What is the right content for your blog?
Your marketing aims to develop new leads for your business. You need those leads to build your business and achieve the growth targets you’ve set. As part of a content-led marketing strategy, your blog is a major part of the content you produce and it is important that it performs. The question is: what are you talking about and what is the right content for your blog?
Your blog is there to do 4 things:
- Increase your SEO performance so the search engines rank you higher than your competitors.
- Attract more visitors to your website, via SEO or through the posts you put on social media about the blog articles.
- Demonstrate your knowledge about the topics you write about.
- Help website visitors decide to contact you and add themselves to your sales pipeline
So what should be in your blog if you are to have content that does some, or all, of these?
Problem solving content
Content that helps viewers to solve problems will put you in a powerful position. Whilst this sounds almost counter-productive (surely you want them to pay you to solve their problems), let’s look at why this is a good thing…
1. It shows that you have the knowledge and expertise to help if they want you to help in the future. Just because you help them now doesn’t mean they are looking to resolve this issue every time it appears.
2. They may have a go at fixing the issue, but if they don’t have the skills, they will need someone to help. If you have helped them get so far, they are highly likely to come to you to finish things off.
3. They may have another supplier in place, but they are unsure about them and so looking for others who look like they have the skills they are looking for.
Content about what is new to the market/sector
There is always something new out there; it doesn’t matter what you do. E.g. the technology market is always changing, so reviews of latest products (and how they help the user) are always good. Within learning and development, there are new approaches or techniques. In marketing, there are new ways to share your content or curate others.
By talking within your blog about how these can help your target audience, you are demonstrating your understand them and their needs.
Your opinions on the latest news
The main news at the moment rarely moves off one particular topic (the B word). Sometimes they do talk about other topics; topics that are within your areas of expertise. By writing about this, its impact and how people can benefit/avoid/make the most of/solve whatever the topic is, you are again demonstrating your expertise.
Ever so often something happens within your business that is worth sharing with your audience. They aren’t likely to care when you recruit a new receptionist or replace an engineer, but adding a new Regional Director, because you’re expanding into new territories could be interesting. Perhaps the reader is a frequent visitor to your site, but has never been in touch because you don’t operate near them – until now.
A major breakthrough or a project that saved a significant amount for a client (what is a significant amount for your target audience?) is worth talking about, but it may be better to try and get this news out via publications with bigger readerships ( I know a number of very good PR firms, if you need some assistance in this area) so that the announcement gets seen by more people.
When looking at the right content for your blog, news about your business, I’m afraid, comes bottom of the pile, with a few exceptions. Why? Because your target audience are more interested in understanding how you can help them.
By publishing the right content for your blog, it is far more likely to be read and acted upon. If it answers a popular question, it is highly likely to rank well (an article on one of my client’s websites has ranked No.1 for a particular popular search term and now generates 37% of their traffic. It gets more visits than the home page.
We hope this helps.
Earlier this year, Mailchimp changed its pricing plan. Managing your mailing list just got much more important, not least because you may start paying more for your account with them.
|Pricing Plan||Old Plan||New Plan|
|Data Records||No. of users||Price||Data Records||No. of users||Price|
|Free||Up to 2000 subscribers||£0||Up to 2000 contacts||1||£0|
|Monthly||Up to 52,000 subscribers|
|Essentials||500 to 50,000||3||from £7.95 per month|
|Standard||500 to 100,000||5||from £11.93 per month|
|Premium||10,000 to 200,000||unlimited||from £237.99 per month|
|Pay As You Go||Unlimited||you bought credits||Unlimited||You buy credits|
Why you need to monitor your data count
One of the biggest changes that impact the pricing of Mailchimp is the change from subscribers to contacts. It used to be that only subscribers counted towards your pricing. It didn’t matter how many data records you had within your account, or how many lists. It was only the number of subscribers that counted.
This has now changed, so that all data records are counted (minus archived, cleaned and deleted records). Add up subscribed, non-subscribed and unsubscribed to see how much you are going to be paying. If you’re approaching the limit of a Free account (2000), just a small number of unsubscribed contacts could mean you have to start paying. If just 20% of your list is unsubscribed, you have a monthly bill of £23.87 (Essential plan, up to 2,500 contacts). Bearing in mind that, once they unsubscribe, very few people come back, you need to clean out your data regularly.
