A Sustainable Plan for Blogging

Bangui_Windfarm_Ilocos_Norte_2007It’s the most common question from small business marketers who want to make good use of the internet. It goes something like:

What can I write about? Where can I find content ideas? Or, How can I blog if I’m in a really boring industry, like insurance for truck drivers, or warehouse fulfillment?

If you feel stuck there in a content-less fog, not wanting to start blogging or writing social media posts because you think your field is uninteresting, you haven’t really thought things through.

For starters, what are you doing slogging away day after day at something you find boring? (I’m not accusing you; just urging deeper examination. I have certainly done my share of employment for organizations that I didn’t highly value. It’s something to work through, for sure.)

But never mind that, suppose you just innocently must admit that there’s not a lot that’s universally fascinating about roadside garbage collection or a tax preparation firm.

And you’d be right. If you look straight at the subject, isolated from everything else, it will indeed appear to be void of interest.

But Oh My Gosh, the truth is that no matter what the subject, possibilities for riffs on it are endless. [Read more…]

What is Blogging, and Why?

jmoneyyyyyyyContent marketing, the leading thought in marketing today, clearly centers on content creation, which in turn centers on blogging.

The idea is that content – as opposed to ad copy – is what attracts a market. And your content is the stuff of your profession or business; it’s the presentation of who you are and what you know. Moreover, content is thought to be non-promotional; it’s sharing for the benefit of the audience, rather than of your business.

Despite the fact that very few people love to write, and many people don’t like to read, blogging became the core of content creation from the web’s early days. Though it’s still the rule that blogging will most quickly bring valuable site traffic, the task is no more universally popular than it ever was. Unfortunately, I’ve built sites for clients who refuse to include a blog; and other sites where the blog was set up and then simply abandoned. Truth is, most business owners have no intention of blogging.

I see this as a failure to understand what blogging is. As with so many of the internet’s properties, basic instructions are usually bypassed. Suddenly, now the internet requires us to produce blogs, when heretofore we interfaced with the public through ads or a printed brochure, and left it at that.

So here’s a list of what blogging is, which also shows why it’s necessary and how it doesn’t have to be so challenging.

Blogging may be defined as

  1. regular interaction with your audience
  2. a way to attract the attention of potential audiences
  3. the place where you consider the angles of various aspects of your business
  4. the method you use to educate people about your subject/field/organization
  5. the way you express yourself in public
  6. how you prove your passion and expertise
  7. the vehicle for sharing your personality – and perhaps your mission – across the globe
  8. the accumulation of archives as evidence of your endeavors
  9. continual updating of your website, keeping search engines active there
  10. a strategy for keeping your own mind and interest keen, vis-à-vis your subject
  11. the build up of a knowledge base
  12. an instrument for effective thought leadership

We could go on. But the point is that nowhere in the list is the word ‘writing.’ A blog does not necessarily include writing. You can come up with ways to interact, attract, consider, educate, express, prove, share, accumulate, tease Google, stay mentally sharp, collect information, and contribute to your community without writing.

Will you talk, draw, collect, or how else will you cover these blogging necessaries without slaving over a written essay every week? I’d love to know your ideas.

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Figure out the system you’ll use to blog, and you’re already on the way to success. Need help? Info here!

How Permission Marketing Works

jbaker5The major driving force in inbound – or permission – marketing is relationships. We can even over-simplify a little and say that inbound marketing is presenting content that is created to attract a market and interest individuals in establishing a relationship with us.

Traditional outbound communications were like bees irritating us with their stings; inbound methods keep the bees at home, making honey that proves irresistibly attractive.

Advertising is banners that scream across the top of a webpage. Inbound marketing communications are blog posts on that same page, demonstrating the company’s personal understanding of the visitor’s life and interests. Note that while either of these vehicles might be successful in the short term, it’s the inbound approach that creates lifelong customers, precisely because a relationship has been established.

Once you have built a web home base, you turn to building your list. How do you tempt people to subscribe? It’s partly a matter of wooing them with your generosity, your amazing expertise, your entertaining charisma, or some other tool that is natural for you. But, as in any healthy relationship, it’s just not all about you. Winning someone’s heart involves being yourself and also clearly admiring the other for being their self.

It’s a love story. 

If you own a beauty parlor, you may talk about your new products or coloring solutions; but you’ll win clients’ hearts for good when you listen openly to them and offer custom advice. If you’re a lawyer, it’s not your previous triumphs that matter but your ability to convince the client that you understand their particular case. If you run a staffing agency, companies may think your ads are cute, but they’ll actually contract with you when they’re convinced you have the specific solution for their situation.

Just about anyone who has run a small business for some time will agree that the person-to-person connection is where business actually happens.

Developing your opt-in, your “freemium” or “Signature Promotional Giveaway” is an important part of this courtship between you and your market. The item or service is offered on your website for free in exchange for the visitor’s name and email address. You want to create some kind of benefit or download that is widely appealing to your target market. But on the other hand, something that has too wide an appeal will not be individually alluring. So the process is a long and careful journey of discovery as you home in on the kind of giveaway that will speak directly to the individual. It’s about getting to know your ideal customer. It’s about your relationship with them.

It takes a lot of time to develop relationships and to understand your customers deeply. But even more, it takes attention. The difference lies in where you focus. It no longer works to simply focus on selling; in the context of the web’s enormity, it’s necessary to focus on answering real needs and attending to individual voices.

Brands used to succeed by wearing a mask. If a company’s ads resonated they were successful; staff did not share the ongoing responsibility to enchant. Today, the internet won’t let us hide behind advertising. Brand is communicated through content creation and follow through. Leads are attracted and convert because you’ve built a relationship with them and they’ve come to depend on the value you add.

