How to Know if Content Marketing is Right for You

I’m frequently approached by people who are interested in my services but are not yet ready to get started.

Services like content marketing and social media marketing are in very high demand at the moment. Every business knows they need it, but most do not have the necessary time, money, or resources to do it well. And, that’s why they approach outside consultants like me for help. When an inquiry doesn’t lead to anything immediate or a lead turns out to be unqualified, I always try to provide some value by helping them figure out what they’re up to when it comes to marketing and advising them about what they should do next. They may not be ready to work with me yet, but I can give them tips that will help them get to that point.

In marketing, most people will claim that you need their services and that you need them right away. PR will swear you need PR. PPC advertisers will swear you need PPC advertising. Email marketers will swear you need email marketing. And most people who create branded content will tell you that your business must hire them to create and implement content marketing campaigns.

I disagree. Other marketers might hate my guts for saying this, but not every business is ready for branding or content marketing. While I’d love to make the sale, I don’t want it to be at someone else’s expense, if it won’t yield them significant returns. Content marketing is a hefty investment of time, money, and resources. A business that isn’t ready for it can make costly mistakes.

What is content marketing and who is it for?

Content marketing helps you build a brand. Branding and content marketing is not a short term strategy that starts producing sales right away. It’s not one or two campaigns. Content marketing is a long-term, ongoing commitment. Content marketing can provide real business value and ROI in the form of the following metrics and more: Awareness, engagement, lead generation, brand perception, sales, and brand loyalty. However, it takes a lot of data-driven campaigns to win a target audience’s attention and guide people through the sales cycle. In the long-run, building brand will buy you equity in the market, distinguish you from the competition, and establish trust, credibility, and loyalty with your audience. Once you have a brand, you can charge more and attract new business without having to advertise or sell yourself as aggressively as those who have not build a brand.

How do you know if you’re ready for content marketing?

You’re not ready for content marketing unless you have the following in place:

Money:

Can’t go too far without it! Although the democratization of video and media publishing has made the cost of content production cheaper and easier than it’s ever been before, creating high-quality content at scale and distributing it across various marketing channels still costs a decent chunk of change. Unless you have the resources in-house to do it all yourself (most small and mid-size level organizations don’t), then you will need to outsource it and it will not come cheaply. In fact, the average marketing consultant or agency charges small to mid-size businesses retainers ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 per month and often, even higher.

 

Here is what much of your content marketing spend goes toward:

Content creation i.e.:

  • Videos
  • Photography
  • Graphics
  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Email newsletters
  • Memes and infographics

Some of it goes toward distribution and measurement:

  • Marketing automation software
  • Social media scheduling tools
  • Analytics tools
  • Client relationship management (CRM) systems
  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Tools for finding influencers, relevant content, and mentions of your brand

The rest goes toward advertising spend, paid promotion, or influencer partnerships:

  • AdWords
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • LinkedIn ads
  • Influencer deals
  • Product giveaways

People:

You’re going to need people to be managing your campaigns — from strategy to content creation to ads management. You’ll likely need a combination of in-house staff and an outside marketing agency to make this possible. Most small businesses do not have the former and many cannot afford the latter.

Here’s some of the people you’ll need:

  • A qualified social media manager
  • Someone to facilitate coordination between departments (e.g. marketing, sales, and customer service)
  • A project manager
  • Bloggers, graphic designers, videographers, photographers, and other creatives
  • Data scientists
  • An in-house marketing coordinator or staff members who can work with an outside consultancy or agency

Time:

Nobody has this precious resource in abundance, but newer companies tend to have more of it on their hands than more established ones. Organizations with a large enough budget can pay for some or all of the necessities listed above so that time will no longer be an issue. However, organizations that lack the necessary financial resources and human capital will have to find or make the time to devote to content marketing. They will have no other choice.

If you are not yet able to afford a content marketing agency, what should you do?