Lists & Audiences
One of the biggest issues with Mailchimp until recently was the Lists function. This allowed you to build as many lists as you wanted. The problem was that a single person could often end up in multiple lists. When someone unsubscribed, they only stopped getting emails from that particular list – not every list they were in. With GDPR now firmly in place (and not going anywhere, even if Brexit happens), sending people emails after they have unsubscribed is a big no-no and likely to get you into all sorts of trouble.
The changes make managing your mailing list so much easier, without having to complicate matters with multiple lists.
Segments, Groups & Tags
In the last section we discussed Lists and how they can be a problem, particularly for GDPR purposes. Having just one audience and then making use of segments, groups and tags help you avoid this problem.
Designed to be contact-facing, Groups allow to gather contacts with the same attributes. Perhaps they have all bought specific categories of products or have attended specific events. Contacts can choose which groups they want to be in. Perhaps they wish to receive information about particular services, for example.
Individual contacts can be in multiple groups and, if they unsubscribe, their data stays in the group, but they will never receive any emails sent to subscribed members of the group.
Segments allow you to create groups of contacts based on multiple criteria, whereas groups are single criteria-based. Perhaps you have sent out a number of emails and want to send a further campaign to contacts who have clicked on a link in any of those emails. You can build an ANY segment to look at up to five different email campaigns. Alternatively, if you wanted to create a group of contacts who opened all of them, you can use an ALL segment.
Tags are just for you, to help organise your contacts. You create tags and then attach them to contacts in a way that helps you to categorise them the way you want them categorised. Mailchimp has a number of ways they automatically tag contacts to help you manage and engage with your audience. Geographical tags, engagement level tags and Import date tags are all automatic. Of course, your tags can be as detailed or as light-handed as you want them to be. Perhaps you want to tag contacts in your sales pipeline so you can communicate accordingly with them?
You can then use these tags to group contacts for campaigns. After all, the more personalised the email you send, the more likely it is to be opened and engaged with. That is, after all, what you want to happen.
Having lots of people in your audiences is a great thing, if they want to be there and you control what you send to them. You will get higher open rate percentages and higher clickthrough rates. As a marketer, you want to be able to show the boss (even if that is you, as well) high levels of engagement. The more people are engaging with your email marketing, the more they are likely to be doing what you want them to do – usually buying your products/services. So why would you keep data in your audiences who don’t want to be there?
The changes Mailchimp has made do mean that you need to manage your data more proactively in order to control the costs of your email marketing. However, the changes they have made also make it far easier for you to control the data. You can make it more appropriate to the contact and more personalised as you collect and use data. From there you will get better results from your marketing. Of course, if managing your mailing list is proving to be difficult, SME Needs is a Mailchimp Partner and we are more than happy to help you get the best results from your email marketing
We hope this helps
Every marketing consultant worth their salt has, at one time or another, published a “X Steps to Marketing Glory” style post. SME Needs certainly has, with our first one being “Effective Referral Generation – a few simple steps” and the most recent being “How to maximise the ROI from exhibiting at a trade show”.
What we’ve never done is an over-arching “X Steps to Marketing Success” guide. Many others have and it led us to wonder just how many steps it really took to generate marketing success – so we checked.
It’s at least three!
The graph above is the number of steps recommended by the first 100 search results for the term “Steps to marketing success”.
It seems that there marketing industry says there are, on average 7.093 steps needed to deliver marketing success. Seven is the median (middle) number and 5 the mode (most popular).
The good news is that nobody thought it was really, really simple. Nobody suggested that there is only one, or even two steps needed. However, 8 articles suggested it is as simple as 1,2,3.
Why So Few?
With the average being 7.093 steps, it got me thinking: Why is the number so few? Surely that suggests that getting your marketing right is simple, you’re unlikely to need a marketing consultant to help.
My theory is this:
A few steps makes it sound cheaper!
Let me explain my theory.
Most small business owners and directors know where their skills lie. They also know just how much money there is in the business and what they are prepared to invest. If they see an article that suggests 7.093 steps to get the marketing success they want, they will read it. They will recognise that there are a number of steps they cannot do and so will consider investing some money into getting those steps done.
If they saw an article titled “87 Steps to Marketing Success”, would they still feel the same? I doubt it.
