Leverage your content creation

Leverage your Content CreationOne of the biggest barriers to sustained marketing communication is making sure you maintain consistent, relevant content creation that will be of interest to your marketplace. One way to address this is to remember that it’s not just about creating messages, by also looking at different ways to deliver your message, you can often use a single article 2, 3 or even 4 times without actually repeating yourself! Here are some tips as to how you can make the most of your creative outpourings:  

Content creation for your E-newsletter? – NEVER

The old adage is that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper (before the boys and girls in Health & Safety (or Brussels or wherever) decided this is much too dangerous a practice!) Emails are incredibly transient, they are typically read and filed(!) – If they are read at all. If you simply publish your content in your e-newsletter it can be gone in an instant and people outside your circulation list can never benefit from your insight and wisdom. You and your communications are worth more than that! By posting content on your website (see below) and using email newsletters to signpost content with links through to articles, you can keep emails short and easy to digest while allowing those with time and interest to find out more and potentially have more of a browse around your site.

Content creation for your website? – ALWAYS

By adding your content to your website, in a ‘News’ section or other location as appropriate you are regularly updating your website. Google likes regularly updated websites. By ensuring that, as well as being interesting to readers, content also has relevance to your core business proposition and uses relevant keywords, you can have a positive impact on search engine optimisation as a bonus. When you add content to a ‘News’ section, it should always be dated. Most people I know who don’t date news posts only do so because they don’t post very regularly! When a visitor sees that your site receives regular new content, this shows that you are active and current – good messages I think. Regular new content on your website quickly builds an archive that visitors can access. Most ‘News’ sections include functionality to categorise content and automatically group information by month and year (WordPress offers this by default) This allows visitors to search your site and access the content they are interested in. All good, engaging stuff!

Look for opportunities to deliver guest articles

With the best will in the world most of us only have limited circulations for our e-newsletter – typically no more than a few thousand at best. Maybe there are opportunities to widen the reach of your content? This whole article is about the challenges of regularly creating new marketing content.  It is a common issue and this creates an opportunity for you. Look for other organisations where there is a synergy with your own business. Do they have their own email newsletters or blogs? Sometimes they have a regular ‘Guest Post’ where they actively encourage relevant articles from others. It can be a simple case of getting in touch and offering some content for when they have a free slot. You then just select from your existing archive and send it over to them – job done and you get a marketing message out to a new group of people. You must pick content that will fit the ethos and message of the target organisation and that you expect to be of interest to readers. The fact that you have already posted the content on your own website and maybe used it in  a previous email of your own matters less. Repetition sells!

Build a content network

Take the idea of guest posts to another level and build your own content network. Maybe you can invite others to submit articles for your own website/e-newsletters? As above, you need to ensure synergy and make sure that your own business message doesn’t get lost or diluted but articles from a wider network can deliver a more powerful impact to readers

Same content – different media

As a final twist on the theme, how about looking at delivering your content in different ways? Video is increasingly accessible and makes attractive content to web visitors. There is nothing to stop you having a go yourself using the video setting on your smartphone and free software that comes with your computer but there is no question that the input of someone who knows about video can make a big difference and these days doesn’t need to cost a great deal. Just remember you are not trying to produce Apocalypse Now. Keep your video short (2 mins max, 30-60 seconds is better). Keep your message simple. It is better to do a few short videos each focusing on 1 aspect of your business rather than trying to do a ‘Corporate Video’ In this world of the web, don’t forget off-line. Just think how few personalised, targeted, relevant mailshot letters you receive these days. Selective marketing through the post can have more impact than it did a few years ago, particularly when it is part of a joined-up multi-channel marketing programme. I hope you find some of these ideas useful. If you have any questions or there is anything you would like to discuss further, please get in touch.  

PDF to Excel converter

free_pdf_to_excel_converterIt’s a while since we have highlighted a useful tool, but I had need to convert a PDF into an Excel spreadsheet this week, and realised that it would be good to share the tool we use for the job. I used the PDF to Excel converter from www.pdftoexcel.org. Although they do offer a desktop system Able2Extract PDF Converter 8 for $100, they also offer a free on-line service where you simply upload the file, and give them your email address. The file will then be converted and the resulting excel file emailed to you. You have to wait around 30 minutes for the file to be emailed, but I guess thats a small price to pay and if you want it instantly, you can always by the desktop software! In our experience it works well. This is also a good example of how giving something away, be it information or a service, is a great way of encouraging people to give you their email address. In this case, they know I am interested in what they offer, and they now have my contact details for future use.

Planning for growth? Planning for change

successI have spent a good deal of time recently thinking about a couple of questions:

  • What is the essence of a business?
  • How can a business grow?

The essence of business?

Can I suggest the following as 4 key elements that make up pretty much any business you care to mention:

  1. A product/service
  2. An ability to deliver that product/service

    1 & 2 together make up The Business Proposition

  3. A target market
  4. Engagement, communication and relationships with contacts in that target market

OK, all of these can be drilled-down into, expanded and detail added but if the proposition can deliver real benefit to the target market and the market understands and acknowledges this benefit, they will do business with you. Not all of them and not all the time but the business is there.

Planning for Growth

So why is your business the size it is and performing as it is? Well, because it is! This is where you are. If you want to grow your business, you need to change your business. You need to change the equilibrium between the 4 key elements. If you have a well defined (written down?!) development strategy and plan, and you are following it then no doubt your business will be moving. Your management of this process will help make sure you are moving in the right direction. How you do this is up to you! If this is your business, congratulations, you are (to use a cliché) working on your business, not just in it. If you can deliver your proposition cost-effectively, you have the platform to grow a successful company. BUT: in my experience, ask 100 SME business owners if they have a written and active business strategy that they use to manage their business, at least 90% will say ‘No’ or, at best, ‘Well, it’s in my head’ If a business has no clear strategy that the management team are working to in order to move their business forward, do they have any realistic chance of growing the business, other than by ‘striking lucky’?

If you want to grow your business, plan for change.

Planning will take you out of your day to day business but I suggest this is a good thing. If you are too busy working in your business, things will just happen around you and you will simply deal with the consequences. Believe it or not, there are several excellent sources of support available at the moment, both financial and expertise. They will not grow your business for you but they can help you make the time to plan and sustainably grow your own business. I know. I’ve been there and done it! If you want to know more, drop me a line.

Email target lists – The 'Wild-West' of marketing

datawildwestWe are regularly asked to supply marketing data and lists for email campaigns and, to be honest, the world of commercially available email marketing data is like the wild west! As a rule, you should never forget that your own data and contacts, built up through doing business in your field, will be better quality and more qualified than any commercially available email target lists. While we would ALWAYS recommend that you start with the people you know and focus on making the most of existing contacts, it is also important to grow your target list with more, well qualified contacts. Given that good marketing is a process, not an event, so should growing your list be a process and, if you can afford the time, adding well qualified contacts a few at a time through networking or careful research is likely to produce the best results long term. The process is sustainable but it does take time and not everyone has this luxury. We also find even well established businesses  who have no meaningful marketing database. Creating a starting point with a usable list of acceptable quality becomes a priority. So where to begin? It isn’t easy. There are so many diverse options as this example shows: A client recently asked to research list options for targeting schools by email. Here are the result of our investigation:

Option 1 The ‘QUALITY’ Email Target List

  • List based on lots of research
  • 30,000 school contacts
  • Very selectable by area, school type, contact type etc
  • Minimum order 1000 records
  • 12 months rental on open licence
  • Rental cost upwards of £400/1000 (Full list £10k+)
  • Rental must be renewed after 12 months

Option 2 The ‘MEDIUM’ Email Target List

  • Complete list of 24000+ records
  • List could be split by region
  • 12 months rental. Maximum 12 email in 12 months
  • Full list cost £850
  • Rental must be renewed after 12 months

Option 3 The ‘VALUE’ Email Target List

  • 17000+email addresses
  • No selection available. All or nothing
  • One-time purchase
  • Cost £59!

Is Option 1 really over 100 times better than Option 3? What do you think? To be fair, schools data is a little unusual in that much of the core information is publicly available online (if you have the time to look) but the principle applies across the board – there are B2B email marketing lists available from less than £50/1000 to more than £300/1000. All claim to be well research, up to date and fully opt in!

So what should I do?

  1. Make the most of what you have already – a simple spreadsheet can be enough of a ‘database system’!
  2. Make sure all new (relevant) contacts you make go onto your list
  3. Have a plan to build your database with well qualified target contacts – little and often is best – and make sure you stick to your plan
  4. Keep in touch with your contacts. Build relationships. Make sure they know exactly what you offer and appreciate your expertise – Be Heard, Be Valued
  5. If you need to build a list quickly, certainly look at options for bought-in data but KEEP IT SEPARATE from your own data. Quality data is very valuable. Make the most of it but treat it with respect.

Remember the adage: ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!’ – but there is no question; there are opportunities out there….