As we take a huge sigh of relief and press GO on the latest issue of one of the publications I contribute to, I reflect on what great content actually is.
When I started my career 15+ years ago (in what was then customer communications agency Redwood Publishing) branded content only existed for a crazy yet innovative few.
Volvo Magazine, was a Global CRM publication produced to engage and inspire recent Volvo purchasers. I worked in quite a few roles on the team from Editorial Assistant to Promotions to Advertising, I got to know the publishing process whilst also understanding the client’s business strategy, motivations and objectives. The Scandinavian team at Volvo’s Head Office understood, valued and believed in the power their magazine and the content within it delivered in order to maintain retention and loyalty amongst their global customer base.
What resonates so much with me today is remembering sitting in Media Buying Agencies presenting the magazine to the planner/buyer types who looked down their noses and 99 times out of 100 said,
“free magazines don’t work, there’s no value in this type of publication”
WRONG. SO SO SO Wrong.
Volvo Magazine worked, it worked on a global scale. It helped change perceptions and supported the evolution of the brand from a boxy, safe and unsexy automobile to the exceptionally attractive Scandinavian cool premium brand it is today.
Good, decent quality content that is well thought out, relevant and presented properly is invaluable. Since working as a consultant with businesses of all sizes it’ makes my stomach turn to hear business owners saying, “it doesn’t matter what it looks like, we just need to get something out there” or “we’ll just whack something together last minute”.
This is REALLY saddening. It’s so important if you believe you have a decent offering, service or product, to ensure the quality of communication from your brand is very decent too. Content on the internet, emailed into someone’s mailbox or posted to someone lasts, it doesn’t have a short shelf life, it will always exist, in some cases even when it’s deleted it can still be found. If content is worth doing it’s worth doing properly and making sure it works, reflects the business, aspirations and the brand properly.
If I’ve learnt anything from my time in content it’s that it won’t always be 100% perfect but you should ALWAYS aim for it to be, by working with the best and not scrimping on costs!
For help with branded content and communications please contact email@example.com
When was the last time you picked up The Yellow Pages? Or a hard-copy Local Directory for that matter? Five years ago? Six? When you needed an electrician or a plumber when did you last look in the back of a local paper? The same can be said of your customers too. The percentage of marketing that was digital (ie online) stood at 25% in 2013. Last year it was 75%.
In my role as Co-Founder and Head of Content for marketing consultancy, Magnificent Stuff I must have met upwards of 250 business owners over the past year or two. At risk of generalising they do fit a certain demographic: normally male, normally between 48-55, normally heading up an established SME. In those two years I have met only a handful of business owners who’s digital marketing could be described as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. It’s no coincidence in my mind, that these people happened to be in their 30’s.
The so-called ‘millennial’ generation have grown up with digital marketing and advertising. In simple terms they ‘get it’, however it can be a steep learning curve for those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties.
It’s not my place or intention to be alarmist, however the next generation of business owners, our ‘millennials’, are way ahead of the game here. They are tech-savvy, digitally aware and ambitious.
Take social media, for example. Which of us would not like our Facebook or Twitter presence to generate leads and clients? To engender enthusiasm and customer loyalty? Every MD knows that they should be using social constructively for the benefit of the Company, but do they? Chances are unless the Business Owner is under 35 social media not being used effectively or used at all. Why? Three reasons. Firstly, we don’t know how to. No-one’s actually shown us. Secondly, we do know how to but we don’t know what to say and, thirdly (and most commonly) we simply haven’t got the time or resources. Have you got an extra two to three hours per week to spend on social media management? Do you have enough time to blog fortnightly? To create newsletters? Do you even consider such marketing to be useful?
In 2016 digital marketing is not simply important but – in my view – intrinsic to business growth. But then, I would say that wouldn’t I? Here are a few stats:
- 80% of customers do “a lot” of online research for considered purchases.
