Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 3)

Vancouver blog writing services

In the second post in this series, we compared two approaches for posting to a blog and social media.

The successful content in our real life example opened with a powerful title and captivating image, and then delivered even more value to me than promised. The content was highly shareable and they prompted me to subscribe to their list in exchange for a ebook I felt I simply must have. The ebook again over-delivered, and I now find myself waiting eagerly for the next extremely helpful edition of their newsletter updates. Superb marketing!

The crash and burn example, on the other hand, was typical old school interruption marketing. They seized every opportunity to sell, sell, sell. (Their sales manager must have been so proud.) Their approach was extremely inconsiderate of my valuable time and I couldn’t click away fast enough. I did not share their brochure-style post with my readers and I certainly wasn’t stupid enough to subscribe to their list, so I could get more of their marketing hype in my inbox.

Where awesome blog posts go wrong

A small business has a new brochure printed. They’ve laboured over every word, image and placement, and finally it’s perfect, ready to go to press. The next afternoon the cartons arrive from the printer. How exciting! The heavy glossy cover stock is elegant, and they’re as impressive as visualized. A flood of leads and perhaps even a Clio seem a foregone conclusion. It’s late in the day, so they sign for the packages, then ask the delivery driver to place the boxes in the supply cupboard.

Three months later, those cartons are still on the shelves in boxes. How much value have they been to the company’s marketing? “Absolutely none,” you say. And why is that? “Duh! Because they weren’t distributed.” Aside for a few pulled to show to colleagues, family and friends, they never saw the light of day.

That’s exactly how your new blog post works for you without distribution and one hell of a lot of promotion… it’s totally invisible.

You must distribute and promote your content

1. Make your content epic, so people need to share it. So what is “epic” content? My favourite definition is, it’s the best damn page on the internet for the topic and targeted keyword phrase. Take a moment to re-read the previous part of this post.

Every piece you post needs to count. It’s not a task to check off your to do list. (If that’s what blogging has become, you should hire a passionate blogger that can fall in love with your brand and mission.)

You’re writing 1,000+ words of actionable content that resonates with the reader persona you’ve defined. This goes well beyond fluff or even useful information. They feel you understand them, their needs, their desires and passions — you’re like them — and they believe you know how to help them solve their problem and get more out of their lives. Dare I say, there’s love evident in the post, and they believe you care enough that they could actually contact you with a question.

2. Make your content ridiculously easy to share. If your blog doesn’t already have them, you want to install social media buttons that are always right by the post.

3. Share the love in order to receive it. As you research information for your blog post, take note of the influential blogs in your niche. If you begin linking to their content, and crediting the writer’s as authorities, you can expecting them to return the favour in time.

Comment on other blog posts in your niche. Adding value to another blog, by providing quality comments, is a one of the best ways to have readers on other blogs discover yours. Look for the “Luv.” If you see the CommentLuv icon below the comment fields at the bottom of post, on a WordPress site, and you’ve installed CommentLuv on yours, when you leave a comment your last post automatically receives a link for their readers to follow.

4. Email your subscriber list for instant traffic. Building your list is arguably the most important reason to have a business website. (I’ll be covering this more in the next post.) People may not check their Facebook wall within minutes of your release a blog post notification, but they will come across it in their inbox, if they have subscribed.

5. Share each post in the major social networks, with care. There is a time and place for shortcuts. I admit that I use Buffer and Hootsuite to publish time-release posts of curated content from other sites. But when I promote my own content, I believe it’s worth a few minutes of my time to get it right.

I do not understand bloggers who will research and labor over a post for hours, then carefully choose the perfect image, proof it again several times and finally click “Publish”, to put it online. And after it’s live, they’ll edit it a dozen more times… only to bang out an automated post to several social media channels. Talk about dropping the ball only inches from the goal posts.

You may have noticed that each of the major social sites has it’s own posting criteria. A one-size-fits-all post will not be ideal for both Twitter and Google+ for example. You only have 140 characters on Twitter, so tags are usually formed out of words within the post. On Google, placing them on a line below is usually best. When linking to someone in Twitter, you use the “@“ prefix, whereas it’s “+” at Google+. G+ lets you use huge hero images that span the entire feed… Check out SproutSocial’s post, for the most up-to-date sizes.

