BusinessSocial Media

Start spreading the news

The internet can turn any small business with a laptop into a media network, syndicating your content to the world. Jonathan Crossfield looks at new ways of getting your marketing message across.

Frank Sinatra may have been singing about new york but everyday businesses are spreading the news to a widening audience through the internet.

The success of a website depends on two things: attracting the right readership to your content and persuading them to take the next step – a sale or an inquiry. But what if you could get the message out beyond your site, sending your content to the people instead of relying on them coming to you?

Online marketing differs from traditional models by embracing interactivity. Traditional marketing is a one-way conversation with a passive audience. People don’t turn on the TV looking for ads. But on the internet, they choose to view your marketing material by clicking on your link. This active audience chooses to read your message and will if motivated, spread the word through a number of networking channels. This is social media.

Because of this shift to an active audience, websites are changing from a ‘company selling’ model to a ‘customer buying’ one. This means content should identify with the customer’s needs rather than merely listing the features of your offer. By understanding the customer’s role in this marketing relationship, you can produce web content that encourages participation.

Blog standard

I have a reputation for being opinionated. It’s one of the reasons I love to write. So when I started a blog, jonathancrossfield.com, it became an outlet for my ideas, views, observations, and professional opinions.

Because I blog, my opinions now appear on websites across the world. While I sleep, websites I’ve never heard of are taking the RSS feed from my blog and placing my questionable wisdom on a whole range of websites, online forums, blogs, and emails. Each of these sources feeds traffic and links back to me, further increasing the success of my own site as well as my prominence in search engines such as Google. This in turn allows more people to discover my content and syndicate it to their websites and newsletters, snowballing until eventually, my website will require little effort from me to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of hits.

Blogging is one of the most powerful methods of freeing your content from the confines of your website, sending outlines to hook readers and lead them back to you.

If a blog seems too complicated, you can still get your message out to a receptive readership with email marketing.

Permission email marketing, where customers request subscriptions, now makes up 27% of the average internet user’s inbox. This illustrates a spectacular difference between online and offline behavior. Many people complain about letterbox junk mail but happily receive electronic marketing.

How easy is it for small businesses to use these methods and what do you need to consider when planning your online marketing strategy?

Checklist

Do you need:

  • Beginner: to increase repeat business and maintain long term client relationships?
  • Expert:To spread brand awareness and your business message beyond your website to attract more people? 

Beginner

Is it for you?

  • You have an established customer base
  • You want to increase repeat customers
  • You want to promote new products or services easily
  • You want to present your brand as informative and trustworthy

Challenge

Research shows that for most businesses, 80% of their sales come from 20% of their customer base. The business from a small number of established customers usually outweighs that from new customers. Yet most businesses spend 80% of their effort and marketing budget chasing new customers who will most likely only produce 20% of their business income.

Why are companies only spending 20% of their time talking to their best customers? Netregistry’s sales and marketing director Giles Donovan explains how the company dealt with the situation.

“Although we started out simply dealing in domain names and web hosting, we soon expanded to offer many other services as well. But many of our customers would come to our website to buy one thing and not be aware of the other ways we could help them.”

Although many businesses have used email marketing for years, recent surveys reveal newsletters are often produced quickly without a clear focus to engage the customer or the means to track the success.

To evaluate the success or failure of Netregistry’s newsletter campaign, Donovan knew the software would need to provide detailed information on how many people opened the email and whether they clicked on the links it contained.

Solution: email marketing with copywriting service

  • Additional traffic to your website 
  • Tailored email templates to match branding, look and feel
  • Ability to track response and analyse the success of each email and link 
  • Mail Room comprehensive email marketing service
  • Copywriting for professional articles starts from $150 per article 

Netregistry chose an email marketing system with an easy interface and the ability to produce detailed statistics, allowing the response to a monthly email newsletter to be tracked. With an email template designed to replicate the look and feel of the website, the newsletters were consistent with the brand.

“Over the years, we’ve experimented with different formats but we’ve settled on the newsletter strategy which achieves the best results,” says Donovan. This includes identifying the specific time and date when a newsletter is most likely to be received and opened.

“Trial and error showed us Wednesday morning see a much greater response to our newsletters,” he says. “People are more likely to spend time processing emails on this day, according to our statistics. Therefore, our marketing schedule is set up to allow our newsletter to go out on the first Wednesday of each month. If we miss this date, we see a definite drop in the number of people who open it and click through to our website.”

Many businesses use email marketing only to publicize special offers or promote a new product. Netregistry decided to adopt a softer marketing method.

“People are less likely to open an email that’s clearly just a sales pitch,” Donovan explains. “But more people will open it if they feel the email contains information and advice they can use.”

By sending articles and tutorials instead of monthly promotions, the Netregistry newsletter has dramatically increased responses. The informative articles create more interest in the readers who may then follow links to investigate related products. The feedback has been very positive with many customers reporting they now read the newsletters instead of ignoring them.

“They love it,” says Donovan. “They see it as Netregistry providing an extra service. Not only that, but they see Netregistry as a reliable source of information. If they trust our knowledge, they are more likely to come back to us for advice in the future.”

Conclusion

Donovan sees email marketing as a major component of his marketing strategy. Instead of waiting for customers to return to the website, the newsletter reminds them that Netregistry is ready and waiting to serve their needs.

