How to Position Yourself as an Expert with Content Marketing

How to Position Yourself as an Expert with Content Marketing

Today I’m going to talk about the need to include education when promoting your business. I’ve met a number of people who think that if they do a good job and treat their customer and clients well, that it is enough. They shouldn’t really need to advertise or market their business.

Doing a good job and treating people well is necessary, but it isn’t enough. For one thing, people have short memories. That’s just a fact. There will be a percentage of your clients that will keep you in mind and not only come back, but refer you . . . But for the majority, if a competitor puts themselves in front of them at the right moment . . . They most likely get that sale or contract.

The second reason is that very often while your customer may be happy about their interaction with you, they don’t know exactly why or how you served them well.

I’ll use pool building as an example. It’s hot and humid in Houston and pools are a very big deal. They are also a major investment for a homeowner. Not always, but usually a good chunk of presales time for a pool builder is educating the customer on why certain aspects of construction are important and why they really don’t want to skimp in those areas.

I know several very good local pool builders and we have had very long conversations about their frustration when they spend hours with a customer, only to have someone undercut their bid, and even worse is when they use the design engineered by the builder they didn’t go with.

I feel their pain, I do. Anyone with a business that provides any sort of consulting or strategy has experienced this. It is not just the execution, the plan, design or strategy, is part of the service.

If the service provider can’t be trusted to create the plan, they might not be the best to oversee its execution either. Each element contributes to building the big picture. If that vision isn’t there, the outcome might not be what you think.

Going back to the swimming pool example, we had a house when we first moved to the Houston area with a swimming pool. Coming from a state with much cooler weather, I had no idea what questions to ask or things to examine.

Pools are great . . . When you can keep them clean. In order to do that, sanitation and filtration are the number one priority. Forget the water features, make sure you have a good filter. We did not. We had a sand filter system that hadn’t had the sand changed out in years, but we didn’t know that until we fought a green pool for two years. My friend told me that you just can’t get ideal filtration with those old sand filters anyway.

To add to that, it was a fairly large pool but it only had one skimmer and one drain. Even a good filtration system would have had a hard time keeping it clean. The people who put the pool in obviously were sold on price, they put a big cheap hole in the ground, one that ended up being very expensive and frustrating to maintain.

If the original owners had known the consequences of going with the cheap builder up front, would they have made a different decision? I don’t know, but I do know that if I had known what I know now about pools when we bought the house . . . I think we would have made a different decision about which house to buy.

Your potential customers and clients are not experts in your field. You are. If you are in a business where experience and execution are important, then you, as the expert, need to be able to communicate that.

Before I moved to Texas, I used to be in real estate and I remember spending so much time educating clients one-on-one. Looking at houses was just a fraction of the time I spent with clients. Buying a home is a huge investment, for most people, it is the largest investment they will ever make, so it is important that buyers make an informed decision.

This was before Youtube, social media, and before blogging was a thing. I created home buyer and seller guides to give to people. Today, I would use content marketing: blog posts with tips, an email series for client development, and videos for home promotion and personal marketing.
If you’ve researched promoting your business online, I’m sure you’ve come across the term “content marketing.” I call it developing customer conversations. This type of educational information and explaining how your business best fits your customer’s need is what content marketing does best.

How are you communicating your professional expertise to potential clients? Last week, I talked about developing a marketing plan. How does that communication, that content marketing, fit into the plan?

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Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

Getting Started with a Marketing Plan

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s Cyber Monday. How did your weekend sales go? Did you implement some sort of customer building effort like we talked about last week? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Today, we are going to talk about planning, and specifically how to plan out a marketing campaign. My undergraduate degree is in business with a double option in marketing and advertising. My education covered general marketing principles, but in terms of advertising and application, it was focused on working in an advertising agency where you would research and develop a plan over a period of months.

What I’ve found in working with small businesses “out in the wild,” so to speak, is that the majority of them don’t operate that way. They know they need to market their business, but for most of them, that usually means they by an ad or a service if a salesperson happens to hit them at the right time.

That is the extreme end, of course, there are businesses who have more of a plan, but even then I’ve noticed that most of the time, all the pieces such as their website, their social media, their print, and their in-store promotions, don’t all tie together. There is not a single message.

