Get Your Content Shared

In the article entitled “20 ideas for content that readers want to share” by Gina Dietrich, she says that it’s not easy to have consistently fresh blog content that people want to read and share. She’s right. That’s why a content development process is essential. You must create content to answer the questions your prospects and clients ask, and that content should be tied to keywords so, when they Google their questions, you pop up in search results.

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However, let’s say you’ve exhausted your list of questions that are asked—and you’re not feeling creative on priority keywords or phrases. How do you handle that? The truth is, when you blog consistently, you begin to see ideas in everything: what you read, TV you watch, even in discussions with your peers, clients or friends. My friends know when my notebook comes out, parts of our dinner conversation are probably going to be published (I always ask permission so there are no surprises).

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Still, every writer experiences writers’ block every now and then. Here are 20 tips to help you through your next dry spell:

1. Subscribe to SmartBrief.

The SmartBrief newsletters aggregate blog content every day (at least 10 articles) around one topic, such as entrepreneurship or social media. Pick a topic that you care about and have fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.

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2. Subscribe to Talkwalker Alerts.

A replacement for Google Alerts, Talkwalker Alerts are even better, provide more relevant results and are free. This will give you plenty of really good story ideas just from scanning those every day.

3. Read the comments.

If you have an active community on your blog or on one a social networks, read the comments. You will get story ideas just from what people say, such as perspectives you hadn’t yet considered.

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4. Pay attention to current events.

There is almost always something happening in the news that you can comment on for your industry.

5. Go through your sent mail.

Go through your sent mail to see what types of things you’ve sent to customers, prospects and vendors that could be used for content. Most communicators write emails to explain a sales process, a feature or benefit or an organization’s thinking. Use those emails to publish non-proprietary information online.

6. Create a trends manifesto.

You’ll find this happening in the blogosphere every year, beginning in October and running through January. Many organizations will publish their thoughts on the trends they expect to hit the industry in the next year or identify three words people will use to drive their success. The trends manifesto provides you with an opportunity to shine as a leader in your industry.

7. Connect to pop culture.

Lots of really successful content creators take current events, like a Royal baby or new Marvel movie, and provide lessons related to their field.

8. Open a debate.

When you disagree with other voices on the web, you might not feel “safe” to voice a differing opinion. However, this can be a missed opportunity. Giving people an opportunity to see two sides of something can work really well when executed carefully.

9. Identify positive progress.

Even though people love good train wrecks, they also want to know how companies in an industry are doing things well. Interview organizations in your industry and highlight the good things they’re doing through your blog content.

10. Take lessons from missteps.

It’s no surprise the bad case studies are shared over and over and over again. When you create your content, think about what you can add to the conversation with specific lessons for your industry or niche?

11. Avoid personal attacks.

If you can figure out how to write about an industry train wreck without attacking a person, it’s going to be pretty popular. It grabs attention and makes people want to read, comment and share.

12. Make a list.

People love lists. So much information coming at consumers these days, and lists make it easier to scan and read quickly. If you integrate lists into your blog content, you’ll find they quickly become some of the most shared posts on your site.

13. Offer free stuff.

People also love giveaways. It might be a book a friend has written, a collection of free eBooks or your own writing. Doing this helps you begin to qualify prospects.

14. Rank a competition.

The organization Run, Walk, Ride puts together a list of the charities that raise the most money every year. They highlight the ones you’d expect, but also show how well some of the up-and-comers are doing. It’s a win because they’re highlighting their peers (and competitors) and driving significant new-customer traffic to their site.

15. Identify and reward superlatives.

Just like People produces its “sexiest man alive” issue, you can do the same for your niche. It might be an app of the month or a productivity tool. Think about what your readers would benefit from knowing more about and start compiling lists of favorites.

16. Review a book.

If there is a classic must-read in your industry, doing something as simple as summing up the key points or penning a review can give you some easily shareable content. As a bonus, you might spark a conversation in the comments.

17. Go on a rant.

Get people riled up about something and give them something to rally behind. Everyone has a pet peeve or two—and you might find others who are ready to join you in your righteous crusade.

18. Interview industry experts.

Interviews work well because you’re giving people access to someone they wouldn’t otherwise meet. It could be the big keynote speaker at your industry’s annual conference, or someone you respect or admire. This can also work for formats other than the written word.

19. Answer a “Question of the Week.”

Let people ask you a question they find interesting. This is a great time to use those social listening skills.

20. Share a parable.

Make sure the story you want to tell makes a clear point.Now get started creating great content!

About The Author

Do eBooks Right

Right now eBooks might be thought of as being old fashioned, but in the mortgage industry they can have a profound impact. In the article “How To Design An eBook That Entices Downloads” by Rob Steffens, he says that people believe “text is dead,” it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, research has shown longer content pieces are most likely to score higher in search.

An eBook isn’t like any other blog post, however. It covers a topic in depth, building readers’ trust in your expertise. Ideally, it also arms them with insights they can make use of right away.

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When creating an eBook you can’t just place it haphazardly into any old template. A larger sheer volume of text means designing your eBook the right way is essential.

