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Taking Your Blog To The Next Level

It doesn’t take much to set up a blog on your website. It is quite a bit more difficult to find someone who knows how to write well for the media and do it with consistency, thoroughness and accuracy.

 

The real challenge comes when you discover how to use blogging as the actual tool it is meant to be, (1) to help you become easier to find on Google and (2) improve reader engagement on social media. After all, a great blog can be the ticket to change a passive reader to become an active loyal customer.

 

So how do you go from “let’s start blogging,” to attracting a devoted following and seeing search results tick steadily upward?

 

At Focal Point, we’ve been blogging for years. We’re here to tell you that nothing happens overnight. Even the best blogs take time and practice before getting noticed for the right reasons.

 

That said, we do have a few suggestions for you to help that search curve trend upward a little faster:

  • Research what your blog competitors are saying. Read their stuff and do a little analysis. What are they writing about? Who is writing their blogs (First person? Guest bloggers? Testimonials?)
  • Blogging is an extension of you – your brand. Is your brand just one thing, seen in only one way? Of course not. Be open to how you are blogging. There is a lot to be learned from bloggers in related industries. Consider hiring a guest blogger (or even a customer) now and again.
  • Apply writing or research strategies from other successful blogs into your own. How do they structure their blogs? Listen to their voice and identify their writing style.
  • Make sure your blog personality matches your readers’. Folksy and down-to-earth or technical and savvy, humorous or full of breaking news. If you know your readers, you’ll know what they want to hear and more importantly, how they want to hear it.
  • Once you have done your research, fine-tune your blog style. So, even if you occasionally use a guest blogger, your usual reader can tell the blog is your blog.

 

Nobody likes criticism, but –

Once you have figured out how you are writing and what you want to say, make sure you use the services of a keen editor. It’s rare to find a writer than can also edit his or her own work.

 

If you are blogging for your own company, this goes double. You may believe you know how to reach your customers, and think you know how to write effectively. But – be open to the idea that you may be wrong about both A and B.

 

You need thick skin. Ask others you trust to look at and check your work before you send it out. This is a terrific opportunity to get some open and honest feedback about your work. Accepting constructive criticism from others about structure, flow and style is the best way to learn from mistakes, tighten up your content and get better at what you write.

 

Lastly, don’t stop.

 

It takes awhile for your blog site to do its job. If after posting multiple blogs, you (or your corporate blogger) find you cannot consistently produce good blogs, hire someone to do that for you.

 

We hear from companies all the time with the best intentions that let their blogging ‘voice’ go by the wayside. They leave their (dated) blogs out on the website and let them die there – showing the world they gave up. And really, that’s the last thing you want your potential clients to think of you – that you stopped caring.

 

Blogging does take time and energy. It does take awhile to produce results. Do it anyway. Sometimes that means hiring a seasoned blogging professional, like us. We can help you find your ‘voice,’ achieve consistency and get the search results you want.

 

Shall we talk?

How Do Folks Respond To Your Marketing Efforts?

According to business guru Seth Godin, marketing efforts can be separated into two very different categories (https://seths.blog/2018/08/two-kinds-of-marketing/).

 

He divides marketing and advertising into those that inspire, delight and provide something we want – versus the kind that potential clients positively hate, such as interruptive popups, spam, high-pressure overtures, and overpriced hype.

 

Here at Focal Point, we couldn’t agree more. We frequently scratch our heads over pricey marketing campaigns we see that miss their mark because they over-promise, hit too hard, look like everyone else, or fail to leave a lasting positive impression.

 

There are all kinds of ways to attract new eyes to products and services. So why be offensive and in-your-face to gain attention when you can generate interest, enthusiasm and good will with marketing that is noticeably different.

 

As Godin says, “The selfish marketer is marketing at us, trading money for attention to sell average (or below average) products to disinterested people. The successful marketer is marketing with us and for us.”

 

If the end goal is strictly improving sales numbers, then getting your name out in front of people – no matter how its done – might well justify the means. But if you are interested in creating goodwill around your business and products, your goal is more long-term. You want repeat business and perhaps even (depending on your business) creating customers for life.

 

This means giving your audience something they can trust. Marketing that is believable and respectful, delivered in a way that is effective, responsible and memorable.

 

This type of marketing is tricky to get just right. But when it is, you know it and your customers know it. It hits the mark and leaves a smile or a good impression.

