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How many hours a week do you think your average executive works?

I’m talking about everyone from corporate leaders to the small business owner.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear anything from a 40 hour workweek to a staggering 130 hours (Marissa Mayer during her time at Google).

While we acknowledge just how busy they are, but for how much longer can they put off engaging with potential customers, their executive peer group and other business owners?

Until a few years ago, only a few CEOs were actively blogging or even using social media. A joint report by business management software firm, Domo and CEO.com, found that 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no digital presence at all. While this is an improvement from IBM’s 2012 Global CEO study, which found that only 16% of CEOs were participating in social media, it’s still inadequate.

Corporate leaders are missing out on potential “big business” interactions and brand building opportunities. And contrary to popular belief, customer engagement isn’t the sole domain of the marketing or PR department any longer. These days, customers and shareholders are looking for “content that business leaders have created.”

So, how do you convince a business owner who can’t find time to write a blog post, to get started with blogging (as a stepping stone) or develop a content publishing schedule?

It’s hard! But not impossible.

It’s not Why, It’s How

When polled about the benefits of engaging stakeholders through short-and-long form content, a large number of CXOs acknowledge its value. But when asked about their poor adoption of it, the most common responses are:

  • “I just don’t have the time.”
  • “If I’m blogging everyday, what’s the ROI on my time?”
  • “That’s the job of the marketing/PR department, isn’t it?”
  • “Are there experienced writers out there who can think exactly like me?”

While it’s a big ask to expect business leaders to spend hours producing thought-leading blog content on a regular basis, the rewards are huge.

Small Effort, Big Rewards

Successful CXOs have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and guidance that they can share.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is a notable example; he makes time to post regularly on LinkedIn’s Influencer platform and the Virgin Group blog. Sharing content as diverse as business advice, his vision, opinions on everything from health to travel, he keeps loyal fans hanging on his every word. His blog posts, across platforms, routinely generate thousands of comments and social shares.

Since most corporations are perceived as cold, inanimate and distant, a business leader that blogs regularly can help humanise the company. Just look at the Executive Chairman of Marriott International, Bill Marriott, who posts regularly on the corporate blog, ‘Marriott On The Move’. With occasional business-focused posts, he engages a large audience by sharing anecdotes, personal stories, employee wins and many other interesting tidbits. With posts like “Where’s Your Happy?” And “Family First,” the tone of the blog is warm and feels like a personal letter from Marriott to the reader.

Marriott further injects personality into each post by signing off with “I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.”

When a CEO infuses their character and flair into the company blog like this, it goes a long way in communicating the company’s culture and values to customers.

Speaking of humanising a brand, one survey of executives by Weber Shandwick, showed that 52% of executives say their CEO’s social presence makes them feel inspired while 41% said they felt proud. How amazing is that? It appears inspired leaders inspire employees to do better.

Think this only applies to top-level execs?

Think again.

One business owner/co-founder that uses blogging to demonstrate thought leadership, is Grace Leung Shing. The Co-founder and CEO of Startwise is a regular contributor to the Startwise blog, where she writes about crowdfunding, the intricacies of revenue share and how Startwise can help businesses get funded without taking out bank loans or giving up equity.

By publishing quality, informational content, she increases her chances of being recognised in the crowdfunding space, and the wider financing industry as an expert.

Bottom Line — Lack of time, direction, or talent are no longer solid excuses in any CXO’s arsenal. If Barack Obama could take time off to play golf during the peak of his presidential tenure, then you have access to all the resources you need to publish influential & well-researched content out there. As simple as that!

1 Content Piece = Multiple Opportunities

To be clear, we think publishing your views, backed by your wealth of experience, on a platform you control i.e. your blog is the best use off your already limited time. Whether it’s short blog posts of 500 words or longer editorial articles of 1,600 words, content creation on your platform offers the best bang for your buck.

However, you can’t produce a handful of blog posts and call it a day. You’re likely to lose traction quickly.

But you don’t have to; your content can be easily repurposed into different forms for consumption across different platforms. For example:

  • Snip excerpts from your blog post and post them as tweets.
  • Compile posts around a particular topic into a downloadable e-book.
  • Create a Slideshare presentation from a series of blog posts.
  • Turn the Slideshare presentation into a video for YouTube.
  • Got data on how a particular solution helped your business (or a client)?
  • Create a downloadable case-study around it. Or go deep, and write about the subject at-length with a whitepaper.

One major benefit of repurposing & publishing content like this, is that it allows you reach new audiences. Think about the positive boost it could give your own profile. If truth be told, the difference between GREAT content and NO content is incomparable. Attractive promotions, company-wide perception of being a subject-matter expert, frequent citations by the media, keynote speaking opportunities at conferences, are just to name a few.

Less PR, More Help

Again, your writing doesn’t have to be stating cold, boring company data and facts. Look at how Adam Goldstein, the president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, blogs on topics ranging from vacation stories to cruise ship design!

