Monthly Archives: March 2017

Create Great Content in Boring Industries

The ability to excite and inspire is a critical ingredient for online marketing success. What are you doing today that will connect and engage viewers of your content?

Boring industries don’t have to be boring. NBC built an entire series, “The Office,” around the daily doldrums of a paper company in Scranton, PA. Nine seasons, two-hundred and one episodes, 42 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and it’s still one of the most popular series on Netflix — four years after production ended.

If NBC and Steve Carrell can transform an office servicing the paper industry into a pop culture phenomenon, you can develop content that is exciting and engaging for your industry.

Tips on Content Creation for Boring Industries

Keep reading to learn how to write the kind of online content that grabs your future customers’ imaginations and hopefully their wallets.

Step One: Discover Something that Excites You

Creating content is an exercise in creative thinking. Your best work happens when you’re genuinely engaged and excited by what you’re doing. And it’s not a linear process. Do not expect to go from brainstorming, to excitement, to amazing content.

Instead, let your subconscious do the heavy lifting. Keep yourself engaged in your daily routine of ensuring an amazing customer experience and stellar product or service. But, also, book time to let your mind wander.

Wolfgang Kohler, a 19th century German psychologist, is credited with coining the phrase “Bed, Bath and Bus”. These are the places where creativity strikes — opportunities to let the mind wander without purpose. These moments of everyday routine free the mind to work its magic in solving the challenges of the day — unlocking maximum creative potential.

If you set out to identify the aspect of your work that excites you and potential customers, in a matter of minutes or hours, you’re going to run into difficulty. The most direct path between creativity and inspiration is not a straight line.

Step Two: Research Existing Content

Once you’ve found your source of inspiration (hopefully you had a way of recording the idea when it hit you), it’s time to dig deep. Comb the internet for other discussions surrounding your topic. Read this post for how to use BuzzSumo to find the most popular content ever published by keyword.

Discover how other writers are positioning their content. Watch this short video from Neil Patel who shares his thoughts on why no business needs to settle for boring content:

Are the search results in Google inspiring, instructive, or more observational in nature? Once you understand the content that has already been published, you can begin phase three.

Step Three: Find a Unique Angle or Opportunity to Scratch Deeper

You’ve spent an hour or two researching and reading your competition’s blogs. Hopefully, you’ve experienced a few more micro-bursts of creativity as you read content from outside sources on your chosen topic.

Now it’s time to nail down what you’ll produce, and how you’ll present it. The message you want to send is important — but how you transmit that message is even more important.

Video or text? An infographic or a SlideShare? You’ll find that different formats for content offer vastly different return on investment (ROI). The investment of time, personal relationships and advertising capital needs to be carefully weighed against your current cost per acquisition (CPA).

One of the best ways to keep long-term costs for content development low is to find a unique angle that hasn’t already been covered. If you absolutely must, you can still cover an angle that’s been covered before, but you need to provide more comprehensive and up-to-date information. The goal is to create content that delivers your message in a stronger, more informative way than the content already publicly available.

Step Four: Go Visual

If you’re fighting for attention in a crowded space, it might be time to create content in a variety of formats. In the past, I’ve successfully stolen organic screen space from the competition by creating an in-depth article that includes all of these:

  • current statistics
  • original custom images and graphs
  • a YouTube video
  • an infographic
  • a SlideShare
  • links to additional resources

Creating an interconnected web of content that briefly covers what has been published previously, and quickly pivots to a unique angle or more in-depth coverage of the things that excite you is a recipe for success.

Understand that creating one or two quick pieces of content isn’t going to get you across the finish line. You need to constantly evolve and grow the content web.

Use insights from Google Analytics, MOZ, and BuzzSumo to gauge the effectiveness of your content as it ages. Then double-down on the aspects that are generating longer term results and conversions.

Even Boring Industries Can Get Creative

Remember, you can’t rely on a one hit wonder. Update or replace aging content because new content will grab more attention. It all starts with a moment of inspiration and personal excitement. Create a storytelling journey into a topic or aspect of your product or service that is unique.

The more content you create, the more data you’ll have. Your content efforts will evolve from inspiration to data-driven creativity. And over the course of a few months, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, you’ll find yourself generating the kind of buzz that offers the best long-term ROI.

Learn Business By Oreo

Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ), the company behind Oreo and other popular snacks, sold under the Nabisco brand, is branching out into healthy food.

