Must Love Dogs, and Other Content Marketing Advice

Content Marketing is a lot like dating. If you create your dating profile based on what you think potential life mates might be interested in, but don’t accurately reflect who you really are, then your first date will probably be a short one.

Content Marketing is a lot like dating.

If you create your dating profile based on what you think potential life mates might be interested in, but don’t accurately reflect who you really are, then your first date will probably be a short one.

After all, if you’re an active sports enthusiast who loves dogs and isn’t afraid to speak your mind, then why would you pretend to be otherwise? Do you think that nobody will wink at you online if you’re honest about yourself? Do you think “tricking” someone into asking you out has the possibility of turning into a long term relationship?

Many businesses continue to get poor results for their content marketing efforts because they’re attempting to be something that they’re not. When Google’s algorithm discovers that your content has a lot of bounces because it does NOT really answer a Google inquiry on a topic, your search result gets moved to the back of the pack. There’s no “gaming” the system by stuffing keywords in your meta tag—Google is simply trying to figure out what a page is all about so they can serve up an authentic answer to the search inquiry.

I keep going back to the story about Marcus Sheridan, the pool company owner who started writing a blog based on answering their customers’ questions. As a result, his pool company is thriving and his website gets more traffic than any other pool company site in the world—and Marcus started an online consulting business to help other companies achieve similar results.

The secret to his success? Answering every single question a consumer could possibly have about buying a fiberglass pool in a frank and personable way. Now when a consumer asks Google a question about fiberglass pools, Marcus’ site is at the top of the organic search results because web traffic clicks and time spent on his site tell Google that his answers are the most “helpful” and relevant to the question being asked. Marcus gets an “A” for Content Marketing.

But why do most businesses still get an “F” for their attempts??

Primarily because they’re afraid: Afraid to answer questions honestly out of fear that it might make their product or service look bad; Afraid that they won’t look like they know what they’re talking about; Afraid that the competition will read their content and “steal” their answers or ideas; Afraid that someone will read their content then shop elsewhere to find the same solution… Only cheaper.

But Marcus wasn’t afraid. He had deep experience in the pool business, and was happy to share it with anyone who asked. He knew that by demonstrating his knowledge he would attract more inquiries, interest and referrals, because at the end of the day, we all love to do business with people who know what they’re talking about—people who give us confidence because we know we’ve made the right decision by purchasing from an expert.

I recently read a great quote from Phil Darby—a pioneer in new branding—who said, “You won’t build relationships by talking about yourself all the time.”

You couldn’t be more right, Phil, and just like in dating, no one wants to sit with someone who drones on and on about themselves.

Great content adds value to a topic; brings a fresh perspective to an issue, or provides advice and counsel on how to solve a problem—all without the chest pounding.

And, if you continuously post content to your site and distribute through other social media channels, that will help with SEO efforts because according to Searchmetrics, 7 out of 10 of the most important factors in SEO ranking now come from social media. Whether you post it on LinkedIn, Google+, tweet about it, or link to a Facebook post, all these efforts help optimize your search results.

Take a fresh look at your content—is it authentic? Does it truly help the reader gain new knowledge or insight on a topic? Or is it just the lipstick on your pig?

The A-Z List of Stop That! Behaviors

In the April issue of Target Marketing, I wrote about 26 verbs that sometimes get in our way when we’re building brands that we want our customers to be passionate about. Now that I’ve transitioned my Brand Matters column from print to digital, I’ve decided to give you 26 more! Use this checklist as a reminder to review your brand practices. No doubt, we all slip into some of these behaviors unintentionally.

In the April issue of Target Marketing, I wrote about 26 verbs that sometimes get in our way when we’re building brands that we want our customers to be passionate about. Now that I’ve transitioned my Brand Matters column from print to digital, I’ve decided to give you 26 more!

Use this checklist as a reminder to review your brand practices. No doubt, we all slip into some of these behaviors unintentionally. I encourage you to take some “Stop & Think” time with your brand team and have the necessary and fierce conversations about your latest offerings and evaluate them through these lenses:

Aggravate: What is niggling at you that might be perceived (big or small) as an annoyance to your customers?

Boggle: Are you giving your customers too many choices to consider?

Cannibalize: Might you be threatening your own market share in some way?

Doubt: What areas of your offering raise concern for your customers? Value perceptions? Price parity? Benefits? Competitive differentiation? What will you do about it?

Embarrass: What was your OOPS or DO OVER with this latest offering? Have you fixed it for next time? What is your post-mortem procedure for reviewing these things?

Forgot: Look over your offering carefully … what might you have overlooked by mistake?

Grovel: Are you asking your customers to do too much? Who is working for whom? How will you rectify that?

Inundate: Offering too much? How will you know what is “just right?”

Juggle: How many messages do you want your customers to absorb? How will you limit those or prioritize them strategically for maximum impact?

