Writing (& More) for Small Businesses Delivers Big Opportunities

I’ve always loved to write.

While most kids were playing with blocks or dolls, I was publishing magazines or newspapers with feature articles, ads, sports box scores and all.

In college, I majored in Journalism and Mass Communication, but I took every writing class I could—business writing, media writing, creative writing, copywriting. I wanted to be well versed in nearly any writing discipline, so I could pursue numerous avenues in my career.

I Jumped at Every Opportunity to Write

As I started my career, I jumped at the opportunity to handle any writing opportunity. While I was pursuing my love of writing, I was also gaining more attention at work and building my portfolio (unknowingly at first).

Before long I was ghost writing for my manager and members of our executive team. As I continued to write, I developed a reputation throughout our company (a $350 million company with around 115 employees) as a go-to writer and editor. Eventually, I was published under my own byline in our company newsletter, which was a thrill.

You Can Pick Up a Lot By Asking Questions and Listening

As my career progressed, I started to think about my future. What did I want out of my career? A corner office and impressive title? Or something else?

I worked at the corporate headquarters of a franchising company, so my job involved interacting with and supporting small business owners around North America.

Every day, I was learning more about running a business, even subconsciously. I’m naturally curious, so I would ask questions while communicating with our franchise owners. People like to talk, especially about themselves, their businesses, and their accomplishments, so you can pick up a lot by paying attention, asking questions and listening.

Guess Who Some of My First Clients Were?

While I was helping our owners, I noticed some of them were looking for affordable marketing and writing services beyond what our company offered. They knew they needed help in these areas but couldn’t afford to hire large marketing agencies.

After nine years of honing my skills and building a professional network in corporate America, I left that company and struck out on my own. Guess who some of my first clients were? The same people I had been helping.

Starting My Own Business Seemed Like a Crazy Dream

While it was a long road, the idea to start my own business came during an aha moment 15 years in the making. (I realized I wanted to write for a living while I was in high school, although I couldn’t see myself—a country kid from an unincorporated village—as a writer.)

One day at work, I realized that so many small business owners don’t know how to market themselves and couldn’t afford traditional agency fees. With my diverse background in marketing, I could start a business offering professional marketing services and experience at affordable rates.

I could give brands a voice via marketing, writing and social media services, so business owners could focus on the reason they’re in business, and not struggle with marketing decisions, writing copy and developing social media strategies.

After I realized I could start my own business, it still seemed like a crazy dream. But I did start thinking about it a lot. The next day, I began thinking about business names and what would make my business unique. The more I thought about it and talked about it, the more it became a real possibility.

At a company event, I finally made the decision: I had to go out on my own. A year later, I left and never looked back. On May 15, 2012, Clearly Conveyed Communications (CCC) was born.

You Learn a Lot About Running a Business When You Jump Out On Your Own

When I started my business, I never dreamed of today—eight years down the road. I was just trying to get through each day. Eight years later, I’m still trying to get through each day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

You learn so much about running a business when you jump out on your own. (I know I did!) As much as I researched and planned (and you should research and plan), at some point you have to jump in and learn as you go. (Here’s some lessons we’ve learned over the years.)

To get started, I focused on the professional network I had spent the previous nine years building. I reached out to contacts I had made and relationships I had built over time to let them know I was in business. Not only were these people potential customers, but they were also connectors.

In addition, I worked out an extensive transition plan with my former employer. It helped them maintain their services as we hired and trained my replacement, and they were my first paying client. It was nice to have income as I was building my business and looking for more clients.

I Didn’t Foresee that Businesses Would Want to Outsource Their Social Media Management

While I planned on starting a marketing company that focused heavily on writing services, I didn’t foresee the interest in businesses outsourcing their social media management. I started receiving so much interest in this area that I added a new page to my website.

Today, social media management and content creation is a significant part of my business. In turn, they’ve led to additional writing opportunities.

Offering an array of services as a marketing company allows me to present a full-service front to my audience.

The inaugural Tweetup we organized for the firefighters.

For example: We partnered with a fellow marketing company, owned by a volunteer firefighter, to handle FDIC’s (Fire Department Instructors Conference) social media for six years. (See picture above.) We developed a year round social media presence for them, so firefighters could connect, learn and train virtually, too.

A Trend in Content Marketing: Long-Form Content

While my company creates a variety of content, we’ve noticed a trend in content marketing for long-form content, and we’ve jumped on it. It seems counterintuitive to our short attention spans and the constant state of information overload we live in today. However, quality long-form content performs well online, draws traffic and gives you a lot of content to repurpose.

The key is to make it readable (and skimmable) with appropriate visuals, short paragraphs and different sections, or headings. White space and proper formatting are your friends on screen.

SEO is important, but remember to write for people, not search engines, because they’re the ones actually reading it. You can still include keywords and appropriate tags and code while making your writing readable—by humans.

While we enjoy creating long-form content, CCC pursues all types of project-based work and programs. For example, we love writing all the copy for a new website or managing a company’s entire social media presence (as opposed to only creating content). These projects and programs pay more, so we can devote the time and resources to producing our best work. They’re also easier to schedule in advance, so we can utilize our time as effectively as possible.

Putting Our Clients First Helps Us Grow Our Business

Having said that, we will take on small programs, including minor content editing and distribution, or some one-off projects, to make more contacts and build more relationships.

Doing good work for people and helping them with their needs, however minor, can result in referrals.

