By In Open Sky Copywriting

How A School Used Blogging To Fight The Recession And Win More Admissions

In the past, we’ve looked at how blogging can benefit businesses (and schools), and we’ve calculated the cost of blogging as well. Now let’s look a real life examples of blogging with actual business value.

Sewickley Academy struggled with sagging admissions when the Recession hit. Their response was to start a blog. As you’ll read in this interview, their success was built by connecting their blog to their traditional marketing. As a result, their admissions jumped, more families enquired about their programs and visited the school to see what the campus was like.

Brendan Schneider is the Director of Admissions at Sewickley Academy, a private school near Pittsburgh, PA. He also writes his own blog at schneiderb.com, helping schools embrace social media, online branding, and inbound marketing.

Here is Brendan’s interview with me on how blogging as helped Sewickley Academy:

When did Sewickley start blogging? What was going on in Sewickley at that time? (What stage of growth, were admissions doing well or poorly, any leadership transition…any notable events or changes in company culture.)

We started blogging almost 5 years ago when we made the shift to inbound marketing at Sewickley Academy with blogging at the core of our strategy. Our decision to switch to inbound marketing was in direct response to the economic downturn that occurred during the 2008-2009 school year as well as our decreasing numbers of enquiries, applications, and visits.

What was the initial goal for the school’s blog? Has that goal been achieved? Has that goal changed much since the beginning?

Our initial goal for blogging was to help with our search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. As a result we focused on creating new content, generating inbound links, and targeting keywords where we needed to rank better on Google.

In terms of metrics, we focused on views, comments, and inbound links, but we have been deliberate to always tie the success of our blogging efforts back to our traditional admission metrics of enquiries, applications, and visits.

In the 5 years that we have been blogging our enquiries, applications, and visits have increased over the previous 4 out of 5 years. The one year in which it didn’t increase was because the previous year had been so incredible in terms of numbers and not that we had a bad year.

Does the blog generate revenue directly for Sewickley? What other benefits have come from blogging?

Blogging does not directly generate revenue for our school but it does directly help with our admission efforts.

Did blogging directly solve any problems for Sewickley Academy?

Blogging, as part of our inbound marketing efforts, has absolutely helped with our admission metrics and outcomes.

Name 3 challenges associated with the blog (present challenges, or significant past challenges). How have you approached each challenge?

While we have had success with the blog and will definitely continue with it’s usage, blogging does have it’s challenges. I tell schools all the time that blogging, as part of an inbound marketing strategy, works but that it’s an engine that needs fuel and that fuel is content.

As a result, our main challenge is always finding content. Our solution to this particular challenge is to have as many people as possible contribute to the blog. In this way we can find content as well as share different voices from across our school.

Our second challenge, which really only occurred when we started the blog, was determining what type of content would resonate with our audience. Through experimentation we determined that content that was not focused upon us and instead focused on educating and/or entertaining our audience would be more successful.

A great book that helped us with this direction is Youtility by Jay Baer in which he suggests being helpful more than promotional with your content.

The final challenge was realizing that once you publish your blog post the work doesn’t end there. You must promote your post in order to help people find your post.

What are the 3 most important metrics you track to measure the impact of the blog on Sewickley’s success?

I mentioned before that we pay attention to visits, comments, and inbound links but ultimately we measure the success of the blog by our number of enquiries, applications, and visits.

Who writes the posts? Is it just you, a team of writers, the owner/CEO…?

As a response to our first challenge mentioned above, we created a blogging team of three people who meet frequently to discuss topics, author ideas, and assign writing assignments. While the three of us contribute content to the blog, we are looking for different voices and ideas to share. We specifically target faculty because we feel they are our best asset in recruiting talented, mission-appropriate students.

What kind of editorial schedule do you keep up?

We try to publish once per week and at times have tried to publish twice per week. Twice per week is hard work for us though. Starting with this school year we will continue to publish our written, longer form content once per week but might experiment with additional posts during the week that include images, quotes, or audio.

Now for your input.

Does your experience match Brendan’s at all? What are some of the challenges you’ve met and solutions you’ve come up with?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. And share this post! Let’s see how others have used blogging to benefit their business.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

End Your Struggle to Track the ROI of Content Marketing Once-and-for-all

Only 21% of B2B companies are effectively tracking the ROI of their content marketing campaigns. Many (84%) cite “Brand Awareness” as the goal for their content marketing, but they are also struggling to measure the effectiveness of their content. Can you identify?

These stats come from Content Marketing Institute’s  “2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America” report.

It’s great when you see increasing website traffic, more Google impressions, and climbing social reach, but how does all that popularity translate into ROI? How frustrating is it when your branded content is re-tweeted 100 times, but you barely see any click through? Have you ever started a discussion in LinkedIn with a killer blog post, get 30+ comments, and the resulting inquiries or connections turn out to be all promise and no follow-though?

Maybe you need more content, or maybe you need a better variety of content. This is about the point you feel like you’re in a rat race.

The problem isn’t in the content. The content is doing it’s job; generating awareness (re-tweets, comments, impressions, etc.). But now you’re trying to track it’s ROI and that’s proving to be a little harder.

Brand awareness is a good goal, but it’s also a vague goal. How do you measure the number of people discovering your brand? 63% of B2B companies use website traffic as their go-to metric. But what comes after website traffic? Are you measuring those next steps?

Below we’ll look at a strategic approach to brand awareness that will make it a lot easier to measure ROI. And we’ll look at the most effective content marketing tactics that have flown under the radar until now. It’s time to give your executives a reason to pay attention and pay-up at your next budget meeting.

Have the End in Mind When You Design the Beginning

2015-B2B-Content Marketing-goalss

“Lead Generation” and “Engagement” were the other top two content marketing goals that followed closely after brand awareness. Those are more action oriented and will get your prospects headed in the right direction.

Brand awareness supports all of your business goals and is at the foundation of any marketing initiative. However, it has to lead to something more concrete. Hard metrics such as sales, leads, inquiries, quotes, and sign-ups are all conversions that can be measured exactly.

