Volume One, a local arts and culture publication, is coming out with their next ‘Best Of’ voting where local residents vote on their favorite restaurants, events, community development projects, etc. It reminded me that this recognition of being the best in your industry is something amazing, and not something you should take for granted as a small business owner.
But wait, we’ve talked about this before as marketers…it’s actually a basic principle of marketing. It’s called positioning.
Positioning was first coined by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book: “Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind.” Positioning is the practice of identifying a space in the market that is not currently being filled, and aligning your business or products with it so that customers recognize your business or products as the best solution to their need.
Positioning is all about being known for something by your customers – taking up a space in their mind – being the best, the fastest, the lowest price, the highest quality, the safest, the sweetest, the most trustworthy, the newest, the oldest. Positioning means your product or service fills a hole in the market, and it’s one of the most important marketing strategies that a business has. It helps you differentiate from competition, it makes you more memorable, and it gives a target group of customers a specific reason to buy your product or service.
So during this ‘Best Of’ season, what is your business known for? When customers hear your company name, what’s the one word you want them to associate with you? If you don’t know, ask them. If they don’t know, it’s time to work on your positioning.
Google again just released another update to their search algorithm a couple months ago, and I hear a lot of businesses wondering how they’re ever going to figure out SEO when Google keeps changing the rules.
There is a very simple answer and one that is best for your company’s brand, your customers, and for search engines: keep publishing useful, unique content.
No matter what changes Google has made to their algorithm in the last 10 years, they’ve all been focused on one objective: to provide better, more relevant content (in the form of search results) to users. They’ve gotten rid of spam, they’ve shunned crappy directories, they’ve brought good directories to the forefront, they’ve basically made it a waste of time to try to trick the search engine. So why are we still trying to trick them when all they want is for you to give them something real?
Your Company Needs to Think Like a Publisher.
As a modern marketer, your job no longer requires hours of research and sifting through purchased databases of mailing lists. Your job is to connect with customers and help them learn about your product. Your job is to answer your customers’ questions, provide them with stories of how your product or service helped someone else, or teach them to be better buyers of your product.
You accomplish this by changing your thinking. Pretend you’re a journalist, and you’re looking for stories. Your beat is your company, and you want to get news out that matters to your readers. You want people to subscribe to your news. You want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry and do the first to report on new trends, topics, and tips. When you start thinking like a journalist whose sole responsibility is to cover your company, you’ll find that there really IS a lot to write about and it’s not as hard to come up with as you might think.
Here are a few ideas of where you can find great content inside the walls of your own company:
- Interview employees and ask them about their last encounter with a customer.
- Talk to your customer service staff and find out what the top 5 most frequently asked questions are. Then find someone in the company who can answer those questions.
- Ask your sales staff why customers say no, and how the salesperson responds to overcome it.
- Ask your sales staff what the customers care about most; what problems, specifically, your product solves.
You can also take tidbits from your existing marketing materials and expand upon them in a blog or special section of your website. Provide instructions or how-tos in the form of articles or videos. Share photos on your website or graphics of your work.
But Is Content Marketing Really Going to Work?
I know some of you are saying to yourselves right now “this seems like a lot of busy work that doesn’t directly ask for a sale or convert.” Well, it’s not directly asking for a sale. It’s not pushing a promotion. It’s not interrupting people and forcing them to listen to your special deal. It’s different than what we are used to. But that’s ok! We all know, and have heard the stats, that traditional, interruption marketing just doesn’t work all that well in the Internet era. So why are we so afraid to try something that is proving to be a winning strategy?
Most businesses right now aren’t structured to be publishers, and I think that’s why they’re not moving faster. They’re still trying to get used to the fact that they might have to employ writers, videographers, or photographers….or they might have to do this themselves. Marketing today is much more than buying advertising and then brushing your hands off and saying you’re done for the year. It’s more than sending out a mailing and then waiting for the calls to come in. This takes some getting used to, but it’s worth the investment of time and resources to build a content strategy for your business sooner rather than later.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is one of the safest cities in the country. In fact, it has been ranked in several reports about being safe, clean, friendly, and having great education. So why is it that our local news stations (at least one, in particular) spends so much of its time on stories they got from the police scanner? I’m not even kidding – I just watched the first 5 minutes of the news cast and counted 5 stories – ALL about who got arrested, who was charged with what, who was found guilty. Seriously??? Is that all that’s going on in this town? Absolutely not.
It would be refreshing if those writing the 10:00 news stories would actually report on NEWS in the community, not just the crime. It’s sad too, because employers like Mayo Health System are trying to get people to think Eau Claire is a great place to live and work, yet all those people see on the local news is how much crime we (apparently) have.
I’m thoroughly disappointed in the lack of journalistic effort. And to the unnamed TV stations who rely on the police scanner for “juicy” stories: If you’re having a hard time finding good journalists to write newsworthy stories, you’re not looking very hard. If you have good journalists, but don’t give them a chance to air their stories because they’re not “juicy enough”, then the director needs a kick in the butt. Come on…let’s work a little harder and do the job well. It’s insulting to see you be so lazy.
His name is Travis Grode. He just released his first solo EP and I’m trying to promote it through whatever means I have at my disposal. He describes his music as this on his website:
“An introspective indie record for those who like their music to have substance. Raw and edgy vocals combined with heartbreaking lyrics and a stripped down acoustic sound featuring cello and piano highlights.”
From our early days jamming after basketball games or playing at Phil’s Pub, I always believed that Travis’s passion for music and talent would bring him opportunities, now unfolding in front of our eyes.
Don’t forget to share with your friends, too…
…on Twitter: @TravisGrode
…on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Travis-Grode/524335480