We’ve been fortunate to be referred several times, resulting in new customers and opportunities.

That’s why we always put current clients first. It may seem better to focus more on business development, because small business owners usually don’t have the resources to wait for new customers.

However, we’ve found that by putting current clients first, we’re their first call—for any marketing activity. As we continue to help them with their needs, they continue to come back and refer us to their clients, business associates and friends.

In fact, we work with some businesses through our clients. They can expand the services they offer without hiring full-time employees or making a significant investment.

For example, a company who sells branded merchandise and printing services can add writing, social media and additional marketing services to their service offering to truly become a full-service marketing agency. As long as we work closely together, it’s a win for all three companies—CCC, our client and our client’s client.

Marketing: What to Consider Before Expanding Social Media Platforms

How do we market our marketing and writing services? We practice what we preach—although sometimes we’re a little slow to take our own advice.

We always advise clients to consider their resources before jumping into social media. It takes time and dedication to build an active, engaged community on a social platform. You don’t need to be on every social platform available or jump on the latest trend.

While social platforms all have their own strengths, they tend to copy each other. Has a new platform grabbed your attention? What features do you like? Wait a minute, and they may appear on a platform where you already have an engaged community.

For example, Snapchat become a darling in the social media world, and then Instagram (and later Facebook) added ephemeral content, or Stories. TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past year, but Instagram has recently announced that it’s rolling out a new TikTok-like feature, Reels, to new markets and expanding its capabilities.

This feature isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but we’ll probably see it eventually. There may be reasons you want to expand to new social platforms, but think about it first and make sure you have a strategy.

When CCC started, we jumped on numerous social media platforms and overextended our resources. Slowly, we reassessed and cut back to where we are today. That has allowed us to focus more on original content creation and distribution for ourselves instead of mainly curation.

Curation is important, because it introduces you to new people and delivers a wider range of voices to your social media communities. However, original content will help you stand out and bring on new clients.

Why Writers Should Have a Blog

If you’re a writer, you probably have a blog, or at least you should. Your blog serves as a place to showcase your writing, and it can lead to partnerships or business opportunities.

Try to set up a consistent publishing schedule based on when the most readers are stopping by your blog. While it’s important to be active, only commit to what you can do. If you’re on your own and spend a lot of time on client work, then you may only be able to publish once a week or twice a month. Don’t try to publish too often for the sake of publishing; your content will likely suffer.

House your blog on your website. It will be easy for your readers to learn more about your services, and your fresh blog content will help optimize your site’s search performance. While I’m not a big fan of consistently removing content (which is a trend today), updating older content helps boost your blog’s performance. Fix any broken links or missing videos you come across, and add any relevant, new information on the post topic to inform your readers.

Don’t Publish Your Content and Wait for People to Find It

Producing quality blog content can be time-consuming, but there’s even more work ahead after you publish. Distributing your content is important, so it’s seen by a larger number of potential readers.

Don’t publish content and wait for people to find it. You have to actively and consistently promote your content, because there’s such an overload of content today.

Don’t just blast your content across various social platforms in one format at the same time. Share each article in a format best suited for each platform. Repurpose your content so you get as much mileage as possible out of it.

Write a long-form article? Share bite-sized tidbits on Twitter, each time driving more traffic back to your article.

Record a video sharing highlights of the article, and post it on your LinkedIn profile or Page.

Share your article as a link preview post to your Facebook Page or group.

Share behind-the-scenes content while you’re writing to tease a new blog article in your Stories and to let your audience know when it will publish.

Content is king, but distribution is queen—and she rules the roost.

Meet Your Readers Where They Are

Some readers will prefer to read your content on these distribution channels instead of subscribing to your blog. We’re living in the age of assistance, so you need to meet people in the moment—where they are.

Building active, engaged communities on social media takes time, but these communities are full of potential readers and people who will share your work.

Use your social presences to interact with your audience and request their feedback. Instagram Stories has numerous stickers you can use to interact, while Twitter offers polls and the ability to have conversations with people around the world.

Facebook Groups have become increasingly popular, as you can offer a smaller part of your community first access to your projects, advice in a specific area (i.e. non-fiction writing tips) or a community of peers for fellow writers to bounce ideas off of. Depending on how you utilize Facebook Groups, you may be able to monetize them.

While CCC receives most of our work through referrals, social media and content creation are crucial in our marketing efforts. Even when you are referred for an opportunity, people will often look you up online first.

Do you have a strong presence on LinkedIn? Is your website up-to-date? What comes up when people Google you? Make sure you have a strong digital presence, so people actually contact you when you are referred to them.

What To Do When Your Writing Business Slows Down

If business has slowed down, spend more time creating and distributing content. Be even more active in your social media communities and work on growing them. Genuinely engaging with others will help you grow your community and may lead to new opportunities.

One of our larger clients watched our social efforts for some time before reaching out to us. Everything you do online is visible, so make sure you’re being your best self. Setting aside 10-15 minutes per day on a platform, including reading and commenting on other blogs, will help you make new connections and grow your communities.

We’ve had success utilizing these tactics, even though they take time. Social media is a long-term game; don’t expect success overnight. Instead of trying to create content that will go viral, focus on building and delivering value to your audience one day at a time.

This year, we’ve focused on creating more original content and distributing it more. By cutting back our overall social presence, we have more time to focus on our current communities and how we can help them.

By doing so, we’ve landed a few new, smaller clients. We’re excited to continue helping them, so we can grow these accounts into larger ones. You never know where an account or new opportunity might lead.