Make More Sales: As stated above, branding and content marketing services are not short-term marketing solutions. You will need to focus on short-term sales to generate cash flow in the interim before you will be able to afford content marketing. But, don’t blow that money on personal luxuries or spend it on less important areas of your businesss. Rather, use that cash to invest in quality content marketing.

DIY (Do it Yourself): Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s still important to be building your brand and establishing a presence on online. The good news is that you don’t need a big, fancy team and the latest high tech gear to get started. You can do it yourself! Start posting on social media platforms. Every day. Now. Make videos with your smartphone. Start a podcast. Write a blog. If you’re not satisfied with where you or your business currently are, then you have to work overtime to do these things yourself or utilize the help of freelancers. This might mean you have to sacrifice nights and weekends or get up extra early to do it outside of your regular work hours, but how badly do you want it? There are no shortcuts. There are no excuses. Grab your phone and get to work.

Grind, Hustle, and Work Your A$$ Off: If I have to explain this one to you, then no amount of branding and content marketing is going to help you or your business grow. Once, you generate enough revenue, put it toward creating better content (e.g. professional quality video) and hire a competent marketing consultant or agency to help you.

Don’t get bamboozled by an expensive agency that wants to take your money when you don’t yet have the money, team, or resources to invest. Content marketing can only provide a return on your investment if you do it right and to do it right, you need to be able to go all in.

 

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The Most Important Social Media Metric

Most people who are new to social media marketing ask the following question:

“How do I get more followers?”

While increasing your top-line follower count may boost your ego, it’s not necessarily going to translate into any real, business value. It’s what we call a “vanity metric.” Impressions and views. Also, vanity metrics.

What matters more than the number of friends or followers you have is the level of audience engagement.

Audience engagement may be measured in a variety of ways ranging from post likes, comments, and shares to clicks, mentions, and lead inquiries.

The sad and ugly truth is that followers can be easily purchased and automated with the help of bots and apps. Many dishonest social media marketing companies, gurus, and influencers inflate their follower counts with these methods because having a large number of followers makes for good optics. Next time you see someone with a large number of followers, check to see how many interactions their posts get. For example, if they have thousands of followers on Instagram and only a couple dozen likes, you know their followers are mostly fake.

Having a large number of followers does you no good if those followers are not engaged. Therefore, it’s better to have 5 engaged followers than 500 followers who never interact with your content. Engagement is where the magic happens. It’s what leads to the next stage, which might be lead generation, sales, or other business objectives. A relationship is fueled by engagement. Without it, your social media presence may look impressive superficially, but it’s no more than smoke and mirrors — a facade that will fool those who don’t know any better but will be laughed at by those who do.

How do you earn engagement?

Well, you can start by being engaging. Think about your audience’s wants and needs with every piece of content you put out. How are you bringing them value? Leave thoughtful comments (not just, “Wow, great!” and “Good stuff”). Respond to comments. Pose thought-provoking questions or post interactive content. Pay attention to culture and world events and incorporate it into what you share. Initiate and participate in the conversation.

Try engaging with your followers and seek to actually provide real value to them. Only when your motivation is to bring value to them and not to boost your own ego and impress anyone will your social media activity start to produce results and make a meaningful impact on others.

To Win, You Need to Make the Time

You want your brand to get noticed?

You want the leads to come to you?

You want to grow your business?

Then you need to create content.

You need to create quality content that provides value to your target audience on platforms that have your audience’s attention, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter frequently and persistently.

Depending on your brand, your content might be entertaining, educational, or inspiring. It might be helpful, motivational, or funny. But, it must provide value to your audience and the content must be in the right context — shared at the right time, for the right people, and created in a way that it appears native to the platforms on which it appears.

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You will only succeed once you commit yourself to creating content on a consistent basis and sharing it with the world. There is enough time. But you have to be willing to sacrifice some nights and weekends or times when everybody else is enjoying their leisure.

