Reputation, Trust and Authority – the History and the Future of Marketing

Posted on May 30, 2014 in content strategy | 0 comments

Long term success in any business venture has always been based on reputation and trust. You might get a quick win through fashion or novelty, but sustained success comes down to whether people trust you to deliver value and service. And in the future, the way we market ourselves on-line will be increasingly based on reputation, trust and authority. But what is authority, and how do we go about earning it?

online marketing - trust and authority

Years ago, when our shopping horizons were limited by our local town or area, reputation and trust were clearly everything. People knew who the best supplier of whatever product or service they needed was, and if they didn’t know they asked. If you lost your reputation, you lost your business. Similarly, work hard at building a reputation for quality, value and service, and your business would thrive (assuming people actually want what you provide, of course).

Trust has value

Trust is a valuable commodity. It underpins the future of our business and it also allows us to sell what we do at a premium price. A Miele washing machine does basically the same job as a Beko but people with the means will happily pay more than twice the price because they trust the brand to work reliably fro more than twice as long.

You could argue that in recent years the world of on-line marketing has, to a degree, lost sight of this basic principle: of business success being dependent on trust and reputation. The battle for visibility in Google searches has, for a while, distorted our traditional marketing values and made people devote disproportionate energy to achieving page 1 rankings – sometimes at all costs.

The enduring value of reputation

Smart businesses, though, have continued to appreciate the value of reputation and trust. And they’ve learned how to publish content and use social networks to spread the word and grow their reputation with a much wider audience through the power of the internet.

And increasingly it is this on-line authority, influence and connection with a target audience that will determine success in search and all other aspects of on-line marketing.

How Google has changed

Think back a couple of years and you’ll see just how rapidly things are changing. Back then we were talking about how keyword-stuffing was a bad thing (I don’t think anyone still feels the need to even mention that). Blogging as a marketing tactic was starting to become more mainstream but was still sold partly as a way to offer Google ‘refreshed content’ rather than being a good thing in its own right. And we were just getting the hang of what social media could do.

Since then we’ve seen Google clamping down on aggressive and unnatural link-building as a way to trick its ranking algorithms. And with Hummingbird we’ve seen the first moves towards natural language searches and Google trying to understand the intent behind what we type into a search box rather than just trying to match the specific string of words we used.

The business of internet searches and digital marketing is fundamentally different from just 2 years ago. And most experts predict that the changes over the next couple of years will be just as radical. We probably won’t notice sudden shifts, but we’ll realise looking back just how much things have changed.

Back to reputation and trust

There is no big secret or hidden agenda about where we are heading. Ultimately, Google wants to deliver to each of us the results that we find most useful and appropriate, given the meaning behind our search and our personal preferences and interests. It wants to deliver answers not a page full of hyperlinks that might lead to answers.

Here’s what they said when they launched the Knowledge Graph back in 2012: “a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do” 

Things not strings

It also wants to ensure that the results it serves up represent sources with genuine authority – that they have earned a good reputation and are trusted. And it also wants to ensure that the results answer our questions rather than just match a string of keywords.

The mechanism for doing this can get a bit technical but if you want to delve into it I can recommend David Amerland’s book Google Semantic Search. I’ll guarantee that you won’t look at your future on-line marketing in the same way afterwards.

If you want a bit more discussion on the extent to which modern marketing is being transformed and how it’s leading us down some counter-intuitive pathways, have a read of this article on the RSH Copywriting blog: 5 Counter Intuitive Habits of Modern Marketers 

The simplest advice of all is to pay much less attention to trying to game Google’s algorithms and put more energy into researching the questions that your customers are trying to answer. You then need to become good at delivering expert content that answers those questions in a way that is easy and enjoyable to consume.

How to build authority

What businesses need to grasp, and soon, is the need to publish high quality content that answers the questions their potential customers are asking. And if you are serious about on-line marketing you need to be doing this now! Google is already building its databases of authoritative sources, even if it is not yet using them fully.

Businesses also need an integrated, well managed and authentic presence across the internet and they need to be cultivating the networks that will help their reputation and trust grow.  Above all they need the sort of methodical approach to content creation that I discussed in this recent article. Churning out content without a purpose won’t achieve much and is a relic from SEO based on generating the maximum number of back-links.

