Improving Business Growth Through Content Creation

Using website content is a key online business strategy to boost traffic and to generate product, company, or service awareness, and to improve a site’s online presence. The effectiveness of written content creation, in particular, will depend upon the right strategy being used — regardless of whether the business is an online one, or a bricks and mortar type.

Content Types

Text: When addressing a target audience with a direct message, it’s the written word that remains a favourite option. Articles which utilize the language, expressions, terms and words unique to a particular industry, niche or market automatically set the context and tone of the message. With this kind of content, impeccable grammar is of the highest priority, followed closely in importance by the proper structuring of sentences and paragraphs in order to command audience attention and send clear messages.

Images: Photos, diagrams, infographics and computer-generated graphics attract the human eye and help to deliver a message by illustrating an organization’s products, services, concepts and ideas.. Such image content must be high quality in design, composition, colour and clarity.

Videos: The ever popular use of video on the Internet serves a variety of purposes from providing product or procedural demonstrations, to giving a face to either a business or product, to teaching classes half way around the world to generating a buzz in social networking platforms.

Infographics: Images accompanied by small amounts of text referred to as infographics are the latest Internet and media craze. Infographics are an increasingly popular, visual way to relay information, data and sometimes complex concepts and messages. Conveniently eliminating the obvious sales pitch, infographics can be utilized to effectively share a company’s story in a creative and entertaining way.

Standard original content can also be leveraged into other forms of content like:

– Microsites
– White papers
– Webinars or webcasts
– Branded content tools
– Research reports
– Traditional media
– Print magazines
– Digital magazines
– Mobile content
– Podcasts
– eBooks
– Print newsletters

Purpose Of Content Creation

Information is the core of content creation – with regard to what an organization wants to share with its market and potential customers. Through information sharing businesses can increase brand awareness, boost their customer bases and develop and maintain positive relationships with their existing clients. Content can also be leveraged for other objectives, including:

– The engagement of employees via company blogs
– Easy recruiting through organisation web pages which are highly representative of the company’s vision, direction and goals
– Greater business development, especially when such content is shared between businesses (B2B)

Keys To Successful Content Creation

Identify The Audience: To send an appropriate and effective message a business must correctly identify the audience with whom it is delivering the information.

Style Guide: To develop a business’ over all brand and ensure the same message is being delivered through each method and channel being utilized, content consistency is critical. To ensure consistency in a message, style elements must be decided upon before the creation process begins. Such elements include tone of voice, words to be used and choice of language.

New Content: Just like produce sold in a market, online content must be fresh if it is to attract the attention of the target audience, and encourage them to return for more relevant information in the future.. Unique content also needs to be insightful so that it provides information that readers will find useful and want to learn more about. In this age of information, content is not just about what the business wants to relay, but rather, what the audience or searchers want or need. As a marketing tool, content must convey the value of the business, its services and products, along with the business’ niche authority, to the targeted consumer in a way that’s informative. Once convinced of the business’ value, the audience will find the next step of following a call to action to feel much more natural.

Ongoing Development: While consumer behaviour undergoes changes, so does market conditions that can also be accompanied by new challenges and increases in competition. This requires the creation of new content to keep the consumer informed. Those who create this type of content should also undertake continuous learning by researching quality sources of authoritative information to be used in the new content. This self-education results in new approaches and aspects to write about while offering a way to build on previously acquired information, allowing the content creator to enhance their authority and credibility with the audience.

Reusing Content: With imagination, creativity and resourcefulness, old content can have new life breathed into it. Repurposing or reusing content can come in the form of images being converted into slide show presentations, video clips can be arranged as part of a webinar series, and text entries can be incorporated into newsletters and eMagazines.

Ideally, the responsibility of content creation should only be assigned to a team or person who either has an understanding of your industry and establishment or who has the capacity to conduct the necessary research to learn about it. This understanding will be manifested in the way the material is written, revealing the creator’s comprehension of your services’ or products’ unique strengths, selling points and current market trends.

While many large organizations provide their clients content creation services through an in house development team, it’s important to remember that aside from adequate service/product knowledge and writing skills, such staff members must also have a solid grasp of best practices regarding SEO (search engine optimization). Perhaps more importantly, they need to be motivated to expend the time that is needed to stay up to date with changing trends in premium content creation.

An growing number of businesses, online and offline, contact me to write unique content for them, continuing the growing global trend of outsourcing tasks such as this that require specific expertise.

Whether you have your own content writing staff or you commission a content writing service, it’s critical that they have full comprehension of the special strategies that need to be used in the online business world.