Most of your content creation is not going to take place during your traditional work hours. You’ll never get the time. You have to make the time. Set aside a block of time each week for creating content or working on your content distribution strategy. A little planning will take you or your organization a long way.

In a world where there is so much competition for consumer attention, it takes a great deal of effort to get the market to care about what you’re doing. Content marketing is not a short term marketing strategy. Even if you create good content, you need to earn audience engagement consistently. It takes many interactions before a purchase is made. But, if you stick with it, focus on the needs of your audience, and commit to providing them with as much value as possible, you will eventually build a brand and earn your audience’s trust. Once you have their trust and their attention, your hard work will pay off.

It takes a lot of time and effort to amass brand equity, but once you have it, you can leverage it to advance your business objectives. However, to stay on top, you will need to continue putting out content and keep the momentum going.

Content marketing cannot be seen as something “extra” for whenever you get around to it. As entrepreneur, vlogger, and marketer, Gary Vaynerchuk so aptly puts it, most brands are playing it “half-pregnant” and that’s why they never see results. You need to invest the time, money, and people to create and distribute content effectively. If you want to reap the rewards of content marketing, then you need to understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. To break through the noise, it takes a ton of patience, grind, and scaling the unscalable.

If you’re not ready to do the work and you can’t afford to invest the resources necessary to make it happen, then you’re not yet ready for branding and content marketing. To succeed with content marketing, you need to go all in and stay focused.

4 Tips for Keeping Your Blog Fresh

You or your company started a blog.

Hopes were high in the beginning. Optimism was in the air. There was a hope. A dream. You could almost taste it.

But now your blog has a few posts sitting there collecting dust. No one visits. And worse, your last post was many moons ago.

Your blog looks dried up. Stale. Dead.

The only thing worse than not having a blog is having one that is infrequently updated. It makes you or your brand look lame and unprofessional. It looks like you give up on things too easily. It looks outdated. Bruh, your blog looks wack.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are 4 tips for breathing new life back into your blog and keeping things fresh:

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1. Make it a priority. 

If you don’t make it a priority, then it will never get done. Understand that a blog doesn’t produce immediate results. From an SEO standpoint, a blog builds long term gains for your website. Blogging is something that accrues value cumulatively over time and that’s assuming the content is quality, SEO-friendly, and updated frequently and consistently. But, don’t expect visitors if you don’t use social media to distribute and promote it in a strategic manner. Share it to various social networks in a way that respects the nuances of each platform. Far from what some gurus and lay people say, blogging is far from dead. Figure out where blogging fits into your overall marketing strategy and start taking it seriously today.

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2. Come up with topics.

Ah, this is where most people get stuck. Don’t get bogged down trying to write a masterpiece right away. Most people get hung up on wondering what to write about and, as a result, they never start. It’s completely understandable that you don’t always feel like you have something epic to say.

The following is a short list of ways to come up with blog topics. Some of these apply more to businesses, but others may make more sense for individuals.

  • Write down a list of common questions you receive from your prospects and customers. Crowd source your customer service department for common questions, complaints, and criticisms. You can roll out blog posts that field these queries and address concerns.

 

  • Reflect on moments that occurred throughout the day. Is there a story there? A lesson? Keep a notepad handy or jot down ideas into the notes app on your phone as they come to you. You can also make a voice recording of your ideas and listen to it later when you’re ready to write. Observe the world around you and your inner thoughts. Write down those that may make for interesting blog material.

 

  • Repurpose topics and ideas from your vlog or video content into written form for the blog. On the flip-side, you can also take ideas from your blog posts and convert them into videos. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel for a new blog post. Recycling your content is perfectly OK and good for the environment!

 

  • While you should make sure your blog is frequently updated with fresh content, not every post has to be based on one of your own original ideas. You can curate content from around the web, such as relevant news stories and videos and act as the DJ serving it up to your audience and be the one to filter the information put it in context for them. You can also share your take or provide your two cents on things. Add your own spin and commentary. For example, you can share photos of new Fall fashion (or advertisements or art or tech products or whatever it is you’re interested in) and your thoughts about it.