The company’s new brand is called Vea. Products sold under the brand include snacks like crackers and bars that include natural and healthy ingredients like quinoa and sweet potatoes. The products also include no artificial or genetically modified ingredients. And the company is mainly marketing the new line of products to millennials.

Behind the Vea Brand Launch

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez International explained to Business Insider that the desire for healthy food options is the single biggest trend the company is seeing in markets across the world. And though this doesn’t mean people aren’t indulging in other items like Oreos now and then, it would be a mistake for the company to ignore the trend altogether.

Small businesses, whether in the food industry or other niches, can learn something from this willingness to adapt to trends. You don’t necessarily have to jump on every new fad. But there are some major trends in certain industries that become hard to ignore, like healthy options in the food industry.

Large and small businesses ignoring these major trends can simply find themselves left behind if they refuse to adapt.For example, ecommerce businesses can easily develop an app to take advantage of the mobile trend. Or a small clothing brand can look for ways to use organic materials and move to fair trade suppliers.

Adapt by launching a new product line or modifying the materials in existing products. Or just switch up your marketing messages to better appeal to people based on their changing preferences.

Business Coach Never Told You About the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry is this generation’s version of the wild west. Instead of covered wagons and an Oregon Trail, intrepid entrepreneurs are diving headfirst into an industry that is evolving at the speed of light.

The rapid pace of change is surprising, considering the product’s prohibition in the United States dates back to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. It took nearly 36 years for Oregon to become the first state in the Union to decriminalize cannabis. And today, 29 states (including the District of Columbia) allow cannabis to be used legally — either recreationally, medically, or both.

Creative, Consistent Promotion of a Powerful Message Pays Off

One of the key ingredients to the recent trend towards legalization in the United States has been a herculean effort by an alliance of Political Action Committees, concerned citizens, and industry leaders in educating the population and fighting burdensome regulations in the courts.

Lessons Learned from Cannabis Marketing

Marketers in every industry should be paying close attention to how the cannabis industry has gained real traction in an uphill battle, against a variety of powerful opposing forces. There are several lessons to be learned – which can be applied to almost any marketing campaign.

Gain Influence by Engaging and Recruiting Powerful Voices to Your Cause

Influencer marketing, even for weed, is a powerful weapon. The reason it turned into the magic bullet for the cannabis industry is that it side-stepped regulations; “Even in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal, you have to prove that more than 70 percent of a TV station’s audience is over 21 to have your ad legally considered.”

So, the key is to implement asymmetrical advertising — pumping information out across multiple channels and amplifying digital content with the help of individuals that have large audiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How Do You Engage Influencers?

In the industry, you’ll hear the term “Try or Buy”. This refers to the practice of allowing prominent individuals (someone with more than 100,000 legitimate online followers) to experience your product — usually a free sample.

If that doesn’t result in a meaningful conversation or shout out, the next step is to offer them a cross-promotion deal. In return for their sharing your message with their followers, you’ll allow them to post an approved message on one or all of your channels. This method usually involves little to no financial cost.

Finally, if all else fails, it’s time to offer a financial incentive for their help. It’s important to understand that the cost of this tactic is generally far less if the individual is already a passionate believer in your cause.

Kissmetrics has an excellent in-depth guide to influencer marketing that I highly recommend for beginners.

All Press Is Good Press

Another advantage that the cannabis industry has successfully leveraged is the old saying: “All press is good press.” In other words, even when someone is speaking out negatively against your product or service, the public consciousness is still being raised to the fact that your brand exists.

Brand and product recognitions is invaluable. And there’s certainly a bump from the “rebel factor”. If a population is told they shouldn’t, or legally cannot use your product, a percentage of the group exposed to the message will feel that the opportunity to rebel is a pretty sexy proposition.

The level of expertise on cannabis issues and challenges in the broader marketing industry has grown immensely. Today there are hundreds of specialized marketing agencies dedicated to promoting cannabis products online, in print and over the airwaves.

Engaging a partner that understands the climate in which your product or service is sold is an important step in gaining an edge over the competition. And embracing an opportunity to launch a promotional campaign that works with the public’s prevailing views, instead of against it, can be lucrative.

While somewhat rudimentary, this popular meme took full advantage of the popular notion that “Everyone would smoke and cities would be ruined if it were made legal.” The clever part in this meme is that, whether you’re for or against legalization, you’re buying into the perception that “Everyone’s doing it.” And perceived popularity moves product.

