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Getting Started with Content Creation in 3 Easy Steps

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For small-to-medium sized B2B companies without dedicated marketing departments, content creation can be a daunting task. You’ve been hearing that content is king for years when it comes to search engine optimization, but you just can’t quite put together a process for creating engaging content.  You may feel like your product or service is self-explanatory enough and doesn’t need to be discussed.  You may feel that your product or service isn’t sexy enough to have a blog post written about it.  Whatever the reason (or excuse), content creation  just isn’t being done…which is hurting your bottom line.  Here are a few easy-to-follow steps that we use at Marketpath to help add to our blog:   

Thinking Man
Look Familiar to your Current Process?

Step 1:  Commit to a content creation schedule

Without a schedule, the blog becomes a backseat passenger again to everything else that your day-to-day requires.  Start small – 1 blog post a week for the first 6 weeks and stick to it.  Block out time on your calendar for it.  Commit to it.  Once you have proven to yourself that you’re capable of putting together a blog post, it will become easier…I promise.

Step 2:  Utilize questions from sales meetings as blog post topics

Here is a little secret – if your prospective client has asked you a question in a sales meeting, there is a good chance that he/she has also Googled that same question.  What if you had written a blog that addressed that concern or topic and that customer finds your site?  You’re one step closer to a sale.  There is no secret that people a searching for answers to their questions long before they are ever picking up the phone to find a solution provider – they may not even know your company exists to solve their problem.  Sales questions always make great blog topics.

Step 3:  Write your ideas down as they happen

What a novel idea, right?  But how many times have you had a great idea (for anything, not just a blog post), but don’t record it somehow…pen, paper, voice recording on your iPhone, email, etc?  Once blogging becomes a part of your weekly schedule (because you’re sticking to Step 1, right?), blog topics will begin to pop in your head at random times during the day.  You can never predict when this will happen…Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, has a great perspective on the idea that you can’t force yourself to come up with ideas…it just doesn’t work that way…So when it happens, write it down.

Now, these three steps won’t necessarily make you the next best-selling author, or a top 50 blogger, but they will help you get started into the world of content creation.  Keep in mind that each post should be engaging, and provide value to the reader.  If you’re struggling with this sort of thing, it might be time to reach out to a professional new media agency for some help.

 

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Being Everything to Everybody

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As a Software-as-a-Service website content management system (CMS) provider, we have to be cautious of trying to be everything to everyone.  The fact is that no CMS is the perfect fit for every website.  We have our niche, WordPress has its niche, and there can even be a place for Microsoft’s SharePoint (if you have the budget and technical staff, of course). 

We have realized that there is a point at which sites grow out of the WordPress niche and graduate into our niche.  We have been pretty successful migrating these sites into our content management system, training users on how to use our CMS, and then supporting them along the way at no extra cost.  This seems to be a perfect fit for small-to-medium sized businesses across the country that need a little more than WordPress can offer.  We are more than happy to play in this space, and our customers seem happy to have found us

More Features...MORE!And while we are continually adding features to Marketpath CMS, either because of new trends on the Internet, new technologies, or customer requests, we realize that, at some point, our customers may grow out of our system – and this is a good thing.  It means that our software probably played a small part in their successful growth, and we’re happy to have been a part of it.

This lesson can most likely be applied to more than just our business.  Have you ever had the problem of trying to add too many features/services/products to meet the demands of a potentially large account instead of sticking to what has made you successful?  Remember, jack of all trades, master of none - right?             

 

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5 Elements of Great Website Design

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A lot of times, before we can implement our content management system, our clients ask us to redesign their website.  While we are always happy to provide this service to our clients, I wanted to cover a few of the aspects of what makes a website design successful.  It goes far beyond pretty pictures and colors and dives into what truly makes your business work, focusing on your business goals, objectives and visitor behavior. Here are five items to take into consideration before and during your website redesign process.