How Writers Can Expand Their Services

Speaking of opportunities, expanding your services or collaborating with fellow writers, editors and marketing agencies (or even fellow small or local businesses) can help you grow your business as well.

Are there additional services you can offer that make sense with your current business? Or maybe you already offer them, but people don’t realize that you do. If you see a trend in your industry or notice interest in a particular service, highlight it on your website and social channels.

Working with other companies who complement your services can help you land larger clients and opportunities. If you write copy for the web, look for a designer to partner with so you can offer complete website solutions.

Or look for companies that you can refer your clients to for related services, so they always come to you first. Building relationships with fellow business professionals and owners will make them more comfortable referring business to you, too.

This has been a stressful and trying year, so we hope everyone is pulling through it as well as you can. It may be the time to try a new idea, launch a related service or partner with another company. We wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in 2020 and beyond.

* * *

A version of this post was first published on WriterCEO.com. Thank you to Colleen M. Story for sharing our writing and marketing tips!

The Future of Work Is Here: How To Manage Your Team Effectively

Future of Work: How to Manage Your Team Effectively

What will the future of work and managing teams look like as we navigate our new normal? We shared tips with Wundamail, and their design team turned them into sweet graphics!

How To Manage Your Team Effectively

Ask Your Employees for Feedback

Ask your employees how you can help them succeed.

Communicate with Your Team (But Let Them Work)

Communicate with your team wherever they're working, but let them work.

Share Working from Home Expectations (But Be Flexible)

Share working from home expectations with remote employees, but offer flexibility too.

Make Sure All Your Employees Feel Connected

Make sure your remote or travelling employees feel connected to the team and your company.

Move to the Cloud So Your Team Can Transition with Ease

Move to the cloud, so your team can transition from home to the office to a business trip with ease.


Comment on The Future of Work

As we continue to navigate this pandemic (and eventually move past it), what do you think the future of work will look like? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

Thanks again to the Wundamail design team for creating these graphics.

Looking into the not-too-distant future,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about the future of work, managing teams or your marketing needs):

 

Grateful and Celebrating: CCC Turns 8

Clearly Conveyed Communications turns 8!

 

Thank you for celebrating with us!

Jaime

Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or what you’re celebrating):

How to Stay Engaged with Your Audiences During a Crisis

How to Stay Engaged with Your Employees and Clients During the Coronavirus Pandemic_title slide

Struggling with how to stay engaged with your employees and clients during this unsettling time? Keep these tips in mind while creating your communications.

Employee Engagement Tips During a Crisis

How to Stay Engaged with Your Employees During a Crisis

First, reassure your employees regarding their pay. During a crisis, consistent income is vital to helping people stay calm and positive. If there are any changes, be transparent and communicate them as soon as possible. While everyone is frazzled, try not to make a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. Can you implement smaller changes now to avoid laying someone off? Try to protect your employees’ pay as long as possible.

Along these lines, be transparent with your employees about the current state of your business. Don’t paint a rosy picture if you’re struggling or the crisis is impacting your operations. Your employees are adults, so they want you to be straight with them. Remember, you’re a team and you’re all in this situation together.

If your operations have been impacted, set expectations for your new reality but offer flexibility. Change scares people, so try to work with employees while you’re implementing new procedures and workflows. Are your employees working from home for the first time? Help them feel comfortable in their new environment, so they can be productive and contribute to the business.

Employees need to believe that their organization is able to handle the crisis. Here are some tips to make that happen: How to lead in times of crisis | Fast Company

 

While you’re adjusting to your new normal, communicate changes and updates to your team so everyone’s on the same page. However, let your employees do their job. It’s easy to over-communicate during stressful times, but bombarding your staff with emails ultimately won’t solve anything. It can actually hurt your operations and make your team less productive.

In addition to communicating changes and updates, help your employees through this unsettling time however you can. Change can be hard, so reach out to your team and offer your help to navigate their new reality. Whether it’s tech support or upgrades while working from home or sending a care package to show your appreciation, remind your employees that you’ll get through this challenging time together.

One way that you may be able to streamline your operations and help your staff work through changes is to utilize cloud-based collaboration tools, such as Trello or Basecamp. Find a solution that fits your needs, so your team can work together wherever they may be. Video calls and Google Hangouts can also facilitate connection and help your employees work together on projects.

Finally, encourage your team to take care of themselves during this stressful time, including their physical, mental and emotional health. They’ll be much more productive if they’re in sound mind, body and spirit, so do what you can to assist them with their efforts—especially during a crisis when people are stressed out.

Whether you surprise and delight staff members with a delivery to their home or give them a day off, show them that you care about them as people and how they’re coping with the crisis. Besides being the right thing to do, it will help cement employee loyalty when things return to normal (or your new normal).

Client Engagement & MarketingTips During a Crisis

How to Stay Engaged with Your Clients During a Crisis

A crisis hits—your company, your industry or the world. Should you continue to engage with your clients? Yes, and here’s how.

First, communicate any changes or updates that affect your clients. You don’t need to email them every day or every time you update a workflow unless it specifically affects them. While your clients will appreciate your transparency during this tough time, they won’t appreciate spam at any time.

If a crisis has affected your community, country or the world (like the novel coronavirus), respect that your customers may be working from home with different availability and preferences, especially communication. While they may have been happy to jump on a call before, now they may prefer an email or message on Facebook. A Zoom call may need to be scheduled, so your customers can ensure their children are entertained or dogs are in another room. Listen to your customer’s current needs, so you can continue to deliver an impressive customer experience.

You can remain in touch by offering relevant, valuable resources, tools and tips based on what you do. Don’t feel the need to provide a play-by-play update of what’s happening. Stick with providing information your customers can use during the crisis. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people are working from home—many for the first time. Are you a veteran at working from home? Share tips to help your customers new to this environment adjust and feel more comfortable. Remind your customers that we’ll get through this unsettling time together.

Good Communication Can Save Your Brand During Quarantine | Entrepreneur

Should you still market your products and services? Yes, as long as they are relevant and you use good taste. Don’t joke about a crisis, or try to take advantage of people during a time of need. (You should never try to take advantage of people, but it’s an especially bad idea during a time of crisis.) Any short-term gain is more than offset by the long-term fallout. Base your marketing efforts on what your customers (or prospects) are asking for during this time.

Finally, make sure your tone is empathetic and appropriate. When people are scared or hurting, they’re less likely to think jokes are funny or appreciate your sarcasm. Let your customers know that you’re ready to support them through this crisis however you can. And by however you can, insert actual ways you’re supporting them that make sense for your business. If you’re in a position to host a fundraiser for your community, put one together. If you can donate goods or services, do it. If you can stay open to serve your community or audience, do that. Remember to review all communications, including scheduled content, to make sure it’s appropriate during a crisis.

Client Communication Tips During a Crisis

We hope these tips help you navigate the uncertain times we find ourselves in or a future crisis. Want to download our tips in a single presentation?

How to Stay Engaged with Your Employees and Clients During a Crisis

Still unsure? We’re here to help with all of your employee and client engagement needs. Contact us to discuss your needs, or leave your questions or additional tips in the comments. We hope you’re staying safe and following the guidelines issued in your area. Remember, we’re all in this together.

Your Communications Captain,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your communications, your marketing needs or work from home tips):

 

 

It’s Show Time! How to Make Your Next Event More Memorable

It's Show Time! How to Make Your Next Event More Memorable

What a start to the year! CCC kicked off 2020 on the road at client events, and we feel like we’ve been recovering ever since. Whether you’re hosting an event or exhibiting at one, we picked up some important tips to make sure attendees remember you—in a good way.

IMG_20200114_112310

Create an Immersive Experience

Experiential marketing is hot, because it invites your customers or attendees to become part of your brand experience. Instead of just telling attendees about your products or services, show how they can be used. Then, your customers or attendees will be able to picture themselves using your products or services—and understand why they need to buy. In today’s connected world, experiential spaces also provide a backdrop for selfies and Stories that will spread your brand’s message across social media.

The immersive experience you create will depend on your products and services, your budget and your brand’s story. What type of experience do customers expect from your brand? What benefits do your products and services deliver? How does your brand improve your customers’ lives?

Once you create a strategy, think about your budget. If budget isn’t an issue, go crazy! If you’re trying to operate on a smaller scale, think big in more creative ways. Instead of building a structure, create a space like basecamp did (pictured above) to showcase its outdoor and lifestyle products. Don’t be afraid to get creative! It’s amazing how you can transform a space when you think outside of the box (or booth or room).

3 Big (Affordable) Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Hosting an event? Seek sponsors to help with costs of experiential spaces. How can you incorporate the sponsor’s company or brand, so they see a return on their investment? Or partner with fellow companies or brands that make sense, so you can dream bigger together.

Always Be Educating

Explain how attendees can use your product or service in terms your audience understands. Perhaps you’ve come up with novel product applications someone wouldn’t think of from looking at your product, or there’s more than meets the eye. Demonstrations help showcase hidden or overlooked features, novel uses or complex services.

Can your products or services be bundled with others to create a more complete user experience? Show the finished kits or bundles to your attendees, so they can see it for themselves instead of trying to picture it. If your service is frequently used with other services, demo them together to show a more extensive solution to your guests. This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with companies that sell products and services that enhance yours to split costs and pursue larger opportunities.

Selling a complex solution to a business market where buyer’s journeys tend to be more complex? Events are the perfect opportunity to talk to buyers face-to-face or answer targeted follow-up questions after attendees watch a video or live demonstration. Drum up interest by scheduling appointments or meetings ahead of your event and offer incentives to do so. You’ll be assured a steady stream of prospective buyers instead of hoping that attendees will stop by. If possible, offer walk-in demos in order to take advantage of floor traffic. You could leave some time towards the end of the event for attendees who expressed interest onsite, even offering a last call group demonstration before answering questions one-on-one.

Welcome_Springhill Suites

Offer Unexpected Value

Make your event memorable by offering value at every turn. Set the tone by welcoming attendees with a special surprise in their room or an event survival kit when they check in. Set up a relaxation station or recharge zone with a coffee bar, free WiFi, quick massages, seating areas, phone chargers, nature scenes/sounds and/or animals to play with. It’s amazing how puppies or llamas can lower your stress level!

4 Ways to Add More Fun (& Productivity) To Your Events

Sound out of your budget? Talk to a local animal shelter about bringing adoptable dogs to your event. The dogs will receive some love and attention, and the shelter will be able to show some of its animals, pass out its information and possibly even find some forever homes for its furry guests. Can’t build a Starbucks? Rent some Keurig machines so attendees can brew their own coffee. Look for a local massage school to work your event. The students will gain experience while they’re working toward their certifications, and schools are typically less expensive to work with than experienced professionals.