Create Machine Made Brands

When most small business owners go about creating a business brand, they tend to think about hiring designers, graphic artists or other creative types to help. Or, to save time and money, they muddle through on their own, with a rudimentary understanding of what they think looks good. Now, thanks to innovations in machine learning, the next wave of business branding might actually be created by machines. Can a machine create a brand better than a human?  And what does that mean to your business as you build your own brand?

Can a Machine Create a Brand?

Branding and the 400 Milliseconds …What it Means to the SMB

I’ve often written about how important it is for small business owners to develop their own solid personal brand. It’s critical for building authority in your field, and engaging an audience. The same is true for your company’s brand, maybe even more so, in fact.  Consumer research shows that 90 percent of consumers expect a brand experience to be consistent across all platforms and channels, and first impressions are incredibly important.

It goes far beyond simple brand recognition; your brand elements build important emotional connections with your audience.

“People should feel something when they connect with your brand,” said online marketing guru Neil Patel in an interview with Jeff Charles.

Consistent and professional brand elements make it easier for customers to recognize your company and develop those feelings of trust that are so important in driving a purchase.

Yet for many small businesses, the cost of a professional branding solution is prohibitive. Brand strategist Pia Silva of Worst of All Design estimates that for a small business brand, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 and $15,000. At that rate, it’s no wonder that many brands attempt the DIY approach.

Yali Saar, CEO of Tailor Brands, sees an alternative: “Every logo, and every branding element, is a combination of color, shape and meaning,” he explains. “Although your logo may seem like a small piece of your brand, it is the first thing your prospect encounters,” Saar explains. “And within 400 milliseconds, the human brain makes decisions about how it feels about what it perceives. You have that much time to make your first, and potentially lasting, impression.”

Saar’s believes his company has found the sweet spot where design best practices meet machine learning, to bring big-budget style branding design within reach of the small businesses.

The Science Behind Building a Brand

Your logo is not just some arbitrary symbol. As Saar explains, “A logo provides the visual representation of your business to your customers. It holds you accountable to the brand promises that you made. And it conveys this to your audience, helping ensure that they come back to use your business over and over again.”

Budget-route graphic design is too often subjective to really nail this down. I’ve heard so many small business owners talking about their own DIY attempts, based on what they like. They don’t necessarily take into account their brand promise, their relationship with their audience, or the emotions that need to be conveyed. A hired graphic designer often will probe these questions, but as I pointed out earlier, that route can be too expensive for small biz budgets.

What Saar has discovered is that these artistic decisions on color, font, size, placement and palettes can now be made intelligently, based on science and data, rather than subjective preferences. And that opens up a whole new level of branding for small businesses.

How Small Brands are Leveraging Design Science for Big Results

Can a machine really design better than a human? According to Jury Vetrov, who has been following the field of algorithm-driven design, the answer is a definite yes.

“The tools of the approach [for better web design] can help us to construct a UI, prepare assets and content, and personalize the user experience,” he writes, noting that it wasn’t until last year that “the technological foundations of these tools became easily accessible, and the design community got interested in algorithms, neural networks and artificial intelligence (AI).”

Vetrov is speaking specifically of website design; the same principles can be carried over into other forms of design as well. Machines are learning to be creative (, especially when given input into the intangibles like your company’s mission, language and purpose.

At Tailor Brands, Saar sees great potential in this intersection of creativity and data.

“Our users create a new design every 1.5 seconds,” he explains. “We ask for input about their brand, their mission, in an open-ended way that doesn’t limit their ideation.

“All of that creation means mounds of data,” Saar continues, “which helps us spot trends in branding that helps influence the next design. Our machines are constantly learning and getting better at what they do. “

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a solid brand look, no matter the size of your business or how long you’ve been around. From first impression to building engagement and growing solid relationships, your brand identity is crucial. Now, small business owners can leverage real science and put it to work for their company with brand elements that let them be amazing, faster than ever before.

