Paint the Trail – Our Passions Create Our Own Trails

Paint the Trail – Our Passions Create Our Own Trails

Take a look at Jeff Sonksen’s fence art along the Seminole County Trail in Central Florida. Take it in, admire it. And now forget it.

Look past the art just for a moment and see it for what it is, a social media love story within one small but growing community.

Jeff Sonsken was an out of work contractor who got antsy and started painting murals on fences along the trail. Instead of getting into trouble for defacing fences, people came out to see them, talk about them and even share them. Intuitively he paints and in doing so he is marketing himself

A passion that moves people

Jeff is giving something special to the community. They love it and he just keeps bringing it on. Almost every week he adds new panels, and every week bikers, joggers and strollers look for the new additions on the trail.

He has generated so much interest in his artwork that he occasionally paints a batch of paintings and leaves them somewhere along the trail. His growing list of followers eagerly watch for his Art Drop which he posts on Facebook with a scavenger hunt-like clues.

Jeff explains, “When Easter came it was going to be the Paint the Trail Easter Art Drop… and it was chaos… they were messaging back and forth on the Facebook page… everybody was glued to the Facebook page”.

jeffgif

He isn’t paid for this work, in fact it costs him. So why do it?

First, he’s nuts. Absolutely. You have to be if you have a goal of painting 5 ½ miles of fence. However, it is also opening a world of opportunity to him. He now gets requests for paintings and is recognized and loved throughout the community. He is a local celebrity.

Content creates connections

Look again at the fence. Now think of it as a social media timeline. As the painted fence grows down the path so do the number of fans and people connected by what they see. Photos are shared and conversations are exchanged as the community follows Jeff to see what’s next.

It’s a lesson learned for our daily business lives. We know what we do best but dare we put it out there to grow within our communities? To be shared? To have it come back to us manyfold in the form of customers wanting more?

Our passions create our own trails. Every community could use a positive uplifting message and Jeff Sonksen is creating relevant content constantly. It’s content that people anticipate, seek out, LIKE AND SHARE in both the digital world as well as the physical one. Each new piece builds community, extending the inherent social media timeline.

Content that moves people

Jeff is a reluctant celebrity. He avoids the limelight. He installs new paintings when the path is the quietest. He started this as a lark, as an outlet for his frustration. His new goal is to paint the longest continuous painting – 3 years into it and he’s not yet painted a mile.

Jeff’s hobby has led to unexpected consequences. His reluctant celebrity has made him a community hero and a desired artist (it’s almost an unwritten rule that artists have to die to have their art become desirable.) He’s become a poster child for what other communities around the nation could achieve.

“I can’t tell you how many notes and thank you cards I’ve gotten from people… It is cool” he says in his unassuming way.

Now, take a look at Jeff Sonksen’s art along the Seminole County Trail in Central Florida. Take it in, admire it. And share it.

2015 Marketing Trends

2015 Marketing Trends

While relevant content leads the digital marketing landscape of 2015, companies still need to get their fundamentals right. A clear strategy, good data on consumers, pushing content to the right places and measuring effectiveness of marketing campaigns are all necessary.

By doing this, companies can create engaging content which resonates and appeals to customers on a consistent basis and reap their just rewards.

Apps that power our creative agency Part II – visual creatives

Apps that power our creative agency Part II – visual creatives

We’re a creative agency, and we need reliable, capable products that get the job done first time, every time, with high quality. We’re often asked what apps we use and rely on everyday to get the job done.

This is the 2nd in a 5 part series. Part I introduced apps we all use and agree make life easier. Part II introduces the apps that power our creative agency’s creative team, Part III deals with content creation team apps. Part IV introduces the apps used by the management team, and finally, part V discusses WordPress plugins we find invaluable.

While many of the team use Macs, we also have team members who use MS-Windows based machines. Many of our favorite tools are cloud-based or platform independent which allows for greater productivity.

Part II of IV: What our Rage Agency Visual Creation Team uses.

We regularly recording and produce video footage for promos and videos for clients (check out our rageagency YouTube channel), and for fun we make our own independent short movies (check out leonardbocx on YouTube). While no means complete, here’s our list of audio/visual apps, in no particular order.

