5 Reasons To Own Your Platform

In this age of digital marketing, it is increasingly important for businesses to be present online. You can do this is by creating an effective, comprehensive platform.

What is a Platform?

A platform is simply the means you use to communicate your message. Your platform is your online presence, and can be combination of your social media profiles, your blog, your email marketing and your website.

All of this works great together, as long as the foundation of your platform is one that you own.

What is an Owned Platform?

When you own your platform, it means you have complete control. You have purchased your domain name and have paid a small web hosting fee to build your own website on it.

It means that you are not relying solely on the free opportunities – such as a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, or a blog from Blogger or WordPress.com.

Sonia Simone of Copyblogger said it best when she advised: “Don’t Build on Rented Land.”

Just as you wouldn’t build a house on land you don’t own, you also shouldn’t build the foundation of your business on a platform owned by someone else.

Here are five reasons why you should own your platform:

  1. It gives you control. When you own your own platform, you can control what it looks like, the content that is published to it, and how you market it. Social media accounts or free blogs can give you an opportunity to do this, too, but you don’t own your account. They do. Which means they can make changes, place ads or delete your account without asking permission from you.
  2. It helps build your brand. When you have control, you can match your website to the rest of your marketing materials. Your website should be your hub. It is where all of your marketing efforts will lead your customers. So it should look as professional as it can be.
  3. It establishes you as an industry professional. Investment goes a long way. When you have taken the extra step to create your own website on a platform that you own, you are showing that you are a true professional. You are serious about your work, and you know that it is worth the investment of the time and money that it takes to back your business.
  4. It builds your SEO. You work hard to produce meaningful, helpful content. Why would you want to publish that content where someone else benefits from the web traffic generated by your work? Publishing content to your own website on a frequency, resulting in increased traffic to your site, will be looked upon favorably by Google.
  5. It allows you to grow your relationship with your customers. Building your own website opens the doors to many opportunities to engage with your visitors. You can add a sign-up form to download free content, which helps you build your email list. You can create a blog, and allow your audience to comment on what you write. You can also add social share icons to your pages, so your readers can share what you’ve written with their followers.

Building your online presence on your own platform is worth the time and effort that you put into it. Once you do, you can effectively showcase your professionalism, reap the SEO benefits of your work, and position your brand for future sales.

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How to Organize Before You Write

Writing doesn’t come easy to many people. Especially when it involves creating content for your business. It can be a task you procrastinate, or something you want to sit down and do as quickly as possible just to get it done.

But rushing through your work doesn’t usually produce quality results, and procrastinating doesn’t produce results at all.

If you take a few minutes to organize and plan what you want to write before you dive in, the words will come easier. You’ll identify where you need more information, and you’ll be able to think of the details that support your point.

We learned in English class how to organize an essay. You start with the main idea, have your supporting details, and close with a summary paragraph. Writing for your business follows the same process, but with a professional angle and a call to action.

How you organize may differ slightly depending on the type of content you are creating for your business, such as a blog article, a newsletter article, or a sales letter. But no matter what you are writing, taking the time to organize your thoughts before your write will save you time and frustration.

Here’s how to organize before you write:

  1. Identify the topic you are going to write about. It’s usually best to choose one idea per article, so you don’t confuse your reader or seem to be writing without a point. If you are writing about a new product, focus on its features and how it can help your customers. If you are writing a blog about how to use a particular product, give specific directions. Keep your writing focused.
  2. Write a headline. This is the summary title that will entice your audience to read your article. It identifies what your article is about, so be sure your content gives the reader what your headline promised.
  3. Break up your content with subheads. Subheads are mini headlines that give more details about your main idea, much like your supporting paragraphs did in your English essay. So if you are an auto manufacturer that just released a new car, your subheads might be about the engine, the interior, and the safety features.
  4. Ask for action. Your closing paragraph should summarize your article, and ask your reader for something. You might want to ask them to contact you for more information, click on a fact sheet that provides more details, or to buy your product or service.

Writing for your business is similar to story telling. You are giving your audience a step-by-step account of what happened, how something works, or how to solve a problem. If you take some time before you write to organize your thoughts, it will make creating content for your business a more satisfying and productive task.

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Create Content for Your Target Audience’s Buyer’s Journey

Are you a business owner that is consistently creating engaging content for your business?

Or are you a business owner that WANTS to consistently create engaging content for your business, but you just don’t know where to start?

If you fall into the first category, you’ve got it figured out. Great job!

But if you fall into the second category, don’t feel bad. Most people recognize the important role content plays in their business, but creating it gets placed on the back burner. Sometimes it’s because they are busy dealing with other aspects of their business, and sometimes it’s because they don’t know where to start.

So keep reading, because I’m going to provide you with some information that will help you get it done.

Here’s where to start: It’s with the needs of your target audience.

