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To Blog or Not to Blog: Should My Small Business Bother?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Digital marketers love to extol the benefits of business blogging: from increasing sales figures to boosting foot traffic, blogs supposedly represent nearly limitless potential for real-world businesses. And yet, many restaurants, breweries, and other hospitality businesses have found their blogs generate little interest and no tangible results. What gives?

Whether you’re plagued with an under performing blog or you’re considering launching one for the first time, use the following keys to supercharge your blogging prowess.

1. Start a Compelling Conversation

Many business owners try to use their blog as nothing more than a promotional vehicle, and surprisingly enough, very few customers want to read long-winded sales pitches. Instead of using your blog as a sales vehicle, use it to build authority in your industry. Many restaurants use their blog to cover food trends across the nation, while hoteliers cover topics like travel, vacation, and local attractions. Your goal is to spark a conversation that relates to your overall brand message.

Struggling to come up with ideas? Moz recommends blog owners ask questions about their product or business to come up with interesting subjects to cover. You may also want to use customer feedback, upcoming community events, or trending topics in pop culture to spark your readers’ interest.

2. Turn to Twitter & Facebook

From craft breweries to neighborhood diners, plenty of businesses have lackluster social media feeds. Instead of thinking of your social accounts as separate entities, use your blog to feed your profiles with interesting content. Not only will this result in more traffic for your site, but it will also help you grow your clout by amassing new likes and social connections.

3. Focus on Consistency

Some of the web’s most popular websites churn out new content multiple times every day, leaving business owners feeling overwhelmed at the idea of creating a blog. In reality, you may find it difficult to make blogging once a week a priority. Fortunately, you don’t need to write a new post every hour on the hour to stay relevant.

Instead, simply create a posting pattern that feels consistent for your site visitors. Focus on a few times a month initially and become more prolific as time goes on. If you struggle to generate enough content on your own, consider outsourcing your blogging needs to a ghostwriter or marketing agency. This can help you keep your blog alive with content, all without neglecting your other responsibilities.

It’s important to remember that blogging for your business is just like any other marketing effort. It takes time to generate impressive results. You didn’t have thousands of customers pounding on your doors within minutes of your opening, and you won’t have an endless stream of readers immediately reading the posts you publish. By building a schedule, sticking with it, and nurturing your blog bit by bit, you’ll be able to generate long lasting results and equip your business with another tool for snaring the interest of your target audience.

 

Newsletters: How Can Restaurants Build Digital Marketing Campaigns?

February, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Of all of the marketing tools available to restaurant owners, newsletters are often overlooked in favor of social media and traditional print advertising. Many restaurant owners simply aren’t aware of just how powerful newsletters often prove. From building loyalty among existing customers to boosting overall sales figures, digital newsletters can make an impressive impact for restaurants of all sizes. If you’re considering launching a newsletter for your own eatery, learn more about the hidden potential email campaigns represent.

Examining Case Studies

Newsletters have consistently generated tangible results for restaurants across the nation, as evidenced by countless case studies observing their usefulness. In one study conducted by Fishbowl, a small restaurant owner in Bethesda, Maryland managed to grow his customer base by 1,000 new clients, while boosting the average spend of his diners—all in just six months. Another restaurant in Pelham, New York used email marketing to promote musical acts performing for customers, resulting in a 15% uptick in sales.

Creating an Effective Newsletter

The evidence may speak for itself, but many business owners don’t know where to start building their own restaurant email marketing campaigns. A few simple keys should help any restaurant get started on the right track:

1. Use the Right Tools

Don’t be tempted to mass email your clients using a standard email account. Instead, build your newsletter using one of the countless products made for this purpose. Software you may wish to consider includes Mailchimp and Aweber. The aforementioned Fishbowl also offers industry-specific marketing tools for restaurant owners.

2. Develop a Consistent Strategy

There are no two ways about it: creating compelling newsletter content takes hard work.
Don’t allow yourself to fall behind and stop sending newsletters for months at a time. Instead, consider building an editorial calendar well in advance. Brainstorm potential subject matter to include in your newsletters, and create publication deadlines to help you stick with the program.