The days when a clever SEO guru could save your bacon are over. We’re getting back to basics in the way that the success of our marketing efforts will be based on the trust, authority and reputation we have established – partly through the content we produce and partly by the experience of our existing customers. Speaking as  a consumer this can’t happen soon enough.

 

Content Marketing

 Richard Hussey, Copywriter, Blogger and Content Marketing Specialist

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Why should you bother coming on a content marketing masterclass? 

Posted on May 26, 2014 in content strategy | 0 comments

plan your content strategy

Learn how to plan your content strategy

The overriding reason to come on a content marketing masterclass is because your business needs to think like a publisher.

Businesses that have a publishing strategy are more effective at marketing online. Those with a plan for the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant and consistently published content are good at attracting, engaging and converting new customers.

You can’t create a content strategy and do content marketing without a process.

To be good at attracting, engaging and converting customers online you have to know who your audiences are, what you’re going to deliver to them, and what outcome you want your content to perform for the reader and for your business.

What is content marketing?

  1. The formal definition: Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract, engage and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
  2. The less formal definition: Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs.  Content marketing is about creating information that resonates with your customers so that you earn their attention, trust, business and advocacy.

So, why bother coming on a course, when you can get articles like this and all the practical tips you need online?

Believe me, content marketing, when done properly, is tough; It’s learned, acquired and perfected. Your company, like so many other companies has most likely jumped on the content marketing bandwagon by starting with a blog and a bit of social media. Richard and I see a lot of brands that have created a blog or a Facebook page or Google+ profile, and yet they don’t know how to use these tools to drive business, so they fail. The lack of a properly documented content marketing plan is the heart of that problem. You need a framework that cascades from your business goals, that is driven by audience research, that fills every gap on the customer buying journey, that creates the right content in the right formats, that distributes your content to the most influential people, that is search-friendly and that grows awareness and discoverability of your brand, and converts visitors into customers in order to achieve great ROI. That’s what a masterclass will teach you to do: a customised plan that ensures online marketing success for your business.

What type of content should you publish?

That’s the wrong question. Try asking yourself this question instead: Who are my audiences and what do we want our them to do with our content? Never produce a piece of content, until you pin point the answer to that question. There is a tried, tested and trusted process for putting this type of content marketing plan in place. It’s called an an editorial plan, but, unfortunately, very few brands start their content marketing with a plan. That’s why the basic building blocks of publishing are missing and this is what is preventing them from growing their audiences.

Stop putting the cart before the horses. Stop publishing random acts of content.

Your content marketing needs to move from “random acts of publishing” to a planned content strategy that your readers and Google and Bing search engines can work with. That’s why we encouraged you to come on our course: Because you’ll learn how to eliminate wasted effort. You’ll learn how to create an effective content marketing plan from which you can grow your business.

Register now or browse our website for more reasons why a content masterclass will make your on-line marketing successful.

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People Want Answers, Not More Content

Posted on May 16, 2014 in content strategy | 0 comments

Remember when you were a child how easy it was to wind up your parents by continually asking them why? Why don’t people in Australia fall off the world? Why is the sky blue? This insistence of asking why? meant that easy answers were not acceptable. You had to have a credible answer that satisfied your curiosity.

And if you’re a parent you know how this feels: having to justify why things are the way they are can be tiring. Why is a powerful word.

And the power of why should be what drives your marketing.

content marketing

Content marketing has become a bit of a bandwagon. Sometimes it’s driven by the promise of improved search rankings, and sometimes by fashion or the desire to try something new. Sometimes businesses think they are missing out when they see competitors pounding social media networks with content and think they need to join in.

The power of why, means you have to ask yourself some tricky questions about your marketing:

  • Why are we doing it?
  • Why would anyone engage with what we produce?
  • Why will it end up with the outcomes we wanted?

I’m 100% certain that the majority of content marketing initiatives that fail do so for the simplest of reasons: they never started out with clear understanding of who the business wanted to reach. And probably there were no specific business outcomes they wanted to achieve. There weren’t enough whys in the planning.

Content is not the answer

A strange thing for me to say, I know. But bear with me.

If you follow any blogs from content or digital marketing experts you’ll be familiar with the term ‘content shock’. This is where there’s so much content being published on line that even the good stuff doesn’t get noticed.

Possibly the glut of content is driven by a simplistic view that if content works, then publishing more content will work even better. It won’t!