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Could you use some help devising an irresistible opt-in? We can brainstorm and advise you on creation options. Here’s the page!

Sourcing Content for Your Small Business Website

jason-odonnellYou probably know the current terms everyone’s using to qualify the word, marketing. You’ve heard of social media marketing, internet marketing, inbound, permission, and content marketing and maybe more.

Do you know the differences between these different approaches to marketing on the internet?

Since any use of digital media to communicate with a market is inherently multi-layered, and these specific applications of the term marketing further complicate the matter, you may not have defined  your options in any specific way when it comes to branding your small business online .

But as a small business owner, you probably do have at least a vague idea that marketing nowadays is about content. You are aware that maintaining a website and staying current with social media networking are important activities for your business. Your daily regimen, you notice, is salted by a new responsibility: besides running your business, you now must share its daily life on digital media, reporting, assisting, explaining, serving, publishing like never before.

How can the owner of a micro-enterprise manage the everyday demand for content without undue stress? Serving the internet’s bottomless thirst for captivating content can seem like slavery. How can you turn it around so that it’s an easy routine that you love doing?

I suggest starting with your definition of the word, content. What is it and what purpose does it serve?

Possibly every entrepreneur’s definition is different. Content to Sam may be exciting images while to Sonia it’s killer copy and to Steve it’s tutorials.

But these are the media with which to deliver content. The more basic question concerns the meaning of the content: why are exciting images a better choice for you than for someone else? Simple: because your content targets your market, and your market  demonstrably loves rule-breaking images. Great copy may be a better choice for someone else because their tribe loves stories most of all. Another person may not care at all about pictures or stories, but they are a sucker for detailed how-tos.

Once you define what ‘content’ means to your business, the only remaining issue is how to produce it.

This is where you can get really creative. By thinking outside the box regarding available sources for your content, you access endless ideas and inspirations.

In addition to your Google alerts, social media keyword tracking, and general ear-to-the-ground alertness, consider some of the following sources.

  • Other people – Friends, subcontractors, staff, or vendors: interview them and/or ask them to write posts. Take a camera into the street and poll passers-by on questions of interest to your field. Distribute a questionnaire to colleagues and blog their responses. Answer FAQs from customers.
  • Diversions – You know what your market needs from your business, but besides that, what do they like? If you sell outdoor gear, maybe your crowd would appreciate some gentle guitar music or recordings of nature sounds; if you’re a hair stylist, your followers might love your fashion suggestions. Use what you find on other sites to inform your audience.
  • News – What’s going on in your field? Serving as source of info about your industry can attract a  large following. Or tying your content to something big in the news can be powerful. To use an example from today: Paula Deen is dropped from her TV network. If you’re a chef or restaurant, this is fodder for branding content. Create a simple survey and involve your tribe by asking their opinion.

What sources do you turn to for content?

How to Establish an Effective Online Brand for Your Small Business

ctj71081The web is enormous and methods for getting found online are new to most people. There are countless gurus who promise to transport you to quick millions via various online schemes, but so far there is no perfect way to guarantee the traffic and success you seek through your internet involvements. You just have to try things out until you find a winning combination. But in the process, you can learn to make smarter choices.

Helping people learn and make smarter choices is a large part of our mission with Small Business Online Branding.

With this post, we introduce the company and launch our new website. We’re dedicated to micro-enterprises: our definition of small business is no more than ten employees. We believe that small is beautiful, and we want to help you brave itty-biz owners to claim your rightful share of the web’s abundance.

We present a process for building and growing your internet presence with focus on your business goals. It’s a process highly influenced by teachings from HubSpot, Copyblogger, and Seth Godin. It’s a holistic system, with all parts relating to all other parts, and all revolving around content creation strategies.

Content establishes brand

If content is your original work and brand is what people think of you, the latter – your reputation – will be largely shaped by your expressions, your output, your content.

Large or small, all business operates through branding. No purchase will be made unless the buyer believes you, believes the promise that you make. Your original content as well as every other thing you do online builds your brand. How can you configure your activities so they result in measureable success for your business?

Planning for success

You may find it hard to gain a foothold online unless you make a very specific plan. Your business goals, your products and services, your personalities and propensities, your customers and cheerleaders and a host of other details may contribute to a custom plan for your internet marketing. Your definition of an effective strategy will differ greatly from that of another business.

The web is a tool, not a dictator! We like to remind clients that their creativity is always paramount.

The formula that works best balances your truly unique ‘voice’ with market demands, so that neither holds constant sway but rather the two forces stay in healthy tension.

Establishing long term growth

There’s a curious truth about online and social media managers: we should be working to put ourselves out of a job eventually. That’s because we know the best solution is for digital and social media to become second nature for everyone. But until that day comes, the best we can do is make training available.

SBOB is happy to do 90 percent of the work for you, to offer easy package deals, or to provide a quick fix wherever necessary. We love building sites and social media strategies, producing newsletters and freemiums and managing your communities. But we’re also thrilled to teach you how we do any of these things.

This website, for instance, provides a step-by-step guide through the inbound marketing process, from creating your plan to measuring your results and everything in-between. Just follow the arrows at the bottom of each of the services pages, starting here.

So ‘establish,’ for us, means to set up a firm foundation, and create systems that you can comfortably make a part of your daily routine. But it also means that we keep an eye on the long term. Our tactics are formed based on current goals as well as long term objectives. It’s important that what we do for you continues to serve long past any formal arrangement between us.

I promise that all future posts will be much shorter and less about us. Having made our intro here, we intend for all the rest to be about You!

– And in that light, how about sharing your comments about small business online branding? What’s your experience with it? Any resources, tips’n’tricks, opinions you’d like to share?

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