Let’s consider how to design an eBook that gets more people to download and read!

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1.) Create A Complete Cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can download one by it!

For decades, a beautiful and professional book cover has been a mark of quality. Your cover should convey the unique value of your eBook and how you’re positioned to provide it.

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There are several ways to make your cover more enticing:

>>Create a 3D rendering of your cover that makes it resemble a physical book.

>>Use a high-res, full-size image that combines text and graphical elements.

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>>Link your cover directly to your eBook preview to get people excited.

2.) Give Your Reader A Taste of What They’ll Get

A preview will make your eBook much more enticing. Your preview should live on the eBook landing page and draw on its finalized text and layout so it’s completely accurate.

Like your cover, your preview helps make the eBook more real. When people know what they’re getting, they are much more likely to trade the privacy of their email.

Here’s how to structure your eBook preview:

>>Provide the table of contents so readers can see the whole scope of your work.

>>Give access to a few pages of the work in a magazine-style “flipbook” format.

>>Show a grid of the infographics, tables, and charts readers will have access to.

3.) Make Your eBook Easy To Read

No matter what file format you use for your eBook, there are some basic things to keep in mind:

>>Typography should be clear – consider using double-spaced text for easier reading.

>>Subtle, branded colors win the day. With B2B eBook projects, a clean look is best.

>>Include page numbers and chapter names on each page to speed up navigation.

>>Use design elements like callout boxes and widgets to guide reader attention.

>>Start chapters with quick content previews and end them with summaries.

>>Use masthead graphics to define and separate each chapter of your eBook.

4.) Use Visuals To Your Advantage

When you’re thinking about how to design an eBook, it’s crucial to remember this: It gives you a huge canvas for visual creativity. You can – and should – integrate photos, illustrations, icons, and data-driven infographics to get your point across. This makes your eBook a page turner.

There are three steps:

Decide on the Overall Look of Your eBook.

Every choice you make in how to design an eBook should reflect your unique brand. Graphics can convey your story in a way people grasp at a glance. Don’t constrain yourself to stock photos: Consider illustrations or in-house photography for a more candid flavor.

Use Graphics to Make Text Accessible.

One of the most valuable roles of graphics is to make text friendlier. The flow of graphics helps direct the reader’s attention: For example, if you put an arrow on a page, your reader’s eye will follow it. Graphics can frame a page, emphasizing key points along the way.

Underline Your Point with Visuals.

If your eBook makes data-backed claims, present that data with graphics. A good infographic is much more memorable – and for many readers, much more believable – than raw statistics. That highlights the credibility your eBook should always aim to establish.

5.) End on A High Note

Just like any other piece of content, your eBook has a specific job to do. It doesn’t just raise awareness of your brand or portfolio: It drives readers toward a specific conversion.

What conversion action do you want your readers to take?

Once you have that answer – dictated by buyer persona and buyer journey stage – your eBook should compel action with an enticing incentive. Give your readers something for sticking with your eBook and they’ll feel like insiders, ready to take the next step with your brand.

When it comes to how to design an eBook, the basics are simple: Bring words and images together in convenient, useful ways that adds value. With these tips in mind, you can’t go wrong.

About The Author

Conversation Marketing Hacks: 8 Ways To ‘Speak Human’ & Change The Game

Nobody starts out automatically caring about your products or services. They care about how you can make a difference in their lives.  No matter the context, all relationships begin with a “handshake moment,” whether literally or figuratively—those first few introductory moments that reveal a great deal about the character of the person standing before you. Why should company interactions with current and prospective customers or clients be any different? 

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Sure, “content marketing” has been a crucial ingredient impelling the evolution of traditional marketing into today’s more personalized approach, bridging the gap between cookie-cutter TV, radio, and print mass marketing to highly customized digital and social media-driven communications. Even so, today’s more personalized digital communications have plenty of challenges, all too often falling on “deaf ears” and “blind eyes” amid a marketplace becoming highly desensitized to the glut ofadvertising and marketing messages its exposed to any given hour of any given day…year in and year out. 

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So, how can brands can make and maintain meaningful connections and create a lifetime value with customers in ways that’ll set them apart in a “noisy,” increasingly jaded and discriminating marketplace? How can businesses tell an authentic story so as to foster maximized marketplace engagement and breed brand loyalty?  According to Kevin Lund, author of the new book, “Conversation Marketing: How to be Relevant and Engage Your Consumer by Speaking Human”the proverbial key to the Kingdom is for companies, no matter their size and scope, to simply “speak human.
In this new book  Lund, who’s CEO of T3 Custom—itself a content marketing firm helping brands learn to “speak human” and supercharge ROI reportedly by as much as16-times, provides an in-depth analysis of what’s required to succeed in today’s modern marketing era, which he’s aptly coined the “Conversation Age.” Specifically, he details key principles critical for driving the more evolved conversation marketing approach, which can help companies amplify results on multiple fronts. 