6. Syndicate to other blogs to grab some of their audience. You want to begin compiling a list of other blogs in your niche that may accept syndicated content and will re-publish your posts. This allows you to tap into their audience.

7. Guest post on other blogs. This is a brilliant way to build your authority in your niche, but also an awesome way to tap into the audience of other influential blogs.

8. Repurpose your content. As you build your content inventory, you can re-post some of your better pieces periodically, and it’s unlikely your readers will remember. You’re leveraging your existing content assets.

This is a good time to make your content better. Do you have additional information you could add to make the post more up-to-date or relevant? Can the title be made stronger? Is there a better image you could use to illustrate the post’s topic?

Final thoughts

Hard core bloggers/promoters will have a much longer list, but this should help you get more traffic to your posts almost immediately. As you begin implementing these promotional techniques you should begin seeing a very noticeable spike in traffic within a few hours of each post.

Coming next

In the fourth post I’ll cover the marketing funnel and how you’re going to convert your new readers into subscribers whose buying decisions you can influence on a regular basis, with their full permission.

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Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 2)

Blog writing, Vancouver, BC

In the first post in this series we looked into the primary reason old school “hit the phones” and “pound the pavement” cold calling tactics aren’t working well any more.

Sales managers are gradually coming to the realization that blogging and social media are the new way to generate leads, but they insist on having their sales team populate posts with company and product marketing propaganda. Old habits die hard and they find it difficult to believe that interrupting people’s lives with their message, and “always be closing”, don’t work in blog and social media content.

Late in November, I came across two approaches to marketing an automobile battery with high cold cranking amps.

#1 Blogging and social media done right

I subscribe to quite a few blog feeds in the Feedly app on my iPad. One of the blogs I follow provides useful automotive, household and other tips. It’s valuable information and I often share their posts with my own readers.

One of the posts showed a photo of a woman stranded in her car at night, face lit by the dim light of her flashlight. The windows were iced up and she looked cold and frightened. The title also caught my eye because it promised 8 simple things I could do to keep myself from being stranded this winter.

I’m what friends and family would call “a car guy,” but I felt I could do with a quick refresher. The article was extremely useful for people in areas where temperatures dip below freezing. It fully delivered on the promised 8 simple tips and provided a few bonus recommendations as well, like keeping an automotive cell phone charger in the glove box, and spare jacket, snow shovel and flares in the trunk.

The article was all about me, the reader. Having my battery checked, and replacing it with one with a high cold cranking amps (CCA) rating if needed, was only one of the twelve helpful tips.

At the bottom of the post there was a field that enabled me to subscribe to email updates or the RSS blog feed. There were a few links to related posts on other websites, and two internal links: one to a page on selecting snow tires and the other to a page on choosing the best winter battery. The calls to action were subtle and unoffensive. I clicked the link to the battery page and noted the make and model. I also noticed that this helpful blog was provided courtesy of a major auto parts retailer.. I never suspected.

They had landed me months ago as a subscriber. And now I shared the valuable post with my readers. I was concerned about their safety during the cold winter months and believed they would value the heads up. And I was considering dashing off a quick email to my mother and sister. I didn’t want them to be the frightened, shivering women stranded beside the road on a dark night.

The numbers marketers use vary somewhat, but it takes somewhere between 3 and 7 minimal exposures to a product or service before a buyer considers taking any action. For me, this was the second exposure to this brand of battery. If my battery conked out in the next month or two, I would be more inclined to purchase theirs than any other. Why? Because they took the time to be helpful, rather than just trying to sell me something.

Curious, I located them in Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The posts included the same photo and title as the blog post. And they had been liked, retweeted and +1’d many times.

Before leaving, I downloaded their free ebook: “6 Things You Can Do to Significantly Increase the Life of Your Car”, joining their mailing list and giving them permission to gently influence my buying decisions through helpful emails.