Brand awareness is measured with soft metrics like impressions, reach, or visits. Although they are important measurements, they don’t directly impact your business. They aren’t action oriented. Visits might be a little more behavioural than the rest, but it’s still fairly vague. Visits don’t directly benefit your business unless they are converting to a harder metric, such as a sign-up or a sale.

A good content marketing strategy will include brand awareness, but will also have a solid objective in mind. When you pick a hard metric as your objective, it will be easier to measure your ROI. Hold that metric as your end game. Then work towards that goal from your brand awareness campaign.

Example:

  • Objective: Sales for scheduling software.
  • Brand awareness: An illustrated video spread through social media, vividly depicting the frustration of a messy schedule.
  • Place the video on top of a content landing page with links to blog posts about scheduling headaches and their solutions. This way everyone who clicks to view the video has instant access to deeper information.
  • From the landing page or blog posts, offer an eNewsletter focused on real life business case studies.
  • At the end of the eNewsletter series, offer an exclusive deal to subscribers and link them to a sales page for the scheduling software.

Each step of the campaign is defined by action. Always be selling!

In the beginning you are selling content that engages the readers problem — the buy-in is a click. The moment anyone clicks to view your video, they become your customer. They have bought into your brand and believe that what you offer is worth a little bit of their time. That’s a big step.

Next you’re selling your expertise through the blog posts and offering real life examples through the eNewsletter that they can sign-up for. Your customer’s interactions are easier to measure because they are taking specific action. You know what content pieces attracted them, which content kept them engaged, and what eventually led to the sale.

Because you have a solid objective in place, you can effectively measure the ROI of your brand awareness campaign. To capitalize on your popularity, give customers a destination.

Customers Enjoy These Interactive Forms of Content Most

Here is what you can share and promote in your content marketing strategy. As you’ll see in the charts below, the most effective content marketing tactics are interactive. Yet they aren’t the most used tactics. It’s easy to use the less expensive content, but you will see a greater return from the interactive content.

2015-B2B-Top-Content-Marketing-Tactics

Most Used Content Marketing Tactics.

2015-B2B-most-effective-Content-Marketing-tactics

Most EFFECTIVE Content Marketing Tactics.

 

Now that you have an idea of what to promote, let’s have a look at the most effective promotion channels.

Effective Promotion Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

The 1,572 content marketers that responded to CMI’s survey indicated LinkedIn as the most effective way to promote your content for free. However, if you want to spread the word about your brand quickly, it’s worth investing in paid advertising. What I love about this next chart is what it means for your marketing budget.

2015-B2B-paid-ad-effectiveness

Search Engine Marketing, Promoted Posts, and Social Ads are all the most cost effective forms of promotion. You can pay as little or as much as you want. You don’t have to buy ad space for $3,000 per month or per print issue (such is the case with traditional advertising).

You can spend $100 to boost a Facebook post, you can set a monthly budget of $500 on LinkedIn’s ad network, Google Adwords, or Bing Ads. Plus, these promo methods are extremely targeted, meeting the people that reach out for the answers you provide. Happy customers are created when people find the answers they are looking for.

If you’re willing to financially invest in your brand awareness campaign, then look to SEM, Promoted Posts, and Social Ads for the most effective use of your money.

Conclusion

The ROI of a brand awareness campaign is definitely traceable. Start developing your content marketing strategy by defining a solid objective  — a metric that is action oriented. That way you know how customers have interacted with your content from discovery to loyalty. You can trace each interaction to the first moment they found your brand.

Use interactive content as much as you can afford. Promote that content in search ads, social ads, and promoted posts to reach highly targeted audiences for a lot less than traditional advertising.

Content marketing is excellent for brand awareness, but you can also use it to interact with customers, land the sale, and keep their relationship with you fun and profitable, long after they’ve given you money.

Have you had any headaches with brand awareness campaigns? Or how has content marketing helped your company?

Tell us your story in the comments below. And share this post! Let’s see who else has found success or stress in content marketing.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

How Selling Wins Hearts at 4 Important Moments

Good marketing is always selling. The best marketing knows what to sell people at each stage of their journey. But selling doesn’t always involve making a financial purchase.

Sometimes the purchase is made with time and energy invested into research or with an email address in exchange for access to information. Your customers are on a journey and they are willing to buy from you each step of the way, but are you selling what they are buying?

There is certainly a time to ask for the sale. Most marketing messages only say, “Give me your money.” You can start with, “How can I help?” Offering value and service makes you memorable and will win your customers’ hearts.

There are four moments in marketing that have distinctly different selling approaches. The graphic below shows a broad overview of the buying process.

ZMOT is your digit customer experience

Google’s eBook: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

Your marketing will succeed when you are selling what customers want to buy at each step of their journey. That’s relevance; offering the value your customer is looking for. Here’s a look at what customers are buying at each moment.

Stimulus

Stimulus: Discovery

What people are buying: Relief. Tangible solutions.

This is your brand awareness campaign: advertising on TV, Radio, in print publications, at live events, and on the Internet. Many companies will sell their company identity here, their “brand.”

It can work if you’re dumping huge capital into the campaign, but every company will struggle to measure ROI of a campaign focused on their identity.

Offer benefits in your brand awareness campaign. Offer to help people with their problem. Don’t offer a brand, offer a solution, and it will make your brand more recognizable.

Example: Nyquil’s slogan – “The Night Time, Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing, Aching, Stuffy head, Fever, So-You-Can-Rest Medicine.” They aren’t selling a company identity. They’re selling relief from flu symptoms and a good nights rest. Very attractive and easy to remember the next time someone is battling the flu.

Research: Zero Moment of Truth

Research: Zero Moment of Truth

What your customers are buying: Education. Understanding about their problem and how it can be solved.

When people go online to research their problem and possible solutions, you can meet them with answers that are worth their investigative time. At this stage, you are selling your expertise. When people buy-in to what you have to say, they become your customers.

