Effective Branding: Utilising The Power Of Branding In Content Outreach

People listen to advice from people that they like and trust. In the digital age, often the people that are most trusted are those who we have never physically met.  Think of your favourite tech or hotel review blog and how invaluable their advice is. I, for one, would not dare to buy a new device without first checking with tech radar to see how it measures up against the competition and if it is worth spending a premium to upgrade.

Bloggers blog about every topic under the sun and bring with them a cachet and built-in audience that, if handled correctly, can be tapped into by the use of content outreach. Content outreach is the process of finding a partner outside of your business through whom you can get your message out to the public. By choosing the correct outreach partners, you can increase your profile and credibility by borrowing theirs, but charm is key.

Many established and wanna-be established brands seek to identify marketing partners, but a major fault is finding a partner who is a less than ideal fit. For the big boys, money can sway opinion; but for those of us who are working with limited resources, research and finesse are required to build relevant, mutually-respectful and beneficial partnerships that can succeed. Below are some tips on identifying and partnering with content outreach partners.

Identify your brand

Effective Branding and Content Outreach

Know your company’s strengths and what your differentials are, or at least what you would like them to be. Think through who your target audience is. Are you marketing a mass market product that is going to be adored by all? Unless you are selling ice cream, the answer is probably no. What’s your niche market? Are there any obvious blogs that you know catering to that market? Are you confident in your product or service? If not, this is the stage to start becoming confident about it. If you do not believe in what you are offering, how are you going to be able to convince others of the value of your offering?

Get to searching

The first thing that you need to do is identify a blog that is likely to have an audience which is interested in your product. To give a ridiculous example, there’s no point hooking up with a vegetarian website to try to promote your new range of livestock burgers.  The importance of research cannot be understated. Once you’ve identified what your brand means and who your likely audience are going to be, get to Twitter and Google and try and find out where they go and who they respect. Scribble down any names that seem relevant so that you can come back to them later. At this stage you are looking for breadth rather than depth in your searches. Brandi offers some tips here on what to look out for when thinking about which bloggers to reach out to.

Go Sherlock

Once you’ve identified the key mavens in your field, dig into their lives. Find out about the blogger, they are people just like you and usually with a great passion for the often thankless task of writing.  If they’re hosting a blog then they probably have a public Facebook and/or Twitter page. Follow them and learn about what makes them tick, what are their interest, what piques their attention and what causes meltdowns. This information is going to be invaluable at the next stage.

Houston, We Have Contact

Once you know what colour socks your target wears each Wednesday, it is time to get in touch. This is where your personality needs to come into force. People do business with people they like and you are asking for a fairly big favour. You want this person to put their own credibility on the line to help you out. This stage is essentially a sales pitch, yet it is unlikely that money is going to change hands. Reciprocity and synergy are the key words here. How can the two individuals who are interacting benefit each other, where is there crossover and how does this person pointing people in your direction benefit him/her? These are things you need to have ready in advance, although you do not need to jump straight in with the pitch.

By all means take some time to engage in chit chat, build up a friendship and it doesn’t have to be a fake one. If your audience is the same then there is a good chance you have shared professional interests, if nothing else. Seek advice and consult over an issue which makes the other person feel like the voice of authority. Show them that you respect them and let things grow organically from there. It shouldn’t feel forced.

If you believe in your brand and know your audience then there is a logical symbiosis to the promotion of your product. Should you be a company that makes something, send it over and let the blogger try it out. They’ll appreciate the gift and if you believe in your product, then you are going to get a good review, too. For other services you can point to records of success, or even offer a free sample, perhaps some web development services if you are a web developer, for example.

Other means of contact

While emails, Twitter conversations and Facebook messages are the easiest way to get in touch, they may not be the most beneficial. There is very little that is better than a face-to-face meeting for building lasting relationships. Brian Zeng offers some useful tips here on alternative ways to make contact with the bloggers you have targeted and these are golden. Find out what functions they are attending, networking events, etc. I am not saying you should stalk them, but an accidental meet up and bonding over canapés is a great way to build a lasting relationship. Here’s a post about the relationship between Brand and Blog and how you can maximise this tie-up.

Some examples of successful outreach

Of course, paid content is guaranteed to get eyeballs, but they may be wasted. Sponsored Buzzfeed lists have drawn some attention recently, and this is definitely an example of one way to guarantee a big audience. However, a cost benefit analysis may well show that there are cheaper and more creative ways to reach your audience that focus on the human to human connection that is essential to content outreach.