#2 And the old school “sell, sell, sell” approach

A few days later I was annoyed to find a spam email in my email inbox advertising car batteries from another provider. Somehow they’d written the email very carefully and it passed through my anti-spam software. Bastards! I flagged it as spam and deleted the message with disdain. Seconds later, a blog post idea began to form in my mind, so I retrieved it from the trash folder.

The message was essentially an email brochure. At the top was a heavily Photoshopped image of a car battery, with deep blue background, shrouded in a halo of lightning… straight from the battery manufacturer’s website. The copywriter had written both features and benefits, so it wasn’t half bad marketing copy. (Too bad it wasn’t on a “sales” page on their website)

But here’s the thing… I don’t need a car battery today. I did not request this information. These inconsiderate assholes interrupted my busy day to shove a spam ad in my face. Did they influence my future purchasing decision? Absolutely, but in a very negative way. The last battery I would ever buy would now be theirs.

I was curious, so I checked out the company’s blog. Guess what I found as the last post? Same damn ad. I checked their social media channels; same ad again. Amazing! Why would anyone who did not have a dead battery waste their time reading a “brochure” blog post?

No surprise, there were no comments on the blog posts and not a single like, retweet or +1. Do you think anyone subscribes to their blog? Can you imagine anyone deliberately adding to the useless marketing spam in their inbox?

Final thoughts

If your SEO (search engine optimization consultant) is telling you that converting manufacturers’ marketing materials into posts and white papers is getting it done, because it presents keywords to the search engines, the strategy is very shortsighted. Google notices when you have a high bounce rate, and nobody is reading your useless posts or sharing your content. They don’t reward crappy content that’s all about you, and what you sell, with top rankings.

Always ask yourself, “Is this post incredibly valuable to my readers? Will their life be better in some way after they’ve read it? Is it so good they’ll feel compelled to immediately share it?”

Coming next

In the third post in this series I’ll cover the distribution and promotion of your valuable blog content.

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Converting Blog Posts into Leads (Part 1)

Blog writing, Vancouver, BC

Are you publishing regular blogs posts, but not getting a return on that investment?

Business blogging is a content marketing tactic that should be generating leads for you. When it’s working, every time you publish a new blog post, and distribute it through social channels, you should see an immediate and pronounced spike in traffic. Direct form responses increase, new subscribers add your RSS feed to their readers and join your email list, willingly entering your sales funnel. It’s like turning on the faucet.

So why doesn’t it play out like that for most business blogs?

Why “old school” lead strategies have dried up

Experts claim that email altered the sales game forever. The discretionary time business people could spare for clever or persistent salespeople is now more than burned up each day slogging through email. Makes sense.

I often work closely with client sales teams. We recently took on a new project and I was asked to “give a short talk, to bring the sales guys up to speed with online lead generation.” He informed me I was penciled in for twenty minutes. I gasped… everything they needed to know about blogging, social media, the sales funnel and lead nurturing in twenty minutes? Yikes! That should only get me 6 or 7 slides into my PowerPoint.

I asked if I could interview one of the top sales reps. I quickly discovered that his boss expected him to “blog” (whatever the hell that was) and they had been led to believe that a flood of leads would then show up in Maximizer CRM every week from then on. If only it were that simple.

He lamented that increased gatekeeper resistance had made phone marketing almost a lost cause, so he was hoping I could help save his career. He appeared terrified and very confused by the new methods of lead generation.

I noticed sales award plaques on the wall and trophies on the credenza. As a former sales trainer and manager I also immediately recognized that this man knew how to qualify prospects, cultivate leads and close business. He had been a legend, and now felt humiliated and washed up. Lead generation, as he knew it, was dead and he felt really lost. I came from a similar background and was happy I could help him.

I quickly read over the three blog posts he’d prepared and discovered they were the typical old school, “always be closing” sales hype. This is business blogging at its worst. It wasn’t his fault, of course, and I now knew there was much work to be done.

This is so typical. Company owners complain bitterly that people don’t know how to sell any more. But they’re expecting them to rely on lead generation tools and tactics that went out with the last millennium. Blogging and social media are treated like bulk mail, a place to blast unprepared recipients with shameless advertising. Wrong year, wrong approach!

