The 4 Best Digital Marketing Platforms for a Consulting Business

It’s easy to drown in the different forms of digital marketing out there if you’re running a consulting business. Because time is precious, particularly if you work as a consult, juggling every aspect of your business, you need to focus on doing what’s imperative – not just helpful.

To help keep things simple but effective, here are the content marketing platforms I think you need to include in 2013 as part of your strategic online marketing plan.

1. Blog.

Do not ignore the power of a blog. They help get you found in Google and other search engines, generate leads and give prospects an insight to your core skills. What’s more, a blog is full of personality. If you write in a tone of voice that reflects just who you are instead of “corporate speak” you’ll show customers a personal side of who you are. This is important because we do business with people, not businesses.

Get a blog right and it will bring new customers to your door. If you’re thinking of starting a business blog or have let yours go on hiatus too long, check out this post on what makes a great business blog.
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23 Things You Need to Know About Online Marketing Now

I‘m regularly asked what a small business has to do to succeed with online marketing. This is, of course, not easy to deal with in five minutes; however, if you want the splatter gun answer, here are some of the things I’ve learned over the last 5 years since I’ve been running Jontus Media.

Online marketing

1. Your website is everything! If it’s down, you’re literally dead in the water so choose your web host really, really carefully. I personally use Enginehosting. They rock.

2. Invest in good website design from the offset. You wouldn’t walk into a store that was half finished, looked like it was in need of serious repair and badly stocked now would you? Your credibility starts with your website

3. Make sure that if you go with a designer for your site that they teach you how to use the site properly.

4. Start a blog as soon as possible using WordPress and host it on your own domain. Install must-have plugins to help you with things like site maps, database backups, etc. Make sure your blog is targeted at your key audience and that all the content you generate is for them and not yourself.

5. Ensure your website is optimized for search engines with a site map, great code, keyword rich title tags and regular content. There are plugins to help you achieve this but you’ll have to generate the content yourself (or get other people to do it for you).

6. Learn how to write blog headlines that grab the attention of your audience. Think more like a sensational news hack than a conservative business person.

7. Create audio and video content to complement text posts. People take in information in different ways and you should appeal to as many prospects as possible.

8. Today’s best practice is tomorrow’s dinosaur. Never stop learning about changes in the industry, new communications channels and so on.

9. Track your data in any way that works for you. Data (or analytics as some prefer to call it) is what will make you make informed decisions about what’s working and what’s not.

10. If something’s not working, change it. We all learn through our mistakes. Even successful online marketers. [Read more…]

More on B2B Blogging & Conversions

I‘ve got a guest post up on Mark Schaefer’s brilliant blog today about how business blogs often fail to convert visitors into clients.

By means of a follow up I was thinking about how we as online communications, marketer and PR folk can convince businesses that they really should invest in blogging.

It’s Not About Conversion

When it comes down to it, my experience with clients has shown that blogs aren’t really about converting to sales. Yes, they might be an important part in the process of generating a sale, funnelling site visitors to specific landing pages; but as anyone involved in B2B marketing will tell you, the sales process is much longer than B2C. You have to convince different levels of an organisation that your product or service is just what you need. And persuading everyone through to the top brass can take time.

So I tend to see blogs are part of that initial journey to the sale.

For small online businesses, or would-be internet marketers, blogs are a vital cog in the sales wheel because so many internet marketers make their money with affiliate links or the sale of ebooks or training courses. But the techniques they use, won’t / don’t necessarily wash if you’re selling printers; or consultation services.

So What Are B2B Blogs Good For Then?

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Content Marketing is a Commitment, Not a Campaign.

It takes time to for online content marketing to yield results. Despite what those marketing snake oil salesmen might tell you.

In the old days before the internet you could grab an audience’s attention by the throat with a 30 second ad on TV that literally burst onto the screens, propelling them to your store.

content marketing commitment

Showing commitment

Nowadays, whilst old school interruptive marketing still gets attention – I’m specifically thinking about the now infamous Old Spice video that originally ran back in February on TV before being superseded by the short-n-snappy vox pops that ran on YouTube in the summer – one of the best ways for a business to get noticed is to publish great content online. After all, there are over 12 billion searches on Google in the US per month alone – and many of these are for services, products or information.