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Because this is so common, the very first seminar I gave was on “how to develop a marketing plan” specifically for small businesses. I want to ask you a question. If something happened to the person who normally makes your marketing decisions, whether that is the owner or a specific employee, would you know the plan for the coming year? Could someone else step in and carry out that plan? If the answer is yes, “Yes, we do have a written plan,” then my next question is, does everyone on your team have an understanding of the activities and goals of that plan? When you play any sort of sport, there is a specific goal . . . An end in mind. Does every person on your team understand the goal they are working towards? If the answer to either of those questions (do you have a plan and is it communicated to employees) is no, some adjustment is necessary. I know one of the things about entrepreneurs is that very often they resist being nailed down to a specific plan or structure. That is part of why they are entrepreneurs, they want to do their own thing and a “plan” can seem so rigid, they like the excitement of uncertainty. What I would say to that is this. Even with the best-laid plans, life will bring enough uncertainty as it is. If you plan and prepare the best you can, you will be ready to deal with the “surprises” that pop up. The other thing I would say is that freewheeling attitude that energizes you as an entrepreneur stresses out your employees. If they were entrepreneurs, they wouldn’t be working for you, they would have their own business. Leaders point to a destination or goal. If you can’t communicate direction, you won’t have the full support of your team. Plans are important, in every area.

Make It Simple

A marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate report that an agency would create. It just has to be a plan. When I gave the seminar on developing a marketing plan, we talked about things to consider in the plan, but as for the actual plan itself, my recommendation was to keep it simple. Especially if you haven’t done this before, just get a year-at-a-glance calendar and think about the seasons of your business. When are the busy times of your year? What type of event or promotion will you run for that? Write it down. Think about the holidays, what will you do during those times? What are the slow times during your year? This might be a good time to hold a customer appreciation event or spend some one-on-one time with your best clients. When I work with clients, we usually look at the year in quarters and what we will be focusing on during that time. Not always, sometimes themes or focuses need to be shorter, but that is where we begin. Let’s say you have four major promotions or focuses planned for the coming year, those are your pillars. Everything else that you do will either build up to or follow up on those events: your advertising, your on-site promotions, your content marketing, your email newsletters, your social media postings. Do you see how the rest of your marketing and promotion become much easier once you have the sketches of a plan?

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Marketing Tips for the Holiday Weekend

Thanksgiving is in a few days and then the big sales weekend is upon us: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.  If you have any sort of retail business, I’m sure you have your sales and promotions in place.

But one thing I would like you to think about is “what happens next?” You’ve put a lot of effort and most likely a lot of money advertising those sales. Hopefully, this weekend will see a good return, but do you have anything in place to bring those customers into your broader customer base.

Once they come into your store, do you have a way to connect with them to encourage them to come back?

When you buy an ad in a magazine, or a newspaper, or run a promotion on social media, you are paying that publication for access to the distribution channel they have created. They have the eyes, or ears, you are trying to reach.
But what you want to do is to build your own distribution channel, your own customer base so that you aren’t solely reliant on paying outside advertisers.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s say you are running a sale this weekend. You’ve paid for mailers to go out, ads in several papers, and are running a Facebook promo . . . along with everyone else.

Someone comes into your store, buys a few things, and leaves. They may come back, they may not. But in order for them to know about sales you are running in the future, you will have to keep running the same sort of ads you did this time.
You will keep paying for the same customer over and over.

You might say, “well we have a Facebook page, we can post our sales there.” Good, you should.

But here’s the thing about Facebook, that page you are posting on and working so hard to build is actually Facebook’s page about your business, it is not your page.

When you post an update, only a small percentage of your followers will see that update unless one of two things happen, the first is if it gets a lot of engagement through likes and shares, and the second is if you pay for exposure. Otherwise, that update is throttled.
I wrote about this several years ago, natural engagement has only gotten worse. The same is true for Instagram, engagement of regular posts has dropped dramatically in the last year.

I am not saying not to participate on these platforms. They are a good way to participate in the conversations going on about your industry or service. But recognize it for what it is, it is Facebook’s game, they call the shots. You don’t.

So what is the answer? I’m going to cover three ways to grow your customer base from people walking through your doors, make the most of those ad spends.

#1 Build Your Email List

The one thing that you control is your list. You want to know who your customers are and continually expand that list. Some businesses send mailers to their list. Some do text marketing. But the easiest and most cost effective way to market to your customers is through email marketing.

If you go into a large nationwide business, what do they ask you at the register? Have you joined our rewards program and would you like to receive email notifications of sales?

They are building their customer base. Once that customer is on their list, they don’t have to rely as heavily on outside ad spends. They can do flash sales, they can clear out inventory with special closeouts and send it to their customer list.

But maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have a rewards program with my point of sale system.”

It doesn’t have to be complicated. One of my clients had a really archaic register system, but they still built their list. The cashier just said, “Are you on our email list?” If the answer was no, they said, “Would you like to be?” Then they just wrote their name and email address down on a sheet by the register and those were later added to their list. It can be that simple.

#2 Build Customer Reviews

The second way to grow your business from existing customers is by building up your reviews on review sites like Google, Angie’s List, and Yelp.

When you are looking for a company to do business with, what do you do? You might ask around, and then you also look at online reviews, don’t you? This is especially true for service businesses and restaurants.

I’m going to tell you a story of a local business who does a really good job of gaining favorable reviews.

I have three girls, and all of their mouths are a mess. One had a crossbite, one an overbite, and the third an underbite. Two of them had to have two sets of braces. We are an orthodontists dream.

When we started going to this orthodontist, I noticed that they had a lot of good reviews and I was wondering if they had a service that helped them with that. I also paid attention to the other ways they cultivated their relationships with their clients: they have a little welcome to the family gift when you start with them, their staff is very friendly, they have good communication, their office is pleasant with movies, games, refreshments, and wifi.

But actually, a lot of other dentists and orthodonists do the same, without getting the same number of reviews.

So one of my daughters got her braces off a few weeks ago. It was a big day. After the braces were removed, the doctor showed me how they looked along with the before pictures.

He asked me if I thought they looked good, and of course, I did.

And then he asked if I was happy with the service we have received. I said yes, and he asked again if there was anything they could do to improve because they were always looking for improvement.

He was following up to make sure there weren’t any issues outstanding.

After that, he handed me several cards and said, “If you refer anyone, be sure to put your name on the back of the card so we can send you a thank you card.”

And then he said, “would you mind taking a few minutes to write a review about us on Yelp or Google?”

When I said I would, he asked which one I would prefer to write on and then handed me a paper that had step by step instructions on how to leave the review.

It was brilliant. It wasn’t some complicated service. He just asked.

So just to recap what he did.

  • He highlighted the value and quality of the service.
  • He asked if we were happy
  • He asked for feedback.
  • He asked for referrals.
  • And he asked for a review, right then, and made sure the steps were clear.

That is how you get reviews. Make sure your customer is happy, and then ask for them.

#3 Build Social Media Profiles

So the last way you can build your business with customers that you have is through social media.

If you have a retail store, I hope you have some sort of photo opp set up for kids. Get some candy or some cookies and juice, set up a station, and have an employee standing there ready to take pictures.

I would recommend having some sort of drawing or contest. If they post the photo tagging your business and location with a unique hashtag, they are entered.

This is a really easy way to grow your social media following.

Have a Plan to Expand Your Customer Base

So to recap, I covered three ways you can grow your customer footprint, and I would prioritize them in this order

  1. The first is your email list. I would do this before you do anything else. If you collect those emails and then say, I don’t know what to do next. Don’t worry, call us, that is what we do.
  2. The second would be to focus on building your online reviews. Now, if you are a retail business, you obviously need to come up with a different strategy than the one that I mentioned, but there are many ways to do this.
  3. The third is to build your social media platform.

Pick one of these goals to focus on. Don’t try to do all three. Just one.  But look at not just this weekend’s sales, but on how well you grow your customer base.

Need Some Help?

New Marketing Podcast

New Marketing Podcast

Announcing our new marketing podcast, “Coffee Tips with Carla.”

A little bit about Coffee Tips.  Small business owners wear many hats and one of those usually includes that of “Chief Marketing Officer.” It used to be that a small business put up a sign, put an ad in the Yellow Pages, and ran a few promotions.

Things have changed.

Each Monday morning I will be sharing a few tips to help you promote and grow your business. It won’t be a lecture, just something you can listen to as you sit down to your first cup of coffee on Monday morning.

I hope you’ll join us.


				
					
What Business Owners Can Learn from Politicians

What Business Owners Can Learn from Politicians

Did you hear that? It’s the collective sigh of relief heard across the nation that the 2018 election cycle is over. Hopefully, we have a few months before the back street brawl begins for 2020.

But there are a few things business owners can learn from politicians and their campaigns and that is the way in which they market.

Marketing is identifying a need or a problem that a consumer has and explaining why your product or service is the best solution to that problem.