Visuals

 

Final Cut Pro X

 

Final Cut Pro X is professional video editing software, with a massive and growing list of plugins that extend upon the already powerful core capabilities.

Why we like it: Even version 7 die-hards in our office grudgingly agree that FCPX is pretty amazing, providing editing tools that only a few years ago were unthinkable. Admittedly the interface looks obscenely simple but that’s the whole point, not so?

Download here

Motion

 

Motion is the best way to build interactive titles, filters, transitions, and generators for Final Cut and at $50 it’s the cheapest way for anyone looking to add extra visual power to their creative arsenal.

Why we like it: We’re still amazed at what we can achieve with Motion. Sure it would be nice to have easier integration with Final Cut but that’s just quibbling.

Download here

 

Camtasia

Camtasia gives you the tools you need to record on-screen activity, edit and enhance your content, and share in high-quality to viewers anywhere
Why we like it: We’re able to record screen contents of webinars, online tutorials etc., annotate them quickly and easily and create high-quality videos for sharing.

Download here

ScreenFlow

ScreenFlow can record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing video camera, iOS device, microphone and computer audio.

Why we like it: An alternative to Camtasia, we’re able to record screen contents of webinars, online tutorials etc., annotate them quickly and easily and create videos for sharing.

Download here

 

Sound

 

Audacity

Audacity is a free open source multi-track audio editor and recording app.

Why we like it:
It’s free. And its easy to use. Our podcasting team loves it.

Download here

Logic Pro

Logic Pro is a complete professional recording studio.

Why we like it: From simple loops to walls of sound, there is little it can’t do. Add a midi keyboard, play a few notes, lay down a beat, and in no time you’ve got the makings of mad music.

Download here

Wirecast


Wirecast
greatly simpilfies the process of capturing and streaming multiple video feeds such as interviews with multiple cameras.

Why we like it: Live switching! Being able to switch between multiple camera angles, and create high quality streaming or finished content quickly without the need for post-production is a dream!

Download here

Native advertising displaces annoying, useless online ads

Native advertising displaces annoying, useless online ads

A quiet revolution is underway and you probably don’t know about it. Online advertising is dead as we know it. Almost no one clicks on annoying website banner ads – the click through rate is abysmally low. 10% of consumers go so far as to virtually erase online ads using some form of online ad blocker, like Ad-Aware. So what’s a marketer to do in 2015? How do you get an ad-wary audience to click on your brand content? Enter native advertising.

What is native advertising

Native advertising, like advertising, is paid content. Articles, infographics, videos, any digital content can be made into native advertising. What makes it different from a regular advert is that is is difficult to spot. It is designed to blend in with the regular content typically found in the publication. Often it isn’t even marked with the telltale ‘sponsored content’ banner. There are no standards or guidelines for publishers in labeling native ads.

Native adverts align with a site’s established editorial style and voice, and provides the kind of content that the site’s audience typically expects. It doesn’t look out of place on the site.

Native advertising gets results

Native ads are getting much love right now, because the click-through rates are much higher than typical advertisements with much stronger engagement.

“We just dipped our toe into the water this year, but I would say we’ll see a five- to 10-times increase over what we spent this year,” said Matt Eaves, VP-engagement at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

This is true of almost all brands today. A simple Google search for native advertising shows that spending on native advertising is increasing exponentially as brands and businesses look for effective ways to build brand awareness and loyalty.

“Traditional digital advertising has become wallpaper,” said Jason Hill, GE’s global head of media strategy recently. “It doesn’t improve anyone’s experience on a site and readers, myself included, pretty much look past it.”

Native advertising is breaking long-held taboos. For instance, Forbes put a native ad for Fidelity on the cover of its magazine, which is traditionally considered editorial space for magazines. Fidelity reportedly paid $1 million for the ad which included two pages inside the magazine. Read more…

forbes native advert cover

 

Examples of great native ads

When done well, the ads are very effective and while they may not fit the notion of ‘going viral’, they are very engaging.

Levi’s on Instagram:

Levi posted pics of people wearing Levi’s in outdoor settings. The
photos looked like typical Instagram photos that friends post, but were in fact adverts. The public’s response was excellent. Read more…

levis native advert instagram

Universal Studios on Tumblr:
Universal released an animated GIF of one of the minions with just a link to download the image to promote the movie DespicableMe 2. In just 24 hours, it was the most liked and reblogged Tumblr ad of 2013. Read more…

And one notable native ad fail

Native ads don’t always work as planned. When the ads don’t blend in with their surroundings, results can be disastrous.

