Marketing strategies that worked in previous years will fail in the coming one. The standard marketing plan template doesn’t work. Instead, put your company resources into these critical areas:
Double Down on Blog Posts
1. Do more blog posts, more consistently: All things being equal, you’ll get more potential search and social value from a concerted program of blogging well, than from any other digital marketing activity. Producing little or not content, by contrast, means most or all of what you’re putting out is sales pitch, which has an ever diminishing utility for your audience.
2. Make your blog posts more client centered: Raise the percentage of your posts that start with issues your clients and prospects are continually expressing, struggling with, or asking about vs. topics first envisioned by your competitors and already being copied widely. If you’ve got a copywriter, you can increase interview-based content vs. research-based content, for a stronger mix.
3. Up the intelligence and readability of your posts: The common wisdom is keep everything at an 8th grade level, but one search ranking factor is content that demonstrates more expertise. In an effort to punish content mills, Google actually rewards a more intelligent reading level. Don’t be dry, but consider being a bit more TED and NPR than morning show TV.
4. Create some longer, more thorough content: It’s widely believed that brief is always better, but longer posts with multiple headlines and thorough treatment of a topic get more social shares and better search treatment. People perceive ‘thick’ blog posts as having higher value, and engagement goes up. A good mix of short laser-focused content and comprehensive articles can enliven your blog.
Create a Social Media Plan
5. Feed next logical social channels with your content: If you’re going to the trouble of creating frequent blog content, do more than share the link to a post in a cursory nod to social media venues. Chop up the written content into smaller chunks for social posts, and share the central illustration in Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re right about your content choices appealing to your intended audience, social becomes your own means of syndicating and spreading what works.
6. Focus on one or two social channels for direct attention: Pick a couple of social media sites where you have a significant audience, or an enthusiastic one, or where you would most like to grow and express yourself. Do more than just repurpose your existing content; run event campaigns, such as giveaways, downloads, and webinars. Create additional exclusive content just for your two best social channels, to reward, nurture, and grow that audience.
7. Score your content output and audience engagement: Use grading tools that provide a continually updated score or weekly report card, like Klout and Buffer. Tools that measure your content output, engagement levels, and reveal which content is most successful are invaluable. The point of measurement isn’t good feelings; it’s getting continually better.
8. Personally monitor shares and replies in all channels: Have a “Lights on Policy” for all social media channels you’re touching. If someone replies or asks a question, even if it’s seldom at first, you need to have someone seeing and answering. Thank people if they go to the trouble of re-sharing your stuff. You don’t have to respond to every like or thumbs up – that may be too aggressive. When someone actually exposes your content to a wider audience – to their followers and fans – say thank you.
9. Run an audience growth campaign: If you only focus on content output, you’re unlikely to grow fast enough to achieve your business goals. Just getting more followers isn’t necessarily effective, unless they include potential evangelists for your content or potential clients. Building an audience isn’t about getting your numbers up so much as connecting more personally and giving more. It takes a bit of work to court people who share things they like, like stuff like yours, have audiences you’d like to reach, and content you’d also like to share. If it were easy, everyone would be claiming social ‘works’ for them.
Go to Work on Your PR
10. Cultivate media mentions: You can build both media mentions and inbound links with a tool like HARO, but only if you’re consistent, very responsive, and not easily daunted. There’s no shortage of media now, so just issuing press releases isn’t usually effective. Providing others a basis for creating content for their audiences is incredibly effective in likewise extending your reach and reputation. Court and be grateful not just for major media mentions, but also blog reviews and social cred.
11. Contribute and solicit guest posts: It’s not effective to do thinly disguised sales pitches in other people’s blogs or allow them in your own blog. Google now goes after transparently SEO-centered guest posts, to penalize sites that do it. By contrast, if you believe in something or know something, and it resonates with an audience, getting that some play in another blog that consistently puts out equally high quality content has significant value. Write for others, if their venues are high quality and not full of sales pitch. Welcome posts to your own blog, if the author is consistent and authentic, and it adds value to your readers.
