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Get started with content marketing in 5 steps

If you’ve spent any time researching the best marketing techniques for your business, then you’ve probably heard of content marketing. Content marketing aims to attract customers by providing useful, relevant information that appeals to the customer and draws their attention to your business.

Content marketing is especially useful in building the reputation of your business as one that understands its customers and can help solve their problems and has become an essential part of a successful modern marketing strategy. While what is necessary to develop a solid content strategy will vary for each business, here are some fundamentals that will be true for almost any business looking to get started with content marketing.

1. Understand your audience

As I’ve said before, understanding your audience is essential. The audience you are appealing to will drive the style, placement and format of all the content that you create for your content marketing campaigns.

Most of all, know why your customers come to you. Think of the problems that your business solves for your customer, big and small. Content marketing is your chance to showcase your business’ expertise by showing that you can make life easier for your customers.

2. Identify key platforms

Knowing where your customers spend their time online is the next essential part of making sure that your content will be seen, and that it will be relevant. If your target market are heavy users of social media, then you should be posting on the sites they use. If they rely heavily on search, then making sure your content ranks highly on search engines should be a focus. Always remember that the key to content marketing is to reach your audience when they look for answers; don’t try to find the easiest or the most fashionable platform to use, look for the one that your audience is using.

3. Create relevant content

The content that you create must be relevant in two ways. First, it must be relevant to the audience. This means that it needs to be concerned more with meeting their needs than in being an advert for your business. Audiences interact with content marketing because it is of use to them, not because it promotes you. Make sure that the majority of what you post addresses customer issues – keep any overt marketing efforts to a ‘call to action’ in the content that encourages your audience to take the next step and connect with you.

Second, the content you create must be relevant to your platform. Shorter form or graphical content for sites like Facebook and Twitter, engaging videos for YouTube or Instagram, longer form content for blog posts or LinkedIn… whatever platform your audience is using will shape the kind of content that they are most likely to engage with, so make sure that you are posting the right material.

4. Post regularly

You’ve probably seen it yourself at some point – you find some interesting content created by an organisation or an individual, and you click through to look for the rest of their content, only to find that their last post was weeks or months ago. If you’ve been in that situation, the chances are that you didn’t return to that site.

Irregular content updates make your content marketing look neglected and leads the audience to ignore you. Make sure that you have a schedule to post to and stick to it. Creating a content calendar, with updates planned in advance, helps both with determining what content you are going to create and in keeping your content on track.

5. Measure results

As with any marketing efforts, don’t let posting your content be the end of the job. Monitor the metrics of your posts, tracking how people have come to your content, how they are interacting with it, whether it has been shared, which parts of your audience the post most resonated with; there is a wealth of data available through Facebook, Google Analytics and social analytics tools. Use the data to help identify top performing content and shape your ongoing strategy.

Content marketing is never a quick fix. A successful strategy takes time to develop, and time to build the results, developing an audience and building up your brand as a source of valuable information. But the results are invaluable, giving a return on investment that is almost impossible to achieve with traditional marketing. Ready to take your content to the next level? John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help your business develop a content strategy that will work for you. Book an appointment at today to get started.

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

Aim before Action: 5 steps to building marketing plans that work

Marketing is an essential driver of business growth and success, but without a solid marketing plan it could end up costing you more than it makes. Below are five steps to consider when setting up a successful marketing plan that helps you get the results you want.

1. Set goals

Before you can create a plan, you need to have a clear idea of what you need it to accomplish. This is more than the basic ‘attract more customers to my business’; to be able to measure the success of a marketing plan, you need to determine some specific and measurable outcomes. This could raising your business’ monthly income by 20%, adding 500 subscribers to your mailing lists, increasing the average monthly number of visits a customer makes to your store by 50% – the key points is that the goals of your marketing plan should align with the goals you have for your business, and that you should be able to measure the success of the campaign against them. This also means setting a timeline for the goal, and a specific point in time that you will track the success of the campaign.

For more on goal setting, has some excellent advice here:

2. Understand your audience

As much as we would all like to sell something that absolutely everyone needs, for most of us, our businesses aim to sell to a specific type of customer. Understanding those customers, their needs and their behaviour, is essential to putting together a successful marketing plan.