Where do we sit on this?
As mentioned earlier, we’ve never done a “X steps to Marketing Success” blog, so there won’t be a number at the end of this sentence. What we see is that the number will be different for everyone – and it will be many more than 7.093. This is particularly true for small businesses that have done little or new active and consistent marketing for some time.
However, the results of a multi-stage marketing programme that has been thought out carefully and is delivered consistently will be impressive. It will take time, but it will deliver.
11 reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director
If you are looking to improve your marketing performance, you have a number of options. One you may not have considered is a Virtual Marketing Director. Not an interim, who is with you for a few months before moving on again. Not a full-time marketing manager, who may be an expense that doesn’t make sense at this time. Here are 11 reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director…
1. Only pay for what you need
You need to be marketing your business from Day 1 but that doesn’t mean you need a Marketing Manager from Day 1. Until your marketing is complex enough to need a full-time Marketing Manager, hiring a Virtual Marketing Director makes perfect sense. Why spend at least £40k a year on a full-time employee you don’t need?
A Virtual Marketing Director can be used from as little as one day a month, up to (realistically) 4-6 days per month. If you need much more than that, it is time to consider recruiting your own Marketing Manager.
2. Years of experience available for your business
A Virtual Marketing Director will come to you with many years’ experience, usually working within and for companies very similar to yours. They know their stuff.
That experience is always increasing. As you are only using them for part of the time, they are working with other companies. Marketing activities that are tried and tested within their other clients can then be brought into your marketing mix with great success. Of course, they will do the same in the other direction – it’s only fair!
3. Helps you focus on who you want to sell to
You cannot sell to everyone, so there’s is no point trying. By focusing on the people who are most likely to buy your product or services, your marketing budget will be used far more effectively.
4. Helps you develop the right marketing messages to attract prospects
Too many businesses think about their marketing from their side. Your Virtual Marketing Director will help you think about things from your client’s side.
It’s no longer the case that you can expect your target audience to work out how your products/services can help them. You have to help them understand. Show your target audience you understand them and you really can help them with their wants/needs/issues. When you do this, your target audience are far more likely to consider you are a new provider.
5. Works with you to develop your Marketing Strategy
The marketing you’ve been doing has been at least somewhat successful. It’s got to have been for you to grow your business to what it is now. To take your business forward, you need to review your marketing strategy to keep that growth happening. Your Virtual Marketing Director will help to identify the right marketing channels, the right providers and the right consistency to deliver on your business goals.
6. Has a network of specialists to provide marketing support for your business
You may know a number of marketing specialists and use a number of them. Where there are gaps, it’s virtually guaranteed that your Virtual Marketing Director will know people and companies to fill the gaps. They will have used them in the past, so know exactly what they can deliver for you.
It also saves you a lot of time sourcing new suppliers.
7. They know the language
Every industry has its own language; marketing is no different. If you don’t know the language, it is easy to get befuddled. Your Virtual Marketing Director knows the language and will help you keep suppliers on track and honest.
8. Keeps a consistent level of marketing happening because you don’t have time
Back in the early days of your business, you did your own marketing. You had the time back then. As your business grows, the amount of time you have available becomes less and less. However, your marketing needs more and more time. Your Virtual Marketing Director will ensure that your marketing campaigns go out on time. Without a consistent marketing flow, your target audience can quickly forget about you.
9. Will keep measuring performance so that you maximise the ROI from your marketing budget
You want to maximise the ROI from your marketing budget. Your Virtual Marketing Director will keep an eye on what is going on, reporting to you and the board regularly.
It is, after all, in their own interest. They want to prove that the marketing strategy they helped you develop is the right one. The numbers will show whether this is the case.
10. Will help you find junior marketing support at the right time
As your business grows, there will come a time when it makes sense to employ a junior marketing executive to “do the doing”. When there is sufficient need, perhaps to manage your social media, to produce and publish blogs or develop marketing collateral, it makes sense to employ someone rather than keep outsourcing.
Finding someone with the right skill set isn’t easy. In the same way your Virtual Marketing Director will help you manage suppliers, they will help you to find, and then manage, a junior marketing executive.
