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SugarSpun: 4 Ways (with Recipes) to Tailor your Content

I met with a friend regarding blog content for her website awhile back over lunch. Part of it was an excuse to talk about content marketing over gastronomical goodness and part of it was to take advantage of one of the very few low-humidity summer days Pittsburgh has to offer. Over delicious burgers and sunlit tables, we talked about her plans for a blog. The further into the conversation we went, it became clearer that she didn’t really have a grasp on her audience. Knowing your audience is an essential building block to content management. While you may understand your product inside and out, it’s relating your product to your customer that will bridge the gap of communication. It’s important to have this down because when you begin planning content, you need to know to whom you’re writing. Where do they live? What are their spending habits? Is your audience one particular type of person, or do you have different segments? What’s more, the audience needs to be broken down very deeply because, beyond identifying who the audience is, you also need to ask yourself, “Why should they care about my content?”

Although today, audience identification is associated with marketing practices, the process actually dates back to the ancient Greek scholars known as Sophists who were paid to teach people how to use speech and persuasive arguments to win their audience over. It might sound simple now, but at the time it was new and even threatening to some.

Don’t confuse me with the facts.” ~ Earl Landgrebe

One of the tenants of Sophistry is to tailor your speech (or writing) to your audience. The same is true today, because, while your content is very important, the way it is delivered is equally important. You wouldn’t write to a customer the same way you would write to a co-worker, and you wouldn’t write to your 13-year-old child the same way you would write to your boss. Similarly, tailoring your content to the different segments of your audience is a way to reach out to these different groups with a personal voice and communicate with them in a way they can understand and relate to.

In my previous blog post that shows the correlation between an ice cream endeavor and content management, the recipe for the perfect homemade ice cream base was explained. Now here are 4 ways (and recipes) to tailor your message to your audience, each one simply building off the base of your message.

By the way, if you haven’t tried the ice cream base yet, I absolutely recommend it. So far, I’ve made 4 different flavors from it! I won’t lie to you. I am in love.

1. Your base message…with a little something extra

When you have content that is as good as the brown butter ice cream, sometimes you can let it shine on its own, with a hint of flavoring to enhance it. For instance, let’s say you’re a small town bank in middle America. You’re proud of your longtime standing in the community. While you have different segments you’re reaching out to through your blog, at heart, your message is good rates through a trusted company. You can incorporate various tactics at different times to sweeten your message and add a little flavor variation, but the base of your blog emphasizes the trusted culture your bank has.

Chocolate Syrup by Alton Brown

As I said, this ice cream stands just fine by its own delicious self. But, I have a soft spot in my heart for plain ice cream and chocolate syrup, thanks to summers at my grandmother’s. She eschewed flavored ice cream, and instead, introduced me to the joys of chocolate flavored high fructose corn syrup.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in cocoa, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup. Whisk until all of the solids have dissolved. Reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Strain and cool to room temperature. Pour into squeeze bottles. Squeeze into cold milk and stir for delicious chocolate milk or serve on your favorite ice cream. And, hey, it’s fat free!

2. Go with what you know

Let’s say you own a vineyard, for instance, and part of your target audience is working mothers who need a break at the end of a long week to get away with their girlfriends for a few hours of laughs. As a mother yourself, you can identify readily with your audience. Instead of trying to be something you’re not, simply blog about what you know. Tell the story about the way a glass of wine after a long day at work can give you a moment of much needed sanity. This is authentic and will resonate with your audience.

Amazing Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream from A Flexible Life

The original recipe that came with the Brown Butter base was Brown Butter Pecan. I knew, having tasted Jen’s creation before, that it was a sure thing.

Ingredients

1 c pecans

2 T butter

1/2 t sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave butter in a bowl, then toss pecans and sea salt to coat. Spread out onto an ungreased cookie sheet or pan and bake in oven for 9-12 minutes, being careful not to burn. Set aside to cool.

Add according to your ice cream maker instructions.

3. Nostalgia is powerful

Nostalgia is a great tool to connect with your intended audience. Look no further than Coca-Cola, who is steeped in nostalgia, from retro glass bottles to Santa Claus. The same can be done for your brand. Well, you may not have the history that Coke has, but the idea is to take your audience back to a place of comfort. Maybe it’s the 80’s, or maybe it’s a memory of going to Grandma’s house. Whatever it is, use your content to play to these emotions. It’s a marketing tactic that’s worked for years, and it will work for you.

Peanut Butter Dough

This is my very own creation, a nod to my past connection with the extraordinarily unhealthy peanut butter dough of my childhood. Picking out the ingredients made me cringe the entire time. Powdered milk? Jif peanut butter? Karo syrup? And yet somehow, the flavors in this base melded and swirled perfectly.

Ingredients

1 cup Jif peanut butter

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Combine in one bowl and mix together. You’ll need to use your hands halfway through. Once everything is mixed, add into ice cream according to your ice cream maker instructions.

4. Go with the seasonal push

For businesses, picking the right season is part of tailoring your message because there is a time and a place for everything, as Solomon and the Byrds describe. A season doesn’t necessarily have to refer to the changing weather patterns. It can also refer to holidays or observed events. If you are a publishing company, for example, celebrating Banned Books Week would be the perfect time to talk about books you have that are similar to those that have been banned in the past. Try to capitalize on news items as well. Any association with a particular trend that will resonate with your audience has the potential to boost your sales.

Berry Crumble from Take a Megabite

I am a sucker for just about anything berry. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and though it took a few years, blueberry too. Berries picked fresh from the (often prickly) bush are the absolute best. Pair the sweet/sour flavor with crunchy, and I am putty on the floor with my foodgasm. Oddly enough, berries in the winter, to me, just don’t taste as good. I still eat them, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about eating them in season that makes them right.

Ingredients

For berry compote:

  • 1 pint berries (mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice

For crumble:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled

Directions

For berries: Preheat your oven to 375F. Combine berries with sugar in an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Gently mix. Roast for 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before pureeing with lemon juice in a food processor. Strain puree into a small bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Chill.

For crumble: Make crumble. Turn your oven down to 350F. Line with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 cup of sugar, salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon into a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely.

Once ice cream has been made, layer in a one-quart container with the leftover berry puree and crumbles. Top ice cream wit plastic wrap and an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours. You’ll have extra crumbles for serving.

In summary, you have to know your audience before you can tailor your content. From there, be creative and you will likely be impressed with all the sweet results you gain.

 

Mega Content: What It Is & Why Marketers Should Embrace It (Part 1)

MEGA content-01What if you could help create ready-made content for your social media sharing teams while simultaneously boosting the size of your targeted email marketing lists without dramatically increasing the work done by your content marketing team? It’s what every business wants, and it’s surprisingly possible with just a little bit of tweaking to your current strategy.

The History of Mega Content

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers and 69% of B2C marketers say they are creating more content this year than they were last year. Add in the need to serve up a steady stream of both original and curated content across various social media platforms and we sometimes find ourselves drowning under a never ending barrage of content requests.

Why so much content, and what are we trying to accomplish with it? This is what marketers really need to be asking. Study after study has shown increases in indexed pages, traffic volume, leads and sales for websites that have regularly updated blogs. But, the challenge comes in balancing the need to create strong brand building and lead generating blog posts with a slew of other social media postings that are more engaging for audiences.

This can make it difficult for businesses both large and small to balance the knowledge that content marketing produces long term leads with the very real demand for producing trackable data and results on a more immediate timeline. The key to good online marketing is figuring out how to reach both goals, but the jackpot of online marketing is achieving both goals with one set of deliverables.

Thus, the idea of mega content was born.

What Is MegaContentThe Challenges with Mega Content

It started out almost by accident. One of our clients is a prodigious writer. She regularly churns out volumes of outstanding content and has a very strong blog following. This traffic has great carry-over to her e-commerce site and is consistently one of her strongest sources of converting traffic. While this has provided a wonderful bedrock on which to build a solid online marketing business, the need to increase sales and conversions still exists.

Despite strong blog marketing and social media marketing, this client had not done much in the way of targeting or segmented email marketing. As the client prepared to launch a newer version of their e-commerce site with a more flexible backend management system, we decided to prep for more aggressive email marketing in the coming year. Of course, the biggest challenge in email marketing is building out a strong list with good targeting to allow for proper segmentation.

When the client delivered a blog post that clocked in at over 4,000 words, we knew we had a decision to make. We could break the post up into 3-4 posts that were more digestible, or we could beef it up further and consider its potential as an e-book or whitepaper. Since we had already started building out an infographic on the same topic, we decided to move forward with an e-book approach that could be used to draw a list of email addresses that were clearly interested in this specific topic and its corresponding product line.

As our design team worked out the details of the 24 page e-book, we decided to take a more visual approach to the design. Because the topic was targeted at women, we developed a PDF more in line with a pull-out guide from a women’s magazine instead of taking the standard text heavy whitepaper or e-book approach. We included our infographic as well as visual call-outs, quotes and other snippets of information aimed at creating a highly informative piece of content.

The Possibilities of Mega Content

Once our e-book was designed, we then took the time to break the content down into individual pieces of content that could be used on the client’s blog and/or for social media outreach. Two 500 word blog posts were pieced together from the content and paired with the infographic to serve as three separate posts on the client’s blog. Also, a series of images were created showcasing tips and facts about the e-book, which were then optimized for Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Next, we knew we needed to build out a traditional style landing page aimed at trading the e-book for an email address. We paired it up with the style, theme and information provided in our content package. We added testimonials from happy customers, and a few sound bites of information from the content piece. Overall, we ended up with more than a dozen “bite-size” pieces of content that could be shared on social media as standalone pieces of content, yet we still had enough meat to them to lead people back to the landing page to download the e-book.

MegaContent_Combines Best ImpactIs Marketing Mega Content Really That Different?

At this point, some of you may be wondering how this process differs at all from traditional e-book or whitepaper marketing. It’s a fair question with a very nuanced answer. E-books and whitepapers are traditionally written for the express purpose of creating a “prepped” buyer. Sometimes it’s about sharing research and data that draws in the exact type of lead you can feed to your sales team so they can pick up the phone and try to close the deal. Sometimes, it’s about sharing a case study or writing a story that leads people down a path to the right decision, right meaning your product or service, of course. And generally speaking, whitepapers and e-books are viewed as leading people into a fairly deep position in your conversion funnel.

Mega content, on the other hand, is about building a launch point for your conversion funnel. It’s about gathering a lead that can be fed into different parts of your marketing machine over time. It earns you an email address and a topic of interest, just enough to start reaching out. In other words, you have to accept that you are getting a lead with less immediate value than you might gather using traditional whitepaper marketing.

Why Mega Content Works

The appeal to mega content is that the lead isn’t your only value. Your social media team also receives a nice package of content that can be released across social media channels over the coming weeks or even months. This not only reduces the amount of time spent curating third party content for sharing and increases your ability to share a wider range of original content that can stand on its own, but it also has the potential to drive people to your landing page.

What’s more, this leads to the amazing potential for both traffic increases and lead increases, but you’ll have to tune into our blog again to find out how that works. For the next post in this series, we’ll map out the value of compound growth when it comes to long term lead generation and explain exactly how mega content fits into that process.

MegaContent_Breaking It Up

Building a Powerful Voice for Your Brand

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. – Maya Angelou

How true is this? Words are powerful, but the real influence comes from the voice carrying them. From a business perspective, this could not hit closer to home. And, from a social media angle, it hits the nail on the head.

Words need to be brought to life. In my college days, I remember a speech professor explaining the many different ways to say “I love you” and how differently each example sounded. The inflection, the pitch and the tone all played an integral role in the response and/or reaction.

Interestingly enough, the same elements apply to online marketing. The tone that you set for your brand carries the same weight that an external voice has. For instance, the voice that only pushes out links across social media has a robotic voice associated with it and is rarely heard. On the contrary, the brand voice that pushes out a variety of content with mixed media shows personality and spunk and is much more likely to resonate with users.

One of the best and most effective ways to build a strong voice online is through blogging. According to Hubspot, businesses that blog perform better on multiple levels:

  • Blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • The global population of blog readers keeps growing. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 81% of marketers rated their blog as useful or better. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
  • There are 31% more bloggers today than there were three years ago. (eMarketer, August 2010)
  • 46% of people read blogs more than once a day. (HubSpot Science of Blogging 2010)
  • Most people read 5-10 blogs. (HubSpot Science of Blogging, 2010)
  • Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes. (eMarketer, August 2010)

In addition, blogging fuels search engines. Google loves good content and will reward those who provide it. Blogging also gives a brand personality. Similar to social media, blogs also give brands the opportunity to appear more human. There is so much you can do with a blog such as to insert multiple personalities. A blog doesn’t have to have a single author. It could have many authors encompassing all levels of the business that share the many aspects of what you do.

Another excellent way to let your voice be heard is by listening. We say this so often, but it never gets any less significant. The whole purpose behind this voice you want to build is to produce two-way communication with your audience. No one likes a one-sided conversation, right? This turns anyone off, which is why listening plays such a vital role in being heard. A brand must listen to know what their audience is saying, how to differentiate themselves among their competitors, and understand user expectations.

Look at brands and “listen” to those who are doing it right. If a corporate brand like Taco Bell or Sephora can engage with individuals, small to medium-sized businesses should be able to as well.

Sephora Twitter PostsTaco Bell TweetsWe also spoke recently about how listening goes hand-in-hand in tackling and combatting reputation management issues. The bottom line is in order to be an effective communicator that has any voice, listening must be in your toolbox.

Thirdly, as you establish your voice, you must be consistent. Building this voice through your website, social media and other online channels is just half the battle. It’s not a one-time initiative. It’s a continuous effort that you must not neglect. A brand can never turn on the cruise control, unfortunately. You work hard to establish a voice, but it takes work to maintain and grow it. The stronger voice you build, the more on your toes you need to be because results will be rolling in.

If you’re not consistent, you’ll lose your edge, and most importantly, your audience. When researching, I often come across sites that have not updated their blogs in months and some years. Audiences and search engines pay attention to this.

As you build your voice, set a standard. It’s okay to have some boundaries, but if you let it go, you’ll have to start from scratch. And everyone knows the comeback is always harder the second time around since competition grows and search engines get smarter.

A brand voice is a powerful tool, if used right. There are lots of messages already being told, so to be heard, you must get out there and tell yours effectively.

 

Guest Blogging Debate: Is It a Good or a Bad Strategy?

 

Computer Keyboard

Is guest blogging really dead? The SEO and marketing crowd has been all abuzz about it of late after Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, spoke out against it. According to him, guest blogging is NOT a good strategy for building links to your site in 2014.

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.”

These are powerful words coming from one of the most respected individuals in the SEO industry and someone who happens to be employed by the world’s largest search engine. Cutts’ recent stance was stimulated after he received an email in which someone pitched him about posting on his blog and offered money to essentially gain links. He equates the behavior with “paying for PageRank” and having others spread spammy links on blogs.

Cutts has been hinting that guest blogging was being frowned upon by Google since 2012, but in recent months, he has voiced his concerns even more:

While Cutts raises some very valid points, there are still questions that arise related to whether guest blogging should no longer be practiced. For instance, what about the majority of the search industry that is guest blogging on Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and other industry online publications? To this point, respected news outlets such as Forbes encourage contributing writers.

So, what does this mean? Is guest blogging really invaluable or not?

Though what Matt Cutts says cannot be taken lightly, it is important to think about what a guest post really means for you and your business. The main area that Cutts is concerned about is the poor links, a.k.a. spammy links, that some businesses and brands push for the mere SEO benefit. Again, this does hold merit as the blogosphere has grown. Popular blogs ProBlogger and Copyblogger, to name a couple, have stopped accepting blog posts from unsolicited bloggers.

However, the purpose of guest blogging is not just for the linking benefits. Guest blogging also has marketing benefits. For starters, guest blogging provides a valuable branding opportunity for businesses. It also allows for exposure, targeting a specific audience, community building and lead generation, which are all huge marketing objectives.

Chris Street of Bristol Editor recently saw the benefits of guest blogging prove true after he had a guest post published on Social Media Today:

–          More than 650 shares, Likes and re-tweets across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

–          Nearly 700 visitors to my blog within one day, clicking on this link from the published article

–          A new client signing up from Vancouver for six months’ blog marketing consultancy in 2014

Street also pointed out that his content resided next to social media giants such as Chris Brogan and Brian Solis, which added credibility to both his post as well as his name.

Still, the question remains: is guest blogging good or bad? The short answer is there isn’t a clear cut answer. We’ve heard Matt Cutts speak out against it, and we’ve also heard valid arguments for it. But, if you’re trying to determine whether or not you should pursue it and include it in your marketing plan, think about your business goals.

If you, for example, are only looking for the SEO benefits associated with guest blogging, then you may want to re-evaluate your SEO strategy without incorporating guest blog posts. When Google says it’s cracking down on a certain area, it does. And I, for one, would not want to get on Google’s bad side.

On the flip side, if you look at guest posting more from the marketing standpoint of branding, reach, etc., then you may not want to write off guest blogging completely. You want your marketing efforts – including your SEO strategy – to align, but the other benefits you receive from guest posting could prove greater than the SEO value you may or may not receive.

The best advice for pursuing guest posts is the same advice for content creation on your own blog – make sure you produce high-quality content. If you’re going to reach out to Social Media Today, for instance, your content better be good enough to sit next to the likes of Chris Brogan and Brian Solis.

While it’s likely this debate will continue for some time, when it comes to your next steps, concentrate on your goals and strategies to see what does or doesn’t fit.

Image courtesy of John Watson on Flickr.com.