The Benefits of Content Marketing

Now that you know what content marketing is and why it’s good for your small business, let’s talk about some of the specific benefits a business can achieve with good content marketing.

Part 3 in our Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses video series covers what you can expect to get out of content marketing.

Give it a look, and let me know what you think!

If you prefer to read it rather than watch it, here’s the transcript:

Hi! I’m Kristen Hicks and welcome to part 3 of the Austin Copywriter video series on content marketing for small businesses.

Our focus in this video is some of the specific benefits content marketing can offer to your business.

We’ve talked more generally about why it’s useful and what it is, so here’s what you can expect to get out of content marketing.

Benefit #1: A stronger reputation.

So much of small business success comes back around to reputation. Who’s heard of you and what did they hear?

Current and past customers who have had a great experience with you are a really good way to build this reputation, but limited. They don’t know everybody, and you want to attract and impress customers included in that circle beyond their reach.

Imagine a woman in crisis. She’s having a terrible day because she has a problem she can’t solve on her own.

Naturally, she turns to Google. She finds a blog post on your website telling her exactly what she needs to know to solve her problem.

Success! You’ve just made a positive impression on someone who has never heard of you before.

The problem and solution vary depending on what you have to offer, and how you help your customers, but the idea is consistent. Helping people will improve your reputation.

Benefit #2: A convincing demonstration of your expertise.

That same woman we just talked about. Not only does she think fondly of your company now because you helped her solve a problem, that blog post also showed her you know your stuff on: accounting/furniture building/gardening/whatever your business does.

If you’re worried that giving your expertise away for free could lose you business, chances are, it won’t.

Most people are happy to hand over the chores they don’t excel at to someone who does (for a reasonable price).

Benefit #3: Greater visibility.

You need people to know you exist, plain and simple. No one will ever think to buy your product or services without first knowing you exist.

Content marketing helps spread the good word of your business throughout the web. And, once people start liking you enough to talk about you with friends, beyond.

You give people something worth talking about and sharing, and they will. Your reach will extend based on how large of an audience you gain, and how much they like what you have to say.

While not a comprehensive list, that hits some of the most important benefits of content marketing for your small business.

Check back soon for the 4th and final entry in our Beginner Content Marketing for Small Business video series where we get into some of the best tips to make sure you do content marketing right.

Content Marketing in 2014: Predictions and Plans

In the internet age, everything seems to move fast, and marketing is no exception. Even just the term “content marketing,” which has taken over to describe and shape a certain segment of the marketing world, only came into regular use in the past few years.

In a constantly shifting landscape, with new tools and trends often seeming to come out of nowhere, predictions are tricky business. Nonetheless, Content Marketing Institute found 50 content marketing professionals prepared to make their guesses for the coming year.

My own prediction made the cut, putting me in some pretty fantastic company, here it is:

I think the main trend will be towards more. I don’t mean that in terms of quantity, but rather more formats, posts that pack in more useful information, and an acceptance that content marketing requires more time and effort than some previously realized.

If you think I’ve got it all wrong, tell me what you think in the comments. What’s your prediction for the next year?

I can only offer conjectures for the general state of content marketing in 2014, but I have absolute power over the goals and plans for Austin Copywriter’s content marketing in 2014.

If I publish it where everyone can see it, there’s no going back. So, without further ado:

1) Commit to publishing on this blog with more regularity.

My modest, but realistic goal for this is at least one post a month. I recognize more would be ideal, but as one person balancing my own marketing with client work, understand the importance of making sustainable commitments.

I’ll be the first to tell clients: less content of better quality will always beat out a higher quantity of content that’s sloppy and lazy.

2) Experiment with new content formats and channels.

I’ve already delved a bit into the world of content development that falls outside of my writing comfort zone. Part 1 in my new content marketing for small businesses video series is already out, and the rest of the series will be released in early 2014.

You can also check out my new SlideShare presentation on the Basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Small Businesses.

I aim to do even more with video, SlideShare, and images throughout 2014.

3) Develop and execute a content promotion strategy.

By seeking out more guest posting opportunities and building up relationships on social media, I plan to draw more attention and new subscriptions to the blog.

Like many people, I’ve learned the hard way that just creating good content and putting it out there isn’t enough. You have to develop a larger strategy that includes plans for promotion to get attention in an already overcrowded space.

4) Make regular, genuine contact with readers and others in the content marketing community a higher priority.

Relationships are hugely important in just about every aspect of life. This has only become more obvious to me in my years as a freelancer.

My goal is to build up a larger professional network of contacts that includes: readers of this blog, other marketers in Austin and online, other freelancers in a variety of industries, and small business owners excited about building their businesses with content marketing.

5) Attend local networking events and conferences to build a network and community of professional contacts of various skills and specialties.

Related to #4, I’ve found there’s no real substitute for meeting with other professionals in person, and attending live educational events. I’ve gotten a lot out of these experiences in the past year, and expect 2014 to be no different on that front.

Some of these are continuations of the business plan and content strategy I put together in 2013, but still of tantamount importance to my goals for the business.

