For a small business, marketing and advertising seeks an answer to the question “How will prospective customers find me?” People today no longer reply to direct mail. They don’t peruse the phone book. They use television, newspaper, magazines and other traditional media much less. In fact, they don’t even ask their friends in person. They use Google or they ask their online social contacts. As a result, most small businesses would benefit from enhancing their website presence by blogging and social media connections.
People can find our website through a keyword search by typing “Marotta on Money” into Google. It took a while before our site was at the top of Google’s list. Initially the collection of articles I’ve authored on other websites or even our Twitter site ranked higher than our own website.
If people are looking for you or your company by name that type of search is perfect. But many people who would benefit from your products or services are looking for a solution to a problem, not trying to locate your company by name.
Online marketing focuses on optimizing your content for links and search engine ranking. The primary principle is to provide remarkable content for your end audience. Sites that concentrate on you and your company are not as effective as those whose central focus is on readers and their needs.
The people searching for your business already know it is the answer to their needs. Everyone else doesn’t really care about you, your company or your product. They have a question or a problem and want to find the answer. So don’t construct a website that resembles a brochure. Design each page to offer a specific piece of information well indexed with the keywords that relate to the question, not the solution.
Ask yourself, “What are readers looking for?” The typical blog post describes how to do X using Y. I’ve seen pages that provide such advice without using either terms X or Y. Instead they are filled with keywords about the answer Z. Such unfocused writing makes it difficult for search engines to index and find your post.
Don’t write about your company. Write about what interests your customers. And give away as much free quality information as you can. Ideally scores of people will take your advice and share it with their friends. Assuming your advice is knowledgeable and well reasoned, it will establish your expertise.
Your blog should offer quality information of significant value to your readers, which means digesting and organizing your information. Most people do not have the time to sift through the complex literature in a particular industry. They need you to summarize, simplify and call them to act on the information.
I’m often asked what financial books I recommend to people who are just getting started. My answer is that most people don’t have time to read the journals, research papers and books that provide the intellectual support for comprehensive wealth management. Fortunately they don’t need to. We read widely and summarize a plethora of books and publications in bite-sized chunks with specific calls on our website to act on that information.
Such popularizing of complex financial information creates value for clients and readers alike. If it did not, readers would not subscribe, share and forward our blog posts.
Blogging is like laundry. It requires a significant effort every week. Quality content has to be written on a regular schedule. It takes people who can write passionately about the subject matter. And it requires effort to craft quality content.
Blogging takes time, but we use our writing efforts to save time. Every time a client asks a financial question, we write a detailed personal answer. But we also save our reply as a potential article, comment or Q&A. Having quality explanations for common customer questions saves time and effort and helps potential clients understand exactly how they would use your product or services. They know in advance what value they can expect.
Taking the extra time to give away as much free information as possible allows us to focus on helping clients and tangentially readers as much as possible. As a result, we don’t need to push our services. For every hundred readers who benefit from our freely offered advice, we naturally attract qualified clients who want us to help them accomplish what we write about.
Any new publication takes time to gain traction. I’ve been writing a weekly financial column since 2002 but attracting a following took a while. We started a daily financial blog this past summer, and its popularity just surpassed our corporate site, largely because we are offering more information in a more timely manner.
To write quality content, you have to become an expert in your subject matter. You must commit to connecting with people and helping them. And finally, you must be willing to take the time to learn the craft of good writing. These three criteria are the definition of experts in any field. And experts attract those who want their expertise.
We expanded our content at MarottaOnMoney after hearing Thomas Umstattd speak at a conference in Mount Hermon, California, just under a year ago. Umstattd, the CEO of Castle Media Group, is knowledgeable, bright, entertaining and young in that order. He understands which new media attract people and how giving them what they want is good for business.
We are offering an hour-long free seminar specifically for small business owners, “The 7 Secrets of Effective Inbound Marketing,” next Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at the Charlottesville Northside Library Meeting Room from 7 to 8 p.m. Even if you are working extensively with a local media group or have never even considered the possibility, I recommend taking an hour to hear what you might consider and why. A question-and-answer session will follow.
In addition to writing articles, I found that giving talks to service groups (Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.) was a great marketing tool. I would always circulate a “sign-up” sheet to get their snail and email address. That way I could put them on my newsletter (snail mail at that time) and email distributions. Service groups are always in need of persons to give very short talks.
Also, giving classes at night at local schools was another great marketing tool for me during the early days of my business.
After you have gained many clients then encouraging referrals becomes effective.