The transaction isn’t financial, but the customers are still paying with their closely guarded time and attention.

You can develop solid foundations for a profitable customer relationship here. You know the problem inside and out. Deliver insight on what triggers the problem. Offer advice on how to avoid agitating the problem.

As customers learn more about how you work and what kind of relief you can provide, they consume content that is more product specific. As they delve deeper in their research, it becomes less about the benefits of your product and more about the features. Now they are comparing prices, determining which solution gives them the most bang for their buck.

That’s the point where sales techniques and hard selling copy is powerful. The trick is, everyone moves to through this stage at their own pace.  By making answers available at every gateway, you make it easy for customers to come back to you with every question.

People will welcome your product offers if they trust your expertise.

Shelf: First Moment of Truth

Shelf: First Moment of Truth

What your customers are buying: Your product and a recognizable experience.

Everything you’ve delivered up to this point is service. You’ve served the customer as much as possible without giving your product away. It’s quite the experience you’ve built for them. What are they going to find when they grab your product off the shelf?

Esthetics are important, but they want to know if it’s going to live up to your service reputation.

This is true for information products as well (software, plug-ins, apps, books, courses, etc…). Even though customers aren’t picking anything up, they are browsing web pages or product brochures. The question they are asking is, “Can this product really solve my issue in the way you say it can?” That “way” is the experience they’ve received up until now and hope to continue to receive.

Prove you can continue to deliver the experience they love with product demonstrations, samples, and free trials. You’re selling the product specifically. Customers want to know what the deals are. They are looking for features, warranties and money back guarantees. Urgency is good here. People are much closer to buying. They have accepted the idea of handing money over.

Subtle pressure, influencer endorsement, award winning performance, number of satisfied customers, hours of development, testimonials, and even your company’s history are all extremely useful at this point.

Do whatever it takes to let people know that your product will live up to your promises and that you will always take care of them.

Experience: Second Moment of Truth

Experience: Second Moment of Truth

What your customers are buying: Loyalty. A reason to continue their enjoyable experience with you.

It is a lot easier to keep customers than to find new ones. Ignoring the follow-up is costly mistake. You can have a thriving customer base if you continue to deliver service, even after they have given you money.

This is the up-sell and your customer support. Offer upgrades, related products, bulk discounts, referral rewards, and membership perks. Deliver product tutorials, FAQs, 24/7 customer support, an in-depth knowledge base, and full access to community support.

This selling is more like one friend recommending a product to another. You can still use hard selling techniques, but when you want a friend to try a new phone app, your approach is much more familiar and casual.

Plus, over use of hard selling techniques can be like the annoying tag-along on your night out that won’t shut up.

Take it easy, enjoy your time together. If you screw up, make every effort to make things up to them. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, send a message just to say, “Hi.” When you have a new offer, give them exclusive access.

Conclusion

People don’t like being sold to, but they love buying. (Got that from Copyblogger)

When they know you deliver value, they will enjoy handing you money because they know that they are getting an excellent experience. They become loyal advocates who will even defend you when the haters surface.

Marketing is no good without selling. And when you know what customers are buying, you will have their hearts, not just their money.

What is your threshold for being sold to? How does your company sell at each step of your customer’s journey?

Give us your thoughts in the comments below. And please share this post! Let’s find out how others deal with selling.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

Creating a Customer Experience to Match a $311,000,000 Digital Investment

Your company was pretty eager to invest in new media, but now it’s a struggle to match your marketing message with the digital platform. Now you’re active on 14 different social channels, you have 3 apps for iOS, Andriod and Windows users, and your email list just hit 10,000 subscribers! Great, right?…

Then why are your blog posts not getting shared, why is it impossible to measure any return on your social profiles, and why are your mobile apps not seeing any enduring use?

Many people believe that investing in digital media is all it takes to provide customers with the digital experience they expect.

Gartner-2013-digital-marketing-bugdets Open Sky Copywriting

I highlighted Digital Commerce, Social Marketing, and Mobile Marketing above because they have taken priority over Content Creation. That’s not to say content creation has fallen out of the picture, but companies are investing more on technology than on communicating value.

Some might say I’m splitting hairs and that I should be grateful that businesses are putting the money into becoming digitally relevant.

My point is, the technology is not the experience.

You can have all of your gateways open, but if the customer is getting slightly different versions of your message at every entry point, they are going to get confused, or just lose interest.

The message has to be exactly the same across all points. When you upgrade to digital platforms, you’re opening new doors for customers to access your world. The detail and effort that is given to your customer’s experience in the store should now also be given to digital gateways.

That means that just because Comcast spent $311 Million on Internet advertising in 2013, doesn’t mean they were providing their customers with a great digital experience.

From search engine descriptions to your product descriptions. From Youtube content to image captions. From email blasts to blog posts. The digital customer experience is defined by the attitudes you present in your content. If you’re investing big bucks into technology, why not make the effort to capitalize on your investment?

Here are three things to consider when adapting your marketing message for a better digital customer experience:

Context: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Digital is mobile. Our environment shapes how we discover companies and products. What are the ripe environments that your customers find you in: at work, in the bathroom, on the way to school, after a breakup, leading up to a promotion?

That’s context. It can be geographical, emotional, and situational. For the WordPress plugin developer, who’s following you on twitter: web-developers, web masters, or small business entrepreneurs? For the chocolatier with a boutique shop on main street, who’s searching Google for your store: tourists, a smitten lover, or a heartbroken college student?

This can be hard to tell unless you’re mapping out your customers initial interactions and discovering the language they are using to find you. This is where market segmentation is important. Define the most popular contexts that customers find you under and market accordingly.

This is easy when it comes to your e-mail list. E-mail autoresponder service providers such as MailChimp will offer you the ability to segment your lists. Then you know that customers are getting customized messages that better match their circumstances.

The chart below demonstrates the increased performance of lists that are properly segmented compared to average e-mail lists.