Content marketing isn’t about getting out there and proclaiming how awesome your brand is. While the occasional PR post can fly, a thought leadership survey by Grist, showed that great content succeeds when:

  • It proves useful and focused.
  • It demonstrates an understanding of the target audience.
  • It has original insight or ideas
  • It is NOT simply promotional.

If your blog content can demonstrate knowledge and establish your credibility in the industry in a way that impresses prospects, you are not just blogging. This is valuable engagement, which is vastly different from PR that comes across as scripted, dull and inauthentic.

Here’s How to Get Started With Content

These days, business owners (and corporate leaders) are blogging more, whether it’s on their personal blog or using platforms like LinkedIn’s Influencer program.

But for maximum impact, I’d recommend a hybrid content production and marketing structure. For super-busy CEOs who don’t have the time to pen 500 words on a regular basis, delegation is the answer. Reach out to us! (apologies for the hard sell, but what the heck!)

Note that while some CEOs like Branson have found success using Twitter, it’s not the best platform for everyone. And while you may be tempted to grow your influence using just LinkedIn, it may not be the best strategy. One major reason is that blog posts on LinkedIn are quickly indexed by Google, and with its high domain authority, it will probably outrank your own blog across search engines, at least in the initial days.

There are ways around this but it’s best to publish content on your blog, first.

Don’t know where to start? We get it. Not everyone has the time to research for hours, not everyone is comfortable sitting in front of a camera, and not everyone has the patience to churn out formidable content consistently.

Start Small, then Get Help

Seriously, start small. As the adage goes: “Something is better than nothing at all.”

Write a short 500 word post on current events in your industry (you may find yourself easily going over that word limit). A word of advice: Don’t try to be controversial, heroic, or overbearing, in an effort to score a few brownie points. Be authentic.

If you think you’ve run out of ideas, have an assistant do some industry research to find out the questions your peers and customers want answers to. Providing those answers in the form of blog posts, long-form articles, or even Quora responses will help cement your position as a credible thought leader.

That said, we know & understand that some business leaders don’t even have the time to draft those 500 words. That’s okay. A time constrained CEO could record his/her thoughts on an issue using the “voice recorder” feature in their smartphone and then have an assistant transcribe their thoughts into a blog post. And edit their voice recording into a podcast as well.

Talk about easy content creation!

But what if you don’t have an assistant on hand to do that? Here’s where we can assist.

We work closely with business leaders (startup founders, small business owners, mid-senior executives, and enterprise CXO’s) who know the value of content but are hampered by time and know-how. We understand the need to create content that stimulates dialogue, demonstrates thought leadership, and builds engagement.

Corporate leaders must stop seeing content creation as a tedious chore, and embrace it as the new normal.

Don’t let doubts and unanswered questions keep you from sharing your expertise. Reach out to us whenever you’re ready, and my team can show you how you can write more and share with the wider world.

First, the good news: content marketing works!

Now, the not-so-good news: effective content marketing is difficult.

Over the past decade, content has become the cornerstone of digital marketing. In CMI’s 2017 survey, over 85% of the B2B and B2C marketers surveyed leverage content to drive brand awareness, generate leads and close sales.

In a Curata survey, 75% of companies planned to ramp up their content production and budget. At this point, it’s clear that content marketing is no longer an optional tactic.

But while the value of content marketing may be clear, in a 2016 B2B trends survey, 57% of marketers admitted they struggle to create content consistently. It appears figuring out how to create enough of the right content is still unclear.

We say enough content, as you can’t create one blog post per month and expect any results. To attract high-paying customers and differentiate themselves from competitors, businesses must consistently publish top-notch, “cornerstone” content. In a study on blog frequency and inbound traffic, Hubspot found that increased content production leads to better ROI.

To hit many different touch-points across a customer’s decision making cycle, content must also be produced in multiple formats including blog posts, webinars, infographics, videos, ebooks, podcasts, editorial articles, etc.

Creating this type of content may sound like a tall order, but it can be done in several ways:

  1. Create content in-house,
  2. Outsource content to freelance writers and/or specialist boutiques,
  3. A hybrid of both options that involves input from both in-house experts and external freelance copywriters/boutiques.

Each approach here has its own unique challenges; so let’s go ahead and examine the pros and cons:

In-House Content Creation: Pros

The general trend is to bring content creation in-house as it appears to be an efficient plan. With in-house creation:

  1. You’ll be using staff that intuitively know the industry, understand your client base and their needs/motivations, etc.
  2. You’re already paying staff salaries, so you won’t have to think about allocating a separate budget for an outside firm.
  3. There should be a level of buy-in as the writer is a part of your company and should be invested in the work they produce.

