s no way to game this metric. Your best method to solve this need is to use social listening tools to find and answer questions and problems that your readers express in comments, forums and social media. Think long term and plan on building  100-300 pages of content, with each page focusing on a single keyword phrase that you discovered in your social listening. In the graph, you can see that traffic increases at a faster pace as you reach 150 to 200 pages of content in your blog or web site. ( Based on Hubspot.com research data.)

Will your Blog Grow Traffic or Wither Away?

Here’s how to avoid SEO mistakes and gain the first page of Google search rankings to grow your web traffic.

  1. Only spend 20% of your effort on fixing existing blog or web pages with SEO enhancements. Correcting basic SEO and technical errors on old web page or blog content is a good start, but you should put more effort into building and optimizing many new content pages that help your users. The correlation between more content and more traffic is compelling.
  2. Go beyond just building the search engine rank of your 20 top converting key words. Instead focus on building the content footprint of your site and become a trusted source of information in your niche. Check your analytics  and find what keywords actually draw users to your web site. There will be many more than 20 keywords. Your users are telling you what they really want to read on your  site. Are you listening to what users say through your analytics or through problems and questions they pose through social media? If you optimize search for 200+ long tail keywords, your traffic will grow.
  3. Customers don’t want your products, as much as they want a solution to their problem. You built research based user persona’s that tell you who your customers are, didn’t you? If you have 7 types of customers with different needs, why would you drive them to 4 product pages? You should have multiple offers, spread across 20 to 50 landing pages that solve user problems and meet their needs at different parts of the buying cycle.
  4. When Facebook created the LIKE button, they accidentally solved one of Google’s main search quality problems. Even with the Google algorithm to rank each web page using over 200 factors, users could never be sure if they would click through to a great page that solved their need or a slick sales page. Google now includes Shares of your content, Google+ and other social media signals that tell the search engines how humans rank your content. Listening to your customers and engaging them in social media discussions builds your brand, builds trust and improves your visibility to search engines.
  5. The first step before creating content is reading forums, blogs and social sites where your users hang out. What do users like or dislike about your product or service? You should be learning the problems that users face and help solve these problems. Let users get involved with your product through user generated content, games, surveys or contests. This will build trust with customers who will be happy to share your content with others. When enthusiastic customers share their great experience with their social media friends, you won’t need to buy fake artificial links.
  6. Increase the usability and decrease the bounce rate of web pages to gain search rank. Almost every landing page or blog post should have images or photos to increase user involvement. Replace your one size fits all videos with short videos that demonstrate some specific aspect of your product, answer user questions or involve users in your product story.

Have you noticed increased web traffic as your consulting or marketing  blog and site grow? Are you struggling with building more content? Tell us about it in comments.