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According to Lund, “Those who are wildly successful at conversation marketing understand the strategy is not simply about propagating online content and sharing through social media accounts. Rather, it’s a disciplined approach to communicating with a target audience in a way that tells a simple, human story that will educate, inform, entertain and, most importantly, compel customers in a way that fully captures mind–and-market share through messaging that truly resonates. Companies must stop talking ‘at’ their customers and, instead, connect with them by simply speaking human. And, it’s far beyond that initial ‘handshake moment—it’s through a constant stream of congenial engagements with each individual consumer, or the marketplace at large, based on trust and performance.”

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Think it’s complicated to be an adept conversation marketer and speak human to your constituents? Think again! Below are eight of Lund’s tactical strategies from the new book that can help companies large and small become more engaging and relevant with customers, and the marketplace at large:

1. Earn Attention

To gain attention in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s prudent to do the opposite of what most everyone else is doing. That means don’t deliver clichéd, boring content that’s written for robots—search engines or otherwise—and for generic consumption. It’s unsustainable for you and your brand as well as frustratingly futile for the audience you’re trying to reach. Instead, speak human by engaging your audience with eye-level language in order to gain their attention and set your brand apart. Learn to use language that educates and entertains the audience. 

Earning attention starts with asking yourself what you and your company are passionate about and conveying that genuinely in that all-important “handshake moment” of first contact—online or otherwise. Assume you’re meeting the person on the other side of the screen for the first time. Think of what you can say that’s new, memorable, a standout, and jargon-free. Also, understand and adapt to your audience. You wouldn’t talk the same way to an aging Baby Boomer as you would to a teenager.

2. Tell a Story

How do you hold someone’s attention long enough to break down a topic and engender his or her trust, but also in a way that’s unforgettable and leaves that person feeling more knowledgeable than before? The answer lies in good storytelling. 

Good conversations are filled with good stories and anecdotes. But be mindful that the hero of the story isn’t your company or its products, but rather how your product or service will have a positive impact in your customers’ lives. If you can elicit an emotional response, you’re onto something.  Some standout companies have figured this out. Apple’s story, for example, isn’t about devices. It’s about innovation and how our lives are being changed for the better with Apple technology in them. Learn how to make your story short, to the point, and easy to share online.

3. Stay Humble

Being humble begins with letting go of ego—that instinctual part of the psyche that screams for a marketer to make too much noise about products or services and brag about themselves. Sigmund Freud developed a psychoanalytic theory of personality he coined the “id,” and marketers often tap into their own ids by telling the world how great their company and its products are, and how great a potential customer will be for buying them. The id operates based on the pleasure principle, which demands immediate gratification of needs. 

In conversation marketing, speaking human dictates that your customer’s needs, not your own, are top priority. Your audience wants to know what you can do for them, and that means stop talking about yourself and drop the megaphone. Instead, embrace a different approach that thoughtfully and humbly explains why you do what you do and why it can make a difference in someone’s life instead of focusing on your bottom line. Stop beating them over the heads with the fabulous features and benefits of your products. Instead, tell stories that inspire and resonate with their own life experiences.

4. Pick Your Party

Equally important to the “how” of your conversation is the “where.” It should all fit seamlessly together and feel natural and organic in that moment.  Part of learning how to talk to your audience and engage them in any form of conversation is deciding where to talk to them in the first place. 
This means doing the footwork to learn where your potential customers gather, and meeting them on their own ground. Where do your potential customers hang out on social media? What are they saying, and what challenges are they discussing that you can compellingly weigh-in on? Easily available research tools can help you join the right conversation at the right time and in the right place with consistency.

5. Be Relevant (on a Molecular Level)

True listening is about far more than hearing words. It’s also about fully understanding the message and concepts being imparted—whether they’re needs, wants, desires, or even complaints. Being relevant means making sure you’re talking about topics that are of sure interest to your audience, and that’s often achieved by addressing their pain points. Before a marketer can aptly communicate and speak to such pain points, however, he or she must first hear what the prospect, customer or marketplace has to say. It can be dangerous, expensive and ultimately futile for companies to presume to inherently know what should be said in conversation marketing. 

6. Start the Conversation 
How do you gain audience attention in a way that prevents you from just being part of the noise? It’s no longer a question of whether you should insert yourself into the world of content marketing. It’s a matter of when you’re going to start talking, what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. One good approach is to base that initial conversation on your unique value proposition for the given audience. 

It’s important to always remember that your target audience doesn’t care about you. They care what you can do for them. If you’ve done your research, you’ll be familiar with their pain points and better prepared to offer answers that address their needs. Don’t be a “me-too” marketer who dishes out the same information as everyone else. Instead, develop a unique angle with a thought-provoking headline that sparks attention—even better if it disrupts conventional thinking. In addition, know your topic inside out before communicating, and make sure any other people handling your communications are experts in the field. You don’t want to risk sounding trite or inaccurate.

7.  Stop Talking

Unlike a monologue, a conversation is a two-way endeavor. Knowing when to stop talking is as important as knowing what to say and when to say it. It’s the only way to truly get a sense of what your audience (or your potential customer) is thinking in reaction to what you’ve offered, and whether to stay the course in your strategy or tweak it on-the-fly. Once you hear preliminary reaction, you can respond to questions and concerns before moving ahead or otherwise couse-correct as needed. Also bear in mind that what your audience isn’t saying can be just as impactful as what they do convey.

