WordCamp Kansas City 2012

WordPress is a great content management system for financial service companies, professional service organizations, small businesses and nonprofits, and I attended WordCamp KC to learn more about it.

I attended the June 1-3 WordCamp Kansas City and it was very helpful. We had some of the

WordPress' WordCamp Kansas City panel discusses security, plugins and more

most notable and well-known users in the WordPress community, including developers, designers, and publishers. There were 3 tracks: designer, developer and publisher. I skipped around a bit as I’m a “wanna be designer,” in a writer’s body. And I am one of those people who wants to know what makes things tick, so development interests up to the point they start talking in-depth about coding (yawn!). Anyway a shout out to those who put it together, the great venue (Office Port) in Crossroads area of downtown Kansas City and a solid learning event.


Print media complements landscaper’s online presence

 

Is print media dead? Of course not! It has unfortunately – in some people’s minds – become the red-headed, step-child to the sexiness of online marketing.

Spring newsletter

Beaver Creative News

This landscaping firm is reaching out to audiences that appreciate the capabilities of a licensed landscape architect. Are they older, more affluent and read print publications? Likely so. Do they Google topics they want more information about? Probably so.

This target audience undoubtedly grew up reading print newspapers and magazines. However, like so many Americans, they’ve become accustomed to the wonders of Google searches. The newsletters include short features on timely topics, like spring plants and shrubs, and include tantalizing photographs that appeal to those who appreciate beautiful gardens and landscapes. Most notably, the print newsletters complement the landscaper’s website.

Online marketing can, and often should, complement traditional marketing techniques. Since there has been a decline in print marketing, such as newsletters, there is less to compete with in the mailbox. Of course, I strongly believe the print piece should be a quality piece, professionally designed and in color. Otherwise, it won’t stand out and get the recipient to take a look.

Good writing is important, too, so be sure to include the services of a talented content writer. Please do consider my content writing capabilities if you’re thinking about getting some help.

 


Landscaper’s website a breath of fresh air & soil & water

I’m rather proud of the Beaver Creative Environments website that I helped create with the team of Terri Nemer and Lisa Bowser.

Beaver Creative Environments

Beaver Creative Environments

Terri is a talented art director who wisely chose to go against the usual concept of splashing a landscaper’s or gardening-related business’ website with lots and lots of the color green. Instead, she chose white as the featured or background color, and who would have thought it would work so well.

The design is very soothing and eye-catching, and the white background actually makes the images and colors used pop!

Lisa Bowser, a talented art director in her own right, took the design concepts and made them work in WordPress. This is no small task. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard a web developer say, “That’s a nice design, but we cannot make it look like that.” With the skills of an art director who has mastered the technology of WordPress, my clients don’t have to settle for mediocre design. And I’m a big believer in design. I know that my words, as the content writer, will have much more impact when they are encapsulated by great design.

Nice job ladies!

BTW, the content in this website is rather extensive for a small business. It covers numerous services offered by this landscaping firm, and discusses their approach and methods. The content is search engine optimized, with the help of the SEO-friendly WordPress software.

 


If content is king, why do so many websites lack content?

I’ve been trying to write a post on the qualities of a good blog post, but then I realized the bigger problem with websites and their content was the overall shortage of website content.

For example, a couple years ago I created the static website content (“About,” “History,” “Services,” etc.) for a B2B company with specialty offerings within a big industry. Truly unique offerings – sorry I can’t tell you the industry because I don’t want to embarrass the former client. I can tell you that 2 years and 3 months after introducing the website and an integrated blog there are a total of 3 blog posts. The newest blog post dates to 2010.

Keep your blog and website content fresh

Keep your blog and website content fresh!

As a content writer and marketing strategist, I’m drooling at the chance to post some concise, informative, persuasive, slice of life stories, etc. to that blog. It seems so easy to me, especially since they have a very unique service line. Adding content is not on their radar, so the blog is collecting some serious cyber dust. Like so many organizations, they just took a big sigh of relief after updating their wretched website to a more modern, and yes, more informative website. And patted themselves on the back for having one of those new-fangled blogs for everyone to post away! I could offer more examples, but you get the point, organizations just aren’t taking advantage of their content management systems.

Why add new website or blog content?

Adding new information to a static page or simply making it more current is just good housekeeping. And apparently the search engines like that, too, and will reward you with improved search engine results pages (SERPs). Adding a new blog or a news post is better yet, especially if they offer your visitors some new information. Adding new news posts or blog posts on a regular basis gives website visitors something fresh with each visit – so they don’t think, “Been here, seen that.” Of course search engines love new pages even more than modified pages, so there’s that SEO thing again.

BTW, a new page on your website’s news or blog section creates a new entry point and a new destination for links from searches and other websites.  You probably knew that, but just in case . . .