End your event with a celebration to remember, and tie it into your event theme. Sure, first impressions are important, but make sure attendees leave your event (or booth) on a good note. When attendees are enjoying themselves, they’ll get more out of your event—and spread the word about the wonderful experience they had. After all, what happens in Vegas now ends up all over social media!

Looking for help planning your next event? We can create a plan that works for you.

Event Feedback

What feature or amenity have you loved at an event?
How have you created an immersive experience for your guests or customers?
What tips would you add to make your event experience more memorable?

On the road again,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your event needs, marketing ideas or when spring is coming):

 

50 Things I’m Grateful For, Thanksgiving 2019 Edition

November is National Gratitude Month, which is fitting for the month that hosts Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time to continue our annual tradition, 50 Things I’m Grateful For. It’s refreshing to jot down a happy moment in the rush of day-to-day life. Enjoy browsing my list, and join the conversation below. What are you grateful for?

Clearly Conveyed Communications turned 7 in 2019!

50 Things I’m Grateful For, Thanksgiving 2019 Edition

 

  • Giving gifts
  • Soaking in a bubble bath
  • Learning new skills and knowledge
  • Happy memory associations
  • The writing high
  • Figuring things out
  • Getting lost in a book
  • The sights and sounds of the holiday season
  • Finding another book at the library
  • Helping others

Each year, CCC provides school supplies for two children in the Akron area.

Each year, CCC provides school supplies for two children in the Akron area.

There’s so much in life to be grateful for, even on mundane days. Sipping coffee on a patio instead of going through the drive-thru… Walking in the park after lunch… Catching up with a longtime friend. Try to grab more moments this holiday season and beyond doing things you enjoy, however small. These moments add up to a lifetime of happiness.

So, what are you grateful for? Share your list, long or short, in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Jaime

Let’s chat (about gratitude, your marketing needs or whatever else is on my mind):

How to Attract Customers to Your Brand with Inbound Marketing

How to Attract Customers to Your Brand with Inbound Marketing

How does inbound marketing work? Watch a coneflower.

On a recent visit to the Akron Art Museum and its beautiful garden, I stopped to watch some butterflies flying around a coneflower. Coneflowers attract butterflies with their sweet nectar, so people love to plant them in their gardens. Plus, they don’t require much attention, withstand colder temperatures and can be divided every few years to attract even more butterflies to your garden.

So, let’s compare this process to your inbound marketing efforts. You can attract butterflies (your target audience) to your coneflower (product or service) with sweet nectar (compelling content). While your inbound marketing efforts do require attention, they’re worth the effort—and help is available. Plus, these efforts can help you withstand a cold spell in your business and can be replicated to help you grow your business.

Inbound: Not Your Father’s Marketing

Create and share content your target audience wants. Are you a lawn care company? Share lawn maintenance tips, including seasonal activities people should be doing throughout the year (i.e. applying fertilizer, weeding). Help people care for their lawnmower and other yard maintenance tools. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll turn to you—because you’ve built trust by giving them the information they need when they needed it.

When you do mention your products or services, educate your target audience on how you’ll improve their lives. Go beyond listing features to share benefits your customers will receive from your product or service. What pain point(s) does it address? How will it make their lives better?

How to Connect with Customers in the Age of Assistance

How can Inbound help me?

No matter what you do for a living, you’re probably looking for customers. That’s where Inbound marketing comes in. It helps you attract the right customers, not more empty leads. The Inbound methodology turns strangers into promoters or evangelists for your brand. It takes time but produces results.

The Inbound Methodology: Attract, Convert, Close & Delight

Ready to see how Inbound marketing can help you? Let’s talk. As an Inbound Certified company, we’re positioned to help you navigate the ins and outs of the Buyer’s Journey.

Your Inbound Certified Guide,
Jaime

 

How to Connect with Customers in the Age of Assistance

We’re living in the age of assistance. What does that mean for marketers?

Marketing tips in the age of assistance
Customers have more options than ever before today, thanks to technology. Therefore, each buyer’s journey is unique and customers are looking for valuable content to educate themselves before making a purchase.

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Your marketing strategy needs to be focused on your customer or prospect. Where do they look for information? How do they like to shop? How do they like to interact with brands?

If people need help, they usually start with Google. (While the search giant reaches 93% of US consumers, note that your customer base or target audience may use Bing or another search engine. It’s important to know where your customers go.) We’re busy, distracted and always on the go, so people are searching on mobile, including reviews, for information to make decisions in the moment.

Consider this example… Jon is working at home when he hears water running. The problem is that he’s not running any water. After heading upstairs, he realizes that his toilet is overflowing. He lives in an older home, so there’s no shut-off for the toilet; he needs to turn off his water at the main shut-off. Quickly, he Googles shut off water main and finds a YouTube video showing him how to locate his main water valve and shut it off. Jon follows the directions and shuts off his water before suffering any damage. Who does he call to fix the toilet? The local plumbing company who provided the video, of course.

Note that this local company gave Jon the information he needed first. He didn’t have to dig through their website or sit through a sales pitch beforehand. Educating consumers before you ask for a purchase or deliver a call-to-action (CTA) drives business.

 

Meet People in the Moment

People are living in the moment today, so they rarely plan in advance. Jon probably should have known where his main water shut-off valve was, but he had recently moved in and hadn’t gotten around to finding it yet. He’s not alone.