12. Become a disruptor and change the world: The only reasons a business cannot raise the bar in its industry or in the world at large, changing things for the better, is it is thinking too small. Brainstorm the whole year if need be, but focus on how you will disrupt things. Don’t think about the media coverage first – think about your industry, your audience, and your world. Change the world and the media will show up. The one thing a professional PR person needs from you, to make it work, is a disruption.
13. Go guerrilla – sameness is embarrassing: The reason most companies don’t do something that stands out isn’t actually dullness. Businesses that lack creativity seldom succeed in any form of marketing. Thriving companies have wild ideas all the time, but they remain daydreams, because the owner is afraid of being embarrassed. Even to put on a funny hat and sing might make someone scorn you or ridicule you. In trying to keep face and avoid losing anyone, we lose all the people that aren’t interested in more of the same. Try on making sameness the source of embarrassment. Try making ‘clone’ the ultimate source of shame. One secret of pulling a marketing stunt is that the first one is the hardest. The more often you do something funny or weird, the less weird it seems to anyone.
Improve Your Web Site
14. Consider moving to faster hosting: Most small business web sites are on less than ideal hosting. The difference between 1 second load times and 7 second load times is a massive drop in engagement. You only have about 6 seconds to grab a visitor; don’t spend it on web site load time. Consider moving from shared hosting, if that’s what you have, to managed hosting or a virtual private server running SSD drives (hard drives with no moving parts to slow them down). Images are the biggest drain on most sites, so consider adding a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to load those images for your site. The speed benefits can be incredible.
15. Rewrite the site with more engaging copy: If your site sounds like every other site in your industry – beginning with “we”, and company credentials or a list of services, you have outdated copy. People don’t respond to sameness or self-centeredness. If you grew up in your industry, or have been doing it for a decade, and are sure you know how to present your business, consider that your audience has evolved. The web copy needs a different strategy. The chances are excellent that you’re too close to the business to write the copy yourself.
Improve Your Search
17. Optimize your content as you post: Most search optimization isn’t technical – it’s practical. You can get some coaching for whoever is posting to your blog on how to optimize every post. Wise use of image tags, headlines, and title standards can get more eyes on your blog posts. Tune up your blog posts like a fleet of sports cars by doing the basics right, and your efforts will pay off bigger and sooner.
18. Make routine videos with simple production values: You might put thousands into an explainer video for your home page, social profiles, and YouTube channel, but that’s not usually sustainable for routine video content. YouTube disproportionately affects search presence, and the opportunity stands wide open for anyone willing to consistently put out short videos frequently. It takes a very little set up and training to do regular videos effectively. If you’re saying you want better SEO, look to your strategy for producing videos.
19. Local businesses need reviews: Don’t try to get into every directory under the sun. Many directories are link farms that do little more than help someone else build a collection of links. High quality review sites like Yelp and Foursquare can dramatically help your search presence, if you fully flesh out your profiles and actively solicit reviews. Getting high quality reviews that actually count is harder than most businesses count on, so plan on a long term growth campaign. Get coaching on what counts, and what counts less, and work on getting more participation. Review sites are like social media sites – just being present and asking people to like you doesn’t really help.
Engage a Just-in-Time Marketing Director
20. Get only the parts you need: Even do it yourself projects need clever oversight and some experience guiding the next steps. Before your rush out and drop six figures on a full time executive to handle it all for you. A tiny business can compete with a giant one, using an external marketing director as its slingshot. Consider how modern fulfillment works. Just-in-time inventory and pricing make amazon.com tick. Just-in-time shipping gets it there by UPS, FedEx, and Postal – often one handing it off to the other. You only need what you need, as much as you need it. An external Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) will spend less time playing Angry Birds on the company payroll, and provide just the brain without the expensive desk or company expense account.
To guide you in implementing these and other strategies, contact MadPipe for immediate scheduling of your free, initial consultation.