Church of Scientology on The Atlantic:
A story on ­Scientology’s success fell flat on this thought-leader site—readers clearly felt the article/advert didn’t meet the standards of the site and howled with outrage. It was offline within hours. Read more…

the atlantic church of scientology native advert

What’s a brand to do?

Done well, native ads can be interesting, informative and build a brand or sell a product. Natives ads are also becoming more important as readers increasingly use toward mobile devices, where traditional advertising is even less effective.

Small to medium sized businesses are behind the curve when it comes to this medium of advertising, but with a little bit of work on their part, they too can reap the rewards. Small to medium sized businesses should use promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook or content discovery platforms like Outbrain and Taboola to increase the reach and the value of their content marketing.

Apps that power our creative agency Part I – Invaluable Apps

Apps that power our creative agency Part I – Invaluable Apps

We’re a creative digital agency, and we need reliable, capable products that get the job done first time, every time, with high quality. We’re often asked what apps we use and rely on everyday to get the job done.

This is a 5 part series. Part I introduces apps we all use and agree make life easier. Part II introduces the visual creative team apps, Part III deals with content creation team apps. Part IV introduces the apps used by the management team, and finally, part V discusses WordPress plugins we find invaluable.

While many of the team use Macs, we also have team members who use MS-Windows based machines. Many of our favorite tools are cloud-based or platform independent which allows for greater productivity.

Part I of IV:

While no means complete, here’s our list of apps that power our creative agency, in no particular order.

Productivity

Google Drive

 

Google Docs is our favorite, collaborative productivity suite. It runs on all platforms, is free, and is web-based making it available anytime, anywhere.

Why we like it: Frankly, what’s not to love about it. We still get a thrill from collaborating and watching where someone else’s cursor is – it’s like a grown-up Minecraft Creator.

Download here

Microsoft Office

 

Arguably the Swiss-Army of office productivity, the Microsoft Office suite has evolved over time into an rich, somewhat complex toolset.

Why we like it: Sure we use Google Docs internally, but we’re not fully weaned off our old mainstay, Microsoft Office, even if only for client compatibility.

Download here

Internet and Communications

Chrome

 

It’s our opinion that Chrome is the best browser on the Mac. It’s fast, functional, and syncs everything across our devices, including iOs and Android.

Why we like it: To be sure, we use all the browsers out there, but when it’s all said and done, we love Chrome for it’s integration with all things Google. Tip: The mobile emulation mode is simply amazing, we love being able to emulate different mobile devices right inside Chrome.

Download here

Photos and Videos

Illustrator

 

Quite simply, Illustrator remains the best vector drawing tool, and thankfully it keeps getting easier to use. It supports all the industry standard file types and integrates particularly well with its sibling, PhotoShop

Why we like it: It works flawlessly and reliably. We’re in the job of creating quality products on time, from concept to web and print and Illustrator helps make it so.

Download here

PhotoShop

 

PhotoShop is still the most powerful image-editing app on the planet. Having said that, it’s getting harder to support Adobe’s subscription-based software approach and with the explosion of high-quality, better-priced alternatives, we might be dropping Adobe soon.

Why we like it: Like a well-worn pair of shoes, we know it well, and it fits our creative needs.

Download here

SuitCase Fusion

 

Get more than a few hundred fonts on your computer and pretty soon you need a font management tool. SuitCase Fusion has a slew of useful features over and above its ability to activate and deativate fonts on demand,

Why we like it: With more than 15,000 fonts on some of our creatives’ computers we rely heavily on Suitcase to manage them. Keeping all 15,000 fonts active is simply not practical – it would cause the computers to be very slow.

Download here

Utilities

DropBox

 

DropBox is a cloud-based file sync product that just keeps getting better and better. Although you only get 2GB for free initially there are a host of ways of growing the free space without needing to pay for the paid service.

Why we use it: We use Google Drive internally to share and sync our files across devices, but DropBox comes in handy especially with sharing project files with clients.