Mobile searches for today, tomorrow or now are up 900%. Our phones are never out of reach, so it’s always convenient to find the information we need—in a traffic jam, at the doctor’s office or at your kid’s ballet recital.

How can you meet your customers or prospects in the moment?

Start where they start: Google yourself.

Google yourself, your category and your business. Do you like what you see?

 

Google yourself, your category and your business (in incognito mode, if you prefer). Do you like what you see? Are you providing valuable content to help your customers and prospects educate themselves and move along the buyer’s journey? Or are you only asking for the buy? Be a part of the conversation along the entire journey, so consumers can get to know your company and form an emotional connection with you. If you just show up at the end when consumers are ready to buy, they’re likely to go with another company who has been there all along the way.

While we’re on this subject, does your business have a Google My Business listing? If not, set one up. This free resource helps you connect with customers across Google Search and Maps, boosting your SEO efforts. Remember to include a phone number too. It allows people to quickly call you, which could be the difference between you getting an opportunity or your competitor.

While Google My Business is an important starting point, don’t stop there. Tracking how your customers first found you is important, but so is measuring every moment that matters to your business. Each buyer’s journey is unique today, so you need to track every interaction with your customer and map out their individual customer journey.

Your customer may have found your company through Google, but then she visited your website, read a few blog articles to learn more about a subject that interested her and connected with you on your Facebook Page. After those steps, she contacted you to discuss a project. If she hadn’t made all of those steps, she may not have ever contacted you to do business. That’s why it’s so important to measure every interaction or touch point with your customers, so you understand how they want to be communicated with and helped along their unique buyer’s journey.

 

Make an Emotional Connection

People are looking for more from brands and businesses today. They don’t want to just buy stuff; they want to support companies who have similar values to theirs and are good corporate citizens.

Tell your brand’s story: how you got started, why you’re in business and the faces behind the brand name. Talk about your charitable efforts and community involvement, so customers can see your values in action. They want to know where their hard-earned dollars are going and what kind of company they’re supporting. Tell your founder’s story and shine the spotlight on your employees with behind-the-scenes content, including how your product is made, a day in the life or following employees outside the office.

Creating an emotional connection with your audience is crucial to your marketing and sales efforts.

 

While customers want to get to know your business or brand, they also want to be entertained. Most people make decisions emotionally and then look for rational reasons to support their decisions—especially when we’re making so many decisions today in the moment.

So, your content needs to educate, entertain and connect with your customer on an emotional level. In fact, advertising campaigns are twice as likely to perform well if they contain emotional content instead of rational content. Buyers consuming your content want to feel a connection with your brand—not think about how your brand will help them.

In 2019, we average a 3-second attention span online, so you need to grab a viewer’s attention quickly. Create joy or surprise right away to keep viewers engaged with your content. Consumers get distracted every 10 minutes, on average, and take three minutes to refocus, so you’ll need to keep them engaged the entire time they’re consuming your content. If you lose them, they may jump to something else and never come back.

3 Key Principles in the Age of Assistance

  1. Be There—Connect with the right people during key moments of intent.
  2. Be Valuable—Give consumers the information they need where they are.
  3. Be Quick—Automatically act on intent. Consumers expect quick responses today!

As marketing professionals, how can you deliver on these three key principles?

  1. Know Your Audience—Go beyond demographics to target consumers effectively. Detailed buyer personas are important!
  2. Know Your Brand’s Story—Tell your story, so your audience can understand your values and connect with your business on an emotional level.
  3. Conceptualize the Space—Understand the marketing domains your customers are operating in so well that you know the best ways to connect and communicate with them in those areas.
  4. Self-Educate—Marketing knowledge is constantly updating today, so you need to always be learning.

Understanding your customers (beyond simple demographics) is so important today, because you need to meet them where they are when they need you. What data do you have on your customers (that you’re protecting)? How can you leverage that data to better serve them (not to sell to them)?

Knowing how your customers first heard of you is no longer enough. Go beyond the first click to measure every interaction or touch point with your buyer. It will change your understanding of how each customer wants to be communicated with and helped along the way.

Follow your customers across social media platforms (however they use them) to email and messaging services to brick and mortar locations. We’re living in the age of assistance where micro-moments and individual interactions matter for your business. How are you making the most of every single one?

Questions? Comments? Leave your feedback We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you struggling to connect with your customers in the age of assistance? Let’s discuss how we can help you with your marketing efforts!

Let’s connect,
Jaime

Social Media Summer Round-Up: New Features You Need To Know

Social media platforms are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep up on the latest features and understand how to use them for your brand or business. Enjoy our summer round-up with a cool drink in-hand!

Social Media Summer Round-Up: New Features You Need To Know

Is your brand utilizing the new features on your favorite social media platforms?

Instagram

Stories continue to explode in popularity, as they’re expected to outpace Feeds as the primary mechanism of content creation by the end of this year. So, Instagram continues to add features to Stories to increase interactivity and fuel their growth, including Interactive Stories Ads, a donation sticker and the new ‘Join Chat’ sticker. We love the interactivity of Instagram Stories, which allow accounts you tag to share your Story in their Stories. For example, we tagged an influencer we quoted in one of our blog articles, and in turn, he tagged other influencers quoted in the post. Engagement galore!

