January 30, 2014

Research to Develop your Content Strategy

research to develop your content strategy

Your content strategy wouldn't be complete without having a look at what others are doing. This is an important step because:
  • it will trigger new ideas for you
  • it will help keep you current with others in your industry
  • you should know what your competitors are doing

Here are some activities you can engage in regularly, perhaps quarterly, to develop your content strategy and keep it current.

1. Get online and check out:
  • What are others in your industry doing?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • Is what they're doing working for them? How can you tell?

2. Search keywords

3. Search for articles that have content ideas specific to your industry. For example, if you own a restaurant, search "content ideas for restaurants" or "newsletter ideas for restaurants". Make sure any new ideas you adopt are ultimately valuable to your subscribers and meet your goals.

4. Sign up for newsletters - pay attention to the experience, as well as what you'll receive

photo by petit hiboux

January 26, 2014

Repurpose Articles into Infographics

Repurposing Articles into Infographics
I'm a big fan of repurposing content for two reasons:
  • It can save me time.
  • People have different ways of learning. Different formats for the same material will ensure a broader reach.

Summing up a past article in a graphical format is a great way to appeal to a different audience. Pick an article that can be summed up into bullet points. Then turn those bullet points into a graphical format. With the proliferation of infographics, we now have lots of choices of apps to make it easy for us to create our own:

Here are a few examples of our own infographics:

In her article Marketing with Infographics, Janet Slack suggested these other creative uses for infographics:
  • Share testimonials
  • Showcase your expertise
  • Share customer statistics
  • Share responses to customer questions
  • Countdown to big events on your website
  • Share trends

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January 22, 2014

What is Content?

The simple answer is that content is everything you put out into the world. Your content represents you, your business and your brand to everyone that encounters it, both current and potential customers.

Your content determines your online presence. It includes all the text and images on your website, your social media accounts and every email you send.

So, why do you need a content strategy?
  • to keep your message consistent across all platforms
  • to ensure the clarity of your message
  • to provide the most value you can offer to current clients
  • to attract new clients
  • to save you time!
Yes, a content strategy can accomplish all of these things. It is well worth the time to develop your strategy, commit the time, and follow through.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on January 22, 2014

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January 17, 2014

The Right Conditions for Success

You don’t leave on a road trip in the middle of a snow storm. And you don’t go on vacation to the Caribbean in August. You wait for the right conditions. In fact, you don’t really wait for the right conditions, you plan around them.

It’s easy to forget this in our excitement to launch new business initiatives.

One day I spent a couple of hours on the phone coaching someone about newsletters, including how important the timing is. I was still working late that night when I received her first newsletter at 1am. (1am is not a good time to send a newsletter - unless your subscribers are on the other side of the world.)

Set yourself up for success.

If you've spent a lot of time, effort and money working on a project, make sure you also place the same importance on the details of your launch. Plan to take advantage of the best conditions: timing, availability of resources and people, weather, geography, etc.

“Haste makes waste.” Someone I worked with used to say this and it has stuck with me. It’s one thing to do the work well. It’s another to put it out there under the best conditions for success.

photo by Royal_Rivers/Flickr

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January 12, 2014

No One is Immune from Mistakes

photo by andrea quixtán/Flickr

Mistakes will happen. I've seen obvious mistakes in emails sent out by marketing agencies and email service providers when promoting their own products. I've even made a few myself - but I won’t point them out. A recent article on the Vocus blog inspired me to weigh in on the issue because, of course, I don’t completely agree with all of their advice.

There is a point of no return. Once we hit send, we’re stuck living with the mistakes in our newsletters. Likely you won’t even notice the mistake until someone points it out or asks a question.

Sometimes they’re just small errors, like typos, a missing word or the wrong preposition. Other times they can be disastrous:
  • a big promotion to hype a new product and, oops, the link goes to the wrong product or an error page
  • an event invitation that asks you to register but the link takes you to an event that’s already gone by
  • the wrong phone number, especially when phoning you is your primary call to action
  • the wrong address or date for an event or appointment
  • the wrong day/date combination, which is sure to generate a ton of emails requiring replies
  • incomplete information, which will also generate incoming emails or disengagement
  • an obvious typo in the subject line

So, what do you do? Stop and think before you send out a correction.

First, you should realize that most people will view correction emails as an annoyance.  Corrections also point out your mistake to readers who may not have noticed, drawing yet more attention to it. So, be thrifty with your corrections.

Think relevance. If a mistake is essentially irrelevant, ignore it and move on.

In some cases, you may be able to come up with another reason to send the corrected information along with a fresh call to action. Give this some serious thought. It is one of very few good correction strategies.

Keep in mind that even though you send a correction, not everyone will read it. If the information is important, like a date or location, watch your statistics and registrations to make sure those who need it get the correct info.

If you use your newsletter archive as a resource, depending on the bulk email service provider you use, you may be able to correct your archived version.

Preventing a mistake from happening is the best way to ensure you never have to fix a mistake. Always send yourself a test message and check your newsletter before sending it out.

photo by andrea quixtán/Flickr

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January 4, 2014

Yearly Content Planning Worksheet

Planning is an important process - even if you eventually change the plan. Planning:

  • forces you to think, to research, to consider, to brainstorm - to be creative (Tweet This)
  • helps you get organized
  • increases efficiency and productivity
  • motivates you and increases your confidence
  • identifies risks
  • helps you make decisions
  • gives you a clearer vision

All of these things apply specifically to your content creation activities as well. Click here to download a content planning worksheet (Excel) to help you prepare for the year. (This is formatted for printing/handwriting as well.)