Brand touch - finger reaching out to keyboardGood content marketing should make your ideal customers want to take a step closer to your brand. Your website, blog posts, social media activity, and ads should all act like a magnet, attracting prospective customers to take that one more step closer to your business. People are bombarded with information, so it can take time for them to decide to buy from you. Just seeing your branding and online activity helps build awareness of your business. By using what I call “dynamic touches” you can bring them even closer.

(Note: This post was inspired a weekly chat help by BufferApp.com (@Buffer) on Twitter. The specific chat was November 12, 2014 with guest Atomic Reach @Atomic_Reach. See the recap (below) of that interactive Twitter chat via Storify, created by @NMillerBooks*.

Your online activities should draw in potential clients and inspire them to take some action – take a step closer to your brand:

  • Follow (Twitter), friend or like (Facebook), connect (LinkedIn) and/or Circle (Google+) your business

  • Bookmark a post, or mark a social post as a favorite; read a second blog post or view another page on your website sign up for your newsletter and/or blog feed

  • Retweet (Twitter), like and or share (Facebook & LinkedIn) or pin a post (Pinterest)

  • Comment on a blog post or reply to a social media post

  • Download a white paper or view a video (or comment on a video)

  • Ask for help via phone, email or social site

  • Give a testimonial or share their interest in/love of your product via WOM (Word-of-Mouth) or a social site

  • Click an ad to see your offering

  • Click a link or…

  • Even make a call, email an inquiry, sign up for a webinar or buy something

Each of these possible actions a client or customer makes brings them a step closer to your business.

The Seven to Thirteen Brand Touches Rule of Thumb

There is a rule of thumb in marketing and PR, that it can take from one (for an impulse-buy) up to three, five or seven (some say 13) “touches” or contacts with your brand or business before someone buys; it depends. Social media and blogging make those passive views and basic brand touches more likely, and can lead to what I am calling a “dynamic brand touch” – one where an interaction occurs. These dynamic interactions can be an opportunity for your brand to build trust and connection with potential and existing customers…which should bring them yet another step closer to your brand.** And if the interactions are quality – not just an add, the ratio should be higher. Especially if you can take that next step and interact back with them. That’s something you couldn’t do with an old-style ad.

Brand Touches can Lead to Client and Customer Conversions

What’s a conversion? That’s marketing-speak for a purchase or an interaction with your business. Different people define it in different ways. Of course, the ultimate “conversion” is when  you convert a prospect into a buying customer, or an existing customer or client into a repeat buyer of your product or service. But before they buy, you need to lay a foundation or create a pathway that makes it easy for them to like and begin to trust your brand.

Online Marketing Diagram Showing Blogs Websites Social Media And Email Lists

How do you Lay the Groundwork for Converting a Brand touch into a Customer?

  • Content Marketing = knowing your audience’s needs, interests, pain points  and what gives them joy & then serving them content on your site & where they hang out online (and off)

  • Content marketing is website, blog, social media writing that attracts your ideal clients like a magnet & earns trust

  • Engagement happens when you serve up quality content that entices your audience to interact; take a step closer 2 your brand

  • Quality, targeted content builds trust and entices your prospects/customers to take a step closer to your brand & interact

  • Engagement back with your audience creates a fertile environment upon which a relationship can grow. Content are the seeds, interactions the sun and rain.

  • Be careful of making assumptions – my customers aren’t on XYZ site – do your research

  • Survey existing customers, call them ask for their input, what do they want to hear? where do they spend time or “hang out” online; also, know their demographics too.

  • Metrics depend on goals for specific content. Ultimately sales, but it can take many brand “touches” before a sale is made

  • Calls to action – Targeted, interesting, clear visuals increase engagement on most sites if not used too often

  • Non-yes/no questions, something that provokes thought, “Share your tips on how you solve this problem” are better

  • CTA’s (more marketing speak – Click Through Actions) that Build community – like @Buffer is doing in their weekly #bufferchat

  • Obviously Quality wins over quantity, but consistency…being there when your customers are is also important – it is all about Balance

So when planning your social media and blogging activity – Get to know your audience or customers. Plan for items that will help people take a step closer to your brand. If you think more about what’s in it for them, than what’s in it for you…what’s in it for you might just follow.

*Here is a recap of this Twitter chat event about creating engaging content – https://storify.com/BufferNicole/bufferchat-11-12-14-atomic-reach-creating-engagin)

**FYI – this article tried to find the root and validity of the rule of 7 – 7 times exposure needed to an ad before most people buy – lots of circumstantial evidence, but no solid evidence. http://successfulsoftware.net/2010/06/03/do-customers-need-to-see-an-advertisement-seven-times/ Just in case you wanted to know.

