Content Marketing: Can You Manage It?Posted by Richard Dannenberg on Jan 28, 2014 in Print Marketing | 2 comments
It’s a brand new year and you’re excited about your New Year’s Resolution and the fresh commitment you’ve made. This year, you’re going to be really disciplined and you’re going to spend time every week marketing your printing company. You’re not going to get bogged down in the daily grind. You’ve been reading about Content Marketing for Printers on LinkedIn and on this peculiar blog that some guy from Georgia writes, and you’re convinced that this is just the ticket for your company. You’ve put together a marketing plan and you’re going to dedicate time to work on your business and make it grow. Now it’s time to get started, but the phone is ringing. Why won’t anyone pick up that phone?
This is Part 3 in a series about Content Marketing for Printers. So far, we’ve taken a look at a couple of topics. In Part 1, we examined the ideas behind inbound marketing (essentially the same thing as content marketing) and discussed Why Content Marketing Makes Sense for Printers. In the last post, Where Does the Content Come From?, we looked at idea generation and how to stay organized. Today, we’re going to talk about another very practical concern – just what does it take to manage a content marketing program for your business?
It’s my intent to be both practical and encouraging with my message today. Running an effective content marketing program takes an investment of time, creativity, and effort. It takes some commitment, but the good news is that you don’t have to do everything all by yourself. Organization and discipline will get you a long way. Let’s dig into the details.
Does Your Website Work?
There are some basics that must be in place before you get started. The question above may sound a bit stupid, but it’s a necessary one. I recently spoke with a small town printer who was very enthusiastic about “doing some marketing for his printing business.” In one of the opening statements of the conversation, the owner mentioned that he “really hadn’t done much advertising in recent years. Business is down, and we should probably do something.”
Agreeing in principle, I asked about his website. “Well, we have one, but we’ve never really done anything with it, either.” was the reply. After the conversation, I checked the site. Sure enough, there it was. The date at the bottom indicated that the page (that’s right page, not site) had been created in September of 2011 and was still under construction. 27 months is enough time to construct an entire neighborhood, surely the printer should have been able to build a website in this amount of time. To make matters worse, here is a sample of the language that greets anyone who searches for the company online:
Thank you for visiting ABCPrinting.com. We value our customers and want to give you the opportunity to stay in touch with our company. Please check back often so you will always be up-to-date on special offers and when new services are added. At present, our web site is still under construction. We are making an effort to present you with our entire spectrum of printing services as soon as possible. Please check this site later for new information.
Ouch! It may seem obvious, but a functional website is a pre-requisite for content marketing. Sorry, but running your marketing program from a Facebook page really doesn’t cut it. Your website is the central compendium for information about what you do and the place where you’ll gather information and start the dialogue with both new leads and existing clients.
What Exactly does Functional Mean?
It’s certainly something more that a partially completed .html index page. The gold standard today is represented by the acronym CMS, which stands for Content Management System. CMS sites have been around since the late 1990s – in internet time, this is ancient technology. Most of the mainstream templated printer website packages function well enough as CMS systems. They offer a basic user interface that allows content to be changed and managed by folks who don’t know much about coding. WordPress, the most popular open source website platform, also functions this way.
Beyond the basic tasks of creating pages and getting information onto the website, there are a few technical considerations to consider. Here’s a partial list of questions to ask:
- How does the platform handle blogging?
- Can Google Analytics be integrated for measurement?
- Is there another (proprietary) analytics system that will serve a similar purpose?
- How easy is it to create forms and landing pages?
- Are plug-ins or code available for special applications?
Finally, there’s the question of SEO (search engine optimization). Is the website platform constructed in such a way that will make it easy for the search engines to find the site? What this really means is can you easily configure the site to meet the requirements of Google’s algorithm du jour? I’m not going to write a lot about SEO, simply because it can be nonsensically complex and it’s my second least favorite topic to write about. My absolutely least favorite topic is vampire movies. I absolutely refuse to write about vampire movies, but I’ll include one obligatory paragraph about SEO.
SEO is essentially a PITA. That acronym, since we’re using a lot of them today, is pronounced like the animal rights activist group, but stands for pain in the a**. In practice, SEO elements are essentially the details that Google (or other search engines) look for to find and rank your web pages, but the practice of optimization has taken on more mystical characteristics. In some ways, SEO is Taoism for the internet. Practitioners of the mystery religion fall into one of two camps – black hat or white hat (thus blending yin and yang with John Wayne and Yul Brenner). If you’re not confused yet, the black hat SEO group is intent upon rigging website pages to short-circuit the Google algorithm. White hat practitioners believe in the good side of the Force; that Google only seeks to promote pages that provide exceptionally good content and will always favor websites that focus first upon providing quality content for their visitors and will ultimately punish websites that succumb to the Dark Side. Finally, PITA comes into play when you try to implement the latest “best practices” to make sure that your website is discoverable, and won’t be mistaken for a product of the evil Empire.