Trouble is that intrinsically valuable content that connects with your target audience, showing your key value proposition, takes time to bubble to the surface of Google’s search engine results. It’s not found easily if you haven’t already built plenty of online equity. That’s why there are so many search engine optimization (SEO) experts out there, peddling their wares of “Get to the Top of Google Search”.

So beware. Agencies that promise an all-bells-and-whistles blog marketing campaign will yield quick results are either world leaders in online marketing and communications or planning to move country the minute your organization has handed over the cash for the work they’ve done.

For example, an online content marketing campaign aimed at generating more traffic to your site is not something to bash out in a week. Sure, unique visitors sent to your site via Google when searching for your keyword phrases have a good chance of converting to sales. Trouble is, the new blog you’ve just started writing as part of your latest marketing campaign, in all likelihood, isn’t going to help you capture the kind of search traffic you need to keep you in business if you’re struggling to take care of payroll. Blogs can take 3 – 6 months of careful business blogging with a WordPress theme optimised for SEO and cleverly worked-out keywords to really start converting visitors – and that’s assuming you’ve invested in great landing pages and call-to-actions across your site. [Read more…]

3 Questions We Couldn’t Answer Before, But Can Now

After using and recommending the WordPress Thesis Theme for over a year – and being very happy with the results – it was time to try Headway. So here’s my first question:

1) Is Headway Any Good?

Several customers have been increasingly asking about Headway – and Danny Brown always talks it up – so I decided to get my hands dirty first with a test site, and then with my very own blog.

It’s extremely easy for newbies to use – as long as you watch the training videos. But if you’ve got a bit of coding experience you’ll get it very quickly. It took me about an hour to convert my existing installation of Thesis to Headway and included some nice tweaks.

The BIG advantage of Headway is that you can make every page on your site look different. This is incredibly useful is you’re making landing pages or trying to improve your calls to actions.

So, yes, Headway is pretty good. For start-ups and small businesses looking to launch a blog without investing massive resources I’d give it a go. [Read more…]

Can You Build a Community Around Your B2B Blog?

So you’ve been running a business blog for a while now. Maybe it’s hosted on at a different domain to your regular business site, maybe it’s not. Maybe you try to be more informal, more conversational than you allow yourself to be on the “real” site.

But what if it’s not working?

  • What if 90 percent of your daily traffic is from new visitors that don’t hang around?
  • What if Google Analytics tells you that your I came, I saw, I puked (Bounce) rate is 80 percent plus? (Tip: Check out this site for the best on using Google Analytics
  • What if no one’s leaving comments, questions or retweeting your posts?

And what if the Hippo (Highest paid person in your organisation) is complaining that the business blog that was given the OK earlier this year is failing miserably and due for the axe and your job along with it?

Nightmare on B2B Blog Street

b2b community When disaster strikes and you’re failing to build a significant community around your business blog, it’s time for action. Ask yourself some searching questions and try to develop a strategy that you can implement and monitor to turn things around. What’s more, make sure you put a system in place that will measure your progress!

Do the Data

Rather than just making a subjective assessment of your site and flaying around in the dark as you try to turn things around, turn to concrete data. Look at what Google Analytics tells you about the performance of your site (Cf Content Marketing and Google Analytics 101 – podcast).

For example, three of my favourite questions for clients are:

  • What are the top entry pages for your blog?
  • What pages get the most clicks from unique users?
  • What pages have the highest bounce rate?

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What Do People Want Online?

If you’re setting out to develop your online marketing and communications strategy you should ask yourself an important question: What do people want online?

what do people want onlineThere’s no point filling a website, blog or twitter account with endless sparkly online content unless you actually know what your audience is looking for.

Understanding Consumer’s Motives for Being Online

One of the most significant reasons for web-usage is that people get online because they want to accomplish something. They are goal-orientated in the sense that they want:

  • information
  • help
  • ideas
  • inspiration
  • examples
  • entertainment

and so on.
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Teach for Reach

Whilst your content marketing might be entertaining, informative, snappy and sexy, you might want to try teaching for reach.