- 46% count on social media when making such decisions
- B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not blog
- The average return on an e-mail marketing investment is £29.14 for every pound spend
- 93% of marketeers use social media for business
Of course every business is different but ultimately without digital and content marketing of some type, your company will be missing leads and clients. If you’d like any advice on how to make digital marketing work for you please get in touch, we live and breath content.
Steve Chew is Head of Content at Magnificent Stuff Limited, Old Harlow. You can contact Steve via the link above 0r on 07723024865.
As we’ve discussed before there are 5 main reasons that most businesses use social networking and blogging. It’s useful to have a think about how many of these reasons apply to your company’s posts…
- To Promote
To give your business a voice, a personality and an opportunity to shout about its benefits.
- To Inspire
Inspiration gives us a push to keep going, try harder or aim higher. Inspiring messages are shared to create a ‘feel good’ feeling amongst followers
- To Entertain
If you look at our piece on The Power of a Smile you’ll see how important and cathartic smiling and laughter are for wellbeing.
- To inform
Whether it’s the latest in news, the current trend on or a nearby event social media has become an integral medium for information.
- To connect
When I joined Facebook nearly ten years ago the immediate draw for me was that it kept me in touch with friends I no longer saw in person, due to our various relocations around the globe. It instantly added a layer of valued connectivity to my day to day activities. Now I use social media and my content to connect @Magnificentstuf with other similar organisations and to help establish our brand.
Given that you and many other businesses will have ticked only number one, you might now begin to appreciate why social media can seem a very noisy, overcrowded place, and also perhaps why many tweets, posts and updates are ignored. The savvy social media user amongst us knows that appealing to points two to five on the list is the way to get noticed…so –
1) When promoting your business don’t rerun the same post advertising your service or product. Think about smarter ways to promote, use case studies, promotional offers, testimonials.
2) Look to inspire if that is your strength; people love to absorb the wisdom of Jack Canfield first thing in the morning as they start their day, and I’m sure they’ll love your wisdom or shared insights too.
3) If humour comes naturally don’t be afraid to inject comedy into your posts (just think about how your brand may be perceived – non-offensive and clean may leave a better impression!)
4) Share information that people can put to good use. One of our most successful posts to date is ‘9 natural ways to keep spiders out of your home’ – this post has nothing to do with Magnificent Stuff… It’s not in any way marketing related but it’s interesting and informative and topical. People liked and shared leading to a positive impact on Magnificent Stuff’s reputation.
5) Support and assist your community in the same way that you would your own circle of friends. Going the extra mile for others counts for an awful lot. Follow, like and share others posts. So long as it’s not a direct competitor it’s nice, good practice and reflects well on your brand to engage publicly with others.
I usually spend an hour or so on a Sunday planning content for the week ahead. I set myself a goal of writing a split percentage across each of the 5 types of content listed above and set about researching and brainstorming posts.
Some tips for content creation:
- Google national or global calendar dates so you can use these as posts.
- Design cool graphics to accompany your posts using canva.com.
- Keep or pin inspirational quotes and posts you’ve seen during the week so you can retweet or share them.
- Integrate your social media so they work succinctly (writing a post in Hootsuite that will post across all of your channels together) but me mindful that audiences will differ so sometimes the message will need to be changed, also the display of posts changes from channel to channel.
- Ask your followers what they would like to see more of.
- Review your insights to see which type of posts have been successful and generate decent levels of engagement.
For more tips, advice and content ideas contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The use of effective content has become increasingly important – here are a few tips to help you achieve better search engine optimisation (SEO).
- Use smart headlines you can grab attention – remember, short, succinct and interesting.
- Commit to a content plan/calendar to keep content regular and varied – we can help you with this!
- Use real stories about real people to create unique and engaging content – if something has made you laugh, cry, feel inspired or provoked a reaction in you it’s worth sharing… so long as it sits comfortably with your brand and enhances the customer experience.
- Sense check: is your content worth sharing? Would your reader see value in forwarding it on?
- Make sure your content answers the kind of questions being asked on Google or other search engines. If your content resolves someone’s quandary then it’s beneficial, useful and shareable.