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My answer to most is yes, for most businesses, it pays to craft a blogging strategy and stick with it. Many clients groan, but we find a way to work it into their content plan and it usually pays off. According to Hubspot – business websites with active blogs receive 55% more traffic and 70% more conversions (defined as purchases, sign ups, downloads, customer interactions). Those are compelling numbers.

How to Create a Small Business Blog that Works for you AND your Customers

First determine your resources.

  • Are you comfortable writing?

  • Is there someone on your team who is a comfortable writing?

  • Can you outsource it, then revise what is written for you to make it more personal/work for your customers?

Once you have decided. Then look at who your customers are, and what are the main 3-5 topics they are interested in. People don’t want to hear about your new staff member or new tweak of a product, at least not most customers, or not that often. Your goal is to provide useful information about the topics related to your business that are of interest your customers. Once you have built that – then you can add in a few  company-driven posts. Example my customers want to know about social media (tips, new trends, how to, new tools), blogging, websites, small business and email marketing. I covered all of those, but I’ve never really focused on email marketing…hhhmmmm another post idea. Then create and editorial calendar and slot blog posts that cover those topics into your calendar. I admit, even I don’t blog as often as I should, my excuse…I’m helping clients set up and promote their own blogs.

How Often Should a Small Business Post Blog Posts?

Once a week is ideal for most sites. Once a month should be the minimum. Some other sites, especially sales-oriented sites – selling affiliate products or surviving on ad revenue – there is evidence that blogging multiple times a week, or even several times a day drives both more traffic and more sales. Although that is not practical for many businesses, and not necessary for most. A book seller could interview authors, talk about new books out on the market, an insider’s view of attending a big insiders book event, talk about a favorite book, interview customers etc. Think about answering the questions you hear often from customers.

A Real-world Example of how Small Business Blogging Can Work

A potential client contacted me about help with his website. He and his wife were tired of doing it themselves and wanted someone else to handle their updates and site tweaks, so that he could concentrate on blogging. The surprise was he’s a contractor…not the type of business you think of when you think of a blog. He said, “I’ve got to get this site cleaned up. I am a contractor – I fix anything in your house… and I get business leads every week from my blog.” He looks at the questions he gets daily from customers, then turns them around into blog posts.

I get clients all the time from my blog. I pride myself in being able to break technical info down into easy to understand concepts that makes it easy for non-tech types to “get it.” I say on my site that while I speak “geek” I talk or translate into plain English. I often get new clients who comment on how the liked the easy to understand blog posts, and that’s a part of why they contacted me.

Why Does Small Business Blogging Work?

blogging search engines smBlogging can be an effective way to drive traffic to your small business website. If you write clear headlines that include a few selected keywords (words your customers might search for) and is catchy (a tough balancing act), and back it up with good writing in the post – search engines will serve it up as the answer to customer search queries – i.e. – it will show up on Google or Bing. Blog posts work well over time. You can have a blog post from 3 years ago bring someone to your site today. Posts also give you something to post to your social networks that showcases what your business is about, and how you give them helpful info, without directly promoting your business, but when they click to read the post, they are presented with your website and blog and all of your business info. They can hopefully sign up to get your blog in their inbox (what’s called an RSS feed), sign up for your enewsletter, or call you with a  question or buy your product or service.

One last business blogging  tip: if you can – launch your blog with 3-5 posts rather than just 1. Give prospects info to read once you get them to your site. Give them a reason to hang around. Posts don’t have to be long 400 – 800 words  - 600 is ideal, and an occasional longer or shorter post works too. Get it on your calendar and your blog will work for you while you are doing other things.

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Now that spring has almost sprung (although it’s April, parts of Pennsylvania just got a bit of snow, and the west received a lot more) I thought this would be my last opportunity to share by guest blog post from SmallBusinessTrends.com. You see, it was inspired by this winter where Philadelphia (where I live) got more snow than Boston – it’s usually the other way around. My Post: What I Learned About Small Business While Shoveling Snow – click the title to check it out. I took the photo of my trash can after about 8″ of snow was piled on top.

8 plus inches of snow on trashcan

I talk about stepping back from issues that arise in your small business and assessing them before diving in. Asking yourself if you should outsource something, or tackle it in-house. I talk about breaking projects into sections to make it psychologically easier to tackle and more – check it out. And if you are not aware of @SmallBizTrends – their site, and their Twitter account, are great resources for any business.  Has life taught you a lesson that you can apply to your business? if so let me know in the comments.

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Frustrated Website Customer - hubspot stock photoSigns and signage can set the tone for an interaction between a potential customer and a business, both offline AND online. Storefront signs are a essential for bricks and mortar businesses. Sometimes those created by a business are useful, other times useless. But what people don’t think enough about are the online applications of the equivalent of good signage. Daniel Pink’s concept of “Emotionally Intelligent” signs even works on websites too. [click to continue…]

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