If you build it, will they come?

Last week, I caught a bit of the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. If you haven’t seen it, the story starts with the main character hearing a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come.” As the story progresses, Costner feels compelled to take action and ends up building a baseball field in his yard…and of course, he does come.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAaXAAAAJDc0MjZmMzZiLTYyN2MtNDhhYy1hOTE4LTZhYzZmM2I0ODE5YwThis got me thinking…

I meet a lot of businesses that have built great products and services, yet are struggling to succeed because not enough people are coming. This is because, generally, businesses don’t sink or swim on the quality or utility of their product alone; it’s only when there’s a sense of appeal that customers start switching on. In reality, the product’s existence isn’t ever reason enough to attract the volume of customers you want.

When these businesses realise nobody is coming, they often turn to special offers, discounts and even drop the price in a bid to attract customers. But this thinking is fundamentally flawed if the overall objective is to attract new customers – especially if they aren’t be aware of the product (or its value) in the first place. The actual problem is the product’s obscurity in the customers’ world – it isn’t inside the bubble they’re living in yet. If they don’t understand the value of the product, a drop in price isn’t going to create appeal.

Appeal is built on attraction, urgency and perceptions of demand. For some businesses, creating product appeal using content marketing will be easier than others, but the same basic ingredients usually apply:

  1. Attraction

Attraction in this context is the power of evoking interest in or liking for your product or brand. Here, you need to think about how you can attract customers without just telling them that you think your product is great.

My book, Content Marketing Revolution, talks about how today’s consumers are increasingly making decisions based on useful information, valuable engagements and brand affinity. To expand on this, I strongly believe customers hardly ever make decisions based on the product itself – in most cases customers don’t buy products – they buy brands. It’s usually more about the way they feel about the seller, brand or provider.

Think about how you can use informative and educational content to demonstrate how your product or service is solving a problem or making something better. Whether it’s hard facts, tutorials or user-generated content, you need to make sure your content delivers the message clearly and is appealing or relevant to your target customers.

  1. Urgency

In sales and marketing, urgency is often created with time pressures and scarcity. When attraction and urgency are paired, swift action naturally follows. Think about how you can create a sense of immediacy in the content you create. For example, you might make a download available for a limited period for a limited number of people, or maybe schedule a live webinar or Periscope talk on a specific date and time. The idea is to encourage your audience to take some kind of action before the opportunity passes.

  1. Demand

Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of (the buyer seeks to end “demand” by making a purchase). Often, this is heightened when their peers, influencers or even competitors also desire or advocate the product. Think about how you can use content to demonstrate demand within this group – endorsements, user-generated content and social conversations are a good starting point.

“Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of.”

Beyond this, how can you fortify the connection between the brand and the buyer to increase demand? A great way to do this is to create an intrinsic connection between the content you’re creating and the buyer’s relationship with the product. How about creating exclusivity with a club, a newsletter, or a social profile that offers exclusive content, advance access to offers and information?

Whatever your product, whether it’s a new idea, an improvement to an existing one, or even just an offering that’s new to your business, the product’s existence isn’t enough to attract buyers. Instead, be proactive and start creating your market right now with valuable content that directly appeals to your prospects.

If you set your target and build the content, they will come.

 

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

Content marketing: Driving quality

Every day for work, I wear a suit and tie with a pocket square. Over the last few years, this has become a sort of trademark among people that know me. But, for me, it isn’t just a style choice – when I’m wearing these clothes, I feel like I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way. Batman has his cowl, Superman has his cape and I have my pocket square! Ok, a bit much? Bear with me…

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The way we present ourselves, sends out a clear message to the world. What do you want that message to be? For me, it is about demonstrating effort, professionalism and attentiveness. Whether I’m meeting clients, colleagues or rivals, I want them to know I’m there with full commitment and strong conviction.

Whether we are meeting customers at the cash register or speaking with them through our content, the way we present ourselves will dramatically influence perceptions of our brand.

I’m not suggesting we make all of our content overly formal like my clothes, but we do need to let an air of quality and reliability permeate everything we do.

VOLUME & VELOCITY RISKS

It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of filling space and pumping out masses of content in all different formats, across a range of platforms. But, the more content we are producing at pace, the more quality and consistency comes under threat, particularly if we’re stretching limited resources.

