Your Content Focus: Narrow vs Wide

February 19, 2013

After getting your first content marketing pieces out there, the question usually revolves around “what’s next?”. Startups who are strapped for cash and resources want to know if they should go wide, trying to reach more industries or segments, or if they should narrow their focus and create additional content materials to go deeper into the segment they have already started to work with. In established companies the question is similar, but it often is a question of where to focus their resources to get the best results.

When asked about the narrow vs wide focus in content marketing, my first question is always “what is your goal?”. Do you want to generate leads to the top of the funnel or do you need to close deals that are being worked on right now? Do you need to test whether your message is on target (based on your buyer personas) or do you need to get prospects through the marketing funnel and further qualify them?

These are simple, but important questions. I’ve seen lengthy discussions arise because the marketing team is not in sync. Some want to go after additional industries so that the message can be spread out and the company name (or product) can become known elsewhere. Others don’t want to “abandon” leads they have already generated and argue for more nurturing campaigns with content that will guide those leads down to eventually close a sale.

So how do you solve this? I believe it is a matter of understanding a few important things before making a decision, such as:

  1. How long is your sales cycle?
  2. Who are the decision makers and all the personas involved?
  3. What content has already been created?
  4. Which content pieces were successful in the past and why?
  5. What is the profile of your ideal customer?

Number 5, although the last one, is typically the first thing your company should know. This sounds obvious but for startups it might take them a while until they figure out who exactly is their ideal customer, which can change from the day they set out to actually sell the product until they close their first few deals.

If you have a relatively short sales cycle, then developing content focused on driving leads down the marketing funnel to help close deals might be the best bet. If, on the other hand, you don’t expect deals to close within the next 6 months, then you can afford to verge off track for a bit and create content for other industries/personas/segments and come back later with additional content for existing leads.

Whatever your decision, make sure you understand what and why you are doing it and have some metrics in place to tell you what is working and why.

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How to Maintain Great Content Curation

June 19, 2012

A guest post by Lior Levin.

Content CurationOn the surface, content curation sounds like a great way to generate content with little to no time or effort. After all, you don’t actually have to write much new content, just find interesting items on the Web and point others to them, becoming a hub for all that’s relevant to your field.

However, doing content curation well means a lot more than just plastering your site with a bunch of synopses and links. Doing content curation right takes a lot of time and requires almost as much investment as creating original content.

Doing content curation poorly, though easy and quick, is often seen as spam and is likely to raise copyright and plagiarism issues for you. On the other hand, proper content curation can be a powerful tool for both building your site and driving traffic to it. In fact, in the best possible cases, it can make you an indispensable part of your niche’s ecosystem.

So how do you curate content in a way that both attracts visitors and makes you a hero to your peers? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Participate in Your Community

If you want respect from your community, you need to do more than simply share their links. You need to create at least some original content and, equally importantly, connect with and interact with those around you.

Instead of just linking to a post, take the time to comment on it as well. Interact with other webmasters on social media and encourage them to send you interesting links. The more you contribute and interact with the community, the more they will respect and embrace you. That embracing not only makes the environment less hostile, but it also opens up new opportunities for cooperation that can make your offerings truly unique.

2. Be Careful How You Aggregate

Be careful about what you use and how you use it. Remember that the works you’re referencing are copyrighted and other webmasters, if they feel they are being infringed, may come after you.

Use only what you need, short snippets of text (usually under 50 words), headlines and links should be more than enough. If you find yourself writing a 400-word summary of a 500-word article, you likely need to rethink your approach.

Also, always attribute everything you use. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it keeps you from making enemies needlessly.

3. Don’t Automate

When you have a site or service that seems perfectly relevant to your topic, it might be tempting to grab everything that it posts by RSS or another automated tool.

Don’t do it.

The benefit a curator brings to a niche is human involvement. If you’re not selecting the best posts to share, you miss out on adding value to your readers or community. Anyone can subscribe to a site via RSS, and no site is going to be 100% relevant.

In short, automatically shooting out everything that a site or a group of sites puts out is not only very spammy, but it is of no benefit to the reader or the community.

4. Be Where the Audience Is

While this is great advice for any site, it is even more true for curated content as curation is about convenience. You don’t want to make your readers work for your content so it’s important to be where they are.

Have an audience that spends a lot of time on Reddit? Be on Reddit. Are they active on Facebook? Be on Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of multiple platforms as the time needed to add a Tumblr or a Twitter is fairly minor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ditch services that aren’t working out for you.

