Oh oh, Missed a Step!

Wouldn’t you think that I would learn from my own experience? I would think so, but I just caught myself NOT doing that! Not a good example.

Finding My Voice was My First Step
On my first post, I talked about how appropriate the exercise of “Finding Your Voice” was as the place to start developing a blog. I believed it then, and I believe it now. On my third post, I described an important client, the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union and our efforts to develop and implement a content marketing strategy. I said then that a blog was an important component of that strategy and we hoped to get that going soon.

Tri-Town Apple blog
Well, that time is now. We are moving toward the regular publishing of posts on the “Tri-Town Apple”, (the name of their blog), beginning in September. Now, from my previous experience, I would have thought one of the first things I would do is work out the completion of my “Finding You Voice” outline, (part of that first post).

It didn’t happen.

Missed an Important Step
That was probably because our plan is to request and use content contributed by several professionals (e.g. financial planning, insurance, real estate). I anticipated working from their lists of the content that could be provided and developing an editorial calendar based on that material. The problem is that the professionals didn’t really know what I was looking for, and quite frankly neither did I. Why? Because the Finding Your Voice exercise and documentation had not been done.

That became very obvious to me after I began working on Finding Your Voice for the Tri-Town Teachers blog. There were a number of points on the document outline that I had not previously thought about or addressed.

Takeaway
My Takeaway – “Always complete a Finding Your Voice document for a content marketing strategy development, no exception!”

Work to Do
So where are we? I have drafted the Tri-Town Apple Finding Your Voice. Since I want to review this with the credit union team, I won’t get into much detail here (and you probably don’t want to read it anyway), but I will list 3 points that clearly we have to address as we go forward. They are at the heart of a content marketing strategy:

“What are the key needs of the audience

  • A financial institution to provide convenient, low-cost, full-service banking
  • Prudent family financial planning and execution
  • Assistance in preparing for the cost of higher education
  • Advice and service that helps them financially prepare for retirement

Are they looking for answers?

  • The assumption is yes, but we have little evidence or feedback that backs that up.

If so, where?

  • At this time we do not have this knowledge.”

Love to Hear Back
Is this an isolated experience, or are there others who have gone through a similar process? Am I right; are those last three points the critical foundation for content marketing? I’d love to hear from others.

Need Help With Social Media? If So, You Are Not Alone!

Take a look at this Infographic from Constant Contact…

Constant Contact surveyed 728 small businesses earlier this year to determine “how things were going” particularly about their marketing strategies. As you would expect there were some differences between B2C and B2B, but not a lot. For more information about the survey and to see a copy, click here.
We’ll take a more detailed look at this survey in a later post.

Small Business Pulse 2012
Like this infographic? Get more social media marketing tips from Constant Contact.

Presentation on Content Marketing

In a recent post, I mentioned that I had made a presentation to our Chamber Leads Group on Content Marketing and that I would be covering that presentation in a later post. This is that post.

Don’t Touch That Dial
Wait, before you quickly click to leave me, I am not going to go through that presentation. Just the major points that I think are important and worth consideration. These being:

  • What is Content Marketing (briefly)
  • Why do we care
  • The challenges and what we can do about them
  • Takeaways

A Brief Definition – My adaptation of Joe Pulizz’s Definition

“Content Marketing is the art of understanding exactly what your customers need or want to know or experience and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way.”
Adopted from “Get Content Get Customers” by Joe Pulizzi & Newt Barrett

Why Do We Care ?

One Word: Internet

  • The world is at our finger tips, and in our pockets (smart phone anyone?)
  • The buying research is often done before contact
  • We expect to find most, if not all, the information we need online
  • In short, much of the “selling”, and selection, can happen before the provider is “in the game”

Why Do We Care II?

  • Access is a two-way street
  • Everyone is in a state of information “overload”
  • We delete “noise”
  • We quickly leave what is not “on target”
  • To be the “Last Man Standing”, the marketing message has to be clear, and relevant to the customers’  needs

The Challenges

  • Time
  • ROI
  • Technology
  • Knowing the audience

Let’s Look At These

Time

  • Yep, it takes time
  • We all have the same 24 X 7
  • It’s a question of priorities
  • Recognize that change is required
  • You don’t have to do it all
  • Get help

ROI

  • It’s there, but you must…
  • Have clear objectives
  • Have a plan
  • Be, “All In”

Technology

  • Remember, it’s your business
  • You’re in charge
  • Be involved
  • You set direction and priorities
  • You decide on “What”
  • Get help with the “How”

Understand Your Audience

  • It seems obvious, but can be elusive
  • What does your customer want or need?
  • How and where are they looking for it?
  • It is not about you
  • It is about them!

The Takeaways

  • You can do it!
  • Understand your audience
  • Have a plan with clear objectives
  • Get help
  • Be committed!

Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union e-mail Program

One of the key participants (or “character”) in this story is the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union. Our internet marketing strategy was described in an earlier post. Over the last 6-7 months the key marketing activity has been a weekly e-mail program. During this period 28 e-mail letters were sent to an average of 834 recipients.We tried to focus each e-mail letter on one topic.

Strategic Objectives
The strategic objectives of the program are to:

  1. Demonstrate that the credit union was competitive with most banks for being the members’ primary financial institution by making them aware of the wide range of services and financial products offered.
  2. Increase member use of the many services such as loans, credit & debit cards, and share accounts (checking).
  3. Increase overall Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union membership.
  4. Be the agent that brings readers to the other key components of the internet marketing strategy, namely the Facebook page and the blog, Tri-Town Apple.

Time to Pause & Assess
As we reached the end of June, we realized two important factors.

  1. We had essentially covered all the significant topics.
  2. Many of the members would be taking vacation over the summer and thus our audience would be reduced.

These factors led us to the conclusion that July/August would be a good time to pause the program take a measure of how effective it was and what should be changed, if anything. Continue reading

Editorial Calendar II

On May 9, 2012 I faced up to the fact that this blog needed an editorial calendar but I did not have one. My comment then was…

I know it. I tell the few people I’ve been coaching about the importance of planning their blog posts with an Editorial Calendar. “Try to go out 3 months”, I tell them, “6 weeks minimum”. Their reply, “Yes, I know, but that’s hard to do”.

You know something, they’re right! I’ve been rolling ideas around in my head over this for a while. “Should I begin with a description of the clients I’m working with or should I deal with specific topics?”, I ask myself. So far, I haven’t heard too many clear-cut answers.

What’s a blogger to do? Well, what I’ve decided to do is produce a few posts, like this one, to learn a few things. For instance,”How much can I bite off in one post?” or “How much time is it going to take to produce a post?” Since there are very few readers currently, any damage control required will be minimal.

It’s the Challenges
It’s not that the task is any different now, but I believe my vision of what “OK, We Can Do This!” needs to address is in sharper focus. Three developments have contributed to this perspective:

  1. We completed six months of weekly emails at the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union. That and the challenges of getting their blog going have reinforced earlier judgments on the primary obstacles to a successful content marketing strategy.
  2. My work with Robin Roscillo (Back Office Solutions) to develop a web site/blog with a focus on content marketing has emphasized the need for understanding the audience.
  3. Finally, I recently gave a presentation at on Chamber Leads Group on the subject of content marketing. I’ll cover that in a later post, but for now I can say my earlier statement that small businesses see Time, ROI, and Technology as the major challenges to going forward with anything like a content marketing strategy, especially one using social media, is spot on.

My takeaway from these experiences is that there are really four challenges to implementing a successful internet based content marketing strategy:

  1. Time
  2. ROI
  3. Technology
  4. Understanding the targeted customers

My Assignment
If “OK, We Can Do This!” is going to help anybody, then it must address these challenges. Obviously, then the editorial calendar must be built around this set of four challenges. I am confident that help can be found for all four, but identifying that help won’t be like “picking the low hanging fruit”. It will take some work, but, hey, that’s where the fun is.

For now I’ve settled on a schedule of one post per week, minimum. My calendar alternates week-to-week between a post dealing with the experiences of a particular business, and a post covering a more general topic, like this one.

I won’t put the whole calendar in here (it goes to 2012 YE), but here’s few weeks to show the reader what I mean.

Week of Business Specific General  Topic
7/9/12 Editorial calendar
7/16/12 TTT email analysis
7/23/12 Leads Group presentation
7/30/12 Progress on Tri-Town Apple

It’s a Start
I know it’s fairly simple and once a week may not be enough, but it’s a start. I’m sure the calendar will undergo many changes as we go and I do hope to crank it up to a steady two posts a week. For now, I can say that finally I have my editorial calendar.

I would be very interested comments to this description and blog editorial calendars in general.

Back Office Solutions

This Story’s Next Character
This blog is a story about small businesses and organizations learning how to use the internet for more effective marketing. As in any story, it is important to introduce the main “characters”. In prior posts, we met the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union and the Wilton Chamber Leads Group. I have one more “character” to introduce. There are a couple of others in the wings, but it’s too early to bring them on.

Back Office Solutions is the business of Robin Roscillo. Robin is also the leader of our Chamber Leads Group, and in that role she has demonstrated an ability to keep the group focused on its purpose, and to organize meetings around the planned objective. I mention these qualities because they cast a favorable light on Robin’s ability to provide the services Back Office Solutions views as its mission.

From Robin’s website…

“Back Office Solutions works with small business owners to increase the overall productivity of their companies.  Through evaluating and analyzing the overall enterprise, Robin streamlines operations, devises new systems and creates a cohesive team that works together to achieve the company’s goals.”