Once your message is out, take a step back and “read the room.” That could mean monitoring online response to your blog post or using various tools to learn which of your resources are drawing attention. Are people engaged? Are they adding to the conversation? What should you do if the feedback is bad? Don’t consider a negative response or lack of response necessarily a failure. Instead, see it as an opportunity to adjust, make changes, and perhaps find ways to better meet your audience’s needs.

8. Ditch the Checklist

Before every takeoff, airline crews verbally work through an extensive checklist. There’s a detailed set of tasks to cover before the plane can even push back from the gate. However, in an ebb and flow conversation marketing context, this adherence to a certain protocol can pose limitations. Indeed, one problem with simply sticking to a checklist is that a content marketing strategy will never evolve with the times or differentiate itself in any way from what everyone else is doing.

Successful marketers endeavor to open new horizons. They take a step back and ask bigger questions about themselves and their companies’ ultimate goals, as well as what sort of new challenges their audience or customers might face over time–how to aptly adjust when needed. 

Lund also suggests finding sources of inspiration. “Explore some of the successful content marketing plans that showed passion, ditched the tired old language, zeroed in on what customers needed, and started a real conversation with the market,” he urges. “Then scrutinize your own strategy and see where it might be lacking, so that you can continually refine your own checklist.”

About The Author

Perfect Your Sales Cycle

In the article entitled “How to Eliminate Sticking Points in Your Sales Process” by Rob Steffens, he points out that the sales process is one of the most important parts of keeping your business growing. Yet, many organizations don’t even have a formal map of their sales process.

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You can think of your sales process as all the activities your sales team performs to convert a prospect into a customer. This is a repeatable, reliable, predictable process that gets you from point A to point B, rather than a methodology. 

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Optimizing your sales process will save you time and earn you more money by:

>>Reducing effort duplication and time spent on lower priority sales tasks.

>>Helping you to onboard new sales reps and get them to producing faster.

>>Allowing you to recognize bottlenecks and other problems to be solved.

>>Empowering your team members to pursue tougher “stretch” sales goals.

And that’s really only the beginning.

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As the man once said, to manage, you must measure.

Once you start that “measuring,” you’ll probably find all kinds of little leaks in your sales funnel that need to be plugged. A sales process usually isn’t severely broken – that level of dysfunction is easy to notice. Instead, it loses energy at all kinds of different points.

When you start patching those small holes, you can truly raise sales performance overnight.

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Let’s look at some of the biggest areas where organizations can improve their sales process:

Start By Mapping Out Your Sales Process

A very basic sales process map might look like this:






In an inbound-focused organization, a sales rep generally first becomes aware of a lead when he or she engages with your marketing material. This shows your sales team a pain point that this lead might have.

In inbound sales, the sales and marketing teams contribute side by side to qualification. When your website and marketing materials are aligned correctly, you can often entice a lead to pre-qualify online without ever having to use sales resources.

To do this, though, everyone has to understand the steps in the sales process. It should be stored in a digital format where sales, marketing, and product development stakeholders can see it.

Get Everybody On The Same Page

A map is helpful, but the map is not the territory. Each person on the sales team needs to have a concrete understanding of his or her role in making deals a reality. That usually means having an “all hands” meeting where you can go over the salient points:

>>Who are our buyer personas — Who are our “best fit” buyers we want to focus on targeting?

>>What do our buyers know about our product? What marketing materials do they see?

>>What are our current methods for making sure a lead is completely sales qualified?

>>What are our current methods for prospecting, aside from our site? Do they work?

>>What objections are we running into in discovery sessions? Are we addressing them?

Clarifying these topics will help sales pros recognize when they’re investing time into a lead who is unlikely to convert or offer enough value for the enterprise. To consistently stay focused on only the best leads, however, you need to collect appropriate data and apply it through automation.

Make Sure You’re Collecting Relevant Data

To get your sales processes humming along the way they should be, you need to be certain you know which activities demonstrate sales intent and what conversion action moves a lead from one phase of the process to another. Luckily, there are amazing software tools to help.

There are two things you absolutely need here:

>>A data analytics suite that recognizes and flags sales-oriented activity on your site.

>>A customer relationship management (CRM) suite that offers full visibility for all leads.

Working together, these two apps will capture all the information you need about a sale in the making, whether the action takes place on your website, social media, or in email.

And Then Act On That Data Consistently

A modern CRM can empower you with lead scoring that will notify you when leads’ actions pass a certain threshold that suggests you should follow up with them right away.

That can be because they did something that indicates a pressing need – such as accessing a product demo or starting a free trial – or because their pattern of behavior over time strongly implies they are fully qualified and might benefit from personalized attention.

At any given time, you should be able to look at all your outstanding sales leads and see how many deals are in your pipeline, the potential value of each one, and where each person stands in the process, as well as which member of the team takes point on each agreement.

Put Strong “Gates” In Place Between Phases

With your data collection in place, it should be easier than ever to recognize the points where a lead passes from one phase of the sales process to the next. Just as importantly, however, is that your sales reps should receive customized notices for each lead as these milestones are reached.

