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?


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”

Digital: A Big Boost for Small Biz

With technology giving people unprecedented information and choice regarding products or services, customers are now firmly in a position of power in their relationship with retailers, service providers and brands.

This means you have to work harder than ever to meet – and wherever possible exceed – customer expectations. Digital marketing can help you meet this challenge. It boosts customer acquisition and loyalty; raises word of mouth and expands the relationship between shopper and seller.


When we say “digital marketing” – what are we talking about?

I’m so glad you asked. Welcome to Small Biz Tips (Part 1 of 2) where I intend to fully ignore buzzwords and jargon (much of it means very little anyway) and break this down into broad categories and terms everyone can understand.

Continue reading “Digital: A Big Boost for Small Biz”

Searching Out Stock Photos

Does the cost of stock photography sometimes leave you reeling? Join the club! I’ve been shopping for and using stock photos for over 25 years and there are still times the price tag can leave me speechless.


Not surprising then that so many of us end up Googling phrases like “free stock photos” or “hi-res free photos.”  Of course then you get the results from that search and find yourself shocked at how bad some of the “free stock photo” offerings are. Well, maybe not so shocking if you subscribe to the “you get what you pay for” school of thought. But even taking that into account, some of them are breathtakingly bad.

Luckily there are increasingly good places to find high quality, absolutely free stock photos. I provide a few below. Some appreciate credit but do not require it. But all are free.

Continue reading “Searching Out Stock Photos”

The Dreaded Content Audit

The Content Audit: What Horrors Await? (via business2community) Ask someone to perform a content audit, and it sounds pretty straightforward. Sit down to actually perform a content audit, and you’ll find yourself in a circle of hell that Dante dared not speak of.

Stranded preposition aside (I know it’s not technically wrong but it irks me), there is a lot of truth in this. And having just survived a content audit myself, I speak from experience.

Make Your Message “Findable”

searchEmphasis on Content Marketing Revives Agency SEO Efforts and Revenues (via Advertising Age)

“What good is digital content if no one can find it?”

I ask this all the time – not only in regards to SEO (which this article is about) but over and over again in design meetings and conversations about user experience. 10 seconds, 2 scrolls, 3 clicks and they’re … if you’re lucky.

Advice Gotten or Given Over the Years

When someone asks me – before any details are provided or discussed – how much a website is going to cost, I usually respond with, “I don’t know. How much does a car cost?” And when they say, “That depends on the car.” I answer, “Precisely.”

That next generation of donors – the ones you need to keep your good work going? They aren’t just younger than your traditional base. They give differently and have different expectations about the results. If you don’t change your relationship management style as your donor demographics change, you (and your good work) are doing to get left behind.

Why should you care about better managing and organizing your intellectual assets? Because it will save time, money, resources. Trust me, no matter how many times you invent the wheel (or write up that project description) – it’s still the same wheel (the same description), the same as all the other wheels (that you’ve written out 10 times) you “just can’t lay your hands on the moment. Too bad you were to busy with that to invent something new.


Is Content King Or Isn’t It?

When you work in marketing (or if you work with marketers) these days, you hear the phrase “Content is King” all the time. You also hear that it isn’t or that is due to be deposed any second by something else. But do you know where that phrase comes from and what it actually means? Does it still mean what it originally meant? Finally, is it true or isn’t it?

The phrase “Content is King” was coined by Sumner Redstone in the mid-90s and if anyone knows content, it’s the man who’s been sitting on a MOUNTAIN of content for decades. The phrase then crops up in 1996, used by Bill Gates as both the title and topic of an essay he wrote describing how he saw the internet and the monetization of the internet evolving. Both men were making the point that the way people engage with content changes and that drives change in the content itself but the need for content itself is a constant. Movie studios and theatres, DVD players, streaming video, publishers, newspapers, magazine, bookstores, television programs, broadcasting companies – they come, they go, they change, but the appetite for the content they put out remains high.

Well, 16 years later, looks like they were right about that whole ‘plus ça change plus c’est la même chose‘ thing.

