Monday, March 25, 2013

7 Tactics to Get More People to Read Your Content


Author's note: This post is part of a series on the content marketing process. Previous posts in the series covered define, plan, budget, website elements and content creation. We also wrote an overview article (no registration required) that shows how to use content marketing to sell to HR.

Creating a great piece of content doesn't guarantee success in content marketing. Sure, it helps a lot, but you still have a lot of work in front of you.

It's crucial that you get your content, whether it’s a white paper or an e-book or a number of other possibilities, in front of your target audiences. Putting your content up on your website and doing nothing else doesn't cut it. Fortunately, there are many ways to spread the word about your content.


Here are seven tactics you should at least consider using:

1. Direct email marketing: Send an email campaign about your content. It’s a quick way to reach large groups of potential buyers, and content emails tend to fare well, much better than those for product announcements, for example.

Factors in success: A. The size, quality and engagement level of your list(s). B. The quality of your subject line and email. C. The level of interest in your topic.

Tips: http://www.copyblogger.com/email-marketing/

2. Blogging: Blog posts are a type of content, but also a marketing tactic. Writing blog posts on topics or sections of your content piece, then linking to your content or its landing page, is a great way to get your content in front of more people.

Factors in success: A. The amount and quality of traffic your blog receives. B. The quality of the blog post and its headline. C. How much and by whom your post gets shared on social.

Tips: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/content-marketing-made-easy-7-blog-post-formats-you-can-copy/57390/

3. Search-optimized news releases: Send out a news release in hopes of getting picked up by websites and publications, and make it search-optimized so that your release comes up in search results.

Factors in success: A. How newsworthy your topic is. B. How much other online content uses the same keywords. C. The quality of your press release distribution service. D. Whether your release is syndicated on popular sites. 

Tips: http://www.highervisibility.com/blog/top-5-seo-tips-for-press-releases/

4. Media placements: Pitch the topic in your content to media outlets. Either give them the content to modify into an article, or write the article yourself.

Factors in success: A. How newsworthy your topic is. B. The quality of your content. C. The quality and quantity of the readership of the media outlets where you place articles.

Tips: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/how-to-pitch-6-things-you-must-know.html

5. Online advertising: You’ve probably noticed that certain ads related to your marketplace tend to follow you around when you’re online. You can use these targeted ads to offer access to your content to people in targeted demographics. Another method is to advertise on particular sites that are popular among your desired audience.

Factors in success: A. The level of targeting. B. The popularity and demographics of the sites where you advertise. C. How eye-catching and easy to read your advertisement is. D. The clarity level of your call to action/request for download.

Tips: http://www.d3webdesigns.com/targeted-advertising.html

6. Podcasts: Interview or chat with a social influencer on subjects related to your content. It’s a great way to develop relationships with people who can help spread the word about your content and your company. Plus, podcast listeners tend to be highly engaged.

Factors in success: A. The level of interest in your topic. B. How well you market the podcast. C. The quality and quantity of the audience that the social influencer will help bring to the podcast.

Tips: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/07/podcasting-101-for-content-marketers/

7. Social Media: We’re saving a big one for last. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. are great ways to expand the reach of your content and your ideas. 

Factors in success: A. The size and quality of your social media network. B. How well you use social media strategies such as hashtags and promoted posts to reach people outside your network. C. The level of interest in your topic. D. How often your content gets shared and the size of the networks of the people who share it.

Tips: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2012/10/31/6-ways-brands-build-trust-through-social-media/

Ultimately, the goal is to reach a large, quality audience, so how successful these tactics will be for your content marketing depends largely on the size and quality of the audience you can reach with them.

This is not surprising, but it brings us to an important point. A great way for content marketers to have more success over time is to develop their ability to take full advantage of these tactics. This means, for example, working to improve email lists and to expand social media networks. Different people access content in different ways, so you need to use a variety of tactics to maximize your content's readership. 

A few ideas for improving your tactic capabilities:

1. Create/rent better email lists
2. Regularly update your blog
3. Make developing a social media network a priority 
4. Develop relationships with social influencers in your niche
5. Develop relationships with key editors/reporters

A great thing about improving your tactic capabilities is that these tactics begin reinforcing themselves. For example, if you develop a strong social media network, your blog will get more traffic, provided you share your posts on your social sites.

That wraps up tactics. Next, we’ll look into measuring the results of your content marketing, the final step of the process, but one that also marks a new beginning.



Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Mix Premium and Supporting Content (and Why it Better Be Good)


it’s time to get serious — kind of.

In our series on the content marketing process, we’ve already written about the first two steps:

1. Define, plan, budget
2. Website elements

Both are vital for success, but Step 3 is content creation, and this is where your money will be made or lost, but it also can be fun. Just make sure you do it well. Here’s why:

  • Quality content helps drive traffic to your website and establish thought leadership, both of which boost sales.


  • Having no content is better than having lousy content. Just as good content reflects well on your company, lousy content makes your company look bad. If your content sucks or is mediocre, people won’t engage with you and might even be less likely to buy your product(s).

If you don’t have the will or the ability to create quality content in house, either don’t bother trying or find an agency to do the work for you.

Let’s assume that you decide to go ahead with content creation. It’s vital to understand that it’s best to think of content in two categories: premium content and supporting content. Premium content is material that requires registration (usually name and email address) in exchange for access. Supporting content does not require registration.


There has been some debate about premium and supporting content. The principal argument for keeping content free (not requiring registration) is more people will consume and spread your content. David Meerman Scott did research indicating a 50:1 ratio in downloads in free vs. premium content — e.g. a behind-a-form offer that got 1,000 downloads would get 50,000 downloads if not behind a form. The argument for premium content is you need leads. There is no way to track, qualify or nurture leads if you don’t have at least a name and an email address.

We choose to take both sides. That is, you should do both, and mix premium and supporting content. You need premium content to acquire leads, and you need supporting content to increase your audience and for lead nurturing. There isn’t one perfect mix — the mix is something to experiment with — but generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have more supporting content than premium content. Here are five reasons why:

1. It takes just one piece of premium content to acquire a lead, but it takes multiple pieces of supporting content to properly nurture a lead and earn a sales discussion. (By the way, if you want to drive someone away, have a sales person call them right after they first download a piece of your premium content. Works almost every time!)

2. Many supporting content pieces don’t require as many resources to produce. You take the time to research and create a large premium content piece, and then can modify, rework and add to the material to create a variety of supporting pieces.

3. A series of blog posts, an example of supporting content, can serve to promote your premium content. After you write a premium content piece, it’s a good idea to write 3-5 blog posts that link to the landing page.

4. Producing quality supporting content will help your premium content get more downloads. A registration form is a barrier to entry, but if people love supporting content you’ve written, they will be more likely to fill out a form.

5. Supporting content is more shareable on social. People generally don’t link to landing pages on social; social shares of your supporting content expand your reach.

In the graphic above, you can see examples of content types that are most often used as premium content and supporting content. Any content type, however, can be either premium content or supporting content. That said, we don’t recommend putting your blog posts and infographics behind a registration page, since people aren’t used to having to register to view them and because both benefit heavily from social shares.

In closing, while it’s important to create quality content, you won’t be perfect from the start, and there is a lot of experimentation. At the very least, you should create a quality content piece and have a regularly updated blog, but also consider creating an infographic, writing an article or holding a webinar. See what works and what doesn’t, then learn, adjust and try again.

Of course, creating content isn’t the end of the process. Our next post on the process will be on tactics to promote your content, including things like email marketing, news releases and social media. Then we will conclude with measurement, which will help you make adjustments, so that your content marketing will get better and better over time.



Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.



Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Promote Company Benefits for Better Recruiting


This guest blog contribution comes from Business.com's Erica Bell.

Job seekers want to work for the best companies. These companies allow employees to grow as individuals while contributing to overall development of the business. These companies often offer great benefits. While the perks of being an employee will vary from company to company, no one can deny that the benefits of each company factor into their decision of where they accept an offer. In one survey, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that nearly one-third (31%) of businesses use their benefits programs to recruit highly skilled employees. Don’t be left out. Promote your benefits for better recruiting.

Social Media

Without selling, you can share information on social networks about the benefits your business offers through employment branding. Some companies match contributions to 401(k) plans, while others have successful office happy hours. Today’s society is connected; smartphones, tablets, and social networks are just a few of the reasons why. If your business has a stronger social presence, chances are that the perfect candidate is following your business on these networks, especially after they see a job posting online. By sharing benefits information, such as quarterly company outings, when tweeting open positions, you’re sharing attention-grabbing information that can attract top talent. Employment branding is similar to business branding. Use social media in such a way that when applicants think of your business, they don’t just see the business brand, but instead think of the employment brand and what being a part of your team means. 