Personally, I don’t think that the effects of the content shock will be as catastrophic as some suggest. There will be some natural correction as publishers of low value content give up when they see it’s not working. And there are plenty more potential consumers of our content still to realise that social media networks and blogs can be sources of gilt-edged business ideas, insights and intelligence.

I’m equally certain that unfocused content marketing will become less and less effective.

Why? (that word again). Because nobody is really looking for more content. Few of us are looking for ways to fill idle minutes in our working day. Unfocused content creation serves nobody and the results, frankly, deserve to be ignored.

Focused and properly promoted content, on the other hand, remains one of the most powerful ways to generate more, higher value opportunities for your business.

What do people want?

Fundamentally people want answers. They want to know how to do something, how to solve a problem or how to make their life better. Information is plentiful; genuine insight and help is rare and valuable.

We hear the term engaging banded about a lot – I’ve used it myself more than once. But I sometimes wonder whether it really helps. Does engaging mean much to the average business person?

Put in simpler language, people want content that is easy and enjoyable to consume and which talks about issues that matter to them. That’s how you make it engaging.

Information is plentiful; genuine insight and help is rare.

So to state the obvious, if you don’t know what people care about you’ll never engage them. You’ll never have a clear understanding of why they would engage with your content.

And while you might have something really important and useful to say – if you don’t try hard to make it easy for people understand then your words will go unheeded.

Digestible content

People don’t want to be impressed with your flowery prose or your ability to create complex multi-claused sentences.  They don’t like big words, jargon or people writing to impress. They want plain, straightforward language that sounds natural.

Short sentences work. Using a variety of sentence lengths stops your writing becoming monotonous. And good punctuation is one of your best friends.

Keep your paragraphs to no more than 2 or 3 sentences and take everything out of your content that doesn’t need to be there.

Digestible doesn’t have to mean short. In fact there’s plenty of evidence to show that longer articles get more shares and comments. If you have something meaningful to say you’ll probably need more than a few hundred words to say it. If you are answering important questions, people will keep reading.

But, short words are almost always better than long ones, simple words are always better than jargon and short sentences  are easier to follow. They also have impact.

Enticing content

We have no right to expect anyone to read anything we write. If we don’t take the trouble to make it clear that it’s worth the effort of reading on, or we don’t make a big effort to structure our arguments logically, we have nobody else to blame when our content gets ignored.

Nothing to do with too much content – it’s just not good enough to command people’s attention.

Your title and introduction should make a promise about why it’s worth reading further, and your content needs to deliver on that promise. When people come to expect this from your content they’ll trust you with their time.

Stories

You’ve probably seen a lot about using storytelling in content marketing. Easy to see how this works for a retail brand like John Lewis, but how helpful is it if you’re selling B2B services?

Think of your story as the journey you take your customers on. From their challenge, problem or aspiration to success and fulfilment. Build your content around those stories. It’s another way to help you focus on what people need rather than what you do.

And like any good story, there should be a good structure and a natural flow towards a conclusion. And there will probably be a few difficulties along the way – these will be the questions and potential objections that your customers will need to see answered.

Think of all the ‘but why?’ questions and keep answering them.

Values

The last thing you want is a piece of content that anybody could have written. It might be accurate and worthy but if there’s nothing of you in there, where’s the value?

I’m sure you don’t see things in exactly the same way as your competitors. You have a unique viewpoint. You have beliefs and values that guide the way you do business.

These values should also guide the type of content you create.

When you create your publishing plan think about how you will incorporate and reinforce these values throughout your content. And think about why they will matter to your target customers.

Choose your target carefully

And here we are back at the beginning. Defined business outcomes for content marketing should ultimately include additional or higher value sales – otherwise, what’s the point? Who are these new people who are going to be your customers and why will they value your content?

Building a picture of these people and cross-referencing their needs with your services and your business values is a big task. It’s one that too often gets overlooked in the rush to jump into social media or content creation.

But without this foundation in place all you’re left with is unfocused content, social media accounts with no purpose, and a load of unanswered questions and wasted energy.

So if your content isn’t delivering what you’d hoped for I’d go back and look at these basics before you create another blog, video or infographic. Do you know who it’s for, do you know what they need, and are you communicating in the way they want? Do you know why you are doing it in the first place?

Content MarketingRichard Hussey

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