Determine What Global Markets Fit Your Business Model

For any organization, no matter the size, going global is a major decision that can either make or break your business. If done right, expanding internationally can bring significant success and profit and be a driving force for your company’s continued growth. Small and medium-sized businesses, in particular, are keen on benefiting from the opportunities a new market presents. According to FedEx research, 65 percent of small businesses that are trading overseas have seen exponential revenue growth. But before deciding to enter a new market, organizations have to identify what that market is, based on the services they provide and their target audience. That’s why we’ve asked 13 members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

“How can you best identify where you should be specifically expanding internationally based on your business model?”

Tips on Deciding Where to Expand Internationally

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Talk to Locals

“When we expand into a new international region, many factors go into the decision. One thing we’ve found very helpful is talking to locals and spending time on the ground if possible to get a feel for the area. Sometimes all the data trends in the world can’t tell you if a market will accept your business, but talking to people can reveal all sorts of valuable insights about the market.” ~ Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile

2. Start with Similar Markets

“Initially it will be helpful for you to start with markets that are similar to yours currently. If you’re in the UK, the next logical branching point would be Canada and the U.S. For Americans, it helps to hire a local consultant in the market you are considering expanding to. A good consultant will have enough insight into your product’s relevance and fit for that market.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

3. Research Google Trends

“Google Trends allows you to query different search terms by geography. If you know which keywords lead to your product, you may want to check which countries look up these words the most. This should be a strong indicator for you to determine where to expand next.” ~ Ariel Assaraf, Coralogix

4. Let Social Media Be a Guide

“I run a platform connecting great public speakers with organizations that want to book them. Due to the nature of platform businesses, it’s best if supply and demand for a given area are somewhat equal. Therefore, we used social media to see where interest was coming from for both speakers and organizations. Looking at comments, likes, and follows, it was clear we needed to expand to Nigeria.” ~ Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

5. Follow Customer Demand

“We rely heavily on consumer demand based on what the current buying trend is. Our marketing style makes the most of the various social media platforms because we target millennials who tend to buy products online more. While we check on the data on a weekly basis, we also never fail to see what our competitors are up to and determine if it’s feasible to incorporate it in our marketing programs.” ~ Daisy Jing, Banish

6. Use Big Data

“Use your own data and available data from other sources to identify the markets that have the most demand for what you offer and then see if you can align your infrastructure and resources to enter and serve those markets. Start with one market and grow from there to get the basics down.” ~ Zach Binder, Ranklab

7. Ask Industry Experts

“Industry experts will often have insights or inclinations about where the market is heading in your specific space. Find them online, and ask them. Then verify their opinions with other thought leaders. If enough people are saying the same thing, then it’s time to move!” ~ Krish Chopra, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Rotations

8. Listen to Your Customers

“When looking for the right market to expand to, use your logs to know where there is interest for your product. Either by analyzing traffic data or sales history, find out which countries are already displaying interest in what you have to offer. If your analytics show a higher rate of traffic in a particular territory, consider going after it. It will be easy when your customers already need you.” ~ Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

9. Choose Countries with Stable Economies

“The country should be high in your target market, and should have a great percentage of smartphone use for marketing purposes. The English language should have at least some presence in the country as well. Choose countries with stable economies and with convenient ways to set up your business — meaning, not a lot of regulation.” ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

10. Check Your Analytics

“I think international growth should occur organically. If you have a product that has enough reach to enter foreign markets, you’ll come to this realization via an examination of the analytics at your disposal. If you see increased traffic coming from IP addresses across the pond, in either direction, drill down and see whether that market is worth an initial investment. If so, tread slowly.” ~ Bryce Welker, Crush The CPA Exam

11. Determine Your Reason for Expanding

“Typically, companies enter new markets for two reasons: 1) To access a customer base; 2) To access a specific capability required by their business – for example, labor or natural resources. How you enter that market depends on your reasons for doing so. If you want local customers, establish sales teams on the ground, but if you are only after labor, you can work with a local partner to accelerate.” ~ Patrick Linton, Bolton Remote

12. Look for Gaps

“Look for gaps. For example, under-served markets or markets that are getting a trend late. Have a short list and then conduct research on all options. Do things such as taking to locals, researching culture and business practices, and don’t assume you know what they want. If you can test the waters before taking the leap then definitely look to do that first.” ~ Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

13. Leverage Partner Relationships

“Working with partners is an effective strategy both for penetrating new verticals and expanding internationally. Keeping an open line of communication with our partners enables us to identify new strategic markets to break into and localize our efforts to drive business growth. Like many organizations, partners play a role in our growth and success.” ~ Neill Feather, SiteLock, LLC