By creating your newsletter with an established software tool, you’ll also be able to better automate the process of publication. You can cue up your newsletter days or weeks in advance, and have the software automatically distribute your marketing materials at set intervals.

3. Establish Achievable Goals

Much like any other marketing initiative, it’s important to set clearly outlined goals for
your newsletter, which will help maximize the success of your efforts. Whether you’re striving to improve low sales, attract more visitors, or simply grow your mailing list, setting these goals will help you to create content that actually converts. Furthermore, as you see results achieved, you’ll remain motivated to continue investing in your company’s newsletter.

Newsletters have proven effective across myriad industries, which makes this growth avenue an exciting prospect for hospitality businesses. Best of all, exploring email marketing initiatives for your restaurant represents a relatively small upfront investment. Remember, a one size fits all approach is not the best approach for most restaurants. Instead, think consciously about the needs of your business and try to use your newsletter to meet those needs in an innovative fashion. With plenty of hard work and a bit of good luck, you should find this approach incredibly useful.

Why Should My Business Invest in Content Marketing?

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Seemingly every business in the world has been told how important it is to invest in content marketing, with billions of dollars spent on this promotional strategy each year. And yet, 40% of small business owners feel it’s difficult to measure the impact of content marketing. If you’re wondering whether your content marketing dollars would be better spent elsewhere, it’s important to learn why generating content online is essential for your business.

Generating Traffic Online

Most small business owners think of content marketing as a tool for growing social media connections and increasing user engagement, but they fail to see how content contributes to organic traffic patterns. Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been a buzzword for content creators on the web, but the correlation between strong content and organic traffic is simply undeniable. Without great content on your website, your visitor count will fall flat.

Delving into the technical specifics of SEO is a significant undertaking, but understand this: investing in content boosts your site’s value in the eyes of the search engines. This result may not be perceptible to the naked eye, but consistently blogging and generating interesting content has a marked impact on your website’s incoming traffic trends. For a more detailed look at the link between SEO and content marketing, take a look at this comprehensive overview from industry leader Kissmetrics.

Building Brand Awareness

Generating content online to build brand awareness is frankly a no-brainer. Spreading the word about your company can feel incredibly difficult as a small business owner, especially if you’re competing with larger chains that have seemingly unlimited marketing budgets. Content marketing is a cost-effective tool for getting your name out there. Best of all, unlike traditional advertising that only delivers results while your campaign remains active, content lives on indefinitely, bringing you business for years to come.

Establishing Authority

Consumers look to industry experts when it comes to making buying decisions. What wine should I pair with red meat? What’s the perfect local spot for date night with my wife? What shoes should I wear with a little black dress?

Content marketing gives you the opportunity to answer questions your target audience has about the products and services you know best. By addressing points of interest for potential customers, you’re building a reputation within your niche. When it comes time to make a purchase, you’re the company these buyers will turn to for reputable products.

Perhaps the single greatest key for content marketing success is patience. Building a following online and generating sales for your business won’t simply happen overnight. As you generate more and more content, the snowball effect will become apparent. As content drives more consumers to your website, your social media following increases and your industry position soars.

If you continue to show your marketing efforts the attention they deserve, you’ll also see your bottom line grow. Take a deep breath and roll the dice. Content marketing isn’t a quick fix for your sales woes, but it is a viable investment for the future of your business.

Help, I Don’t Have Time to Blog!

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

The benefits of generating interesting content for your business blog are undeniable: from driving traffic to your site to establishing authority in your industry, a great blog can make a long term impact on the health of your business. Unfortunately, many small business owners ultimately neglect their blogs, simply because they can’t find the time to write new posts. If you find yourself in similar shoes, learn why it’s important to establish a gameplan for keeping your blog performing optimally.

Avoiding a ‘Dead’ Blog

Many business owners attack the blogging challenge with gusto initially, only to lose steam as the challenges of keeping their company afloat overshadow the need for new posts. Neglecting your blog for a few months can have serious repercussions, however. Your customers will stop visiting your site, and potential leads may look to competitors when they find your blog is stagnant. You’re essentially flushing sales away, one by one.