Source of data: http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/effects-of-list-segmentation-on-email-marketing-stats/

Source of data: http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/effects-of-list-segmentation-on-email-marketing-stats/

The one quirk in this chart (that even MailChimp scratches their head at) is the increase in unsubscribe rates for segmented lists. It’s speculation, but I believe it’s mostly due to certain people being put into the wrong list segment.

Segmentation by geography, purchase history, and interests will start you out on the path to meeting customers in their environment.

Your Customers Are Always Searching. Be Easily Found. (The Non-SEO Methods.)

Everyone multitasks now. Whether we’re good at it or not. Most of us are checking Facebook while watching Netfilx. Or searching Google for something we just saw on TV. The fact is, our attention is split.

Take advantage of that. Provoke that instinct to google something while watching TV, scrolling Facebook, or shopping Amazon for sweaters. Pinpoint key terms or concepts that you want to focus your marketing message around, then dominate those concepts or terms.

This way, when they run across your promoted tweet, its hashtags or key phrases will trigger memories and recognition from what they’ve seen before.

That’s largely the point behind companies creating hashtags for marketing campaigns. They are meant to link people to content that they can enjoy and share.

Live events like concerts or conferences are good at this. They will create hashtags for their events. When people share photos, tweet memorable quotes, or share awesome products they’ve found, they include the event’s hashtag. By searching the event hashtag, anyone can see an incredible social documentation on the event.

Example: #sfsummit was trending on Twitter while I was writing this post. It’s for the Spredfast Summit in Austin, Texas, a social media marketing conference. Here’s a picture of the kind of exposure their hashtag has given them on Twitter.

sfsummit-hashtags

The ultimate strategy to help reach customers that have been exposed to your company before is called remarketing. Through remarketing you can identify people who have watched videos, viewed pictures, read posts, or visited web pages about your company. When those people go looking for products or services in your industry again, your ads will appear on any participating websites.

Here’s an infographic from Google that simply describes their remarketing service.

Click for the full infographic.

Ctrl + Click for the full infographic.

Companies that encourage our instinct to search for more information, and meet those searchers with quality content will quickly stand out in any crowded market.

Embrace the Relationship between Short Copy and Long Copy

There is a unique dynamic between short copy and long copy now. Thought provoking short copy will get the click. In depth long copy will engage the customer (whether it generates a lead, a sale, or just jump starts their purchase process).

I’m sure you have your tweet-ready marketing message, but long copy still works. Your tweets and sales pages don’t have to be directly connected by a link, but the messages should be a seamless flow. A readers path could go from tweet to blog post, to company “About” page, to a features page, and then to the sales page. Whatever their digital journey looks like, your message should remain constant.

Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, comments on Instagram, and captions on Pinterest are all good examples of digital short copy. Also think about product descriptions, Google descriptions, PPC ad copy, and video summaries. Crafting your marketing message into tantalizing bite size portions will provoke people to click through to the deeper content.

The short copy will appease anyone looking for the quick fix. Often we scroll through our social feeds, just wanting to waste time, not looking for any commitment. Having short copy that is quickly entertaining or educational will keep you valuable in those moments.

But then there are moments when the hunger strikes, when the readers want to chew on something meaty, full of flavour and substance. Your short copy will serve as the magnet to draw bigger appetites into the deeper content. That’s when you have the opportunity to wow customers. You want to become a resource. A place people go back to over and over again, trusting that you’ll deliver filling content every time.

That’s the ultimate in lead nurturing.

Check out this tweet from Neil Patel, a successful internet marketer.

The post he’s tweeting about is 2,300 words long. Neil is successful, not only because his products are valuable, but his free content is extremely useful. I know I’m constantly going back to his posts and guides because they are so useful.

Short copy and long copy exist side-by-side in digital media. The companies who embrace that relationship will become the most remarkable to their customers.

Conclusion

Investments in digital media are exciting to see. But this is one of the few areas where your mouth needs to be where you money is. Invest quality time and effort into your marketing message.

Stand out from the mass of companies that are dumping money into technology, but doing nothing about the confusing puddle of messages they throw at their customers. You can deliver a digital customer experience that wins people over and keeps them loyal to your brand.

Make each customer feel special and honoured. Meet them in their environment. Offer products that are exactly what they were hoping for. And feed them quality content that they can use regularly.

What are you doing to make it easy for people to find and interact with your brand digitally?

Comment below with your stories. And share this post. Let’s find out how others are crafting their digital customer experience.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

Creating Happy Customers Starts and Ends With…Marketing?

“I’m going to buy from you because I know I’m going to be taken care of.” This sentiment is birthed in marketing.

Let’s say your friend mentioned something about my brand a few weeks back. Then you saw my ad in your Gmail account out of the corner of your eye. One day you run into a problem you’ve never faced before and you start searching for solutions.

Lo-and-behold my company pops up again. Clicking through to the website, you begin to explore. As you better understand what we offer, you can’t help but like this company.

The video tour of our product forced you to chuckle (and you looked around embarrassed, hoping no-one heard you). Our testimonials had you nodding as you identified with other people’s stories. You actually said, “No kidding!?” out loud when you read some surprising stats on a popular post from our blog.

Being the diligent consumer you are, you forced yourself to research other companies. But no matter what, you couldn’t help thinking back to my company. Either the competition wasn’t as entertaining, or their features page was a little more confusing, or their testimonials all sounded the same. Some of those companies have better prices, but you’re still hooked on my brand.

So you buy from me. You were convinced that I could take care of you.

Some businesses think that the sale is the start of the customer relationship. But your relationship with my brand started the instant you noticed me.

A customer’s experience begins with marketing, and as you will see, marketing defines the rest of their experience as well.

Lay The Foundations Of Customer Experience At The Moment They Discover You

Let’s switch roles. I’m the happy customer excited about using your product. Everything that has led me to purchase your product has endeared me to your company. In the beginning, your name meant nothing to me, but your marketing message made the introduction.

Experience is coloured by how we feel. If my initial moments of discovery aren’t emotionally engaging, then I’m either going to keep searching, or my experience with you will be bland.

