7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

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So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

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How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

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The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

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  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

The Lead Generation Ecosystem

I am delighted to show you “The Internet Marketing Lead Generation Ecosystem” infographic which was created by Straight North, a PPC service company. What I like about it, is that it is designed to show how multiple online marketing channels can be combined to create an integrated Internet lead generation campaign. With this infographic you’ll learn how to use your traffic sources to create new customers by:

Understanding how numerous online channels can be used to create an efficient online lead generation campaign;

Analyze obstacles that your current campaign is facing that can be possibly costing you leads, and

Pinpoint new ideas to update your current campaign to make it more effective.

The top portion of the infographic highlights the various online areas that can be used to drive traffic back to your website. Then, the middle section shows the reporting, contacting and lead validation process that should be managed by seasoned Internet marketers. Flowing to the bottom section, the leads gathered is converted into a new customer.

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About the article

This is a free guest post, courtesy of Straight North. The Bitter Business has no business relationship with Straight North other than enjoying this infographic on the internet marketing lead generation ecosystem.

Author Bio

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy for Straight North (https://www.straightnorth.com/), a full service Internet marketing agency that offers services in SEO, PPC and website design. With more than 25 years of experience, Brad has written for Salesforce, Moz, Forbes and other leading online publications.

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

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It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

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Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

A Guide to Content Marketing for Start-ups

How can content marketing help satisfy a start-ups customer acquisition and quest for growth. Old sales tactics are declining and the push sales cycle can mean a new business is out of runway long before their business gets off the ground with revenue. The rapid change in buyer behaviour for both B2B and B2C means an unforgiving economic climate in which a start-up has to function. Thankfully, the meteoric rise of inbound marketing together with social selling has added a suite of new tools to the business sales and marketing toolkit.

While the sales and marketing field have been levelled they are also becoming more complex as buyers seek out useful and valuable vendors via quality content as they self educate like never before. So how can a start-up business win with content marketing and what does it stand to gain from it?

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It begins with a plan

To develop a content marketing strategy, we must first understand the role of content in attracting the buyer in the digital economy. As buyers self educate online in both B2C and B2B markets they consume content as part of the buying journey. When we refer to “Content” we are referring to whitepapers, video, infographics, images, press releases, newsletters, help guides right through to thought leadership articles. Also, focus content themes and topics that match the interest of your “Ideal Customer Profiles” or “Buyer Personas”. When it comes to content curation do not consider content to be anything you find funny or amusing as you dive into the sea of digital content being published about your industry. Instead, think of content that adds value to customer or buyers journey, information that is useful and benefits the reader in some way. Start-ups who remember that content is bait and the better the content, the better the fish will have taken a big step towards getting their business moving forward. So ask yourself, “Who is your customer?” “What is their need?” and “How will you deliver on their need”. Now you can start to assemble a content marketing plan.

The first step as mentioned above is to define your target audience (ideal customer profile/buyer persona) in terms of Firmographics, demographics, age, occupation, habits, etc. Then, the start-up needs to plan who and from where will they create and source a steady stream of content for publishing. Next it is time to research what is their favourite social media platforms. This information allows us to define clear goals and social KPI’s. These may cover items such as content views, content downloads, traffic, blog visitors, total traffic, social reach and social engagement. Now the start-up can proceed with moving their plans from the drawing board into social media reality.

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Put the start-up on the social media stage

We know from research that over 75% of B2B buyers seek business information online. Over 90% of consumers now consume content prior to making an online purchase. So it is no surprise to know that one of the greatest benefits of content marketing is increasing the exposure to potential customers whether it is locally, nationally or globally. That is why building a social brand and social reach through content is closely tied to the process of developing closer relations with the target audience, and getting to know each other. The ultimate goal of any content plan is to inform, educate, engage, inspire, and spark attention. This is no easy task as the work of attracting buyer’s attention has fierce competition. The best shot for a new business is to become a valuable information source with real insights and fresh, challenging points of view. Content blindness or overload can be avoided if the start-up can separate itself from the competition and rise above the noise generated by vanilla flavoured content.

Also it is important to avoid the pitfalls that go with content marketing. Don’t be tempted to write about product superiority and service excellence without social proof which may include influencer opinions or valid customer reviews. Do not overlook the value of visual content and videos. A whooping eight seven percent of the top posts on Facebook have pictures included, while it is thirty five percent on Twitter.