How Do I Fix the Problem?

First, be realistic about your blogging capabilities. If you know that you can’t commit to producing three full-fledged posts every week for the foreseeable future, don’t start now. Set reasonable goals that won’t loom over you as an intimidating chore down the road. If you know you cannot or will not make the time to generate content, don’t play the ostrich with your head in the sand. Instead, come up with a strategy for filling your site with relevant content from other contributors.

How to Hire Blog Writers

There is no shame in working with a professional writer to ensure your blog stays populated with the informative posts—in fact, some business owners would be better off working with a blog writer from the start. A marketing expert can help you craft blogs that convey your message in an effective manner, making your brand truly shine. A professional may also be better suited for helping you navigate the waters of search engine optimization (SEO).

There are a number of different ways to find contributors for your blog.For long term solutions, partner with a marketing agency who can help you generate ideas for your blog and deliver well-written posts that will keep your audience intrigued. Many business owners find this approach delivers better results for their brand, while eliminating the stress of keeping up with an ambitious editorial calendar solo.

When it comes to blogging, don’t be tempted to throw in the towel because you don’t have the time in your schedule. Instead, take a pragmatic approach: commit to writing a small number of posts or outsource your work to a capable partner. Regardless of which approach you take, keeping your blog alive with great content will boost your visibility on the web and help ensure the future success of your brand.

Adding Content Value: Stop Wasting Your Time with Fluff

January, 2016 · By Deborah Fiorentino

When it comes to keeping your website populated with new content, it’s easy to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Many small businesses try to keep visitors interested by churning out new posts every week, but unless you’re delivering something of value, you’re wasting your time. Instead of focusing solely on the frequency of your posts, you need to hone in on the value proposition for your site. This will supercharge your marketing efforts and help your business stay healthy.

Why Does Content Matter?

Much of the confusion about quality content is derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of content’s purpose. Keeping your blog populated with fresh information isn’t simply a show of force—content creation is one of the most powerful tools available for connecting with your customers. Effective content marketing should also expand your brand’s digital reach.

High-value content provides the following benefits for your brand:

● Generates organic inbound search traffic
● Engages your existing audience
● Builds further credibility and authority in your industry
● Converts visitors into new leads/customers
● Solidifies your brand message

Don’t be tempted to stay on a surface level, but keep your attention on content that will perform optimally for your business.

Defining “Value”

So, you understand the importance of creating unique content, but what qualifies as valuable? First and foremost, content should be relevant to your brand message. Your should blog shouldn’t be filled with fluff that doesn’t have any ties to the product you sell.

Valuable content is also useful and unique. Don’t re-purpose the same message your competitors are selling and hope for the best. You need to spend time crafting a brand message that your customers aren’t going to find elsewhere. Furthermore, don’t get stingy and only update your site every once in a blue moon. Moz cautions business bloggers to avoid providing low value content, because it can be as dangerous as poor quality posts.

Identifying Pain Points

Too many entrepreneurs view business blogging as the strange beast that bucks the trends in marketing, but website content should connect with your customers in the same way as traditional marketing campaigns. Before you write a blog post, ask yourself, “What are my customers pain points?” Spend some time prospecting and speaking to your existing clients about what they’re looking for. Developing a deeper understanding of how your customer thinks will equip you with the right tools to create valuable content. It’s Marketing 101, folks.

If you’re tired of making a tiny splash when you’re looking for a big wave, stop blogging without any purpose. Either spend some time generating content that will cement your position as an authority in your industry, or farm your content out to a marketing team who can help you make the right impact. If you continue to use the same tired content techniques and hope for the best, you’ll discover with time that you’re only wasting money and not generating any real growth for your business.

Social Strategy: Developing a Plan to Maximize Your Social Media Efforts

September, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Many small businesses flock to social media in the hopes of supercharging their digital marketing efforts, but few companies manage to make a lasting impact online. Harnessing the potential of social platforms requires a carefully structured strategy, much like a traditional marketing plan. If you’re ready to boost your business’ prowess on the social web, use the following keys to begin building your social media strategy.