What about you? Do you have a plan and strategy for the next year yet? Are there any questions or obstacles getting in the way of putting one together? Let me know, I’ll do my best to help.

5 Key Takeaways for Freelancers from Content Marketing World 2013

freelance content marketingThe whole concept of content marketing is  changing how businesses value and approach many of the skills we freelancers most excel at.  While the Content Marketing World conference is definitely not put together with freelancers top of mind, it provides a good glimpse into what our clients and potential clients are thinking about, the directions they’re moving in and the best ways we can provide the value they’re seeking.

As a freelance writer, the tips I’ve shared below definitely lean towards lessons useful for freelance writers specifically, but many of these can be easily applied to freelancers working in any capacity related to content marketing. The growing importance of images and videos was a hot topic, and the need for well-designed websites has always been a crucial issue in content marketing.

Without further ado, here are 5 key takeaways for freelancers from this year’s Content Marketing World:

1) Marketers consider creating enough good content a big problem.

In advance of the conference, the Content Marketing Institute performed a survey to get a clear idea of what marketers are doing, and what tactics are working for them. 55% of those surveyed ranked producing enough content as one of the largest challenges they face.

Couple that number with the 58% planning to increase their content marketing budget over the next year and we’ve got some ripe conditions for quality freelancers to help fill in the gaps businesses are experiencing.

An important distinction here is that word “good” – marketers are bringing increasingly high standards to what constitutes content worth publishing. As the web becomes ever more saturated with content, we have to be able to bring our A-game to the clients we work with to help them develop the kind of content that helps a business stand apart from the crowd.

2) Content strategy is key for effectiveness.

This was another takeaway from the survey. The businesses that jump into content marketing without a plan get less out of it than those that develop a strategy.

While freelancers are often just one part of the larger content strategy for businesses, this is an important piece of information for us to impress upon any clients that aren’t thinking strategically. If we help them develop awesome content, but it’s not used effectively, we’re not really helping. Not to mention, we risk becoming a line item easy to cut out of their budget if our work doesn’t help them make money.

If we want to add value (as we should), we must urge clients to approach their content marketing with a bigger picture in mind.

3) Help out non-customers, even if you don’t see a direct benefit.

This point was emphasized again and again in different talks and sessions at the conference. Jay Baer, whose talk was one of the most popular there, urged the audience to “make marketing so useful, people would pay for it.”

Obviously, if you’re doing freelance work for pay, you’re already thinking that way 🙂

One of his other really meaningful points was to always think about how to help people in your audience, even if they’re not your customer. Good content marketing means thinking about offering value first, and making sales later.

Hilton created a Twitter account devoted to proactively giving travelers advice on different cities they visit – even people staying at other hotels. Lowe’s shares useful tips via Vine for people interested in home repair and gardening – including one that shows people how to make their own watering can (a tool Lowe’s sells).

Is it crazy to help your competitors’ customers, or tell people how to make the products you sell? Nope. It’s just good marketing.

4) Many businesses are looking for content that’s as good as journalism.

Bill Haggin and Nancy Pardo talked about their successful strategy running a blog for PTC. They made the recommendation to a crowded room of marketers to hire journalists for their blogs. This means:

a) Businesses are placing a value on blogging at a higher level than ever, and

b) They’re willing to pay good writers for journalism-level work.

This doesn’t just apply to writing, David Germano talk about treating your marketing like a media company. Andrew Davis compared content marketing to his previous profession creating kids shows. You have to think like the editors and media professionals whose job it is to entertain and educate an audience.

Having content doesn’t make businesses more competitive, having content that’s more helpful and informative does. We need to be thinking at that level in the work we provide clients.

5) Have personality!

Andrew Davis gave an example of a woman who built a massive following and successful makeup brand out of making short videos that had personality. Lauren Luke’s brief makeup tutorials on YouTube became massively popular. She didn’t spend any money on the videos, just brought a little time and personality to them.

You want people to care about and relate to your brand, which is harder for them to do if it feels like an entity without actual people behind it. Don’t be afraid of humor. Don’t be afraid of using a tone that’s more personal than professional.

If clients tend towards dry industry speak and buzzwords, try to steer them back around to the kind of language their customers actually speak. And don’t ever think any subject’s too dry or dull for some humor, Tim Washer shared some examples of companies that made dull subjects humorous. Who knew router hardware could be so fun?

 

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that I came across many people who exclaimed “we really need more good writers!” or some variation of that phrase. While I hear many freelance writers concerned about finding good clients, those good clients are out there trying to figure out how to find us too.

How to Enhance Your Blog Post with Images (Without Breaking the Law)

Google makes finding images so easy. When a simple search produces a perfect image that encapsulates in visual form what your blog post is saying in words, it seems like a simple choice to drop into your post.

blog post photosThe problem is, Google Image search doesn’t do a good job of letting us know the original source of their images, or their copyright status.

You expect to make money for your products and services, photographers and artists do as well. If you use an image without the permission, attribution or payment that the creator expects, you’re taking a risk that could have costly consequences for your business down the line.