11. Will help you recruit a Marketing Manager when your marketing requirements need it
The ultimate job for your Virtual Marketing Director is to help you grow to the point where your marketing is sufficiently complex and of enough volume, that you need to employ a Marketing Manager. Whilst they may be sad that the relationship with your business is ending, they will be tremendously proud that they’ve helped you grow to the point where they need to move on.
An independent voice
One additional benefit of a using someone from outside of the business is their independence. They don’t have a vested interest in the business (except that they want to do a great job for you), so can speak their mind. Having that independent voice within the business can be refreshing and can provide you with someone to talk to who won’t be thinking “what do you want me to say?”.
For a small business that is committed to growing, making use of a Virtual Marketing Director is a no-brainer. You get the experience and support you want, but only in the quantities you need. Make use of them until you need a full-time Marketing Manager. If these reasons to use a Virtual Marketing Director get you thinking one could be useful, let’s have a chat.
(see the last lesson for an explanation of the images)
8 SEO Lessons learnt or compounded
I went to the Brighton SEO Conference for the first time in 2019. Why? Two reasons: firstly to learn more about the “dark art” of SEO, and secondly because Mailchimp invited me. As a Mailchimp Partner, I like to keep that relationship running smoothly so that I can get the support my clients need.
So what are the SEO lessons learnt?
1. Misplacing Budgets
Many businesses, particularly bigger businesses, allocate budgets in the wrong way. They will spend too much on production (specifically video). They spend too much on distribution and not enough on getting the right idea in the first place.
The traditional approach of expecting the agency pitching to have developed the ideas as part of their pitch no longer works. Target audiences are getting smaller as specific needs and wants are getting more and more personalised. The ideas that worked when advertising on TV (and newspapers) were key no longer work because of the diverse spread of communication channels today.
2. Integrating SEO into the business is a good idea
SEO is often considered to be a small tactic within the marketing of a business. It’s therefore of little concern to anyone outside the Marketing department. However, there are a number of ways that, by working together, the whole company can improve performance:
- Naming of products should consider what the customer will consider to be the key feature(s), helping them to appear when customers search.
- If marketing collateral is written by different people to the SEO team, they should work together to use complementary language
- The Sales team can feedback the questions being asked by prospects during sales meetings, so it can be included in content.
3. Answer when your customers ask a question
Are you making it easy for customers to ask questions of you? Also, are you going to where they may be asking the questions? Sites such as Quora give you a great opportunity to identify the questions people want answers to. You can then answer them on the platform, but more importantly, develop content that will answer the questions and shoot you up the rankings.
4. Look at intent within the sales cycle
Your content should help people throughout the sales cycle. The content people see on your site when they are first researching a topic should not be the same as when they are actively buying. When aiming to educate through your content, you shouldn’t be selling.
5. Look at People Also Ask
Have you noticed when you type a question into the search bar, there are two things that appear:
- Featured snippet: what Google thinks is a very good answer to your question.
- People Also Ask: slight variations on the question and an answer to that question.
The People Also Ask section can be a great way of getting to the top of the search rankings, often much faster than you can get onto page one for the normal rankings.
6. Don’t start a podcast unless you are really interested in the topic
Most podcasters don’t get past Episode 7. This is simply because they lose interest in the topic and that means they won’t do the work needed to produce a podcast that will deliver.
7. There are three key requirements when pitching an idea
If you want a client, or the boss, to authorise a project or campaign, there are three key requirements:
- Help them to justify the spend
- Prove the impact on the business this will bring
- Ensure it makes them look good
The last is almost certainly the result of the first.
8. Only produce useful promotional merchandise that people will keep using.
As with any conference, every company was giving out goodies. These were either in the conference bag given to you at the door, or were given out when you went to a company’s stand. Which of the two in the header image do you think I will use more?
Which of these SEO lessons are you going to put into practice?
I hope this helps
Five Key Things you Really Need
As a marketing consultancy, we are, of course, going to recommend you need a marketing plan. However, there are five key things you need to consider and agree on before you can develop a marketing plan for your business. Let’s look at what they are… Read more
2019 has begun. Are you ready to take it by the scruff of the neck and make it your best year ever? Here’s a few small business marketing tips to help you make the most of this year.