A benefit of doing this outreach method is boosting your brand and services by being mentioned in your partners’ websites. One good example of outreach is to write about informative and creative ways to promote your niche and product. This should appear on your blog.

Char-Broil – The Outdoor Cook’s Favourite

One of the major outreach success stories is that of Char-Broil. They partnered with the best of the bunch when it comes to outdoor cooking bloggers and these partners get access to products to review, mention and even get to write blog posts on the Char-Broil site. The relationship is fully synergized as both sides get extra content and exposure. This is the very model of the reciprocal content outreach partnership. Char-Broil do pay some of these bloggers, but the process of identifying the best fit really is the key takeaway message from the Char-Broil example. Methodical and targeted, partnerships developed organically.

Going Further with Ford

Ford’s approach shows great confidence in their product and is the model for open engagement with the public. While a newspaper advert telling us about the latest Ford may capture some attention, it’s a passive experience and one in which suspicions may be running high due to the public’s increased advertising literacy and awareness of when they are clearly being sold to. The content outreach approach blends advertising with social media and Ford encourage their content outreach partners to be as critical as possible with full transparency.

The approach puts everything out in the open and comes across as a more sincere and authentic form of engaging with the public. Ford also gets to really see how people feel about its products and make changes to their approach moving forward. Again, finding key mavens is important and ensuring that your bloggers are professional and of sufficient quality is a must, but the Ford model shows the kind of transparency that is becoming more expected with consumers in the digital age.

Micro-Level Love for the Smaller brands

My wife loves shopping. I don’t. Online shopping then makes us both happy. She gets to experience the shopping and I don’t have to leave the house. Either way my pockets hurt anyway. I started to notice recently that my wife likes to buy from independent retailers who run their businesses through Facebook. I have no idea about their legal position on taxes, etc., but that’s not my concern here.  It is clear that at this micro-level that there is a desire to get the name of the vendor out to the biggest possible audience, often by having somebody with some existing kudos showing them some love through a ‘like’. The best option would be to have a celebrity customer, but if not then a positive review from a well-respected blog would do the job just as well. As you have hopefully garnered by this point, relationships are key and partnering with those who have an interest in your product as well as a ready-made audience for you to tap into works, even if you are a tiny fish.

Getting up close and personal

Relationships are key to success in business. No man is an island, but that doesn’t mean that all archipelagos are even. There are no short cuts to success, but there is little substitute for methodical research. You must know your product and understand why others will be interested in consuming it.

Once this is done, think about your favourite blogs and what makes them successful. You may be lucky and find that the perfect partner is already somebody you subscribe to and have a relationship with. If not, get to finding out who fits best and target them. You don’t want to have too many partners, but a few well-positioned bloggers with decent readership and kudos are going to help you out an awful lot.

Content Outreach and Relationship Building

An example of how you could reach out by email is shown here. This email style has been successful in establishing a relationship with a blogger. It comes out natural but most importantly, it comes out as personally as it can get.

Hello Jane,

My name is Denise Connors and I am a big fan of your blog ukstylishblogs.com because I also love everything about fashion and trends. I follow you in Facebook, Twitter (@janestyles) and Google+.

I love reading your Facebook posts about the latest style trends and retweeting your Twitter posts. I just recently read your blog “How to be Stylish Without Really Trying” and it definitely made me a fan. I see a lot of similarities with our tastes in fashion and couture.

I’d like to know if you accept contributions from fans of your blog. I am willing to contribute wholesome and creative content relating to fashion trends.

Regards,

Denise

Fashion Fanatic

www.MediaBuzzer.net

 

At the contact stage you need to sell without selling. Partnering up should seem like the most natural thing in the world for your outreach partner to be doing, but you also will need to incentivise things somewhat, either with samples, reciprocal marketing or advice. Take your time considering your approach. There is no universal piece of advice on this, but being polite and charming never hurt in any walk of life. After that, hopefully you’re good to go and both parties can thrive.

Remember, there are thousands of other companies like yours, having the same ideas as yours, doing the exact same processes as yours. Make yourself stand out by focussing on the essential element – the personal element.

4 Ways To Test Your Business Idea In An Afternoon

My first business ideas were absolutely horrible.

It wasn’t that they weren’t going to work for one or two small reasons, there were massive holes in the logic-of-how-this-is-ever-going-to-make-anyone-any-money-ever.

I built an algorithm that tried to predict someone’s personality by looking at their tweets. I considered founding a government defense contracting company to bid on defense contracts. I thought about trying to visually map out all data on Wikipedia.