 

So how do folks respond to your present marketing efforts? If you don’t know for sure, or feel you might be heading in the wrong direction, we have some delightful examples we’d enjoy sharing with you.

Dare To Defy Convention

Who comes to mind when you think about marketing strategies that defied convention?

 

  • Steven Jobs with Apple
  • Certainly the Volkswagen print ads of the 60s
  • Old Spice “The man your man could smell like” TV commercials
  • Proctor & Gamble’s “Thank you, moms” Olympics video
  • Dos Equis “The world most interesting man” campaign
  • Dove’s print series for “Real beauty”

 

You probably can picture each of these. They were memorable for breaking the rules. They gained recognition because they defied conventional marketing in some way. They looked at things differently. Or said or did the unexpected.

 

Taking the unbeaten path rather than the quick route is liberating. But that’s because you take a risk in saying, doing or picturing something in a very different way.

 

Turning the usual on its head, so to speak, is energizing. It’s also risky. After all, you could get it wrong.

 

For all the campaigns listed above, chances are very good that there were multiple tries for each strategy that didn’t work. That missed the mark. Those that worked found the sweet spot of heartfelt sincerity, as in P&G’s “Thank you” video. Or said something quirky and completely over the top, as in Old Spice and Dos Equis. Or questioned our values very visually, as Dove did. And of course Apple famously turned everything on its head, from innovation to marketing.

 

How can you get off of the safe and reliable path and onto producing marketing materials that are memorable and get talked about?

 

The easy answer is “take the unexpected route” with something that is funny, off beat, brilliant, or charming. Of course, how to get there is a whole different story.

 

The good news is that it is less expensive than ever to use social media to explore what works and what doesn’t. Shooting and editing video is more direct and faster than ever before. You can tweet a new tag line out and get immediate feedback before launching an expensive campaign.

 

Technology has made defying convention a breeze. You just need to be able to stop taking the safe route, take a deep breath, and open up to the possibility of different.

 

Marshall McLuhan said, “Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities.”

 

Question why you are presenting your services and goods in the way you are. Talk about the strangely curious aspects of your widgets. Invite different folks to your marketing table and gain new insight.

Then apply this new thinking to everything you do, from sales strategies to HR, product innovation to marketing new categories.

 

So — yes, project and reflect your organization’s values in unexpected, irreverent, exuberant, thoughtful, wild, and colorful ways. Why not? Taking an unexpected route just may open up a whole new path for you, your customers and your organization.

The Heartbreak Of Website Ennui

It’s listed on your business cards. Your url is out there. You put a lot of thought (and blood and emotion) into your website. It might even be nice looking and get a few hits. That is, as far as you know. Chances are good that you’ve sort of forgotten about that website in the – what’s it been now, two years? – (wait? Has it really been more than three years?) — since you launched it.

 

It’s really easy to let your website get dusty.

 

But here’s the thing. When your website offers nothing new of interest, with no recent blogs, updates, news releases, or fresh visuals, it gives the strong impression that your company also doesn’t have much of anything fresh or exciting to offer.

 

Don’t let website ennui happen to you, your organization, and your brand. If it’s been awhile since you considered freshening your site, consider how many Apple iPhone updates there have been since your website went live.

 

Cell phone screen sizes have been changing rapidly, and many bells and whistles have been added. People have become more tech savvy. That means they ask more from the websites they visit, too. Your site needs to download lightening-fast, be incredibly visual, graphic, and most of all, easy to navigate, whether you’re visiting via laptop, smart phone, or company desktop.

 

Of course, your website also needs to be secure. Even if you like the way your site looks and it still gets lots of positive feedback, it what’s behind the scenes isn’t up to snuff, your site and a whole lot of important information on it could easily get hacked.

 

The good news is that updating a website has gotten a lot easier to do. You won’t need to assemble an overview committee of ten or pull resources from next quarter’s bonuses.

 

In fact, you can actually start the ball rolling with phone call and a meeting with us. We can tell you what can be tweaked to bring your SEO up to speed, make your site safer and more secure, easier to navigate, or even easier to find.

 

After we meet, you can decide if you want to update a little or a lot.

Begin with the most important stuff, and do the rest in chunks that fit your time, energy, interests, and budget.