In-House Content Creation: Cons

While these are all valid assumptions, businesses soon realize that the DIY approach to creating content has quite a few drawbacks. For starters, the initial cost savings are fleeting as can be seen by the comparison cost scenario below:

Comparison Cost Scenario: In-House vs. Outsourcing

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire (CPH) for hiring in-house writers is $4,129. Comparing salaries drawn from seven different employment sites for multiple writing job roles, it was found that the average base salary figure came to $49,982.

Adding benefits and payroll tax takes the annual cost of hiring an in-house writer to  $79,726. Holy moly!

Now add the cost of equipment and overheads like rent, utilities, subscriptions and you can expect around $2,800 in overheads.

For the cost of outsourced content creation, let’s assume a boutique content production firm charges a fixed rate of $250 per 500-word post.

To compare the cost of both options, let’s assume a small to midsize business that requires 08 subject-matter specific blog posts per month.

  • Using outsourced content creation, your business will pay $ (250 x 8) = $2,000 per month.
  • With the in-house recruiting option, including the one-time cost of equipment, you’ll be paying $ (4,165 + 2,479 + 344 + 233)* = $ 7,221 per month (and that’s just the cost for ONE full-time person)

* For the in-house writer, this figure includes salary, benefits and payroll taxes.

As you can see in this scenario, for firms that only plan to publish 08 pieces of content per month, hiring a single, in-house content creator doesn’t make financial sense.

Other disadvantages include:

  1. In-house content creation takes time and distracts your team from concentrating on tasks that will drive profitable growth i.e. closing sales and chasing leads.
  2. By creating sub-par content, you run the risk of losing readership and audience engagement, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject. Creating engaging content involves bringing fresh ideas to the table, knowing exactly who your audience is, and having a plan for reaching them. Factor in a periodic assessment of your strategy and you realize all this takes time and focus.
  3. Creating content that is interesting, engaging, and shareable isn’t all about documenting the latest company event. It’s one thing to know the industry and client base, but can your staff really craft customer-centric content that drives loyalty & thought leadership? It’s important to ask yourself these questions.

Outsourced Content: Pros

Outsourcing content allows you to tap into the expertise and experience of professional content marketers. At 14% of the cost of setting up a team of two in-house professionals (the absolute minimum, if you think about it), you can get experts to create content strategy, produce thought-leading content, improve lead generation, and increase sales.

Even with these benefits, many SME’s (and large enterprises) still think that outsourcing is an unnecessary, high-risk expenditure. On the contrary, outsourcing content to a talented team of writers has numerous advantages including:

  • Leverage Industry Expertise for High-Quality Content – Outsourcing allows you tap into the pool of skills of an experienced boutique, and take advantage of the tools available to them. Boutiques tend to stay on the cutting edge of technology, with access to several resources. Data gathered from working across the board (sometimes, for your competitors) help an external writer create relevant, up-to-date content for your business. With outsourcing, you get access to this “think tank” without a significant time or financial investment on your part.
  • Two Brains are Always Better than One – Using the services of an ‘outside’ writer can provide a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking about your content marketing efforts. Hiring a boutique can also help provide new, creative ideas to drive rapid growth.
  • Produce Content Efficiently – With a lack of time blamed as the most common reason for inconsistent content publishing, it becomes a no-brainer to outsource content creation. With client satisfaction as their primary goal, professional copywriters/boutiques are stricter about deadlines and quality than in-house writers. Thus, outsourcing can help you create and distribute content consistently.
  • Clarity and Productivity – Producing clear communication, free from industry jargon, can be a problem for some companies. Professional copywriters and content boutiques are able to break down complex jargon into simple-to-understand phrases, in a manner that ensures the reader understands what is being said to them, without the fluff or hard sell.

It’s vital for the content produced to be disseminated to a wide but targeted audience. Content production boutiques can develop effective strategies designed to reach the company’s target demographic with punch, personality, and passion. As experts in their field, you could use their experience to advise on which marketing tactics and techniques are bound to work and those that will fail.

Outsourced Content: Cons

The two common issues that companies run into when outsourcing are:

  • The choice of using a number of independent freelancers to create content or finding a boutique firm that can handle your content production.
  • There is also the issue of bringing an external writer up to speed about your products, industry and client base. Failure to educate them can lead to a mismatch in the message passed on.

Should Company Size Matter?

Even with the benefits of outsourcing outlined, some businesses feel their company size should impact whether they outsource content creation or not. At BUZZVALVE, we don’t think it should be. Regardless of whether you are a startup, small, mid-sized family business or even a large enterprise with multiple teams, spreading your focus and resources thin, will only detract from your core competence.

Any time taken off to write content, create a presentation, dispatch a newsletter, or shoot a video, is time not spent on nurturing leads or closing deals. There will always be an opportunity cost to taking the DIY approach to content production. After all, time IS money!

Let’s look at the time cost of posting in-depth content. In-depth content is defined as well-researched, subject-matter specific content (aka. cornerstone content) that can increase search rankings, establish your credibility, and help convert readers to paying customers.