You get the picture.

Over time though, I began to see patterns in these bad ideas. I started to realize why so many successful people preach about the power of persistence and taking action. If you just continue trying stuff, you’re going to start building patterns in your mind of the types of things that work and don’t work. It’s as simple as that.

Today things aren’t quite as frustrating. I’ve built a couple of successful businesses so I’m more aware of what the common pitfalls are.

I’ve developed four thresholds that every new idea I have needs to pass before I’m willing to invest any significant time or money into it. Whenever I have a new idea or meet with an entrepreneur, these are the first four questions that need to be answered:

1. What burning pain are you solving?

Paul Graham sees a lot of entrepreneurs go through YCombinator and he says that the number one reason a startup fails is by,”not making something users want.” In other words, nobody cares about the problem. If the problem you’re trying to solve is painful enough for a given customer, they’ll be willing to compromise with a crappy solution, that’s the definition of an early-adopter.

About 80% of my initial ideas failed because of this: I didn’t validate that the problem I was trying to solve actually existed. It doesn’t matter if your product solves a particular problem better than anything else in the world, if it’s not solving a burning pain then it’s going to be very difficult to build a business around.

Be clear in your mind about what problem your product or business is solving.

2. What are your analogs?

An analog is an example product or service that people are currently paying for that solves the same problem that your product or service is supposed to solve. Find some examples of people paying right now to solve this problem.

Your product or service can be completely different, but you want to know that people are willing to open their wallets to solve this problem. (There are a lot of problems that are “nice-to-solve” but not “must-solve.”)

An example of an analog would be if I had an idea for a machine that could zap my teeth and they’d be clean for the rest of my life. People buy toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash right now so I have a general idea that people are willing to pay something to solve this problem. (How much they’re willing to pay is another story.)

3. How do you know your solution is better?

If you know that the problem not only exists, but is acute enough that people are willing to pay, now you can start determining if your idea is superior to the existing solutions. The best way to do this is through customer development (AKA talking to your customers).

Customer development is a technique used to help you objectively determine if the people who feel the pain you identified in threshold #1, who may even be using products or services you found in threshold #2, find your solution better. The best way to do this is to actually go out and talk to them.

4. Can you find 10 customers to pay you right now?

Most ideas, even if they’re highly product-oriented, can be made into a service to solve the problem. This doesn’t scale, but the process teaches you everything you need to know about the viability of selling your idea. Don’t get fancy – use craigslist, ebay, your local newspaper, whatever.

Put up a one page static site with a buy button. If you’re a hardware startup, use Kickstarter. Find your first 10 customers before thinking about anything else.

As George E.P. Box said,

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

There is no entrepreneurship formula that works for everything – but there are formulas that make things much easier. In the process of taking your idea through this four-step process, you’ll learn a lot about the longer-term viability of your idea.

5 Advanced Conversion Rate Optimization Methods To Increase Sales Online

In the past few years, Conversion Rate Optimization has become as essential to a business as SEO. If you’re not optimizing – and your competitors are – you’re missing opportunities to gain new customers.

While A/B testing is one piece of CRO, simply testing different variates of your site against each other is only one way for you to increase conversion rate. For most businesses, split testing will get you an initial lift but won’t go the extra mile to get a higher conversion increase.

Here are 5 more advanced methods for you to personalize your site. To make things easy, I’ve included real-life examples of each along with the software you can use – enjoy!

1. Personalization

There is absolutely no question that personalizing your site will lead to higher, sustained conversion rates. Giving each customer exactly what they want at exactly the right moment is one of the most reliable ways for you to generate more sales.

Here’s an excellent example from Gardener’s Supply Company:

Gardener's Company

The company noticed that it’s conversion rate was low from Pinterest users as compared to other sources of traffic. So, they worked with the team at Evergage  to show a personalized banner to each visitor who came to their page from Pinterest and giving them a special offer.

This simple banner saw a 3x increase in conversion!

Generating 10% – 50% conversion increases is not uncommon for personalizing a site. And not only is the conversion lift significant, it’s often sustainable, lasting for years (a lesser talked about fact in CRO is that A/B splits can have a shelf-life and stop converting as highly – that’s a topic for another article).

