How to Land New Leads with Content Marketing

The term content marketing has been thrown around for a while now in the business world, and it’s becoming increasingly popular as a lead generation mechanism. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of business-to-consumer marketers plan to employ content marketing in 2014.
But what exactly is content marketing, and how can you use it to generate leads for your small business? This article will address both questions.

What Is Content Marketing?

In short, content marketing encompasses any marketing method that involves creating and sharing content in order to acquire new customers.

What’s the Purpose of Content Marketing?

Rather than selling a specific product or service, content marketing is focused on providing valuable information to readers. The goal is to inspire interest and brand loyalty among online readers who will then become more likely to turn into revenue-generating customers for your business.

What Kinds of Content Can Work for My Business?

The great thing about content marketing is that it can take many forms. You’ll need to consider what makes sense for your business in terms of your industry, personal interests, and staff bandwidth as you put together a content plan. Here are a few types of content you can use to generate leads:

  • Blog Posts: Hosting a blog for your business is an easy way to share valuable advice or entertaining content with prospective leads.
  • Social Media Posts: Social channels allow you to share news, information, and other engaging content with both current customers and potential leads.
  • Videos & Photos: Share quick insights, show behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business, and spotlight happy customers with visual content.
  • How-to Guides, Whitepapers and eBooks: More in-depth publications such as how-to guides, whitepapers, and eBooks can provide real value to consumers and generate concrete leads you can follow up with about your products or services.
  • Tips and Comments: Providing tips on forums or commenting on review sites with helpful information can also generate leads if you link back to your business website.

When Should I “Gate” Content?

Marketers often talk about “gating” premium content. “Gating” simply means requiring a user to submit contact information (name, phone number, email) in order to access a particular asset.

Generally, more in-depth pieces of content such as how-to guides, whitepapers, and eBooks are the kinds of items marketers will “gate.” Requiring contact information from viewers will, by necessity, turn some people away. Keep in mind that whatever kind of content you offer has to be worth a reader “paying” for it with their information.

The Bottom Line

Content marketing can take many forms, depending on your audience and industry. Developing and publishing great content will take time and effort, but the effort will be worthwhile when you start landing new leads—and converting those leads into customers.

[News] Netgear and Facebook to Provide WiFi for SMBs

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Technology News] Netgear and Facebook Partner to Provide Wi-Fi for Small Businesses

News Source: AllFacebook

Global networking company Netgear announced at this week’s CES in Las Vegas that it’s teaming up with Facebook to provide Wi-Fi to small businesses. The Facebook Wi-Fi service will be available free-of-charge to users of the social network who check in on those businesses’ Facebook Pages.

Small business owners who own select Netgear routers can turn them into Wi-Fi hotspots. When customers select the network, they’re prompted to check in to the business’s Facebook Page before they’re taken to their web browser. Customers will also be prompted to Like the business’s Page as part of the login process.

Key Takeaway: Netgear and Facebook’s offer can benefit small businesses in two ways: (1) by providing free WiFi for patrons without requiring a new investment in equipment by business owners, and (2) by encouraging check-ins and likes on a business’s Facebook Page. This functionality seems like a win for both customers and businesses who already own the Netgear routers in question.

[Social Media News] Pinterest Acquires Visual Search Startup

News Source: Entrepreneur

This week, Pinterest purchased VisualGraph, a startup working in the visual search and image recognition software space. The acquisition was motivated by a desire to better understand what users are Pinning and how they can better serve up related content.

Key Takeaways: Down the line, Pinterest may use this new search software to show more targeted Related Pins, improve search results, and develop other kinds of Pins that may be very useful to small businesses who are promoting their products and services on Pinterest. It’ll be interesting to see what Pinterest does with VisualGraph’s technology over the coming months.

[Technology News] CES Suppliers Show a Glimpse Into the Future of Professional Kitchens

News Source: Mashable

Also at this week’s CES, Whirlpool showcased a new interactive cooktop concept that incorporates hands-free devices and touchscreens. The computer component can be activated via touch or voice, and gives users the ability to perform web searches, social networking, and other online tasks. The concept is still in a prototype phase for now.

Whirlpool also debuted a smart refrigerator that streams music from any Bluetooth-enabled device. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but the product will be on the market soon.

Key Takeaway: Technology is becoming even more integrated with our daily lives, including in the household. It won’t be long before smart kitchen appliances and devices are commonly used in both professional kitchens and private homes. How small businesses will react to integrating technology in the kitchen on such a broad scale remains to be seen.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

Lead Generation for a New Generation

As a small business owner, you know that the two primary ways to grow your business are to retain customers longer and to generate new business by converting leads.
Digital marketing has made it much easier to identify and track leads as they interact with you online. It has also opened doors to a variety of new channels by which you can communicate with potential customers.

But what exactly are these channels, and how you can take advantage of them fully to connect with interested consumers online? Here are 5 things you can do to generate new leads for your small business:

1. Optimize Your Business Website

There are two primary ways you can improve lead generation on your business’s website: make it easier to find your site online, and make it easier for consumers to contact you from your site.

