Category Archives: Social Media Strategy

Marketing Lessons from the Shark Tank: Get your story straight

Thanks to my new Hulu subscription, I’ve got thousands of hours of TV shows at my disposal whenever I want them. With all those options, I’ve found myself hooked on one show: Shark Tank. The premise is probably familiar to you: entrepreneurs go before a panel of “Sharks” (read: venture capitalists) to try to convince them to fund the entrepreneurs’ fledgling businesses.

I’m hardly the first to pull marketing lessons from the show, but it truly is a fascinating look at how businesses start and grow. Aside from the fact that every entrepreneur needs to read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start before going on the show, I’ve noticed a common thread among people that don’t do well with the Sharks: they don’t seem to have gotten any outside perspective on their business idea.

So many fledgling business owners are savaged by the sharks when they go on the show because it’s the first time they’re telling their story, and they are under the mistaken impression that they’re in control of the message.

They almost certainly think they’ve told their story before. Indeed, most of the show’s entrepreneurs have the patter down, have little quips and anecdotes they’ve woven into the theme of How Their Business Came to Be. But to truly tell your business’s story, you have to have a conversation – not perform a monologue. You need to understand what your audience cares about, why they came to you, what they want to get out of the interaction.

Most people quite naturally start out with a new business by discussing the concept with family and friends. But telling your story to family and friends gives you the illusion that you’re in control of your message. They won’t ask you the hard questions, and they’ll always take whatever you say in the best possible way. After all, they already know that everything you do is just great. They love you and want you to be happy and to succeed.

Too many companies approach their marketing materials as though they were still speaking to an audience composed of their friends and family. They recite their polished story, complete with smiles and self-deprecating jokes for a softer touch. What they don’t do is think about the questions a skeptical audience might bring to the table.

In the real world, when prospective customers encounter your story for the first time, they’ll be skeptical. They’ll have questions. They’ll have baggage from businesses like yours that they have encountered before, from the bad apples in your industry, from all their experiences, good and bad. If you don’t begin to counter those objections even before they raise them, your prospects will simply walk away.

You see it all the time in the Shark Tank. The entrepreneur contestants have never even considered that someone might not love their breakthrough product. When the sharks start asking the hard questions, they sputter and cough and try to evade the issue. And what happens, every time? The sharks walk away from the deal. Even a good business can be capsized by a bad story, when the business owner forgets that the story is not the thing.

How to Write Etsy Product Descriptions That Will Attract More Sales

Just about everyone with a passion for handcrafted goods and one-of-a-kind finds is familiar with Etsy. For buyers, the massive indie marketplace represents a nearly limitless opportunity to find products to suit every taste. For sellers, the chance to get your wares in front of an appropriate audience of potential buyers is huge – but it also means that the competition is intense.

Luckily, Etsy shop descriptions, about pages, and item descriptions are all indexed by Google, so well-written and properly optimized item descriptions can go a long way toward boosting your shop’s views – and sales. So how do you figure out which keywords to use and how to write your item descriptions? It’s all about understanding your target market.

Think of Etsy like a matchmaking site for crafters and buyers. Because it offers such a large marketplace, it’s important to think about your customers in terms of niches and subcategories. Some people are on there looking for fun, geeky science stuff; some people are looking for vintage bridal accessories; some people are looking for classic nursery décor; some people are looking for useful organizers for the home. You just have to get inside their heads and think about what they’ll be searching for.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you make hair accessories. A super-broad term like that gives over 95 million results on Google, and over six hundred thousand on Etsy. So you have to narrow your terms. Think about adjectives that describe your hair accessories, or the people that would wear them: vintage, playful, colorful, bright, glam, dramatic, classic. Think of materials you used in the creation of your hair accessories: plastic, lace, ribbon, sequins, bows, glitter, gemstones, wire. Think of occasions or events where a customer might want to wear your hair accessories: weddings, parties, clubbing, Easter, brunch, Kentucky Derby. Once you’ve done this quick exercise, you should have a list of keywords that describes your item much more clearly, which will help you write great titles and item descriptions.

You started your shop because you were passionate and excited about the things you were making. Now you just have to make it easy to find your items, so that people who will be excited to own your crafts can find them.

Need help coming up with good keywords and descriptions for your Etsy shop? I’m happy to help out by writing custom item descriptions to help bring more customers to your shop!

How Zombie Content Keeps Your Blog Alive

You’ve seen them, shuffling across television screens and groaning in the pages of teen romance best-sellers… the walking dead… the formerly alive… zombies! They’re everywhere! And while hordes of undead monsters generally spell bad things for the neighborhood, having some zombie content on your blog is a great way to keep your site alive.

Now, I don’t literally mean content that tries to gnaw on your readers’ brains (although I suppose that would be a great metaphor for blog posts and articles that are so thought-provoking they just can’t be forgotten…). I’m talking about content that just Will. Not. Die. Some call it epic shit. Journalists used to refer to it as “evergreen” – material that’s always relevant, as opposed to topical material that’s a big hit today and is a moldy oldie tomorrow. Zombie content is the older material on your site — pages, news clippings, articles, blog posts — that continues to draw new visitors to your site month after month.

Bloggers often focus on writing topical posts, in the hopes that they will bring in new readers who are searching for trending topics. And certainly, that should be a part of your strategy – you don’t want a blog that’s completely irrelevant to, or unaware of, what’s going on in the world today. But the problem with only writing topical posts is that they quickly become old news. How often are you going to get people finding your blog by searching for information about the 2004 Olympics, or about Britney Spears shaving her head?