Business Alliances – Strategy For Small Business Growth

Business alliances are often overlooked or not given much consideration by small businesses, yet they can be vital in helping a company grow and prosper. All too often, small businesses think alliances are just for big businesses; as a result, they neither explore nor pursue them. However, they can be just as beneficial for small businesses as they are for large corporations. If a small business is serious about gaining access to new markets, capitalizing on technology, growing profits using shared resources, they should consider a business alliance.

It’s no secret, businesses that share resources can create greater efficiencies and become more profitable. Business alliances can increase synergies and mitigate potential risk, while allowing companies to work together toward common goals as they maintain their individuality. There are several types of business alliances, each with its unique attributes.

Now is the time to assess what your business brings to the table. What assets, either tangible or intangible, does your business possess that when leveraged with another company can unlock greater potential for each business?

Alliance opportunities can be developed with suppliers, customers, investors, complementary businesses and friendly competitors. Some alliances are natural matches, while others require some creative thinking. I’ve listed the different types of alliances below, along with a description and example of each. When reading through them, think about how your business can create the benefits of a win-win proposition with another company.

JOINT VENTURE

A joint venture is a contractual arrangement whereby a separate entity is created to carry on a trade or business on its own, separate from the core business of the participating companies. Businesses often come together to share knowledge, markets, funds and profits. In some cases, a large company can decide to form a joint venture with a smaller business in order to quickly acquire critical intellectual property, technology, or resources otherwise hard to obtain. Companies with identical products and services can also join forces to penetrate markets they wouldn’t or couldn’t consider without investing a tremendous amount of resources. Separation is often inevitable because JVs generally have a limited life and purpose.

Example: You’ve developed a product but have a limited distribution base. Another company has the distribution system in place with a sizable market and wants to expand its company’s product offerings. You form a joint venture with the other company to jointly promote the product. It’s a win-win because you don’t have to fund the costs of reaching the potential customers and the other company expands its value and product offering to its current distribution base without having to fund the research and development costs of a new product. A contract would be signed detailing the aspects of the agreement.

STRATEGIC ALLIANCE

A strategic alliance is generally an arrangement whereby a separate entity is not created. Participants engage in joint activities but do not create an entity that would carry on trade or business on its own. The strategic alliance partners may provide resources such as products, distribution channels, manufacturing capabilities, capital equipment, knowledge, expertise, or intellectual property. Each party in the alliance maintains autonomy.

Example: A business management consultant wants to expand his services. He currently offers coaching, marketing, financial and operational consulting. He has noticed an increase demand for HR and diversity consulting from his clientele. He currently has no desire to hire additional personnel with the degrees and certifications required to offer these services. He seeks a strategic alliance with a HR and diversity consulting firm. The new firm agrees to work with his firm when opportunities arise for their services and a percentage of the revenue generated from the services provided will be returned to his firm.

PARTNERSHIP

A partnership is a legal agreement between two parties wherein both the parties agree to share profits and losses of a common business with no anticipated end date.

Example: A company whose primary function is to sell ads and produce unique coupon circulars to promote a variety of small businesses to the residential community had a substantial printing bill monthly. The company sought a partnership with a small printing company. The printing company had the expertise but limited printing volume. It required purchasing equipment that the printer didn’t have but saw a need for. A contract was signed establishing the new company; cost of the equipment was split between the two entities. The coupon circular producer sent all its business to the new venture at a substantial discount. The profits from the new venture were divided among the coupon circular company and the printing company. Each kept their original businesses separate from the new business.

MARKETING ALLIANCE

A marketing alliance is an agreement involving two or more companies to share cost and resources to promote each of the companies within the group. The target markets of the companies within the alliance usually share similar characteristics. The alliance can be a formal or an informal agreement.

Example: A group of locally owned and operated restaurants band together to form a marketing alliance. The alliance, similar to groups throughout the nation, promotes the uniqueness of their cuisines in an effort to stand out against the national chains. The group pools their resources to run ads and produce a direct mail guide to promote their menus, while offering discounts. They pay an upfront fee and then contribute several hundred dollars in gift certificates every quarter. Those certificates are sold online at a discount to help fund their marketing efforts. Donating gift certificates help keep the cost down for the participating restaurateurs.

COLLABORATION

A collaboration is when two or more businesses come together to share resources to create greater efficiencies such as the sharing of employees, equipment, shipping cost, rent, products and etc. Collaborations are generally for specific time periods and resources.

Example: As a small business you may have a difficult time throwing a first class holiday party for your employees. You want to show them just how much they are appreciated but the economy is tight and company funds are even tighter. Pooling your resources to have a party with a complementary company, saves money for both companies and could potentially pay off in new business opportunities and networking.

