Content Marketing: A Crucial Component of the Customer Experience

A stat from a recent article on content marketing caught our eye.

“Consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content on average prior to making a purchase.”

pexels-photo-296878

In the B2B world, buying journeys tend to run longer anyway, but consumers (B2B and B2C) are doing their homework these days. Studies show that 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.

Whether it’s leftover angst from the Great Recession or the availability of information today, it’s precisely why content marketing is so important.

Here’s a real-life example:

Recently, I stayed over in Park City, Utah, for a day after working a client’s conference in nearby Salt Lake City. On a whim, I decided to get a massage after spending the previous four days pounding convention center floors. I pulled up local spas on my phone, checking their hours, availability and services. Not surprisingly, I contacted the spas who had this information available online — not ones I had to call just to see if they were open. And the spas who had additional content available — more in-depth descriptions of their services, photos of their facility, online real-time availability, etc. — moved to the top of my list.

What does this have to do with content marketing? The information I sought was quality content created by (or for) these spas: descriptive services pages with quality photos, blog articles on the benefits of one type of massage over another, recommendations on how to maximize your spa-going experience. This is what consumers are looking for today before making a purchase or even contacting your company.

While I didn’t end up getting a massage, I did manage to take a break from technology and enjoy the magic of Park City. But not before I utilized even more content — a visitor’s guide from my condo, Park City Transit’s website — to plan my stress-free day.

We’re all consumers at some point, so don’t forget about your experiences as a customer when you put on your marketing hat. These experiences are valuable and can make us better marketing professionals, if we choose to use them.

Reader Feedback

How have you used content marketing to learn more about a business or make a purchase?

How do you use your experiences as a customer to become a better marketing professional?

What types of content do you prefer when researching a company or purchase?

A professional customer and marketing professional,
Jaime

 

Let’s chat (about content marketing, customer experiences or otherwise):
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Does Your Small Business Have a Contingency Plan?

In preparation of the 2016 election, I recently attended my second year of Precinct Election Official (PEO) training by the local Board of Elections (BOE). In addition to keeping up with new developments, it’s helpful to review the massive amounts of information prior to each election.

What are the massive amounts of information? In addition to job duties and how machines work — contingency plans. The BOE has contingency plans for nearly any situation. Does your small business have contingency plans?

Does your small business have a contingency plan?

Why does your small business need a contingency plan?

  • You lose your largest client. Will you be able to stay afloat while you work to bring in new customers? Or is your business spread out enough to absorb such a hit?
  • Your niche market runs dry. Some markets are more volatile than others, but this could happen to nearly any industry or vertical market. (For example, look at how hard the Great Recession hit the construction industry.) It’s always a good idea to diversify your clientele enough to withstand market fluctuations.
  • You experience a medical emergency or illness. Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals. (NASE) Will your small business be able to run without you? For how long? Do you have an exit plan?
  • Your area is hit with a natural disaster or extended power outage. Would you be able to continue to serve your clients? Is your business included in your emergency preparedness kit/plans?
  • You see an unexpected opportunity in the marketplace. How quickly can you add a product or service? Perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in demand for one of your key products or services. Can you switch your focus while still staying true to your brand? Agility is a valuable asset in the small business world.

Related Reading: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

You need to be prepared to handle unexpected obstacles in your business, from marketplace changes to health issues. While none of us can be prepared for everything, having a contingency plan for your small business will ensure a smoother ride when you encounter a future roadblock — or  a black hole.

Your Turn

What other situations should your small business be prepared for?

Have you switched the focus of your small business or changed businesses?

What other advice would you give to small business owners regarding contingency plans?

Still a scout at heart,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about contingency plans, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Share the Luck of the Irish with Your Clients & Employees

Whatever your background, we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick's Day revelers enjoy the celebration

St. Patrick’s Day by Courtney Collison via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/1QVmT1J

Here’s how to share the spirit of this holiday with your business family:

  • Throw an Irish potluck — Ask employees to bring their favorite Irish-themed foods for a festive event in the office. If you’re throwing a last-minute shindig, order in from your favorite Irish restaurant. Hand out fun promotional items, such as four leaf clover-printed sunglasses, green hats or four leaf clover beads. Remind everyone to wear green and punctuate the event with some fun Irish music (or March Madness)!
  • Enjoy March Madness during a St. Patrick’s Day Happy Hour — Invite your employees and/or clients to Happy Hour at your favorite local pub. Cheer on your favorite men’s college basketball teams (or the ones you picked on your bracket) with an ice cold Guinness in hand. If you’re feeling lucky, pick up the first round of drinks along with some hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy the camaraderie as you survive the roller coaster ride of the NCAA Tournament!
  • Hold a Luck of the Irish Contest — Invite your clients to participate in a themed contest celebrating this popular holiday. Anyone who places an order receives a mystery discount or gift. You can hold the contest digitally with a well-designed landing page, email marketing and social media promotion. Take the contest offline with direct mail, scratch off tickets and in-person visits. Don’t forget to create a hashtag and encourage clients to post their winning tickets on social!
  • Bring the Irish Spirit into Your Office — Encourage employees to wear green along with festive accessories. Reward the most festive, creative and other categories of your choice with gift certificates to your local pub, lunch delivered in the office or a day (or afternoon) off. Throughout the day, highlight your festivities on social media so fans can get to know the faces behind the scenes and see your fun culture.

St. Patrick’s Day 2016: How the World Will Celebrate From Dublin to Tokyo

However you decide to celebrate, have fun! May the Luck of the Irish be with you and your business always.

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about green beer, holiday marketing or otherwise):
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The Art of Follow-Up

It’s an integral part of the marketing process yet most marketers don’t do it. Unfortunately, not following up on your marketing efforts leads to missed opportunities and sales.

"Over Coffee" by Drew Herron via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Do you excel at the art of follow-up?

We get it. You’re busy. You meant to follow up on the leads from the tradeshow or a marketing campaign or your latest email newsletter, but other things got in the way. Your boss called. Your kids got home from school. Life happened.

What’s the big deal?

The business-to-business (B2B) buying cycle is longer than business-to-consumer (B2C) and typically involves more people. You have to spend more time nurturing prospects and may have to touch them 7, 8 or 9 times (or more) before getting a sale.

How Many Touches Make a Sale?

While you would love to send out an email newsletter and have your website flooded with orders, that rarely happens. However, with the analytics available today, you can see who opened your newsletter the most and what links they clicked on, along with other data. Follow up with these prospects! They’re interested and may have been interrupted by life before reaching out to you.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  -George Bernard Shaw, author

Now here’s the fun part. How do you consistently follow up with people without being annoying?

  1. Get Social — It’s helpful to be connected to your customers and prospects on social media (business accounts at least), so you can engage with them. Each like of a post or retweet is a soft touch and reminds the person that you’re available.
  2. Note Communication Preferences — You have a slew of communication options at your fingertips today, but your customers and prospects probably have a preference. If Bob prefers Facebook Messenger, send him a message. If Sally would rather talk on the phone, give her a call.
  3. Be Customer-Focused — Yes, you want the sale but that’s not your customer’s or prospect’s issue. Let them know why you’re following up: so they don’t miss incredible savings or show up at their tradeshow next week empty-handed. How is closing this sale going to help them?
  4. Be Flexible — If you’re not hearing back, offer to schedule a quick call or visit when it’s most convenient for your customer or prospect. Let them know that you value their time and will be brief. It may be easier for your customer to meet you at a coffee shop for lunch or talk on their way to pick up their kids after work.

Following up is extra work but it also leads to more opportunities and sales, especially when done right. Use your data to decide where your best opportunities lie, but be human when reaching out to your customers and prospects. The art of follow-up is one of those things that computers just don’t understand, and that’s a good thing. 🙂

Feedback on Following Up

How do you decide when to follow up with customers and prospects?

Have you noticed your customers’ communication preferences?

Do you need more targeted leads to follow up on? CCC is Inbound Certified and we make marketing that people love. Let’s talk about how we can help you. 

Pic credit: Over Coffee by Drew Herron via CC BY-NC-SA 2.o

Happy Follow-Up Friday!
Jaime

Let’s chat (about follow-up, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Are You Being Heard? Communication Tips For Your Brand

Communication. It’s so simple, right? We learn to do it at a young age, and it’s second nature. So why is it so difficult to communicate effectively with your customers, business partners and employees?

"The biggest illusion in communication is that it has taken place."  -George Bernard Shaw

Sure, you blast out emails to your customers and employees, blast out promotional social updates and blast out glossy hyperbole in your monthly newsletter. But what are you actually saying?

Before you send another email, post another update or publish another newsletter, read what you wrote — as a recipient. Who are you trying to reach? What would a person in your target audience think of your communication? Even if it’s only an email to a colleague, employee or business partner… would you understand what you’re trying to say?