Defining Your Goals

Don’t simply create a social media profile and hope for the best. Instead, set specific goals you’d like to achieve, and then work out how you plan to reach those milestones. It’s better to set measurable goals and link them to a specific timeline, which will help you stay on the right track.

As with any marketing initiative, develop a clear target audience for your social accounts. If you know which audience you’re trying to reach, you’ll better direct your energy on the web. For example, Facebook may be the best platform for reaching a wide, general audience, but LinkedIn is better suited for B2B marketers. Use statistics and consumer research to determine which platforms you should explore. From Instagram to Pinterest, the options are nearly unlimited.

Creating Content for the Web

Once you’ve established where you’re headed, begin crafting content that will help you meet your goals. Brainstorm ideas for blog posts, videos, and images you can share to generate interest. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas and concepts—you never know what could turn viral.

Whether you want to post once a week or twice a month, consistency is important. Your followers will come to expect the same regular interactions, so don’t leave them in the dark while you go on vacation or get busy with other things. If you struggle with this idea, consider creating an editorial calendar to track your progress.

Building Your Presence

Don’t be that sad business with 15 followers and 6 lonely tweets. Once you commit to launching your social media efforts, attack in full force. Be proactive about responding to comments, actively seek out new followers, and monitor activity on a daily basis.

If you aren’t able to commit to updating your accounts on a regular basis, consider partnering with an agency that can manage your profiles for you. As your popularity online grows, your accounts may need several hours worth of your attention each week. If you don’t have the time to personally commit to growing your network, an agency can help you ensure your goals don’t fall to the wayside.

Regardless of which approach you take, don’t be tempted to forego social media altogether. According to statistics from the Social Media Examiner, 95% of businesses active on social platforms in 2014 saw increased exposure for their brand—the numbers don’t lie. Make your social accounts a priority and watch your brand build momentum that could last a lifetime

10 Best Practices for Online Storytelling

July, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Carefully crafting your brand narrative serves a number of important purposes. An effective narrative provides context for the services and products you offer. Why, where, and how did your brand get its start and what mission propels your business forward? Prolific marketers use storytelling to highlight a brand’s key selling points without making the business the center of attention. Storytelling on the web should incorporate the fundamentals of great marketing while tailoring your message for a digital audience.

Feeling stuck? Use the following 10 keys to transform your storytelling online.

1. Focus on the Customer
Storytelling shouldn’t serve as a vehicle to talk endlessly about the greatness of your company. Instead, effective storytelling intertwines the customer’s experience with the overarching values of your brand. Capture your reader’s attention from the start by telling a story that expands beyond the confines of your business.

2. Learn How to Write for the Web
Think writing a long-winded blog post serves as a powerful storytelling tool? Think again. Remember, you’re competing for the attention of your readers. Learn how to craft content that connects with your audience effectively. Use headlines, lists, and short sentences to break up your text.

3. Keep Your Message Truthful
It’s tempting to only share a highly polished message with your audience, but consumers connect with brands that are honest and transparent. Quality, sincerity, and brand history are the key governing principles for authenticity, according to the New York Times. Make sure your story lines up with the overall vision of your brand.

4. Mix Up Your Materials
There’s a simple reason we don’t try to read classic novels to young children—they lose interest too quickly. Instead, a children’s book uses short paragraphs of text, just a few pages, and vivid images to capture an infant’s attention. Keep the same idea in mind when telling a story online. Don’t revert to the blog post for every piece of content you publish. Use images and video to keep your audience connected.

5. Don’t Forget Story Structure
Great stories have three key elements: a beginning, middle, and end. Make sure you address every part of the story’s structure, or you could risk confusing your customer. When your customer becomes confused as to how the story relates to your brand, you risk alienating your buyer.

6. Turn to Real People
Customers like to hear stories that feature real people—other customers, employees, or company founders. It’s easier to connect with a story that feels directly tied to the real experiences of everyday people. Consider using your own customers or people in your organization to highlight how your brand connects with them.