When creating customer profiles, you will likely have several difference main customer groups, usually separated by demographic information such as age, gender and occupation.

For each group you determine, think about what they do – how they travel to work, where they go for their entertainment and how they spend their time plays a huge part in what types of advertising they will see. Think about their relationship to your business; what need do you help them fulfil, what problem do you help them to solve? All of this will help to shape your campaign and make sure that your message is relevant to your customers, and that your ads are being displayed where your customers will see them.

3. Know what makes you different

Every successful business has a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP. Your USP is what sets you apart from your competitors and gives you your edge – it’s the reason that your customers choose you.

Do some research and try to understand your closest competitors. Identify what they are selling, their prices, and the strengths and weaknesses each of them has as a company. Look at your competitors from the point of view of a customer, and think about what would make you willing, or unwilling, to give them your business.

Once you understand your competitors, you can determine your own USP. When putting it together, think of the things that set your products and services apart, about the benefits your customers can get from those products and services. Remember that what makes you unique is about more than just what you sell. Even if your products are identical to your competitors, you can still stand out in terms of service, convenience or the expertise of your staff.

4. Reach your audience

Now that you know who you are marketing to and what makes you stand out, you can start putting together your marketing message and choosing where it will be displayed. Your marketing message should consider your customer profiles, using the right ‘voice’ and the right imagery to appeal to the customers you have identified. Your USP should be included as a key piece of information, letting your customers know the reason they should choose you above your competitors.

When choosing where to place your advertising, again, look back to your customer profiles. Understanding where your audience goes for information and what platforms they use for entertainment will give you a clear idea of what marketing platforms will be most likely to reach the audience you are looking for.

5. Measure and improve

Marketing is not a once-and-done job. After your campaigns have launched, it is important to continue to monitor their success and measure the impact they have had on your business. Look back to the goals you set at the start of the planning process and track the numbers that you are looking to improve. Wherever possible, try to confirm the source of new customers and increased revenue. For online campaigns, these can be tracked using the analytics provided to you. For other campaigns, customer surveys or simply talking with your customers and asking how they found you can help to measure what has influenced their actions.

Once you have a clear idea of the effect of your marketing campaigns you can review, considering your goals and the effects of the campaign, and investigate ways that you can improve. This continual improvement will make sure that your campaigns operate effectively and help you to meet your business goals.

Thinking of refreshing your marketing plan? John Rowbottom Design and Marketing offer complete marketing and design solutions, from building a successful plan through to the creation and delivery of campaigns that drive results. If you would like to discuss how to drive the success of your next campaign, enquire at today.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

5 tips for creating winning emails

In my last post, I covered the basics of building an email marketing list. Of course, getting people’s contact information is only step one… step two is making sure that the emails you send to that list work for you to convert as many potential leads as possible into customers. In this post, I will go through five simple tips to help ensure that your emails get opened, read and acted on by your audience.

1. Use the right subject line

The subject line is one of the most important elements of your email campaign. It is the first thing your audience will see, and it must grab their attention and encourage them to read on, with only a few seconds to get their attention. The simplest way to make sure you’re getting your message across is to let your audience know what this email will do for them, with dynamic, actionable language. What does that mean? Compare these two possible subject lines:

Money saving offer inside

Save over 50% on lawnmowers at MowerWorld

The second subject line is considerably more likely to get the attention of your readers. While the first one might get some attention (who doesn’t like to save money?), the second explains what the reader will get from the email, where the offer is for, and does so in active terms, rather than the passive voice of the first subject line. Letting your audience know what they can do with and how they will benefit from the information you’re giving them means they’re more likely to read on.

2. Personalise, but don’t be invasive

An email will always be more relevant to your audience if it has been personalised to them. This doesn’t mean including details like their name or other personal information; instead, it means building mailing lists that are segmented by the types of customer or lead you are interacting with. Think of the audiences you are communicating with, and the way they interact with your business. A potential customer will have different needs than a current customer, current customers will have different needs based on the types of product they regularly buy, and so forth. Separating out your mailing lists based on these criteria will mean you are able to customise the message you send to each group to better address their needs, meaning your emails are more likely to be clicked on.