Blogging fixes what’s wrong with most business websites

Examine the average business website and you’ll find a few pages of self-promotional hype, a contact form, maybe a photo gallery… nothing that delivers any real “value” to potential readers at all.

Ever wonder why a Google search may list hundreds of thousands of indexed pages for the search term, while only the enviable top 5 will get roughly 90% of the clicks? Google doesn’t consider most pages on company websites as indexable content, and only a few “get it” when it comes to providing useful content. And therein lies your potential advantage.

There are four basic reasons people search the web: research, shopping, entertainment and connection.

If the searcher isn’t looking for your company, its products and/or services by name, you’re “unfindable” unless you hold high rankings for search terms associated with your product or service. When it comes to shopping searches, the standard business site loses.

People are unlikely to share your About Us, product and testimonial pages in social channels. While this content has it’s place – once people have pretty much already decided to buy from you – it’s not interesting reading or a good introduction. Leading with that self-absorbed content would be as lame as bringing the family tree and albums on a first date. They don’t know you yet, so why should they care? And the entertainment value for most company sites will be very low.

And that brings us to research. The world is looking for answers. Sites with the most perceived expertise develop the most authority in search engines over time. Business websites may provide answers to problems, but tend to shoot themselves in the foot by turning every page into a sales pitch.

Most business websites are trying so hard to be “professional” they suck at human connection.

In summary, the average business website fails to meet even one of the requirements of the four basic search types.

And that’s where blogging comes in. Effective blog writing is all about the reader. The articles offer writer(s) the opportunity to be useful instead of just pitching all the time. Interesting, informative, ridiculously valuable content is something worth sharing, and your readership will begin to promote your stuff for you.

When visitors find a source of valuable information that educates and improves their life, they’ll want more of it. Your blog is the perfect introduction, that can transition casual readers into email subscribers. Once they are on your mail list you have the potential to influence their buying decisions for months and years (providing you don’t screw it up by pitching the bejesus out of them in those emails).

Blogging also heightens the potential for personal connection. You have the opportunity to let your personality shine through. If you joke around with your prospects on the sales floor, don’t be a stuffy writer in your blog. Many successful business bloggers are very entertaining. Readers look forward to the next post.

The takeaway

The goal in business blogging is to build your authority and credibility, drive traffic to your site’s landing pages and grow your ongoing influence by increasing subscribers.

Blog posts are NOT sales pages or a place for company announcements… well at least the majority of them shouldn’t be. The average searcher doesn’t know or care about your company (yet), its products or services, its culture… they’re only there if there’s an immediate personal benefit.

Good posts aren’t a regurgitated version of the same tired crap dozens of other writers have already flogged to death. Epic blog content worth reading and sharing, linking to and indexing, is flat out better than anything your competition has out there.

Coming up

In the second post in this series we’ll explore what valuable blog content is, and how you can create it (or get someone to produce it for you).

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The Power of Our Words

Words of life of death

In every situation, and every interaction, we either speak words of life and love, or death and fear.

Whether audible, written, typed, texted, or whispered only to the heart, these words alter human destiny.

When our content becomes more than marketing or information, and truly helps the audience live richer, more fulfilling lives, it is elevated to something they “must have.”

You Are Unique, You Are Awesome, And What You Have to Say is Worth Reading

Blogging coaching, Vancouver, BC

Are you discouraged with your blogging results? You may be closer to the mark than you think.

If you’ve ever played the “hide the thimble” game as a child, you may recall that we began at the door very “cold.” As our search for the thimble brought us closer to the prize, the other players would giggle and tell us we were getting “warmer.” At times we may have been “hot” for several minutes, yet unable to get our hands on the object.

I evaluated the content of a new client last month, and discovered they had diligently written one great post or article after another, for months on end, without an appreciable increase in traffic, subscribers or leads.

It was technically solid writing. The spelling and grammar were fine. The information was carefully researched and factual. The writers had demonstrated a high level of expertise and there was a strong call to action. Each post had been promoted through several social media channels. They were so close, but something was missing.