Characters in a zombie movie almost never know what it is that’s causing the dead to stalk the living. Is it a plague? Is it some kind of advanced bio-terrorism? Zombie content is equally mysterious. You can make guesses as to how it came about or how to create more of it, but there’s no surefire recipe for creating content with an unnaturally long lifespan. You’ll just know it when you see the results. When all is said and done, visitors are the only true arbiter of what content will be valuable for the long haul.

So if you want to create zombie posts that keep on going, bringing new life – and new readers – to your blog, you’ll have to put out a lot of BRAINS … er, thought-provoking material. Answer your readers’ Big Questions. Tell them how your product saves them time. Show how your service helps them make more money. Find out what they’re searching for (do your keyword and keyphrase research!), and give it to them.

One last cautionary note about your zombie content – even a really well-made zombie can’t last forever. So don’t just put out a bunch of great stuff and rest on your laurels. Keep the great content coming on a regular basis, and you’ll find yourself carried to success on the shoulders of a horde of undead posts.

Six smart sources for killer blog ideas that are hiding in plain view

The business of blog content and SEO copywriting is all about getting customers to come to you – drawing them into your website with killer content based around topics they’re already searching for. The key, of course, is knowing what they’re searching for in the first place.

We all struggle to come up with these great ideas. When you’re creating new content every day, or even every week, it’s easy for your creative well to run dry. Luckily, I’ve found a great place – a place you’re already familiar with, and may already visit daily – to come up with an endless supply of blog post ideas that are tailor-made for compelling SEO content.

That place is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is perfect as a source of blog content ideas. It’s the premier social site for businesses and professionals, giving you a window onto what people in the business world are thinking about, discussing, and searching for.

Here are six ways to use LinkedIn for blog post ideas your audience is searching for right now:

    1. Home page: LinkedIn Today articles. At the top of your home page, you’ll see a selection of news and articles from around the web that LinkedIn thinks you might be interested in. Browse through a couple, and you’re sure to find something that catches your eye and gives you something to write about.
    2. Home page: Links and comments from your connections. The majority of the LinkedIn homepage is taken up by updates from your connections. These can be links or updates they’ve posted, new connections, actions they’ve taken on the site, or profile changes. This section is a goldmine! It tells you exactly what your prospects and connections are thinking about right now. Check your home page daily for blog post ideas that will resonate with the topics your customers are currently searching for.
    3. Your profile: Skills you’ve listed. The skills section of your profile tells LinkedIn what search terms you want to make sure your profile shows up for. If your prospects are finding you on LinkedIn with those terms, make sure that they can find your blog with the same terms in a search engine. Each skill should provide you with content ideas for one or more blog posts. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
    4. Your profile: Recommendations you’ve received. When people leave a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile, they’re telling the world what they value about your product or service. Make sure your blog content reflects these valuable attributes as well. Did a recommendation compliment the ease of working with you? Write a blog post about how your unique process makes hiring you a breeze.
    5. LinkedIn Answers: Questions your prospects and competitors are asking. You may already know that LinkedIn Answers is a good place to establish yourself as an expert, by offering up great answers to other professionals’ questions. But what you may have missed is its value as a source of blog post ideas that have a guaranteed audience. Make sure your blog offers comprehensive answers for the questions people are asking – both those in your industry, being asked by your competitors, and those being asked by your customers and prospects.
    6. LinkedIn Groups: Discussion history. In the same way that LinkedIn Answers tells you what people are asking about, the discussion history for your LinkedIn groups tells you what people have been talking about. Take a look at discussions in your groups that have received the most replies to get a sense of the hot topics in a given area. And remember, the more groups you belong to, the more blog content ideas you’ll have access to.

With content that changes on a daily basis and an ever-expanding network of professionals, LinkedIn is the ultimate source for getting blog post ideas your customers will love.

Should your company have a business blog or an email newsletter?

Think of your company’s email newsletter as a nice frosty glass of delicious craft beer. It’s quick, it’s refreshing, and you can enjoy it at home as easily as you can at a bar or restaurant or friend’s house.

Your company blog, on the other hand, is more like a gourmet pizza (and if you’re in the St. Louis area, that pizza should come from the wood-fired ovens at Peel in Edwardsville) – it’s best when it’s fresh and hot and right from the source.

Beer and pizza. They’re both great on their own, but they’re so much better together. Your company blog and email newsletter should complement each other the same way. One pulls prospects to your site, the other keeps them engaged in an ongoing relationship.

A business blog is a great way to draw search engine traffic to your site. It gives you a platform to address your customers’ questions, discuss the features and benefits of your products, and position your company as a knowledge leader in the industry.

Even better, your blog will build a backlog of valuable information that new prospects will be able to locate through keyword searches for years to come. Once they’ve landed on your site, you can entice them to sign up for your newsletter with an offer of a free white paper, special report, or informational autoresponder series.

An email newsletter, on the other hand, helps you to keep your existing customers engaged. You want your blog and website to offer valuable content that inspires prospects to sign up and get more from you. The company newsletter should provide more great content in a quick, informative burst that reminds customers of why they like and trust you.

Most customers don’t make business blogs a regular part of their reading material. Take advantage of that and get most of your newsletter content from the material you’ve already created, drawing customers back to your website and making the process of newsletter creation a lot less taxing. You can include special offers and sales in your newsletter, but remember to keep the focus on giving your customers content, not getting their money.

If you need more convincing that a company blog is a great way to give your customers what they want while generating valuable search engine traffic, check out my free report, Blogging for Business: 9 Great Ways to Capture and Keep Customers with a Company Blog.