7. Steer Clear of Objectivity
You’re extremely biased towards your unique products and services—and that’s okay! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your content needs to be overwhelmingly objective. You’re not a journalist; you’re a marketer. Highlight what makes your brand truly great.

8. Keep the Big Picture in Mind
Yes, your story should have a clearly defined end, but that doesn’t mean that the stories you tell should serve as one-off marketing vehicles. Work to create “mini stories” that fit into an overall theme for your business. Captivate your audience and leave them eager for more.

9. Say Goodbye to Jargon
Using industry jargon or overly salesy language doesn’t generate the results you’re after. Keep your message clear, concise, and easily understood. Your story shouldn’t be complicated.

10. Expand Beyond Your Blog
Of course, your website serves as a great platform for reaching the masses, but don’t restrict yourself to the boundaries of your site. Look to expand beyond your company blog to maximize your brand’s exposure. Continue to tell your story through social media, advertising campaigns, and content published on other sites.

5 Simple Tips to Create Attention Grabbing Headlines

July, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Powerful content can dramatically impact your digital marketing endeavors, but convincing readers to look past your headline is no simple feat. Modern web users face a constant barrage of content fighting for their attention, making it imperative to write headlines that reel visitors in immediately. Ready to try your hand at writing catchy headlines for the web? Use these five simple tips to captivate readers.

1. Use Numbers

This very post uses a numbered headline—and for good reason! Numbers immediately convey the presence of actionable information to the casual web user. Numbered lists, sometimes called listicles, should be easily digestible and packed with valuable information. According to industry leader Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 users only read blog headlines. Try using numbers to get people engaged.

2. Go Over the Top

Make a promise to your reader that sounds incredulous, but only if you can follow through on your claims. Think of the last advertisement you read. It likely started with an unbelievable claim. “Lose 2 pounds in 24 hours,” “Discover One Simple Way to Kiss Debt Goodbye,” and so forth. Use a hook to catch your reader’s attention, but don’t make a promise you can’t keep.

3. Get Super Specific

If your headline is ambiguous or vague, you can bet your post will have an abysmal clickthrough rate. Outline a specific benefit your content offers and you’ll attract more readers. Consider headlines like “Dramatically Increase Your Foot Traffic” or “How to Boost Your Bottom Line by 50%.”

4. Embrace Controversy

Feel like stepping outside of the box? Consider writing a headline that stirs up a bit of controversy. Often used by web journalists looking for social shares, a controversial headline can stimulate conversation and encourage your readers to share the piece with others. It’s important not to anger your clients with inflammatory posts, but don’t be afraid to take a walk on the wild side.

Examples of controversial content headlines might include, “6 Ways GMO Foods Destroy the Dining Experience.” In fact, you’ll see this headline uses both the numbering strategy and a controversial topic. Remember, to maximize the effect of this headline approach and keep your customers happy, you should possess an in-depth understanding of your market. The last thing you want to do is drive people away with offensive content.

5. Ask a Question

Intrigue would-be readers with a question and they may very well view your content to get the answer. If you’re using the question headline, you’ll want to ask something that is bound to resonate with your audience. With a bit of luck, readers will immediately answer the question, only to read your content to see if your opinion lines up with their perspective. Even if you have different viewpoints, writing question headlines can encourage conversation and spur on social shares.

Writing headlines takes plenty of practice, and there is no perfect method to follow. Take your time and remember, practice makes perfect. Feel free to experiment, and monitor the results of your previous posts to continually improve your skills.

Why Your Business Needs a Well-Planned Content Strategy

July, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

Harnessing the potential of web content can lead to significant returns for businesses of all sizes. Creating content that fosters lead generation, brand loyalty, and an increase in overall clout takes much more than simply slapping a few blogs together, however. To best equip your business with the tools necessary for success, it’s essential to build a well-defined content marketing strategy. Still struggling to grasp the concept? Discover the simple ideas behind creating a content plan that will maximize your business’ impact online.