- Sense check: why should your reader care about your content… What value does it offer them? Is it teaching them something, amusing them, giving them something or adding value to their life?
- Tap into your organization for customer-relevant content marketing ideas. Case studies or anecdotes, documented real-life situations are far more interesting, especially if you can solve a problem/answer a question.
- Repurposing existing content to make it suitable/fitting for the audience is important and cost/time efficiency, but remember, Not all content is transferable between mediums. Is your advertising copy really suitable to tweet without a rewrite?
- Don’t forget to include a relevant call to action, encouraging readers to do something as a result of reading the post, feature, piece. You could also use a tracking code to better understand where people are coming from and what works well for you.
- Think about catering for your audiences needs, and who your audience is. On Facebook we have a very local audience, predominantly small business owners, on Twitter our followers have a strong US bias.
At Magnificent Stuff we pride ourselves on working with our clients to understand their audiences and deliver effective and brand appropriate marketing communications. If you’d like a free, no obligation chat about your comms. Please contact us at email@example.com or tweet us @magnificentstuf (yes, there is only 1 ‘f’ at the end!)
Back in the mid-90’s I was choosing options post A-Levels. My first and only choice since I was 5 was to follow in my hero’s footsteps (my father) and join the Met Police.
After a series of very sincere heart-to-hearts with my dear Dad on his hands and knees, begging me to keep safe and get a career in anything else in the world other than policing, I eventually agreed to go to Uni first. In that way, I thought, I could become a police officer with a chance of accelerated promotion and be given more opportunity!
Looking at university courses, few options appealed to me. I’d never really been particularly good in any subject and the 2 years of A-Levels had dragged. The subjects I’d chosen had been the best of a very dry choice. The door-to-door canvassing role I’d held for 3 years with Zenith Windows meant that I’d experienced marketing at grass roots level. It intrigued me and I was actually quite good at it!
I had a very strong network of home friends, a boyfriend, 2 jobs and I was exceptionally close to my family. After reviewing the UCAS brochure at length my mind was made up. It was extremely important to me to do something I had at least some interest in, so I decided I’d stay in London, commute to Uni and attend the London College of Printing and Distributive Trades to study for their brand new BA Hons in marketing and advertising course.
Uni was fun, not the same fun as other friends had experienced (we had no Freshers events as such and we visited the student bar once in 3 years!) It was different here, my classmates we’re made up of a number of foreign and mature students. The rest of us had 2 or 3 jobs, lived at,or near, home and we holidayed, lunched and partied with our friends who we’re all in full time employment. We all had a decent wedge of disposable income and on the whole we only had a few days of lectures each week. We lived the good life!
I thank Uni mostly for the life experience but also for allowing me to meet two amazingly special friends. Barry, Liz and I had a blast. We’d go to Elephant & Castle’s finest restaurant for lunch. We’d share homework and chat on the phone for hours. We’d write papers for each other and cover for each other when one of us had a work/home life commitment and couldn’t make it in to a lecture. I still to this day love Liz and Barry very dearly and will always want them in my life.
I was always one to have lots of jobs and, temping as a receptionist for Britvic, I met a guy called Ashley, who’s wealthy uncle owned a media planning agency. After a very relaxed interview I found myself working as a trainee planner/buyer for the mid-sized agency in the West End during the holidays.
I totally loved it there. The people we’re great, the clients exciting and the long leisurely lunches on a Friday, free flowing hospitality, booze, parties and freebies were mind blowing. I was paid a decent salary for a ‘workie’ and I learnt loads about the industry. I also got myself a market-research telephone role in the evenings and signed up to a mystery shopping agency.
These experiences confirmed to me that I didn’t need to rush into the police force so soon, I was still young! I decided that I wanted to be a creative, I wanted to write and produce tv commercials. The fact that I wasn’t much cop at writing and I had no video production experience didn’t phase me at all, that was my ultimate goal, I’d watched ‘Bewitched’ religiously and I wanted to work where Darren worked, for an agency like Larry’s. In the meantime I would look for a full time media role to get some more experience under my belt and regular funds coming in.
I signed up with a number of agencies including one called Regan & Dean, who got me an interview at a contract publishing agency called Redwood Publishing in Trafalgar Square. This wasn’t ideal for me, it was an editorial role on global magazine project for Volvo cars. I couldn’t have been more disappointed to have been offered the role but I decided it was a stepping stone. Seeing as I wasn’t even getting near to an interview with a creative Ad agency this would do for now!
Ten years later I eventually decided to do some travelling and I left Redwood. During my time there I’d learnt the fundamentals of CRM. I’d learnt and loved client servicing (done the proper way). I’d been mentored by some incredibly inspirational people and I’d listened, learned and understood the rationale and marketing plans for some of the worlds biggest brands. I’d help devise solutions with almost unachievable schedules to meet objectives on time and I’d made some of the best friends you could ask for.
What Redwood first taught me, subsequent roles and experience have built on and although I’m sure I learnt lots at uni, it was only when out in the big wide world and working on live and real accounts I have really grown to love what I do, and that’s even without the boozy lunches and parties, which have been in rapid decline over the years and are almost non existent these days!
What I love most is the problem solving. The importance of the planning, insight and evaluation it takes to create a workable solution for a client.
No one can underestimate the power of taking a watertight brief, or if you’re given a brief, the importance of questioning it and running through it with a fine tooth-comb.
When you understand a clients objective, dilemma or concern you can begin to resolve it, meeting their goals effectively.
Marketing is exciting, rewarding and is always evolving.
It never gets boring, and although there are peaks and troughs in budget allocated to marketing spend across the board, if you work hard to prove return to a client they’ll see value in your efforts and continue to invest.
And that is why I love what I do – the people, the problem solving, the excitement, the client liaison and generating the return. That is why we started www.magnificentstuff.net.
There are a few simple, yet smart ways you can
Use Facebook to Promote a Public Event
without posting the same irritating messages to the same circle of friends. These tips will not only create genuine interest and standout for your event but will also engage your audience.
- The first recommendation would be to always have a holding page for your event, so a website or similar that will host all of the relevant information about your event. You can encourage users to sign up by promising additional insight or a freebie on arrival.
- Social share buttons to your registration page on the event. Word of mouth marketing is the most effective marketing and if people see other people are linking, following and sharing your event, the more visitors will perceive your content as being popular and will also want to share.
TOP TIP: The best place to position your social share buttons is at the top right “above the fold” (visible without scrolling).
- Use your Facebook page wisely! Even the banner/image on your page is valuable to you. At 180px by 540px there is an opportunity to use all of that space to talk about what it is you’re promoting. As does the event icon itself. A call to action – Free drink on arrival or free olives or complimentary bread and oil – these are all more appealing than the repetitive wallpaper that is: BUY TICKETS.
- Give your readers/followers/friends/likers MORE than just constantly harassing for a sale. If you’re a restaurant or a pub offer a recipe? Post pictures of the mouth-watering food – Instagram is a great app to do this through. If you’re hosting a festival, audio clips of featured artists can be really popular, if it’s a charity event post some case study stories of the good work the charity does.
- If you supply decent content, you’ll engage your audience. They’ll feel loyal towards you. They will feel as though they’re getting something back from you and won’t doubt investing in your event. Now is a good time to try and start some dialogue with your audience, start with a question – something like “Have you got your ticket yet to our next event?” or “Hands up who’s attending this event?!” You could use both your sharing link and your webpage link/registration link
- Facebook events – the fundamentals…
- Facebook Events is one of the most misused features of the social network. There are 2 ways to create an event:
In a personal profile – here you have the ability to message all invitees directly into their inbox
Via a fan page – best to use for business related events. Any changes or amends will simply go out as an update rather than a message as it would on a personal event
Do note that users have 2 inboxes and so be mindful that some messages may disappear into their ‘other’ inbox.