As a lead goes from one stage to the next, you can visit your CRM to review their situation.

One of three things will happen:

>>You’ll notice something that disqualifies a given lead. Update your CRM’s logic.

>>The lead should be fast-tracked. Dive in and contact them personally right away.

>>The lead is “on target.” Send out whatever materials you normally would at this time. (You can automate this process and send internal notifications for sales reps with a great CRM, like HubSpot)

It’s crucial that there be no ambiguity around where one phase of the sales process begins and the other ends. Clear demarcations between the steps are essential for targeted communication.

If the steps are ambiguous, then at the very least, your leads will be very confused. Often, they’ll conclude that you aren’t paying attention to their needs and may take their search elsewhere.

Monitor Conversion Rates At Each Phase

Conversion rates are always going to differ – by industry, company, and even season of the year. The only thing you can always say for sure is conversion rates will go down with each step.

However, understanding whatyourcompany can consider “average” at each conversion is vital. This is the data that lets you know when part of your sales funnel is literally leaking leads.

It also gives you the power to recognize when a new initiative is lifting conversion rates. Just like your inbound marketing, your sales should be data-driven and always trend in the right direction.Long sales cycles and complex buyer journeys make B2B selling a challenge. When you break it down into individual, data-focused elements, you see how everything fits together. What seems like a sprawling, messy process becomes a series of “levers” you can pull, adjust, and optimize.

About The Author

The Video Craze

As companies in our space look to differentiate, video marketing should not be ignored. In the article “How To Write A Script For Video In 3 Steps: Video Marketing 101”by TJ McCue it is reported that HubSpot, the inbound marketing and sales platform, conducted research around video content that found 54 percent of respondents (your potential customers) wanted to see video from brands they support.

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A late 2017 research report revealed types of content that consumers also wanted to see, in order:

>>Email newsletters (number two on the list)

>>Social images

>>Social video

>>Blog articles were almost last at 18 percent

>>PDF content (ouch, last on the list)

Most of the above often will contain embedded videos or links to videos. Video works as a marketing strategy and tactic. Of course, this is not news to just about anyone in business or in marketing. I have done my fair share of creating videos for projects and written about its value as a marketing strategy. Video marketing is great, it is powerful, and it is at the top of most marketers’ task list, for at least the last few years in a row. 

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New video marketing and editing platforms have made it simple to create excellent videos in a fraction of the time it used to take with more traditional tools. Video is simply popping up as the method by which almost every marketer and entrepreneur and brand is leveraging or, at least, testing.

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A friend of mine used to read statistics or facts like the ones above and then ask: “That’s great, but just how do you do it, exactly?” Well, let’s get to it. For the record, just because there are only three steps listed here does not mean it will be fast or easy to complete them. Also, I share some additional downloads at the end of this post.

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Video Script Step 1:

Start with a brief summary of what you want to accomplish. Is the goal to get people to buy your product, or download a special report, or head over and read your blog post? Once you have your goal, go to step two.

Video Script Step 2:

Okay, so this one is the heavy lifting step. You want to script every word that you will say on the video. Do not worry – this does not mean you cannot go off-script later, during the recording phase, but it does mean you put every single word down on paper so that you can read it out loud in step three. By writing every word down, you get an idea of how easy it is to talk too much. But this is not the time for editing, just write. Write as if you are speaking to a friend; one who is going to buy your product or service.

Video Script Step 3:

Read it out loud with a timer as if you are recording. You may want to do this dry run step several times and it is here that you can start editing your script, adding visual directions as you realize actions or points you want to make. I have followed these steps (mostly more but sometimes less) each time I have to create a video. This process can be short and sweet for most marketing videos. If you are creating a long video, it is likely to be far more involved.

Now get started on your video.

About The Author

Keep Your Brand Top Of Mind

A lot of companies back off their communications activities during the summer, according to Ray Hennessey. It’s hot out, people are on vacation and it’s hard to grab attention. However, Labor Day is in the rear-view mirror, so if you’ve continued to kick back on your communications efforts this past week, it’s time to get it back in gear.

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In his article entitled “8 Branding Tips To Close Out 2018” he talks about how to keep your brand out there.Here are some lessons he shares on how to put a bow on your year:

1. Everything is a brand.

At one time, brand building was solely the purview of advertising firms or pure-play marketers and referred only to a product or the company behind it. Now brand representatives include the company CEO and everyone who ever comes in contact with a customer or the general public.

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As a result, communications executives are now also stewards of the brand and ensure that the media not only gets the quote right, but that they understand what a brand believes.

2. Authenticity matters.

Authenticity is still the best differentiator for a person or a brand. The number one reason people don’t want to hear your story is that they don’t believe you. Audiences are very discerning, and they don’t want to waste what’s left of their attention spans consuming lies.

3. You must stand for something.

What you do is just part of the equation. What you believe—coupled with what you do—makes up your brand. Increasingly, people make decisions on products and services based on how brands align with their own values. Understanding those values, and evangelizing, makes for the most effective marketing.

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4. There’s digital media—and then there’s everything else.