 

Trust us, a little change will do you — and your website — a lot of good.

Projecting Competence AND Warmth In Your Marketing

When anyone, company or individual, makes a purchase decision, that choice is based on a perception of product or service competence (credibility) as well as image (likeability).

 

We all readily accept that first premise. (We’re making decisions based on facts, right?) It’s the second one we sometimes have a hard time believing. After all, who needs warmth from a Samsung refrigerator? Don’t we just look at all the product’s features, then compare the Samsung to all the other brands, weigh in cost, and make the most rational cost-to-benefit determination?

 

Nope, not according to market psychoanalysts.

 

“In deciding whether to trust a company or brand, we weigh both competence and warmth,” say coauthors Maurice Schweitzer and Adam Galinsky in their book Friend and Foe, When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both.

 

“That means, according to Schweitzer and Galinsky, “people choosing a new product, service or brand are asking:

  • Does this (refrigerator) have the ability to get the job done?
  • Does (Samsung) have my best interests at heart?”

 

It makes sense when you think about it. When you take in any kind of advertising or marketing, you are “meeting” a company and their product. You are rating them in terms of competence for sure. But you are also swayed by your emotions.

 

Schweitzer and Galinsky say there are two elements at work here:

 

  • Credibility – the content of your marketing material shows you’re the subject matter expert (SME) they’ve been seeking, and
  • Reliability – you’ve helped clients and customers “just like them” many times before and you’re familiar with their needs and concerns.

 

So, even if you’ve worked hard to come across as the most brilliant and knowledgeable of providers in your niche, you still need to pass the “warmth” test.

 

Seeking that obvious warmth quotient is why so many ads employ likeable jingles, or warm and fuzzy family scenarios, or dogs in their commercials. But its also reflected less overtly, such as when your social media presents your organization and your employees as “real people”, with a passion for serving in your field (such as in blogs, Tweets, and other forms of social connection.)

 

Interestingly, sometimes that warmth can come through when you show your audience your own human failures as well as your successes, according to Friend and Foe. Humor does the same thing. Both methods can be a good point of connection – which is a big part of warmth.

 

So, ask yourself this question:

As business owners/marketers in today’s high-speed, click-on-it, research online, ADHD world, are you sure your marketing content demonstrates to online searchers that you are not only terrific at what you do, but you are also considerably warmer than your competition?

Help! How Do I Come Up With Ideas For My Editorial Calendar?

An editorial calendar is great. It’s definitely one of a content marketer’s most useful tools http://focalpoint.co/5-great-reasons-to-set-up-an-editorial-content-calendar.  But before you can start filling out your editorial calendar for social media, tying it to your over-arching marketing themes, you’ll need some content ideas.

The good news is that this can be a whole lot of fun. You can either brainstorm on your own or better, with your team. Team not particularly filled with creative types? No worries. As long as they know the products and your customers inside and out, they will be just fine at this.

Schedule a team brainstorm

Here’s how:

• Gather your marketing stakeholders for a brainstorming session. Include those from marketing as well as SMEs (subject matter experts) from other departments.

• Use analytics. Determine what annual or special occurrences are important for your audience and determine how far in advance that audience might be interested in that information.

• To make sure your brainstorming session will be productive, structure it with an agenda. (We find it helpful to send out our meeting agenda in advance. Some folks find it easy to brainstorm on the spot; others prefer to let ideas percolate.)

• Begin by walking everyone attending through your editorial calendar, paying attention to seasonal dates, product introductions and key cycles for your business.

• Dedicate 10 or 15 minutes to brainstorm content for each calendar section, period, or cycle.

• Make sure there’s a place to record ideas where everyone can see them (whiteboard, sticky notes, or a live working document projected in the meeting room).

• Good rule: There are no bad ideas. Seemingly odd, funny or off-beat ideas are great vehicles from which to spin off truly great ideas!

• Once everyone has shared, group together similar ideas.

• Create a dedicated place to store your ideas (no matter how half-baked they are!) You never know when you can use them – or in what ways.

• Finally, pare down to the best ideas, then move ahead.

• See which story and or media ideas work well with others and pair them up.

• Assign teams or individuals to complete various concepts and ideas during each cycle.

The more you and your organization stays up-to-date with publications in your industry, general news, and the topics that your customers most care about, the better your ideas and spin-off ideas.

Have fun!