The first step requires SEO, or search engine optimization. This involves making sure that your website content includes keywords that users will be searching for when they look for a business like yours online. These keywords can be incorporated into the text of your website, your company blog, or specific landing pages you create for marketing campaigns.

The second step requires optimizing your contact page so that leads can reach you without a hassle. Make sure your phone number, store hours, and email address are easy to find. A direct contact form on your site can also help streamline the communication process for consumers.

2. Produce and Distribute Free Content

As we discussed in December, content marketing will be one of the major small business trends in 2014. In terms of lead generation, content can include open-access pieces such as blog posts and social media, as well as longer pieces of content such as eBooks, whitepapers, and how-to guides that can be downloaded only after a user enters their contact information.

This latter type of lead generation is valuable because you’re able to get more information from the customer to promote future communications. If a user is willing to fill out a form to download a content piece, they’re also more likely more interested in your product or service than a casual reader of your social channels or blog.

3. Update Your Local Listings

If you don’t host your own business website—or even if you do—having up to date, detailed local listings on search engines, review sites, and mobile apps is extremely important for generating new leads. The more information you provide to users, especially rich content like menus, product and service lists, photos, and announcements, will increase your chances of converting leads on these sites into paying customers. SinglePlatform can help you manage and enhance your local listings without the headache of manually updating your information on multiple sites.

4. Actively Manage Online Reviews

Keeping up with your online reviews is an essential factor in generating new leads. A Search Engine Land survey revealed that 72% of respondents trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 52% are swayed by positive online reviews.

However, no business will ever receive great feedback from 100% of its customers. That’s why it’s important for you to actively monitor your online reviews so that you can respond to any negative feedback appropriately. Not only will your participation improve customer retention and inform improvements for your business, but it will also make a positive impact on lead generation as well.

5. Share Referrals and Testimonials

As with online reviews, customer referrals and testimonials are a great way to generate new leads. Employing the power of word-of-mouth marketing by encouraging your customers to share with others—and by sharing your customers’ stories directly with your audience—can help you drum up new business with relatively little effort.

The Bottom Line

These 5 lead generation techniques will get you started, but there are a variety of others you can employ as well. Consider which strategies will be most effective for your type of business, who will manage implementing them, and how much time and money you’ll need to invest before adjusting your lead generation plan.

[Study] Small Business Resolutions Focus on Revenue and Efficiency

New year’s resolutions aren’t just for personal goals. A new study from Constant Contact revealed that 53% of small business owners make professional resolutions annually, and 23% make them every few years. Of those who’ve made resolutions before, 33% succeeded in fully keeping them, while 65% said they were somewhat successful in keeping them.
Survey participants shared that their top business resolutions for 2014 are focused on growth, efficiency, and customer outreach and service. The breakdown of responses was as follows:

  • 26 percent: Growing annual revenue
  • 18 percent: Running my business more efficiently
  • 16 percent: Getting more customers/clients
  • 10 percent: Creating better planning
  • 10 percent: Trying different marketing tactics, like mobile marketing
  • 8 percent: Creating a better customer/client experience

Additionaly, when asked how their resolutions would differ if money were no object, small business owners said that they would focus on hiring / training more staff members and spending more on overall marketing and advertising campaigns to boost awareness.

Past resolutions that small business owners have kept from previous years include:

  • Spending more time on content marketing
  • Investing more in team building
  • Making better assessments of business needs

For additional survey results, visit the Constant Contact Newsroom to read the full press release.

2013 in Review: Small Business News

2013 saw many changes on the small business front, and 2014 is poised for even more rapid change. Here’s a look back at some of the major news from the past year covered on the SinglePlatform blog.

Restaurant Tech News

In 2013, restaurant technology advanced most notably on the payment processing and reservation/POS fronts. Industry front-runners such as Square and OpenTable made product improvements, and big dog Apple entered the arena with a reservation system patent request. It’ll be interesting to see whether specialized companies remain on top in 2014, or if giants such as Apple change the game in the coming months.

Social Media News

For seasoned social media networks, the news in 2013 centered around improvements and new features. Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest all introduced new functionality and updates. Last year also confirmed that the SoLoMo (social local mobile) movement is still going strong as neighborhood network Nextdoor received another major round of funding.

Retail News

As the economy began to bounce back in 2013, retail sectors saw more activity. In terms of technology, Apple led the way with highly targeted in-store recommendations; several other companies also introduced location-based recommendations in a variety of formats.

Advertising News

Social reigned supreme in terms of new advertising formats in 2014. Foursquare, Google, and Twitter all launched new ad types, giving users the ability to better target users and provide content in a more engaging format than traditional banner ads.

Local Search News

There was much more local search news in 2013 than was covered on this blog, but two big highlights made our list: Google’s new customer data map feature, and the launch of start-up Openbay.

  • Google Introduces Maps Engine Pro to Help Small Businesses Visualize Customer Data
  • Meet Openbay, the New OpenTable for Auto Repairs

Franchise Sector News

In 2013, franchises saw greater job growth than the overall private sector, and they’re projected to see even more success in 2014 as consumers’ economic confidence returns.