CategoryMarketing/Communications

Content Marketing with a DIY Video Animation Tool

Which format communicates an idea better: a 90-minute presentation or a 3-minute video?

I recently attended a presentation in which the speaker took 90 minutes to explain the concept of “content marketing” and how it can draw customers to your business. At the  end of the presentation, several people in the audience — many of whom were just beginning to contemplate having a website — were a bit confused.

Actually, the phrase “content marketing” has been around for a long time. The Wikipedia page for “content marketing” was created in 2008.

Content marketing is essentially storytelling with a specific goal.

Content marketing objectives

Typical uses of content marketing include:

  • Sell something;
  • Engage an audience;
  • Provide vital safety and health information;
  • Persuade people to take an action; and
  • Share your vast knowledge with the public.

I’ve been doing content marketing most of my life, beginning in the mid 1960s when I was an editor of the school paper in sixth grade.

My consulting practice, Jonathan Lehrer Communications, manages blogs (example: Gary H. Smith, Chicago property tax attorney), produces email newsletters (example: Thornton High School Alumni Legacy Fund) and provides the voice for podcasts (example: College of American Pathologists).

Getting more attention on Facebook by using videos

If your content marketing plan includes Facebook (and why wouldn’t it?) you should know that the post will reach more eyes if it includes video. But isn’t quality video expensive to produce?

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Google Docs Could Change the Way You Work

I really want to believe that software including the word “doc” will cure all of my pains. In the case of Google Docs — often called Google Apps — I wouldn’t be far off.

Google Apps is a completely free offering that is a suite of several applications:

  • Google Drive (file storage, management and sharing)
  • Google Docs (similar to Microsoft Word)
  • Google Sheets (similar to MS Excel)
  • Google Slides (compare to MS PowerPoint)
  • Google Drawings (some features similar to PowerPoint)

If you notice a pattern, it’s because for many people Google Apps can just about replace Microsoft Office. Unless you need the powerful formatting features of MS Word or the sophisticated formulas of MS Excel, you might be able to avoid buying MS Office. And that would be a deal, because Google Apps are free.

(There is a paid version called Google Apps for Work that adds more useful features for $5 per user, per month. But you probably don’t need it.)

Google Docs offers quite a few features that will cure “pains”that often afflict office software users.

  • Simple interface
  • Collaboration with co-workers very easy
  • Available from any computer, any time
  • Automatic file saving to the cloud
  • Accessible and usable from your smartphone
  • Frequently updated with new features

For the entrepreneur this might just be tech nirvana.

Workplace Collaboration with Google Docs

The ability to work with others on the same document at the same time is pretty cool. Say you’re working together on a blog post or a new business proposal. You and your partner can be typing in the same document on two different computers — in the same room or across the planet — at the same time. You can even see what the other person is typing, while she is typing. (And you can annoy her by changing it while she’s typing.)

I call this “live drafting,” which I explained in detail here.

Get Started with Google Docs

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Jumpstart Your Blog by Answering Five Simple Questions

Statistics would show (if there actually was such a statistic) that a huge number of blogs on the web haven’t been updated since Al Gore invented the Internet.

(True, Gore didn’t really invent the Internet, but then why is so much technology based on an Al-Gore-ithm?)

Many executives, PR people and entrepreneurs start a  blog with all good intentions, posting weekly, then monthly, then every couple of months, then “I don’t remember the last time I posted something.” This makes your site out of date and doesn’t reflect well on your organization. You’re missing out on the benefits of content marketing.

But it’s not so easy to find something to write about, right? I have a simple procedure that will stimulate your creativity, getting you past your writer’s block and back into the grove of blogging.

Here are five creative questions. Pick one and write out your answer. Make it at least 300 words. That’s the first post on your newly resurrected blog. Then pick a second question — and that’ll be your second blog post.

1. Where did you get that idea?

You’re the head of a successful company. Tell us what inspired you to develop the product or service that made you rich.

2. What did you do yesterday at 3:30?

You could blog about your job title or description. Boring!

On the other hand, Lia Lehrer tells me that a very effective interview question focuses on a single moment. Perhaps you were on a call with a prospective client. Write about your sales pitch. Or maybe you were reviewing plans for a new product introduction. Blog about how you select new offerings. (If you were taking a nap, you could write about work-life balance.)