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I might remember. Involve me and I will understand.”  -Benjamin Franklin

How do you know what your recipients need and want (two different issues)? Ask them. Observe them (in a non-stalking manner). Put yourself in their shoes. Spend a day in their life handling their challenges and looking for opportunities.

When you take your customers’ needs and wants into consideration, and involve them in your solutions, you stand out in a sea of information overload — and tend to be heard. Which would make one of my heroes, the late, great Gabrielle Bonheur (Coco) Chanel, proud. And that works for me, and CCC. Are you being heard?

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”  -Coco Chanel

Communicate with CCC

What is your most effective type of communication?

What type of communication would you like to improve?

Do you have “miscommunication” issues often?

Do you have a communication question? Leave a comment or ask us on social media.

p.s. We’d love help you communicate with your target audience(s)! Check out our marketing, writing and social media services, and contact us to discuss your needs. Each project receives personal attention at CCC!

Your Captain of Communication,
Jaime

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Are LinkedIn Groups Working For You?

The past week we’ve focused on LinkedIn, the largest professional networking site on the planet. It tends to be a platform that most people aren’t utilizing effectively, because they’ve either posted a profile years ago and haven’t been back, or they share every tweet, which is a little overboard. So far, we’ve covered general tips in LinkedIn: Are You Connected? and focused on the foundation of the site in LinkedIn: The Essence of a Profile. (Feel free to catch up on those posts if you missed them. I’ll grab a macchiato… )

Are LinkedIn groups working for you?

original photo via Esther Vargas’ photostream by CC BY-SA 2.0 // edited by CCC

Now we’re moving on to the power of groups. Are you taking advantage of this feature on LinkedIn?

Participating in groups can:

  • Increase traffic to your profile. Group participants (not just members) receive four times the number of profile views, typically from people who are interested in what you do.
  • Showcase your expertise in key industries/subjects. In our current age of information, business professionals want to be ‘thought leaders’ or experts in what they do. By commenting intelligently in group discussions, you can build your credibility and even win new business opportunities.
  • Warm up a potential customer. When you’re active in groups, you’ll begin to get to know other active members of the group: potential customers, employers, business partners, vendors, etc. You never know where this type of conversation might lead, and it makes pursuing a business relationship with these individuals a little easier.

Creating a group can:

  • Grow your business. Give customers and prospects a place to ask questions, discuss their needs and stay up-to-date on the latest news in your field. An active group is a great place to promote your business by offering value — and value brings in referrals. (If you have a company page, don’t forget to feature your group!)
  • Connect you to your audience in a safe, professional environment. Tired of Facebook’s pay-to-play movement? Not a blogger? Hosting a LinkedIn group gives you a professional forum to discuss key issues and take the pulse of your customers and prospects. What are their biggest struggles? How can you solve them? Plus, you can close the group in order to have more control over who joins (like your competitor posing as a buyer).
  • Provide content for your marketing efforts. By taking the pulse of your customers, prospects and industry professionals, you can come across some thought-provoking content ideas. Ask your audience for their opinion on a subject, take a vote and gain real insight into what your connections and followers are looking for. Providing value = more business.

Comment on This Discussion

Are you active on LinkedIn?

Which groups are your favorite? (Feel free to tell us about your own group!)

Have you secured a new client, job or business opportunity on LinkedIn?

Thanks for reading,
Jaime

Connect with CCC! We’d love to be a part of your professional network.
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#Hashtags: Big Business or Bust?

Hashtags

Hashtags — love them or hate them? Are they good or bad for business?

Let’s take a closer look at the world of hashtags…

On the positive side, hashtags open up your social media updates to a whole new world: non-subscribers, non-fans and non-followers. Searching hashtags brings potential fans, followers, subscribers — and customers — to your doorstep. Whenever I use hashtags, I always receive more traffic from those outside of my network. I’ve also come across brands — both personal and corporate — on Instagram and Twitter that I probably never would have found otherwise.

Hashtags are also a wonderful way to have a conversation online. Stay up to date with webinars, events, ad campaigns, sporting events, etc. by searching for the hashtag and participating in the conversation. As a marketer (or event professional), designating hashtags for your campaigns and events is a great way to invite attendees to join the conversation, build momentum pre- and post-event, involve those unable to attend and integrate your online and offline marketing efforts.

