Solutions Stars Video Conference Brings the Conference Directly to You

27 10 2008

On October 29th from 1p EST to approximately 3:30p EST, you will have the opportunity to watch 32 leading business, marketing, and social media experts.  The best part is you don’t have to travel anywhere and it’s free!

Network Solutions is hosting the Solutions Stars Video Conference to explain to small business and entrepreneurs how the Internet can benefit their businesses.  This conference will focus on nine content areas:

  • Building Web Presence
  • The Social Opportunity
  • Start with Listening
  • Strategy Drives Outreach
  • You Need Social Networks
  • To Blog or Not to Blog
  • Visibility Through Search
  • Rising Above the Noise
  • Time Demands

While the fact that there is a free conference which you can watch from the comfort of your office chair or couch is cool enough, take a look at a short list of some of the presenters:

If you don’t know who any of these guys are then spend some time going through each of the above links.  Every single person on the list of 32 is someone who you should be familiar with!

What makes this so interesting for me is that the format reminds me of the Pixelated Conference Series that I participated in at the beginning of the month, thanks to Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Bryan Eisenberg.  I will definitely be tuning in on Wednesday, will you?  If not then you’ll be missing out a great opportunity to learn a lot about business, marketing and social media in just a couple of hours.  Did I forget to mention that it’s FREE?!?!

To attend all you have to do is return to the Solutions Stars Video Conference site at 1p EST on Wednesday.

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Content is Nothing if it’s Not Authoritative: Creating an Effective Content Strategy

20 10 2008

Here is a guest post by Kari Rippetoe who blogs over at The Caffeinated Blog

Ok, I’m a fan of Dancing With The Stars (we all have out guilty pleasures, right?). So, the other day I was watching retired NFL player Warren Sapp dance the samba, which basically consisted of him standing around shaking his big, defensive tackle hips while his professional ballroom partner Kym Johnson danced around him. Because of this, the consensus among the judges was that their dance “lacked content”.

So, what does this have to do with your business website or blog? Well, think of it this way: is your content standing in the middle of the dance floor, not really doing anything, or is it dazzling the audience with all the right moves and making you and your business look professional – like you’re an expert?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “content is king”; but your web content is nothing if it’s not authoritative. I’ve seen more websites and blogs than I care to admit that just slap up any old content without regard to what will actually interest their audience. This sort of rubbish falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Horribly written articles and blog posts rendered completely useless and nonsensical by keyword stuffing.
  • Regurgitations of press releases and news articles without reaction from the blogger or relation back to the reader.
  • Sales pages disguised as articles designed to push readers towards a conversion rather than pull them in with valuable, relevant content.

If your content falls into any of these categories, than I hope you can take something away from this post – because you’ll do wonders for your brand, online reputation, marketing and communication efforts, and business in general by forming and implementing a strategy around engaging, authoritative content.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that this sort of content strategy will be easy. It will take some hard work and dedication on your part, because it’s certainly not a “set it and forget it” option. You will, however, reap the rewards once you start offering your buyers content that targets them and their needs with consistently valuable information.

So, how do you form an effective content strategy? Here are some points to think about:

  • Determine your goals. Why do you want to add content to your site, and what would you want that content to do for your business? Would you use blog posts or articles to talk about your products or services and increase press coverage? Give your take on industry-related news or relate it back to your readers? Offer advice for relevant problems your readers commonly face? This will give you a better idea of what kind of content will be written, as well as how the content can eventually be promoted.
  • Scope out the competition. What are your competitors doing? Do they have blogs, a resources section with articles, or maybe videos and podcasts? Take the time to read/watch/listen to their content in order to determine if a) there’s a possible gap you can fill, and b) if you can implement similar ideas for your business.
  • Research your target audience. In order for your content to be of value, you need to create it around topics that interest your target audience. Check out forums related to your niche to find out about relevant issues they may have, as you could develop content that addresses those issues. You can also gather some excellent (and free) research from social bookmarking sites to find out the kind of content your audience likes (check out my post on how to use social media for market research).
  • Recruit content creators. Who knows more about your business, industry, or niche than you? You’re an excellent candidate for creating content – but you don’t have to be the only one. Your research should uncover some topics for which some pretty valuable content can be developed, so now you can recruit others to contribute. These can include:
    • Employees at your company with knowledge in niche areas of your business
    • Friends or outside colleagues who know the industry and can offer a unique, expert take
    • Industry experts who would be willing to contribute in exchange for a little good PR and/or a backlink
    • Freelance writers who have knowledge of your industry and can provide regular, authoritative content based on your needs
  • Decide how often to update content. This is up to you and completely based on the needs of your business; however, it’s recommended that you update your content at least 2-3 times a week to keep it fresh and your readers coming back for more.
  • Decide how your content will be promoted. Content does have to be promoted, whether it’s to your existing customer base or to prospective customers. There are so many ways to promote your content, it would take up a whole new post; but a few to consider are email, social bookmarking and networking sites (look for ones related to your audience or niche market), and blog directories.
  • Keep the conversation going. Customer engagement doesn’t end after the content is posted – that’s where it starts. They’ll comment on it, ask questions, and try to start a conversation with you. Why? Because they perceive you as an expert, and they want to know that there is a person behind the company logo. It’s up to you to respond in a timely manner and keep them engaged. Part of your strategy should definitely address who will be your community manager or chief conversation officer, responding to comments and questions from your audience and engaging readers on external sites where your content is being promoted.