Know How: What special insider knowledge do your customers need to know to do business with you? Is that fair? How will you inform the newbies?

Loathe: A hard question for sure … but what don’t your customers like about you?

Mimic: What have you done that is totally UNLIKE your competitors these days?

Negate: What are you doing that detracts from your brand?

Obstacle: What hoops might your customers have to needlessly jump through to do business with you? How will you find out?

Pester: Are you asking your customers questions you intend to do nothing about? Why bother?

Quibble: What terms do you make your customers fight over In relation to your offering? Is that really necessary? How do your competitors handle the same issue?

Reverse: Is there any aspect of your offer that reverses your brand promise even in some small way?

Stagnate: In the last 12 months, what have you decided to do differently to stay relevant to your customers’ changing needs?

Taunt: How is your brand teasing your customers in negative ways?

Underestimate: Have you taken your customers loyalty for granted in some way?

Vex: What keeps you up at night about your customers’ behavior in relation to your brand? How will you solve this puzzle?

Water Down: Have you diluted your brand message in some way by too many stories? Too much information? Too little focus?

[E]Xit: What was your parting message to your customer? Brand enhancing or brand detracting? (Brand neutral doesn’t count!)

Yank: Are you pulling your customers toward your brand or away? How?

Zipped: Great brand stories are meant to be shared. Have you zipped your customers’ lips by not creating a shareworthy experience?

Take a look at these “what not to do” verbs. Create your own list. Let me know what happens!

How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?” It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?”

It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response and conversion rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always worked! It’s a simple, effective way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish.

The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products
Making social media sell for you is a matter of facilitating, and then connecting, question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of the Digital Charlatans
As I discuss in the June edition of Target Marketing, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (Full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on a return to the basics.

Generate Leads With Social Media by Provoking Thought, Not Leading It

Why is it so difficult to generate sales leads using social media? Probably because we’re all busy creating “quality content” (whatever that is!) rather than designing content to generate leads. At the risk of my wife divorcing me, I decided to take a year off and find out how businesses who actually are quietly succeeding with social media are doing it. A year’s worth of research confirmed my suspicions about the so-called “social media revolution” and revealed an exciting opportunity: A chance for more B-to-B and B-to-C marketers to generate tangible business leads and sales using tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and video.

Why is it so difficult to generate sales leads using social media? Probably because we’re all busy creating “quality content” (whatever that is!) rather than designing content to generate leads. At the risk of my wife divorcing me, I decided to take a year off and find out how businesses who actually are quietly succeeding with social media are doing it. A year’s worth of research confirmed my suspicions about the so-called “social media revolution” and revealed an exciting opportunity: A chance for more B-to-B and B-to-C marketers to generate tangible business leads and sales using tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and video.

The secret is now revealed: Selling with social media requires shifting the paradigm away from being thought leaders and toward being thought provokers.

These Brands Are Making Social Media Sell
My research revealed how people like Laura Messerschmitt of Intuit are convincing more and more customers to sign up for the Online Payroll product. I learned how investment and property management firm, Jones Lang LaSalle is generating tangible leads on seven-figure commercial real estate deals using YouTube. I discovered how Wisconsin’s AnchorBank and the Queensland Teachers’ Credit Union are increasing share of customers’ wallet and acquiring new customers at record pace.

This Is How They’re Doing it
What’s their secret? Turning friends, followers and content into sales, leads and subscribers means solving customers’ problems in ways that nurtures demand for larger solutions. These companies are helping customers gain clarity on complex problems and then leveraging that clarity. How? By answering questions in ways that make it increasingly rewarding for customers to take action, identify themselves as a lead.

Selling with social media demands brands become thought provokers, not just thought leaders.

Design to Sell, Become Addictive
Successful social sellers know: Engagement is not an outcome. It’s an opportunity to create response. But not by chance. Engagement must invite customers’ questions and respond to it in a deliberate way, as part of a social media-driven direct response marketing plan. This design gathers up customers’ itches (problems), scratches them (gives answers) in yet in incomplete ways. Holding back on providing the full solution is key.

The formula is incredibly close to the illegal narcotics trade. You give customers’ a sample providing momentary satisfaction, but not enough for the desire to be completely sated. In other words, here… have a little bit. You will feel something that you’ll enjoy but it won’t be enough, you’ll want to have more of it. In order to have more you’re going to have to talk to me—and you may even find yourself wanting to buy some from me!

Today’s true thought leaders are thought provokers. They are putting interesting, valuable, addictive thoughts “out there” in ways that prompt customers to ask for more, more often.

Take Action
Make social media sell. Ask yourself: are you giving customers a reason to talk to you on LinkedIn? Are your blogs so bold they provoke action? Does your content marketing strategy show customers ways to avoid risks they don’t yet know they have? Do your YouTube videos or white papers reveal hidden opportunity? Are your campaigns designed so that customers will contact you—so they your team can help them more clearly understand what you just provoked?