Content Tips and Tricks
Debra Sheridan, president of IVY Marketing Group was invited to present a workshop at last month’s Life Services Network Conference in Chicago. The prestigious event drew hundreds of professionals in all areas of the senior housing industry. “Being invited to be a presenter was really an honor as this conference draws the very best in the field,” said Debra.
Debra spoke about the importance of keeping good ideas flowing in order to advance the sales process with more interesting content used within blog posts, social media updates, videos, eBooks, newsletters and webinars. “This content serves you in many ways as it improves search engine rankings, drives traffic to websites, helps to nurture leads and assists in establishing you as an expert in your field,” she said. “But it can’t be just any content. It has to be relevant and remarkable.”
Generating a constant stream of interesting topics is challenging. Debra offered some tricks for indentifying intriguing topics.
- Follow the news—if the media is already interested, if people are talking about a certain topic, join that conversation by writing a white paper, comment blogs, start discussions in social media, etc. Follow industry news as well.
- Subscribe to email newsletters from niche publications that cover senior housing and services.
- Set up Google Alerts for non-branded keywords relating to your industry, products and/or audience.
- Monitor social media conversations.
- Recruit content creators such as bloggers.
- Create “annual” and “best-of” features.
- Bring a video camera with you to tradeshows, events, programs, etc. Turn videos into blog posts and eBooks.
One of the best tips of all is to keep a backlog of stories and/or topics handy. This should include, but not be limited to, evergreen content. Not everything needs to be hot or trending or the latest buzz. Evergreen content includes topics that are always interesting to your audience regardless of seasonal trends, economic conditions or other external factors.
Debra concluded that, as is the case with beautiful women, “all content is more attractive if it is well accessorized. Use photos, videos, links to other sites, research, case studies, quotes ad anything else that will enhance the content of your publication.”
Dare to be Fascinating Presentation 2012
Six degrees of separation is used to describe the power of LinkedIn. In theory, any individual on earth is potentially connected to any other individual on earth, through a chain of six or less links. In practice, LinkedIn, which is the largest professional network in the world, has the power for you to use your existing connections and to make new connections, which in turn will be used to secure additional connections. The potential positive impact is enormous; and one that should be sought by all professionals looking to grow their business.
In February of this year, LinkedIn reported that it has more than 150 million members and is growing at an estimated rate of about two new members per second. LinkedIn members come from more than 200 different countries and territories. Executives from all of the 2011 Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, and more than 2 million companies have LinkedIn company pages. These huge numbers of professionals and businesses are, through LinkedIn, literally at your finger tips.
What does LinkedIn allow you to do?
- Aside from its enormous reach, perhaps the most significant characteristic of LinkedIn is that it levels the playing field. LinkedIn effectively permits you to compete with larger and more well-established businesses. You have the ability to tell your company’s story, share interesting content in multi-media formats, highlight specific products or events, engage followers, and establish yourself as experts in your industry. Professionals, who otherwise may not know about your organization, have access to all of your pertinent information on LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn members rank more predominantly on Google and other search engines meaning that your membership will greatly enhance your visibility to a global marketplace.
- LinkedIn capitalizes on what every marketing professional knows is the most valuable tool for generating new business: referrals/word of mouth. It does so by permitting you to prove your expertise in your industry (see next bullet point), and also through recommendations that your colleagues, customers, business associates, and others can document on your page.
- LinkedIn helps you to establish yourself and your employees as experts. By engaging in informative and interesting dialogue and by participating in LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers, you have the ability to set yourself up as leaders in the industry.
- While exchanging ideas, information and knowledge with your peers on LinkedIn you are also keeping yourself updated on industry happenings and trends. Furthermore, you are positioned to keep track of your competition.
- LinkedIn has been used since it was first established as a resource for employment, both from the perspective of potential employers, and potential employees. LinkedIn can help you find the very best employees and the very best employers.
- LinkedIn helps you to maintain the connections you’ve worked so hard to create. As customers or colleagues change jobs or move, you stay connected.
- In addition to linking LinkedIn to your website, you can connect all of your social media sites including Twitter and Facebook ensuring maximum impact.
Tips for optimizing your LinkedIn Company Page:
- Put your best face forward. Make sure your information is current, interesting and engaging. Don’t make silly type or grammatical errors!
- Invite people to follow you. Email your contacts, post on your Facebook, and tweet about it on Twitter. Place a Follow button on your website.
- Update your status in a creative and engaging way to help to maximize your visibility. You can do this by asking questions, starting dialogue, posting a call to action and more.
- Join groups! Groups are considered to be the most powerful feature of LinkedIn, serving as a way to connect you with thousands of like-minded business professionals. Join all relevant groups and engage in dialogue with them. Better yet…start groups! This places your website as the featured site, and your name as the owner, helping to showcase you as an expert in your industry. Use these to direct traffic to your website.
- Participate in LinkedIn Answers! By establishing your expertise, you are also establishing yourself as the go-to-person that business professionals will seek out.
- Used LinkedIn Ads! Because LinkedIn is comprised of business professionals, your ads are likely to be seen by real decision-makers.
- Encourage people to make positive recommendations for your business. Even better– do the same for others, without being asked.
- Use LinkedIn Apps to better showcase your videos, documents, presentations and more.
Many professionals have used at least parts of LinkedIn for many years. If you’re not yet doing so, join these savvy business people in this enormous network. You won’t be sorry!
Content rules… your website, your blog, your online and offline newsletters and your customer experience. Make it fascinating by selecting topics that are interesting, entertaining and informative. The right content will shed a bright light on your organization. A strategic choice of media will create a wide net for your content to fascinate prospects and residents.
As senior housing and service providers embrace the inbound marketing strategies necessary to gain the attention of prospects, they are also challenged to continually create the meaningful content that supports the sales process.
Content marketing is the art of creating compelling and valuable content and distributing it through a variety of channels, online and traditional. It is the practice of developing relevant content in a consistent fashion to target buyers, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism. Good content can circumvent the consumer’s desire to block unwanted messages because they find it personally or professionally beneficial.
Content marketing is also a science born in the strategic plan. Subjects are planned. Accessories and outside content to support the topic is decided. Distribution is determined. The voice(s) suited for each target group is honed. Metrics that gauge consumer influence during both the buying and retention process of a customer experience are established.
Here’s an example of how to make a less than dynamic story relevant to your strategic plan, your sales prospects, customers, general audience and media. The principles in this example can be applied to all the content you are considering.
Your news hook…
You have an ice cream social for residents, family and guests at least twice a year and would like to send a story and caption to the media for some free publicity and better attendance at the next ice cream social. You know people really enjoy it — but will the media help you tell your story with free publicity?
Let’s get strategic…
Consider why you want to have media cover and if this placement will hurt other placements you may seek with this publication. If you still want to move forward with it, think it terms of the publication’s readership; let’s say they are baby boomers who live within a 5 to 10 miles of where your ice cream social took place. Next, do the photos you took of the participants reflect the image you want to portray for your organization? At this point, you may decide that you really don’t have a very compelling story, your photos do not reflect the high energy and independence you want your community to be known for and finally you still have to get photo releases from the people whose photos will be submitted to the publication. Is it really worth it? It will be!
Look at all the angles…
First, think about the possible story angles that this can take on: the popularity of ice cream — why is that? What benefits does it possess? What are the most popular flavors? How many places can you buy ice cream within the area of the readership? Is there a physiological change within a person when then eat ice cream? Think about what would expand the interest of the reader and what could be relevant or entertaining to them.
Add the extras…
Then look at the photos you have. Can they be cropped to be more appealing? Can you add stock photography to the shot to make it more interesting? Do you have video to add? Links to other great sources and stories?
