Archive for Marketing – Page 3

Businesses: Be Content Producers

This post has been brewing for a while, I’ve been trying to let it crystalize some more, and even now I’m not sure it’s polished, but after reading so many good books and posts recently (I’ll list as many as I can remember at the end of this post) on the subject of “content marketing,” I’m going to take my first stab at it.

From this website that I started publishing my old newspaper columns in 1999, to the professional blog I started almost 4 years ago, and the fact that every venture or website we start comes with a blog attached as a central marketing strategy (see iThemes and, I’ve long realized the value in delivering good, quality, practical, helpful content.

Maybe it’s because I was a newspaper journalist in my previous career, but I love good content and use it prolifically in my marketing strategies. And I believe, as so many others have said, businesses now need to become content creators themselves and stop outsourcing it to external media outlets in the form of advertising.

Here’s some thoughts on how and why businesses need to go this route:

  • Content is an AWESOME marketing channel and strategy. Duh, Captain Obvious! But seriously, you can attract prospective customers through it, build your brand and establish thought leadership and expertise …. oh, and you can also make sales through it and because of it. More on that later.
  • The media empires are collapsing around us. And there is a void being left in their ashes. Their readers still want quality content.
  • Develop your own readership and audience. There is no need for a middleman to communicate with your prospective audiences. By creating your own media, you can develop direct relationships with your audience. You’re not leasing another’s readership, you’re developing your own.
  • As I’ve blogged about before: Content is priceless. I’ll always invest in good “evergreen” or “pillar” content.
  • Educational marketing IS creating valuable, practical content you’re prospects aka audience need or are interested in. There are topics and tips and tutorials that your customer is looking for … in your niche, you should be THE expert on it.
  • Content is about being helpful. I keep using the words “valuable” and “practical” when I describe content here because ultimately if you help someone – through social media or the content on your blog – it endears that person to you. If you’re just a blaring marketing speaker, it’s not going to help your customer. But if you’re help through your content, they will associate good feelings with your brand and products that are tools in solving their problems.
  • Content can also be about storytelling for your brand. It’s one of the reasons I bought a Tom Bihn laptop bag (I unboxed it here). They tell a great story. So in the words of Chris Brogan, “Hire journalists. They are great storytellers.” We’re trying to tell our own story through our live show at iThemes each week, through videos, through in person workshops … and by the way, this ‘About Us’ video from Digital Tutors is brand storytelling at its finest! David Meerman Scott calls this “brand journalism,” and has some good advice for journalists.
  • Build community with content. One of the things we’re trying to do at iThemes is build community by embracing our customers and their unique needs. And that means not only providing products or tools to empower them to do it, but content that teaches and shows them how. We want to be their hub for building beautiful and effective websites with WordPress. American Express might be one of the best doing this with OPEN Forum, recruiting some of the biggest and best names for their free content offering. Stellar content that’s made me think better of American Express.

Content like this has been around for a long, long time. It’s nothing new.

Ebooks, white papers, blogs, videos, audio/podcasts, workshops, roadshows, webinars/teleseminars, speaking engagements, books, etc, etc …. are all pretty good examples of content creation and marketing.

I think businesses should use a combination of them … MORE, or heck, actually do some of this, starting with a blog.

How does all this relate to the bottomline? Or maybe, the question really is: how does content make sales?

Here’s what I’ve seen content do for my business …

  • Builds your brand – the brand exposure content brings is amazing. One of our highest linked to and visited pages on our site is our free WordPress tutorials page.
  • Establishes you as the expert – I love how often people cite Gary V as THEIR wine guru … and, by the way, he happens to sell wine. If  I was going to buy wine (which I know nothing about), I’d go to Gary for advice … then I’d probably buy from him. Think about it: When someone helps you out in a niche, who are you most likely to buy from?
  • Presents your products and tools as possible solutions – It’s about exposure but not the obnoxious kind. Gary and others who do content marketing well don’t bash you over the head with marketing their goods. (In fact, I’ve seen him say he’s not that worried about it – it’s more about community.) But good content marketing exposes your products and services as possible solutions. This is the VERY tricky part about content marketing. The one we’re still refining and I hope to share more as we learn effective ways to balance content and community with paying the bills!