Another critical point is to convey the businesses personality and social purpose. Content should reflect the business culture and be used to plant seeds with targeted buyers on your beliefs and philosophy around serving customers. Finally, create a content sharing schedule so that the selected content must is posted regularly. Creating a calendar is paramount, as this enables start-ups to plan themes and topics to match buyer interests while scheduling posts ahead of time.

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A content publishing engine room

Content creation falls into two main categories, “First click content” and “Second click content”. First click content is designed around the search engine optimisation (SEO) and driving traffic. It is heavily keyword focused with “Tips” “Guides” and “How to” type content the best themes to ensure sharing and thus getting the content at the forefront of search engine results page (SERP). Using content to build inbound links is one of the best marketing strategies there is, so ensure your content publishing engine knows what keywords to target.

Remember Google carefully monitors the content surrounding the anchor link (title, topic, theme, keywords) so it is vital that the quality of the content has to be top-drawer when doing link building. Other aspects of a content publishing plan are to monitor industry trends and new relevant keywords as to develop content or visuals. Identifying these elements can boost a business’s search ranking and drive more traffic.

While content marketing can be an inexpensive, yet highly effective lead generation method to reach ideal customer profiles, it does require investment in the production of the assets to be published. Create a content publishing engine that will help your start-up to attain a position of industry leader over a period of months. Sometimes if not often start-ups have little room for manoeuvre and must operate on a shoestring budget. So to make every Euro count, content marketing can have both short tailed and long tailed benefits by aligning all social media marketing to target buyers supported by quality, relevant content.

The runway is shorter than you think

A sense of paranoid can be healthy when launching a new business; one can live or die by their ability to quickly identify real wants and needs of buyers. The runway to getting the start-up of the ground maybe shorter than you think with more effort than you planned. This requires social selling with content, social media marketing, social reach and social engagement. To pull this off, the business must make the best use of content marketing strategies. Relevant, regular, appropriately themed quality content that engages the target audience to find you useful and valuable is the only way to make a name for the business quickly. If content is king, then badly written, irrelevant or copied articles, have little chance of becoming royalty. Always refer to the plan and only produce content that is tailored to the needs of the customers. It is about using content to be seen, be found, be useful and be valuable in the eyes and minds of buyers so the start-up can generate revenue sooner rather than later.

Connecting Content Marketing to Sales

How to use content marketing for improved sales enablement is a big discussion point among sales and marketing leaders. Most B2B companies rely on selling by direct sales teams to generate a large percentage of their revenues. For these companies, improving sales performance is a critical business objective, and sales enablement alongside the use of social media is seen as the best method for delivering company revenue goals.

When executed correctly, sales enablement has the involvement of both marketing and sales. Content marketing resources such as research articles, whitepapers, e-books, testimonials, video content and case studies plays a vital role in sales enablement. The marketing department are the ones usually tasked with creating the content assets.

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Does your sales team understand your content strategy?

Research shows there can be a mismatch between the content that marketing produces and the content the sales people need to progress their sales opportunities. The findings included that:

  • Only fifty four percent of sales people and sixty five percent of sales managers understand their company’s content marketing strategy.
  • While 65 percent of sales people and seventy four percent of sales managers say the content their company publishes is valuable to their customers.
  • However, a full fifty two percent of sales people and forty three percent of managers say the content their company publishes helps improve sales effectiveness.

The results show that nearly 50% of sales people do not understand the content strategy. So what is the issue?

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Lack of Smarketing!! As sales and marketing are not aligned on how a buyer buys. They probably have not mapped out the buyer’s journey together leading to disconnects between the two teams. In fact Forrester reported that one-third of B2B marketing leaders acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to serve up appropriate content to specific buyers when the time is right.

In your business do sales and marketing define the buyer’s journey differently? Marketing may have segmented the buyer’s journey into 5 or 6 stages.

.Apart from some buying signals on social media (some social selling tools are starting to monitor early stage indicators of buyers journey), most companies see the buyer when they are about to exit the awareness stage and enter the consideration stage. At this point the buyer starts to identify the right people with the answers on how to solve their challenges. They are actively looking for solutions and are self educating by accessing content to help make informed decisions. They are socially active on the social media networks, reading articles, downloading reports, looking for research and interacting with different forms of content to shape their next movement in the buying process.

Social selling engagement and marketing technology can assist a business with this stage to understand and track buyers who are downloading and interacting with your content.

Now buyers move to engage with vendor partners, they will subtly seek out relationships with a select few, ones that can help solve the problems the buyer has identified as being critical.

According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. The majority of buyers are researching online where they should find you (as a sales individual who they value) and most likely your competitors. The research shows they are looking at product features, reviews, testimonials, pricing and company information. – Source: IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience

The buyer has most likely now consumed enough content and the content produced from the companies which have proved they can provide the solutions to the challenges they face.

At the final stage, the buyer will choose a vendor as their preference with maybe one other as backup. If any business is waiting until the vendor engagement stage (which marketing may own up to now) then opportunities are being missed. Forrester has shown that 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a salesperson. If the content marketing strategy and sales enablement (social selling as an example) do not create value early enough and help guide the buyers journey then potential new customers are being missed.

You can bet that if the sales force feels disconnected from the marketing team, it also goes the other way. The marketing department can be frustrated that the sales teams are not sharing enough content. Maybe the reason is that marketing and sales have not had the conversations to figure out what type of content the buyers respond to at certain points of engagement. Marketing can only produce content to support the revenue goals if they understand the buyer’s journey.

Sales and Marketing Alignment is the solution

Create a revenue team, where sales and marketing come together and developed a unified version of the buyer’s’ journey. Segment the content tactics to mirror your sales pipeline and buyer’s journey. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness content: This is mapped to the buyers why (Why do I have a problem?). This type of content is aimed at top of the funnel where the prospect acknowledges that there is a potential problem that needs a solution.

Consideration content: This reflects the buyers how (How should I solve this?)  Where by consuming more information they have identified what that problem is and who could maybe solve it.

Decision content: Getting the buyer to identify the “who.”(Who has proven they could solve this) They have defined their ideal solution strategy and who they will engage with based on relevancy of data they have accessed.

By mapping the ACD content strategy on the buyers “why” and the “how” will give the sales team earlier opportunities to engage with prospects.

By aligning sales and marketing as a revenue team they can work together to create content that is relevant to buyers to match what stage they are at. The power in connecting content marketing and marketing to sales will create powerful assets that the buyer truly values.

How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way.

Many companies struggle in how to use content marketing to drive their sales or business upwards. No big surprise as today’s buyer is more educated and savvy than ever. Smart marketing leaders know that traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the day, so turning to social media and content marketing as a means to drive traffic and leads makes sense . In fact social media/online advertising will overtake traditional advertising this year, posing opportunities and challenges for many companies.

But social media and content marketing is not the same thing. Yes they do operate hand in glove with each other however one is focused on “consumption” while the other is based on “participation”.  The goal of content is audience consumption, while social media is all about audience participation.

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According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements.

So think of content as a beautifully prepared meal that people want to consume, social media as the room where they sit talking about the lovely meal they just have eaten and social networking is how you make people aware of your food in the first place.  They key to using content marketing is to create different meals aka content themes (chicken dinners become boring after a while) to keep people coming back for more. The same way we create different meals for different times of the day or weather, we also need to vary our content according to the different stages our prospective buyers are at.

I call this

ACD Content Marketing   

I believe your content tactics should mirror both your company stage of development and your sales pipeline. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is heavily SEO focused, a new business or one targeting a set of keywords for Google traffic will create allot of this type of content. It is aimed at potential buyers whom have no previous awareness or interaction with your business. The goal here is using keyworded content to get searched and seen by as many people as possible. Themes for awareness content include such titles as – how to, tips on, a guide to etc.

Awareness Content is served up on:

  • Social Media Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Posted on Blogs – Medium, WordPress, LinkedIn Pulse and Blogger.
  • Published to your own Website and Landing Pages
  • As presentations on Slideshare or Learnist.
  • Visuals (including Infographics) on Visual.ly or Imgur.
  • SEO link building to places like Scoop.it, Quora, Pearltrees.

This type of content is usually on-going as a business targets new keywords or sets of customers. It is important to capture their interest via newsletter or update sign-ups. Then you can now move to creating “consideration content” or content that is focused on getting customers to select you as a vendor.

Consideration Content

As you build traffic, repeat visitors, newsletter subscriptions and social network connections a business should start to blend in consideration type content into their content strategy. This is where you use content to nurture (lead nurturing) prospective customers.

The goal is to create content that will “nurturing the customer” meaning informing them on why/how your product or solutions will solve their problems. At the beginning consideration and awareness content can often be have similar traits as in keyword focused, but try to leave the SEO to aside as you progress, switching the focus on going deeper with informative and insightful content. The content is still served up on all the channels lists in the previous section plus emailed to your subscriber base.

Consideration Content should include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Research articles
  • Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Valid and Verifiable Customer Testimonials
  • Interviews (text and video)
  • Webinars
  • Sharing other forms of proof (reviews/awards/wins)

Decision Content

Decision content is offered to your qualified leads (sales and marketing working together) from lead nurturing them during the consideration phase. This content should be personalised, specific and introduced at the right time in the sales process. I suggest business splits decision content into “pre-close” and “post-close”. Pre-close content can be vital to closing a sale so should be planned out carefully.

Types of Pre-close Content may include:

  • Onsite or Virtual Product Demonstrations
  • Existing customer reference with detailed implementation
  • Personalised Proposal
  • Pricing Documents
  • ROI Presentations using existing customer cases

Lastly, there is the “post-close content”, this can include surveys, up-selling and cross selling content and referral requests.

Ensure you create content to welcome new customers and solicit feedback as part of your content arsenal. Also make sure to produce content templates that thank them for their purchase. Also post-close content should include sharing information on your newest products and upgrades.

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Wrapping it All

The ACD marketing method has other benefits, used correctly it can be a superb way to gather valuable insights. Content marketing is the marketing of the here and now plus the future. It will only develop in its sophistication and personalisation as the social media networks become central to sales and customer interactions. Content is the always on, 24/7 plug-in to the internet world, always there guiding your potential customers even when you are asleep. The key to to create attractive and appealing content that will be consumed by the reader that matches where they are in your sales pipeline.

The Bitter Business can help create or work with your social media marketing or content marketing strategy, helping you to understand what type of content works and which aspect of your content creation needs to be improved to deliver more traffic, more leads and more customers.

Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Business

Small business can struggle to strategically use social media marketing to get their message out. In fact at times social media can feel a bit overwhelming. The top 10 social network sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine and a host of other niche networks generate huge audience participation for a business to market themselves to.  But where does one start, which social network suits best and what are the best methods to market a small business using social media?

Here is a list of tips to help any small business to better use social media to get their message in front of their target audience.

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Create a social media marketing plan. Plan out what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and what resources you need prior to kick starting any social campaign. Too many businesses just dive in and start plastering links on LinkedIn, posting images on a Facebook page or tweeting messages without first considering how social media activity can help drive their business. The reality is that to do social media in a meaningful matter requires committing resources (content creation, social selling, and social conversations) and people (content seeding, managing social profiles, community engagement) to the task. Effective social presence means constantly updating, sharing and posting to keep everything fresh to attract potential customers. Old, outdated and “infrequent” activity will just not cut it. The plan should map out a schedule that works best for the business based on resources or budgets. Social media should be viewed as a strategy investment with goals and then needs to be prioritised with clear ROI on the planned activity.

Create a buyer persona to define your target audience. Not all social media platforms work for every business, B2B is different from B2C, are you looking to sell online generate traffic or do lead generation? If you’re trying to reach B2B buyers then LinkedIn maybe your best bet or if teenagers are your target audience then Instagram could be the way to go. If the marketing or creative community is on your radar then Google+ communities is worth targeting. Also consider when this audience is most active and then plan out the posting schedule accordingly to maximise your results.

If your potential customers are teenagers then schedule social shares during the evening when they check their profiles. A good tip is start with one network and get skilled at doing it well. Then add in other networks over time.

The 3 C’s of a social media plan. Content, content and content. Content (your own and 3rd party shares) is what powers social media. Always have a fresh supply of content and make it current to the topics, season, conversations or news. A few blog posts of 1000 words plus is a good starting point. A thousand words might seem long but as a small business you need to become a subject matter expert for your industry. Share stories, insights, tips, lessons and learning’s in a friendly tone.