Download here

PopClip

 

PopClip (Mac) adds an intuitive little pop-up bar with options when you select text. But instead of just getting copy and paste buttons, PopClip can speak text, search the web for your selection, and a ton more.

Why we like it: Sure it’s a simple and cheap product, but this popup makes text editing a real breeze, it is a serious productivity enhancer. And with its expansion features, it is invaluable.

Download here

Spotlight

 

Spotlight is the universal OS X search app that allows you to quickly search files on your Mac’s hard drive.

Why we like it: Ok, this isn’t an separate app, it’s built into Mac OS X, but it’s become such a great feature that we just had to mention it.

LastPass

 

LastPass is a password manager that integrates with any web browser. It can generate passwords and supports 2 factor authentication.

Why we like it: How we managed passwords before LastPass is a mystery to us. We love that it checks for duplicate passwords.

Download here

Keyboard Maestro

 

Keyboard Maestro is easily the most powerful automation tool for Macs. With it, you can automate almost any repetitive task you do on your Mac.

Why we like it: Not for the faint of heart, admittedly, it has a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you can make your Mac learn and perform repetitive tasks. A big bonus is it’s multi-media clipboard manager.

Download here

TotalFinder

 

TotalFinder extends the Mac’s finder and offers tabbed browsing, a dual-window viewing mode, proper cut and paste support and much more.

Why we like it: This is the Mac’s Finder on steroids. We find it invaluable.

Download here

HyperDock

 

HyperDock (Mac) can preview app windows, easily resize windows by holding down a modifier key and moving your mouse, can let you snap windows to the edge of the screen, and offers plenty of handy shortcuts to save you time. Many of these features have been available in MS-Windows for a while now, but the Mac hasn’t had them until HyperDock came on the scene.

Why we like it: Resizing windows can be a real chore – with HyperDock, you simply drag the window and it resizes from full to half to quarter size. Love it!

Download here

Chicago’s 1871 Incubator – At the Intersection of Arrogance and Indifference

Chicago’s 1871 Incubator – At the Intersection of Arrogance and Indifference

On a recent tour of Chicago’s 1871 Incubator it was clear that it has become a legend in its own mind. In the past 1871 was an inspiring place to visit and work, to observe great minds collaborating on a sea of ideas. Today 1871 is overcrowded and uncomfortable, and devoid of humility and humanity.

What it’s like to visit there

At Rage Agency, we make a concerted effort to monitor the environment and introduce our staff and clients to those business vectors destined to foster growth and change. 1871 was one such vehicle, an organization to recommend to both startups and established businesses from which to learn and adopt ideas and practices. Sadly it is no longer on our bucket list of must-experience for our clients.

“Taking the tour, it’s really just a big ass coffee shop with a bunch of private rooms”

Taking the tour, it’s really just a big ass coffee shop with a bunch of private rooms. Throw in the funky seating, sound isolation booths, free seminars, and wine mixers and it falls somewhere between a cool startup company and a college union hall.

It was glaringly obvious that it can get very crowded, where you may not be even to find a decent seat. It felt like it was over capacity when we visited and we learned that it is in the process of building out even further.

What it’s like to work there

Chatting to people who work there, we learned that the three things most desirable in a tech situation are lacking: ergonomic seating, good internet access and quiet. That, and be prepared to pay handsomely for parking and battling the downtown traffic if you’re not getting dropped off. On the other hand, access to bright, committed young talent is in abundance.

“I’ve found myself leaving 1871 many times just because I couldn’t stand sitting there anymore cause it’s so uncomfortable and full of distractions”.

The collective IQ at 1871 is obviously astronomical.  Many great ideas are generated and more importantly, brought to market aided by the collective forces at work there.  But high intelligence has its downsides too. High intelligence tends to foster arrogance. Rare is the leader who has great intelligence, and the humility to realize the limits of his/her competence.

Lasting impression

In the end, the takeaway from 1871 was one of overwhelming arrogance. Arrogance is sometimes a cover for insecurity.  But in business, it’s often driven by the combination of early success, being one of the smartest kids in the room, and having been rewarded for cleverness. And that’s the way it feels at 1871 – they’re the brightest kids in the class and feel grandiose and entitled.

