November 10, 2020

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as: ‘…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action’.

This week my guest blog is written by Hayley Meakes

Hayley is an experienced brand and marketing specialist, writer, entrepreneur, public speaker and trainer.

Hayley prefers the following two definitions of what content marketing is about and what it delivers:

Andrew Davis, marketing speaker and bestselling author:

“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”

Laura Fitton:

“Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm and ideas about how to solve that problem.”

Depending on your sector, it might seem that everyone is putting out content, but are they doing it effectively? Here are Hayley’s 8 tips for getting started on and/or improving your content marketing:

  1. Align your content with your personal brand or organisational goals – You should consider what you are trying to accomplish and how this fits in with your goals. Knowing your goals helps you to pre-determine your content marketing plan. Your goals should be measurable and have a date by which they should be accomplished i.e. Increase followers on Instagram by 30% by 31 December 2020 or build your list to XXXX by March 2021.
  2. Know your audience – Have a clear idea of who you’re talking to and create key customer profiles or avatars. These profiles should include age, gender, location, benefits/pain points, what they read, what social channels they use etc. Give your avatars a name and make them real people with specific wants and needs. The more detailed and personal you make the profile, the easier you will find it to create content that will appeal to these people. It will also ensure that you’re targeting the right people with the right message in the right format.
  3. Define and develop your key messages – Consider what your audience want/need to hear? Be clear on what makes you and your product or service unique in the marketplace, what you stand for and against as well as what you need to achieve the goals you have set. In terms of quantity, consider including one to three headline messages, with sub-points for more detail.
  4. Know your content marketing strategy and pull together your content – Content marketing strategies fall into three categories: long-form, short-form and conversations. Long-form is anything that is longer than a Tweet (2-3 sentences) and could be a whitepaper, blog post etc. Short-form includes social media updates and graphics. Conversations and sharing includes participating in and driving conversations through blog commenting, link sharing and comments on videos. You can use one type or all three is better. The next step is to develop the content you are going to use. It needs to be unique and different. Include your key messages into the content without purely pushing your product. Content can be evergreen or topical. Evergreen content can be used at any point in time as it’s always relevant, whereas topical content could be news jacking – i.e. piggybacking on an article in the press or something that is happening in the wider world relevant to you and your business.
  5. Create a content planner – Developing a plan is key, but it should be flexible to allow for all eventualities. The plan should include strategies, specific tactics, suggested headlines, content deadlines and who’s responsible for what. It might also include themes, you could have a day for case studies, a day for product benefits, a day for newsjacking etc. This allows you to plan your content in advance.
  6. Establish Relationships – Next, you need to get out there and start building relationships with your potential prospects. You can do this by joining existing communities and commenting and sharing their content initially, whilst you start building your own groups across the social media platforms you plan to utilise. Remember: you are there to add value not just promote yourself and your business – as a rough gauge, we’d suggest you follow Pareto’s principle and have 20% self-curated content and 80% commenting and sharing others in your niche.
  7. Spread the Word – Search engine optimisation (SEO) can help if you know your stuff. For example, any tags you’re adding to your blog posts should be used to generate traffic, as this helps you to be found i.e. consider what words your target audience would be searching for is. Are they location-based or subject-based i.e. plumbers in Enfield, mortgage brokers for commercial property in Liverpool?
  8. Measure Effectiveness and Review – Measuring the effectiveness of your content, will ensure that you stay on top of your plan and will determine if it needs to be altered, or whether it’s delivering the results you are looking for. Measurement can include, page views, retweets, likes, shares etc. Review what is and isn’t working and adjust your content planner accordingly.

The truth is anyone can be successful at content marketing if they know their message, market and channel. The key thing is to be consistent, it’s better to post regularly and less frequently than five times one week and then nothing for a month. You can now be your own publishing house and all you need is time and a little know-how to be successful.

You can read more of Hayley’s blogs on Business, Marketing & Mindset here 

 

 

 

 

 July 23, 2020

Have you checked your SSI score on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn SSI (Social Selling Index) is a measure of how strong your personal brand is – in terms of the quality of your connections, your interactions and engagement in conversations, and the strength of your professional profile

LinkedIn claims that those who achieve 70 or higher, see 45{75f288e9ca768cce955a9bb5791c151328b004b83ccd83e596fac878249828cc} more opportunities and are 51{75f288e9ca768cce955a9bb5791c151328b004b83ccd83e596fac878249828cc} more likely to hit sales targets.

It awards a maximum of 25 points for each of these ‘pillars’:

✅ Establishing your professional brand

This means filling out your profile sections – photo, headline, summary and experience. Increasing your endorsements, and sharing high quality, helpful and relevant content.

✅ Finding the right people

You need to carry out advanced people searches regularly to find the right people. Also view people’s profiles to show due diligence rather just searching, connecting and messaging.

Try and look at who’s viewed your profile. These are warm prospects, don’t ignore them. Also, something I recently found out – LinkedIn looks at your number of active days.

✅ Engaging with insights

LinkedIn will look at how many likes, comments and shares that you give. It also looks at what you receive.

Reposting other peoples content is key. And, what most do not do – join groups.

And, something else I recently found out…your inMail or connection request response rate.

✅ Building relationships

How many connections do you have? And, what level those connections are. The higher the level the better. Have you connected with members of your team/organisation?

LinkedIn will also look to see the acceptance rate for connection requests.

What’s your score?

Take a look here:

I’d love to see yours.

 July 15, 2020

So, we know that LinkedIn algorithm favours those who engage.

If you like or comment on other people’s posts, they are then more likely to see your future content. The algorithm is more likely to send your content into their feed. LinkedIn will assume that you know each other and that your content is also relevant and interesting to them. If you do not engage in people’s content, they are unlikely to see yours.  You could have high-quality content, but this does not matter if nobody sees it.

If I am busy with client work and do not spend much time on LinkedIn browsing content and engaging, I notice that there is a reduction in my reach. Fewer people see my posts. If I spend time commenting and liking a lot more content, it will return to previous levels.

As well as putting your content out to more people, commenting helps to builds your reputation as a thought-leader, and more people will connect with you, find you credible, and start to trust you. This will help you to start building a community around your personal brand.  LinkedIn is full of people like you who want to connect and use LinkedIn for mutual benefit, but you have to have conversations. It is SOCIAL media.

Also, it might seem obvious, but reply to people who comment on your post sotherwise they may not comment again.

 

 

For the first time, we are having to lead with empathy, and start to understand and adapt to evolving customer wants and needs.  This has become the new competitive advantage.  The brands that get this right will recover post-COVID.

Brands are looking to emerge from the past 4 months and continue to do business. Moving forward, the approach will need to show that they know who they are, they understand customer concerns and their desires, and are adaptable while helping to build relationships. It will be humanity that helps us re-engage with the world when we get through this fully.

Customer behaviour isn’t what it used to be.  People are behaving in ways we never could have predicted and this is not going to change anytime soon.  Brands are now faced with this challenge and must re-learn who their customer is and what they care about at this moment in time. To do this, they must connect directly to real customers and listen to them to understand how to adapt on a regular basis.  No decisions should be made on ‘what could work well’, as it is more important than ever to regain customer loyalty.

Customer insight and research is paramount into developing a new or adapted strategy during this fast-paced and ever-changing situation.  Customer empathy must be brought into the marketing strategy.

By understanding your customer’s feelings and desires, you’ll be confident in launching new marketing campaigns that will be received well and get you back on the road to business success.

 July 10, 2020

Have you thought about encouraging your team to share your posts to expand your reach and engagement with customers and prospects on LinkedIn?
 
We know that people do business with people they know, like and trust. So, on LinkedIn, we should be using personal profiles instead of the company page.
 
Latest stats also confirm that success comes from your team’s profiles rather than business profiles. 
 
People are 3 times more likely to trust content shared by people they know than content shared by brands.
 
People are 8 times more likely to engage with content shared by team members than content shared by brands.
 
People are 24 times more likely to re-share content shared by team members than content shared by brands.
 
So, business pages need a little of help from your team.
 
Just a like, comment or share will help your page content reach your target audience in ways your page can’t achieve on its own.
 

