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.

How to make an impact with real-time content marketing

One of my favourite business experts, Grant Cardone, says “success loves preparation”. It makes perfect sense that you’ll perform better in any given situation if you’re suitably prepared. Content marketing is no exception – the best content marketing is always well planned, executed with precision and highly targeted to the intended audience. This is the epitome of good preparation, right? But, it isn’t always possible to plan for every situation before it arises.

What if something unexpected happens? Perhaps a new product is released by a competitor, there’s a sudden economic slump or even a hot topic of discussion emerges among your target audience overnight. As content marketers, sometimes the only way we can take unexpected opportunities and swerve dips in the road is to adapt and respond quickly, if not instantly with relevant, valuable content.

timeReacting and adapting to the audience’s world can make your voice more relevant and dynamic, but it can be a risky tactic, so you need to make sure everything we publish in “real-time” supports your strategy.

CREATING IN REAL-TIME

Sometimes an opportunity will arise that calls for content to be created from scratch. The scope for pay-off will be more risky because there just won’t be time to follow all of the usual planning and development processes. However, there are a few questions to answer before creating anything on-the-fly, including:

  1. How will the content specifically contribute to your big aim, goals or objectives?
  2. Will the topic still be ‘hot’ by the time it is ready to publish?
  3. Are there any legal considerations associated with publishing the content right now?
  4. Is the situation really time-limited?

IDENTIFY KEY CONVERSATIONS

What are the topics, issues and discussions you want your brand to be associated with? They might be conversations people are already having, or they might be new ones that we’re anticipating. Think about how you can valuably contribute to and fuel these conversations early on. How will this content help to bolster your voice among the target audience?

LISTEN UP

You can monitor the use of keywords and phrases related to the topics and conversations you’re interested in. The best way is to use social media monitoring tools and online keyword scrapers to sift through blogs (including blog comments), news articles and other user-contributed content. There are a large amount of systems available to help with this:

  • For social media monitoring, my favourite system is Radian6. With huge data depths, this system scours the internet and highlights virtually every relevant conversation happening right now across the social web.
  • Services like BrandWatch dashboard complex keyword searches across social platforms and beyond, with a high degree of filtering. Like Radian6, this is a paid option, but well worth considering if budget allows.
  • The best of the free systems is probably Hootsuite, which enables you to identify the words and phrases you’re interested in across various social channels, all displayed in a series of real-time feeds.
  • Google Alerts is a great free service that allows you to identify keywords and phrases and get real-time alerts when they appear in news and other online publications. There is also a special setting to include results from social media sites.

stand-therePIVOT AND ADAPT CONTENT

It is important that you’re ready to adapt to the market challenges and opportunities whenever necessary. Don’t be afraid to bring scheduled content forward in the content calendar if it’s particularly relevant to a current topic. Market need always trumps the schedule.

The same goes for archived and live content. If there is an opportunity to bring it back to prominence or reinvent it, go ahead and adapt, refocus, or republish. But be careful not to crowbar content into tenuously linked topics, as the lack of relevance will be obvious and will only devalue your voice.

INDIVIDUAL TARGETING

We have already discussed how important key market influencers are. While it is crucial that you listen to how they are using their dominant voices, you must remember that every single member of our audience has the potential to influence others.

Some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Philips, take the time to respond and deliver bespoke content to audiences of just one person. There is no engagement like a one-to-one engagement.

Creating ad hoc content for individual customers might sound like a great deal of work, but it shouldn’t actually be an indiscriminate process. In reality, it is more about responding to individual customers in a very personal way with content that will also appeal to the rest of the audience segment.

ADD VALUE OR GO HOME

Although you need to look for content marketing opportunities around the hot topics you’re interested in, you don’t need to interact with every single conversation and related sub-topic. Only get involved with hot topics that are relevant to your audience and that you’re able to add value to.

DON’T KILL CONVERSATIONS

If you see conversations on websites, social media, blogs and forums that you want to get involved with, it’s important that you keep your contributions appropriate and highly-relevant. We want to position ourselves as part of the community, almost like friends sharing useful information. But, bear in mind that nobody likes that friend who won’t let anyone else speak; you can be that clever, understanding and helpful friend instead.

Remember, you’re not telling people where to go next or what to do, we’re just going with the flow of the conversation and helping with content where it might be useful. Avoid spammy interruptions!

FINAL THOUGHTS

For me, real-time content marketing is about heightening empathy by listening to customers’ rants and sharing their joys. If you aren’t watching, listening and relating to customers, they will quickly realise you are speaking at them, not with them.

Before you start publishing any content “on-the-fly”, it’s important to be sure it contributes in some way to the overall aims, goals and objectives of your content marketing strategy. If it doesn’t help you move towards your purpose, don’t publish it.

This blog post contains an excerpt from Content Marketing Revolution by Dane Brookes and is used with permission. You can buy the book on Amazon and the offical book website.

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.

Book-cover-inage-for-amazon

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.

dane-brookes-group-dane

Dane Brookes, Author and Director at Group Dane

Oculus Rift: going beyond gaming

This week our Oculus Rift development kits arrived in the office. I’ve never seen such an excited group of developers, but what is all the fuss about?

420775-hands-on-with-the-oculus-rift-dk2The Oculus Rift is an upcoming VR (virtual reality) head-mounted display. There is quite a lot of buzz around it in the gaming industry, particularly since Facebook acquired Oculus VR in July last year.