Sure, newspapers are still printed daily. News is broadcast on television and radio all day, every day. However, all of those media channels rely on digital promotion for audience growth. Some people love to hold a newspaper or magazine in their hands, but most people love consuming information on phones. Digital platforms have become the confluence of all media types.

5. Social posts rule.

Financial companies in particular shy away from social media for compliance reasons—but that has to change. The discussions on social media reflect what’s important to clients and should influence decisions, whether that be a service to buy or a vote to cast. Social media is now the mainstream media. Use it wisely.

6. Show; don’t tell.

A visual element, whether video, infographic, art or a combination of them all, tells the story so much more effectively than plain words on a page. Video production is key to effective PR.

7. Good is better than plenty.

Just because you are getting a lot of media hits doesn’t mean you’re converting to customers. As measurement has improved, we’ve learned that being targeted and getting in front of the right audiences is always preferable to broad exposure.

8. Metrics matter.

In old days, PR was just about raw media hits—but the impact of those opportunities was difficult to measure. Even today, some PR firms continue to avoid real metrics to measure success. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and success today is driven by data.

Now think about this: What tips would you add to this list, PR Dailyreaders? How are you looking to finish your 2018 campaigns?

About The Author

Don’t Forget About SEO

In the article “15 Tips To Improve Your SEO” written by Laura King Edwards, she says thatSearch engine optimization (SEO) has the greatest influence on organic traffic, generated when users type a search term in Google and click on your organic listing in the search results (SERPs). Most people never scroll past the first or second page of results, which is why marketers covet top spots.

Here are her 15 SEO tips to increase organic traffic to your website:

1.Write for your audience.

Identify your audience’s problem or need and deliver content that helps lead them to a solution or answers common questions. Also, remember that your audience may not refer to products or subjects in the same way as your organization.

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For example, if you reference smart homes as “connected homes,” but your audience is more likely to search for “smart home technology” versus “connected home technology,” you will have more success incorporating smart home language into your content.

Keyword research is essential to determine how people phrase their searches, and you should always write content to respond to those searches.

2.Create an editorial calendar—but be flexible.

Depending on how often you publish, you may want to plan topics for an entire quarter or more. However, leave room in your plan to shuffle article order as needed or add topics to capitalize on industry trends or user searches.

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3. Jump on industry trends and timely topics.

Think about industry or seasonal trends that may incite your audience to seek out relevant information online and create content to support those searches.

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4. Develop evergreen content.

Content that can drive traffic to your site over an extended time is the bedrock of a successful SEO strategy. However, this doesn’t equal a one-and-done approach. Freshness is key, particularly if you’re in a competitive industry, so make sure to balance evergreen content with more timely topics.

5. Be unique.

Don’t simply regurgitate content that already exists elsewhere. If you want to grow organic traffic to your site, you have to offer a unique or different solution to a question or problem.

6. Be better.

If people are looking for information on a particular subject, you likely aren’t the first company to publish relevant content. Peruse any sites that have already published and consider what they do well and where they have room to improve. What can you offer that they don’t already provide? What can you add to the conversation?

7. Conduct advanced keyword research—and have realistic expectations.

Choose keywords you can rank for, not just those with the highest volume. Is your audience interested in niche topics that are underserved or lightly covered?

8. Include keywords in your title, headlines, subheads and bold copy.

Google scans content much the same way humans scan content. Make it easy for search engines to determine what your content is about by including relevant keywords in places that are easy to spot. If it makes sense, you may also want to consider putting keywords at beginning of your headlines.

9. Build relationships with subject matter experts and industry influencers.

When you invest the time to partner with true subject matter experts, your content will be higher quality and more useful to your audience.

You may want to rely on a mix of experts within and outside your organization. The former can help further your organization’s profile as an authority, while the latter can cast a wider net and help get your content to people you may not already reach.

10. Have a link building strategy.

This is a two-way street. Selectively linking to other trustworthy sites can encourage links back to your site.

Internal link building gets less attention but is also an important step. Lots of orphaned blog posts don’t receive traffic as they age, because the site has no links guiding visitors from one evergreen content post to the next. Your mission is to keep people engaged and on your website by feeding them more relevant content instead of dead ends.

11. Use back-end features such as title tags and meta descriptions.

Your content should always include title tags (which appear on SERPs as the clickable headline) and meta descriptions (which summarize the content on a page).

12. Don’t forget image file names and alt tags.

Search engines can’t see images, but many people still forget to assign image file names and alt tags—which are crucial for helping search engines understand what the images—and the pages where those images live—are about.

13. Avoid careless technical errors.

Never move your website or delete a blog post without doing your due diligence on the back end. A few simple and necessary steps, such as creating 301 redirects, can help you avoid a damaging rash of broken links.

14. Provide a great user experience.

Search engines are amazing, but they still can’t consume and understand content the same way humans can. Instead, they monitor the way humans interact with websites to infer the quality of those sites — and reward the sites that perform better on these metrics with higher search rankings. If your site provides a poor user experience or doesn’t have a mobile-friendly design, its potential for organic growth will suffer.