Here are some more reference resources about content marketing …

On Unique Experiences

I’ve been thinking a lot about unique experiences lately. As a consumer, I love and crave unique experiences.

Whenever I think about unique experiences, I’m usually drawn to restaurants.

Not the chain kind but the hole-in-the-wall, greasy spoon restuarants.

My thought is that anybody can find and go to a chain restaurant like Olive Garden or Abuelo’s or [insert any name brand national restaurant] … the food is extremely consistent and usually really good. The service is generally above average as most of these restaurants are well-oiled machines (or at least appear so).

But my wife and I love to find the little, cool, one-of-a-kind places with good food and even better atmosphere tucked in an old location or off the path.

We want a dining experience we can’t get everywhere. And when we have family or friends visiting we like to take them to these little joints.

In fact, whenever I travel to a new city, I always hit up Urbanspoon for the cool, unique restaurants or cafes to go to.

Here are a couple we love and frequent regularly …

Here’s a couple of thoughts about why we like those places:

  • Atmosphere is almost everything — We love unique decor and distinct feel. Irma’s has one of the most awesome nightime ‘feels.’ The wall pictures, the low ceilings, the paint and trim, it all ties together at Irma’s.
  • We want a good story — Not all of them have a good story, but the best ones have a unique background or flair; the first time we went to Flip’s, the waitress gave us the most amazing story about how they prepare their food
  • We love good food — Let’s face it, the atmosphere and service could suck, but if the food is amazing, it trumps all else. (This is about the product experience which affects all.)

Lessons for my business and yours…

With these thoughts on unique dining experiences, let’s talk about some other unique experiences with products, like Tom Bihn’s laptop bags.

(This Mashable article introduced me to Tom Bihn, a Seattle-based maker of some super-cool, hand-made laptop bags, hit it home for me and motivated me to finally write this post. Check out Tom Bihn’s laptop bags here and look for me to show you mine as I have to have one now!)

More and more as a consumer, I’m wanting unique experiences with products too.

For certain consumer products, I don’t want something that’s poorly made, cheap and of which I can find in any store.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Mac fan boy. I love the unique feel and experience I get from using Apple products. (And so do millions of others.)

Although Apples are mass produced and there’s rarely an event I’ve been to when Mac laptops and iPhones didn’t dominate the audience, they have preserved the specialness we want in products.

I feel the unique experience when I started reading and listening to the videos on the Tom Bihn site.

Here’s why I’m almost dead set on making my next laptop bag a Tom Bihn one:

  • The demo videosthat dude, evidentally a friend and not even a company employee, walks you through all the pockets and features of the laptop bags in a unique way where I HAVE to have one … this guy loves the bags!
  • The bags are one-of-a-kind – I learned that Tom Bihn himself designs every one of them … and he designs them for himself. I can’t go in Wal-Mart, like I have with my past 3 lousy laptop bags, and get one. I have to special order these. And they are hand-made with love in Seattle.
  • Customer forum communitytheir forums are really active with awesome photos of people using their Tom Bihn bags. I want to belong to that community. It’s something we want to recreate with our brands, including iThemes.

So I’ve been thinking a lot recently for how we create unique experiences around our business and products … how we filter these values through everything we do …

As more and more companies streamline the manufacturing process, more and more consumer will crave unique experiences and products — something they can’t get just anywhere else.

What about you? What about your business? What ways are you creating one-of-a-kind experiences with your community?

Why Google Should Matter To Your Small Business

We’ll be elaborating on these things once we launch, but in the meantime, here are my rough draft thoughts on why Google should matter to your small business — even if you’re a one-man/woman shop!

People are looking for the products and services you offer … online! Are you being found?

Watch the video here

How to Start Your Own WordPress Web Development Business Today

I remember the first weeks and months of trying to break into the web design field …

It was hard. It was drastically different from my print design background (my first career was as a newspaper journalist). There were so many things to learn.

