My desire is to provide helpful and thoughtful information about all aspects of doing business. Feel free to share your comments, experience and insight!

Friday, October 20, 2017

So What Exactly Is Content Marketing Anyway?

Content marketing is a buzz word thrown around often by marketing gurus and in business how-to articles. It's touted as a must have in any effective overall marketing strategy...but do you know what it really is? Here are 5 quick insights to help you understand it and do something with it!

What It Is
The creation, publishing and sharing of materials online that do not explicitly promote a brand but are intended to stimulate interest and engagement in its products or services. Videos, blogs, articles, social media posts, eNewsletters – the list is pretty extensive of what is included so don’t think it’s just about social media.
Content marketing insights for West Michigan companies from Intuitive Designs LLC
It Doesn’t Have To Be Costly, But It Does Require A Plan
Sure, social media is free but content marketing is so much more than posts on Facebook and fun pictures on Instagram. From eNewsletters to articles, photos, videos and website content, you need to be strategic in creating quality items that are interesting and/or informative…then delivering that content to your target markets where they are. That takes time and effort. And if not your time, hiring a professional to strategize and execute might be the way to go. Set a budget (maybe as much as 25% of your total marketing budget) and implement the plan.

It’s A Long-Term Game With Measurable ROI
Brand growth is usually slow and gradual with content marketing. So along with a plan and tangible goals, your strategy has to include patience. The first weeks or even months might not provide big returns. However, over the longer term, your efforts should start producing results that reflect your goals. As you focus on building relationships with customers, sending traffic to your website and informing potential customers about your brand, the metrics you track will help you determine effectiveness.

ANY Business Can Benefit
There is not a single niche or business that can’t see gains with a strategic, well played plan for content marketing. It’s true. But note, success hinges on strategy, goals, execution, measurement, adjustment…repeat.

Your Strategy Must Fit Your Niche
While there are some proven efforts that work really well in content marketing, there are others that may work exceptionally well for your target market. Or those that just don’t resonate with your customers (or potential customers.) So don’t just plan to copy another company’s content marketing strategy. You have to take the time to create your very own strategy that works for your company. Sure, you’ll have things in common with competitors or other businesses, but keep your specific target market in mind and tailor your efforts and goals directly to them.

Now is the time to dive deep and learn how effective content marketing can be for your business. With the overall ease of publishing and sharing content, it’s a powerful tool in a marketing toolbox that can provide long term benefits for any business.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Owning Your On Line Presence

The big social media platforms are always changing, searching for new ways to gain users, keep engagement up and make money. Yesterday, Google+ announced new leadership and the reorganization of some of the features. Within the last year, Facebook has changed the way business pages are able to reach followers, drastically dropping organic reach. Twitter is working on implementing more advertising and native video. And the list of changes goes on and is happening on every single social media platform.

With the adoption of social media as a 'required' marketing element for business, one important reality is often overlooked...that every single one of the platforms is owned by someone else. As a user of any of those platforms, you have absolutely no control over what they decide to change, how they decide to present your information and when they will require paid inclusion. While I don't underestimate the value social media can provide right now, I don't think it's a good idea to have your on line efforts solely focused there. The best questions you can ask yourself are,
"What if (social-media-platform-of-choice) disappeared today?  
                 Would I still have an effective on line presence for my business tomorrow?"

The very best approach to social media is to use it as a supplemental tool, not as the end-all-be-all of your on line presence. It is time for you to own your on line presence and not leave it in the hands of others. So how do you accomplish that?  Develop and maintain a good website.

Affordable, professional website development from Intuitive Designs LLC
Now more than ever, your website needs to be the hub of information, content, calls to action and marketing efforts. With your website, YOU are in control of your company message, brand identity and business information, both how it is presented and the way it reaches your target audience. Investing in the development of your site is a long-term strategy that allows you to utilize short-term tools to boost effectiveness. (Read my blog post, "Is Your Business Internet Presence A Well-Oiled Machine?" to see how social media fits to an effective on line presence equation.)

So in the end, make the effort to develop your website - it is truly the element of your on line presence that will stand the test of time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Real Difference Between Low-Cost Website Builders & Professional Development

There is no shortage of free or low-cost website builders, stating you can have a site up and running in no time. Their packages say it's easy to have a professional, successful site. But if it sounds too good to be true....

However, not every website builder is "too good to be true" and not every single small business needs a professional developer to have a good site. There are pros and cons to both ways of getting a website put together. What I want to outline here are some considerations that should be taken into account when entrepreneurs decide how to go about website development.
  1. Learning Curve
    While the site builders are typically easy to use, it does take some time getting used to them and even learning the terminology and navigation of working within their systems. There are many drag-and-drop features but learning how they work within the builder can be time consuming. On top of that, content creation and layout considerations take more time. There is a learning curve even for the technically savvy.

    Using a professional developer eliminates that learning curve. They manage the complete process of the design and implementation of website development. A good developer also helps guide and educate about content creation and good usability for the design. That allows the entrepreneur to concentrate on their business.

  2. Short-term and Long-term Flexibility
    Any site builder has limitations as far as customizing and even hosting. Free and low cost development tools typically offer a set number of templates and while they can be customized to some extent, knowing how to make the most of those designing options takes considerable time to figure out. And once the site is developed, it is tied to that site builder and it's template. Change hosts or want to move to another builder, design and content creation have to start from scratch.