The Buyer’s Journey

Last year, I earned an inbound marketing certification through HubSpot. As I made my way through the certification modules, one thing I learned about was the concept of your customers’ buyer’s journey.

HubSpot describes the buyer’s journey as the process an individual goes through before purchasing a product or service.

I’m sure you can recall many examples of your own buyer’s journeys. I remember buying my first car, and how long I researched and test drove vehicles before making a decision.

And most recently, I decided that I needed to push my fitness goals, and wanted to use an app to help me make the most out of running.

For both purchases, one being a big purchase and the other not so much, I went through a decision-making process. Although I really didn’t think about it as a “buyer’s journey” at the time, that’s exactly what it was.

The buyer’s journey is defined in three stages: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage.

The Awareness Stage

In the awareness stage, your audience is just figuring out that they have a need or a problem, and they are in research mode.

When I decided I needed to step it up and get in better shape, I researched the best way to get fit and the benefits of running. I’ve been an off and on runner for years, and I’m not consistent because it’s not my favorite form of exercise. I started my research by learning about the benefits of running, the results I could expect from it, and the success other women my age had with it.

At this point in my research, I was just gathering information. I didn’t want to be hit over the head with a complicated case study or an expert guide to try to convince me to run.

I also didn’t want to be overwhelmed, oversold, or forced specific literature about a particular running app.

Like me, your audience in the awareness stage is just starting to research more about their problem or need. Your content at this point should be educational and yes, unspecific to your product or service.

You may want to write an informative blog about your industry, or tell a story about different options to solving your audience’s problem. You could also write a general e-book that contains facts, figures or statistics of your industry that would give them the information they are looking for.

The Consideration Stage

In the consideration stage, your audience’s problems are more clearly defined, and they are trying to learn more about them.

For me, I decided a running app was the way to go, but I was still learning which ones were available. I read about the features each offered to determine what would work best for me. I wanted something that would motivate and push me. But my goal was to improve my endurance and be healthier, not train for a marathon. This helped to narrow down the choices available.

When your audience hits the consideration stage, they are also interested in gathering information in order to solve their problem. They’ve identified they have a need, and now they are researching to figure out the best route to satisfying it. Your content for this stage can be a little more specific, and could include expert guides, videos, podcasts or in depth white papers.

The Decision Stage

When your audience reaches the decision stage, they are choosing among solutions or providers in order to solve their problem.

Once I had narrowed my choices to a few running apps, I read reviews and took note of special offers. I learned the pros and cons, the positives and negatives, and the reported outcomes. I also looked at price.

At this stage, your audience is looking for what you have to offer. This is where writing detailed product reviews or offering sales or free trials could be effective.

It’s okay to “sell” here, because the customers know what they need and are trying to make a decision. And your product or service may be a perfect fit.

So after much research, I made my decision. I took advantage of a free version of a running app that I could upgrade later if I liked it. When I downloaded the free version, I was also offered a 7-day free trial of the upgrade, with no obligation to buy if it didn’t end up being what I was looking for. I’ve been happy with my selection so far. After I’ve had a chance to use the free version, I’m open to accessing additional features by purchasing the upgrade.

Defying the Hard-Sell

The key to crafting engaging content for your audience is to create it for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then you can deliver it when your audience needs it the most.

No one likes to be “sold” to, and that includes me. Nothing turns me off more than when someone launches into their sales pitch before understanding what I’m looking for, or if I even have a need for their product or service. I’ll shut down even if their product is the best invention ever and is exactly what I need.

The best part about creating content for the buyer’s journey is that you don’t have to be that annoying sales person. Instead, you are in the business of educating. You’re providing information that meets them at whatever stage of the process they are in. You become the hero, instead of that pushy sales person everyone runs from.

You are giving your audience the content they need, when they need it.

So when you are trying to figure out what type of content to write for your business, think of your target audience’s buyer’s journey. Brainstorm the types of content your audience will be looking for at each stage. Then place your ideas on an editorial calendar, and make a plan to get it done.

And if you need help, you can always contact me.

 

 

 

 

Building Trust Through Your Content

Rarely do we do business with someone we don’t know or never heard of. Usually, especially if it’s a big purchase, we’ll ask for recommendations from our contacts, testimonials of happy customers, examples of their work, or a satisfaction guarantee. We want to get to know the person or business we’re dealing with. We want to trust them before we make a purchase.

I love Bob Burg’s quote: “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.”. Being liked and being trusted doesn’t happen over night. It takes a lot of work, patience and follow through. There are many ways to build trust, and one of those ways is through your content.

How Does Content Build Trust?

The information you write about your business, your voice and your consistency all contribute to building trust. You can earn and build trust with your customers through:

Your website. When a customer is shopping around for a product or service you sell, one of the first places they will look is your website. They will want to learn more about you, what you offer, and the perceived level of professionalism you portray. They will learn these things through the content on your website. Does your content make sense? Does it speak to them? Does it sound like you are trying to help them, or does it sound like a sales pitch?