TOP TIP: If you’d rather not receive Event invitations/emails from certain friends but you don’t want to unfriend him/her, help is at hand! There’s a little-known feature on Facebook that allows you to block Event invitations from specific friends. Just go to Account > Privacy > Block Lists > scroll to Block event invites and type in the friend’s name. Voila. Your friend will be none the wiser.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your attendees to share. Ask your engaged fans to please invite their friends or at least put the event on their profile giving you additional visibility.
- Be clear that there is a link that Facebook users need to click to register. Some people might think that by clicking the “I’m Attending” button they have signed up for your event. Write periodic updates and messages on the Event wall to encourage everyone to go get their ticket if they haven’t already.
- Finally, how about encouraging your audience to curate your next event. Ask them what food they love, which film they want to see or which band they like best. By having this additional involvement in the event they’ll feel more excited and part of the event itself, becoming evangelists for you!
I hope these few fundamental tips have helped. Facebook can be a really valuable asset in event planning, used poorly it can also be really irritating and off-putting to fans. There are loads of useful hints and tips all over the internet on the smart use of Facebook, its well worth having a trawl around to learn more.
Otherwise we can always help you plan your social media effectively – firstname.lastname@example.org
So you understand the need for content. You know WHY big companies use content to market their business and keep their customers engaged. How do you go about deciding on a content marketing strategy to suit your company’s needs?
It is quite possible to become confused by the myriad of information available on this subject. To help here are some simple questions to help you decide.
1) What do I want to be known for? 2) What do my customers want? 3) What kind of content will they consume? 4) How can I create content that is interesting, consistent, original and likely to a) attract new customers and b) retain old ones? 5) Where should I publish my content? 6) How often should I publish? 7) What business results do I want from my content? 8) How do I know whether my content is working? Let us assume, for example, that you run a gardening firm that has progressed well and you’re looking to improve your visibility on-line through content marketing. If we address these 8 questions sample answers might be:-
1) What do I want to be known for? – Quality plants. Stylish landscaping. Promptness of service. Originality. Customer service. 2) What do my customers want? – All of the above plus assurance of professionalism,. Value for money. Peace of mind. 3) What kind of content will they consume? – Videos. Articles. Photography. 4) How can I create content that is interesting, consistent, original and likely to a) attract new customers and b) retain old ones? – By using personal knowledge. By researching trends and fashions. 5) Where should I publish my content? – A website? Blog? Social media? 6) How often should I publish? – Weekly? Bi-weekly? Daily. At which point do I risk over-saturation? 7) What business results do I want from my content? – More customers and MORE sales 8) How do I know whether my content is working? – By periodically checking traffic stats and sales since commencing content marketing.
It is not a panacea but if you apply these simple 8 questions you should be able to see a clear path towards a successful content marketing strategy.
Did you know that 99.8% of all banner ads on your website are ignored? 99.8%. That’s two clicks out of a thousand. To the customer used to navigating around numerous sites these ads become wallpaper – they’re simply not given the time of day. A recent survey showed that unto 50% of customers who DID click on the ads did so by mistake. I kid you not. Native ads, on the other hand, are looked at 52% more than regular display ads. Spending on native ads grew 39% in 2012 and 22% in 2013.
Native advertising is the integration of marketing content into an article without distracting interest from the rest of the material presented there. It aims to blend in seamlessly with the written content and, to all intents and purposes is part of the article itself.
The classic example is a Purina campaign:- (With thanks to www.memeburn.com).
Purina sponsored an article on Mashable titled “5 Heartwarming Stories That Prove Dog Is Man’s Best Friend”. Mashable is best known for its tech news and its “X number of (insert practically anything here)” articles. And Purina nails the latter. The piece shares stories and videos of the sweetest pups — one who saved its owners life, one who mourned the death of its Navy SEAL owner, and three others. By the end of the article, you’re in tears and more in love with your own dog. This article received more than 20 000 shares — meaning that Purina generated many impressions, without even mentioning dog food.