15. Remember that there are no shortcuts or secret formulas.Content marketing can pay huge dividends, but it won’t happen overnight. Proceed with the understanding that you’re unlikely to close the sale the first time a person lands on your site—and treat SEO and organic traffic growth as an open-ended goal.

About The Author

Total Expert Raises $20 Million In Series B Funding To Fuel Growth

Total Expert has raised $20 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Emergence Capital with participation from Rally Ventures and Arthur Ventures, bringing Total Expert’s total funding to $34 million.

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“We started Total Expert to ensure banks and lenders stay ahead of how customers expect to communicate, shop, and manage their financial lives in the digital/social era,” said Joe Welu founder and chief executive officer at Total Expert. “People expect digital simplicity and real human relationships, and financial services companies too often lose these relationships when they don’t engage with personalized, automated communication as people go from awareness to lead to transaction. We solve this using data to drive each customer’s journey toward a relevant transaction, then manage each customer relationship for life.”

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Customer relationship management (CRM) is one piece of a complex marketing automation software puzzle. For banks and lenders to grow sales while protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive messages, CRM software isn’t enough. They must have a full Marketing Operating System (MOS) to easily create and track every tweet, text, email, postcard, etc., from first send to closed transaction, and every communication must be polished and personalized whether a customer is just starting to research a mortgage or they’re a years-long relationship who may now be ready to open new credit and deposit accounts for their teenagers.

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Total Expert created the MOS in 2012 to address these complex needs and began with mortgage, the most technical and highly-regulated sector of consumer finance. The company already powers marketing and revenue growth for 10% of $2 trillion per year U.S. mortgage industry, and since 2016, it has multiplied it’s customer base seven times, which includes eight of America’s top 15 lenders like U.S. Bank, loanDepot and Guaranteed Rate. Total Expert has also quadrupled in size to 162 employees since then, and is the fastest growing software company in its hometown of Minneapolis.

“We saw a massive opportunity in the MOS software category to turn marketing into a revenue center for lending, banking, wealth management, and insurance companies,” said Joseph Floyd, partner at Emergence Capital. “Financial services software requires specialized expertise to allow large sales forces to deploy creative, compliant marketing across all channels, and this is the DNA of Total Expert’s product, brand and vision. Their team of engineers, data scientists, designers and financial services veterans puts them in a rare position to modernize how financial institutions acquire, manage and grow customer relationships.”

With the new capital, Total Expert will accelerate marketing innovation in banking and lending, and also begin expanding into insurance and wealth management in America and around the world.

Reach Your Target Market

Jeff Grover rightly asserts that “starting a business can seem daunting, albeit exciting, but it doesn’t happen all at once – nor should it” in his recent article published in Forbes entitled “Three Things You Can Do To Identify Your Target Market Today.” He goes on to note that as productivity expert and author David Allen has been quoted as saying, “You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it.”

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I have found that determining a target market is an important “project” that requires time, resources, a supportive network and extensive market research. However, this process is much more manageable when viewed as a series of actionable items.

Whether your product or service is new or you’re improving a current issue in your field, here are three actionable steps you can take today to identify your target market.

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1.) Use basic keyword research tools to pinpoint top queries.

Data mined from highly specified queries will inform you of what drives your competitors’ organic traffic. Keyword research data will help you regardless, but especially if you plan to use online marketing strategies. This information can also be useful for established businesses, as they create and share content online.

First, begin your research with a generic phrase or keyword for your target market. This will establish who your primary audience is, what questions they are asking and what solutions they expect.

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Once you’ve entered your keyword or phrase into Google Search, take note of all the top auto-suggestions as well as which companies rank in the search engine results page (SERP). Determine who your main competition is and what kind of products and services they provide. Not only will this information give you valuable insight into your competition in the field, but it will also allow you to find where there are gaps in services or product efficiency.

Utilize Google’s free AdWords Keyword Planner to guide your preliminary research. According to the 2017 Google Economic Impact report, companies make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords. Investing in such tools can increase profit and expand your company outreach.

Factoring in keyword research prior to starting your business will put you ahead of the game. Beyond the technical aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) benefits, these tools can help you determine the intent and problems of potential customers searching for answers.

2.) Gather anecdotal data from your personal network.

A newly formed business relies heavily on engaging with actual customers. It is one thing to enter in queries and get a general picture of your target audience, but it doesn’t help if you can’t attract their attention in the real world.

Send out a survey on social media or through email asking some fundamental questions about your business idea and the problem it solves. Using your Google Search query as your guide, and ask questions like these:

>>What solutions or resources are currently available to you?

>>How satisfied are you with available products or services?

>>How would you go about finding the information you need?

>>Describe your ideal product or service in this market.

>>Under what circumstances would you use such a product/service, and how much would you pay for it?

Take the responses from your survey and weigh each suggestion carefully. Will any of the ideas take more time or money to accommodate? Will you have to compromise goals or morals? How will these suggestions fit into your business plan or model?

Family, friends, acquaintances and strangers will all have ideas regarding what would work best, and the more diverse insights you can obtain, the better. Keep in mind that the most valuable input is from those who are both highly interested and able to buy the product or service you propose.