There is still some work to be done in developing the set for use as a consumer unit. There are too many wires, the system requires quite a lot of RAM to run smoothly and the display is far from perfect. But – even so – wow. On the plus side, by the time the Rift is released to consumers (probably early next year), there will be ergonomic improvements and a better quality display within the headset.

As a digital marketing company, we can see the huge potential of the technology for use by our clients in various sectors, from selling luxury real estate to experiential education. Although the Rift was developed with gaming in mind, VR devices like the Rift will revolutionise the way we communicate and experience the world.

Rolling Stone’s Mark Yarm talks about a few potential uses of the technology in his blog post 7 Ways the Oculus Rift Could Change Entertainment as We Know It.

Experience live concert thousands of miles away

You want to attend the Fuji Rock Festival, but airfare to Japan is pretty steep. In the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to watch live shows from anywhere in the world from the comfort of your living room and feel like you’re there. “Now, because cameras are so cheap and can be so tiny, you can flood a concert hall with them — imagine that every single person at the concert had these cameras on them,” says Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. “If they were networked, it could all be stitched into one unified 3D model of the concert.” So you could view the show from almost any angle. Add in haptic feedback (which the Rift doesn’t have), and you could even experience the sensation of slamming into someone in the pit.

Experience past iconic events

Forget live music — how about attending a gig that happened 45 years ago? It would be a “monstrous project that wouldn’t look too good,” Bailenson says, but using actual concert footage and other source material, programmers could create a 3D virtual model of the original Woodstock. “What if you wanted to see Woodstock literally from the point of view of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar?” Bailenson posits. “What if you wanted to be his pick? Anything’s possible.”

Films and TV shows you can walk around in

One Seinfeld fan has already created a navigable version of Jerry’s apartment for the Rift. Unfortunately, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer aren’t hanging out there —yet. Oculus’ Chung foresees the next step in must-see TV: “You’re in the apartment, and the cast, or some version of them, is actually there. You could have a conversation with them.”

On the cinematic front, Bay Area startup Condition One is gearing up to release Zero Point, the first movie for the Rift—which, in a meta touch, is about the development and promise of virtual reality. You can watch an interactive trailer, which will give you a taste of the experience, here. (Should that version take a while to load, you can watch the regular Zero Point trailer below.)

Read Mark Yarm’s full article.

Group Dane’s venture into VR

We’re bringing in some experienced gaming developers to work on an Oculus experience that we’re hoping to release as close to the consumer launch of Oculus Rift as possible. Watch this space – we’ll keep you up to date with our progress.

Find out more about Oculus Rift on the official website.

Hotel guest experience starts online

If you ask any independent hotel manager what their priorities are for the next 12 months, increased online bookings and better reviews will figure prominently on the list.

Yet the solution most managers will come up with will be around increasing traffic to their website, increasing marketing initiatives and encouraging more happy customers to review the hotel. But what are the decision-making factors behind a booking? What are the reasons people leave good reviews? The answer each time is guest experience.

If your website visitors have a good experience online and they like the like what’s on offer, they will book. If your online experience isn’t great – if the booking system is clunky – if the site doesn’t work well on a mobile – if it’s hard to find the deal-closing information – visitors will not book. No matter how much web traffic you get to your site, you won’t hit your booking target unless you focus your attention on the guest experience.

hotelBut most hotel managers don’t realise that the customer experience doesn’t start when your guest arrives at the hotel – it starts as soon as they search Google or hit your homepage. According to Trip Advisor research, 87% of guests use the internet for the bulk of their travel planning and nine out of ten people will have some form of digital contact with the hotel prior to staying there. Yet, how many hotels are still failing to invest time and resources in digital channels like their websites, booking engines and social media profiles?

Whether it’s the hotel website, social media pages or profiles on third party sites, huge opportunities to influence customer decisions remain untapped. If you want to get ahead, keep the customer experience at the heart of everything you do, starting with your online front of house.

Below we’ve put together the top three considerations for your website and your social media activity…

Top three website tips

  1. Think first impressions

If your website is out of date, poorly designed and not fully functional, your visitors will expect the same when they arrive at your hotel. Your website is likely to be the first contact you have with customers, so make a good impression with strong content (including good quality photographs and clear, concise copy), a fresh professional design and no broken links or defunct features.

  1. Be mobile-friendly

It’s 2015; your website simply must work well on mobile devices like phones and tablets. If your website doesn’t look good or work effectively when your guests are on the move, they’ll more than likely move right on past you to one of your competitors’ websites.

  1. Keep structure and calls to action

So your potential guest has come to your website for a reason. Either they will are looking for information or they have come to book, so help them out and make your website structure as logical as possible. The big aim of your website is to either get them to book or get in touch, so wherever they are in the structure, make it obvious how they can do that.

Top three social media tips

  1. Be present

You really need to be where your customers are. If you aren’t using social media, you’re missing out on connecting with new customers and keeping in touch with current and past guests. The best sites for hotels are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  1. Always respond

Social is another communications channel, so treat it like one. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, make sure respond to it. Remember to be gracious with negative comments – don’t forget that everyone else is watching and judging how you respond to criticism. In this case, the best defense is never offense!

  1. Don’t just sell

Don’t use social media solely as a sales vehicle. People will quickly be turned off by overly sales-led messaging. Sure, talk about offers and encourage people to stay with you, but you’re going to need to be a bit more creative if you want people to listen. As a guide, only posts things that are in some way valuable, useful or interesting.

Hotels can get a free digital report from Guest Core which provides a full review of the hotel’s online performance, including booking engine, website and social media performance.

 

Posted by Kyle Brookes, digital sales and marketing specialist 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.