No longer is content just words on a page – it has to inform, interest, and engage. By creating a strong content strategy based on your goals and centered on the needs of your audience, you’ll achieve sustainable results that will reap rewards for your business for a long time to come. More than that – your customers will be dazzled by your moves!

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Photo by: pshutterbug

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Pixelated Conference Series – Inbound Marketing/Social Media

9 10 2008

For Day 3 of our Pixelated Conference Series (you can read more about what this is from Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Bryan Eisenberg), we are going to explore two popular topics which complement one another, inbound marketing and social media.  If you missed the previous two days of this conference, make sure you check out the sessions on productivity and personal branding.

Since inbound marketing and social media are such hot topics nowadays, I’m going to only present a few clips but then provide you with a bunch of resources for you to view at your leisure.

Sessions

We start out the sessions with a fun video which helps to explain social media in plain English.

Next, is an interview with PR 2.0 expert and principal of Future Works, Brian Solis.

Let’s watch two short clips highlighting why we should be focused on inbound, permission-based marketing as opposed to interruption marketing.

Our next presenter is social media thought leader Chris Brogan.

Finally, Seth Godin brings us a talk about marketing. [Note: If you’ve never read any of Seth’s books, head over to Amazon and start reading!]

Also, for a ton of great videos on inbound marketing, social media, viral videos, and a whole lot more, take some time to watch the videos that HubSpot has posted from the Inbound Marketing Summit that they hosted a couple months ago.

Great Marketing and Social Media Blogs

Here are some great marketing and social media minds, besides the presenters who you should already be reading religiously.  Again, this is just a short list.  I subscribe to hundreds of other blogs and to list all of the ones that I really like would make this post waaaay too long 🙂

eBooks

Tomorrow is the 4th and final day of this Pixelated Conference Series project.  Until then I’d like to hear about how you’re using new marketing and social media in your professional lives.

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Creating a Web Presence for Your Company

8 10 2008

We will continue with Day 3 of our Pixelated Conference Series tomorrow.  In the meantime, you can check out our two previous conferences on productivity and personal branding.  But, today we have a guest post from Susan Payton.  Susan Payton is the Managing Partner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations, as well as the blogger behind The Marketing Eggspert. She enjoys helping businesses develop an effective marketing strategy, using Marketing 2.0, email campaigns, and social media.

If you’ve turned on your computer at all in the last five years, you know the Internet is the future for marketing your business. While you may not be a techspert, you can still use the Internet to establish your business’ place in your industry.The key is being in as many places online as you are comfortable being. Some examples:

· Company website
· Blog
· Press releases
· Mention on other websites
· Comments on blogs/forums

Having a website for your company is non-negotiable. Many people only do business with companies who have a website. It shows you understand the value of being online and that you have invested the time and money it takes to develop a professional site.

A blog is a valuable tool that can help you establish yourself or your company as an expert in your field. Many top companies have blogs today, including Southwest Air, Dell, and of course, That’s Great PR!

Press releases are great for building web presence and SEO. While you may or may not end up on Oprah as a result, you will diversify the places your press release (and also your URL) end up on the web. Your release will be distributed on major news channels, like Google News, as well as industry sites, and bloggers in your niche will pick it up as well.

This will lead to mention on other sites. The very nature of PR today is that it is viral. What starts in one place will quickly spread faster than you can blink. And that’s a good thing.

By leaving comments on blogs and forums, you’re leaving a breadcrumb trail. Just be sure to include the URL to your site in your signature. And only post relevant conversations, because the purpose is to communicate, not blatantly push your company’s agenda.

So how are you getting exposure online for your business?

Ways to Establish You or Your Business as THE Expert in Your Field

1.    Put out regular press releases. Keeping a steady momentum will increase your placement on search engines.
2.    Participate in conversations online. In forums, on blogs, in social media platforms.
3.    Start a blog about what you know best.
4.    Attend conferences.
5.    Get speaking engagements.
6.    Write a book or ebook.
7.    Get interviews.

Make Search Engines Love Your Brand

Search engines love press releases. When you write regular press releases and have them distributed online, more reporters, bloggers and future customers can find you. Before you know it, you’ll be sifting through a pile of interview opportunities and orders for your product!

[Disclosure: That’s Great PR! utilizes Egg Marketing & Public Relations for some of our email marketing services.]

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When Your Brand Becomes the Product

15 09 2008

Red Bull was founded by Dietrich Mateschitz and officially launched in 1987.  Ten years after its launch Red Bull was finally brought to the United States first being introduced in California.  In 2000 Red Bull had approximately $1 billion in worldwide sales.  In 2006 more than 3 billion cans of Red Bull were sold in over 130 countries.  Red Bull now accounts for approximately 50% of the energy drink market in the United States and up to 80% in other countries with an approximate 65% overall market share.