After I learned some basic CSS skills, like what to look for and how to edit it, (here’s my tutorial resource for web design) and saw the awesome potential for using WordPress as a CMS, my primary was having a base theme toolkit so I can customize them for my clients.

I didn’t want to and frankly, I couldn’t have, started from scratch. (Nearly three years later, I know of only a couple of people now who do or can!)

But the best and easiest for me (and my clients) was finding some foundational themes that I could take and tweak to my liking.

So at iThemes, we took this thought … and have unveiled our WordPress Web Designer’s Toolkit

If you buy it today, you get access to over 30 themes at your disposal for WordPress projects — our entire theme vault as well as our popular plugins like BackupBuddy, iThemes Exchange and iThemes Security!

It’s more than a theme club — it’s an opportunity to build a freelance web design business with WordPress. We’ve even included special unbranded WordPress screencast tutorials that you can upload to your site so you don’t have to reteach your clients the basics of WP.

James, our “creative architect” who ran a successful design business prior to coming to iThemes, posted a great article listing some ways you can start your web design business.

Our passion is helping aspiring web developers … and all our packages are geared toward them (the multi-use licenses allow you to use our themes on multiple client and personal sites and as such are a true bargain!). If you do the math, you’re getting these themes – with multi-use licenses – for under $20 a theme.

Check out the WordPress Web Designer’s Toolkit and get started!

5 Ways I Find Value in Twitter for My Business

When I created my Twitter account over a year ago, I really didn’t understand it. To me, it seemed like another time-suck Web 2.0 creation.

Then one day, someone on our team told me that I had over 900 followers on Twitter. I was shocked. So I scrambled to see what Twittermania was about.

And THAT day … I instantly saw the ROI …

The reason? Any time a bunch of people care to listen to what you say, no matter what the format or platform, as a businessperson, you have been offered a great opportunity to begin the conversation with them!

I mean, a central marketing strategy to everything I do with our business is to build an audience with our customers and prospects. I do that mainly through email newsletters (yes, they still work) and of course blog feeds.

And independent of the platform, if someone wants a conversation with me (in a way that would benefit our business), I try my best to give them that.

So after about 6 months of using Twitter, here’s how I’ve seen it most useful in our business …

1. Building community around products and brands

Twitter is our new email newsletter in a way. Each time we roll out a new venture, like Happy Joe (follow @happyjoedesign), we’ve created a Twitter account for that.

(Yes, I’d pay for a corporate account at Twitter!)

We display Twitter icons on our sites so our site guests who know what Twitter is can follow us on there.

At iThemes (follow @ithemes), we use this as another way (permissions-based, I would add) of announcing new products, features, tutorials and more.

2. Responding to customers

I have searches for all our brands and names. This way I can respond to prospects, even if they don’t follow @ithemes or me. A number of times I’ve sent messages to those seeking advice about which WordPress theme to buy offering my help or assistance.

I can also put out fires of those who are unhappy or who feel neglected. So it works both ways.

3. Following conversations in our niche

I follow most of the WordPress theme builders, and a number of people influential to WordPress (the software our themes are built for) and their conversations too. It’s great to see what others are doing in the field, stay on top of trends, tips, whatever … and to build relationships with those too.

One time another WordPress theme designer helped me with a problem I was having, and hopefully I can return the favor soon.

4. Creating super-fans

A time or two, I’ve seen people ask for help on Twitter about issues I can actually assist with … so I’ve offered my time and in a couple of instances, taken relationships I’ve developed on Twitter to another level.

Think about it … when you help someone solve a nagging problem … for free … don’t you think they’ll do retweets or #followfridays of you and your stuff?!

5. Provide value

I do this through links to useful posts, quotes on books I’m reading, and other nuggets of gold that the bulk of people following me might find useful and practical for their lives and businesses. Some may call it educational marketing.

In this way, Twitter IS like a micro-blog. I feel a responsibility to provide value to those who may be using text messages to follow my tweets, just like I do with email newsletters, this blog, and other mediums.

I’m the editor of that … and although I’m still refining it, I’m realizing the great value it serves me, and our business.

Tweet on!