#Olympics hashtag search

The #Olympics hashtag: insight and insanity

For example, Twitter noted that the #SuperBowl hashtag was used 3 million times over an approximate 5-hour time period. As a marketing professional, you’re probably excited to jump in! But slow down — and do the math. That breaks down to an average of 167 tweets per second. And remember, anyone can use a hashtag — not only brands, companies or excited fans talking positively about your product or service. Someone complaining about a sideline reporter’s outfit or a celebrity that’s spotted in the crowd will show up in that hashtag search as well. As Oreo showed us, hashtags don’t make the tweet.

Power outage? No problem says Oreo.

Oreo stole the show on Super Bowl Sunday. No hashtag needed.

Another negative aspect is what I like to call ‘overhashtagging.’ I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but it is in my dictionary. #Have #you #ever #read #a #tweet #like #this? #Probably #not #because #its #so #annoying. I’ve spoken to Twitter users regarding hashtag use and come across research that noted readership (and engagement) drops after 2 – 3 hashtags. Of course, it’s not just on Twitter; we’ve all seen photos maxing out the 30 hashtag limit on Instagram. As my mom always says, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. #justsaying

In summary, hashtags have good and bad qualities like most things in life. They can be used correctly or abused as some of the pros and cons below show.

Pros

  • gain new followers, fans, subscribers and possibly customers
  • have a conversation online
  • bring event attendees into the conversation, including pre- and post-event
  • integrate online and offline marketing efforts
  • help a campaign go viral

Cons

  • new followers may be temporary or fake
  • aesthetically unpleasing
  • overuse is distracting / hard to read
  • overuse lowers readership / engagement
  • get lost in the sea of popular hashtags

I came across an insightful comment by Daniel Victor, social media staff editor at The New York Times, which sums up my opinion of hashtags well.

“Here’s where I’ll join the rest in unquantifiable hoodoo: I believe hashtags are aesthetically damaging. I believe a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience). I believe for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse. We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Are you a hashtag user or recovering abuser? Refuse to use them?

Have hashtags been beneficial to your business? Or hurt your online brand?

Please chime in with your thoughts on the wonderful, wacky world of hashtags! Feel free to link to articles, blog posts, studies, etc. (including your own) on the subject in the comments as well.

Additional Reading

Hashtag (first) photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Creative Commons License

#EnjoytheWeekend!

Jaime

p.s. Sunday, June 30th, is Social Media Day 2013! Join CCC as we celebrate (virtually) the power of social media in our lives. View the event invite for details and social media resources.

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Are Your Company’s Policies Helping You Do Business?

That may seem like an obvious question, but when’s the last time you reviewed your company’s policies? Are they still relevant today or stuck in the past? Do they encourage customers to do business with you or push them to your competitors?

Recently, I ran into a situation of what I consider to be outdated policies. As previously noted, I came to the difficult decision to cut cable and also got rid of my landline. The latter may seem obvious today, but I had kept it to this point for my business. I still have Internet through this company, along with a greatly reduced monthly bill.

I made sure to cancel my cable and landline two weeks before my next scheduled payment was due, so I wouldn’t have to deal with credits. As this company charges in advance for its services (which I find a little outdated itself), I expected only my Internet fee to be withdrawn for the next month.

The penguin's even confused.

What?!

Talk about a (bad) surprise! I noticed that my account had not been updated online a week later, so I called. Despite my protests, two different people informed me that it was company policy not to make changes during a billing period. Huh?! Their reasoning? They don’t send out updated bills. I receive paperless statements, as I would think most people do today, so I’m not sure what the company’s “sending out.” Also, in this age of real-time information, I was shocked at how slow this company processes changes.

I’m paying a company in advance for services I no longer have with them, so they can credit my account later.

Does this make any sense to anyone? I’m serious; I would love your feedback. Am I expecting too much?

My changes won’t be processed until my next billing cycle even though the company was able to cut off my services in 10 minutes. Is this acceptable?

You’re probably asking why I don’t move my business. There are limited choices in my market, and the only other company is actually worse to deal with. I know, because I used to deal with them.

Note that I’m not a complainer nor do I expect companies to cater to me. A little customer service would be nice though.

No marching bands or circus animals!

Do your company policies make sense?

So back to you and your company… do your policies make sense? Are there reasons behind them? Do they help you do business? If not, it may be time for a review.

Please chime in… what do you think of my situation? Is it acceptable or an example of an outdated policy at work?

Have a great week,
Jaime

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