Those are just some quick and dirty facts about Red Bull to help frame the what is really interesting about Red Bull.  I think one of the most interesting aspects about Red Bull is how their brand has become the product (energy drinks).  Even though there are now over 150+ competitors in the energy drink space, most people I know still refer to energy drinks as Red Bull.  Red Bull is commonly mixed with Vodka and is one of the main ingredients in drinks such as Jagerbombs.  Even when a bar doesn’t offer the brand and instead uses a competitor, you will still hear people request Red Bull and Grey Goose or Red Bull and Vodka.  In my opinion this is one of the best things that can happen for a brand.  Since the brand becomes the product, the demand for the brand increases.

One of the reasons for Red Bull’s success, besides being the first to this niche market, is how good they are at buzz marketing.  Red Bull sponsors events such as windsurfing, snowboarding, cliff-diving, break dancing, art shows, music concerts, video games and several other sporting/social events.  Red Bull also hosts the Red Bull Flugtag which can be best understood by watching this video:

So what can we learn from Red Bull? Of course, most of us can’t afford to sponsor extreme sporting events, art shows or the like but we can do things differently than the rest of our competition.  Try to be the first one there.  If not, then do it differently then those before you.  Try new things.  Explore new options.  Don’t do the usual.  Don’t be like everyone else.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Be interesting.

Red Bull is known for always trying to market their brand differently in new and creative ways.  It is because of this that the brand has not failed or fallen off even though it is now in an extremely competitive space.

Now I turn it over to you – what are other products that you can think of where the brand has become the product?  I can think of a few but am interested in others thoughts.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by Dawn Ashley

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Tips from an Internet Marketing Expert

22 08 2008

Earlier this week I had the chance to sit down with Mike Volpe, Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot.  We talked about the differences between inbound and outbound marketing strategies as well as the importance of using internet PR and social media.

Mike will be a part of a top-notch group of presenters at the upcoming Inbound Marketing Summit on September 8th in Cambridge, MA.  As of the last time I checked in with Mike, there were only about 20 tickets left so get over to their site and sign-up.  Let me know if you’re going to be attending as I’ll be there as well.

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An Interview with a Marketing Eggspert

5 08 2008

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview Susan Payton.   Susan Payton is the blogger behind The Marketing Eggspert Blog and the owner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations. She helps clients use internet marketing to grow sales and boost web traffic.   Susan will also be teaching a course on how to write press releases on September 16th.

How has the use of the internet as a marketing tool changed the way marketing and public relations firms communicate their clients’ messages?

It’s made our jobs easier. We no longer print and physically mail press releases, wasting postage. Press releases and news can reach an audience within seconds. We can reach a larger audience by including bloggers and future customers and no longer relying on a journalist deciding to cover our news.

What are your thoughts on using search-engine-optimized press releases that are distributed on the web versus traditionally distributed press releases?

I’m laughing because for me (a GenXer) SEO releases are “traditionally distributed!” I still send releases directly to targeted editors I think have interest in the release, but I sell the SEO factor to my clients. Even if Oprah doesn’t call you to be on her show (and I’m telling you, don’t hold your breath), you’ll be all over the internet and increase your ranking on search engines with a press release distributed on the web.

How do you think companies should be using social media/networks such as Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, YouTube, etc.?

1. Carefully. Just like everyone, I jumped into all social media sites without knowing what I was doing. Choose the ones that work for you (or that others refer you to).

2. Designate a person to handle this aspect if you have someone to put on it, or specify a limited time to work on it each day/week.

3. Consider your audience. If you don’t sell cute t-shirts or rock bands, MySpace might not be your audience.

4. Plurk? There’s one I don’t know. Great. Another one I have to join!

How important is it for a company to be visible on the internet?

Absolutely necessary. If you don’t have a website, I don’t want to use you (as a consumer) or help you (as a marketing/PR firm…unless we can first design your website!). Being online shows that you at least respect technology, even if you don’t understand it. As a consumer that tells me you’ve invested in reaching me as someone who searches for your company online.

In what ways does your firm help companies to become visible on the internet?

Egg Marketing & Public Relations uses a slew of online marketing tools to increase traffic to our clients’ websites. We use press releases, email marketing, SEO, blog/forum commenting and online advertising. We look to who our clients’ ideal customers are and tailor a solution that fits the way they receive messages.

What do you see in the future for marketing/public relations firms?

Who we work with to spread the word about our clients will keep shifting away from the editors who hold the keys to publishing and popularity. Now we have hundreds of bloggers in a given niche who are clamoring for content. In product marketing, these are the people that readers listen to. They’re the ones giving the thumbs up or down. They’re the one that consumers believe. Consumers don’t want to be advertised to on television, newspaper or billboards. They want to be entertained while having the option to accept advertising messages. Marketing and PR industries have to completely embrace this. It’s starting to happen now, but “old school” marketing is still dominating a lot of areas.

[Disclosure: That’s Great PR! utilizes Payton’s firm for some of our email marketing services.]

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