To get an idea of the time investment required to create posts, in 2016, Hubspot surveyed over 4,000 marketing experts on how long it took them to write a 500-word blog post. Replies ranged across the board, with over 56% saying it took them between 1 and 3 hours. If we average that and say it takes around 2 hours to write a 500-word post, therefore it should take 6 hours to write a thought-leading, keyword-rich 1,500-word post. Possibly more, if you factor in the time it takes to do some good research and due diligence.

Can you really afford to do that and other business tasks every week? Maybe you can. We don’t quite know.

Compare the 6 hours required to do this versus how many other tasks (that directly affect your bottom line) that you can do in the same timeframe. Where is your time better spent?

The question of whether to outsource or not to outsource is a no-brainer to us, quite frankly. Because outsourcing saves you time, your most precious resource.

And money too; according to a 2015 survey by Kapost, companies ‘waste’ around a BILLION dollars a year because of ineffective and cumbersome content marketing processes! Yes, you heard that right. That’s $1 Billion down the drain! Seriously, how messed up is that?

Conclusion

Content is an effective lead generator and sales driver, but getting it right requires time and focused effort. Not to mention, taking the right decisions at the right time with the right people! Attempting to juggle effective content alongside overseeing your daily business operations, will (most definitely) cause you to stretch yourself thin.

For a fraction of what an in-house writing team would cost, outsourcing allows you professionally written, well-optimized content that your target audience will enjoy reading & possibly engage with. Go forth!

In all honesty, I was surprised to hear that one of my favourite quotes in recent times came from a man who I probably might not have imagined as someone who held a deep understanding of content. Clearly, I was wrong.

In an essay published in January of 1995, Bill Gates declared, “content is king”. Could the tech innovator, business magnate, and international philanthropist really have predicted the degree to which content would reign over the internet more than two decades ago? While he could and he did, content still remains largely misunderstood by many people. Let’s take a closer look at content writing, how it differs from copywriting, and what it can do for you.

 

From Bill Gates to Don Draper

 

People in the industry struggle to understand the difference between copywriting and content writing. I can recall more than a few instances when our clients wanted to hire content writers in-house, but ended up onboarding copywriters instead. While the two roles share similarities, they each serve a unique purpose.

American Writers & Artists Inc. declares the former to be “the process of writing advertising promotional materials. Copywriters are responsible for the text on brochures, billboards, websites, emails, advertisements, catalogs, and more.”

While this definition captures the concept in its most elemental sense, it misses out on explaining what elevates ordinary copywriting from the extraordinary. For a glimpse into this separator, let’s take a minute and turn to the fictional expert himself: Don Draper.

Millions of people tune in every week to watch used car salesman turned brilliant ad man Don Draper lead Sterling Cooper to copywriting supremacy on the hit TV show, “Mad Men.”  Perhaps Don’s words summed up the very best kind of copywriting, along with why he was considered the best around: “But there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”

Draper’s sentiments echo a definition from CopyBlogger, which proclaims that “the art and science of direct-response copywriting involves strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.”

And here lies the bottom line: a copywriter’s goal is to prompt people to take a single action — in many cases, the purchase of a product or service, but also anything from making a phone call to visiting a store. Building relationships and making connections along the way are simply the means to an end. Copywriters by nature must put the desired action first. They must prioritize results as if their jobs depend on it. Because — let’s face it — they do.

Perhaps, copywriting guru Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers puts it best when it comes to expecting results. She writes that not only do “persuasion and conversion go hand-in-hand,” but that “if you’re not persuading visitors — to sign up, to comment, to share, to buy — it’s going to be very hard for you to boost your conversion rate.”

In other words, copywriting is ultimately a numbers game, even if the rhetorical prose tugs on the heartstrings to get where it needs to go.

Content writing, meanwhile, approaches things from a completely different angle. Sales is not the end-game — although when well-executed it can certainly be a by-product. Rather than prompting consumers toward a finite option, content writing is really an act of cultivation intended to attract customers, educate them, enhance understanding, and ultimately add value to their lives. Or to lift a phrase from many an inspirational poster, “It’s not about the destination, but about the journey.”

According to a research report (March, 2014) by the Content Marketing Institute, 82% of marketers cite brand awareness as one of their key content marketing goals — which of course can lead to increased sales. Other top goals of an organisation’s content marketing program include lead generation, thought leadership, website traffic, and customer retention/loyalty.

Content writing often involves going deep into someone’s expertise in a specific domain, and conveying it in the form of a captivating, consumable story. Fast forward to 2015, and a talented content writer is a subject-matter expert who can swiftly invoke the skills of a nimble copywriter and a seasoned journalist into their work.

 

Coca-Cola on Content Marketing

 

Let’s go to a real-life industry leader to learn more about how content marketing works in action: Coca-Cola. This 123-year-old institution leads the pack when it comes to creating content that works. The key? Storytelling that is relevant, consistent and compelling to consumers and media alike.