Stop using content management systems if you won’t add new content

Sorry to admonish you. But if you are not actually going to add content (good content) on a regular basis, then don’t bother with a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. At least don’t include the blog window and then post a new item once a year!

How do you continually add content?

I’m glad I asked that question for you! More importantly, I’m glad you recognize the value of fresh content and want to do it right. This could be an entire post, but let’s keep it simple for now. Do 3 things.

  1. Type out the objective of your blog, and put it somewhere handy, like your laptop, your smart phone or your “soon to be” antique desktop computer. The objective should be strategic in nature, something like, “Our blog will offer news and insights that customers and prospects will appreciate, and thus, return to our website/blog and subscribe to our content.” Action words are nice, too, like, “We will inspire and encourage . . .” It simply reminds you why your blog (and your organization) exists.
  2. Create an editorial calendar. Also called a content marketing publishing schedule, it’s simply your planning tool for your website’s content. It’s also a commitment to making regular posts
  3. Publish. Publish. Publish. Enough said (for now anyway).

 


But Mom, nobody else is blogging

Remember when you were a kid and wanted to do something that your parents wouldn’t give you permission? If you were like me, you came back with something like, “But Mom, everybody else is going to go.” Or perhaps, “But Mom, everyone will think I’m a dork if I don’t get to…”

The modern day, business corollary of that scenario is the way many businesses are responding to online marketing. They’re not comfortable with the technology or the science and/or the art of online marketing, so they say something like, “There is no need for us to do this blogging thing, none of our competitors are messing around with online marketing, and we’re doing just fine thank you very much.”

In some business sectors, such as industrial businesses, there may be a tiny hint of truth to their assertion. Not everybody is using online marketing – yet! Of course, quite often one or more of the more forward-thinking competitors are using online tools, such as blogging, email news blasts, pay-per-click ads, social media, etc. The company leaders for the foot-draggers are just too far removed to really know what the competition is actually doing on the Internet.

Those competitors that have entered the realm of online marketing are making significant progress. They’re learning the ropes, and having success nurturing prospects that have found them via Google, Bing or Yahoo searches. Those prospects “self-proclaim” themselves as being pre-sold on the merits of the company and its products. Internet technology and tools are proving to be powerful business development tools. The “nobody else is blogging” company is in danger of falling behind the curve.

Does your company’s leadership have blinders on in regard to the reality of how the competition is using Internet marketing tools? What can you do to enlighten them?

Most importantly, don’t tell management that your company should use online marketing tools just because everyone else is! At least not right away even if it’s true or you’ll right back into those dysfunctional roles of parent and child. Instead, be armed with insightful information and a dash of courage. Try some of these ideas on convincing management to incorporate online marketing, including social media, into your marketing mix.

Discuss how traditional marketing has evolved to include Internet marketing

Ask your leadership if the Internet has ever helped them to find a product or a vendor. If they say, “No,” you want to start your job search now. Or you might prove them wrong by probing with a few more questions. Unless they’ve never touched a computer, they’ve done at least some minimal product research. There’s a pretty good chance they’ve purchased goods or services over the Internet and haven’t realized how much they rely on it for information and products.

Point out that people research purchases differently in the past, the Internet has given people the technology and power to find products and to source the best supplier – from their perspective. It’s time for your business to evolve with how people use the Internet and how they often avoid traditional, interruptive advertising.

Show them the money (well, at least the road to the money)

It’s pretty easy to show how products and services your company offers are found via Google, Bing or Yahoo search engines. Google and Wordtracker offer a free and a low cost, respectively, keyword research tool. Plug in words that prospective customers might use to find your products. Share the results of how often your company is displayed in the search versus competitors. The data will likely indicate your firm could be doing better in terms of marketing on the Internet.

Present a plan for your company to embrace Internet marketing

You need to help transform your marketing from being “outbound” (broadcasting your message mostly to those who are not actually, or currently, interested) to marketing that is “inbound” (helping interested buyers find your company). Your plan should explain in simple terms exactly what the company needs to do to transform current marketing efforts into a lead- and revenue-generating engine. Be sure the plan links to the company’s financial and marketing objectives, and that you have realistic budget numbers.

Keep learning yourself

As a leader for your company, you must learn more about online marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, PPC and other buzzwords. There are many free resources on the web, and a number of good books. Those shown below are far from exhaustive, but I believe are quite useful for beginners and intermediates.

Online marketing web resources:

  • Hubspot.com offers a depth of information. Be sure to check out their Inbound Marketing University.
  • Mashable.com offers current online marketing information and a number of “How to” articles on social media marketing.
  • Socialmediaexaminer.com bills itself as, “Your guide to the social media jungle.”
  • Clickz.com features both news articles and free email newsletters from subject matter experts.
  • Websitemagazine.com offers a lot for the intermediate to advanced Internet marketer.
  • “New rules of marketing and PR,” by David Scott Merriman
  • “Inbound Marketing: Getting Found In Google, Blogs, and Social Media.” by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah and David Meerman Scott. (Halligan and Shah  are co-founders of HubSpot, an inbound marketing company.)
  • “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and more,” by Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and C.C. Chapman.