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Use Your Website to Establish Your Expertise and Authority

Dear Mr. Communicator: People visit my website, but they don’t buy my service. What’s wrong with my site?  – Frustrated entrepreneur

Dear Frustrated:

You provide a fundamental service in the business-to-business market, a service so important that even a few minutes of downtime could be disastrous. Your many competitors provide exactly the same service you provide; the only differentiation is your low price and your ability to gain the customer’s confidence.

I can understand that you wanted a clean, uncluttered website, but the result is a site that doesn’t establish your authority. There is not enough information to give the customer confidence that you can deliver your service.

Essential Website Content that will Establish Expertise

About Us/Bio

List your education credentials and summarize the jobs you held prior to becoming an entrepreneur, making these descriptions relevant to the service you offer. (If you are a broker for waste-hauling services, I wouldn’t mention that your college degree is in Dance.)

Write a couple of succinct sentences that offer a value proposition — what makes you more qualified to sell this service than your competitors?

Explain how long you’ve been in this business or a related field, how many customers you have (or have worked with over the years) and how you bring value to the client.

Services

A complete list of your services — with descriptions — is obviously a critical element. Check and double-check the terminology, ensuring that potential customers will see that you are up-to-date.

Where possible, use brand names and other terms that your clients are likely to search for.

Case Studies

You don’t need to write a 10,000-word dissertation.  Simply give us a few paragraphs that state your customer’s pain point and how you successfully addressed it.

Include at least three to five case studies, using client/company names (but be sure to get the client’s permission!).

If you have no customer experience yet, title this page “Use Cases,” and offer some hypothetical examples to show what kind of ROI (return on investment) your clients will experience.

Testimonials

Your ability to make new sales hugely depends on your past successes.

Slightly different from case studies, testimonials are merely a sentence says “Bill was able to cut our cleaning service costs by 50 percent in six months without sacrificing quality.”

If you’ve only been in this very specific business since yesterday, get testimonials that prove your value as a business partner: “Bill has always been there when we needed him and he understood every aspect of our operation.”

Honors, Awards and Recognition

If you are an electricity provider, it sure would be nice to show a photo of yourself accepting an energy conservation award from President Obama.

Additional Website Elements that Show Authority

  • Glossary of terms in your field
  • Frequently asked questions (and answers!)
  • Cost-saving tips and advice
  • How to select a provider (in other words, why you are the best provider)
  • Photo gallery or portfolio of successful projects and client engagements

Creating Strong Web Pages

To attract search engines and provide solid information for new customers, your pages should have at least 300-500 words and include at least one relevant photo with a caption that includes keywords relevant to the service you offer.

Need Help?

I coach small business owners and entrepreneurs in thinking through how to best present themselves. Contact me for help in making your website a more effective sales tool.

Effecting Change in Your Nonprofit is Like Rebuilding a Highway

Change management is fun, right?

As the leader of a nonprofit organization you’re well aware that failure to modernize is a major risk factor.

Managing change might seem slightly easier in the nonprofit world if you think of it in terms of building a highway. This analogy comes easily to me, as a communications consultant to nonprofits, as well as major highway projects.

Whether it’s a highway or a nonprofit organization, wouldn’t it be much easier to rebuild if you could just  send your calls to voice mail and all the traffic to an alternate route?

But you can’t really do that. It’s essential to keep providing service even as you re-examine and fix everything. Impossible?

Keep the traffic flowing

In the nonprofit environment, organizational change closely resembles a highway reconstruction project. As users of the system, we hate the traffic jams but love the smooth highway that results.

Let’s look at the elements of a huge highway reconstruction project, keeping in mind how these elements are analogous to development and implementation of your new strategic plan.

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Using Twitter and Facebook in Adverse Event Situations

Twitter in crisis communications

Put Twitter in your crisis communications plan.

Dear Mr. Communicator: We’re a large nonprofit organization with a crisis communications plan written in the pre-Twitter era. How can we incorporate Twitter into our handling of adverse events?  a cautious PR exec

Dear Cautious:

You have an alert, well-trained staff and a detailed crisis communications plan. Here are some suggested tweaks about tweets.

In the examples below, I’m using ORG and Organization as the hypothetical name of your group.

Preparing to use social media a communications crisis

Ensure that key staff members and your leadership have their own Twitter accounts. These don’t need to be actual personal accounts, but they could have usernames like ORG_communications and ORG_advocacy, etc.