Will you use LinkedIn Stories?

 June 30, 2020

On an average 500 million people watch Instagram Stories a day. So, with Facebook as a brand succeeding at bringing in new audiences to their platforms with stories, have LinkedIn decided that this could be an option for them too?

With stories currently being tested internally, the question for me is – will LinkedIn be able to put a professional twist on the 24-hour story format?  LinkedIn users still want a professional platform to build relationships, they don’t want to necessarily see the content that is normally posted on Instagram and Facebook stories.

The aim will obviously be to encourage conversations and make it easier to communicate, but in a more fun and lighthearted way.   With stories only being visible for 24 hrs, LinkedIn say that social media users prefer to ‘share in the moment’ rather than committing to a permanent feed post.

This has been proved by Instagram with users posting less on their feeds, but creating more stories.

So, what does this mean for you?

This new feature will provide a new, temporary way for you to share information with your professional audience. And, although having another ‘thing’ to contend with might feel overwhelming, there are lots of ways to turn this into a new creative opportunity to support your business goals.

Much like the introduction of Instagram stories, LinkedIn stories will offer a huge opportunity to create stronger, more personable conversations with your audience.

But, you still need to build a content strategy. You still have to consider who your audience are, who you are talking to and why you want to capture their attention.

Understanding the audience you’re talking to, what they are interested in, and what you want to achieve will help to shape your content strategy and keep you on track.

LinkedIn is a huge platform for professional thought leadership, and this new ‘bite-sized’ format is a great way to showcase your knowledge in a fun and engaging way and to gain your audience’s attention.

The stories will only have a short lifespan, which makes them perfect for sharing less polished, off-the-cuff content, as long as it fits in with your strategy.

Just like Instagram stories, it will provide a great way to show a more human and authentic side to your brand on social.

If you’re one of the first few to be using LinkedIn stories, the chances are you’ll be gaining a huge amount of extra airtime with your audience on LinkedIn. Early adopters will set themselves ahead of the competition.

So, will you be using LinkedIn stories?

 June 19, 2020

 

For many of us the pandemic has challenged our businesses. Even the strongest of brands have had to find ways to stay in touch with their communities & customers by adapting their services and products.  Restaurants very quickly started to provide online ordering, delivery and take away services, fitness instructors, who lost their income overnight, took their sessions online, many not charging, in the hope that it will continue to build on their communities for when the ‘new normal’ starts.  Beauticians started to focus on product-based selling rather than giving their normal face to face services.

Some business transformations have been even more dramatic. Manufacturing companies turned to producing PPE and some breweries pivoted to make hand sanitizer.

Many brands realised very quickly that their digital store front has never been so important.  Customer behaviour changed dramatically and they are now more digitally savvy than ever, with heightened expectations for digital experiences.  Brands must deliver on this.

They also realised their limitations in their data, e-commerce and technology, the need to deliver better quality customer engagement is now high.

Brands are looking forward to returning to normal, but they need to be planning for the ‘new normal’.  This pandemic has changed customer behaviour, and I cannot see it going back to the ‘old normal’ – I think it will be a mix of both.

If we use restaurants as an example, they may decide to continue their takeaway and delivery services.  The same as someone who moved their face to face consultations online. It’s a much more flexible option that could be a permanent part of their business strategy. Universities have been forced to evolve to video conferencing solutions instead of classrooms. With the cost of higher education and student loans worrying these generations and students becoming comfortable with this lower-cost alternative, will COVID-19’s impact disrupt the entire system?

The global pandemic has questioned our way of working and brands now need to look at the changes that they made, the ones that have been embraced by their customers and ensure that they continue to provide the same service moving forward.

The brands that emerge strongest on the other side of this crisis will be the ones that took the time to deepen their connections with their customers and communities, rather than merely adding to the COVID noise.

How has Covid-19 changed your business?

 May 26, 2020

So, we’ve been going through lots of uncertainty recently and I have seen a mixed reaction from my clients and my network.

Some stopped all marketing activity as they thought there were no benefits to continue during a pandemic.  But some have been really resilient and taken my advice to carry on but to pivot and adapt.