Great messages identify with people, making it easy for them to connect with your offer. In order for your marketing to draw my attention, you need to know what I’m going to connect with.

Much of the time your marketing message is a person’s first impression of your company and product. Lay out the table for the passer-by. Craft a marketing message that the stranger can identify with, that gets them laughing, nodding, and saying things out-loud involuntarily. That’s a foundation that is hard to shake.

Help Me Believe That Relief is Found in Your Product

Not only does marketing create an experience, it promises a specific future experience too.

I will buy from you because I believe you can deliver the relief I seek. Your marketing succeeds, not just because you made a sale, but because I’m convinced that you’ll deliver the full experience.

Your message builds expectation in me. As I connect with your message, I begin to hope for the same experience when I use your product. I expect a recognizable experience in the delivery of your solution.

That’s why it’s important to have a consistent message that your company can rally around. As long as your marketing message is valued throughout your company, customers won’t be disappointed. The same emotions and sentiments I found so attractive in the beginning will persist throughout the life of my business with you.

Wow Me Again As I Explore My New Life With Your Brand

After you deliver, your marketing continues to wow me with what you offer, showing me the broad landscape of new and relevant solutions.

My life with your business should be adventurous and thrilling. It’s doesn’t have to be extreme, but discovery shouldn’t be reserved for the start of the relationship. The many uses of your product and the different solutions it brings that I DIDN’T expect can all serve to enhance my experience.

Show me new methods and creative uses. Demonstrate the rich history or the intricate story behind your product and your company. This is all marketing. You’re walking me through the new life I now have with your product.

And then up-sell. Wow me again. Show me how much easier life would be with an upgrade. Continue giving me reasons to do business with you by unveiling new landscapes to me.

Plus, how your product relieves my pain becomes a new story in your marketing arsenal.

How Well Does Your Marketing Message And Customer Support Line Up?

Your customer support relies on your marketing message as well. When I run into problems with your product, your customer support has to line up with your original promises made in the marketing that drew me in.

If your customer support is communicating the same message that convinced me to buy, then you have strengthened our relationship.

Before this conflict I was a happy customer. Now that I know your brand is true, even through conflict, I’m a loyal customer.

This is how you win a customer from discovery to loyalty. It starts with a marketing message that promises the customer will be taken care of and continues as you deliver on that promise without fail.

Have you found a brand that hasn’t let you down yet? When a business has let you down, did they attempt to reconcile with you?

Comment with your story below. And share this post, please! Let’s hear other stories of good or bad customer experiences.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

How to Tune Your Marketing For Maximum Performance

Marketing is an engine that needs to be tuned, oiled, and monitored. As long as your marketing is in top shape, your business is at peak performance.

People are wind under your business’ wings. Marketing generates thrust; it gets people to move, to interact, and to buy.

At the same time, a well tuned, powerful marketing engine gives your customers the best possible experience as they discover and engage your company. But you will only get people through your door if they connect with what you’re saying.

Your message is what establishes the relationship with customers. It’s what holds together the identity of your business and allows people to identify with you.

Your marketing message also has to line up with their first and second moments of truth; when they first see your product and then when they use it for the first time. These moments of truth are when they make a decision about their future with you.

But there’s also what Google calls the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). That’s when they search for a solution to their problem, or when they discover your company and read about your business online.

ZMOT is your digit customer experience

Google’s eBook: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

As they research and dig deeper into who you are, everything should make sense. From Google Ads to Tweets. If there is an awkward moment in their discovery process, you’ll never get the first or second moment to impress them.

Then it’s time for a tune up. Not because you’re afraid of loosing customers, but because you want to deliver the best experience from discovery to loyalty.

Here are three ways to fine tune your marketing and get the best performance possible.

First: Simplify Your Message

Clearly define your marketing message. Make it easy to remember, write it down, and pin it up somewhere that everyone can see. Something simple but emotionally engaging. WHY do you want to serve people in the way you do?

Simplifying your marketing message will have a cascading effect on every campaign. First, it will be easier to tweet. Simple ideas are easy to fit into 140 characters.

It will be easier to write headlines, and Google’s 50-60 character title length won’t be an issue.

More complex and expansive ideas will become connected and synchronized because everything will stem from this one pure message.

Ultimately, people will pay attention longer because you are easy to understand. As you hold their attention longer, you will have more time to deliver an amazing experience and win their trust.

Second: Make Your Message Consistent

Your marketing message has to be the same across your entire company and through all the gateways into your business, print or digital. This is another advantage of a simple message, it will hold integrity no matter how many times it is reiterated.

When there is a disconnect in the message between marketing channels or company departments, it creates friction between you and the customer.

Like a plane in flight, jutting edges, sharp corners, or uneven surfaces cause friction in the airflow. That means your engine has to work harder to produce the same thrust necessary to stay at your chosen altitude.

Do you want healthy traffic through your business (storefront or website)? Then reduce friction.

Most importantly, your readers, prospects, and customers will recognize the common thread through all their interactions. It’s easier for them to find you over and over again. When you show up in places they weren’t expecting, they will recognize you right away. Their whole experience becomes a delight, something worth raving about. And they’re one step closer to being a loyal fan.

Third: Match Their Emotional Season

Don’t use emotion to manipulate, but respond to where they’re at.

Find their seasonal emotional cycle. Men and women alike go through seasons of emotion. Generally you can predict emotions based on natural seasons (spring, summer, winter, autumn), but that’s not only what I’m talking about.

We go through seasons in our jobs: we hate what we’re doing, we love what we’re doing, we are inspired to push further, we don’t care about what we are doing.

There are seasons in our families: just married, growing used to your spouse, falling in love with your spouse all over again, watching babies grow from toddlers to teens, etc.

Seasons shift in your industry as well. There will be a window of time when people enter your industry’s influence. It may last for 2 weeks or 20 years.

The point is to map out their emotional journey in that sweet spot where they meet you and figure they need what you have, then respond to those emotions.

The ideal emotional journey.