Consider the ‘Speed – Quality – Cost Triangle’. For every piece of content we create, there is a trade-off between the speed we can deliver it, the production cost and the quality of the end result. It’s not possible to have more than two of these factors working in our favour at any one time. For example, if we’re looking to deliver the content quickly to a high quality, it will be expensive to produce; if we want it to be high quality and inexpensive to produce, it will not be delivered quickly. The final option is the one we’re to avoid at all costs: delivering quickly, but inexpensively – this is where quality fails.

Picture1Problems with our content reflect badly on our brand; if customers spot quality flaws, they will expect the same sloppy effort from us when it comes to our products and services.

We can mitigate these risks by complementing our style guide with a quality assurance framework that all work must pass through before it is published.

The process can be as simple as a manual checklist, or it can involve automated devices or sophisticated checking systems. In all cases, there are some crucial factors to consider before we hit the little red publish button.

COPY 101

The most obvious and easy way to manage quality checks are for spelling, grammar, punctuation and language, yet these are some of the most common content flaws.

No matter how compelling our content, simple typos and grammatical errors will immediately create the perception that it is low value and less authoritative.

Just as these errors are easy for us to check, they are also very easy for audiences to pick up on. It is beneficial to set up a process for checking the basics, making full use of the tools built-into our text editing programs as well as human proof reading.

APPROPRIATE MULTIMEDIA

Multimedia like videos, slideshows, photos, playlists, audio and photography can be highly engaging, but only if it is produced to an appropriate quality.

We might not need every piece of content to be top notch, but we do need to make a judgement call on whether or not the media is appropriate quality for the context it’s used and the target audience.

Lower-quality multimedia might be acceptable if it’s user-generated, deliberately ‘home-made’, or it fits into the context of its channel, such as Vine or Periscope. But in some cases, the context of the content will call for higher, even professional-quality media. For example, if we’re recording a podcast series, we’re probably going to want the content to be as professional as possible.

One aspect we can never compromise on, however, is the quality of the message. Whatever context, regardless of the audience, the message is the purpose of the content. What do we want it to say? What statement do we want to make? Is this clear enough?

GRAPHIC DESIGN

When producing anything that has a visual element, use a professional graphic designer or the best in-house resource. Whether it’s a flyer, an infographic or a web element, try and not be tempted to do it without the right skills or experience. Not only will an inferior attempt be less likely to get used or shared, there is also a chance it will damage perceptions of our brand. Is our business slapdash, unprofessional or dated like that homemade infographic?

LAYOUT

The layout of the content will affect its usability, so we must ensure we deliver the best possible experience by presenting the content in a logical format. Huge blocks of text are difficult to negotiate, especially online, and could cause your audience to skim read.

If we are not thinking about our audience’s needs when creating our content, they simply will not use it.

DON’T GET STUFFED (WITH KEYWORDS)

Let’s acknowledge for a moment that we have an ulterior motive at play. Although we’re working really hard to create content that our audiences will find useful, interesting or entertaining, we are doing this because we want something: a place in our target customers’ minds.

Naturally, in our quest to get our content out there to as many of the right people as possible, we’ll want to search engine optimise it with relevant keywords. But be careful not to diminish the overall quality and readability of the piece with unnatural keyword stuffing or phrase manipulation. Our audience won’t like it and, actually, neither will the search engines.

Your brand may not be the biggest or most influential in the marketplace, but what makes you the BEST in your niche area? Is it your unique relationship with customers? Or, perhaps your passion for the topic? Whatever the proposition, the clarity of your voice and the quality of its delivery will define your customers’ perceptions.

Next time you’re about to hit the publish button, stop for a moment. How much do you believe in this piece of content? Do you genuinely see where it delivers value? Don’t allow things like the pressures of a publishing schedule or a rapidly emerging opportunity to cloud your judgement. Quality concerns should trump all other commitments!

Remember, delivering quality content is your obligation, your privilege, your raison d’être.

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane & Author of Content Marketing Revolution, Giant Leap Media, 2015.