“In the end, the takeaway from 1871 was one of overwhelming arrogance.”

About 1871

1871 is home to over 350 companies.  The 75,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with programming, access to mentors, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that help them on their path to building successful businesses. Approximately 1,000 people a day visit the space with membership options ranging from just nights and weekends to shared space and reserved desks.

Why WordPress is the Best Website Option for Businesses

Why WordPress is the Best Website Option for Businesses

The stats are clear, WordPress has won the race from a numbers point of view:

  • 60 percent of current websites using website builders use WordPress.
  • 24 percent of current websites online use WordPress.

Why is that WordPress is the best website option for businesses?

In the Beginning

WordPress was built for social media content sharing or blogging. Today, WordPress is still a well designed, search engine-friendly content-sharing platform with extensive keywords, linking and other sharing features.

WordPress is still and looks like it will remain an open source product. It is free and well-supported although there are premium features available at surprisingly reasonable prices considering the complexity they offer.  From eCommerce to dazzling designs, WordPress developers and designers have helped the website builder be at the forefront of website design.

WordPress Grows with Your Business

WordPress comes in two sizes. hosted and self-hosted. The hosted option is limited but very capable nonetheless, while the self-hosted requires more tech support but has almost unlimited functionality capability. While it is hard to recommend hosted, if you have a limited budget and want to get a website up and running quickly, it can be a good place to start for a small business.

Hosted WordPress — a Place to Start

The base hosted version of  WordPress is free. All technical aspects are completely managed by the WordPress team. All you need to do is select a design and add content. Head over to wordpress.com for more details.

There are two paid package options that can help with your website design and functionality :

  1. WordPress.com Premium –$99 per year will get you  your own “WordPress branding free” domain name, more storage, no ads and more customization options.
  2. WordPress.com Business – $299 per year  adds premium themes to unlimited storage, better support, and eCommerce functionality.

For most businesses however, the hosted version of WordPress won’t cut it. This is especially so in the long run:

  • You’re limited with the look and feel of your website.
  • You can’t add functionality to your website outside of the limited plugin collection available to you at wordpress.com
  • You can’t create customized functionality unique to your site by changing any website code.

Self-Hosted WordPress — Website Freedom

Self-hosted simply means that WordPress has to be installed on a server somewhere – this can be at a hosting company, or it could be on your own server.. Most website hosting companies offer self-hosted versions of WordPress, and many make it just as easy as it is over at wordpress.com.

Self-hosted sites have very few limits to what you can do. You can:

  • Change the look of your site using any one of thousands of WordPress themes,
  • Provide incredible features and functionality using one of many thousands of WordPress plugins available, and
  • Enhance the WordPress code itself.

There are downsides to the freedom:

Hiring someone to manage the technical aspects of a self-hosted WordPress site will cost you money.

If you’re planning to not hire someone to help and do it yourself, there is a reasonably steep learning curve ahead of you. WordPress is increasingly user-friendly and there are many useful free resources online, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Support

WordPress has come of age. There is a wealth of skilled people and companies who you can turn to for support with WordPress. In addition, there are many online training tutorials that can do everything from introducing you to WordPress to teaching you the intricacies of programming your website enhancements. And many of the often-overlooked features such as installing WordPress, database backups, restores, security and version updates can often be handled by the hosting company you select.

Future-Proofing

WordPress will continue to widen the gap with it’s class-leading functionality and flexibility.  More importantly, WordPress will become easier to use for novices and experts alike as it competes in the marketplace. Premium features are being introduced regularly in the marketplace – features that would have been prohibitive to create for small businesses are increasingly available at minimal cost, and this trend will only accelerate. Thanks to its flexibility and low price, WordPress is simply the best website builder for businesses.

Leveling the Playing Field

The most important reason for businesses, especially small businesses, to use WordPress is that it makes it easier to compete with the big guys. The feature-rich, affordable website builder offers all the functionality, speed and looks that only the big companies used to enjoy. WordPress has leveled the playing field – it is one of the best business choices you can make. WordPress is the best website option for businesses.