If they are excited, match the excitement. If they are depressed, sympathize, but bring hope.

If they’ve sought you out, then you hold the solution to a problem they are facing. Whether they are in a good or bad spot emotionally, you have the opening to give them a good experience.

Give your customers the smoothest possible ride as they discover and interact with your company. Tune up and give them something rave about!

I’m interested in YOUR experience. Have you had a hard time with convoluted marketing messages? How has your company done with so many marketing channels? What kind of studies have you done on your customers emotional journey?

If you liked this post, there are three other ways to get in on more action:

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What Blogging Will Cost You In Hours And Dollars

Last week you read about why blogging is such an asset to business. But because we are taking the business perspective, the expense has to be weighed as well as the return. Only then can we see the true business value of blogging.

I’ve identified the primary elements of blogging and examined both the dollar and hour cost for each. Many of the figures in this post are from my own experience and research. They may not represent your experience.

The time investment for most of this will be high because blogging is a huge priority for me, but it should give you a better idea of what to expect.

Content Creation

Creating content is a time consuming process. I love it. Writing may not be your thing though. Or you may not have the time that is required. I generally spend 16 hours a week creating content for the blog.

To hire a writer, you will spend any where from $10 – $150 per blog post. Some people will write for pennies, but you’ll get content worth pennies. Others write well researched, thoroughly edited, search engine optimized blog posts, but they are going to make it worth their time.

Especially if you’re looking for blog posts built on “direct response marketing” principles. Professionals who craft content to provoke a desired reaction will charge a premium, but it’s an investment. You should be able to see a direct return from those posts.

Community Relations

One of the strengths in blogging is the community you can build. Building a community with your blog means you are encouraging and responding to comments. In the beginning you may not get much interaction, but as interest builds along with your reputation, the community will demand more of your attention.

Having said that, you can control the amount of effort spent on your community. Limit it to 5 hours total a week. You aren’t obligated to respond to everyone, but you want to be as welcoming and engaging as possible.

The trick is monitoring your community for abusive people. Keeping out abusive language is pretty easy with WordPress, but there are different ways to word abuses that WordPress will not recognize. As your blog grows in popularity, you may want to hire a moderator. I’ve seen average yearly salaries from $30 000 to $50 000 for “Community Managers,” as they are known.

Analytics

Marketing is nothing without measurement. You need to know how your blog is performing, or it’s not really a marketing effort. This takes time on the front end to set up the analytics. Google Analytics is free and does well for basic metrics. Give it at least an hour a week to review your analytics. Take longer in the beginning to tweak your program so you are getting accurate data.

You could pay for more in depth reporting, but unless you want blogging to become your primary business, it isn’t necessary. In any case, you can buy off-site software (that runs from your desktop) for $30-$300. Online options range from $4-$17 per month.

Advertising and Audience Building

Another strength in blogging is it’s social nature. You don’t have to spend a cent on advertising to grow your blog. Network with other bloggers and write excellent posts for their blogs. Share your posts on social media. Ask others to share your posts. Comment on other blogs. Be useful, serve your audience, and the word will get out.

I spend about 1 hour a day on LinkedIn, participating in group discussions, reading posts, and connecting with business owners and professionals. I will also give a little time to Twitter, but that’s for market research mostly.

Audience building is generally a long term mission, however, if you want to speed up the process, there are advertising options. You can spend $25 to boost a post on Facebook and reach a larger, targeted audience.

Advertising on Google or Bing is fairly inexpensive as well. You set your daily budget and pay for each click on your ads. Once you reach the daily budget, the search engine stops displaying your ad until the next day.

If you’re advertising your blog directly, make sure there is an avenue for return on that investment.

Example: Craft a special offer and write a series of blog posts to lead into it and pump it up. Set up those posts as a content landing page (a web page that acts as a hub for your promotional / educational blog posts). Your ads can direct prospects to this content landing page. Make the offer and use the blog posts to help each prospect through their purchase process.

Another worth-while investment would be an email auto-responder, a program that allows you to build a list of emails and send updates and newsletters as often as you like. Auto-responders also let you schedule emails to send at a later date and you can create a series of emails that will send in sequence.

Example: If you want to promote one offer each week leading up to Christmas, you would create the emails, select the list of subscribers that you are targeting, and schedule each email to send at one week intervals.

Most of the good email programs such as Aweber and MailChimp are $20 per month. As you send more emails and to more subscribers, it gets more expensive. However, MailChimp does have a free option. It doesn’t let you schedule emails, but you can still build a list and email them all at once.

Technical Details and Web Development

These expenses indirectly apply if you’re already running a business website.

Here’s what I’m paying right now.

Hosting: $222.00 for 3 years.

Domain Name: $177.00 for 5 years.

Website themes are easy to get your hands on. I’m particular to themeforest.net. You can find themes with all sorts of functionality and designs. A decent theme will cost anywhere from $40-$100.

No matter what theme you buy, making it look exactly the way you want will be tricky. If you know CSS, then it isn’t too hard to edit the theme’s styles. But it will take time. I spent 2 hours adjusting some styles for my website before writing this post.

If you don’t know CSS, then you’ll need a web developer. And they don’t come cheap. It’s tough to put a dollar figure on how much they cost because you can bring someone on staff or you can hire on a contract basis. If you already have a web developer or IT expert on staff, you’re set.

The Cost of Blogging

Let’s recap.

Dollars

Hours

Content Creation

$10 -$150 / post

16 / week

Community Relations

$30K – $50K For a moderator

5 / week

Analytics

$30-$300 OR

$4-$17 per month

5-10 hours in the beginning

1 / week

Advertising and Audience Building

$25+ per post

$20+ per month

5 / week

Technical Details and Web Development

Hosting: $222

Domain: $177

Theme: $40-100

10-15 hours in the beginning.

Nominal upkeep

If you are solely responsible for your business blog, expect to spend:

  • 27 hours a week if you don’t want to pay for blog posts, a moderator, specialized analytics, and advertising.

