Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category
Whether you love or hate Apple products, there is no doubting their success, both in terms of their general reputation and in sheer dollars.
However, that success has not been due to market research. Steve Jobs has repeatedly quipped that Apple never performs any market research nor hires consultants. In that regard, he joins Henry Ford who famously (allegedly) said, “If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse.”
So, while James’ excellent column earlier this week on opinion polls is correct that asking your readers what they want is important, it’s also important to take what they have to say with a grain of salt.
Simply put, your readers probably know what they want, at least to a certain degree, but they likely have little idea as to what they actually need. However, it’s your job as a blogger to give them the latter because giving someone what they need is exactly what makes them the most loyal and long-term readers possible.
So how do you give your readers what they need without ignoring their opinions? That is a much more difficult question to answer.
To be clear, as James said, user opinion can be incredibly valuable. However, it has a very serious limitation, it is almost always backwards-looking.
The only thing you readers can do is take a look at what you have done currently and then find ways that they think you could improve upon it or ways you can add to it.
While that can be very useful, they aren’t going to see any departures from the norm that might be wise or even necessary. For example, if you run a blog that focuses on reviewing headphones, you readers might recommend that you do a review of a certain brand or maybe focus on cheaper/more expensive models, but they probably won’t propose a guide on how headphones work, something that could be very useful to your audience and help you expand your readership.
Another problem is that readers will, generally, only suggest things that are to their benefit, often ignoring your needs and the needs of the site. For example, readers might complain or even protest the use of ads on your site, ignoring that, without those ads, the site couldn’t exist.
What this means is that, while it is critical to know what your readers want, it’s important to remember where that desire is coming from and that those wants may not always be practical or even what is truly in their best interest.
Simply put, sometimes you to ignore and go against the wishes of your readers, the trick is to know when.
How to Avoid It
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t take opinion polls or ask your readers what they want. That is still very important and both Steve Jobs and Henry Ford are extremists in this area. That is an approach that can bite you easily as the iPhone copy and paste debacle showed.
Still, you can’t trust your readers, no matter how astute they are, to know everything they want or need, especially what they will want or need in a few months time. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
You have to be the one to look farther down the road and to make the big decisions about the direction your site is going to take.
To do that, you have to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. To accomplish that, you need to know who they are. So, instead of or in addition to asking them what they want, ask your who they are. Get all of the pertinent information you can including their age, education level, general tastes, viewpoints, etc. and from that try to imagine yourself as them as they visit your site.
From that perspective, you need to look at what they need or truly want. What does someone like that need that they might not know they need until they get it?
Going back to the aforementioned headphone review site. If you took a poll of your readers and learned that they were primarily music buffs and not engineers or scientists, you would quickly glean that they likely had almost no understanding of how headphones worked and that such knowledge might help them make smarter decisions down the road.
Your readers might not know that they don’t know or might not realize that they need to, but once you provide the info, they’ll quickly see how valuable it is.
In short, what you need to do is try to understand your readers needs and wants better than they understand themselves. It’s not hard to do with an outside perspective, but you have to look past the answers on a survey to do it.
In the end, your job as the owner of a site is to be looking forward and trying to be ahead of your readers’ needs, not behind them. This can be tough, especially if you only go by what readers say they want, but that is exactly how you build a loyal and devoted readership.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take opinion polls from time to time. As James mentioned, they teach you about your audience, help your readers feel engaged with the site, can give you some great ideas and even point out some holes that you need to fill before moving forward.
Opinion polls are a necessary part of the equation, however, using them is not as simple as compiling a list of their suggestions and implementing them one after another. The goal is to take that information and those suggestions and construct something even greater.
While that requires a lot more thinking and a great deal more work, if you can do it, you’ll have a site that, like some of the better companies out there, are able to anticipate user needs, meet them and grow because of it.
That, in turh, is how you go from having a “good” blog to have a “great” one.
On the Internet, nothing happens in a vacuum. Your site, your traffic and your readers are being constantly impacted and affected by things that are going on elsewhere. If Google makes a change to their algorithm, for example, this can have a drastic impact on your traffic and the type of readers you get.
