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how-to-blogWith a bit of creative writing, a small business can have big results from a blog. Many of my clients often ask, "What do I blog about?" and to this I have a question for them, "What are they interested in?" Below are other ideas to spark that creative writer hidden within all of us.

What to write about - a mini-brainstorming session

  • Future developments in your industry
  • Newsworthy (industry related) items that affect your clients directly
  • Ways you are incorporating "Green Living" into your life or business (studies show internet buyers are most interested in purchasing/doing business with people who are environmentally conscious).
  • How is your business different from your competitors? Quality? Variety of Services? Price?
  • Articles that address ways your product/service can help/benefit your customers
  • Broadcast sales or promotions
  • Announce new services
  • Share links about your industry, new products in the industry, etc
  • Include photos and descriptions of your [new] products

Just to give you an example: A friend of mine is starting up a business for her husband who does carpentry, building furniture, etc. I told her she should put a blog on her site and received the typical, "Why, what would we write about?" My reply was this. If someone is looking into a reputable carpenter for building furniture, I would want to know more about the furniture, his skills, what makes his furniture of the quality I would want, or how his is different from something I could purchase at IKEA. This definitely was an "ah-hah" moment for the client.

Promoting your blog

    • Post each new blog on your site, then spread the word to Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Here you can create an account and post a link back to your website blog article. Email your friends/contact that you've posted it. They can then vote for it on StumbleUpon, Digg it, Reddit, etc. This gets the visitor to your site to continue reading, to help your SEO.
    • Add an RSS Feed to your articles so readers can stay abreast of new postings.
    • Monitor what people leave for comments too. Comment on their comments. Keep the communication going.
    • eMail (eNewsletter, eVite) Marketing can also be a valuable way to get out informational and educational blog articles out to potential clients. Start the article in your email and link back to your site for them to continue reading.

blog1In times like this many business owners are looking for creative new outlets to attract potential clients. I cannot stress the importance of starting a blog on your website NOW. Reasons for this: It is predicted that 100,000 new blogs are created every day! As they say, “Timing is everything.”

With the popularity of blogs rapidly increasing now is the time to jump on the wagon. This doesn’t mean you have to blog everyday or even have every topic be ground-breaking. What it does mean is that you are getting the information out there to be found and linked to by potential clients. Over time, these links grow exponentially and soon, your site will have many inbound links to it.

A few basics
Albeit tempting to create a blog at a dedicated blogging site like “Wordpress” or “Blogger”, this doesn’t accomplish the same results as having a blog located at your own domain.

Two reasons for this: it will drive more traffic to YOUR website instead of the dedicated blog site, and you will be able to track hits pertaining to what articles they are most interested.

WHY you need a blog
Blogs help you target and attract more of your audience for several reasons:

  • This is another outlet for potential customers that are going to search engines to locate you. You will be providing information based on what your customers are searching/shopping. If they came to your blog, then the must be interested in your product/service, right?
  • Think of a blog and your website as free advertising space. Sure you pay for hosting and the domain (like $60/year!?!), but what a great ROI if the visitors you are attracting are converted into customers.
  • Fresh content helps with your ranking. Frequently updated sites are “crawled” more often and therefore will rank higher. This is seen by search engines as being a worthwhile site with valuable content.
  • Visitors will be more tempted to bookmark your site and return to it if there is worthwhile content. More visits means better ranking in search engines.
  • Blogs allow for 2-way communication that brings a sense of knowing who you are working with.

PART II: How to start a blog

Goal Setting Tips for Marketing Agencies

 

So how do you create specific, attainable, and ambitious goals that will lead you to take action? Let’s take a look at the steps.

Step 1: Set SPECIFIC goals
You took a good hard look at your website and — yikes — when did it get so out of date?! It might need updating to be mobile responsive or include some client testimonials to help you attract prospects into calling you. Don’t just make your goal “update website” or “add testimonials.”

Break the goal into specific actions that are doable and lend to achieving them. For example, a more specific goal might be, “submit mobile responsive project to two web designer contacts — need a bid and proposed timeline,” or “email all clients from the past six months a link to leave feedback and a testimonial.”

Being specific will help you better define your goals and shed more light on what needs to be done by providing step-by-step instructions.

Step 2: Set ATTAINABLE goals
You’ve made your goals specific, now make sure they are attainable. This may sound simple, but it’s probably the hardest thing to do.

It’s great to know what your goals are. It’s better to break them down into specific actions that require specific instructions. But, if the chance of you completing them is little to none, well then, you’re not setting yourself up for success, are you?

Here are some suggestions to make your goals more attainable:

  • Make your goals non-negotiable. Set them in firm language and set parameters and expectations as you would for your client. Your goals should not be an option; they should be an obligation you have to yourself and your business.
  • Build in accountability. For some, accountability means publicly declaring or sharing your specific goals and your plan to achieve them with those within your company or close network. For others, this means having an accountability partner who also is looking to improve their business.
  • Don’t go it alone! Constant Contact, can offer you expertise, advice, and resources to help you achieve your goals.