Make it last…
Review your distribution options: local print, online, your website, newsletter. Consider if this story now interests the readers of any or all of these venues; now, it probably will. Send it out, email or call to follow-up with the editor(s) and print it out when it is published. Create links to and from the publication and your website. This article has just begun to work for you….
Get permission for reprints and put them in your sales folders. Frame and wall mount the story in a prominent place, post it on your website and feature it in your newsletter.
How your content benefits marketing…
You have just developed a sweet little event into a marketing tool that helps people know what kind of community they are considering, the lifestyle they will enjoy when they move. You’ve also honored the activities of those who live at the community.
Wow, now you have created something really fascinating!
When an organization engages people enough to have them seek out information about their products and services, it’s called Inbound Marketing. The process of pulling prospects and customers toward a business is becoming widely accepted because it is the way that consumers prefer to make their buying decisions — via the Internet which is now the first responder to consumer questions about how to solve their needs and wants.
Inbound Marketing differs from traditional Outbound Marketing methods such as advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, etc. that seeks customers via intrusive, unsolicited messages. Since consumers are able to omit these intrusions from their lives and use technology to filter the messages they want to receive, the prospect’s real value as a lead is greatly improved. Inbound Marketing also “sweetens the pot” by offering consumers useful tools and resources that attracts them to the organization’s website and creates a relationship with them.
Inbound Marketing primarily uses social media to drive consumers to their website and to communicate with them creating a relationship. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular and effective social media methods; although, their effectiveness is influenced by the market a business intends to reach. The leads created from social media and a company’s website are considered to be more valuable than any outbound channel because the prospect has sought out the information about the services or products that they have identified as a need in their life.
With a track record for valuable sales leads and today’s economy, businesses welcome the 60% savings on their cost per lead — from an average of $332 per lead for Outbound Marketing to $134 for Inbound Marketing leads, according to a HubSpot report, “The 2010 State of Inbound Marketing.” Budget allocations to Inbound Marketing have risen 67% and have been shifted from the traditional Outbound Marketing line items.
The HubSport Report further identified social media and blogs as the fastest growing category in lead generation budgets and they continue to be ranked as the lowest cost lead-generation channel. Businesses who use these tools cite specific sales results, proving that Inbound Marketing isn’t just for branding anymore!
Inbound or Outbound Marketing?
Do you want your prospects to look forward to seeing your offers, information and counsel? You can accomplish that with an Inbound or “pull” marketing strategy which means your prospects and customers seek information you have to offer based on their needs and interests. This is contrary to the Outbound or “push” marketing strategy that focuses on your features and repetitive intrusions.
In fact, approximately 40% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing in 2011 which exemplifies the Inbound strategy. Content marketing is characterized by its ability to inform customers and prospects about key industry issues. This may or may not involve the products or services of the company or organization publishing the content. This soft sell approach has a far greater market appeal than blasting the features of a company to its customers and prospects without regard for the benefit it brings to the recipient. Instead of finding ways to block an advertiser’s message, the customers or prospects actually “pull” in the information being delivered.
Content marketing is most commonly provided in print and online newsletters, online magazines, blogs, articles white papers, webcasts, webinars, videos and podcasts. This style of content is often available via email marketing, events and other forums.
There is one rule with content marketing: it must be relevant and valuable to create your customer’s and prospects’ desire to learn about you and your products or services. Think: what’s in it for them?
Here’s why it’s important to transition to Inbound/content marketing… According to the Customer Publishing Council and Roper Public Affairs:
- 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information is a series of articles versus an advertisement
- 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
- 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions
Inbound content marketing is not a campaign: it’s a commitment. It takes 12 to 18 months to see the results of your efforts. An article published in Communication Strategy by John Buscall, entitled: “How Long Does It Take to Work?” stated that “After three months you might see a glimmer of results, after 9 months, your approach will start to be discovered by more people and at 12 months you’ll know that it’s working [and what adjustments need to be made to improve results]. And that’s if you commit to a plan, regularly create excellent online content for your marketing initiatives and track your metrics to know how you are doing.”