Likewise, what your readers are looking for and talking about will, inevitably, be affected by what other sites are discussing and what they’re seeing elsewhere.
The simple truth is that you don’t have a single reader who only views your site and nothing else on the Web. Everyone on the Web is reading other sites, emailing, IMing, using social networking and participating in the Web in countless other ways.
Because of this, you can’t try to make your site stand alone or treat it as if it’s the only place your readers need to be. Your readers’ interests are both varied and deep and, short of having the entire Library of Congress on your site, there’s no way you can be all things to them.
As such, the best thing you can do is not try and, instead, try to take advantage of this natural ebb and flow of the Web by using it as a means to both make your site more useful to your readers and, perhaps more importantly, gain even more traffic.
No site is an island unto itself and, even if it could be, it’s unlikely that you’d even want it that way. Read More
What terms someone can use your content? Can they post your articles on their blog? What if the blog is commercial? What if they don’t give attribution? Can they share it on Facebook? What about printing out copies to give to friends?
If you don’t have a clear, ready answer for these questions, your visitors won’t either and that, in turn, means they will make mistakes. Whether they are taking liberties with your content you don’t approve of or avoiding sharing content in ways you do want, they will make mistakes with your content and hurt its chances of being used properly.
As such, you need to quickly and easily convey to your readers what your rules are regarding your content if you ever hope for them to be followed.
Unfortunately, most bloggers don’t think about content licensing and the issue doesn’t come up until they find their work on a spam site or plagiarized on another blog. By that time, however, it’s often too late as the situation is likely already out of hand.
This makes now, before there is a problem, the time to think about content licensing as tomorrow may simply be too late.
The Internet has made our society the trendiest in the history of the world. New companies, ideas and ways of communicating rise and fall within months, if not weeks or days. Even our cultural linchpins, memes, are best-known for their short-lived nature.
This is a dangerous trend for bloggers and a nearly impossible environment to work in. If you’re trying to establish a blog that will be here in five to ten years, the trendy nature of the Web is a maze of dead ends that you can not afford to get lost in.
Unfortunately though, many bloggers do just that and they pay for it dearly. They hitch their sites to services that go nowhere, put their blogs on hosts that close down and generally run their sites into walls while trying to catch waves.
If you’re trying to build a blog that lasts longer than your average fad, this is not a pitfall you can ignore and one you have work very hard to try and avoid.
As you write content and participate in online conversations to directly and indirectly promote your blog, you need to understand the difference between two fundamental marketing theories to ensure you’re publishing the type of content and comments that will help you reach your blogging goals.Â Those two theories are push marketing and pull marketing, and they’re at the basis of all marketing strategies.
Following are overviews of both push marketing and pull marketing, so you can see the underlying differences in the types of communications and content you should be publishing online to market your blog effectively.
1. Push Marketing
Push marketing works exactly as the name implies.Â Businesses (or you as a blogger trying to grow your blog’s audience) push messages to consumers in an attempt to pique consumers’ interests in a product or business and make sales.Â Most often, the business controls push marketing strategies and has a very specific end goal in mind.Â Traditional advertising is a form of push marketing where companies try to craft messages and images that will motivate consumers to take an action such as making a purchase. Similarly, pushing a discount message out to your audience via Twitter or another form of social media is a push marketing tactic.Â Consumers may not have asked for such a discount, but you’re pushing it in their direction with the hope that they’ll be motivated to make a purchase. Read More
If you want your blog to be successful and still have an audience in a few years, then you need to focus on quality, not quantity.Â Building a successful blog that has a lifespan longer than 12 months and an audience that continually grows depends on your ability to put long-term sustainable growth above short-term traffic spikes.
While it’s always nice to publish a link bait blog post and drive a burst of traffic, more often than not, the majority of that short-term traffic disappears faster than it appeared.Â However, if you devote your time to pursuing activities that position your blog for organic growth, you’ll be able to reach your ultimate blogging goals.