  • 15-25 hours in the beginning if you’re building the blog from scratch.

  • $439 for domain registration, hosting, and a professional theme. $499 if you’re going for a fancy theme.

If you have a team working with you, the dollar investment is much larger, but your personal time investment is minimal. Here are some ways to limit dollar costs:

  • Let your IT department take care of the technical details.

  • Instead of hiring a writer, let your staff write posts regularly. They can also share the posts on their own social profiles.

  • Instead of hiring a moderator, you can take turns with your staff to monitor the comments and social media profiles.

  • That leaves advertising in your hands if you choose to promote your blog further.

Blogging has a cost, but it doesn’t have be expensive.

How does your company tackle the cost of blogging? Do you have a team specially devoted to the blog? Or is it just you?

Leave a comment below. And share this post so others can get in on the conversation!

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

Blogging For Lead Generation, SEO, And Customer Experience

The Huffington Post is making almost $29,896 a day from blogging. Mashable comes in second place at $15,781 per day (according to this article). Blogging is their primary function.

Granted, the top earners in blogging make their money from advertising on their sites. How is this relevant for a corporation not interested in blogging as a primary business function?

Take a look down the list. The first company that isn’t making money from advertising is Copyblogger. Their money comes from affiliate sales. That means they mention other products in their blog and they get a share of the direct sales from their mentions.

Essentially it’s lead generation. Copyblogger is leading sales to other companies and getting a share of each sale. They bring in $1,184 per day. That’s only a percentage of the sales they send to other companies each day. All from blogging.

After digging deep for stats on the business value of blogging, I came across this infographic from Ignitespot. The picture below is the most relevant portion of the infographic. There are many commonly quoted benefits to blogging, but this graphic puts stats behind those claims.

IngniteSpot Infographic: Why Blogging is Good for Your Business

See the full infographic here: http://i0.wp.com/ignitespot.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-blogconomy-infographic.png

Blogging Is Effective For Lead Generation

The Stats:

“Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads.”
“61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post.”

Nurture discovery. Build credibility. Overcome objections. Harbour trust. Call for action.

Blogging does this just as well as a sales letters or TV infomercials. You have a captive audience who wants to read your material. You don’t always have to be hard selling, in fact, I would advise against it. Use your blog to support your hard selling marketing though.

Post content that serves the reader. Talk about your reader and how their lives are better because of your product. Talk about your industry and provide insight on trends. The reader should step away from each blog post feeling like they have gained something from the experience.

As you build trust and credibility, begin to ask for a response from the reader. Ask them to share, to comment, or to sign-up for your email list. Invite them to take part in contests. And when you think they are ready, offer them a great deal on your product or service. Make it exclusive. Reward them for being such loyal readers.

Each reader will follow their own path. Some will become customers sooner than others. Make it easy for the reader to make the purchase decision, no matter what stage of the game they’re at.

One company that is really good at this is Help Scout. They offer customer service software . Check out the end of their blog posts. Each one ends with an easy way to subscribe to their newsletter and a button to learn more about their help desk software. When you click through to learn about their product, they offer you a free trial as well as all the information you need about their software. This is basic direct response copywriting in action.

Blogging Cements Your Authority And Solidifies Customer Loyalty

The Stats:

“81% of US consumers trust advice and information from blogs.”
“Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social media.”

Authority is about trust. Serving useful content regularly makes it easier for readers to trust you. When you make them an offer, authority makes it irresistible.

You also become the go-to person when they have questions or concerns. The complaints and criticisms are just as valuable as the questions and compliments. You have the power to do something about it. You are the authority on your product, and in readers eyes, you’re the authority in your industry.

The best marketing makes it easy for the right people to discover you, buy from you, and stay with you as a loyal customer for as long as they need you—from discovery to loyalty.

Blogging keeps the customers coming back. It gives them a reason to stay and spend time on your website. This is especially valuable when your website is central in your business model (e-commerce, online portfolio, etc).

Going back to Help Scout, their blog is a huge archive of extremely helpful posts that zero in on enhancing the customer’s experience. So many customer questions are answered in their blog posts. Do you think customers will go to many other resources for answers? Not likely. That’s how authority develops loyalty.

Blogging Works For B2B As Well

The Stat:

“B2B marketers using blogs generate 67% more leads.”

Individual consumers aren’t the only ones looking for a business to trust. Other business are as well. In fact, businesses will be pickier about the integrity and expertise of an other company they do business with. Their profit is on the line.

A knowledge base like a blog will prove the depth of your wisdom and demonstrate how you handle customer relations (by how you handle comments on your blog).

Apply direct response techniques to your blog and you’ll have an effective B2B lead generation machine.

Blogging Is The Best SEO And Networking Strategy

The Stats:

“Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages.”

Inbound links are links on other websites connecting to yours. Indexed pages are the web pages (including blog posts) that Google knows about.

Google is hyper-focused on making sure it’s search engine only serves up the most relevant content. If other authorities in your field are posting links to your blog posts, Google uses that as a measure of your expertise, increasing your presence in search results.

If you have a growing mass of quality content (blog posts that Google knows about) Google views you as an authority in that area, serving up your pages more often in search results.

That only happens as you network with other companies and bloggers. Find people who serve a similar market and contribute useful content to their effort. This is known as guest blogging.

But don’t guest blog because you want to rank better in Google. Guest blog because you want to reach a larger audience that has already been established by other authorities in your field.

Blogging is all about making your website the best resource available. SEO is about making it easy for Google to recognize the quality of your website.

If you search Google for “customer service,” Help Scout is the 3rd result (as of October 2014). Note that it links to a blog post. Help Scout’s blog is helping people find them on search engines.

Blogging Overwhelmingly Influences Your Customer’s Experience

The Stats:

“60% of consumers feel a company’s positivity after reading the site.”
“90% of consumers find customer content useful.”
“82% of consumers enjoy reading relevant content from brands.”

The customer’s experience online can be hard to monitor. There are so many gateways for the customer to access and learn about you and your business. Blogging brings sanity to what could be a chaotic process.