Readers respond to people they have grown to know, like and trust. What we were looking for was the “personal connection” that was somehow absent.

Blog writing, Vancouver, BCThere’s a popular venn diagram that has been circulated through the web for a few years, in which three circles intersect: knowledge, experience and passions/desires. It’s in the small centre intersection that we find personal connection, the sweet spot of engagement.

Let’s look at them for a moment:

Knowledge

This is where well-researched, factual information comes into play. It can take many forms, like news, answers to frequently asked questions, educational articles or product information.

Well written, informative articles do provide value to the reader, but in themselves are unlikely to build a following, stimulate engagement or encourage sharing.

My own blogging journey had a very slow start because I focused too much on providing quality, factual information. I’m the first to admit, it was seriously dry reading.

Experience

One of the buzzwords we keep reading about is story telling. Many business bloggers believe this means boasting about themselves, their many years of experience,  problem-solving capabilities and achievements. Your readers don’t want to read “your” stories.

It’s when you share your customer’s stories, and their interests, through your brand that your audience will begin to resonate with your content. As they begin to see themselves as the heroes in the upcoming chapter, you’ll capture their imagination. You want them to respond to a post, a photo or video by thinking, “Hey, that’s totally me! I should tweet this to Joey.”

For that to happen, you must know your audience personas inside and out. Red Bull has done an exceptional job of making their stories all about the customer.

Passions and desires

People don’t generally follow products and services. They connect with real live people that have passions, desires, disappointments and triumphs, just like they do. When your readers discover that you’ve had the same challenges, and you found a better way, they’ll want to follow your journey, so they can have the same outcomes.

Don’t be afraid to weave your personality, opinions and perspective into your posts.

Final thoughts

Many of the bloggers I’ve coached over the past years feel inadequate. They believe the results they’ve achieved have been below expectations because they suck as a writer.

Connecting with prospective buyers is more important than brilliant composition. Acceptable spelling, grammar and style are accessible enough. There’s even an app for that. :-)

Often, business bloggers are closer to the mark than they can possibly imagine. One of the three circles may be missing from their approach. Something as simple as shifting their stories from the company to the customer can make all the difference in the world.

Blogging is all about the “voice.” We respond to the content when we connect with the person behind it.

Always remember that when you improve the outcome for your readers, your “good enough” writing may be a their “awesome.” Ask yourself, “Have a I included personal connection into my post? Will they come away ‘feeling’ something, and committed to taking some form of action?” Your audience wants to live richer, more fulfilling lives. The actions they are inspired to take need not involve a purchase from your company… at least not right away.

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Is Your Non-Responsive Website Costing You Customers and Serious Money?

Responsive web design, Vancouver, BC

What is responsive web design?

Responsive design is a design and development approach that allows your site to respond to the user’s behaviour and environment, based upon the screen size, orientation and platform.

Key features are a flexible grid, flexible images and CSS media queries that configure the design elements and content based upon screen resolutions.

All browsers currently support CSS media queries, including those on PCs, Macs, and iOS, Android, Symbian and Blackberry devices, making responsive design universal.

Superior user experience (UX)

When you have a website that adapts to multiple screen sizes your content looks good on desktops, laptops, tablets, e-readers and smartphones.

It should be noted that “responsive” does not mean “looks the same on every platform.” (That would be non-responsive.) A page that shows 4 widget columns on a desktop or horizontal tablet, may only have 3 columns on a vertical tablet or e-reader, and a single column on a smartphone. The content blocks reconfigure on the fly to provide the best experience for the visitor’s screen.

Why has providing a good mobile experience become essential?

At this time there are roughly 2 billion smartphone users*, making up 83% of internet usage, and there are expected to be 5 billion smartphone users by 2017†.

Constantly zooming in and out, and scrolling from side to side, just to read or do anything, is an agonizing process for mobile users. If your bounce rates are higher than 5%, one of the factors driving your audience to the competition may be a poor mobile user experience.

Google recommends responsive web design.

“Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.”‡

According to a study released by Google, “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger in July 2012,

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site,
  • 79% of people who didn’t like what they found on one site would go back and search for another site, and
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly.§

How will responsive design save you money?

Before responsive web design, developers had to build unique versions of a website for specific screen sizes. It was complicated, expensive and sites that accommodated several screen sizes tended to take a long time to build and test. Some developers still build multiple versions of the website: a core site for desktop computers and perhaps one or two mobile versions.

Some entry level “mobile-friendly” add-on solutions will have a desktop site and a redirect to a one-size-fits-all mobile site. The mobile site will usually be a very stripped down version of the mother site, and often these are auto-generated by a third party provider. At best, these should be considered a stopgap, while a proper website is developed and rolled out.

In a typical integrated 3-site “built for mobile” approach, with desktop, tablet and smartphone variations, you will have 3 sites that initially will be designed and built. You will also have to maintain and upgrade the three sites if any technology, web standards or security updates become necessary.

Responsive design means “one site, many devices.” With responsive web design there is only one design to consider because media queries, fluid grids and flexible images conform content to the screen. There’s only one site to design, develop and maintain.

With a responsive website you don’t require a separate mobile SEO strategy. There’s only one version of the content to optimize, so the cost of content creation and SEO should be significantly lower for the life of the site. And while there may be some minor advantages to optimizing a separate mobile version for specific keywords more likely to be searched while on the go, the added costs associated with multiple sites may be hard to justify.

Responsive design aligns with buyer habits

Whether it’s a home, car, pair of jeans, pizza or roof repair, first searches often occur on a mobile device. The research process then transitions to the desktop.

A woman searching for luggage during a lunch break may decide to read the entire page, check reviews and testimonials, and study other associated information at home, where she will have a larger screen and the option of printing out a record of the transaction, should she decide to proceed. So she texts or emails herself the page link. She expects to pick up exactly where she left off on her smartphone.

With a “responsive” website, she will load the very same page she was on earlier, only the content will conform to the larger screen size, once again providing her with the optimal user experience.

However, if she was on a “mobile” version of the site earlier, a redirect to the desktop site may provide a different version of the content and experience, and she may be confused or disappointed enough to return to Google to begin a fresh search.

Responsive design can improve your site’s SEO

Higher rankings on Google, Yahoo! and Bing will make you more “findable,” increasing traffic to your site. They can’t buy from you if they can’t find you. With more qualified visitors to your website, you will receive more buyers.

With only one version of your website, there will be no duplicate versions of pages to compete with for rankings. While a properly built mobile site shouldn’t be punished by Google’s Panda algorithm, you would still run the risk of sending visitors to the wrong version of the site.

Another consideration is social media and inbound links. If your off-site content is excellent, you should earn shares and links. With a responsive website, all traffic will be sent to the same content URLs. There will be no confusion in designing, building and fine-tuning your conversion funnel strategy.

How much business are you losing?

If you know the value of each lead or sale, how many of these conversions your site currently experiences each month, and your bounce rate, you can calculate the approximate cost of business that is abandoning your website at hello.

Not all bounces will, of course, be related to mobile user experience. Some may be leaving because the content on the key entry pages needs to be recreated with better copy and calls to action.

If your site does not offer a quality user experience for mobile users, you want to look for some correlation between mobile users and bounces. If you discover that 38% of your visitors are using mobile devices, for example, and you have a 36% bounce rate, providing a premium mobile experience could potentially reclaim most of the business you’re driving away.

Final thoughts

Responsive web design is recommended by Google as a best practice. It allows you to offer a great user experience across many screen sizes and devices. And it makes managing your content and SEO strategy a lot easier. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table by not becoming responsive.

Do you have a before/after success story to share? I welcome your comments and questions below.

If you’re not sure if your site is responsive, or would like to discuss upgrade options, a free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer for you.

* http://www.dazeinfo.com/2014/01/23/smartphone-users-growth-mobile-internet-2014-2017/
† http://mashable.com/2013/10/03/mobile-phones-2017/
‡ https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/
§ http://googlemobileads.blogspot.ca/2012/09/mobile-friendly-sites-turn-visitors.html

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