Another area of focus on the platform is Explore, which more than 50% of accounts use every month. Instagram bills Explore as its Discovery Destination, and it offers a prime opportunity for brands to connect with potential new customers. As the company continues investing in this area of the platform, it will begin rolling out ads to help brands connect with people and vice versa. Would your brand be interested in running an ad in Explore?

Instagram introduced Checkout this spring, another feature designed to bring people and brands together. This quick and secure technology includes product stickers in Stories, product tags in the Feed and a shopping destination in Explore. We’ve enjoyed using this feature to make it even easier for people to shop our clients’ products and get more information without leaving the app.

Finally, Instagram is still all in on IGTV, despite its slow start. Incorporating horizontal video should help increase use, both from a creation and consumption standpoint. Don’t replace your YouTube channel with IGTV; use it to grow your community on Instagram. It has been shown to increase engagement with existing followers, especially since IGTV videos now appear in the Feed. We’re finally posting an IGTV video this week after thinking about how best to use IGTV to help achieve our objectives on the platform. The shift to include horizontal video will help us use this growing area of the platform more for clients as well. Does your business utilize IGTV? What other features or capabilities would you like to see added?

The State of Instagram Marketing 2019

LinkedIn

The largest professional networking platform has been busy adding new features for business pages, which are much more robust than they used to be. Based on feedback from page admins, LinkedIn has introduced custom call-to-action (CTA) buttons to help drive leads and measure the results. This is an overdue feature, and we’re excited about the analytics (housed in your home dashboard) to see which buttons are generating traffic and which are not.

The platform has focused on upping engagement in the past year plus, and they’re not done. Now, page admins can associate up to three hashtags with your page (via the communities feature in the admin center). This change allows pages to engage directly with members’ posts which contain these hashtags (without using any time-consuming “hacks”).

LinkedIn Changes its Algorithm to Surface More Personalized Content

Further targeting increased engagement, LinkedIn has updated its algorithm to deliver more personalized content to your feed that aligns with your professional interests, not necessarily viral content. You may be seeing more posts from people you’re not connected with, especially if you have connections, groups, hashtags you follow, employers/clients or interests in common. This change could help you connect and develop relationships with new business contacts and potential customers.

Finally, the professional platform has added three new objectives to Campaign Manager to help marketers achieve their more complex business goals: brand awareness, website conversions and job applicants. These changes are the latest updates to LinkedIn’s integration with Google Campaign Manager in October of 2018.

20 LinkedIn Tips to Help Boost Engagement

 

Twitter

The micro-blogging platform made a splash this month when it introduced a new website for desktop. At this point, you can still choose to use Legacy Twitter, or the current layout, which we have chosen to do. The new layout seems a little busy to us, like walking into Times Square with all of the lights, signs and digital billboards. What do you think of the new design? (A poll we ran on Twitter split 50/50 between the two layouts.)

Twitter also updated its search results by adding context to help guide you to the results you’re looking for. For example, a search result will now show you if it’s trending or if an account has any followers in common with you. This tweak is part of a larger algorithm change that is geared toward showing you more content from users you’re not connected with, but may be interested in. Note that activity from your brand account(s) may show up in relevant searches, so keep that in mind as you engage with other users’ tweets.

On the other hand, Twitter is looking to give you more control over conversations you start. The platform is testing the ability to hide replies to your Tweets with users in Canada, although users will still be able to view the replies and engage with them. Would you like this feature to be rolled out globally?

Finally, the company has introduced a new creative team called “Twitter ArtHouse” that will help brands produce video content on their platform. Research shows that video content optimized for Twitter drives 33% more emotional engagement than non-optimized spots, and users spend 24% more time with Creator ads, so this could be a boost for brands to ensure their contact is seen and engaged with. Twitter has recently increased efforts to better monetize creator content in order to draw advertisers, along with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

How Twitter Bridges the Gap Between Brands and their Audiences

 

Facebook

The beleaguered social platform has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately, but it continues to outpace all other social platforms with one billion users logging in every month. Due to continued criticism, the company has announced it will create a new, independent content review board. The tech giant is trying to convince the government it is a tech company, not a publisher, to avoid regulation. Should Facebook be responsible for the media published on its platform?

In other news, Facebook has added a ‘Top Fans’ targeting option on posts to drive more community engagement and create a stronger connection with your most ardent supporters. Currently, it’s only available to Pages with 10,000 followers, and you can control it in your Page settings.

Facebook's wallet app, Calibra, will handle payments for its cryptocurrency launching in 2020.

The social giant made waves earlier this year when it jumped into the cryptocurrency game with Libra. Facebook’s digital currency is supposed to be easier to use than other options, like Bitcoin, and the company has partnered with industry leaders, including Uber and Spotify, to help increase its popularity. It will be interesting to see if this takes off when it launches in the first half of 2020 and whether it will be a valid payment method for businesses. Would you be willing to accept Libra for your products or services?

Finally, Facebook has added new, free training modules to its Facebook Blueprint education platform. The platform is designed to help small businesses and page admins improve their digital marketing skills and understanding of how to best utilize the platform. Facebook Blueprint also offers Instagram insight as well as Facebook Ads certification courses.

10 Expert Tips to Improve Your Facebook Video Marketing

New Feature Feedback

What new feature are you most excited about? Which platforms deliver the best results for your business? Which platform or feature would you like more in-depth analysis or tips on? What questions do you have about your social media marketing efforts?

Leave your thoughts or questions in the comments, contact us to discuss your needs or connect with us on social to stay in touch. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Let’s get social on SMM,
Jaime

 

Mid-Year Review: How are you progressing on your business goals?