Now, we need to focus on the ‘new normal’, take our learnings from the last 2 months and put them into practice.

We know that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on business and society, but it’s now time to look at your marketing and evaluate whether it is still applicable to your target audience.  Does it still make sense?  Does it still fit their needs?

Your customer needs

It’s important to determine what your customer’s needs are.

Have their needs changed? What are they expecting from you?  What can you provide them?

During lockdown, people focused on necessities and staying safe.  They probably bought things that they would not normally buy.  Online shopping soared, and due to convenience, and the fact that the virus hasn’t totally gone away, this may not change.

Match your activity to meet new customer needs

It’s important to remember that meeting your customers’ needs is an ongoing process. Whether it’s two months post-pandemic or two years, you should always…

Listen

From monitoring your customer reviews to sending out a questionnaire, it’s never been more important to take your customers’ feelings into consideration. Listening on social media can also be a great way to check how your customers are interacting with your brand and content and your competitors.  Then, use what you’ve learnt to tweak your marketing strategy going forward.

Engage

People will still be spending lots of time at home in the near future, so create uplifting, inspiring and informative content for your website, social media accounts, paid ads and newsletters.  Pay attention to changing trends in your industry and customer behaviour to guide your content strategy. Think about how your customers might be using your products or services and give them good content.

No matter what you sell, communicating with and reassuring the customer is still paramount.

And remember: your customers can tell the difference between a sales gimmick and authenticity, so make sure you’re communicating value every time.

Communicate

A large part of pivoting your business model will include how you communicate with your customers.

For example, salons and spas have been closed for months, and even once they reopen, customers will want to know what steps they’re taking to protect their health.

Some customers won’t feel comfortable stepping into a hair salon unless they know there are certain health measures in place.

Don’t be too hasty to remove your COVID-19 landing page⁠ or health and safety messaging from your website, look at updating the copy with new information to put your clients’ minds at ease.

Address

Addressing what worked during the lockdown may help you to evolve. You may need to pivot your marketing strategy to approach different spending behaviours.  Many people have been hit hard financially and won’t have as much disposable income.

Others will have become accustomed to a new way of doing things. COVID-19 has changed the way that people consume certain services.

For example, a school may have to integrate more online learning into their model to attract students who are now used to and more comfortable with remote classes.

Many organisations will be rethinking in-person conferences and other events.  Will employees want to travel to huge venues to network with other attendees? Or, will they be happy with an online conference next year?

We don’t know what the future holds, but by pivoting your business model now you’ll be ready.

 

 April 28, 2020

A quick and effective way to increase your presence on social media and to increase your employee brand is to ask your employees to share more about your business on social media.

But, to do this you need guidelines.  Below are the steps to think about when you embark on company-wide posting:

Create a clear social media guideline for your employees to follow

As a marketer, we consider social media a second home, but the same may not be true for all of your employees.  They are great at posting on their own social media profiles, but posting from a business/professional perspective is totally different.  Research has shown that a significant number of employees feel that they haven’t been given clear guidelines for approaching social media. And, with an increasing amount of stories about employees being fired for something that they have posted, it’s one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to create a social media guide that will introduce your employees to social media from a professional point of view.

Having your employees engaged in the social media activity builds on your brand and it makes business more personal and human – all media presence should reflect that.  They should be an important part of your social media strategy.

The guide can be as extensive as you wish, but should cover the following areas:

Give engagement guidance

Once you get your program rolling, you’ll be encouraging employees to jump onto conversations about your brand online, so one part of your social media guideline should be listing the rules your employees should adhere to. Here are some key points to address when engaging with customers on social media:

  • Identify the types of customers employees should not engage with online. Teach them how to recognise and avoid trolls and other negative comments that don’t warrant a response.
  • Share your most frequently asked questions (FAQs) and official responses as a guide. Having this will give employees the confidence to jump in. Reading the answers to FAQs will also familiarise them with the tone of voice used in each situation. However, you don’t want everyone to simply repeat the same sentence from the guide. Instead, encourage employees to use their own words when possible.
  • Make sure employees only promise what they know they can deliver.
  • When it comes to the actual response, employees might struggle with striking the right tone between professional and personal. When in doubt, their responses should be factually accurate, polite and respectful. And of course, correct spelling and grammar!