Step 3: Set AMBITIOUS goals
Now that you know your goals and have been specific with steps that will make them attainable, it’s important to remember to be ambitious. Don’t sell yourself short!

As marketers, we know how to map out carefully constructed plans geared towards our client’s goals, normally holding little to nothing back in making them successful. However, when setting our own goals, many of us shoot for just being able to check off the box vs. breaking out of the box.

Part of this is due to the fact we’d rather succeed than fail, that’s understandable. But part of the reason many of us are not setting ambitious enough goals is that we don’t take the time to ask ourselves the why behind our goals?

For example, maybe you want to offer social media marketing services to all of your clients in 2018. But why? Is it because everyone else does? That’s not a genuine why and ambitions are likely to run flat.

Is it because you’ve been fine-tuning your social media marketing for the past year on yourself (and one test client) and you’re excited to bring that same plan to increase engagement to your clients just as you have done for yourself? Well then, that is both an ambitious and motivating why.

Knowing your why will make the purpose clear and fuel your ambition.

Step 4: Set TIMELINES
Don’t overlook timelines when setting goals. Without them, you diminish your accountability and the likelihood of completing your goals.

Why are timelines so important?

  • They provide the framework for what needs to be done by helping you break goals into specifics.
  • They set clear expectations by allowing you to realistically mapping out what it takes to reach each goal.
  • They often serve as the connection between two or more goals that rely on one another to be completed before the next step may be taken.
  • They establish a set of benchmarks in the event something needs to be shifted or modified.

When following these four steps for successful goal setting for marketers, we’re certain this year you’ll do more than meet your needs, you’ll most likely exceed them!

Video for driving traffic and salesDo you like to watch videos? Who doesn’t?! 74 million Internet users watched online video content for an average of 14.8 hours per viewer, according to comScore. And that’s just in the United States. People are watching video everywhere, both figuratively and literally: Mobile video viewing is up 41%, according to numbers from Nielsen.

In this blog, we’ll share with you why your business or organization should be leveraging online video in your marketing efforts, give you a few ideas for getting started, and provide a few tips for shooting a quality video without breaking the bank or looking like The Blair Witch Project.

Show It, Don’t Tell It

Video engages people in a way that photos and text alone can’t. For small business owners and nonprofit managers, using video in your marketing can bring faces, voices, personality, and heart to your operation, while also demonstrating your authenticity. To top that, video in email is said to be able to boost conversion rates by as much as 50 percent.

If that kind of conversion boost isn’t enough to convince you, here are five more reasons to add video to your marketing mix:

1. Tell your story quickly.
People don’t have a lot of time, so you want to get your message across quickly. Video can communicate a lot of information in a short amount of time. Inexpensive software tools such as Apple iMovie or Windows Live Movie Maker can be used to easily edit your video, add titles, music, and get it ready for uploading to a video hosting site.

2. Put a face to your business or organization.
A video helps bring your business or organization to life, and it makes your communications more personal. Putting people on camera makes you and your team real to your customers and members.

3. Get your readers to remember your message.
Let’s face it: In general, we remember little of what we read. Our retention of a message is much better (estimates are three times better) when it includes pictures, sound, and motion. Your readers can only take action if they remember what you said.

4. People enjoy video.
People like to read, but they really like video. We watch TV, go to the movies, stream video content to our computers and mobile phones, and more.

5. Videos are easy and inexpensive to create.
The great myth is that video is hard and expensive to create. Yes, the ads you see during the Super Bowl cost a lot, but you don’t have to spend much to get good video. Video cameras are cheap to buy (many cost less than $125) and easy to use. Look at a video camera such as the Kodak Zi8 (our videos featuring Red Oak Properties and the Currier Museum of Art were shot with the Zi8 and a simple clip-on microphone) or Sony Bloggie Duo HD Camera. They both allow you to shoot with one button. If you have an iPhone or some other mobile devices, you already have a video camera. You can also just use images and add a voiceover.

Plus, it’s free to host video on sites such as YouTube, Blip.tv, and Vimeo, making your videos easily accessible, easily shared through social media, and easily embeded on web sites and in blog posts. Not only that, videos hosted on these sites can help your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as they give sites like Google and Bing yet another piece of content associated with your brand to crawl and serve up to the masses.

Customer Spotlight: Video Works for Fourword Marketing

As an author and speaker, and the owner of Fourword Marketing in Toronto, video has become an effective way for Marc Gordon to market himself and his company in a way that he believes cannot be accomplished with words alone.

“The impact of video is far beyond what you can do in a written blog.” As an author and speaker, and the owner of Fourword Marketing in Toronto, video has become an effective way for Marc Gordon to market himself and his company in a way that he believes cannot be accomplished with words alone.

“The impact of video is far beyond what you can do in a written blog,” Marc explains. “You can present things on so many different levels and illustrate examples in settings that people can visually understand, which can be challenging to do in a written blog.”