Online marketing books

  • “New rules of marketing and PR,” by David Scott Merriman
  • “Inbound Marketing: Getting Found In Google, Blogs, and Social Media.” by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah and David Meerman Scott. (Halligan and Shah  are co-founders of HubSpot, an inbound marketing company.)
  • “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and more,” by Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and C.C. Chapman.

Online marketing is moving at a fast pace. The longer your company waits to really get in the game, the more difficult it will be to catch up. I applaud you for reading this rather long post, and for acting to help your company get on the Internet marketing bandwagon. You will be rewarded for your persistence!

 


Content management, it’s in the eye of the beholder

The other day a professional service person (who acknowledged that he was just learning about online marketing in general) asked me what was meant by the term “content management.” Thinking with my writer-editor hat on, I promptly responded that content management was similar to editorial management. One creates an editorial plan or communication plan, determines topics and develops a schedule. The content is, of course, is intended to inform, advise and persuade target audiences. In essence, I described content management from a journalistic viewpoint. It’s not an incorrect description, but it occurred to me later that my description of content management probably wasn’t the best answer for this person.

Content Management System

A couple of explanations may have been better. As a student of online marketing, he may have been inquiring about content management in regard to content management systems (CMS).  If so, I should have talked a bit about the technology that exists to hold and distribute information. You know, the fact that a traditional and generally static HTML site is different than a website built with a database driven content management system. I could have mentioned the ongoing trend of creating dynamic sites that allow organizations to easily and continually add content and functionality (like an image gallery or a an ecommerce shopping cart).  I think many still people don’t understand the important technical differences between a Dreamweaver/HTML website and one built on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other CMS platform. Maybe that’s what he was asking.

Outbound Marketing

The other possibility is that my acquaintance was inquiring about content management marketing, also known as online marketing or inbound marketing. The folks at Hubspot do such a nice job of explaining the concept using the term inbound marketing in a simple sentence. They say, “Inbound marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers.” This is opposed to outbound marketing, such as cold-calling, print advertising, television/radio advertising, direct mail and trade shows. In my own words, “Inbound marketing is making it easy for people looking for information and perhaps a solution, to find you and your solution via the Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines.” And when they find you, much of selling process has been completed. A qualified buyer has found a resource that they believe to be reliable and capable, and have made the first move.  Believe you me, it’s great to get that phone call or email from someone that has already qualified you and themselves! Maybe that’s what he wanted to better understand, this whole marketing concept that seems to taking the world by storm.

Moral to the story

So, what did I learn from all this? What’s the moral to the story? I think the lesson here is pretty basic. When asked a question, don’t assume you have to answer it right away and to the fullest extent possible. Even if your intentions are good, you may learn more if you leave a little silence and see if the other person has more to say. Or before you answer, try asking an intelligent, probing question or two. Then you might get the full story and really be able to help the other person. I know I’ve learned this lesson before, I guess sometimes you have to relearn old lessons!


What is a content writer?

A fairly web-savvy professional service person asked me, “What is a content writer?” I found this just a bit humorous, but very revealing. This accounting professional is considered to be a leader at using social media to market his firm. He has Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and a blog is built into his website. Yet, content writer was a foreign term. Here is how I answered his question:

Your question about content writer makes me smile, because that question is a good one, and it puzzles me in this new age of social media marketing, content marketing, Internet marketing, inbound marketing and a bevy of other related and current buzzwords.
The simple answer to your question is that a “content writer” is a writer. Just delete the word “content.” From my point of view, content writer is the same as copywriter (not to be confused with copyright law), business writer, communications writer, writer-editor, publicity writer, etc. A writer is someone who makes a living by crafting words into sentences, paragraphs, articles, white papers, books and more. “Content” implies that the writer has a level of expertise that allows him or her to successfully write copy for online marketing purposes. Examples include writing copy for static website pages, blog entries, email newsletters, Facebook entries, Twitter posts, LinkedIn updates and more.
I’m using the term “content writer” to describe myself these days because it seems that people believing in the power of the Internet want to work with a content writer, versus a “plain old business writer.”  I have made considerable effort to understand and practice the nuances of online content and how the writing differs, how to use keywords, etc.
My hope is that professional and financial service people think of me when they decide they need help in writing that email newsletter, Facebook message or blog post. Too many firms start a blog, for example, and then only populate it every now and then. Using a ghostwriter (one with industry knowledge, like me) for that purpose can make a big difference in creating a beneficial Internet presence.
Sorry I was a bit long-winded. Best wishes,
Gary