Website Design is a Process
Website Design is a Hands-on Process

1. Clearly Branded and Aligned with Business Goals

All too often a website can become outdated and out of line with the company that it represents.  As your business grows, matures, and inevitably changes, your website should reflect those business goals immediately.  Keep the focus of your website on your primary offerings, which will help clearly communicate your position, your brand, and your value proposition.

Tips:

Your logo should be visible on every page of your site, preferably in the same location (and linked back to your homepage)

Each business goal should have a clearly labeled section of the website

Consistently use the same tag lines that are familiar to your brand

2. Easily Used by First Time Visitor

Using an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics, you should be able to see how many of your visitors are new, and how many are return visitors.  Keeping your websites design focus on simplicity and usability will help the first-timer navigate your website and hopefully find what they are looking for (contact info, product info, service offerings, etc).  When in doubt, subscribe to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). 

Tips:

This can be difficult, but try to take yourself out of the day to day mindset of your current schedule.  You know everything about your company, but your visitor (especially first-timer) doesn’t.  Simple language, clearly labeled sections of the website, and easy to navigate menus can all help increase the value of the user experience.  If you can say what you need to say in a sentence rather than a paragraph, it might be helpful to do so.

3. Designed with Conversion in Mind

Today’s websites are more powerful than ever when it comes to increasing sales and leads.  Your website’s design is an integral part in getting people from “website visitor” to “prospective buyer”.  To do this, each page should have its own conversion element that allows a user to interact with your website and take the next step in the business relationship.

Tips:

Keep the conversion elements above the fold.  If they are in plain view, they are more likely to be clicked on.

Use big buttons and bright (complimentary) colors to attract attention

Keep your online forms simple (asking for too much info is intrusive)

4. Search Engine Optimization Kept At Forefront

On-page search engine optimization (SEO) is important, not only for search engines, but for users.  On-page SEO can be looked at as the foundation of organization of your site.  Clearly labeling pages with Title Tags and nicely designed H1 tags can help users flow through to their desired content, increasing the amount of page views and reducing bounce rate at the same time. 

Tips:

Utilize text based menus (not images)

Clearly label each page with Title Tags, H1 Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Alt Text

Don’t rely on Flash, as search engines and mobile devices don’t play well with it

Think of your website in an outline format and mimic that same page structure and hierarchy for your sitemap 

5. Professionalism

This should go without saying, but your website often times crafts the first impression of your company.  If you haven’t looked at redesigning your site in a couple of years, put yourself in a prospective buyer's shoes and visit your site.  Would you buy from you?  Your website should be impressive, clearly state your message, and be up to date with the latest information.  What does your current website say about your company? 

Tips:

Utilize a professional graphic designer, not your brother’s wife’s 2nd cousin that took a class one time.  Just keep in mind that you are going to get what you pay for.

Employ the use of a content management system that allows you to keep your website up to date without relying on a technical person



 

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Netflix: How Customers are the New Shareholders

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If you haven't followed the Netflix debacle, here's a quick overview:

  1. In July, Netflix announced it was raising prices on accounts that have both streaming and DVD rentals from $9.99 to $15.98. This actually reflected separate pricing for each service ($7.99 each). Customers were outraged.
     
  2. Netflix almost instantly lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers and was expected to lose a million total - mostly from the DVD-only side. By mid-September, the Netflix stock price was down 20%.
     
  3. Immediately following the stock sell-off and mass cancelation spree, CEO Reed Hastings sent a letter to all subscribers  explaining the reasoning behind the split. The company would be split into two entities, one for streaming (Netflix) and one for DVD's (Qwikster). That quelled some anger but others persisted.
     
  4. Today, amidst the continuing outcries, CEO Hastings announced that there would be no split and the Qwikster initiative would be killed off.

Now how's that for customer complaints turning the tides? Even ten years ago if a company made a major change like this you would have to assemble a small army of protestors and march on their headquarters to get a company to reverse course. Not anymore.

With Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, customer forums, and other social channels you can instantly create an army of a million or more who share your viewpoint. Protesting consumer brands can be incredibly viral. And Netflix' price increase and service changes are no exception.

Here are a few lessons to take away from Netflix' errors:

  1. Test, test, and test again. If you are a public company with a market cap of 5.8 billion dollars, test the Qwikster concept on a small segment of your subscribers. Keep it private and see how many from that group cancel their account as a result. It's insane to think that you would split your company with little input from your customer community. Granted, you're raising prices and that won't go over well anytime. But you never mentioned the split at the time so there was no correlation to the 60% price increase.
     
  2. Don't raise prices 60%. I used Netflix before they offered the streaming service and hung it up after I realized that I could only rent two movies every 8-9 days. That's three days in the mail, 2-3 days at my house, and another 3 days back to Netflix in the mail. Do the math and you can only get 4-6 movies a month. 

    About this time, Blockbuster offered their unlimited DVD rental plan for around $15 per month (2 or 3 DVD's out at a time). I could actually rent movies, watch them, and pick up new movies on my way home. I cut out six days between each change-up. Then they raised prices on this service to $24.99 per month. I dropped out. $15 of entertainment per month was worth it. A 60% increase to $25 was not. Perhaps Netflix should have read their business history books before they made the same change.
     
  3. Honest Communication. â€‹Netflix has been stuck in a reactive course of action since July. This would have been much simpler if they were more open and honest about their price increase and stagger the plan. Perhaps something like this:

    "Dear Netflix friend, we are working hard to provide you high quality entertainment at a competitive rate. While our costs have risen over the last several years we've kept your fees unchanged. I sincerely wish that we could continue these rates but for us to continue providing great service and great entertainment, we must raise prices to cover our increased costs. We won't do it all at once. Instead we'll make those increases over the next six months to a year and here's what they will look like....."


    See the truthful, planned nature in the response? It's proactive and addresses the issues honestly and straightforward. There will still be repercussions but you will have an informed customer base behind you. Those that love the service might even stick up for you.

With the new power of social media channels, and the potential of major influencers to raise a fuss more quickly than ever, I don't see why any company with an informed customer base would make major changes to their services without testing the waters first. The mass fury of Netflix customers could have been avoided  if they had an approach that was less of a "screw them, they'll deal with it" approach and more of a "hey, we need to make some changes and would like to hear your feedback first" approach. This is all goes back to the 2nd website marketing pillar, engagement. Talk with your customers through the most active channels and don't puke your plans all over them without expecting a backlash.

Customers are the new shareholders. Through social channels they can make your world an awful place to live if you don't provide a good return on their investment.

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Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

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As a high school junior in 1985, my family purchased our first computer, a Macintosh.  Little did I know at that time that twenty-six years later, I’d be writing a blog (heck the word didn’t exist yet) about the Mac and the founder of the company that introduced it, Apple.  Since that time, Steve Jobs personally has had a hand in revolutionizing the world of technology as well as at least five different industries:

  • computers - Apple II (1977) & Mac (1984) personal computers, Mouse (1984) , iPad (2010)
  • phone – iPhone (2007)
  • music – iPod (2001)
  • retail – iTunes Store (2001), Apple’s App Store (2008)
  • motion pictures – Pixar (1979, purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986)

Steve Jobs was a visionary and one of America’s true innovators.  And whether or not you feel he should be mentioned in the same class as Thomas Edison or alongside great American entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, or Walt Disney, it is clear he had a huge impact on our culture and our world.  I know he had a significant impact on my life.

In the past decade or so, my own family has grown up on Apple products that have been favorites on Christmas morning.  But it is still fun to think back to my first Apple purchase.  I don’t remember a lot about that first product, but I do remember using that Mac to create fake IDs with my brothers and our friends.  We were shocked by how easy it was.  Thanks Steve.  

Steve Jobs In Tribute to Steve Jobs:

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

- Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement

The Crazy One – Steve Job’s Tribute (1 minute)

Wired Video Tribute (3 minutes)

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