Both politicians and business owners have to identify problems constituents and clients have. Both have to be able to present the benefits they offer and explain why they are the best out of all the possible choices. (However, unlike politicians, you as a business owner have to actually deliver. Your business will quickly go down the tubes if you don’t.)

Having a Marketing Mindset

When I was an undergraduate, my advertising professor taught us always to be looking at advertising. Look at a piece and ask these questions.

  • Is this effective?
  • What is my response?
  • What is the call to action and is it clear?
  • What are the elements of the piece (image, fonts, colors, etc.)
  • Do I have a clear sense of the company and their brand through this ad?

He taught us to break it down into the details and analyze what made it work or what caused it to be a flop. If you are responsible for promoting a company, you have to always be looking and learning.

essages you have been sending.

What Politics Does Right

Many marketing pieces came across my desk in the past year since the campaign for the primaries began. There were some that I really had to wonder if they even thought about the message they were sending. Others probably didn’t do much more than create name awareness. But the point is almost all of them were out promoting themselves and they knew that just sitting back and relying on a party affiliation was not going to carry them through.

Two Take-Aways

There are many things that could be said about this election cycle, but there are two things I want to point out.

Ignore Social Media at Your Peril

The first is, did you realize how prominent a role social media played in campaigning? Facebook Live was a cornerstone of a good portion of Beto O’Rourke’s campaigning. Dan Crenshaw also frequently made use of Facebook Live and beat out Kathaleen Wall and her professionally designed ad spots and the deluge of mailers that must have taken a small forest to print. (They were pretty though, her design firm did a nice job on them.)

When it comes to influencing and winning people to your side, social media is not something that can be ignored.

The second is the huge sway content marketing had on the race. If you live in the Houston area, I’m sure you received one or more of the slate mailers designed as “newsletters.” The mailer has articles and editorials, some from “experts” in the field and some from candidates themselves, all in support of specific political positions. Intermixed are overt ads, just as you would see in a regular magazine, except they are all political.

Included in the newsletter is a slate of recommendation for candidates, and many people who receive them take them into the polling location and vote from them.

What are they doing here?

The newsletters define the problem. The problem may not actually be a problem, their experts may not actually be experts, and they may not be presenting the facts correctly . . . But they are framing the issues.

Because they have framed the issues, they are in the perfect position to present their recommended candidates as the best solution for that problem.
This is the essence of content marketing. Not the deception of course, but the engagement and the presentation of the information. If you provide a service, you want to frame the decision-making process, line out the question people should ask and the qualities or features they should look for.  Then you can show how you meet those criteria.

Marketing is about relationship and relationships require communication.

As we finish out this year, take some time to review the messages you have been sending.

Want to Get Started?

Would you like to start developing your own customer conversations?  Schedule a time to discuss content marketing and promotion options for your business

Creating a Cohesive Message in a Fragmented World

Creating a Cohesive Message in a Fragmented World

We have become a culture of people on islands. We are divided by political ideology, by age, and by interests. Targeting communication to people in various groups has always been a goal of marketing. The goal of a marketing plan is to craft appropriate messages specifically for each individual group. However, the big change is in the platform, there are many more than there used to be. There are countless more places that competing for our attention than there were even a decade ago.

For the local business owner, an advertising strategy has become much more complex than putting an ad in a local paper or yellow pages. They must also have a robust online footprint as well.

One thing we have seen while working with clients is that there is often not much cohesion between a company’s promotional platforms. The signs up in their business may say one thing, their web site another, and the message on their social media profiles can at best be described as schizophrenic.
Part of this may be due to each media outlet being added on in a piecemeal fashion. It may also be because those properties are parceled out among many hands without coordination between them. Regardless of the reason, the communication to prospective customers is less than it could be. What is needed is a master plan that each promotional channel ties into.

This is the idea behind our “customer conversations” program at Legacy Marketing. We work with our clients to determine what they want to say, who they want to say it to, and then where it should be said.

After working with a number of small businesses, we realized that needs may change from season to season. While everyone needs a plan to follow, creating and executing a marketing plan “in the wild” and in the middle of ongoing operations often looks a little different than in B-school. We designeda plan that could be flexible and yet within a structure to give growing businesses consistency in their marketing efforts.

If you need more consistency in your marketing and messaging to customers, contact us today to launch your own turnkey plan

 

Want to Get Started?

Would you like to start developing your own customer conversations?  Schedule a time to discuss content marketing and promotion options for your business

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