In a presentation at BlogWell Bay Area, Ashley Callahan, Coke’s Manager of Digital Communications and Social Media then, shared the not-so-secret formula for the company’s content marketing success.

Before rolling out content, content marketers at Coke first ask the following seven questions:

  1.    Does it pass the “Why Should I Care” test?
  2.    Is it surprising?
  3.    Does it offer universal appeal?
  4.    Is it interesting?
  5.    Is it something that hasn’t been seen before?
  6.    Is it differentiable from the competitor’s content?
  7.    Is it able to be monitored and measured in real time?

Here’s a different way of looking at it: Today’s consumers are suspicious of overt sales, but relish the opportunity to expand their knowledge and awareness. Share-worthy content writing, then, boils down to the following: what’s the story, how can it be told, and will it reach the right person? Because if it doesn’t serve a purpose that not only offers a benefit but is also — like a Coke itself — worth sharing with a friend, then it’s missing the whole point.

 

So, Do You Need a Copywriter or Content Writer?

 

If you’re still on the fence about whether you need a copywriter, content writer or both, take a moment to consider your objective. Are you specifically looking for sales conversions? If so, copywriters are the consummate sales professionals. Their tactics involve putting together the right combination of compelling words within a particular context in order to inspire a specific action. They’re a great fit when you have a product or service that’s intrinsically comprehensible, unambiguous, and self-explanatory to your audience.

Alternatively, content writers are not motivated primarily by sales, but instead by the overriding goal of creating long term value, from generating web traffic to building brand reputation. While effective content writing may or may not result in a sale within a specific time frame — nor is it intended to  — it’s the gift that keeps on giving, and can continue to generate revenue for years to come.

Keep in mind that the ‘commercial value’ of your product or service will likely be directly proportional to the length of your ‘conversion cycle’. What I mean by that is, the more expensive your product, the longer it will take for you to convert your prospects. If you think that your pricing may be perceived as even a slight deterrent or that you may need more real-estate to explain your value proposition clearly, taking a more elaborate approach at targeting each stage of a prospect’s purchasing funnel is a prudent step.

The truth is that while skilled copywriting may propel sales, effective content writing leads to lifelong consumers.

More than 20 years ago, Bill Gates went on to say, “Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.” Two decades later, the imperative is stronger than ever before.

While copywriting was, is and will always be part of business practices, if you haven’t incorporated content marketing into your overarching strategy yet, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to grow your consumer relationships, your brand, and your bottom line.

 

Content marketing is back-breaking work. We’ve been doing this for a fairly long time, so believe me when I say this. Behind every blog post, video or whitepaper lies countless hours of careful planning and tireless execution.

Here’s the reality though: many companies out there find it hard to quantify their investment into content marketing, and that’s because they’re not paying enough attention to the subtleties involved in this trade.

If there are a few things that we’ve learned working with all our clients, they are:

  1. Content is not just something you create for the heck of it or because everyone else is doing it. Think it through and then do it well. Or, don’t do it at all.
  2. You have to start by being completely invested into it yourself first, before you expect it to show any returns.
  3. You have to reinforce the belief that you started your content marketing program to add significant value to your audiences.
  4. You have to make a conscious and aggressive effort to rise above the deluge of content that’s already out there.

This post is about helping you understand the overwhelming importance of investing the time to nurture your content, in-house team, and your outsourced partner or partners, as the case may be.

 

Lack of Knowledge = Lack of Power

 

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 40% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers lack a written strategy regarding their content. This means that two out of every five content marketing teams throw content on the web without any defined plan for maximizing its effectiveness. This is in direct contrast to the basic premise of content marketing, which states that content is what drives customers to a brand as they proceed along the purchasing funnel. Every dollar invested into content marketing should clearly help achieve this goal.

Content for content’s sake accomplishes nothing.

All of this is to say that it’s very easy to lose your way when it comes to content marketing. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone involved with your content marketing endeavours are on the same page.

 

Making Time

 

Content

A lot of companies assume that the very act of participating in content marketing guarantees them success. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The many different moving parts of content marketing must all be in the right place. Any chink in the armour means you’ll miss out on conveying vital information, that is key for your audience’s evaluation process. Maybe there’s a broken link in your post. Maybe your landing page isn’t specifically tailored to the content in question. Maybe someone forgot to include a compelling call to action. All of these factors, when left to chance, can completely derail your content marketing campaign.

Success in content marketing requires a top-down focus on crafting great content. After all, if people don’t care about what you’re producing, your efforts are worthless.

Consider the case of Red Bull, a company that markets itself in many different ways. It’s also a company that understands that advertising an energy drink isn’t nearly as important as promoting the Red Bull brand. Among other things, Red Bull creates videos of extreme sports that simply have to be seen. It’s a great formula for generating viral content, and it helps to brand Red Bull as an exciting, risk-taking company.