1. Know what works for you
The first of our small business marketing tips is probably the one we see more companies in need of that anything else. Your time and money are valuable. If you’re spending either on marketing activities that aren’t generating leads for your business, you are wasting that money. Finding out is one of the quickest ways to improve your bottom line, because you stop spending on activities that don’t work and spend it on those that do. Here’s some numbers you should be looking at.
2. Focus on your Perfect Client
No single company in the world tries to sell to everyone. For every product or service they provide, they have a picture of who will buy it and why. Do you have this to help focus your marketing?
By focusing on your Ideal Client, you think about:
- What are the issues they have that you can help with
- How you can help them
- Why they should buy from you
- What you need to say to them in order to get them to buy from you
The more you focus, the more you will get the people you want to talk to.
3. Be consistent
Unless you have a real niche focus, there are lots of people out there doing what you do. There are certainly lots of marketing consultants. To ensure that people remember you for when they need your services, you need to maintain a consistent level of marketing activity. Otherwise people will quickly forget you in the cloud of messaging they are exposed to every day.
That doesn’t mean you have to communicate every day. Maintain a level of consistency that you are able to, and one that is most likely to work with your target audience. If people consume your product/service rapidly, the marketing frequency needs to match consumption levels. If you work on annual, or longer, contracts, it may be that 3-4 times a year will be sufficient.
4. Stop talking about yourself
Far too many businesses open their marketing with the word we. Your target audience doesn’t want to know about you. They want to know how you are going to help them. So talk about that. You know your clients and the issues they have, so talk about that. Show you understand their issues and that you have a solution. Then people will come to ask you about how you can help them.
5. Build and Maintain Relationships
Most small businesses get much of their business through referrals. Referrals come because of three things:
- People know you and trust you
- They know exactly what you are looking for
- They believe in what you are selling
Are you ensuring that the people who can refer you know what you are looking for, and that they remember who you are? Maintaining these relationships is not easy. We are all busy people. There are three key tools we can use to maintain these relationships:
- Coffee: Meet people face to face and talk to them. Help them understand what you are looking for, whilst ensuring you are listening and understanding what they are looking for too. You can substitute beer/wine/tea here, of course!
- Telephones: Your phone is less than six feet from your hand right now. Whether that is your mobile or your landline, make use of it and talk to your network, so they don’t forget you.
- Email: we all get huge numbers of emails, but I bet you most of your network will open at least one email a year from you. Mailchimp and its ilk are great tools to keep in contact with people and keep them aware of what you are up to.
Whatever way works for your business, don’t lose the referrals you can get in the future by losing touch with your network.
6. Use more video
80% of mobile consumption is video and it’s rising. If you want to communicate with today’s decision makers you need to use video.
- Develop a set of short messages that show how you help your clients.
- Your phone is perfectly acceptable for this type of educational video, so you don’t need to invest in expensive hardware or pay lots of money for others to video you.
- Add them to YouTube and use your preferred social media channels to distribute them too.
- Make sure your network know where they are, so they can share them to increase your reach.
We must admit, of all our small business marketing tips, this is the one we need to do more of ourselves – oops!
7. Know who is visiting your website
Your website is your window for the world. There will be few potential clients who don’t check you out, so it makes sense for you to know who is looking at your website. Tools such as CANDDi provide you with a huge amount of information about who is on your site and what they are doing on there. They cannot identify every visitor, but they will check fixed IP addresses and give you information about the company. They collect information about the person from Contact Forms, Web Chats and when you email someone. Imagine knowing when your latest prospect reads your proposal and then checks out your case studies – buying signals or what!
8. Prove you can help
The last of our small business marketing tips is, probably, one of the easiest to implement.
Taking on a new supplier is a big risk. If you’ve never worked with them before, how do you know they will be any good? Your prospects will be thinking this too. How do they know you are any good and can deliver on your promises?
Use the evidence you have. Make sure you have testimonials scattered across your website, so people can see what their peers think of you.
Case studies, including the results, are tremendously powerful. Not only does the reader get to see themselves in the description of your client, they see that they share similar problems. More than anything, they see you delivered a solution that worked. Why would they not want to work with you?
Knowledge articles. Whether published on your blog or through other media channels, share your thinking with others to show them you know what you are talking about.
Marketing today is all about consistency and demonstrating you can help. As a small business owner, you only have a limited budget, so make the most of it by focusing, but if you do one thing only, let it be this one: Talk to your audience about them – not about you.
