How To Use Written Content To Engage Your Audience And Generate Leads
By now you have probably heard from various marketing experts that you should execute some kind of content strategy for your Managed Services business. Whether it is a podcast, video series, or written blog, content is now the preferred way to generate impressions for your brand and development engagement in a way that no ad of other format can deliver.
Most companies have a blog, but these are often just overlooked tabs on their homepage navigation where website content goes to die. The type of blogs we are talking about are active communities where potential prospects go to read stories and learn new ways to help their business. Here are the steps that we took when developing this niche industry blog as well as a similar one for our Managed Services business.
Choose A Domain
While you can get more impressions of your brand by using a subdomain such as “blog.yourdomain,” I have found that this can make it harder to build the community aspect that you are ultimately looking for. This why creating a standalone brand and finding creative ways to tie the two brands together is my preferred option. Ultimately, the writers of the content are going to be the “rock stars”, the name of the “band” (or blog in this case) is there to simply strike intrigue and relevance.
If you are in a local community that doesn’t have a “tech blog” then this is the perfect opportunity for you to start one. For example, owning the domain “[yourcity]tech.com” or something similar and creating a platform to highlight the local business tech scene is a great way to not only build a community, but also position your leaders as the local experts in this category.
Create A Logo
At our MSP, I was known for branding everything. It is my opinion that if something is going to have a name, then it should also have a logo. When it comes to your blog’s logo, it is not necessary to use an expensive agency to develop a high-end brand. It should simply be a means to represent the name of your blog in a consistent way that will become visually recognizable.
There are now numerous ways to make a cheap logo. If you want it done for you, simply go to fiverr or 99designs and find an affordable designer. If you want to do it yourself, there is a simple minimalist formula. Our MSPGH logo was created with a royalty free icon and Helvetica font, slightly manipulated for spacing. It is by no means an epic brand, but we have proven that it does not have to be epic to have success. This result can be replicated by just about anyone, regardless of their eye for design.
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When it comes to content management, WordPress is the preferred option. This platform can often be installed with a few clicks, regardless of which host you use. If you are new to WordPress, then spend some time looking through the menu of options and seeing what features and settings exist and where they are located. This is the best way to get a feel for what the possibilities are and how to develop your blog the way you want it.
One of the biggest knocks on WordPress is security. When you want to add a feature or functionality to your blog it is often done by installing plugins. If these plugins and your theme are not updated regularly, you are leaving your site vulnerable to getting hacked. Installing a security plugin such as wordfence and performing regular updates will help to prevent such issues.
Upload A Theme
Themes allow you to customize the design of your entire WordPress site in just a few clicks. While there are (what appears to be) an endless amount of themes available, not every one will be the perfect fit for what you are trying to develop with your blog. The best thing to do is to try on themes as if you are trying on new clothes. Upload them, see how they look, check what customization options they include and if you are not satisfied, try a new one.
While there are a lot of free themes available, I have always preferred purchasing premium themes for our blogs. This way you have support available should you run into any compatibility or design issues and you will get significantly more out-of-box features to work from compared to free themes. One of the largest marketplaces for free and premium themes is themeforest. If you want to try your hand at a google search instead, try starting with “magazine style themes”, as this query will yield results that work well for a blog.
Install Re-targeting Scripts
One of the major benefits of building this type of community is the ability to re-target your audience after they leave the blog, promoting similar content or directly selling your services. This is the secret sauce that most marketers don’t talk about when preaching their “DIY content strategy.”
There are three re-targeting platforms that you should create audiences on whether you want to use them immediately or not. These are Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, and LinkedIn. By installing these scripts immediately, you can start collecting audience members from your very first post. This is important since there are minimum audience sizes that you must hit before you can use your audience in a campaign.
For more on creating a re-targeting campaign, see this article.
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Deploy Opt-In Forms
Another often overlooked step in the beginning of your blog’s development is the deployment of various forms to begin building your list. People often wait until they see traffic to start setting up their forms and building a list. Fortunately for us, we did not wait and we set up our opt-in forms immediately. Within the first few days of our site’s existence we generated a subscriber and that was when our “community” was officially founded.
The reason this is so important is for consistency. When someone opts-in you are now obligated to deliver them whatever you promised in exchange. The responsibility of this will keep you focused enough to continue writing articles and executing on your strategy. If you do not have a list built and you are not accountable to anyone, then this is when you tend to skip posts in favor of more pressing issues, as there is no repercussion for doing so. The form plug-in we use is called hustle and it is available in both free and premium versions. We also recommend integrating it with mailchimp to manage your list.
Now that your site is fully developed, you can begin writing articles. This is the hardest part and I could literally write a book on every issue you may face or why you may give up at multiple points along the way. To keep it short, the best tip is to just write as if you were speaking to a friend of yours about your area of expertise. This means be yourself, be helpful, and don’t sell. Unload any information that you have that will help them become a better leader for their business and use technology in a more appropriate way. If you are down on your writing skills, then you can speak into a microphone, have it transcribed, put it through grammar software and structure it into an article.
Speaking to your audience directly as I have described is important when building a community. It is often the difference between the generic corporate blog articles you pass-over in search results and the interesting niche communities that you join and explore (like this one!). The truth is, you aren’t going to win a Pulitzer Prize any time soon, just like you will probably never become an NBA All Star. That does not mean that you can’t pick up the ball and make a three point shot. Throw away this stigma that writing has to be perfect and just go for it.
Launch Targeted Ads
Most MSPs that attempt a written blog strategy give up because they do not get instant gratification. They publish an article that they spend a lot of time on, post it to social media, and watch as they only get a few clicks. The buzz then wears off and it appears as if this was a waste of time and effort. The best way to avoid this is by launching an ad strategy around your content.
LinkedIn Ads in the perfect platform to do this and it is fairly inexpensive when done thoughtfully. Since you were “speaking directly” in your writing, it is very simple to create a targeted audience that you know will connect with your article. Create a LinkedIn ad campaign targeting this group specifically (for example CEOs in a specific industry located within your service area). Put a caption on your ad that relates directly to that individual and even mention their title for hyper-relevance. This will prompt a high click-thru-rate and will allow you to bid on impressions rather than clicks, earning traffic for pennies on the dollar that will convert at a high rate on your opt-in forms.
Send A Newsletter
The final step to keep your online community buzzing is to send a weekly newsletter. This tactic is not new, but there appears to be a recent resurgence in its market acceptance. If your articles are interesting and have value, business leaders in your service area will gladly want to follow along and engage. Include your newest articles, as well as exclusive content and giveaways that help to build value.
Newsletters fall victim to instant gratification, much like articles do. When you only have a handful subscribers you will hate spending the time to create a newsletter and send it out. However, these early stages are crucial for learning your audience’s behavior and performing experiments. You do not want to wait until you have a list of hundreds of potential prospects to start developing your newsletter strategy. Perform tests each week and gradually optimize your newsletter for best results. Mailchimp allows for A/B testing, segmentation, and other very useful tools to improve the quality of your deliverable.