 

Team

But it isn’t just the creation of these videos that makes Red Bull successful. It also makes the entire organisation a part of its marketing team. Even the lowest-level employees can participate in marketing the brand. The content can’t just come from a copywriter or a video producer. The whole company has to think of content as ‘stories that need to be told’. By giving a voice to the voiceless, Red Bull has set itself up to be on the cutting edge of content generation for years to come.

An important capacity builder for in-house teams is periodical training. A great way to get your team up-to-speed with the latest in content marketing is to get them enrolled into a reputable online course or certification program. Hubspot Academy’s Inbound Certification is a widely known program. So are CMI’s Online Training and Certification program, Copyblogger’s Authority, Google’s Analytics Academy, and Marketing Profs’ Content Marketing Crash Course among others.

Many forward-thinking organisations, both large and small, who’re aiming to become publishers have a dedicated content team in-house. Although this is subject to Finance and HR mandates, designating at least one person on the team who can lead the company’s content strategy and act as a liaison between interdisciplinary teams within the company and the external partners would be a prudent step to take.

 

Partners

Like most international companies, Red Bull relies on a variety of partners to facilitate its content marketing. Red Bull has its own dedicated content website, Red Bull Media House, curated by experts in their respective fields. Additionally, Red Bull is involved with content of all kinds, editorial as well as interactive, covering bike races to sports teams to music festivals. By embracing a wide variety of contributors and activities that have a similar underlying theme, Red Bull can take its message forward while staying true to its principles. It’s a testament to the power of identifying key partners and building long-term relationships.

Partners come in all shapes and sizes. Not to mention, competencies and personalities. While larger agencies prefer working with larger brands and larger budgets — on the other hand, boutiques and independent writers prefer working with interesting people and challenging projects, regardless of the size of the client.

Large agencies will likely be able to execute a project across several countries and localise your content effectively under stringent deadlines. Boutiques & freelance writers will be to spend a lot of time with you and your team to understand the problem statement intrinsically and take an avant-garde, hands-on (read: roll up the sleeves!) approach to executing it.

There are distinct advantages to having each kind of partner on your roster. What matters most is being able to identify the right partner for your specific needs, and then allowing them to take on an advisor’s role in your business, by trusting them with key decisions related to making you truly successful.

 

Getting on the Same Page

 

According to Curata, more than 70% of marketing professionals surveyed planned to increase their content marketing spending in 2014. On the surface, this is a good thing. But it’s not a good thing when neither a specific direction nor a curated environment for that increased expenditure is provided.

This can be particularly difficult for those further down in the chain. Directors and Managers may feel a need to produce “more”, but more of what? This can lead to unfocused, irrelevant content that does more harm than good.

David Fallarme from ReferralCandy advocates the use of the Hedgehog Concept, which zeroes in on creating content in line with a company’s specific niche (aka. the sweet spot!). It combines the company’s passions with their skills and their revenue drivers. Using this allows a company to really drill down on what works for them; more importantly, it enables them to become immune to competition.

The Hedgehog Concept is just one way for an organisation to find out how it should focus its content marketing efforts. However, without a top-down understanding of what the company really wants to accomplish with its content marketing, any additional spending on content is a futile endeavour.

As your company’s marketing visionary, it’s your job to let everyone involved in the content marketing process – internal teams, outside agencies, freelancers, etc. – know exactly where your organisation wants to go with content marketing. If it’s a priority for you, it should be a priority for them.

By making the time to go in-depth with your associates, you’ll create a culture that emphasizes quality and consistency. You’ll also ensure that all of the supporting factors that go into conversions, such as forms and calls to action, do what they’re designed to do.

With this framework established, and with your undivided attention, you’ll get the most out of your content marketing, and you’ll finally be able to pin down that elusive ROI number.

Let me start by wishing you a very happy and successful New Year 2015! It is indeed the time for sharing, building, and helping people who matter to you the most.

And the people who matter to us are our dear families, our close friends, and of course, our fabulous clients.

2014 has been a great year for BUZZVALVE. To start with, our revenues have grown by over 100% and our client base has nearly doubled since the last year (2013–14). Thanks to all the good karma shown by our dear friends in the startup & corporate fraternity, as well as the media — our cost of customer acquisition is at a record low, noting that 7 out of every 10 new business relationships were driven purely through word-of-mouth/referrals. Quite honestly, we couldn’t have done it without your help, support, and generosity.

We had the opportunity to work with some unbelievably nice people on the most amazing projects.

From a boutique honey brand to a global pharmaceutical company, from a men’s fashion startup to a major industrial manufacturing conglomerate, and quite a few in-between — the past year has been nothing short of sheer awesome-ness. If there’s one thing that comes to mind today, it’s this:

Let’s do it again!