We hope these small business marketing tips help.
If you need some assistance with taking your marketing forward, simply complete the form below and let’s talk.
What does GDPR & PECR really mean to the marketing carried out by B2B companies?
GDPR is nearly six months old (at time of writing). Since GDPR came into force, the Information Commissioner’s Office still hasn’t issued a fine greater than £500,000. However that doesn’t mean they are not going to. The fines issued were for actions that took place prior to May 2018 and so the fines have been the maximum possible under the Data Protection Act 1998. Do does this mean they’re not going to fine anyone?
Not at all. Since the 25th May 2018, the ICO has taken 25 enforcement actions.
So how can you ensure that your B2B business does not join the list?
There are a multitude of regulations that impact what you can and cannot do when marketing your business to generate the leads you need to grow your business.
Before May, the level of hype and, particularly, scaremongering was phenomenal. Many people were suggesting the ICO would jump on you with a 4% (or 20 million Euro) fine. The hype around consent suggested that you were only allowed to market to anyone who already knew who you existed and actively sought information.
Those who have given you explicit consent are, of course, your gold dust. They want to hear from you and are highly likely to buy from you at some point. But who else are you allowed to talk to, under the different rules applicable to B2B?
- Your clients: allowing you to market your full range of services and products to them, so they buy more from you.
- The people who have talked to about your services. Just because they didn’t buy from you before doesn’t mean that they won’t buy from you in the future.
- You are allowed to market to companies, but you have to get consent from sole traders and individuals.
When marketing to companies, you need to make it very easy to opt out and allow individuals to opt out.
So how do you know who you can and cannot market to when it comes to companies? Here’s some of the tips the ICO provides:
- Keep a list of the people who opt out of your marketing, so you can check any lists your acquire against that list.
- Screen your list against the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) – assuming you are following up your marketing.
- Ensure that the seller of the data is a member of a professional body
Once you have your data, it’s a case of common sense.
- Only use the data provided for marketing purposes and delete any additional data provided by the list provider.
- Only send them marketing communications that are relevant to them.
- Don’t send them too much. However relevant your marketing material, sending loads of email will annoy them, so they unsubscribe.
- Tell people how you obtained their data.
So when you start worrying about what you can and cannot do, think carefully. Be sensible about who you send email marketing to. Of course you should concentrate on developing a marketing list of people who have asked for information and opted-in to receive your marketing messages, but you can market to others in order to generate the leads you’re looking for to grow your business.
What about your current list?
Remember before the GDPR deadline when everyone tried to get you to get your mailing list to re-subscribe? There were lots of people providing advice around this. For those of you who did this, how many people actually responded? We’ve not seen any stats for re-subscribe rates, but stats for click-through rates (they need to click through to re-subscribe) at an average of 1.9%, that means you were throwing away up to 98% of your mailing list if you followed this advice. Not a great idea!
So what should you do?
To us, it is about whether people think your content is useful. The easiest way to see this is the level of opens and clickthroughs that take place. Luckily, most email marketing platforms check this and give each subscriber a rating. Mailchimp’s Member Rating is a five-star tool. Put very simply, the more stars, the more they are engaging with your email marketing.
- Remove those you aren’t interested. The people on your list with two stars or less aren’t reading your emails and so shouldn’t be on your list. If you have a big list, this data is costing you money to keep and your emails to them are being ignored, so take them off your list and reduce any risk of being reported.
- Try different times. If you always send your emails at 9am on Tuesday, your best performing time will that just that. However, there may be better times of the day and week. Hubspot suggests 11am is a great time, but it may vary for you. Try it and compare the results.
- Use different layouts. The more images you have, the lower the open rate as a general rule. However this may not be the case for your audience. Try different layouts, including simple text, to see what your subscribers prefer.
- Use Version testing. Whether you call it split testing or A/B testing, most email marketing tools provide this as standard. You can test different subject lines, different content, different sender names and times.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to talk to a lot of people concurrently and to keep your target audience engaged. You do have to follow the rules, but you have to follow the right rules.
We hope this helps.
Why you need multiple strands to your marketing plan
Developing a marketing plan for your business takes time. It takes you away from generating cash through delivering for your clients. Now I’m asking you to do it multiple times! Read more