Photo by Titanas

Content Marketing – Yes, You should Do It

Content Marketing – Yes, You should Do It

Content marketing is one of the most effective marketing methods around today. Although businesses have always shared information about their products and services, it has never been as easy, and as important, especially to small businesses. Most brands use content marketing, but less than half believe they’re good at it, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

What is Content Marketing

“Content marketing is a way for a business owner to educate your customers and potential customers about your products and services,” says Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics. “The goal is to offer tips, help, and education about anything that can be helpful to a customer”

Why do Content Marketing

“Small businesses should be even more focused on content marketing than larger brands,” says Brenner, head of strategy for NewsCred. “Small businesses need to drive brand awareness and leads with limited resources. Content marketing is a great way for small businesses to do both

Build Awareness, Gain Trust, Get Customers

Businesses that invest in content marketing generate awareness of their business and products, get customers engaged, and enjoy sales leads. “Content marketing can do something even more meaningful for businesses,” says Patel. “Good content marketing builds trust. And if someone trusts you, they are more likely to buy your products and services and more likely to tell their friends and family.”

Where to Start

The experts agree – ask yourself, or ask your potential customers: what are the problems they are experiencing that they’d like to solve, for which you have solutions. What is the value to the customers? And importantly, what is the value to your business? If there is significant value to both, and its in line with your business goals, then its worth creating content about.

What Mistakes are Businesses making?

Businesses who fail to take into account integrating SEO, social media and content marketing will not be successful. “There is great content being published on corporate blogs on a daily basis that no one ever sees.” says Kramer. “SEO, social, and content all have to work together – you need a robust presence in the social media space and you need to understand the role that fresh, relevant content and social media channels play.”

Businesses often fail to create relevant content. We’ve all read website blog entries or Facebook posts that have little or nothing to do with the business that posted them. The result is that it chips away at the credibility and trustworthiness of the business in question. No one wants to wade through posts looking for the occasional valuable nugget of information – we simply move on to the next company.

Volume, Variety and Value

Your marketing mantra should be to mix it up, create often and make it valuable. Decide what you’re going to talk about, and then make every effort to produce as much great content around those topics as often as possible. And do it over multiple social media channels in a variety of ways. People and search engines reward companies that are creative and in the ways they deliver relevant information to them. Think text, photos, videos, slides, white papers – the list is endless.

Measuring Success

The digital world where you’re putting your content out comes loaded with measurement tools. Google Analytics will show how content is driving customer traffic back to your site, views and more importantly, shares will tell you how valuable your material is considered to be by your customers, and finally check how much search traffic you’re getting. Track the change to each over time to see if you’re getting better or merely treading water.

Content marketing is a journey, not a destination

We live in exciting times – our digital world is constantly evolving. What we did yesterday might not work tomorrow. Watch your competitors and learn from their mistakes and successes and adapt your marketing strategy accordingly. Take advantage of new approaches as they arise.

“Within the first three months you should see more traffic to your site. Within a year, you should be able to monetize traffic on your site.” says Patel.

Learn More About Content Marketing

Check out Patel’s QuickSprout Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot, MarketingProfs, Kramer’s V3Blog, and Brenner’s NewsCred.

Photo by MACSwriter

Reap Huge Rewards from Content Marketing

Reap Huge Rewards from Content Marketing

Amazingly, only 44 percent of B2B marketers and 39 percent of B2C marketers report having a documented content marketing strategy in place!

What exactly is content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for information on all things content marketing related, defines content marketing as:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it. Think of some of your favorite commercials – did they make want to learn more about the product, do they help keep the product in mind when you’re thinking of buying? You can reap huge rewards from content marketing.

Some Content Marketing Examples

Content marketing comes in many types and forms–far too many to cover here. Instead, I’m going to give you a feel for content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you.

