Monthly Archives: October 2010

How to Build a Content Bridge

I am taking it for granted that the service you offer is excellent. It’s of the very highest quality, in fact it’s the best of its kind.

And yet, you don’t have the public profile you’d like.

You want to be known as the first port of call for this product or service but you’re not in the market for a hugely expensive national ad campaign and you’re running out of fresh ideas for media news releases.

This is where social media and content marketing can come to your aid.

You don’t have to beg the media to write about you or engage in hugely expensive ad campaigns because now you can communicate directly with your audience yourself.

Many people already blog and use Twitter to connect directly with potential customers, but you could go one step further and build a content bridge.

In the form of a website or blog, separate from anything you might already do as a company, a content bridge is a place where you and your audience can meet on relatively neutral territory. It is a stepping stone towards the service that  ultimately you want them to buy.

So, for example, if you are a society of butchers and your aim is to sell more meat, then your content bridge will be a website where people can get advice on the best way to cook cuts of meat, to exchange recipes and to chat about issues to do with the product.

As the host, you are in a position to provide expertise – after all, your members know everything there is to know about the subject and can afford to be generous with their knowledge.

When your customer decides that it is time to buy (and that may not be for some time) you can put her in touch with a wonderful supplier. It is up to you to make that process as simple and obvious as possible, when the time is right.

The content bridge can work for anyone – you don’t have to be an umbrella organisation, you could be a solo butcher or baby food supplier or dressmaker or school. As long as you are discussing your area of expertise, sharing information of value and engaging with potential customers, you are set fair to win in the long run.

You will need to let people know you exist and you can publicise your content bridge on Twitter, by guest blogging on related sites and via the established media. 

The important thing is that your bridge exists, to carry and guide people towards your service, which you have already told me is the very best of its kind.

Why You Need To Act Now In An “Always On” World

Have you heard of David Meerman Scott?

He specialises in real-time marketing and talks about it on his blog Web Ink Now

His main point is that we live in an “Always On” world. We encounter opportunities all day long as we meet people and  interact via social media and as a result we need to be fleet-footed and flexible enough to seize those chances whenever they appear. Waiting to run ideas past the board is going to cost you dear in the “Always On” world.

As someone with a background in 24 hour news, this makes perfect sense. If a story drops on the newswires you need to check it, verify it and broadcast it as soon as possible, because if you don’t, another channel will.

News did not always move this fast. There was a time when a journalist in the BBC Radio Newsroom would be given one story to write first thing in the morning, which would not be due on air until 6.0 clock that night. He or she would literally have nothing else to do all day and consequently could afford to spend a good part of it in the pub.

By the time I came along, news bulletins were every half an hour. This meant that if a story broke we could actually broadcast it then and there instead of waiting until the next major bulletin, which could be some hours away.

In his book “Real-time marketing and PR” David Meerman Scott exhorts us to both live and respond in the here and now. There’s no point sitting around scratching your head about an opportunity that comes your way. You need to respond instantaneously and have the clearance and the confidence of your boss/clients to do that.

This means listening to conversations online to find out what is current  and acting on it – engaging the media about what they are going to write, not what they have already written – and using your social media relationships to make the most of all opportunities.

In a world which is always on can you afford not to be first with the news ?

Forward Motion Linchpin Style

Last time you were here we talked about momentum and how to build it into your business. Then by pure chance I started reading Seth Godin’s book Linchpin and came across this passage.

Imagine an organisation with an employee who can accurately see the truth, understand the situation, and understand the potential outcome of various decisions. And now imagine that this person is also able to make something happen…..This is our marketer, our leader, our linchpin. She creates forward motion.

Wow. She sounds like the very person we’ve been looking for.

Of course she is you and me and all of us potentially.

This is what Seth Godin is about. He wants his readers to break out of the 9-5 mindset, of simply showing up and taking the pay cheque, embracing instead a new reality in which your ideas matter and leadership can be learned by all.

 As freelancers or small business owners, most of us are already there. You don’t get new clients by simply showing up at your desk every day, especially if your desk is at home! Solopreneurs already have to be the marketer and the thought leader. We must be our own linchpins or the whole thing would collapse.

So I am enjoying Seth Godin’s ideas, but I have a problem with his appraisal of today’s economy. He reckons that only those who give exceptional value will prevail and that the market is too tight to carry dead weights.

 Perhaps that’s the case on paper but I  know of big organisations like the BBC where people are trapped in jobs that don’t fulfill them but they are not getting swept away just yet. They keep showing up for work despite the fact that there’s no room to progress and gradually the desire to be exceptional gets whittled away. If they leave they may struggle to get going again, so they stay and block the beds.

 Big rounds of voluntary redundancies don’t shift them, in fact that often ends up getting rid of people who have the nous to get other jobs as linchpins elsewhere and compulsory redundancies get rid of the good and the bad alike.

Seth Godin makes it sound as though the forward motion in the market will clear out all this dead wood leaving only those who are invaluable linchpins but even if the axe fell fairly, he fails to explain how the world would work if everyone spent their time seizing the initiative rather than actually making/servicing things.

He has a quasi Marxist analysis of our education system which he describes as a factory system for turning out obedient workers and what’s not to like about the idea that education should be about teaching us to think for oursleves but at one point he admits that a liberal education is really only for the middle classes- so not much equality there. 

His Linchpin world is a curious one in which we all have the right to be exceptional but it’s no-ones job to makes the tea.

How to Build Momentum

There’ll be  no talk of mass and velocity here. This is not a physics lesson.

Momentum for my purposes, is the energy behind an idea or concept that propels it to the next level.

We could all do with some momentum behind our business ideas because once things start to take off they build up an energy all of their own, taking you to some very exciting places.

I am no football fan, but there is a moment when commentators say; “There’s going to be a goal soon, it’s got to happen, they’ve built up a momentum and nothing can stop them now.” 

This is the point we need to reach to achieve success, the point where winning appears inevitable, it’s just a question of when. The best way to get to this magic place, apart from/as well as, sheer hard work, is with a media boost.

A PR injection at the right time can deliver major results.

For example, a hotel that gets even one favourable review can fill their rooms for the rest of the year. That kind of exposure is worth thousands.

People don’t necessarily know you exist until you tell them – so don’t rule out a short sharp PR injection. Spending  just a couple of days thinking solely about promotion could give you the push you need.

Make sure you’re ready for it though. Contacting the press, sending out samples to bloggers and hitting promotional full steam ahead can backfire if you aren’t ready to handle the interest. Could you manage a flood of orders or deluge of bookings?

Make your promotional push proportionate. If you are a small operation target the  people you promote to carefully,maybe start local with papers or niche publications before you get more ambitious.

And if you think it’s a great idea but are not sure what to do – get someone in. Or you can call me.

Feel free to share you successes or let us know what didn’t work so well.

Why Your Business Needs a 20 Minute Audit

We’ve all heard of the 20 minute make-over. Somebody from a TV show or magazine comes along and makes huge improvements to your clothes/room/ entire life – all in next to no time at all.

Well this is not it. What I’m talking about is much more worthwhile.

I’m suggesting that you take 20 minutes out of your busy day to look at what your web presence says about you.

Imagine you are your own prospective customer or client and you are trying to get an initial idea about whether or not you should do business.

  • Step 1. Put your name or the name of your business into Google. For me, that brings up my blog followed by my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, some articles I’ve written on other sites and a random Bebo entry from someone who is not me. The Bebo thing is annoying but in general I am happy with the results. I tried this with a professional organisation I wanted to check out and found they were ranked fourth for their own name. That is not so great. If they were selling a product and their competitors were coming in ahead of them then it would be terrible requiring immediate help from the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) doctors. As it is, this organisation might want to think about why it’s not doing better in the rankings and get cracking on upping their online presence with some guest articles and blogs.  
  • Step 2 Put some search terms into Google that you think people might use while looking for your services ie Find cleaners in Maidenhead – if you are nowhere to be found put Keyword Research onto you to do list and read this article by  Lisa Barone to get you started.
  • Step 3. You might want to get a friend to help you with this one. Go to the web site and write down the first three things that occur to you as you look at it. If those words are dull, grey and confusing then book an appointment with a web designer, preferably a new one.
  •  Step 4 How easy is it to find out basic facts? Where are you, what is your phone number, how can people contact you?
  • Step 5 This is one I like to throw in because I am interested in press and publicity – What does the outside world say about this service? Testimonials, links to press cuttings,  mentions on other websites? Try using the web service Social mention   for a quick overview.

Now I think our 20 minutes is up, but do give it a go or organise a swap with a friend – just make sure that it’s an honest audit and that you take the time to act on it.

Twitter and the Seeds of Change

Imagine running your fingers through a sea of tiny porcelain seeds, scooping up handfuls of the clinking, chinking pieces. A sea of seeds stretches out before you, more than a hundred million of them, each  individually crafted and painted by hand.

This wonder, is the latest installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern art gallery in London and is the work of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. 

What makes it relevant to us here, is that not only are visitors encouraged to walk on the giant carpet of seeds and to handle them, but they are also being asked to talk to the artist via Twitter about what it all means.

Ai Weiwei will become the first artist to take part in a global conversation about a work at the Tate, using both Twitter and video to add depth and life to his work.

He told the London Evening Standard;

I believe shows should be an ongoing process, an exchange of ideas and information. Twitter is a new technology that really gives us this opportunity.

I find this comment tremendously exciting because it really nails the whole case for Twitter.

The artist wants to build a relationship with his audience, he wants to discuss his ideas and take on board new interpretations in a dynamic and ongoing process.

Twitter is a tool for doing this and the method can be applied to anything. A Script writer can have a dynamic and ongoing conversation about his sit-com characters, Starbucks can have a dynamic and ongoing conversation about their coffee and you can spread ideas and build understanding  about what it is that you do.

Twitter is not just for chattering kids and the artistic elite, it is for you.

Why You’d Be a Fool Not to Play The Name Game.

Getting attention has never been harder.

You can dress up in a clown suit, walk a tight rope or scream your message through a megaphone but there are still 3 million and seventy other people trying to get the attention of the exact same audience that you are (and they are probably handing out free sausages).

Well I’d like to tell you one simple way to get ahead in the fight for attention.

Find out who you need to talk to and use their name. It’s very simple, but it’s  surprising how many people overlook it.

Have you ever received an e-mail which begins “Hi there?” I have and I’ve sent them as well and they do us no favours. It makes it look as though you can’t be bothered or that you just want to do a mass mail shot and then get back to something more interesting. 

Taking the trouble to find out someone’s name says a lot about how much you value the interaction you are about to engage in (or attempt to engage in).

There’s an old superstition that says, to know someone’s name is to have power over them. The fairy tale character Rumpelstiltskin knew this and so do politicians who insist on using their interviewers first names over and over again.

But we’re not talking about trying to steal somebody’s soul,rather to recognise their basic humanity. Kidnappers often try to make their victims seem less than human by giving them a number. To fight against this, as Ingrid Betancourt did when she was held hostage in Columbia, is to force them to face up to what they are really doing, which is holding human beings prisoner.

Using someone’s given name shows courtesy and suggests that you would like to interact with them. The faceless “hi there” person can be sold tosh and pitched rubbish but if we are on first name terms then we can start to build up some trust.

 Mind you I am highly sensitive to having my name inserted into mass mailing. I don’t like that at all, but at least they have taken the name part of the lesson on board. The other day, a blogger I subscribe to, somehow inserted my name into  the main part of his post, so that it felt like he was talking to me directly. I don’t know how he did it but I jumped out of my skin. Some sort of clever software I’ll be bound!

Dale Carnegie said in “How to Win Friends and Influence People” that;

 a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

So I guess we are just hugely flattered when someone takes the trouble to address us by name. In my experience it helps you get the e-mail read which has got to be a great start.