Give branding guidance

Identify key brand elements that employees should pay attention to when communicating with customers on social media. While each employee should make those interactions their own, they should also be mindful of your brand persona and voice, and the feel of your messages and responses online.

If your brand persona involves using business language, you might not want employees taking a casual tone. On the flip side, a trendy brand, like Innocent Drinks (who have got it so right btw) might not want their employees to use a stiff, professional voice while communicating with customers on social media.

Give platform behaviour guidance

If you want your staff to feel confident enough to share content or engage in conversations online, you have to teach them about the rules of communication on different social media platforms. How often have you seen people sharing content on LinkedIn that’s more appropriate for Instagram? There are differences between all platforms so, to avoid confusion, give platform-specific guidelines to your employees

Create a branded hashtag to curate employee posts

Creating a unique branded hashtag is a clever way to use hashtags to your advantage. A dedicated hashtag will make it easy to round up the posts your employees have published and to re-share them on the company’s official account. When someone clicks on your branded hashtag, they’ll see a combination of posts that show the other more personal side of your brand.

Encouraging your employees to use the company hashtag will also make it easier for you to monitor what they’re sharing. Despite having the best intentions, sometimes they may not always represent your company appropriately. Regularly reviewing their posts will help you quickly spot content that may be perceived as negative.

You’ll also be able to identify employees who have the potential to do more in their role as brand advocates.

Remember to share day-to-day moments at work

People are much more inclined to engage with social media posts from friends or acquaintances than from brands. Content that isn’t heavily branded—not just an advertisement—and that displays the human side of your business is more likely to resonate with your audience.

So how do you achieve this?  Encourage your employees to share moments from the office that made them smile or brightened their day.  Ask them to post photos from events like office birthday celebrations or memorable days such as ‘bring your dog to work day’. Also, make sure to capture meetings & events that present a positive brand image overall.

Having your employees actively participate in building your company culture and sharing snippets of it on social media platforms will improve brand awareness and boost your company’s image.

You can also use your employees to gather your social media content.  Create a shared file for interesting photos. This will allow you to create a feed filled with candid photographs, capturing all of those small moments and interactions in the office or in your place of business that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Share Employee Posts on Your Company Social Media Channels

The best way to signal to your employees that they’re a welcome part of your social media presence is by taking that first step and including them and their content on the company social media platforms.

Posts that like this, which are a little imperfect from a technical standpoint but quite heartwarming from the human standpoint, are bound to win the hearts of both your audience and employees.

Conclusion

To better connect with their customers, more than 90{75f288e9ca768cce955a9bb5791c151328b004b83ccd83e596fac878249828cc} of all brands consider social media a trusted tool. And while an official profile of your brand on a social media platform is a great place to start, you can get better outreach and increased brand awareness by tapping into an asset your company already has, your employees.

Employee advocates on social media can give your business a much-wanted boost but you must communicate what’s in it for them throughout this process. Many will appreciate the opportunity to build thought leadership. But for those who aren’t comfortable sharing work-related posts on their personal profiles, don’t pressure them to do so.

To get better results from this initiative, it’s important to produce a guide that addresses engagement, branding, and platform-specific interactions and make it available to all employees.

If you need help producing your Employee Social Media Guideline, just let me know.

 April 27, 2020

My guest blog post this week is by Hayley Meakes.

Last year it was predicted that the UK advertising sector would grow by 6.7{75f288e9ca768cce955a9bb5791c151328b004b83ccd83e596fac878249828cc} in 2020 and end the year worth £24bn.

However, as we all know, things haven’t gone according to plan. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted every sector, including marketing. The lockdown and social distancing measures that have been put in place by governments around the world have essentially nullified the impact of print and out-of-home advertising and events for brands.

Hayley talks around:

  • How brands are reacting to coronavirus
  • Why brands shouldn’t pull the plug on advertising
  • Why brands need to turn to TV and digital ads
  • The importance of influencer marketing as an awareness channel

You can read the full blog post here