Use content/images/videos/guides/insights from complimentary 3rd party sources to build up your content library. In fact readers value quality content regardless of the source and recognise the person posting it as a valued contributor to the community.

Social media is multimedia. While article content is the main tool for social promotion, video is fast becoming the engagement channel among certain demographics. Video is getting easy to shoot and share. Customer interview videos with detailed discussion can be powerful. Also use imagery, pictures and infographics that showcase your company’s products.

Social media platforms are for engagement. As with social selling, all your activity should strive to drive engagement not pushing out blatant sales promotions . Follow the steps – Awareness, Consideration, Nurture and Develop. Selling comes later once you have developed a relationship. Social media is the channel for potential customers and buyers to become aware of you, to get to know you, to understand what value your can bring and to learn what your company stands for so be authentic and share content that brings value to the reader.

Become a thought influencer and source of quality information, this will attract customers to notice you and in time they become receptive to buying from you. So share quality content that reflects your own personal brand and watch as people joins you in your journey.

Stay engaged on conversations and comments. Don’t just share and disappear, stay on top of discussions and your postings. If a customer leaves a comment about something you posted (positive or negative) then don’t over react, just reply back. Buyers need to know you are listening, responsive and can engage with discussions. Listening and replying to social media conversations requires time so ensure you have planned for this activity.

The social media road should lead to your website. As you generate more awareness and consideration amongst buyers then over time they will end up visiting your website to learn more about you. So ensure you have your website in ship shape order including newsletter sign-ups, landing pages and contact us points before starting social media activities

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Your activity and content should reflect your brand. It is important to plan out so that all your social media channels, blogs, content and website reflect your brand. People want to engage with real and genuine businesses. Your content should mirror your own voice and match the topics or relevancy of your content to your business. For example, if a business is selling a HR solution, then the content needs to be factual in nature with a business tone.

If a business is selling a lifestyle product, then energetic or inspirational tones might work better. Where possible use real customer stories and always uses real testimonials on web pages.

Share to receive. Social media is not about you, it is about your customers or prospects. Study and research the language your target audience uses to talk about your industry. What topics interest them and what social conversations they engage with? Then engage them with content and insights that match these terms. The use of hashtags is a great way to join in on conversations on social media. Also optimise your content, blog and website with the keyword terms that will help you get found in web search results.

Another tip is as people do allot of question type searches (“how do polish my car?”), so a business selling car care related products will need to use this type of language in the content they publish on their blog.

Mobile is a must. Now most Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter are being done on mobile devices. Social platforms will gradually deliver a mobile first experience so your site and blog should be mobile optimised to provide a great browsing and shopping experience.

There you have it, a few social media marketing tips that might help you get the word out about your business and get the attention of the buyers you want to sell to.

Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

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To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

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So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

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Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.

B2B Social Media Strategy

How many small businesses really value a B2B social media strategy as a channel to create awareness and drive customer acquisition? As the social media networks and communities run into millions of business buyers on a journey of discovery the question has to be asked

Is your business maximising the potential of social marketing.

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I am certainly not the only one who can prove that you can get leads and sales from social media plus measure the success; however some marketing and PR people still are not fully informed on what social media has been able to achieve in the past few years. If any proof was needed I have many examples of B2B focused businesses who have implemented a successful social strategy to engage buyers and drive higher consideration levels for their product or service. Yet many companies still have a very limited exposure or plan on to use social networks to help scale their sales. Is it due to a lack of resources, maybe   not sure of the value or return, maybe you think your business or product does not warrant investing in social, uncertain as to what social media can do or is it just a simple case of unsure as to how to implement a social media strategy?

If you are a business owner selling into a B2B market then maybe it is time to challenge some of your beliefs regarding the power of social. Nearly every business size and type can utilise social networking to boost buyer consideration. As a starting point let us discuss the various buzzwords and concepts we hear mentioned.

What does it mean to be a social business

The words “social media” can conjure up all types of ideas and meanings. While most people will identify or even use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, any strategy involving a social element is more than just profiles or getting followers. Being a social business means defining a whole range of actions and goals that match a bigger business. At the heart of it all social marketing is a belief, a concept, and an approach to engaging people for work, pleasure, family, friends or business. There were the ideals from which all platforms were created and I am sure on which new ones will be formed. However it is not limited just to the platforms mentioned above.