 

  • Write opinion pieces. Opinion pieces that are raw with emotion and full of conviction can stir a conversation. Tell people what you like or don’t like about a certain subject. Make predictions. Invite your audience to comment by asking for their thoughts on the matter.

scheduling

3. Create a content calendar.

A blog can too easily get neglected. If you blog on a “whenever I get around to it” basis, your blog will never pick up speed. Achieving success with blogging requires discipline and consistency, so schedule your topic ideas (and corresponding notes) into a content calendar. You can use a spreadsheet to keep track of the topics, authors, due dates, and status updates (not started, in progress, editing, published). This will help you keep everything organized and prevent you from “Oh crap! What should we blog about today?” Syndrome.

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4. Delegate.

Unless you’re blogging alone, make sure you designate who is responsible for the blog. Decide who will manage it and who will write the posts. You can hire a content writer, find guest bloggers, or ask experts in your company to contribute posts on a schedule. Keep on top of everyone’s progress to make sure things get done.  If you’re the one writing the blog, try to guest post on other people’s blogs with a large audience or ask influencers to write guest posts on your blog in exchange for some kind of value offer.

Don’t let that blog dry up and die. With a little discipline and planning, you can breathe new life into your blog and keep it healthy, watered, and fed. Your blog is your hub. Your vehicle of expression. When used correctly, a blog is a powerful way to communicate your story or the story of your brand to the world.

What can we learn from a lobster?

As the lobster grows, it must periodically change its shell.

In the above viral video, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski explains that a lobster is a soft animal that lives inside of a rigid shell, which does not expand. As the lobster grows, its shell becomes increasingly confining and the lobster starts to feel pressured and uncomfortable. It goes under a rock to hide from predators, casts off its shell, and re-emerges with a new one. Eventually, that shell also becomes uncomfortable and it must be shed yet again for a new shell and so on.

The important thing to note, says Twerski, is “the stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable.”

Growth isn’t supposed to be painless. You’ve heard: ‘No pain, no gain.’ Cliche, but true. Unless we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, we cannot grow. Success does not come to those who spend all of their time trying to avoid pain and pursuing pleasure. Those who live their lives trying to avoid all risks, failures, and setbacks do not grow. Like the lobster, we have to realize that times of stress when we feel most uncomfortable are also great opportunities for growth. As one of my business mentors has taught me, it’s often the difficult times and the challenges that enable us to become better people and propel us to greater heights.

So, let’s embrace challenges. Take some risks. Get a little uncomfortable. Sometimes we need to shed the very things we hide behind, even if it makes us temporarily vulnerable in order to re-emerge stronger than before.

My Interview with Jeffrey Gitomer – King of Sales

If you ever worked in sales, you’ve likely heard of Jeffrey Gitomer or come across one of his many color-coded books. An acclaimed public speaker, business trainer, and prolific writer, the self-proclaimed “King of Sales,” has authored over 25 books about sales, customer loyalty, and personal development, including The New York Times best-sellers, The Sales BibleThe Little Red Book of SellingThe Little Black Book of Connections, and The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude.

Gitomer also has an extensive library of audio, video, and written content available online and delivers over 100 keynote speeches and seminars a year. He has served major corporate customers, such as Coca-Cola, D.R. Horton, Caterpillar, BMW, BNC Mortgage, Time Warner Cable, The Sports Authority, and Carlsberg beer. I contacted Jeffrey Gitomer to ask him for tips, tricks, and secrets to having success in sales and business.

Read the Interview Here

How to Effectively Measure Your Social Media Marketing Results

“I’m not sure how to measure it, but if what you’re doing is working, we’ll know,” the CEO said to me.

A couple years ago, I was interviewing for a part time social media management position with a Brooklyn watch manufacturer who owned several brands of lower cost yet trendy-looking watches. The CEO, an older man with little interest or knowledge of social media said those words.