Job Postings

People are concerned about healthcare benefits the most, according to SHRM and Monster, as well as retirement and savings plans and vacation time. If your business has benefits in these areas, you can include that information to appeal to more people. While this type of information isn’t as social as office happy hours and company outings, it is valuable to job seekers and should be included with your job postings. High-quality candidates are hard to attract and recruit, so it’s up to your job postings to catch their attention. While a description of the position and qualifications needed for the job can weed out some candidates, you can catch the eyes of top talent by including information about benefits your business offers. 

Interviews

If your social media subtleties and job posting propositions have led to an in-person interview with top talent, make sure you make the most of the opportunity in front of you. Just as job seekers want to find great companies, your business wants to find great new hires. When it comes to interviews, don’t hold back on the potential benefits candidates can receive. You don’t want your top prospects going to another company because you failed to ingrain the perks of being an employee at your company. In your interviews, make sure to note what employees will be eligible for and when. This could be the final push in their decision.

It is your company culture and benefits that will make an employee want to stay, especially when it is a less-than-rare position. The benefits your business offers, which contribute to culture, need to be promoted on social networks, job postings and interviews as a distinguishing factor. These things can set your business above others in the job seeker’s eyes. If you want to recruit the best, your benefits can help.

Author Bio: Erica Bell is a web copywriter for Business.com. She covers a range of topics including social recruiting and HR software solutions. Find Business.com on Google+.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Website nuts and bolts. Don’t screw your content marketing by not having them!


“Nuts and bolts. Nuts and bolts. We got screwed!!!”

So goes a derisive chant fans make to basketball referees after a perceived bad call.

Today, let’s talk about some other nuts and bolts, the website elements you need in place to not only maximize the reach and visibility of your content marketing, but to also make it a huge driver in your sales process. In other words, you need these elements, at least some of them, to turn content into dollars. Indelicately put, if you don’t have most of these nuts and bolts, you’ll be the one who’s screwed.

Before we break down the individual elements, it’s important to note this post is the third part of a series on the content marketing process, and we also wrote a cool overview article, “Content Marketing: The Best Way to Reach Today’s HR Buyer” (no registration required), detailing why content marketing is the best way to engage and and influence HR so you earn the right to discuss how you may do business together. There is some information in it that we’re not including in this blog post series, so we suggest you check it out.

We started the series with an overview of the process, before getting into the nitty-gritty with  “Define, Plan, Budget.” That first step in the process is to define your brand, develop a content marketing plan and come up with a realistic content marketing budget. If you haven’t done those things, go check out that post, then come back here. For the rest of you, let’s begin the big reveal of website elements:


  • Buyer persona research: The concept of buyer personas is vital to understand for inbound marketing, a category that includes content marketing. The idea is pretty simple: All those wonderful people who potentially would be interested in giving you money for your product(s) can be put into a few different categories based on different pain points and other factors. You flesh each category into a persona — you can even give the personas names — then target your marketing and sales to the specific personas. For content marketing, this means you should write content for specific personas, both for your lead generation and lead nurturing processes (more on these later). One company reported a targeted persona strategy lifted their sales leads 124 percent. To determine your buyer personas, an excellent tool is Hubspot’s “Persona Development Worksheet.” 
           
  • Keyword list: You need people to find your website and your content, right? To maximize your visibility, research keywords and habitually put them into your content and on your website. As noted in Copyblogger’s keyword research guide, choosing “the right words” is critical. A quote: “Choose the right words, and you’ll receive traffic, subscribers, revenue, influence… everything you need to be a success. Choose the wrong words, and you’ll be just another nobody that doesn’t get it, forever clamoring for attention but forever ignored.” A caveat: It’s important that when you choose keywords you choose ones that you can rank highly for; there’s no value in being on page 200 of search results.

  • Search-optimized copywriting: While it’s important to use keywords, again referencing Copyblogger, “much of what determines the ranking position of any page is due to what happens off the page, in the form of links from other sites … Put simply: If your content isn’t good enough to attract good, natural links, it doesn’t matter how 'optimized' that content is.” So, you need writers who know how to use keywords and to write compelling content that not only attracts your buyer personas, but also generates links from other content creators.

