Short Month, Busy Month

Been a hugely busy month so far here at Modern Parlance. The blogs have had a bit of a redesign, the Modern Parlance website is crisp and working well and I’m awash in a world of words.  I’ve been outlining – actual outlining – for an upcoming food piece I’m rather excited about (more on that later). I can’t recall the last time I did an actual formal outline. I always make notes and I even do roughly outline-shaped things when organizing my thoughts but it’s been quite a while since I actually did one in this level of detail. It’s been … oddly, pleasing.

There is editing ongoing – interesting stuff about content marketing for a new remote client. I love a remote client. Go global or go home. Oh wait – I’m already home! The joy of working in my slippers never fades. There was a new restaurant review – this time we reviewed Castle at Edgehill, a place to please foodies and history buffs so you can imagine how much we enjoyed it.

Carpenters-Burger

But busy as I am (and better busy than bored), I’ve still had time to curl up with stories from across my relevant interests – food, content marketing, cats and Shakespeare. First up, food! Continue reading “Short Month, Busy Month”

Content Marketing Ideas for Small Biz

In Part 1 of my Small Biz Tips – Digital: A Big Boost for Small Biz – I discussed the way that small businesses and independent shops could use content marketing & social media to meet the challenges of today’s consumer-centric marketplace. My intention was to put content marketing in a context non-marketers could understand and to explain social media’s role in the content marketing landscape. I hope I succeeded.

It was, by necessity and design, very broad so by this time you’re probably wondering how can you make content marketing work for your business specifically?

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We’ve discussed already how content marketing can take a lot of different forms:  buying or gift guides, news round ups, FAQs, articles, lists, infographics, videos, etc.  The form or forms you choose will depend on a number of things unique to your situation: time, resources, product or service offering, budget, skill set.

I’ve kept these ideas pretty broad and pretty basic to make the budget and skill set threshold as low as possible but don’t assume that being less costly or less complicated means these are less viable or useful. Digital really leveled the marketing playing field when it comes to cost and the tools available for creating and managing it require less technical skills than ever. Can you spend a lot of money on marketing get stuck in to the back end of building a website by hand? Sure, knock yourself out. The difference now is – you don’t have to.

So, now you know what content marketing is and what types of things fall under that umbrella – what happens next?

Next is the best part – you create your content! These are just ideas to inspire you, get you thinking and maybe show you that you have a lot more “content waiting to happen” around you then you think.  Continue reading “Content Marketing Ideas for Small Biz”

Popping up on Podcasts

Now, I did say in “Hittin’ the Airwaves” that when I had the audio, I would share my appearance on the Banburyshire show from the other day. Thanks to Ian for getting me the file.

If you missed that post, here’s the situation – I was invited to be a guest on The Banburyshire Show on Puritans Radio. It’s a bit of music and a lot of chat about local businesses, highlights and issues. I was there to talk about two of my favourite things – Banbury and content marketing. For convenience, the segment is split into two sections. Part 1 is about Banbury and history. Part 2 is content marketing part of the segment.

Part 1: Chatting About Banbury (runs about 8 minutes)

Part 2: Talking Content (runs about 11 minutes)

And as long as we’re talking podcasting and radio, it’s worth mentioning that there are three Fabulous Foodie podcasts for your listening pleasure over on the Modern Parlance YouTube site.

  • What is a sandwich: I have my views on what makes a sandwich a sandwich but I am shot down by the legal facts, courtesy of my fellow foodies
  • Food fears and freezers: What foods do you fear eating? What have you not tried making because you’re worried it’ll all go wrong? And more frightening than all of that – what lurks in the dark corners of the freezer?
  • Bundt pans:  a very small but very important point about Bundt pans and ‘one use’ kitchenalia.

Hittin’ the Airwaves

So, I spent part of yesterday talking about two of my favourite things – Banbury and content marketing – when I appeared as a guest on The Banburyshire Show on Puritans Radio. It’s a bit of music and a lot of chat about local businesses, highlights and issues.  Once the podscast is available, I’ll post a link.

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I look a bit windblown – but winter decided to FINALLY arrive yesterday. The day I decide I’ll walk to the studio. Oy!  But that’s the beauty of radio – no one cares what your hair looks like. Until the host takes a picture (and thank you to Ian for the pic!) It’s one of the few pictures of myself that doesn’t make want to start photoshopping like crazy.

Oh well, enough about me. What about the show?

Continue reading “Hittin’ the Airwaves”

Considering the Culinary in Coventry

My most recent piece – 15 Things You Need To Eat In Coventry Right Now – is now live on Buzzfeed and boy was I ever hungry working on that. There’s some awesome stuff happening on the Coventry dining scene.

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I also noticed something while putting it together. The restaurants, cafes and coffee shops of Coventry are really doing right by diners with special diets. Obviously you’d expect a vegetarian or vegan restaurant to cater to their target demographics special diet. But what really struck me was so many mainstream restaurants – including quite a few that didn’t make it into my piece -had vegan menus, gluten-free menus, etc. Not just a couple of suitable items but full on menus with starters, entries and puddings. Maybe it’s happening more and more across the country but it’s the first time I’d come across so many in one town or city.

I’d definitely be up for exploring this further – seeing if it is, in fact, getting to be more common across the country. Or if it isn’t – what places seem to be leading the way (or riding the wave).

Autumnal Authorial Update

The temps are dropping, articles are going up and ebooks are on the way. It’s been a busy few weeks in my corner of the writing world.

knife&forkAnother Banburyshire Info restaurant review published – this one for Knife & Fork, my first experience with pop-up restaurants and I’ll be honest, I had very little idea what to expect. I knew it wouldn’t be like dining in a regular restaurant – set menu, for one thing. In short, I loved it – the food and the unique dining experience. Will definitely do it again and keen to seek out others. Have you been to a pop-up or home hosted restaurant? What did you think?

Finished editing another ebook for Modern Parlance Press for one of my favourite writers- a sci-fi short story collection (coming out soon – more to follow as soon as I can on this). As noted by the author, the single author short story collection isn’t as commonly seen these days. Oh there are some but many fewer than when I was young. I had tons of them growing up – almost all mysteries. There’s something deliciously bite-sized about a well-constructed short story.

BI_logoWrote a series of featured articles for Banburyshire Info on organic cosmetics. Learned some interesting – and surprising – stuff about what can and cannot be deemed organic in the cosmetics marketplace. It’s much less regulated than organic food in this way.

Two new Banbury pieces that came out of my habit of over-researching for something else.

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  • Boo! Haunted Banbury” just a smidgen too late for Halloween but never mind. It’s read for next year and I am sure Father Bernard (the resident ghost at Whatley Hall) won’t mind waiting. He’s been doing so for centuries!

whatley

Selling Home Sweet Home

Some time back, I was asked by a home decor store owner what he could do to boost his store’s visibility online. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money or bring in a full fledged team at that point, He wanted a sort of DIY plan, a basic 1-2-3 type thing that would do “for now.”

Truth be told, I am not a big fan of “do for now” – it sounds like it is supposed to give you some breathing room to sort things properly but what ends up happening is that it becomes “oh! great – it’s sorted.” and that’s the end of it. The ‘band-aid’ becomes the cure. Only it isn’t really. The problems are still there under the quick fix.

Still, I did put together some quick tips for him and thought others might find them useful “for now” as well. But please, don’t let “for now” be “for good.”

Content:  What you say, how you say it and where.

  • Voice, tone: one of the first things to do in the content development for the site will be deciding what “voice” to use and how to infuse the copy with that style and tone. Your copy should say more about your store than where it is and who owns it. Users should get some sense of philosophy behind it or the atmosphere or the place. Photos of the products are a good start but they can’t do it on their own.
  • Placement: I know your products are beautiful and speak for themselves but don’t make the whole first page just pictures and navigation. If you don’t have any content on the front page, it’s a bit like walking into a store and finding no one there.
    In addition, from a structural point of view, it’s a problem since it means that there are no hooks for some of the major search engines to catch hold of. We’ll get into a more detailed explanation of the link between content and search engines later but the idea of creating copy with an eye for inclusion in the search engines will be a key part of the content development. There are a few other key places to make sure content is available. I call these “copy mezzanines” — landing pages for product categories with some general or overview text. This can make a huge difference in creating an “action path” to move people toward either picking up the phone, coming in or clicking to sale.
  • Search Engine Optimization: One of the primary tool for accomplishing this is metadata. Metadata doesn’t show up on the page that you see. It sits in the code for the page itself and is seen by indexing spiders (the things that drive directories and search engines) and in the title bar of the browser page. It’s the keywords and phrases that people use in searches. Of course, metadata is only part of the story. The other part is optimizing your site copy.

Newsletters: Tremendous potential on many levels. If you’re not doing this, start now!

  • Engaging existing (and potential) shoppers in a “conversation,” increases the scope of their connection to the store. They think of it more often and in more context.
  • If you give subscribers a little extra something (a special one-day sale only for them, an extra 10% off – whatever) they’ll feel very “in.”
  • Single issues can be submitted to relevant online (or print for that matter) publications, pieces of PR, in viral campaigns (see below) etc.
  • What about including “back issues” on the site as a sort of archive. – assuming there is content of that nature in there. Any extra – but topical – content just adds value to the user experience. Stuff like that or tips on “table settings for the holidays”, “gift wrapping to wow them” etc. is going to create additional associations in people’s minds for the store. This is a good thing. And because it’s a new addition of content, makes the site appear fresh and active as opposed to static.
  • They key is making them a regular thing. (monthly, quarterly, whatever). I know it sounds time consuming but there many options for getting these done and only one of them involves you guys writing anything. Newsletter content for hire is extremely common and can be part of any content development agreement.

Directory listings: Want people to look you up? Make sure you to make yourself available.

  • Submission: Make sure you are in as many of these regional and shopping directories as possible such as your local citysearch site or the “resources section” of a local magazine’s Web site. If you live in a “travel destination” city, what about getting listed on the travels sites under things to do. Some of them have shopping categories. Do some online browsing, make yourself and list and start submitting. This is not complicated as much as it can be slightly time consuming.
  • Description: Where you (as opposed to a directory editor) have control of the content for your listing (like on citysearch, for instance), the copy should match the style and tone of the copy on the site.
  • User reviews: let’s dance into the ethical grey area here. You must have friends and family who have shopped at the store. Tell them to review the site in these kinds of places. They don’t have to use their names. It’s all user names. Who’d know? Are there repeat customers who you think would review it? It’s worth asking – I mean, if they are there on any sort of regular basis they like your stuff. Ask them to spread the word.

Search Engines: Wherefore Art Thou, Retailer?

  • Submission: Which ones have you submitted to? And one the ones where you have, where did you end up in their listing? The more the web expands the more dependent people will be on these search sites – general, regional and topic specific – to get them the info they need. Another plus – the more you are included in other places, the higher the Google ranking you get. Google is – deep down at heart – a math equation and numbers add up. More on this later. Therefore, one task will be submitting site information to all major search engines and directories and any specialized directories that relate to your business.
  • Search Engine Optimization of Copy: As I have said many, many times – crafting the copy just right is a key element in search engines placement. It’s so important that it bears repeating. Crafting the copy just right is a key element in search engines placement. It’s not thrilling like photos and getting reviews but it is a core issue. One thing you mustn’t forget when working on SEO, if metadata. Metadata doesn’t show up on the page that you see. It sits in the code for the page itself and is seen by indexing spiders (the things that drive directories and search engines) and in the title bar of the browser page. It’s the keywords and phrases that people use in searches.

Miscellaneous Marketing: Other ways to get the word out!

  • Linking Efforts: Develop the strategy to identify sites that would attract a concentration of your target audience and see about getting a link to Bae (an additional plus: more links = better Google results). Sometimes they ask for reciprocal links back. This is not necessarily a bad thing and where appropriate should be done. If you’ve got a Links Page, you already have a home for those reciprocal links so structurally it requires no change. If you don’t have a links page, they don’t need to be complicated and they don’t have to be “front and center” so you should be able to fit some space in somewhere.
  • Viral Campaigns: It only sounds dirty. You need is some kind of email or web-based “hand along” – poem, graphic, video, article, newsletter, animation, etc. that is so useful or unique that people can’t help but forward it to a friend. This could be some sort of competition, article, tip sheet, e-cards using pictures of the products, anything. Anything to get word of mouth spreading.
  • Email collection: If you’re looking to build up an email list or customer database, why not hold a raffle. Put a fishbowl on the counter and tell people to drop in their card or email address and one whatever day, you draw a name out of the bowl and they win a vase or something.
  • Value Added Services: Do you do more than sell the items on the shelf? You should. Give people another reason to think of your store. What about offering corporate gift buying services if your product line lends itself to that kind of thing. Do you sell home décor items? What about offering design consultations? If there is a florist nearby, team up and offer special gifts made up of your wonderful vases and their beautiful flowers.

Nothing here is going cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, some won’t cost you more than a bit of time.