The reason Robin and her business, Back Office Solutions, plays a role in this story is that I approached Robin a while ago with the offer to help her reorganize her website around the idea of a combined web site that included a blog, as well as the usual information found in a site. I particularly thought Robin would benefit by focusing on the concept of Content Marketing.

Why Content Marketing
I believe strongly that businesses that rely heavily on their experience and knowledge in the pursuit of clients and revenue, are natural candidates for a Content Marketing strategy. As a service business, Back Office Solutions is a perfect example of a company that relies on its extensive knowledge and experience. So Robin and her business fit nicely into the experience that I am trying to carry out; namely helping small business take advantage of the internet, particularly Content Marketing, to market their goods, in this case services. I’m happy to say that Robin accepted the offer (I’m sure the reader already has guessed that).

What’s the Plan
I think the place to begin is with the identification and description of the audience that the Content Marketing strategy will be aimed at. Included in this process is the description of the problems for which potential clients are looking to find answers. The concept of Content Marketing is built on the idea that the marketer provides information that in one way or another is helpful to the intended audience, and, importantly, the audience realizes the information is helpful. Publishing information about solutions to problems that the audience doesn’t view as being important won’t do much.

Where Are We
Robin and I have met a few times on a regular schedule and I see that if I am to be successful in my role both with Robin and others, I need to sharpen my ability to lead a client in the process of identifying the problems of the target audience. It is too easy to describe the services that a company provides. That’s not a bad thing. Being able to describe your business accurately and succinctly is vital,  but if you’re going to offer information that deals directly with perspective clients problems, you’d better have those problems identified and described in a language that resonates with that audience.

When I think about it, this isn’t too surprising. We’re constantly focused on how we should describe our business; for example the famous “elevator speech”. It’s a focus of our Leads Group; we go around the table frequently to start a meeting with short descriptions of our business. Another example, everyone would agree that it’s important that your LinkedIn profile accurately, and succinctly, describes your qualities and business, but what about the prospects’ perpective. At any networking meeting, we ask each other, “So, what does Acme Widget do?” We never say, “Well, what are your clients most significant problems?”

From Here
I’m confident that Robin and I will end up with a good description of the problems her audience has. It’s that I want to get this done and move on to discussing how we are going to address these problems.

Takeaway
My takeaway from this experience is that I need to convey this notion quicker and better than I did with Robin…

It’s Not About You, It’s About Them!

I am interested in any thoughts that somebody has about this. Comments are welcome.

Our Leads Group

Continuing the introduction of the “characters” in this story, today we’ll meet the Wilton Chamber of Commerce Leads Group (see Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union). This group of about 18 people, all members of the Wilton Chamber, have been meeting twice a month for going on two years. We have only one person from any particular line of business. The purpose is to foster lead generation, both within and outside our group. As you might guess, the group is made up of individuals representing small businesses. A few members work in a local branch office of a larger corporation. In that sense they too, are small business people.

Not Much Experience
As far as I can see, except for one other person, there isn’t much experience with blogging or using social media. For the most part, the members are not really doing what would be required to gain that experience. Yet these are the very people that can benefit greatly from even a modest initiative with these internet marketing tools. The problem, at it’s root cause, is time. They do not have the time available to learn what they need to know to make good decisions, and even if someone can make those decisions for them, they do not have the time to execute. For many the technical requirements are overly daunting as well.

The Group Blog
Late last year, I set up a blog for this group (see Wilton Chamber Leads Blog). I did this to gain personal experience helping a small business try their hand at blogging and to give the group members an opportunity to “give it a whirl”, to see for themselves that they really could do it. We’ve had some interest but not a lot. A big reason is that I didn’t stay on top of it by encouraging people to not only try, but to stay with it. Not only that, but we’ve had a number of new members join the group and they haven’t been shown the blog or how to try it.

I’m making a pledge to myself to reengage with this idea. Together with our group leader, who is a believer, I want to kickoff this initiative again. We need to show everyone how they can follow the posts of others and make their own posts. But more than just showing, I need to actively nudge individuals who seem interested and on the edge of “giving it a go” and then stay engaged with them as they “try their wings”.

A Time To Fly
Writing that last sentence reminds me of witnessing a nest full of young birds fledge for the first time. The parents were close by, calling and encouraging the young birds as they, one-by-one, left the security of the perch and tried flying for the first time. Miraculously they all made it!

It’s a stretch, but in a way, that role of being there and encouraging is my role here. That, and unlike the parent birds, actually lending a hand when needed. Hopefully, like the nest of fledglings I saw, our Leads Group will all successfully soar with new found marketing wings.

Has anyone out there had the experience of leading a group into blogging and social media? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience.