Monthly Archive: September 2011

How Do Small Businesses Win? They Focus On Social, Local And Mobile

Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, attended a marketing conference last week where Social, Local and Mobile were top of mind.

According to Barone’s report from a #SoLoMo panel she attended:

  • One out of every five searches has a local intent.
  • One out of every three mobile searches has a local intent.

Customers are going online to find information about the businesses that exist 15 Miles from their doorstep. “If you’re not there, you don’t exist,” argued panelist, Gregg Stewart.

Barone also noted that nearly half of social network searchers select a local business based off consumer ratings and reviews.

I think it is safe to say many small businesses are not yet optimizing social media (and the recommendation engines therein), local search listings and the mobile web to the degree that their customers would like.

Given that word-of-mouth is critical online and off, companies can ask customers to rate them on Yelp and on Google and to “Like” them on Facebook.

You don’t want to “buy” customer reviews, but some form of reward might be extended to customers who lend a helping hand. For instance, if I like a new business that just opened in my neighborhood and post something positive on their Facebook Wall, I’m signaling that I want to be treated as a “friend,” not just another nameless customer.

Content Marketing Is The New Black, For Good Reason

Content marketing is exploding today, but what is it exactly? And when is content the best approach to a marketing problem?

According to Andrew Boer, president of MovableMedia, there’s a notable difference between content marketing and custom content.

Writing on Adotas, Boer argues:

In my view, there is a simple and fundamental difference between content marketing and custom content: one is internal, one is external.

Custom content — pioneered by folks like Pohly & Pohly over 50 years ago with the airline magazine — was typically the creation of content meant to build an affinity with your existing audience. This content would reinforce the brand, communicate the value of the product and create new opportunities.

There is some overlap, but content marketing for the most part is a different beast. Content marketing is predominantly outward facing — it is about creating content that will attract new customers for brands. It can be branded content, but it can also be simply “brand-relevant” content that attracts an audience.

Interesting distinction, but I prefer to keep things much simpler. Content is what people volunteer to spend time with, versus ads which they avoid like the plague.

When the content is brand-sponsored it needs to keep people in the franchise and attract prospects. Why limit it to one or the other?

Now, let’s look at the “when to use content?” question.

Kevin Ryan, Gilt Groupe’s chairman and CEO, spoke with DailyFinance about his company’s growth opportunities, the world of private-sale sites, and the company’s content strategy.

We’re not a content company: We’re an e-commerce company. Our goal is provide great ways to buy great merchandise. We think that content helps that, in some areas more than others. It’s not important when buying a pair of socks, but it is when buying foie gras. Gilt Taste has some articles; JetSetter [the travel site] has reviews of the hotels.

Ryan makes a good point. Content is often best when there’s a passionate audience for it. I could make the case that really great socks are worth talking about, but foie gras or button-cap chanterelles or anything that might be considered a lifestyle product is a better candidate for content marketing.

Business-to-business offerings, and professional services companies (in B2B or B2C), also benefit from content marketing.

Anytime there is a knowledgeable audience with a keen interest in knowing more, content is a good answer.

Master Jugglers Keep The Content Coming

In marketing circles it is accepted that well-made content builds the brand and grows the business, and that providing said content for free is a necessary step in establishing an audience, a portion of which can be converted into customers over the long haul.

But for writers, who don’t think of themselves as brands, personal or otherwise, the act of giving away the shop can be confounding. For instance, John Vorhaus, author of the novels The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey, plus the how-to series Killer Poker is not wild about free.

All the free content we provide hurts us two ways. First, it erodes the time we could be spending writing words we actually get paid for. Second, it puts us in competition with ourselves and undercuts the general notion that writers should be paid, and paid well, for our words. As long as we’re in competition with ourselves, individually and collectively, we’re kind of in a jam.

I don’t know the way out of this trap. I can’t stop marketing myself or I’ll have no market. But if I continue marketing myself in this manner, the product I bring to market will continue to be worth less and less.

Vorhaus, like many brand teams, is wondering about his return on investment. Creating content has a cost, even if the cost to distribute it to a large audience is negligible. The good news is the cost is relatively affordable when you develop a system that’s long on consistency. Slow and steady wins the race!

Essentially, you need to make room for content to develop and grow. How that happens in one situation versus another is like the difference between growing grapes in the volcanic soils of Oregon or cotton in the red clay hills of Georgia. For instance, I help clients do it themselves, especially where Facebook is concerned. Other clients don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to do it themselves. In those cases, Bonehook takes on the content production tasks and writes articles for web sites, email newsletters and the like.

A lot of it comes down to juggling. Running your business means you’ve already got three flaming batons in the air. Taking on the steady requirements of filling your digital properties with the kind of material that keeps them fresh and interesting is adding a fourth flaming baton to the mix. It’s not easy, but you can do it. You can write novels while simultaneously promoting them. And you can make products or sell services while simultaneously sharing stories that build the brand and grow the business. You may need a hand, but you can do it.

Vorhaus mentions in his column that he loves writing the free stuff as much as the paid. Therein, is another key insight into how this all works. When you love what you do it’s easy to tell stories that involve people in the brand and help them care about the company.