There, we went from animal activists to Star Wars in one long paragraph. It can be done! There’s obviously a lot more to SEO than can be covered in a single paragraph and if you’re feeling particularly masochistic today you can certainly find out more from any of almost exactly 27,000,000 Google citations on the internet.
Back to the article.
What kind of content?
With a content platform (your website) in place, now it’s time to select the kind of content you want to develop. There are indeed choices, and you may very well wish to produce a couple of different flavors of content to convey information. Here’s just a short list of possibilities:
- Email Marketing
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Specialized informational pages
It’s fascinating to watch the development of new options for presenting online content, and if you’re inclined to experiment with new applications, there’s no shortage of possibilities. (As an example, try Prezi for your next online presentation). Before you wander off too far into the land of infinite possibility, let’s return to reality. What can you manage and how often can you manage it?
For most small business owners and printers, a blog is a good place to start. Blogs or “weblogs” are another ancient development in the history of the Internet. According to Wikipedia, the term “blog” was created by Peter Merholz in 1999. Since then, blogs have spread like a rampant virus across the internet and now are considered practically a mandatory component of most websites. Blogs are mainstream, but certainly not irrelevant. In fact, blogs have become a primary provider of news and commentary, and they are great sources for some very specific information. That’s what you’ll be providing to your website visitors, how they’ll find you (assuming you can decipher some rudimentary rules of SEO), and what will provide them with the incentive to keep in touch with you and perhaps even become a customer.
Most inbound marketing experts will advise you that “more is better.” I’m more inclined to think that “more is more” and “better is better.” The quality of the content you produce is pretty important. There is an enormous amount of information produced online every day, but only the best of it gets read. Consistency and predictability also factor into the “how often” decision. Producing an occasional post on sunny days when the wind blows gently from the northwest probably isn’t going to get you anywhere, but bi-weekly blog posts that are publicized via social media may be okay for a start. Regular weekly posts are undoubtedly better. Unless you’re a trained journalist or a caffeine-crazed insomniac, forget about doing a daily blog. It won’t happen.
Who does the work?
Here’s the good news. Blogging or other forms of content creation don’t have to be a solo effort. As long as there is some editorial oversight to assure quality, different voices can be a very good thing. Look for help close to home. The printing industry has always been a magnet for creative types and you may have writers, artists or even a videographer in your midst. In my printing business, two of my graphic designers were also good writers. Talk with your staff and see who’s interested. At the very least, they can help with idea generation and you may find more creative energy than you expected.
Guest bloggers can be a good source for content. I’ll not venture back into Google Hummingbird and the “dark side” SEO tactics that misused guest blogs to generate traffic. Swapping articles with other bloggers can be a good source of new content. Guest bloggers can provide new insights and expertise for your readers and they may benefit from additional exposure to your audience. Remember the quid pro quo, though. Guest bloggers shouldn’t be expected to provide a free lunch and should receive something in compensation for their work, especially if they are being asked to create new content for your blog.
Finally, it is certainly possible to hire writers, video production companies, and freelancers to produce the content you need. Every industry, including print, has companies dedicated to creating boilerplate marketing content. If you’re using a templated printers’ website, you may already have some of this kind of information on your site. It’s okay, but it won’t do much to convey the personality of your company, the specifics of how you engage with customers, or how you’re involved in your community. There’s probably a freelance writer in your community who would love to “ghost-write” your blog, and DP Marketing Services offers a custom content program for printers.
Putting It Together
We’ve come a good way in this discussion of content marketing. Hopefully, you’ve gained some useful insights into how this marketing strategy works and some of the considerations and decisions you’ll need to make before starting your program. If you’d like another take on content marketing, take a look at the video of the first 21/20 marketing webcast produced last week. It’s a little rough, but there’s some good information. In the next post, we’ll begin to look at some other components that can help the program succeed. Specifically, we’ll talk about social networking and how you can grow an audience by sharing your content. We’ll also discuss the use of curated content and how making relationships with industry associates can be beneficial to everyone involved.
Need Some Help?
DP Marketing Services can help you plan and implement a content marketing strategy for your printing company. For more information, take a look at our Content Marketing for Printers page. We’re always glad to answer questions . . . contact Richard Dannenberg by phone at 478-719-4029 or email at email@example.com if we can be of service.