We started the year uncertain of where we were heading. In hindsight, I think we have always been a little anxious about our growth rate ever since we started the business back in 2010, because we have had to iterate and tweak our business model quite a few times to make sure that we hit our “sweet spot”.

The elusive “sweet spot”. Took us a while!

The elusive “sweet spot”. Took us a while!

Some companies hit it early. Some hit it late. And then some, who never hit it. I’m just glad we did and validated the point of being in business for a long time to come. There were times when we grew too fast, too quick — and had to hit the brakes.

I could confidently say that it has taken us nearly 4 years to find a good service-market fit. Now that we seem to have found it, all those weeks of turbulence may not have been a bad thing after all considering we learned a lot along the way ☺

People who believed in us embraced this uncertainty and encouraged us to keep moving forward, especially when we were not sure of many things about our own selves. It takes a lot to be able to do that for someone else. That trust is something that we have valued most dearly. Thank you so much for believing in us!

By no means does this mean that we have “arrived”. Far from it, actually. But is that even a thing? We want to work doubly hard this year and keep doing what we do best. We’d like to “crush it”.

Waiting. The train hasn’t “arrived” yet.

 

Nothing gives us greater pleasure than working with amazing companies, large and small, and managing their content marketing programs. By creating, distributing, promoting, and converting their content with a data-driven focus, we want to help our clients attract more customers, generate more revenue, enter newer markets, create more thought leadership, and build more brand recall for them this year!

To achieve our goal, we will be adding a lot of structure and process to a significant part of our business and how we go about conducting it. But not in a way where we cease to become a human-centric entity or anything that takes away our biggest value proposition to you. The industry has a jargon for it: ‘productised services’. I believe there couldn’t have been a better time for us to take this call and move in that direction.

What I can tell you definitively today is that we are going to be listening to you very closely and building this out based on what we have already learned from working with you. The road ahead is challenging, but exhilarating. So, here’s a toast to 2015.

I’m taking the liberty to tell you that you’ll love us even more than you do today.

FYI: We’re hiring top-notch writers and editors across every specialisation, function, vertical or industry you can possibly think of! Location isn’t a big deal. Join us and you’ll live on to tell a grand story. Drop me a note at rohan@buzzvalve.com and we’ll get the conversation started…

Mahalo & god speed!

Manifesto |manɪˈfɛstəʊ|

noun ( pl. manifestos )

a public declaration of policy and aims.

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Italian, from manifestare, from Latin, ‘make public’, from manifestus ‘obvious’.

Courtesy (i.e. lovingly stolen from): Dictionary, by Apple Inc. 


For starters, let’s talk about what we don’t believe in.

We don’t believe in meaningless chaos. We don’t believe in pretence. And, we definitely don’t believe in losing.

So, while other agencies and consulting firms are busy polishing their mission and vision statements, we wanted to make this simple manifesto about what we do believe in.

We believe in delivering real value, beyond any and all expectations that our stakeholders set.

We believe in being honest and transparent about our work and the way we go about doing it.

We believe in growing, both as human beings and as a business.

It’s pretty simple, really. We want to make the web a better place for everyone – consumers and brands alike. And, we want to do that using meaningful content. Because we truly and inherently believe that content can never stop disrupting itself.

It’s a scary proposition; betting this high on ‘content’ – we know. But then, we look at what people and companies have achieved with content in the past – how we are contributing today by adding more spokes to the wheel – and it paints a clear picture of what lies ahead. Believe us, it looks remarkable and game changing.

While we’re talking about this, the lines between technology, content and people are blurring. It’s getting harder to tell the difference between ‘what once was’ and ‘what currently is’. That very cusp of convergence – between paid, owned and earned media – has spawned an entire industry, today.

Join us. You’ll live to tell your grandkids about quite a story! That’s a promise.

 

In our 3 years as an emerging business, we have designed community websites, Facebook apps, social intranets and pretty much everything in-between. To be honest, not every element we design is created from scratch each time.

Ideally, they don’t need to be either.

Our designers invest a significant amount of time researching what works best for our clients, and once epiphany strikes, well… then there’s no holding them back. Usually, that time is directly invested in designing what we call as the ‘Most Unique Proposition’ (or, MUP for short) of the project. In other words, what is it that differentiates our work for one client from what we may have done for another client, or for that matter, different from what the client’s competitors may have executed already. And believe it or not, the process of identifying the MUP for each project is a very time-consuming affair. So, our boutique team of visual designers & project managers pride themselves in having an eye for that kind of an effort.

Every visual design project that we take on is a mix of identifying the MUP along with customising a set ‘constant elements’ to suit the requirements of the project. Now, constant elements are nothing but UI blocks that you would find commonly across most projects in the same genre on the internet.

For example, if you were re-designing a corporate website, you are bound to see similar looking buttons, icons, fonts, background textures, navigation menus, and even vector illustrations across other corporate websites on the web. By using constant elements across projects, designers are not copying/stealing/re-using anything. They are just saving precious time by not re-inventing the wheel again. In effect, constant elements are customised to the project in question and not designed from the ground up, saving heaps of time.