We didn’t end up working together, but I think what he said exemplifies an attitude many people have, not only when it comes to social media marketing, but toward any sort of marketing whatsoever. The creative team comes up with a concept, which may or may not be tested on a focus group, money is spent in the form of ad spend, and then everyone simply crosses their fingers and hopes for the best. What do they hope to achieve? Well, sales, of course. Duh! But, do they always track or measure the results? How can they trace the sale from the marketing?

In traditional advertising, it’s very difficult to track or measure the effectiveness of the marketing and it’s not always clear how many sales came as result of it. Jon Wanamaker, a businessman and early pioneer of marketing famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Today, new technology and digital platforms allow us to track the ROI for every marketing dollar spent. The beauty of digital marketing is that it allows businesses to track and measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. There is no good reason or excuse to chalk it all up to guesswork when we have sophisticated (and often free) analytics programs at our disposal.

But, when it comes to social media marketing, the ROI isn’t always clear-cut. Even though all forms of advertising are increasingly tuned out and ineffective, businesses continue to spend money on digital advertisements (banner ads, search ads etc.), because one can more easily see the returns on spend, but they pay insufficient amounts of money or attention to creating content, which is what users actually want to engage with.

Still, some question the value of social media marketing in particular, because they are unsure of how to quantify it. The truth is, social media marketing (organic and paid) can’t always be measured in terms of how many sales are made. The path from social media marketing (or any sort of marketing) to sales is not always linear or cut-and-dry. On the opposite extreme, it’s wrong to measure the effectiveness of social media by vanity metrics alone, such as likes, comments, and followers, which don’t in of themselves boost the company’s bottom line.

The efforts of your social media marketing must be measured by a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics, which should be determined by context. When your social media marketing is analyzed in terms of context, you can better determine the effectiveness of your efforts.

Understanding context often goes back to knowing your audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey or sale’s funnel at the moment. Without an understanding of who and where they are, you are at a critical disadvantage when determining the goal of a given campaign. Without a goal and a plan for achieving it, you have no yardstick by which you can measure the progress or lack thereof of your social media marketing.

While all companies hope to make sales, there’s a lot of relationship building and nurturing that must happen first. And, even after sales are made, those customers must be continually engaged so they will remain loyal and come back for more.

Therefore, you must come up with campaigns that each have specific, measurable, and actionable goals before you can even begin to evaluate the effectiveness of your social media marketing. The goal of each campaign must correspond to a different stage in the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to purchase to post-purchase.

If the goal is awareness and engagement, you cannot use the same metrics as you would for a campaign focused on getting more conversions (sales, sign-ups etc.). For an awareness and engagement campaign, it’s perfectly acceptable to use vanity metrics such as likes, comments, shares, followers, and clicks that drive traffic to a website or landing page. You can then create a campaign that guides a percentage of people at the awareness stage down the marketing and sales funnel to the next stage. You can measure the effectiveness of a lead generation campaign by how much demographic info was collected e.g. email addresses, sign-ups, subscriptions to website or blog etc. Next, you can create a sales campaign targeting those leads and converting them to purchase. Finally, a campaign focused on delighting current customers can be measured by determining how many of them continue to support your support your organization after they’ve made a purchase.

Qualitative, “soft” metrics such as awareness, or “first-touch attribution,” as well as engagement and brand perception also play a tremendous role in attracting and retaining customers. This is why establishing a credible, trusted, and likable brand is essential for long-term success. Social media marketing is most effective at building brand equity and forging deeper connections with an audience. While building a brand and nurturing relationships takes a great deal of time, this will lead to greater profits and sales in the long-term.

So, before you judge your social media marketing to be a success or a failure, make sure you are deploying specific, goal-oriented campaigns and measuring their progress with the appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators). Then, look at the results and allow them to help you determine your next course of action. Only once you know what you want and how to get there can you determine whether or not your marketing is effective.