From discovery to loyalty, your blog is a constant. No matter what stage your customer is working through, they can always turn to your blog for clarity and consistency. Your blog is what ties the rest of your customer’s digital experience together.

Using your blog as a customer experience manager is only the first step though. There are so many ways for your blog to generate leads and revenue. It doesn’t have to syphon time away from your business.

Use direct response copywriting principles to lead delighted readers to action. Network with other bloggers and grow your market share. Create demand by engaging readers and presenting unique responses to their issues.

Traditional marketing does all this, why can’t your blog?

Have you seen a return on your blogging efforts? Or has blogging actually damaged your business before?

Let me know in the comments below. And share this post! Let’s bring others in on the conversation.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

LinkedIn Turns a Privacy Policy into a Marketing Win

LinkedIn sent an email to it’s users this morning about some up-coming changes to it’s User Agreement (UA). The changes focus on making the UA easier to digest, but LinkedIn also clarifies some policies regarding our right to ownership of the content we post on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn always valued their users’ right to content ownership, but are only now making it policy. This got me curious about how Facebook handles ownership of content (because of Facebook’s reputation with disagreeable policies).

Here are the differences:

LindedIn's UA Section 3 - Click for a bigger view.

LindedIn’s UA Section 3 – Click for a bigger view.

LinkedIn gives you full rights to the content you post on their network. If they want to use your content in advertising, they will get your consent first, no matter what.

LinkedIn also specifies that it will not alter the meaning of your content, no matter how much they modify it.

Facebook's UA Section 2 - Click for a bigger view.

Facebook’s UA Section 2 – Click for a bigger view.

Facebook also gives you full rights to the content you post.

Facebook's UA Section 10 (Advertising) - Click for a bigger view.

Facebook’s UA Section 10 (Advertising) – Click for a bigger view.

But, Facebook can use your content in advertising with out notifying you. However, Facebook will not give your information to advertisers directly with out your consent.

Facebook also doesn’t seem to make any assurances about modifying content.

The Marketing Smarts Behind LinkedIn’s Move

What impressed me wasn’t the policy so much as LinkedIn’s strategy with these changes. This isn’t exactly marketing, it’s public relations. However, it IS a marketing technique.

LinkedIn has taken a common practice (how they approach content ownership) and made a story out of it. But they have also taken an extra step to stand out in the social media world.

This isn’t a story that is being told by other social networks. In fact, Facebook is always getting slammed for it’s subtle privacy policy changes. LinkedIn took a sensitive subject in the social media word, expressed values that comfort the user, and built a story around it.

LinkedIn knows that trust is a big issue with professionals and business owners – their primary market. It seems they are making a concerted effort to establish and protect that trust with their users.

This is excellent marketing and PR, in my opinion. What do you think? Am I rightly interpreting the two user agreements?

Comment with your input below. And please, share this post. Let’s see what others have to say.

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By In Open Sky Copywriting

The #1 Strategy for Clear, Flexible, and Strong Marketing

Great marketing is more powerful than great art, literature, or music. The arts inspire us inwardly. Marketing inspires us to action.

Marketing uses the arts to be attractive and effective. But there is just one strategy that must be in place for any of it to work. Without this marketing strategy, your copy is confusing, the discovery experience won’t match first impressions of handling the product, and your company could be sending different messages from different departments.

Here’s what you’re aiming for, three major characteristics that this one strategy will provide:

Clarity

You measure trends, behaviours, triggers, and purchase paths. Knowing how your prospects and customers are interacting with you business directs your marketing.

In fact, the mountain of data that you have to sort through can give you vertigo. Not only are you tracking clicks and impressions, but reactions to different colour schemes, button placement, and image sizes.

Graciously, there are Big Data companies out there with solutions to organizing all the information. You may even have an Big Data department devoted to data extrapolation and interpretation.

But your reports and charts can’t be solely responsible for clearly directing your marketing.

Flexibility

How about the shifting landscape? The world is in flux. Always has been. But now we’re more connected. A news story can make waves across the world and still ripple through your home.

Staying on top of what’s happening and making current events relevant to your readers effectively wins trust and credibility. But with so much being reported in the news, from Hollywood, and everything trending on Twitter, keeping your head above the waves will exhaust you.

Thankfully you have RSS readers, aggregate sites, and Google Alerts to keep the streaming pop culture in one place.

But staying in-the-know doesn’t make you completely flexible.

Strength

Strong marketing is compelling. It’s hard to be compelling when you’re trying to stand out in a forest of towering trees.

Your marketing is competing for attention and there are plenty of other places for people to land out there. You may not have a huge competitive landscape, but because we subject ourselves to all kinds of notifications, alerts, and updates, it’s a daunting task for you to grab my attention.

When you do get my attention, can you compel me to take action? Every cry for attention is partnered with a cry for involvement. Why should the reader get involved with you?

Luckily you don’t have to have EVERYONE’s attention. Targeting is easy and vital to any successful, measurable marketing effort. But targeting is only one element in any marketing strategy.

So here it is, the #1 marketing strategy:

Clearly define your marketing message.

Have it written down, posted somewhere visible, and on the top of every planning document. It’s one statement about how you serve your customers that will be a trunk for your campaigns to branch from.

A clearly defined marketing message will:

  • Set a direction for your marketing and guide your use of all the data that is pouring in.

  • Allow you to respond to situations and events in a way that is relevant to your customers.

  • Keep your targeting focused on the right people.

It also roots your company’s identity in your ability to serve people in a specific way.

If you have a large corporation, all your departments can move forward as one unit because there is a unifying message that you all hold to.

I love different marketing techniques and strategies, but without a solid marketing message in place, it will all fall apart eventually.

Have you ever experienced that? Confusing results, dissension in the team, friction between customer and company all because of a misunderstanding in the marketing?

Has your company rallied around one idea or message? How do you take that message into everyday operations?

Comment below and add something unique to the discussion. And share this post. Let’s get others in on the conversation!

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