    A professional has the skills and knowledge to be able to design the look and function of exactly what is wanted. They can build the site on any platform to make it easy to scale as well as flexible for future changes in hosting or design.

  3. Design
    Drag and drop builders have come a long way in helping people make attractive sites. However, good design isn't just about aesthetics - usability is a major factor. If the site looks good but the navigation doesn't make sense or the overall layout does not draw on design best practices, the site won't perform well with visitors.

    A professional web designer knows the best practices for site layout, to not only make the site attractive but functional. If a site doesn't provide a good experience for visitors, they won't stay/interact/buy/contact. And ultimately, that's the point of building a website - visitor action!

  4. SEO and Content Know-how
    This is probably the biggest difference and what should be the major consideration for entrepreneurs building a website. Knowing the most up to date methods for effective search engine optimization (SEO) and how to craft compelling content is not something that can be researched and understood overnight. Site builders offer suggestions and provide apps, add-ons and tools but again, knowing how to use them requires time and research. Business owners can't expect a website to do well in search engines just because it looks good or because they have an added tool in their builder proclaiming "optimization."

    Effective search engine results and content creation is one of the specialties of good website developers. They know the technical requirements as well as the standards for making the most of every element, graphic, line of code and bit of text. And without SEO and compelling content, a website it just a shrimp in the ocean of over 1 billion websites worldwide (www.internetlivestats.com), without much of a chance of being found by the target audience. A professional designer uses their expertise to put a website in front of the people and businesses most likely to respond and take action.
As Richard Branson said, "If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you've got to learn to delegate."  By considering the real differences between do-it-yourself websites and professional development, most business owners will see the benefit in delegating that task to a professional. And that allows them to concentrate on why they're in business in the first place - to develop their company into a growing, thriving organization. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Respect the Fold

While screen sizes are constantly changing these days and responsive design is all the rage, user studies tell us that content "above the fold" — a term borrowed from print terminology and used to reference what is visible on the webpage without scrolling — is still very important and relevant. Regardless where the fold lands, what is at the very top of your webpage needs to be some of the most important content you are offering - or at the very least hold the promise of great content if a user scrolls.

So how do you make the most of the very top of your webpages? Here are some quick tips to consider:
  1. Exceptional Visual Elements
    Engaging graphics and great pictures can help draw the eye down the page. They don't have to be large but they do need to be high quality and placed in a way that enhances content.

  2. Compelling Content
    Write with user-focused language and give site visitors information they are looking for. Your visitors should be so engaged with your content they want to explore, scroll and navigate.

  3. Detailed Links
    Show users what is available below the fold with clear, well-placed links that will take site visitors right to that content. This includes descriptive navigation as well as links within on-page content.
And if you're still not sure that the fold matters much anymore, recent quantitative studies estimate the fold's impact on the user experience. On average, content above the fold was viewed 84% more by users than content below the fold. (Nielson Norman Group, Feb. 1, 2015)

So respect the fold when considering website layout, content placement and navigation. Your website visitors engage with top-of-page content so help them uncover your important below the fold elements. And they will scroll, click and navigate if you deliver on the expectation of valuable content.

Friday, January 16, 2015

3 Content Marketing Tips for 2015

Content marketing tips for 2015 from Intuitive Designs LLC
Many small businesses are under the false assumption about a web site, "if you build it, they will come." We are at a time when more web sites exist than ever before and that number grows significantly every single day. So how do you go about getting your site - your content - noticed by the users that matter most to your business? It takes some careful thought, ingenuity and marketing. Here are three tips to help you market your content more effectively in 2015:

  1. Focus on your audience
    Your content is for people...not Google, Bing, bots and crawlers. Every item of content you create for your site should be uniquely targeted to your audience. Clearly define and get to know your potential customers. Create content that speaks to their interests, needs, preferences and provides information that is relevant to them.

    And the result? Your site will develop positive search engine optimization scores. Google's search algorithm has evolved enough to now take into consideration user experience factors along with programming protocols. So site content that is optimized for users will organically begin to perform better in search engine results. Not to mention the fact that your chances to convert site visitors to paying customers is much greater as well.

  2. Promote - Promote - Promote
    Half the battle of content marketing for small business is just getting it published. If it's a blog post, a product video on YouTube, a new page on your web site or a new product picture on Instagram, making the time to do it is the challenge. But once you make that happen, it's time to promote and share that content through every means you have - email, newsletter, social media, guest blog post, maybe even a press release. And a key element is to direct people who see your content to your main information hub - your web site. It's fair to say that you should strive to put as much effort into promoting your content as you do creating it.

  3. Align your message
    For every place you publish content - whether it's blogs, web sites, social media accounts, emails - make sure your message is consistent for your target audience. That doesn't have to stifle creativity but it does require some alignment in the way you present your information. As users follow your content and visit your web site they get a cohesive message. And as those users transition into customers, they value the content you provide and will be keenly aware of the fact that you meet their needs.
So make 2015 a year for content ingenuity, not just creation. Your small business has a value-added message for others and it's time to share it!