Ideation: Developing Effective Content Concepts

Many business marketers want to create interesting content for the web, but they feel blocked when it comes to developing new ideas. It’s important to approach brainstorming with a twofold approach. First, consider what value the content will bring in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). Can you use keywords, external links, and social tools to capture the attention of the masses?

In addition to the value, content delivers for traffic acquisition, does your idea provide knowledge or information that your reader wants? To pinpoint great ideas, you need to possess an in-depth understanding of your customer. Holding ideas up to these guidelines will help you weed out the good from the bad.

Content Calendars: Maximizing Your Content Value

Using content as a marketing tool presents some benefits. For one, content creation often costs less than investing in traditional advertising or promotional efforts. Even if you create all of your content in-house, however, you’re still paying for content by investing your time.

Rather than letting that investment go to waste, you need to build a content calendar that will let you wring the most value possible out of your content. Building a game plan for sharing your content multiple times, publishing at the right moment, and making routine updates will help catapult good content to the forefront of your reader’s attention.

Working Towards Business Goals

If you’ve ever drafted a business plan, you understand how important it is to outline short and long term goals. Don’t be tempted to overlook this portion of the content strategy, because well-defined goals will direct your content creation in the appropriate manner. Take the time to work out goals both big and small and then focus on creating content that helps your business obtain those goals. By directing your efforts towards an end destination, you’ll keep your content on track and further boost the power of your promotional efforts.

Building a content marketing plan doesn’t have to feel like a daunting endeavor. Make time regularly to take stock of your current market position, develop goals for your future, and brainstorm content that will take you there. A thorough content strategy will take your ho-hum web content to a whole new level, as you begin to publish content that connects with your audience and builds your profile. With a bit of luck and hard work, your content could revitalize the future of your business online.

The Power of Business Blogging: Why You Need to Start Today

June, 2015 · By Deborah Fiorentino

No matter whether you’re an established brand or a budding startup, using a blog to grow your business could lead to dramatic growth for your company. Consider this simple fact: brands that create 15 blog posts a month average a whopping 1,200 new leads in that period. (source) With statistics like those, it’s hard to overlook the hidden potential business blogging offers. Looking for even more benefits? Consider the following six reasons business blogging simply makes sense.

1. Blogging Leads to More Followers

According to Twitter, interesting content is one of the top reasons users follow brands on social media. As a social media marketer, you’re competing with billion-dollar companies, entertainment conglomerates, and every other business tweeting around the clock. Without content that resonates, you’ll struggle to gain any traction. Start blogging and watch the visitors come knocking on your door.

2. Companies with Blogs Receive 97% More Links

Getting others to share the word about your business is an important goal, and few techniques are as effective as creating a blog. In fact, research suggests that companies with blogs receive 97% more links than sites with static content—that’s nearly twice as many inbound links.

3. Blogging Makes a Long-term Impact

When it comes to spending your marketing dollars, it’s important to consider the overall return on your investment. Whereas PPC campaigns and other advertising initiatives only influence immediate traffic, blogs can pull in new visitors for years to come. Focus on creating “evergreen content”—content that is not time-sensitive—to maximize your blog’s potential.

4. Frequent Posts Impact Your Search Ranking

Appearing higher in the results on a popular search engine is about much more than vanity. The higher your site ranks for a particular keyword, the more likely a web user will click your link. Frequently posting encourages search bots to index your site, while the ranking algorithms use factors like the number of active posts to determine site authority.

5. Small Businesses with Blogs Generate More Leads

Thinking blogging only makes sense for big brands with thousands of active followers? Think again. Research shows that small businesses with blogs generate up to 126% more leads, as opposed to businesses that neglect online marketing altogether. Can you think of a single reason not to double your leads with a blog?

6. New Content Keeps Users Engaged

Attracting an audience online is a tricky equation that requires plenty of hard work. Pulling new visitors to your site is only half the equation; you also must work on keeping their attention. Routinely publishing new content helps keep your followers interested in what you have to say, which in turn affects the overall health of your business.