Monthly Archive: February 2013

Need A Content Marketing Strategy That Works?

It’s Wednesday afternoon, have you answered your prospects’ questions today?

Providing good answers to the real questions potential customers ask — on your own website — is the key to a successful inbound marketing strategy, according to Marcus Sheridan, a.k.a. The Sales Lion. Sheridan’s company, River Pools and Spas, was spending 250,000 a year on radio, television and pay-per-click advertising, until the economy tanked and they had to cut the budget to about a tenth of that. The company began to focus on generating sales through informational blog posts and videos instead, and they’ve been wildly successful thanks to a common sense but unconventional approach.

Sheriden told the The New York Times, he merely examined how he and others actually use the Internet.

Most of the time when I type in a search, I’m looking for an answer to a specific question. The problem in my industry, and a lot of industries, is you don’t get a lot of great search results because most businesses don’t want to give answers; they want to talk about their company. So I realized that if I was willing to answer all these questions that people have about fiberglass pools, we might have a chance to pull this out.

I love when the answer is this simple. People who might want to do business with you have questions they need answered and it’s your job to answer them.

Sheriden reports that price is always one of the first questions River Pools gets from potential buyers. So, he wrote a post about what it costs to install a fiberglass-pool, and used every cost-related phrase he could possibly type in. Remarkably, he’s been able to track a minimum of $1.7 million in sales to this one plain Jane article (screen grab posted below).

Fiberglass Pool Prices

It’s strange to see Sheriden’s post and realize just how effective it is. In the advertising business we think of elegant solutions as perfectly crafted commercial art pieces. But perfectly crafted for whom? The truth is we often make ads to accomodate our own tastes. But that’s all wrong, especially online. People are searching the Web right now for answers to the pertinent questions before them.

What shall we make for dinner tonight?
Where shall we go on vacation this summer?
How do we develop a winning content strategy?

It is time to get your list out and write down all the questions that prospects ask you (I’ll do the same here). By the way, I’m happy to help you answer the questions on your list and make multimedia content for your site that draws people in, so you can make a sale. That’s what content maketing is, and it’s what we do best.

Answers To Your Content Marketing Questions

I became a Content Director in 2006, after a decade working as a copywriter. Hard to believe it was seven years ago, but this fact leads me to point out how old content is. Content is old as the MarCom Hills. John Deere created The Furrow, a magazine for farmers in 1985. It’s still going strong today. Yet, “Content Marketing” has emerged as a major buzzword and topic of conversation today — like Social Media before it — and many clients and agency personnel continue to shake their heads and ask, “What is this Content Marketing and why do I need it?”

Content Marketing is brand-sponsored text, images, audio and video, plus live experiences that people actively seek out, thanks to the fact it enriches their lives in some small way, either by providing compelling entertainment or some form of utility. For instance, I helped Columbia Sportswear make their first smartphone App, “What Knot To Do” in 2009, which provides branded utility to sailors, climbers and others.

WhatKnot_ColumbiaSportswear_App

Rosie Siman of 360i uses a similar description:

We define it as assets and experiences that, in aggregate, form pieces of your brand story. It can range from apps to ebooks, from infographics to transmedia experiences, from tweets to filtered photos.

Siman also touches on how Content Marketing is different from advertising.

I’d argue that all commercials are content, just not necessarily good content. Though the reverse isn’t necessarily true: good content doesn’t have to resemble what we traditionally think of as commercials.

I see the differences as more distinct, even though the purpose is the same (to build the brand and grow the business).

Most advertising we see everyday repels because it’s loud and obnoxious me-first messaging. Content flips the script by placing the audience, not the marketer’s talking points, at the heart of the communications strategy. For instance, a community credit union may have better rates and lower costs, which are perfect points of difference to build an ad campaign around. But the credit union’s content strategy won’t follow this formula, instead it will discover what credit union members care about, and where the brand’s interests intersect.

A company is not an island, it’s part of a community made up of workers, customers and so on. People in your community already tell stories about your company, whether you realize it or not. By telling some of your own, you can help guide the narrative around the brand. You can’t control it, but you can elevate the overall discourse and put the brand’s best foot forward.

Just like your company is not an island, either is the content you make and offer to your various constituents. The best content is a perfect compliment to your advertising and PR. Content helps deepen connections with prospects, customer and staff. It doesn’t replace your ads or your PR, it is one-third of the paid, owned and earned media trinity.

Feel free to call me at 503-970-3862 to discuss in greater detail.

Needed In Oregon and Elsewhere: A Meeting of Makers and Marketers

There is definitely a “Made in America” movement afoot. It’s a topic I examined last summer when meeting the Crispin-refugee founders of Boulder’s Made Movement, an agency dedicated to promoting American manufacturing.

As I conduct an internal “audit” of Oregon’s largest privately held companies and begin to assess their marketing needs (a first step in approaching them with innovative solutions), I see there are lots of manufacturers operating in the Beaver State.