For example, if you run a copywriting agency don’t just bombard clients with ads, banners, testimonials or sign-up forms, set out to actually teach them.

My post last week 10 Tips to Help You Write Better Headlines was a specific example of teaching to reach.

Now I could have saved that kind of post for an existing client who I’m teaching to write better web-copy, but by sharing it with everyone for free, my experience and expertise becomes a way of reaching new audiences.

Giving it Away

For some “old school” business folk giving products or services away for free seems crazy. But as someone who embraces online marketing and communications I know from experience that sharing some of your best tips or suggestions actually brings people in. Not everyone will feel, for example, that they have the skills to craft their writing into web-writing and may then turn to you – say, an experienced, professional copywriter – to help them with their campaign.
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When Good Content is Better Than Great Content

A lot of content marketers will tell you that your content has to be perfect. Outstanding. It really has to hit the mark.

Trouble is sometimes companies spend so long tweaking the content, talking to focus groups, trying to second think through every possible permutation that by the time something’s published it’s lost its initial momentum.

Don’t Just Climb the Mountain

Let’s say you’re launching a business blog to help drive traffic to your site and bring a less corporate feel to your online communications. You can spend a long time deciding on the right software (WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger, ExpressionEngine, etc), the right design and, the right content but going with a simple self-hosted WordPress blog using a generic premium theme with a few tweaks to brand the blog can be enough to get you going and building page rank. Saving this extra time might just help you first to post compared to your competitors.

Climbing a mountain takes monumental effort but using the chair lift will usually get you pretty high up very quickly and with less effort. In business content marketing, sometimes getting ahead before the rest of the competition is a victory in itself and give you the edge over others.

Get it Out There

Look at Crisis Management. When a crisis hits a company they don’t waste time perfecting their response. They get a YouTube video with the CEO out in two hours, or a blog post up in minutes. The production quality is low because the content is needed quickly. In this way, good content actually becomes great because it gets the job done. It addresses the concerns and issues at hand in a timely fashion.
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Your Audience Needs to Love What You Do

Does your content marketing inspire a loyal following or leave people cold? Do people really love what you do?

I personally can think of very few brands or businesses that I check out on a daily basis because of their content marketing whether it’s a blog, Facebook Page, etc.

Working in the communications space, however, I have a bunch of daily must-reads (Mark, Gini, Mitch, Joe Jaffe and Joe Pulizzi) whose content marketing (blogs, podcasts, videos, eBooks, etc) really strikes a chord with me.

What unites these business bloggers for me is that they create something that I want to use, be inspired by and learn from. They’re answering questions and engaging in debates that interest me and help with my own growth.

Does your blog, presence on Twitter, YouTube channel or online newsletter deliver that kind of quality? Does your content really drum up a loyal following of fans?

Cut the crap, Ditch the thinly-veiled sales pitch

I know as a business owner that you should never leave money on the table. We all need to make a sale to keep us going. But content marketing is not interruptive advertising. It’s not about bombarding your potential audience or customers with content just for the sake of driving a sale. So stop doing that!

My experience on RyanAir the other day drove it home to me just how unsatisfactory interruptive marketing really is and left me very irritated. Predictably, RyanAir don’t do anything to provide cool content that will interest me either. They’re an example of a business that’s (currently) thriving because they offer cheap flights. But you won’t believe the amount of people I know that swear they’ll never travel with them again.

Imagine if an airline had the number one travel blog on the Net and sold plane tickets costing slightly more than Ryanair. Imagine if the quality of that flight experience, along with a really cool in-flight magazine, and great service began to strike a chord with business people looking for a cheap flight with that little bit more luxury. And if said airline provided genuine tips for (business) people like me to get about and get the most out of international travel, they could really start to be noticed on the Net.

Throw in brilliant online customer service, quick responses and tips on Twitter and people like me who regularly spend a lot of money on air fares, will sit up and take notice.

In short, producing quality cool content marketing that really strikes a chord, along with great service, might just help me to really learn to love the whole travel experience again.
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