How to Find Out if An Image is Under Copyright

If you’re lucky, the site that Google Image search pulled the image from will have information to help lead you to the original source. The first step to figuring out if it’s an image you can use, is to identify where it comes from. If you can track down who created the image, you can get in touch to ask permission to use it, or determine if it might fall under public domain.

austin copywriter banner

Logos are free to use

More often than not though, you won’t have easy access to that information. If you can’t pin down the image’s original source, your best bet is to assume it’s copyrighted. All images created privately since 1989 are automatically copyrighted.

There are some notable exceptions to keep in mind. For photography, copyright expires 25 years from the time the photograph was taken. Business logos are generally fair game if you’re commenting about or reporting on a company.

One helpful tip: you can sort Google Image results by usage rights if you choose the Advanced Search option.

google image search

Go to Google advanced search…

google advanced image search

then limit under “usage rights”

 

Sources for Finding Free Images

free blog post image

Found via loc.gov, copyright expired

Starting with an image you like and trying to determine copyright from there is time consuming and, more often than not, you’ll have a hard time finding any of the information you need.

To stay on the right side of the law, the better option is to start searching in places where you know you can find images available for use, or that at least provide details on their legal status.

Images created by the government can be used without permission or fees. You can find a directory of government organizations with images available for use here. Note: while most of the images you find this way should be legal to use on your blog, their presence on a government site isn’t a guarantee. You should still check for any additional copyright or licensing information the site provides.

These sites will each let you search a database of images that include details on their terms of use. In many cases, you’ll find images you’re free to use as long as you include attribution (although keep an eye out for those with restrictions on commercial use, that includes any blogs used for marketing purposes).

Tips for Producing Your Own Images

There are a few methods for non-artists to create our own images. If you’re having a hard time tracking down a good stock photo, or just want to use something different, these sites can help you out.

Recite This – This site provides a number of visual templates that you can fill in with your own text.make your own blog post image

Easel.lyIf you have data that would work well in an infographic, there are some templates here you can fill in. Your options are limited, but if you find a template that works for you, an infographic can be a really powerful marketing tool.

Info.gramThis is another site that offers infographic templates, as well as chart templates. You do have to register for access to them.

PiktoChartThis site offers a wider selection of infographics and charts, and provides few for freebeforeyou need to upgrade to a paid subscription.

Possibly the most obvious option is to take your own pictures. If you have a post on a topic that you can easily grab a relevant photo for on your own, it can save you a lot of trouble.

If you’re willing to invest in a good graphic designer or photographer, you may find your posts greatly enhanced by the inclusion of quality, unique images. This can get expensive, but if it’s enough of a priority, it could well be worth it.

Thanks to Sophie Lizard’s 52 Totally Free Resources for Freelance Bloggers, Traffic Generation Cafe , and Western Journalism for helping me compile the information and resources included here. 

5 Reasons Blogging for Your Business is Worth It

business bloggingThere was a time when much of the population could hear the word “blog” and shrug it off as a silly word tied to an activity primarily practiced by a subculture of writers, hobbyists, and narcissists. Blogging for business is a fairly recent development in the short history of blogging.

Blogging didn’t start as an activity tied to professional advancement, it was a way for individuals to express themselves in a public forum, in the hopes that like minds would find their words and choose to engage. Now blogging has evolved into something hard to categorize. It plays an influential role in politics, news reporting, and marketing.

Blogging can be an intimidating practice for a small business to embrace. It’s not something you can put some work into now and finish – it requires regular maintenance.

The continuous production of fresh, quality content means either a serious time commitment, or the monetary investment of working with a freelance writer. Any business on a budget is likely to wonder: is it really worth it?

Though doubts are understandable, the benefits of blogging for your business are considerable. Five especially notable reasons blogging for your business is worth it:

1) It’s important for SEO.

Google values quality content. A website that produces a steady stream of content lets the search engines know that it’s active. Good content can encourage links back to your site, and a blog gives you the opportunity to develop a content strategy around relevant keywords for greater SEO benefit.

2) It helps build brand recognition.

A blog enables you to grow your online presence. It helps people find you more easily and often, and provides valuable information that they will come to associate with your brand.

3) It lets you show your expertise.

You know more about what you do and the industry you’re in than most people. A blog allows you to demonstrate that. By sharing what you know, you show people that you’re qualified and they can trust you and your business to know what you’re doing.

4) It can inspire customer loyalty.

A business that offers up something of value for free demonstrates a desire to help out customers that’s not all about profit. Giving people an answer to a question they have, or information they didn’t know they needed yet is a good way to build up the kind of good will that inspires long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

5) It’s an important component in a good social media strategy.

Social media’s another trend that’s evolved to become an important component of business. It offers you a way to engage with customers and potential customers, and gives you an avenue to distribute the content you produce. There’s little point in putting time into developing a social media presence, unless you can figure out a way to add something of value to the ongoing conversation. Blog posts are one way to do that.