Revolutionise: Change your conditions, attitudes and operation

Whatever your situation right now – in life, career or business – you probably want change of some kind. Whether it’s about a personal milestone you want to reach, a financial target you want to hit or even another place you’d physically rather be, there is probably a voice within you that calls for a shift from the present situation. For the most ambitious people, this desired change will be so big it amounts to a revolution of sorts.

revolutioniseWhen I think about revolution in the context of business, I think about massive, forced change for the better. I’m talking about conscious changes that dramatically improve the way things are done, the way customers respond to our products or services, the way people relate to our brand, or the way we think about our own business. Revolution, in general, is appealing. After all, who doesn’t want to supercharge performance, radically improve a process or identify fresh thinking to deal with a recurring problem?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, revolution is “a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation.” So, what can you do to drive forward a fundamental shift in your current situation?

Conditions

We’re all “contained” to some extent by our present situation. These containers might be might be financial limitations, knowledge/expertise gaps, confidence issues or perhaps conservative leadership of the organisation – whatever the specific factors, these are the conditions that are helping to keep you in your current situation. It’s only when you have a good understanding of these conditions that you can think about the steps needed to change (or work around) them. You’ll find it difficult to drive forward any kind of meaningful change while you’re working within these containers.

Attitudes

Sir Winston Churchill famously said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” How are you and the people around you thinking about problems and opportunities (if they aren’t the same thing)? The attitude you adopt in any given situation is a choice – you also have more power to control the attitudes of the people around you than you think. Positivity, creativity and enthusiasm are contagious – maybe it’s your job to spread the bug. Can your team get to where you want to be with their current attitude? If not, work on changing it.

Operation

Sometimes it feels like the safest way to do things is the way they have always been done, but you can’t then expect the results to be any better. If you’re looking to make a big change in performance, you have to make a big change in what you’re doing or the way you’re doing it. Remember what Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What action do you need to take to drive that change?

If you’re looking to radically improve any aspect of your current situation, remember that just one shift in gear in the right area is one step towards the outcome you want. So, what will be your first move?

by Dane Brookes
Author of Content Marketing Revolution and Director at Group Dane.

Stop creating content, start creating value

For businesses getting started with content marketing, it’s easy to get carried away with the idea of creating masses of varied content – in the hope that it will mystically help to market their products. So many blogs, articles and books about content marketing focus on maximising the volume of content you’re producing, spreading it across lots of different channels and carefully planning publishing schedules. The idea “if you publish it, they will come” is what gets many businesses into content marketing in the first place. But, like everything else worth doing, it isn’t easy. Before you can even think about volume, channel or publishing patterns, you really need to get back to basics and think about the most important thing of all: value.

Needless to say, the real impact with content marketing comes in the value of the message; the purpose and utility of the content. How is your content going to help, entertain or interest the target audience?

Five key things to think about when maximising the impact of your content

  1. Focus on worth

At the heart of your content is the value that lives within it. What is it actually worth to your target audience? What is the main reason the content will be useful, interesting or entertaining? If you aren’t certain the content is going to be valued by the people you eventually want to sell to, or the influencers of the people you want to sell to, the chances are it isn’t valuable. In such cases, you aren’t marketing – you’re spitting out used bubblegum.

  1. Quickly demonstrate purpose

It’s crucial that you show the purpose of your content early on. If it’s a video, let your audience know what they will get out of it in the first few seconds; if it’s an infographic, clearly highlight the key purpose; if it’s a blog, be upfront about what the point is. You get the idea. Think about how it’s going to help, improve or enrich the audiences’ lives and express this early on.

  1. Don’t dilute

Don’t fall victim to the idea of watering down each piece of content in order to spread it out over more channels and separate posts. Think logically about what the audience needs to get out of this single interaction with your content. What do they need to walk away with that will have helped or satisfied them in some way? What happens when you dilute something too much? It becomes weak.

  1. Get attention

You know those sounds that are constantly in the background. The hum of the air conditioning or the buzz of the refrigerator – you stop noticing them because they’re constantly droning on in the background. You don’t want to be a background hum – you want to be noticed – make sure every noise you make is worth listening to.

  1. Give more

If you think you’re giving away too much for free, it’s probably a good sign that you’re doing content marketing well. Nothing in life is free, you know that. Your audience may not be paying for your content with money, but they are paying you with time and attention. Reward them by giving more value than they expect.

Remember, value is everything – if you can’t see the real value to the customer – don’t publish the content. Great content inspires action.

by Dane Brookes
Director at Group Dane and Author of Content Marketing Revolution.

Meeting no show? Lucky escape.