It’s a practice that is religiously followed by experienced and efficient designers all over the world. If your designers aren’t doing it – maybe they should be.

The ratio of the MUP against constant elements, depending on project specifications, can be as high as 50-50 sometimes. Although, visually speaking, the project output looks fresh and unique each time. Given their many years of experience, our designers know where and how to strike a good balance, and demonstrate fine craftsmanship.

There are many sites out there offering constant elements in the form of free PSD’s, vector graphics and UI kits to give time crunched designers a helping hand. Here’s a curated list of the top 3 ones that get our vote.

 

1. PSDDD – Beautiful Dribbble Freebies For The Creative Professional.

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Psddd is a hot stove, somewhere between heaven and Dribbble. For those who are not familiar with Dribbble, they are by far the most exclusive think tank for the crème de la crème of creative talent across the world. This think tank is full of people who, from time to time, are benevolent enough to post their high-quality design elements as ‘freebies’ for the community to use. Elements are selected manually and fetched via the powerful Dribbble API.

 

2. PREMIUM PIXELS – Free Stuff For Creative Folk.

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Premium Pixels is a destination well-known among passionate designers for its collection of design elements that are created and curated by eclectic web designer Orman Clark. All elements are offered free of charge with very little restriction. Premium Pixels is renowned for its stringent quality standards and only those UI elements that are a ‘cut-above-the-rest’ make it to its sought after list.

 

3. CREATIVE MARKET – Handcrafted Fonts, Graphics, Themes and More.

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Creative Market is a marketplace for handcrafted, mousemade design content from around the world, and popular among those who are passionate about making beautiful design simple and accessible to everyone. The site carries almost every conceivable UI element including Photoshop brushes and WordPress themes. Creative Market is also the only paid online resource among the three sites in this post, where digital design goods are sold by independent creative professionals to use in personal as well as commercial projects.

Are there other online resources you frequently visit and trust? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Photo credits: © Eldkvast

In really simple terms, an online community is a destination on the ‘world wide web’ where people like us tend to hang out and spend a lot of time doing things of interest.

Does that make a Facebook brand page, an online community? Well, no! A Facebook brand page, or for that matter a Twitter brand account, is more like a ‘pit stop’ as opposed to a ‘destination’. People spend endless hours on Facebook, and brand pages get only a tiny fraction of that time. “Fans”, as Facebook would call it, come and go. A vast majority of people come on Facebook to be recognised (read: notifications!), stalk their friends’ wall, admire their own timelines, announce & sell things, compete on games and let’s not forget… spam like hell!

Does that make Facebook.com an online community? Yes, it does. And a very large online community at that. Didn’t someone place it at being the 3rd “most populous country” (if it were one in-fact)? That someone was right. But, for brands, Facebook comes with heavy constraints. For instance, could a brand (if they wanted) create an activity feed of their fans? Could they create document storage for fans? Could they create mood messages of fans for other fans to see?

Believe it or not, Facebook brand pages were created with only 2 objectives in mind:

  1. As a brand, how do we speak to our fans and how could we get them to speak to us?
  2. As a brand, how do we create widespread awareness and get more people to become fans and join our page?

Some marketers take the route of ‘intellectual ignorance’ in saying that the number of fans on a page does not matter to them. That may be true, but it defeats the fundamental premise of creating a brand page to begin with. I would invite those marketers to embrace an ‘online community’ instead, where the big idea is to create passionate users, grow loyalty and increase advocacy — perhaps even hint at cultivating a sense of brand fanaticism.

Think about it — every action that a fan takes on a brand’s Facebook status update or app is visible to only those people in his/her network (maybe everyone or maybe no one). What about those fans who are already on the page? What do they get to see, or are even motivated enough to see? Chances are — nothing. As a Facebook user, when you’re approaching a “popular” status update to comment on it, you proceed knowing the content of the status update and not knowing much (if anything at all) about what others have commented about. Unless you’re a patient person, you are not going to “un-roll” those 800+ comments to see what others have said about this topic of common interest.

Bottom line?

Facebook makes it easy for you & me to interact with our friends & family, but makes it very hard for page fans to interact with other fans.

An online community is all about bonding between members of that community, which manifests into a whole lot of good things, more importantly into a win-win relationship between brands and community members. Here, members win because of the honest recommendation from other members about the brand, and brands win because they get a customer for life. Let’s talk about what I mean by “good things” for a second — sales enablement, talent acquisition, product marketing, customer support, workforce collaboration and much, much more.

By now, you should be wondering what an online community looks like and how would it impact your brand. I’ll demonstrate that in my next post. As a progressive brand marketer, if this doesn’t get you salivating, you are best sticking to Facebook brand pages and loosing the ‘progressive’ tag. Cheers!

 

Photo credits: © luc legay