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Do-It-Yourself B2B Marketing and Communications Tools

Note from Jonathan: You’re busy running your business. How can you possibly keep track of your marketing efforts, especially when the list of available tools gets longer every hour? Our colleague Morrie Goldman penned this helpful list of resources for business-to-business (B2B) marketing that will send you in the right directions.


By Morrie S. Goldman
Definitive Marketing, Evanston, Ill.
(Guest writer)

Web Sites and Blogs

Morrie Goldman

Morrie Goldman, B2B Marketing Expert in Chicago

If you don’t have a Web site and you are in business, you need one! If you have one that’s more than a few years old, you probably need to re-evaluate it. Look at competitor Web sites for comparison, then try searching your keywords or business category on Google and see if you can find your site. Talk to an experienced marketing communications professional.

Limited funds? Build your own basic Web site from a variety of templates, from web hosts like these.

Without even registering a domain name, you can build an attractive site by mustering your creativity and heading over to wordpress.com or weebly.com.

These low-cost hosting providers offer many good templates:

Better solution: learn how to build a site in WordPress or have a pro build it for you. This open-source (no charge) software is also the most popular for creating a blog. Learn much more at wordpress.org.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Getting in Front of Your Audience by Email

Constant Contact newsletters we’ve designed and managed recently.

Some time ago, I wrote about whether the popular online communications tools (Survey Monkey, WordPress, etc.) are as user-friendly as they claim to be.

They’re getting better, of course. In particular, Constant Contact has been making frequent improvements in their user interface, as well as adding quite a few new templates.

That’s one of the reasons I signed up with Constant Contact to be a Solution Provider. Visit the Jonathan Lehrer Communications site for the whole story and how you can sign up for a 60-day free trial with Constant Contact.

You might also benefit from my critiques of some Constant Contact newsletters. Maybe you’ll pick up a few tips for your own email marketing efforts.

If you want to chat about what your organization might do with an email newsletter, I’m here to help.

Our communications know-how and editorial experience, along with the leading online newsletter provider is a combination that will turn you into a publisher-marketer.

Core Concept: Key Ingredient for Blogs, Facebook and More

Dear Mr. Communicator: Should I blog? Should I be on Twitter? — an executive looking for inspiration

Use your Fundamental Idea as the key ingredient, whether the recipe is for a blog, a website a company brochure or a white paper. If you get this right, you deserve latkes — potato pancakes — with applesauce (lower left).

When clients ask me these questions, the answer is almost always, “do you have something to say?” In other words, if you don’t have a message — a Core Concept — it’s fairly useless to worry about how you’ll deliver it.

To the business owner who dreams of getting a lot of “likes” on his Facebook postings, the concept of a message strategy can seem a bit foreign. So I illustrate it by talking about my favorite topic: dessert.

Lately, as I have been having occasional business meetings at Baker’s Square – for their free wireless Internet, of course – I’ve been thinking about pies.

Should I have Country Apple, French Apple or Apple Cinnamon? Should I accompany the pie with a cup of apple-flavored herbal tea?

They’re all different formats of apples, and obviously they couldn’t exist without the apple.

(At about this point, it should occur to you that in my fruit-flavored analogy, the apple represents the Core Concept. Clever, no?)

Let’s expand the analogy to include just plain apple slices, apple slices with peanut butter, apple slices in a salad, applesauce (on potato pancakes, of course), apple cider and taffy apples (a favorite of both my wife, Estee, and my daughter, Lia).

Before Blogging, Know Your Basic Message

If you don’t have an apple – a Core Concept – you’ll have a hard time coming up with something to blog about on a regular basis.

But if you have a basic message, or a perspective on your business, you’ll never run out of topics.

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Business Card is No Longer the First Impression

I’m Proud of My Business Card

In the Internet Age, you need more than a nice business card to create a good first impression.

In the midst of a recent Communications Audit – that’s my term for a brainstorming session and review of marketing materials – a lively discussion developed on the topic of business cards.

In this Age of the Internet, ye olde business card remains an important marketing asset.

The discussion on this particular day was the value of embossing the firm’s logo on the card.

It’s a well-turned phrase, but also a truism, that a nicely embossed card creates a good impression.

Describing his embossed card, the client said, “When I present my business card to a customer, I feel proud about the way the card looks, and it shows that I’m proud of the business.” The sincerity in his voice and his dedication to running a customer-focused company helped me to understand why he is such a successful salesman.

Creating a Good First Impression on the Internet

But while we’re examining his embossed calling card, let’s also think about how effective it is in creating a first impression.

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