A couple of weeks ago a business contact was telling me about a potential client that had stood him up for a meeting. To make matters worse, the client had requested the meeting, chosen the time and even the venue. No email. No phone call. No pigeon post.

He was furious about the time he had wasted getting to the meeting, plus the half-hour he had been sitting waiting for the client to show. Understandable, since time isn’t something any business can afford to waste, no matter what size the organisation.

Running a services company, I certainly understand how much a business runs on its time above all other things. But I shocked my business contact with a comment he wasn’t expecting: “You should be glad the client didn’t show up.”

I could see the frustration stirring behind the whites of his eyes. “What?” he said.

no-showI explained that a client who doesn’t realise the value of his time would never be willing to pay a fair price for his company’s services. If the client didn’t count that hour-long slot or the thirty minutes travelling as valuable time, just imagine how the client would respond to an hourly bill for services.

Even the smallest, most struggling service businesses should be selective about the clients they choose to work with. A client who doesn’t understand the value of the service provider’s time will usually take double the hours, at half the price: one half delivering the service, the other half selling on the price of the time. This happens all of the time in service businesses; don’t let it be so for yours.

I find it useful to demonstrate the value of my company’s services at the earliest opportunity with new clients. Every business’s time is finite, so use yours well.

Dane Brookes
Director, Group Dane

Content Marketing Revolution

For the past 8 months, I’ve been writing a book called Content Marketing Revolution, which aims to helps businesses and individuals to attract more customers, increase sales and excite brand loyalty…all using highly-targetted content.

It’s no secret that traditional marketing tactics have been struggling to deliver the same results as they once did. Today’s consumers are looking to make more educated decisions based on information, trust and brand affinity. This is where content marketing comes in…

“Dane Brookes inspiringly guides you through the five key steps to success. This book is a must for marketers of all levels.”
Mark Langshaw, Digital Spy

Over the last decade, I’ve worked in marketing andcontent strategy in a variety of sectors, from small one-man-bands to FTSE 100 companies, from local traders to television companies in Nashville and New York. The book shares everything I have learnt along the way, with examples of tried and tested campaigns.

The book guides businesses through my five key steps towards developing, executing and monitoring a content marketing strategy to take control of their market. It also includes contributions from a selection of leading content experts I’ve worked with over the years, including Olivier award-winning writer, Mark Davies Markham, Emmy award-winning television producer, Debora Fougere and the University of Liverpool Media Relations Manager, Samantha Martin. The icing on the cake comes in the form of the foreword by Matt Warnock, Digital Editor in Chief at Philips.

The book is published by Giant Leap Media and is available in paperback and Kindle format. Find out more on the Content Marketing Revolution website or get a copy on Amazon.

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New content marketing hub
The book represent the first step towards a new content marketing hub Group Dane is creating in Liverpool. The hub will pull together a collection of the best content producers and strategists in the UK.

The new hub will pull together content specialists from all over the world, providing a range of services and resources to businesses of all sizes.

Sign up to find out out more about our new content marketing hub, Content Kicks.

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Dane Brookes, Author and Director at Group Dane

Driving the digital hotel experience

This week, we launched a new digital initiative for our client, Beaufort Park Hotel and Conference Centre, starting with the launch of a new website.

The Beaufort Park Hotel has long been delivering superior guest experiences, as recognised recently when it was named Best Place to Stay at the Flintshire Food and Tourism Awards, but until now the online experience didn’t deliver the same standard of service.

The old website wasn’t mobile-friendly and, after a few years service, the design was beginning to look dated and uninspiring. Cumulative content bloat was also blunting the structure and flow, making it increasingly difficult for users to find what they were looking for.

We worked closely with the team at Beaufort Park, along with a customer focus group, to plan, design and develop a new website that is built with logical information architecture and drives satisfying user journeys.

The new, responsive website is the first in a series of customer-facing outputs that will use various channels and technologies to help to create the best possible online experience for guests before, during and after their stay at the hotel.

beaufort-park-hotel-homepagebeaufort-park-hotel-responsiveSusan Warnock, General Manager of the Beaufort Park Hotel, said: “We’re delighted to now be offering an improved online experience for new and existing customers. Our website is often the first line of contact with new customers, so it’s important that we immediately send out a message that customer experience is at the heart of our business.”

We’re excited about the nest stages of the project with Beaufort Park and we’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Find out more about the work we’re doing with Beaufort Park and some of our other clients.