Your blog. Potential customers will also learn about your company through a blog. They may find your blog from your website, or they may find it because the topic you have written about comes up in their Google search. Either way, the blog articles you write, if written correctly, will be giving them advice or information related to your product, service or industry. By writing about it and offering information, you gain credibility.

Your email marketing. Your monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly newsletters or e-blasts are another way to build trust. Email marketing is powerful, because if you’ve been given permission to email them or they’ve opted in to your list, your message is sent straight to their email inbox. When these emails offer information that will help them, or offer a promotion of a product they’ve expressed interest in, you build trust.

Your social media. Everyone is on social media today, and it’s important that your business has a presence. Social media offers unique opportunities to connect with your potential customers personally, through likes, comments, shares and direct messaging. But if you’re going to be there, you must commit to it. Unanswered customer comments is like locking your door during business hours – or worse – slamming the door in their face.

Tips for Creating Trusted Content

As you are creating content for your business, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be helpful. Always look for ways to solve a problem in your content.
  • Be knowledgeable. You have industry experience and expertise that your customer’s don’t have, but need. Share it with them through your content. Let them know you know your stuff.
  • Be consistent. Being consistent means doing what you say you are going to do. If you’ve committed to sending out a monthly newsletter, then do it. If your customers expect that you’ll be on social media three times a week, then do it. If your last social media post was dated two years ago, or you suddenly stop sending your monthly emails, your customers may wonder if you’re still in business. Inconsistency casts a shadow of doubt that you don’t want your customers to have.
  • Keep your content updated. Take promotions, sales or events off of your website the day they end. If you’ve hired a new team member, add him or her to your website and remove the person who was replaced. Having outdated information on your website leaves the impression that no one is working, or no one cares that the information is old.

Like any other relationship in your life, building trust with your customers is a process. And creating valuable content gives you the opportunity to earn it. Once you have it, treasure it and grow it. Your business will grow too.

If you need help creating content for your business, please feel free to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Features of Quality Content that Attracts and Engages Your Audience

Have you ever spent hours writing a blog post for your business, only to discover that few people read it?

Have you created and sent out an e-newsletter, then later learned it got an open rate of less than 5%?

In an effort to engage your audience, have you posed a question on social media that no one answered?

If any of these situations have ever happened to you, you are not alone. Creating content that is received well by your intended audience is a challenge, and its not because what you are writing is “not good enough” or “poorly written.” Your content simply has a lot of competition.

Most companies use content marketing as a way to reach their audiences. This means they are pumping out countless articles each day (blog posts, e-blasts, social media updates) in an effort to brand themselves and become perceived as an expert source. You have to compete with all of this content. Your chance of rising above your competition and being noticed by your audience is in the quality of what you create.

So what makes content interesting to your audience? Try making a few simple tweaks to your content by adding the following five attributes:

  1. An attention getting headline. Your headline or title of your content may be short, but it has an important job. Its job is to entice the reader to continue reading. From the headline or title, the reader decides if he or she is interested enough to keep going, hit the delete button or close the browser window. For this reason, the headline or title of your content needs to be interesting, raise curiosity, or ask a question your reader wants the answer to.
  2. A valuable message. The momentum you develop in your headline must continue into the opening paragraphs of your content. Your words should be enticing, and the first few paragraphs should get and keep your audience’s attention. The message you deliver in your content must bring value to your audience. It must be something he or she wants to know more about, or can use to help solve a problem or question they have. Simply writing about your product or service is not enough. You must tell a story of how and why your product is the answer your audience is looking for.
  3. A powerful image. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that saying carries over into your writing. An image, photo, graphic, or infographic goes a long way in not only attracting your audience’s attention, but also keeping it and helping them to remember your content as well.
  4. Readable text. Online readers generally don’t like to read a lot of text. Text-heavy paragraphs on a fuzzy computer screen, a small mobile phone, or a tablet will cause most readers to give up before they really get started. For that reason, you must make your content readable on these platforms. Use short paragraphs, subheadings to break up text, bulleted or numbered lists, bold words, or images and graphics. These make your content easier to skim, allowing your readers to find the information they are looking for quickly.
  5. Call to action. Your call to action is your request or suggestion to your reader to take a particular action. There should be a call to action on every piece of content you write, even if it is just asking them to comment on your post or sign up for your email list. Having a call to action helps you identify your target audience, because those that take you up on it are showing they are interested in furthering their relationship with you and learning more about your business.

So the next time you are writing content for your business, refer to the attributes above and incorporate them in to your writing. Getting your audience’s attention, delivering readable, valuable content, and encouraging them to take an action will increase your engagement, and turn your audience into long term, loyal customers.

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image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4460976042/