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Social media allows us to open communication channels, local and global interactions and instantly share information or news across large networks of people.

If we take a wider or bird’s eye view of how social can impact our business then we switch from simply seeing B2B marketing as managing our Twitter account or Facebook page towards really evaluating how much a B2B social media strategy can help our business as a whole from sales to customer support to recruitment. The use of social networks can rapidly improve how we communicate both internally and to the external market which can open up all types of possibilities that go beyond the traditional view of what social media does for a business.

Let me give you a powerful example as to what social media can achieve.

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just a few short summers ago, we all were throwing buckets of ice over ourselves or over someone else. It all started with someone living with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) to raise awareness for people suffering from it. The idea quickly spread, so fast that the ALS Association made it an official charity effort. This fun activity, shared by so many of social media raised over $115 million for the charity. It resulted in over one million related videos on Facebook videos and got over two million mentions on Twitter.

Now I’m not suggesting business owner’s start throwing buckets of ice over their heads but I am using this example as a reason to encourage anyone involved in B2B sales or marketing to think broader about social. Even a small change in how we view things can bring a big change in what we prioritise.

There are many ways to extract value from the social networks

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There are many ways in which the networks can help those in a B2B market to achieve their goals. A common issue I still find is that many B2B businesses still do not fully understand how social media can help them.

Most social media strategy plans are centred on using social to engage directly with a target audience. As a business network, LinkedIn is proving to be really effective for B2B sales and for social selling. As how sales teams prospect for new customers evolve then LinkedIn will increase in value for how sales people research and engage potential customers.

Now I hear you say, “OK apart from LinkedIn where else can I use social media in a B2B sales environment?” Well, it may surprise you but a business can use Twitter, Facebook, Owler, Crunchbase, Medium, Google+, Pinterest, WordPress and Blogger to drive buyer engagement. This list is not exhaustive. The value in B2B social media can be found in SEO, in readership, in views, in reviews, in referrals, in content found and shared, for data in social conversations, in buyer’s profiles, in social data and in potential buyer contact details.

There are tens if not hundreds of industry forums, interest groups and social business groups which can be tapped into to increase awareness for your business. Also think about what you can get out not just about what you have to put in (content, articles, information news). Does your strategy involve using the networks to source emails, telephone numbers, conference attendees, competitor analysis, event details, buyer likes and interactions?

Social Media Strategy is not an option

It is a must have. The world and buyers are changing how we source vendors. The average life expectancy of a company is now approx. fifteen years. Due to the impact the internet has on all our lives whether consumer or business means the world is moving fast and faster. As social media becomes more and more accessible on mobile, TV and devices while time poor buyers turn to it to self discover for purchasing decisions, then not engaging with it can leave you at a disadvantage.

Now is the time for B2B companies to really make social a key part of not only their digital strategy but their overall business strategy.

How to Find New Customers on Social Media

Every business needs to find new customers and social media has become the go to channel for reaching new buyers using content as the main hook. Since the arrival of social selling and big data tools, social networks are now the main channels on which to identify and engage with new customers. While social platforms are superb publishing channels they are also great channels in which to promote products or services.

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The foundations to using social media platforms to find new customers are built upon 3 pillars. The first is having all your  social media profiles set up, the second is having your website populated with some customer centric content and the third is you have put in place a lead nurturing process for potential customers engaged with through the social networks.

So assuming all the social profiles are set up and you have the resources to lead nurture, take a look at these simple ways you can use social media to find new customers.

Here are some ways to use social media to find new customers

Getting leads via friend invite

A great way to increase social media exposure is to enable a friend’s invite scheme. Encourage your existing user base to invite their friends to connect with you or the business and maybe reward if they do will allow you to tap into a market segment that is likely to be interested in you. Also as you are using friend invites to increase social media exposure, why not use those friend invites to find new customers. The audience who already purchase your products or engage with your website are more likely to introduce higher quality leads, which allows you to find leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

LinkedIn group discussions

LinkedIn has become the main channel for B2B social selling, providing businesses and sales people the opportunity to network and engage with shared interest professionals. Done correctly the LinkedIn groups can provide a gateway to share, listen and engage with potential new customers.