3. Don’t waste time

Your customer didn’t come top their inbox to read your message. Always remember that the message you have sent is an interruption to whatever your audience is doing, and as such, they don’t want to spend much time on what you have to say. Long emails and unnecessary information mean that your readers will click away before they’ve taken the action you want, and the effort it took to get them to open the email is wasted. Keep your message short and to the point and leave any more complicated details for brochures and web pages.

4. Make it clean

Ugly emails with cluttered presentation will lead to your customers closing your email. Emails that don’t display properly on the device your reader is using are even worse. To maximise the chance of your mail being read, you need to make sure that the design is clean, legible and responsive to the user’s device. Luckily, there are several easy-to-use online tools that help in designing clear and responsive emails, as well as in automating email sends and collecting analytics on customer response, such as mailchimp and vision 6.

5. Make the most of your call to action

Every email you send should include a clear call to action, the part of your message that encourages your audience to take the action that you want. Ideally, you should include your call to action twice – once near the start of the email, and again at the end – in order to catch any readers who won’t make it to the end of the mail. To optimise responses, make your call to action simple, letting the reader act with just a click of a link or button.

Email marketing remains a key part of as successful marketing mix and taking advantage of the opportunities it can give is essential to success. John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help you to create email campaigns that will engage your audience. If you’d like to get started, get in touch at today.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Building your brand: 5 branding steps for small business

Having a brand that clearly represents your business is a big part of how you communicate with your customers. Your brand sits at the centre of your marketing; it’s a clear identity that should run through everything you use to reach your audience, letting them know who you are and what your business stands for. Developing a successful brand identity is something that takes time and effort, but there are a set of steps that can make the process simpler and help to ensure you get the right results.

1. Know your audience

This is the most important aspect of marketing, and that’s still the case when it comes to building your brand. You need to know who your potential customers are and what they are looking for from your business in order to create a brand that speaks to them and addresses those issues. I spoke about this in my last blog post, and the points I raised there are still relevant here – if you haven’t seen it already it’s worth reading through that post before you continue here, but the short version is “know who your customers are”. Understand their background, their income, their needs and how they spend their time and you’ll be better able to talk to them in a way they will appreciate.

2. Know yourself

Again, I mentioned this in my previous post and discussed the importance of a Unique Selling Proposition that sets you apart from your competitor. Building a brand means taking the ideas that set you apart and building them into how you communicate. Is your company environmentally focussed? Is your USP the speed of your service? Is it the knowledge base that your staff have and their ability to solve the customer’s problems? Whatever gives your company its edge and speaks to your customers needs to be the core of your brand identity.

Once you have a good understanding of your customers and of what makes your company unique, you can use as the basis for creating your brand identity.

3. Create your visual brand

This is what most people think of when they think of branding – the visual elements that can identify your company at a glance. Exactly what will be involved will vary depending on your industry and the types of customers you’re trying to reach, but some things will play into almost every brand:

A logo. This is the image that encapsulates your brand. A logo is the thing your customers will most immediately associate with your company’s image, and should capture the essence of your brand’s identity… whether that be energetic and dynamic, traditional and trustworthy, or hand-crafted and hipster-friendly. Logo development should be the start of your visual brand and the results should shape the feel of the rest of your visual communications.

A website. What goes into developing a successful website is worth a post on its own. By now, I don’t think I have to convince anyone that having a website is an essential for a small business, but it is important to make sure that your brand informs the look and feel of your website. Everything from the colours used to the layout to the choice of fonts should be in keeping with the rest of your visual brand, and should help strengthen the identity you want for your company.

A style guide. Often, I’ve seen companies skip this step when developing their visual brand, which is a decision that often comes back to haunt them later. A style guide is a summary of the decisions that have gone into building the visual elements of your brand, and a set of rules and guidelines on how to use those elements. This information becomes important when you come to add new forms of communication – a new brochure, new signage, an app – to make sure that anything new continues to fit the existing brand style, and that anyone who works on those projects knows how to implement your design. Style guides can be anything from a few pages long to thick volumes of information, but whatever the size, they’re essential to making sure that your visual identity remains consistent.