Is print dying? I don’t know. Frankly neither does anyone else, not really. But what I do know is that books and newspapers used to be the primary vehicles for delivering reading material to the masses and now they are just one of many methods. These days people get reading materials from books, newspapers, on their e-readers, on their phones, through their headphones, on their computer. Has the amount of reading material produced gone down? Are you kidding? We’re DROWNING in the stuff. Has the demand for reading material gone down? No, again.  Thanks to the greater number of access points and the tidal wave of content being produced to fill that ever expanding space, people can pick and choose like never before.

Let’s look at this by segment.

News: In regards to news consumption, the increased choice of delivery vehicle and amount of content being delivered is undeniable. We’ve got:

  • newspapers (not dead yet),
  • news magazines (also not dead and showing signs of evolving),
  • 24 hour news channels,
  • niche channels,
  • the expansion of what is defined as news,
  • the explosion of the news-fed blogosphere.

I can’t say that I feel the explosion in availability of information has done a lot for the quality of that information or the discourse around it but it’s certainly ratcheted up the quantity. So, regardless of whether newspapers are dying or not, news production and news consumption are alive, more than well and kicking.

Books: Books used to be the only long form game in town and the path from author to reader was pretty well defined. A book was written, picked up by an agent and sold to a publisher (usually one of a limited number of publishers). The publisher produced the book and sold it to the distributors who then sold it to the bookseller and the bookseller sold it to the reader. Yes, there were smaller publishers but back in the day they had real problems getting access to bookshelf space in retail outlets or even catching the distributor’s eye.

These days, you might:

  • curl up with a book, turning actual paper pages as you go.
  • curl up with your Kindle, NOOK or iPad, clicking your way through the story
  • don headphones to listen to the works of Charles Dickens during commute to work.
  • have bought your reading material at a bricks & mortar store or from an online retailer.
  • get your book “serialized” into your inbox once a week or downloaded from the library.
  • be enjoying a read produced by a mainstream publishers, a small publisher, an established author or your next door neighbor’s teenage daughter.

As for the amount of content itself – well, with so many more options for producing and delivering this content, the scope of that content has gone similarly through the roof. An argument is often made that all this easier production process and multiplicity of delivery platforms hasn’t done much for the standards of consumer fiction (or non-fiction come to that) but I don’t think the it’s the only thing at play here.

Yes, the ever-simplified path to production and the rush to cash in means there is quite a lot of slap-dash stuff out there and stuff that wouldn’t, in earlier eras, would have never seen the light of day. But you know, publishers de-prioritized proofreading LONG before the internet and I’ve got the typo-filled books to prove it. Not to mention, quality standards when it came to deciding what to publish were always – let’s say – flexible and usually driven by the bottom line more than anything else. You can’t lay the whole history of dodgy topics, poor writing and crap story-telling at the door of self-publishing. Publishing needs to take a big girl pill and face their questionable output as well.

Music: Let me ask you a question – when was the last time you went into a record store? Do they even call them record stores anymore? Of all areas of content, the market for music has undergone the most comprehensive change of all.

Film: Movies have gone through a similar evolution to books as far as production process and access points. Back in the day it went like this: Movie studios made movies (based on some economically proven story structures) and distributed them to the movie theatres who then showed the movies to the audience. It was a single, stream-lined path from movie makers to the mainstream movie-going audience. Today? Movies and movie-watching has become a many-headed hydra.

Anyone can make a movie.

  • The Big Studios: who make only a few types because movie making on their scale is expensive and they are answerable to stockholders these days.
  • The Independents: Still banging on a certain number of doors but finding it much easier to be seen and heard than ever before.
  • You: Though whether the world is ready for your three part documentary on traditional thanksgiving turkey recipes is another question.
  • The Barista at the Coffee Shop on the Corner: who wrote a screenplay but doesn’t know any of the right people and instead knows a lot of folks willing to pitch in and help out.

Considering how much content is being produced by all these channels (few of them with output dictated by economics to the same extent as the big studios), we may never run out of things to watch despite having so many options of where, when and how to watch – in the theatre, at home, on the phone, via YouTube, streamed from Netflix, etc.

So – now we know where the phrase “Content Is King” came from, what was meant by it and how it has apparently played out. Is it still true?  Is Content King? I don’t think so. And what’s more, I don’t think it ever was.

Content is important, no doubt about it. It is absolutely key. It is the content that people want and will pay for pay for. Is the vast array of delivery mechanisms now more important than what is being delivered? I don’t think that either. Delivery is as important at the content itself. Why produce product if you can’t distribute it? How will you reap the rewards of your content efforts if you can’t get that content to those who want or need it.

So, content and delivery of that content are both central. But let’s face facts – you can produce all the content you want, have all the delivery systems you can dream up, delivering as much product as they can all hold – and none of it means anything without the consumer.

  • If you want to sell – you must have something the consumer wants.
  • If you want them to buy, you have to make it available when and where they want.

There was a lot that people got right when they predicted how the internet would change commerce and content consumption. But the empowerment of the consumer, the increasing importance of the audience in the equation seems to have snuck past and taken people by surprise.

Content and platform are now mere consorts to the real power on the throne – the consumer.

The King is dead. Long live the king.

Pop-Ups Might Make Customers Pop Off

I’ve been doing more online shopping lately – what with all this snow that keeps piling up and the fact that most of what I want is actually overseas these days.  I’ve always done some online shopping – I’m a big fan of it as opposed to real life shopping which I loathe.

But there’s a trend that’s really getting on my last nerve these days – these requests to participate in surveys  or invitations to “chat with a customer assistance.” I don’t mind being asked to participate or invited to chat but I do mind having the invitation SHOVED in front of me with no warning as I am trying to shop.

It’s aggravating. It’s rude. Worst of all, it is bad usability.

By all mean, encourage feedback and interaction with your customers but do it by creating something eye-catching on the side or in along the bottom with an option to minimize or close it. And once it’s closed, don’t come back during that session unless the customer opens it.  But these pop ups – basically you are getting right in my face and shouting. Interrupting me as I am trying to make a purchase decision. Getting in my virtual personal space. You know what I’d do if someone did that in real life? Well, online it’s even easier – I just click away.

So think about that before you pop-up in my face and block my view of your products. Repeatedly.

This Company Blog of Yours – What’s It For?

This company blog of yours – what is it for?

I’m not being snarky or mean. I’m asking a genuine question. I’m interested. What is it for? Go on. You give it a think. I’ll wait.

  • No. “Because one of the interns told us we should have one” isn’t the answer. Not one you should admit to, anyway.
  • No. Not “Our competitor had one and so we figured we’d better have one too” either
  • “We wanted a place to put press releases.” Really? Then what is your “News” or “Media Center” for?

No, your blog is a magnet. It’s meant to draw people in, give them a way to connect to you and your company. It’s a place where you can engage the customers or audience attracted to the information, goods, insights, etc. that you offer there. And once you have attracted them, engaged them – you can build a relationship with them. Please note – the fact that you have a blog does not make you engaged. Engage is an active verb. It involves you taking action. You posted, they clicked. Ball is back in your court. What do you do next?

Keep posting, of course, but keeping in mind what you’ve learned from who came to the blog and what they did there. What were their responses to the content you put up? Let that inform your future content plans. Where did they come from to arrive at your blog? What does that tell you about them? How can you further design content to suit those people? Did they ask questions related to the initial information? Address those questions in the next post. Even if they don’t like the answer, the fact that there was a cause and effect to the posts shows you are responsive. You will get credit for that.

Speaking of visitors to your blog – do you know who they are? Do you know what they want? You may well have tracking software that tells you 68% of them are new visitors and 15% are from California, 5% are using Safari and 57% clicked away after 1.5 minutes. But do you know anything about the way they see your company? What they expect? How can you find out?

We’ll touch in that in the next chapter: “This company blog of yours – who’s reading it?

Website as House Analogy

Let’s say you have a house. You like the house but the plumbing is iffy. Water damage has warped floors, created “bubbles” in the walls, peeled the paint. You decide “This looks like crap!” and get someone in to fix the floor, redo the walls and repaint. Gosh it looks SO much better. Only you forgot to fix the plumbing and guess what? Right. Now, let’s say the house is actually a website . . .

See what I mean?