Think of it this way:
It is it better to have 10,000 Twitter followers who follow you and then disappear (i.e., they never retweet your content or engage with you again) or 1,000 Twitter followers who actively engage with you, converse with you, retweet your content, and so on. Read More
If you’ve read the previous lessons in the Blog Marketing How-To Guide, then you’ve already set up your blog and your other branded online destinations and interlinked them to surround consumers with your content.Â Next, you need to begin creating shareworthy content to begin creating your reputation as an expert and the go-to-person for information, discussion, and questions related to your blog’s topic.
Creating your online reputation can’t be done from a silo.Â In other words, you have to branch out across the social web and get involved in the ongoing conversation.Â Imagine you’re at a crowded party or business networking event.Â If you stand off in the shadows or alone in a corner, you won’t make the connections you need to advance your social life or career.Â Instead, you need to dive into the conversation, introduce yourself, and add value.Â The same rule applies to creating your online reputation. Read More
So far in the Blog Marketing How-To Guide, you’ve learned what marketing is, what branded destinations are, and what brand positioning is.Â Now, it’s time to link your various branded online destinations so you can effectively surround people with your branded experiences from which they can self-select how they want to interact with your brand.Â Ultimately, all of these destinations should lead back to your core branded destination, as discussed in Lesson 2.
There are a wide variety of ways that you can use to link your branded online destinations, which I discuss in my book, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, and I’ll touch on a few of the heavy-hitters here in Lesson 4 of the Blog Marketing How-To Guide.
First, make it easy for visitors to your blog to find you across the social web by prominently displaying links to your various social media profiles in your blog’s sidebar.Â You can use social media icons to draw attention to your other branded destinations.Â Alternately, you can include links to your most recent updates and activities on other branded destinations using Facebook and Twitter widgets.Â There are even tools and WordPress plugins available to help you stream content from your YouTube channel, Flickr profile, SlideShare content, and more directly in your blog’s sidebar or footer.Â Not everyone likes to read a blog, but if they find your blog, you don’t want to lose them. Therefore, it’s essential that you offer different ways to interact with you and find your amazing content.Â Don’t bury those choices!Â Instead, prominently display them on your blog.
Second, make sure your blog and Twitter content are available in your social networking profiles.Â Use the tools available to you in Facebook and LinkedIn to automatically update your profile, page (for Facebook), and groups (if groups allow the news feature in LinkedIn) with your most recent blog and/or Twitter content.Â It’s just one more way to offer your amazing, shareworthy content and give people another way to interact with you and your brand.
Third, make sure all of your branded destinations offer a clear way to get to your core branded online destination.Â That could be through a link in your bio or profile, sharing content, or any other method you choose.Â The point is to make your core branded online destination easy to find from any other branded destination that you maintain.
Fourth, use a tool like Twitterfeed to automatically feed your blog content to Twitter.Â Take a few minutes to set up your autofeed with a compelling introduction and shortened URL that you can track.Â Twitterfeed offers these options and more.
Fifth, don’t forget to lead people to your branded online destinations (particularly your core branded online destination) from your offline communications and marketing efforts as well.Â For example, be sure to include links in your email signature line, on your business card, on your invoices, and so on.Â If there is an opportunity to include an extra line of text with a link to one or more of your branded online destinations in any communication you create, add those links!
Again, theses are just a few key suggestions to help you begin interlinking your branded online destinations, but it’s enough to set you up for long-term blogging growth and success.
Stay tuned for the next lesson from the Blog Marketing How-To Guide coming next week here on BloggingPro!
Read previous lessons in the Blog Marketing How-to Guide:
There is a reason why niche blogging is such a hot topic.Â I include an entire minibook about niche blogging in my book, Blogging All-in-One For Dummies, because it’s a topic that bloggers hear all the time but don’t fully understand.