  • Call-to-action buttons: When people visit your site, you want them to take action. You get them to do this with call-to-action buttons. For content marketing, a common CTA is a download. Minor changes in CTA buttons can dramatically affect conversion rates, so let’s talk best practices. According to Onboardly, there are four elements to consider with CTA buttons: color, shape, placement and message. Color: connect your aesthetics to your core brand (except never use red, which often stops people from clicking). Shape: rounded corners work best. Placement: make sure your CTA is visible and distinct. Message: tell people what they get (“get your free whitepaper”), so they feel in control, instead of ordering them around (“download”), in which case they might be more resistant.

  • Landing pages/lead collection: For content marketing, landing pages are used to capture leads. A landing page, sometimes referred to as a registration page, consists of a registration form and a short description of what people get in exchange for filling it out. In content marketing, people receive major content pieces, such as white papers, e-books, research reports and webinars. Typically, people are asked for their name and email address; you can choose to request more information, but doing so can reduce registrants. See Unbounce for a great list of landing page tips, and for a larger guide, see Hubspot’s e-book “Optimizing Landing Pages for Lead Generation and Conversion."

  • Thank-you pages: As Hubspot noted, after a person fills out a registration form and becomes an instant new lead, you should always send them to a thank-you’ page, which delivers the content you promised on the landing page. The four most important components of a thank-you page, according to Hubspot, are access to your offer, social media sharing links, secondary calls-to-action and auto-response emails. Access to your offer: Reassure people they are on the right page by including the title of the offer in the title of your thank-you page, then provide a means to download or view your content. Social media sharing links: People are more likely to share your content after having consumed it, but make sure your share buttons link to your landing page, not your thank-you page, or you will lose out on lead generation. Secondary calls-to-action: Offer further offers, such as subscribing to your blog, other content they might be interested in, or perhaps a free trial. People who take this secondary step show more engagement with your brand, and thus are better leads than those who don’t. Auto-response emails: Set up automatic emails to provide more offers, which is another way of increasing engagement and evaluating/nurturing leads.

  • CRM integration and lead tracking: Once someone has filled out a registration form and become a lead, it’s important to track their activities on your site. Software options such as Hubspot and Marketo do this. By tracking the pages they visit, you get a good idea of leads’ level of interest in your brand and products, which is a precursor for effective lead nurturing, which, not coincidentally, is the next element on our list.

  • Nurturing campaigns: A few stats: MarketingSherpa: 65 percent of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing. Forrester Research: Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales leads at 33 percent lower cost. The Annuitas Group: Nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. Clearly, lead nurturing is important. The challenge of lead nurturing is it requires having enough supporting (aka no registration required) content (articles, case studies, blog posts, infographics, etc.) to send to leads. Essentially, your lead nurturing in content marketing should consist of distributing content that establishes and supports your value proposition, and also addresses potential sticking points. That way, leads become more receptive to sales discussions. For advanced lead nurturing, vary the content depending on the persona.

And those are the website elements that will help you maximize your success with content marketing. You can choose to create and maintain them on your own, but there are also a number of vendors, such as Hubspot and Salesforce, that can help you with different aspects. This is important stuff. Doing it well and doing it poorly can be the difference between success and failure. Don’t let a lack of website elements, or poorly executed ones, be the undoing of your content marketing.

Next up in our discussion on the content marketing process will be content, split into two categories, premium (registration required) and supporting (no registration required). Content is obviously the foundation of the process, so if you liked this post, you’ll probably want to check it out.


Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Marketing lessons from Elvis, a flashy T-shirt and TalentNet Live

 ELVIS and Katrina (with her LED T-shirt)
View more photos of the party here
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I attended my first TalentNet Live Interactive Conference last week with HRmarketer CEO Mark Willaman. We helped sponsor the event, and came away very impressed. The conference took place in downtown Austin, Texas, at a bar/restaurant during SXSW, which added energy, creativity and fun to the experience.

What do an Elvis impersonator and wearing a daring T-shirt have in common?


So here I am at TalentNet Live in Austin — at Dice’s Wanna be a Rockstar conference after-party. I’m sporting my LED T-shirt. Picture this if you can, the shirt is all black except for a green Statue of Liberty. There are bright bars of light that pulse to the beat of the music. Sometimes the bars are at the base of the Statue of Liberty, and sometimes they shine through to her torch.

“Elvis” is also at the party. A polyester-clad guy who sings a song or two, but mostly is going around and posing with the likes of me. 