It’s nearing mid-June. How are you progressing on your business goals so far in 2019? 

Mid-Year Review: How are you progressing on your business goals?

One of our goals in 2019 was to get back to blogging on a regular basis. In January, we committed to the following in order to deliver more valuable contact to you:

  • Publishing at least two to three times per month—We’re about 50/50 on this goal right now, so we’re aiming to pick it up for the second half of the year. We published twice in January and April but missed February and March entirely. In May, we did manage to post while celebrating our 7th anniversary. 
  • Producing a variety of content types, including videos and long-form content—We’re doing a much better job of varying our content type, especially on social. We have noticed that videos perform best for us on Instagram and LinkedIn right now, while interactive polls work well in Instagram Stories. What type of blog content do you prefer? Are you looking for specific types of content on specific social platforms? 
  • Continuing to promote past content that’s still relevant—We’re doing a much better job of continuing to promote past content and repurposing content, a vital part of our content strategy this year. Are you repurposing content to maximize its value? Are you interested in tips on getting more mileage out of your original content?  
  • Sharing six guest posts to provide diverse view points—We need your help! Despite repeated requests, we haven’t published a single guest post so far this year. Are you interested in contributing? Please see below for more information, or contact us with your idea. 

Why did we commit to these goals for our blog?

 

Publishing Frequency

We’ve noticed that we receive more consistent blog traffic when we’re publishing consistently. You probably will too. While we would all love to publish valuable content daily, it’s important to be honest with yourself. What type of schedule can you commit to? How many resources can you devote to your blog and content marketing efforts?

Our clients always come first at CCC, so we’re committing to a minimum of two blog posts a month this year and hoping to publish more. That will give us time to research our posts, ask for feedback from our audience and publish content that will help you with your marketing efforts.

We’ll be publishing on Tuesdays at 10 AM ET, because the most popular day and time to visit the CCC blog is currently mid-day on Tuesdays. [UPDATE: We’re seeing more visitors and views early on Wednesday mornings, but for now we’re sticking to our scheduling time for consistency. It hasn’t moved that much from the beginning of the year, so it’s not worth changing yet.] Check your analytics to find when traffic spikes to your blog, so you can plan your publishing schedule accordingly. Note that it will change, so it’s important to check in occasionally. 

Content Variety

In the past, we’ve shared mostly traditional blog posts, so we’re looking to mix it up a bit in 2019. Over the past year, we did introduce our first vlogs (or video blog posts), and our ebook continues to be a hit. What types of content work the best for you? What types of content do you prefer to consume?

While there is no perfect blog post length (or publishing frequency), we’re also interested in creating more long-form content. While the criteria of this category continues to be debated, it does perform well overall. Some of our more recent posts were longer than normal, and they continue to draw traffic. We’ve also done a better job of continuing to promote these posts after initially publishing them.

Putting the ‘Marketing’ in Content Marketing

Promoting your content is just as important as creating it. You need a content distribution plan as part of your overall content marketing strategy. Do you have a distribution plan after publishing a blog post? Or do you just hope readers will share it?

We’ve been guilty in the past of only sharing our content shortly after we publish it and then forgetting about it. Don’t make the same mistake! You can get more use out of your content by continuing to promote it (as long as it’s still relevant), and re-purposing content in different formats for different social platforms. For example, you can share individual tips on Twitter from a long-form blog post, or you can create short marketing minute videos for Instagram from a written blog post. Then, refer your communities to your post for more helpful marketing tips.

Speaking of content distribution, how do you like to learn about new blog posts? Email notifications? RSS feeds? Social media? Let us know how you like to stay up-to-date on your favorite blogs.

What is Evergreen Content? A Guide to Long-Lasting Content That Boosts SEO

Guest Posts (This is where you come in!)

The CCC blog has benefited from an array of guest bloggers in the past, and we want to continue to add diverse voices to the mix in 2019.

We’re looking for people who want to share their experiences and ideas in marketing, writing, social media and small business/entrepreneurship. We don’t like to require a specific word count, although we are interested in publishing more long-form content this year. We’re also open to vlogs, mixed media posts and other interactive ideas you have.

Run a successful marketing campaign? We’d love to share how you did it. Want to give quick writing tips that work for you? Our audience is interested. Have you had success on a particular social platform or want to discuss ideas for a new feature? We’d be happy to publish your savvy social media marketing skills or tips for our readers. Have you achieved success as an entrepreneur or small business owner? Our audience is interested in hearing how you did it.

We realize that our guidelines aren’t highly specific. That’s because we’ve had success with a wide range of content in the aforementioned categories. The diversity of topics within marketing, writing, social media and small business/entrepreneurship keep our content fresh and readers tuned in.

We’ll be happy to discuss your idea or look over an outline before you write your post, so we can give you feedback. We realize what you put into a successful blog post, so we want to make sure you receive a return on your investment. In addition, we’ll publish your photo, company/blog name, social media handles, contact information and website along with your post.

Speak Up! Share Your Progress on Your 2019 Goals 

We’ve shared progress on one of our 2019 goals—recommitting to providing you valuable content through the CCC blog. How are you progressing on your brand’s goals this year? Comment below or share your goal progress or updates with us on social!

We wish all of our loyal readers a strong second half!

Thanks for reading,
Jaime

Let’s get social! Share your 2019 goals progress, marketing questions or favorite summer activities with us on the platforms below.