5. Create Expectations and Meet Them

Very quickly, answer these questions for your readers:

  1. What are you going to post?
  2. How much are you going to post?
  3. And When are you going to post it?

Readers need this information so they know what to expect from your curation and know if they want to subscribe. Create a plan and stick to it.

Whether you want to curate ten links weekly about whales or five articles a day about modern medicine, tell your readers what to expect and deliver reliably.

In the end, great curation is a lot of work, but it’s that work that adds value to the reader and the community. Bad curation is, at best, mere spam and at worst copyright infringing.

As a curator, you can’t afford to be a parasite as you need a healthy, welcoming community for your efforts to thrive.

So don’t look for shortcuts with your curation efforts and, instead, focus on providing the best value you can, especially over the long haul. Your community, your readers and even the people you link to will all thank you and reward you for it.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that offers a variety of custom neon signs for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that specializes in a to do list app.


How to Build a Content Development Plan for Your Site

March 13, 2012

Note: this is another great guest post by Brad Shorr. See his bio at the end.

Have you ever visited a website that looked like a teenager’s bedroom – content strewn about everywhere, overflowing with information yet impossible to find what you’re looking for? This often happens when a firm fails to make a long-term content development plan a component of its new site launch.

The consequences of haphazard content development are quite serious:

  • Interested prospects can’t find what they are looking for, so they click off the site.
  • Prospects who are ready to buy get confused, frustrated, or lost on the site – and fail to convert.
  • All visitors leave with an impression that the firm is as disorganized as its site.

Here are ways to prevent these things from happening.

1. Long-term Focus

Most Web development projects are obsessed with the immediate future: We have to get the site launched on time; we have to get it done within budget.

In terms of content, avoid the very strong temptation to cram everything you want to say into the initial launch. You won’t have enough time, and you won’t have enough money. Instead, identify the content you must have for launch, and then schedule the content you want to have for future phases of the project.

2. Go from General to Specific over Time

The most important content to present on the initial launch of a business site is the overview. Give prospects and customers the big picture: what you do, what problems you solve, what benefits you offer, and why people should buy from you.

If you do nothing more than get those simple points across, you’ll have a manageable number of pages to produce for the launch, and you won’t obscure the message with distracting details. And as a consequence of that, you’ll have a site with content that effectively supports lead generation.

3. Logically Layer On the Details

Develop a more detailed picture of your firm over time by adding new layers of content. For instance, consider a restaurant supply business. A simple, long-term content plan for its products could look something like this:

  1. Launch Phase: One Products Overview page with a brief summary of all product groups.
  2. Second Phase: Build out Product Group pages with more detail on Furniture, Bar Supplies, Kitchen Supplies, etc.
  3. Third Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the 10 most popular items in each Product Group.
  4. Fourth Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the next 25 most popular items in each Product Group.

4. Content Categories and Subcategories

The above tip refers to content depth, but let’s take a minute to consider content breadth. For a launch phase, these content categories are generally indispensible:

  • Products
  • Services
  • About
  • Contact

From here, much can be added in future project phases. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities.

  • Category: Testimonials
  • Category: Case Studies
  • Category: Careers
  • Subcategory of Products: FAQs
  • Subcategory of Services: Important Resources
  • Subcategory of About: Charitable Giving

Creating these additional content sections requires a lot of time and creativity. If information is thrown together at the launch phase to meet a tight deadline or budget, entire sections may well come off looking extremely lame. Again, it’s preferable to think long-term and patiently roll out new content based on a plan.

Key Takeaways

By mapping all this out in advance, not only will content be delivered to visitors in logically organized and digestible chunks, designers and programmers will be able to build proper layouts and navigation into the site from the beginning.  Over the long-term, your site will be as clean as the bedroom you see to the right.

This point cannot be overemphasized. Content should drive any web development project! If designers and programmers don’t know where the content is heading, they can only guess at how much room to allocate for future navigational links, where those links should go, and what they should look like.

Quite often, this is why a mature site has navigation that appears haphazard and cramped, that has crucial call to action blocks hidden in obscure corners of the page. The firm boxed itself into a corner as it added content and did not have the resources to rebuild the site from the ground up. Not a good situation to be in, but one that is all too common.

About the Author

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing firm. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as video broadcast equipment and gloves for electrical work. Brad is an experienced content strategist, SEO copywriter and blogger.

(Image Credits: Image 1, © Iriana Shiyan #39382212; Image 2, © Joseph Helfenberger #1106456 – Fotolia.)


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