I don’t know about Elvis — but my pulsating Statue of Liberty is a hit — I’m getting “great shirt” and thumbs up from across the room.

So what do Elvis and I have in common with the rest of the attendees at TalentNet Live?. 

We are both about getting noticed. And it turns out, to attract the talent you want, you need to put yourself (or your company) out there and you need to have people remember you.

That’s what the daylong conference was all about — using creative, social-savvy strategies to spark interest in an employer brand, get noticed and attract talent. The attendees were a lively bunch: a nice mix of outside recruiters and recruiters within companies, solution providers and media/analysts/influencers. Everyone came looking for new strategies to source, attract and engage talent, and the presenters brought the goods.

Speakers we listened to included:

I venture no one left disappointed. I know I didn’t, but here’s what I took away.

You have a choice as marketers. Play it safe — or go a little farther. Put yourself out there. Put your company out there. Show the personality of your brand. Get noticed.


It works. 




Post written by Fisher Vista / HRmarketer team member Katrina Busselle.

Monday, March 11, 2013

3 Questions You Must Answer to Succeed at Content Marketing


When you build a house, it’s vital to start with a good foundation. But even before you lay the foundation, you need to have a plan and a reasonable budget. Otherwise, the house probably won’t turn out well, or you’ll never finish it.

The same principles apply to content marketing. Before you start, you need to do some thinking, planning and budgeting. Failing to do so sets you up for disappointment.

Here are the three big questions you need to answer: 

DEFINE: What does my brand stand for, and how does it differentiate itself from competitors?
PLAN: What are my goals for my marketing, and what’s my plan for achieving them?
BUDGET: What is a realistic budget to achieve my goals?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to begin laying the foundation (creating the website infrastructure) for the content marketing process. For an overview of the process, see the graphic below and our article “Content Marketing: The Best Way to Reach Today’s HR Buyer” (no registration required).

First, let’s briefly go through Define, Plan, Budget one-by-one.

DEFINE

To succeed in content marketing, you need to have something to say, a point of view.

Your brand can’t have a point of view if you don’t know what your brand stands for. That’s why the first requirement in content marketing is to have a defined brand; it’s also important that as you define your brand that you differentiate it from your competitors.

“My product is cool” is not a point of view as far as content marketing is concerned, as content marketing shouldn’t be overly promotional (you want to maximize readership among potential buyers). Your point of view, however, might be related to what your product would help potential customers do. A firm that offers big data solutions, for example, could focus their content marketing on the benefits of big data.

For help in defining your brand, see these resources:
- Hubspot's “The Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Strong Brand Identity” 
- Entrepreneur's “The Basics of Branding” 
- Inc's “2 Simple Keys to Define Your Brand”

PLAN

You probably have come across the following quote by businessman and author Harvey Mackay: “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

It’s important advice for content marketers to follow. The plan does not need to be overly specific, but you need to set goals and determine how you plan to reach them. If you fail to set goals, you don’t know when you’ve succeeded or failed. If you fail to determine a plan, then reaching any goals you have will be by accident.

There are a number of goals you can set. For example, you could attempt to increase your page views by a certain percentage or to get a certain number of sales leads.

Once you set those goals, you then can make a plan to meet them. How many content pieces, blog posts, etc. will I need to reach those goals? What tactics do I need to invest in?

Of course, even if you have a plan, your results may or may not reach your goals. But having goals and a plan allows you to make strategic adjustments.

For you visual learners, check out Smart Insights' great infographic on creating a B2B marketing plan.

BUDGET

Having a plan is also crucial for budgeting.

We recently wrote about how many companies determine an overall marketing budget in an arbitrary fashion, when they should instead use an evidence-based five-question process to come up with a realistic budget.

The first step in that process was determining an overall revenue goal. After that, the questions worked backward to figure out the marketing costs that would allow you to reach that goal.

We recommend a similar process for determining a content marketing budget. Begin with your goals for your content marketing. Then figure out what content and tactics you need to put resources into to reach those goals. Lastly, figure out what the content/tactics will cost.

Ultimately, don’t expect that you can just set aside a random dollar figure and expect to reach your goals. If you fail to establish a realistic content marketing budget, you will never reach your goals.

COMING UP

Once you have defined your brand, come up with a marketing plan and implemented a reasonable budget, you have completed step 1 of the content marketing process. We will go over the other four steps in upcoming posts, with website infrastructure (vital for lead acquisition and nurturing) next in the series.



Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.