Some of the more high profile things being manufactured in Oregon today (by hundreds of small privately held companies) include wine and beer. Combined, Oregon’s beer and wine industries generate $5 billion in revenue per year. Mix in the service sector tourism dollars that Oregon’s agribusiness attracts, and you’ve got an even bigger source of jobs, tax revenues and opportunities for contractors of every stripe.

What other tangible real world products are being made in Oregon, USA today? Here’s a quick look at a few B2C and B2B examples:

Interestingly, what’s not being made here are Nike or adidas shoes, or any of the sportswear that’s such an important part of Portland’s economic past, present and future. Sure the gear is designed here, but it’s made cheaply overseas. That’s not going to change overnight, but millions of American consumers (and some staff and trusted partners) would like to see it change, regardless.

Oregon-made is already a distinct mark of quality in food and beverage, software, advertising, TV and film, sustainable business and indie music circles. I’m suggesting we add our industrial sector makers to this list of sexy and promote “Made in Oregon, USA” to a wider audience and new markets.

Branding Precepts for Our Digital World: Keep It Fresh & Have Some Fun

Loosen up. The era of brand consistency is over and done with.

Media is fluid today and brand identities have to adapt if they are to remain dynamic. That’s the word from Jose Martinez Salmeron, Executive Creative Director for Social@Ogilvy in Washington, DC.

Brands should nowadays give themselves permission to be more surprising, to flirt with their customers, to listen to what they have to say and to cater to their desires. A modern brand should take leaps of faith, abandon self-obsessions and embrace risk. Conversely, by not doing this, the brand could become irrelevant in a hurry.

Martinez Salmeron also believes it is necessary to “embrace executional variance in a smart way, by establishing loose parameters that nonetheless can create a familial feel for an otherwise very rich group of brand applications across media and across continents.” In other words, brands are living cultural reflections–attempt to control them at your own peril.

bahamas_duffy

For a recent example of a fluid brand, Martinez Salmeron points to Duffy & Partners’ work for The Islands of the Bahamas — and how it is “a robust brand language that is endlessly adaptable, flexible and immediately recognizable.” Endlessly adaptable is a high standard, to say nothing of immediately recognizable. Add co-creation and engagement with the brand’s community, and the complexity of modern brand management is plain to see. Be that as it may, the job is to make it all seamless, simple and clear.

I am seeing this kind of flexibility/complexity in my own world right now. Our client, TeeBoxx, invested wisely in its brand identity and point-of-sale materials, now as the company readies its new website (and online store), creates sell sheets, branded merchandise, an event booth, pop up retail and so on, the applications for the new brand ID are multiple and varied.

Invest In A Vibrant Brand, So It Serves You For Years To Come

Price can be such a delicate subject, especially when pitching new accounts. But why? We’re conducting business here, are we not?

Ashley Ambirge, “the go-to copywriter + online marketing sexpot for businesses + brands who want PERSONALITY” is definitely conducting business on her site, The Middle Finger Project. She is also transparent about her pricing and what a client gets for their money.

Copywriting | the middle finger project-1

Her offer is a bit gimmicky, but I like the core concept, which is to clearly show what otherwise arbitrary pricing buys. So many times pricing discussions devolve into a focus on one’s hourly rate, when hourly rate does nothing at all to convey speed, scope or quality. Ambrige solves this on her site by outlining copywriting packages for $399, $997, $1997 and a few other one-off prices. She then walks readers through an online form that serves as her brief for the project. It’s a tidy package and my hat is off to her.

Naturally, I’m considering how Bonehook’s new business strategy might be impacted by more transparent pricing and/or packaged pricing. In my opinion, Bonehook should never lose a bid on price, and my hope in discussing price is to help prospective clients see the value in our offerings, and how our networked structure allows for much better pricing.

I know numbers like $399 don’t mean anything thing in the context of the traditional agency world, but Bonehook provides services for as little as $500/month. That’s a base-level fee to get me going on your behalf. The retainer framework specifically covers strategic planning, account service, project management, copywriting and creative direction. Graphic design, art direction, web design and development, web hosting and maintenance, photography, illustration and search engine optimization are value-added services we subcontract. Media purchasing is another outside cost.

All told, a small-to-medium sized business can expect to spend $10K to $50K per year on marketing — a small price to pay to tell your company’s story in a consistently compelling way. For instance, if your company is doing one million in annual sales, $50K is just five percent of sales, and $10K is just one percent of sales. If your company is doing ten million in annual sales, one percent toward marketing is $100K.

Ask yourself if your company’s blog posts, social media updates, email newsletters, videos, white papers, presentation decks, speeches, press releases, radio spots, print ads and TV are presently getting the job done. Bonehook can be your big time improvement department. Give me a ring at 503-970-3862 and let’s start to hammer out a budget and a MarCom plan that works for you.