  • Infographics. Typically these are long vertical graphics that often include statistics, graphs, and have attractive graphics. Here arguably are the best infographics of 2014. Infographics have a surprisingly long shelf-life – a good one can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. An infographic can cost upwards of $1,000 to be designed, and several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. Promoting infographics to bloggers and the media can also cost you. Alternatively you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business which is also  a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time.
  • Webpages. What’s the difference between a normal webpage and a webpage that is content marketing? The simple answer is yes. A well-written, free online guide such as ‘Consider The Beginner’s Guide to SEO’ from Moz, has been viewed millions of times, and has brought in countless customers to Moz. Most case studies are boring. Hubspot, another content marketing service company has fascinating case studies. That’s the difference between simply putting content on your website, and content marketing.
  • Podcasts. Michael Hyatt is author of the best-selling book ‘Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World’. He practices what he preaches –  his “This is Your Life” podcast is downloaded 250,000 times every month. Michael talks about reasons to launching your own podcast, “A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. I have had scores of new people say they had never heard of me until they stumbled onto me in iTunes.” His podcast is a money-making, lead-generating monster.
  • Videos. Gary Vaynerchuk does content marketing using online video –  take a look at his YouTube channel. From videos promoting his family’s wine store and through those videos and other online marketing he has grown it to a $45M empire. Videos and podcasts are underutilized as content marketing because people think it’s expensive and hard. However, creating high quality video and audio content is easier than ever. Amateur video content marketing is to sell blenders, launch new dental products, and market visa consulting services. A simple video could change your company’s fortunes overnight.
  • Books.  Savvy marketers don’t sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. As compelling as Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, the book is a tool for driving customers to their coaching and speaking services.  There is still the perception that it’s difficult to publish a business book, but it is easier than ever before. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”

There are many other forms of content marketing, such as white papers, ebooks, apps, public speaking, presentations, and blogs – the list is virtually endless.

infographic photo
Photo by DashBurst

 

Why Content Marketing?

Content marketing, especially in this social-media driven world, is important to your business. You can reap huge rewards from content marketing. Let’s consider four steps of the consumer buying cycle:

  • Awareness. A customer may have a need, but they are not aware there is a solution.
  • Research. Once a customer  becomes aware there is a solution, they will perform research to educate themselves, such as a car buyer finding out what different types of cars exist in their price range.
  • Comparison. The customer starts comparing different products from different vendors.
  • Buy. The customer makes their decision.

Content marketing supports first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of options and educating consumers about products they may have never considered before.

We use content marketing to grow our business. Potential clients find our content, and by the time they contact us they’re already convinced they want to work with us. We don’t engage in any high pressure sales tactics. We’ve built trust before we know the potential client exists. And since we do content marketing as a service, our clients can see for themselves the product they’re going to get simply by looking at what we’ve done for ourselves.

The return on investment for content marketing can be huge. We don’t spent money on our own content marketing, or even that much time. Most% of the success we’ve experienced with content marketing is as a result of a handful of articles I’ve written.

Content marketing supports other digital marketing channels. It provides content for social media marketing and supports SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines. For many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts should be focused on content marketing.

How Do I Get Started?

Many firms offer content marketing services, often linked with SEO or PR. If you’re simply too busy to do it yourself or haven’t got the resources, then hiring a firm may be your best option. But if you want to do your own content marketing, the easiest way is to start blogging. It is hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Websites like Copyblogger teach how to craft content for your website or blog that will engage readers and turn them into customers or clients.

Great Content

Content is good if someone genuinely wants to read it. Content is great if they’re willing to pay to read it. The 2014 The Lego Movie was arguably one of the greatest examples of content marketing to date. A 100 minute toy commercial and you paid good money to watch it! Lego recently surpassed Mattel, the creators of Barbie, to become the largest toy company in the world.

The #1 Secret of Content Marketing

Add value. That’s the secret. I’ve talked about it throughout this article. We tune out advertising when it provides little to no value. If you want to learn about advertising that doesn’t get skipped, watch an avid sportsman flip through a magazine or website about their favorite sport. They spend as much time looking at the ads as they does looking at the articles and photos. Much of the content is advertisements, but they don’t skip the videos or adverts, because they’re getting the value they want–good sport knowhow. Skateboard companies pioneered content marketing decades ago, because selling more product was secondary to the fun of creating videos and magazines.

If you’re still not sure what to create, ask your existing customers what kind of content you can produce that would be helpful to them now, or would have been helpful to them when they were looking for your product or service. They’ll probably tell you.

How Can I Learn More?

There are many online and podcast sources, from Hubspot to Copyblogger. More important than ever before is to focus on producing mobile-friendly content, since smartphones are becoming the dominant way in which most customers access content.

Most companies are not doing real content marketing…yet. Jump in now and enjoy the advantage. Let me know how it goes.

Photo by opensourceway