4. Create your voice

An organisation’s voice is the other half of its brand. Whenever you are writing for your audience, whether that be dialogue for an ad, the copy on your website, a blog post or a brochure, the way that you speak to your audience needs to maintain the same voice. As with your visual identity, this should reflect what makes your business unique, and should resonate with your audience. The brand voice of an exclusive hotel will be refined, formal and polite. The voice of a surfboard shop will be laid back, friendly and casual. The right voice will make your values clear to your audience and lets them know that you understand them.

Setting down the guidelines for your brand’s voice is, once again, an important step. In the same way that the Style guide helps any designers who work on your material, the voice guide makes sure that your written communication maintains the same tone of voice regardless of who creates it.

5. Talk to your audience

Blogging and content marketing are great ways to build your brand image. They represent a cheap – often free – way to put information that represents your business and its identity in front of an audience that will listen.

The key to successful content marketing is creating content that resonates with your audience. Think about what brings customers to your business, the kind of questions that they have and the problems that your products or services solve, and create blog posts that address those issues and provide helpful solutions. By providing relevant information you build the image of your business as one that can help your customers, increasing their trust and making them more likely to choose you than your competitors.

If you’ve decided that it’s time for your business to build its brand, John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help with every step of the branding process, from brand development to creating content marketing. If you’d like to start a discussion, make an enquiry at today.

Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash

Five optimisation tips to upgrade your campaigns

Marketing can be expensive, and the results it drives are vital to growing your business. You want to make sure that your campaigns are working as had for you as they possibly can, every time, so that every penny you spend goes to bringing in new business. In this post, I cover five marketing optimisation techniques that help to ensure your marketing is performing as well as it possibly can.

1. Consider your overall strategy

No part of your marketing works in isolation from the others. Each part of your marketing mix should be built to support the other sections, continue the message of your campaign and guide your customer to your intended destination. Before you start a campaign, consider the strengths and weaknesses of each platform and determine what marketing mix will best serve this campaign. Make sure that your message of your campaign is consistent, but tailor the content and the format to best fit each platform and the part of your customer base you are trying to reach. Minimising or skipping platforms that are less relevant to your target demographic is one of the easiest ways to ensure your marketing spend is being put to best use.

2. Track real results

With the wealth of data now available to marketers on the performance of their campaigns, it is tempting to emphasise metrics that make you feel good about your campaigns’ performance, but which don’t indicate any genuine success. These vanity metrics – your ads reach, views, and clicks – are meaningless if they are not translating into the results that matter to your business. Instead, track the metrics that matter; how many leads has this campaign generated, how many sales have come from those leads, and what has the ROI been on the campaign? Be brutally honest with yourself. If something isn’t generating those results, then it’s time to change your creative, no matter how many clicks or views it may be getting.

3. Track demographics

No matter how carefully an audience profile has been built at the start of a campaign, there is no guarantee that it will be 100% correct. As your campaign progresses and new leads and customers come to your business, you will be able to continue building your audience profiles. Who have your ads most resonated with? Do they match the initial customer profiles? Which parts of your customer base are the biggest spenders, and which parts need the most contact in order to keep as customers? All this data is important and should be used to keep your campaigns continually updated, and to ensure that they are reaching the customers and leads that they need to.

4. Test everything

As with demographic data, the only way to be sure that your campaign’s creative is working as you intend it to is to test it. A/B testing tools are available for most platforms, from Facebook and Google Ads to your website and landing pages, and you should take advantage of them. Don’t stop at just one test, run multiple trials for each platform, until you are certain that your ads and your content are as optimised as you can make them… then carry that knowledge forwards into the next campaign and the next round of optimisation.

5. Follow your customer journey

The path that a customer will take through your marketing is an important, but often invisible part of the campaign. Consider a potential customer’s journey in the same way that you would consider any individual part of the campaign. How do your customers first find you, what potential paths can each customer take from first contact to becoming a lead? How many steps do they need to take, and what issues can arise for them at each step that might make them stop progressing? Does a customer need more information to help them convert, or do they need less steps in the process to avoid losing their interest? Making sure this part of your campaign is optimised will keep your customers engaged and maximise the leads that come to your business.

Optimisation is a never-ending process, a continual process of refinement that will help to maximise the potential of your campaigns. John Rowbottom Design and Marketing can help you to make the most of all your marketing activity – if you would like to start a conversation, get in touch at today.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash