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How does web content influence the buying process?

We all know that content is a vital part of any website’s conversion path, but exactly what effect does this content have on each stage of the buying process? And how can you, as a business owner or manager, take advantage of these effects to drive sales in your company?

First, it’s important to understand each step the buyer takes towards making a purchase. The buyer’s journey can be divided into several stages, which are widely considered to be awareness, consideration and decision. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Awareness

In the first stage of the buying process, consumers have just realised that they have a problem or need so they are undertaking some preliminary research. They want to be better informed about the general issue they’re researching before moving on to more specific solutions.

Content at this stage should ideally come in the form of a wide range of informational pieces, such as general blog posts, introductory ebooks, industry white papers, how-to lists and videos, infographics, slideshows, resource round-ups and glossaries. This kind of content will introduce people to your brand and demonstrate your industry knowledge and authority. It should also make up the majority of your content, as most visitors to your site will be in this initial stage of the buyer’s journey.

Example: if you were the owner of an independent computer store, you could create blog posts such as “Five things to consider when buying a laptop” and “The top 10 laptops for the everyday user”. This would attract web users who are interested in purchasing a new laptop, inform them of the general options available to them and make them aware of your business.

Consideration

The consideration stage is where buyers evaluate the different options available to them. At this point, they’re probably aware that your business offers a potential solution to their problem, but they also know that other vendors do too. They will start to look at individual products or services and companies in-depth and this stage is arguably the most important in the entire sales process.

Recommended content for the second stage includes expert guides and ebooks, webinars, podcasts and reviews. Through these, potential buyers should start moving towards the realisation that your business is the best choice and that you have the specific solution to their problem.

Example: again, let’s look at the example of an independent computer store and a consumer looking for a new laptop. The consumer would now be ready to look at individual laptops in more depth, so a video review of the latest Microsoft Surface Pro or an in-depth guide to the latest Asus ZenBook could keep them on your site, show your extensive knowledge, and help move them towards making a decision.

Laptop buying guide - Best Buy
Laptop buying guide – Best Buy

Decision

At the third stage, buyers decide exactly what they want to purchase. They know basically everything they need to about the product or service and your company, but they need a little reassurance or something extra before they finally make the purchase. Testimonials, case studies, special offers, demos and comparisons work well at this stage, helping to alleviate any worries the consumer may have and show that you’re the business to go with. In order to close to stage, you should focus on tangible deliverables.

Example: the consumer looking for a new laptop would by now have narrowed down the laptop they want, or the store they want to go to, to a couple of options. You could have a vendor comparison page on your site that shows why you’re a better choice than the big chain stores, offer the option to try out the laptop in-store and provide a special coupon code in an email for a discount.

Repeat custom

Once you’ve gained a customer, you need to do your best to ensure you don’t lose them. After all, gaining a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times the amount of retaining a one, so this additional stage is extremely important. To promote repeat custom, you need to have excellent support, listen to all feedback and offer continued value. Surveys, promotions, competitions, newsletters, giveaways, feedback forms and email marketing are the types of content you should be utilising at this stage.

Brand advocates are one of the things you want to be aiming for, as they will shout your company’s praises from the rooftops, generating custom and goodwill in the process. You can nurture advocates by giving existing customers a motive to share your content and your business’s information through the aforementioned kinds of content and outstanding customer service.

Example: in the case of the independent computer store, they could send customers follow-up emails after their purchase, asking them to review the product or offering discounts on laptop accessories.

Tracking

When utilising content marketing throughout each of these stages, you should monitor how effective each campaign and piece of content is. Use tools like Google Analytics, Buffer and Marketo to keep track of all your marketing activities and the results they bring. Use the data you gather to make changes to your content marketing plan as you go along. Make sure you’ve identified some key metrics that will clearly show how successful your activities are; for example, the number of leads generated from a particular post, and the number of Facebook likes accumulated from a campaign.

As a business owner or manager, you want to attract and retain as many customers as possible and, as you can see, content is invaluable for this at all stages of the buying process. You need to ensure you have a clear content strategy that helps buyers come to the decision to choose you, so make sure you’re investing your time and money in content marketing – it has the power to transform your business!

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How to create a killer press release template

A well written press release, distributed through the correct channels, can increase web traffic and boost search engine rankings. A big part of this success relies on being able to react to breaking news quickly, so it’s worth developing a solid press release template to follow, so you can get your take on the latest news in front of key influencers before anyone else.

Getting started

Before you start, understand that there is no strict formula for writing a successful press release. To adopt a few bits of fishing terminology: it’s not a ‘one bait catches all’ process; you might have to cast your line out for a while before you get a bite.

Start by listing variations of the following questions at the top of your press release template:

• What am I trying to say?
• Why is it worth saying?
• How am I going to say it?
• Who am I targeting?
• Where is this appearing?

These should get the person writing the press release thinking of the bigger picture, in regards to its purpose and what you hope it can achieve for your brand.

Choose a catchy title

Highlight the importance of choosing an eye-catching title in your press release template. There’s a reason why newspapers jostle for space outside newsagents with clever ‘play on words’ and ‘what did that say?  headlines that make people stop in their tracks, buy the paper and read more. The same rationale applies to picking an enticing title for your press release.

Susan Payton from Cision suggests that, when writing a press release, you should imagine the story being printed on a front page. Choosing a headline to match, will, according to Payton’s interviewee Melissa L. James, help people look at the article through ‘readers eyes.’

Remember to pick a title that conveys what you’re trying to get across, without being too heavy on keywords; you want people to be persuaded into reading your release, but you don’t want to mislead them with ‘clickbait’ or robotised sales copy. It may help to write the headline after you’ve composed the rest of the release, so you know exactly what you need to cover.

Focus on the top line

The next ‘box to tick’, if you will, is the press release’s top line.

Ensure the theme of your release is perfectly encapsulated by the opening sentence. This should summarise what the release is about and, once again, it should read like the introduction to a news story. As Copyblogger highlights: “Your average information-hungry consumer won’t stand two seconds for dry, self-indulgent marketing babble.” If you’re writing about the launch of a new store, for example, just announce it: people don’t need or want to hear about your turnover or USPs – yet!

If in doubt, cut it out

In the words of the English language’s greatest communicator, brevity is the soul of wit – so don’t go overboard. Use every word carefully and, if in doubt, cut. Jeremy Porter highlights a particularly bad, jargon-filled release, while also quickly remedying its faults and producing an easier-to-read example that still communicates the original message.

Choose your quotations carefully

All good press releases will include a handpicked quotation from a relevant individual that adds to the provenance of the piece. Ensure quotations aren’t platitudinous and don’t merely repeat the points made in the main copy.

Write in the third person

Always write in the third person – stamp this in capitals across the top of your outline if you like – anything else and it’ll just sound like sales copy.

Be creative

Think outside the box! Brands are no longer constrained by two-dimensional black and white print, so tell your press release writer to review the article and include informative links, pictures or videos, where necessary.

Hannah Fleishman of HubSpot is particularly vocal on this, pointing out that it’s worth sitting down together as a team to discuss how you can include infographics, slideshows and the like to increase the likelihood of your content being shared across different channels.

This example, from British tech start-up The Soldier’s Box, includes a video that demonstrates the value of the product being offered, while still providing the fully-formed content that can be spun into a news story. Of course, the publisher doesn’t have to use the video, but it could help pique their interest.

Who are ya?

Don’t forget that, after telling the story, you need to include some details about your company. After all, you aren’t doing this to give journalists and online publishers an easy life; you’re doing it as part of your content marketing strategy! Contact details are vital, but don’t provide a long list – choose between phone number, email address, web/blog address and social media handle, depending on the type of release and the nature of your business.

Summary

The key to success here is quality. Your releases should be written with the human consumer in mind. Make them relevant, informative, attractive and readable, and you should start to notice just how effective they can be. Finally, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly for grammar, punctuation and spelling before you send – releases are often published as is, and you don’t want your business to look unprofessional!

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8 ways to increase traffic using social media

With so much content being shared online these days, cutting through all of the noise can feel like an uphill struggle. If you want to increase traffic using social media, read on to discover our top tips.

Make the most of profile links

Let’s start with a simple, but often overlooked means of driving traffic – ensure a link to your website is included on all of your profile pages. You should also link from any personal profiles to company accounts and vice-versa. Brittany Hurlburt from Login Radius highlights the example of Guy Kawasaki, who does this really well on his Twitter profile.

Make your blog content shareworthy

Companies are beginning to move away from simply churning out generic content stuffed with SEO keywords. Make sure every blog post you produce is valuable, with interesting, insightful information that is genuinely enjoyable to read and the reader can gain something from. As David Attard states: content needs to be original and thorough, well-thought out and well-researched, providing a solution to a reader’s problem.

This will not only encourage clicks, but will also bring the people who do click back to your site, along with others. Readers will be able to tell the difference between a rushed piece of content and one that’s been carefully crafted.

Use ‘conversion keywords’

Jawad Khan of Social Media Explorer discusses the effectiveness of using high conversion keywords within posts, and how it pays to know what the words with the highest conversion rates are for each site. On Facebook, for example, words such as ‘where’ and ‘when’ have been proven to convert, while on Twitter, ‘follow’ and ‘check out’ are likely to get clicks.

Use hashtags on all platforms

Hashtags shouldn’t be solely limited to Twitter. Khan says that using them on other sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Google+ will enable your post to reach new audiences. On Facebook, for example, using 1-2 hashtags per post can get you an average of 593 interactions.

Use hashtags on all social media platforms
Use hashtags on all social media platforms

Grab people’s attention

When sharing content, bear in mind that no one is going to click on it if it doesn’t grab their attention. Use an effective headline that addresses the reader, such as ‘You won’t believe what happened when…’, encouraging them to click through to your site to find the answer. Think about it from your reader’s point of view and as Attard states, ask these questions before publishing:

Would you be drawn to it? Would you want to read it? Would you find it interesting? Would it benefit you?

Make it visual

Posts featuring images and videos are more likely to be noticed than text on its own, which can get lost in among the thousands of other posts or tweets on timelines. According to Buffer, Facebook photos enjoy 39% more interaction than any other type of post on the social media platform. Whether it’s a beautiful, thought-provoking image or a funny video that makes the audience laugh, your content needs to be noticeable among the reams of other posts in your audience’s feeds. Remember that the best content elicits a reaction or feeling, and if the audience feel something, they’re more likely to return to your site because their engagement will be more memorable.



Post the same content more than once

According to research by Kissmetrics, if you add together the number of clicks accrued from the second and third shares of a piece of content they actually equal more than the entire number of clicks experienced with the first share. Also, multiple shares more than double the amount of clicks generated from just one share.

So make sure you schedule a series of updates for the same post using different keywords, hashtags and images. A word of caution, however, don’t spam your readers by sharing a link to the same content with exactly the same message more than once, this can have the opposite effect of encouraging engagement, causing people to ignore or even unfollow and unlike your profile.



Include a call to action

Including a call to action on a social media post such as ‘Like’, ‘Share’ or ‘Retweet’ will remind your audience to engage. If you offer an incentive, such as ‘Share our photo and be entered into our prize draw to win…’ this will attract more shares. Use this opportunity to create something, such as a compelling photo, that will make people take notice of your business.

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Workshop Gamestorming with Sunni Brown on June 6th 2013 in Amsterdam organized by Business Models Inc. More than 40 participants are experiencing visuals thinking games for strategy and innovation. Part of the Bootcamp Business Model Canvas the Game. www.businessmodelsinc.com

Bootcamp Business Model Canvas the Game, June 5-7 2013 in Amsterdam. 6 renowned game developer teams are working on the ultimate game for the Business Model Canvas: Ranj, Weirdbeard, Little Chicken, RageSquid, FirebrushStudios, Headcandy. www.canvasthegame.com

10 easy content marketing strategies for small businesses

Content marketing can be a challenge, even for businesses with big budgets and plenty of resources. For small businesses, it can seem like an impossible task. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though, as a little planning, hard work and perseverance has the potential to deliver great results. With that in mind, try these 10 easy content marketing strategies to give your online presence a boost.

Update your blog regularly

In order for your content marketing to get maximum results, you need to create content regularly and consistently. You can start out slowly, perhaps one blog post every three days, or one tweet each day, and then gain momentum. Ideally, you should be aiming for at least 11 blog posts per month, as research by Hubspot shows that small companies posting this frequently receive almost three times more traffic than those posting around once a month, and twice as much traffic as those posting two to five times a month.

“Newsjacking” is an excellent way to help you post frequently. Keep your eye on the news (you can monitor hashtags related to your industry on Twitter) and if any stories break that are relevant to your business, write a piece about them. Don’t just directly rewrite the news story though, ensure you’re giving a new perspective on the story or providing additional information.

Answer questions

One simple way to get started with producing content is to answers questions that your customers frequently have. You could write blog posts with common questions as the title and make tutorial videos that provide the answer to questions related (whether directly or indirectly) to your product or service. People are always using Google to find answers to their questions, and you could provide them with the solution they’re looking for.

Automate

Make life easier by automating as much of your content marketing as possible. For example, you can use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to post updates on a regular basis and at times your fans and followers are likely to see them. You could do the same with blog posts; if you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to schedule posts to go live on a certain date. To save even more time, there’s also CoSchedule, an excellent combined automation and content calendar tool.

Create a content calendar

Before producing and posting any content, you should make a content calendar. This will ensure you have a clear plan for what topics you will be covering, when, and the person responsible. Curata offers some excellent tips and a free template, and Hootsuite has a variety of useful social media calendar templates you can utilise.

 

Infographics are one of the best content marketing strategies for small businesses
Get visual with an infographic

Make it visual

Content marketing isn’t just about text; visual media, like photos, videos and infographics are highly effective. Research has shown that articles that include images get 94% more views and infographics have the power to double your traffic. It’s predicted that by 2017, video will make up almost 70% of online traffic. With stats like these, you’d be foolish not to include visuals in some form or other.

Do keyword research – and keep doing it

Before you start producing and publishing content, make sure you’ve identified the keywords you are looking to target. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to identify words that are relevant to your niche. It’s free to sign up for and simple to use, but you can use this guide if you’re stuck. You can also invest in a paid keyword tool like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty and SERP Analysis Tool, which offers extra features to make your research more effective.

Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to target, don’t just leave it there. Make sure you go back to your keywords every couple of months and do some more research. You might find that some keywords aren’t ranking or converting particularly well, or there are some new opportunities that you can work on.

Use data

Data-driven content will give your site more authority and increase traffic and shares, so if you have some stats that could be useful to others in your industry or customers, share them. You could make infographics (you can outsource this to a graphic designer for a reasonable fee) that present your business’s data or information in an interesting way. So if you own a bakery, for example, you could make an infographic showing the most popular cakes throughout the year or the amount of ingredients you use.

Utilise CTAs

In order to gain customers, you need to turn visitors into leads, and to do that, you need them to take action. Most of your content should contain a call to action (CTA) – a command like “contact us now” or “sign up for a free trial” that will usually lead to the exchange of information. Frequent blog posts will only be effective if visitors know how to get further information or have an incentive to stay on your site. Keep your CTAs succinct and clear, and offer something extra, for example a white paper, to encourage users to complete them.

Measure, track, tweak

There’s no point in investing in content marketing if you’re not monitoring its success. At the most basic level, you should be using Google Analytics to keep track of how all the content on your website and blog is doing. Look at metrics like number of users, bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration to see how well your site and individual pages are performing. And set up conversion goals so you can monitor your conversion rates for different actions and pages.

Don’t get overwhelmed

One final point: it’s crucial that you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed when you start working on content marketing. If you take on too much at once, you’ll quickly feel like you’re drowning in to-do lists and perhaps frustrated that you’re not seeing immediate results. It’s much better for you to take on the tasks you definitely have the time and resources to do – you can always outsource the other activities when you’re able to.

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