“Email marketing is about more than just a quick sale,” he says. “It’s about keeping that relationship with the customer, providing them with the information they can use.”

Because of Netregistry’s success with email marketing, it now offers customers the opportunity to use Interspire Email Marketing software for their own campaigns. Once installed, the only ongoing expense is the time taken to produce the latest eye-catching email.

Netregistry is also offering its customers the opportunity to save time and increase effectiveness by using its professional web writers. Internet users read web copy differently to magazines or books. By engaging writers who understand the specific rules of web writing, clients can increase the readability of their newsletters. Each article can be tailored to reflect a business message while keeping the customer’s interest from the headline to the full stop. I should know – I write them.

Expert

Is it for you?

  • You want to attract more traffic
  • You want to build a large number of links
  • You want to develop your brand image
  • You want to provide additional information resources for potential customers

Challenge

The United States has already seen incredible growth in small business blogging. According to The New York Times, 5% of small businesses now run active blogs – that’s approximately 1.25 million business blogs engaging an online readership that shows no sign of slowing down.

Yet in Australia, business blogging is still in its infancy. Locally, blogging is primarily the reserve of marketing and online media companies, the natural early adopters in any innovations for spreading the message. “

The Australian market is quite cynical about new technology – new stuff is hard to sell here,” explains Tereza Alexandratos, digital director for Bellamy Hayden, a Sydney-based communications strategies business. The firm has hosted a blog for over a year at www.bellamyhayden.com.au/blog.

Australian businesses ‘ reluctance to embrace blogging gives those jumping into the blogosphere now a strong advantage over the competition. But why are blogs beneficial? Alexandratos knows why it works for Bellamy Hayden.

“We wanted a forum where our clever people could air their thinking and show the industry our level of knowledge about media strategies,” she adds. “What better way to do it than via the website as it’s usually the first thing people see when they’re researching a company.”

Solution: WordPress blog with copywriting service

  • Easy interface allows for regular fresh content
  • Syndication features can spread your message to other websites
  • Customisable templates to match your brand
  • Comments allow you to receive valuable feedback and interact with readers
  • WordPress installation starts at $55
  • Copywriting starts at $150 per post 

There are more than 70 million blogs worldwide, although only 15 million are considered active and many of these are personal or non-commercial sites.

The vast majority of blogs are abandoned within the first two months, often after only a couple of posts. Most blogs need at least six months of regular content and activity to build the necessary traction. Careful planning is required to prevent your blog from joining the online graveyard.

“I wouldn’t say it’s got to be updated once a week or every fortnight, because I don’t think there’s any point in putting stuff online just for the sake of it, but once every six months is not enough,” Alexandratos explains. “The blog needs to be regular enough to let people know there’s a point in coming back for new content. Once a week or once a fortnight would be ideal but only if you have something to say.”

Poor content can kill a blog as fast as no content, so it’s vital to have a clear topic or niche capable of generating plenty of ideas.

“Obviously our blog has to be related to what we do – communications strategy,” says Alexandratos. “Sometimes it’s pointing out another good website and giving an opinion on that. Sometimes it’s talking about a project we may have worked on. It could be an interesting piece of research we think is relevant to comment on.”

It can also be difficult to find the time. Opinions don’t research themselves and a successful blogger needs to devote time to crafting an insightful and informative post.

“I know I’ve got something in my mind that I need to blog,” Alexandratos explains. “I’ve been meaning to write it for about two weeks now. It’s on my to-do list but it gets pushed down my priorities because I’ve got to stop and take time to pull it together.”

This is why Alexandratos recommends booking time into your weekly schedule to devote to the blog. This can be time for writing, or for research and catching up with other newsletters, industry magazines, and related blogs in search of inspiration.

“I subscribe to a million industry papers and I get them in my inbox all the time,” she says. “Dedicating time to read them usually leads to inspiration to blog about something.”

The key to a readable blog is a conversational style that avoids corporate language or copy that has been through three levels of management for approval. It should read like a chat between friends, creating an easier understanding as well as a human face for your business. At the same time, it’s important to remember the blog represents your company and affects its reputation with readers. Choosing the right person to run your blog can be incredibly important in avoiding possible indiscretions.

“If you’re giving the power of authorship to people in your company, remember they are representing your name,” Alexandratos says. “Whatever they say does reflect on your company’s reputation.

“We’ve had a few clients who have called us directly because of the blog. A client in Thailand was looking for a communications agency and came across our website, read our blog, and thought these guys actually know what they’re doing and gave us a call. So it does help us with new business. It also gives our current clients something to read and showcase our work that may be broader than what we’re currently doing for them.”

Conclusion

Alexandratos sees business blogging as a very low-risk, high-return marketing strategy. It is inevitable that business blogging will become as much a part of the online commercial landscape here as elsewhere in the world, but those who adopt blogging strategies early will be best placed to reap the rewards.

Netregistry is helping small businesses leap into the world of business blogging with an incredibly cheap installation price for WordPress – the most popular blogging application available.

But if the thought of writing informative, detailed, and entertaining posts on a regular basis causes you to hesitate, Netregistry also has professional copywriters with blogging experience on hand to take your ideas and turn them into reader magnets.

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