If you’re interested in personalizing your site, here’s a few resources for you to try:

  • Evergage: Generally the easiest to use, with a point and click editor that makes it easy for you to segment audiences.
  • Optimizely: Makes it easy for you to create pages based on traffic sources – similar to Evergage but in my opinion not as robust in personalization
  • Personyze: Focused on e-commerce. Makes it easy for you to offer different products to different users. different creative, etc. The software is not as easy to use as Evergage or Optimizely but it does have some advanced features for e-commerce.

2. Dynamic Pricing

For any e-commerce business to succeed, pricing must be competitive – I cannot find a clear study on this, but anecdotally I can tell you that your pricing strategy can easily affect your revenue and profit by 10% – 20%. Especially if you are selling a product in a competitive environment, you need to have a handle on your pricing strategy.

Let’s say that you type into Google “laptop case”:

New Pricing

Then, you decide that you want the pelican 1085 hardback case:

Pelican Hard Drive Case

Which one are you going to get? This is a heavily researched question, but I’m going to bet that you’ll go with the retailer with (1) the lowest price + shipping, (2) the best return policy, and (3) the best overall brand experience.

Even this simple example raises a number of interesting points:

  • How do you price on intent and product? Clearly a commoditized sale (like this case, where the product is the same everywhere) has a far different pricing strategy than an intent-driven sale, where a customer comes directly to your website
  • What do you optimize for? Conversion, profit, revenue, etc? Most people will simply say “profit” but this turns out not to be an easy question to answer – simply acquiring a customer will often have benefits (like long term customer value)

For most e-commerce merchants between $500K and $10M in revenue, simply optimizing price for conversion is going to be your best bet. There are a few platforms we recommend for doing this:

  • Wiser: Software is easy to use. Unfortunately they do not offer plans for smaller size businesses but they are a great fit for clients with $1M+ in revenue.
  • AppEagle: This is a great product for an Amazon-focused retailer. They are not as strong though for retailers who sell across multiple channels.

3. Dynamic Landing Pages

Simply adjusting the headlines of your landing page to match – or closely match – the search query text can boost conversion rate by 10%.

Here’s an example:

Dynamic Landing Page

Personalizing your landing pages to PPC traffic is a general best practice, and fortunately it’s extremely easy to do this. The best tool for you to use for this is:

  • Unbounce: Probably the easiest landing page builder. You can easily create different versions of your landing page and then customize the headlines or background images for different traffic sources.

You could also simply create duplicate versions of the landing page and use dedicated landing pages – many DIYers do this and it’s a perfectly good practice.

4. Speed

Just a one-second decrease in page load time can decrease conversions by 7% or more.

Here’s an excellent graph from Web Performance Today showing how page speed affected conversion rate at Walmart:

Walmart

I often find when optimizing conversion rate of clients’ websites that page speed is overlooked – not because people don’t realize it’s important, but because people often don’t realize that their page speed could be improved.

Here are a few excellent resources for you to check your website’s speed:

  • Pingdom: This may be the single best spot for you to check your website for performance issues.
  • GTMetrix: Also a great resource; results will be similar to Pingdom
  • Google Page Speed: For developers, Google offers a page speed API that will let you build speed testing into any single one of your apps.

Generally, the best tip for you to optimize page speed is to reduce the amount of code that you’re using on your site or to upgrade to a faster platform (for example, Angular.js, if implemented correctly, can be extremely, extremely fast). This is easier said than done, however, and is a topic for another article.

5. Response Time

For any advertisers who are in the lead-generation business – or even customer support – response time is one of the biggest variables that affects whether your leads become paying customers (or whether your customer support customers end up referring you or not).

Lead Response Management did an impressive study showing the best time to follow up with leads and how your speed affects response.:

  • If you call a lead 5 minutes after they email or call you, your chances of reaching them are 100 times better than if you call them 30 minutes later.
  • If you call a lead in the first hour, your chances are 10 times better than afterwards.

Of course this can be difficult for international-based lead generation businesses, but for businesses in a real need – say for example, an auto accident lawyer, where there is urgency – being the first person to respond to a lead can often seal the deal.

Here are a few resources for you to try in order to improve your speed management:

  • Infusion Soft: One of my favorite CRMs and has an excellent marketing automation solution that will let you auto-respond to leads immediately. If you choose to automate your response emails, be sure to personalize them.
  • Aweber / Mailchimp / etc: Any decent email marketing software will have auto-responder features built in.

For higher value sales, I would recommend trying to respond to as many leads as you can yourself, but for high volume lead-gen, an automation solution might be best.

About The Author

Andy Hunt is the founder of UpliftROI.com. He’s got years of solid experience in conversion rate optimization and digital marketing in general.