A simple way to start is to do a search for the type of customer you are looking for; this will give you a list of groups to help you identify new customers. Just type in the search bar the profile of person you want to find and then on the left side click on Groups.

LinkedIn-group-discussions

Start viewing the groups that have populated in your search, but before clicking on join, be sure to look through the list of members to make sure that the people in the group are the type of people you want to engage with.

Once you have been approved into the group, plan out how you will go about sharing interesting content (not always your own!), creating discussions and contributing to existing topics around the group topics. Doing this activity in a thoughtful way will build your “social selling index” and add credibility to your brand. Over time this activity will give you insight to what your potential new customer are interested in. This is the preamble before you should reach out to connect with them.

Tap into hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags and social conversations are a superb way to find new customers. Twitter has over 600 million users and the real-time chatter provides any business with ample amounts of data to find customers.

For example, if your company is selling the latest marketing tool and your target audience are marketing professionals, search the hashtags #marketing on Twitter and a list of conversations and profiles with marketing will be accessible. Just like LinkedIn you can then start following and engaging with these professionals so you can start building relationships that can potentially turn into new customers.

Promote your customers on social media

Promoting real and valid customer stories is a great way to find new customers through word of mouth referrals. Select some customers who are benefiting from using your product or better still ones, who engage with your product on the social media platforms, then promote them on your company’s social channels. This type of activity will gain those customers’s loyalty, and the exposure you receive when they also share the “promotional url/article” on their own social profiles; increasing your brand awareness through your brand promoters.

Funnel social media traffic to landing pages

The creation and use of landing pages on inbound marketing and social media campaigns are a great way to find new customers. When running a campaign to promote a product, a white paper or maybe a webinar on social media, funnel your traffic to a landing page that relates back to the tweet or social post. Companies like Hubspot and Marketo are experts at this. It works as follows.

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When someone clicks on the link in the tweet/post it takes them to a dedicated landing page to download the content or information after submitting their name and email address. This kick starts the lead nurturing process for potential new customers that were acquired through social platform traffic.

Use and optimise Social Video

Video channels such as YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are powerful social networks to generate social media traffic for your business. In fact, according to Shareaholic, Google owned YouTube drives the most qualified referrals to websites.

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If not already doing so, consider using video content in your marketing strategy. Ensure to always include a call to action at the end of the video or in the description box. The call to action should funnel people to a landing page (see previous tip).

Target and measure Social Sharing

Social sharing is not only a powerful method to generate online referral traffic but also to boost SEO which in turn drives more traffic. Every day there are over 22 billion social shares on the web. This echo system can provide a large amount of product exposure that requires very little work.

Always include social share buttons on every blog article and make sure they are positioned to make it is easy and encouraging for users to share your content. Depending on the quality of the content will increase traffic to your content or website.

Become active on Google+

Google+ has over 2.5 billion users. (Social Media Facts and Trends) and in the world of social networks, Google+ can be overlooked. However, Google+ has a useful feature in its Google+ Communities. Just like LinkedIn groups, these communities have members which could a source of new customers. Do a search on a topic relevant to your business, and you will see the communities that could be a good channel to engage with potential customers.

Google-Plus-Community

Do a search for “web designers”. The search will pull up the Google+ communities that were made for web designers. Start by joining the communities that have the highest number of members, highest number of posts, and the most relevant profiles. Again the tactic is to engage within the community to build authority, then share relevant content that funnels people towards your website or landing page.

Final Thoughts

All the social media channels provide any business with the opportunity to find new customers and as a customer acquisition channel. The about suggestions are just some of the ways social platforms can be used to find customers. Remember that every tactic must be customised to your types of business and customer, vanilla flavour doesn’t work! So ensure to understand which social networks your target audience are on before committing resources into social media to find new customers. Understanding your ideal “target prospect” and where/what (type of content) this audience engages on the social networks will help you in being efficient in acquiring customers. Do not get caught up in the quantity over quality of leads debate, this is a matter of targets. To be successful in customer acquisition via social media is as simple as ABC, (a) use the right social networks, (b) have great content to share (c) have the right social selling tactics. Follow this mantra and finding new customers on social platforms will become a whole lot easier than you imagined.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.