Since March 2010, Marc has produced MarcTV, a bi-weekly six minute program that covers topics ranging from how to create a killer press release to good business networking practices. Marc shoots the videos in his “studio” — i.e., his office when filled with a few lights and a backdrop — and out and about in his native Canada. Once posted to his Vimeo account and embedded in a blog post, Marc promotes the videos across multiple channels, including his Constant Contact–based email list and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Marc uses a single camera and a wireless microphone for each shoot. When on location, Marc has a colleague shoot the video, but in the office, a tripod acts as the lone cameraman. Editing is done with Apple’s iMovie software. “A lot of people put in a lot of transitions and effects,” says Marc, who does all the editing himself. “You don’t need that. It’s all about simple, clean transitions that keep the video nice and clean. Let the content be the draw.”

For Marc, the message is important, but humor is a key aspect of his video effort. For instance, in a Halloween episode, Marc went shopping dressed as Wonder Woman. He also likes to use edgier titles on his videos to draw attention to certain clips — a tactic that seems to be working: Views of his videos have grown steadily and his email list has grown 29% since he started MarcTV.

“My initial goal was use MarcTV as a marketing tool to promote myself as an expert and personality,” Marc says. “But the popularity of the show has really given it a life of its own. People  from all kinds of industries are now reaching out to me as a result of the videos.”

Video Ideas for One and All

As with any type of marketing content, it may be difficult to think of video topics that apply to your business or organization. But there are plenty of simple ideas out there that can help jump-start your video efforts. Among them:

Thank your customers for their business or your volunteers for their support. Film yourself or a few of your staff members giving their well wishes, and stitch the clips together as fun way to say “thanks” to all those who support your business or organization.

Feature a customer raving about your company, product, or service. Catch people when they’re happy: getting ready to leave your restaurant after a great meal, just taking their first bites of that ice cream cone, or if they stop by to express their happiness with your service.

Share a cool company milestone. For example, when Constant Contact’s logo went up on our building, we filmed it. Any time your organization celebrates an achievement, film the celebration and put snippets up to share with your customers and members.

Include footage from a recent speaking engagement. If you’re invited to speak at the local chamber of commerce meeting, have someone run the camera for you. If your organization gets an award, film the ceremony.

Ask for feedback from your subscribers. We put a video in a recent #CTCT Social newsletter issue asking readers for their feedback and directing them to an online survey. We received more responses than our average because people watched the video and made a connection with our managing editor.

Share your expertise or provide tips for using your products.
• A mechanic could show what he looks for when examining various parts for wear
• Sales folks can demonstrate how their products work together
• Any business can introduce a new website and its features

Put the spotlight on your team to highlight your weird or wacky culture.

Review a book that your members or customers may enjoy.

Share highlights from a past year’s event to promote an upcoming gathering.

Have your staff wish customers and members a happy holidays.

Your video content doesn’t even have to be 30 frames-per-second of moving pictures. You could also:

Use Images with voiceover. Pictures or images are a great way to communicate. If you like, you can easily use what is known as voiceover on an image. This combines a narrative that you can record over the image. String a set of these together to tell your story.
• Your pictures: Using any camera, take pictures of your building, product, people, etc.
• Images: There are lots of places on the web to get images, either for free or for a relatively small investment. A few examples include Google Images, iStockphoto,Flickr, and stock.xchng.

Note: As with any media, be careful you’re abiding by copyright law.
Create a Screencast. Capturing a demonstration of your product or a walkthrough of your business or organization using your website is another way to create engaging video. Screencast software runs on your computer and captures what takes place on the screen. You can also record your voice speaking at the same time or add music. The combination makes for an informative and engaging experience.

There are many software tools that enable you to take an image and add a voiceover. Examples are Microsoft’s PowerPoint (10.0 or greater), Apple’s Keynote, TechSmith’s Camtasia, and iMovie.

4 Tips for Shooting Quality Video

It doesn’t take thousands of dollars in gear to make a great video, but paying attention to a few details will make your final product that much better:

Whenever possible, use a tripod.
Keeping the camera steady will make for better picture quality when you upload your video to a service like YouTube. Plus, your viewers won’t get seasick while watching.

Film in a quiet area.
This is particularly important if the only mic you have is the one built-in to the camera as those tend to pick up all the ambient noise as well as the speaker. In these cases, the less ambient noise, the better.

Bright light is good.
Cameras have come a long way when it comes to the ability to record in low light, but the more light you can provide, the better the video quality. When filming, have the subject facing the main source of light, not in front it:

Orientation is key.
When shooting on an iPhone, Android, or other video-capable smartphone, make sure to hold the device in a landscape (horizontal) mode and not vertically. Holding it vertically makes for a messy editing process as you crop the video to fit a standard size video window.

Video Is a Great Marketing Tool
Video is a fun and effective marketing tool that’s accessible to any business or organization — even those who are on a tight budget. Think about which of your marketing messages could benefit most by the color that video brings to the mix. If a picture says 1,000 words, a video can say it bigger, brighter, and better.

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