You too can achieve this by making your article similar to but not directly selling your product. In Purina’s emotional, tear-jerking article dog-lovers are filled with warm, fuzzy feelings. Imagine if the article was about dog food — who’d want to share that with friends?
This is the first in a series of posts regarding creating a more worthwhile and profitable website for your company.
What is your website for:
There are two main types of business websites. The first is a flat brochure style website, showcasing the best your organisation has to offer, it can include some testimonials and will have clear calls to action. The other is a site that engages visitors and generates leads. It attracts interest and offers solutions and advice to visitors initiating a relationship.
Your website is the hub of business communication and the home of all of your valuable content. It’s critical that the look, feel and tone of voice are reflective of all that your organisation stands for and the products/services you offer. The traffic driven to your site will have been directed from all areas so it is important to make sure your website has a strong and clear identity.
Although your website is about you and your business it needs to be written and designed from the customer’s point of view, so instead of writing about ‘what we do’ focus on ‘ here’s how we can help you’.
The content on your website, as well as that posted in social media or shared on others blogs is all integral to your brand. It is there fundamentally to engage and inspire. To endorse your expertise in a sector, to help build trust and to get customers inspired and enthused about you. Smart and cleverly produced content will encourage customers to talk about you and will ensure that you are front of mind when they are ready to make a purchasing decision.
A good website with well constructed editorial will pull in leads and convert them to sales.
The 3 main objectives of a content focused business website?
1. To attract potential customers and retain existing ones
2. To navigate them to the most relevant areas of the site, and
3. To engage prospects and start to build a relationship with them.
In the next post we will look at the key elements that make a smarter business website.
Back in 1999 I got a job whilst in the last few months of college. I didn’t think it would be a permanent thing, just something to tide me over and to start making a dent in the vast student loans I’d accumulated.Back then REDWOOD PUBLISHING, founded by Publishing and Marketing genius Mike Potter, was a ‘contract publishing house’, specialising in creating customer magazines for the array of blue chip clients on the books. I started out working on the VOLVO account, our editor was an extremely accomplished ‘petrol-head’ journo who had previously launched TOP GEAR and his energy, enthusiasm and dedication rubbed off on us all. We, as a team, grew incredibly passionate about the brand – We loved VOLVO.IMAGE: Volvo Love by XpiecemealXBack then contract publishing was the craft of writing engaging features relating to a niche or sector whilst cleverly promoting a brand. By using skilled journalists as sector experts, the customer communications delivered by the brand was actually credible. Suddenly there was more substance to a marketing campaign, customers didn’t feel they were being directly sold to by ad agencies through a whimsical 30 second ad.The content was compelling, believable and original and readers were encouraged to engage with features which were entertaining and informative.Now, nearly 15 years later, Mike Potter has sold up and moved to Barbados, Redwood is no longer a sole player and contract publishing has evolved from a *£200m industry in 1999 to what is described today as **’owned media’, and worth in excess of £4 billion!The traditional contract publishing agencies are being forced to branch out and specialise in branded content across all mediums. No longer are they competing against other publishers – key players come in all forms from digital agencies to social media strategists to PR’s, ad agencies and marketeers. It seems these days everyone can write branded content, the art and skill the early adopters invested in back in the day has been heavily diluted and although only very few do it well the sector continues to thrive with ***70% of UK marketeers using content marketing.****Content Marketing is described in WIKIPEDIA as a marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etcUnlike traditional advertising, content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering “consistent, ongoing valuable information.” On the web, content marketing is “simply using content — news, feature, or otherwise — to commercial advantage.According to y2m, content marketing is utilized by ad agencies to improve brand awareness and later customer acquisition.Today, despite budget cuts, recessions and global issues the industry continues to thrive with new clients joining daily. Tried, tested and proven the power of branded content is unrivalled in terms of growing loyalty, reducing churn and acquiring new customers.But only if it is done well and by the experts!