3.) Identify commonalities and research pain points.

Though not comprehensive, the information gathered from the above steps can pinpoint demographic or value-based similarities among those most interested in the problem you’re tackling.

Look at the queries generated from your preliminary searches. Do the related terms seem to resonate with a particular life stage, occupation, physical condition or geographical area? Of the email or survey responses, is there a certain gender, age, hobby or income level that unites the enthusiastic survey responders?

Pursue each common thread by learning more about that particular commonality. For example, if your product or service seems to appeal to do-it-yourselfers (DIYers), consider subscribing to Make: magazine to read more about what they value. If your business plan solves a problem primarily plaguing baby boomers, arrange an informal focus group with your friends in that age group to discuss those issues in more depth.

Almost every industry has outlets for information and conversation. Join these communities to begin a mutually beneficial exchange of value between your ideas (eventually your business) and your target market.

Down the road, you may decide to pursue generational market research, which explores age as well as social, economic and psychological factors, and/or cohort marketing research, which studies groups of people who underwent similar experiences during their formative years.

Regardless of the similarities shared by your target market, keep in mind that many consumers don’t want their personal characteristics or habits rigidly categorized, preferring to feel unique and cared for in a personal way.

The remainder of David Allen’s well-known quote reassures: “When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it ‘done.’”

Certainly, a company’s market research is never done, but initial target market research initiatives can provide personal momentum and bring you close enough to your target to warrant measures that are more expansive (and expensive).

By taking simple steps today toward identifying your target market, you’ll rapidly approach the bullseye of an audience that both desperately wants and has the ability to pay for your product or service.

About The Author

A Lesson On Leadership

The world is focused with gratitude on the incredible underwater rescue of 12 youth soccer players and their 25-year-old coach from a submerged cave in Thailand.

The lead divers who found the team were expert civilian cave divers from Great Britain, whose story is amazing on their own. But it’s also no surprise that the Thai Navy SEALs oversaw the whole operation.

The Thai Navy SEALs trace their history back 50 years, when they were established with the assistance of the precursor of the U.S. Navy SEALs. (There are also U.S. Navy SEAL-inspired units in other countries, including South Korea and the Philippines.)

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With the incredible news that all the members of the team and their coach have been rescued, Bill Murphy Jr. shares seven key, Navy SEAL-inspired tenets to keep in mind to tackle any supposedly impossible challenge in his article entitled “Want to Succeed Against Incredible Odds? 7 Things to Learn From the Navy SEALs,” Every mortgage executive can take a lesson from these tips.

1.) Refuse to believe.

This is the opposite of what you’d think, right? That believing leads to achieving?

In this case, it was about refusing to believe it was an impossible mission, as many others were saying, or even that it would be a success if even some of the boys were rescued.

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2.) Self-sacrifice.

Near the top of this list, we need to recognize that one retired Thai Navy SEAL gave his life in this effort. Everyone involved risked it happening to them, too.

Saman Kunan was 38 years old, an avid trail runner and cycler. He’s being hailed as a national hero in Thailand.

3.) Physical toughness.

We heard a lot about potential technological rescues. Would it be possible to drill down and reach the boys? Even Elon Musk showed up with a quickly built mini-submarine.

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But in the end, it came down to tough, physically fit people who made the grueling multi-hour underwater journey, over and over. I can’t help but see a connection back to the World War II frogmen, who sometimes went into battle with just swim trunks, flippers, a mask, and a knife.

4.) Mental toughness.

I’ve never been anywhere near Navy SEAL training. People who’ve been through it say that while physical toughness is important, mental toughness is far more crucial.

Admiral Bill McRaven, the Navy SEAL who commanded the operation to get Osama bin Laden, talks about how some of the toughest SEALs he knew were a group of physically small men called the Munchkin Crew, who simply “out-paddled, out-ran, and out-swam all the other boat crews.”

5.) Training, training, training.

You’ve heard about U.S. Navy SEAL training. Other countries with SEAL-inspired forces have similarly insane regimens. It all goes back to sweating on the training field to minimize bleeding on the battlefield.

It’s easier to believe things are possible when you’ve done similar things in training before.

6.) Tactical patience.

There’s a big difference between inaction and what we might call “tactical patience.” The former leads to failure, but the latter can lead to success.

The example here would be the decision not to try to wait out the monsoon season for months to get the boys out (as had been suggested), but instead to bring the boys out in small groups over a matter of days.

7.) Practice humility.

The Thai Navy SEALs were the first to try to make it into the cave, and they coordinated the rescue. But they also demonstrated something else: the humility to step back and ask for help from a group of foreign civilians, who had special skills the SEALs didn’t.

The world now knows the names John Volanthen and Rick Stanton, an IT specialist and a retired firefighter by trade, who have been described as “the best cave divers on the planet, nicknamed the “The A Team.”

As former Navy SEAL and author Leif Babin puts it: “No leader has it all figured out. You can’t rely on yourself. You’ve got to rely on other people, so you’ve got to ask for help, you’ve got to empower the team, and you’ve got to accept constructive criticism.”

About The Author