The Internet is a very cluttered place, but you can stand out from all that clutter by establishing your niche and offering amazing, shareworthy content and conversations related to that niche on your blog.Â In simplest terms, a niche is a very specific area of focus. Believe it or not, the concept of using very focused blogging to give yourself an edge against the competition is not a new one.Â In fact, there is an entire area of marketing and branding that is dedicated to this very concept.Â It’s called brand positioning and by establishing your niche in the blogosphere, you’re positioning your blog brand against all the other sites and information available online.
Branding theory teaches marketers that a highly focused brand is more powerful than a broad brand.Â The same is true for your blog.Â The more focused it is, the easier it is for you to carve out your niche in the crowded online space and become the go-to person for your blog’s specific topic.
In other words, by choosing your focused niche, you can position your blog as different from others and offering some form of added value that other blogs are not delivering.Â For example, if you write a blog about gadgets, are you writing about every kind of gadget known to man?Â If so, you have a lot of big, popular sites to compete with.Â However, if you narrow your focus and contract your brand to position your blog as the source for information and commentary about iPhone apps or another more specific topic than the generic gadgets topic, you’ll be better able to compete in the online space and set your blog apart from all the other blogs and websites out there, particularly those with deeper pockets and more manpower.
The key is defining your niche and patiently and persistently establishing your position in that niche so there is no confusion among the online audience about your blog’s purpose and what they can expect to find there.Â A key part of building a brand is meeting consumers’ expectations for that brand with every branded experience or interaction.Â That rule applies to your blog just as much as it does for any other brand in the world.Â Create those expectations and then deliver on them consistently to build loyalty and your own band of brand advocates across the Web.
Up next in the Blog Marketing How-To Guide – Linking Your Branded Online Destinations.Â Stay tuned!
Read previous lessons in the Blog Marketing How-to Guide:
In Lesson 1 of the Blog Marketing How-To Guide, you learned what marketing is and why it should matter to you as a blogger.Â Lesson 2 teaches you how to get started with building an online presence and developing a brand that can benefit you in the long-term and help you reach your blogging goals.
One of the most important common features among powerful brands is their focus on creating branded experiences that surround consumers with opportunities to self-select how they want to experience that brand.Â You can do that with your own brand online thanks to the many tools of the social web.Â The trick is creating a core branded destination to act as the central hub for all of your activities.Â In other words, your goal in all of your social media activities should always be to gently nudge your audience back to your central hub.Â Think of it this way:
All roads lead back to your core branded destination.
I talk about this extensively in my upcoming book, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing.Â In fact, the graphic shown below is taken from that book and gives you an idea of how a business (and if you’re using your blog to either make money or grow your company or career, then that blog is a business venture) could set up its own core branded destination in the form of a blog with all other branded destinations leading back to that central hub.
While your conversations and content across the social web might vary (and it should in order to effectively communicate with different segments of your audience who are likely to want to hear very different messages from you), your audience should be able to easily find your core branded destination where they can discover all of the additional information about you that they might want.
In other words, don’t re-tell your story everywhere and anywhere.Â Instead, tell a snippet through your content and conversations on other sites (including your own secondary branded destinations), but always make it easy for the audience to travel over to your core branded destination.Â This allows you not only to build more meaningful relationships with audience members, but it also allows you to have more control over conversations.
Building relationships with your audience is essential to blogging success.Â Relationship brands are the most powerful brands in the world, because when people feel connected to a brand emotionally, they will vocally advocate it and defend it, which gives you an amazing amount of word-of-mouth marketing for your brand, blog and other branded destinations.
In other words, an integrated marketing and branding strategy is critical if you want to grow over the long-term.Â Don’t allow your audience to get confused.Â Instead, allow them to create expectations for you and your brand through consistent communications and an easy path to your core branded destination where the party can really get started!
Keep in mind, your core branded destination doesn’t have to be your blog (although for most bloggers it will be).Â It’s up to you to choose which of your online profiles or destinations you want to set up as your central hub.Â Just remember, that core branded destination should be the place online where you can tell your complete story, continually add value to the online conversation, build relationships, and share your messages.
Stay tuned for Lesson 3 in the Blog Marketing How-To Guide Where I’ll talk about positioning your blog against all of the other online destinations that people can choose to visit each day.