Managing the Alliances

Each company should bring a balance set of strengths to the alliance but there are other considerations as well. You must manage the alliance to ensure it contributes to the success of each company. Listed below are few of the things you should consider to produce a successful alliance:

1. Alliances should be made with the decision maker. You must have the support and commitment from the business owner and not just a manager.

2. Communication is a key ingredient. Clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the alliance in the beginning.

3. Develop the metrics the alliance will be measured against. Determine how the performance of each of the companies will be measured.

4. Allocate proper resources to the alliance. Don’t get half way through the project before you determine the proper resources were not allocated to the venture.

5. Ensure that all participating employees are committed to the success of the alliance. You need buy-in from everyone involved, not just a few select people.

6. Detail the responsibilities of each of the participating companies. Be explicit in what the expectations are for each of the companies in the alliance.

7. Just like all things, nothing is perfect. Be prepared to make changes if something is not working.

8. Stay committed and focused on the benefits of the alliance rather than the inconveniences the alliance may cause.

Each party must benefit from the alliance for it to be successful. Otherwise, like a marriage, the relationship will go from honeymoon to divorce court quickly and all parties will suffer.

Online Marketing for Small Business Websites in 2012

Well, 2011 is over and 2012 is here. And unless you believe in the Mayan prediction that the world will end later this year, as a small business owner you are probably going over your sales and marketing strategy for the coming year, making sure you have covered all of the bases and beginning to implement it in full force. All signs point to virtual double-digit growth in online sales volume in 2012, so hopefully your small business has online marketing as a significant part of your overall strategy. Below are a couple of areas that all small businesses should be focusing in on to maximize their online revenue stream.

Mobile Sales

Mobile sales are any sales where the actual purchase derives directly from a cellphone, smart phone or tablet device. Sales from mobile devices are a boon to small businesses because they break down the traditional geographic barriers and increase their potential customer base. They are also important because in today’s world, where decisions are made on the go and consumers are constantly being bombarded by additional input, small business owners need to capture sales at the time when the customer is ready to buy. If they don’t, life will intervene and delay that purchasing action or worse, drive it toward your competitors.

Estimates predict that mobile sales will account for a whopping $11.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2012. Are you positioned to get your piece of that pie? Taking advantage of mobile sales means using all of the tools at your disposal to convince customers to buy and then giving them the power to act on that decision immediately. It means designing your website from A to Z for useability and readability on smart phones and tablets. It means choosing typography that is attractive and readable on smaller screens as well as large home computer monitors. It means having an overall website design that is fluid… one that looks and works great on any screen no matter what the size. It means having navigation that works just as easily with thumbs and forefingers as it does with a mouse. It also means taking advantage of the power of Social Media to present your company, brand and products in a timely and effective way.

Social Media

It should be no surprise that the rise of Social Media Marketing and Mobile sales are closely related. Last year, Facebook estimated that 350 million of its 800 million users (40%) accessed the site via mobile devices. More and more consumers are using Social Media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to research different products and make buying decisions. More importantly, Social Media provides THE SINGLE BEST opportunity to engage with your customers and potential customers on a regular basis. Social Media networks are available 24 hours a day, meaning that you can present marketing to your potential customers 24 hours a day. Just as important is the opportunity to increase your brand awareness, and build and reinforce your relationships with your customers. Offering discounts, coupons and other promotions to people that visit your Facebook business page on a regular basis is a great way to get people coming back over and over again. Is your business on Google+ yet? Don’t discount the potential power of this relatively new social network. Many are speculating that companies who utilize the new platform will automatically do better in Google’s search engine rankings, regardless of how many people actually visit the page!

Replicate the Retail Experience

I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on the mobile and social marketing trends of 2012. While many customers will continue to shop online for the sake of convenience (among other reasons), they still want the responsiveness and service available from taking to a live person. The traditional customer service vehicle of a small business online presence has always been email or the website form. However, there are a variety of live chat options available that can greatly improve a small business’s response time for customers, which will lead to greater sales now and better customer retention in the future. Given the relatively small cost of some of these options (some are even FREE), the Return on Investment is phenomenal. Any time you can give the customer what they want, when they want it, you are putting yourself in a great position to succeed! Finding ways, like implementing a Live Chat system for both and pre- and post-sales situations is just one way to provide the best possible customer experience.

2012 – Great Promise for Small Businesses

Those small businesses that learn how to effectively extend their traditional brick and mortar presence into the online marketplace will enjoy the greatest success in 2012. A seamless integration of these strategies will produce more customers, greater customer retention, and open up even more opportunities through word of mouth, links back to your website and more followers on your social marketing accounts.